Joseph Adams Woodyard was Chelmsford born and bred, and after working as an errands boy and a mechanic he became a carpenter for the electrical engineer’s Crompton & Company. He married a local girl in 1902, going on to have three children, with their home in South Primrose Hill. As a Territorial Joseph was mobilized at the start of the war, but his unit remained in England for its duration. He was killed in a motorcycle accident in January 1919 in Dovercourt, shortly before he was due to be demobilised. A brother was killed in October 1918.


Company Q.M.S., Essex Fortress Engineers, Royal Engineers

Joseph was born in Chelmsford in 1877, the eldest of eight children of the stone mason Joseph Alfred Woodyard and Alice Woodyard (nee Willis).

His father had been born in 1854 in Chelmsford; his mother c1854 in Islington, London. The couple had married on 19th November 1876 at St. Mary’s Church, Chelmsford. At the time Joseph’s father was aged 22, a stone mason, resident in Chelmsford, and the son of Frederick Woodyard, a carpenter. Joseph’s mother was aged 21, resident in Chelmsford, and the daughter of William Wills, another carpenter.

Joseph’s had seven siblings, all Chelmsford-born: Harry Godfrey Woodyard (1879-1956), Alice Rebecca Woodyard (born in 1881), Leonard Herbert Woodyard (1883-1883), Clara Marion Woodyard (1884-1966), Agnes Mary Woodyard (1887-1956), Ethel Louisa Woodyard (1893-1971), Benjamin Albert Woodyard (1896-1918).

Joseph was aged four and living at 22 Broomfield Road with his parents and brother Harry at the time of the 1881 census. His father was a stone mason.

A decade later the census found the family of seven at 11 South Primrose Hill (today number 54). Joseph’s father remained a mason, while fourteen year-old Joseph was an errand boy.

At the time of the 1901 census Joseph was living with his parents and five younger

siblings 14 South Primrose Hill (today number 68). Joseph was a carpenter; his father a stone mason, and his brother Harry an electrical engineer.

On 13th September 1902 Joseph married Elizabeth Newcombe at St. Mary’s Church, Chelmsford. At the time he was aged 25, employed as a mechanic and living at 14 South Primrose Hill (today’s 68). His father was a mason. Joseph’s bride was the 24 year-old daughter of the late George Newcombe, a naturalist, and she lived next door at 13 South Primrose Hill (today’s 70).

Joseph and Elizabeth made their home at 21 South Primrose Hill (today’s number 74) and their children included Joseph Woodyard (born in 1903 in Chelmsford, and died in 1964), Joan Woodyard (born in 1906 in Chelmsford, and died in 1913) and Peter Woodyard who was born in 1918.

The 1911 Census recorded 34 year-old Joseph living with his wife and two elder children still at 21 South Primrose Hill, three doors away from his parents. He was a carpenter in the works department at Crompton’s electrical engineer’s. The property would remain his home until his death.

Joseph was a keen motorcyclist and had seen military service in South Africa before the war, and as a Territorial was mobilised at the start of the war in the Essex Fortress Company of the Royal Engineers and spent his wartime service in England.

Joseph’s brother Benjamin Albert Woodyard was killed in action on 23rd October 1918 while serving with the Royal Engineers in France. The 1918 register of electors listed Joseph at 33 South Primrose Hill (previously numbered 21 and now number 68).

He was killed on 25th January 1919 in a motorcycling accident at Dovercourt while serving as Company Quartermaster Serjeant 530008. He was 42 years old.

On 31st January 1919 the Essex County Chronicle reported:

“Fatal Motor Smash -Popular Chelmsford Cyclist Killed - A sad fatality occurred at Dovercourt on Saturday afternoon. Co.-Q.-M.-S. Joseph Adam Woodyard, of the A.A. Section, Harwich, and a native of Chelmsford, was driving a motor cycle with sidecar attached - in which was seated Miss Porter, an A.S.C. driver - in the direction of Ramsey. Deceased was following another motor cycle . and when near the Tollgate they overtook the Misses Hewett, of Ramsey, three young lady cyclists in safety, but the deceased accidentally collided with Miss Blanche Hewett , causing her to fall from her bicycle.

The deceased apparently turned his head to see what had occurred, and in doing so must have inadvertently altered the course of his machine, which came in violent collision with a telegraph post. The impact threw the soldier from his motor, either against the post or a wall  a foot away. He sustained shocking injuries including a fractured skull,  and died on the spot. Miss Hewett escaped serious injury, although her machine was considerably damaged. Miss Porter, the occupant of the sidecar sustained severe injuries to the head, and the motor cycle and side-car were wrecked.

The deceased was one of the most popular and best-known cycle riders in Essex, and was the possessor of numerous prizes which he won on the track. He was a carpenter by trade. was foreman in the works department at Messrs. Crompton and Co.’s works, and a very successful competitor ay the annual sports which used to be held in connection with the works until the war intervened.

Of recent years he had taken up motor cycling, and was a skilled motorist. He was greatly respected by all athletes, to whom he was familiarly known as Joey Woodyard. He was a keen Volunteer, and served with the C.I.V.’s in South Africa. Subsequently he transferred into the Electrical (now Fortress) Engineers, and was mobilised at the outbreak of the war.

Although one ready for service abroad,his unit was principally kept at home for service at Harwich and other forts.  As in sport, so in military matters, he was a most genial and popular n.c.o., and his untimely end will be sincerely mourned by many. Deceased, who was 42 years if age, leaves a widow and two children, who reside in South Primrose Hill, Chelmsford, and with whom much sympathy is felt. A younger brother gave his life in the war.

The inquest

Dr. J. Harrison, coroner, held an inquest on the body at Harwich on Tuesday.

Capt. Arnold, commanding A.A. Co. R.G.A. Harwich, said that on Saturday deceased was given orders to proceed to Ipswich. Deceased was late in starting, having lent his motor horn to another driver. Deceased was an expert driver, and had never met with an accident , so far as the witness knew.

Albert Springall, a lad attending the High School at Dovercourt, of Wix Green, said he was cycling home and saw the Misses Hewett cycling in the direction of Ramsey on their proper side of the road. They drew more to the left to allow the first motor cycle to pass. they then opened out into the road again. The second motor cycle and side-car, driven by the deceased, came along behind, and the side-car collided with Miss Blanche Hewett’s cycle, and she was thrown off.

At this time the girl was a little out of the  middle of the road. After striking the girl the motor cycle appeared to shoot to the right, and struck the telegraph post. The deceased fell, his head striking the brick wall. Witness went up to him, and thought he was dead. Witness then went back to look after Miss Porter, who was sitting in the sidecar with her hands to her face. She appeared to be unconscious, Assistance was soon at hand, and witness cycled for the doctor. He found Dr. Porter who sent him to the hospital for an ambulance. - By the Coroner: The machine appeared to skid. - Did you hear the deceased sound his hooter? - No - Did you hear the first machine sound the hooter? = No, I was too far away.

S.-Sergt. Stanley Eric Collis, attached to the A.A. Section, said he left Harwich with a motor cycle and sidecar for Shotley. Deceased was following. Everything went well until they reached Upper Dovercourt. He saw the girl cyclists ahead and sounded his hooter, and the girls drew to the left-hand side of the road. He passed them travelling at about 20 miles per hour. He returned an hour later, when he heard of the accident.

Miss Blanche Hewett, aged 13, of Ramsey, said she heard the noise of the motor horn, and her sisters crossed to the proper side of the road; she also drew across. The first motor cycle passed, and she had no idea another motor cycle was coming up behind, and did not hear its horn. Thinking the road was clear she drew towards the middle of the road. Her sister Gwendoline shouted ‘Look out , there’s another one coming’. Witness had no time to do anything, and before she could get across to the left-hand side the side-car of the motor cycle struck her machine and she was thrown to the ground. Beyond a graze of the right knee she escaped injury. - Miss Gwendoline Hewett, aged 15 also gave evidence.

Sergt. Smith said the road at the spot measured 28 feet, with a 6ft. path, The road was very greasy. There were marks as if something had struck the wall with tremendous force.

Dr. Porter said he attended deceased at the scene of the accident. Deceased was unconscious, suffering from a fracture of the skull and a wound on the left side of the forehead. He expired about twenty minutes afterwards. Miss Porter was in a dazed condition. She had a bruise on the left side of the cheek, and was bleeding slightly from the right ear. The cause of death was fracture of the skull.

The jury found that the deceased was accidentally killed and that no blame attached to anyone. They commended the way witness Springall for the prompt way he acted, and the clear manner in which he gave his evidence.

The Coroner told the lad that great credit was due to him for having acted so promptly.

The Coroner and jury also expressed sympathy with the deceased’s relatives.

The funeral of the deceased will take place tomorrow at the Borough Cemetery, Chelmsford, at 3 p.m.”

A similar report appeared in the day’s Essex Weekly News:

“Chelmsford cycling champion killed. Mr. J. A. Woodyard, whose home address is at Primrose-hill, Chelmsford, but who has been serving recently as C.Q.M.-S. of the Anti-Aircraft Section, Harwich, met with a

fatal accident while riding a motor cycle at Dovercourt on Saturday. It appears that the deceased, to whose machine a side-car was attached, was proceeding in the direction of Ramsey, following another cycle. When near the Tollgate they overtook the Misses Howett, of Ramsey, The first motor cycle passed them in safety, but deceased collided with Miss Blanche Hewett, causing her to fall from her machine. An instant later his ,machine collided violent;y with a telegraph post. Woodyard was thrown, and his head came into contact with a wall, with the result that whose skull was fractured and he died almost immediately. Miss Porter, of the A.S.C., who was in the side-car, was badly injured on the head, and was removed to military hospital.

The late Mr. Woodyard, familiarly called ‘Joey’ was formerly well known as a cyclist in Essex. Before joining the Army he was employed at Messrs. Crompton and Co.’s works at Chelmsford. He held the works cycling championship, and also competed at the County athletic meetings. He raced for a time in association with R. C. Knights, and was greatly esteemed by is Club mates and fellow workmen. Deceased saw service with the C.I.V.’s in South Africa, and had been in the Essex Volunteers. He subsequently transferred to the Electrical (now the Fortress) Engineers, his unit being kept at home, principally at Harwich and other forts. He was 42 years of age and leaves a widow and two children, A younger brother lost his life in the war.

Mr. Coroner Harrison held an inquest on Tuesday - Evidence bearing out the above facts was given, and it was stated that deceased had orders to go to Ipswich, but was late in starting, having lost his motor horn to another driver. Albert Springett, a High School boy, who witnessed the accident, said deceased;s machine appear to skid. Dr. Porter said death was due to a fractured skull - The Jury returned a verdict of Accidental death and found that no blame attached to anyone. At their request the Coroner recommended the witness Springall for the prompt assistance be rendered to the deceased and Miss Porter; and both Coroner and Jury expressed sympathy with the relatives of the deceased/

The funeral will take place at the Chelmsford Borough Cemetery to-morrow (Saturday at three o’ clock).”

Joseph was buried in grave A515 at Chelmsford Borough Cemetery in Writtle Road on 1st February 1919. His residence was 33 South Primrose Hill, Chelmsford (today’s number 74, pictured). The service was conducted by Rev. George Twist, Curate of Chelmsford Cathedral under the authority of Essex County Coroner.

Joseph’s funeral was reported in the Essex Weekly News on 7th February 1919:

“The late C.-Q.-M.-S. Woodyard - The funeral of C.-Q.-M.-S. J. A. Woodyard, of South Primrose-hill, Chelmsford, who was killed in a motor cycling accident at Dovercourt under circumstances reported last week, took place with military honours at the Chelmsford  Borough Cemetery on Saturday. The coffin, which was borne on a hand bier, was covered with a Union Jack, and upon it rested the deceased’s cap and accoutrements.

There was an escort of his old comrades in the anti-aircraft section of the R.G.A. from Harwich, and a firing party and bugler were furnished by the Y Camp, Great Baddow. The officers in charge of the escort were Capt. Arnold, R.G.A., and Lt. Winter, R.E.; and the following members of the old Essex Fortress Engineers were present: C.-Q.-M.-S. Coles, Sgts. Hills and Brown, and Cpls. Webb and Smith. Many of the employees of Messrs. Crompton and Co. met the cortege at the corner of Writtle-rd., whence they formed part of the procession to the cemetery.

The chief mourners were: Mrs. Woodyard, widow; Master J. Woodyard, son; Mrs. J. Woodyard; Mr. H. Woodyard, brother; Misses C.A. and E. Woodyard, sisters; Messrs. A. Haughton, J. J. Moule, G. Newcombe, and J. Welham. Those also present included Messrs. H. J. Fell, W. Dines. G. East, E. A. Dale, F. Hockley, T. Everard, W. Self, W Skingley, A. Day, F. Lucking, F. Sorrell. C. Blake, C. Ray, E. Cluff, A. W. Hawkes, O. Eve, G. Hardy, J. E. Buchard, G. Charles, J. Gilderoy, and the following employed at Messrs. Crompton’s: Messrs. F. Bryan, W. Heard, C. Cole, A. Lee, P. Stokes, G. Hatch, W. Crosier, S. Nokes, C. Willingham, E.B. Cheverton, J. W. Greenaway, G. Shipton, T. H. Knight, E. W. Whitehead, J. E. Shaw, J. Perry, A. Davey, A. Brewers, W. Warren, A. Croft, and others. There were many floral tributes, including wreaths from the Headquarters Staff, R.E., Harwich; N.C.O.’s and men, R.G.A. and R.E., Harwich; Harwich Garrison and R.E. Felixstowe; Arc Works Athletic Club; and his old associates at Messrs. Crompton’s.

Joseph is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford.

On 4th February 1921 the Essex Chronicle included the following ‘In Memoriam’ notice:

“Woodyard - In ever dear and loving memory of my dearly beloved husband, C.Q.M.S. J. A. Woodyard, who met his death by accident Jan 25, 1919. Dearly loved - 33 South Primrose Hill, Chelmsford.”

Joseph’s mother died aged 62 in 1920 and was buried at Chelmsford Borough Cemetery on 10th March that year. At the time Joseph’s father was employed at the Hoffmann Manufacturing Company. He was buried in the same grave on 20th November 1924 having died aged 70. Joseph’s widow, Elizabeth Ann Woodyard was buried in her husband’s grave on 1st April 1943 following her death aged 65.

Joseph was one of the ‘South Primrose Hill Boys’.