Charles James Knight and William John House


Cheering Wiltshires in 1918 via Commons wikimedia

Andover Advertiser 30th October 1914

FOR KING AND COUNTRY – After passing the cross roads at
Chapmansford, the first block of two cottages on the road to Hurstbourne
Priors has peculiar interest to the passer by. Each has sent its manhood to
fight for King and country. From the first cottage Charles James Knight has
gone with the 1st Wiltshire Regiment, and has not been heard of for a

In the next cottage live the wife and two children of William John
House, 1st Wiltshire Regiment, who was wounded on 9th September in the
battle of Chesny, taken prisoner, and now lies in the Royal Reserve Hospital
in Potsdam, about 18 miles from Berlin.

Mr House went through the biggest part of the Boer War, and helped to capture Piet Cronje, the Transvaal General, who, after a skilful and determined resistance to Lord Methuen at Magersfontein, surrendered with 4000 of his army to Lord Roberts on the
Modder river on 27th February 1909. Mr House obtained the South African
medal, which his wife shows with pride.

On the declaration of war last August Mr House went to Devizes, the depot of the 1st Wiltshires, saying that it was his duty to go, although it was a sore wrench to leave his wife and children. He went with his regiment from Tidworth, his wife received a note from him saying that he had landed safely, and a few days afterwards he appears to
have been wounded in the arm at the battle of Chesny.

Mrs House received the intimation as to her husband’s whereabouts from the American Embassy not having heard from her husband after he intimated his safe landing,
although she has written to him each week. Mr House has two brothers who
are with the navy in the North Sea, and his youngest brother (19 years of
age) is in the Territorials.

The First Wiltshires

At the start of World War I, the Wiltshire Regiment, like most of the rest of the British Army, consisted of two regular battalions (1st and 2nd), a reserve battalion (3rd), and a Territorial Force battalion. Eventually, the Wiltshire Regiment expanded to ten battalions, seven of which served overseas.[30] These included three additional Territorial Force battalions (1/4th, 2/4th, and 3/4th Battalions) as well as four service battalions (5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th battalions) formed for the Kitchener Army formations.[30]

Regular Army battalions

Upon mobilization and declaration of war, the 1st Wilts deployed to France as part of the 3rd Infantry Division‘s 7th Brigade, landing in France on 14 August 1914. The 1st Wilts remained with the 3rd Division until the 7th Brigade was transferred to the 25th Division on 18 October 1915. The 1st Wilts served with the 25th Division until was transferred on 21 June 1918.[31] On 21 June 1918, the 1st Wilts joined the 110th Brigade, part of the 21st Division, with which it served for the rest of the war.[30]

Lt Col Henry Longfellow Cooper: A Hard Man To Resist?

Emma Elizabeth Folson Cooper was not just a daughter of the regiment, she was now a sister, wife and mother of the regiment as well, and she had had no say in any of it!

Captain Henry Folson medals from several sale catalogues 2014

Her father, Henry Folson, had been Quartermaster for most of his career, but in 1895 had been made an honorary Captain of the Coldstream Guards just before his retirement.

Her one brother, William, was a Battery Sergeant-Major in the Royal Field Artillery (and would be promoted to Lieutenant before the war was over).

Her only son, Herbert Longfellow Cooper, had been nabbed as soon as he was old enough for the ASC by the biggest recruiter after Lord Kitchener, her husband. *

The eponymous Lt Col Henry Longfellow Cooper was running the Wessex Division of the Royal Army Service Corps. Before the war, he had been a granite merchant and, much as she loved him and appreciated his charm, he was a man of granite in more ways than one: he was someone no one could say ‘no’ to.

She had lost track of how many young men ‘the Colonel’ had managed to recruit into the ASC, not just since war broke out but in earlier years as part of the Territorials. He was a sort of Pied Piper of Hamelin, luring what were little more than children with his siren songs to go off to fight . Not that she had ever dared mention the parallel to him…


Sachsenspiegel-OstsiedlungPublic Domain Eike von Repgow – Heidelberger Sachsenspiegel, Cod. Pal. germ. 164


They had been living since they came to St Mary Bourne more than a decade ago at Wakes Wood, a large house at the north-east end of the village. Now that Herbert and his sister had left home, she and Henry were rattling around in it and she had finally persuaded him that they would be much better off at the charming house called Butler’s next door. There just remained the question of finding a buyer for Wakes Wood in the current market (not many people were looking for what was virtually a mansion in 1914).


Longfellow Cooper


*herbert l cooper Identification of Herbert, the Coopers’ son is not absolute, but no other likely candidates have been found, and it seems entirely in keeping with his father’s reputation that he should have joined the RASC.

Florrie And The Country Crafts: by Win Bourne


Little Girl Knitting by Albert Anker via

All through September most households in the valley had been busy harvesting their own garden produce as it ripened. Wives had been busy bottling fruit, making jam and pickling vegetables. Larders were replete with Kilner jars labelled and stored, ready to supplement the winter diet. The husbands had pulled up the onions, wrapping them in skeins and hanging them out to dry on hooks on the wall. They had prepared sloes and damsons to start blooping away in the shed in large buckets ready to transfer to demijohns and converting hopefully, into wine. If they were lucky they might have obtained some barley and had a barrel of beer brewing.

Now, in October, the thoughts turned to winter and the next season’s events.

This was going to be the best Christmas ever. Mum had taught seven-year old Florrie Randall how to knit and, as she sat outside in the late afternoon sun next to her, she was deciding which colour wool she would choose next.  Mum, and some of her neighbours – perhaps Mrs Benham and Mrs Pearce – would gather their chairs together outside in their yards to catch the last of the sun of a late afternoon to knit and chatter, the evening meals already prepared for the men coming home from the farms and the stables later.

Early preparation was crucial for gifts to be complete for the Christmas morning. Ladies were knitting, crocheting and sewing as fast as their nimble fingers could work. Florrie concentrated hard on her next stitch – in with the needle, round the needle with the wool and pull the needle back and off with the wool- done it- another stitch complete. This would only take a few weeks at this pace she thought. Mum had told her that there was a little bit of love in every stitch, and she did love her sister.
Mum had allowed her to rummage through her wool bag for scraps of left-over yarn and taught her how to knit a square. Florrie had seven squares of various hues already in her collection and she would need twenty before she could reach the next stage of her present for her little sister Ada, who was two years younger. She was going to sew the squares together to make a little blanket for a dolly, which Dad had already been busy making in his shed, along with a crib. Mum was knitting tiny garments to fit the dolly.
Oh! This was going to be Ada’s very best Christmas, and if her brother Alfred was home from the Army and this silly war was finished it would be the very best Christmas for the whole family.

After the evening meal Mother, Ada Randall, was busy on yet another piece of handiwork. She had acquired a hessian sack from Eli Brown, the carrier. Goodness knows what it had originally contained, not coal or anything wet or smelly, that’s for sure. She had soaked it in soda then washed it in the copper and now, as it hung out to dry, it smelled lovely.

Ada had spent many evenings painstakingly cutting strips of material about an inch wide and four inches long, while the light held. She had searched through her rag bag (everybody had a rag bag – a collection of worn out shirts, their buttons removed and saved, blanket pieces, sheets, skirts and even trousers – any length of material too good to throw away, no matter how big or small) and selected the strongest and thickest pieces. Once the onerous task of cutting of hundreds of rectangles was done, she would then begin making a rag rug – for that was the goal. Ada’s first job was to hem all around the edge of the hessian to stop it from fraying, then, with her rug hook, she would pull each strip of cloth through the weave of the backing, line after line until the rug was complete, the more strips she pulled through the tighter the rug became, making it firmer as she went.

She knew just where the rug would be put, underneath that draughty back door where the wind whistled through in cold evenings. She had already made several rugs in a myriad of colours, which were a comfort to everybody in their bedrooms as they first put their foot on the floor in the morning, that lovely soft surface instead of the cold stone floor. The rugs didn’t match, they were never meant to.
This creation was not any particular person’s Christmas present, but with that horrid draught from under the door blocked, everybody would have a cosier winter.


A reminder of Florrie Randall’s immediate family:


Keeping On An Even Keel: Advice From The Daily Mirror


Editorial Page The Daily MIrror 22 October 1914 courtesy The British Newspaper Archive

aaa 001The Reverend William Tovani was rather taken with today’s editorial and cartoon in The Daily Mirror and wondered if he could get away with turning them into a sermon with only the most minimal editing. After all, if there could be a sermon in stones, why indeed should there not be a sermon in one’s daily newspaper?

It was rather fascinating, in a grim sort of way, the degree to which the war seemed to be having an infantilising effect on his congregation. Normally both robust and level-headed, many of them seemed to be rushing to him with every little metaphorical scratch and asking him, in effect, to ‘kiss it better’, as he promised his children. Their moods were all over the place, one minute elated and the next in the depth of despair as they reacted and over-reacted to the news from the battle front.

He was in little doubt in his own mind that the war would last for many months, if not years, and the only sensible choice, to use another metaphor – this time from the tennis court – was to stay on the base line and concentrate on returning every ball, steadily but firmly.

Yes that should do quite well – now all he had to do was to find a biblical text in justification…

aaa 001 - Copy

Dr William Alexander Slater Royds: Community Pillar and Successor to Dr Stevens

Cricket team SMB 1906 main pic 001

Village Cricket Team 1906 courtesy HG

TitleNamesThe St Mary Bourne cricket team for 1906 look remarkably glum for a group of people who had just won the village league challenge cup. Perhaps the photographer was one of those annoying professionals who spend so long  perfecting their work that they have long since left their sitters behind in a slough of despond.

Dr Royds, as the president of the cricket team, sits in the centre of the group, looking as thoughtful as any. Perhaps he was thinking of his daughter Dorothy, who had died just the year before at the age of nineteen. Perhaps he was thinking of his son William, who had apparently taken to heart the injunction ‘Go West, Young Man’, and seemed destined for a life in the Americas. Royds family


Or perhaps he experienced one of those sudden presentiments – within ten years most of the young men surrounding him would be at the Front, fighting for their country and their young lives.

One of those who would go to war was his own son, George Freeman Royds, who  in due course would have a distinguished war in Mesopotamia, but as a professional soldier had been in at the start.

George Freeman Royds 2nd Lt


abaHe considered himself lucky, in a way, to have the compensations of his profession to keep him from dwelling too long on the sadnesses of his life – there were too many things to be done and people to be attended to.


Extract from ‘A Village Story’ by Kathleen Royds Innes 1955


Extract from ‘St Mary Bourne Records’ by Kathleen Royds Innes 1947


Post script: WRONG HOUSE! This is where Dr Royds’ daughter lived on marriage to George Innes, not the Doctors’ house – see post of 7 December 2014


Church Flower Ladies – And One Or Two Men

SMB Harvest 2004 005

Andover Advertiser 2 October 1914

Andover Advertiser 2 October 1914

The Primitive Methodists may win out in the provision of food and cups of tea, but when it comes to church flowers, it is hard to dislodge the Church of England from her pedestal. The person who explains this best is Barbara Pym, as she does here:

It was a Saturday morning … it was the usual gathering, Winifred, Sister Blatt, Miss Enders, Miss Statham and one or two others. The only man present, apart from the clergy, was Jim Storry, a feeble-minded youth who made himself useful in harmless little ways and would sometimes arrange the wire frames on the window-sills for us or fill jam jars with water….‘Well, well, here we all are,’ said Julian in a rather more clerical tone than usual. ‘It’s very good of you all to come along and help and I’m especially grateful to those who have brought flowers. Lady Farmer,’ he mentioned the name of the only titled member remaining in our congregation, ‘has most kindly sent these magnificent lilies from her country home.’…We went into the church and began sorting out the flowers and deciding what should be used where. Winifred, as the vicar’s sister, had usurped the privilege of a wife and always did the altar, but I must confess that it was not always very well done. I had graduated from a very humble window that nobody ever noticed to helping Sister Blatt with the screen, and we began laboriously fixing old potted-meat jars into place with wires so that they could be filled with flowers. Lady Farmer’s lilies were of course to go on the altar.

So what does this allocation of duties at St Peter’s on 2 October 1914 reveal? Well, St Peter’s of 1914 and Barbara Pym agree on the pecking order: Altar, Screen, Windows.

Altar and Sanctuary

Miss Boyes

Margaret Angela Boys, daughter of Sir Charles Vernon Boys (of whom much more later) and Marion Pollock, Lady Boys

Miss Miley

Grace Virginia Miley, daughter of Miles Miley and Lucy Boys (and first cousin of Margaret Boys)

Miss H Selfe

Hilda Selfe via, courtesy Barbara Hockmeyer

Hilda Selfe via, courtesy Barbara Hockmeyer

(Ann) Hilda Selfe



Mr A H White

Albert Henry White of Barford House.

Mr W Benham

Possibly William Henry Benham, a gardener


Miss Freemantle

Probably Lucy Freemantle, 73-year old spinster, helped by her niece, Jessie?


Miss Longman

Either Georgina Blanche or Maggie Gertrude, spinster daughters of William Longman, builder and undertaker, of Link House, and his wife Mary Ann.

Miss Willshire

Presumably Laura Willshire of The Plough Inn


Miss Gascoigne

Catherine Anne, 49 year old housekeeper from Northamptonshire working at Diplands.


Miss Freemantle

Presumably Jessie Freemantle, aged 43, niece of Lucy Freemantle for whom she acted as housekeeper

Miss Longman

Either Georgina Blanche or Maggie Gertrude, spinster daughters of William Longman, builder and undertaker, of Link House, and his wife Mary Ann.

Miss Wiltshire

(not known)

Miss Marchment

Anne or Ellen, daughters of Henry Marchment of Middle Wyke

Mrs Cook

Sarah Cook, wife of John, a farmer?

Annie Cook

(not known)

Mr Titt

James Titt, agent for the Hampshire & General Friendly Society

That is pretty much in line with the Order of Precedence– (daughters of knights at the top, insurance salesmen at the bottom) combined with a shrewd village assessment, crafted over the centuries, of the precedence of an elder daughter of a builder in relation to the younger daughter of a farmer. The decision depends on the size of the building business/farm, number of employees, and length of residence in the village. Also, of course, the degree of friendliness with the supervisor of the flower ladies…


Laura The Landlady: by Win Bourne

The Bridge c1925

James Willshire had been running the alehouse The Plough for several years with the help of his wife Margaret, who was four years older than him. He had been an innkeeper and master brewer for many years;  his father had taught him the brewing trade, which he had combined with being a cooper.willshire 1911Now in his sixty-third year and with his legs not so good, James was still able to change the barrels when needed, putting full barrels on the racks and taking the empties out to the store at the back of the pub. He sat each evening with his one pint, along with the other old regulars, puffing away on their pipes and discussing the harvest- the cost of feed etc. and other village gossip.

James and his wife Margaret had worked together all their married life, and, as their two sons Victor and Ernest had left home to follow their own careers, they decided to train Laura in the art of innkeeping, enabling them both to take life a little easier. Laura had done well at school and was quick with numbers. She was friendly and polite and very willing to learn. Initially Margaret kept Laura behind the counter, teaching her how to pull a pint, how to measure a spirit drink and, most importantly, how to deal with customers.

“Always be ready to listen when a customer feels like talking, but never offer your own opinion”, was one of her maxims.  “Never repeat what one customer says, to another”, was another. “Let them do the talking and you do the listening”, she would advise. Then she might promptly lean on the bar and whisper to a customer “did you hear that…….”

Laura, now 26 years old,  ran the inn almost singlehandedly, though of course her father was still the owner.  She employed a pot man; though employed was not quite the correct description for their arrangement – he would collect the empty pots and jugs from the tables in the bar and outside in the yard, and also sweep up the sawdust after closing time and lay fresh for the next day – as payment she gave him a free pint of ale with some bread and cheese each midday and maybe a bowl of broth for dinner,  so he was grateful for her generosity. Not that you would know this, as he was a morose old man with very little to say and grunted replies to anyone who spoke to him.

The young lads of the valley often gathered on the bridge on the square after their various days’ work, mostly still in their working clothes and heavy boots, the smithy’s apprentice with his shirt spotted with burn marks from the forge, the thatcher with bits of straw in his hair or poking from his cap, and the stable hand smelling strongly of horses.

Their most popular conversation was in which of the armed forces they would prefer to be enlisted,  which regiment or battalion they would choose. Some wanted to be with the horse, some with the rifle, and some on the high seas. All were very keen, as soon as they reached the age of 18, that they would be off to the Drill Hall in Andover to collect the King’s shilling. The older men sitting outside the ale house would listen, saying nothing. Their memories of their time in the Second Boer War, nay some even in the first, and the horrors they saw and maybe suffered there, were etched in their brains and carried heavily in their hearts.

How could they pass that knowledge and experience on to these young men? To persuade them that war might not be the great adventure they all dreamed of. They knew they couldn’t, so the old chaps carried on puffing their pipes, chewing their baccy and drinking their beer.



-James Willshire is shown in the 1911 census as occupying The Plough, having been the proprietor of a pub in Bradford on Avon in 1901; he is still there in the 1912 trade directory but at some point before 1920 he had moved again, this time to The Railway Inn (now The Bourne Valley Inn).

-We do not know the identity of ‘the pot man’ but The Plough was used by the farmers and was a busy pub at the centre of the village. Laura would not have been working on her own and the employment of a pot man seems a reasonable inference.

The Conservation Area Description says:

The Old Plough, formerly an inn, dates from 17th and 18th century. Although only of one-storey and attic, the significant length of the building is emphasised by its steeply pitched, long thatched roof slopes, and simple elevational treatment. Of intrinsic architectural merit, its location at the river crossing, and its dominance of views through the space, makes it a key building in the Conservation Area.

The photograph of The Plough, behind the bridge over the Bourne, is again one of those that came to me without indication as to copyright owner. If this is you, please contact us in the comments below so that we can properly acknowledge you or, if you prefer, remove it from this blog.

Our New Contributor

This is the first of what we hope will be many posts by Win Bourne, a ‘member’ of our history group. Thank-you, Win!



Beatrice Mary Pease Wallop, Countess of Portsmouth

Beatrice 001

Lady Portsmouth, extract from a photograph of the earl and countess in the history of the Earls of Portsmouth and the Wallop Family by Alison M Deveson.

Lady Portsmouth flung down her copy of Tatler, exasperated by the veneer of fluffy flapper femininity some editor had presumably thought necessary to overlay on the writing of Olivia Maitland Davidson, a perfectly intelligent girl (one of the Gloucestershire Viners) who was entirely capable of writing an interesting article without the word ‘excitements’ having to be rendered as ‘ ‘citements’. Really – how patronising!

The letters of Eve Nov 1914 2 - CopyEve 7 October 1914Eve 7 October 1914 - CopyOlivia was writing these letters every week, and they were really quite entertaining, even if Lady Portsmouth inevitably found herself wincing at the winsomeness.

Beatrice Mary Pease (1866-1935) was one of THE Peases, that is to say the Quaker family of industrialists and philanthropists that built the Stockton-Darlington railway, amongst many other achievements. After her father Edward’s death in 1880, she was given a home by her uncle, Sir Joseph Pease until her marriage to the 6th Earl of Portsmouth. We shall hear much more of her.

Mary Barnes Langford

Sims treeMary Barnes Langford, the daughter of William Barnes and Sarah Sims, was very glad indeed of her sisters, and her cousins, and her aunts surrounding her in the village, as she would otherwise have felt very lonely indeed.

She had just seen her husband, Thomas, off to war. They had been married seven years, and had two daughters, Lillian and Dorothy, who were now five and three years old. They couldn’t understand what had happened to their father, but they were bewildered and seemed to spend a lot of time squabbling with each other. She realised that this was probably partly because of her own mood, which was anxious and sad. Sad of course because she missed her husband, but anxious because she could not see how they were going to make ends meet.

sims 1911 censusThank goodness for her mother, who had lived with them ever since they came to Ivy Cottages. At 79 years old, she was not really up to looking after the girls single-handed if she could find work, but that might be what was needed. Perhaps she could find work she could do at home, taking in people’s laundry or something.

Ivy Cottages

Ivy Cottages, Link (near Bourne Valley Inn on the valley road)

Mary was in that annoying state where she couldn’t quite manage to cry, but couldn’t quite pull herself together either.

‘Remember you are a Sims!’, she said to herself, in an attempt to reach deep within to draw on her famous family toughness. Why, her great-uncle Daniel Sims* was the St Mary Bourne equivalent of the Tolpuddle Martyrs!

Great Uncle Daniel had been a worthy follower of Captain Swing

When 19th c. politicians and pamphleteers spoke of the English ‘peasants’, they did not mean direct family cultivators, but agricultural wage-labourers. In fact the English agricultural population divided into three – at the top stood a small number of landlords, who between them owned most of the land. The first attempt to discover how the land of Britain was owned (in 1871-3) revealed that about 1200 people owned ¼ of the UK, and about 7,200 owned ½ though it certainly underestimated the concentration of landed property…

This comparative handful of giant landlords rarely cultivated their estates themselves…they rented them out to tenant farmers who actually exploited them. In 1851, when the first nationally reliable figures were collected, there were about 225,000 farms in Britain, about ½ of the 100-300 acres in size and all of them averaging just over 110 acres, ie what passed for a small farm in England would certainly have counted as a giant farm beside the smallholdings of typical peasant economies. Just over 300,000 described themselves as farmers and graziers, who cultivated their farms b y employing the 1.5 million men and women who described themselves as agricultural labourers, shepherds, farm servants etc, ie the typical English agriculturalist was a hired man, a rural proletarian…

Of course rural society consisted not only of those actually engaged in land ownership or farming, but also of the numerous craftsmen, shopkeepers, carters, innkeepers etc who provided the services necessary to agriculture and village life…


It was in Hampshire and Wiltshire that the movement, as it drove westwards, became the most widely dispersed and attained its greatest momentum. When the riots were all over, there were 300 or more prisoners awaiting trial in each county, compared with a little over 160 in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire and a little over 100 in Kent. Yet in both [counties] the riots were remarkably short-lived.

[As reported in The Times of 27-29 November 1830], Hampshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire were chiefly concerned with machine breaking [whereas the other counties were chiefly fire-raising]. In Wiltshire, it was said of the small farmers that, even if they did not actually take part in the riots, they are ‘glad to see the labourers at work’ and many farmers were half-hearted in the defence of their machines and made the labourers’ task an easier one. Their hostility to tithe and rent was deeper and led them, on occasion, to become active accomplices.


18 November 1830 St Mary Bourne Arson attack on large farmer – ricks were fired, setting off riots in the area
21 November 1830 Vernham Dean A ‘robbery’, ie acquiring money or food by menace
21 November 1830 Hippenscombe Threshing machine destroyed
22 November 1830 Ashmansworth Villagers compelled their rector to pay them 2/-
22 November 1830 Hurstbourne Tarrant ‘Robbery’ to the value of £1
22 November 1830 Vernham Dean ‘Robbery’


Between 18th and 24th November 1830, there were incidents in Andover, Barton Stacey, Broughton, Bucklebury, Buttermere, East Woodhay, Great Bedwyn, Ham, Highclere, Hippenscombe, Houghton, Hungerford, Inkpen, Kintbury, Lambourn, Leckford, Ludgershall, Mottisfont, Overton, Stockbridge, the Wallops and Upper Clatford.[i]


Thomas is believed to have been part of the Territorials called Hampshire Fortress:

The following is a list of units transferred to the Territorial Force on 1 April 1908, or raised in that year under the terms of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907, and the associations by which they were administered.[1] … A number of units, particularly those attached to the Royal Garrison Artillery and Royal Engineers, had their titles altered again in 1910.[2]

Hampshire (Fortress) Royal Engineers (Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Works Companies, Nos. 4, 5 and 6 Electric Light Companies)

*Daniel Sims is on the tree – and marked with a small green leaf in the corner. His transportation to Australia with his “co-conspirators” is covered in Julie Muirhead’s blog post here.

[i] Captain Swing by E J Hobsbawm and George Rudé, Lawrence and Wishart 1969

The Holbrookes of Stoke House

Stoke House

Stoke House via Google Street View

Barbara Holbrooke sat in her morning room, drew a deep breath and wondered what she should attempt next, apart from the Herculean task of marrying off her three remaining spinster daughters. Gertrude and Constance were both happily married, thank goodness, but Winifred was now 46, Helena 44 and Margaret had just turned 30. They were not unattractive girls -women- but the problem had been finding young men brave enough to propose to the daughters of  the vicar. And Kimpton, with a population of only 300, where they had lived from 1882 until her husband’s death in November 1911, was the very epitome of being a large goldfish in a very small bowl – where on earth was she supposed to have found eligible bachelors for them?

Despite the small size of the parish and congregation, the rectory was positively palatial – 16 rooms in the way counted by the 1911 census. As the living remained in the gift of the local landowner, she presumed that the lord of the manor had financed both church and rectory without input from the diocese, with the idea of putting a succession of second or third sons in this sinecure.

Crockfords 1908

It was not, of course, a surprise that her husband had predeceased her – after all, he was 22 years her senior. But it had been a bitter blow when their youngest son, Lt Dr. Cecil Dacre More Holbrooke, had died while serving in the army in India in 1909. She had hoped that, by steering him into medicine, he would escape the apparently irresistible pull of the scarlet  (none of their children seemed to be drawn to the black of the ecclesiastical world). But it was not to be. In 1905, at the age of 25, he had joined the RAMC and been sent to Poona where he had met his end, four years later, in a chukka of polo hit on the head by the ball.*

Holbrooke tree

Her three remaining sons had also gone into the army. She had had hopes that Gerald Howard, born in 1877, who emigrated to Saskatchewan in 1909, would also escape a military fate. He was indeed just getting himself established when war was declared in Britain so, of course, he duly signed up in Canada on 24 September 2014.*


Gerald had already served 5 years with the 12th Middlesex, eight years with the Natal Police, and two years with the (Canadian) Royal North West Mounted Police.

In 1870, the vast area known as Rupert’s Land was transferred from the Hudson’s Bay Company to the new Dominion of Canada. The sudden shift of authority and resultant uncertainty and unrest among the inhabitants of the region erupted into the Red River Rebellion of 1869-70. Alarming reports of whisky trading and of restlessness and inter-tribal warfare among the Indians of the plains reached the newly formed federal government in Ottawa. It was essential that order be restored and maintained if the Canadian Northwest was to attract settlers. In 1872, Colonel P. Robertson-Ross, Adjutant-General of the Canadian Militia, was dispatched into the Northwest on a fact-finding journey for the Canadian government. He recommended that a regiment of 550 mounted riflemen be organized to preserve order in the territory and to protect the surveyors and railway builders who were working their way to the Pacific coast.

aaTheir eldest son, Bernard Frederick Roper, had joined the Indian army in 1893 at the age of 21 – she remembered that there had been no holding him. It was a good life for a young man, just so long as they weren’t engaged in any war. She dreaded what the future might be for him now.


But the very first to arrive at the front had been, as she might have known, her knight in shining armour, Philip Lancelot. Although he was 41 years old by now, he arrived in France with the Royal Garrison Artillery as part of the British Expeditionary Force on 19 September. He had left behind a wife, Eleanor, whom she would have to keep an eye on, although she was perfectly looked after by the army, living in married quarters in Shoeburyness with a cook and a maid, and plenty of other wives for company.

Her life felt as if all the colour had gone out of it. She knew she must make an effort to keep up the spirits of her daughters, but today her heart was not in it. She already hated this phrase people kept using, ‘for the duration’. How long, oh how long might that be?


*I have seen – but cannot at the moment lay my hands on 😦 the evidence for the polo accident. Apologies, but I did not want to delay this post any further.

I have concluded that my memory may have been playing tricks – Captain Egerton Orme Bellairs Black Hawkins (see elsewhere on this website) is memorialised at the military cemetery in Bloemfontein and St Mary Bourne (Section G Row 10 #406) ‘killed 21 January 1909 in a polo accident’. Grateful thanks to the commenters below.

**The evidence for the Holbrookes having moved to Stoke House is Gerald’s attestation papers in September 1914, when he gives his mother as his next of kin.