Life story retold by Jane Olsson

George Aldridge, my great grandfather, was born on 17th November 1843 in Stratfield Mortimer, Berkshire. He was the son of Thomas & Mary Aldridge. He was christened on 24th December 1843 at St Mary’s, Stratfield Mortimer.

His first years were spent in the village but at some point between 1851 and 1861 the family moved to Reading. In the 1861 census the family were living at 4 Abbey Brook. His father was a wood sawyer and George, aged 17, was listed as a paster.

On 21st May 1866 wedding bells rang out from St Mary’s Church, when George married Mary Ann Dredge, daughter of Charles & Martha Dredge from 1 Chatham Court. George was 22 years old and now listed as a machinist while Mary Ann was a year younger. Just 9 months later their first son, George William arrived. He was followed by Charles in 1868 and Kate in 1870.

Victorian couple; sepia photo.
Woman wearing a black dress sitting on a white plastic chair. Man standing up next to her in his suit. He has a pocket watch.
Photo from Jane Olsson’s private collection

In the 1871 census the growing family were living at Star Lane, and it seems that George had followed in his fathers footsteps and was now working as a wood sawyer. In 1871 Thomas was born followed by Alice Mary 1874, Harry 1876, Annie 1877 & Ellen Rose 1879.

Ten years later the family had moved, probably due to the size of the family, as in the 1881 census the address was now 114 Mount Pleasant St, Reading. They were now ten in the family as their last son Frederick was just 1 month old. 

They remained at that house until at least 1889 but moved again to 158 Southampton street, which is where they were listed in 1891. George still worked as a wood sawyer and now the oldest sons were also in work. We know from the electoral registers that they remained at that address until 1897.

The family liked to move around and in 1901 they were living at 31 Bridge Street,  Geoge was now listed as a sawmill machinist, aged 57 years old. Now only the youngest three children were at home as the older children had families of their own.

By 1905 they moved to another house, this time 68 South Street, this would be the last home for George. On Saturday 13th January 1906, George left his home in the early evening to place a vote and also visit a sick man in the Forbury. At some point during the evening he found himself in “Dymore Brown’s Tap” in Queens Rd. An old friend, Elizabeth Attwell,  saw him at the bar with a small quantity of beer but he was quite sober. George later left with Elizabeth and a few others at 11 o’clock and they walked towards Sidmouth St, on the Kendrick school side towards Queen’s Cottages, where Elizabeth’s daughter lived. Once there they went into the house and George left there around 12:20 am. This was the last sighting of him alive.

George did not make it home that early morning. He was reported missing and the search began to find him. Charles Wheatly, a labourer from 58 Kennet Side, knew George and went to seach for him. He found the body of George opposite the gasometer, just below the factory bridge at 12:30 pm Monday 15th January. He pulled out the body from the water and it did not look like he had been roughly treated.

The body was identified by his son, Charles Aldridge, who confirmed that it was his father. He had also been present when they found his father but he had no knowledge of how his father ended in the water. He was of temperate habits and in no way suicidal.

“The Reading Observer” reported the drowning on 20th January 1906. The coroner, Mr Weeden held an inquest at The Assembly Rooms, Bridge Street. The jury were told his sight was very defective and they returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased accidently drowned by falling into the River Kennet.

A copy of the inquest into the death of George Aldridge's death
Photo from Jane Olsson’s private collection.

George was 61 years old at the time of his death and he was buried on 20th January at the London Rd Cemetery.

Section 70, Row A, Plot 1