Ella Mary Stratton was born on 31st July 1898, in the village of Haverigg, near Millom in the Coounty of Cumberland, which is now called south Cumbria. The area was at that time a centre for iron ore smelting. Her father was the Reverend Watson Stratton, curate at St Luke’s Church, a small Anglican Chapel-of -Ease. Ella’s mother was Sarah Stratton, nee Simpson and her parents were married in Huntingdon in 1862.
Ella’s father was not the typical churchman and his modest curacy probably reflected his modest background which was as a Fenland farm labourer’s son.
On the 1911 census, Ella was a 12 year old schoolgirl. Her father was by then curate of St. David’s Church in the tiny village of Airmyn near Goole, Yorkshire. He was a regular contributor to the local paper on a wide range of topics including the natural world and growing vegetables.
In 1914 Ella’s poem ‘The Navy’ was selected by Dr. Charles Forshaw for inclusion in his anthology ‘One Hundred Best Poems on the European War by Women Poets of the Empire’. It was written when she was just 16 years old.
A brief report of Ella’s marriage in the “Telegraph” gives us a glimpse of her achievements prior to June 1932, when she married Ewart John Buxton, a dentist, at Peterborough Cathedral. She is described as ‘Ella Mary Stratton MBBS London, MRCS, LRCP, DTM’. From this we can infer that she attended the London Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine for Women and that she qualified as a doctor and subsequently became a surgeon.
A slightly longer report from the “Derby Times” of 13th June 1932 gives us an added dimension: Ella is described as a doctor who has been working for three years in the Gold Coast, West Africa for the British Government. It appears that she had only just got back in time for the ceremony in the Cathedral as she was wearing ‘travelling clothes’ rather than a wedding dress. We also find that both her parents are dead, hence perhaps the note that the couple ‘were married quietly’. Ella was given away by her cousin Alex Shelton, from Ramsey in the Fens.
The newlyweds settled down in Marlborough, Wiltshire, where Ewart worked as a Dental Surgeon. In those days it was still normal, even obligatory in some professions, for a married woman to give up work. On the 1939 war-time census we find that Ella’s job is listed as ‘Unpaid domestic duties’, but she must have told the enumerator of her previous career as underneath is written: ‘Medical practitioner, retired’. Another note tells us that both of the Buxtons were doing wartime duties during the Second World War for the Air Raid Patrol by ‘assisting at local First Aid Post’.
Ella and Ewart must have eventually retired back to the region of her birth in south west Cumbria. Ewart died in Ulverston district in 1976 and Ella died in Barrow-in-Furness district in 1981, aged 83.
Phil Dawes, 27th October 2016
Ella’s poem “THE NAVY” was published in “One Hundred of the Best Poems on the European War by Women Poets of the Empire”, Edited by Dr. Charles Forshaw, FRSL, founder of the International Institute of British Poetry (Elliot Stock, London, 1916)
Long, low, dark and grey,Sinister warships at break of day,
Silently steaming our coasts around,
Straining at the leash as a tracker's hound.
Small, dark periscope top,Showing a moment, — the next to drop,
Shattered at last by a gunner's skill.
One less submarine working ill.
Long, lean sides of the shipLeaving no chance for torpedo to rip,
Searchlight so dazzling revealing the night,
Speed — to o'ertake the foeman in flight.
Men of the Navy, we give you your due,None so enduring, unselfish as you,
Giving your all in the rush and the strife,
Guarding our honour and guarding our life.