Owen George Lines

Name Owen George Lines*
Corps Leicestershire Regiment
Rank Lance Corporal
Service No. 240603, 2507
Date/Place of entry 18 September 1914
Date of death 1954

* There is no surviving military service or pension record for Owen George Lines so I cannot be 100% certain that he is the Leicestershire regiment lance corporal whose details are shown above. Circumstantial evidence however suggests he is the Owen Lines listed on Medal rolls and on the website of the Leicestershire Regiment. His younger brother Henry William Lines had served with the Leicestershires from 1905 and re-joined in 1914.

The 1911 census lists two more Owen Lines in the same age group, one born in Wales and the other in the Chipping Norton area. This latter Owen Lines was living in Birmingham in 1911 and so seems much more likely to be the Owen Lines who served in the Royal Warwickshire regiment.


Owen George Lines was born in Birmingham in 1884 but baptised the same year in Chipping Warden, a small village delectably placed on the river Cherwell, six miles from Banbury on the Northamptonshire – Oxfordshire boundary.  He was the third child and first son of Owen Lines and his wife Mary nee Scott.

The extended Lines family had for centuries been one of the dominant families in Chipping Warden, and the name was relatively common in that part of Northamptonshire and the neighbouring counties of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. The website www.lines-davies.net holds a large Lines family tree if you want to know more. Chipping Warden was and still remains a small settlement of less than six hundred. Its commons were enclosed in 1733 and forty years later the Militia Lists show those of the Lines family eligible for militia service were all labourers.

The village was close to important traffic routes. A centuries old drovers’ road used by English and Welsh drovers crossed Warwickshire and ran between the neighbouring villages of Culworth and Aston Le Walls en route for London and Buckingham.  At Culworth it intersected with a second major drove road running between Banbury and Northampton.  During the eighteenth century the notorious band of robbers known as the Culworth Gang terrorised the area for miles around until their eventual capture in 1783. They were mostly from Culworth though they also had a base just across the Warwickshire border in Gayton where the Gayton Inn enjoyed a long association with violent highwaymen.

A man named George Lines (there were several bearing this name) of Chipping Warden married a Charlotte Lines there in 1830; Charlotte was said to be related to shoemaker William Abbott, one of the Culworth Gang. Abbott was not your average villain. He was churchwarden at Sulgrave for several years, allegedly packed pistols while carrying out his church duties and used the vestry to store stolen goods. Chipping Warden is no longer threatened by home grown armed robbers but is undoubtedly environmentally threatened as it has the misfortune to lie on the path of the proposed HS2 railway line. 

Owen Lines senior was born in Chipping Warden in 1856, the last but one child of farm labourer George Lines (not the George of the previous paragraph) and his wife Rhoda nee Bazeley (often incorrectly indexed as Bexley). George and Rhoda had nine children. Owen seems to have been the only one of their five sons to reach middle age. Of their four daughters, Phoebe and Hannah married and had children and the other two cannot be traced beyond youth.

The youngest child Robert died in Chipping Warden in 1879 aged twenty but his siblings appear to have left their home village and their parents by the 1870s. This was a time of agricultural depression with reduced opportunities for farmworkers, and a decline in traditional cottage industries.

Like many of his contemporaries Owen looked to find work in urban areas. He moved to Aston near Birmingham as did his brother Eli and probably his eldest brother William. Birmingham was an obvious choice. Barely fifty miles to the northwest of the village the fast developing city and its neighbouring settlements like Aston and Alum Rock attracted many people from south Northamptonshire including several members of the Lines families. An Ellis Lines of Birmingham, formerly landlord of the Griffin Inn in Chipping Warden, was one who failed to prosper and was declared bankrupt in 1877.

Transport links were excellent. As well as the major roads, Chipping Warden lay close to the original Grand Union Canal. Linking Birmingham, the Midlands and London it opened in 1805 and included the famously two long tunnels at nearby Blisworth and Braunston. The Grand Junction Railway was built in 1837 and by the 1850s there were stations at Aston and other satellites of Birmingham.

Owen found work there as a horse keeper and in 1880 married Birmingham-born Mary Scott. He was twenty four to her eighteen. In 1881 he and Mary were living on All Saints Road, not far from his older brother Eli and his family. Eli and his wife Elisabeth had three children living with them in Birmingham but their eldest son, another Eli, was with his grandparents George and Rhoda back in Chipping Warden. Eli junior was still living with his grandfather in 1901.

Mary Scott’s family had lived in Birmingham for several decades at least and her father rejoiced in the highly unusual given name of Onesiphorus. This name had been bestowed upon Scott sons since the early 1700s and possibly much earlier. Whereas the most popular biblical names – recently I researched a family that included Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – are taken from the Old Testament, Onesiphorus has a brief appearance in St Paul’s 2nd Letters to Timothy where Paul praises his courage and friendship.    .

The Scotts lived in Aston where Onesiphorus had found employment in the jewellery trade for much of his life, though in 1881 was employed as a die sinker. He died a year after Mary married Owen Lines, aged only forty five. Nineteenth century cities were not healthy places.

Early in 1886 Owen’s brother Eli died, leaving his widow Elizabeth with the care of their surviving children – two other sons had predeceased him. She and the elder surviving son, Albert, were both in the workhouse infirmary in 1891. Albert survived his illness, married and had four children before dying in his turn at the age of forty. What became of the other son, George Henry, is unclear as there are other George Lines in Birmingham around the same age as him, but he may have become an iron bedstead maker in Aston.

Owen and Mary  Lines had three children while living in Birmingham, Fanny Eliza in 1882, Violet in 1883, and Owen George in 1884. Their next son Henry William was born late in 1886 near Banbury. They moved on shortly afterwards and in 1890 their next child, Edith Ethel Maria was born in Radford Semele, a small village near Leamington Spa. Owen was listed as a farm labourer. His sister Hannah Cowley nee Lines also lived with her husband and family in Radford Semele.

Owen and Mary did not stay long as their next son Frederick Albert was born in 1892 in Cold Ashby, and their daughter Gladys in Hallaton in 1898. They arrived in Cottingham in time for the 1901 census which shows them living on the High Street with their children Owen George, a horse keeper, and their three youngest children. Their son Henry William was working for a Rothwell bread maker, as was Cottingham-born George Thomas Jarvis. The young Jarvis became a fully-fledged baker there but in 1904 Henry William joined the army. The whereabouts of their eldest daughter Fanny remain a mystery. Their second daughter Violet was employed as a kitchen maid in Hereford’s Cathedral Close in the household of a retired clergyman, the Reverend Sidney L. Smith, former rector of Brampton Ash.

Owen’s mother Rhoda had died in 1896 aged seventy eight but his father George was still in Chipping Warden with his grandson Eli. At some point in the next few years George came to live in Cottingham where he died in 1909 around the age of ninety. Owen himself died two and a half years later but his widow Mary lived until 1941. All three share a headstone in Cottingham churchyard.

Owen George got married in 1909 to Elizabeth Goode, eldest sister of George Thomas Goode who would die from wounds following the Battle of Ancre in 1918. Owen and Elizabeth had two sons born in 1910 and 1911.

Presuming that Owen George Lines is the same man as the Owen Lines of the Leicestershire Regiment, Medal Rolls show he enlisted on 8 September 1914 and originally had the number 2507. At discharge he was said to have served previously in the 1/5 Battalion with the number 240603. Also in this battalion was John William Dalby Fisher from Oakham, a cousin of Harry Fisher. John W.D. Fisher was killed in action on 17 June 1917.  

Owen Lines was discharged with the rank of lance corporal on 8 March 1919 because of illness, having served in France. Illness would have probably meant he ended his military career as a non-combatant.

If he was in the 1/5 (Territorial)  Battalion for most of the war, he landed at Le Havre on 28 February 1915 is likely to have taken part in the German liquid fire attack at Hooge at the end of July 1915 and the attack at the Hohenzollern Redoubt on 13 October that year. The 46th Division of which the 1/5 Battalion Leicestershires were part went briefly to Egypt in December before returning to France early in 1916. Sidney Binley of the Cycle Corps was also part of this Division. Over the next two years it fought at Gommecourt, the Ancre – where Owen’s brother in law George Goode received the wounds from which he died – St. Quentin and Cambrai.

Owen George Lines lived until 1954. His wife Elizabeth died ten years later. Their younger son George Frederick attended Loughborough College and Nottingham University and became a schoolteacher. In 1937 he married Peggy Porter, daughter of Cottingham School’s headmaster. 

Owen George’s cousin Lance Corporal William George Scott, son of Mary Lines’ late brother Onesiphorus died while serving with the South Staffordshire Regiment in November 1918. There are six men named Lines on the Birmingham City Battalions list, and fifteen on Birmingham Employers Roll of Honour; the name Scott is even more common. Some of those listed may well be part of Owen Lines’ family group but their names are too common to allow 100% identification.

Other than his brothers Frederick Albert and Henry William, the only other members of his extended Lines family who can definitely be identified as servicemen are Ernest Cowley, son of his cousin Ernest Cowley (descended from his aunt Hannah nee Lines), and Albert Bazeley, Edmond White Bazeley, Frank Walter Bazeley and Arthur Bazeley, all second cousins on his grandmother Rhoda’s side. On his mother’s side was his cousin William George Scott.