We last left Rickmansworth Park in the possession of the Ardens (https://rmsghistoryextra.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/walk-in-the-park/) as an occasional residence with London the primary residence. Joseph Arden was a barrister of the Court of King’s Bench, the court of law for cases of bankruptcy. King’s Bench Prison took its name from this court and is where Mary Fotherley-Whitfield had ended up with debts arising from Park House.
Julia Arden was Joseph’s elder daughter and had married John William Birch, of Mildred, Goyeneche and Co, Spanish merchants of London. He later became a Director of the Bank of England (Deputy Governor, 1877-79; Governor, 1879-81).
When Julia’s father died, she and her husband purchased Rickmansworth Park from his estate. Perhaps they were the ones who lived there most often. Or it could be that the eldest Arden son, as presumed legatee, was a bit short of the readies and offered the estate to his brother-in-law in return for a lump sum. Whatever was behind the transaction, Rickmansworth Park became the property of John William & Julia Birch. After his death, she inherited it and later bequeathed it to the widow of her eldest son. But we are getting ahead of ourselves here so let us go back to 1879 when Joseph Arden died and the Birches took on Park House and the estate. Rather as his father in law had done, John William Birch used Rickmansworth Park as a country residence as his address is given as 27 Cavendish Square. Interestingly, this is now the site of the RBS bank so it has moved from being the residence of a Governor of the Bank of England to the residence of a bank.
In 1881 the Birches’ eldest son, John Arden Birch, married Charlotte Mary Leycester Stopford and Cavendish Square is given as his residence.
However, it is her residence that is interesting here: Hampton Court Palace.
Grace and favour apartments inside a royal palace were preserved for widows ‘in straitened circumstances’ whose husbands had given service to the Crown. These apartments were
“not always the most comfortable places to live. Residents regularly complained that the palace was ‘perishingly cold’ and damp, and some had no access to hot water.”
Why Charlotte Stopford’s family had an apartment is unknown. Although her mother was widowed young with three small children, her husband, Major George Montagu Stopford, is not noted amongst the King’s loyal servants. However, Charlotte’s grandfather, Field Marshal Sir John Fox Burgoyne, was.
‘From his first entrance into the army , John Burgoyne commenced a career of active and laborious service, which continued without intermission for the extraordinary period of seventy-one years.’ https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/John_Fox_Burgoyne.
His achievements include acting as a Royal Commissioner to superintend the completion of the new Palace of Westminster (1848), closely followed by a report into old Westminster Bridge as a result of which the old bridge was replaced by the one currently there. He was present in the Crimean War in 1865
‘by Lord Raglan’s side through the battle of the Alma, accompanied him in the subsequent long march, and slept on the ground in the open air, like the youngest soldier of the army’ (ibid)
He was given the title of Constable of the Tower of London and Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets in 1865, the first commoner ever to be granted these titles. He was in full vigour until he was 88 years old when his only son died after the vessel of which he was captain capsized in a storm and all but 19 sailors were drowned. Thereafter, he went into a decline and died within a year.
In Waterloo Gardens, there is a statue to him:
Despite the acres of print about his remarkable career, there is no reference to him being given the use of a grace and favour apartment at Hampton Court Palace but it remains a possibility that this is why his granddaughter lived in one and, according to her own autobiography, Through Eighty Years, had done so since she was a child.
It is worth noting that, although the ‘residence’ of Hampton Court Palace is given on several documents, none of the census returns ever place either Charlotte Birch nee Stopford or her husband there, even though his burial record again gives his residence as the Palace.
But then, if you are entitled to give a palace as your address, why not trot it out at every opportunity? Especially if doing so enables you to marry in what was once upon a time a very exclusive venue – Hampton Court Chapel Royal.
John and Charlotte had five children, three sons and two daughters; Dorothy, John, Cicely, George & Francis (Frank). There is an outside chance that this last born had a different kind of connection to the School but that’s the way coincidence works. As an adult, he was a cryptographer with Naval intelligence in both world wars. He joined the Naval section at Bletchley Park in September 1939, and was involved in work on the enigma code. And the connection to the School? Well two former pupils also worked at Bletchley Park at this time: Violet Elsie Geddes-Ruffle, also assigned to naval Intelligence as an 18 year old ‘Wren’, and Pamela Mary Lidstone, Block B. Naval Section. NS IV, Japanese codes. Whether these two ever encountered each other, or Frank, will never be known.
Frank was only three when his father suffered a catastrophic stroke that rendered him paralysed for the remaining four years of his life. John Arden Birch died in 1896 and his father (John William Birch) was so utterly devastated that he also became very ill. To aid his recovery, he took a break in the South of France. On his return, however, he stayed overnight in a hotel and there died of a gunshot wound to the head. The coroner stated that, whilst it was clear that this was self-administered, it may have been accidental and he therefore allowed the death to be recorded as this. It should be remembered that until 1961, suicide was regarded as a criminal offence. Anyone who attempted and failed could be prosecuted and imprisoned, while the families of those who succeeded could also be prosecuted and the estate taken by the Crown.
‘The suicide of an adult male could reduce his survivors to pauperism’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14374296)
In allowing an element of doubt, the coroner was allowing the Birch estates to be inherited rather than being confiscated. His effects of £65,330 remained in the family and Julia inherited Rickmansworth Park.
She remained in residence until her death although, as before, ‘residence’ did not always mean she was physically there! It is a moot point whether she was there in 1911 when a murder took place in the Park. Rosa Gurney, a widow, was walking there with a man friend. Quite what happened is known only to the two of them – there being no witnesses– but she was stabbed a number of times and subsequently died. The Police next day arrested the man who (natch!) declared himself to be innocent. He claimed that, whilst walking, they had met two other men, Rosa had started talking to them and he got fed up waiting for her and left. Smacks rather like ‘a big boy done it and run away’ and clearly the Police thought so too. The bloodstains found on his clothing were the clinching factor and he was arrested.
Julia Arden died in 1917 and the estate came to the widow of her eldest son who had subsequently married (1905) Walter Bulkeley Barrington (1848-1933), 9th Viscount Barrington. On her first husband’s death, Charlotte had been left with five children to provide for, the oldest of whom was only 14. “Her second marriage, to Lord Barrington, was a boon to her sons, no less than to herself.” http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/28th-february-1936/
Lord and Lady Barrington lived at Becketts in Shrivenham, Berkshire, the house now being part of Cranfield University.
Here, Viscountess Barrington undertook the role of lady of the manor.
‘… a large part of her life at her country home is devoted to the care and comfort of the aged and sick and to the advancement of the children of her poorer neighbours.’ From Onlooker October 15, 1910 and cited by http://www.shrivenhamheritagesociety.co.uk
In one aspect however, her beliefs would not gel with the girls’ school that bought Rickmansworth Park. Charlotte Barrington was a ‘convinced opponent of Woman Suffrage’ [sic] and sought
‘to inculcate among the girls of the village the first principles of domestic economy. Cooking, sewing, and housewifely traits are part of the education she considers necessary for every young woman’ (ibid.)
Rickmansworth Park was put up for sale by auction. It failed to meet its reserve price but it remained on the market until the School opened negotiations. These were protracted and it was a case of who blinked first. The School had the property independently valued (£45,000); it was advised that £50,000 should secure it but Viscountess Barrington was holding out for £70,000. Eventually, after much discussion, a figure of £65,000 was agreed with the curious stipulation that Lady Barrington could remain in residence until building began. Curious because, by all accounts the house was being looked after by a caretaker couple. And yet, in the School archives, letters between the School and Lady B clearly show her address as Park House. But then, when you have a multitude of houses at your disposal (there was also property in Ireland), you can use which of the addresses you like as and when it suits you!
The conclusion of the sale of Rickmansworth Park ended the Arden family’s connection with the estate after almost a century. Park House would, in due course, be demolished and the School begin its tenure. That in turn is rapidly approaching its centenary – the purchase of the estate in 2026 and the transferring of the School from its former home in London in 2034.