Houston, Arthur

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Arthur Houston (born Albert Houston)

20008, Private, 14th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers
Died of Illness, 18 May 1915, aged 33
Buried in Llanrhos (Ss. Eleri and Mary) Churchyard

CWGC registered (no family details)

Born at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight on 28 September 1881, Arthur Houston was the son of Alexander Gilmer Houston, the land agent of the Steephill Estate, and his wife Emily Harriet Houston (née Gavin). The couple had married in Cardiff in 1874 and three earlier children are recorded: Nellie Maude (1885-1950), William John Gilmer (1887-1947), and Alexander Douglas (1880-1935). Arthur’s birth was registered as Albert Alonzo Richard Jeremiah Houston. Financial difficulties within the Steephill Estate were the cause of Alexander Houston seeking additional employment and in 1883 he was appointed Town Clerk of Ventnor. The following year, he was brought before the magistrates for failing to have his child vaccinated. The case was dismissed though he had to pay costs; being a prominent Freemason may have had some influence with the bench. Another son, Oscar Beaumont John Willis was born in 1885.

Emily Harriet Houston died on 12 December 1886.The Census of 1891 records Alexander Houston and his family living in Castle Road, Ventnor; the boys are listed as expected except for Albert who is recorded as “Albert M” (8 [actual age 9]). Alexander Gilmer Houston died on 20 May 1898 and his children were dispersed, though his Masonic connections ensured that they did not become impoverished. The Census for 1901 records Alexander (as Douglas A) boarding at Roath in Glamorganshire with his mother’s brother, Rolly Gillespie Gavin; Albert (16 [actual age 19] boarding at 43 Harriet Street, Cardiff; and Oscar, boarding in Wimbledon. Ten years later, in 1911, the three younger brothers were all living under the same roof at 86 Manor Street, Heath, Cardiff: Alexander, married, was a clerk, Albert (27 [actual age 29]) a baker and Oscar a worker in a florist’s.

This 1911 Census record is the last record naming “Albert” Houston to have been found; crucially, there is no record of his death. However, a marriage record in the Conwy Register dated 1914 names the groom as “Arthur” Houston. The evidence is overwhelming that Albert Houston had changed his name to Arthur.

On 9 May 1914, Arthur Houston, 29 (actual age 33), a bachelor and general labourer of “The Cobden”, Mostyn Street, Llandudno, the son of Alexander Houston, a town clerk, married Sarah Jane Roberts, 28, spinster and domestic servant of “Meadowcroft” (a hotel), Colwyn Bay at Conwy Register Office.

In September 1914, the Town Council at Llandudno resolved to open a recruitment office in Llandudno Town Hall in the charge of Mr Arthur Hewitt, a town councillor, architect and prominent Freemason. Shortly thereafter, attestation papers signed in Llandudno were invariably witnessed by Arthur Hewitt. Amongst those to volunteer was Arthur Houston. His army record no longer survives but his regimental number of 20008 in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers indicates that he volunteered in early November 1914. Nominally, at least, Arthur was on the strength of the 14th (Service) Battalion RWF which formed at Llandudno that month, but Arthur Hewitt retained Arthur Houston’s services as his orderly clerk. Whether Arthur was slated to move to Winchester with the rest of the 14th RWF in August 1915 is unknown for he contracted a chill and died of pneumonia on 18 May 1915. Arthur was taken from 28 Somerset Street, Llandudno and buried with full military honours at Llanrhos Churchyard.

Sarah Jane Houston died at Lancaster in 1933.

A contemporary newspaper report of the military funeral fails to mention Arthur’s wife Sarah Jane. The report does state that he was born at Ventnor, that he came to the area with the South Wales Borderers and later transferred to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Since Arthur Houston had been a civilian living in Llandudno when he married in May 1914, and because battalions of the South Wales Borderers did not arrive at Colwyn Bay and Kinmel Park, Rhyl until December 1914 and April 1915, it appears that Arthur’s service with the Borderers may have been before he moved to Llandudno. It is possible that he served with the Militia (Territorial Force from 1909) and may well have visited Llandudno. Three thousand men of the volunteer battalions (militia) SWB spent an unruly summer camp at Conway Morfa in 1906.

Known memorials

  • Llandudno Roll of Honour
  • Llandudno War Memorial
  • Memorial Chapel, Holy Trinity Church, Llandudno

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