The Brighton connection (post 1830s)

John PLANK (1843-1933) was my great-grandfather.

He married Mary Ann CLARK(E) at Brighton on 22nd March 1875.  She was born at Bermondsey and was about 14 years younger than John who was a labourer all his married life.  I have yet to find John in the 1861 census but at the time of the 1871 census, four years before he married, he was a gunner on Her majesty's Ship 'Philomel' (a steam gunboat).  They had 11 children between 1875 & 1895, 6 of whom lived into adulthood.  Here are their details:

William PLANK
William was born in 1879.  He married Lottie Jane PANNETT on 22nd May 1899 and they had 12 children. Their last two were twins, Edna & Vera, born in 1920.  Vera was killed in a road accident on Saturday 16th July 1932.  There was an inquest.  William was a labourer.
Thomas Henry PLANK
Thomas was born in 1884.  He married Edith Louisa BOSWELL on 15th November 1903 and they had 3 children.  Thomas started work as a railway goods porter at Brighton in 1901. He was moved to Midhurst in 1905 and returned to Brighton Goods in 1913. He was dismissed by the LB&SCR (London, Brighton & South Coast Railway) in 1920.  Then he became a coal merchant and had his own business in Riding School Lane (c1934 - 1950).
George PLANK
George was my grandfather.   He was born on 11th August 1885.
Albert Edward PLANK

Albert was born on 15th September 1887 and married Ellen BODY on 24th December 1911.  He worked on the railway at Brighton.  His is a very sad story. Within 2 months of his marriage he was dead, killed by coal gas poisoning.

But what happened to Ellen?  Apparently she survived the gas poisoning because she was pregnant and the unborn child absorbed a lot of the gas and died.  In February 1915 she had an illegitimate daughter, Alfreda Griffith PLANK, but the father (Alfred GRIFFITH) had died in France just a month after the outbreak of World War 1.  So after these tragedies she left this country on the 16th July 1915 and emigrated to Canada with her baby daughter (on the Missanabie from Liverpool to Quebec). 

Alfred's parents (Thomas Kimber & Jane GRIFFITH), along with most of his siblings, had emigrated to Canada in 1906, a year after Alfred had enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment.  Was this why Ellen chose to go to Canada?  Nearly five years later, on 17th March 1920, Ellen (with a surname of GRIFFITH) married the 59 years old widower John William DOXSIE.  He was a market gardener in London, Ontario.  Unfortunately he died less than 3 years later.   The 1921 Census return for John DOXSIE in London, Ontario, has two step-children:  Alfreda GRIFFITH (aged 6) & Alfred GRIFFITH (aged 2).  So Ellen had another illegitimate child, this time in Canada.  Alfreda married James Artist HARE, another emigrant from London, but I know nothing about Alfred.  Ellen spent the rest of her life there and died in 1966 at the age of 80.

Arthur PLANK
Arthur was born on 22nd October 1892.  He was a member of the Royal Field Artillery in the First World War and was posted to Lucknow in India in May 1918.  He was 'disembodied' in July 1919 (which implies that he was in a territorial unit) and tried to get an Army Pension as he had suffered a number of epilepsy attacks there.  This was refused as he had had epilepsy from childhood.  Before the war Arthur was a wholesale fruiterer's assistant in Brighton's fruit market.  He married Annie Mary TRIGWELL in 1936.  She ran a restaurant in Brighton and Arthur worked there with her.   Unfortunately he died 4 years later.  Annie lived for another 40 years until she died at the age of 84.
Frederick PLANK
Frederick was born in 1895.  He married Nellie May WILLIAMS on 9th June 1918 and they had 10 children between 1919 and 1939.  At the time of his marriage he was a machine moulder.

John & Mary Ann only had one daughter, Maria, who died in 1896 at the age of 13.  There was something strong about Mary Ann's genes - judging by a photograph of her my grandfather, father & myself all get our looks from her!

The death of Albert Edward PLANK was big news in Brighton's local papers with details of the inquest and full naval funeral (he was in the RNVR) taking up many column inches.  Here are some of the headlines:

"POISONED BY COAL GAS.  Mysterious Brighton Tragedy."



Albert was a night shunter on the railway at Brighton.  On Thursday 8th February 1912 he returned home about midday.  He smelt gas but could not find a leak and went to bed about 2pm.  He and his wife were found late that afternoon by Police Constable TESTER who was investigating a strong smell of gas.  Albert died, without regaining consciousness, the following morning at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.  His wife eventually recovered.  At the inquest it was determined that the service pipe into the house was fractured and the gas accumulated in the basement directly under the front room where Albert was sleeping.  The fracture was probably caused by the passage of a heavily laden motor-lorry over that spot in the morning.  The pipe was only 18-22 inches below the surface of the road.  Verdict was death by misadventure.

I wrote an article (in two parts) on the death of Albert Edward PLANK for the Sussex Family History Group's magazine Sussex Family Historian.   They were published, as one article, in the December 1999 issue: Part 1 & Part 2

Many years later I did some research on PC TESTER, his career, and family.  His forename was Llewellyn.  As a result I wrote an article (in two parts) for the Sussex Family History Group's magazine Sussex Family Historian.   They were published in the December 2018 & March 2019 issues: Part 1 & Part 2


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