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Walter Francis Appleby – later known as John Mastel


The family always knew that John Mastel’s original surname was Appleby, and assumed that his birth name was John Appleby.  Indeed, in the 1901 census, the child who is the correct age to be John Mastel is named as John Appleby.  However, in the 1891 census, in the same family, the child who is the correct age is called Walter Francis and this was the name his birth was registered under, and he was also christened Walter Francis - but he does seem to have always been known as John.


Walter Francis Appleby was born 17 Jun 1888 at 21 St Thomas Place in Hackney.  His father was John Appleby, occupation Tin Plate Worker, and his mother Charlotte Appleby, formerly Lowry. (source birth certificate)

Apart from appearing in the 1891 and 1901 censuses with his family, we know little about John's early years.  But he was clearly an adventurous young man, as in 1910, at the age of 21 years - Walter Francis travelled to China, to serve in the Shanghai Municipal Police  (records show a WF Appleby serving from 1910 to 1911).  He sailed on the SS Sunda, which departed London on 4 June 1910 for Shanghai – three other young men sailed on the Sunda whose names also appear on the lists of serving officers of the Shanghai Police: J R Malone, D Bradley and C E Beale (the above photo was taken in a photographic studio in Shanghai).


After less than a year in Shanghai, he was dismissed from the police force on 31 May 1911 (the reason for his dismissal is unknown) and he would have had to make his own way back to England - perhaps he is the J Appleby, chauffeur, who sailed from Durban on the Dunluce Castle, arriving back in Southampton  on 13 September 1911? Then in 1913 he went to Canada – according to family recollections he said he was going to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway.  His elder brother Ernest had already emigrated to Canada by this date.


John Appleby sailed from Southampton on 11 feb 1913 on the SS Ausonia, arriving Portland Maine en route to Stratford, Ontario.  He gave his occupation as tool setter and his next of kin was named as John Appleby (his father) of 29 Sedgewick Street, Homerton. His fare had been paid by Globe-Wernicke of Stratford Ontario, which is also the address he gave as his final destination.(Note: Sedgwick St is the address where John’s mother Charlotte died in 1926) 


The Globe-Wernicke furniture factory in Stratford Ontario was owned by a cousin, James John Mason, the son of John Mason and Ann Waggett.  However, it turns out that John Appleby didn’t stay long in Canada; according to a story told by his brother Ernest, he arrived in the Canadian winter with only a thin coat and thin gloves.  He thought it was a terrible country and soon left for the United States (we don't know what the cousin who had paid his fare thought of his hasty departure!) The next thing Ernest heard, he was back in England and had joined the ‘Services’.  Ernest knew nothing of his change of name, and in fact John Mastel sent a letter to the family in Canada in 1960 still signing himself ‘Uncle John Appleby’.


Travelling as Walter APPLEBY, age 27, chauffeur, he arrived back in Liverpool from New York aboard the 'Orduna' on 11 May 1916.  The passenger manifest recorded that he had been deported - though US records which might have explained the reason have now been destroyed.  His destination address was recorded as '15 Elsie St, Moston Manchester' (thereby lies another tale!)  The story that John told his family following his return to England, was that he had joined the Mounties, then at the start of the Great War  the Canadian Armed Forces, and was posted back to UK and he changed his name to John Mastel in order to join the Royal Flying Corps. But, despite extensive searches, I can find no record of his enlistment in the Canadian records - under either the surname Appleby or Mastel.  I have not yet been able to discover why he chose the name Mastel; it is virtually unknown as a surname in England although there were a number of Russian emigrants living in Canada and the northern United States with this surname.


However, I believe I have discovered (one of?) the real reasons for his need to change his name!  In January 1910, Walter Francis Appleby, Press Tool Setter, of 29 Sedgwick St, had married Phoebe Gregory at Hackney Register Office.  Just two months later, the couple had a daughter, Phoebe Hilda, who was born on 13 Mar 1910 (her father was named as Walter Appleby, tin smith journeyman).  Just two weeks after Phoebe's birth, Walter sailed to Shanghai.  Phoebe (nee Gregory) had two more children - twin sons, Edwin Charles and Frederick William Appleby, on 3 May 1915, but according to their birth certificates, their father was Edwin Charles Appleby, a Printer Journeyman.  I know that Phoebe's son Edwin died in Malta in WW2 (his memorial on the Commonwealth War Graves site says he was the son of Phoebe and John Appleby and the husband of Ada Ellen), but I would love to hear what happened to the other children, Phoebe and Frederick.


The family believe that when Walter enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps as a driver on 4 apr 1917 (under the name John MASTEL) he had hoped to become a pilot like his younger brother Harry, however he became a winch operator for observation balloons in Mesopotamia.   


John Mastel was married on 30 dec 1916 to Rosetta Caroline GORTON at the Register Office in Lambeth – at the time of their marriage, he claimed to be a bachelor, occupation chauffeur, and his address was 248 Kennington Rd, Lambeth, and Rosetta’s address was 30 White Hart Street, Kennington.  The marriage certificate states that his father’s name was John Mastel, motor mechanic deceased (although we know it was actually John Appleby, who was not deceased at all!) and Rosetta’s father was Silas George Gorton, ‘Clay Miner’ (I think this is meant to read r’way miner, as according to 1901 census his occupation was miner, electric railway company).  Witnesses were S G Gorton, E E Gorton and A J Girdlestone (source marriage certificate)  See “Gorton Family” for notes about Rosetta Gorton and her ancestors.

rita wedding

Rita and Andrew Patterson’s wedding.  (Centre: Andrew and Rita; on their right are Royston John and his father  John;  Seated  in front of them is Rosetta

In the 1921 census, John and Rose were boarders at 39 Seaford Rd, Tottenham, London:

John Mastel, 33, chauffeur, b. Islington

Rose Mastel, 22, wife, b. Islington

Royston Mastel, 4, b. Tottenham

Rita Mastel, 1, b. Stoke Newington

meanwhile, not far away was Walter's first wife - at 40 Overbury St, Hackney:

Phoebe Appleby, head, soldier's widow, 33, b. Homerton

Phoebe Hilda Appleby, dau, 11, b. Homerton (father dead)

Edwin Charles Appleby son, 6, b. Clapton Park (  "      "    )

Frederick Henry Appleby, son, 6, b. Clapton Park ( "    "    )

note: I have not located any records for the supposed father of Phoebe's twin boys - Edwin Charles Appleby - the only marriage for Phoebe prior to the births of her children was to  Walter Francis Appleby in 1910 - the same man who later changed his name to John Mastel!

mastelfamily banner 1

Mastel Family History

Mastel Family History

Appleby / Mastel family - the second generation; grandparents

walter appleby in SMP

Meanwhile, throughout the 1920s, Phoebe Appleby appears in electoral registers living not too far away from John Mastel and in 1936 she remarried a Wm Nottage (both were described as widowed).  


After the Great War John worked for Dotteridge Car Hire in Clerkenwell Road as a chauffeur driving American tourists around Britain.  On Sundays, his wife Rose would take the Americans to Petticoat Lane.   Later he worked in Laidlers Hardware Store, which belonged to his brother Harry.  Rose and John parted in the 1940s, and his grandson remembers visiting him in Leytonstone in the 1950s, when he was living with a Phyllis Barber.


John Mastel died in University College Hospital, St Pancras on 18th July 1966 of polycythaemia (the same condition as his brother Ernest Appleby) and Myelofibrosis.  He was 78 years of age and his occupation was Shopkeeper (retired) of 142 Vicarage Road, Leyton.  The death was reported by R J Patterson, daughter, of 3 Glaister Place, Kettering, Northants (source death certificate)


Children of John and Rose MASTEL:

Royston John Mastel (1917-1998) – see previous generation

Rita Mastel (1919-2009) who married Andrew Patterson

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