All text and images © Helvellyn Consulting 2023
William Harker was born at Home Farm in Patterdale on the 30th April 1882. His father, also William, had been born in Brough but had moved to Patterdale and in 1875 had married Isabella Smith, daughter of Thomas Smith, who ran the shop at Bridge House Glenridding. By the time William junior was born William senior was farming at Home Farm Patterdale. He and Isabella had already had three children by the time the time William junior was born. William Simpson had been born in 1876 but had died as a baby in 1877. Son Lawrence was born in 1878, and daughter Marion in 1880. After William junior they also had another son, Percy, born in 1888. William junior would have attended Patterdale School with Lawrence, and the likes of Albert Rothery, who was born in the same year as William and lived at Grassthwaite How, just up from Home Farm. It is quite possible that they are all featured in the photo we have of the children at Patterdale School in 1889, shown below.
Shortly after Percy’s birth, in July 1889, William’s mother Isabella died, aged just 38. Two years later young Percy himself died aged just 3. A year after that, on the 23rd March 1892, William’s father remarried, to Sarah Jane Watson. Sarah Jane was born in Haltwhistle Northumberland but by 1901 was working as a housekeeper for the Harker family at Home Farm in Patterdale. William Senior and Sarah Jane had 5 children together -
It is likely that elder brother Lawrence was going to take on their father’s farm, so it seems young William decided to follow in the footsteps of his maternal grandfather and become a grocer. By 1901, 17 year old William was living at 26 Victoria Road Penrith and working as a grocers apprentice and ten years later in 1911 he was still in Penrith (at 20 William Street) and working as a Grocers Assistant.
When the war broke out it appears William was working as travelling salesmen for a grocery firm in Chesterfield in Derbyshire. He enlisted in the Sherwood Foresters (the local county regiment) on the 12th December 1915 as part of the Derby Scheme. When he had his medical in March 1916 his service records show that he was suffering from a hernia. Consequently when he was mobilised on the 21st June 1916 he was assigned to a Home Service Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, the 17th Battalion. He must have progressed well despite his hernia as he was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal on the 23rd November 1916. However by the 1st May 1917 he had been demoted back to private, although he service records provide no clue as to why this might have happened. To make matters worse in June 1917 he appears to have suffered another hernia whilst lifting sandbags. A month later he was transferred to the 18th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment and after the armistice, in February 1919, he was transferred once again into the Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps, serving with the WCLC, Western Command Labour Company. We had another medical on the 28th August where both hernias were examined and he was discharged 2 days later with a “20% severity” disability pension. It appears therefore that he spent all three years of his army service in England and as such would not have qualified for any war medals.
On his discharge papers it gives his home address as his father’s farm at Lane Head in Troutbeck, so we assume this is where he returned home. After that we have currently found no further information on his life. We believe that he died in the North East around 1956 aged 74. He is remembered on the Glenridding Village Hall Roll of Honour where he is listed as a driver in the Sherwood Foresters. It is likely that he was a driver in the Labour Corps.
In terms of the rest of his family it appears that his father William died in Penrith in June 1918 aged 74. We believe his second wife Sarah Jane may have died before the war, around 1911. William’s elder brother Lawrence died in December 1963 aged 85. His elder sister Marion appears to have died in Penrith about the same time as her father, in 1918, and it is possible that they died from the “Spanish Flu” epidemic. William’s half brother George Randolph also died around the same time, in March 1919 aged just 26. Continuing the sad story of early deaths we believe another of William’s half sisters, Mary Elizabeth, may have died in September 1922 aged just 22.
William’s half sister Harriet married George Maurice Wilkinson on the 26th February 1919 in Mungrisdale. His final half brother Percy Angus married Annie Wilson in 1925 and died aged 78 in September 1976.
If you can add anything to the story of William and his family please contact us.
Driver William Harker
Sherwood Foresters, 43217 - 17th & 18th Battalions Yorkshire Regiment, 502058 - 421 & 547 Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps
Born 30th April 1882 Home Farm, Patterdale.
Died June 1956, Gateshead (Age 74)
Son of William and Isabella (nee Smith) Harker of Home Farm & Greenbank Farm Patterdale and Lane Head Farm Troutbeck
A photo of the children at Patterdale School in 1889, kindly given to us by the family of Dawson Bowman, which probably includes at William and his elder brother Lawrence. We have tried to identify as many of them as possible on our Patterdale School Then and Now page.
A page from William’s Service Record showing his demotion from Lance Corporal to Private and his time in the Yorkshire Regiment