The Annual Dinner of the Benevolent Society for the Relief of the Aged and Infirm Poor. 1904

The Benevolent Society for the Relief of the Aged and Infirm Poor. was the oldest Catholic charity in London  founded in 1761 by Richard Challoner, the Vicar Apostolic of the London District [ the forerunner of the Archbishop of Westminster] between 1758 and 1781. It’s a nice worthy Catholic, and City cause, and it’s nice seeing eight members of the family all there. Having said that, only five were related at the time, another two came from a marriage twenty years later, and the final connection from a marriage fifty two years later.

At least at this one, Lieut.-General Sir William Butler’s speech is rather better than John Roper Parkington’s the following year.

ANNUAL DINNER.

The Annual Dinner in aid of the funds of this excellent charity was held on Monday last, and brought together a large number of the friends and supporters of the society.

Lieut.-General Sir William Butler, K.C.B., presided, and among the company present were the Hon. Charles Russell, Colonel Sir Roper Parkington, Colonel Maguire, Major J. H. White, V.D., Commendatore Hicks, C.C.S.G. ; the Very Revv. Canon Fleming, Canon Keatinge, Canon Murnane, Canon Pycke ; the Very Revv. J. P. Bannin, P.S.M., M. Kelly, O.S.A., D.D., P. J. Murphy, S.M. ; the Revv. Manuel J.Bidwell, D.D., Robert Bracey, 0.P., T. Carey, H. W. Casserly, Alexander Charnley, S.J., W. J. Condon, D. Corkery, G. B. Cox, J. Crowley, E. du Plerny, J. Egan, W. J. Hogan, S. E. Jarvis, I.C., W. Lewis Keatinge, Hugh Kelly, Mark A. Kelly, A. Muller, D.D., J. Musgrave T. F. Norris, J. O’Doherty, M. O’Sullivan, T. J. Ring, P. Riordan, C. A. Shepherd, E. Smith, C. J. Moncrieff Smyth, Francis Stanfield, J. G. Storey, W. 0. Sutcliffe, M.A., J. S. Tasker, E. A. P. Theed, Leo Thomas, S.M., A. E. Whereat, D.D. ; and Messrs. P. M. Albrecht, Frank Beer, Edmund J. Bellord, John G. Bellord, Harry Booth, James Carroll, J. H. Caudell, John Christie, A. K. Connolly, James W. Connolly, John A. Connolly, S. F. Connolly, P. F. Dorte, LL.B., Victor I. Feeny, H. Malins Fisher, A. C. Fowler, W. B. Hallett, Anthony Hasslacher,Charles Hasslacher, Jerome S. Hegarty, J. D. Hodgson, . Skelton Hodgson, S. Taprell Holland (Hon. Treasurer), J. M. Hopewell, John Hurst, John Hussey, R. H. N. Johnson, J. Virtue Kelly, C. Temple Layton, C.C., Charles E. Lewis, Bernard J. McAdam, James P. McAdam (Hon. Secretary), J. M. McGrath, C. A. Mackenzie, Herbert J. T. Measures, E. H. Meyer, A. C. O’Bryen, M.I.E.E., Ernest A. O’Bryen, Wilfrid W. Parker, Louis Perry, Joseph J. Perry, R. J. Phillips, Henry Schiller, J. H. Sherwin, Robert Shield, Eugene Simona, Joseph Simona, Joseph Sperati, James Stone, J. S. R. Towsey, William Towsey, C. H. Walker, Augustine E. White, Basil J. White, C. B. Wildsmith, P. G. Winter, H. Witte, C. J. Woollett, M.D., &c., &c.

THE LOYAL TOASTS.

The Chairman, in proposing the toast “The Pope and the King,” said : Catholics need no explanation of the toast I have now the high honour of proposing. By coupling together the name of Pope and King we reaffirm and maintain and continue that old tradition of Church and State which has existed in all civilised Christian communities for so many hundreds of years. I give you the healths of his Holiness the Pope and of his Majesty the King, and when we drink this toast with all loyalty and all honour, it would be well to remember the words of the old cavalier. Speaking to his son in the days of the Civil War, he said : “Son, if the crown should come so low that thou seest it hanging upon a bush, still stick to it.” (Loud cheers.)

The Chairman : The next toast I have to propose is that of the Queen, the Prince and Princess of Wales, and other members of the Royal Family. This toast meets with an enthusiastic greeting wherever it is proposed, but I venture to think there is no place where it can strike a deeper and truer note of harmony and devotion than when it is proposed at the gathering of a Society which has for its object the relief of the poor and the suffering. (Cheers.) The prerogatives of the Crown and the privileges of Parliament have oftentimes been the cause of civil disturbances in this country, but to-day the prerogative of Royalty is to lessen in every possible way the sufferings of the poor and of those who toil and labour for a livelihood. (Hear, hear.) Into the privileges of Parliament I will not enter, but it is our special privilege to-night to recognise in a special manner all that we owe to the Queen, to the Prince and Princess of Wales, and other members of the Royal Family.

SIR W. BUTLER AND THE SOCIETY.

After these two toasts had been acknowledged with musical honours, the Chairman proposed the toast of the evening, ” The Benevolent Society for the Relief of the Aged and Infirm Poor.” He said : I have now to propose to you a toast which brings very vividly before my mind the fact of my own un-worthiness in being the medium through which this toast is to be offered to the gathering tonight. (No, no.) And when I look back to the names of those who in former years fulfilled this duty, my feelings approach those of absolute dismay, because I find the toast has been submitted by some of the most revered, the most honoured amongst the Catholic body of this country, both clerical and lay. I can only plead for myself and ask you to accept the fact of my unworthiness as an excuse for being unable to do adequate justice to my task. (No, no.) This charity goes back a long way. It suggests many thoughts to even the most superficial amongst us. It has had, I believe, now well-nigh I50 years of existence. (Hear, hear.) The people who founded it were very different to what we are to-day. They had a great deal more of the world’s kicks and a great deal less of the world’s happiness. One hundred and fifty years ago the clouds of the penal laws hung darkly over the country. I will not refer to them further beyond saying that the remembrance of that period should deepen and intensify our desire to do good to the poor, to those whom the abrogation or even the existence of penal laws matters little, and whose social life is set so far below those of happier circumstances. We take a great interest in politics, but how little we would care for the most sensational paragraph in The Daily Mail if we had no breakfast-table to spread it upon, and more, if we had no breakfast to enable us to digest its amazing contents. (Loud laughter.) I see in the newspapers a great deal about free food, the big loaf and the little loaf. I wonder what our poorer brethren think of all these things—the big loaf, the little loaf, and the three acres and a cow. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) I can fancy some of these poor people, who have waited many years for the fulfilment of some of these marvellous promises, exclaiming ” If you cannot give us three acres, give us at least the cow.” (Cheers.) If we cannot give them the cow we can at least put some milk into their tea. (Loud and continued cheers.) They have claims upon us,.these old veterans of the poor. We may ask ourselves who are they ? I think I am right in saying they are the survivors, the few survivors, of a great army. (Hear, hear.) They are the scattered survivors of tens of thousands of a great army of workpeople out of whose sweat we are living. (Hear, hear.) These old veterans become eligible as candidates for this Society only when they have reached the ripe old age of 60 years. Think for a moment how many of their comrades must have fallen on that long road which they have travelled for half a century, or even longer. I look at the list of pensioners and I see their ages reach from 60 to 90. Two facts come home to me when I read the report of the Society. The first is the liberal gifts and benefactions of many of the large merchant princes of this city. (Cheers.) The second fact is that so many who respond to the appeal of the Society are from my own country—Ireland. (Loud cheers.) You remember the story of the boat’s-crew cast adrift on the ocean. Believing their last hour had come they thought they should do something appropriate to the occasion. Unfortunately there was no one amongst them who remembered the prayers of their youth, so they decided upon making a collection. (Loud laughter.) I do not for a moment suppose that any of my brethren who were unfortunate enough to find themselves in a similar position would have to resort to making a contribution to the seals and the seagulls, but I do venture to say that the most prayerful man amongst us could not offer any truer praise to his Creator, or do a more charitable act to his fellow creature than to contribute generously and unstintingly to a Society such as that which we have met to honour this evening. (Cheers.) There are few names come down from the remote past more identified with this great city of London than the name of Martin the apostle, the Roman soldier before he was Roman Bishop. The speaker, after relating the story of Martin dividing his coat to protect a poor beggar from the ravages of the weather, and the vision which he afterwards saw, said London was still, outwardly at least, largely Martin. Perhaps some portion of his mantle, said the speaker in conclusion, has descended upon this great city, still keeping alive his name and the spirit of charity to the poor. (Cheers.)  3rd December 1904, Page 23

John Leeming and Mary Clare Hewitt – February 1898

This wedding has been confusing me for some time. There are some members of the family there. Notably, Uncle Alfred O’Bryen, and, inevitably, the Roper Parkingtons, whose granddaughter marries Alfred’s nephew twenty six years later.  I’m also pretty confident that Miss Bullen is Aunt Florence who marries Uncle Rex who is Alfred’s youngest brother. But I find the connections, or rather the lack of connections baffling at the moment.

The Leeming family are  extremely wealthy Lancashire corn merchants, and are old recusant Catholics, and have married members of the Brettargh, and Whiteside families at various points. The bride’s family appear to be Londoners.  Mary Clare’s mother was a Rees, and she was born in London, as was her father. Her paternal grandfather was from Lancaster. The first few guests mentioned after the bride’s mother, and brothers are likely to be uncles and aunts. Mrs Dolan is the bride’s aunt, and Mr Behan is John Henry Behan, who is her first cousin, and he was born in Dublin. But the wedding seems to be northern boy marries London girl. There’s an eleven year age gap, but that’s fairly common at the time.

We’ll do the wedding next, and speculate at the end.

Our Lady of Victories 1908. The church served as the Pro-Cathedral between 1869 and 1903.

On the 15th inst., at the Pro-Cathedral, Kensington, by the Rev. W. H. Leeming (brother of the bridegroom), assisted by the Rev. Gilbert Dolan, O.S.B. (cousin of the bride), and the Rev. Father Fanning (Administrator, Pro-Cathedral), MR. JOHN LEEMING, second son of the late Richard Leeming, of Greaves House, Lancaster, and Lent-worth Hall, Wyresdale, was married to MARY CLARE, daughter of the late Dr. Hewitt, of Holland-road, Kensington, and of Mrs. Hewitt, of 16, Argyll Mansions. The bride, who was given away by her brother, was attired in a gown of rich white satin trimmed with old Irish Point (the gift of her cousin), and wore a handsome diamond star (the gift of the bridegroom), her bouquet being composed of lilies of the valley. The bridesmaids were Miss Rose Roskell, Miss M. Kendall, Miss Bullen, and Miss F. Leeming, who wore dresses of mauve crepe trimmed with white chiffon and ivory straw hats trimmed with orchids and white plumes ; they carried bouquets of white lilac and mauve orchids which with their bar-brooches of rubies and diamonds were the gift of the bridegroom. The bride was also attended by her little cousin, Miss Elaine Rees, picturesquely attired in white. The best man was Mr. J. W. Leeming. After the nuptial Mass, which was celebrated by the Rev. Gilbert Dolan, O.S.B., Father Leeming announced that he had received from Rome the Holy Father’s blessing for the bride and bride-groom. A reception was held at the Royal Palace Hotel, Kensington, and later in the afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Leeming left for Dover en route for the Riviera. The bride’s travelling dress was of grey cloth trimmed with white satin, and she wore a black hat with pink roses and white bird of paradise.

Royal Palace Hotel, Kensington High Street.

Among the presents were: Mrs. Hewitt, dinner service, dessert service, and old Derby tea service;  Mr. J. C. Hewitt, cheque ; Mr. E. Hewitt, cheque ; Mr. Rees, diamond and pearl watch and bow ; Mrs. Rees, embossed silver sugar bowl and sifter ; Mrs. Dolan, handkerchief of Irish Point ; Mrs. Kelleher, old Irish Point lace, old silver teaspoons, and two large spoons in case ; Mr. Behan, antique silver bowl ; Mr. and Mrs. W. Mahoney, diamond and sapphire bracelet ; Mr. and Mrs. Hasslacher, dessert knives and forks ; Mrs. Charles Hasslacher, silver teaspoons ; Mrs. Schiller, silver brushes ; Mr. A. O’Bryen, silver fish carvers ; Major and Mrs. Roper Parkington, cut glass and silver claret jug ; Mrs. Charles Leeming, silver bacon dish ; Miss Mason, champagne bottle holder ; the Misses Roskell and Kendall, fan and silver buttonhook, etc.; Mr. and Mrs. Brettargh Leeming, silver toilet set in case ; the Misses Leeming, case of silver repousse fruit dishes, spoons, sugar basin and sifter, and grape scissors ; the Rev. W. H. Leeming, silver fish knives and forks ; Mr. J. W. Leeming, pair of Worcester candelabra ; Mr. William Leeming, silver tea and coffee service ; Mrs. Coffin, Crown Derby afternoon tea set, tray, and silver spoons ; Mrs. Robinson, silver paper knife and book- marker ; the Very Rev. Dean Brettargh, silver lemon-squeezer ; Mr. and Miss Hatch, horn and silver candlesticks ; the Very Rev. Dean Billington, Picturesque Mediterranean, three volumes ; Miss Coulston, antique silver sugar-basin and sifter ; Mr. and Mrs. Gibson, pair of bronze and brass candesticks ; Mr. and Mrs. H. J. Knowles, four silver bonbon dishes ; Mr. and Mrs. R. Preston, case of silver salt-cellars ; the Rev. W. Wickwar, cut-glass and silver celery-glass ; the Rev. J. Roche, case of silver spoons ; Mr. J. Pyke, silver and cut-glass lamp ; Mr. T. J. Walmsley, silver and cut-glass lamp ; Mr. J. F. Warrington, engraving after Erskine Nicol; Mr. Charles Broadbent, silver cigarette-case ; Miss C. Hall, two silver napkin rings ; Mr. and Mrs. F. Batt, two silver and cut-glass scent bottles ; indoor and outdoor servants at Greaves House, silver salver ; tenants and workmen at Lentworth Hall Estate, silver cake-basket ; keeper’s wife and servants at Lentworth Hall, silver and ivory cake knife ; tenants, Out-Raw-cliffe Estate, gold-mounted walking-stick.

The above text was found on p.26,19th February 1898, in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

The Leeming family are  Lancashire corn merchants, and are old recusant Catholics, and have married members of the Brettargh, and Whiteside families at various points, they are also related to the Gillow family,the famous Lancaster furniture makers who made furniture for Queen Victoria, amongst others. Richard Leeming,  John’s father had bought Greaves House, in Lancaster for £11,000, in March 1874 . It’s not entirely when he acquired Lentworth Hall, and the Out-Rawcliffe Estate.

 

Richard Leeming died in 1888, leaving his properties in the hands of Trustees (his brother William, and three sons Richard, John, and James Whiteside Leeming. Slightly oddly, the trustees didn’t include Father William Leeming), and a great deal of money [almost £ 250,000]. His will allowed the Trustees to sell Greaves House – after the death of his widow Eliza – on the condition that two or more unmarried daughters would be permitted to live there rent-free if they wished. In January 1937 Mary Eliza died leaving her last sister Mary Frances Leeming no longer legally permitted to live in the house. It seems faintly harsh as she had lived in the house from the age of five until she was sixty three, but she was independently wealthy and ended up in Warton near Carnforth. So still close to home.

There are a large number of the extended Leeming family at the wedding, including “the Misses Leeming,” who were the groom’s four unmarried sisters, who were still living in Lancaster. “The Rev. W. H. Leeming, Mr. J. W. Leeming, and Mr. and Mrs. (Richard) Brettargh Leeming,” brothers, and a sister in law, of the groom. A pair of uncles – “Mr. William Leeming, and the Very Rev. Dean Brettargh,”.

There’s a mixture of the great, and the good from Lancashire. Mr Preston was Mayor of Lancaster four times between 1894 and 1911, and was also at Alfred O’Bryen’s wedding in 1901. “Mr. J. Pyke, ” is Joseph Pyke, of Preston, who was another corn merchant, and was also Alfred O’Bryen’s best man.  He went to school with “Mr. T. J. Walmsley, and Mr. J. F. Warrington,” at Ushaw in county Durham. The bride’s brother “Mr. E. Hewitt,” Edmund Hewitt was also at Ushaw. They all overlapped one way or another with Fr. Philip O’Bryen who was also there, and I rather suspect Alfred O’Bryen was at Ushaw, like Philip who was three years younger; and that their two youngest brothers (Ernest, and Rex)  were rather different in attending Stonyhurst. It would help explain why Alfred was a guest at this wedding, and why various of the guests at this wedding were at his two years later.

But I am completely baffled by why “Mr. and Mrs. Hasslacher, and (Mr?) and Mrs. Charles Hasslacher,” and “Major and Mrs. Roper Parkington” [ It was before his knighthood in 1902] were all there. The Hasslachers were all wine shippers at James Hasslacher & co. Charles Hasslacher took on the firm after his father James’ death in 1903. John Roper Parkington was a friend of the Hasslachers, and they were guests at his silver wedding later in 1898. 

It could be a Kensington connection; The Hasslachers were living at 65 Holland Park, and the Hewitts were about three quarters of a mile away in Holland Road.  But I still can’t get the Roper Parkington connection.

Catholics and the law of marriage before 1836

bordeaux-bridge
Bridge over the River Garonne in Bordeaux

There are a couple of peculiar entries in a family bible that belonged to John Roche O’Bryen, and subsequently his son Alfred, and then grand-son Bob.  

“John Roche O’Bryen & Eliza his wife (born Henderson July 27th 1805) married Decr 25/32 Janr th 7th /33 by Protestant Curate at Bordeaux” and also in a second entry  on “December 25th 1832 & again (according to the rights of the Protestant Faith) at the British consulate Chapel   Bordeaux  January  7th  1833.”

This has always been intriguing right from the start. All in all, it’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast. The double ceremony is odd, but, as seen below, for a Catholic marriage to be valid under English law before 1836, it had to be performed by an Anglican clergyman. Canonically, in the eyes of the Church, the first, presumably, Catholic marriage is fine. The second Anglican ceremony would provide the legal certainty of a marriage that would be accepted under both English, and Irish law. Ironically, because there is no evidence of a French civil marriage, neither of the marriages were legal in France

The following from the UK Parliament website sets out the state of English Catholic marriages in 1832- 1833.

Until the middle of the 18th century marriages could take place anywhere provided they were conducted before an ordained clergyman of the Church of England. This encouraged the practice of secret marriages which did not have parental consent and which were often bigamous. It also allowed couples, particularly those of wealthy background, to marry while at least one of the partners was under age. The trade in these irregular marriages had grown enormously in London by the 1740s.

1st_earl_of_hardwicke_1690-1764_by_william_hoare_of_bath
Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke 1690-1764

In 1753, however, the Marriage Act, promoted by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hardwicke, declared that all marriage ceremonies must be conducted by a minister in a parish church or chapel of the Church of England to be legally binding. No marriage of a person under the age of 21 was valid without the consent of parents or guardians. Clergymen who disobeyed the law were liable for 14 years transportation.Although Jews and Quakers were exempted from the 1753 Act, it required religious non-conformists and Catholics to be married in Anglican churches.

Hardwick’s Marriage Act 1753 (‘The Act’) applied only to England & Wales and came into force in 1754. Scotland and the Channel Islands were exempt from the legislation. Under Hardwick’s Act, banns were made compulsory and licences were only valid for a specific church. Hardwick’s Act also declared that only marriages held at approved places (i.e. Anglican, Jewish or Quaker churches) were legal. This was a big change as previously couples who made a vow before witnesses, who lived together and who had children were recognised by the church and law as being ‘married’. In order to legalise their marriage, some couples married again in an Anglican church, having first married in a non-conformist chapel. Marriage by other denominations, (i.e. Roman Catholic and Non-Conformist) wasn’t legalised until 1836.

This restriction was eventually removed by Parliament in the Marriage Act of 1836 which allowed non-conformists and Catholics to be married in their own places of worship. The Marriage Act 1836 allowed for non-conformists and Catholics to marry in their own place of worship, ie. chapels and Roman Catholic churches.

The provisions introduced in England and Wales empowered the Established Church to register the marriages but marriages in other churches were to be registered by a civil registrar. In Ireland the Roman Catholic Church was concerned that this latter requirement might detract from the religious nature of the marriage ceremony. Consequently, provisions were not introduced by the government there until 1845 to enable the registration of non Catholic marriages and for the appointment of registrars who were also given the power to solemnise marriages by civil contract. Ireland had legalised exclusively Catholic to Catholic marriages in the late C18th, but the penalties for marrying a mixed Catholic/Protestant couple were extreme to put it mildly.

The death penalty and a large fine were still on the Statute Books in 1830.  In a House of Commons debate on the 4th May 1830, Daniel O’Connell tried to change things: [HC Deb 04 May 1830 vol 24 cc396-401] It was one of the first things he raised, having taken his seat as the first Catholic M.P. since the passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829 which allowed Catholic M.P.s

Dorothy Bell — mistress of the Big House at Fota

Dorothy Bell was the daughter of Arthur Smith-Barry, Lord Barrymore.  So she is a second cousin of Pauline Barry (nee Roche)’s granddaughters Nina, and Emily, who are in turn, Mgr Henry, Corinne, Basil,  Alfred, Philip, Rex, and Ernest O’Bryen‘s third cousins.  Dorothy’s father had owned Fota House, which was inherited by his brother James, and then his nephew Robert. Dorothy Bell bought the estate back from her cousin Robert in 1939, for £ 31,000.  Quite how the family managed to hold onto their land, and money given Lord Barrymore’s behaviour to his tenants in the 1880’s is some mystery, as is the following description of life at Fota House in the 1940’s. Essentially, it wouldn’t have been much different at any time in past hundred and fifty years.

The following description of life at Fota House is largely taken from ‘Through the Green Baize Doors: Fota House, Memories of Patricia Butler’ , and various interpretations of it in the Irish Times, and Irish Independent about five years ago. The subtle distinctions between Irish and English staff, – Two weeks holiday for Irish staff, and a month for English staff, separate dining rooms, and an acceptance of the big house having hot and cold running water while there was none in the village, and  the  “Oh weren’t the gentry lovely” take on things appears to be a perfect example of false consciousness. Over to Patty Butler.

Fota House 2
Fota House

Back in the 1940s, when Dorothy Bell — mistress of the Big House at Fota — arrived home from a day’s hunting, she never did so quietly. She would, recalls former maid Patty Butler, rush through the front door, ringing the bell, and stride through the hall and up the stairs, calling the servants one after the other, “Mary!” “Patty!” “Peggy!”, discarding as she went her picnic basket, jacket, the skirt she wore over her jodhpurs for side-saddle riding, her whip and her hunting hat. As the staff, including the butler, rushed to pick up Dorothy’s belongings, her lady’s maid hurried to run a bath.

Patty was just 23 when she started work as the “in-between maid” at Fota House in 1947, after returning to Cork from England. On the advice of her cousin Peggy, who was working in Fota as the parlour maid, Patty applied for the job.

On the day of the interview, a somewhat awed Patty, who came from the nearby village of separate, was shown into the library by the butler, George Russell. “To me, the inside of Fota House on that day seemed like a palace,” she recalls. “I felt very small but also very excited in the midst of all this grandeur.” She was greeted by the mistress, who was sitting at a desk. The interview was brief. “Patty, have you come to join us?” inquired Dorothy. “The housekeeper will show you your duties. It won’t be all clean work, so you won’t be dressed up as you are now. Mrs Kevin will tell you what to wear.” And with that began a quarter of a century of dedicated service, as Patty became a member of staff in the efficiently run, though sometimes-eccentric, household a few miles outside Cobh. Over the years she was promoted to housemaid, lady’s maid and eventually cook.

fota-staff
The Fota House stafff in c.1920

Before Patty’s arrival, the family — The Honourable Mrs Dorothy Bell, her husband Major William Bertram Bell and their three daughters, Susan, Evelyn and Rosemary — had been looked after by an army of servants.  According to the census return for 1911, 73 people were on site at Fota House on Sunday, April 2nd, 1911. None of them were the Smith-Barry family who had lived in Fota House for generations, as records show they were away on holiday at the time. In the 1930s, an estimated 50 men had worked on the grounds of Fota alone, but by the time Butler took up employment in the Big House in 1947, overall staffing levels had fallen to about 13.

“I began working in Fota House in 1947. I worked there for about 25 years. I was initially employed as an in-between maid but later I worked in almost every capacity, as a housemaid, cook and housekeeper. The cook, Mrs Jones, who came to Fota with Mrs Bell from England, left after 45 years so Peggy Butler, my cousin, and I managed the cooking for Dorothy, her husband, Major Bell, other members of the family and visitors.”

“Mrs Bell had a secretary too, Miss Honor Betson. She had an estate agent and clerical staff who lived in the courtyard. Mr Russell, the butler from Yorkshire in England, supervised the household until he died on January25th, 1966. He died in Fota House.”

fota-4“There was a lovely homely feeling there. It was a very pretty house and Mrs Bell was very into flowers, so it was always lovely and very pretty,” recalls Patty, now 87.

She was given her own comfortable bedroom in the servants quarters. “I had everything I needed: a bed, a wardrobe, a dressing table with a mirror and an armchair near the fireplace. I remember also a beautiful washstand shaped like a heart with three legs. On top of that, there was a jug and basin with a matching soap dish. “There was also a towel rail with a white bath and hand towel. All the servants’ rooms were similar.”

“There was some distinction between the upper (mostly English and Protestant) servants, and the lower (mostly Irish and Catholic) servants. We dined in separate rooms, the upper servants in the housekeeper’s room and the lower servants in the still room. But we were all the best of friends. There was no rivalry or no animosity.”

“We also enjoyed food and board. The food was fabulous in Fota, of course, as fresh fruit and vegetables were produced there all the year round in the market garden and in the fruit garden and orchard. From the farm in Fota came milk, cheese, butter and cream. Rabbit and pigeon were eaten regularly in those days. The servants ate the same as the Anglo-Irish family, more or less.”

The anecdotes are legion — the way the servants occasionally ‘borrowed’ the Major’s Mercedes to go to Sunday Mass when their van didn’t work. How the housekeeper, a kindly soul with a strong Scottish accent, kept a cupboard in her bedroom especially for the pieces of china she broke while dusting Dorothy’s treasured ornaments. The times the servants were all driven to Cork Opera House by the chauffeur — the Bells had a great affection for the theatre and felt their staff should enjoy it too.

And then there was Dorothy’s eccentric habit of cutting the fruit cake in such a way that nobody could take a slice without her knowledge, and, of course, the parties that took place when the Bells were away, travelling the world.

Local lads from the village were invited up to the Big House by their sisters for a bath and a fry-up — there was no running water in many houses until the 1950s, or even the 1960s, says Patty. However, Fota had its own generator for electricity and water was always supplied from a nearby well. “We’d fry them up rashers and sausages and they’d have the bath and use the beautiful big, soft white towels and they’d think they were in heaven. The boys would love the bath — they were in their 20s and wanted to go into Cobh all poshed up!”

One day, however, Dorothy remarked that she had received an anonymous letter claiming that Patty and Peggy were having “parties” in the house while she was away. As Patty stood there, quaking, Dorothy laughed and told her relieved maid that she had thrown the letter in the fire.

Every morning, Mrs Kevin’s bell rang at 7am. Patty rose, dressed in a blue dress with a big white apron and white cap, and set to her housekeeping duties, which included cleaning the Major’s study and hoovering, dusting and polishing the Housekeeper’s Room before having breakfast at 8am. At 8.45am, Patty would bring her assigned guest — Fota nearly always had guests — morning tea on a tray with dainty green teapots with a gold rim and matching teacups. “I’d wake her in the morning with a breakfast tray and a biscuit, open the shutters, pull back the curtains and tidy the room. If there were any shoes that needed to be polished, I would take them down and they would be polished by a man who came in.”

The bed linen was beautiful. Each linen pillowcase had the Smith Barry crest in the corner and frills around the edges. After ironing, Patty remembers, each frill had to be carefully “goofed” or “goffered” by hand until it was perfectly fluted.

fota-house-dining-roomThe gentry came down for breakfast — kippers, kedgeree, rashers, sausages and eggs or boiled eggs, served with toast and fresh fruit from the garden — each day at about 9am. “You always knew they were gone down because their bedroom doors would be open. So you’d go up and make the beds and tidy the room and wash out the bathroom — but you had to be back behind the green baize door by 11am.” In the evenings, she wore a black dress with a small apron and a smaller white cap with a black velvet ribbon. Male servants also wore black.

“There was always lots to do,” she recalls. After the morning household tasks came lunch. “I’d be helping in the pantry and at the lunch. There was a long walk from the kitchen to the dining room — it was three or four minutes, but there were no trollies, so everything was carried by hand.” Lunch — which could be anything from roast beef to pigeon pie, rabbit, fish soufflé or cold meat in aspic jelly with vegetables from the garden, water and a selection of wines — could last from 1pm to 2.30pm.

fota-5Tea was at 5pm in the Gallery in summer and in the library in winter. “Tea, for which there were cucumber and marmite sand-wiches, scones, tea and a cake, could last until 6.30pm,” she says.

At 7pm, the gentry would go up to their bedrooms to change and have a bath before dinner — a lengthy four or five-course affair, which usually included game from Fota Estate. “Each dinner was served with suitable trimmings. Butter and cream were used in food preparations, so the flavours were always delicious,” she says. The kitchen had meat from the cattle and Fota’s home-produced milk, cheese and butter, as well as veg and fruit from the garden.

“There were always visitors, there was always somebody staying. They had the shooting season, the fishing season, the tennis season, the seaside in summer, the hunting — all the seasons brought different activities. You’d know by the season what was happening.”

Christmas was a particularly memorable time, she recalls. A single large Christmas tree was placed in the Front Hall, decorated with streamers, silver balls and other decorations, and on Christmas morning Dorothy gave each of the staff presents. “I remember I got a white apron,” recalls Patty, who says the mistress also distributed gifts to her tenants.

“On Christmas morning, the family went to the library to exchange presents. They loved gifts such as books and music records, ornaments or exquisite boxes of chocolates.” The chocolates, she says, often lasted for weeks, as the family usually ate only one at a time.

On Christmas Day, the servants had Christmas dinner in the middle of the day in the Servants’ Hall, while the family helped themselves to a cold lunch in the dining room. “This was the only day of the year that they waited upon themselves so that we could enjoy our Christmas dinner,” Patty recalls. That evening, the servants lined up in the Hall to watch the family, in full fancy-dress — these clothes were stored in a special chest in the attic — parade into the dining room.

“We had to bow to them as they passed by. I remember one year in particular when I could scarcely stop myself from laughing. Mrs Kevin, the housekeeper, carried a bell behind her back and as she bowed to each individual, the bell rang out!” After the fancy-dress parade, the family enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner followed by plum pudding. They later drank to each other’s health from a silver ‘loving cup’, which was passed around. The men played billiards and the women talked and drank coffee in the library until late in the evening.

There were plenty of famous guests at Fota: Lord Dunraven of Adare, Co Limerick, Lord Powerscourt from Wicklow, the Duke and Duchess of Westminster and, according to the Visitors Book of Names, “eight international dendrologists with illegible signatures”.

The Bells enjoyed life, Patty recalls. “They had a lovely life; they were into everything. They went to the Dublin Horse Show and to the summer show in Cork. In his study, the Major had pictures of the bulls and cows with their first-prize rosettes. “They had a very privileged life and they enjoyed it,” she continues. There always seemed to be plenty of money. Mrs Bell had her own money, while the Major was, says Patty, “supposed to be a wizard on the stock exchange. They also had the farm and they owned a lot of houses and property in Cobh and Tipperary”.

In the evenings, Patty recalls, it was her job to go back upstairs, remove bedspreads, turn down beds and prepare hot-water bottles. “Some guests brought their own beautifully covered bottles, otherwise, stone jars were used. Most ladies brought their own pillows covered with satin pillowcases because they believed satin did not crease the face. “They had pink satin nightdress cases covered with lace and tied with ribbons.”

Fota House, Patty remembers, was a home from home. “It was a very happy place. Mrs Bell was excitable and eccentric. She was very athletic and quick. It was a very happy time, all of it.  In every household little things will happen to ruffle your feathers but, overall, it was a fabulous place to work, and it was the people who made it.”

“There were lovely people at Fota,” she continues. “They were extraordinary. There were men who were extraordinary craftsmen — there was a blacksmith, for instance and a shepherd and a stone mason. They’d usually have a young apprentice that they would be training up.”

By the 1960s, however, most of the servants had left. “There was only me and Peggy running the house. Pat Shea was the last butler. Little by little, the staff dwindled away: the cook left, the ladies’ maid left.” When George Russell died in 1966 — he had been butler at Fota for 45 years and came with the Bells from England — it was the end of an era, she recalls. “Mr Russell told me he would love to write a book about Fota. He was going to call it, ‘What the Butler Saw’.”

The household slowly began to change. A series of nurses were employed to nurse Major Bell in his declining years until he died. Dorothy moved to the Gardener’s House, which was situated in the orchard at Fota, and lived there until she died a few years after her husband, in 1975.

The estate today comprises 47 hectares of land, including the parkland, gardens and arboretum. In December 2007, the Irish Heritage Trust took over responsibility for Fota House, Arboretum & Gardens.

‘Through the Green Baize Doors: Fota House, Memories of Patricia Butler’ — a revised edition of ‘Treasured Times’ transcribed and arranged by Eileen Cronin

Fr Philip O’Bryen 1861 – 1913

Philip O’Bryen is one of Ernest O’Bryen‘s older brothers. To be precise, he is four years older.

Philip, Celia, and Alfred OBryen
Philip, Celia, and Alfred OBryen

He was born 25th Jun 1861 in South Kensington, and died 7th Nov 1913. He is the third son of John Roche O’Bryen and Celia Grehan, one of their six children. He is a half brother of Mgr Henry O’Bryen, and Corinne and Basil O’Bryen by his father’s marriage to Eliza Henderson.

His obituary from the Tablet gives some clues.

The Tablet 15th November 1913

THE REV. PHILIP AUGUSTUS O’BRYEN.

We regret to record the death of the Rev. Philip Augustus O’Bryen, rector of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Princes Park, Liverpool which occurred on Friday afternoon, November 7, with startling suddenness. His morning had been spent in active work in the parish. After saying an early Mass at 6.45, he heard confessions and took Holy Communion to eight sick people. Between breakfast and noon he visited the sick in the Consumption Hospital, and returned home about midday. Feeling unwell and in considerable pain, he took to his bed. A little before three he was visited by one of his curates; at three he was found dead, having succumbed to heart failure, arising from rheumatism, to which he had, been subject since an attack of rheumatic fever in his student days at Ushaw.

Father O’Bryen, who was a cousin of Archbishop Bagshawe, was born in Westminster in 1861. He received his early education under the Christian Brothers, at Clapham, and went in 1872 to Ushaw, where he remained eighteen years, four of which were occupied in teaching. He was a B.A. of London University. Ordained at the English Martyrs’, Preston, in 1889, by Bishop O’Reilly, he was immediately appointed Professor of Mathematics and Science at St. Edward’s College, Liverpool, where he remained until his appointment as assistant priest at the important mission of the Sacred Heart, Liverpool, in 1895. Towards the end of the following year he was placed over the Mission of St. Joseph, Skerton, near Lancaster. On his arrival he found only a school chapel, but through the generosity of the late Miss Margaret Coulston he was able to build the present magnificent church and presbytery. In 1902 he succeeded the Rev. Father Pyke, now of the English Martyrs’, Preston, at Mount Carmel, Liverpool, and applied the funds raised by his predecessor in connection with the silver jubilee of the mission to erect a roodscreen and effect other improvements. His first important work in his new sphere was the division of his parish, and he superintended the building of St. Malachy’s Church, the foundation stone of which was laid some ten years ago by Cardinal Logue.

Requiem Masses for the soul of the deceased priest were said in several Liverpool churches. On Sunday evening the remains were taken to the church, where a crowded congregation had assembled. A solemn dirge was recited on Monday evening. The funeral took place on Tuesday, when a High Mass of Requiem was sung at the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel by the Archbishop of Liverpool, the deacon being Father Newton (Eccles), and the subdeacon Father J. Fitzgerald. Dean Goethals and Father J. Broadhead (vice-president of Ushaw) were deacons at the throne, and Father H. Blanchard was master of ceremonies. The music of the Mass was sung by the clergy diocesan choir, under the direction of Father A. Walmsley (Great Crosby.) The relatives present were Mr. and Mrs. Alfred O’Bryen, Mr. R. O’Bryen and Mr. B. Smith. The clergy present included Canons Kennedy and Hennelly (Birkenhead), Prior Burge, 0.S.B., Dom Wilson, 0.S.B., and Dean O’Donoghue (Wigan). The sermon was preached by the Rev. Father J. Hughes, who spoke highly of the character and work of the deceased.

The remains were taken to London, and the interment took place at Fulham Catholic Cemetery on Wednesday.—R.I.P.

 

Ernest Adolphus O’Bryen 1865 -1919

 

This was almost the first thing I searched on. We sort of knew that he had been Mayor of Hampstead, but not that it had been throughout the First War. In fact, from 1913 until his death in 1919 (six terms in total). He is easily identified in the garden party photo sitting next to the Cardinal. The decoration he’s wearing is a bit odd, and I suspect it’s possibly a papal decoration. He was granted a knighthood, but died before being done; but Lady OB was given the title anyway.

We also had pictures of him being the Mayor in the photo collection

The next thing I found was this obituary.

The Tablet, Page 28, 3rd May 1919

ALDERMAN ERNEST A. O’BRYEN.

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.

This helped a lot. Working on an obvious hunch that everyone named is a close relation, and a bit of digging, we have the soon-to-be Lady OB with her four sisters and two brothers, two brother-in-laws, and it appears the wife of a brother-in-law.  All eminently Googleable.

And not a difficult step to get to Dr John Roche O’Bryen, his father………..

William B. Smith b.1874


SMITH, William Bernard Stanislaus, J.P., Barrister-at-Law,
Member, Local Tribunal.
Newsham House, Broughton, near Preston. Born : 1874, at Lancaster ;
only son of William Smith, of Newsham House (M.P., North Lonsdale, 1892-
1895), and his wife, Ellen, daughter of Henry Verity. Educated : Ampleforth
College, near York, and Lincoln College, Oxford. Married : 1902, to Florence
Clara Ruby Jay, daughter of William Jay, and has issue one son and four
daughters. Profession: Barrister-at-Law, Inner Temple. Appointments:
J.P. for the County of Lancaster, 1915 ; Hon. Secretary, Broughton and Dis-
trict Rifle Club, and Boy Scouts’ Association ; Member of No. 5 Local Area
Education Committee ; Commandant of Local Special Constables; Member
of Local Tribunal for Preston Rural District Area. Publications : Editor,
The Week’s Survey, 1902-1903 ; Editor, Canadian Lije and Resources (Montreal),
1905-1907. Clubs: County, Lancaster; Preston and County Catholic,
Preston.

http://www.mocavo.co.uk/Lancashire-Biographies-Rolls-of-Honour/534170/438#437