George Robert Thorn Conybeare was born into a publican family, worked as a postman and then ran a Chelmsford pub. He married in March 1913, had two children and, after appealing at least twice against his call-up, joined the army in March 1917. He was killed near Ypres in September 1917.
George was born at Moulsham in 1886, the son of cabinet maker and victualler Alfred Conybeare and Adelaide Conybeare (nee Thorn). George’s father had been born in Chelmsford in 1851; his mother at High Easter in 1845. They had married at St. Mary’s Church in Widford on 24th August 1882 at which point George’s father was a cabinet maker of Widford, and the son of William Conybeare, then a tailor. His mother was the daughter of Joseph Thorn.
George was christened at St John’s Church, Moulsham on 11th July 1886. At the time his father was a cabinet maker of Prospect Place, Moulsham. His grandfather William Conybeare was innkeeper of The Ship in Broomfield Road, Chelmsford and his maternal grandmother Ann Thorn ran the White Horse at Widford.
George’s siblings were Annie Lilian Conybeare (who was christened at St John’s Church, Moulsham on 20th July 1883 when her father was a cabinet maker of Prospect Place); Blanche Matilda Conybeare (who was christened at St John’s Church, Moulsham on 10th September 1884 when her father was a cabinet maker of Prospect Terrace); and Alfred William Conybeare, born 14th March 1889 at Widford (christened at St. Mary’s Church, Widford on 26th May 1889). Blanche died in 1885 before she reached her first birthday.
The 1891 census found George, aged four at the White Horse Public House, Widford, with his parents, grandmother Ann Thorn (publican) and two siblings and a servant. His father was a cabinet manufacturer.
A decade later the 1901 census listed 14 year-old George living at the Rising Sun Inn, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford which was run by his father. The remainder of the household included George’s mother, two siblings, cousins Arthur Woodgate (aged 20) and Grace Woodgate (aged 23), a servant and three boarders.
CONYBEARE, GEORGE ROBERT THORN,
Gunner, 118th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
A similar report appeared in the day’s Essex Weekly News:
“Gunner G. Conybeare, Siege Battery, R.G.A., officially reported on Oct. 17 to have been wounded in action on Sept. 12, is the elder son of Mrs. A. Conybeare, of The Bell, Little Waltham, and prior to joining up held the licence of the Old George, Moulsham, Chelmsford, which has since been transferred to his wife.”
A week later the Essex Weekly News reported:
“Gunner G. Conybeare, Siege Battery, R.G.A., elder son of Mrs. A. Conybeare, of the Bell, Little Waltham, and until he joined up, the licencee of the Old George, Moulsham Chelmsford, who was last week stated to be wounded is now reported died from wounds.”
It later emerged that George had died on the day of his wounds on his way to a dressing station. He was aged 31. Today he rests at the Bedford House Cemetery, Ypres, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium (grave reference: Enclosure No.4 II. D. 16.).
George’s father died ion 24th June 1903 at the Rising Sun aged 52.
His mother was listed as running The Bell in Little Waltham in street directories of 1906 and 1917. The 1911 census found George at that address, along with his mother, brother Alfred, cousin Robert Conybeare and a servant. George was a postman; his mother a licensed victualler, while his brother was a cabinet maker and his cousin a machinist at Hoffmann’s ball-bearing factory in Chelmsford.
On 19th March 1913 George married Ella Mary George at Little Waltham. At the time he was aged 27, employed as a licenced victualler and resident in Little Waltham. His bride was the 29 year-old
daughter of James George a bookseller. George’s bride was a school teacher. The couple went on to have two children - Kenneth G. Conybeare, born in 1913, and Douglas Alfred George Conybeare (1916-1983).
On 24th July 1914 George was granted the licence of the Old George at 22 Moulsham Street, Chelmsford. The property stood on the south-eastern side of the road opposite Friars Place. It is pictured left in 1969 when subsequently used as a chemists. Soon after the photograph was taken it was demolished when Parkway was built.
On 22nd May 1916 George appeared at Chelmsford’s Military Service Tribunal before Chelmsford’s Mayor, an Alderman a Councillor, and a military representative to appeal against his call-up into the army. The 30 year-old appealed on domestic grounds; his wife being unwell at that time and unable to carry on running the Old George. His appeal was successful and he was granted an exemption until 1st July 1916.
George appeared before another Military Service Tribunal in January 1917, suggesting that in the interim he had been granted further exemptions. By then he was also working as a munitions worker in addition to being the landlord of the Old George. He appealed as a semi-skilled man
that he might be allowed to do agricultural work so that he could help his wife, who was in indifferent health, to carry on running the pub. George argued that he ought to be treated the same as other publicans, some of whom had gone into munitions work and remained there. However, it was pointed out that George had been passed as “Category A” and as such must be called up. George’s appeal was dismissed, but he would not be called up until 1st March 1917.
On 9th March 1917 the licence of the Old George was transferred to George’s wife, the same week that her sister, Rose Isabella Fisher (nee George), died having fallen putting her son to bed, and in the process sustained a fatal brain haemorrhage.
George enlisted into the army in Chelmsford and served as Gunner 147518 in the 118th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was wounded on 11th September 1917, and was recorded as missing on 17th October 1917. On 19th October 1917 the Essex County Chronicle reported:
“Official news has been received that Gnr. Geo. Conybeare, of the R.G.A., was wounded in action on Sept. 12. Gnr. Conybeare was the landlord of the Old George, Moulsham, Chelmsford, and is the elder son of Mrs. Conybeare, the Bell, Little Waltham.”
On 2nd November 1917 the Essex County Chronicle carried a family announcement regarding George:
“Conybeare. - Geo. Robert Thorne Conybeare, Siege Battery, R.G.A., died of wounds received the same day, near Ypres, Sept. 11th, 1917. The beloved husband of Ella M. Conybeare, ‘The Old George’, Moulsham, Chelmsford, aged 31 years.
The one we all loved well: But another home is broken Where his wife and children dwell. Amidst the roar of cannon, Amidst the shells that fall, God called him, and he answered His solemn last Roll Call.”
The same edition also carried a report on George’s death:
“George Robert Thorne Conybeare, Siege Battery, R.G.A., posted as ‘missing’ Oct. 17th, 1917, now officially reported as having died from wounds received in action near Ypres on the same day, was formerly landlord of the ‘Old George’, Moulsham. On his being called up the licence was transferred to his wife. He was the elder son of Mrs. A. Conybeare, The Bell, Little Waltham. In a letter the deceased soldier’s Commanding Officer says: ‘His loss will be deeply felt by the officers and men of his battery.”
A family announcement appeared in the Essex Weekly News of 2nd November 1917:
“Conybeare. - On Sept. 11th, 1917, died of wounds received the same day, near Ypres, George Robert Thorne Conybeare, Siege Battery, R.G.A., the beloved husband of Ella M. Conybeare, The Old George, Moulsham, Chelmsford, aged 31 years. He did his duty nobly The one we all loved well: But another home is broken Where his wife and children dwell. Amidst the roar of cannon, Amidst the shells that fall, God called him, and he answered His solemn last Roll Call.”
The paper also mentioned George in a report of a wounded comrade:
“Gunner W. Carter, R.G.A., a native of Tolleshunt D’Arcy, but whose home is ow at 84. Holbrook-rd, West Ham, is in hospital at Moffat, Dumfriesshire suffering from wounds on the right hip and in the back. In a letter he mentions that he was with his comrade, Gnr. George T. T. Conybeare, of Moulsham (whose death was recorded in this column last week), on the day the latter fell mortally wounded. He adds that although he did not see Conybeare after he was wounded he knew he was taken to the dressing station, but died just before reaching there. He was conscious and to the last was talking to Bob. Waine of his wife and children.”
On 13th September 1918 the Essex Weekly News carried three in memoriam notices for George:
“In ever-loving memory of my dear husband, Gunner George Conybeare, Siege Battery. R.G.A., killed in action on Sept. 11, 1917, and buried in Bedford House Cemetery, Tillebeke, S.E. of Ypres, - From his wife, Ellis M. Conybeare, The Old George, Chelmsford. ‘Greater love than this hath no man for his friends.’
In loving memory of our dear daddy, Gunner George Conybeare, R.G.A. - from Kenneth and Douglas. Always talking of you daddy, And of how you loved us so; But we miss you more than ever - No one but your own can know.
In loving remembrance of Gunner George Conybeare, R.G.A., elder son of Mrs. A. Conybeare, Minnow Mead. Great Waltham. On the Resurrection morning All the graves their dead restore; Father, sister, child, and mother Meet once more. From his loving Mother and his brother Alf.”
George is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, and the Moulsham Parish Memorial, St John’s Church, Moulsham. He was entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
He left an estate valued at £488 3s. 7d.
The 1918 register of electors showed George’s widow at 22 Moulsham Street, Chelmsford. She subsequently married George Robert Hume at St. John’s Church, Moulsham, on 1st December 1920.
George’s mother lived to be 91 and was buried at St. Mary’s Church in Widford on 28th January 1937. George’s widow died in 1966.
George’s son Douglas Alfred George Conybeare married the daughter of Ernest Jarvis who is also commemorated by the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford.