Capt Harcourt Gammell and his descendants
Capt Harcourt Gammell and his descendants
Harcourt Thomas Gammell was the third son of James Gammell of Ardiffery and his wife Sydney Holmes. He was born at Beech Hill, Donoghmore, Co. Down on 29 April 1829. When he was about five years old his parents moved to Edinburgh, and like most of his brothers he was sent to Edinburgh Academy, where he was a pupil from 1838 to 1843, being Dux of Class 5 in his last year.
Immediately on leaving school at the age of fourteen and a half, he joined the Royal Navy, and was gazetted as a Midshipman on 30 September 1843. He was promoted Lieutenant in 1852, Commander in 1869 and retired with the rank of Captain in 1873. He saw service in many parts of the world including West Africa and the Mediterranean, and was on the Australian station in 1852, and in the Baltic Campaign in 1864/5. He was serving in HMS Conqueror when she was wrecked on a reef in the West Indies in 1861, an incident that luckily caused no loss of life, and his last appointment was second in command in HMS Hector.
In the summer of 1871, shortly before his retirement from the Navy, he married Lucy Fanny Hatch at St. Saviours Church, Hampstead; and when he retired a year or two later, he and his wife set up house at 10 Kensington Place, Bath, in which town his father was already living. They had two children Hector Hatch Gammell, who was born at Netley Abbey Hound, Hampshire, and Kensington Gammell who was born in Bath. In 1887, presumably after their sons’ education was more or less complete, they moved from Bath to Lichfield House, No.1 Regent Street, Weston-super-Mare. When his father James Gammell of Ardiffery died in 1893, Harcourt inherited his father's house and the complete contents, and was also named residual legatee, and thus it is estimated that he received from his father a total of at least £40,000. Harcourt and his wife remained at their house in Weston until 1904, when Harcourt died on 24 September of that year. He is buried in the south-east corner of Weston Churchyard and was obviously a much respected and well loved member of the community as the following appreciation, which appeared in the local press at the time of his death, demonstrates:
'... He was the last to seek for popular approval - indeed anything possessing the slightest savour of self-advertisement was particular 'bete noir' - and nothing pleased him better than to do kindly actions and remain behind the scene . .... no Westonian obtained a firmer hold on the respect and regard of the public than he did. The secret is not hard to find; it lay in the intimate charm of his disposition, and his warm-hearted impulse to lend a helping hand in whatever direction assistance was most necessary. Another lovable feature of his personality was his old world courtesy and his kindly salute was as spontaneously bestowed to the wearer of toil-stained fustian as to the inhabitant of the latest 'garb'. But there were far more important evidences than those of Capt. Gammell's kindliness of disposition - evidences in regard to which numbers upon whom the hand of poverty descended had reason to be profoundly grateful. His purse was readily open in the cause of charity and the manner of his giving was always marked by a friendliness which prevented the slightest feeling of humiliation on the part of the recipient. The extent to which his generosity led him in this respect will never be known for the simple reason that the recipients (knowing their benefactor's dislike of publicity) said little by way of open appreciation - indeed had they done so, they would probably have forfeited the interest which was shown in their welfare. To many a struggling tradesman too, he was an unfailing friend, disguising pecuniary assistance in the form of large orders for goods, for which he had, in all probability not the slightest use. Of his life and work as an officer in the Navy, in accord with his unobtrusiveness of disposition, he rarely spoke. He loved his country ... and he was satisfied ....'
After her husband's death, Fanny moved to Bedford, and lived with her younger son Kensington, who had set up as an architect there. When Kensington married in 1909, Fanny set up her own establishment in Bedford, at 50 Kimbolton Road, and eventually died there on 6 March 1934 at the age of eighty four. Fanny is reported to have been a woman of strong will and character, very correct and not easily approachable. She hardly acknowledged the wife and children of her son Hector after the divorce, and grew away from her son Kensington after his marriage. This estrangement is noticeable in her will (in Somerset House), in that she left her whole estate to her only surviving son Hector in trust for his lifetime only, and then to a Mrs. Barling of West Wickham and her children. We do not know who Mrs. Barling was, but the significant thing is that none of her four grandchildren are so much as mentioned in her will, or for that matter neither are her two daughters-in-law. This perhaps is in line with what has been said above in regard to her rather proud and haughty disposition.
As stated above, Harcourt Gammell and his, wife Fanny Hatch had two children:
1. Hector Hatch Gammell (1872-1944) was born in Netley Abbey Hound, Hampshire, on 31 December 1872, and named presumably after the ship in which his father was then serving - HMS Hector. He was presumably educated in or near Bath, but where has not been established. In 1894 he was admitted as a member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, and was appointed Surveyor to the Perry Bar District Council on the outskirts of Birmingham, and on 11 September of the same year he married Maud Rosario Hughes, daughter of Joseph Edward Hughes of Kidderminster, and his wife Amelia Zachary, an American whom he had met and married in New York. The wedding took place at St. Mary's Church, Berkeley Square in London. In the summer of the following year their eldest child and only son Beaumont Edward Zachary Gammell was born and early in 1897 their only other child, a daughter Hectorina Maud Gammell.
In 1904, Hector left his job with the Perry Bar Council, and went to Canada, presumably with the idea of finding employment there and then sending for his wife and family, who meantime were left in Birmingham. After a year or two, however, his wife evidently became suspicious, and on following him to Canada, found he had been unfaithful to her, and she divorced him forthwith in 1907 at Saskatoon in Canada. He returned to the UK in 1914 and in 1922, was living in Lewisham. On on 1 September 1934 he married Florence Eugenie Thomson, a spinster born in 1884, at Lambeth Registry Office in London. There were no children of this marriage, and Florence died on 6 January 1943. (will in Somerset House), and Hector himself died just over a year later on 6 November 1944 in south east London.
After his divorce, Hector had no contact with his children whatsoever, even after his return to England, and this rather extraordinary behaviour, emphasises his seemingly odd temperament, which is perhaps confirmed by the fact that his mother left her estate to him, in trust only for his lifetime, and then as has been stated above to a person wholly outside the family. His own estate (his will in Somerset House) went to a certain Elizabeth Black, a witness at his second wedding, and presumably some relation of his second wife. Again no reference whatsoever was made to his children by his first wife.
After her divorce in Canada, Hector's wife Maud, returned to England, and went to live in Bedford, where her mother-in-law and brother-in-law were already living. She remained there until the education of her two children was completed, but there was practically no contact with her mother-in-law, presumably because the latter could not stomach the stigma of a divorce in the family, being as has been said, a strong willed and haughty woman. After her children had been educated, Maud married again, in 1916, this time a man by name James Wylie Birch Ellis, and moved away from Bedford. There were no children of this marriage, and James Ellis died in 1950. Maud herself died at Leamington Spa on 26 March 1953, and was cremated at Coventry.
1.1 As stated above, the eldest child and only son of Hector Gammell and his first wife Maud
Hughes, was Beaumont Edward Zachary Gammell (1895-1918). Born near Birmingham on
21 July 1895, Beaumont (or 'Beau' as he was known) was educated at King Edward's School,
Birmingham, then (1907-8) at Trinity College School, Ontario, and after his return to the UK,
at Bedford Grammar School. After leaving school in 1914, he won a Law Society scholarship
and was articled to his uncle, Philip Conway, a solicitor of Westminster. He was a clever young
man, although handicapped by a weak heart, but his career in law was cut short by the 1914/18
War. He joined the Flying Corps in March 1917, qualified as a Pilot, and served in France as a
Lieutenant. He was recommended for the Croix de Guerre for service with the French army at
the Marne where, on 16th July 1918 flying a DH 9 with 107 Squadron from Ecoivres, whilst in
combat, his machine had caught fire and, having extinguished the fire in the air, he landed his
plane and carried his wounded navigator two and a half miles to the nearest Ambulance
Station. However on 4 September 1918, whilst returning from a bombing mission, he was shot
down and died of his wounds. He was unmarried and is buried in the Military Cemetery in
Denain in Northern France.
1.2 The younger child and only daughter of Hector and Maud was Hectorina Maud Gammell
(1897-1973). Like her brother, she was born near Birmingham on 1 January 1897. After
completing her initial education in Bedford, she was sent to France and Germany and there
completed her studies of the two languages. On 1 June 1920, she was married at St. Augustine's
Church at Edgbaston to Captain Dudley Ashton Hope Hire, of the Royal Artillery. Dudley Hire
had a distinguished Army career, reaching the rank of Brigadier, and being awarded both the
D.S.O. and M.C.. On his retirement from the Army, Dudley and 'Rena' settled at 22 Parkstone
Avenue in Southsea, and it was there that Rena died on 25 May 1973.
1.2.1 Dudley and Rena had one son Courtney Hire, who was born on 25 February 1921 and
became a Civil Engineer. He married Iris V P Cutbush and they had two sons, Quenton
(unmarried) and Adrian who in 1982 had a son Oliver James Ashton Hire. Courtney died in
1992. (Information from Oliver J A Hire)
2. Kensington Gammell (1874-1924) was the younger of the two sons of Captain Harcourt
Gammell and his wife Fanny Hatch. Born on 14 June 1874 in Bath, we can only assume that he
received his Christian name after the road in which his parents lived at the time, namely
Kensington Place! We again presume that he was educated in or near Bath, but have no
details, and the first we really know of him is that he became an Associate Member of the
Royal Institute of British Architects, and after an initial period in London, set up as an architect
in Bedford. After the death of his father in 1904, his mother took up residence with him, and
remained there until Kensington married in the spring of 1909. His wife was Doris Gage Miller,
daughter of a distinguished citizen of Bedford, who also took an active part in Local
Government. Kensington and his wife continued to live in Bedford, and their two children
Kenrick Orm and Doris Brenda were born there.
Kensington continued his architectural practice in Bedford until 1924, when he laid plans to
emigrate with his family to Australia. Unfortunately these plans fell through, and in a fit of
depression, while on a trip to Northern Ireland, Kensington shot himself at Rathmullen in
County Donegal. His wife continued to make a home for their children in Bedford, but when
their education was finished, she re-married, this time to an old friend, Robert Charles Glunicke,
a major in the Royal Marines. There were no children of this second marriage, and Robert
Glunicke died on 20 October 1963, having reached the rank of Major-General. His wife
Doris Miller/Gammell/Glunicke lived to the ripe old age of eighty-six and died in Bedford on
24 April 1972. Her will is in Somerset House, and she left her entire estate to her only
surviving child Doris Brenda Gammell/Chesher.
2.1 As stated above, the elder of the two children of Kensington Gammell and his wife Doris Miller was Kenrick Orm Gammell (1910-1943). Born in Bedford on 18 May 1910, he was educated at Bedford Grammar School, from where he went up to Caius College, Cambridge, and graduated there as a Batchelor of Arts. On coming down from Cambridge, he took up school mastering, and at the time of the outbreak of the second World War, had plans to take over, and become joint Headmaster of a Preparatory School called Akley at Stowe, near Buckingham. These plans however came to nothing as he joined the Grenadier Guards as a guardsman. On 23 October 1943, he was severely wounded in the fighting in hills east of Naples, Italy, and died of those wounds on 24 December 1943. He is buried in Annaba, Algeria. He was 6ft. 7ins. tall, and was reputed to be the tallest guardsman in uniform. His mother inserted each year in The Times the following Memorial notice up to the year of her death:
'In constant memory of my dear only son Guardsman Kenrick Orm Gammell B.A. (Cantab), died of wounds December 24th 1943, aged 23.'
Kenrick was unmarried at the time of his death.
2.2 The younger child and only daughter of Kensington Gammell and his wife Doris Miller was Doris Brenda Gammell. She was born in Bedford on 11 December 1911, and received her education locally. After leaving school she became a nurse, and followed this profession in the 1939/45 War. After the war she returned to Bedford, and on 12 October 1950 she married Leslie Herbert Chesher, a solicitor in Bedford. There were no children of this marriage, but they adopted a girl and a boy. Leslie Chesher died in Bedford on 20 February 1972, and Brenda Chesher in 2002.
With the death of Hector's only son in the 1st World War and Kensington's only son in the 2nd World War, both unmarried, this branch of the Gammells died out in the male line. The line is however continued in the female line through the descendants of Hectorina.
Beaumont Gammell (from Bedford School Archive)
Hectorina presented at Court 1925