Category Archives: Hampstead

Obituary – Alderman Ernest A. O’Bryen 3rd May 1919


We regret to record the death of Alderman Ernest A. O’Bryen, Mayor of Hampstead, which took place on Saturday night, at the age of fifty-three years, following on an operation from which he at first seemed to be progressing favourably. Educated at Stonyhurst and Cooper’s Hill, he spent some ten years in the Indian Forest Service in Upper Burmah, shortly after its annexation. He retired from the service in 1897 and married in the following year, Gertrude, daughter of the late Alfred Pursell. In 1913 he was elected Mayor of Hampstead, first Catholic to hold that position, and held it till his death. In 1916 he was President of the Stonyhurst Association and the same year was elected a Vice-President of the London Circle of the Catenian Association. During the war he took a leading part in making arrangements for the feeding and accommodation of Belgian refugees, and he also organised and equipped hospitals for the British Red Cross and St. John Ambulance. In 1915, Alderman O’Bryen was instrumental in raising the 183rd Howitzer Brigade and the 138th and 139th Heavy Batteries of Royal Garrison Artillery.

The funeral took place on Wednesday. The Requiem Mass was celebrated at St. Dominic’s Priory, Haverstock Hill, by Father Bodkin, S. J. Among those present were Mrs. O’Bryen and her five children, Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Winstanley, Captain and Mrs. Parker, Mr. Alfred Pursell, Mrs. Edwardes, Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Bellord, Mr. Frank Pursell, Mr. Alfred O’Bryen, Mrs. Rex O’Bryen, Mrs. Basil O’Bryen, the Deputy Mayor, the Town Clerk, Aldermen and Councillors of the Borough of Hampstead, the Vice-Chairman of the London County Council (Mr. A. T. Taylor, L.C.C.), Alderman Sir William Dunn, Bart., Alderman J. W. Gilbert, L.C.C., Mr. W. Reynolds, L.C.C., Mr. John O’Connor, K.C., Canon Burton, Father Robert Bracey, 0.P., Rev. J. Keating, S.J., Father John Leather, 0.P., Mr. J. G. Bellord, Dr. Ernest Ware, Mr. Synnott, Mr. Lescher, and many others. Father Bodkin also gave the Absolutions, and officiated at the interment at Kensal Green, assisted by Father John Leather. Several communities of nuns were also represented in the church. The children from Bartram’s Orphanage lined the road near the church and the entrance to the avenue at the cemetery.

“The Catholic body in London has suffered a severe loss by the death of Alderman Ernest O’Bryen,” writes one who knew him. “The number of Catholic laymen who take a prominent share in London public life is unfortunately not very large, and the untimely death of one who had achieved such a notable success as to be elected six times in succession Mayor of the borough of Hampstead, in which he lived, must fill with deepest regret all those, interested in Catholic social effort in the Metropolis. Those who had the privilege of knowing Ernest O’Bryen intimately were not surprised that he secured the confidence and the esteem of his fellow workers, both Catholic and non-Catholic. An able administrator, with a sound judgment, a strong resolution, a persuasive manner, and a power of appropriate silence—the last a valuable gift in public life, his two outstanding qualities were perhaps his loyalty and his generosity of service. He was loyal, most loyal, to his religious beliefs and practices, loyal to his country, loyal to his friends, and loyal to those co-operating with him. His fellow Catholics know of his loyalty to his religion : Hampstead marked its appreciation of his loyalty to his country at the beginning of the war by re-electing him as Mayor five times to see the war through ; many like the writer have experienced his loyalty to his friends, which showed itself in times of anxiety and difficulty, not in word service but in practical form ; whilst of his loyalty to those co-operating with him his record in public life and in many Catholic organizations with which he was connected will bear willing witness.” 

His great generosity of service has undoubtedly contributed to his breakdown in health. Few London Mayors have exceeded his standard of effort as first citizen of a London borough throughout the difficult period of the national emergency. His achievements in connection with the Prince of Wales Fund, Red Cross and St. John Ambulance work, Belgian Refugees, recruiting for Kitchener’s Army and the Derby Scheme, the Hampstead Tribunal for exemptions from military service of which he was Chairman, the War Loan Campaign, the Food Economy Campaign and the provision of allotments—all are in the records of Hampstead public life, and it is to be deeply regretted that he has not lived to receive the official recognition of these services, which he so richly merited. The Catholic body in London, certainly, may be proud of the excellent record of public service for the common good which a Catholic layman has achieved.

Of his Catholic work it is unnecessary to write at length. The Catholic Federation, in its early days, the Catenian Society, the Stonyhurst Association, Catholic elementary schools, have by his death lost a good friend. If he had been spared, and, as seemed likely, his scope of public service had been increased, all these associations would have benefited materially from his support. His last visit to the writer was with a view to securing material assistance for a Catholic charitable institution, in the development of which he took great interest. His untimely death certainly creates a void in London Catholic life, which it will be very difficult to fill.

The above text was found on p.28, 3rd May 1919 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .


Purssell marriages in the 1890’s

It has always been a slight curiosity that whilst Uncle Frank’s (Purssell) wedding was well written up, none of the Purssell sisters seemed to have had as grand a wedding. Of the seven children, Laura had married Max Winstanley in 1884, Lucy had married Henry Grant Edwardes in 1892, and Frank had married Lily Kuypers in 1896, and Alfred J. never married. But at least almost all of them got a brief mention in the Tablet.

Parker-Purssell marriage notice July 1898

PARKER—PURSSELL.–On June 30, at St. Dominic’s Priory, Haverstock Hill, by the Very Rev. F. A. Gasquet, D.D., Wilfrid Watson, second surviving son of the late Sir Henry Watson Parker, of Hampstead, and Lady Watson Parker, of 22, Upper Park-road, N.W., to Frances Charlotte, third daughter of the late Alfred Purssell, C.C., of Hampstead.9th July 1898, Page 13

Wilfrid Parker was the groomsman at  Frank and Lily’s wedding, and he, Frank, and their Kuypers brothers-in-law all went to Downside, which is where they met Father (later Cardinal) Gasquet.

O’BRYEN—PURSSELL.—On the11th inst., at St. Dominic’s Priory, Haver-stock Hill, by the Rev. P. A. O’Bryen, B.A., brother of the bridegroom, assisted by the Rev. George Cox, Ernest A. O’Bryen, of the Indian Forest Service, son of the late John Roche O’Bryen, M.D., to Gertrude Mary, youngest daughter of the late Alfred Purssell, C.C., of 9, Belsize Grove, Hampstead. (Burma papers please copy.) 15th October 1898, Page 13


BELLORD—PURSSELL.—On the 11th inst., at St. Dominic’s Priory, Haver-stock Hill, N.W., by the Rev. James Bellord, Chaplain to the Forces, Edmund Joseph Bellord to Agnes Mary, fourth daughter of the late Alfred Purssell, of Belsize Grove, N.W. 14th January 1899, Page 11

It was Edmund Bellord’s second marriage.James Bellord was appointed the Vicar Apostolic of Gibraltar and Titular Bishop of Milevum on 16 February 1899, and his consecration took place on 1 May 1899.

Joseph Lescher, Esq’s house at West End, Hampstead 1827


A View on Hampstead Heath with Harrow in the distance. 1822 John Constable. copyright VAM.

From the size of it, the house is not than much smaller than Kenwood.

Description for the house when it was put up for sale in 1827:

The late Residence of Joseph Lescher, Esq., deceased, delightfully situated at West-end, Hampstead, a convenient distance from London, and a cheerful ride through the Regents Park to the City; comprised a brick-built family house, containing ? bed chambers, dressing rooms and closets, a dining parlour 27 feet by 17 feet, a drawing room 36 feet by 17 feet, breakfast parlour and hall, and offices of every description, double coach-houses, and stabling for 6 horses, wash house, laundry, and servants rooms. 

The gardens are highly productive, with shrubbery walks, lawn, greenhouse and grapery, melon ground, and fish ponds, together with two paddocks of rich land, containing altogether upwards of 6 acres.  Copy hold of the Manor of Hampstead, and 4 acres of leasehold adjoining, with a farm yard and buildings.


George Lynch 1868 -1929


George Lynch

George Lynch married Carmela Lescher in October 1902. This was a nicely complicated family wedding. Mr. and Mrs. Frank Harwood Lescher, the bride’s parents are both O’Bryen cousins.Mrs. Frank Harwood Lescher (nee Mary O’Connor Graham Grehan), is Celia O’Bryen’s niece. She is the eldest daughter of Patrick Grehan III, Celia’s brother. Frank Harwood Lescher is the son of Joseph Sidney Lescher, whose sister Harriet Lescher is the second wife of Patrick Grehan Junior, so he is Celia O’Bryen’s step-mother’s nephew.

So the O’Bryen boys are all first cousins of the bride’s mother, and first cousins once removed of the bride’s father. This makes [Thomas] Edward, Frank [Graham], [Mary] Carmela [Anne], and [Mercedes] Adela Lescher all second cousins. 

I’ve been slowly tracking down who’s who at the wedding, and will be posting that soon, but if you want to read the un-annotated write-up of it it’s here.

Back to George, this is his entry from the Catholic Who’s Who, 1908

Lynch, George — born in Cork 1868; educated at the Oratory School, Edgbaston; explorer in the Pacific Islands and Western Australia; correspondent for The Daily Chronicle in the Spanish American War, and during the Boer War for Collier’s Weekly, and other papers; his daring effort to leave Ladysmith during the investment involved his capture and imprisonment in Pretoria. He has since been with the International Forces to Pekin, followed the Russo-Japanese War, and been several times round the world. Mr Lynch married (1902) Carmela, daughter of Frank Harwood Lescher, and is the author of The Bare Truth about War — The Impressions of a War Correspondent — The War of the Civilizations and other books.


George Lynch demonstrating his patented gloves for handling barbed wire in August 1916

We regret to state that Mr. George Lynch, F.R.G.S., the explorer and war correspondent whose inventive genius was so useful during the Great War in the work of overcoming barbed-wire entanglements, died at his residence in West London on December 29, aged sixty. Mr. Lynch was a Cork man. After early education at St. Vincent’s College, Castleknock, he came to England and entered the Oratory School. A traveller at heart, he found an opportunity, as a young man, to explore ‘extensively the Pacific Islands and Western Australia. After the outbreak of the Spanish-American war, he became correspondent, for those operations, to the Daily Chronicle; and during the Boer War he acted in a similar capacity for the Illustrated London News and for Collier’s Weekly. A daring attempt to get out of Ladysmith at the time of the famous siege led to his being captured and imprisoned by the enemy. Since that time Mr. Lynch had been with the International Forces to Pekin, had followed the Russo-Japanese War, and was with the Belgian Army in the Great War; it was in this last campaign that he invented the S.O.S. (” Save Our Skin “) gloves and other appliances for dealing with barbed wire. In his time he represented many important papers, and he had been six times round the world.

Among Mr. Lynch’s published work, apart from his many letters from seats of war, were several volumes based on his experiences : The Impressions of a War Correspondent; The Bare Truth about War; The War of the Civilizations; Realities; The Path of Empire, Old and New Japan.

The funeral took place on Wednesday last, after a requiem at St. Mary’s, Bayswater.—R.I.P.

The  text immediately above was found on p.21, 5th January 1929 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher” The Tablet can be found at .


Joseph Sidney Lescher – (1803 – 1893)


Church Row, Hampstead

Joseph Sidney Lescher (1803 – 1893, aged 90), son of William Lescher and Mary Ann Copp; so on our side of the Lescher family. He’s the father of  Frank Harwood Lescher,Patrick Grehan III’s son-in-law;  Father Wilfred, Sister Mary of St Wilfrid, and Herman the accountant. He was a partner of the wholesale druggists Evans, Lescher, and Evans. His father William Lescher (1768 – 1817), had emigrated from Alsace, France, in 1778, before the French Revolution. Family tradition holds that “Lescher of Kertzfeld” received his patent of nobility in the reign of Louis XIII, in the middle of the C17th. The Leschers were Roman Catholics. His wife, Sarah Harwood  was the daughter of a West India merchant in Bristol and a member of a staunch Baptist family, but she converted to Catholicism two years after her marriage. This branch of the family lived mostly in Hampstead, including 17 Church Row, later the home of H.G.Wells, and even later, in the 1960’s, the home of Peter Cook, where he had Lennon, McCartney, and Keith Richard to kitchen suppers in the basement.  Joseph Sidney also lived at Oak Lodge, in Pond Street, further down the hill, where he was living with his sister Harriet, Patrick Grehan Junior’s widow in 1870; three months after that census was taken Harriet Grehan’s step-daughter, Celia O’Bryen was herself to become a widow when John Roche O’Bryen died in South Kensington on the 27th July’

Joseph Sidney Lescher’s obituary from the Tablet is below.

We regret to record the death of MR. JOSEPH SIDNEY LESCHER, at the ripe age of 90 years, by which a link is broken with a long Catholic past. Born in 1803, Mr. Lescher was, about the year 1810, for a short time at a school at Carshalton, in Surrey, under the Dominican Fathers, and was afterwards amongst the first, if not the first, of the students at Ushaw College. In after life Mr. Lescher took an active part in City affairs, until about twenty years ago he retired from active life in order to devote himself more largely to those works of charity and beneficence which had always occupied his leisure. It has been said of him that he was never known to refuse an appeal calling for the exercise of genuine charity. The extent of his means was the extent of his charity—a charity that went hand-in-hand with an earnest faith and with extreme simplicity of heart and character. He was happy in having given to the Church a son, Father Wilfrid Lescher, of the Dominican Order, and an only daughter, Sister Mary of St. Wilfrid, of the Order of Notre Dame, now the Superioress of the Everton Valley Convent, Liverpool. Two of Mr. Lescher’s nieces had joined the same Order, the elder one, Miss Frances Lescher (better known as Sister Mary of St. Philip) being the Foundress and present Superioress and presiding genius of the Mount Pleasant Training College at Liverpool. Another of his nieces, Miss Monica Lescher, is present Lady Abbess of East Bergholt, where her sister holds the office of Mother Prioress, and there are others of the family at Atherstone, and at the Convent at Taunton—all following the family tradition of service in the cause of Catholicity in England.

The funeral took place at Kensal Green Cemetery on Monday last, after a Solemn Requiem Mass, sung by the Dominican Fathers in their church at Haverstock Hill, whither the body had been taken over night. The Very Rev. Father John Procter, Prior, sang the Mass, and there were present in the church and at the funeral, amongst others. Mr. F. Harwood Lescher, Mr. Herman Lescher, and the Rev. Wilfrid. Lescher, 0.P., sons of the deceased ; the Rev. Edward Lescher, Mr. Lescher, of Boyles Court, Mrs. F. Harwood Lescher, Mrs. Herman. Lescher, Mrs. Patrick Grehan, and Miss Clare Grehan, &c., &c.

The above text was found on p.29, 15th July 1893 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher” The Tablet can be found at .


Sister Mary of St Wilfrid 1846 -1927


Church Row, Hampstead

 Mary Adela Lescher, [Sister Mary of St Wilfrid] (1846–1927),known as Adela in the family, was born at 17 Church Row, Hampstead. She was the second of  five children of Joseph Sidney Lescher (1803–1893), and Sarah Harwood(1812 – 1856).  Joseph Sidney was a partner of the wholesale chemists Evans, Lescher, and Evans. His father William Lescher (1768 – 1817), had emigrated from Alsace, France, in 1778, before the French Revolution. Family tradition holds that “Lescher of Kertzfeld” received his patent of nobility in the reign of Louis XIII, in the middle of the C17th. The Leschers were Roman Catholics. His wife, Sarah Harwood , Mary’s mother, was the daughter of a West India merchant in Bristol and a member of a staunch Baptist family, but she converted to Catholicism two years after her marriage. The eldest brother, Frank Harwood Lescher is Patrick Grehan III’s son-in-law; Adela was a year older than Wilfrid (1847–1916), who was ordained a Dominican priest in 1864. Mary’s only sister Abigail, died in 1844 at the age of five. The youngest brother was Herman (1849 – 1897) who died of flu in 1897, aged just forty-eight.

Adela was educated by governesses at home, and in France, where the family had gone for health reasons, until her mother’s death in 1856; after which she was sent to the Benedictine school at Winchester, Hampshire (later at East Bergholt in Suffolk), where she had an aunt, Caroline Lescher (1802 – 1868) known as Dame Mary Frances,O.S.B.; in a slightly curious twist another cousin of Adela’s, her first cousin Agnes, [daughter of William Joseph Lescher (1799 – 1865) and another of Caroline Lescher’s nieces was Lady Abbess at Bergholt from 1888 until 1904, and know as Dame Mary Gertrude. She attended the Dominican school at Stone for a short time. She left boarding-school in 1864 and continued her studies in languages, music, and literature at home under her brother’s former tutor.

Mary had two older cousins, Frances Lescher (Sister Mary of St Philip), who was the principal of Notre Dame Teacher Training College at Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, and Ann Lescher (Sister Mary of St Michael), who was also a sister in the Institute of Notre Dame, as well as their youngest sister Agnes (Dame Mary Gertrude).   In May 1869 she entered the mother house of the Notre Dame order, dedicated “to teach the poor in the most neglected places”, at Namur, Belgium, and took the name Sister Mary of St Wilfrid. She returned to England in September 1871 as a professed sister to teach in the Notre Dame boarding-school at Clapham, London. After a bout of rheumatic fever she convalesced at Mount Pleasant and was then appointed to the college staff there to lecture in botany, English, and music. In 1886 she became mistress of the boarders, instructed the senior girls, and taught psychology. In 1892 she was appointed superior of Everton Valley Convent, Liverpool, which ran a convent day school, several elementary schools, and a pupil-teacher centre where boarders were prepared for entry into the Mount Pleasant Training College.

In April 1893 Archbishop Eyre of Glasgow invited the Sisters of Notre Dame to establish a Roman Catholic teacher training college in Scotland which would relieve female students from the need of travelling to Liverpool or London for training. A site was chosen at Dowanhill, in the west end of Glasgow, near the university, which had just opened its classes to women. The college was officially established in December 1893 with Sister Mary of St Wilfrid as its first principal, assisted by four sisters. The first female Roman Catholic teachers to receive their training in Scotland began their course of study in January 1895. Sister Mary of St Wilfrid took an active part in the training of the students and through her singleness of purpose made the venture a success.

A major achievement of Notre Dame College was the development of practical science teaching and the revolutionizing of biology teaching. A ‘practising school’, which was to include both a secondary school and the first Montessori school in Glasgow, was opened next to the college in 1897 and new schools were opened in Dumbarton (together with a convent) in 1908 and Milngavie in 1912. A staunch member of the Educational Institute of Scotland, Sister Mary of St Wilfrid encouraged all her students to join. As sister superior she was manager of the Notre Dame schools until May 1919, when Notre Dame Training College was transferred to the national scheme and came under the control of the national committee for the training of teachers. She retired as sister superior in 1919. She had been instrumental in founding a Notre Dame association for former students and the Glasgow University Catholic Women’s Association. She also set up a branch of the Scottish Needlework Guild to make garments for the poor and vestments for missions, and, after a stay in a nursing home in 1904, had set up the Association of Catholic Nurses of the Sick. Sister Mary of St Wilfrid died at Notre Dame Convent, Dowanhill, Glasgow, on 7 May 1927, and was buried on 11 May at Dalbeth cemetery.

[,] with additions.


The Mayor of Hampstead’s Garden Party – 4th July 1914

It took a lot of digging to try to find out the answers to this one, but it was always the most intriguing photo. Some of the people are clearly identifiable from other photos. Particularly the members of the O’Bryen family, Ernest and Gertrude are easily identifiable either side of the clergyman, with Cis kneeling looking at her mother, and Kenneth and Molly also to the front with their parents. Rex O’Bryen and his wife Florence are standing on the far left.

The clergyman remained mysterious for rather longer, as did most of the others in the picture. He did provide a very useful spur in the search, which rapidly threw up two O’Bryen priests. The first was Father Philip, who was an older brother of Ernest, and Rex. The other was Mgr Henry O’Bryen, who was a much older half-brother.

The Mayor of Hampstead Garden Party 4th July 1914

The clothes provided the next clues, particularly the hat and ring. Fr Phil was a parish priest, so wouldn’t have dressed like that, and Mgr Henry was dead before Ernest and Gertrude married, so it couldn’t be him. Eventually I found this…..

The Tablet Page 17, 11th July 1914 NEWS FROM THE DIOCESES


THE MAYOR OF HAMPSTEAD’S GARDEN PARTY.—The Cardinal Archbishop was entertained by the Mayor and Mayoress of Hampstead, Mr. and Mrs. E. A. O’Bryen, on Saturday last (4th July) at a garden party at their house and grounds at Daleham Lodge. A large company had been invited to meet his Eminence, and were presented to him. Among the guests were Canon Wyndham 0.S.C., Sir Roper and Lady Parkington, Lady Parker, Mgr. Grosch, the Father Superior and several of the Fathers from Farm Street, Prior Bede Jarrett, and several of the Dominican Fathers from Haverstock Hill, Canon Brenan, Mr. Lister Drummond, K.S.G., and Mr. C. J. Munich, K.S.G., and very many others. Refreshments were served in the grounds, and there was some, very enjoyable music.

This now answered some of the questions, but not all, and also is one of the many odd coincidences. One of the Roper Parkington’s granddaughters  Marie marries Alan O’Bryen ten years after this photo, and Colonel Sir John Roper Parkington, and Lady RP have quite a part in this tale. We’ll come back to whether it is the two of them behind the Cardinal, and the Mayor.