Millinery Is War By Other Means

Capture2dm 14 sep 1914

As Clausewitz almost said, War is Millinery by Other Means. Or do I mean Millinery is War by Other Means?

Eleanor Louisa Black-Hawkins née Young was rather pleased with her little joke, only slightly marred by the fact that she doubted whether anyone else in St Mary Bourne had ever heard of Clausewitz. This was one of the reasons she liked to divide her time between Hampshire and her Kensington pied à terre. She knew that this did not endear her to her St Mary Bourne friends, and particularly irritated her rather self-satisfied sister-in-law, Frances Hawkins Selfe, who had profited from one of her absences in the metropolis to set up a ‘ladies committee’ to be part of the war effort, thus establishing herself as ‘queen’ of the village, at least for the duration of the war.

It was really insufferable.

But Eleanor knew what to do. ‘Box clever!’ as she had constantly been urged as a child by her somewhat manipulative father – any counter-offensive needed to be on different turf, it would never do to engage in single combat on Frances’s own territory. And of course it was essential that such a counter-offensive be plausibly deniable.

The answer leapt off the page at Eleanor as she opened her morning newspaper. Millinery, very expensive millinery, was the key to solving her dilemma.

As the advertisement cleverly hinted, it was her civic duty, particularly in a time of war,  to keep the ladies of Derry and Toms millinery department gainfully employed. Why, without her and her friends, the sales assistants would be out on the street and might even starve. Or worse!

There was a meeting of the ladies committee next week, which Eleanor would graciously attend. Before that, she would nip up to London to dear Derry and Toms, just round the corner from Oakwood Court, and choose a hat. A hat that made a statement. In fact the hat in the illustration was just the thing. A hat that brooked no gainsaying. A hat that would carry all before it.

As the meeting was in Frances’ own house, she would not be wearing a hat. But it would be entirely appropriate for Eleanor as a visitor to wear one. And not one of your 12/9 hats, either. She rather thought that the one in the illustration would be the one selling for fifteen guineas. What fun – she hugged herself in anticipatory glee. And to think she had been in rather low spirits when she had got up that morning.

War is not a mere act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means.”

pp 75-89  (From the Michael Howard/Peter Paret translation, Princeton University Press, 1976/84, based on the original in German, Vom Kriege, Dummlers Verlag, Berlin, 1832.)

Edwin Black Black-Hawkins Esq: A Man Of Means


Courtesy hockmeyer tree on


‘Northern’ Origins

Edwin was born in 1844 into a property-owning brewing family in Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire. It would perhaps be fair to describe the Hawkins family as from the ‘beerage4 — though it appears that none of them was in fact ennobled. The family’s financial base was the Newbury area of Berkshire, but many of them gradually drifted south. Although this was not a great distance, moving to Great Bedwyn, Appleshaw and finally St Mary Bourne involved crossing a county line twice, ending up in the beautiful (the writer is admittedly prejudiced) Bourne Valley.

John Edward Hawkins at Diplands
Bourne Court

The first of the clan to arrive was John Edward Hawkins, Edwin’s uncle. He moved into Diplands, St Mary Bourne, in the early 1870s and was probably host to Dr Joseph Stevens who describes attending a Mummers’ play there in 1874.

ThomAS eDWARD hAWKINS at spring hill

By 1891 Edwin’s brother, Thomas Edward Hawkins, who had been Mayor of Newbury in 1878, had arrived and was living at Spring Hill. He was presumably already ill, as a male nurse is included in the household and in September the following year he died at the age of 52.

Edwin Black Black-Hawkins at Bourne Court

Next came Edwin Black Black-Hawkins himself,who is described in Kelly’s 1899 Directory as one of the principal landowners of St Mary Bourne. He lived at Bourne Court, at the south-east end of the village (formerly Upper Link House). From here he seems to have taken an active role in county life, probably huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ with the smart set, though the family also maintained a flat in Oakwood Court, Kensington.

HAgricultural Show Winchester EBBH wins prizes for horsese won prizes at the Winchester Agricultural Show in 1900 for two horses which he had bred, and also on several other occasions.

The ultimate Victorian pater familias, he and his wife Eleanor had eleven children (and yes, they did call the tenth one Decimus). However, despite their wealth, they did not escape the prevailing mortality rates: by 1911 three of these had died in early adulthood.

Eleanor Black-Hawkins

Edwin’s wife, Eleanor, was a frequent writer to The Times, and clearly regarded it as her duty to take an active part in public life, an attitude possibly explained by her two great uncles, one of whom had been headmaster of Harrow, and the other of Eton. Here she has an idea about those sitting idly at home during the Boer War occupying themselves by composing scrapbooks which could be used to entertain wounded soldiers:


Marion Black-Hawkins

Possibly the most interesting – if most eccentric – member of the family was Edwin’s youngest daughter Marion, who never married. The following extracts from her writings on the delights of keeping spiders, snakes and wasps as pets may give some hint as to the reason for her failure to find a husband. Here, an account of her pets reaches the pages of the Luton Times and Advertiser. 1909 Miss Black-Hawkins' pet waspsMiss Black-Hawkins pet snakes 1913snakes part 2And here she is writing for the ‘National Review’ again:

Marion Black-Hawkins writes for the National Review on spidersOn the other hand, it may all have been a prolonged tease…?

It is almost irresistible to imagine the Black-Hawkins relations as real-life counterparts of the Gascoyne D’Ascoyne family as played by Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets:

Note on Sources

1. In general, this post is based on the census records, as well as the trade directories for the area.

2. The newspaper extracts were sourced via the British Newspaper Archive.

3. The Hampshire Records Office is the source for the legal and property dealings of the Hawkins and Black-Hawkins family. (I keep on my desktop a link to the HRO catalogue search page, which is in constant use).

4. The National Archives provided the link to the London and Metropolitan Archives

The Company was incorporated in 1897 as “Hawkins and Parfitt South Berkshire Brewery Company Limited” upon the amalgamation of Edward Parfitt, Atlas Brewery, Newbury, and Thomas Edward Hawkins and Company, West Mills Brewery, Newbury. They were based at the Atlas Brewery, Bartholomew Street, Newbury, Berks.The company acquired John Platt and Son, Manor Brewery, Hungerford, c 1900, and Westcombe and Sons, St Nicholas Brewery, Newbury, 1902. Acquired Blandy, Hawkins and Co, Castle Brewery, Bridge Street, Reading (possibly successors to Stephens’ Mill Lane Brewery, later Willats and Blandy’s Mill Lane Brewery), 1910. The name was changed to “South Berkshire Brewery Limited” in 1913; and was acquired by H and G Simonds in 1920. In voluntary liquidation 1936.

4. Details of the sale of ‘Bourne Court, formerly Upper Link House’ can be found in the Hampshire Record Office in 165A06/144 for 2008; 159M88/1692, 187A09/7/3, 46M84/F80/41 and 46M84/F80/42 for 22-26 July 1950. The papers for the sale of ‘Upper Link Farm’ in 1865 (65M74/Z3) may also apply.