The evidence that the Richard Wall who died on the Franklin Expedition had already been on both the 1929 Ross Expedition and the 1830 Antarctica Expedition gave me a real interest in Wall and his family. Clearly Wall was a tough man, who brought a great deal of experience to the Expedition. I therefore set out to find out as much about the Walls as I could from online sources. As noted in my previous post, Richard and Hannah Wall had three children: Hannah, born in 1835, Richard born in 1838, and William James born in 1845 a few months after his father left England for the last time. Hannah the elder died in January 1862. I was not able to trace the younger Hannah after 1851, she may have died or married and changed her surname.
The National Archives online catalogue allowed me to find a few extra pieces of information. This came with a complication – there was another Richard Wall serving in the Navy at the same time with the rank of Gunner. Fortunately this man came from Ireland and continued to show up in naval service records after the Franklin expedition vanished. He appears many more times in the catalogue than our Wall, who is first recorded in the catalogue summary of the Erebus allotment books from the 1839 Antarctica Expedition. This shows he made an allotment of pay to his wife on that voyage too, but does not reveal anything else about him.
Much more interesting was a catalogue entry showing the younger Richard Wall, son of our Richard, had at some point been admitted to Greenwich Hospital School, the entry helpfully included his date of birth and the names of both his parents confirming this was the right family. This allowed me to confirm where the younger Richard had been on census night 1851 – he was at the school as a boarder. It also seemed likely that the service record of the elder Richard Wall, drawn up in 1849, had been complied in connection with his son’s entry into the Greenwich School. The National Archives catalogue also produced evidence that Richard Wall the younger may have served briefly in the Coastguard after leaving school, as a Richard Wall, aged 15, joined the service in April 1853 and was discharged later the same year. The reason for the discharge is not recorded.
For later history of the family I turned back to Ancestry. By 1861 Richard Wall the younger had taken up the skilled trade of sailmaker and was working ashore at the Dockyard. His brother William James does not seem to have attended Greenwich Hospital School, but he must have received an education as in the 1861 census he was listed as a scholar. School education was not compulsory at this date, and would not become compulsory for fifteen year olds until 1972, so that Hannah Wall was able to afford to keep her fifteen year old son at school is evidence that the family was not badly off by working class standards. This may have changed after Hannah died the following year as her pension from the ‘Franklin Fund’ probably did not continue after her death. Nonetheless William was also able to take up a skilled trade, on the 1871 census he was listed as ‘labourer at iron works’, but in 1881 he was a boilermaker and continued to be so on later censuses.
William and his brother Richard seem to have remained close to Woolwich for the rest of their lives, the dockyards would probably have provided plenty of work for both of them. The younger Richard, who did not marry and continued to work as a sailmaker, can be traced on censuses down to 1901. William James Wall can similarly be traced to 1911; he married and had several children. Possible death records have been identified for Richard in 1904 and William in 1923. It’s fascinating to wonder what stories of their missing father they may have been told, and if either of them inherited the Arctic medal their mother had claimed.
Richard Wall the younger in The National Archives catalogue: