Charles Barnes alias Robert Barnhouse

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Charles Barnes

Also Known As: "Robert Barnhouse"
Birthdate: (29)
Birthplace: England
Death: April 15, 1912 (25-33)
At Sea - Titanic Casualty
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Charles Barnes alias Robert Barnhouse


  • Name: Mr Charles Barnes (Robert Barnhouse)
  • Age: 29 years
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Last Residence: at 45 York Road, Freemantle Southampton Hampshire England
  • Occupation: Fireman / Stoker
  • Engine crew
  • First Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
  • Died in the sinking.
  • Body Not Recovered

Charles Barnes had previously been working as fireman on the Oceanic when he signed-on to the Titanic at 6 am on 10th April 1912. He gave his birthplace as Bristol, his age as 29 and his address as 45 York Road, Southampton.

Charles Barnes died in the sinking and his body was never recovered.

Very little else is known about Charles Barnes and the following information is very much open to question. It follows-up the assertion that Charles Barnes was an alias of a man named Robert Barnhouse.

The only evidence for this so far is a 1913 newspaper article but certain details do tally with available records including Census returns however further research will be needed to establish whether Robert Barnhouse and Charles Barnes were one and the same, or whether the 1913 testimony of George Barnhouse and Edith Curtis was in fact a ruse to obtain compensation.

Robert Barnhouse was born in Barnstable, Devon on 8 December 1870. The son of George Barnhouse and his wife Susan, the fifth of eight children1. According to a 1913 article he became estranged from his family and moved to Bristol.

In 1891 he was living with his common law wife Daisy at 3 Elton Street Bristol and working as a Colt breaker. According to the 1891 census they are living as man and wife but are unmarried. No record of a marriage has been found.

By 1901 he was living in Southampton with William and Edith Curtis. According to the 1913 article he had been badly burned whilst at the Curtis's bar and ended up settling in with them, and, if her 1913 testimony is to be believed, Edith became his principal carer during the troubled years that lay ahead.

When the Curtis's moved to Southampton Robert went with them at some point along the way adopting the alias Charles Barnes.

He worked in the Curtis's bakery and later became a seaman.

He apears to have maintained contact with his brother Arthur who and at some point effected a reunion with his parents.

When Charles Barnes signed on he gave his address as 45 York Road, Southampton which was where, in 1911 at least, William and Edith Curtis lived.

After the sinking his father Geoge Barnhouse claimed sizeable compensation from White Star on the pretext that he had become financially dependent upon the regular payments he alleged to have received from his son, however Edith Curtis disputed his claim, her own claim having been rejected by White Star. The judge agreed a more modest settlement.


  • The others were: Mary (b.1864), George (b.1865), Martha (b.1867),

Elizabeth (b.1868), Ellen Louise (b.1873), John (b.1874), Sarah(b.1876), Arthur (b.1878), Alice Maude (b.1881)

References and Sources

  • Torqay Times (25th April 1913) Echo Of The Titanic Disaster : The Strange Story Of The Man With Two Names
  • 1871 Census
  • 1881 Census
  • 1891 Census
  • 1901 Census
  • 1911 Census
  • Craig Stringer (2003) Titanic People CD ROM


  • Steve Coombes, UK
  • Mike Holgate, UK


The mystery of Charles Barnes and Robert Barnhouse


by Mike Holgate

Thursday 9 April 2009

In April 1913, an article appeared in the Torquay Times under the headline: Echo Of The Titanic Disaster : The Strange Story Of The Man With Two Names.

A hearing at Torquay County Court had established the true identity of a stoker, who had died a year earlier on the Titanic, when a pensioner brought an action for against the White Star Line, who had turned down an application in respect of his late son Robert Barnhouse, who was known by the alias Charles Barnes.

During the hearing, it emerged that Robert Barnhouse had been born at Barnstaple on 8 December 1870. The fifth of eight children, he had left his parents’ home in Newington Street over twenty years before his death and became estranged from his family. He drifted to Bristol where his hands were badly burned in a fire at a licensed house run by William and Edith Curtis. Homeless and destitute, Barnhouse was taken in by the Curtis family and remained with them until his untimely end nineteen years later. When William Curtis moved to 45 York Road, Southampton, to run a bakery, Barnhouse went too, and, now known as Charles Barnes, became a seaman. A chance meeting with his younger brother Arthur, who worked as a railway cleaner at Eastleigh, near Southampton, re-established contact with his family in 1908. Their parents, George and Susan, had remained in Barnstaple until retirement age, then moved to Torquay where one of their daughters, Elizabeth, lived with her husband, fish hawker, Joseph Moss. While serving on the Oceania, ‘Charles’ obtained shore leave while the ship was in Plymouth and, accompanied by his brother Arthur, stayed with his parents at their new home at 3 Arch Row, Stentiford’s Hill, in October 1911. Shortly afterwards, he transferred to the Titanic and was one of the unfortunate souls who went down with the ship on her maiden voyage. Although aged forty-one, he had claimed to be only twenty-nine (probably in an effort to prove that he was fit enough for such a physically demanding job).

Represented by solicitor Ernest Hutchings, George Barnhouse claimed £70 from the White Star Line and testified that he had been dependent on his deceased son, who had regularly sent him sums of twelve or fifteen shillings in either stamps or postal orders to pay his rent of three shillings a week (15p). A letter he had received was produced in evidence. Dated December 1908, it had been sent while his son was receiving hospital treatment for an accident and signed ‘From your loving son, Robert Barnhouse’. However, Edith Curtis appeared for the defendants and claimed that the letter was in her handwriting - as ‘Charles’ could neither read or write. She contested that she had dealt with all of his correspondence and had never sent any money on his behalf to the natural parents. Furthermore, Charles Barnes had only worked for eighteen months out of the last four years of his life. During these long periods of unemployment she had supported him, yet, despite always treating him ‘like one of my own children’, her own claim for compensation had also been rejected by the White Star Line.

Summing up the case, Judge Lush-Wilson paid tribute to Mrs Curtis on her ‘extraordinary kindness’ to the deceased. In that respect, he considered that the dead man’s obligations had been ‘almost greater to her than his own parents’. He considered the uncorroborated claims of George Barnhouse were ‘vague and shadowy’, nevertheless, he found the applicant ‘an honest and truthful witness’ and although, the sum of £70 requested was ‘altogether too high’ awarded the sum of £5 plus 10 shillings costs.

Edith Curtis also revealed in her testimony that until fifteen months before the maritime tragedy, Charles Barnes was ‘always in trouble’ but since he ‘gave up the drink’ had become ‘a different man’. Sadly, this change in his personal situation had seemingly enabled him to resume his career at sea and gain a position on the doomed Titanic.

Mike Holgate, UK


Man with two names : Torquay Pensioner and his Sailor Son

Torquay Directory

Wednesday 23 April 1913

Claim For Loss on the “Titanic”

At Torquay County Court on Saturday Judge Lush-Wilson arbitrated in an action under the Workman’s Compensation Act by George Barnhouse, of Stentiford’s Hill, Torquay, against the owners of the Titanic respecting the loss of his son, who, it was alleged, was amongst the victims of the disaster to that ship last year.

Mr E. Hutchings, for the applicant, said that there were two points to be decided. One was whether or not a man named Charles Barnhouse was the son of applicant, and the other was whether or not the applicant was partially dependent on his son. It was admitted that among the victims of the Titanic disaster was a stoker named Charles Barnes. Mr Hutchings contention was that Charles Barnes’s proper name was Robert Barnhouse, and that he was a son of George Barnhouse, the applicant. Evidence would prove that point conclusively. Applicant was in receipt of an old-age pension, and it would be proved that his son contributed from time to time such sums as were about equivalent to his father’s rent.

Applicant, of St Mark’s Road, Stentiford’s Hill, said that he was 74 years of age. His son, Robert, was born on December 8th 1870. For the last few years his only income consisted of the old-age pension. His wife also received the old-age pension. He paid 3 shillings a week for rent. When his son wrote to him he always used his proper name, but he also passed by the name of Charles Barnes. Applicant managed to pay his rent with the money his son usually sent him when going on a voyage. He could not say on what other ships his son had sailed besides the Titanic. Sometimes his son sent him money from Southampton, and sometimes from other places. His address was always on his letters. Sometimes his son would send 12 or 15 shillings in postal orders, and sometimes in stamps. Whilst his son was in the hospital at Southampton about three years ago, he did not receive any money. His son had written him two or three letters since. The letters were always burned.

Witness had a son employed on the railway near Southampton.

In the course of cross-examination by Mr C.F. Hiscock, of Southampton, who represented the owners of the Titanic, Mr Barnhouse stated that his son, Robert, left home nearly twenty years ago. He continued to receive letters from his son during the whole of that time.

“Is it not a fact that he was entirely lost to the family until 1908, when he was met casually at Southampton by one of your other sons?” enquired Mr Hiscock. “I had known where he was”, replied Barnhouse. “Had you any communication from him?” - I had friends who told me where he was. “Was that not in 1908?” - No. When did your son first begin to send you money?” - Four years ago, when I had the old-age pension. “When did he last send you any money?” - The voyage before he sailed the Titanic. “Do you mean seriously to tell the Court that your son sometimes sent you 12 shillings worth of stamps?” - Yes, and sometimes 15 shillings worth. “Did he write letters to you?” - Yes. “Is it not a fact that your son could neither read or write?” asked Mr Hiscock. Applicant assured the Court his son could write. “Are you sure about that?”

Applicant answered the question in the affirmative. Barnhouse spoke of a letter alleged to have been in his son’s handwriting, and forwarded to Mr Hiscock.

“Was not the letter which you sent to the White Star Line in the handwriting of your son’s landlady?” - No. “Are you quite sure?” I am referring to the letter concluding with the words ‘From your loving son, Robert Barnhouse’”. Applicant, after examining the letter, said that it was in his son’s handwriting. “Just look at it again”, urged Mr Hiscock. “Are you quite sure about it? Do you seriously wish to tell the Judge that your boy could write?” “Yes”, again returned Barnhouse, who added that he received another letter from his son besides that.

Barnhouse was shown another letter by Mr Hiscock, who asked, “Is that the letter you wrote to the White Star Line in 1912?” Applicant: The letter was in his own handwriting.

“Did you say in that letter, ‘I can prove to you that this man is my son Robert, and Mrs Curtis knows it. I enclose Mrs Curtis’ letter, which Mrs Curtis sent to me, as Robert could not write’. Is that true?” “He could write”, declared Barnhouse. “Is it not a fact that your son Robert could not write his name?” - He could write his name. “I did not ask you whether your son could write his name? You have told his Honour that your son used to write letters to you. Is not this your letter, written in August last, to the White Star Line, saying that your son could not write? You do say so here, don’t you? I suggest that you have not received money from your son at all”. - Do you think I should come here and tell an untruth? “You might be mistaken. Do you remember your son coming to Torquay to see you about two years ago?” - Yes. From the time your son left Bristol until he saw you at Torquay, I suggest you never saw him at all”. - I had not seen him from the time he left Bristol until about three years ago. “Do you know that for periods of six or nine months your son did no work at all?” - My son was always at sea. “How do you know about that?” - Had he not been doing he could not have sent me any money. “Do you know that your son was not a very industrious boy, and that used to stay at home a great deal, and did no work at all? Are you aware that for five or six months he would not go to sea at all? - I don’t know that. “Do you know that he had an accident in 1908, and that he was in the hospital at Southampton for a long time?” - I think that was in 1910, but I am not sure. “Do you suggest that when your son was in the hospital he sent you money?” Applicant replied that at that time his son did not send him any money for about ten weeks. “Do you know what your son’s wages were when he was at sea?” - No; nor am I aware what he paid Mrs Curtis. In re-examination, applicant admitted that to the time he received the old-age pension he was at work, and did not need any assistance.

Arthur Sidney Barnhouse, son of the applicant, said he was a cleaner in the employ of the London and South Western Railway Company at Eastleigh, near Southampton. In recent years his brother Robert had lived at 45 York Road, Southampton, with Mrs Curtis. Witness had visited and stayed for weekends with his brother at Mrs Curtis’s. Formerly Robert was on the Oceania, and he left that ship to join the Titanic.

Answering further questions, witness said that he could not say when his brother changed his name. On all his voyages his brother was known as Charles Barnes. He used to tell witness that he sent money to his father. Mr Hiscock objected to this evidence.

His Honour: You never saw your brother send money to his father? Witness: No. You could never get to the bottom of him. My brother was a very funny man, and seldom “let out anything”. I have written to him. Twelve months ago last October I wrote to him at Plymouth, when he was a fireman on the Oceania. About that time we came to Torquay for a holiday. The man who was staying with Mrs Curtis was Robert Barnhouse.

Mr Hiscock did not think there was any doubt that “Charles Barnes” was Robert Barnhouse. The question for the Court to decide was whether or not the applicant was partially dependent upon his son.

Arthur Barnhouse stated, in reply to Mr Hiscock, that his brother Robert must have left home about twenty years ago. “We lost sight of him to a certain extent, but my father said he knew where Robert was. I know that my brother George met him some years ago at Southampton.

“Did he send your father money?” queried Mr Hiscock. “I don’t know. He told me he used to send money home. Mrs Curtis said he had no money to send to his parents. “You know that Mrs Curtis has denied that Charles Barnes is your brother and the son of your father?” enquired Mr Hutchings, in re-examination. Witness agreed.

Edith Curtis, of 45 York Road, Southampton, said that she was the wife of William Curtis, a confectioner. Charles Barnes lived at her house for a period of nineteen years and three months prior to the Titanic disaster. She had known him for over twenty years. Her husband formerly kept a licensed house at Bristol. Whilst there, a fire occurred on the premises. “Charles Barnes was at one time in the bar. His hands were burnt in the fire. The young man was then in a state of destitution. We took him in, and he stayed with us up to his voyage on the Titanic. I treated him as my son, and brought him up as one of my own children. For some time he sailed as a trimmer for the White Star Line, but he did not go to sea regularly. He would sometimes have ‘a spell’ during the last four years of his life.”

Mr Hutchings objected to this statement.

His Honour: It is admissible for the witness to say that at certain times he stayed with her ashore. “There were breaks in the trips?” suggested Mr Hiscock.

Mrs Curtis said that the young man took only twenty trips in four years. Each sailing occupied eighteen days until the strike arose, and then the trips occupied twenty-one days. The longest period “Barnes” remained with her during the last four years was eleven months. During that time he did not work at all. Sometimes, after he “signed on”, he would not join the ship. For a voyage of eighteen days the young man received £3 6s, less deductions for blankets, tobacco &c. Each time “Barnes” went to sea he used to pay £1. He was supposed to pay her 12 shillings a week for board and lodgings, and he paid her £2 per voyage. When he was not at sea she kept the young man. “Barnes” was not able to read or write. In December 1908, she wrote a letter on his behalf to his people at Torquay, and enclosed a photograph. “I used to write all his letters for him”, added Mrs Curtis. The young man could not write his own name. She had never directed for him an envelope that contained money for anybody. When, last October twelve months, deceased went to Torquay, she advanced him £2. When the Titanic was lost he was in her debt to a considerable extent. On the ground that she had been the young man’s foster mother, she made a claim against the respondents after the Titanic disaster, but she did not receive any compensation. When “Barnes” went to the hospital he would not stay, and, consequently, she had to pay for a cab to take him to hospital every morning. The expense was borne by her. Subsequent to the accident, he did nothing for eleven months. The whole of that time he was kept by her. Very often she advanced him money for clothes to enable him to join the ship.

“Why”, asked Mr Hutchings, “did you write me the other day and say that Arthur Barnhouse was not his brother?” “He used to bring in a young man called Tom Brown, who, he said, was his brother, but from conversation I had with him afterwards I know that Arthur Barnhouse is the dead man’s brother”.

Mr Hutchings pointed out that in 1908 Mrs Curtis wrote on “Barnes’s” behalf to his mother and father as “Mr and Mrs Barnhouse”, at Torquay.

Mrs Curtis said she had forgotten all about that letter.

“Why did you write me the other day to say that Charles Barnes was not the son of this old man?” repeated Mr Hutchings. “You say he is not the old man’s son?” “No, I do not say that. I knew him as Charles Barnes for twenty years. He told me that he left home when he was fourteen years of age, that he had never received anything from his people, that he never gave them anything, and that he never should give them anything”.

Mr Hutchings explained that in the letter Mrs Curtis wrote on the young man’s behalf to his parents he spoke in affectionate terms of his father and mother, and stated, “I would have sent you a present, but I am very short”. “I can pledge my oath that he never sent his mother a present or anything else”, declared Mrs Curtis, who added that for nine years, “Barnes” had nothing for himself.

Addressing the Court, on behalf of the respondent company, Mr Hiscock said that it was now known that deceased had passed by the name of Barnes for a period of about twenty years. There was no evidence to support the claim by the applicant they he was partially dependent upon his son, or that his son had frequently sent him such sums as 12 or 15 shillings in stamps. The evidence of the father as to the son writing him letters was completely negated by the evidence of Mrs Curtis, who declared that deceased could neither read or write. Some six hundred of those claims had been received by the respondents, who had never fought a case unless it was surrounded by doubt. The young man had only done eighteen months work during the last four years of his life. During eleven months of that period he did nothing at all, and therefore it would have been impossible for him to have sent anything to his parents, especially in view of the fact that he was frequently borowing money from Mrs Curtis.

Dependency meant in law dependency at the date of the young man’s death. Of that there was no evidence. Moreover, if the applicant had any other form of income he would not be entitled to the full amount of the old-age pension, inasmuch as at the time he received the pension he would have had to sign a declaration that he had no other source of income.

Mr Hutchings suggested that if there was any doubt in his Honour’s mind as to Barnhouse having received money from his son, applicant should be given an opportunity of instituting enquiries and producing evidence in corroboration of his statement. The Judge considered that the case throughout was a vague and shadowy one. There was absolutely no corroboration of the applicant’s story. Nevertheless, his Honour thought that the old man had been a truthful and honest witness. The Judge commented upon the kindly manner Mrs Curtis had acted towards deceased, but pointed out that it was very possible that he might have sent money to his father without her knowledge. He had decided to award applicant £5 and costs.

[Note: George Barnhouse lived at Arch Row in Stentiford's Hill, just three buildings away from Happaway Court where helmsman Robert Hichens was arrested twenty years later for attempted murder!]


Echo of the Titanic disaster : Strange story of man with two names

Torquay Times

Friday 25 April 1913

There was an echo of the Titanic disaster at the Torquay County Court on Saturday, when Mr E Hutchings made an application under the Workmen’s Compensation Act on behalf of George Barnhouse, an old age pensioner, residing at Arch Row, Stentiford’s Hill, Torquay. Mr Hiscott appeared for the White Star Company.

Mr Hutchings said two questions would arise in the case which would have to be decided. One was, whether or not a man who embarked in the Titanic in the name of “Charles Barnes”, was the son of the applicant, and if so whether or not the applicant was partially dependent on him. The case arose out of the loss of the Titanic. It was admitted that there was a stoker on board the ill-fated ship named Charles Barnes, and applicant said this was his son Robert Barnhouse. He (Mr Hutchings) proposed to call evidence to show that Barnes sent 3s per week to his father to enable him to pay his rent and would also be giving evidence which would absolutely establish his identity.

George Barnhouse, 3 Arch Row, Stentiford’s Hill, Torquay, stated that he was 74 years of age. His son Robert, was born in 1870. Witness and his wife had been in receipt of Old Age Pension and Robert had sent sufficient money to pay the rent. When writing he signed himself “Your affectionate son, Robert”, but he generally went in the name of “Charlie Barnes”. He did not know the line of vessels his son had sailed on, but he was aware that he was on the Titanic and that the vessels sailed from Southampton. Robert used to send orders or stamps to the amount of 12s or 15s. Witness had another son Arthur Sydney - on the railway near Southampton.

Cross-examined, witness said his son left him 16 or 18 years ago, but had kept in communication with him, either by letter or through friends. He first commenced to send money four years ago. His son could write, although sometimes his landlady wrote for him. He could certainly write his name.

Mr Hiscott: I suggest that you have not received money at all from your son. Do you think I should tell you an untruth? Did you lose sight of your son for five years? - Yes. Do you know that for five or six months he would not go to sea at all, that he was not very industrious and remained at home a lot? - No. Are you aware that he was in hospital for a long time? - Yes, in 1910. Did he send you any money then? - No.

Arthur S. Barnhouse, cleaner at Eastleigh, on the South Eastern Railway, said he had stayed with his brother Robert for weekends at Southampton. He was on the Oceanic and then the Titanic. Witness had seen his discharge book and Union book. He went under the name of Charles Barnes. His brother was a peculiarly reserved man. He wrote to his brother as “C.Barnes”, fireman, when he was on the Oceanic.

Mr Hiscott said he would admit that Barnes was Barnhouse, but the question which he would raise was whether the father was partially dependent upon this son.

Witness, cross-examined, said he had had a conversation with Mrs Curtis, who told him that his brother had not the money to send to his father.

Mr Hutchings: Do you know that Mrs Curtis has been interfering in this case, and has claimed that Barnes was her son? - Yes.

Mr Hiscott called Mrs Curtis, who stated that Charles Barnes had lodged with her for nineteen years. She had looked upon him almost as a son. He had been employed by the White Star Company, but there were periods when he did no work. On one occasion he was home for eleven months. Her husband had kept him. Barnes could not read or write. She used to write all his letters for him. He could not even write his own name. When the Titanic went down Barnes was considerably in her debt. At the insistence of the Seaman’s Union she claimed compensation as Barnes foster mother, but the claim was refused. She and her husband had kept Barnes going.

In cross-examination Mrs Curtis admitted that some years ago she wrote to Barnes’s father for him, but quite recently she had denied that Barnes was Barnhouse’s son. Fifteen months before the Titanic went down Barnes was always in trouble. Later he gave up the drink and was a different man. He said he had never had anything from his parents and did not intend to give them anything.

Mr Hiscott held that there was no corroborative evidence that applicant had been in receipt of money from his son. The Company which he represented had had between 600 and 700 claims made against it, but only fought a few, where there was a doubt. There was considerable doubt in this particular case. It was admitted that for eleven months this man did no work whatever. That being so how could he have sent money to his parents? There was no reliable evidence that they received one shilling from him. Applicant asked for £70, but how he arrived at this amount it was extremely difficult to say.

Mr Hutchings said the evidence of Mrs Curtis could not be relied upon, seeing that she had at first written to the applicant as the father of Robert Barnhouse, and subsequently denied that he was his son.

The Judge said it was clear that Mrs Curtis had been extraordinarily kind to this young man. She had befriended him for 19 years. The father and mother had no great moral claim upon him.

Mr Hutchings said an attempt had been made to show that his client was a dishonest old man, and that he had been guilty of perjury. He (Mr Hutchings) would like if possible, to have an opportunity of corroborating the statement he had made.

The Judge said it was a curious case, and the claim was very shadowy indeed. The applicant’s claim was an absolutely uncorroborated claim, and yet if it was a good claim, there should have been no difficulty in obtaining corroboration. Still the applicant appeared to be a truthful witness. What was he to do? It was not a case in which corroboration by any rule of the Court was absolutely a condition precedent to the right to find in his favour. Still the story told by the applicant was most vague and shadowy. With regard to Mrs Curtis she had been most kind to this young man. She had found him destitute, clothed, fed and housed him for many years, and his obligations to her were almost greater than to his parents. He (the Judge) thought the old man had received sums from his son from time to time as present’s and had, therefore, been partially dependent upon him. He intended to award applicant £5 and costs, believing that was equivalent to what he had lost.

Mr Hiscott asked that costs should not be awarded under the circumstances.

In the discussion which followed, Mr Hutchings mentioned that a claim by applicant on the Lord Mayor’s Titanic Relief Fund was rejected on the ground of want of sufficient proof of identity.

His Honour gave costs on the £5 (which it was said would be 10s only) remarking that the claim for £70 was altogether too high.


  • Courtesy of Mike Holgate, UK
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Charles Barnes alias Robert Barnhouse's Timeline

April 15, 1912
Age 29
At Sea - Titanic Casualty