Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

The story of the Bransbury family is inextricably linked to the brewing trade, mainly in Portsmouth but also beyond it's boundaries. The business was founded by Vernon's grandfather Henry Bransbury (b. 1822) who was taught the trade by his uncle, Richard Murrell of the Kingston Brewery. In 1850 Henry married Mary Stephens (b. 1828) in the district of Alverstoke; Mary must have been a very desirable bride as she was the daughter of James and Mary Stephens, James being one of the major farmers in Milton. James was also instrumental in setting up Henry with his own brewery in Hyde Park Road/St. James Street from at least 1851.
Henry and Mary had five children, Mary (b. 1850), Henry jnr. (1854), Jane (b. 1861), Sarah (b. 1863) and John (b. 1867). They raised their family in fine style, first of all living at Elgin House on Wish Lane (1861) and later in Climping Villa on Elm Grove (1871), named after his birthplace, Climping, Sussex).
Henry jnr., who had become part of the brewing business from an early age, married Fanny Bramsdon (b. 1855) in Alverstoke in 1875 and were soon living in their own substantial residence, Stanleigh House, at 59 Clarendon Street, off Lake Road. In 1879 Henry snr. retired from the brewing business and sold off the Hyde Park brewery to Brickwoods together with 36 public houses for 43,000. That same year Henry jnr. founded the Crown Brewery, next door to his house, at 61 Clarendon Street. The 1881 census records Henry jnr. and Fanny with two children, Henry Arthur (b. 1877) and Archdale Bramsdon (b. 1879). A third son, Stanley Bramsdon Lloyd, born a twin to Archdale, died at the age of 15 weeks and Archdale himself died before reaching his third birthday.
May 1889 saw the business expanding when Henry bought the Buckland brewery from a Mrs. Holloway of Wimbledon for 1250. Around that time he and Fanny moved their family to 'Inglenook', 2 Victoria Road South and had two more children, Vernon Dudley Bramsdon (b. 1883) and Maud (b. 1888, d. 1895). In January 1897 Vernon, who had previously been privately tutored, joined Portsmouth Grammar School but did not stay long as records show him at Clifton College, Bristol in 1899.
By the turn of the century, Henry's business must have been prospering as he moved the family to perhaps one of the most prestigious addresses in Southsea at Craneswater Park, and in 1902 sold the Crown Brewery to Portsmouth United for 80,000. Four years later he bought the Somers Arms Brewery in Reigate and installed Vernon Dudley as the Manager and Director. In 1908 Vernon married Zoila Cathleen Mary, daughter of Dr. Ponsonby Widdup, and together they set up home in Redhill, where they had two children Stuart Ponsonby Bramsdon (b. 1910) and John Brian (b. 1913).
Shortly after the outbreak of the Great War Vernon Dudley was posted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Lincolnshire Regiment. His father Henry sold the Reigate Brewery almost immediately suggesting that it had only ever been bought as a project for Vernon. Zoila and the children moved back to Portsmouth.
Vernon Bransbury entered France on 12th October 1914 was killed at Neuve Chapelle two weeks later when he was struck in the temple by a bullet.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists Lieutenant Vernon Dudley Bramsdon Bransbury, 3rd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, died on 25/10/1914, age 30. Commemorated on Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais. Son of Henry Bransbury, of Holme Chase, Putney; husband of Zoila K. Bransbury.
Vernon Bransbury is remembered on the Family Gravestone in Kingston Cemetery, the WW1 Memorial at Portsmouth Grammar School, the WW1 Memorial at St. Simon's Church and on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Tim Backhouse
April 2014