Sanger Family History

Leah Zotiades has spent many years researching her family history and shares some of her fascinating story with Marcia Road website readers.


Bill Sanger and wife Clara (nee Priestley).
Approximate date is between 1895-1900

The Sanger family originated in Wiltshire but my Great, Great Grandparents, William and Clara Sanger lived at 58 Marcia Road.

William (‘Bill’) Thomas Sanger was born in 1849 in Kent Street, Southwark, and Clara Priestley was born in 1853 at Ferguson’s Rents, Bermondsey. They had 13 children, but 4 died in infancy. They moved into 58 Marcia Road some time between 1901 and 1910. They were probably renting the house. The 1911 Census shows William, Clara and daughter Florence sharing the house with their married daughter Lydia and her husband, Edward Westwood (my Great Grandparents) plus their two young daughters.

One of those daughters, my Great Aunt Elizabeth, often spoke of her memories of that time and of the bomb that killed her grandfather.


Leah’s Great, Great Grandfather, Bill Sanger with his new son-in-law (Leah’s Great Grandad, Edward Westwood), taken in 1910 on the day of the wedding to Lydia. They were all living at 58 Marcia Road at the time. Bill Sanger was a tin plate worker with his own business and Edward Westwood was a boilermaker by trade but had been in the army with the East Surrey Regiment since 1901

Yes, during the First World War (1914-1918), my Great, Great Grandfather, Bill Sanger, was killed outside his house in Marcia Road by a bomb explosion during an evening raid on 25 September 1917 by German aircraft flying over Southwark. [See footnote.] Here’s what happened…

Family members tell how he had gone to the pub with a friend who was going off to war the next day and they stayed till closing – when the barman blew the horn. The air raid started whilst he was on his way home. He was a burly old man and would not have been able to run very fast.


Edward Westwood, wife Lydia and two daughters, Lily and Elizabeth.
Taken about 1914, probably just before he went off to war.

Lydia, Lily and Elizabeth had all made it back inside the house at 58 Marcia Road when the bombings began. Elizabeth, the younger of the two girls, remembered that awful day very clearly! She was only 5 years old at the time but I guess something as dramatic as that would stick in your mind forever. She is deceased now but used to love talking about the “old days”.

Just as Bill Sanger reached the front door of his home a bomb exploded nearby. The explosion blew the front door on top of him.

When the bombing stopped, the family (his wife Clara, and daughter Lydia, along with her two children and baby niece Rosetta), ran out over the door, not realising he was lying dead beneath it. Because there was lots of rubble everywhere they assumed is was rubble that was beneath the door.

Someone was sent to the pub to fetch Bill and they discovered he had already left, so a search party began looking for him. It was some time later that night before his body was discovered. He was still clutching the door handle…

His daughter, Lydia, had received shrapnel wounds to her buttocks and back because as the bomb exploded she threw herself over baby Rosetta to shield her.

A booklet (found at local family history library) entitled Even Such is Time by a local resident, explains how there were 54 houses and a gas-mains in Marcia Road that were bomb damaged. Three men and a woman in the road were killed and five men, eight women and two children were injured. 21 shops in Old Kent Road were also damaged but nobody was hurt owing to it being an evening raid and no shoppers present.

The local newspaper also wrote a piece about it. South London Press, 1917, stated:

A Coroner’s jury on Friday found that three men and a woman lost their lives by the explosion of bombs from hostile aircraft on Tuesday night (25th). A rider called for public warnings. “We think,” said the foreman, “that if the public had been warned, these lives might have been saved…” In the case of Wm. Thomas Sanger, 57, a sheet metal worker, a daughter-in-law said that the first warning they had was the booming of the guns, when they were in the street with the children. They ran home and everybody reached shelter except the deceased. A bomb fell outside, smashing all the windows and almost shattered the house, just as he reached the door.
A juryman: “Did you have any warning at all?” -“No”.
“If you had done he would have got inside safely?” – “Yes, we had no time to get into safety.”

Going back for a moment to 1911, the census reveals that Bill and Clara’s son, Joseph, was also living at 58 Marcia Road, along with his wife, Catherine, and their 4 young children. Later, in 1916 they had baby Rosetta. It was Catherine who gave the statement to the South London Press reporter after the bombing of 1917. At the time of writing [May2010], Rosetta is still living, but obviously was just a baby at the time they lived in Marcia Road, so has no personal recollections of it, only accounts of the bombing incident that she had heard from her family. If her Aunt Lydia had not shielded her that night, Rosetta would have been hit by tiny pieces of shrapnel.

1911 Census
Joseph Sanger, 31, b Southwark
Catherine Sanger, wife, 27, b Southwark
Catherine Sanger, dau, 7, b Southwark
Margarett Sanger, dau, 6, b Southwark
Joseph Sanger, son, 2, b Southwark
William Sanger, son, 2 months, b Southwark

So that would make a total of 14 persons from the same family living at 58 Marcia Road, at the time – that we are aware of! There were also a few lodgers at the same address. A lot of people in one house! In those days it was quite common for a whole family to share just one room within a large house.

I wonder if the people currently living at No. 58 could imagine so many people living in their home…


Joseph Sanger Snr, Catherine and three of their children (Catherine,
Margaret and toddler Joseph), almost certainly photographed
in the back yard of 58 Marcia Road in 1910

I’m not sure if the houses were so damaged by the bombing that people had to move out, but at some point afterwards Joseph and his family had moved to a house in Searles Road, which is about 5 minutes walk across Old Kent Road. That house is still standing today. And by 1922 my widowed Great Great Grandmother, Clara, was living in Calmington Road with my Great Grandparents, Lydia and Edward.

Anyway, I’m sure they would love the way Marcia Road is looking nowadays!

Leah Zotiades
23 April 2010

Note: Link to general information on bombing during the World War One. “From September 1917, [German bombing] flights over London were restricted to the hours of darkness.”