Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
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After 58 years of marriage a Ryde couple die together.

Ethel & Val Paterson grave
Ethel & Val Paterson grave

Just inside the entrance of Ryde Cemetery under the first yew tree to the left of the central road way is a very simple stone tablet which bears the inscription:


The inscription gives no indication that this couple had a long and happy life together and died on the same day at their home in Ryde.

Val Paterson, whose full name was Hugh Sutherland Valentine Paterson, was born in London in 1884. At the time of the 1901 census he was living in Lewisham with his parents, Robert and Elizabeth, and his older brother James. Also living with the family were Frederick Mudford a widower (and Val’s brother-in-law), Frederick’s father, also a widower, and his 10 year old son. His father and son also had the name of Frederick Mudford. Val was an Engineer’s apprentice at that time and went on to become a mercantile shipping engineer.

In September 1908 Val married Ethel Bickmore.


Very little is known about the life this couple had together except that they had a long marriage and they both died on the same day, 5th December 1966, at their home in Dover Street.

The following information has been extracted from an article in the Isle of Wight Times dated Thursday 15th December 1966.

The couple were found dead in a gas filled room of their house, 21 Dover Street, on Monday 6th December. An inquest was held at Ryde Town Hall before the IW Coroner, Mr James Bullin and he recorded a verdict of accidental death on Mrs Ethel Paterson and death by natural causes on Mr Hugh Sutherland Valentine Paterson. Mr Paterson had been 82 and Mrs Paterson 78, they had been married for 58 years.

Mrs Gertrude Haswell, of Wandsworth, London, a cousin of the deceased, told the coroner they had always been a very happy couple and never had any worries.

The Island Pathologist, Dr Peter Swinstead, said that from the post-mortem held, although Mr Paterson had a high percentage of carbon monoxide in his blood, the prime cause of his death was coronary thrombosis. The cause of death in the case of Mrs Paterson, however, was carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Mrs Hilton Merrill of 19a Dover Street said that she had last seen the couple on Saturday they had just returned from shopping and were in high spirits. Mr Paterson greeted Mrs Merrill and said they would see her on Sunday when he and his wife intended to go to her house and watch television.

When they did not arrive, Mrs Merrill said she was not worried and thought that friends might have arrived to visit them. She said she first got worried the following day when Miss Hitchings, another neighbour, came around and told her there was a window open at the Paterson’s that she had never seen open before. Mrs Merrill asked her husband to call the police.

Miss Hitchings told the Coroner that she had arranged to meet the Paterson’s at their house on Sunday morning. She saw the papers and milk still outside the door and began to get worried. The following morning she was extremely worried and called on Mrs Merrill.

PC Barry Newnham said that he went to 21 Dover Street at 11:55am on Monday morning 6th December and on looking through a window that was open he smelt a strong odour of gas. When he entered the house and went to the kitchen he saw that gas was escaping from the grill of the cooker, and a gas ring was alight. Mr Paterson was lying in a corner with his head against the wall and Mrs Paterson was lying in a chair. They had evidently been dead for some time and there was clearly a danger of explosion.

The house was searched, but no notes were found. The gas installations were inspected and found to be in order.

Mr Bullin said he was convinced that Mr and Mrs Paterson did not take their own lives purposely.

Researched by Ann and Les Barrett

Ethel and Val Paterson grave