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Winifred Foster :: drowned 1898

Colin Sanderson contacted mortehoe.org from USA seeking any information on a Winifred Foster who drowned near Mortehoe in 1898. Is she buried in the churchyard? [yes, as it turns out ... see below] Is she known of in Mortehoe? If anyone has any insights please contact Colin directly, and if the story progresses it will be posted below.

from    Colin Sanderson <cksanderson@yahoo.com>
to    dominicparkinson@gmail.com
date    11 February 2011 01:18
subject    Winifred Foster
Dear Dominic,
I collect old postcard views of London, or old postcards originating from London. The oldest British picture postcard in my collection was sent by Winifred Foster in December 1896 to an acquaintance in Germany.
A bit of Googling informed me that a Winifred Foster Scholarship was established at the University of Durham in 1913 in the will of Winifred's father Lord llkeston, better known as Sir Walter Foster, a well-known physician and M.P. (The scholarship is still in existence.) Here is a death notice from The Durham University journal, Volume 13:
        On 14th August [1898], drowned while bathing at Morthoe, near Ilfracombe, Winifred Foster, youngest daughter of Sir B. Walter Foster, M.P., aged 20. Miss Foster entered as an unattached student in Arts, Michaelmas Term, 1897. The funeral took place at Morthoe, on 19th August, the Very Rev. the Warden officiating. Dr. Kitchin bore high testimony to her character in a sympathetic letter to the Durham County Advertiser.

Here is a eulogy sent to me by Dr. Michael Stansfield of the Durham University Library:

Durham County Advertiser, 19 August 1898, p.8
        “Among the many recent sad paragraphs of summer accidents you will have noticed one which records the death by drowning of Miss Winifred Foster, youngest daughter of Sir Walter Foster M.P.. As she was one of the first group of our women students in Durham, and a girl of great promise, I would be grateful if you would allow me to add a few words of private testimony to the worth of one whose untimely loss we most deeply deplore.
        Miss Foster matriculated in October last, and selected the Litterae Humaniores or classical branch of study, in which she showed great aptitude and steady diligence: she was in fact the model in every way of a healthy, sensible scholar. Her sympathies were large, and her interest in all sides of her University life was marked and most appreciative. Her work, to which she applied herself with zeal, never for a moment affected her excellent health: she was as keen a lover of  outdoor games as of her books, and her bright intelligent face, her evident sincerity, and brightness of disposition, won all hearts among us, young and old. Although she was under no obligation to think of supporting herself, Miss Foster had made up her mind to qualify for education work, and was advancing very successfully in this path when she was taken from us in a moment.
        She was in every sense, and in the best way, a really good girl, a truthful and fearless woman. She possessed a deep sense of religion, with a consistent loyalty of character, which seemed to mark her out to those who knew her well as one of those women of our time who uphold high education and noble alms, in the presence of a frivolous age, and who make us old folks feel happier when we look forward to the uncertain future of our people.
        Her bright presence, which seemed to bring with it a refreshing breeze, and brightened even the dullest hearts, will be sorely missed by all, and especially by those in whose household the blank will be most keenly felt, and where the sweet memory of her will be most affectionately cherished.
        I am sir &c G.W. Kitchin
        Saunton Sands, Braunton, N Devon.

And here is a notice from The Lancet, 27 August 1898:

        The Late Miss Foster.— Dr. Slade-King held an inquiry at Morthoe on August 18th upon the death of Miss Winifred Foster. The evidence showed that the deceased was drowned by the ground-swell on August 14th, the body not being recovered until August 17th. Dr. Slade-King said that he had held office in the district for fourteen years and had never held an inquest on a case of drowning. A verdict of "Death by misadventure" was returned. Miss Foster was buried at Morthoe on August 19th.

Now I am delighted to have heard this tale so full of pathos, and privileged to get a glimpse into the life of this remarkable young woman through Dr. Kitchin's moving and eloquent eulogy. What I still don't know is whether this Winifred Foster is my Winifred Foster. The last notice says she was buried in Mortehoe. Is she known in the Mortehoe community, and would it be possible to find her grave? In any event I would love to know if there are any traces of her life and death in the town.
A detective story with few clues, and a tall order from a remote inquirer (I'm in New York). Are there any fingerprints or footprints within reach of your laptop or front door?
Colin Sanderson

from    Colin Sanderson <cksanderson@yahoo.com>
to    dominicparkinson@gmail.com
date    15 February 2011 03:34
subject    Dr. Foster went to Gloucester in a shower of rain

He stepped in a puddle up to his middle, and never went there again.
The Royal Blue Book: Fashionable Directory, and Parliamentary Guide for May 1897 shows a G.C. Foster living at 18 Daleham Gardens. And the Institution of Electrical Engineers List of Officers and Members of 1895 tells me that Prof. G. Carey Foster, F.R.S. lived at 18 Daleham Gardens in 1872. The residence, then, was the home of George Carey Foster, professor of physics at University College London. He was an only son and had four sons and four daughters, all of whom survived him.
Our Winifreds are apparently two different people.
George Carey Foster married Mary Ann Frances Muir in 1868, so the oldest that the writer of my postcard could have been, if she was his daughter, would have been 29 or 30 -- actually a better fit judging by her handwriting which seems a bit more developed than one would expect from an 18-year-old.
Dr. Foster also had a German connection, living in Heidelberg at one point as a student.
There is still a slim chance that the Winfred who is buried in Mortehoe was related to Carey Foster, and staying at his house in December 1896. Very slim though.

I hope we can keep up this correspondence now that the original occasion for it has been laid to rest (sorry). In pursuing the Winifred of the postcard I have become quite attached to the Winifred of the waves, and also to Mortehoe through Google maps, videos, and our e-mails.
To be continued . . .

On 9 July 2012 Sam Eedle wrote:

Dear Dominic and Colin,

I was visiting Mortehoe on Saturday, July 7th 2012, with some local
friends and re-visited Miss Foster's grave in the Mortehoe church

It is the first grave on the right after you pass through the lych-gate.

I had seen this gravestone a number of years ago, and after Saturday's
repeat visit, located your correspondence on the Mortehoe website.

Perhaps you'd like the enclosed pictures...?

Best regards,