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1233132 Gerard Arden 1871-1955

Gerard was born on 17 March 1871 at Stapenhill House, Burton-on-Trent, the second son of Charles John Clay and Aggie née Arden. One of his Godfathers was the Rev. John Harden Clay, the son of his great uncle, the Rev. John Clay

He went to Elstree Preparatory School, and then, like his elder brother Arthur a year ahead of him, he went to Harrow.  He hated it, and vowed that if he had sons, they wouldn't go there (they both went to Lancing).  His younger brother Ernest went to Marlborough, while his youngest brother Wilfrid reverted to family tradition by going to Repton.  Gerard went on from Harrow to the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester.  He was very keen on soccer, and played for the College – upon his death, his team photographs were passed to the College, who were kind enough to provide scans in 2009.  On 6th August 1890 Gerard won the prize for milking - a book (signed by the author) "Travels in France" by Arthur Young. It is a leather-bound volume with the Royal Agricultural College insignia embossed in gold leaf on the front and is now in the possession of one of Gerard's great grandsons, Andrew Gerard Clay.    

From 1892 to 1900 Gerard managed his father's Holly Bush estate at Newborough, Burton-on-Trent.  

In 1900 Gerard, as a 29-year-old Lieutenant, with five other officers and a hundred and thirty yeomen, volunteered for active service in South Africa in the Boer War.  This contingent formed the 6th (Staffordshire) Company of the 4th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry, the Queen's Own Regiment of Rifles, under the command of Captain Bromley-Davenport.  Gerard was promoted Captain, and appointed to command a Company.  He was wounded twice, and then invalided out of active service with enteric fever.  He was awarded the Queen's Medal with four clasps. 

He kept a diary throughout his life, but the entries for this period are pretty dull, principally because he carried it with him, and there was always the chance of capture and it being read by the enemy.  On his way back to England with the Staffs Yeomanry, Gerard wrote their "Official History".

Upon his return to England, Gerard joined Bass, Ratcliffe and Gretton, and went "through the Works" as training, before joining his father and elder brother on the Board of Directors. 

After hs marriage they moved to Needwood Lodge in Tatenhill, five miles West of Burton, and he worked at the Bass brewery. He rode there on horseback, and left his horse in the stables for the day - they were empty, as the drey horses were out delivering. Until he bought one of those new-fangled "motor cars".

Gerard was a recognised expert and breeder of smooth-haired fox-terriers, and judged at the Fox Terrier Club at Crufts, and in Austria and the U.S.A. He crossed the Atlantic :-
Arrived New York from Liverpool as tourist on S.S. Cedric [her maiden voyage started from Liverpool on 11 February 1903] on 11th March 1903, [with his eldest brother Arthur, and they returned on S.S. Celtic, arriving at Liverpool on 9th April 1903].
Arrived New York from Liverpool on S.S. Luciana on 10th March 1906, en route to Boston, and he returned on S.S. HaverfordCeltic, arriving at Liverpool on 11th May 1906.
Departed Liverpool on S.S. Mauretania on 29th October 1910, arrived New York 4th November 1910 en route for Montreal, and returned from New York on S.S. Teutonic, arriving at Southampton on 1st December 1910.

In 1904 he agreed to be Godfather to Gerard Leigh "Peter" Clay.

He was married on 25 April 1906 in Stretton, Burton‑on‑Trent to (Ella) Violet Thornewill, then aged 21 (see below). 

They had two sons :-

Gervas (Charles Robert)      was born on 16 April 1907

Ralph (Arden)                      was born on 18 April 1908

They lived at Needwood Lodge, Rangemore, now Needwood Manor Hotel.

According to the 1911 Census (when his sons were aged 3 and 2), Gerard, a Brewery Director, employed the following five women and a girl:-

Mary Holyoak, 33, Parlourmaid, from Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire
Annie Ruth Knapp, 29, Cook, from Mason, Lincs
Kate Potter, 28, Nursemaid, from Ilkeston, Derbyshire
Annie Elizabeth Whetton, 16, Kitchenmaid, from Tutbury, Staffs
Constance Helen Oldham, 23, Nursemaid, from Morley, Derbyshire
Mary Ellen Boreham, 44, Nurse, from Wivenhoe, Colchester, Essex.

In 1914, when Gerard was 43, he became seriously ill[1], and, though he eventually recovered, he was not passed fit for service in the First World War.  Also, his three brothers (q.v.) told him that as he had fought in the Boer War, he had done his duty, and they, all three, joined up.  His eldest brother Arthur died of Pneumonia on active service six months after he joined up on the outbreak of war.

Gerard was a member, and then for some years President, of the Trademarks Federation of the British Isles.  When TradeMarks were first registered in 1876, the company had sent someone to camp overnight on the doorstep, and they thus acquired TradeMarks Numbers 1 to 6.

Gerard became what would now be called Personnel Director of Bass, Ratcliff & Gretton, and he worked there every day.  In the early days, he would ride down into Burton on horseback, and leave his horse in the stables vacated by the dray horses out at work.  Later he went by car, although he frequently walked the five miles home.  This he continued to do until 1926, when he retired at the age of 55, with a "golden handshake" following a Boardroom re-shuffle after the merger with Worthington, which he had opposed.  He, as a very minor share-holder, was out-voted. 

The family then moved south, to Weston House, Albury, in Surrey, leased from the Duke of Northumberland.  Gerard moved away from Burton partly because he felt that workers whom he had known and worked with for 25years, who had spent their lives with the Company, might appeal to him for redress, and he was now powerless to help them.  By this time, his elder son was up at Oxford, and his younger son was undergoing engineering training in London. 

On 28th March 1929, Gerard (recorded as Jerard) left Avonmouth on SS Coronado for Kingston, Jamaica, with Violet and Ralph; they returned from Santa Marta, Columbia on S.S. Motagua to Bristol on 22nd May 1929.

Gerard took up beagling, and became Secretary of the Guildford and Shere Beagles.  In 1937 he moved again, after selling his collection of antique silver to enable him to buy Abbotswood, Hurtmore, Godalming, Surrey, a large house in a hundred acres of mostly woodland.  He paid £7,500 for it, worth £545,000 in 2022, and he sold it ten years later for twice that, and was pleased to have doubled his money.  That represents an interest rate of about 5%.  But that sale price is the 2022 equivalent of £587,000, so he did make a profit of about 8%.  The house - by itself - was sold in March 2021 for £3,733,415, an increase of about 700% - except that most of that 100 acres of land had already been sold off previously.

In 1936, with his elder son stationed in Northern Rhodesia, Gerard (now 65) took Violet to Africa, to re-visit places he had been during the Boer War 35 years before.  They returned on the R.M.S. Llandovery Castle from Capetown, accompanied by Gervas going on home leave, who had joined them in Capetown.  Also on that voyage home was another family… see below !  They arrived at Southampton on 27th May, 1936.

During the Second World War Gerard cleared some of his woodland to grow vegetables - "Digging for Victory".  Gerard's elder son Gervas was refused leave to enlist, and spent the War in the Colonial Administration in Northern Rhodesia.  His younger son Ralph served throughout the War in the Royal Air Force, and after the war he emigrated to work on the copper mines in Northern Rhodesia, where his brother had been working since 1930.

After the War, with both sons settled in Northern Rhodesia, and a Socialist Government making it impossible for him to continue in his way of life, in 1948 Gerard and Violet emigrated to join their sons, and built a house in Essex Avenue, Kitwe, which they called "Arden", his mother’s maiden name.

Gerard was a "family historian", and laid much of the groundwork for the work you are now reading.  He was 5ft 8ins in height, of slight build, but of erect and military bearing.  Always very fit and active, he did a great deal of walking.  In his younger days he wrote poetry, and had a volume privately printed.  He was also fond of translating Homer from the Greek.

Gerard died of a coronary thrombosis, on 23 February 1955 in Kitwe, N.Rhodesia at the age of 83, and was buried in Nkana Cemetery, in the country now called Zambia.  He has a WebSite.



(Ella) Violet née Thornewill,

Violet née Thornewill was born on 8 July 1885 in The Abbey, Burton‑on‑Trent, the younger daughter of Robert Thornewill and his second wife, Eliza Arabella Sara Hamilton, known as "Ella". 

Violet's father Robert was the son of Robert Thornewill and his wife Martha Hammond Wright, who was one of the Wrights of Eyam, Derbyshire, whose records go back to the fourth year of the reign of Edward III (1331).  Violet's grandfather Robert died in 1858, when Violet's father was only 15, and the business was successfully run for some years by his widow, who died just before Violet's fourth birthday.  Violet's father died in 1914, when she was 29.

The Thornewill records go back to Thomas, who died in 1548;  the family had been in the iron business in Burton for ten generations, since the early 1700s, that is, they had already been established for two generations in their trade in Burton when the Clay ancestor Joseph Clay moved to Burton to start in the brewing trade.  A Family History of the Thornewills is a separate work.

Violet's mother's father was the Venerable George Hans Hamilton, who was born in Ireland;  he rose to become Archdeacon of Lindisfarne and of Northumberland, and Canon of Durham, and was referred to as "The Arch".  He died on 29th September 1905, curiously, while Violet was staying with the Clays on a grouse-shooting holiday at Grinton in Yorkshire. 

The Arch's wife, Violet's mother's mother, was "Bella Best", Arabella Sarah Best, whose father, John Best, came from Worcester.  He was an accountant with the East India Company in Bombay, and his wife, Arabella nee Robinson, and children seem to have travelled much between Bombay and Sunderland, where her mother came from.  He died in Bombay in 1825 aged 33, leaving his widow  - possibly in India - four months pregnant, with four other children under the age of ten. 

Bella died in January 1868, when her daughter Ella (Violet's mother) was nearly 9.  A year and a half later, in June 1869, Violet's 46 year-old grandfather The Arch married 26 year-old Lady Louisa Clements, who bore him four more children; she was known to her step-grandchildren, one of whom was Violet, as "Young Granny".  Violet's mother Ella died aged 60 in 1919, when Violet was 34.

Violet was "a sickly child", and medical opinion at the time insisted she be cossetted - perhaps her doctors were right, for she lived to be 95.  She always remained proud of her "great height", although that was not noticeable after middle age.  Although not "blue stocking", she had a great sense of fun;  and was a force to be reckoned with, with high standards. 

Violet had an older half-brother, Robbie (Rev. Robert Surtees Thornewill), whose mother, Catherine Aurora nee Page, had died at his birth, in February 1875 - just 12 months after Violet's husband's mother had also died in childbirth in Burton in February 1874.  Robbie was brought up by a very religious nanny, whose influence sent him into the church.  He died unmarried in 1951, when Violet was 66. 

Violet also had an elder sister Kathleen (always known as Katty - or, to her nephews and their children, as "Ardie"). Katty was born in Burton in 1884. She was married at 26, in 1910, to Bertram Sargeaunt (1877-1978). then 33,

In 1930 Violet's elder son Gervas went out to Northern Rodesia (now Zambia) to work in the Administration Department of th Colonial Government. He was entitled to six months "home leave" every three years.  Her younger son Ralph qualified as a Mechanical and Electrical Engineer, and joined the RAF Reserve.

During the Second World War, which broke out when Violet was 55, she took an active part in local fund-raising and in the local Red Cross. 

Always "Mummy" to her sons, Violet was "Gran" to her grandchildren.  When her granddaughter Gill once was considering a marriage proposal from a not very suitable young swain, rejection of it came with the thought of presenting him to Gran. 

At the end of the Second World War, her elder son Gervas came home on leave.  Her younger son was discharged from the RAF, and was looking for a ob.  Gervas suggested that he might do well on the Copper Mines in Northern Rhodesiia, and that is wher he went.  With both in Northern Rhodesia, and the new Labour Government making life difficult, Gerrad and Violet emigrated to join their sons in Northern Rhodeia. They commisoned a new house in Essex Avenue, Kitwe, which they named "Arden". 

After the death of her husband Gerard in 1955, and with the removal of her younger son Ralph and his family to Salisbury, the capital of Rhodesia, Violet also moved there, to a new house she built in Wingate Road, Highlands, which she called "Knightley". 

About this time, she decided to have a portrait of her husband commissioned, and chose an Irish-German artist, Wolfgang Craig-Hainisch (1905–1995).  When the work was complete, Violet flew to Britain for an unveiling, to be held at her sister Katty’s flat in Hurstpierrepoint, in the presence of the artist, friends and members of the family.  When the artist arrived, he was met by Katty’s husband, Bertram Sargeaunt ("Berkie"), and immediately said, “I have drawn that face !”.  There, in the corridor, was the pen-and-ink drawing that he had done during the Second World War while he had been a interned on the Isle of Man, and Berkie had been in over-all charge !

From here:-
In the UK such PoW camps came under Military (War Office) control for interned combatants whilst Civilian Internment camps came under Home Office control although run by the Military. The IoM not being part of the UK and with some degree of Home Rule the two civilian internment Camps came under the Lt Governor Lord Raglan which in practice meant that the Government Secretary, Bertram Sargeaunt, was the real power behind the throne.

Following the retirement back to England of her elder son in 1964, and after the Rhodesian Government made its Unilateral Declaration of Independence (U.D.I.) in 1965, when she was 79, Violet returned to England, living first at Drayton Court, near Langport, where she held a dance to celebrate both her 80th birthday and the 21st birthday of her grandson Crispin.  After two years there, she moved into a converted wing of Bagborough House, the home of the Brooke-Pophams, long-time friends of the in-laws (the other B-Ps) of Violet's son Gervas. A year later Violet moved into an annexe made by converting a barn adjacent to Hardings in North Cheriton, the home of her son Ralph, who had also returned from Rhodesia on retirement at about the same time.  When Ralph sold Hardings and moved into Drake's Cottage (which had been part of the same property), Violet went to live at Ford Lodge with Gervas. 

At 90, Violet was operated on for cancer.  The first eveing in hospital, a nursing auxiliary came to her bed.

"I've come fer yer teeth, Luv"
     "I BEG your pardon ?"
"Yer TEETH, Luv, Gimme yer TEETH !"
     "But they're MY teeth!"
"Yes, Luv; I know they are, but you'll get them back in the morning !"

Then the auxiliary actually put her knee on Violet's chest to pull them out - but it ended with "If you TOUCH my teeth I shall BITE you !"

Violet made a full recovery from the operation. 

Five years later, at the age of 95, Violet died, on 22 December 1980, gently slipping away in the arms of her daughter-in-law Betty at Ford Lodge, Wiveliscombe, Somerset, where she lies buried in the churchyard.  Although she was physically hale, sadly, much of her eyesight and much (but not all) of her memory had slipped away before then, but she would still help by laying the table, etc..  There were many untitled family photographs of people whom she could once have identified, but she could neither see them clearly, nor remember who they were.  She had her own photograph album started in 1906 upon her marriage; and that of her mother, Ella nee Hamilton; and the album of her father’s mother, Martha Hammond nee Wright, containing about 200 Cartes de Visite.

Violet had amazingly flexible hands – even at the end of her life she could keep her fingers flat on the table while lifting her forearm until it was vertical.  She had a ready laugh, and was always full of fun.


[1]  What with ??

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