The Lady and the Lodger – A murder & suicide in Woburn Sands 1899

As in any district as old as ours, there have been several shocking murders over the years, though thankfully they are few and far between. Those committed since newspapers began to circulate have all been subject to intense media interest and speculation. Once a story had been published locally, it was quickly picked up and syndicated around the country in a matter of days. 

James Burt was born in the Woburn Sands part of Wavendon in 1857, the youngest son of an agricultural labourer.  In 1878, he was 21 years old, and I believe this is the reason a commemorative Meacham bargeware teapot emblazoned with his name on was made, quite an extravagant present for a poor family. He married Elizabeth Peppitt of Husborne Crawley on Christmas Day, 1880, whilst he was working as a Railway Drayman in Earls Barton, Northants.  A daughter, Mary, soon appeared in June 1881, followed by another, Edith, on their second wedding anniversary, Christmas Day 1882, if the Aspley Heath Lower School admissions ledger information is correct.

“James Burt, Woburn Sands, 1878”

Perhaps James moved around the different stations for work, as their next two children, Charles William (1884) and Annie Elizabeth (1888), were born in Buckingham and Kempston respectively.  The family later settled down back in Woburn Sands, possibly to help look after James’ widowed mother, Mary.  She was now 70, and they were living with her in the 1891 census, somewhere close to Hardwick Road. James is still described as a “Brewers Drayman”. Elizabeth and all four children are there too.

In 1893, another son was born, George. Sadly, he died before the year was out.  Frederick George was born in 1895, and presumably given that middle name in memory of their lost son.  Already having five young children and an ancient (for the period) mother to look after, they were then blessed with twins, Henry & James, who arrived in January 1897.  Finances must have been tight in the Burt household and they had to take in a lodger, despite living in a small four-room house.  The lodger, George Jeffrey, was another drayman who had once worked with James, but had been removed from his job. By 1898 Jeffrey was working as an odd-job man at the Fir Tree Hotel, nearby.

In January 1899, terrible events overtook the Burt family.  I will let the Beds Mercury of 13th January 1899 tell the full story:

Beds Mercury – Courtesy of British Newspaper Archives


“Woburn Sands, about twelve miles from Bedford, was yesterday morning the scene of a most horrible tragedy, a man named George Jeffrey brutally murdering the woman with whom he lodged, and afterwards cutting his own throat in a very determined manner. The crime was enacted early in the morning, and at breakfast time the vicinity of Woburn Sands was thrown into the wildest excitement on the facts of the terrible tragedy being made known. The facts appear to be as follows: The murderer, who was a drayman, and latterly yardman at the Fir Tree Inn, resided with James Burt, another drayman, in the employ of Phipps’ Brewery, and his wife Eliza Burt, and had done so for the past six years.

Yesterday morning the husband went out at about seven o’clock to go to his work, leaving his wife asleep in bed, but apparently very shortly after Jeffrey got up, and went into Mrs Burt’s bed-room, cut her throat whilst she was asleep, almost severing the head from the body, he then turned the razor on himself and cut his own throat, falling just inside the bed-room door. It was left to the eldest son of Mrs Burt, a lad named Chas. William, aged about fifteen years, and a telegraph messenger, to discover the crime, which he did about eight o’clock, on going to his mother’s bedroom to take her a cup of cocoa, as he usually did. On trying to open the door, he found that something heavy was preventing its being opened wide enough to admit him, and observing enough to know that something terrible had happened, he rushed out to alarm the next door neighbour, a fishmonger, by the name of Bodsworth. Mr Bodsworth quickly spread the alarm. On entry being gained to the bedroom, a gruesome spectacle presented itself. On the bed, the clothes and hangings of which were not unduly disarranged, laid the unfortunate Mrs Burt, with a gaping wound in her throat and close behind the door laid her murderer, with his throat cut in a most determined fashion. The bed, furniture and carpets of the room were literally covered with blood, although there was not the slightest evidence of any struggle having occurred. Mrs Burt was lying with her body half turned over, and her head pressed down into the bed-clothes and pillows, with her hands clutching the side of the bed, as if in an awful paroxysm of agony and pain. Appearances clearly indicated that she had been murdered whilst asleep, and in most swift and effective manner, death being almost instantaneous. Jeffrey was also found to be quite dead, grasping a white-hafted razor in his right hand, besmeared with blood. P.c. Hewett was sent for from Aspley Heath, and Dr. Brandon was immediately summoned, but his services were of no avail. The unfortunate husband was sent for from Phipps’ stores with the sad news that his wife had been found murdered, and that his lodger was also dead. Burt is left with a family of seven children, three boys and four girls, [Actually, the other way around. Ed.] the two eldest girls being away from home. The two youngest children are twins.

On the face of matters no reason can be assigned for the crime, all parties agreeing that Burt and his wife and Jeffrey were steady-going people, universally liked, and, in fact, composed a very peaceful house-hold. Both Mr and Mrs Burt belonged to Husbome Crawley. the maiden name of the latter, who was 42 years of age, being Peppitt. The murderer is a native of Bucks., and for many years he worked on the L.&N.-W. railway, about six years ago being in the employ of Messrs Phipps, along with Burt. He afterwards was employed with Messrs Benskin and Co. as drayman, and after being away from the district for a short time after leaving the situation, he does not seem to have settled in any particular avocation.

Almost a fortnight before Christmas he was engaged by Mr Garrett at the Fir Tree Inn close by. Although he expressed himself as very satisfied with his circumstances he appeared to be of a morbid and morose disposition, but had a strong will and never seemed to allow his feelings to get the master of him. He was a thickly-set sandy-whiskered man, a typical brewers drayman, and in the prime of life. He followed his occupation right up to Wednesday night, but although he tried to gloss it over, he was noticed to be somewhat agitated at times. Being interrogated, however, he said there was nothing the matter, but his conduct gave the lie to that statement, and showed beyond doubt that the awful crime committed had been pre-meditated. Another circumstance pointing to this conclusion was that the day previous he had his rather bushy growth of beard shaved off, probably to render the attempt on his own life more effective.

In pursuing our investigations, we find that the facts disclosed a terrible story, and for the sake of the bereaved husband and family, it would be wiser not to give the awful story elicited concerning Jeffrey and Mrs Burt. Burt appeared to have had an implicit faith in his wife, and also in his lodger, but it is obvious for more reasons than may appear on the surface, that it would have been better had the man Jeffrey never been a lodger at the Burt’s house.


The inquest on the two bodies was held at six o’clock in the evening at the Fir Tree Inn, before Mr F. T. Tanqueray, coroner for the Honour of Ampthill, Mr Mallam being chosen as foreman of the jury. The evidence was to the following effect:

James Burt, the husband, deposed: Eliza Burt was my wife. She was 42 on the 20th of November. I have seven children alive, and I have buried one. George Jeffrey lodged with me for about six and a-half years. At one time he worked at the same place I do, at Phipps’s. Since then he has worked for Benskin’s. He was not in their service lately, and had been doing odd jobs. He did not know his own age: he was about 36 years old. Last night he slept in the house. I retired to bed just before eleven, but he went before. My wife also went to bed before me. I got up this morning at about 6.45 and went into Jeffrey’s room and lit a light there. He was sleeping with two of my children, Charles and Frederick George. I left them in bed, but Charles got up. I left my wife in bed with the two babies. I then went to work at 7 a.m. I was called back at a little after eight and went to the house. When got there I found some neighbours in the house and asked what was the matter. I asked to see my wife, but they said I couldn’t. I went upstairs. My wife was lying in bed and her throat was cut. Jeffrey was there, just inside the bedroom door on the floor. He was covered with blood. I saw a razor in his hand; it was his own. The doctor was sent for before. Jeffrey had been dull lately, but nothing worth noticing. I was on very good terms with him and had had no quarrel. He has never told me why he left Benskin’s. He seemed annoyed at it, and I assigned his dullness to having no regular employment. I was at home Tuesday evening. I never saw him write any letters. He was a very bad tempered man, but I and my wife were on good terms with him. He was pressed for money, but don’t know whether he has paid up to me. He was all right when he went to bed last night. I and my wife were good terms.

Charles William Burt, telegraph boy, said: I used sleep in the same room with Jeffrey, and went to bed before he did last night. I was not asleep when came up. He did not speak to me. Nothing occurred during the night. My father called me in the morning, and I got up. I went to say “good morning” to mother, and then went down-stairs. Jeffrey was in bed with my younger brother. That was about 7 a.m. I boiled the kettle and made tea, and took a cup to mother. She got up in bed and I left her with it in her hands at 7.35. I did not see anything of Jeffrey then, nor did I hear him. My little sister brought one of the babies down and then Jeffrey brought the other. He had his trousers on. Jeffrey went back upstairs, and at 8 I went upstairs and called mother. The door was shut, I called but got no answer. I tried the door, but could only open it a little way. I saw Jeffrey’s head. He was laying on the floor in front of the door. I went downstairs and called Mrs Bodsworth. I had not heard anybody moving upstairs. When I got up Jeffrey appeared to be asleep. When Mrs Bodsworth came I went into the room with her. I was not particularly fond of Jeffrey. Sometimes he was rather nasty.

Mrs Amy Bodsworth, wife of Thomas Bodsworth, fishmonger, next door neighbour to Burts’, deposed: I was called by Charles and went with him into the front bedroom. I opened the door and found Jeffrey on the floor. He was lying in a pool of blood, and had a razor in his right hand.  Mrs Burt was lying on the bed, on her face. There was quantity of blood on the bed. I noticed her throat was cut. I did not notice Jeffrey’s throat. The policeman came soon afterwards. I knew Jeffrey, but have not noticed anything unusual about him lately. He seemed on very friendly terms with the Burt’s. I had heard no noise or any screaming.

Charles Henry Jeffrey, a drayman, living at Bedford, said: George Jeffrey was my brother and lodged with Burt. He was about thirty years old, and was born at King’s Sutton. I saw him on Tuesday, but there was nothing unusual about him. He did not complain of the Burt’s.

P.c. Hewitt, of Aspley Heath, said: I was called this morning at eight o’clock to the Burt’s house. When I got there I found several neighbours in the house. They stated what had occurred, and I went into the bedroom. I found Jeffrey on the floor and Mrs Burt on the bed. I noticed a pool of blood, and found that their throats were cut. In Jeffrey’s hand was a razor. They were both dead. I searched his coat, and found a razor case, pencil, a knife, and some silver and coppers to the amount of 3s.  I also found a letter, from which the following are extracts:-

Dear Brother, – Just a few lines to tell you how glad I am I seen you on Tuesday, but you did not think what I had on my mind then, but I hope and please God he will forgive me for what I have done. Please let Jane have what is here as I owe her the money and ask her to keep my watch for little F. Burt as it is his…… I have made up my mind to take both our lives. I should have done it on Tuesday night if you had not been at home … Tell Harry to keep from all girls, they are a bad lot. This is what they have done for me. Good-bye for ever, yours, G. Jeffrey. There was also a watch and several unimportant papers. I know that Jeffrey, some time ago, went to Southend, and that he met with an accident to his wrist.

Dr. Brandon: I was called this morning. I went into the room and found Jeffrey lying on the floor with his throat cut, and found Mrs Burt on the bed with her throat cut. I have examined the wounds. With regard to those on Mrs Burt it is my opinion that they are not self-inflicted. With regard to Jeffrey it is my opinion they were self-inflicted. The wounds would have been caused by the razor found on Jeffrey. When I saw the bodies I should say that they had been dead fifteen minutes. The cut on Mrs Burt was from ear to ear and death was immediate.

Having consulted together not more than five minutes, the jury found a verdict of “Wilful Murder” against George Jeffrey, and that he afterwards committed felo-de-se*. The jury also expressed their sorrow for Mr Burt, and handed their fees over to him.


Harry Jeffrey, brother of the murderer, a sturdy young fellow, in the employ of Messrs Down and Needham, mineral manufacturers, Bedford and Woburn, on being interviewed, appeared to be in a half-dazed and melancholy condition, as hardly able to comprehend the fact of his brother having committed such a terrible tragedy. He seemed to be entirely grief-stricken, and unable to concentrate his bewildered thoughts on what had or was occurring; in fact it was a painful effort for him to give expression to any interrogation put to him. He resides in Cauldwell-street, Bedford, and heard of the tragedy in Bedford late in the morning, and not receiving intelligence from anyone at Woburn Sands, he immediately went over, only to find what he had hoped to prove a rumour, a painful fact. For a long time, he said, he could not realize that his brother, whom but short time before he had seen, looking hearty and strong, had been guilty of taking the life of himself and that of a woman; with a sigh and expression of gratefulness, he remarked what a blessing it was that his old Father and Mother were not alive to have had the painful experience and knowledge of being the parents of a murderer. He said it was also a great blessing that his brother, who was about 30 years of age, had no wife and family to sustain such a catastrophe. The poor fellow evidently felt keenly his position, and asserted that would have thought his brother George would have been the last man on earth to have committed such an act. In a mournful and absent-minded manner, he observed that, although he had another brother and sisters, they did not know, and he had to bear by himself the grief, and also the inevitable ignominy. He had a brother in Bristol, and sisters, but did not know their addresses. He intended to write to them to the addresses he had last known them at, but if that did not avail, they were sure to see it in the newspapers, although he felt that to learn the news through such an agency, would be a great shock to them. On being questioned he said that up to Christmas had not seen his brother for some months, but, on being pressed, admitted that he was with him Mrs Burt’s house on Tuesday, having gone over to Woburn Sands with a load. Of course, he had not the slightest idea that in such short time after leaving his brother, such a painful occurrence would take place, nor was there anything in his brother’s demeanour at that time to make anyone anxious concerning him.


On interviewing Mr Benjamin Garrett, keeper the Fir Tree Inn, he gave frankly and candidly his opinion concerning the murderer. He said that Jeffrey had been in his employ, as yardman, for about a month, previous to which he had been an employee on the North-Western Railway, and afterwards a servant of Benskin’s Brewery Co. He had found him a very willing worker, punctual, and a man of steady habits, “as strong as a young bullock and could throw about a thirty-sixer [36-gallon barrel] any way he liked.” He was popular with the customers of the house and very obliging in every way. There was not the slightest reason to believe that he was dissatisfied with his situation or work, and Jeffrey once emphatically asserted that he was very satisfied. Garrett had several witnesses to prove that he did make this statement. In his (Garrett’s) opinion he was a quiet, inoffensive man, disinclined to be talkative and boisterous, and never had he seen him the worse for drink. As far as his master knew there was no reason for the committal of the crime, and rather discredited the many rumours flying about, concerning Jeffrey being in pecuniary difficulties, and having been asked by Mrs Burt to seek other lodgings, in consequence of being in arrears with his payment. Garrett, having very intimate knowledge of the man, altogether ridiculed the idea that there had been any difference between Jeffrey and Mr Burt, or the unfortunate victim, they had always lived on peaceful terms of friendship with each other, and Mr Burt and Jeffrey spent lot of time and walked out together. But during the past week, Mr Garrett remarked, when interrogated rather persistently, that Jeffrey had been inclined to be morose, and from his sobbing and sighing so many times, gave him the impression that he had something troubling his mind. This, however, did not interfere with his work, which he performed with his usual alacrity, and the speaker was never more surprised in his life than to learn about eight o clock yesterday morning of the awful deed Jeffrey had committed. As others stated he should have thought he would have been the last to have done such a thing. The “Fir Tree” being but yard or two from Mrs Burt’s house, Mr Garrett was early acquainted with the gruesome tidings, and had there been any great disturbance previous would have had some knowledge of it. Several young men in the Fir Tree acquiesced Mr Garrett’s statements, and said that two or three nights previously they were enjoying a drink with Jeffrey, whose demeanour was not in any way altered, and they could not realise that he was then lying dead, killed by his own hand, after murdering another.

The Fir Tree Hotel, Woburn Sands – where Jeffrey worked.


A sawyer, a single man, whom our representative met in Woburn Sands after the inquest, said he was well acquainted with Jeffrey. As far as I can remember, this sawyer went on, he had been at the “Fir Tree” about one month. Before that, as you know, I expect, he had been at Benskin’s as a brewery yardman. His home is at Banbury, and he came from there five or six years ago. He was a kind of ostler at the “Fir Tree”. Burt, by-the-bye, has been a drayman about eight years, always for the same firm. I believe Jeffrey was something on the line before he took that up. He had a nice disposition, and was a kind of quiet fellow – a home-bird like, not one at any rate who would lead a wild life. He stood about 5ft. 7in., and had a dark complexion. He had grown a sandy beard since he had been here, and it made him look a lot more than 30. Perhaps he looked a bit odd with the beard at first, but that was natural. He never boozed, and though he was popular he never had many friends. He would go to a house and have his pipe and a glass of beer just like another chap, but you would never see him go too far. Mr Burt and he, as far as one like me could see, always got on well together, and one could frequently see them about together. Jeffrey never went out with Mrs Burt, if he had been at the house six years, not to church on a Sunday even; I don’t believe, though, Jeffrey went to church at all, for I believe he’d sit at home and read his paper. The murdered woman was a bit taller than he, with light complexion and rather good looking. She seemed to be a quiet inoffensive woman, and you may depend she made a good wife – as far as anybody outside knows, at any rate. She and her husband never used to quarrel at all. Jeffrey had to leave his place before went to “The Fir Tree,” I believe, but I couldn’t say why. He was rather stout, just like the ordinary run of brewer’s draymen, and really he’s the very last person I should have expected to do the thing he has done. I have said he hadn’t many friends, but he always seemed what I should call popular. I first heard of the murder about 8.30; of course it was all over Woburn directly, and everybody was in flutter and so they have been ever since.

When our representative pressed the last informant he admitted that he had heard (but he couldn’t say if that were true) that Mrs Burt had told Jeffrey to try and find lodgings elsewhere, not long ago. During the course of other enquiries our representative visited one of the inns at Woburn Sands, and found the bar full of men who had known Jeffrey, and were conversing about his terrible end. Our representative gleaned a lot of information here, and some of the tales, especially those relating to the character of the deceased, were in full contradiction to what he had previously been told. One man who had known Jeffrey intimately would not agree that he was unlikely a person commit any deed; he was really, in fact, a stubborn man, and dull, and wouldn’t “amalgamate” with anybody. Nobody among the customers at the inn could assign any reason for his deed, but some of them knew he was troubled about having to leave the brewer’s place for the “Fir Tree”; of course, they said, it was a “come down,” and though he always used to make out he didn’t care, they would bet he did, from how he always seemed. One of the customers said: Only last night he came to my place with job for me to do, and heavens! he was alright then. He talked as sensible as I did, and I remember I asked him how he was getting on at the “Fir Tree,” just to see what he would make out. “Oh,” he said, “I’m all right, thanks. I get grub, beer and ’baccy and 5s. a week. That’s enough, isn’t it? I tell yer I’m all right, and I don’t care a ___.” From what our representative could gather, however, people had noticed during the last week or so that he was not all right, although he said so, and knowing that he had had “a come down,” they ascribed this to be the sole cause of his worry. Someone said that they saw Jeffrey out in Burt’s back garden in his shirt sleeves this (Thursday) morning at 7.30, but it was denied, on the other hand, that he was ever seen outside the house where he lodged since the night before. However that may be, it is certain that a festive gathering was held Burt’s home the evening before to celebrate the second birthday of the twins, who are the youngest members of the family. This circumstance, although in no way connected with the crime, adds to its melancholy bearings. The tale about “the grub and 5s.,’’ too, reveals an important side of Jeffrey’s disposition; he was plainly a man who could hide his feelings thoroughly, and disarm all suspicions as to any of his future actions. It was his intention to do this, no doubt, when he emphasised the statement that he was “all right.” Although the narratives as to his character may differ, our representative would be inclined to infer from all he heard that Jeffrey may have been a quiet man, but was strong-willed, reticent, and not so easy-going as he seemed. In another quarter of the town our reporter heard the crime ascribed to Jeffrey’s pecuniary difficulties. Men said they knew he owed money – they shouldn’t say where. And they knew, too, someone who had lent him money not long ago. They added, too, in a significant manner, that he was “sacked” at one of the places where he was before he came to Woburn Sands. It is only fair to add to the above that other people strongly denied the possibility of any of these later statements being the truth.”

[*Felo de se, Latin for “felon of himself”, is an archaic legal term that denotes an illegal act of suicide. Early English common law considered suicide a crime and a person found guilty of it, even though dead, was subject to punishments including forfeiture of property to the monarch and being given a shameful burial.]

St. Michael’s, Aspley Heath, Woburn Sands

In the following days, there were many such articles about the tragedy, right across Britain. However, once the initial story had been reported, there were very few follow-ups, although several papers reported a reply made by Mr Burt, in writing, to the accusations left in the letter by Jeffrey:

“The Cruellest Stroke – The husband of Elizabeth Burt, the woman at Woburn Sands, near Bletchley, who was murdered by her lodger, James [sic] Jeffrey, who afterwards committed suicide, has indignantly denied that the letter left by the murderer alleging that improper intimacy existed between him and his victim contains the slightest truth. He writes:- “He was not satisfied with killing her, but he makes a stab at her purity. That is the cruellest stroke of all. My wife was the best of women, and virtuous and I know it is not true.” Great sympathy is felt for Burt as he is a poor man and left with a family of seven children, four of them being mere babies. The murderer was buried in a pauper’s grave on Saturday without the reading of the Burial Service over him.”

…yet this did not seem to stop the tittle-tattle of local tongues.  The Leighton Buzzard Observer, 17th January, even included this admonishment in their Editorial column:

“The neighbourhood has had a surfeit of gruesome horrors since Christmas.  There has been the shooting case at Great Brickhill, the sad suicide at Heath, and now this week we have to record a murder and suicide of an especially horrible character at Woburn Sands. It is not our intention here to repeat or add to any of the details of the shocking occurrence which are given in another part of the paper, but it is our desire to condemn most strongly a shameful episode in connection with the sad affair. Has not Mr. Burt, the bereaved husband, had to suffer agony of mind in the loss of his wife sufficient to break down the strongest without the voice of calumny being added to his miseries? We ask is this the manly chivalrous spirit of which English people are proud? The poor woman has gone to her last account; her devoted and sorrowing husband believes in her innocence, and on this account, if for no other respect for an honourable man, as well as justice to the memory of the dead, demand that the voice of the evil speaker shall be silenced.”

Separately, they reported that Jeffrey had been buried at St Michael’s, Aspley Heath, on the 13th, the day after the events. He was placed in a rough elm coffin, still in the clothes he had worn when he carried out the attack and buried in the western corner of the churchyard under a laurel, which the Beds Times said was un-consecrated ground (doubtful).  Bizarrely, the murder weapon had been placed into the grave too. Between 30-40 people attended the burial. There is no marker on the grave site.

Elizabeth was also buried at St Michael’s, on the 17th, when it was estimated nearly 1000 onlookers stood in silence as the family walked the short distance from their house up the hill to the church.  There is no marker for her grave, these were an expensive luxury for the time, and the family would have needed every penny they had.

The Leighton Buzzard Observer interviewed someone at the local Phipps depot there and discovered that Jeffrey had has his employment terminated for a “reasonable cause”, but there were no further details of what that was.  A correspondent wrote to the paper suggesting that it would be a gracious act by Phipp’s to transfer Burt away from their Woburn Sands depot to another. The local surgeon, Henry Veasy, also wrote to the papers in support of the Burt’s unselfish devotion to family, pointing out that Elizabeth had insisted her sick sister stay with them for a period of recuperation recently.

Despite this local support, James Burt must have found looking after the young children still at home too much to cope with.  The Woburn Sands Parish magazine mentions that moves were in hand to find the three youngest children an alternative home. In April, a paragraph in the Luton Times, headed “Parochialia” appeared:

“The Waifs and Strays Society have received the two youngest children of the late Mrs Burt into one of their Homes and Mr Burt returns his grateful thanks to all who sympathised with him and his children in their sore trial.”

Set up in 1881 by a Sunday School teacher who had found two of his ex-pupils begging on the streets, the Waifs and Strays Society took in children who had nowhere else to go.  By 1905, it had 93 homes throughout England and Wales, with a total of 3410 children in their care. In 1946 it became the Children’s Society.

By the time of the 1901 census, James was living in Church Road, Aspley Heath, with daughter Mary (19) as housekeeper, son Charles (16) now a postman and son Frederick George (6). James was still a drayman. His mother Mary was still alive, (80) but was now living on The Leys with another of his daughters, Annie Elizabeth (13). The twins were not living in a Waifs and Strays Society home, as they were boarding in Westbury. Somerset at a house called “The Rocks” with labourer James Derrick and his wife Eleanor, who also looked after a 13-year-old Wheelwright.  Perhaps this was a foster family placement?

James Burt remarried at St. Michael’s, on 24th October 1903, to Fanny Bettle, of Cranfield. He had five more years in Woburn Sands but he died on 30th July 1908, of a cancer, according to the Ampthill & District News.  The St. Michael’s Burial Register gives his address as no.30 The Leys at the time of his death.

The 1911 census shows the now-widowed Fanny Burt living at no.21 Chapel Street with her step-son, Frederick George (16), who worked as a brickwork’s labourer. Mary had married James Burt (her cousin) in 1910, who worked at Wolverton railway works. They lived at 31 Queen Street, Stony Stratford. Charles William was lodging at 5 Oxford Street Bletchley, but later that year he married Winifred Pacey, in Wolverton.  Edith had married George Glass, a plumber, in Bedford in 1909. They lived at 20 Eastville Road with one son. After 1911, I have not been able to trace her.  I have not been able to locate Annie Elizabeth on the 1911 census at all.

The twins had moved back closer to home, as they were living with the Bone family in Baker Street, Ampthill. The household included Mr & Mrs Bone, who were 65 and 63, their own son, 27, a 40-year-old lodger and an 11-year-old boy.  James was now an “Office Boy”, but Henry is still listed as at school.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of tragedy for the Burt family. It appears the twins had eventually been separated, as when James enlisted for the First World War on 20th January 1916, he was working as a farmer in Ontario, Canada. He joined the West Ontario Regiment, 18th Battalion, but he was obviously still in touch with his family in Woburn Sands, as he gave step-mother Fanny Burt as a next of kin.  His twin, Henry, signed up locally in November 1915 with the Bedfordshire Regiment.  Both were killed in the Spring of 1917, Henry at Miraumont on February 15th and James near Farbus, at Vimy Ridge on April 12th.

Pte. James Burt, West Ontario Regt.
Pte. Henry Burt, Beds. Regt.

Their elder brother Frederick George had worked as a miner at the Aspley Heath Fullers Earth works before signing up. This was a dangerous occupation, and he was noted as having part of three fingers missing from his right hand when he joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment. He married Sarah Jane Bottoms at St. Michael’s in November 1917 whilst home on leave. He had been transferred to the 101st Labour Corps. when they suffered a gas attack, and he died the next day, on 14th May 1918.  His army will left his effects divided between his step-mother and his wife, whom he had married whilst on leave in November 1917.

[See the War Memorial research pages for their individual stories.]

In 1939, Mary Burt was still in Stony Stratford with her husband. She died in 1962. Charles William was still a postman in Bletchley, lodging at a house in Oxford Street in 1939, he died in 1968. 

I am not aware of any descendants of the family still living locally.


Page last updated Jan. 2020.