Capt Harcourt Gammell RN

Harcourt Thomas Gammell was the third son of Captain 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 he joined the Royal Navy in September 1843 at the age of fourteen and a half. He was promoted Lieutenant in 1852, Commander in 1869 and retired in 1874 being given the title of Retired Captain 1n 1884. 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 the officer of the watch at the time HMS Conqueror was wrecked on a reef in the Bahamas in 1861 for which he was officially admonished. In his last appointment was second in command in HMS Hector.

Harcourt in 1861, 1st Lieut HMS Conqueror

On 20 September 1871 he married Lucy Fanny Hatch at St. Saviours Church, Hampstead and hey had two sons:





Hector Hatch Gammell

31 December 1872

6 November 1944

Kensington Gammell

14 June 1874

14-18 May 1924


Their son Hector was born in 1872 at Netley Abbey, close to Southampton, where HMS Hector was stationed, so it is likely Lucy lived there for the 3 years Harcourt was serving on the Hector.  He retired from the Royal Navy in 1874 and he and his wife set up house at 10 Kensington Place, Bath, in which town his father was already living and it was here that their second son, Kensington, was born in 1874.  In 1887 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 25 September of that year. He is buried in the south-east corner of Weston Cemetery.  He 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 his particular 'bete noir' - and nothing pleased him better than to do kindly actions and remain behind the scenes. The fact remains, however, that no Westonian obtained a firmer hold upon the respect and regard of the public than did he. The secret is by no means hard to find. It lay in the infinite charm of his disposition and in his warm-hearted impulse to lend a helping hand in whatever direction assistance was most necessary. Another lovable feature of his personality was his olden-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 these 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 self-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 might 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; upon the quarterdecks of some of her battleships he had, be in times of war or ‘piping peace’ given the best years of his life; 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 moved to Warwick Road, Bedford and then in 1921, to 50 Kimbolton Road, Bedford, where she eventually died on 6 March 1934 at the age of eighty five. 


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 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.

Hector Hatch Gammell (1872-1944)

Hector 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 must have been educated in or near Bath, but where has not been established, but in 1885 he received an award for rescuing a man from the canal in Bath. 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.  On 11 September 1894 he married Edith Maud Rosario Hughes, daughter of Joseph Edward Hughes of Kidderminster, and his wife Amelia Zacharie, 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 Zacharie Gammell was born and early in 1897 their only other child, a daughter, Hectorina Maud Gammell.





Edward Zacharie Gammell

21 July 1895

4 September 1918

Hectorina Maud Gammell

1 January 1897

25 May 1973


In 1905, 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. He settled in Saskatoon.  After about a year his wife evidently became suspicious, and on following him to Canada, found he had been unfaithful to her and divorced him in Canada in 1908.


Hector returned to the UK in 1914 and in 1922 was living in Lewisham.  On 1 September 1934 he married Florence Eugenie Thomson, a spinster born in 1879, at Lambeth Registry Office in London. The witnesses were Florence’s brother and sister.  Hector described himself as a widower and gave his father’s name as Arthur Thomas Gammell.  There were no children of this marriage, and Florence died on 6 January 1943 at their home in Anerley, Kent and Hector himself died just over a year later, on 6 November 1944 in south east London.


After his divorce, Hector apparently 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. Hector’s own estate went to his sister-in-Law, Edith Constance Black, who had been a witness at his second wedding. No reference whatsoever was made to his children by his first wife.


After her divorce in Canada, Hector's wife Edith returned to England and went to live in Bedford, where her parents were then living (as well as her former mother-in-law and brother-in-law).  Edith married again on 20 April 1912 in Calcutta, this time a man by name John Wyrley Birch Ellis, whom she presumably had known from her days in Perry Barr, where they lived only a few streets apart.  From the time of her divorce from Hector, Edith’s former mother-in-law, Lucy Fanny Gammell, had practically no contact with her.  Perhaps this was because she could not stomach the stigma of a divorce in the family, or maybe because she disapproved of Edith’s new husband, who was 10 years younger than her, and the role he may have played, in reality or in her imagination, in the failure of her son’s marriage?  But this is speculation.


John and Edith returned from India in 1914 and set up home in Birmingham.  They had no children and John died in Leamington Spa on 9 May 1950 and Edith at the same address on 26 March 1953.


Beaumont Edward Zachary Gammell (1895-1918)

Beaumont Edward Zachary Gammell (known as Beau), the eldest child and only son of Hector Gammell and his first wife Maud Hughes, was born near Birmingham on 21 July 1895.  Beau 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 School.  After leaving school in 1914, he won a Law Society scholarship and was articled to his uncle, Philip Conway, a solicitor in 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 on 6 September 1918 he died of his wounds. 


He was unmarried and is buried in the Military ​Cemetery in Denain in Northern France.

Beau in Eastborne in 1904 and in the RFC in 1917/18


Hectorina Maud Gammell (1897-1973) and her descendants


Hectorina Maud Gammell (known as Rena) was the younger child and only daughter of Hector and Maud and 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. In 1914 she visited her mother and stepfather in India.  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 DSO and MC.  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. Dudley died on 12 May 1986.


Dudley and Rena had one son Courtenay Beaumont Ashton Hope Hire, who was born on 25 February 1921.  He was an army officer in the 1940s and retired as a Major in 1960 and became a Civil Engineer.  He married Geraldine Ellen Willis in 1943 but their marriage ended in divorce and on 8 May 1948 he married Iris Virginia Primrose Cutbush.  They had two sons, Quenton Anthony Ashton Hire who was born on 29 December 1949 and Adrian Charles Desmond who was born in Singapore on 31 October 1954. In 1982, Quenton had a son, Oliver James Ashton Hire.  Courtenay died on 12 January 1993.

Hectorina in Eastborne in 1904 and in 1920, when she married (The Tatler)

Kensington Gammell (1874-1924)

Kensington Gammell 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. After leaving school, he travelled widely including visiting the US and Egypt, and spent a year in Japan.  On returning to the UK, he was articled to an architectural practice in Bristol and after qualifying, in set up an architectural practice in Bedford in 1906, with an office also in London. He was a council member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and active in a number of Bedford local associations. After the death of his father in 1904, his mother took up residence with him, and remained there until Kensington married Doris Gage Miller, daughter of a distinguished citizen of Bedford, on 8 June 1909.  Kensington and his wife continued to live in Bedford, and their two children Kenrick Orm and Doris Brenda were both born there.

Kensington (above)


Kensington and Doris with their two children Kenrick and Doris Brenda (Bedford Archives) (left)

Kensington continued his architectural practice in Bedford until 1923, 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 sometime between 14 and 18 May 1924.


His wife continued to make a home for their children in Bedford, but when their education was finished, she re-married on 22 July 1933, 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 died in Bedford on 24 April 1972. She left her entire estate to her only ​surviving child Doris Brenda Gammell/Chesher.


Kenrick Orm Gammell (1910-1943)

Kenrick was the elder of the two children of Kensington Gammell and his wife Doris Miller. He was born in Bedford on 18 May 1910 and was educated at Bedford School, from where he went up to Gonville and 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.

Kenrick in the early 1930s (The Bystander)

His mother inserted each year in The Times the following Memorial notice up to close to the year of her death: 'In constant memory of my dear only son, Guardsman (Grenadier) Kenrick Orm Gammell, B.A. (Cantab), died of wounds, December 24th 1943.


Kenrick was unmarried at the time of his death.


Doris Brenda Gammell (1911-2002)


Doris (usually called by her second name Brenda) was the younger child and only daughter of Kensington Gammell and his wife Doris Miller. She was born in Bedford on 7 December 1911 and received her education at Bedford High School. 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 21 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 on 20 March 2002.