And for those of you who missed the Swindon Heritage History Day and the GWR themed walks, I will be publishing a selected few during the upcoming week.
I was surprised to find these two decorative headstones when I started researching Robert Laxon and Jason Johnson, two of the early settlers in the railway village, colleagues and neighbours here in Radnor Street Cemetery.
I had made the assumption that they would not have left enough money to pay for something like this. But the more I looked into their lives the more interesting I found these two men.
This is the last resting place of Robert Laxon who died at his home No 2 Faringdon Street on January 16, 1890 aged 86.
Robert was born in Lowestoft on May 10, 1804 and grew up in Gt Yarmouth, Norfolk.
By 1835 he had married his wife Maria, who is buried here with him, and the couple were living in the parish of St Pancras in London.
The couple had a large family – two sons and six daughters, the youngest three children were born in Swindon. Robert’s sons, Robert and Frederick both became coppersmiths while the girls worked as dressmakers and tailoresses. Matilda had worked as a Pupil Teacher and in the 1871 census Maria describes herself as a bookseller, but eventually they all earned their living by sewing.
The UK Railway Employment Records state that Robert’s service with the GWR began in December 1838 at Paddington where he worked as a coppersmith and that he was Foreman in K Shop of the Loco factory by June 24, 1843, the first to hold that position.
Robert held another first – in 1853 he was the first secretary of the Medical Fund.
He belonged to both the Oddfellows and the Ancient Order of Foresters, two Friendly Societies, which provided insurance, pensions and a banking service for members, so he was a careful and a canny man. When he died he left £878.
The employment records I refer to state that Robert left the GWR employment on January 16, 1890 – the date that he died.
Robert’s long time home is today the Railway Cottage Museum. Although closed for many years the railway cottage (next door to the Platform) is to open during the Open Heritage Days on September 10 – 11 and to reopen permanently at a later date following some necessary repair work.
|Railway Cottage Museum photo courtesy of Swindon Advertiser|
|Robert Laxon's gravestone lies flat, next to that of Jason Johnson|