William was born on 21 February 1880 at Gaulter, Kimmeridge, Dorset, where his father Charles Seaward Cooper (1843-1927) was working as a carpenter. and Sarah Ann Cooper nee White who married at Corfe in 1866.
Later William moved with the family to Kingston and, in 1898 he joined the Royal Navy at Portsmouth being allocated the service number P342021.
William joined the Royal Navy at Portsmouth on 21 March 1898 aged 18 having probably been ‘working’ as a blacksmith in the village Smithy most likely since leaving school at the age of 10. In the Navy he was given the occupational rate of ‘Blacksmith Mate’ on 8 January 1900 on completion of his Boy’s training. In passing for Blacksmith in 1906 amongst other tests, William made a copper kettle on a metal stand which remains in the family. on 2 June 1879
William courted the girl across the road – Nora Sarah Hooper (1880-1948) who, following her schooling locally, became a successful housekeeper. Nora, born on 9 August 1880, was the eldest daughter of David Hooper (1843-1922) and Emily Sarah Hooper nee White (1845-1905).
William and Nora married at Kingston Old Church in March 1907 while he was serving on HMS Majestic.
Their first child David was born in 1907.
At the time of the 1911 census, Nora was at West Street with her father David Hooper and her first two children. William was away serving in HMS Prince George.
William was promoted to Petty Officer Blacksmith in May 1913 and served throughout World War 1 in HMS Agincourt. He was present at the Battle of Jutland which took place on May 31 1916.
During his navy career the family lived in Portsmouth with Nora returning to her family home at Kingston when William was serving abroad and for the births of her children.
A third son, Gerald Edward (1914) and a daughter Mary Geraldine De Courcy (1919) were both born at Kingston following the family tradition of the daughter returning to her parents home for the births, although Nora’s mother had passed away in 1905.
After William left the RN as a pensioner in 1919, he and Nora lived in a cottage between West Lynch Farm and Blashenwell Farm between Corfe Castle and Kingston and William cycled 16 miles each day to work at Holton Heath, where he was employed dismantling surplus WW1 tanks.
Around 1926 the family moved to a new council house at 1, West Street, Corfe Castle and William was later employed at the Norden Clay Works, just 2 miles north of Corfe Castle, again as a Blacksmith. Norden produced a very fine clay used in the manufacture of Minton china amongst others. Steam engines were used to transport the clay around and off of the site and maintenance of these was one of William’s tasks. William continued working there until his retirement in 1947. Sadly, his wife Nora passed away in 1948.
In retirement William enjoyed gardening and kept a large vegetable plot from which he produced most if not all vegetables for the family kitchen. A pig or two were fattened in a sty at the end of the long garden. He remained in the same house throughout his life, eventually sharing it with his son Gerald and his family. Gerald eventually purchased the house from the council after it had been provided with modern sewerage disposal. If not in the garden, William was to be found “tinkering” in his workshop, usually on some metal based project and with his pipe aglow! The house was re-numbered to 58 West Street in the early 1960’s.
Sadly in 1962 William was diagnosed with cancer of the throat and he passed away in Poole Hospital. He is buried together with Nora in the ‘old’ New Cemetery at Corfe Castle.
William & Nora’s children:
1. David Charles Cooper (1907-1981)
David was born at Kingston in December 1907 while his father was serving on HMS Antrim. David married Kathleen Mary Florence Lester (1913-1987) at Hartley Wintney in 1936 and they had six children: Terence, Jacqueline, David, Kathryn, Roger and Malcolm. Unfortunately, the first two children died soon after birth, and Malcolm died in 1971.
2. William George Cooper (1910-1911)
William died aged just 14 months of meningitis. From the 1911 census records a second son William George was born in May 1910 but sadly he died aged 14 months on 2 July 1911. This death is recorded in the Portsmouth Registry as William was then serving in HMS Prince George as a Blacksmith and Nora was living at 23 Wilson Road, Stamshaw, Portsmouth. The cause of death was Meningitis convulsions.
3. Mary Geraldine Decourcy Cooper (1914-2010)
Mary Geraldine Decourcy Cooper was born at Kingston on 17 October 1914 and baptised there. At the outbreak of World War 2, her occupation was shown as shop assistant. Mary married Alec Roy Cottrell (1914-1987) from Corfe on 28 October 1939.
The photo above shows, left to right, Mary’s brother Gerald, Roy’s mother Millicent, the happy couple Roy and Mary and Mary’s parents, Nora and William.
Mary and Roy had three children: William, Anne and Sarah. Mary died in March 2010 aged 95 years.
4. Gerald Edward Cooper (1919-1997)
Gerald married (Hilda) Margaret Hussey (1917-1980) from Chideock and their daughter Susan lives in Corfe.
Page last updated: 19 March 2021