Friday, June 24, 2011

Capt. & Mrs. H. F. Chittenden of Newlands School, Seaford

We're staying yet another day in Seaford, East Sussex—just as I'm certain that George Mills would have wanted to do himself during summer—to take a look at another Sussex-based connection to Mills.

A connection with Sussex, especially Seaford, is by no means specific to George Mills in and of itself. But stir in a preparatory school and croquet, and the coincidences we always seem to find revolving around Mills start adding up! Let's start our examination at Newlands School in Seaford [pictured above, left, the entrance to the old school building, presumably a gate-keepers or caretakers lodge] and its proprietors, Mr. & Mrs. H. F. Chittenden.

From the Newlands website, here's a brief history of the institution:

The school first started as a tutorial in 1814 at Hatfield House, home of The Marquis of Salisbury.

The Marquis' chaplain was a man called The Reverend Faithful [sic]. He taught the local children... He retired in 1854 and handed the pupils over to Mr. Chittenden, who started it as a school in Hoddeston [sic] in Hertfordshire.

He called this school The Grange, hence the 'Grange' dormitory at Newlands today. He had strong views about education and felt that no lesson should be longer than 20 minutes, as no child could concentrate one hundred per cent for longer - and he demanded one hundred per cent!

The Reverend Faithful was Head until 1893 and was then joined by his nephew, Mr. Wheeler, who eventually brought the school to Seaford in 1903.

At first he rented two houses in Seaford and hired the back playing field from a local farmer. Then he built the school and later bought the front field. His foresight in purchasing land gave the school the opportunity to expand later on when it was needed.

So, we find the roots of the school extending back as far as 1814, but its history in Seaford dates to 1903.

Where exactly the transition in ownership occurs, moving from the tenure of Reverend Faithfull and Mr. Wheeler to someone actually named Chittenden, is difficult to determine, but in the 1930 Sussex Post Office Directory of private residents, the following entry is found: "Chittenden, Capt. Hugh Faithfull, The Mill dene, Sutton Road, Seaford."

Then, in the 1931 telephone directory for Seaford, the following listing for the same Chittenden is included:

Chittenden, H. F. & Cooper, E. A, Newlands . . Seaford 34

Does this entry imply that the school is under the co-ownership of partners, one of which is H. F. Chittenden? Or is this a principal and a Head Master? That 1930 directory mentioned above lists an "Cooper E." living in Eastbourne, but no "E. A."

What we do know is a bit about Hugh Faithfull Chittenden.

He was born on 9 November 1892 in Epsom, Surrey, to Charles Grant Thomas Faithfull Chittenden (1860 – 1905) and Eliza Cummins Wheeler (1859 – 1952). Their son, Hugh, does not appear in the UK census in either the 1901 or 1911.

The year of the senior Chittenden's death—1905—drew my notice. Having married a Wheeler, presumably the daughter of Reverend Faithful's partner, Mr. Wheeler, and with Hugh and his father having been named after the Reverend, these families seem to be inextricably tied to the school and each other.

That seems to have been made more apparent when one reads the probate of Charles Chittenden:

CHITTENDEN Charles Thomas Grant Faithfull of 33 Hatfield-road St. Albans Hertfordshire died 17 May 1905 at Little Grange Broxbourne Hertfordshire Probate London 18 July to William Albert Wheeler, school-proprietor Effects £5226 3s. 6d. Resworn £5526 3s. 6d.

Having left behind at the very least a 44-year-old widow and a 12-year-old son, Hugh, Charles Chittenden opted to bequeath his legacy to the proprietor of the school!

Charles died at the location of the original school, Little Grange in Boxbourne, Herts, where two of his sisters still lived, although the school itself had gone by 1905. (By the way, earlier census records show that this 'Little Grange' was, indeed, the location of the Grange Preparatory School.)

It's strange, though, that during the 1901 UK census, the Chittendens—Charles and Eliza—lived in a boarding house owned by Sarah and Susie Searle in Sidmouth, Devon, along with Arthur G. F. Chittenden, 38 and "living on means," and Evelyn R. Wheeler, 35, with no occupation listed, presumably a relative.

The occupation of Charles on that 1901 census form is recorded as "banker's clerk," not schoolmaster, not even remotely related to the field of education, and they are clearly not living near Herts or Seaford. So much for the notion that this family was very close, and that their lives revolved entirely around the school, making the peculiar probate above far more difficult to understand than it started out! The fact that H. F. Chittenden would become Head of Newlands was apparently not always carved in stone.

None of the couple's children is listed as boarding there with them in 1901, and by 1911, Eliza is living in the Greenwich district of London, according to the census from that year.

In fact, the first record we find of their son, H. F. Chittenden, is in an issue of the London Gazette dated 19 November 1915, in which "Hugh F. Chittenden" is listed as an entry in a section headed by the term "The Royal Sussex Regiment." It reads: "The undermentioned Second Lieutenants to be temporary Lieutenants. Dated 27th September, 1915."

We can see from his WWI medal index card [pictured, left, front and back] that he transferred to the Royal Engineers, and that his service under the Colours was meritorious. Still, it is difficult to find much mention at all of our H. F. Chittenden, let alone information about his boyhood or education.

And here's a mention in the text Fifty-five years at Oxford: An Unconventional Autobiography (Methuen, 1946) written by George Beardoe Grundy, Hugh's father-in-law:

"Of my two children my son Major Grundy, East African Engineers, has lived in Africa since the close of the last war, and my daughter Barbara married Hugh Chittenden of Seaford, Sussex. In the case of both of them a light-hearted youth has been succeeded by a middle age of hard and successful work. ——G. B. Grundy"

Hugh F. Chittenden's hardworking wife, Barbara May Grundy, was born 2 April 1896 in Epsom, Surrey. They were married in Oxford in the spring of 1917, and the success to which Grundy refers must involve Newlands.

They had a son, Sgt. H. J. R. Chittenden, who was born in Oxfordshire in the summer of 1918, and died on active service with the Military Police of the East Africa Corps in October, 1942.

Their son's 1943 probate reads: "Hugh John Robert Chittenden, of Newlands School, Seaford, Sussex, died 30th October 1942, on War Service. Administration Lewes, 25th October, to Hugh Faithful Chittenden, School Proprietor. Effects Five Hundred and Sixty Four Pounds, Eighteen Shillings and Eightpence."

In early 1932, the couple may have had a daughter, Anne Chittenden, in Marylebone, London.

At first I found no indication that they may have had a child bearing the Christian first name of David, except that in the Newlands website's "History of the School" we find:

Many years ago an exclusive interview was conducted with the late Mr David Chittenden, ex headmaster and direct descendant of the man who started Newlands, some insight was gained into what life was like at Newlands before and after the war:

'Things were very strict then. The swing door by Matron's surgery led into my Parents' private area where no one was allowed, not even me during term time! I had to call my Father, "Sir", and my Mother, "Mrs. Chittenden." However, I liked the life. It was different and a lot tougher than today. Every morning we had cold showers, Winter and Summer and until 1950 boxing was compulsory for all pupils whether they liked it or not!'

Checking the 1946 phone records, the following record appears:

Chittenden, H. F, Newlands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Seaford 2334

Despite the lack of a record of a David Chittenden having been born to a mother with a surname of Grundy, the above anecdote indicates that H. F. and Barbara Chittenden were, indeed, David's parents.

H. F. Chittenden is listed at the Newlands phone until well into the 1960s, after which the listing becomes:

Chittenden, H. F, Rostrevor, Claremont Rd . . . . . . . . . Seaford 4130

Just above that 1969 listing, however, is this one:

Chittenden G. W. D, Newlands School . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Seaford 2334

Assuming the "D" stands for David, we've found our man: George W. D. Chittenden, born in Eastbourne in March of 1926!

And, unfortunately, we learn even more about David Chittenden [left] in this obituary from the Eastbourne Herald of Friday, 25 May 2001:

Newlands mourns death of Founder

It was with profound sadness and loss staff and pupils heard of the untimely death of David Chittenden on Easter Saturday. There was nobody who cared more passionately about Newlands - past, present and future, than David and his life was intrinsically interwoven with the school. Five generations of the Chittenden family were proprietary headmasters of what was then Newlands Preparatory School, for boys only. David attended the school as a pupil when his beloved father was headmaster. With no secondary schooling available at Newlands then, David went to Eastbourne College before returning to Newlands as a teacher and then as headmaster in succession to his father. This role he carried out in his own inimitable manner... A tribute to David Chittenden from headmaster Oliver Price appears in tomorrow’s Seaford
Gazette. A memorial service will be held in St Leonard’s Church on June 25 at 11.30 am.

Education was the career of, as it says, five generations of Chittendens, and that be true (although I can't entirely discern its veracity). However, a hobby comprises this last bit of Chittenden-related trivia: It appears that H. F., an inveterate bird watcher, was ornithologically notable for having made and documented a certain discovery in his garden.

In the 1929 journal British Birds, Volume 22, we find the following: "Mr. HF Chittenden informs us that at Seaford, Sussex, on December 18th, 1927, Lapwings in large flocks were observed heading straight out to sea southwards. The weather was very cold with a strong east wind."

In the 1931's Proceedings of the International Ornithological Congress (Vol. 8), there is an article on page 85 by E. B. Poulton and H. F. Chittenden dated Oct. 15, 1930 entitled, 'The Hedge-sparrow feeding a young Cuckoo on Pieris rapae, L.'

Chittenden's contribution to the above article is described in the Journal of entomology: General entomology, Volumes 5-6, published by the Royal Entomological Society of London, 1930. It reads:

"Poulton exhibited two photographs kindly sent to him by Mr. HF Chittenden, who had taken them, on 29 June, 1930, in his garden at Newlands, Seaford, Sussex. The first showed the fosterer approaching with the white butterfly very clearly seen in its beak, while in the second the food was being transferred. Both photographs showed the Cuckoo sitting on the flat top of a tree-stump. that the Pierine was undoubtedly P. rapae and not brassicae. He did not see the insect caught, but observed that the whole butterfly, wings and all, was swallowed by the young Cuckoo. In answer to the objection that the Hedge-sparrow might be offering to the Cuckoo food which it would have itself rejected, he referred to the known examples of maternal instinct in which the parent bird devoured the faeces of its young."

His observations would soon be sought and held in high regard. In A History of Sussex Birds: American Blue-winged Teal to Red-legged Partridge (H. F. & G. Witherby Ltd., 1938) by John Walpole-Bond and Philip Rickman, for example, the authors note:

"Haematopus has been found more than a few hundred yards from the Channel, and all such relate to single specimens frequenting the banks of estuary and inlet — with one exception, which bears on two birds seen by Major HV Christie in a field adjoining the western Rother at Stopham, quite eleven miles from the coast, on May 5th 1936, though during mid-August, 1937, Captain H. F. Chittenden met with a couple at Littlington about a league from the coast in the vale of Cuckmere. In other words, with us the "Olive " is practically a confirmed shore-lover, where it affects not only the mud-flats and shingle, but also the rocks beneath the cliffs at low tides; and the western half of the coast (especially the southwest corner) is vastly preferred to the eastern. It seldom fraternizes with other species, though on several occasions I have seen it with common curlews."

So, why is an amateur ornithologist, one-time captain in the Royal Engineers, and headmaster of a preparatory school in Seaford, Sussex germane to our ongoing discussion of George Mills?

Besides the usual, multiple, very coincidental relationships—lived in Sussex (Seaford), ran a preparatory school, was an officer in the Royal Engineers (the corps in which George's Uncle Dudley A. Mills was a well-known officer)—it's H. F.'s wife, Barbara, providing the best link!

Barbara Chittenden was a croquet partner and rival of George and his sisters, Agnes and Violet Mills, during the post-War era. Barbara played from 1952 through 1978. She went 10-10 against Agnes Mills in 20 head-to-head matches over the years according to the database at the Croquet Association, and they played both with and against each other countless times in doubles.

Strangely, Chittenden only played Violet Mills once, on 20 June 1962 at Eastbourne, in the first round of the Open Singles (Draw). She also played with and against George, but the database has no records of those matches.

Barbara Chittenden's career croquet record and other sortable data can be perused by clicking HERE.

Incidentally, croquet also leads us to the discovery of another child of the Chittendens, based on this excerpt from a 2008 story, "From the bibliographer's casebook: A ripping yarn with a happy ending " by David Drazin, found at Croquet World Online. Regarding books of rare croquet drawings done by artist Horace Francis Crowther-Smith [one of which is seen, right, a 1912 image of famous former champion Lily Gower], the author writes [my emphasis]:

These were the books of 1911 and 1912 that were donated to the Association by Margaret Payton on behalf of Barbara and Joan Chittenden, mother and daughter, past members of Compton Croquet Club, Eastbourne.

The article continues:

Roger Wood of Compton told me the circumstances in which Margaret Payton first brought the Chittenden gift to the notice of the club. In the early years of the last century Barbara Chittenden was very close to Nora, widow of the Rev George Frederick Handel Elvey, a past Croquet Association chairman. She may well have received Crowther's work from the Elveys. But how they got into the Rev Elvey's hands in the first place remains a mystery.

Of Chittenden's relationship with other players, the 1957 Devonshire Park photograph with which we've been so obsessed here tells the tale.

In the center of the front row, her face raised to the camera, we see Barbara in a white dress. Seated to her left is her dear friend Nora Elvey, mentioned above. To her right, wearing a dark suit, we see Agnes Mills, sister of George.

And for those of you who've been following the last few entries here, next to Mrs. Elvey, to her left, we see Aimee Reckitt, wife of Maurice. And to Agnes's right (our left), we see Lily Gower from above, or Mrs. R. C. J. Beaton as she was known in 1957!

Am I wrong in assuming these smiling women were all, as it seems, very close? Or is the fact that these nodding acquaintances all just by chance happened to end up next to each other in the front row of a group photograph simply another in a string of astonishing coincidences that revolve around the Mills family?

Anyway, we can chalk up yet another possible coincidence to the list above: Croquet.

We don't find H. F. Chittenden himself among the players populating the lawns from Budleigh to Compton. While Barbara played, he presumably was out birding, at least until he passed away in the spring of 1975.

It would not surprise me in the least to find that George Mills at some point had been employed by Hugh as a schoolmaster at Newlands School. But we cannot know for sure, even though Newlands [below, right] is still operating today.

From Lisa Sewell of Newlands, I received this message regarding the possibility of George's past employment:

Unfortunately Newlands went briefly in to administration in 2006, [and] at this time all records were lost or destroyed so I have very little information on anything prior to this date.

Barbara May Chittenden left us on 11 December 1987 in Lewes, Sussex, at the age of 91, many years after the passing of the Mills siblings.

Did George Mills teach at Newlands? We may never know...


  1. thanks for writing this blog post.... I went to Newlands for 11 years from 1989 until 2000 and it was quite interesting reading.

  2. Apart from Derrick Breen’s assessment of TDM as a ‘goon’ and bumbling martinet during the Second World War submarine training in Scotland, we can catch an earlier glimpse of Captain Tommy Dayvis Manning in Esmond Romilly’s book “Out Of
    Bounds”. Romilly was a nephew of Winston Churchill who fought against the Fascists with the International Brigades in Spain. Newlands is called “Seacliffe” in his book, and TDM is “Mr Browne”. Romilly went to Newlands in 1927. TDM didn’t have much to say about him except that he always “had a bee in his bonnet” about something. What is interesting is that TDM made extensive notes about the pupils and took many photographs, none of which seem to have survived. I remember TDM being involved in making a film of us, in which we were encouraged to move through undergrowth half-naked, under the pretext of playing roles from William Golding’s “The Lord Of The Flies.” I wonder what became of that. Perhaps it circulated in discrete networks among teachers and clergymen in the Sussex of that era.

  3. (TDM was Hugh Faithful Chittenden’s “Right Hand Man” for decades at Newlands)