John Foott ( alias Hocken) Elizabeth Foott Alfred Edward Foott

Henry Foott Buckingham family James Aunger Foott


It seems that there have been members of the Foott families living in and around North Hill since the 1500s and possibly long before that.

The 1569 muster roll shows a William Foote who was required to provide a bow and 12 arrows for military needs and the marriage register for St Torney’s Church records the marriage of Edmond Luscombe and Temperance Foote on 24th November 1617. The name is also present in Lewannick and Linkinorne parishes.



Two children named John Foot were baptized in North Hill less than 18 months apart. One was baptized on the 13th April 1766 and the other on the 24th August 1767. One married twice in North Hill. The other married once but the marriage has not been found. One lived on the edge of the parish with Linkinhorne, the other loved at Rillaton in Linkinhorne. Both died in 1827. The parents of these two people are Edward & Elizabeth Foott and Nicholas & Grace Foott. Some researchers have confused these people, attributing incorrect parents or other life events to each of them. The following paragraphs aim to explain the true ancestry of these two people named John Foott.

John Foott, the son of Nicholas and Grace (nee Colling) Foott, was baptized in St Torney's in North Hill on 24th August 1767. He married a woman by the name of Mary Ann around 1796 but the marriage has not been found. They had two children together, both of whom were baptized in Linkinhorne parish church. Charlotte was baptized there on 24th February 1797 and her younger brother, Nicholas, followed suit on 25th May 1802.

The following is a transcript extracted from a real estate transaction of a plot of land in Trevadlock that records John as the son of Grace Foott, formerly Grace Colling, and the husband of Mary Ann.
"Reference: RD/448
"Date: 7 Feb. 1824
"Description: Release (lease for a yr missing);
"Consideration £300
"John Foott of Linkinhorne, gentleman, son of Grace Foott, formerly Grace Colling, devisee of will of Edward Colling of Northill, yeoman, deceased, and wife Mary Ann;
"Robert Lethbridge of Grays Inn Square, Middlesex, gentleman;
"Francis Hearle Rodd of Trebartha Hall, Esquire
"Tenement in Brendon, part of Trevadlock, formerly purchased by Edward Colling from Evans; also a tenement which he purchased from Nanscawen."

A devisee is a beneficiary of landed property from the estate of a deceased person but where no chattles are received. The original document is held as part of the Rodd collection at Kresen Kernow, the Cornwall County Archive.

After John's death in early July 1827, his will was proved and probate was granted to his son, Nicholas Foott.

John Foott alias Hocken's burial record in North Hill is in the parish register for December 1827; he was resident at Botternell Farm and was 62 years old. His birth date was, therefore, around 1765 or 1766. The entry of his baptism on 13th April 1766 is shown below and is unusual in that it shows the original entry and an annotation by the curate informing us that John's father, Edward Foott, was customarily using the name of Hawkin or Hocken rather than his birth surname of Foott.

The baptismal register entry for John Foott alias Hocken (Hawkin) in 1766

John married a local North Hill girl, Elizabeth Downing Aunger, in St Torney's in 1787; the marriage record does not show him with the appelation "alias Hocken". They had five children in 1789, 1792, 1794, 1796 and 1803 before Elizabeth's death just over a week after the birth of the fifth child. The baptismal records for last four of the five children all show John as "John Foott alias Hocken".

The baptismal register entry for Jenny Foott in 1803

The existence of an alias is frequently a pointer to illegitimacy. John's parents, Edward Foott and Mary Luke were both illegitimate; both were described as 'base child' in the baptismal register for North Hill.

The real estate document transcribed above that references John Foott, the son of Grace Colling and husband of Mary Ann, is dated in 1824. Their children were born in 1797 and in 1802 when John Foott alias Hocken was married to Elizabeth and was still having children with her.

John Foott alias Hocken remarried in 1804 to Sabra Sleep and three children were born to them. The eldest of these three chidren, Anne, was the unmarried mother of John Foott born in 1822 and the ancestor of Alfred and James, whose stories appear on this page.

Alfred and James were the sons of Oliver and Ellen Foott. In 1861 the census for East Castick shows Oliver Foott living there with his parents and two younger sisters. In the next census of 1871 Oliver was recorded as an apprentice to master carpenter James Aunger, living and working in Middlewood. Ten years later Oliver was working in London as a carpenter and in July 1881 he married in Paddington to Ellen Buckingham, from the well known North Hill family. Their first four children – Rose Buckingham Foott (1882), William Oliver Foott (1884), John Foott (1886) and Henry Foott (1887) – were born in London.

The family returned to North Hill in 1891 and settled in Middlewood where three more children were born – James Aunger Foott (1891), Frances Ellen Foott (1894) and Alfred Edward Foott (1896). The 1901 census shows the whole family living next door to Oliver’s one-time employer James Aunger. This is likely to be the source of James Aunger Foott’s middle name. Oliver Foott died at the end of 1904.

In 1911, James, described as a carpenter, was living at home with his mother, sister Frances and brother Alfred in Middlewood. It is likely that James and Alfred had learnt their carpentry skills from their father and their neighbour, James Aunger.

In a matter of six weeks in 1917, Ellen Foott lost both her younger sons, Alfred and James, to the war. Her three other sons were all living in North America. William Foott, the eldest son, had emigrated to the United States some time after 1911 but was called up for war service in the US in 1917, and survived. Henry Foott served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and also survived the war. John had emigrated to San Francisco and was not called up.

James & Alfred Foott both lost their lives whilst serving on the high seas with the Royal Navy during World War One. Their stories have been told in the book “The Fallen of North Hill Parish” and are repeated below. A poster supporting the launch of the book showed Albert and James in the 1901 census and can be seen here.



Elizabeth was born in the parish of North Hill, one of ten children of Edward (son of John Foott alias Hocken) and his wife Mahala (nee Brown), and was baptised in St Torney's Church on 17 June 1832. In 1851 she married Michael Harris, and they had 7 children. Her husband Michael died in 1869, so she was left a widow at the young age of 36, with a number of young children to bring up. Not surprisingly, therefore, she remarried, to Samuel Harrison. What is rather surprising is that she married him not once, but twice!

Elizabeth's two marriage certificates for her marriages to Samuel Harrison

The first ceremony took place in Stoke Damerel parish church on 14 Dec 1874, apparently after banns, and one of her sons, William Foott Harris, was one of the witnesses. Both bride and groom were recorded as being of Stoke, and they both signed the register.

Then, six weeks later, on 25 Jan 1875 they did the whole thing again – only this time at St. Paul’s parish church in Devonport and again after Banns. Samuel was now said to be of Raglan Barracks (he was a soldier) and Elizabeth was of Marlborough Street. Their respective fathers and their occupations are the same in each register. Both groom and bride signed the register with their usual signatures, but this time there were different witnesses.

The fact that Elizabeth was still using her previous married surname of Harris at her second marriage ceremony, can only mean, I think, that they had come to the conclusion that the first “marriage” was a nullity, and perhaps provides hard evidence of what has often been alleged – namely that Stoke Damerel was regarded as a parish where they didn’t pay much attention to formalities. Unless you have an alternative explanation?

Thanks go to John Evans for his permission to publish this article.



Alfred joined the Royal Navy just three weeks after his elder brother, James. He enlisted at Chatham in Kent on 11th November 1915. He was nineteen years old, and like his brother, had black hair, grey-blue eyes and the fresh complexion of a countryman. Because of his existing skills as a carpenter, he was an automatic candidate for carpenter’s crew.

Less than a month after his enlistment, he joined HMS Blanche in December 1915. The Blanche was a Blonde-class scout cruiser, assigned to the battleship squadrons of the Grand Fleet. She was at the Battle of Jutland in mid-1916 but was held in reserve, and did not fight. Alfred was probably on board at that time, but by November 1916 he had returned to Chatham.

Alfred was assigned to HMS Vanguard on 14th June 1917 (pictured here). The Vanguard was a St Vincent-class battleship, a splendid vessel which had fought at the Battle of Jutland and survived undamaged. When Alfred joined her, she was at anchor in Scapa Flow, the huge British naval base in the Orkney Islands. After Jutland, the majority of the ships of the German Navy had retreated to their own bases, and the Home Fleet had consequently reduced its own presence at sea.

Naval routines continued as usual and there was still much to do. On the afternoon of 9th July 1917, the Vanguard had been out exercising, practising abandoning ship. She returned to anchor at about 6:30 p.m. That same night the Vanguard was destroyed by a huge explosion which killed all but two of those aboard at the time. The total crew numbered 845, of which 802 were lost, one of which was Alfred. In addition to the two survivors of the explosion, a few fortunate officers had been visiting other ships moored at Scapa Flow.

In terms of loss of life, the destruction of the Vanguard is the most catastrophic accidental explosion in the history of the UK, and one of the worst accidental losses of the Royal Navy.

Various theories about the cause of the explosion have been offered, including the incorrect storage of cordite or the heating of ammunition, but it is not known exactly what caused the catastrophe. The force of the explosion was such that one of her turrets landed a mile from the anchorage.

The lost Vanguard crew have a memorial at Scapa Flow (pictured here).

Alfred is remembered on the Chatham Naval Memorial in Kent as well as on North Hill’s War Memorial.


The naval service records of Alfred and James Foot. (Click for larger images)



Upon being given an especially dangerous mission for HMS Vala, the captain, Commander Leopold Bernays CMG, said,
“I'm not going anywhere without my old crew, they are the best in the world”.

The last known position of Special Services ‘Q-ship’ HMS Vala is given as approximately 120 miles south west of the Scilly Isles on 21st August 1917.

The Vala was originally a collier and, along with many other merchant ships similarly requisitioned, she had been converted into a ‘Q-ship’. She was a disguised, armed ship specifically intended to entice enemy submarines to the surface so that they could be fired upon. During the first eight months of 1917 she had been involved in gunfights and confrontations with several U-boats off Milford Haven, Lizard Head, the Scillies and the Fastnet Rock.

Her last patrol took her back to the Fastnet/Scillies area again. This time, UB54, a class III U-boat out on its first ever patrol and commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Egon von Werner (pictured here), was waiting for her. The submarine had spotted lookouts on the British vessel through her periscope and had identified her as a likely ‘Q-ship’. According to the U-boat log, one torpedo was fired. It hit the Vala in the forward hold, after which most of her crew were seen taking to two lifeboats, each with twelve to fourteen men. Eight men could be seen still on the Vala. UB54 fired another torpedo which hit the after hold. A further sixteen to twenty men left their now rapidly sinking ship. It was this U-boat’s first kill.

After ten minutes the U-boat surfaced. It found wreckage from the Vala which confirmed her status as an armed vessel. The surviving crew were questioned from the U-boat and confirmed their ship’s name and complement for the submarine’s log. The Vala’s crew were then left to their fate, which was customary with submarine warfare. The winds were already nearing gale force and rising, so there was no real hope for those who had survived the two torpedoes. All 43 men were lost. Amongst the crew was James Aunger Foott.

James Aunger Foott had joined the Royal Navy on 19th October 1915. He spent a full year at the stone frigate (shore establishment) HMS Vivid in Plymouth and then went straight onto ‘Q-ships’. He joined the Vala in May 1917. Seventeen ‘Q-ships’ were lost in 1917 alone, many disappearing without trace, and those who served on them knew that the chances of survival were not in their favour.


HENRY FOOTT (1897-1973)

Henry Foott was the 4th of the 7 children of Oliver Foott and Ellen (nee Buckingham); Henry was born in 1887 and emigrated to Canada in 1909 along with his friend Leonard Richard Bartlett (pictured below); he enlisted into the Canadian Expeditionary Force; Henry died in Winnipeg, Canada in 1973; Henry’s brother James Aunger Foott and Alfred Edward Foott both enlisted into the Royal Navy and were killed within six weeks of one another in 1917 and are named on the North Hill War Memorial; he had two other brothers, both of whom emigrated to the USA and one of them, William, was drafted into the United States military in 1917.

Sydney Bartlett & Leonard Bartlett (L-R back)
with Sydney Doney & Henry Foot (L-R front)
This photo was taken in Winnipeg, probably in the winter of 1915/1916.
Leonard is wearing the cap badge of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The others are wearing the cap badge of the Canadian Army Field Regiment.
Click for larger image.



The images at the top of the page shows the headings of the service records of Alfred and James Foott as well as two of the memorials on which they are remembered: Scapa Flow (left) and Plymouth (right).