Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

Although he has been accepted by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as a casualty of the Great War the name of Ernest Andrews does not appear on any memorial in Portsmouth. The principle reason for this is probably that he died in 1920 at Woolwich and is buried in Greenwich Cemetery. What makes the lack of remembrance more surprising perhaps is that, not only was he awarded the MBE, but that he came from a deep rooted Portsmouth family which had made a notable contribution to local history.
The family in question was actually named Totterdell, which was the surname given to Ernest Andrews at birth. The surname only changed after his mother Beatrice re-married in 1897 thus severing the obvious connection to Robert Totterdell who appeared in the very first census in 1841 as landlord of a hotel at 76, St. George's Square, Portsea.
Robert had been born in Devon in 1794 but by 1828 at the latest was living in Portsmouth where he had married his wife Fanny and where the couple had two children, Fanny (b. 1828) and Matthew (b. 1830). Robert and Fanny ran the hotel for many years but by 1851 their daughter Fanny had married William Allin and Matthew had moved in with them whilst he started out in the clothing business that was to make his name, and his fortune.
Matthew's initial ventures were as a woollen draper, but by the late 1850's he had set up a tailor's shop on Ordnance Row, a few yards from his father's hotel and on the main route between the Dockyard and Portsmouth Town. It may have been this development in his business interests that gave Matthew the confidence to get married, his chosen bride being Isabella Agnes Parker. She was the daughter of David Parker, a woollen merchant of Aldgate, London, with whom presumably Matthew had business dealings. The marriage took place at St. Pancras in London in 1858.
Curiously, the 1861 census shows no sign of either Matthew or Isabella which suggests they may by then have had sufficient funds for a trip abroad. Back in Portsmouth Matthew's business was expanding and by 1865 he was collaborating with another tailor, Edward Marshall, in a tailors shop at 62 Queen Street and advertising 'Edward Marshall Totterdell, by appointment to Her Majesty's Royal Family.'
The 1860s also saw Matthew and Isabella begin a family. In all they had six children during that decade - Ernest (b. 1861), Rose (b. 1864), Lilly (b. 1865), Violet (b. 1867), Edith (b. 1868) and Alice (b. 1869) - but the end of it seems to have marked a change of direction for Matthew's business interests. This appears to have been sparked by Robert Totterdell's retirement from the hoteliers trade and his passing of the St. George's Hotel to Matthew who was recorded living there with his family in the 1871 census which also described him as a 'Hotel Keeper'.
There is little likelihood that Matthew considered this anything more than an interlude in his clothing business since within a very few years he was able to take advantage of certain changes in fashion. Although Portsmouth is thought of as a town rooted in the navy, which plainly it was, there were still some unconnected industries beyond the dockyard walls that flourished. One of the most important of these was created by the prevailing sense that a woman's figure should conform to an idealised shape and for that she needed to wear a corset, or stay. Within a decade Totterdell's Corsets became renowned, enabling Matthew to set up a factory, employing over a hundred workers, to make them.
At home, Matthew and Isabella continued to expand their family with the birth of two more children, Courtney David (b. 1872) and Kathleen (b. 1874). There would be no more children though as in 1880 Isabella died aged 47 years. She probably lived long enough to see the family move away from the hotel in Portsea to a respectable house at 8 Devonshire Terrace on Green Road, Southsea, which is where the 1881 census recorded them.
By 1891 Matthew and his children had moved to 285 Lake Road whilst Courtney David had joined his father in the corset manufactory. The following year Courtney married Beatrice Louise Ash, daughter of George (a Piano and Music Merchant of Russell Street) and Sarah Ash. They had one child, Ernest Courtney Harold Norman Totterdell, born in 1893, but the marriage did not last long afterwards as in 1895 Courtney and Beatrice were divorced. Courtney moved back into 285 Lake Road and continued working in his father's business whilst Beatrice re-married in 1896. Her new husband was Edwin Harry Andrews, the Registrar for Births and Deaths in Portsmouth.
Edwin, Beatrice and Ernest were recorded living at 128 St. Andrew's Road in 1901, the same year that the couple had their own child, Eric Harry Andrews. By 1911 the family had moved down the road to 92 St. Andrew's Road and Ernest's surname had been changed to Andrews. In the meantime Matthew Totterdell had died in 1907 which seems to have ended the family connection to the corset trade. Courtney might have been expected to take over the business but surprisingly he took a job as a steward on board ship.
Ernest Andrews was 21 years old at the outbreak of the Great War. He enlisted in the army but nothing is currently known of his wartime career except that he served with the Royal Garrison Artillery and was awarded the MBE. In 1919 he married Dorothy Evans from Portsmouth and a year later he died at Woolwich, presumably of illness.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) list ECHN Andrews, Lieutenant, Royal Garrison Artillery, died 17/05/1920. Buried at Greenwich Cemetery (Grave Ref: 3 "C" Z.40.).
Ernest Andrews is not commemorated on any memorial, including the Cenotaph, in Portsmouth. Neither is he listed in "The National Roll of the Great War", Section X.
Tim Backhouse
December 2014