Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rooms to Let: 21, Cadogan Gardens, S.W.3

It's a sunny morning with gentle breezes wafting through the horse country of north central Florida off the tail of Hurricane Irene. The heat index is supposed to creep up to a stifling 108°F today, but it's no longer summer here as it is in most of the United States: The children here have already been back in school for a week!

My plan had been to wrap up our study of George Mills by the time I returned to my classroom, but I fell just short of that. Today, we'll look at one aspect of the Mills family that may be of interest, although it's uncertain exactly how much it deals with George Mills directly.

As you may recall, George was married in 1925 and purchased a home in Portslade. His father, the Rev. Barton R. V. Mills, passed away in January 1932 while his family was residing at 24 Hans-road in London. The name on the family's telephone listing changed to "Mrs. Barton Mills" that same year.

Labouring under an assumption that George may still have been residing in his Portslade home when he was not away teaching at Windermere and Glion, Switzerland, the residents of 24 Hans-road would have been Edith Mills, Barton's widow and George's mother, and Agnes and Violet Mills, the spinster sisters of George.

Then, in 1933, the address for family's telephone listing in the London directory changed from Hans-road to 21 Cadogan Gardens, S.W. 3, although the telephone number—SLoane 3278—remained the same.

The family obviously had moved to new quarters after the patriarch's death. Let's go to the London Times, however, for more information.

A classified advertisement in the 11 April 1933 edition of The Times reads:

COOK-GENERAL, required for flat; 3 in family. Apply after 3 or write, Barnard, 21 Cadogan Gardens, S.W. 3.

We don't know exactly when the remaining members of the Mills family moved to Cadogan Gardens—just that the address appeared in the November 1933 telephone directory. The relocation came early enough, however, to make the printing deadline for a November directory.

There are two ways to look at the above entry at first glance. One way is to assume that the previous residents were simply in need of a cook, a domestic who later moved away with them when that family left in favour of the Mills.

"Barnard" may, I suppose, have been a dependable servant in charge of interviewing the new cook, but for which set of residents we do not know. It may have been the surname of the new owners just as easily. Still, if George and his wife, Vera, were still living in Portslade in 1933, the members of the Mills family moving into 21 Cadogan Gardens would have, indeed, numbered three: Edith, Agnes, and Violet.

Let's see what else we may find in The Times

In the 9 December 1933 edition, almost two years after the death of Rev. Barton Mills, we find this advertisement in the classified category FLATS & CHAMBERS:

ADJACENT HARROD'S, KNIGHTSBRIDGE. — LARGE ROOM on entrance floor, adjoining bath room to be LET, Unfurnished ; constant hot water, electric light and power ; excellent service and catering ; 42s. per week. — 24 Hans Road S.W. Sloane 4025.

I'm not exactly sure what this tells us, save what a large room near Harrod's went for per week. It is possible the family had held onto the property, and that the Mills were subletting rooms at 24 Hans Road [right] as a source income—as far as we know, none of the Mills women were working. While the number Sloane 4025 was not their own phone number, it may have been the number of an agent who handled rentals for them or an additional line at 21 Cadogan Gardens.

Or it may have had nothing to do with them at all: I can search London directories by name, but not by telephone number.

Once again assuming the property to have something to do with the Mills family, we can see the worldwide economic depression has tightened on London. Here is virtually the same advert, this time from 30 October 1934:

KNIGHTSBRIDGE (adjoining Harrod's):. — BED-SITTING ROOMS. Furnished and unfurnished; h. and c. basins, constant hot water; house telephones. Furnished from 27s. 6d. ; unfurnished from 25 s.-45s., to include service and light; all meals at moderate prices. — 18 and 24, Hans Road, S.W.3 Kens. 7541.

Less than a year later, 24 Hans-road had multiple furnished and unfurnished rooms to let, and "excellent catering" had become "meals at moderate prices." Couple that with the addition of 18 Cadogan Gardens and change in phone number and we might assume that, even had the Mills retained 24 Hans through 1933, it likely was no longer among their assets. Someone else had acquired the property.

Why might the Mills family have held 24 Hans Road in order to let rooms, even for a short while? It seems to be what they were doing during that time, evan at Cadogan Gardens [left]. Let's take a look at a few more classified advertisements from The Times.

This is from death notices in the 20 December 1937 issue of The Times:

HIBBERT. — On Dec. 17, 1937, at 21 Cadogan Gardens, S.W., HELENA MIDDLETON (LENA), widow of CAPTAIN EDWARD ROWLEY HIBBERT, and last surviving child of Christian Allhusen, of Stoke Court, Stoke Poges, in her 80th year.

While it's possible Mrs. Middleton had simply been visiting, why then was no actual address provided? She clearly would have been boarding at 21 Cadogan Gardens with Edith and the girls.

From the 25 May 1938 issue of The Times, in the column entitled FORTHCOMING MARRIAGES:


A marriage has been arranged, and will shortly take place, between Peter Noel Loxley, H.M. Diplomatic Service, only son of the late Captain Noel Loxley, Royal Navy, and of Mrs. Loxley, temporarily of 24, Cadogan Gardens, S.W.3, and Elizabeth Lavender Dawney, daughter of Major-General and Mrs. Guy Dawney, of Longparish House, Longparish, Hampshire.

Here we find another widow of a British officer living with the Mills, albeit seemingly temporarily in this case.

One wonders how many boarders of this era quite honestly took a room 'temporarily' yet subsequently never relinquished it.

In addition, we find this item in the 29 September 1939 edition of The Times:


The engagement is announced between Robert Hugh Ames, only son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Y. Ames, 21, Cadogan Gardens, and Miss Carlotta Zimmerman, niece of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Meyer, 440, Park Avenue, New York City.

Here we find a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Ames, taking up residence with Edith and the girls. London telephone directories show that the Ames had their own phone in the house, and a Robert Y. Ames was at the time a barrister of the Temple Bar.

In a section entitled LADY CLERKS & TYPISTS, in the 13 April 1942 issue of The Times, we find:

LADY Francis Ryder requires a Secretary and a Card Index Hand, both for Services hospitality organization ; trained, experienced ; good references ; 40 or over ; Write 21, Cadogan Gardens, S.W.3.

Records show that Lady Ryder was involved in hospitality for servicemen during the Second World War. From the website Australian War Memorial, we find a paper written by Hank Nelson for the "2003 History Conference – Air War Europe" entitled A Different War: Australians in Bomber Command.

Of the bomber crews, Nelson writes:

Even when they were operating frequently, aircrew could eat, sleep, read, and play a game of billiards in conditions far removed from those inside a bomber fuselage. When crews were stood down, had a “48” (a 48-hour leave pass), or took their regular six days leave in every six weeks, they could travel to the local towns – Lincoln, Grimsby, Skegness, and York – and go to a dance, have a meal at a pub, see a movie, or attend a service at Lincoln Cathedral or the Thomas Cooper Memorial Baptist Church in St Benedict Square, Lincoln. They could go to the home of an English crew member, or that of a family nominated by the Lady Frances Ryder and Miss MacDonald of the Isles Dominion Hospitality Scheme, sleep in, read the newspapers, and wander across the fields. Or they could catch a train to London, stay at the Strand Palace Hotel close to the Boomerang Club and Codger’s bar, see the sights, and take in the show at the Windmill Theatre, John Gielgud as Hamlet at the Theatre Royal, Noel Coward’s Blithe spirit at the Duchess Theatre, or a concert at Albert Hall. Less than 24 hours later, aircrew could be taking a Halifax on a test flight preparing it for an operation over the Ruhr.

The National Portrait Gallery listing for Lady Ryder states: "Lady Frances Ryder (1888-1965), Organiser of Dominion Services and Students Hospitality Scheme; daughter of 5th Earl of Harrowby." A pair of 1925 portraits of her taken by photographer Alexander Bassano is seen above, right, and at left.

Apparently much of Lady Ryder's organising was done from the home of Edith, Agnes, and Violet Mills!

Among the death notices in the 19 May 1944 issue of The Times, we discover:

KITTERINGHAM. — On May 18, 1944, at 21, Cadogan gardens, S.W.3, MATILDA JEMIMA KITTERINGHAM, passed peacefully away. Requiem, St. Mary's, Cadogan Street, S.W.3, to-morrow (Saturday), at 10:00 a.m., and afterwards at Kensal Green.

A spinster, Kitteringham had been a nurse at "T.F.N.S. No. 5 City of London General Hospital" according to the 15 April 1919 edition of the Edinburgh Gazette, page 1479.

In the 22 September 1944 edition of The Times, we find this interesting advertisement:

REQUIRED shortly, COUNTRY ACCOMODATION for mother, two small boys, and nurse, for one or two months. — Gilmour, 21, Cadogan Gardens, S.W.3.

Without speculating on the reason for requiring these "country accommodations," one must envision 21 Cadogan Gardens as having been a rather interesting place during the war: Married couples, elderly spinsters (one of them a Peer), aging military men, and single mothers with young boys, all living with the genteel Mills ladies in London at a time when wartime rationing and German rockets must have made each day quite trying, to say the very least.

It sounds like quite an interesting place to live, and we do know that, in 1944, George Mills was using the Naval and Military Club in London [left]—which itself had suffered damage from Nazi bombs—as his address, having relinquished his commission in the Royal Army Pay Corps in 1943.

We find, then, that it is possible that housing in London may have been so difficult to find that Mills couldn't get a room in his family's own home. It's also possible, though, that he simply didn't want one there, preferring the club to 21 Cadogan Gardens.

On 12 December 1945, Edith Elizabeth Ramsay Mills, mother of George, Agnes, and Violet, would pass away. From the 14 December issue of The Times:

MILLS. — On Dec. 12, 1945, after a few days' illness at 21, Cadogan Gardens, S.W.3, ELIZABETH EDITH, widow of REV. BARTON R. V. MILLS, and daughter of the late Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay, C.B. Funeral at Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, on Monday Dec. 17, at 2 p.m. Please, no flowers.

The family did not immediately vacate 21 Cadogan Gardens, and death would soon visit once again. From the 21 June 1946 issue of The Times:

DRUMMOND. — On June 18, 1946, CAPTAIN FREDERICK HARVEY JOHN DRUMMOND, M.C., of 21, Cadogan Gardens, S.W.3, beloved husband of Elizabeth, and son of the Lady Katherine Drummond and the late Allan H. Drummond. Funeral at Sherbourne, near Warwick, Monday, June 24, at 2 o'clock. Memorial service at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, June 24, at 2:30 p.m. Flowers to Messrs Ashton and Co., 235, Fulham Road, South Kensington.

Funeral arrangements and services for boarders like drummond [his geleaology is seen, excerpted from the 1908 text Coke of Norfolk and His Friends by Anna Maria Wilhelmina Stirling, at left] may have been becoming a bit too much for the Mills sisters—assuming George was not living with them at Cadogan Gardens.

As noted before here, by 1947, Agnes would have been 52 years old, and Violet, 45. Now with no mother [who'd been born, married, lived, and died right there in Kensington] to keep them in London, it would be no surprise to find that the girls might leave town to live out their Golden Years.

1947 also found these additions to the British Library's Manuscripts Catalogue: "Ramsay (George Dalhousie) of the War Office; knt. 1900. Correspondence and papers 1835-1898," and "Papers of G. D. Ramsay rel. to the Royal Army Clothing Dept. 1855-1898," Add. 46446 – 46450.

The donors of those manuscripts? "Mills (Agnes Edith). Miss. grand-daughter of Sir G. D. Ramsay. Presented, jointly with Miss V. E. Mills 1947," and "Mills (Violet Eleanor). Miss. grand-daughter of Sir G. D. Ramsay. Presented, jointly with Miss A. E. Mills 1947."

It seems that the girls had been busy cleaning out 21 Cadogan Gardens following their mother's passing, and finally arranging a place for the papers of Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay, their maternal grandfather, to reside in perpetuity [right].

Since the presentation of Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay's papers to the British Library was in the name of Misses Agnes and Violet Mills, may we assume that George was not in residence with them at the time of the discovery and bequeathing of their grandfather's manuscripts?

The listing for Mrs. Barton Mills [SLOane 3278; 21 Cadogan gdns, S.W.3] stays in place in the London directories until its last appearance in the 1947 book.

The Misses Mills then appear in the 1948 telephone directory at Budleigh Salterton, residing at Grey Friars. Given the actual listing—"The Misses Mills"—George was not residing with them in Budleigh at the time.

To summarize the life of the Mills family between 1932 and 1947, after the death of Rev. Barton Mills, his wife and daughters relocated from Hans Road to nearby Cadogan Gardens and began running what was basically a boarding house (although I am certain that, given their elite neighbourhood and clientele, there must have been an upscale euphemism they would have preferred) through the Great Depression and the Second World War.

Their rooms must have had a quality of exclusivity about them as we do not find any advertisements to let them. "Word of mouth" about the Mills home must have been enough to keep them full of tenants.

[We should, however, keep in mind the capricious and obstinate nature of the on-line search engine of The Times database. When we used it to collect croquet results for the Mills siblings, it provided access only a small fraction of the information available. It is distinctly possible that the Mills did advertise for tenants in The Times on many occasions and the exceptionally poor search engine there cannot locate those entries.]

Following the death of their mother Edith in 1945, the spinster sisters of George Mills cleaned out 21 Cadogan Gardens in 1947 and took their lives—Agnes was 53 that year, and Violet 45—to Devon, where they took up residence at Grey Friars, at 15 Westfield Road [left], in Budleigh, literally just a hundred or so feet from the croquet club.

Eventually George finally would—probably in the late 1950s—come to live with them, all of them playing bridge and croquet until the 1970s, when George passed away in December 1972 and the girls both in July 1975.

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