Henry David Bodman (1854-1934)

Bodman Family in Birmingham

Henry David Bodman (1854-1934) & Mary Willis (1851-1894)

When Henry Bodman was 21 he had moved from Somerset to Birmingham. He took and passed the Midland Railway Exam to become a pointsman. He was appointed on 6th March 1876 and worked at Birmingham. He was paid. 18/- a week. His examination form was number 11761.

Working in railway shunting yards or along railway sidings, pointsmen as a group suffered large numbers of grievous injuries, including in particular crushing injuries and amputations, owing to their work in close proximity to moving trains. The job was considered the most dangerous of any jobs on the railway. The least misstep could result in crippling a man for life or death. As the work was outdoors, there was no protection for them from the rains of summer, nor the freezing winds and snows of winter.

Saltley Railway Sidings, Shed and Gas Works

Saltley Railway Sidings, Shed and Gas Works

Four years later in April 1880, he was still a pointsman and his wages had increased to 22/-. He was at Birmingham 45 according to the Saltley Coaching Department Railway Staff Register. By the summer of 1881 he was a pointsman at Washwood Heath on a wage of 22/- and then transferred from Saltley to Camp Hill.

The 1881 census records show the Henry David Bodman had married and was living in Birmingham. His wife, Mary Willis was born at 26, Court Street, Trowbridge on 26th October 1851. They were living at 46 Devon Street, Aston. Henry David gives his occupation as a signalman. The census and registry records show that he and Mary had the following children:-

Alice Bodman born 1873/4 Trowbridge, Wiltshire
Annie Bodman born 1875/6 Trowbridge, Wiltshire
Florence Bodman born 1875/6 Trowbridge
Emily G. Bodman born 1877/8 Birmingham
Henry George Bodman born 6th July 1880 Birmingham   click here
John Bodman born  1882/3 Birmingham
Ada Bodman born 1885/6 Birmingham
Frank Bodman born 1887/8 Birmingham

At the time of the 1881 census, Albert, then aged 7,  Henry David’s brother was living with them. This was one year after their mother had died. Albert was still living with them at the time of the 1891 census.

1881 to 1900 saw Henry Bodman’s wages increase each year by £1 from 22/- to 31/-.

In 1889, they had another son, Richard Harold Bodman. When he was just 20 months old he died tragically and in an unusual way. The family had by then moved to 36 Butlin Street, Birmingham. At Richard’s subsequent inquest, his mother Mary Bodman described the circumstances of his death:-

I am the mother of the deceased. On Sunday 23rd inst., about 2pm, I put a pot about half full of hot soup on the floor near the fire, (the) deceased was then standing near the table, I turned round for an instant and then saw the deceased in a sitting position in the pot, I at once got him out and cut his clothing off, he was scalded about his bottom, he was at once wrapped in a blanket and taken in a trap to the General Hospital and remained with him till he died on Wednesday morning 26th inst. At 12.30

Henry and Mary are thought to have had three other children, John, Florence and Gertrude. No other details are presently known.

Mary Bodman, nee Willis died an 16th August 1894 aged just 42. Her son Henry George Bodman was then 13, he found her dying on the floor. She only had two boys (no girls) who survived childhood.

Following Mary’s death, Henry married Annie a spinster, of full age on 28th Nov 1896 at Keevil, Wiltshire. She was born in Potterne near Keevil, around 1868.

Although Annie’s surname was Bodman and came from Keevil, at present there does not appear to be any direct connection between Henry and Annie’s families. Annie’s father was James Bodman, a carpenter. A James Bodman was a witness at the marriage. James’s family can be traced back to a Thomas Bodman baptised in Keevil in 1561.

Henry and Annie lived in the next street to Elliot street in Nechells, Birmingham. Their house had three bedrooms, There was a long garden where Henry grew vegetables. It may have been owned by Henry. He lived there from at least 1918 until he died probably before 1930. Self educated, he liked reading by the fireside in the kitchen with a drink. He was a signalman at New Street railway station. Iris Bodman, his grand daughter, remembered seeing him working when she was a child. Although his wife Annie was able bodied, Henry did the shopping. He was a Lay preacher possibly Methodist. He was very well respected and well liked.

Washwood Heath Signal Box with Saltley Gasometers behind

Washwood Heath Signal Box with Saltley Gasometers behind

By 1901, he had been promoted to being a signalman at Washwood Heath No. 1. signalbox on a wage of 31/- (from the Saltley District Superintendent´s personal staff records 1901 – 1909)
When their first daughter Winifred was born in 1898 they were living at 32 Johnston Street, Nechells. At the time of the 1901 census, the family were still living at 32 Johnson Street. Henry was by then a railway signalman and as well as Henry and Annie’s daughter Winifred aged 2, Annie’s father, James, a carpenter and  Henry, John and Ada from the first marriage were living with them.

By the time of the 1911 census, they had moved to 11 Crompton Street, Nechells. Henry was still a signalman. The census shows that he and Annie had 6 children born alive only three of  them survived.

The known children of  Henry and Annie are:-

Winifred Cecilia Bodman b. 24 Dec 1898 Birmingham
Lenourd David Bodman b. abt. 1905 Birmingham
Anne Gwendoline Bodman b. abt. 1910 Birmingham

Henry David Bodman was a tall man about 6ft 2 inch tall and weighed about 18 stone when about 60. He often drank cider although this was always in moderation. In later years when his son Henry George was an adult he objected strongly to his son;s occasional excessive drinking habits. He liked his food and on Sunday he would have the family around for an evening meal. Typically this was soup, roast beef etc followed by fruit pie. Grace was always said before the meal. He cured his own hams and these were hung in  the large kitchen from the ceiling. He bottled his own fruit.

Henry David died aged 79 on 29th January 1934. He had been living at 11 Crompton Road, Duddeston, Birmingham. His beloved wife, Annie died on 16th August 1946 aged 78 at 509 Belchers Lane, Birmingham.