Thursday, 27 December 2018

Maud Adeline Cloudesley Brereton (1872 - 1946) – British health consultant

During the First World War, Maud worked for the Ministry of Food, helping to keep the nation healty and well nourished in spite of food shortages.

Born Maud Adeline Ford in St. John’s Wood, London in 1872, Maud’s parents were Matthew Ford, a land steward, and his wife Ellen Catherine Ford.  Maud had the following siblings: Henriette E., b. 1877, William Henry, b. 1878, Charles Reginald, b. 1880, Frances Elsie, b. 1883, Algernon Leslie, b. 1885 and Hilda Mary, b. 1886.

Educated at Hockerill College, Bishop’s Stortford, Maud became a teacher.  In 1893, she was the first headmistress of St. Andrew’s Girls’ School in Willesden.  After two other teaching posts, Maud joined the staff of Homerton Training College, Cambridge as Bursar.  There, she married Charles Horobin, who was Principal of the College, and they had a daughter and two sons.  Charles died suddenly in 1902 and Maud then became Acting Principal of the College. 

On 12th November 1904, Maud married Cloudesley Shovell Henry Brereton. They had two sons and a daughter. Cloudesley was a graduate of Cambridge, Paris and Lille, an inspector of schools, an author and a lecturer at home and overseas. Maud and he had two sons.

In 1911, a group of British gas managers made advertising history by establishing a collective organization dedicated to the promotion of a single industry. The British Commercial Gas Association directed its campaigns at various consumer groups, including builders, architects, and tenants. To present the "woman’s point of view" to their female customers, the B.C.G.A. executive hired Maud as editor-in-chief of thei monthly publicity magazines.

Maud anticipated that gas technology, in the form of cookers, water boilers, and gas fires, had the potential to raise housing and nutrition standards for all classes. She felt that gas appliances had the potention to help the middle classes in their struggle to keep up appearances and reduce the need for live-in staff.  She also promoted modern technology to improve the health of the population. Maud maintained that technology made possible a "domestic revolution," by significantly reducing the time and effort that women, as both servants and housewives, expended on housework. Time saved on housekeeping might be directed to more profitable and gratifying pursuits, including paid employment or voluntary service, extending women’s influence beyond the private sphere.

Maud, who was a close friend of Marie Stopes and supported Marie’s birth control ideas, became a journalist and edited “Mothers’ Magazine”, as well as “Gas Journal”.    She became an expert in child welfare and worked as a consultant.  During the First World War, Maud worked for the Ministry of Food, helping to keep the nation healty and well nourished in spite of food shortages.

After the War, Maud wrote “The Future of our Disabled Sailors and Soldiers: A Description of the Training and Instruction Classes at Queen Mary’s Convalescent Hospitals, Roehampton and at Queen Mary’s Workshops, Pavilion Militayry Hospital, Brighton, for Sailors and Soldiers who have lost their Limbs in the War”.

The only female Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Sanitary Engineers, Maud was also a member of the Royal Institute of Public Health, and Chair of the Association for Education in Industry and Commerce. She was decorated Officier d’Académie by the French Government for international services to public health.

Maud wrote several books, among them “The Mother’s Companion”, “Clean Kitchen Management: The Preservation of Food” and “Cooking by Gas”.

Maud died on 16th April 1946 in Norfolk.

Her daughter, Norah Maud Horobin, followed her mother’s early calling as headmistress of two girls’ High Schools before ending her career as headmistress of Roedean School in Brighton from 1947-61.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Olga Alexandrovna (1882 - 1960) - Russian Artist and Nurse in WW1

With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for telling me about Olga.

 Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia (Russian: О́льга Алекса́ндровна; 13 June [O.S. 1 June] 1882 – 24 November 1960) was born ‘in the purple’ (i.e., during her father's reign) on 13 June 1882 in the Peterhof Palace, west of central Saint Petersburg. She was the youngest child of six children born to Emperor Alexander III of Russia and his wife Empress Marie, formerly Princess Dagmar of Denmark, daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark.

Olga was raised at the Gatchina Palace outside Saint Petersburg. Her relationship with her mother was strained and distant from childhood, Her mother, advised by her sister, Alexandra, Princess of Wales, placed Olga in the care of an English nanny, Elizabeth Franklin.  Olga and her siblings were taught at home by private tutors.  She studied art with art teachers K.V. Lemokha, V.E. Makovsky, S.Yu. Zhukovsky and S.A. Vinogradova. The Imperial Russian children had a large extended family and often visited the families of their British, Danish, and Greek cousins.

Tsar Alexander III died when Olga was 12, and her brother Nicholas became emperor. Olga’s elder brother Nicholas became Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. King George V of Britain and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia were first cousins.  Their mothers, Alexandra and Dagmar, were sisters, which explains why George and Nicholas looked so much alike. They were the daughters of King Christian IX of Denmark and his wife Queen Louise, who was of German heritage. Princess Alexandra married Queen Victoria’s eldest son, Edward, who became King Edward VII and George was their son. Princess Dagmar married Tsar Alexander’s son, who became Tsar Alexander III and Nicholas was their son.

In 1901, she married Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg. The couple led separate lives and their marriage was eventually annulled by the Emperor in October 1916. The following month, Olga married cavalry officer Nikolai Kulikovsky, with whom she had fallen in love several years before.

During the First World War, the Grand Duchess served as an army nurse at the Russian Front and was awarded a medal for personal gallantry. At her own expense, Olga opened the First Evgenyivsky Hospital, in which she worked as a nurse. Even at the Front, the Grand Duchess devoted her free time to her watercolours, often painting scenes in the hospital and portraits of officers.

At the downfall of the Romanovs during the Russian Revolution of 1917, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich (Sandro), and Grand Duchess Olga traveled to the Crimea where they were joined by Olga’s sister (Sandro’s wife) Grand Duchess Xenia. They lived at Sandro’s estate, Ai-Todor, where they were placed under house arrest by the local Bolshevik forces. On August 12, 1917, Olga’s first child Tikhon Nikolaevich was born during their house arrest.

Olga’s brother, brother, Tsar Nicholas II and his family were shot by revolutionaries.

Olga escaped from Russia with her second husband and their two sons in February 1920. They joined Olga’s mother, the Dowager Empress, in Denmark. In exile, Olga acted as companion and secretary to her mother, and was often sought out by Romanov impostors who claimed to be her dead relatives. She met Anna Anderson, the best-known impostor, in Berlin in 1925. After the Dowager Empress's death in 1928, Olga and her husband purchased a dairy farm in Ballerup, near Copenhagen. She led a simple life - raising her two sons, working on the farm and painting. During her lifetime, she painted over 2,000 works of art, which provided extra income for both her family and the charitable causes she supported.

In 1948, the Soviet Union notified the Danish Government that Olga was accused of conspiracy against the Soviet Government.  Feeling threatened by Joseph Stalin's regime, Olga emigrated with her immediate family to a farm in Ontario, Canada. Later Olga and her husband moved to a bungalow near Cooksville, Ontario. Colonel Kulikovsky died there in 1958. Two years later, as her health deteriorated, Olga moved with devoted friends to a small apartment in East Toronto. She died aged 78, seven months after her older sister, Xenia.

I am trying to find paintings done by Olga during her time at the Front in WW1, so that I can add hr to my list of Artists of the First World War.

Self portrait.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Sarah MacNaughtan (1864 - 1916) WW1 heroine remembered

First World War volunteer worker Sarah Broom MacNaughtan, a writer, is being remembered by the Widnes Wild Women's Ice HockeyTeam, after the Widnes Planet Ice Rink's Poet in Residence, Lucy London, suggested naming the Team's Match Day Awards in Sarah's honour.

Photos by P. Breeze show (left) Lucy presenting the MVP (Most Valued Player) Award to Widnes player Victoria Venables, and (below) Amy Moran of the Whitley Bay Squaws Ice Hockey Team on 9th December 2018, Planet Ice, Widnes.

To find out more about Sarah MacNaughtan see… To find out more about Widnes Wild Women's Ice Hockey Team see and to find out more about Whitley Bay Squaws Ice Hockey Team, see

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Edith Smith (1876-1923) – Britain’s first warranted Woman Police Officer - served during WW1

A wonderful article written by Stuart Allen, a membr of The Runcorn & District Historical Society, who contacted me recently, knowing of my interest in Edith. Stuart has given me permission to share his article with you:

“Edith Smith was the first female police officer in Great Britain with full power of arrest.  She was born on 21st November 1876 in the village of Oxton, Birkenhead, Wirral, at 9 Rose Mount. She was the daughter of James Smith, a Westmoreland man who ran his own local nursery and seed business, and his wife, Harriett (née Peake), who was from Camden Town, London.

About six years after Edith was born, the family were living at 18 Palm Hill, where she spent most of her young life, and from where her father ran his business in the shop attached to the building next door. The shop also doubled as a Post/Telegraph Office.

On the 5th December 1897 Edith married William Smith who came from Wainfleet, Lincolnshire. By 1901 they were living at the Post Office in Wellington Road, Oxton where Edith worked as the sub-post mistress. William ran a stationer's and tobacconist's shop from the premises. Wiliam died in 1907 aged just 42, leaving Edith to bring up their four children Frances (b.1899), Victorine (b.1900), Annette (b.1900) and James.

In 1911 Edith had moved to London to be trained as a midwife. She would subsequently become Matron in a nursing home in Grantham, Lincolnshire, in which town two of her daughters were later married.

It was while she was living in Grantham that she became Britain's first warranted policewoman in 1915, serving as such for three years. Edith would later tour Britain showing how the concept of women in policing could succeed, as well as writing books and pamphlets to support, and to inform people about, the cause. Not only did Edith have to face the inherent danger associated with being a police officer, but as one can easily imagine, she also had to put up with ridicule and chauvinist comments from some of her male officers and the general public.

Edith retired from her police work in 1917 due to ill-health. Her resignation letter from the 4th January of that year states that she had '...chest trouble, which becomes worse in the winter owing to late hours in the fog and the damp'. She consequently returned to nursing, becoming Matron of the Lindis Nursing Home, Grantham, in January 1919.

After leaving Grantham, Edith made her home in the almshouses in Castle Road, Halton Village, Runcorn, Cheshire. These houses, designed by Pusey Brooke, were demolished in the 1960s. Perhaps she chose to live in the almshouses because she had little money to support herself, or maybe she wanted to be close to her patients, working as she did as a nurse for the Halton & District Nursing Association. Edith would work tirelessly to improve the financial situation of this association.

Unfortunately, in time, issues sprang up between Edith and her employers who would ultimately ask for her resignation. The Halton & District Nursing Association had received complaints from the County Superintendent of the Cheshire Nursing Association regarding Edith's methods of nursing.

She was so distressed by this decision that on the 26th June 1923 she took her own life from an overdose of morphia. The coroner returned the verdict that Edith had taken her own life whilst 'temporarily insane'. This ensured no issues with inheritance in Edith's will, reduced the stigma of suicide and allowed Christian burial rites to be performed.

Edith was buried in an unmarked grave in Halton Cemetery, near Holt Lane, Halton Village.

Her suicide note read:

'I give my midwifery bag to the Halton Nursing Association, as a memorial to the nurse who lived and died for her patients. I have no sense of having wronged anyone. God is more merciful than Man. He won't misjudge me nor condemn me unproved. I love my patients and it cuts deep that they have cruelly mistreated me. I have never harmed them, my whole thought was to save their pain and suffering. Goodbye. God bless you for all you have done for me. I shall lie waiting on the other side and will work out our way together through Purgatory to the feet of Jesus Christ, Our Saviour'.

‘We shouldn’t underestimate what these pioneers (such as Edith Smith) achieved. They were very courageous. They were determined to do their duty. These days, it’s impossible to imagine what a police force would be like without women'.

- Writer and former WPC302C Joan Lock, author of 'The British Policewoman, History of Women in the Force'.

About a quarter of all police officers in England,Scotland and Wales are now women. The prefix 'woman' was phased out of WPC in 1999.

Edith Smith has been a revelation to me. In less than a year she has come from being completely unheard of in Runcorn's history to being one of the most important people ever to be associated with our town.

I will be producing a blue heritage plaque for Edith in the near future.

My thanks to:

Bob Knowles and Alan Telfer Chape of The Oxton Society.

Mr Knowles has put together a wonderful booklet about Edith called 'Edith Smith - Britain's First Warranted Policewoman' with help from Courtney Finn (Grantham Civic Society) and David Sterry (Runcorn & District Historical Society). The booklet, priced at just £3, can be purchased from both The Oxton Society and Grantham Civic Society.

John Manterfield, of Grantham Civic Society.

Jacqueline Bates.

David Sterry, Vice-Chairman of The Runcorn & District Historical Society. I am indebted to Mr Sterry for introducing me to Edith Smith's story.

Peter Blackmore, Chairman of The Runcorn & District Historical Society.

The Runcorn & District Historical Society meet on the first Friday of every month at the Church Hall, St John's Church in Weston at 7.30 p.m. New faces are always welcome. It is only £2 for guests to get in on the night or £10 for a full year's membership.

The Runcorn Family History Society meet on the first Wednesday of every month at Churchill Hall in Cooper Street at 7.30 p.m. New faces are always welcome. It is only £2.50 for guests to get in on the night.”

Thank you very much Stuart.   See Stuart’s Facebook post with photographs here

Monday, 3 December 2018

Stella Willoughby Savile Cameron Cobbold (1882 - 1918)

Julia Barrett is writing a book about the ladies of Ipswich during WW1 - watch this space! - she writes:

"Throughout Mabel Pretty's work with the Red Cross and as the wife of the Commanding Officer of the 6th Battalion Suffolk Regiment, one of her closest friends and colleagues was Stella Cobbold. Married to Barrister Clement John Fromanteel Cobbold, of the famous Ipswich brewing family, Stella was also the great niece of Lord Gwydyr of Stoke Park, Belstead. Her father was one of the doctors who pioneered blood transfusion during the war, as treatment for massive haemorrhage and Stella was involved with Red Cross from its inception. Educated at Roedean, Stella was in the same year group as Mabel's sister-in-law Mildred Pretty and Edith Dempster (later Mrs Edith Pretty of Sutton Hoo). Mabel and Stella were founder members of the Suffolk Branch of the British Red Cross and their husbands were Commanding Officers of the 1/6th Battalion and 2/6th Battalion Suffolk Regiment respectively.

Mabel and Stella were at the head of the group of ladies who so successfully established the Hospital Supplies Depot and the county-wide network of depots which completely supplied all the Red Cross hospitals across the county, as well as sending supplies and medicines directly to all conflict Fronts.

Both women experienced significant personal loss during WW1 but they worked tirelessly for the entire duration of the conflict, with no let-up even when the Armistice came. Moving their work into caring for those recovering from injuries and the onslaught of the Spanish Flu, Stella herself, worn out by the war and personal loss, finally succumbed. 2nd December 2018 marks 100 years since an incredible woman gave her life for her country, Stella Willoughby Savile Cameron Cobbold (died 2.12.1918, aged 36).

Stella Willoughby Savile Cameron Cobbold was buried in the Churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, Belstead, Suffolk."

With thanks to Julia Barrett on the Facebook Page Clothing the Rose