As with most towns preparing to accept Belgian Refugees, a committee was formed in Rhyl to raise much-needed funds and ready the house for their arrival.
Somewhere in the region of 18,000 charities were formed during the First World War, and this exposed the limitations of the law and the Charities Commission, so the Government had to introduce legislation to regulate them. It became illegal to collect money for the war if the charity was not registered. This was the War Charities Act, 1916. It was now an offense to “Make any appeal to the public for donations or subscriptions in money or in any kind to any war charity,” or to “Attempt to raise money for any such charity by promotion, any bazaar, sale, entertainment or exhibition, or by any similar means” unless the charity was registered under the act. Furthermore, any person guilty of an offence against the act would be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds, or imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding three months.
Rhyl Urban District Council were required to register the Rhyl Belgian Refugees Fund. They discussed this in the Finance and General Purposes Committee in October 1916. 2 East Parade, the Refugee House, was listed as the administrative address of the charity and the fund paid the required 5 shillings registration fee. As Rhyl Urban District Council were, in this particular case, the Registration Authority they required the Fund Committee to present their audited accounts to them every three months.
One of the Town Clerks, C. E. Totty, was responsible for preparing balance sheets for the fund, and so we have included him among these stories of the lives of the Rhyl Belgian Refugees Committee.
By 1915 the Ladies’ Sub-Committee were endeavouring to take control of the management of the house at 2 East Parade from the Sister Superior of St. Mary’s Convent (at her suggestion) although this was hotly contested by the main committee. Some of the members of the Rhyl Belgian Refugees Committee we can find in the newspaper reports are:
Mrs. Eyton Lloyd
Mrs. Joshua Davies
Mr. Lewis Jones
Mrs. J. Wilde
We’re trying to learn as much about the Committee members as possible. We found that some of them carried on working for the benefit of the Belgian Refugees even after they had lost family members in tragic circumstances in the war (in Edith Bromley’s case, two sons) and also found some stories which must have seemed quite scandalous at the time.
It appears that the members of the Committee were already very active within the community before they gave their time to the Refugees, especially within church groups, choirs, golf clubs, musical societies, the RSPCA and other groups, and some of the ladies were wives of very prominent men within the town – doctors, the coroner, a solicitor etc.
We’ve not yet managed to find out about all the members of the Committee. The 1911 and 1901 Censuses have helped greatly, as has the Welsh Newspaper Archive, but we’ll attempt to fill in the blanks as we go along.
The committee member we know most about is
Mrs. Edith Maud Bromley
This portrait is in the care of Rhyl Town Council. Until we started researching the Committee, they did not know who Mrs. Bromley was, or why there would be a portrait of her, so our work solved a mystery for them too!
Edith was born Edith Maud Bellamy in Tulse Hill, London in 1875. She was the daughter of William Caleb Benjamin Bellamy, who founded Bellamy’s Wharf in London and was a prominent Conservative councillor. She married Richard Bromley (who was born in 1865) in Penge, London in 1894. Richard, originally from Holywell, was a solicitor, coroner and County Council Clerk. They had four children, two of whom died in the First World War. They lived at “Anerley”, Russell Road, Rhyl. Edith was Honorary Secretary of the Ladies Golf Club, Secretary of the Doctor Barnardo’s Home and a Governor of Rhyl County School, a position she held from March 1905. She was the accompanist for the Choral Society and her husband Richard was the conductor.
Son: Second Lieutenant Hugh Frederick Grenville Bromley of B Company, Royal Sussex Regiment, died in 1915 aged 19 and is named on the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais and Rhyl War Memorial in the Gardens of Remembrance. He was educated at Colet House School in Rhyl (now St. David’s Residential Home) and Rossall School.
Son: Lieutenant John Ledger Bromley of the 11th Squadron, Royal Air Force died in 1918 aged 21 and is named on the Arras Flying Services Memorial, Pas de Calais and Rhyl War Memorial.
Son: Richard Russell Bromley was an engineer who was born in 1900. He travelled second class on board the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Ship “Mongolia” in 1927 to Port Said with an intended future residence in Egypt. He returned in 1931 onboard the “Cheshire”, landing at Plymouth.
Daughter: Beryl Rose Bromley was born 1904. Together with her mother she travelled to Egypt in 1927 onboard the “Cheshire”, presumably to visit Richard Jnr.
In 1911, Edith’s husband Richard eloped with a Mrs. Jones (described as “a widow” in the newspapers) having told Edith he was going on holiday for three weeks. In 1913 a judge awarded “restitution of conjugal rights with costs” to Edith, and ordered the husband’s return within 30 days. It was believed he was in Australia. By October 1913 Edith had been granted a divorce on the grounds of Richard’s desertion and misconduct. We don’t know if Richard ever returned to Rhyl.
Whilst Edith, husband Richard and daughter Beryl still lived at “Anerley” on Russell Road they had 3 staff living with them – Elizabeth Ann Lloyd, a cook; Margaret Eleanor Vaughan, housemaid and Annie Parry, a nurse. (1911 Census)
By July 1915 Mrs. Bromley was the chair of the Refugee Committee.
Edith died in 1958 at the address “Carnedd”, Bryntirion Avenue, Rhyl. She left £16,376 / 18s / 10d.
Mrs. Bertha Eyton Lloyd
The next Committee member we’ve researched is Bertha Eyton Lloyd. Bertha and her family also suffered a terrible loss in the war.
Bertha was born in Prestbury, Gloucestershire, in April 1882. She was the daughter of the Reverend John Bateman Wathen and his wife Emma. She married Dr. Arthur Eyton Lloyd in 1882 and they originally lived in Cynval Villa, Kinmel Street, Rhyl. This building housed Dr. Eyton Lloyd’s medical practice and also a dental surgery. It’s now the base of Pro-Care Wales.
They had three children – George, Lily and John. By the time the 1901 Census was taken they were living at “Eytonhurst”, a house on the corner of East Parade and Bath Street in Rhyl, which is still there and still bears the same name. Also living with the family were Ethel Tall, aged 23, a Domestic Governess; Sarah Nichol, aged 44, a cook and Gertrude Emma Mynett, a domestic servant aged 17. Son George was not living at home – he is listed as a boarder on the census for Epsom College.
Dr. Eyton Lloyd, as the Medical Officer for Health, examined the Refugees on their arrival into Rhyl. He also attended the house during their time here and spoke at the inquest of Franc De Roover. Among his many responsibilities, he was a Commissioner of Rhyl, Justice of the Peace, District Surgeon to the London & North Western Railway Company, Honorary Surgeon to the Royal Alexandra Hospital and Surgeon to Sick & Wounded Mariners.
Tragedy struck the family with the loss of their youngest son, John Wathen Eyton Lloyd:
John was educated at Colet House School, Rhyl and then Epsom College. He was later articled to the Shotton Engineering Company, but when war broke out he enlisted in the Army, later transferring to the Royal Flying Corps.
On Sunday, June 24th 1917, whilst on a photographic reconnaissance mission over enemy lines, John’s aeroplane was shot down and he was killed.
News of his death was reported in The North Wales Chronicle and Advertiser for the Principality on 6th July 1917:
Flight-Lieutenant J. Eyton Lloyd Killed.
“News was received last week that Flight-Lieutenant John Eyton Lloyd, younger son of Dr. and Mrs. Eyton Lloyd, Rhyl, has been killed. He was educated at Colet House, Rhyl, and Epsom College. From Epsom he was articled to the Shotton Engineering Works, where he soon showed extraordinary aptitude and was making rapid progress. When the war broke out, he at once joined the Army, and after a time received his commission. He was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, and at once proved that he had found his job. He passed the several stages of his training with ease and distinction, and was given his “wings.” He was a bold, intrepid airman. He knew no fear; his courage was without limit. His Flight-Commander, speaking to a friend, a few days ago, said of him: “He was a born pilot; he had already done much excellent work on his own, and was likely to do extremely well.” The following extract from a letter written to his father by his Commanding Officer says: “It is with the deepest regret that I have to tell you that your boy was killed on duty to-day, June 24th. Only to-day I recommended that your son should be promoted to Flight-Commander (Captain), as he had done extraordinarily well since he has been here. I was very fond of him, as were all the other officers and men of the Squadron. He will be buried near our Squadron on Tuesday, in the Cemetery.”
A memorial hangs on the South Wall in St. Thomas’ Church, Rhyl and John is named on the War Memorial. There’s also a cross on the wall in the church in Guarlford, Worcestershire – after 43 years service to the medical profession Dr. Eyton Lloyd and Bertha retired there in April 1918.
Bertha died in 1933 and is buried in Guarlford Churchyard.
Mrs. Beatrice Hutton
Mrs. Beatrice Margaret Leigh Hutton was the Honorary Secretary of the Refugee Committee.
Like Edith Maud Bromley, she was involved in many community groups, being a soloist in the Choral Society and a member of the Ladies’ Golf Club.
Beatrice was married to Dr. Eustace Hutton and they had four children: Barbara, Horace, Gwynedd and Wilfrid. At the time of the 1911 Census the children were aged 9, 7, 6 and 4 respectively and they were all living at Fernleigh, Seabank Road, Rhyl. There were also two members of staff living there: Margaret Rainsford, a Governess aged 21 and Beatrice Weston, a cook aged 28. We know from newspaper reports of the births of Gwynedd (1905) and Wilfred (1906) that prior to living on Seabank Road the family lived at 4 Victoria Avenue, Rhyl, just around the corner.
Beatrice was born Beatrice Margaret Leigh Slater in Disley, Manchester in 1881. She was from a well-to-do family, and this is borne out by the report of her wedding to Eustace in 1901:
18th May 1901
FASHIONABLE WEDDING AT DISLEY.
HUTTON — LEIGH-SLATER
“On Wednesday, at St Mary’s Church, Disley, a fashionable wedding was solemnised in the presence of a large number of people. The contracting parties were Dr. Eustace Hutton and Miss Beatrice Margaret, second daughter of Mr. Leigh-Slater, of Lillicroft, Disley, and for some time past much interest had centred on the event locally. The day was beautifully fine, and the interior of the sacred edifice was crowded with the elite of the district, who had assembled to witness the ceremony. A covered archway had been erected from the churchyard gates to the church door, and right away to the entrance the ground was covered with red druggett. In close proximity to the archway, and in the gallery of the church, the general public assembled in large numbers, the bride’s family being held in high esteem in the village. The interior of the church had been beautifully decorated by the Misses Graham, arum lilies, lilies of the valley, white azaleas, lilac, tulips, narcissi, and maiden hair fern being tastefully arranged, many of the plants having been kindly lent by Miss Keymer. The marriage ceremony was performed by the Rev. F. R. C. Hutton, brother of the bride-groom, assisted by the Rev. Harry T. Sharp, uncle of the bride, and the Rev. C. J. Satterthwaite, M.A., Vicar of Disley. The service was fully choral. As the bridal party entered the church, Mr. Allen, the organist, played the “March of the Priests,” and at the conclusion of the ceremony “Mendelssohn’s Wedding March,” the choir during the service rendering the hymns “The voice that breathed o’er Eden” and “O, perfect love.” The bride was most charmingly robed in ivory satin Duchesse, trimmed with Brussels “point plat” lace, the gift of her great aunt, Mrs. Stern. She also wore a tulle veil, and a pretty wreath of orange blossoms, her shower bouquet, the gift of the bride-groom, being composed of white roses, lilies, heather, and orange blossoms. She was attended by six bridesmaids misses Florence, Lilian, and Gladys Leigh-Slater (sisters of the bride), Miss Maude Hutton (sister of the bride-groom), Miss Gwenelyn Hutton (niece of the bride-groom), and Miss Marjorie Slater (cousin of the bride). Their dresses were of ivory white soie-de-chene, made with boleros, and trimmed with lace insertion and long chiffon sashes. They wore large soft white hats, with white ostrich feathers, chiffon, and large gold buckles. Each wore a gold Shamrock bracelet, the gifts of the bride-groom, and carried lovely shower bouquets, the first two of mauve and white lilac, with long mauve ribbons the next two of lilies of the valley and pink hyacinths, with green ribbons, and the last two of yellow marguerites and lilies, with long yellow ribbons. The reception was held at Lillicroft, the residence of the bride’s parents, where about 150 guests attended. The happy couple left by the four o’clock train for London en-route for Paris, where the honeymoon is being spent. The bride’s travelling dress was of blue Alburto canvas, over white glace silk, trimmed with white lace and chiffon, and a large picture hat of blue straw, lined with white chiffon, and trimmed with blue ostrich feathers and gold buckle. She also wore a long white chiffon ruffle. After the honeymoon, Mr. and Mrs. Hutton will reside at Rhyl, where he has bought Dr Sneyd Torney’s practice.”
There’s no mention of Beatrice’s mother in the wedding reports – that’s because she lost her mother in a rather unusual accident some six years earlier when Beatrice was just 14 years of age:
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Monday 11 February 1895
Fatal Tobogganing Accident Disley.
“On Saturday the death occurred of Mrs. Slater, wife of Mr. Leigh Slater, of Disley, who, while tobogganing with some friends down a steep lane in Disley on the previous Thursday, was upset, and received serious injuries.”
Beatrice’s father, Leigh Slater, co-owned a huge paper manufacturing company – Henry & Leigh Slater – which still exists today. The advert below was originally included in “The British Printer” magazine, 1896:
Dr. Eustace Hutton, Beatrice’s husband, studied medicine at Owen’s College, Manchester (which became the Victoria University of Manchester and is now the University of Manchester.) He was assistant and visiting house surgeon at Stockport Infirmary before moving to Rhyl and being appointed Deputy Medical Superintendent to the North Wales Hospital in Denbigh.
This photograph, from Clwyd Wynne’s excellent book “The North Wales Hospital, Denbigh 1842 – 1995” shows Beatrice and Eustace on the occasion of his retirement from the hospital in 1947. Beatrice is shown seated with a bouquet. To buy a copy of this book, please click here to visit the page on Amazon.
What more of the family?
We know that the youngest son, Wilfrid, spent some time in the Sudan, as we found passenger lists for his return to the UK. His last country of permanent residence listed is “Sudan” and his port of departure for the UK is Rangoon, Burma in 1931. Wilfrid died before his mother, in March 1957 aged 50, with Beatrice being listed as the beneficiary of over £10,000.
Beatrice died a widow in Rhyl in 1959, aged 81, Eustace having died in 1951. Her last address was Maesgwilym, Dyserth Road. She left £38,276 15s 8d.
Miss Lucy Jane Linthwaite
Miss Lucy Jane Linthwaite was the Honorary Treasurer of the Belgian Refugees Committee. She was born c.1868 in Northwich.
According to the 1911 Census, Lucy was 43 years old, a lady of “Private Means” living with her aunt, 85 year-old Sarah Jane Jones at the house “Tudno Lodge” in Highfield Park, Rhyl – the house is still called Tudno Lodge. On the same Census there are two others living at Tudno Lodge: Mary Catherine Evans, a 29 year old cook and Selina Bellis, a 23 year old housemaid.
By the time the Refugees arrived in Rhyl in 1914 Lucy’s aunt had died (July 4th 1912) leaving her £18,287 18s 10d.
Lucy was very active in St. Ann’s Church, especially around Easter, Harvest and Christmas-time where she contributed greatly to the flower arranging and decorations. We can find lots of instances in the newspapers where she is noted for completing these tasks, but we also found she was quite the fund-raiser for many different causes, in particular for the children at the workhouse in St. Asaph.
On the 1881 Census, we found Lucy (then aged 14) living with the same aunt in Eglwysrhos (Deganwy) and also listed is her uncle William A. Jones who was the curate of Eglwysrhos. William is 38 at this time and from Caernarfon. His wife Sarah Jane is listed as originally coming from Loughborough.
Mrs. Minnie Davies
Always listed in the newspapers as Mrs. Joshua Davies, Minnie was Joshua’s second wife (married in 1891) and there was already a child in the household when she joined it, Joshua being 20 years older than Minnie. On the 1901 Census, the household, “Lismore” on Fairfield Avenue, Rhyl, consisted of Joshua Davies, Minnie, son Harold aged 20 from Joshua’s first marriage, daughter Gwladys aged 9, Son Joshua aged 5 and Elizabeth Wynne, a housemaid aged 17. By 1911 the Census shows Gwladys being the only child left at home, and a new housemaid – 28 year old Edith Evans, still in the same house on Fairfield Avenue.
Minnie was born in Birmingham, and Joshua in Llantysilio, Denbighshire. Joshua was the manager of the London City & Midland Bank which merged with the North & South Wales Bank in 1908. This was on the site of the current HSBC Bank, on the corner of Bodfor Street and Wellington Road. Joshua had travelled quite a bit in his career – in 1871, aged 20, he lodged in Oswestry where he was a bank clerk, and then by 1881 he is lodging in the Toxteth Park area of Liverpool, and working as a bookkeeper.
The house on Fairfield Avenue, “Lismore”, has an interesting history of its own: In 1939, St. Hilda’s Home for Girls in Bradford, which was owned by the Waifs and Strays Society, needed to evacuate their girls to a place of safety. They came initially to St. Winefride’s Home for Girls on Brighton Road (also owned by the Waifs and Strays Society) and shortly after they moved to Lismore. The house in Bradford never re-opened.
Minnie was very active in St. Thomas’ Church – there are many instances in the newspapers of the time detailing her work with the flowers and decorations (even decorating the Vicarage at Christmas.) She was also a very enthusiastic charity supporter. She was on the committee of the Rhyl Lifeboat Saturday Fund and contributed greatly to the fundraising for the Alexandra Hospital, St. Mary’s Convent and the Doctor Barnardo’s charity.
Mrs. Ada Mary Gamon
Ada is another member of the Committee who lost her son in the First World War – although John Lionel Percival Gamon died as a result of a tragic accident whilst training rather than in the theatre of war.
Ada was born Ada Mary Holroyd in Leeds in 1866 and married Harry, a stockbroker from Chester. Although only in Rhyl for a few years (they lived in Christleton by the time their eldest son died) they were very active within the community. Both Harry and John were members of the Golf Club, and according to newspaper reports of prize giving ceremonies we found of the time they were quite adept at the game.
The 1911 Census has the family living at “Sunny Royd”, Grange Road, Rhyl. John has already left home (he was a solicitor, which seems to be the “family business” in Chester) but their youngest son, Harry Jnr., is there, being 10 years old when the Census was taken. Also in the house is their “general domestic” Ethel Jones, aged 23 and two visitors: Widow Frances Hughes-Jones and her 2 year old son, Stephen.
Some of the following information about their son John and the circumstances around his death comes from the incredible website www.fintshirewarmemorials.com
John Lionel Percival Gamon was born in Bramley, Yorkshire on April 14th 1897. By 1901 the family was living in Heswall, and John went to St. Bees School in Cumberland. After some time in Rhyl, the family moved to “The Sycamores”, Christleton.
John was commissioned into the Border Regiment and later attached to the Northumberland Fusiliers. He fought on the front line at the Battle of Cambrai.
At a training camp in Redcar on June 4th, 1918 whilst home on leave, John was training recruits. During this exercise he was accidentally shot and killed. He was 21 years of age.
John is buried at St. James’ Churchyard in Christleton, and remembered on the memorial in the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Rhyl.
On the 21st of March 1940 Ada, by then a widow, died aged 74. She was living with her youngest son, Harry (known as “Hal”) in Colwyn Bay. Harry inherited £9,628 10s 8d from his mother. Harry died aged 47 in 1948. He was survived by his wife Mary.
Mrs. Edith Mary Rhydderch
Edith was born in 1867 in Ebbw Vale, and in 1890 she married Richard Rhydderch who was born in Nant y Glo in 1865.
Richard was the Sub-Inspector for Schools, and both he and Edith were very active in the community, especially within the Wesleyan Church in Rhyl. Edith’s fund-raising efforts usually centred around the provision of Social Teas. Richard’s work required him to conduct exams at Rhyl’s County School, but off-duty he was heavily involved in both the local and national Eisteddfodau and organising “Nosweithiau Llawen” (Pleasant Evenings) Concerts and a series of lectures at the Morley Road Schoolroom. According to the Census Richard is the only family member who is a Welsh speaker.
Edith and Richard had three children, all of whom were living at home at “Islwyn”, 2 Beechwood Road, Rhyl, when the 1911 Census was taken:
William Edmund Hodges Rhydderch – 20 years old in 1911 and a student at Oxford. He went on to become Deputy Chairman of the Customs and Excise Board and was knighted to acknowledge his work. He travelled to New York onboard the Queen Mary in 1938. He married Ethel Louise and retired to “Brick Cottage”, Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex where he died in 1961.
Second son Trevor Richard Leighton Rhydderch was was 19 years old and working as a bank clerk at the National and Provincial Bank at the time of the Census. He married twice: First to Daisy, whom he divorced and then to Joan. Trevor died in 1977 at “Sun Cottage”, also in Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex.
Youngest son Arthur Mervyn Rhydderch was 9 in 1911. He received a Batchelor of Arts from Cambridge and then went on to study medicine, becoming a doctor and working for a while at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. He married Nina and lived at times at Shirley, Mostyn Avenue, Llandudno (1935) and Llety, Meliden Road, Prestatyn (1940). He died in 1949 in Hertfordshire.
Also on the Census is Sarah Catherine Roberts, a General Domestic who is 23 years old.
Edith died in Rhyl on February 2nd 1937, having been widowed some four years earlier.
Mrs. Clara Andersson
Sometimes spelled Anderson, Clara was born Clara Stuart in January 1859 in Bootle. She married Arthur Robert Andersson in July 1882 and they had one son, Gerald Arthur who was born in 1883 in Great Crosby. Clara’s father, husband and son were all insurance agents. At one time Arthur worked for the Norwich Union.
By 1911 Clara and her family were living at 26 Butterton Road, Rhyl, in a house called “Killarney”. The house was also occupied by Clara’s sister Mary, Mary’s husband Lewis Browne Whittingham, a retired farmer, and one of Mary’s three daughters, Coralie Susette. On the 1911 census Clara’s husband Arthur is listed as a retired Insurance Manager and their son Gerald is a Fire Insurance Inspector.
Just weeks after the war broke out Clara’s husband died aged 59. In February 1917 her nephew, the only son of Clara’s sister Mary, Second Lieutenant Lewis Stuart Whittingham who had been a land agent prior to joining the Royal Welch Fusiliers, was killed in France. He is buried in Sailly-Saillisel British Cemetery.
By 1923 Clara was living at 11 River Street in Rhyl. She died on July 11th of that year, aged 64. Her estate, £1,222 15s 10d, passed to her son.
Gerald died in 1938. At the time he was living in Lloyd Street in Llandudno.
Mr. Percy Ashbery
Percy Ashbery was born in 1869 in Cirencester. His wife Annie Elizabeth (nee Plowman) was also born in 1869, but in Brentford. They had four daughters – Doris who died at one year old, Kathleen, Marjorie and Muriel.
On the 1901 census Percy and Annie were living in Margate, and Percy was employed as a bank clerk. They family seems to have moved around a great deal. By the time the 1911 census was taken they are living on the Isle of Man with their three surviving daughters: Kathleen and Marjorie were born in Margate – in 1903 and 1904 respectively – and Muriel on the Isle of Man in 1907. In 1911 Percy was a “bank accountant”.
In Rhyl by 1914, Percy was the manager of Parr’s Bank, which is on the corner of Queen Street and Market Street, now the NatWest. Percy undertook the duties of Honorary Treasurer for the Rhyl Belgian Refugees Committee and several other organisations including Rhyl Volunteer Training Corps and Denbighshire East & Rhyl RSPCA. He was involved in social activities too, being a member of Rhyl Golf Club and partnering Mrs. Edith Bromley in Lawn Tennis Mixed Doubles tournaments.
Percy was a Special Constable. During the Anti-German riot of 1915 the premises of a German national named Fassey who was resident in Rhyl and working as a barber were stormed by a crowd. According to the newspapers at the time Percy removed the children of Mr. Fassey to safety:
“Fassey’s two little children were carried away through the crowd by Sergeant Jones, the deputy chief constable’s secretary, and Mr. Ashbury, one of the special constables. One of the children was only six weeks old.” You can read about the riot here.
Percy’s daughter Marjorie also has an interesting story to tell:
Following on from her father’s willingness to assist those persons displaced by war, Marjorie goes even further in the last days of the Second World War when she is working at Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in Germany. Marjorie, having trained as a PT teacher and funded her own passage to the New York on July 26th, 1939 on board the S.S. Aquitania, found she had a desire to play a more direct role in the war. She trained with the Friends Relief Service (the Quakers) in 1944, travelling with them through North West Europe driving their vehicles. They travelled through France to Antwerp where she undertook relief work and then moved on to Belsen. Marjorie was interviewed by the Imperial War Museum in 1996 for their project “Forgotten Voices of the Second World War.” The accompanying book of the same name, written by Max Arthur, is available in Rhyl Library. In it, Marjorie describes her experience of Belsen, where she helped the surviving internees. Marjorie died in 2001 in Mayfield Rest Home in Devizes, Wiltshire.
In Marjorie’s interview with the Imperial War Museum we gleaned some extra information about her childhood and her father:
She states that she was born in Margate and that the family lived on the Isle of Man, and that they came to Rhyl in 1911 in order for her father to take up his position as the manager of Parr’s Bank. The family stayed in Rhyl until 1921 when Percy was transferred to Gloucester – something he was thrilled about as he came from the West Country. Percy’s Grandfather was a Congregational Minister, and his brothers were disappointed when he joined the Church of England – but he didn’t always attend church with his family. If he told them “I’m going to hear Canon Greenfield today” it meant he would be spending the day playing golf!
Marjorie also recollects that she came home from Europe in February 1945 to see her father as he was very ill. Percy Ashbery died on July 26th, 1945 at his address in Farnham leaving £2,587 18s 10d to his wife Annie, from whom Percy was separated (according to Marjorie’s interview.) Annie died in 1959.
Much of the above information was given to us by Steve Dyke, author of the incredible website “He Was A Hero” who kindly volunteered a day at the Imperial War Museum in order to listen to Marjorie’s tapes. You can also find Steve on Twitter: @hewasahero. We’re very grateful to him for his time and effort in helping us to tell Percy’s story.
Mr. Arthur Lewis Jones
A solicitor originally from Newport in South Wales, Arthur married his wife, Lucy Jane Jones (nee Taylor) in Whitchurch in 1892, where he was practising law. He was born in 1864 and Lucy in 1865. Their first three children were born in Whitchurch: Featherstone Lewis Jones in 1892, Anesta Mary in 1896 and John Alfred in 1899. Their fourth child, Christopher Lewis Jones was born in Prestatyn in 1906.
The censuses give us quite a few addresses for the family:
1900: Cobden Terrace, Brighton Road, Rhyl
1901: “Corner of Russell Road and Clwyd Street” in Rhyl. We know that Alfred’s practice was on Clwyd Street, so it is possible they lived “over the shop”. Many will remember the Russell Café on the ground floor. The Halifax Building Society used to be on the first floor, later Harold Smith accountants. There is a second floor to the building too. The ground floor is currently “The Hair Studio”.
1905: “Brynafon”, Prestatyn
1911: “Thornlea”, Seabank Road, Rhyl.
Mr. Alfred Lewis Jones was a member of Rhyl Urban District Council, a Liberal councillor representing the West Ward who was Vice-Chair of the Council and Chair of the General Purposes Committee in 1907. Later, he was Registrar to Rhyl County Court.
Alfred and Lucy Jane were very active socially within the English Wesleyan Church community. Lucy hosted social teas, and Alfred was the secretary of the “Peasant Saturday Evenings” group, which gave lectures and recitals and he curated the “University Extension Lectures”.
Two of Alfred and Lucy’s sons fought in the First World War:
Featherstone Lewis Jones, the eldest son, joined the Denbighshire Hussars (Yeomanry) in August 1914, and was gazetted to the Lancashire Fusiliers as a 2nd Lieutenant in December of that year. He transferred to the East Lancashire Regiment in March 1915 and served in France from June to November 1915. He was discharged in November 1915. Prior to signing up he was a solicitor, and continued this work after his return home, based in Manchester.
We found a report about another of their sons John Alfred Jones in the Manchester Evening News of September 18th, 1918:
“Second Lieutenant John Alfred Jones (aged 19) Cheshire Regiment, wounded on September 6th in knee and shoulder with shrapnel. He is the second son of Mr. A. Lewis Jones, registrar of the Rhyl County Court, and brother of Mr. F. Lewis Jones, Solicitor, Manchester. Prior to joining up he was employed at the National Provincial Bank of England, Prestatyn.”
Alfred Lewis Jones died at his house “Easedale” on Marine Drive in Rhyl on June 30th 1936.
Mrs. Ann Beetenson DeRance
Ann DeRance was involved right at the start of the preparations for the Refugees to arrive. Already a tireless charity worker, she was there on their arrival – the Liverpool Daily Post & Mercury of October 7th 1914 states they were “taken charge of” by the Sisters of St. Mary’s Convent School and Mrs. DeRance.
Mrs. DeRance was originally from Liverpool, born Ann Beetenson Foster. In June 1887, she married French-born Charles Eustace DeRance, a prominent geologist of HM’s Geological Survey who wrote “The Geology of the Coasts of Rhyl, Abergele and Colwyn” among other books. He was very vocal about the borehole at Pen-y-Cefndy (Rhuddlan Road, an area still known as the “Water Towers”) thinking there would be better quality drinking water had the authorities dug deeper, and was consulted on the stones to use for the Gorsedd Circle on East Parade to mark the Eisteddfod. In 1888 we can find them staying as visitors at 54 West Parade.
We cannot find evidence of a divorce, but we know that by 1891 Ann was certainly not living with Charles. The Census of that year has her at “Stonehurst”, Gladstone Terrace, Bath Street, living with her Aunt Elizabeth Roose who is 70 years of age. By 1901 Ann and Elizabeth are still at this address. Whatever the circumstances surrounding their separation, Charles died a tragic death in Blackpool, where he was living in 1906. This report is from Rhyl Record and Advertiser of May 12th 1906:
Old Rhyl Resident’s Death.
Fatal Accident to Mr. C. E. DeRance.
Mr. Charles Eugene DeRance, F.G.S., the well-known geologist, who for many years resided in Rhyl, died at Blackpool Hospital on Wednesday afternoon as the result of a remarkable accident. Last Saturday week Mr. DeRance, who lived at 32, Carshalton Road, North Shore, and was about sixty years of age, went to see. some friends off at the Central Station. At the station, he became unwell, and was removed to the left luggage office for a rest, and placed in a chair in front of the fire by a railway servant. After he had been there nearly an hour Mr. DeRance was left alone for five minutes. A railway constable smelt something burning, and running into the office he discovered that Mr. DeRance had fallen from the chair into the fire, and was terribly burned about the body. With all despatch, he was removed to the hospital, after the constable and a porter had treated him as best as they could. In hospital, he lingered eleven days, but after terrible pain succumbed to his injuries. Mr. DeRance published many geological books and maps, and was recognised as the highest living authority on the geological formation of the north-west coast. He was secretary of the British Association committee of inquiry into the coast erosion, and signed their report for 1835. He also supervised the preparation of many Ordnance maps.
There were many good causes to which Ann DeRance contributed. We can find evidence of her fundraising for Rhyl Women’s Convalescent Home, Rhyl Brass Band, the Dr. Barnardo’s Home, The Royal Alexandra Hospital and the Crippled and Blind Girls fund.
As a member of the Rhyl Poor Relief Fund Committee she helped to distribute 425 Christmas Hotpots on Christmas Day in 1908.
Her work with the Poor Relief Fund led to this letter in the Rhyl Journal of January 4th 1908:
RHYL POOR RELIEF FUND
To the Editor of The Rhyl Journal,
Sir, – The other day, Mrs. DeRance said to me – “Mr. Rowlands, you should write to the papers appealing for subscriptions to the Poor Relief Fund during this very cold weather.” I said – “Yes, but will you draft a letter for me, in your own style?” She said she would, and did so. I cannot do better than adopt it, without altering one syllable or one iota. It is as follows:
“To the Editor:- Dear Sir, – Now that Winter is fully upon us, and there is much distress and poverty in our midst, it is as well to remind the kind-hearted that a warm meal can be had at any time during the day at the Grosvenor by presenting one of the free meal tickets, which can be procured at the office of the Town Clerk, 30 for 2s 6d, and which prove an inestimable boon to a cold and starving person, and much better than money in many cases. – Yours truly, A. Beetenson DeRance.”
I feel sure all will say “Well done, Mrs. DeRance,” and that her appeal will have the desired effect. In addition to the free meals, the soup kitchen will be open twice a week, with a distribution of bread. Coal and groceries, no doubt, will also be given in urgent cases. Of course, all this depends upon the amount of support extended to the fund. The Committee appeal for subscriptions, if the good work is to be carried on efficiently – Yours Truly,
Arthur Rowlands, Hon. Sec.
Council Offices, Rhyl
January 1st, 1908
Ann sat on many other committees too, including that of the RSPCA, the 1897 Diamond Jubilee Celebrations Committee, the Victoria Jubilee Cot Committee (with Mrs. Bromley), the Boxing Day Eisteddfod Committee, the Women’s Suffrage Committee, Rhyl Fire Brigade Fundraisers Committee and the National Eisteddfod Committee. She was President of the Women’s Unionist Association and (in 1894) Dame President of the Primrose League.
Other activities in which Ann was involved included Rhyl Badminton Club – she successfully negotiated the hire of the Town Hall on behalf of the club at 10 shillings a day for three days a week throughout the Winter. She participated in Watchnight Services and Conservative Socials, and we can find many occasions where she contributed to sales of work, cake baking and gave financial backing for many causes. She awarded prizes at Colet House School and the Convent High School and sat on the Board of Governors of Rhyl County School. She also arranged and managed amateur dramatics in the Town Hall.
Ann DeRance was a member of the Board of St. Asaph Guardians. She was a formidable woman! This report from the Rhyl Record and Advertiser of July 17th 1909 shows how she got her own way against fierce opposition in the matter of the care of a twelve-year-old girl:
NOT A QUESTION OF SENTIMENT
A labourer appeared before the Board and asked to be allowed to take his discharge, but leave his daughter who was 12 years of age in the Workhouse until he could find a home for her.
The Clerk pointed out that they had great difficulty in finding the man last time after he left, that he had been to prison for refusing to work, and also for assaulting the porter.
The man said he had work to go to in the hayfields if he could get out.
Mr. Lothian: Can you work as a labourer?
The man: Yes, but I am a slater by trade. I can do labourer’s work pitching and tossing.
Mr. Lothian: Will you work if you have a chance?
The man: Yes.
Mr. Lothian: Well come to me tomorrow and I will give you a job. Labourers are hard to find just now.
Mr. Hugh Williams: Look here, Jones, why don’t you come to terms with your missus and get a home?
The man: No, an angel from heaven could not come to terms with her (Laughter).
Mr. Batho proposed the man should be called upon to take his discharge, and to take his daughter with him.
Mr. Hugh Williams: I second, and I think you should tell him, Mr. Chairman, that he should take his discharge. It is a blooming shame that the man should leave his daughter here.
The board decided that the man should leave at once, and also take his daughter out.
After consulting with the Chairman Mrs. DeRance rose, and appealed to the Guardians to keep the daughter in the Workhouse for at least a week, so that the man could find a home for her, at the same time he should pay for her support. They had to think of the girl’s future. Surely they could imagine the dangers to which the girl would be liable in frequenting the fields during the time of haymaking.
Mr. John Jones (Waen) : Hear, hear, I second.
Mr. John Roberts protested, and said this was a start for the same old thing. They would have the girl on their hands, and would not be able to find the man. They should think of the ratepayers.
Mrs. DeRance (Rising and addressing Mr. Roberts) : And you should think of the girl. Your heart is too hard (Applause).
Mr. Roberts: Yes, and out of the rates and the ratepayers’ money.
Mrs. DeRance: And thank goodness some of the ratepayers have hearts in their bodies (Applause).
Mr. Roberts: You will put expense on the ratepayers in finding the father again.
Mr. Edward Williams: It is a pity we cannot put a special rate on you (Laughter). You have no children.
Mr. Batho said there was cruelty in keeping people even in the Workhouse, as the place was overcrowded, and they had 20 more than their number. He thought of that when he proposed the discharges.
Mr. Roberts: You should think of the ratepayers.
Mrs. DeRance: And you should think of the girl. How would you like to send your daughter out under such conditions?
Mr. Roberts: We have to think of the ratepayers as well as the girl.
Mrs. DeRance turning away from Mr. Roberts said: Well, gentlemen I ask you to vote for me. Vote for the girl remaining here. I believe in saving the girl if we can. And if you will not vote for me on any other grounds vote for me on the grounds of economy. Is it not cheaper to keep the girl here than run the risk of her returning, like six other women to this house have done, three with two or three illegitimate children. I think that prevention is better than cure (Loud applause).
The Board then divided on the motion of Mrs. DeRance, and it was decided by a large majority that the father should be compelled to take his discharge, but that the girl should remain until he found her a home, and also contribute 3s weekly to her support.
The man was called before the Board, and told of the decision the Chairman emphasising the fact that the Board had acted as they had done in the interests of the girl. He was asked if he would pay 3s per week.
The Man: Yes, if I have it.
Mr. Perks: But you will have work tomorrow, and can easily pay 3s.
Mr. Ed Williams: Mr. Lothian offers you work tomorrow.
The man then left the room, but did not seem to like the idea of having to pay 3s per week.
Mr. Roberts: I told you he does not want to work.
Mrs. DeRance: But we have saved the girl (hear, hear).
The last mention in Rhyl we can find of Mrs. DeRance is in 1916, and it is on the occasion of her resignation from the St. Asaph Board of Guardians due to ill-health:
Denbighshire Free Press, 22nd July 1916
A letter was read from Mrs. DeRance, Rhyl, stating that she was sorry she could not reconsider the resignation of her membership of the Board. She regretted having to lay the work down, but after her recent illness she was quite unable to undertake any public duties just now.
The Chairman said he was sure they were all very sorry the Mrs. DeRance felt compelled to adhere to her resignation. It was evidently a matter of conscience with her – that she felt she had no right to continue her membership when she was unable to attend to the business of the Board. While regretting very much the loss of her services, they sincerely hoped that Mrs. DeRance’s health would soon be fully restored (hear, hear).
The Clerk (Mr. J. Wynne Davies) explained that it was only the Local Government Board that had the power to decide whether the resignation of Guardian or Rural District Councillor should be accepted or not.
It was decided to await the Local Government Board’s decision in the matter before taking steps to appoint a successor to Mrs. DeRance. In the case of a previous Rhyl vacancy it was left to the Rhyl Guardians to nominate a new member.
Sometime after her resignation from the Board, Ann left Rhyl for Kent.
Mrs. Ann Beetenson DeRance died at her home, “Bleak House”, in Bromley, Kent on September 17th 1919. There was a sum of £17,857 12s 9d which went to the “Public Trustee”.
In addition to the committee were officers of The Council who provided services:
Charles Edgar Totty – Clerk to the Rhyl Urban District Council
Charles was the officer of the Council who checked the Balance Sheets of the Refugee Committee and certified them as correct.
According to the 1891 Census, 18 year old Charles, then an auctioneer’s clerk, lived with his uncle Isaac Walter Highway, a confectioner, at 36 Queen Street, Rhyl (This is now “Images” Hair & Beauty.) Also living there was Isaac’s family: Wife Frances, son Isaac – also an auctioneer’s clerk – and daughter Esther, a confectioner’s assistant. The census shows Charles was born in Walsall.
Charles was quite a sportsman and heavily involved in sporting clubs both as a participant and officer.
1890: Secretary of the Victoria Cross Football Club
1893: Hon. Secretary and Treasurer of Rhyl Athletic Football Club, continuing this role when it was renamed Rhyl Town Football Club.
1895: Charles won the first round of Rhyl Regatta on the Marine Lake. He lost the second round to his cousin Isaac.
1896: Member of the Rhyl Amateur Swimming Club Committee.
1896: Member of Rhyl Cycling Club.
1898: Treasurer of Rhyl United Football Club – formed by the amalgamation of Rhyl Town Football Club and Rhyl Amateur Football Club. Represented the club on the Committee of the North Wales Football League.
1899: Played football for Rhyl Church Guild.
1905,1906, 1907: Played cricket for Rhyl Urban District Council’s Officers’ Team, also on the Committee.
1906: Joined the Committee of Rhyl Hockey Club.
By 1901 Charles was married with two children and living at 1 Mill Bank Villa, Greenfield Street, Rhyl. His wife Agnes had her own laundry business. Daughter Vera was two years old and there was an unnamed one month old boy. Charles was employed as a Solicitor’s Clerk.
In 1902 he went to work as a clerk for Rhyl Urban District Council. His salary was £70 per year, with potential pay rises of £5 to a maximum of £90 per year.
Charles had other interests aside from his sporting activities: He played whist at the Conservative Club, where he became the Treasurer in 1915. He was already the Treasurer of the Constitutional Club and had taken part in at least one Amateur Operatic performance – playing “Mr. Dodson” in “Breach of Promise” at the Town Hall in 1892 with the Young Men’s Friendly Society and organised the stewards for the Amateur Dramatic Association’s productions. He sat on the Jury of two inquests – 1908 “Death by Natural Causes” and 1909 “Found Drowned”.
The 1911 Census shows that Charles and family were living at South Lea, Morlan Park, Rhyl. This census shows Charles working for the Council as a “Collector”. It also reveals the name of Charles and Agnes’ son – Edgar Henry.
Agnes died in 1913. This left Charles alone with 14 year old Vera, by then a pupil at the Convent School, and 12 year old Edgar.
Vera died in 1941 aged 43. Edgar, who became a motor mechanic, died in 1982. Charles Edgar Totty died in 1946, aged 75, at his address 1 Grosvenor Avenue, Rhyl. He left £1,527 17s 7d to Edgar.
We’re still looking for the elusive Mrs. Wilde – any information would be greatly received!