Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fr. John Basil Lee Jellicoe, Part 2

When I was a boy, my parents used to drag my brother and me on family holidays to camp in a caravan at various scenic locales in the eastern portion of the United States. Almost invariably, my father would strike up a conversation with some fellow around a campfire and inform him we were from Pennsylvania.

That chap, no matter where he himself was from, would typically say something to my father along the lines of, "Oh! Pennsylvania! Do you know our friends, the Smiths?"

After politely assuring him that the Smiths (or whomever) that we knew were very unlikely the same Smiths that he knew, Dad would still grumble later about the fact that a couple of million people lived in The Keystone State, and about people's stupidity in general.

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Sometimes I wonder if my father wouldn't have a good long rant about me and what I'm doing here, in essence asking the entire U.K., "Say, do you happen to know a bloke named Mills?"

I mean, sure, George Mills was an officer's reserve military paymaster (in WWII) and went to Oxford (Christ Church) and was concerned about the Anglican Church and Roman Catholicism. And Father J. B. L. Jelliocoe was an officer's reserve paymaster in the military (in WWI; perhaps this is where Mills got the "reserve officer" idea) and went to Oxford (Magdalen College) and was concerned about the church as well. And A. B. H. Bishop went to Oxford (Jesus College) at the same time as those two, and was Head of Magdalen College School at Brackley during the same period Jellicoe was head of the Magdalen College Mission in Camden. Oh, and Bishop was raised in Cornwall, where George Mills was born, but raised quite near George's Acland family ancestral home at Killerton in Devon.

And it likely is just a coincidence that Mills and Bishop left Oxford and each became involved in independent preparatory schools. And that Mills was writing books about those preparatory schools at the same time that Bishop was advancing his career in the schools. And it's likely just a coincidence that George's father was a social reformer in London, based in Kensington, during the 1920s and early 1930s, while Jellicoe was a London social reformer in nearby St Pancras during that same era.

Small world, isn't it?

So it's probably just a colossal coincidence that, when the young but worn-out Jellicoe passed away in 1935, his memorial service was attended by a gentleman named "Mr. H. E. Howell," a chap bearing the same moniker as a gentleman who, as an old friend of the author, had helped George Mills by reading the manuscript for his first novel, Meredith and Co.: The Story of a Modern Preparatory School, in 1933.

This Howell attended the service as the representative of All Saints Margaret Street, a Victorian Anglo-Catholic High Church that rests almost midway between the Kensington address of the Mills and the St. Pancras parish to the northeast, where Jellicoe had worked so diligently on behalf of the poor.

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So much of what we've discussed above may all simply be coincidental. Let's look at some hard-copy evidence.

Here's is how the London Times documented Jellicoe's death on 26 August 1935:



The Rev. John Basil Lee Jellicoe died on Saturday in a nursing home of pneumonia in his thirty-seventh year. He will be remembered for his remarkable work as the chairman and organizer of the St. Pancras House Improvement Society, Limited, which has demonstrated that the improvement of slum areas by private enterprise is a sound financial proposition. The elder son of the Rev. T. H. L. Jellicoe, of Sullington Warren, Pulborough, Jellicoe took his degree from Magdalen College, Oxford, and after preparation at St. Stephen's House was appointed in 1922 head of the Magdalen College Mission and curate of St. Mary's, Somers Town. He resolved that he would not rest till his people had homes fit to live in, and the rehousing schemes started by his society have already provided many excellent flats with gardens, trees, ponds, swings for the children, and other amenities. Although the rents charged are not more than what the tenants paid for the old slums, the loan stock receives 2 per cent. and the ordinary shares 3 per cent. In 1929 Messrs. Whitbread entrusted the control of the rebuilt public house in Stibbington Street to Father Jellicoe. It was licensed to sell beer but not spirits, and was provided with a roof garden, a restaurant, and various games. When it was proposed to form a college for publicans, to be conducted by Church of England clergymen, Father Jellicoe said it was hoped "to attract young men of the best type who would regard the office of publican as a great and honourable profession. They should regard it also as a magnificent opportunity of social service by providing decent and happy recreation for their fellow-men." The progress of the society was steady, with the support of the Prince of Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the late Minister of Health (Sir Hilton Young, now Lord Kennet), and others, and more blocks of flats were opened. But, as a letter in The Times last June showed, the society still needs at least £150,000 in loan stock and Ordinary shares to rebuild three verminous and overcrowded sites in Somers Town already in its possession. Last year Father Jellicoe moved to St. Martin-in-the-Fields as curate.

In that obituary we find that by 1935 Jellicoe had moved his career locale even closer to Kensington (and George Mills, who was probably teaching at Eaton Gate in Belgravia), taking over as the incumbent at St. Martin-in-the-Fields at Trafalgar Square. By the way, 1922 was the year that Mills ended his pursuit of an Oxon degree.

Details of Jellicoe's funeral were published in the Times on 29th August 1935 [my emphases]:


The funeral of the Rev. Basil Jellicoe took place at Chailey Parish Church {right]yesterday. The service was conducted by the Bishop of Dover, assisted by the Rev. H. J. Boyd and the Rev. H. H. Matravers. The choir boys of St. Mary's of the Angels Song School, under the Rev. Desmond Morse-Boycott, took part in the service. The principal mourners included:–
Mrs. Jellicoe (mother), Lieutenant-Commander C. J. L. Jellicoe (brother), Mrs. I. L. Murray (aunt), the Rev. John and Mrs. Murray, Mr. Felix St. H. Jellicoe, Mr. St. Alban Jellicoe, Miss Jellicoe, Mrs. Jellicoe and the Rev. Arthur H. Boyd and the Rev. Halbert J. Boyd (uncles).

Among others present were:-
Mrs. Madge Waller (representing the Under 40 Club), Mr. Eric Beetham and Mr. R. D. Just (representing the Fellowship of St. Christopher). the Rev. N. Scott, Miss E. Terry, Mr. R. L. Atkinson, Mr. L. Day and Mr. Ian B. Hamilton (representing St. Pancras House Improvement Society), the Rev. J. C. Nankivell (representing the Isle of Dogs Housing Society), the Rev. N. G. Powell (representing Canon Carr, St. Michael's Housing Society, Penzance), Mr. Donald G. Pelly (Strichard Housing Society).

The Rev. C. P. Shaw (representing the Church Union Housing Association), the Rev. Percy Maryon-Wilson and the Rev. Lorimer Reece (representing the Magdalene College Mission), the Rev. H. W. Grepe, the Rev. W. T. Norburn, the Rev. Hampden Thompson, Canon H. L. Pass (representing the Dean and Chapter of Chichester Cathedral), the Rev. C. W. Handford, the Rev. A. R. H. Faithfull, the Rev. C. E. B. Neate, the Rev. F. G. Fincham, the Rev. Montague Cox, the Rev. Donald V. Beckingham, the Rev. W. A. C. Ullathorne, the Rev. B. Thackeray, the Rev. E. I. Frost, the Rev. C. P. Orr, the Rev. C. G. Earmaker, Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Blencowe, Mr. and Mrs. I. Blencowe, Miss Blencowe, Mrs. Morse-Boycott.

Mrs. Maryon-Wilson, Miss Bartlett Blake, Elsie Lady Shiffner, Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Boyd, Lieutenant-Commander and Mrs. E. B. Martino, Mr. Alan L. Todd, M.P., Miss Margerson, Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Maryan-Wilson, Mrs. Hampden Thompson, Mr. and Mrs. Basil Henriques, Lady Kenderdine, and Mrs. Reginald M. Mason.

A memorial service was held at St. Mary the Virgin, Somers Town [left], yesterday for the Rev. John Basil Lee Jellicoe. The Rev. Percy Maryon-Wilson officiated, assisted by the Rev. H. L. O. Rees and the Rev. T. M. Parker.

Among those present were:-
Mrs. D. G. Morris, Mr. Halliday McCartney, Miss Critchley, Mr. S. Rundle, Mr. and Mrs. John Gillard, Mr. W. H. Sheppard, the Rev. Langtry Williams (New York). the Rev. Eric Bailey (All Saints', Margaret Street). The Rev. T. A. S. Marsden, Mr. P. Henniker Heaton, Mr. A. J. Stewart, Miss Hunt, Mrs. Kightley, Mrs. M. White, Mr. John F. Dell, Mr. L. Myers, Mr. and Mrs. Toop, Miss E. Miller, Miss S. G. Saunders, Mr. Charles Low, Miss E. M. Evans, Miss Oaker.

Miss F. A. Day, Mrs. M. P. Leonard, Mr. W. L. Cooke, Miss Packer, the Rev. L. Jones, the Rev. J. W. E. Hooton, Mrs. A. Clark (St. Mary's Schools). Mrs. Ayrton, Mrs. Davidge, the Rev. Adam Fox (representing Magdalen College).

Miss Collet, Sister E. Armstrong, Miss De Rougemont, the Rev. Nigel Scott (representing St. Pancras House Improvement Society), Councillor F. Howson (former Mayor of St. Pancras), Mr. E. Ormnan, Mrs. Hunt, Mr. W, Bell, Miss Crowe, Miss Gedge, Miss E. Ayr, Miss E. Perry, the Rev. Norman Haigh, Mrs Henley Chater.
The Rev. J. A. Gorton, Brother Kenneth (B.S.F.A.), Mr. H. E. Howell (All Saints', Margaret Street), Sister Gent, the Rev. M. Le Marrino, Father Biggart (representing the Community of the Resurrection), Mrs. W. Sharp, Father Ferguson, the Rev. C. D. Horsley, the Rev. A. Swift, Mrs. E. A. Taylor, Miss Horsley.

Miss Edith Neville (chairman of the St. Pancras House Improvement Society) was unable to be present owing to absence abroad, and Lady Warren was unable to be present owing to serious illness.

I did not transcribe the above myself (my thanks to Chailey 1914-1918), so I do not know how accurate any of it is. For example, there's a fair chance that "Miss Margerson" may be "Miss Margesson," daughter of Mr. M. and Lady Isabel Margesson, a couple that attended the wedding of George Mills and Vera Louise Beauclerk in 1925. In addition, not only did they attend the wedding of George's brother, Captain Arthur F. H. Mills, to Lady Dorothy Walpole, but Mr. Margerson gave the bride away (as she was not on speaking terms with her family because of the couple's union that day).

As a frequent transcriber of the predominant font of that era's London Times (and with the crow's-footed bifocal squint to prove it), an "ss" as in Margesson can appear to resemble a "rs" as you can see in the name "margesson" in the fine print of this item [right] from the Times regarding the Mills-Walpole nuptials.

Nonetheless, there's no reason to think that the Mr. H. E. Howell mentioned there is part of any transcription error.

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Anyway, again dispensing with what may be simple coincidence and looking more at facts, the contemporary "Jellicoe Community" of today still allows students from Oxford to volunteer and work in the community to meet the needs of the local people, just as it did back in the days of Camden's Magdalen College Mission.

Even before the days of Jellicoe's stewardship, students volunteered. From the 1916 text In Slums and Society: Reminiscences of Old Friends by James Granville Adderley, we read an instructive description of the Magdalen College Mission: "I shall never forget my initiation to that 'open house,' where burglars and undergraduates fed and played and slept under one roof."

That was written during a time just before Jellicoe, Bishop, and Mills all attended various constituent colleges at the University of Oxford, from which the mission drew those compassionate undergraduates.

Moving forward in time, into the 1920s and 1930s when Fr. Jellicoe became established at the Mission, we read this from a website entitled The Jellicoe Blog describing the sometimes theatrical nature of the legendary reformer: "Jellicoe had been born into privilege and used his many connections to assemble a powerful alliance for change - enlisting the support of the Prince of Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Housing Minister in his St Pancras House Improvement Society. He understood the importance of dramatic flourish – erecting vast papier-mâché effigies of the rats and bugs that infested the slums, and ceremonially torching them as the first slums were demolished. And he used the ‘new media’ of his age: making an early film of the conditions in which his parishioners lived, and making a mobile cinema in a trailer, so that those who lived in prosperity up and down the land could see what life in the slums was really like. After each showing he told them: 'Now you know what life is like. You have no excuse for inaction.'"

Back to (almost) unbridled speculation…

We know George Mills attended Harrow School at The Grove, the school's house strong in drama and the arts, and that Mills worked in with children at Windlesham House School in Portslade in performances, dramatic productions, and even musicals. Again, would it be a stretch to consider that perhaps working with the ever-present and attention-starved (as well as quite often actually starved) children of the slums that followed Jellicoe around could have been what helped nudge Mills along towards becoming a schoolmaster after departing Oxford?

Still, London and its environs comprised populous and bustling metropolis that was the crossroads of England and the rest of the U.K., if not the entire Empire, upon which the sun never set.

What were the actual chances that all of these men knew each other well? What were the chances that all of these circumstantial occurrences were anything other than sheer coincidence?
We've no evidence these men ever met while attending Oxford, or that any save Jellicoe ever worked at the Mission. There's no evidence that the Howell at the 1935 funeral service is the Howell thanked in the 1933 preface of Meredith and Co. And, although their names rest alongside each other's for eternity in that preface, we have no proof that Howell and Bishop ever met, even though they both knew George Mills. And, finally, George's father, Revd Barton R. V. Mills was a much older man than Basil Jellicoe, and although they both crusaded for social reform, each man in his own way, they may have run in completely different circles and may never have so much as met.

There also is no solid reason to think that it's noteworthy that Jellicoe, born in 1899 and son of a cleric, was raised in Chailey, Sussex, just 15 miles or so north of—of course!—Seaford, East Sussex, a coastal town that simply won't stop cropping up coincidentally in the story of George Mills. But if you do think 15 miles is simply too far away from Seaford to connect it with Mills, let's discuss the fact that Chailey sits just four miles or so east of the location of Parkfield School in Haywards Heath, where George, born in 1896 and son of a cleric, attended classes.

What we do know is that, in some way—even loosely—these men somehow are linked to George Mills, circa 1933, perhaps if only in a way similar to the logic behind Six [or, depending on whether or not the teller understands the concept, Seven] Degrees to Kevin Bacon [right]. Exactly how they were linked is the mystery, one we may never solve.

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It has been over a year since my first messages to All Saints Margaret Street, Magdalen College School, and the Old Brackleians were sent. No replies with research assistance have been forthcoming so far, and may not ever be.

We may never know more than we now do about these men who seem so tantalizingly close to each other—personally, historically, and even spiritually. Perhaps this is all a series of overblown coincidences, neatly if not randomly arranged on an undreamed-of internet some 80 to 90 years later, and even if it is true these men did know each other, that in itself doesn't make any one man's behavior at the time in any way causal in regard to any aspect of another's life.

But I find it hard to believe that such strong-willed, talented, and outgoing men wouldn't have influenced each other in many ways, directly and indirectly.

In a way, all of this seems suspiciously as if a nearby camper asked my father if he knew the "Smiths" from Pennsylvania, and the more the fellow described them, the more it became apparent that they—out of millions—actually had been our neighbours…

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Fr. Jellicoe inspired a stage musical [left] that recently played at the Shaw Theatre on Euston Road in London, and his memory is held fast by the communities he helped, as well as a more figurative, charitable community that still works in his memory.

I'll close with these words from Fr. Rob Wickham, rector of Hackney:

Jellicoe was angry. He saw 5 children to a bed, he saw children with breathing difficulties, and he saw the effect that mass unemployment can have in a community. He saw loan sharks at work, and he saw people every night affected by fleas, bed bugs, rats and cockroaches. “How can I preach Jesus when people live in such filth? The devil is the Lord of Somers Town," came his cry.

This vision of a new Jerusalem led him to use a local workforce to charge the same rents after the rebuilding as before, and to keep a community strong through its nurseries, rent clubs, furniture clubs and even a pub – a place where clergy and churchwardens might go after evensong!

This vision holds dear today. It is a vision which undergirds the principles of the Jellicoe Communities and Community organizing. Local people doing something – galvanizing their efforts to make a difference in the communities in which they live and where they service.

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For more information about the Jellicoe Community today, see http://www.theology-centre.org/jellicoe-community.

1 comment:

  1. It's always better to take church loans from church loans expert,I think. Because they have expertism, so they can charge churches fair and also can advise better.