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  • Writer's pictureSadie

The Panter family, Farrows, Canada and the ‘Hesperian’

The family I am exploring this month – the Panters – shows how employment, especially for women attracted families to Fletton. But it also highlights another trend, which I have increasingly found, as I reconstruct more and more family histories. That is the strong emigration link between Fletton and Canada.

Migration to Fletton flourished in the latter half of the nineteenth century; driven by first of all the arrival of the railways and then by the expansion of the brickyards. However, unlike many other towns Fletton attracted not just single males but families. This was due to the employment opportunities provided for women, both wives and daughters, by factories such as Farrows - peas and canning factory and Symingtons - corset factory. To Fletton residents of a certain age, the name ‘Farrows’ and the impressive red brick Victorian building pictured will be instantly recognisable. In fact, for many residents, men and women alike, Farrows may well have been their first place of employment after leaving school, either in the factory or offices. This pattern was set from when Farrows first opened at the turn of the century.

For some families, migration was an integral part of their lives, moving to follow employment opportunities, and the Panter family were no different. Henry Panter was born in 1863 in Upton, Northamptonshire to James and Lucy. James was an agricultural labourer and Henry followed his father’s employment at a young age. In 1886 Henry married Georgina Sawford in Peterborough. Georgina had been in service in Old Weston in the household of farmer Susanna Cheney. Their first marital home was in Upton, and this is where their first daughter Elsie was born in 1889. The need to follow employment opportunities meant that their second daughter Florence was born in Orton Waterville in 1891 and their third daughter Blanche was born back in Upton five years later.

Life employed in agriculture was a precarious and nomadic one and this insecurity perhaps prompted the family to move to St. John’s Street, Peterborough where Henry was a corporation labourer. It was while the family were in Peterborough that daughter Annie was born in 1898. But Henry and his family were still not settled with the opportunities that Peterborough held. In 1911 Georgina was living at 1 Western Cottages, London Road, New Fletton and the three eldest daughters Elsie, Florence and Blanche were all working at Farrows as a factory hand, tin box maker and pea sorter. Farrows, under the ownership of Joseph Farrow of Boston, had opened their model factory in Old Fletton in 1902, on land rented from John Cathless Hill. A report in the local newspaper commented that the factory ‘meant employment for large numbers of people and a general improvement in the prosperity of the town’ and complimented the factories position adjoining the Great Northern Railway, which was ideal for importing raw materials and exporting manufactured products, and not far from the ‘famous’ Wisbech mustard fields.

Henry was not resident with his family on the 1911 census. A clue to his whereabouts comes in travel documents for his family. His wife Georgina, daughters Elsie, Blanche, Annie and granddaughter Doris were on the passenger lists of the Hesperian. The Hesperian departed Liverpool on the 21st February 1913 bound for St. John or Halifax Canada and on the arrival list on 1st March 1913 it was recorded that they would reside with their husband/ father. So, it was likely that Henry had travelled ahead of his family to seek employment and housing. Missing from this family group was Florence. Florence married Charles Duller on the 4th September 1911 St. Margaret’s, Fletton and they were evidently settled in Engand.

The Hesperian had capacity for 210 1st class passengers, 250 2nd and 1,000 3rd. Only two years later the Hesperian was torpedoed and sunk on the night of 4th September 1915 by a German submarine. The submarine SM U-20 was under the command of Kapitanleutnant Walther Schwieger who sank the Lusitania, 32 people were lost as the lifeboat upset while lowering.

The family seemed to have had mixed fortunes in Canada. Perhaps the opportunities were not as they envisaged or perhaps the draw of Fletton, Peterborough and England were too great. Whatever the reason at varying times over the following years the family made return trips to England, resulting in all except Blanche, and her family, remaining in England. Not all of their journeys have been traced to date, but the summary below is what can be pieced together.

Elsie had returned to Fletton by 28th June 1915 when she married Arthur Walden, a printer compositor, at St. Margaret’s. They made their home at 3 St. Paul’s Road, Peterborough and remained in Peterborough.

Blanche married John Schofield in Eltham, Kent in 1915. In 1920 the Schofield family, and Henry, returned to Canada on board the Minnedosa, arriving at St. John, New Brunswick on 11th March 1920. In 1921 they lived in Toronto West, they had two children and Henry was also living with them. Blanche died on 29th December 1935, in Canada, aged just 42, after suffering from pneumonia.

Annie had returned to Peterborough by 1920 as it was then that she married John H Simms. They settled at 100 Wellington Street, Peterborough. John was a loco driver with L. N. E. R.

Doris had also returned to Fletton by 1934 as it was in that year that she married Cecil Whyman, an engineer’s fitter. They settled at 13 Westbrook Park Road, Fletton.

Although in 1921 Henry was living with his daughter Blanche, and her family in Toronto, Canada, Henry did return to Peterborough. He sailed, alone, on the Metagama, from St. John, New Brunswick arriving in Liverpool on the 10th February 1924. His permanent address is recorded as 2. Reform Street, Peterborough. Henry died in Peterborough in 1926 aged 63.

Georgina also returned to Peterborough. In the 1939 national register she was living alone at 7. Reform Street, Peterborough. She died on 7th June 1948, although the probate entry suggests the circumstances surrounding the death were unclear as ‘she was last seen alive on 7 June 1848 and whose dead body was found on 16 June 1948’.

Henry and Georgina were laid to rest together in Eastfield cemetery. The memorial stone reads:


Loving memory


Henry Panter

Who died June 23rd 1926

Aged 63 years

A hand of God touched him and he fell

Also of Georgina Panter

Who died June 1948

Aged 84 years

Peace perfect peace

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1 Comment

Teresa Collins
Teresa Collins
Sep 30, 2021

An interesting account

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