On 27th July 1845 William married Mary Ann Norman from St Georges East in London in The Parish Church, St Catherine's, London. On the 1851 census she was described as a waistcoat maker. They had eleven children together over a sixteen year period between 1846 and 1862 - quite a productive marriage, even by standards in those days !
They lived in various properties in London while they were having a family and census show them at :
1845 : Leadenhall Street, City of London
1847 : 45 Duke Street, Bloomsbury
1851 : Tenison Crescent, St Leonards, Shoreditch
1858 - 1861 : 12 Macclesfield Street, St Ann, Westminster
1871 : Grove Cottage, Brixton Road, Lambeth
How could he have afforded to live in such luxury ? His occupation varied but as described on birth, marriage and death certificates as well as on the census he started off married life as a silversmith. Before around 1850, strangely because there isn't really a connection, he became a Water Proofer which, as far as I can determine, was someone who made things waterproof. Things must have changed after then because by 1861 he is described as "a dealer in works of art", which is what he continued to be up until his death. He almost certainly had a leasehold shop at 14 and 15 Castle Street, Leicester Square as an outlet for his works of art.
Sadly, his life of affluence would be short lived as in August 1887 he took his wife and family, probably on the mainline train from Paddington, to the small North Devon seaside resort of Ilfracombe for a holiday. They stayed at Castle House on the Hillsborough Road (EX34 0HS) which seems to have been a country house.
On the fateful afternoon of 26th August he left his wife and family, possibly enjoying the sunshine on the beach, and walked to the small harbour where, at 3.05 p.m. he paid a shilling to go on a two hour trip around the bay on a pleasure boat called "Monarch". There were 24 passengers on board, mostly described as visitors (not "tourists") plus two experienced crew members. The sea was calm.
About twenty minutes later, after "some of the party had been singing" and probably enjoying the views, a boat hook fell overboard and a decision was taken to go back to recover it. While tacking against the wind a large gust caught the main sail causing the boat to turn over and sink almost instantly. This was seen by a number of people watching from the cliffs and beach who said "the screams and shrieks of the unfortunate people were heart rending". Many of the passengers were unable to swim, with William possibly being one of them. There is no record of whether Mary or any other family member witnessed the tragedy as it unfolded, but it seems more likely than not.
A number of small boats were launched to rescue as many as they could. Thomas Price and his son took their rowing boat out to the wreck and they rescued three who were swimming. Having done that they "came across a lady and a gentleman floating facing downwards, and took them on board. They then pulled straight for the beach". The gentleman was William Wareham and while "every effort was made to restore animation, it was proved unsuccessful". William, aged 63, was the oldest person on board. Of the 26 on board, 14 were drowned (12 men and two women).
On the 26th August by the yachting catastrophe at Ilfracombe, WILLIAM WAREHAM Esq., of Manor House, Hook, Chairman of the Kingston Highway Board, and J.P. of the same Borough, in his 63rd year, most deeply regretted and mourned by all who knew him. Friends will kindly accept this intimation.
His wife put a notice in the local newspaper :
Despite being well looked after in his Will, presumably at the end of the stipulated 12 months, Mary had to move out of The Manor House. She died eight years later in Cambridge aged 71.
I decided to look at the disaster in more detail and try to find out as much as I could about those who died, and those who survived. My research is still ongoing but if you want to learn more about the tragedy I have written about some of it on my website www.thebirdtree.co.uk. Click on any of these to read more :
- How the disaster unfolded - read the graphic newspaper reports.
- The first Coroners inquest - five bodies recovered including that of William Wareham.
- The other 9 bodies are recovered - more inquests.
- Those who died - some background on their lives and deaths.
- Those who survived - read about the lucky ones
- Eyewitness - how he lived to tell the tale
- The Board of Trade Report - how licensing laws were changed as a result of the disaster.