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The Stokes family at AberavonMy grandfather’s brother, Walter Henry Stokes was born on 10th December 1890 but, unlike all his siblings, I have no record of the time of day. Walter was two years younger than my grandfather and was the ninth and final child of Henry John Stokes and Mary Lavinia (Ostler) and all the children were born in Aberavon, the Welsh town which would officially be re-named Port Talbot in the 1920s. Walter is the youngest child bottom left on this family group photograph. Two other children died in infancy.

Not much is known about Walter’s life, he is recorded on the 1891 census as at 3 High Street, Aberavon, but on the 1901 census he is living (or at least staying) with his sister Ellen Alice and her husband John Dymond in Lewisham. His oldest sister was fifteen years his senior. On the 1911 census his father and my grandfather are given as living in lodgings in Bridgend, presumably as their new house was not yet constructed. Walter’s mother and other (surviving) siblings are recorded as living (or staying) at Westbury Road in Brentwood along with a servant originating from Port Talbot.

SS Morvada Itinerary cover September 1915Walter doesn’t seem to appear on the 1911 census but that’s because he was probably globe-trotting, which he did for a few years, working for a company which specialised in mail order by the name of Whiteaway Laidlaw which had a large number of stores in Asia and Africa. A surviving itinerary for the steam ship “Morvada” of September 1915 lists Walter as one of the passengers between Calcutta and Colombo.

In 1918 he returned to Bridgend where he had previously met his bride-to-be Constance Irene Thomas. She was the daughter of the postmaster at Bridgend and had originated from the Birmingham area. They were married in 1921 at around the time my grandfather and Walter were handed over the running of the Stokes & Co, gents outfitters, a business acquired by my great-grandfather when he purchased the lease from his former employer.

London Gazette 1923One other major event in Walter’s life is known and that was the birth of a son, Walter Arnold, known as Arnold, in Bridgend in 1923. Shortly afterwards my grandfather bought out his brother’s half of the business and Walter and his family emigrated to South Africa where they remained for the rest of their lives. They are known to have returned as a family on one occasion in 1933 and Walter and Connie returned to the UK for a visit around 1960 when I met them. Other than that I have no idea of anything about their lives in South Africa, probably in the Durban area.

Wallie, Arnold & Con, about July 1936, South Africa.Arnold was, I believe, their only child and it would be interesting to know what became of him; did he marry and have children? Are there a couple of generations of Stokes’ descendants living in South Africa still? It would be good to find out, so if anyone reads this and knows the family, please leave a comment!

The caption on the rear of this photograph reads: Wallie, Arnold & Con, about July 1936, South Africa.Walter Arnold Stokes, Durban, South Africa, July 1930.

The caption on the rear of this photograph reads:
To Uncle Wilf & Auntie Lil from Arnold. Durban, South Africa, July 1930.