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!

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