Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Riding Shotgun Down the Avalanche

It's been a couple of days now, and I've simply been awash in "Millsness", even to the point of being unable to really keep up here.

I've spent long hours researching [and quite successfully, I might add] the near and distant arms of the family of George Mills, including his half-brother's incredible wife, Lady Dorothy Rachel Melissa Walpole Mills, the world famous author and traveler [depicted in the lurid drawing, left]; her brilliant, horticulturalist half-sister, Lady Anne Sophia Walpole Palmer Berry [still alive and residing in Gisborne, New Zealand, by the way]; Lady Dorothy's cripplingly arthritic grandmother, Louisa, and tragically scandalized mother, Louise; her railroad tycoon grandfather, the driven and seemingly unfeeling American multimillionaire D. C. Corbin of Spokane, Washington; the adulterous divorce of Lady Dorothy and adventure/crime writer Arthur [F. H.] Mills; Lady Dorothy's morally bankrupt and cash poor, apparent lothario of a father, Robert Horace Walpole, the last earl of the extinct earldom of Orford; and an unfortunately fallen woman, Valerie Wiedemann, an erstwhile German-born governess who worked in 19th century Istanbul, Turkey, who very likely gave birth to Lady Dorothy's unknown and illegitimate brother!

Yes, it's been very interesting reading!

I've also found a street plan showing the exact shape location of George's Warren Hill School in Eastbourne, circa 1933, and the shape of the buildings and campus [pictured, left], a photo of Capt. Arthur Frederick Hobart Mills, George's author half-brother, a photo of George's uncle, Col. Dudley Acland Mills, as a schoolboy, and simply an avalanche of photographs of and taken by Lady Dorothy Mills, as well as a plethora of newspaper articles and features.

I believe I've found out that both sisters of George Mills, Agnes and Violet, remained unmarried, and also the locale where—surprisingly, at least to me—they passed away.

Finally, I've been contacted by someone who probably knows more about this family than perhaps anyone!

Hang in there! More soon…

Sunday, March 28, 2010


A wedding announcement from the London Times, Friday, 24 April, 1925 reads [with key attendees and locales bearing my own emphasis]:


The marriage took place yesterday at Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, of Mr. George Acland Ramsay Mills, son of Rev. Barton and Mrs. Mills, 38, Onslow-gardens, S.W., and Miss Vera Louise Beauclerk, daughter of the late Mr. William Nelthorpe Beauclerk, of Little Grimsby Hall, Louth, Lincolnshire, and Mrs. Nelthorpe Beauclerk, 4, Hans-mansion, S.W. The officiating clergy were the Rev. Barton Mills (father of the bridegroom), the Rev. Walter Farnsworth, vicar of Little Grimsby, the Reverend Watkin Williams, and Rev. H. S. Sard.

The bride wore a cream gown embroidered in gold, and a gold and cream brocade train. She carried a bouquet of cream roses. the train was borne by Master Rafael Beauclerk and Master Robert Hart (cousins of the bride), who were dressed in black velvet suits with yellow shirts, and the bride was also attended by three child-bridesmaids, the Misses Diana and Hermione de Vere Beauclerk (nieces) and Miss Isyllt Llewellyn, and two grown-up bridesmaids, Miss Violet Mills (sister of the bridegroom) and Suzanne Flemming, whose frocks were of yellow georgette.

A reception was afterwards held at the Hans-crescent Hotel, and the bride and bridegroom later left for the honeymoon, which will be spent in Devonshire. Mrs. Mills wore a nigger-brown crêpe de Chine frock, embroidered in gold, with a hat to match.

Among those present were :—

Mrs. Barton Mills, Miss Othlie Mills, Miss Verity Mills, Colonel and Mrs. Dudley Mills, Mrs. Nelthorpe Beauclerk and Miss Beauclerk, Hester Lady Hart, Lady Hart, Mrs. Topham Beauclerk, and the Masters Beauclerk, Miss Agnes Mills, the Japanese Ambassador and Mme. Okamato, Don Carlos Dominguez and Mdlle. Dominguez, M. and Mme. de Lembeke, Mrs. R. de Lembeke, Mr. and Lady Isabel Margesson, the Hon. Mrs. Walter Paton, the Hon. Sophia Trollope, Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Llewellyn, the Hon. Montagu and Mrs. Forbes, Theodosia Lady Hughes and Miss Winifred Hughes, Sir Claude and Lady Mallet, Lady Arnold, Sir William and Lady Adair, Lady Thompson, Sir John and Lady Jordan, Lady Atterbury, Sir Henry and Lady Burke and Master Burke, Lady Pontifex, Lady Addis and Miss Addis, Lady O'Conor, Lady Trollope, Mr. Benson Kennedy, Mr., Mrs., and Miss Wardrop, Colonel F. Gore, Mrs. Daniell, Mrs. Rolls, Mr. William Stone, Mr. Richard Pryce, the Misses Bryant, Ms. Sinclair, Mrs. Lacy Rogers, Miss Ethel Rogers, Mr. and Mrs. Erskine Barrett, Mrs. Alfred Porter, Mr. Gerald E. Maude, Mrs. Hayes Dashwood, Mrs. Eden, Mrs. Rochford, Miss Hughes, Mrs. Lane, Miss Jane Lane, Mrs. Fleming, Mr. and Mrs. Cory, Mrs. Baxter, Mr. and Mrs. Blois, Mr. Jenning, Captain Russell, Mrs. Dudley Morrison, Miss Henrietta Gladwell, Mr and Mrs. Seddon, Mrs. Philip Du Cros, Mrs. Arnold Ellert, Miss Irene Hart, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Legge, Mrs. Cecil Fleurscheim, Captain and Mrs. Stanley Musgrave, Miss McConnell, Mrs. Leigh Taylor, Mrs. Douglas Ramsay and Master Ramsay, Mrs. Lugard, Mrs. de Vere Evans, Mrs. Ash, Mrs. Duncan Payne, Mrs. Wingate, Mrs. Ronald Wingate, Miss Plowse, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Norman Lamplugh, the Misses Sanders, the Misses Chance, Major and Mrs. Brodie and Master Michael and Master Alexander Brodie, Mrs. Fardell, Mrs. and Miss Lindsay Watson, Miss Garford, Miss Wyndham Murray, Miss Ricardo, Mr. Derrick Clayton, Mr. Clive Bayley, Mr. and Mrs. Hubert Ansell, Miss Bower, Mr. Watkin Williams, Mrs. Watkin Williams, Mrs. Greenfield, Miss Acland, Miss Griffith, Mrs. Montague(?) Napier, Mrs. Bowra, Mr. and Mrs. A. Hughes, Mrs. Wintringham, Captain and Mrs. Gerald Greig, Miss Sparks, Mr. M. Acheson, Mrs. Leigh-Pemberton, Mme. Challe, Major R. B. Denny, Mr. R. W. S. Seton, Mr. and Mrs. Boyd Bredon, Mr. Eric Sachs, Mrs. Spencer Beaumont, Mrs. and Miss Farnsworth, Miss Standen, Mrs. Cavendish, Mr. and Mrs. Stirling, Mrs. Arthur Mcdonald, Miss Jean Anderson, Mrs. and Miss Vandeleur, Colonel and Mrs. Mortimer, Mr., Mrs., and Miss Seton, Mr. and Mrs. Flannery, Mrs. Griffith, Mrs. C. F. Hughes, Mrs. George Cooper, Miss McEwan, Mrs. Hazlett, Mrs. Darrioch, Mrs. George Lyster, Mr. and Mrs. Godfrey Pharazyn, Miss Ruth Pharazyn, Mrs. Peet, Mr. Mackellar, Colonel Jocelyn, Mrs. Heaton Armstrong, and Mrs. Langley.

It seems quite an international affair, although I'm unfamiliar with most of the names on the guest list. If any of them ring a bell with any readers, I do hope you'll let me know. Notably absent is the older step-brother of George, author Arthur Frederick Hobart Mills of London, born 12 July, 1887 and then 37 years of age. That same year, writing under the name Arthur Hobart Mills [He also wrote for American magazines as Arthur Mills], he published his book The Gold Cat [Hutchinson & Co., London; 1925]. By 1926, it was in its third edition. He was the author of dozens of books found in the British Library, mostly adventure fiction, as well as some memoirs of the First World War that he'd written under the pseudonym "Platoon Cammander" [right]. (The website Great War Dust Jackets charcaterizes the writings of the elder Mills brother as "now long forgotten", much like the published work of George Mills.) A. F. H. Mills is described as "a handsome and well connected man but with little money [in 1916]". One wonders exactly how as yet unpublished—and seemingly by comparison quite unaccomplished— younger step-brother George would have been described at the time of his own wedding in 1925, and if the half brothers got along.

Arthur F. H. Mills was the son of Revd Barton R. V. Mills and the late Lady Catherine Valentia Mary Hobart-Hampden, who took the rank of Earl's daughter at the wedding. Lady Catherine passed away in 1889, and Revd Mills remarried, taking Elizabeth Edith Ramsay, daughter of military man Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay, C.B., as his wife on 10 January, 1894. [George Ramsay Acland Mills was born to them on 1 October, 1896.]

The eccentric Lady Dorothy Rachel Melissa Walpole Mills, a cousin as well as then-wife of Arthur Hobart Mills, was also not in attendance. Lady Dorothy was a half-American who was also a journalist, writer, and well-known world traveler/explorer. In 1925, she had only just returned from becoming the first white woman to reach Timbuktu and had recently published The Arms of the Sun and The Dark Gods [Duckworth & Co., London, 1924 and 1925, respectively]. She likely did not attend the Mills/Beauclerk nuptials as she was undoubtedly traveling [as seen, left], at least some of 1925 in Palestine, and readying herself to publish four books in the next two years: A science-fiction novel, Phœnix, [Hutchinson & Co.: London], and travel books Beyond the Bosphorous and Through Liberia [Duckworth & Co., London] in 1926 and Episodes from the Road to Timbuktu [G. G. Harrap and Co., London] in 1927. She's the author of twenty-some books in the British Library, scattered here, here, and here.

It's conceivable Lady Dorothy was a bit busy in 1925! Incidentally, she is also the subject of a search for information similar to my own being conducted by American James Wallace Harris, who describes Lady Dorothy as "a forgotten writer whose books are about to disappear."

Anyway, it appears that George Mills and Vera Beauclerk boarded their own ship called Matrimony with much ado made of it, even without the reigning heavyweight authors of the family in attendance.

Easter that year was on 12 April, 1925. According to Windlesham, Mills "taught 4 terms at Windlesham House School from Lent 1925 until Easter 1926".

So Mills almost certainly would have been teaching at Windlesham at the time of wedding. As noted previously: "In April George Mills married Miss Vera Beauclerc; they bought a house on Benfield Way, Portslade. [below, right]"

The word "they" would imply that the purchase was made after the wedding, the then-28-year-old Mills opting to settle down near the school in Portslade with his 31-year-old bride.

The association of Mills and Vera lasted until her passing on 5 January, 1942, just months short of what would have been their 17th wedding anniversary.

The association of Mills and Windlesham was far shorter in duration. The list of wedding guests above simply does not appear to be any sort of compendium of British citizens likely to have been wildly sympathetic with the General Strike of 1926. That doesn't mean, however, Mills didn't walk with the million or so labourers who supported the coal miners during the strike's dates of 3 May, 1926, and 13 May, 1926.

According to and its reference, the 1988 book Two Georges: The Making of the Modern Monarchy by David Sinclair, the Trade Union Congress "feared that an all-out general strike would bring revolutionary elements to the fore. They decided to bring out workers only in the key industries, such as railwaymen, transport workers, printers, dockers and ironworkers and steelworkers."

Mills just seems a terribly unlikely candidate to have been swept up in any fervency [left] on behalf of the coal miners, despite having possibly fought alongside some youngsters whose destiny would soon be found within those mines after the armistice. I find it incredibly difficult to believe, at least from my desk here in 2010, that a "junior appointment" and freshly minted bridegroom and homeowner would've risked his new found position at Windlesham, a situation he apparently loved dearly.

Still, a truly trusted authority on Windlesham, Dr. Houston, has speculated, "[Mills] could, like a handful of other prep school masters, have been excited by the General Strike (that term)."

Stranger things have happened, and "wildcat" involvement in a strike—even though Mills was no longer very much a youngster, being almost 30 years of age by May, 1926—would, indeed, go a long way in explaining his then bouncing from Eastbourne to Windermere, on to Glion, and back to Eaton Gate in London as a preparatory school master over the next decade, instead of having stayed settled at Windlesham.

Was Mills so active politically that it may have had a negative impact on his career at the time? As always, any thoughts, ideas, or information on the subject would be greatly appreciated!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Chatterbox Recording Club

Maureen, a member of the Eastbourne Local History Society and friend of "Who Is George Mills," maintains her own separate website as well, and recently sent me the following message:

Hi Sam
on an another topic, I am wondering if you would like to mention in your organisation somewhere about a world wide tape corresponding club by the name of CHATTERBOX RECORDING CLUB.

You will find some info of this non profit making club on my website. I have been involved with this club for a number of years now, and on and off on its committee, first as assistant secretary in the 1970s, then magazine editior in the 1980s. now the club is undergoing some changes of committee and from September 2010 I will be its secretary. over the years the club has lost a lot of its members, and the present committee havent done anything about recruiting new members.

we are open to all age groups, and although most of our members use tape recorders either open reel, cassette or mini disc, a few of our members use emails, and writing for correspondence etc.,

there was a time when we were a world wide club, with lots of members in the USA and Canada and elsewhere, but over the years the retiring committee have dropped the overseas side of our club. we the new team - myself, Mike and Gerry would like to include overseas members once again.

please let me know of your thoughts on this.


My thoughts are that I hope readers here will take a moment to find out more about the club at Maureen's site, Maureens' Choice. Click the title to see her home page in another window. It would be great to get some new members from this side of the Atlantic and from around the world!

A First Edition of King Willow Arrives with Some Surprises

It's a beautiful morning here in the horse country of north central Florida. The sunlight is slanting through the buds on the oaks [the tiny, almond-shaped oak leaves here look far different from the large, splayed leaves of my youth in Pennsylvania, and from what I've seen of oaks in the U.K.] and the birds all seem to calling for their mates.

My mate, Janet, is out getting her hair styled, but were she here, I'd still be thanking here for my new gift: A first edition copy of King Willow, again signed by the author, that arrived yesterday evening. I'd had my eye on it, but thought it was too much money. I was stunned when I opened the package from Canterbury, Kent, and pulled out this well-worn, even slightly beat-up edition. I simply adore it!

Yesterday I wondered aloud about the missing years in my time line of George Mills, and was contemplating writing an entry about his grandfather, Arthur Mills. In lieu of new information about Mills himself, I thought providing some context into which I could situate the life of George would be a logical next step. There are a number of people who would have known G.M. and who would have undoubtedly influenced him, even if they had no influence over him directly.

Thumbing through this not-so-gently-used copy of King Willow, it immediately struck me what a beautiful book this must have been in its day, sort of the same feeling I get when I see, for example, Elizabeth Taylor on the cover of a gossip tabloid at the supermarket. Published by George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., the often browned, stained, and worn pages of this book must have been gorgeous in their day. The paper is still wonderfully stiff and still has a "tooth," or texture, that makes it a pleasure to touch. The author's inscription reads: "To Barbara and Raymond Dones—with best wishes—George Mills July 1938," and is written in what appears to be fountain pen ink that's a rich sepia.

[Note (26 Apr 2010): When my wife ordered the text, there had been a note on the internet saying: SIGNED presentation copy by the author to the front free end paper 'To Barbara and Raywood, With best wishes George Mills, July 1938.' I'll admit: What do I know about British penmanship, circa 1938? Nothing! But if I'd read it myself, I'd have assumed it was Raymond. I didn't change it, though, and put on the web just as the bookseller indicated. I am now assured that it does indeed say Raymond, and many thanks to Barry McAleenan for the chirographic advice!]

It's illustrated by H. M. [Henry Matthew] Brock, brother of the legendary C.E. Brock and a fine illustrator, graphic designer, and painter in his own right as just a glance it the work throughout this edition will ascertain. He's fully credited as the illustrator immediately below the name of George Mills on the title page, and as well as a full-colour frontispiece and 4 full-page plates, he did several other decorative illustrations, and example of which is seen to the left.

What truly surprised me, however, were not only the difference in quality between this edition of King Willow and the other edition, circa 1958 or so, but the dedication and preface. In this earlier edition, Mills has given me a location for himself and his wife in the time that elapsed between 1938 and the publication of Meredith and Co. back in 1933!

Right now, I'll focus on the dedication to the 1958-ish edition that was the first book by Mills I'd ever seen: "To BERYL and IAN, Two young people who have just set out on a long voyage in the good ship Matrimony. May they have smooth seas and following winds: may they from time to time take aboard some young passengers who will become the light of their lives until they sail into the last harbor."
Now, I'd been working on finding a young Ian and Beryl, likely in Great Britain, just before the publication of this book in 1938. Needless to say, I wasn't having much luck. The dedication seemed wistfully hopeful, coming from what I assumed was a 40-ish man who'd seemingly been married to Vera Mills for 10 or 12 years at that point, depending on the actual, unspecified date of Beryl and Ian's nuptials. It made me smile.

In those assumptions, it turns out, I must have been entirely mistaken!

Here's the dedication to the first edition of King Willow, which Mills himself dates in the book's preface as June, 1938: "TO THE HEADMASTERS, STAFF, AND BOYS OF EATON GATE PREPARATORY SCHOOL, LONDON, S.W. 1."

Not only does that provide us with a location for Mills and Vera during the span of time between the 1933 publication of Meredith and Co. and its stand-alone 1938 sequel, King Willow, it also puts a completely different spin on the dedication in that late-1950s edition. Beryl and Ian, it seems, were not married near the end of the worldwide Great Depression; they were likely born at that time. Their ship, Matrimony, likely set sail just after the Korean Conflict in the middle of the 20th century, not in the years leading up to the Second World War.

The subtext of the later dedication changes now as well. The latter version is now written by a childless, 60-ish man, over 15 years a widower, watching two youngsters embarking on a journey together that he'd set out on with Vera over a quarter of a century earlier. There are no children of theirs have become the light of his life as he charts his own course, alone, into his own last harbor.

Of course, I labor under the assumption that George Mills never remarried and remained childless. If he did, all of the above is completelt in error, and yet another spin is put on his metaphorical bon voyage to Ian and Beryl.

Another bit of information implied by the late-1950s dedication would be that, seemingly for the first time, Mills has not dedicated a book to a school. My inference is that, by the time of the Fanfare and Viscount Series' Czechoslovakian reprints of his three best-loved stories, Mills has retired. I've not seen a copy of every edition of his three prep school books, nor have I ever seen a copy of his children's book St. Thomas of Canterbury. I'll speculate, however, that when Meredith and Co. was published in 1957 by Andrew Dakers Ltd. with exactly the same preface and dedication found in the 1950 edition [each just relocated within the text], it hadn't occurred to Mills at that point that he could rewrite them—or at least he'd felt no need to until the wedding of Beryl and Ian.

Still, although the two different dedications imply much still to be considered and researched, Mills has definitely pinned himself down to London, S.W. 1, for at least some portion of the time between 1933 and 1938, and without any other school named in this dedication, it suggests that perhaps Mills had finally found a position as a schoolmaster that lasted for a while.

Eaton Gate Preparatory School becomes the next focus of our investigation, although I hope to still learn much more about G.M. from Windlesham and Eastbourne.

As always, please let me know if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or information!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Primary, Secondary, Tertiary and Me

There are simply so many things accumulating around my inbox, my head, and around my computer that it's sometimes far more difficult to keep up than I'd ever anticipated! One thing leads to another and before I know it, I've accumulated quite a bit of data that I often need some time to organize, study, and reflect on.

Right now, since information about George Mills himself is at such a low ebb, I'm working on his family—especially his grandfather, Arthur Mills, Esg., M.P. [1816-1898], and Revd Barton R. V. Mills [1857-1932], George's father—which is providing me with a wealth of information that's building some context around the life and history of young George.

Both of those men have published works that are still available and widely cited, Arthur Mills having written several books at least
one important book that is still in print [above, left], and another one still in print can be found here.

More on those gentlemen at another time, though!

One stumbling block I've had along the way, be it in understanding the educational path of George or those of his forebears, is the British use of the term "matriculated from". It threw me off, for example, in the following bit of information previously received from the Oxford Archives [my emphasis]:

I have searched our card index of those who matriculated (ie were admitted to the University) between 1891 and 1932 and have found an entry for George Ramsay Acland Mills. This records that he matriculated from Christ Church on 16 October 1919.

Another area in which my density held me back was in understanding the relationship between Christ Church, which is a constituent college of the University of Oxford, and the university itself. Separate institutions or the same, I wondered.

Here's the typical relationship between colleges and universities in the U.S. as described by Universities confer degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels, whereas colleges tend to deal exclusively with four-year bachelor's degrees.

For example, I attended West Chester State College outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, [left] for my BS Ed. Immediately upon graduation, I also started taking courses at the graduate level—they offered a Master's degree, even at that time. A few years after my graduation, the school was renamed West Chester University. It was explained at the time that the school had achieved university status because of "improvements to the library." Maybe that's true, perhaps not.

The upshot here is that part of the confusion for a simple-minded American like me is that when one attends classes in a constituent college of a university here in the States, one is attending both simultaneously and graduates from both at the very same moment. Not so in the United Kingdom, as demonstrated by the two messages below explaining it all to me.

The first, from Christ Church's archives, is in reply to an enquiry I'd made regarding the possibility that the degree George Mills claimed to have earned at Oxford may actually have been a B.A. awarded by Christ Church. The graciousness of her reply in the face of my unabashed ignorance was greatly appreciated!

Dear Mr Williams,

I am afraid that we have very little information on George Mills. He was born on 1 October 1896 in Bude, in Cornwall, and was educated at Harrow School. He was Barton's second son. Mills came up to Christ Church in 1919, after serving during the 1st World War in Royal Army Service Corps, firstly as a private and then as lance corporal. The family appears to have been living in London at the time. He was only at Christ Church for two years, until 1921, and certainly did not take a degree. So, I think he was spinning a bit of a yarn! As far as I know, none of his siblings came to Christ Church.

It is Oxford University which grants degrees, not its constituent colleges! Students live in college and are taught by the tutors who are attached to that college, but all degrees come from the University as an umbrella body.

I am sorry not to be able to help more.

Yours sincerely
Judith Curthoys

I'll admit, I still have a lot to learn in my pursuit of George Mills! A second message, from Richard Martin at Windlesham, also helped me better understand the "system" through which Mills would have been educated:

Dear Sam,

Many thanks for your message, which included further details of George Mills. I am so glad that Tom Houston was able to give you such an amount too – I suspected that would be so, as he is a mine of information on matters to do with the school history.

He may well have responded about your query about the word ‘matriculation.’ In essence it means that, while it remains unclear where he had his ‘primary’ education, Mills was indeed given ‘secondary’ education, presumably between the ages of 13 and 18, at Harrow. He subsequently was accepted for ‘tertiary’ study at Christ Church, one of the Oxford University colleges and the word matriculation indicates that this was the case. Why he then failed to complete his course and gain a degree is less than clear, but it would explain why Mills was at Windlesham as a ‘junior teacher’ and not as a fully fledged member of staff, no specific training for teaching then being required.

May I wish you success in your attempts to take this research further. Do feel free to keep in touch.

All the best,

That seems to set some of the dates Mills received his secondary, tertiary, and university education:

Harrow School: 1910-1912
Christ Church: 1919-1921
University of Oxford: Does one actually attend Oxford, or just have a degree conferred from it?

Mills arrives at Windlesham as a "junior teacher" at Lent, 1925, although their records show him having a "B.A. Oxon." He also spent 1916-1919 in the military as a private and lance corporal during the First World War.

Still, there a gaps in that sequence: 1912-1916, and (?)-1925. In the United States today, one would simply think that a young man was "finding himself" during that time: Perhaps working, but possibly traveling or at least spending some time far away from home. The stereotypical "backpacking through Europe" or "riding a motorcycle across the country" are the more romantic visions of how that time might be spent by an American lad of 16 to 20 years of age.

What could those years have been like for Mills, possibly living in London, between 1912 and 1916? I'm unfamiliar enough with the culture in that time frame that I'm uncertain what the non-educational, non-military prospects were for a young man of that age who comes from a family of some wealth, prestige, history, some high ranking military connections, and at least a dram of 'royal blood' floating around his veins, but who doesn't want to go to school.

And how long might he have spent at Oxford once he reached there in 1921? How long an association with the institution would have been enough to have been convincing in passing himself off as a graduate—especially with only 4 or 5 years of secondary and tertiary education combined? Or would 4 or 5 years have been the usual amount at the time spent after primary school but before university?

Again, I plead ignorance, and any thoughts, ideas, or information you may have that could enlighten me would be most welcome. Once I have a better understanding of where it's likely Mills could have been, I can start poking around to find out if he actually was there!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Of Meads, Head Masters, and a Pint After a Long Day Teaching

More information has arrived via the Eastbourne Local History Society, and I couldn't be more delighted. First, this bit from Michael regarding the actual playing fields of Warren Hill School, not the ones I'd incorrectly identified:

If you look on Google Earth, you will see the school's former playing field at:-

50 45 27 84 N and 0 15 43 32 E

The land may now be owned (leased?) by a sports club in Meads, the part of the town which, until WW2, was home to many private schools for boys and for girls.I believe that the former school hall or gymnasium still stands but has been converted into a private house. I think that the building can be seen on Google Earth at:-

50 45 22 97 N and 0 15 52 88 E

I immediately downloaded and installed Google Earth [You'd probably heard there was someone who hadn't], but I think I have to work a bit on reading the "Helps". My first attempt with the coordinates dropped me between Epsom and Leatherhead, right into Ashtead. My second foray put me somewhere at the edge of a forest slightly northwest of Chagny, France. If that's correct, no wonder Warren Hill was dropped from those football fixtures!

You know, being somewhat technologically impaired, I think I just may be doing something wrong. I've made some wrong turns before, but this is ridiculous! I'll read everything I can about the program and see if I can find my objectives at last.

Michael's previous messages had allowed me a virtual look at the location of Warren Hill School. The school was named, obviously, because it was on Warren Hill ROAD, not because it was on Warren Hill itself as I'd thought. Should that have come as a surprise to me? The name of the school in which I teach: Madison STREET Academy.

I'll admit, though, there was a certain romance to imagining the school perched atop a windswept hill just a stone's throw from Beachy Head and the English Channel. Still, after chasing George Mills around Sussex for so long, it was good to find it no matter where!

Anyway, what I especially appreciated was getting some information on what Mills's life might've been like in Meads. This gives me some feel for the prep master's evenings, just as his books give a feel for his days in the classroom and around the campus:

I am attaching now a picture of what would have been the nearest pub to Warren Hill School and to the masters' house which was situated diagonally opposite the wooden gate which you show in the Google Street View of Beachy Head Road. I believe that in the evenings, schoolmasters would have frequented the saloon bar of 'The Ship', the pub which is shown in the attachment. It still stands, but the interior has been modified considerably since the days when it would have been the 'local' of Mills and his colleagues. For further details of Meads, see the article at:-

This morning, Peter, another member of ELHS, sent me a scan of the article which appeared in issue 104 of the Society's quarterly newsletter. This is also attached.

Good hunting ...

Thank you! I loved the picture so much, keep an eye on my masthead! I also am grateful to have received the scanned excerpt [below, left] from the ELHS newsletter, "Eastbourne Local Historian," issue 104. It gives a wonderful sense of not only where exactly the buildings were situated, but some of the history of Warren Hill School. Click the image to enlarge it.

We heard of Head Master Alfred Maximilian Wilkinson, M.A., in my last post. Here we find him leaving Warren Hill in 1919 and donating a memorial statue from the First World War done by the esteemed Sir Robert Lorimer to the Warren Hill—an artwork whose location is apparently in question if it was not destroyed in the bombing of St. John's Church during World War II.

Wilkinson was followed, it is suggested, by "M.A. North and F.R. Ebdon" [sic] as no longer listed in any local directory after 1936.

George Mills makes reference "To MR. J. GOODLAND, sometime Head Master of Warren Hill, Eastbourne" in the dedication within Meredith and Co. in 1933. Had Goodall perhaps been a temporary Head Master between North and Ebdon, still teaching at the school when Mills arrived? Did Goodall follow Ebdon until yet another Head Master could be located?

It's hard to say without further evidence. However, last time I speculated that it might not have been Mills who left Warren Hill, but the other way around. With Mills apparently off to Windermere and Glion as well before publishing his first book in 1933, it appears Mills did the leaving.

Was it simply a young fellow's wanderlust? Was he dismissed? If the latter is the case, he found subsequent employment at a continually greater distance from his initial years as a preparatory school master in Brighton and Eastbourne as the years went by.

Why, one wonders?

We may find the answer at The Craig in Windermere and the English Preparatory School in Glion—two more schools that no longer exist, neither on the planet nor seemingly on the internet.

But that's all for another day in the future. Right now there seems to be far too much still to learn in Eastbourne, among the memories of the boys and masters who once populated Warren Hill School and the estimable ELHS!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Eastbourne Local History Society Comes Through!

There's been so much new information found that I'm having trouble keeping up with it all—something that I didn't expect, but that delights me! In the last couple of days, I've spent quite a bit of time in Microsoft Word creating a 21-page time line not only of George Mills himself, but of many people and events in his lifetime, and some from before he was born, that would have influenced him. It's been an undertaking, and I've been neglectful in keeping up with incoming info!

Here's some input from the wonderful members of the Eastbourne Local History Society [who provided the photograph above] regarding my Google-enabled virtual drive around Beachy Head Road outside of Eastbourne near Warren Hill itself. Let me share some...

Society member Maureen [click for her personal website] was the first to respond to my enquiries. Regarding my spotting what seemed to be cricket fields that may have been at Warren Hill School in Eastbourne, she wrote "the sports pitches to which you refer to probably belong to the University of Brighton who have a campus in this area, as does St Andrews School, both of which are still in existence today."

And in reference to some information you simply can't find on Google Maps, "what is now known as Beachy Head Road, has in the past been called Warren Hill Road and New Road."

Also: "The Beachy Head Countryside Centre, based on the A259 coast road, is nothing whatsoever to do with Warren Hill school. this building was formerly a farm and now a conservation centre, at the entrance to the Seven Sisters Country Park."

Thank you so much, Maureen! Okay, so I missed all of that completely...

She closes, "the Compton Estate office may have some info on this site as the Duke of Devonshire owned most of the land in this area."

Thanks so much, everyone! I feel silly now, thinking I could somehow use computer technology and a "spy satellite" to propel myself back into the past…

Also from the Michael in the Society:

"Warren Hill was a well known preparatory school in the town and I'm sure there must be references to it in our various index volumes. I have only a partial index here but see that the school was mentioned in Number 104 (pages 8 and 9). It may well have been referred to in other issues of our quarterly newsletter (Eastbourne Local Historian) and perhaps one of the members can provide details.

The school and its occupants (it was a boarding school) will be on the 1901 and 1911 census returns but unfortunately the 1911 census was conducted during the Easter holidays. The census returns are available on line, as you probably know.

I know of one master at the school ... Eric Streatfeild, who almost certainly taught music. He married the novelist, Kitty Barne, and I am currently researching both of the above. I don't know when the school ceased to exist but can confirm that it is listed in my 1914 directory for Eastbourne. The address is given as Beachy Head Road and the headmaster is A. Max Wilkinson MA. It is described as a 'gentlemen's school'."

I'm actually becoming quite adept at perusing vintage British census reports, and I'll admit some are making for fascinating reading, even if one has no interest in Mills at all. There are two, for example, from Killerton, Devon, that are pertinent to G.M.'s history and that I simply savored.

Now, Windlesham School's belief is that George Mills left Portslade and went immediately moved down the coast to Warren Hill School. If so, we know Warren Hill was open in 1914, and that he could have begun teaching there as early as 1926. Even if that specualtion is incorrect, it appears Mills was definitely in Oxford in 1921 although we can't be sure at this point how long he actually stayed.

Michael has further managed to acquire even more nuggets of information, some of which he reveals in this subsequent message:

Just a little taster ... the location of Warren Hill School is not as you suspect. Beachy Head Road is quite a long road. The school (which no longer stands ... apart from the former hall or gym) was situated on the left-hand side of Beachy Head Road, between Coltstocks Road and Darley Road. [Update: The school was, indeed, located behind the gate in the wall at the right!] The playing field was elsewhere and I will give you more details in due course.

So pse bear with me for now ...

One of our senior members has just e-mailed to say:-

> I remember Warren Hill School as a regular opponent on our fixture lists during the 1930s. Their football field was at the top end of Carlisle Road. But I seem to recall that it was dropped from our fixtures well before 1939, so maybe it had closed by then. It does not appear in my 1939 street directory.

Well done! We now have a location for Warren Hill School—and I've now seen how long a road that Beachy Head is!

I've just now virtually "driven" it both ways: To the east and to the west. I'm not certain, however, which way I'd be traveling for the school's site to be on my left. Would that be the north side of the road or the south? I snapped a couple of photos along the way that I thought [hoped] might have been at least near the school's site. Warning: I do have serious doubts, however, regarding most of my newly-formed geographical notions of Sussex!

We've also narrowed the window around Warren Hill's disppearance. Although the school was no longer in existence by 1939, Mills seems to have referred to the school's "staff and boys" in the same present tense he does Windlesham in his dedication to 1933's Meredith and Co.

With Warren Hill off of the local football fixtures seemingly well before 1939, it's conceivable that, as opposed to Mills leaving Warren Hill for teaching positions in Windermere and Glion, Warren Hill may well have "left" him!

I'll certainly be looking forward to any and all information forthcoming from the Eastbourne Local History Society about Warren Hill School. I'd also be interested in anything else deemed important or distinctive about the era between, say, 1920 and 1933 in Sussex. Somewhere within it all anothrer clue to Mills may be hiding!

Thank you all so much for the help you've given a stranger. I can't even begin to express my appreciation!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


How cool is this bit of "Millsness" that just arrived via Royal Mail from Leeds?

My greatly anticipated signature of George Mills arrived this afternoon with an entire book wrapped around it: Meredith and Co., published by the Oxford University Press, Amen House, E.C.4; Reprinted 1950.

It's simply a beautiful edition with gorgeous, creamy white pages and an illustrated dust jacket. The only illustration inside is a frontispiece printed on lovely, glossy paper. It's a pen-and-ink drawing, printed with a two-color separation, that's clearly signed "P. WHITE" and featuring an menacingly angry child [presumably "The Hawk"] looking very much like a young David Bowie, circa 1976, from The Man Who Fell to Earth.

I've read while surfing the web that 1933 first editions of this book have, at the very least, a cover illustration of Uggles, Pongo's beloved bulldog, by the famous illustrator C. E. Brock. I've never seen it, but would love to!

This edition's dust jacket, however, has oval-shaped exteriors of the fictional Leadham House. There's also a drawing of a boy on the spine that I'll quess is Muggs [Meredith], sans Co. The front cover's cameo is presumably the adventure in which three boys ratchet up a loose window and creep into the Master's Room to retrieve a sealed envelope filled with all of the sixth form's signatures, fingerprinted in their blood, swearing revenge on the often overly-severe Mr. Lloyd. Am I correct in assuming that when a book had been reprinted, acquiring the illustrations from a previous edition would have been a separate financial deal entirely—in this case a deal left unmade?

What made this edition special to me, however, was the author's signature, done with an extremely tired blue ball-point, on the first end paper. It's dated "July 1957". Now, I have no idea what month the undated Andrew Dakers Ltd. edition of Meredith and Co. was actually released and hit the booksellers' shelves, but everywhere I look, that year is recorded as 1957—everywhere except within the book itself, that is. My guess right now, though? It'd be in June or July of 1957.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that Mills was likely sitting at a promotional book signing soon after the release of the reprinted 1957 edition [then a distinguished 60 years old] when in must have strolled a long-time fan with a book—the copy that's right here next to me—asking to have his, although I guess I shouldn't be so quick to reject the fact that, even in 1957, it could have been her, older edition signed that day.

This Oxford University Press reprint is interesting. On the flyleaf, it lists the ages of potential readers as "Ages 9-12." Was it completely normal for a children's book, intended for a 9-year-old in 1950, to have 23 fewer illustrations than, say, the 1907 classic edition of Pride and Prejudice?

Meredith and Co.'s first edition in 1933, also published by O.U.P., is catalogued in the British Library and listed as containing "Plates". I won't assume they were all by the likely very expensive Brock, whose classic illustrations of the above-mentioned P&P proliferate to this day all over the internet, but it does imply more than simply a two-color frontispiece.

I've flipped through all of the 288 pages of this text and there's not an illustration to be found within. Does this reflect some post-WW II cost-cutting or simply a difference in children's publishing between 1933 and 1950? The former is my hunch, but the latter wouldn't surprise me given the changes the entire world had seen during those 17 often-bitter years.

Anyway, I'm simply delighted with this wonderful book that eerily smells so much like it was stored for years in a room full of freshly dried marijuana. Please take a moment to let me know if you have any insights into this edition, the illustrations [or lack thereof], the promotional book signings that must have taken place, or the climate of Great Britain in the early- to late-1950s, to provide me with some much-needed context.

Your input would, as always, be most welcome!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thinking Aloud

This morning I received an e-mail from my dear friend Jennifer in Pennsylvania:

I looked at the image of that George Mills record; it's a list of deaths registered from October-December 1972. So that narrows down his date of death. Hope you can see this screen shot.

She sent me the image you see [left] determining that George Mills passed away somewhere between 1 October and 31 December 1972. It seems so melancholy to me that the life of Mills seems to have been briefly and bureaucratically summed up the final line: 1 OC 1896 DEVON C 7A 970.

In a return e-mail, I belabored Jen with some "thinking aloud" questions that have been plaguing me as I try to answer the question: "Who is George Mills?" I thought I might air them here as well.

• Why does someone write four books in 6 years, publishing the final three within two calendar years in 1938-1939, and then never publish another word—even though he lives another 33 years?

• Why does a man who has at least some nearness to
Plantagenet bloodlines, a reverend father with an M.A. from Oxford, one grandfather who stood up in Parliament, another grandfather who we shall see was an important military figure, and an uncle who was a major in the Royal Engineers, leave prestigious Harrow School in 1912 and four years later enter the Rifle Brigade during WW I as a private in 1916?

• Why does a gentleman, in 1925, marry a woman with blood tracing back to William the Conqueror and buy a house in Portslade near his new job if he knows he's at least misled his employer into believing he'd earned a B.A. from Oxford? Especially if he was just going to turn around and get swept up in the excitement of a country-wide general strike in 1926!

• How would this fellow convince a woman with royal blood to accompany him while he bounces from Portslade to Eastbourne and then up to the northern wilds of far away Cumbria and then off to Switzerland on the Continent during the next six years so he could continue to pursue his career as a prep school teacher of boys, ages approximately 8—13? Or had he left her behind in Portslade? Or elsewhere?

• And, finally, how—and especially why—did this childless man manage to drop off the face of the Earth as he seems to have done after his wife's passing in 1942, despite a continuing fondness for his books and characters through the 1950s?

I can think of some answers that are more likely than others. I can conjure up very happy outcomes for Mills in the years after he was a published author. I can also think of some very sordid things that might have occurred. I can think of some very tragic things. And, finally, I can think some disappointing things--disappointing in the sense that Mills may have had some regrets. But who knows?

What clues might help us better understand the man behind the line: 1 OC 1896 DEVON C 7A 970?

On a more cheerful note, I just now received from Jennifer the record of the birth of George Mills. She's the best! Of interest: Stratton is listed as his birthplace, about 2 km from Bude, Cornwall.

Please let me know if you have thoughts regarding anything that happened in between Stratton 5 c. 4 and 1 OC 1896 DEVON C 7A 970!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sir Robert Hart of Lisburn

Below, I've just found an excerpt from an on-line version of a book entitled Hart of Lisburn Northern Ireland: The Story of Sir Robert Hart by Stanley Bell [1985, Lisburn Historical Press]. Hart would be Vera Mills's grandfather and "Evey" would be Evelyn Hart, Vera's mother. It's seen here exactly as it was transcribed on-line, except for my brackets and my emphasis:

Sir Robert Hart's first daughter Evelyn Amy, "Evey" married William Nelthorpe Beauclerk on the 5th September 1892. She was educated at first by mademoiselle de Mailly in Bournemouth. When that school closed she was then sent to a small school run by Miss. Reilly in Bray, near Dublin in 1880. In a letter to Campbell on the 27th October 1880, Hart [in China] records, "We have good letters from Evey: she likes her new school and is very happy there. Please send her £2 for Christmas and New.Year's pocket money." She was then looked after by her aunt, Juliet Bredon.

He did not at first approve of her marrying so old a man. She died on the 10th June 1933. She was his second wife. :ze Was the eighth Duke o f St. Albans, a descendant of Charles 11 [sic]. He was appointed the British Consul to Peru.

There were two children by this marriage. Vera Louise was born on the 21st September 1893 and Hilda De Vere on the 21st January 1895.

Vera Louise married George Ramsey Ackland Mills on the 24. 4. 1925, (son of the
Rev. Barton Reginald Mills, assistant chaplain of the Royal Chapel of the Savoy), a prep schoolmaster and writer of school stories, from Greyfriars, Budleigh Salterton, Devon. Both are now dead and had no children.

As we know, George Mills was born in Cornwall where his father was a vicar. The elder Mills later became assistant chaplain in the Savoy in 1901. The above also cites 1925 as the date of Mills's marriage, not 1926.

Most interestingly, in this excerpt, Mills is from "Greyfriars, Budleigh Salterton, Devon," and we know that "Devonshire" is cited at as the location where he passed away.

Sadly, this also confirms that the Mills were childless. However, how much stock should we put in a reference that spells not one, but BOTH of his middle names incorrectly?

As always, if you have any information about Mills, especially after his marriage to Vera Beauclerk, please don't hesitate to e-mail me or leave a comment—and thank you!

Some Verisi-MILLS-itude!

Let's leave the domain of universities, colleges, and preparatory school and return to the internet. Since I last searched for George Mills, we've come up with middle initials: R. A. We've subsequently discovered that they stand for "Ramsay Acland".

Running a search using his full name revealed far more than I expected!

From George Ramsay A. Mills died in Devonshire in 1972. He'd have been approximately 76 years old.

From George Ramsey Acland Mills was born in 1896. He is the son of Reverend Barton Reginald Vaughan Mills. He married Vera Louise Beauclerk, daughter of William Nelthorpe Beauclerk and Evelyn Amy Hart, on 28 April 1926.

So! "Miss Vera Beauclerc" is actually Vera Louise Beauclerk! This is where it really starts to get interesting! Here's the same site's information for Miss Beauclerk:

Vera Louise Beauclerk was born on 21 September 1893 at
China. She was the daughter of William Nelthorpe Beauclerk and Evelyn Amy Hart. She married George Ramsey Acland Mills, son of Reverend Barton Reginald Vaughan Mills, on 28 April 1926. She died on 5 January 1942 at age 48. Her married name became Mills.

I soon realized that the real gold mine was in searching for Vera! From and, we find that Miss Beauclerk is listed as a descendant of William the Conqueror and the Dukes of St. Albans!

Here's a bit of information about her descent from the first Duke of St. Albans from

Mr William Nelthorpe Beauclerk mar. (2) 5 Sep 1892 Evelyn Amy Hart (d. 10 Jun 1933), 1st dau. of Sir Robert Hart, 1st Bt., GCMG, Inspector-General of Customs, China, and had further issue:

4b. Vera Louise Beauclerk (b. 21 Sep 1893; dsp. 5 Jan 1942), mar. 23 Apr 1925 George Ramsay Acland Mills (b. 1 Oct 1896; d. 1972), only son of Rev Barton Reginald Vaughan Mills, Vicar of Bude Haven, co. Cornwall, 1891-1901 and Assistant Chaplain of Royal Chapel of the Savoy 1901-08 (by his second wife Elizabeth Edith Ramsay, only dau. of Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay CB), 2nd but 1st surv. son of Arthur Mills MP, of Efford Down, Bude Haven, co. Cornwall, by his wife Agnes Lucy Acland, 2nd dau. of Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 10th Bt.

5b. Hilda de Vere Beauclerk (b. 21 Jan 1895; d. 16 Sep 1964), mar. 21 Jun 1933 Miles Malcolm Acheson, Chinese Maritime Customs Service, son of guy Francis Hamilton Acheson, and had issue.

Apparently, Mills and Vera Beauclerk "had no issue" and were childless at the time of her death in 1942.

From, we find exactly where Miss Beauclerk was born:

Gender: Female Birth: 21 SEP 1892 Chefoo,British Consulate, Chefoo, Shan-Tung, China

The date here would be just 16 days after the wedding date listed for William Nelthorpe Beauclerk and Evelyn Amy Hart above. Most sites list her birth year as 1893, over a year later—far more appropriate! There is also some issue above as to when Mills married Vera, 1925 or 1926. From the information provided by Dr. Houston, I had assumed he'd meant 1925, and that they had bought a house in Portslade at the same time. I'll choose to go with Dr. Houston's time line and stick with 1925 as the wedding year.

Be it either in 1925 or 1926, however, George Mills seems to have married into a line of royal blood dating back to William I. It seems that, unfortunately, it ended there with him. No descendants for the couple, George and Vera Mills are listed.

As an American, I'm uncertain as to what advantages that might have brought to George.
I've seen BBC comedies in which, for example, a cousin of the Queen, born in Russia and 20 times removed, is delivered to a locale via limousine and provided with advance CID security. Of course, that's just television.

It's odd, but I don't envision Mills driving up to Windlesham House or Warren Hill in a Rolls Royce to teach English every morning.

In fact, I wonder how a fellow who didn't graduate Oxford, served as a private and lance corporal in the First World War, taught in a prep school as a "junior appointment", and authored slang-filled children's books ended up listed on the rolls whose intent is calculating one's nearness royalty

Finally, how would his 17 years or so as an in-law of the Duke of St. Albans have affected the unknown portion of his life, from then until his death in 1972? Excuse me for wondering, but without children to relate him to the Beauclerks, how close might he have been? And how financially sound might his marriage to a woman of royal blood have left him?

These links all tie him to Vera Beauclerk. Might he have remarried, though? Might there be descendants of Mills after all?

Again, as seen above, it's been far easier to find information about the history of George Mills and his lineage than about his life after the publications of his books from 1933 to 1939.

What Mills did in the 30 years is wife's passing in 1942 and his own demise in 1972 is the beginning of the real mystery of his life.