Did Edward Smith, the captain of the Titanic, live in Great Sankey or did he attend dinner parties in the village?

Both those stories are well known in Great Sankey but are they true, are they urban myths or is one true and the other false?

It is an accepted fact that Edward John Smith, who became the captain of the Titanic, was born in Hanley, Staffordshire on January 27 1850 and that he joined the White Star Line in Liverpool in March 1880. The White Star Line operated the Titanic.

A proven Warrington link arrived in January 1887 when Smith married Sarah Eleanor Pennington at St Oswald’s Church, Winwick. Sarah was from a well-established Warrington family who had worked Woodhead Farm at Winwick for four generations.

It has also been reported that the couple began married life at Spar Well Cottage in Delph Lane, Winwick.

By April 1898, when their daughter, Helen Melville Smith, was born, they were living in Liverpool at 17 Marine Crescent, Waterloo, having bought the house that year.

But what about the 11 years between 1887 and 1898? Did Captain Smith live in Great Sankey during that period. According to the Warrington Guardian, he did.

The Titanic sank on Monday, April 15 1912. Two days later the Warrington Guardian carried a story headlined “Captain Smith’s local associations, Married a Newton-le-Willows lady, A former Great Sankey resident”.

The story stated: “Captain Edward John Smith, who was in command of the Titanic, was at one time a resident of Great Sankey, and for about five years, he made his home at the Poplars, in that parish.

“It is nearly ten years ago that the unlucky shipmaster transferred his residence to Waterloo. He is still remembered by a large number of the inhabitants of Great Sankey.

“His breezy geniality delighted all with whom he came in contact and made him highly popular with passengers on the North Atlantic route.

“Captain Smith married Miss Pennington of Wood Head, Newton-le-Willows, second daughter of Mr William Pennington, of Winwick, at Winwick Church 25 years ago and it is only about six weeks ago that Captain and Mrs Smith celebrated their silver wedding.


“There is one daughter of the marriage. A sister of Mrs Smith, Mrs Johnson, lives at Winwick and Mr Orford Johnson, of Warrington, is a nephew of Captain Smith.

“While resident at Great Sankey, Captain Smith was in command of the Majestic. He has had command of seventeen White Star liners in succession. He is a Staffordshire man and was born in 1850.”

The story was repeated, word for word, in the main edition of the Warrington Guardian on Saturday, April 20.

That is not the end of Captain Smith’s Warrington links.

In 1907 the White Star Line transferred its transatlantic port from Liverpool to Southampton and the Smith family moved to a red brick, twin-gabled house on Winn Road, Highfield. They named the house “Woodhead” after Woodhead Farm.

Smith was living there when the Titanic set sail on its doomed maiden voyage on April 10, 1912. She hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic two days later and sank with the loss of about 1,500 lives.

Captain Smith went down with the liner and his body was never recovered.