All text and images © Helvellyn Consulting 2023
Robert’s Father George on the right, with fellow Greenside Blacksmiths brother John (centre) and John Oglethorpe in the 1920s.
Robert’s cousin Frank Brown, who served in the Border Regiment and who died in Pakistan in October 1918.
Robert’s brother Lance Corporal David Brown who served with the Border Regiment and was a POW.
Robert Clarence Brown was born on the 24th March 1894, and baptised at the Methodist Chapel in Glenridding on 15th July of that year. His father George Brown was a blacksmith employed at Greenside Mine alongside his brother John. Robert would have attended Patterdale School alongside his cousin Frank Brown, and his siblings Emily (born 1892), David (born 1896), Annie (born 1901), although he would have probably started work by the time his youngest sister Mildred (born 1906) started school. We know that once he left school he joined his father at Greenside mine, working as a general labourer.
We’re not sure exactly when Robert enlisted but it is possible that by the start of the war he had moved to the work in the North East of England, alongside his cousin William Brown, who we know was working as a miner in South Shields, and who also enlisted in the Durham Light Infantry. Other than knowing his regiment, service number and the medals he received we have no further details on Robert’s time in the army. From his medals we know that he would have seen active service and it likely we served in France, and if he served alongside his cousin William may well have seen service in Egypt as well. All we do know for sure is that Robert was commemorated on the Glenridding Village Hall Roll of Honour alongside his brother David Brown, and cousin Frank Brown who tragically lost his life in the war.
After the war Robert married Hilda Thornber on 18th June 1921 Padiham, Burnley and became a coal merchat, and they had a daughter Peggy, born in December 1922. We were contacted by Peggy’s son Stephen in 2019 who provided us with the photos shown and also some more fascinating family information, including the story of how Robert and Hilda met.
“There is quite a sweet story as to how they met (which we are determined to believe is true). During the war my grandmother was a schoolgirl and her and her classmates were encouraged to send gifts to the lads at the front. My grandmother sent some eggs on one of which she wrote her name and address. It ended up with my grandfather who wrote back to her. The eventual result was our mother.”
Stephen also told us about how Robert, his grandfather, had tragically died on the 20th May 1938 -
We believe Robert’s father continued to work at Greenside until retirement and died on 25th May 1947 aged 79, whilst living at 1 Mill Croft in Glenridding. We have so far not been able to find out what happened to either his mother or his other siblings, except for Mildred Mary who we know married William Edwin Halliburton, a gardener from Plumpton on 1st September 1948.
Robert’s grandson also shared another story with us.
“There is another tragic tale relating to a Glenridding soldier. My mother told us that one man (we think a relative, but aren’t sure) returned very badly disabled. To free his wife of the burden of having to look after him and to enable her to start a new life, he drowned himself in Lake Ullswater. That at least was the romantic version. Years later when our mother was elderly she told us the story again (perhaps forgetting she had already done so) and in this later version the man killed himself because his wife had left him. You may know more details.”
If you can add any more information to the story of Robert and his family or indeed the mystery soldier in the story above then please let us know.
Private Robert Clarence Brown
27155 , Durham Light Infantry
Born 24th March 1894, The Square, Glenridding. Died 20th May 1938 in Liverpool Aged 44
Son of George and Mary Lizzie (nee Hetherington) Brown
Husband of Hilda Thornber
Father of Peggy Thornber Brown
Robert and Hilda around 1937