Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Chittendens: History, Photographs, and the War Years

Welcome back! Regarding the Chittendens of Newlands School at Seaford, we've gained a wealth of information via Hugh and Barbara Chittenden's daughter Ann, and Ann's daughter, who has been corresponding with me.

While most of this information deals with the Chittendens, it also is fascinating because it continues to flesh out the mid-20th century world in which George Mills (and the rest of the dramatis personae with whom we have been dealing over the last two years) lived, worked, loved, and passed on.

Here's an enlightening excerpt from a recent message I received from them (I've added emphasis, as well as links to mentioned people, laces, and organizations):

I am visiting my mother next weekend so I will see what she can tell me. I did ask her previously about George Mills when I saw your blog and the name did not ring a bell but I will try again. As I said, she was a pupil at the school during the war, however on return to Seaford she went to Micklefield School (all girls school). She did however continue to live in the main Newlands building and, even in her 20s, when she was living in London, came back to Newlands every weekend so she should have some of idea of the names of staff around that time.

I spent a lot of my childhood at my grandmother's house, with my mother and her sister Joan (we were there most weekends). If I remember correctly the Mills that was referred to the most was a Dr Mills (possibly with the christian name Denholm) – I'm not sure if that rings any bells? I will do some digging however. My grandparents, until their deaths, lived with a great friend called Tommy (Hilda Alice Miles, but she hated her names!). Tommy cooked for the school for many, many years and after my grandfather retired she continued to live with them. Tommy died when I was 21 but she was a really lovely lady and like an extra grandmother to me.
As Richard says, Hugh and Barbara had four children.
Hugh John Robert (known as John), Barbara Joan (known as Joan), George William David (known as David) and my mother Ann (by which time they had run out of middle names!). Richard spelt my mother's name wrong - possibly as he is researching family history and it is wrong on her birth certificate. My mother was the youngest and the only one still alive. She does not remember John that well as there was a large age gap between them and I think she was about 8 when he went off to Africa and never returned.

Richard was incorrect when he said my mother had papers re the school - she does not. She mainly has bags of family history papers and I imagine the school papers were left with David when he took over as headmaster and then maybe were left with school... (I am not sure). What my mother does have are all my grandparents' photos - mainly of the family, but there are some of the school. I have recently been researching my family history and going through these with her and found some of sports day presentations in (possibly) the 50s and I am sure there are many more I haven't seen.

She also has Hugh's wartime scrapbook, with numerous photos of the trenches, maps and his orders (one signed by General Haig [pictured, left]). And John's suitcase of belongings sent back from Africa after his death, containing all his belongings (such as shaving brushes, letters to and from him parents and Joan (who he was closest to in age), small African statues/ornaments and the letter from his commanding officer telling the circumstances of his death (which she has never read and I don't think wants to as it would make some fairly sad reading).

So there is alot of information about the family  [Deleted by request]  (less about the school)!

I will speak to her and I am sure she will happy to provide general unsourced information for you to include. If she is happy for me to do so, I can also
forward you some photos of my grandparents and John. If I find school photos with faces of staff in I can take copies also in case you spot George Mills but that will take some while as the photos are not organised and there are hundreds! I have been taking photos of photos with my camera to upload so maybe not the best quality but as my mother is not on the internet it is the simplest way of doing it.
I am also not sure if she will know how the evacuation of Newlands was facilitated as she was only 7 at the time war broke out, but she should be able to give you some general stories about life at the school [pictured at Wardington House, right]. I know, for instance, that there was a walled vegetable garden at one of the two locations that the school evacuated. The vegetables were supposed to be solely for the use of provisioning the school but the gardener used to lock the gates and sell them on the black market so Hugh and (I think) the School Doctor used to climb over the high walls at night and pinch what were actually their own vegetables to feed the school. My grandmother on the other hand looked after the ration books for the school and apparently did a wonderful job making sure the school was well fed. So no doubt she may provide a few stories along those lines. As those are her personal stories however I want to ensure she is happy before I say these can go online.

This (below) may not be of interest as its not directly related to the school, but have added it in case. I should be able to add to this in the next couple of weeks anyway so I don't know whether you prefer to wait for that or not.

Early History:

Hugh Faithfull Chittenden was the son of Charles Grant Thomas Faithfull Chittenden [whose father, the Rev. Charles Grant Chittenden, was headmaster of Newlands whilst it was located at The Grange [pictured, left] in Herfordshire, is pictured, top right] and Eliza Cummins Wheeler. Charles Grant Thomas Faithfull Chittenden, who was a Bank Clerk, died whilst Hugh was a child. Eliza Cummins Wheeler was the sister of Joseph Bourne Wheeler and granddaughter of Joseph Bourne who were proprietors of Denby Pottery which
is a worldwide brand today.

Hugh had two brothers, Arthur [pictured, left] and Charles. Hugh was awarded the Military Cross during World War I. Charles Cummins Chittenden was
awarded the George Medal. Arthur Grant Bourne Chittenden was killed early on during World War I.

Barbara May Grundy was the daughter of George Beardoe Grundy and Mabel Ord. George Beardoe Grundy was a Professor of Ancient History at Oxford University and wrote many books (which can still be found for sale on various websites today). Mabel Ord, I believe was one of the first (seven?) female JPs in the country (Justice of the Peace).

Hugh, as you say, loved bird watching and in his retirement, he loved to travel with his two daughters. Barbara, in addition to her love for croquet, was apparently a crack shot (hitting the bullseye most of the time), accomplished at woodwork and loved playing (and watching) snooker. She also worked tirelessly for charity, most notably the RNLI (
Royal National Lifeboat Institution).

War Years:

Newlands School was evacuated to Oxfordshire during World War II. During this period the school was located at two locations, Wardington House [above, right] and Thenford House [pictured there with the Home Guard, below right; Hugh F. Chittenden is presumably seated in the 1st row, far right]. Wardington is now a Care Home ( and Thenford House is currently owned by The Rt Hon. Lord Michael Heseltine.
During this period Hugh was a member of the Home Guard (the local detachment of which I am told was not unlike the Home Guard in the TV series Dad's Army!). There are still photos of the fire evacuation drills of the school during this period, which involved lowering the children, attached by a rope, from the roof of the building to the ground (which I'm sure modern Health & Safety would have something to say about!).

That concludes the information in one message. However, we've also received this additional information in a subsequent message:

Further to my earlier email, I spoke to my mother and she is happy for me to forward you a few photos if you do want to add these to the site. I have attached four (three of my grandparents) and one of Hugh John Robert Chittenden - please can you put his name as John next to this as this was the name he was known by, not Hugh. These are photos of photos, so not perfect as there is a bit of light at the side but hopefully give you something clearer than the newspaper photos you have of them currently.

My mother is definite that she has not heard of a George Mills unfortunately. To clarify my earlier email, there was a Denholm and May Mills (the Doctor in Seaford) with sons Andrew, David and Patrick but she thinks these were unrelated to Aggie Mills. She does however remember (George's sister) Aggie Mills. This does not mean that George Mills was not at Newlands however as it is quite possible she had not come across him.
The following you are welcome to add if you want to but please can you just leave our names out of this for now: I know in your blog you mention you are unsure how the school was passed to Hugh. Before Hugh, there were two proprietors - a Johnny Grant and a one of the Wheelers (i.e. Hugh's mother's side of the family). Hugh's business partner in the School was initially Edward Cooper (David's Godfather) and then when this partnership was dissolved he then when into partnership with Tom Manning (known by everyone as TDM). [Hugh, sporting the moustache, 'TDM', and a gentleman referred to as Dr Elliott are pictured, right.]

Hope this helps. Once I have visited my mother I will see if I can get some copies of any photos related to the school.

So, while Ann has not heard of George Mills, there is still the possibility that he was involved in the school in some way at some time. One thing we know for certain about George is that he must have been less than memorable if one was not close to him.

In fact, George lived for years in retirement at Budleigh Salterton and played on the southern croquet circuit for over a decade and I cannot uncover a single person who knew him who knew he was a published children's book author or a schoolmaster. Vague recollections of a quiet fellow are all anyone seems to have of George Mills, save for his Budleigh physician, Dr. Evans, who demurely assures us only that George was, indeed, "sociable."
There really isn't any reason that Ann, or anyone in the family, might remember George Mills (save that he likely spoke with a lisp), but there is still hope that we may, indeed, find him in a school photograph among the staff members. I'd love to try my hand (and eyesight) at that!

Meanwhile, I have received more photographs, including ones involving Barbara Chittenden's years playing croquet, as well as Ann's recollections regarding the relocation of the Newlands School students to Oxfordshire during the war.

I have used some of the photos here, but there is much more to come, so please check back occasionally. And, once again, many thanks to the Chittenden family for all of their support and assistance.

If you have anthing to add to the conversation, regarding the Chittendens or the Mills, please don't hesitate to let me know, and thanks in advance for your help!

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Images: Hugh, Barbara, and John Chittenden

I am extremely excited to be in receipt of some wonderful images from the archives of the Chittenden family. Sent by a relative of the generation of the family we've examined in association with Newlands School in Seaford, these are marvelous sepia images of characters from our ongoing story.

Above left, we find Hugh Faithfull Chittenden alongside his soon-to-be bride, Barbara May Grundy. We know her here as Barbara Chittenden, croquet contemporary, partner, and nemesis of the Mills siblings, George, Agnes, and Violet, then of Budleigh Salterton.

Above is an image of Hugh Faithfull Chittenden that quite possibly could be of a vintage similar to the Newlands Sports Days (1930s) video discovered on YouTube. He may, in fact be one of the men seemingly in authority captured while not facing the camera.

Next we see Barbara [above] as Mrs. Chittenden, now wife of Hugh, in a lovely portrait. It's quite possible that in that same YouTube video, we catch a fleeting glimpse of Barbara at the 23 second mark. I can't be certain, but there's certainly a resemblance. You can see the woman in question below and decide for yourself!

Finally, we meet [below] the son of Hugh and Barbara, Hugh John Robert Chittenden, a WWII hero who, as we know, was born in Oxfordshire in the summer of 1918 and lost his life on active service with the Military Police of the East Africa Corps in October, 1942. He was known to the family as John.

Thank you more than I can adequately say to the Chittenden family for access to these personal family treasures. The message in which they arrived also added this information regarding the transition of Newlands Schoiol to H. F. Chittenden. here is how it occurred [my emphasis]:

I know in your blog you mention you are unsure how the school was passed to Hugh. Before Hugh, there were two proprietors - a Johnny Grant and a one of the Wheelers (i.e. Hugh's mother's side of the family). Hugh's business partner in the School was initially Edward Cooper (David's Godfather) and then when this partnership was dissolved he then when into partnership with Tom Manning (known by everyone as TDM).

Once more, many thanks, and I look forward to the possibility that this may lead to more information regarding the family, the school, and even our mysterious and elusive George Mills!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

New Information: The Chittendens of Seaford and Newlands School

Hello, everyone! I hope the new year finds you healthy and happy! Here, it finds me a bit wiser, thanks to the recent kindness of Richard Ogden, grandson of G. W. D. Chittenden, headmaster of Newlands School in Seaford. Of one thing we are certain: Barbara Chittenden was a dear friend of the Mills family in post-war Budleigh Salterton. Is there, however, more to it than that?

I've included has missive in its entirety for your perusal. It was fascinating, informative, and provides greater depth of background for our research into Seaford, its preparatory schools, and their possible relationship to George Mills.

[Bold-faced font has been added to the text to ease information retrieval.]

I have recently been researching my family’s history and stumbled across your blog. My Grandfather was George William David Chittenden, former Headmaster of Newlands School in Seaford. He preferred to be called David which substantiates your correct assumption that ‘George Chittenden’ and ‘David Chittenden’ are indeed one and the same person.

Newlands is the last remaining preparatory school in Seaford – the girls school, Micklefield (where my mother, Jane, and her two siblings, Philippa and Angela, were educated – Newlands at the time being boys only) having disappeared under a housing development just over a decade ago in much the same fashion as Warren Hill. I have had many rambling conversations with my Grandmother, David’s wife Mavis, who was formerly Matron of the school and who still lives on the grounds. She is always very willing to part with interesting anecdotes about days gone by. She speaks of there being five separate preparatory schools strung along ‘Eastbourne Road’ alone (as you quite rightly asserted, there was a plethora of independent schools in Seaford at one time) all abutting one another. I know that upon the closure of Sutton Place School in 1968, the fourth domino to fall, its grounds were bought by my family and added to the Newlands holdings, becoming Newlands Manor (senior) School. We still have the documentation detailing the purchase of grounds for the original school site (as well as the acquisition of Sutton Place) and as I recall a charming map that illustrates the distribution of housing and schools in the region.

The Chittenden family has been with Newlands from its inception and all of us were saddened to witness its decline over the past two decades that culminated in it going into administration in 2006. It once proudly boasted the epithet ‘Miniature House of Lords’ (Prime Minister Lord Balfour [right], for instance, can be counted among its alumni), something that my Grandfather spoke of with pride. I doubt any of the staff there now would be aware of the school’s quite distinguished history (with, perhaps, the notable exception of Hugh Coplestone, son of the former Headmaster of Sutton Place). This legacy survived in the names of the Boys’ Houses (‘Balfour House’ being one) until very recently, when I believe they were superseded by more modern and generic names such as ‘Dragon House’. My Grandmother, I know, is thankful that my Grandfather at least was spared having to witness the nihilation of the values instilled by successive generations of Chittendens and the fingerprints that they left behind, including the displacement of the family crest on the website (a half Talbot). Given the exigencies of continuing to attract students to the school, perhaps this was deemed a necessary step in ‘rebranding’. Personally, and admittedly with a certain bias, I was surprised that the longevity of the school and its more illustrious past weren’t employed as marketing tools to help attract more students and indeed to encourage alumni to invest in the school’s future. As far as I can tell, the school makes no mention of its famous alumni on its website. Promisingly, the new Head teacher seems to be making some progress improving the fortunes of the school, and when my Grandmother has bumped into her on the grounds, she has remarked approvingly on the strong work ethic and efforts that she has brought to the table to right the floundering Newlands ship.

All of this leads me to the point that could be of interest to you:

Until the late 80’s my Grandfather was the Proprietary Headmaster of the school, becoming school Bursar upon his ‘retirement’. It was in ’86 (I think) that the school acquired Charitable Trust status, my Grandfather ceding financial responsibility for the school. A number of facets were responsible for its subsequent decline – too many to go into here – but when the school went into administration in 2006 my Grandmother (and indeed the whole family) were very concerned that articles belonging to the family (heirlooms and other things such as family photographs, etc) would be unknowingly sold off . To her and to us, the history of the school is synonymous with our family history. The upshot of this is that, contrary to the belief of Newlands’ Registrar, Lisa Sewell, that all records have been ‘lost or destroyed’, much has been preserved by either my Great Aunt (David’s sister, nee Anne Chittenden) or my Grandmother. This body of information and the recollections of both individuals could very well shed some further light on the life of George Mills. Given the close relationship that my Great grandmother Barbara (who died in 1987, the year after I was born) had with the Mills family it would be exciting to find out whether George was ever employed by my great grandfather. In the days when a drink and a cigar were all that was needed to secure employment (and given that they probably shared one or two of both) it doesn’t seem overly implausible. I think my Grandmother would also be very interested in the clips of the sports day events from the late ‘30s and may well be able to definitively identify some of the suit-wearing protagonists on the reel.

To help clarify a few further details:

1. Barbara [right] and Hugh Chittenden did indeed give birth to four children: Joan, Anne, David and Hugh (who died in North Africa in 1942). When my Grandfather died I acquired Hugh’s cufflinks and dress studs – apparently the total extent of his personal effects, untouched since the day he died. Anne is the only surviving sibling and she and I, with the help of my Grandmother, have spent a lot of time collating information on the family’s history.

2. David Chittenden would best be characterized by the bottom left caricature of the snippet sent by Barry McAleenan – He founded the Seaford Seagulls Cricket Club and was chairman of the club until his death in 2001, my father assuming the chairmanship thereafter. An obsessive sportsman he is said to have been a very useful spin bowler (and a big fan of Bradman!)

3. The Warren Hill playing fields pictured elsewhere in your blog in front of Moira House (called the ‘Nuffield’ pitch) were unfortunate enough to have played witness to my paltry cricketing endeavours when I attended Eastbourne College (2000-2005). Refreshingly, the landscape doesn’t appear to have altered much in the past 75 years.

The information that you have gathered made for an extremely compelling read, a lot of it ashamedly being unfamiliar to me. I hope that some of the information above is of use and I apologize that I do not have more information immediately to hand - I’m in London and getting my technophobic older relatives to scan and email me documents is probably a bridge too far! If you are interested in finding out more, I would be more than willing to share any information with you that I can gather over Christmas. Many thanks for the fascinating read.

Many thanks, Richard, for the information, and for the marvelously engaging and colourful way you put it all in context! Your kindness and generosity is very much appreciated, and we'll look forward to hearing of anything you may discover about the school and George Mills. Cheers!

Sunday, January 1, 2012