William Hender GILLBEE (1831–1851)
St Michael section: Row 12, Grave C47
BENEATH THIS STONE
LIE THE MORTAL REMAINS OF
WILLIAM HENDER GILLBEE
AN UNDERGRADUATE OF
WHO TO THE GREAT GRIEF OF
HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS
DROWNED IN THE ISIS
BY THE UPSETTING OF A BOAT
DECEMBER 20 1851
AGED 20 YEARS
HE WAS THE BELOVED AND
ONLY SON OF
THE REVD WILLIAM GILLBEE
VICAR OF GWENNAP
IN THE COUNTY OF CORNWALL
William Hender Gillbee was born in Redruth, Cornwall in 1831 and baptised there on 14 October. He was the son of the Revd Dr William Gillbee (born in Southwark in 1795) and his first wife Barbara Molesworth (born in St Breoke, Cornwall in 1792). His parents were married at Redruth on 29 September 1830 and had the following children:
- William Hender Gillbee (born in Redruth in 1831)
- Catherine Ellen Gillbee (born in Redruth in 1833/4)
William's mother Barbara Gillbee died at St Issey, Cornwall on 18 January 1835 at the age of 42.
Soon after her death his father married his second wife Anne Stephens (born in Cardynham, Cornwall in 1807/8), and they had one daughter:
- Mary Anne Darel Gillbee (born in St Issey in 1840/1 and baptised there on 30 January 1841)
William’s father was Vicar of Gwennap near Truro. At the time of the 1841 census William (9) was a pupil at a boarding school in Littleham, Exmouth
In 1851 when he was 19 William was boarding at Marlborough College, and his father was at home at Gwennap with his stepmother, his sister, and stepsister, and five servants.
Gillbee was matriculated at the University of Oxford on 14 May 1851 at the age of 19 and came up to Exeter College in October. Just over two months later, on Saturday 20 December 1851, he drowned when out sculling on the Isis. The following report appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 27 December:
MELANCHOLY AND FATAL ACCIDENT
A melancholy and fatal accident occurred on Saturday afternoon last on the river Isis, near Iffley, to William Hinder [sic] Gillbee, Esq., Commoner of Exeter College, in this University. It appears that the unfortunate gentleman had engaged an outrigger, and rowed to Sandford, and on returning, shortly after he had passed through Iffley Lock, the boat upset with him, and he was drowned. The first intimation of this calamity was given by a scull which was seen floating on the water by Mrs. Wyatt from her house, the Isis Tavern, which is near the river, a short distance from Iffley Lasher. The circumstance induced her to look for closely, and she soon observed a boat bottom upwards, and a cap and jacket floating; she then felt satisfied that an accident had occurred, and sent immediately to the Lock, and the lock-keeper started off with his punt and drags to the spot; drags were also sent for from the Weirs, and a man was dispatched to the University waterman, who was on duty near the freewater stone. Mr. T. Joy, who happened at the time to be near the spot, rode off to Oxford for medical assistance, and was fortunate enough to meet Mr. F. Symonds, surgeon, on the road to Iffley, and he proceeded at once to the spot, but, notwithstanding all efforts, the body was not then discovered. Shortly after Mr. Symonds’s arrival, however, it was found and conveyed to the Isis Tavern, where the most prompt means were used to restore animation, but, we lament to say, without effect, owing to the length of time it had been in the water.
† William Hender Gillbee drowned in the Isis at the age of 20 on 20 December 1851 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 26 December (burial recorded in the parish register of St Michael’s Church).
The newspaper report stated that “the remains, which were followed by the bereaved father, the Rector, and several members of Exeter College, were interred in the Jericho burial ground”.
An inquest was held in the hall of Exeter College on 22 December, two days after Gillbee’s death, the jury consisting of matriculated persons. The Rector of the college, who was present during the proceedings, reported that Gillbee could not swim. William Brown, the Iffley lock-keeper, stated that he had let the deceased through the lock to go to Sandford and back, and that normally he went in a pair-oared boat in the company of a waterman. The verdict was, “Accidentally drowned by the upsetting of a boat, called an ‘outrigger,’ but how the accident was caused there is no evidence to shew.”
William Gillbee’s father and stepmother
- His father William Gillbee died in Gwennap, Cornwall on 13 July 1856 at the age of 61.
- His stepmother Mrs Anne Gillbee (63) was living with her daughter Mary (30) and two servants at Vivian Terrace, Kenwyn, Cornwall at the time of the 1871 census. She died at the age of 69 in 1876 (death reg. Truro district fourth quarter).
William Gillbee’s sister and half-sister
- Catherine Gillbee (born 1833/4) was married in the Redruth district in the second quarter of 1866 to Vyvyan Wallis Popham. At the time of the 1871 census they were living at Illogan, where Popham was curate, with their three children: William Vivyan Wallis Popham (2), John Christopher Popham (1), and Francis James Popham (one month), plus four servants: a nurse, cook, housemaid, and undermaid. Her husband remained as curate of Illogan until 1879. At the time of the 1891 census they were living at 37 De Parys Avenue, Bedford with their two youngest sons Edward Popham (18) and Alexander Popham (15). Catherine died in Bedford at the age of 59 on 7 March 1893, and her husband in the Lewisham area at the age of 63 in 1896.
- Mary Anne Darel Gillbee (born 1840/1) never married. At the time of the 1881 census, when she was 40, she was living on her own with two servants at her mother’s old house at Vivian Terrace, Kenwyn. She died at the age of 52 in 1893 (reg. Truro district third quarter).