Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Life of B. R. V. Mills, Part 2

In 1891, recent widower Barton Reginald Vaughan Mills, father of a young son, Arthur, was appointed vicar of Bude, on the coast of Cornwall, on a stipend of £170 a year, a sum considered less than his contemporaries, but still more than he'd recently earned at Poughill. Was money an issue? Perhaps, but it would seem, more importantly, that although he may have dreamed of a more metropolitan life, this living kept him close to kith and kin, especially to the patrons of Bude parish, the family of his grandfather, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, who had helped raise Barton as a child in nearby Killerton, Devon.

We had no news for several years after Barton took up residence at the vicarage, but finally, on 10 January 1894, Barton R. V. Mills married Elizabeth Edith Ramsay, daughter of George Dalhousie Ramsay, C.B., in Kensington, London. In 1893 at the age of 64, Ramsay had just completed thirty years of service to his country as Director of Army Clothing. Various sources have Elizabeth Edith born in either 1865 or 1866, making her 28 or 29 years old at the time of the wedding. Barton himself was 36 on the day of his nuptials.

Soon after, in 1895, Barton's mother, Lady Agnes Lucy Dyke Acland, died on 23 May. But, on 11 June of that same year, Agnes Edith Mills was born in Stratton, Cornwall, to Barton and his new bride.

In 1896, the couple had their second child together and third overall, George Ramsay Acland Mills, born on 1 October 1896 in Bude. That same year, Fairbairn's Book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland‎ lists George Dalhousie Ramsay as residing at "7. Manson Place, Queen's Gate, S.W." That seemingly irrelevant fact would soon loom larger in Barton's life, just as my recent discovery of it did in this story.

In 1898, Barton's father, Arthur Mills, died on 12 October, and his estate was probated at £42 035 to Reginald Brodie Dyke Acland, barrister, Theodore Dyke Acland, M.D., the Rev. Barton Reginald Vaughan Mills, and Dudley Acland Mills, a major in the Royal Engineers and Barton's younger brother.

Barton's son, Arthur Frederick Hobart Mills, then aged 13, entered Wellington College, Berkshire, in the Hardinge House, in 1900. His father is listed as "Rev. B. R. V. Mills", at the address: "The Vicarage [right], Bude Haven, N. Cornwall".

One might assume that an inheritance could very easily change the family's prospects, and that seems to have been the case here. In the new century, things are about to change quite a bit for the family of four-year-old George Mills.

The year of 1901 marked the passing of Queen Victoria on 22 January. Barton R. V. Mills preached his first sermon at the Chapel Royal on 2 February 1901 at the Festival of the Purification, Memorial Service on the day and at the hour of the Funeral at Windsor of Queen Victoria. Records show that the preachers on that day were "T E Franklyn, Assistant Chaplain, and Barton R V Mills, Vicar of Bude Haven, Cornwall."

1901, however, is a particularly interesting because of Barton's sudden change of employment. As we see above, Mills is still Vicar of Bude Haven on 22 January. Soon, though, he resigned his position as Vicar of Bude Haven, becoming an assistant chaplain of the Chapel Royal of the Savoy in London.

In the 1901 census taken on 31 March, the Mills family is listed as living in "District 14, Brompton, Kensington, London", but I'm uncertain exactly where, or if they are living in a dwelling by themselves because I haven't seen the entire page. George's half-brother, Arthur, is not listed among the family members in London, or among any of the entire list of "Arthur Mills" within that census. Still, they've departed Bude, Cornwall, and it seems for good.

A new holy cleric preached his first sermon at the Chapel Royal of the Savoy [left] as assistant chaplain on the 25th Sunday after Trinity, 24 November 1901—the preacher of record was "Barton R. V. Mills, Assistant Chaplain."

No lay person I've asked has seemed to think the fact that Barton Mills converted to Roman Catholicism in the late 1870s would have made much of a difference in his becoming an Anglican Vicar or gaining employment at the Savoy. However, in a recent e-mail, the current Chaplain of the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy expressed doubt: "I should be surprised if Mills was appointed assistant chaplain of the Savoy (it was known as the Chapel Royal, Savoy in those days) having 'renounced the Anglican Church.'"

I've sent the surprising results of my research to the Queen's Chapel and, hopefully we'll have an answer soon regarding why a Roman Catholic had been holding positions of such influence in the Anglican Church. It's true that Mills may simply have changed his mind back about his affiliation just as suddenly as he had in changed it the first place. Still, I know that in the United States, if it became known that the clergyman of a Protestant church had ever been a convert to Roman Catholicism, and then flip-flopped back, it would likely cause somewhat of a tempest.

Also in 1901, Barton R. V. Mills published a book of sermons, Marks of the Church [Skeffington & Son: London, 1901], putting some additional funds in the family coffers. That would not have been a bad thing at all, considering the number of mouths to feed in his family was about to increase.

Violet Eleanor Mills was born on 17 November 1902, and in the following year, Arthur F. H. Mills, aged 16, left Wellington College, Berkshire, at the end of three years. It's unclear where young Arthur might have gone, but the most likely possibility would seem to be a return to the home of his father in London.

The Mills family then makes no news, as far as I can discern, until 1906 when Arthur resumes his schooling, entering the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, on September 12. He's rated "Fair" in both his first and second terms, and "Good" in his third term.

At some point during that span of time, though, George Mills was attending Parkfield Preparatory School in Haywards Heath. I'm not having much luck at all finding information on that now-defunct institution, however.

Then, in 1907, Barton R. V. Mills published Fundamental Christianity: an essay on the essentials of the Christian Faith (Reprinted from "The Churchman") [Masters & Co.: London, 1907].

A year later, Arthur F. H. Mills was "gazetted" [as he described it] into the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. Actually, Sandhurst describes him as having been "commissioned" into the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry on 19 September 1908. It's likely the notion of Arthur saying he had been "gazetted" occurred when the Territorial Force was formed on April 1, 1908, as a result of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907. Mills then likely went directly into the 5th Battalion of the 214th Infantry Brigade.

Also in 1908, Rev. Barton R. V. Mills, speaking in his capacity as assistant chaplain of the Savoy, participated in that year's Pan-Anglican Congress and, in response to a discussion called The Drink Traffic, the minutes show he "suggested that there was an alternative solution to that of the Licensing Bill. It would be for the State to buy up all of the licensed houses at market value and convert the liquor trade into a Government monopoly. The profits of the trade would easily cover the cost of the purchase."

With prohibition also being discussed, it does seem odd—at least from today's perspective—having had a clergyman speaking on behalf of turning the liquor trade into a profitable government monopoly. Where Mills was then going with that line of thinking is unclear, though.

Perhaps coincidentally, but perhaps not, Barton Mills left the Savoy in that same year, 1908. He would have been about 52 years of age. Could this separation simply have been for the purposes of retirement?

In 1910, Barton sent George Mills, aged 14, following in his footsteps own to Harrow School in London. I'm uncertain of the family's exact address at the time, but in 1911, The Plantagenet Roll of Royal Blood is published, listing "Rev. Barton R. V. Mills" as living at "12 Cranley Gardens S.W."

There was a census in 1911 that showed Barton Mills, still listing his occupation as "Clergyman, Church of England," as the head of the household there at 12 Cranley Gardens, S.W., living with his wife, two daughters, seven servants and a governess in the 20+ room home.
Mills is listed in the 1911 edition of Kelly's Directory of Dorset: "The living [at the church of All Saints] is a rectory, net income £260, including 56 acres of glebe, with residence, in the gift of the Rev Barton R V Mills, M. A., of Cranleigh Gardens, London SW, and Major D. Mills [again, Barton's brother, Dudley]." The parish is Tarrant Keynston.

In 1912, George Mills left Harrow School, presumably to return home. There's quite a gap in the family history, then, until at last George's half-brother, Arthur, was mobilised after the United Kingdom declared war on Germany on 3 August 1914 and sent to France. Arthur was wounded in both legs during or just after the fighting at La Bassée, probably very late in 1914, and soon returned to England.

George, however, had later entered the First World War as a Private in the Rifle Brigade in 1916, where he also may have seen immediate combat in France.

The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort's Own) was an infantry regiment created to provide sharpshooters, scouts, and skirmishers. They participated in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on 15 September 1916. This was during the Somme Offensive, one of the first uses of tanks by the British in a large scale battle. The tanks in the end proved largely to be a psychological asset. They emboldened attackers and intimidating defenders whenever they advanced. Tactically, however, the tanks did not provide much advantage or support for the British regiments because so many of them broke down as they advanced. Depending on the date of Mills' active assignment to the brigade, he easily could have been a part of that battle.

Mills later transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps where he reached the rank of Lance Corporal before returning to civilian life. This transfer made sense as George's namesake grandfather, Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay, had been Director of Army Clothing through 1893 and the RASC was responsible for transportation of non-ammunition stores such as food, water, fuel, and general domestic stores [such as clothing]. In addition, his uncle, Major Dudley Mills, was an officer in the Royal Engineers.

Also in 1916, perhaps still recovering from his leg wounds, Arthur married Lady Dororthy Rachel Melissa Walpole, daughter of Robert Horace Walpole, the Earl of Orford, in London. The couple apparently had had little income and publishing newspaper and magazine stories had bolstered the household income until, in 1916, they each published the first of their many novels.

During the war, the Mills family as a whole doesn't generate much news at all, save the distant death of Lady Dorothy's maternal grandfather, D.C. Corbin of Spokane, Washington, in the United States on 29 June 1918. Although they couldn't have met more than a handful of times, the multimillionaire American railroad magnate left her an iron-clad trust fund that she could not access until the death of her father, the scandalous Earl of Orford, who had just remarried in 1917.

In 1919, George Mills left the military and matriculated to Christ Church College, Oxford. Barton Reginald Vaughan Mills, "a cleric in holy orders and a scholar, of 7 Mawson Place, Queens Gate," is listed as George's father on the admissions documents at Christ Church.

It is unclear if "Mawson" was transcribed incorrectly at the time, read incorrectly recently, or simply transcribed to me incorrectly, but such a thoroughfare, if it ever had been there, certainly does not now exist in Queen's Gate.

However, as I just discovered yesterday, The County Families of the United Kingdom; or, Royal Manual of the Titled and Untitled Aristocracy of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland [Ballantyne & Co., London: 1919] lists Rev. Barton Reginald Vaughan Mills among its entrants, and cites as his address "7. Manson Place, S.W."

What a difference a single letter makes!

That's particularly interesting because "7. Manson Place, S.W." is, at the time, also the exact address of Barton's father-in-law, Sir George Dalhouisie Ramsay. It appears the family had at some point moved from Cranley Gardens into the home of Sir George, then some 91 years of age.

In that same 1919 text, Barton's occupation is listed as "Acting Chaplain to the Forces and is Joint-Patron of 1 living." Presumably, that living is Tarrant Keynston.

"Acting Chaplain to the Forces" is a title that I'll need to investigate more. Wikipedia states: "The current form of military chaplain dates from the era of the First World War. A chaplain provides spiritual and pastoral support for service personnel, including the conduct of religious services at sea or in the field."

In 1919, Barton Mills would have been some 62 years old. While I'm certain that he was neither "at sea," nor "in the field," his interest in war was quite evident—even if somewhat academic.

Not many months after the Armistice had been signed on 11 November 1918, Mills had a letter published in the journal History: The Quarterly Journal of the Historical Association, vol. IV, April, 1919, reading:


The Athenæum,
Pall Mall, S.W.1.

May I, as a new member of the Historical Association, suggest the consideration in an early number of HISTORY, of the following question?
What is the historical evidence of, or against, the theory of the "nation in arms," of which so much has been heard during the war? My own impression is that it is a retrograde movement, and that the tendency of modern civilisation has been to restrict warfare to professional armies instead of arming "the manhood of the nation."
The discussion of this question by an expert ought to be most interesting.


It's not the most passionate response to a horrific war ever, but in that brief missive, we do discover that Barton Mills, having recently become a member of the Historical Association, had also become a member of the prestigious Athenæum Club. Members of the Athenæum at the time included Rudyard Kipling, sculptors Gilbert Bayes, Sir Thomas Brock, and Sir George Frampton, and painters John Collier and Sir Luke Fildes. It seems Mills has truly established himself in London.

Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay then passed away on 16 January 1920. Can we assume that the Mills family stayed in his home at 7 Manson Place, S.W.? Is it also reasonable to consider that there may also have been something of an inheritance received by the Mills family? In 1889, Ramsay himself had come into a sizable inheritance, and in 1909, Ramsay and Mills both had been named trustees in the will of one John Crawfurd, who had died in 1868. There had apparently been quite a bit of "capital accumulation" of properties in the will by 1910. It's unknown at this point if this had had any effect on their relationship, business or otherwise.

Also in the year of 1920, Lady Dorothy Mills, Barton's daughter-in-law, received a very favorable review of her latest novel The Laughter of Fools [Duckworth & Co.: London, 1920] in Punch. The novel had been first published in the month of April and had to be reprinted just one month later.

In 1921, George Mills [or perhaps Barton] paid for his admissions examinations on 21 May and entered the University of Oxford. As an Army veteran, he "was exempted from taking Responsions (preliminary examinations for entry) and the examinations of the First Public Examination, under a decree of 9 March 1920… on condition that he had obtained permission from the Vice Chancellor and the proctors; and that he had paid the fee for admission to the examinations the decree excused him from." It's unknown at this point what George then may have studied after his admission or even how long he remained there.

So, Barton and family had likely settled into 7 Manson Place after the passing of Sir George; young George began following in his father Barton's footsteps at Oxford; Arthur—a war hero—was busily writing popular novels; and Arthur's wife, Lady Dorothy, had been finding some success with the pen as well. Everyone had survived the Great War, and Barton Mills—now some 63 years of age—must have felt some contentment.

Still, he had yet to accomplish his own most memorable achievement. And, just as he had experienced in his own life, he would see many unexpected changes visit the lives of those he loved.

But more on those changes, and the remainder of the life of the Revd Barton R. V. Mills, M.A., next time in Part 3!

[Read Part 3, or go back to Part 1.]

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