The Crowley Family
Some distant cousins asked me, when I met them for the first time at a wonderful Silver Wedding celebration, to jot down what I can remember about the Crowley family.
The only way in which I can do this is to start with myself and work backwards from father to grandfather, to great grandfather, to great, great grandfather, knowing less as the generations recede.
I was born at Croydon in Surrey on a May morning in 1905, just two days after my mother’s twenty-first birthday, and on learning of my birth my grandfather on my father’s side, called next day and persuaded the nurse to let him look at the baby. My mother was disappointed that I was not a boy but I think my grandfather was glad, because he had lost his only daughter when she was three years old. She was christened Charlotte Mary, and I was named Mary after her.
My father had three brothers, but the last one to be born died, also at the age of three. No one seems to know why. He was named Christopher Henry. Next to my father, who was christened Charles Edmund Lucas (Lucas being my grandmother’s family name) came John Cyril and after Charlotte Mary, Fredrick. Cyril, my godfather, to whom my father was devoted, was killed in the First World War while fighting the Turks in Mesopotamia. This was on September 11th, 1916. I will never forget how my father aged in one night after receiving the news: the lines in his forehead had become deep furrows.
Cyril and my father had worked in the family brewery at Croydon and my father continued to work there with his father until the end of the 1914/18 war. Uncle Fred (Fredrick) became a farmer and his wedding took place on the same day that Cyril departed to join his battalion the 4th Queens- and leave England never to return.
When my father and mother married in July, 1904, the brewery was doing very well and I can remember seeing them on horseback going to join the hunt; and for several years running they would depart for a skiing holiday in Switzerland, leaving us in the charge of our nurse on Boxing Day. But things changed. I always understood from my father that the dramatic fall in their income was due to Mr. Asquith and Lloyd George. The Liberal party came into power in 1905 and Mr. Asquith became Prime Minister in 1908, but until he introduced the Licensing Bill, referred to as “taxing the poor man’s beer,” and until my father’s great uncle Fredrick died, leaving all his capital outside the brewery, there seemed to be plenty of money around. But after 1910 things were very bad indeed and remained so until the First World War broke out in 1914 when the financial situation began to improve.
As a little girl I loved the brewery. When we went there on an occasional visit, we saw great barrels of beer; larger than anything I had seen before. Then, there was a lovely smell and I was given a glass of malt and we always received lumps of sugar-candy threaded on pieces of string. Why I don’t know. Cats roamed about the brewery and I was told once that a cat fell into a vat and was drowned. My brother, Peter, on the other hand, did not like the brewery and at prep school when he was teased about the brewery and being the son of a brewer, he denied all association with the business.
For a very short time when things were going badly, my father worked really hard and for years afterwards he talked about those days when he had to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and go down to the brewery to “mash”. I used to wonder what “going to mash” meant, but never asked. Years later I learned that it is a process in brewing beer: Someone on the premises has to mix malt with hot water to form “wort” (whatever that is). It seems to be an infusion of the malt before it is fermented into beer.
When the 1914/18 War ended the brewery was sold. The man who had worked harder than anyone else in it was my grandfather and somehow he managed to supply my father with an income, but by 1918 he had had enough of the long struggle and the brewery was sold. Cyril, the livewire of the family, was dead and there seemed no sense in continuing to work hard. A firm called Hoares bought it for what I believe was a very hard price. They, in turn, quickly sold it. By this time my father must have come in for quite a lot of money. He never consulted a broker and invested everything in government stock. He was particularly fond of consoles, which paid a very small dividend but were considered safe.
In the early days of my life before the War broke out, my Crowley grandparents lived in the country at a place called Crawley Down, now known as Rowfant on the privately run Bluebell Line. Peter and I and our nurse used to be invited there for Christmas and very often again in the summer. I can still smell the scalded milk being brought up from the kitchen for our breakfast by Emma. And I can see the holly and honesty in the white china vases affixed to the wall with red velvet on the outside of the vases. In summer I would walk round the monkey-puzzle tree and then go into the wooded part of the garden where the foxgloves grew. There were so many wonderful things in the wood and I would pick the pink foxglove flowers to put on my fingers. I used to feel quite small moving among these tall flowers. But the loveliest part of the garden was where Cyril had made a rock garden which went down into a sort of dell as if it had been scooped out of the earth and all imaginable flowers had been planted there.
Sometimes, for a great treat, Grandma would take us out for a carriage drive. The horse, under the guidance of Flaxman, who was also the gardener, trotted along rather slowly and Peter and I would get bored. We were told not to breathe on the windows and make patterns with our fingers, but to look out for white horses and count them. We seldom saw more than one. It must have been before the war that my grandparents returned to Croydon, where they had lived before. They moved into a large house in the Coombe road called “Woodlands”. On sundays they went regularly to St. Andrews, the High Anglican Parish Church, where the Reverend Pocock officiated. When preaching he would roar like a lion and then his voice would sink almost to a whisper. I used to wait, holding my breath, for the terrifying crescendo.
My grandfather had joined the Church of England from being a Quaker at the age of twenty- one and had become as near to being a Roman Catholic as it is possible to become without taking the final step. His sympathies were with Cardinal Newman and he felt that the Roman Catholic church was the only one to which to belong. He firmly believed in celibacy of the clergy but whether he accepted the infallibility of the Pope I do not know. I suspect he did, as he believed in the divine right of Kings.
I was told - doubtless by my father - that the grandparents had to leave Crawley Down because of Lloyd George, though what he had to do with it I really don’t know. I only know that my father hated him and when I went for evening walks with him to the Shirley Woods and the Selsdon Woods where the white bluebells and lilies of the valley grew, we passed a windmill and my father said that Lloyd George ought to be strung up onto one of the sails and made to whirl round until he cried for mercy. My father was, on the whole, a very kind man, and I wondered what that wretched Lloyd George had done to deserve such punishment. But believed he must be very bad - almost as bad as the Kaiser - who my grandfather and I used to hang on the pier at Eastbourne, by putting pennies in the slot machine.
No one could have called my father a clever man. He hated his school-days at Wimbourne Grammar School in Dorset, but he was a very amusing man and he was blessed with a fantastic imagination. He used to make up the most wonderful stories about hunting the red deer. Through the wisdom of the salmon, in whose stream the poor beast would stop to drink, and the advice and messages given by the various creatures in the world of nature, the deer would finally escape death. We adored these stories, told to us on the Sunday afternoons, before we were old enough to have to attend sunday lessons.
My father, his father and my great grandfather, and I do not know how far back, were Conservatives. Grandma Crowley belonged to Disraeli’s Primrose League, and all Liberals were considered to be utterly irresponsible.
Before 1914 Socialism had hardly become a formidable threat to Conservatism, but there was an ominous rumbling and warning of changes to come, including votes for women. Rather to my surprise I discovered in my early twenties that there was another branch of the Crowley family who were Socialists and more over, some of them were personnel friends of Sir Philip Snowden, Chancellor of the Exchequer under Ramsey MacDonald’s government in 1924. My father had no time for these relatives. He told me they were not only Socialists but also vegetarians and that the male contingent rushed about hatless, eating nuts. I did not pay much attention to these wild assertions and I actually met some of these people at a party at which Sir Philip Snowden and his wife were present, everyone except, perhaps, Lady Snowden appeared to me quite normal. She wore a floating grey scarf over her head which hung down at her back.
One member of the Crowley family, a brother of my great grandfather, named Alfred, was thought to have married below the Crowley strata. his second wife was Katherine Crompton - great, great aunt Katherine to us - the daughter of a chemist. Perhaps the socialist branch had stemmed from this marriage. Apart from that I wondered why a chemist was considered inferior to a brewer.
To revert to a time prior to 1914: there was another place we used to visit apart from Crawley Down, and that was Horeham Road, now known as Horeham, in Sussex. I was about seven years old when I first remember going there with my mother after an operation. We went to stay with my grandfather’s relations and the time was the end of April, beginning of May. When the primroses were in bloom along the green verges, but the daffodils which earlier on had waved along the drive, were over. During my young life I visited this house, “Bernards”, many times and in all seasons except midwinter. It was owned by aunt Gussa, aunt Helena and uncle Reg and at every visit the great aunts met us in the porch, the west-highland terriers at their feet. And it was in this house I learned to love the six portraits of their great relations: three Crowley Quaker brothers married to three Curtis Quaker sisters. The three brothers had purchased the brewery in Alton, Hampshire during 1821 from James Hinton Baverstock who had gone bankrupt. The brewery latter spread to Croydon.
Before going into what little I know of their lives, I would like to explain that my grandfather’s brothers and sisters came into the world in alternate pairs: male, female, male, female, male, female ending with aunt Gwen who was only eight years older than my father. They were the offspring of my great grandfather, Abraham Curtis Crowley, and his wife Anne Ashby: all Quakers. I can just remember a visit to Alton to see my great grandmother who was lying in bed at Highfield House, but more clearly I do remember the pigeons flying round the chimneys of the house. The eldest of her children was my grandfather, Abraham Charles followed by Anne Augusta, known always as “Aunt Gussa”. She was a beauty when she was young, I was told, and was cruelly not allowed to marry the man she fell in love with. Neither was my grandfather allowed to marry his first love. They were wrenched apart and he was sent to Italy to try and get over it. He married his second cousin, Florence Mary Lucas.
Next to Gussa came Henry Ernest, who became a parson. He was a very pleasant man and amusing. I remember hearing that one of his bad dreams was that as he stood before the lectern preparing to read the first lesson the Bible was open at the wrong page and desperately turning over the leaves he could not find the right place. Meanwhile the congregation, doubtless coughing and shuffling their feet, waited perplexed. He was married to aunt Edith (nee Bartleet). Then came aunt Marion, who was an enterprising traveller and an ardent do-gooder. I think she even went to America. Anyway, she introduced me to Luisa Alcott’s Little Women and Good Wives and books by one or two other American authors. Next to her came Egbert, who very much resembled my grandfather in looks. I was a very little girl when I first met him and I found him particularly charming. He was married to aunt Katey (Katherine Chasemore). I may be wrong, but I think he first became friendly with her brothers, who spent their time on the turf, drinking and betting. Anyway, the beloved uncle Egbert who for a time lived in a house named “Crawle”, opposite “Bernards”, took to heavy drinking and my father told me he had delirium tremens three times. For some reason, as a little girl, I felt very sorry for him. When he turned up to my grandfather’s funeral, looking pathetic and slightly shabby, (by then I was twenty-four years old) I felt even more sorry for him. He and aunt Katey had a family of four: Joyce, Gertrude, Egbert and Barbara. More of them a little later.
Following Egbert came aunt Gerty, who was very pretty, and she was the only girl in that family to marry. Her Husband was Percy Burrell, another brewer, and they had a family of nine. After Gertrude, Cedric was born: another parson and I believe a delightful man, but unfortunately I never knew him. He married Evelyn Gollard, and she was the only sister-in-law my grandfather was really fond of. In fact, he was devoted to their whole family. There was Ida, Hugh, who was killed in the First World War. I remember his coming to say good bye to us at Croydon. After him came Robert, Geoffrey and Brian. Next among my great aunts and uncles was Helena. She was an invalid but came to life in middle-age. For years she lay on a couch learning hymns by heart and then, quite suddenly, it was discovered that she wasn’t an invalid any longer. Unlike Elizabeth Barrett, while lying on the month after month on her couch, no Robert Browning came to rescue her. But I remember her at “Bernards” being quite lively and running around like everybody else. She wore strong glasses and when she read to me, as she often did, she would hold the book very close to her eyes and it always looked as if her nose was followed the lines rather than her eyes. I must say that the great aunts were always very good in encouraging me to read.
Aunt Helena wrote a pamphlet entitled: Are we near the End of the World? And it was given to me to read one night when I was staying at Bernards. I was lying in the large double bed and I perused it in fear and trembling. To do aunt Helena justice she had not foretold the end of the world as being an imminent event, so with any luck there would be time for me to grow up and enjoy myself before this “Big Bang” destroyed us all. Nevertheless it was a daunting thought: those “latter days”, Satan on the rampage and all that “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. How could one avoid it all?
Aunt Gussa’s approach to religion was rather different. In her humming voice she was always calling us to Jesus and this made me feel very uncomfortable. In the spare room I used to look at a picture of him, sitting on a rock in some wilderness and saying: “Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nest, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.” And I felt desperately sorry for Him and vowed I would try to be good. It was important to be good to avoid the “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.
To complete the generation of this part of the Crowley family, there was uncle Reg and aunt Gwen. Uncle Reg, who lived at Bernards with his two sisters, was just ten years older than my father and my father thought the world of him, and rightly so. He was an enterprising man, full of new ideas but he never made any money out of them. He reared pigs and built sties for them which were airy and too high. The pigs caught pneumonia and died. He grew hundreds of tomatoes in green houses and had a fairly large orchard. After the tomatoes he cultivated geraniums and he invested his money in all sorts of new projects which failed. Perhaps he looked for fruition too far ahead of his time. He was always cheerful and rather fun and he wrote many letters to Peter about how to behave as he grew older. My father always went to him for advice and consulted him on absolutely everything except investments.
The youngest of all that family was dear little, sweet aunt Gwen who did not push religion down your throat and was always most helpful in a practical way when you were in trouble and always thought of a solution. If you were feeling off colour and rather depressed she did not suggest you prayed about it: she got something for you from the chemist. She grew all sorts of plants in her window-boxes. And she loved the sea and chose a house which faced it, right on the parade at Eastbourne. This house she shared with two friends. I shall always remember how she comforted me when my mother died and helped me in so many practical ways. She paid for me to have typing lessons when my husband was unwell and could not afford a secretary.
Like aunt Helena she was considered to be rather an invalid, but that might have been because when she was young she was operated on for breast cancer. This was never mentioned and I only happened to hear about it through a letter which my father found from his father asking him and all the family to pray for her. The cancer never return but she had a weak heart. As a girl she travelled and on one occasion went to Venice with her uncle Philip, the naturalist. She saw Venice when it was still at its most beautiful, with just a few gondolas on the Grand Canal before the waters were disturbed and the foundations of many buildings threatened by the “vaporetti” forever on the move.
She and uncle Reg were devoted to one another but she never lived at Bernards: only visited from time to time, like my grandmother, who was always happy there taking geranium cuttings, shredding Qlavender and making lavender bags.
I have lately come across two letters from aunt Gwen. One was written from her Eastbourne house at 50 Royal Parade, on February 12th 1958, telling me that her dear friend, Celia Lawford, had had a fall and was seriously ill in hospital. The other was dated March 12th 1961, and it came from a home to which she removed herself after Celia’s death.
At Bernards, after breakfast, the servants came in from the kitchen for family prayers. There was the cook, Bessie, in her white and blue striped dress, white apron and cap; rather jolly-looking, there was May, the parlour maid, with her lovely red cheeks and her brown curly hair. She married the gardener, Tom Gravett. I used to wonder, in those far off days why Tom spent so much time at the kitchen door, chatting to May. Uncle Reg read a passage from the Bible. He, too, had a special voice for this performance but it was not a “holy” voice like aunt Gussa’s. Then we all turned round and knelt at our chairs, facing the wall. While praying I had my eyes wide open, my fingers spread apart so that I could look at the portraits. The two immediately opposite where I was kneeling were those of my great, great grandparents. He was slightly bald and had blue eyes and a rather rubicund face. She had a lovely calm, patient expression: he, I understand, was a rather masterful man. The other four I could not see so well but I knew by heart what they looked like. There was great, great, great uncle Henry wearing a black stock. He was very goodlooking and had dark brown eyes. Beside him was his wife, Elizabeth. She had keen bright eyes like a bird’s: and I swear my uncle Cyril had eyes just like hers. She was wearing a watch and a long gold chain and a brooch. Henry Crowley was only only forty-two when he died but Elizabeth lived to be over ninety. They lived in a large house with a large garden and a pond in it, which was very popular with the younger generation. It was at Thornton Heath, close to Croydon. All that is left of their home today is a small piece of water, rather enclosed, on one side of the High Street.
Charles Sedgefield was married to pretty great, great aunt Emma who, in the portrait is wearing a brown dress and no jewellery. All three Curtis sisters have over their shoulders transparent scarves. And, of course, they were wearing the Quaker bonnets.
Rather to my surprise I see from the Curtis family tree, that Emma was born two years before Elizabeth, yet in the portrait Elizabeth looks considerably older. We do not know who the artist or artists were. It may be that all three couples were not painted at the same time: it is impossible to tell. Emma died at the age of forty-one. She was Charles Sedgfield`s second wife. He was first married to Marrion Morris who also probably died in the forties. Another Crowley brother of that generation- James- was married to Catherine Morris, which makes me wonder, since usually Quakers marry Quakers, and the Morrises were also brewers, whether she was a sister to Marion. I think she must of been.
Eventually these six portraits came down from my father and mother to my generation and as no one in the family seemed interested in them and they were put in Peter’s loft, I eventually asked to take care of them. I had the damaged ones repaired and for twenty years they all hung in my various homes until I handed them over to the Curtis Museum in Alton and that is where I feel they really belong.
There is a book about the Curtis family, written by Hugh Curtis, a rather interesting comment on my great, great grandmother, Theodora, the only daughter of great uncle Ernest and aunt Edith, wrote to Hugh Curtis about Charlotte, her great grandmother:
My great grandmother of Normandy House, that saintly-looking old lady, somewhat belied her looks. One day an old school-friend named Inwood, jumped into a wooden tub standing beside a stream or a pond, and cried: ‘Now I really am Miss Inwood.’ ‘No’ said Charlotte, as she tipped the tub: ‘You are Miss Inwater.’ Then, a little Quaker Girl, longing but not allowed to attend a circus which was performing in the town, lying outside the tent, her face to the ground, where she could just see something of the horses within as they passed in their thrilling and mysterious performance. But I only remember her as capped and shawled and sweet-faced with white hair in a wheel-chair. She gave every great grandchild on New Years Day 10/- (ten shillings), so I benefited. Grandchildren, I believe, received £1.
I remember Theodora as a rather strange little woman, wearing a white blouse, high-necked , under a heavy navy serge dress with chains round her neck and a belt at her waist; lockets and a watch dangling round her waist. She had dark brown piercing eyes and dark hair parted in the middle and bunched up each side of the parting. Like her mother, great aunt Edith, she had a rather sharp-sounding voice and I seem to recollect seeing them on one occasion when we came to visit, sitting, bickering together while they mended sheets.
Theodora was passionately interested in Italy and Italian paintings and finally my grandfather, her uncle, arranged for her to go to Italy on a short visit. I think she died in some boarding- house in London, but I do not know exactly where or when. Looking back on the little that I can remember about her, it strikes me that she was a rather pathetic character, with interests and talents which she never had an opportunity to develop; for she was obviously very intelligent.
Uncle Ernest’s garden and heath at Albury in Surrey, was a paradise for butterflies in those days. In the garden was a pond and we were told not to go too near it to look at the goldfish. Peter invariably fell in and then there was a great kerfuffle while aunt Edith and Theodora rushed into the house to fetch towels with which to wipe him down.
Theodora had three brothers. Cuthbert, who was desperately wounded in the 1914/18 war, losing both an arm and a leg, but still able to model and draw beautifully. He married his nurse Jeannie and their daughters, Philippa, inherited some of her father’s talents but apart from modelling and making little figures out of sea-shells, she wanted to be a vet. She told me her mother would not allow it. After nursing her father until he died she married and she and her husband lived in a house on the road to Eastbourne and they took in stray dogs. Soon after I had got to know them (I was living at Uckfield at the time) she died. That happened soon after I had returned to live in London.
Then there was Lawrence who never married, Philip who fell in the War and Bernard who married his first cousin Joyce Crowley, uncle Egbert’s eldest daughter. She had glorious red hair which as a little girl , I much admired. Later on in life I remember her as a very nice person, easy to talk to and with a sort faith that all would be well: a kind of “God’s in his heaven, all’s well with the world” philosophy. Bernard, on the other hand, was no optimist and although I am sure he believed that God was in his heaven, he was quite sure that all was wrong with the world. When they married, in 1924, Bernard was working in Shanghai, in the Hong Kong Bank and they were in China when the Second World War broke out. But shortly before that, Joyce brought her little son, Peter, to England and left him at prep school at Eastbourne, after which she returned to join her husband, travelling via the Trans-Siberian railway. She went through Germany and into Berlin where the train became packed with German officers, most of them with sabre scars on their faces. It was popular until World War One, to fence with sabres at universities and while training for the Army, and you wore the cuts on your face until the end of your life. I think this habit has now been stopped.
Joyce and Bernard spent the latter part of the War in a camp with people of many different nationalities. Their son told me that gas chambers were in the process of being built by the Japanese just outside the camp, which was a sure indication that all prisoners were to be exterminated at the moment the Allies began to invade south east Asia. On V.J. Day the American Airforce dropped food by parachute and often tins of peaches were scattered all over the place.
Laurens van de Post, the author of so many delightful books, who was imprisoned by the Japanese in Java among the thousand’s of others, wrote in his slim volume entitled The Night of the New Moon, that if invasion took place every prisoner was to be destroyed. He spoke japanese and he had a secret radio as well as a secret contact with a Korean and some friendly Chinese outside the camp. The Korean passed messages to him, telling him of every new plan the Japanese had about moving and redistributing prisoners and what, finally, was likely to happen to them. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th 1945, undoubtedly saved their lives.
While little Peter was at school, some of the great aunts, particularly Gussa and Gwen, looked after him in the holidays and also his grandfather, uncle Egbert, and he remembers with the same nostalgia that I remember Bernards, “Cambria House” in Staines were his grandmother lived with her son, Egbert, until she died. He also recollects spending a week with Theodora in her Kensington flat. Typically, she took him to different museums and once- which must have been more exciting for a small boy- they went to a show put on by the London Fire Brigade. After the War Bernard and Joyce settled down in an attractive old house called “Quinces” at Upper Dicker close to Eastbourne. In the winter their garden was a mass of snowdrops. But, as invariably happens with advancing years, Bernard began to find the garden too much and Joyce found the house too much, and they were persuaded to leave “Quinces” and move to a smaller house at Rolvenden in Kent, very near to where their son and his wife, Cynthia, lived. Alas, they moved in the winter: the weather was bitterly cold and they both caught influenza. Bernard recovered but Joyce died before they moved into their new home. They were living with their son and daughter-in-law at the time. This was in February 1976.
During four years of my life, from 1973-77 I was living at Uckfield and from time to time I drove to Rolvenden to visit Bernard. He was in a depressed state, increased by the loss of Joyce. At the best of times I had not known him exactly cheerful. It is, I think, somewhat of a Crowley characteristic to grumble, to look on the black side, to worry about small unimportant things. Bernard, towards the end of his life was not on good terms with the modern world: the television programmes, the press, the young generation and so on and after having to give up his car he felt deeply depressed. I liked him very much and felt very sorry for him now, that there was no cheerful Joyce to balance his darker moods. But I did receive one amusing letter from him giving me a description of a journey to London to see an eye specialist in Harley Street. And then came a disaster. One afternoon, when, I imagine he had fallen asleep in his chair, some wretched people came into his house and stole a lot of the furniture. Not long after this unpleasant event his son telephoned me to tell me that his father had died. It was in Febuary 1983.
To return to Joyce: she had two sisters, Gertrude and Barbara and one brother, Egbert. Gertrude was tall and very nice looking and she married a very small man named Bell. My grandparents took me to their wedding and I sat exactly behind great uncle Egbert. He was sobbing his heart out and I felt very concerned and was sure it must be because he did not like Mr. Bell. Aunt Katey kept looking at him apprehensively. After the ceremony someone came up to my grandfather, thinking he was Egbert. (As I have already said they looked very alike). This infuriated him and all the way home he kept muttering: “Egbert made a perfect fool of himself”. Poor Egbert; I think he was probably trying to recover from a drinking bout.
The youngest sister, Barbara, was the only bridesmaid. I remember looking at her intensely and deciding, with teenage bitchiness, that she had rouged her cheeks. She wore a champagne coloured dress and carried a bunch of purple tulips. Barbara, like her father, was always interested in horses, race- courses and betting. She married later on in her life and ran a farm in Sussex. I do not remember how long she was married before her husband, either accidently or on purpose, shot himself. Barbara continued to run the farm. She died some time in 1976. Bernard had always disapproved of her but he must have been sad when she died and even sadder when Gertrude died a year later in Devon, where she was living with her second husband.
I met their brother, Egbert, only twice in my life when I was visiting “Quinces”, but I had heard a good deal about him. I think Egbert lived rather a sad life, working in the post-office. He shared Cambria House with his mother at Staines and after her death he let out many of the rooms to labourers, or perhaps he allowed them to stay there for nothing. Anyway, on one occasion when he was in hospital they caused so much disturbance to the neighbours that his solicitor had to intervene and asked Peter to go down to Staines to see what was happening. Egbert was one of the sweetest of men and one of the most gullible; helping ne’er-do-wells and generally being exploited by them. After meeting that day at “Quinces” he took me along to see the house in which he was living. It was an oast house converted and in the large high-ceilinged sitting-room sat a bullet-headed young man drinking Egbert’s beer. He looked like a criminal. I heard from Egbert later on that this man was lately out of prison and before he left he had helped himself to some of Egbert’s ties and socks. I was not surprised. In the garden was a caravan in which gypsies were living: a man and his wife, the woman expecting a baby. Egbert was nervous that she might not get to the hospital in time.
Apart from helping all sorts of unhelpable people, he was in interested in a variety of way-out things, such as flying saucers, astrology and British Isrealism. He was also interested in the Crowley family and wrote long letters to my father on this subject, with which, in my limited way, I am now trying to deal.
Before abandoning completely my father’s family and his father’s generation, I should mention one of my grandfather’s brothers which I have omitted and say a word about his and aunt Evelyn’s Family and also that of aunt Gerty’s and Percy Burrell.
The Burrells had nine children, one of whom, Richard, died and the youngest, Evelyn, was killed in the 1914/18 War. Dorothy, Godfrey and Alwyn all married members of the Chater family. Then came Violet who married Mr. Pulliblank. Margie, Eric and Irene did not marry. Alwyn’s first wife, Frances Chater, died when she was still a young woman and had one daughter known as B. I remember as a little girl thinking Frances very beautiful, with her lovely auburn her and large hazel eyes. My father’s great friend was Alwyn, he was always much amused by Godfrey’s somewhat outrageous behaviour. He had picked up a painful illness in the East and the discomfort and agony of it had somehow to be kept in subjection, so he was often excused for behaving badly. I only met him twice and the first time he was on his best behaviour and I thought him quite charming, which he certainly was. The second time was at my grandfather’s funeral. I spotted a man, among the mourners, in the the most un- funeral looking clothes: a battered old hat and a brown overcoat. He looked at his watch and said: “I shall just get to the races.” Unfortunately his first cousin- our uncle Fred- heard him and was furious. I must of afterwards told Aunt Gwen who simply said: “Godfrey was always at his worst on a solemn occasion.”
There remains Uncle Cedric who unfortunately I never knew. He was a parson, married to Aunt Evelyn and they had six children. Again one died very young. I met Aunt Evelyn only once when I was twenty-four. She was then an old lady, living at Great Malvern. I told her - I don’t know why - that I wanted to marry a man much older than myself, and she said: “How brave of you.” She also said “My dear life goes like a flash.” I questioned in my mind that it went quite as fast as that. Now I am as old or even older than she was then, and I think, perhaps, she was right. I never forgot her although I only met her on that one occasion. Her Family consisted of Ida, who I got to know briefly later on when she was living in Canterbury. Hugh who was killed in the 1914/18 War, which seemed to take someone from every family. There was Robin, known as Bob who I fell in love with in when I was twenty-one, being madly attracted by the black patch he wore over one eye: moreover, he was going to take me out on my twenty-first birthday to a dinner and dance, but the General Strike put paid to that. He made arrangements that same day to return at once to America and I cried all day long from disappointment. I met him twice more in his life: once at his wedding in London, to which my grandparents took me, and again in New York in 1961 when he took me out to dinner.
Next to Bob came Geoffrey who married a friend of mine from Guernsey: Kitty Stevens- Guille and with whom I have always been in touch. Lastly came dear Brian, who I first met at my grandparents’ house when I was quite young and so was he; and never again until my eightieth birthday party to which he was invited and once more at Kitty’s funeral. He is still alive and sometimes we communicate.
I will divert a little now from the Crowleys to write about a family closely connected- one might almost say intertwined with them- the Curtises.