Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"The telephone book is full of facts, but it doesn't contain a single idea" -- Mortimer Adler

It's Father's Day, Sunday morning, 20 June, and as I write this my girls are still in bed. Last night we went out for dinner at my favorite restaurant and I had a wonderful meal: Fried calamari and bell peppers, crab and corn chowder, mussels in a light garlic wine sauce with tomatoes and basil [left], and crème brû·lée. What happy and satisfied guy I was!

This morning I find myself thinking as much about telephones, though, as anything else. They've caused me to readjust my thinking on several issues related to George Mills and his family, and have also left me with as many unanswered questions as the London telephone records have been able to answer.

George's grandfather, Arthur Mills, died on 12 October 1898. His will was probated in 1899. In 1900, George's father, the Rev. Barton R. V. Mills, lists his address as "The Vicarage, Bude Haven, N. Cornwall." Father's Day seems as food a time as any to delve more deeply into the world of Reverend Mills, George's dad!

By the 31 March 1901 census, however, the Mills family—then Barton, his wife Edith Mills, and young children Agnes, 5, and George, 4, were living at 13 Brechin Place [right] in London. In February, he had already preached sermons at the Chapel Royal at the Savoy as Vicar of Bude Haven, Cornwall, but by 24 November, Barton is listed among the Royal Chapel's assistant chaplains.

Then, by 25 April 1902, the family was found living at 16 Cranley Gardens [left, spelled "Cranley-gardens" in the London Gazette], and on 12 November George's younger sister, Violet, was born.

Later, the year of 1907 brought something else: The family's first telephone! The July 1907 listing read: "Western…. 3184 [MILLS] Rev Barton R. V… .. .. 16 Cranley Gdns." I don't know if it was a party or a private line, but it did cost £5 a year, plus long distance and trunk charges.

The next year, 1908, at the age of 51, Reverend Mills and the Savoy part ways around November for reasons that are not clear. The address of the family's listing in that year's January telephone directory changes their address to 12 Cranley Gardens [right]. The move would have been made sometime in late 1907, before Mills left the Savoy.

The telephone records remain the same until August 1915. The family listing then has a new number and a new address: "Kensington 2397 Mills Barton R. V., Rev. .. .. .. 38 Onslow Gdns SW."

The 1920 book adds a listing for "Victoria .. 2285 Mills Arthur .. .. .. .. .. 91a Ebury st S.W.1 [left]." That listing would be for George's older half-brother, Arthur F. H. Mills, and his wife, Lady Dorothy Mills.

Something else in the on-line copy of that April 1920 book is interesting. A handwritten note at the top of page 713 [MIL] reads "K 3545 Mills Barton R. V. Rev. *e/* R 4/6" [* = illegible character].

On 16 January of that year, Edith Mills's father, Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay, passed away. His home was at 7 Manson Place, S.W.7 [right].

Sir George's listing in that 1920 directory stays the same; presumably the note above simply had been switched the billing of that telephone number to the responsibility of Rev. Mills.

1921 found a big change, however: Two listings, this time in the name of "Mrs. Barton Mills," one for 38 Onslow Gardens, S.W. [Kensington 2397], and one for 7 Manson Place, S.W. [Kensington 3545]. Not only has the extra number been added to this single listing, but it has been taken out of Barton's name.

[Note: It's now three days later, Wednesday morning, and I'm finally getting around to finishing this post!]

Now, it's debatable how many siblings Edith Mills—Mrs. Barton Mills—had. Her brother, Alexander Panmure Oswald Ramsay had passed away in 1897 at the age of 30. Ramsay family genealogists today often show a third sibling, Edith Judith Ramsay, in their family trees, but I can find nothing about her except information that clearly belongs to the life of Elizabeth Edith Ramsay [Edith Mills], like a marriage to Rev. Barton R. V. Mills.

It's likely, then, that Sir George's daughter, Edith Mills, was his only surviving heir—his wife, Eleanor Ramsay, had passed away in 1918 at the age of 90. Barton Mills had been using Ramsay's '7 Manson Place' address as his own since 1919, and after Sir George's passing in 1920, that address is firmly associated with the Mills family by telephone records as well. It seems likely that, any Edith Judith Ramsay notwithstanding, Rev. Mills's wife, Edith, had inherited that Manson Place home.

In 1922, the telephone listing for Kensington 2397 returns to the name of "Mills Rev. Barton R. V." and the old Ramsay number, Kensington 3545, is no longer associated with the Mills household. Perhaps they had either sold the property at Manson Place or were renting it.

1923 brought an interesting addition to that April's London telephone directory: "Kensington 4353 Beauclerk, Mrs. Nelthorpe .. .. .. 4 Hans mans S.W.3." After arriving from America in 1919, this is the first telephone listing for the mother of Vera Louise Beauclerk, the future wife of George Mills. Therefore, by April of 1923, Vera had entered Kensington [coat of arms pictured, right], where George had likely returned after his educational stint at Oxford. Target 1923 as the year during which George meets and begins to court and woo Vera.

The last entry we'll consider here will be the 1925 listings for Rev. Barton Mills. In the archival copy of the April edition of the directory, the address of Rev. Barton R. V. Mills has bee crossed out and a note added. In the October edition, the address of the Mills family is listed as residing at "24 Hans rd S.W.3 [pictured below, left]," an address with which I was completely unfamiliar!

As you'll recall, the wedding of George and Vera Mills occurred in April of 1925. It's hard to say this event occasioned this move of the entire Mills family, but we know George and Vera bought a house in Portslade in 1925 as well. With the Mills family dwindled in size to four members: Barton, Edith, Agnes, and Violet, perhaps it was to a location that was more fitting for a family of four adults.

So, we find ourselves approaching the holidays in late 1925. The Mills are settling in at 24 Hans Road, Mrs. Beauclerk and Hilda live at 4 Hans Mansions, Arthur F. H. Mills and his wife, Lady Dorothy, are ensconced at nearby 91a Ebury Street, and George and Vera Mills are off to the southern coast near Brighton for George's junior appointment as a schoolmaster at Windlesham House.

The phone records will begin to take some interesting twists and turns as we enter the records for 1926. They'll verify some speculation, add detail to some things we already knew, and open up some new questions as they reveal some very unexpected information.

But we'll look at all that next time…

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