CWG: Private James Hayden

Private James Hayden

James Hope Hayden was born in Shorncliffe Military Camp in 1875, the son of Mary Anne Hayden. The youngest of five children, James’ father appears to have died when he was just a toddler; there are no records for him, and Mary Anne – who preferred to caller herself Annie – was listed a a widow by the time of the 1881 census.

The document confirms that Annie was lodging in a house near the Naval Dockyard in Chatham, working as a seamstress. She was living there with her landlady Anne Roberts and her five children, John, William, Annie, Charles and James, who seems to have gone by the name of Mathew.

By the time of the nest census, Annie had moved and was lodging in another house in the same road. She was still employed as a seamstress, and was sharing the rooms with her two youngest children and her brother, William.

The 1901 census finds Annie living in an adjacent road to her previous houses. Head of the household this time, she was working as a laundress. Her brother William was also living there – he was listed as an army pensioner. Mathew is the only one of her children still living with her; he had, by this time, found employment as a labourer in the dockyard.

Moving forward another ten years, and the family have moved one street over. Annie, at 69 years old, remained the head of the household, while Mathew is living there with his wife and three children.

Mathew’s wife is listed as Florence, but there is no record of their wedding, other than the census document which confirms they have been marred for ten years. Mathew is listed as an ex-soldier although again, there is no longer any documentation to confirm this.

From this point, Mathew’s/James’ life goes a bit hazy. The next available record is his army pension document. This confirms that he was a Private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, under the name James Hope Hayden. By this time, he and Florence had had seven children, although it seems to suggest that they were not actually married.

Sadly, it also confirms that Private Hayden had passed away on 1st May 1917, having been suffering from pneumonia, contracted whilst on active service. He was 42 years old.

Mathew was laid to rest in the Grange Road Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, under the name James. The cemetery has since been turned into a public park, and he is commemorated in the nearby Woodlands Cemetery.

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