The sad story behind Godfrey’s corner, New Brimington

In this blog we look at the sad story behind Godfrey’s shop – 1 Queen Street, Brimington – which once gave a now forgotten name to the area – Godfrey’s corner.

A modern photograph of Queen Street, at its junction with Princess Street, Brimington.
In the period from 1914, like many streets in the village, it would see sadness not only inflicted by the First World War, but also the Spanish flu. The building on the left was a former shop. After surviving illness and injury during the war its owner, George Henry Godfrey, caught the Spanish flu from which he died at home on 12 December 1918. For some years this area was known as Godfrey’s Corner. George’s death was just one of at least six from flu on Queen Street.

For a short period of time George Henry Godfrey was operating a fishmonger’s and greengrocer’s shop at 1 Queen Street. We find him in the 1911 census there, aged 36.

Brimington Hospital Committee’s 1938 carnival programme carried this advertisement for Godfrey’s shop, by this time in the hands of Thomas William Godfrey. He was the brother of founder George Henry Godfrey, who had succumbed to the Spanish flu in December 1918.

In his early working life, at age 16, George Henry Godfrey was living with his parents at ‘15 New Brimington’ and following in his father George’s footsteps as an iron moulder. On 4 June 1900, aged 25, he married Brimington-born Esther Whitworth, at Brimington Parish Church. On his marriage he was a stationary engine driver, and up until then he had most probably been an employee of Staveley Coal & Iron Co. Ltd.

On 16 November 1915, George Henry Godfrey enlisted in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps under which he served in Salonica and Egypt. According to army records in The National Archives; ‘After being knocked about with horses and suffering from malarial fever and dysentery’ he was admitted to hospital in Salonica on 22 October 1917. May 1918 saw him repatriated to Netley (a large military hospital near Southampton). Assessed as unfit for work, he was discharged on an army pension on 18 September and he returned home to re-kindle his greengrocery business.

The current Co-vid pandemic has perhaps refreshed our memory of the early 20th century Spanish flu outbreak.  Unfortunately, within three months Godfrey was to catch Spanish flu from which he died at home on 12 December. As a discharged soldier, he is remembered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) as one of the fallen.

His funeral took place on Sunday 15 December with military escort from his home to Brimington cemetery via the Congregational chapel. According to the Derbyshire Times;

The cortege was preceded by the Staveley and Barrow Hill Band, members of the Comrades of the Great War, the Boy Scouts, and a firing party (under Sergt. J. T. Frost), and members of the Brimington platoon of the 2nd. Volunteer Battn. Sherwood Foresters. To the strains of the Dead March, the procession proceeded to the Congregational Chapel, where the first part of the service was conducted by Mr. Jephson. The committal sentences at the graveside were pronounced by the Rev. W. A. Dutton, after which volleys were fired and the “Last Post” was sounded.

In addition to his widow, Esther, aged 40, George Henry left two children at his death: 16-year-old Gladys Sarah Elizabeth and Reginald George, 3. Esther did not re-marry and so needed to provide for herself and her children. For two years she kept the shop going, but in 1920 it was taken by her brother-in-law, Thomas William Godfrey. Esther moved to 8 King Street where she took in a lodger, 24-year-old John William Whitworth, a cousin. Four years on, in 1924, Gladys married Harry Parke, whose family lived on Princess Street. This would have beneficially affected Esther’s finances, one way or another.

Thereafter it seems likely that Esther and the young Mr and Mrs Parke continued to support each other, as by September 1939 they were living as two separate households at Gwendene 18 Chesterfield Road. Esther’s son was with her, now 24, and Gladys and Harry Parke had a 14-year-old son.

How unlucky and how tragic was it that having escaped, albeit with serious injuries, the Great War, George Henry Godfrey would return how only to be fatally struck down by the Spanish Flu.

During the 14 weeks around Godfrey’s death the total number of interments in Brimington cemetery with Spanish flu was 55, of which 46 had Brimington addresses.

Our thanks to Paul Freeman for this story which forms just part of his research into Brimington families impacted by the 1918-19 influenza pandemic. Part one was published in our Miscellany 12, with part 2 to be published in our forthcoming Miscellany 13. These articles are fully referenced.

Sources for this blog include: England Census 1891, Brimington parish marriages register 1899-1912, British Army First World War Pension Records 1914-1920, Brimington Cemetery Register of Burials, England & Wales Civil Registration Index of Births and the Derbyshire Times , 21 December 1918.

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