The 16th of December 1910, four days before the second anniversary of the death of my great, great grandfather, Frederick Steed Goddard, started on a happy note for his family.
At 17, Princess Street Folkestone his son, Frederick Thomas Goddard and daughter-in-law Emily were eagerly awaiting the imminent birth of a child. In London his daughter Louisa, just days off her 34th birthday, was celebrating the 9th anniversary of her marriage to Robert Bentley and was also imminently expecting her second child. Who could have dreamt what tragedy the day would bring for the Goddard Family.
The following article and photograph were published in a Folkestone newspaper dated december 24th 1910.
THE HOUNDSDITCH ATROCITY
THE LATE POLICE SERGEANT BENTLEY
WELL KNOWN IN FOLKESTONE
The shock of horror throughout the land by the murder of the three police officers in Houndsditch was accentuated in Folkestone when it was announced that Sergeant Bentley was one of the victims. The deceased was well known locally, particularly in Foord.
Sergeant Bentley was at one time in the 1st Dragoons, being with that regiment when it was stationed at Shorncliffe seven or eight years ago. He formed one of the escort that attended the German Emperor (Hon. Colonel of the 1st Royals) on the occasion of His Majesty's visit of inspection at Shorncliffe in 1902.
The Sergeant married Miss Louisa Goddard, the second daughter of Mrs (Charlotte) Goddard, of Foord road, at St John's Church, on 16th December 1901.
On receipt of the telegram, on Saturday last, Mrs Goddard at once proceeded to her grief stricken daughter in London, and still remains there.
The next paragraph recalls Sergeant Bentley's time in the army serving in Africa in the Boer war. The article continues:
By tragic coincidence Serg. Bentley was murdered on the anniversary of his wedding day. More pathetic still is the fact that his bereaved wife gave birth to a baby boy on Wednesday last. We are pleased to state that both mother and son are doing well.
Whenever he was granted a few days leave the late sergeant would run down to visit his wife's relatives in their little cottage at Foord, and many there are in this quarter who will miss a presence that was always welcome. It goes without saying that the heart of the whole town goes out in sympathy to Mrs Bentley in the cruel bereavement which has suddenly fallen upon her family.
Serg. Bentley with Serg. Tucker and Constable Choate was buried with highest honours at Ilford Cemetery on Thursday. First a service was held at St Paul's Cathedral, this being the first time in history that that sacred edifice has been used for a public service of mourning for the loss of public servants holding merely the rank of the civil Police. A representative of the King occupied His Majesty's stall in the choir, and many dignitaries were present.
Mrs Bentley and family wish to convey to all friends in Folkestone and district who sent flowers in memory of the late Sergeant Bentley heartfelt thanks. They feel it impossible to separately acknowledge the many tokens of respect, but trust the senders will accept this acknowledgement.
Frederick and Emily's son was born on the day following the shooting. He was named Robert Bentley Goddard.
Louisa who already had a daughter, Kathleen named her son Robert Eric Alfred Bentley.
A year later the baby Bentley's birthday was noted in the Daily Mirror headlined, The First Birthday. Baby Who Was Born A Few Days After His Father Was Shot.
By next year perhaps Master Robert Eric Bentley may be able to understand something of the great sorrow which the season once again brought to his mother and his sister. At present, being just one, he is in happy ignorance of it all ---- He is a fair haired, chubby faced, brown eyed baby boy now and he wasn't at all shy when The Daily Mirror called yesterday to see how he had spent his first birthday
Crowds attended the funeral on Saturday of little Bobby Bentley, aged three, who was born two days after his father, Police Sergeant Bentley, of the City Police had been shot dead in the notorious affray with armed burglars in Houndsditch. The little fellow died from diphtheria in Stockwell hospital. A large contingent of city police attended. Mrs Bentley the child's mother was a Folkestone woman, being the daughter of Mrs Goddard of Foord Road.
Funeral of Boy Born after Father Was Shot Dead in Houndsditch.
"GONE TO SEE HIS DADDY"
As I said at the beginning of this story nobody in the Goddard family could have imagined what tragedy the end of the day of the 16th December 1910 would bring. Emily Goddard gave birth to a son the following day. He was named Robert Bentley Goddard.
Louisa didn't remarry and lived for the rest of her life in London. She was the beneficiary in the will of her mother's spinster sister, Sarah Elizabeth Page in 1928. At the time she was living in West Newington, S.E.17. Kathleen married but didn't have children and died before Louisa. In the last few years of her life Louisa had both legs amputated and was wheelchair bound, nursed by Kathleen and her husband.
Until Louisa died on the 7th February 1959 aged 82 she was financially supported by a fund set up by 'The Express' newspaper and Robert's police pension.
The shooting of the three police officers led to the famous siege of Sidney Street. The story is told in the book The Houndsditch Murders And The Siege Of Sidney Street by Donald Rumbelow. ISBN 0491031785. It is out of print but available at libraries. There are many more interesting pictures in the book including one of baby Bentley's christening and the funeral of the officers at St Paul's Cathedral.
If you recognise family in these letters please make contact with Joan.