Drowned 7th May 1915 in the sinking of the Lusitania, aged 49
Florence Stancliffe was born on 26th April 1866, the eldest daughter of Susannah and William Walshaw Stancliffe, a brewer of Spring Fields House, 97 Byrons Lane, Sutton, Macclesfield. In 1871, Florence was living at that address with her parents, siblings Percy (3) and Esther (1), and three servants. Ten years later Florence’s father was an Alderman and JP as well, and the family now included Richard (10).
William Stancliffe was the owner of the Sutton Brewery.
Florence married William Wallace Watson, a sugar refiner of Montreal, Canada (born Scotland) at St George’s Church, Sutton, Macclesfield, on 16th November 1887, and immigrated to Canada in 1888. The couple had four children, all born in Canada: Agnes (born 1888), Stancliffe (born 1889), Florence (born 1891) and William (born 1892). Florence’s husband died on 21st November 1903.
WW1 – THE SINKING OF THE LUSITANIA
The Lusitania was at that time “the fastest and largest steamer in Atlantic service”, according to Cunard’s advertisements. The German Embassy published warning advertisements about British and Allied shipping being considered legitimate targets when sailing in British waters – adjacent to the Cunard advert for the Lusitania departure of Saturday 1st May 1915 – but no-one seemed to take the warning seriously. In fact, after the Lusitania was sunk, many reports claimed that the ship had been torpedoed “with no warning whatsoever”.
Florence sailed on the ill-fated Lusitania as a 1st class (Saloon) passenger in cabin D17 under the name of “Mrs William Wallace-Watson” and was drowned when it was sunk by the German submarine U-20 on Friday 7 May 1915, approximately 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse on the west coast of Ireland. She was travelling to Macclesfield in order to join her parents golden wedding anniversary celebrations.
Florence’s body was recovered, and was identified by her brother, Percy Stancliffe; she was buried at St James Church, Sutton on Friday 14th May 1915.
The Macclesfield Courier of 15th May 1915 printed almost a full page about the sinking of the Lusitania, and the following two reports relating to the death of Mrs. Wallace-Watson:
“COLONEL AND MRS. STANCLIFFE
In all its 101 years’ existence ‘The Courier’, I venture to assert, has never presented more painful reading that its pages today contain, in the loss of the Lusitania, through German devilry, and the sudden launching into eternity of 1,119 souls. … The horror of it all is brought very close to us in Macclesfield by the sad fact that one of the many victims was Mrs. Wallace-Watson, the elder daughter of our esteemed townsfolk, Colonel and Mrs. Stancliffe, and pathos is added to the melancholy occurrence by the circumstance that Mrs. Watson was on a visit to her native town to join in the golden wedding celebrations of her beloved parents. In last week’s ‘Courier’ I reproduced from its columns of fifty years ago the interesting report of the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Stancliffe, and pointed out that congratulations fell due to them on Tuesday last; the employees of Messrs. Stancliffe had prepared to celebrate the happy anniversary with becoming manifestations of joy, but the cruel blows of German murderers on Friday afternoon week changed joy into mourning. All our hearts go out sympathetically to the venerable couple in this dark hour, and we earnestly pray that He who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb will sustain them in their heavy bereavement. They have one consolation in their sore distress, namely, the fact that Mrs. Watson’s body has been recovered and identified by her brother, Mr. Percy Stancliffe, who conveyed it to Macclesfield, and it was interred at St. James’ Church, Sutton, yesterday (Friday) forenoon.”
“FUNERAL OF THE LATE MRS WALLACE-WATSON
The funeral of the late Mrs. Wallace-Watson, eldest daughter of Colonel and Mrs. Stancliffe, and a victim of the Lusitania tragedy, took place last Friday morning at St. James’ Church, Sutton. The body was conveyed to Macclesfield from Queenstown, and was accompanied by the deceased lady’s brother, Mr. Richard Stancliffe. It was met at Hibel Road Station by Mr. Percy Stancliffe. The body was then taken to St. James’ Church to await interment.
The coffin, which consisted of plain English oak with heavy brass mountings, bore the following inscription on the breast-plate: “Florence Wallace-Watson: born 26th April 1866: died May 7th, 1915.” and was surmounted by a magnificent Gothic floral cross the full length of the coffin with the following inscription on the card: “Mr. Stancliffe Wallace-Watson, Mr. William Wallace-Watson (Montreal), Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Edward Grier (Montreal), and Mr. and Mrs. Sameron Macpherson Edwards (Ottowa).”
The following mourners attended:- Mr. and Mrs. Percy Stancliffe, Mr. Richard Stancliffe, Miss Stancliffe, Miss C. Stancliffe, Mrs. William Harrison, Mrs. A. B. Wise, Mr. S. Watts, Mr. and Mrs. Latham, and Mrs. Underwood. There was also a large attendance of the sympathetic public present.
The funeral service was most impressively conducted by the Rev. W. R. Gough, M.A., the vicar of St. James’ Church, after which the remains were borne to the new family vault.
The following floral tributes were sent:- Colonel and Mrs. Stancliffe; Mr. and Mrs. Percy Stancliffe; Mr. R. S. and Miss C. Stancliffe; Auntie Nellie and family; Mr. Richard Schofield Stancliffe; Mr. George Hall Stancliffe; Mrs. George Hooper (Montreal); Mr. and Mrs. Latham; Mrs. Walter and the Misses Birchenough; the Rev. W. R. Gough; Mr. and Mrs. and Miss L. L. Armitage (Sutton Hall). The funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr. J. B. Walker, Market Place.”
Florence’s family placed this notice in the same newspaper:
“WALLACE-WATSON – 7th May 1915 – Drowned in the sinking of the Lusitania – Florence, wife of the late William Wallace-Watson, of Montreal, Canada, and eldest daughter of Colonel and Mrs Stancliffe, of Sutton, Macclesfield.”
Florence’s memorial stone at St James’ Church, Sutton. The inscription reads:
SACRED TO THE MEMORY
Florence, wife of William Wallace Watson
of Montreal, Canada, and daughter of
William Waltham Stancliffe of Sutton
Macclesfield. Born April 26th 1866
Drowned in the sinking of the Lusitania
May 7th 1915.