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Biography of the Wompra Family

There are 12 people bearing the surname Wompra in the Leeds General Cemetery (LGC). In plot 2347, there are nine members of the Wompra family.

The first to be buried in this plot was William Wompra born in c. 1827. He had been a farmer of over 100 acres of land in Whitby. Tax records show that William was at least the third generation in the Wompra family to farm this land.

In the 1841 census, William was living at the family farm in the parish of Fylingdales, along with his father Philip, his mother Hannah and his four younger siblings: Robinson, Hannah, Mary and Thomas. Also listed on this census are two servants, employed as a carter and a plough boy. They were aged 17 and 11.

Another Wompra, Susana, was also present when the census was taken. She was listed as a visitor, so was not part of the regular main household, but it is likely she was related to William.

At some point after 1861, the Wompras left this farm. It is unknown why this happened: perhaps the farm had become less profitable over the years, or the industrial revolution meant that working in the city seemed increasingly appealing. Whatever the reason for leaving the farm, William became a railway officiate and married a woman named Anne. He eventually died of dropsy (an archaic term for oedema, a swelling of the affected tissues sometimes caused by blood clots, organ failure or lung disease) and was buried on 23 January 1874.

William and Anne had two children, Arthur and Howard Wompra. Arthur became a driver after leaving the farm, and married Louisa Sandle (also spelled Sandal). Their daughter Ellen Wompra was buried in the LGC on 9 November 1888. Her mother Louisa followed, and was interred in the same plot (2347) on 10 November 1899. Arthur was laid to rest with them on 24 December 1900, having died of heart disease aged 43.

Arthur’s brother Howard was also buried at the LGC, in plot number 10803. This appears to be a common grave, or at least a grave containing a large number of people who were unrelated to each other. Howard was buried there on 15 April 1913, having died of asthma, which may have been related to his lifelong employment as a joiner and cabinet maker. Howard was the husband of Kezia Wompra (nee Major). Howard and Kezia both lived in Yorkshire all their lives. They were married on 25 May 1885 at the Church of Holy Trinity, Wakefield. They went on to have seven children: John William, Violet, Annie, Mabel, Lily, Ethel and Laura.

Five of these children were buried in the Leeds General Cemetery. Four of these burials took place whilst the parents were living. Mabel born in c. 1891 was the first, buried in the LGC on 9 December 1893, aged just 2 years old having died of bronchitis. Ethel was born in 1895 and died in 1897 of bronchitis, aged 2, just as her sister Mabel had four years earlier. She was buried on 11 November 1897. Violet, born 1888, was buried in the LGC on 13 January 1898, aged 10. Her cause of death was cited as ‘affection of the brain’. Finally, Annie, born in c. 1890, was buried on 19 November 1903 having died of consumption. She was 14 years old. All these children were buried in plot number 2347, with their grandfather (William), uncle (Arthur), aunt (Louisa) and cousin (Ellen).

Also interred in this plot are Ann (recorded as Annie) Wompra, who was William’s wife, Arthur and Howard’s mother and Mabel, Violet, Ethel and Annie’s grandmother. She died aged 66 and was buried on 18 March 1901. Kezia Wompra lived to the age of 72. She died at 1 Minnie Street in Burley, where the family had lived since at least 1911. She was buried in plot number 4737B on the 20 May 1937 along with her son, John William, who was buried on 11 October 1944, having died of unknown causes aged 58.


Written by Imogen Gerard and Kelsie Root, as part of their internship with the AHRC project, 'Living with Dying: Everyday Cultures of Dying within Family Life in Britain, 1900-50s', summer 2017.