A documentary which looks at the Ooty Club where CRT Congreve was the Master of the Hunt. It also look at Blair Athol where CRT Congreve and his wife Esme lived and where his father in law Norman Rowsell died.
Vere Norman Rowsell (1887-1945) was born in Ceylon, the son of tea planter Norman Rowsell and his wife Florence Congreve. They were living at Abbotsleigh estate when he was born.
Vere was raised at first in the hills of Ceylon but was later sent to England to be educated at Wellington college, Berkshire. He is recorded as living there in 1901 at the age of 13. After school he joined the Coldstream Guards and fought in WWI as a lieutenant. Vere was wounded at Somme in 1916 then sent to NT Polesden Lacey in Surrey probably after treatment at Edward VII Hospital for Officers.He was wounded again at Paschendael 1917 and again in Cambrai. Vere was married in Somerset in 1917 and then returned to the front to fight yet again!
He was reported missing on 13th April 1918, just a few months after the wedding and was presumed dead. He was cited for a Victoria Cross but was discovered in a German hospital on 24th December 1918 and was awarded with a Military Cross instead.
Vere remained in the military until 1920 and was married in Somerset in 1917. His son Colin Merville Norman Rowsell (1919-2000) was born the same year that Norman Rowsell died. Vere and his family moved back to India in 1920, the year after his father’s death, and probably met up with his remaining family there (mainly Congreves). He received his MC that year at an address listed in Bulsar (Valsad). He seems to have gone back to England though as a passenger document in 1934 lists his home address in Cheltenham.
In 1935 Vere returned to India again, where he and his wife, Dorothy Isobel Edwards (1890-1971), remained until his death in 1945, after which she returned to England. Vere had been working in the State of Rajasthan as a Railway Traffic Superintendent on the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway when he died of a cerebral haemorrhage caused by an injury he had sustained during the war. Six months before he died, as part of The King’s Birthday Honours celebrating the official birthday of King George VI, Vere was awarded with an OBE, civil division, for his work on the Indian railways. At the time of Vere’s death, his son Colin had just finished fighting in WWII, and like Vere, tragically missed the last chance to see his father and share his experiences of battle.
I recently learned that in 1883 Norman Rowsell (1855-1919) was the Honorary secretary and treasurer of the Dickoya Maskeliya Cricket Club (which was actually also a rugby club) now known as the Darrawella Club. I managed to find some more photos of him and his younger brother Eustace Farquhar Rowsell (1867–1911) on the History of Ceylon Tea site. There is a whole album of photos from the Darrawella Club including an image of Nicholas II Emperor of Russia visiting the Club in 1881.
The photos of the Rowsell bros. are all of the Up-Country rugby team, which they both played for. Eustace had played for Blackheath 1st XV in England in 1891 (see first image) and was playing for the Up Country 11 in 1894, with his big brother Norman as Captain (see 2nd image)
The following year, it seems Norman was no longer on the squad. Maybe he wasn’t as good as his little brother? In any case, they were both playing in the 1897 Dickoya vs Maskeliya & Bogawantalawa game. For some reason Eustace’s nickname is written this year as “Family” Rowsell.
That’s the last year they are photographed together, but Norman reappears in 1902 as the referee for the Up-Country vs Colombo game.
There is also this photo below of the Darawella club from way back in 1885, a time when Norman was definitely there and one of the guys looks like him.
I have discovered a fascinating and scandalous story of one of my ancestors in the Genealogies of Barbados Families: From Caribbean and the Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society By James C. Brandow. Read it in the image below.
Baroness Judith De Bretton (1788 – 1821) is my 4th great grandmother. She married Captain John Johnstone Cumming (1786-1843) in 1811. The marriage was registered in Scotland in January but also in Guadeloupe in August of the same year. They had four children, the eldest of which Jane Forrester Cumming (1815-1894) who was born on 24th February 1815 on the island of St Lucia in the West Indies, is my ancestor. Her daughter with Joseph Richard Harwar (1823-1908) was Grace Margaret Amelia Harwar who married ship owner William Montgomery.
Having checked out the story I realised that Judith’s father was not Lucas de Bretton, but is in fact the man Brandow said was her grandfather – Baron Frederick Moth Uytendaele de Bretton (1753-1813). Her grandfather was in fact Baron Lucas Uytendaele Von Bretton (1720-1786) which is why the monument in Barbados lists Judith as the daughter of Frederik de Bretton as does the listing of her wedding in The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, Volume 81, Part 2– which says…
At Guadaloupe, Lieut. Cumming, to Baroness Judith De Bretton, eldest daughter of Baron Frederic De B. of St Croix.
The De Brettons were not strictly French as the author says but were really Danish with a French origin. Their true name was Uytendale and they were a noble family of Copenhagen who first arrived in the Danish West Indies in the 18th century. The aforementioned Baron Lucas Uytendaele Von Bretton (1720-1786) married Margrethe Gertrud Elisabeth Moth (1734-1784), the daughter of Frederik Moth, Governor of the Danish West Indies. Her great great grandfather was Poul Moth (1600-1670) whose daughter was Sophie Amalie Moth, Countess of Samsøe (1654–1719) the officially acknowledged royal mistress of King Christian V of Denmark and Norway.
Poor Judith was only 13 when she was involved in the shameful scandal in 1801. Her husband John Cumming may not have known of the scandal but he was no fool; he was a lieutenant of the 8th West India regiment by the time of their wedding in 1811 when Judith was 23. He had signed up as an ensign without purchase in 1805. In 1815 he owned 6 African slaves and lived in St. Lucia but in 1823 he seems to have had less wealth. In that year he wrote the letter below naming all the wealthy people he knew, and stating that he could not afford to educate his children, and thereby got the post as Military Knight of Windsor. By the time of his death in 1843 he was the Governor of the Military Knights of Windsor and residing in the lower ward of Windsor castle (his wife had died in Barbados 22 years earlier while he had been Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General of that island).
The dashing Scottish Lieutenant not only rescued the fallen Danish Baroness from shame, but may also have been involved in the liberation of slaves. St. Croix was conquered twice by the British during the Napoleonic wars (the Danes stupidly sided with Napoleon) when the de Brettons were a prominent family on the island.
The De Brettons had been plantation owners. Baron Lucas Uytendaele Von Bretton (1720-1786) owned plantation No. 1 and 2. in King’s quarter, St. Croix and had 401 slaves working these estates in 1769 (he acquired more property and slaves later). I don’t know if they still owned slaves by the 19th century but the British abolished slavery in 1808. The Danish didn’t abolish slavery until after a rebellion in 1848, but St Croix was under British occupation from 1807 until 20 November 1815 – so I imagine slavery was not permitted during this time which is the same period in which Captain John Cummings would have met and married the young Baroness de Bretton.
Since slavery was illegal under British law, I expect the De Bretton family were required to free their slaves but it looks as if they had already done so prior to the British occupation. According to Slave Society in the Danish West Indies: St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix by N. A. T. Hall and B. W. Higman, Judith’s brother Frederick de Bretton Junior was involved in a plot against Denmark to establish a Republic under British protection. He was recruiting freed black slaves as soldiers which suggests he was on the side of the British abolitionists (see below for the full story).
After his failed coup of 1807 the young Frederick De Bretton Jnr got into more trouble falling afoul of the British even though he was very pro-British. He held an ensign in the Royal West India Regiment and was transferred from St. Croix to Barbados – this may have been John Cummings’ attempt to save Frederick from the Danish authorities on St Croix. But the hot headed young man ended up getting into a duel with Captain Boardman of the 2nd battalion, 60th regiment. After killing Boardman, Frederick deserted his regiment and went into hiding. Below is an excerpt from a letter to the Home Office dated 11th February 1811 written by the Hon. George Beckwith, Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Forces, Leeward and Windward Islands (quoted from Virgin Islands Daily News 10 June 1974). He turned himself in to the British authorities later that year in Trinidad and was shipped to St. Croix where he was imprisoned for five months.
Judith and John did not stay on St Croix either. They had two sons and two daughters, the first of which was born on St. Lucia and the last two in Guadeloupe, and one born in London. I have told this story to a couple of people who have said that it reminds them of War and Peace. It would make a good film I think!
I have only recently discovered the reason why Norman Rowsell (1855-1919) was named “Norman” and all his descendants have since adopted the surname “Norman Rowsell”.
It was because his mother was Sarah Norman (1821-1903) the daughter of John Norman (1787-1853) a ship broker of Water lane near Tower Street in London and his wife Mary Ann Goddard. Sarah Norman married Benjamin Rowsell (1820-1886) but was not the only Norman girl to marry a Rowsell. John Norman actually had 5 daughters and one son. The others were:
- Marianne Norman (1816 – 1889) who married Reverend Thomas James Rowsell
- Emily Norman (b.1817) married William Waring Saxton (1811-1879) (brother of the famous John Waring Saxton of New Zealand)
- John Norman (b. 1818)
- Julia Norman (1819-1895) married John Montefiore (1820-1895) (son of the famous Jewish mulatto plantation owner John Castello Montefiore of Barbados)
- Martha L Norman (1831-1852)
This means that Sarah Norman‘s sister Marianne married her husband Benjamin’s first cousin, Thomas James Rowsell. The Normans and Rowsells were therefore linked twice by marriage.
It is also interesting to see that some of Sarah Norman’s children with Benjamin Rowsell were named after her brothers in law.
- Norman Rowsell (1855-1919) – named for his Mother’s maiden name
- Maude Rowsell (1857-1922)
- Sidney Montefiore Rowsell (1860-1937) – named after his uncle John Montefiore (1820-1895)
- Ernest Saxton Rowsell (1861-1948) named after his uncle William Waring Saxton (1811-1879)
- Arthur Grey Rowsell (1863-1928)
- Eustace Farquhar Rowsell (1867–1911) (a Rugby player – see picture below)
I found a useful online tool called named which maps the frequency of any given surname in modern Britain. I was surprised that many of my ancestral names from both sides, even quite far back, were most frequently found in Devonshire and Somerset.
The Rowsells themselves originate from that area too, but in modern times, they have spread out a bit. Blue stars represent names from my paternal lineage, pink maternal.
Lieutenant Edmund Wilkinson (1872 – 1914) came from a long line of Lancashire men. He was one of at least 7 children of Joshua Wilkinson (1848-1924) and Christina Williams (b. abt 1851). Edmund came from working class stock and grew up to be a war hero. This post explains his origins and his story.
Joshua and Christina lived at 22 Queen Street, Colne. Joshua’s father was Edward Wilkinson (1810 – 1867) whose father was John Wilkinson (b. 1799), whose father was James Wilkinson of York. Joshua is first recorded as a “cotton weaver” in Burnley, Lancashire in the 1871 census. As a cotton weaver, Joshua would have endured great hardships during the 1860’s when English textile factories were forced to shutter their doors as cotton exports played into American Civil War strategy.
Interestingly there was a folk song popular among Lancashire Cotton weavers which expresses sympathy for Napoleon of all people! Hand Loom weavers of the area had made their living through weaving cotton at their own hand-looms in their cottages and were economically threatened by the technological advances in production that came about through the Industrial Revolution. The reference to the Napoleonic Wars dates to the pre-industrial period, not long before the ‘Industrial Revolution’. The song in the video below was written sometime around 1808 but was sung by Lancashire weavers for decades afterwards.
Edmund Wilkinson was born in Colne. He joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment around 1888 when he was only 15 years old and was given the number 2677.
At the age of 27, in 1899, he was fighting in the Boer war where he endured 4 months at the Siege of Kimberley. His rank by this time was Colour-Sergeant.
On 7 October 1899, an artillery battery and four companies of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment were dispatched to secure the town under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Kekewich. Five days later, with the start of hostilities, Boer forces arrived and began to besiege Kimberley. For the next 126 days, the North Lancs and the local militias would be cut off and subjected to regular shelling from the Boer artillery. The siege was finally lifted when Brigadier-General Sir John French’s Cavalry Division was able to breakthrough the Boer lines on 15 February 1900.
In 1905, at the age of 32, Edmund married Eliza Harriet Parkhouse (1880 – 1945) in Bideford, Devon. Eliza, like many in the Rowsell family tree, was from the West Country; her father was William Parkhouse (1850 – 1930) of Parkham, Devon. Eliza had four children by Edmund, three of which survived past infancy. Interestingly Eliza was one of 13 children, some of whom lived until well over 100 years of age.
Edmund received his commission into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in June 1912 and sailed to France with the 1st Battalion on 12th August 1914.
Edmund was 43 when he was killed in Belgium at the First Battle of Ypres on 31st October 1914. He was promoted to the rank of Honorary Lieutenant for his service in WWI.
The following is an excerpt from The Bond of Sacrifice:A Biographical Record of All British Officers Who Fell in the Great War
LIEUTENANT and QUARTERMASTER EDMUND WILKINSON, 1st BATTALION, LOYAL NORTH LANCASHIRE REGIMENT, was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson, of 22, Queen Street, Colne, and was forty-three years of age at the time of his death.
He served twenty-six years with the Colours, and had a
distinguished career having risen from the ranks through his ability, courage, and good conduct. He served through the Boer War, having been besieged in Kimberley for four months, and was presented with the Kimberley Star. He was awarded the South African medals and the Distinguished Conduct medal for distinguished gallantry at Hartbeesfontein, leading the company in a charge when the officers were out of action, which gallant act probably saved the whole column. He received his commission in June, 1912.
He was killed in action on the 31st October, 1914, and the news of his death was conveyed in a letter written by Lieutenant-Colonel Carter, D.S.O., of his battalion, himself soon afterwards killed in action, who wrote : “We
have lost officers and men, but the greatest loss to me personally is caused by poor Wilkinson’s death. He was the whitest man that ever breathed, with the heart of a lion. He fell lighting at the head of a number of men of various corps on the road near Ypres. He attempted to stem the on-flood of the German advance down the road — and apparently did so with the men he collected. It has been said he should be given the Victoria Cross. His duty did not lie with the battalion in the fighting line, but he was ever present where the fighting took place. The regimental Sergeant- Major of the 1st K.R.K.C. witnessed his last heroic action, and the words he used to me were,
‘ If ever soldier earned a V.C. your Q.M. did the night of the 31st October, 1914.’ ”
Lieutenant Wilkinson was mentioned in Sir John French’s Despatch of the 14th January, 1915.
He was a great sportsman, a fine athlete, probably the best in the regiment for several years, and as a cyclist he had few equals. He was generous to a fault, a staunch friend, and beloved by everyone who had dealings with him.
Lieutenant Wilkinson married Eliza Harriet, daughter of William Parkhouse, of Parkham, and left three daughters : Irene Ethel, born November, 1907 ; Audrey Dora, born December, 1911 : and Edwina Mary, born after her gallant father’s death, in January, 1915,
These are Edmund Wilkinson’s medals.
Edmund’s three daughters mentioned were Irene, Audrey and Edwina. Edwina was not born until after Edmund was killed, a not unusual circumstance in the Great War. Edmund is buried in Ypres Town Cemetery. The portrait below is of Edmund’s second daughter, Irene Ethel Wilkinson (1907–1968).
The following post is about Captain Robert Alven Richards (1878-1963) of Devonshire who is linked to the Rowsells through the marriage in March 1948 in Bideford, Devonshire of his daughter Margaret Ann Mary Richards (1923-1992) and Major Colin Merville Norman Rowsell (1919-2000). Captain Richards escorted Crown Prince Hirohito to Japan in 1921.
Captain Robert Alven Richards son of William Vellacott Richards (b. abt 1841) was born 30th July 1878 in Barnstaple, Devonshire. He had one older brother and one younger brother and two little sisters. His sister Charlotte Winifred Richards (b April 1880) married Commander Pasfield Victor Oliver of H.M.S. “Royal Arthur,” at All Souls’, Langham Place, London, 3rd September 1900. The following year they had a son, Lieutenant General Sir William Pasfield Oliver GBE KCB KCMG (1901–1981) who became a well known military figure. The eccentric fellow was said to borrow tanks to drive to the pub.
In 1891 at the age of 13, Robert is recorded as a student at St Giles in Cambridge. According to the website Lives of the First World War, Robert was a Commander in the Royal Navy from 1893. On 1st April, 1901 it is recorded in the Gazette that Sub-Lieutenant Robert Alven Richards was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Fleet.
The date of Robert’s marriage to Eva Montgomery (b.1887) dau. of ship owner William Montgomery is not known, but the couple had their first daughter, Betty Alven Richards (1911-2006) in 1911 at which point they were living in Portland, Dorsetshire.
In the same year, Robert Richards is listed as a lieutenant aboard the HMS Albemarle under Captain John Scott Luard. In December 1913, Lieutenant Robert Alven Richards was promoted to the rank of Commander in His Majesty’s Fleet and served in the North sea during WWI. The photograph below was taken around this time.
Commander Robert Alven Richards became Captain of H.M.S. Britomart on 24th January 1918. It was one of four gunboats of the Bramble class completed for the Royal Navy about the turn of the century. You can see her voyages of that year in the map below and more details of coordinates at this link. The voyages of the following years were also in the Gulf, but I am not certain who succeeded Robert Richards as Captain or in which year. The ship was sold in 1920 into civilian service, being renamed Sakuntala. It is not to be confused with the Halcyon-class minesweeper of the same name which was launched in 1938.
In 1920 Crown Prince Hirohito was promoted to the rank of Major in the Japanese army and Lieutenant Commander in the navy. In 1921, Hirohito took a six-month tour of Europe, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium. He was the first Japanese prince to travel to the west. During his time in Britain he met with King George V. After his return to Japan, he became Regent of Japan (Sesshō) on November 29, 1921, in place of his ailing father who was affected by a mental illness. Captain Robert Alven Richards accompanied Hirohito back to Japan in 1921 as a naval escort and upon arrival, attended a traditional Japanese royal banquet.
Two years later, Robert and Eva had their second daughter, Margaret Ann Mary Richards (1923-1992) who was born in Hampshire. Robert was 45 at this time. In 1933 The Hydrographic Dept. published Captain Richards’ book ‘West coast of England pilot : from the Scilly Isles to the Mull of Galloway including the Isle of Man‘.
Robert Alven Richards remained in his home county of Devonshire until at least the age of 72, but moved to Worcestershire, near his younger daughter and her family during the later years of his life (see photo below). He died on 29th November 1963 at Court house nursing home in Malvern, Worcestershire.
It is alleged that he went swimming every single day of his life, regardless of the weather.
The following post concerns the Montgomery family of Scotland who are linked to the Rowsells through the marriage in March 1948 in Bideford, Devonshire of Major Colin Merville Norman Rowsell (1919-2000) and Margaret Ann Mary Richards (1923-1992) dau. of Captain Robert Alven Richards (1878-1963) of the Royal Navy. Margaret’s Mother was Eva Montgomery (b.1887) after whom a ship built in 1901 was named.
Eva’s father was William Montgomery (b.1851 died before 1911) who owned W. Montgomery & Co. of London, which was an import company, shipping goods such as coal from South America; mainly Chile and Argentina. He owned three ships, one named after his wife Grace Harwar (1858-1946) and the other two named after his daughters, those being the Ladye Doris named after Doris Montgomery (b.1891) and the Eva Montgomery.
This video may show footage of the Grace Harwar taken by Alan Villiers. The full film can be seen here.
William was the son of John Montgomery (1815-1898) son of William Montgomery (abt 1786-abt 1861) who was a Justice of the Peace for Renfrewshire, Scotland in 1851. John was born in Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire and moved to Innerleithen where he became a Minister for the Church of Scotland. He died in Edinburgh and had 11 children with his two wives. One of whom, Archie Montgomery, was employed by his half brother at William Montgomery & Co of London.
William Montgomery was married to Grace Margaret Amelia Harwar on 17 Sep 1878 at St James the Great, Friern Barnet, London. Grace was the daughter of Joseph Richard Harwar (1823-1908) and Jane Forrester Cumming (1815-1894), the daughter of Captain John Johnstone Cumming (1786-1843) who was born in St Lucia in the West Indies. William and Grace had 3 children; the two girls mentioned previously and a son named Joseph Montgomery (1880-1968) who was nicknamed “Jum”.
William Montgomery is first listed as a South American Goods merchant in the 1881 census when he was 30 years old. The boat named Grace Harwar was built in Glasgow in 1889, and the twin three masted sailing ships Eva Montgomery and Laye Doris were each built in 1901 by William Hamilton & Co, Glasgow. William Montgomery allowed the captains of his ships to bring their wives and children to live on board. There is a fantastic book by Mary Hay called “I saw a ship a’ sailing” in which she recalls her childhood on board the Ladye Doris. It contains the photograph below in which Mr. Montgomery, the thin man in a bowler hat, stands with the Captain, marine superintendent and apprentices. The Ladye Doris also had an enthusiastic photographer as mate for a while, and quite a number of his photographs of daily life onboard were published in a book by A. A. Hurst. “The medley of Mast and Sail 2”
The Grace Harwar was allegedly a cursed ship, as this account says:
The Grace Harwar developed a reputation as a man-killer. In 1907, under the command of Captain C.S. Hudson, the ship was sailing from Australia to Tocopilla, Chile. Captain Hudson’s young wife was on board. Already suffering from tuberculosis, she died off of the coast of Chile. The ship returned empty to Australia with Mrs. Hudson’s body in the ballast. Supposedly, Mrs. Hudson put a curse on the ship before dying– that it would kill one man on every voyage.
“Jum” Montgomery served in the 7th (Princess Royal’s) Dragoon Guards and became Captain Joseph Montgomery, from 3rd (King’s Own) Hussars and fought at Roberts Heights, Transvaal, South Africa about 1911 and was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal. He married one of the most famous opera singers in the world, Emma Luart (1892-1968) [real name Emma V Luwaert] in 1919. Luart was a glamorous Belgian starlet but her career was disrupted by the outbreak of WWII.
You can hear her beautiful singing voice in these YouTube videos at the bottom of this page.