Felicia Pepys Cockerell 1890-1970

Felicia Pepys Cockerell 1890-1970


Harding, Chester, 1792-1866; Robert Grahame (1759-1851), Lord Provost of Glasgow (1833-1834)
Fig.1. Robert Grahame of Whitehill (1759-1851) Lord Provost of Glasgow 1833-4 by Chester Harding (1792-1866 )© CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (www.artuk.org)

Artist  : Harding was an American portrait painter. He was born in Massachusets of humble origins. He was largely self-taught but became very successful. He spent time in Europe between 1823 and 1826 and was very popular. Even members of the royal family commissioned him. This portrait was probably painted around 1825 as another portrait by Harding of Thomas Grahame, Robert’s son, has a date of 1825. Our portrait was exhibited in Glasgow in 1868 in an Exhibition of Portraits held at ‘The New Galleries of Art’,Sauchiehall Street (McLellan Galleries).  It was loaned by Thomas Grahame of Leamington Spa – son of Robert Grahame(1) .


The portrait was presented to Glasgow Museums on 26th November 1947 by  Felicia Pepys Cockerell (FPC) of Brook House Aldermasten,  Berkshire2. The first question one must ask is how a lady living in Berkshire in 1947 came to possess a portrait of a former Lord Provost of Glasgow? In fact  FPC was the great-great granddaughter of Robert Grahame and the portrait was probably handed down through the generations of the family. The diagram below shows the link between  FPC and Robert Grahame.

Grahame Family Tree

Fig. 2. Jackie Macaulay

Robert Grahame (1759-1851)

Robert Grahame was born on 28th December 1759 in Stockwell Street, the son of Thomas Grahame, Writer to the Signet, (Solicitor) and from 1751 a member of the Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow. Robert followed his father into the legal profession and went into partnership with his father as the firm of  “Thomas and Robert Grahame”. He joined the Faculty of Procurators in 1792. On the death of Thomas Grahame in 1791 Robert carried on the practice alone until 1802 when he went into partnership with Andrew Mitchell and the practice became “Grahame and Mitchell”. ‘No firm ever stood higher in Glasgow’.

Robert married Helen Geddes(1751-1824) of Cupar, Fife, in 1786.They had four surviving children (see above diagram),one of whom was James Grahame, our donor’s great grandfather.

In 1797 Robert bought Whitehill House and Estate in what is now the east end of Glasgow in   the suburb of Denniston. The original house(the centre part) was  built by John Glassford , one of the Glasgow Tobacco Lords. Glassford sold the estate in 1759 to John Wallace of Neilstonside who in turn sold it to a retired London merchant, Nathaniel Gordon. Robert Grahame bought it from John Gordon, son of Nathaniel. The house remained in the Grahame family until the 1840s. It was eventually sold to the Denniston family3.

thumb_Whitehill House
Fig. 3. Whitehill House from The old country houses of the old Glasgow gentry. John Guthrie Smith and John Oswald Mitchell, 1878. Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons. http://gdl.cdlr.strath.ac.uk/smihou/smihou098.htm

Robert was one of the most respected  men of his time in Glasgow.   He was well-known for his liberal and democratic views . He was an ardent supporter of the emancipation of slaves, a friend and correspondent of William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson. He was against oppression throughout the world. He was President of the Glasgow Emancipation Society for many years. He was known to support the American War of Independence and be not entirely unsympathetic to the aims of the French Revolution. In 1793 the British Government was in something of a panic regarding the holding of liberal views and feared that the ideals of the French revolution might spread to Britain. As a result of this Robert was watched by the government. The Lord Provost of Glasgow received instructions from the Lord Advocate to activate an arrest warrant drawn up for Robert Grahame. The Lord Provost wrote to the Lord Advocate saying that such was the esteem in which Robert Grahame was held in the town that he could not guarantee civic order if Robert Grahame were to be arrested.  As the Lord Provost was Grahame’s political opponent it says a lot for the reputation and standing of Robert Grahame at the time. He was not bothered again.

This fracas did not prevent Grahame from acting as an agent in the defence of Thomas Muir and the political martyrs of 1793 or in trying to get a reprieve in 1819-20 for Hardy and Baird and James Wilson for their part in the Radical Insurrection of that year.

Grahame campaigned long and hard for Parliamentary Reform and was the first Lord Provost of Glasgow (1833-4) to be elected after the passing of the Reform Act. However by 1834 his health and his age was beginning to take its toll and he only served a year as Lord Provost. He left Glasgow for warmer climes and went to live  on the south coast of England. The 1841 Census finds him living with his daughter, Ann Donald, in Clifton, near Bristol. In 1851 he was staying with his son Thomas in Chorley Wood near Watford in Hertfordshire. He died on December 28th 1851 at Hatton Hall Northamptonshire, aged 91. Whether or not this was his home is not known  at this time4.

James Grahame (1790-1842)

The next name in the story is Robert Grahame’s eldest son James who was born in Glasgow on 21st December 1790. James was educated at the Grammar School of Glasgow in George Street. This became the High School of Glasgow in 1834. He then attended classes at Glasgow University where he heard lectures from Professor Playfair. Around 1810 he became a student at St John’s College Cambridge, it is thought to study literature as he had literary ambitions. Even though James’s time at Cambridge was short, while there he became great friends with a fellow student, John Herschel, who is to play a pivotal role in our story . John Herschel, later Sir John Herschel, became known as an astronomer and chemist.

During one university vacation James met and fell in love with a woman called Matilda Robley. As he wanted to marry Matilda  James went back to Scotland to study for the Scottish Bar in Edinburgh, presumably to be able to support a wife. He was called to the Scottish Bar as an advocate in June1812 and married Matilda in Stoke Newington in October 1813.

Unfortunately he found the practising of law not to his taste. He wrote to a friend,   (possibly John Herschel), ”Until now I have been my own master and I now resign my independence for a service I dislike”. However he does seem to have carried on a satisfactory practice, no doubt spurred on by his love for his wife, as he further wrote,  “Love and ambition unite to incite my industry.”

Who was this woman who captured James’s heart? According to one of her teachers, a Mrs Barbauld, she was “…young, beautiful, amiable and accomplished…. with a fine fortune”5. Ironically much of Matilda’s fine fortune came from the profits of plantations owned by her uncle , Joseph Robley, in Tobago. Sugar and  cotton were the crops grown on the plantations. Joseph owned several plantations and thousands of slaves. Matilda’s father, John Robley, managed the business from the London end. The Robleys lived at Fleetwood House, Stoke Newington6. How this all sat with James who had been brought up by a father who abhorred slavery in all its forms can only be guessed at. According to Eleanor M Harris, James was,” so moved at the privilege of gaining her that it brought about a religious conversion which lasted the rest of his life.” It must have been a case of love conquering all!

James and Matilda had three children: Anne(b1814), Robert (b. 1816) and Matilda (b.1817). Tragically daughter Anne died in 1817,followed by  much loved  wife Matilda in 1818. James was said to never really recover from these events.” He was left with his religion, his children, and the wealth”. After Matilda’s death the children, Robert and Matilda were left with a ninth share of the Tobago estate with James inheriting a life rent of it. In 1827  wrote that,”My conscience was quite laid to sleep.Like many others, Idi not do what  I could, because I could not do what I wished. For years past something more than a fifth part of my income has been derived from the labour of slaves. God forgive me for having tainted my store!…Never more shall the price of blood enter my pocket!…Till we can legally divest ourselves of every share, every shilling…is to be devoted to the use of some part of the unhappy race from whose suffering it is derived”. When his children were of age they gave up their shares.7

James Grahame was not of robust health. The death of Anne in 1817 and then of his wife the following year brought on illness which threatened his life (though it is not known  what the illness  was). However he slowly began to take up his literary pursuits again. He had previously written pamphlets on various subjects such as   Inquiry into the Principle of Population’  in 1816 and  in 1817 a spirited defence of Scottish Presbyterianism in opposition to Walter Scott’s ‘ The Tales of my Landlord ‘ which Grahame said subjected them to contempt. In 1823 he went to the Low Countries for his health. Also in that year he was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. About the same  time,influenced by his father , he began to think about what was to prove the main work of his life, writing a history of the United States of America. One of his chief interests was American history. Washington and Franklin were his great heroes.

In 1825 his mother, Helen Geddes, died at Whitehill. In London in 1825 and early 1826  James was again suffering illness and depression. He was still working at his law practice in Edinburgh when his doctors prescribed moving to a warmer climate. In March 1826 he wrote,”I am now preparing to strike my tent…I quit my profession without regret, having little liked it and greatly neglected it.”

In 1827 the first two volumes of his history of the United States was published– ‘The History of the Rise and progress of the United States of  North America ‘till the British Revolution in 1688. During 1827 and 1828 he spent time in Madeira, Paris and Nantes, travelling for his health. He stayed in Nantes until May 1828. By December 1829 the 3rd and 4th Volumes of his history of the USA had been published-‘ The History of the United States of North America from the Plantation of the Colonies ‘Till their Revolt and Declaration of Independence. It has to be said that the works did not arouse much interest on either side of the Atlantic.

James suffered another bout of ill health and returned to Nantes where he spent much of his time, especially the winters, until his death. In 1830 he married  Jane A. Wilson, daughter of the Reverend Mr Wilson ,Protestant pastor in Nantes. Apparently this was a very happy marriage. Matilda, James’s daughter by his first marriage, lived with them in Nantes. She was of fragile health also and the new Mrs Grahame looked after them both very well. The family stayed at the Chateau L’Eperonniere. They took a central role in Nantes society and became warmly attached to the French people of Nantes.

About this time James began revising the four volumes of his history of the USA. Perhaps this was because in 1831 a favourable review of the first two volumes appeared in the North  American Review. He was urged by writer Washington Irving himself to write a history of the Revolutionary Wars.The first real evidence of public respect for his works in the United States came in August 1839 when he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Harvard University.  This was in recognition of his writings after the four volumes were republished in 1837 and in 1839 an American edition was published in Philadelphia.

Although James himself was backwards and forwards between London and Nantes, having to oversee his publications, his family remained mostly in Nantes. This was mainly because his daughter Matilda had several life-threatening periods of illness during the early 1830s. Much to everyone’s surprise she made a full recovery and went on to marry the next player in our story, John Stewart (1814-1887). They married in Nantes in 1839. (See below- Fig 4 Stewart Family).

James Grahame spent much of the remainder of his life in Nantes along with his wife and his daughter and son-in law who split their time between London and Nantes. His final publication was, ‘ Who is to Blame? Or a Cursory View of the American Apology for American Accession to Negro Slavery which was published in 1841/42. There is some evidence that James intended to return to live in Britain.  He died in London on 3rd July 18428.

The Stewart  Family

As we have seen, Matilda Grahame became Matilda Stewart on 2nd October 1839. Who was John Stewart and what was his family background?

Alexander Stewart (1764-1821)

From the family tree below9, John Stewart was the son of Alexander Stewart, a Scottish Presbyterian minister. At the time of John’s birth  his father was  parish minister in Dingwall, Ross-shire . Alexander Stewart was of the Evangelical wing of the Church of Scotland, having undergone a ‘conversion ‘ about 1796. He supported the abolition of slavery and the non-consumption of sugar, rum and tobacco as part of that support. His work  ‘Elements of Gaelic Grammar’ first published in 1801 , went into 12 editions between 1807 and 1823.

John Stewart’s mother was Alexander’s second wife, Emilia Calder, eldest daughter of Charles Calder, Minister of Urquart, Ross-shire. She and Alexander  had eight children. John, born in 1814, was the youngest. His sister, Margaret Brodie, born in 1810, plays an important part in our story. Alexander’s first wife was Louisa who died around 1799, having had two children, Alexander, who went on to be one of the Disruption Worthies of the 1843 Disruption of the Church of Scotland , and Catherine who married a local minister in Ross-shire.

Alexander had been plagued with ill health for several years, an unspecified internal complaint which caused him much pain. He decided, on the advice of his doctors, to take his family to Edinburgh where better medical facilities were available. Around 1819 the Stewart family moved to Edinburgh, living at some point, according to the Edinburgh Post Office Directory,at 5,Hermitage Place. Alexander’s health improved somewhat and when the minister in charge of Canongate Parish died suddenly, Alexander was given the post, thanks to the influence of one of his wife’s family. Unfortunately the illness returned with a vengeance in the winter of 1820 and although he valiantly carried out his duties as parish minister, he died on May 27th 182110. John was only about seven years old when his father died. The family appeared to have stayed in Edinburgh until about 1830 when they moved to London.

Stewart Family Tree

Fig. 4. Copyright Robert Haley www.brontesisters.co.uk/John-Stewart-Photographer.html

Why the family moved to London is unclear. John’s father’s financial position is not known,though he is referred to as a landowner in one source.  John Stewart’s financial position as the youngest son when he started out is not known either.  On 3rd March 1829 Margaret Brodie Stewart married John later Sir John Herschel, in Marylebone , London , a prestigious address. Herschel was the only son of William Herschel , the distinguished astronomer  who discovered the planet Uranus. His son John also became a distinguished astronomer , mathematician and photographic pioneer.  He appears to have become friends with his young brother -in – law. In the summer of 1829, while in the Pyrenees, John Herschel drawing with a’ camera lucida’ wrote in a letter to his mother,”  Johnny and I are running a race which shall sketch most-he draws very nicely …).They went on to develop a close relationship11.

In London John Stewart entered the printing business with his brothers. Between 1838 and 1841 he was in  partnership with Alexander Elder Murray as Stewart and Murray  printers , London. John Stewart’s brother Patrick (b.1808) was a partner in the publishing firm of Smith, Elder and Co. , so perhaps the world of publishing and printing became known to John through him. The printers did a great deal of work for Smith and Elder in which John Herschel had invested. Smith and Elder took over the printing company in 1855.

As we have seen, in 1839 John Stewart married Matilda Grahame, who was said to be ‘an old childhood friend’.  As the Stewart family lived in Edinburgh from about 1819 to 1830 and we know that Matilda’s father, James Grahame, was an advocate in Edinburgh from c 1813 to 1826, one presumes they became known to one another in Edinburgh. Also John Herschel and James Grahame had been friends since they were at Cambridge together which may also have brought John and Matilda together. John Herschel certainly went to Nantes to attend the wedding12 .  The newly- weds set up home in Nantes. This was possibly to be near her father who had moved there for his health or perhaps because the climate was good for her health too. As we have seen she suffered several periods of ill-health.

About 1846 they moved to Pau in the Pyrenees, South-West France13. Perhaps  after the death of her father there was nothing to keep them in Nantes. John’s financial situation at this time is not known. Whether he had financial resources of his own or he made use of his wife’s money is not known either. There was presumably some financial settlement on the marriage.  Even before her father’s death Matilda was a wealthy woman, having inherited wealth from her mother. On her father’s death, after her step-mother had been taken care of financially, she and her brother inherited half each of her father’s wealth also14. Whatever the source John Stewart went on to become very successful financially as we shall see.

The couple had two children. Matilda Jane was born in 1841 and James Grahame, our donor’s father, was born in 1842 while they were still living in Nantes.

Pau was already an important British ‘colony’ when John and Matilda moved there. The city had first been discovered by the British when it was occupied in February 1814 by Wellington’s troops during the Napoleonic Peninsular Wars. The troops found the flat terrain perfect for training, for horse-racing, even fox- hunting and golf. Twenty years later more and more British travellers went to Pau, attracted by its mild climate and the beauty of the scenery. When Dr Alexander Taylor went to Pau in 1833 to recover from typhus and dysentery and recovered in a very few weeks he decided to set up a medical practice in Pau. Whether as a clever piece of advertising or genuine belief Taylor wrote his book,On the Curative Influence of the Climate of Pau’  which was published in 1842. Immediately it became a best seller amongst British Society. Perhaps that was what attracted the Stewarts there. Certainly there was a large influx of the British aristocracy who went to Pau with their families and friends. The British ‘invasion’ would start in mid-September each year. John and Matilda Stewart and their children spent every winter in Pau from about 1850, the rest of the time in London

The British influx led to an economic boom in Pau in construction, housing and in the demand for valets, domestic servants, gardeners etc. Living was cheaper than in London and many other British cities. Magnificent villas were built with beautiful gardens. Pau changed from the 1850s and became a modern, for the times, city with an up-to date theatre, a Winter Palace  and many parks and gardens. The ‘Boulevard des Pyrenees’ gave wonderful views of the snow-covered Pyrenees. In 1842 the race course was opened and this became the main sports activity in Pau and remains so today15.

John stewart -Memoires of the Pyrenees
Fig. 5. Etablissement des Eaux-Bonnes. Photograph by John Stewart 1852.© Paul Getty Museum Collection.

One of the main sources of information about John Stewart is ‘Pau Golf Club Who’s Who 1856-196616.

According to the Who’s Who John Stewart was a man of many parts. He was a banker and a diplomat though there is no more information given  about his diplomatic life.  For forty years he and his family lived a large part of their lives in Pau  and played a large part in the life of the community. In 1847 John Stewart was awarded the Legion d’Honneur’ by the French Government for activities in French Indo China connected with the wrecking of a French Naval ship. Again here is tantalisingly little  information available about this incident.

Possibly as a result of his friendship with John Herschel,  John Stewart took up photography. Exactly when is not known. He joined a group of artists in Pau who became known as ‘L’Ecole de Pau’. Among these were well-known early photographers such as Henri-Victoire Regnault, Jean -Jacques Heilman and Maxwell Lyte. They established a studio and printing establishment. Stewart specialised in landscape photographs of the Pyrenees. In 1853 his photographs were published in an album, ‘ Souvenirs des Pyrenees by top photographic editor Blanquart- Evard. John Stewart exhibited in the London Exhibitions of the Society of Arts in 1852, the Photographic Institution  in 1854 and The Photographic Society in 1855. In that year also he became a member of the Societe Francaise Photographique.  His portrait of Sir John Herschel was exhibited  at the 1857 Manchester ‘ Art Treasures ‘ exhibition.

In 1856 , in London , the newly established Photographic Club produced an album of fifty photographs of views around Britain.  Fifty copies were produced to be distributed among the fifty photographers plus two more, one of which was presented to Queen Victoria and the other to the British Museum. To mark his contribution to photography, Stewart’s portrait of Sir John Herschel was included in the work.

Stewart’s photographs were much admired by his contemporaries. In a paper on photography’s relation to art, Sir William Newton in the Journal of the Photographic Society in 1853 commented that photographs should not only be chemically but also artistically beautiful, “The nearest approach in this respect…were the excellent Photographs exhibited by Mr Stewart.”17

John Stewart was a friend of George Smith, of Smith, Elder and Co., Charlotte Bronte’s publisher. Sometime during 1856-7 Smith arranged for Stewart to visit Haworth Parsonage to photograph the portrait of Charlotte Bronte by George Richmond to be used as the basis of an engraving for the frontispiece of Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte Bronte. This enabled the public to see Charlotte Bronte for the first time. He appears to have visited Haworth three times, also taking photographs of the parsonage. In a letter to George Smith in November 1856, Mrs Gaskell wrote that “Mr Stewart is an excellent amateur photographer gone out to Iceland by the Danish government’s request to take photographs of the boiling springs and those sort of things … and has had to go and show his photographs to the Queen as the ‘crackest ‘things of the kind in the Kingdom”.18

Apart from photography as a hobby, John Stewart was a keen golfer. In 1856 he was one of the five founder members of Pau Golf Club, the oldest golf club on Continental Europe. He was President in 1885 and 1886. He was also keen on fox-hunting and a great supporter of the Pau Hunt. When the Hunt was going through bad times around 1879, Stewart is credited with engaging the help of the Mayor, Aristide de Montpera, to save fox-hunting in Pau. According to  Who’s Who,it was down to Stewart that fox-hunting was legally recognised .

Apparently his business dealings towards the end of the 1850s led to the lessening of his photographic activities. There is not a lot of information available on John Stewart’s business life. Again we must depend on   Who’s Who . In 1857 Stewart bought land on which to build a house which was called ,”Villa Stewart” later known as “ West Cottage “ in what is now Avenue Dufau in Pau. In 1862 , along with Pastor Brown of the “Scottish Church”, John Stewart was instrumental in establishing the Holy Trinity Church in Pau which today is the “Cinema D’Arte et D’Essais” showing art films. Before the building of  the Holy Trinity  Church Scottish Presbyterians in Pau would hold services at the Stewart’s first home in Pau,La Maison Labetoure.

In 1866 John Stewart, along with Dr Alexander Taylor, Musgrove-Clay, director of the English Bank in Pau, and Henry Alcock, a banker from Skipton North Yorkshire, founded La Societe des Anglais ‘. The aim of the English Society was to buy farmland on which to build an  estate of apartments. These apartments were rented out during ‘the season’ which was from about mid-September to the end of March when British visitors would flock to Pau to escape the winter at home. This became known as ‘Quartier des Anglais’.

Who’s Who also reported that John Stewart was one of the founder members, then a director, of the  Ottoman Bank. This bank was founded by Sultan Abulaziz to mitigate the economic crisis within the Ottoman Empire. There were French, English as well as Ottoman Government shareholders. In 1875 the bank became the State Bank of the Ottoman Empire. Its main function was to negotiate international loans for the Ottoman Government. In the 1870s, the time of the Franco- Prussian War, it is claimed that John Stewart secured loans for the French Government  for the defence of France.

John  Stewart certainly  died a wealthy man. At his death on 29th July 1887 his personal wealth stood at £295,000. Today this sum would have a purchasing power of around £36millon19. He died in London at 5 Cleveland Row, his London home20. Before his death he had put his wealth into a trust for his wife and children. Matilda lived on in Pau until her death there in January 1893. Her funeral as held at the Holy Trinity Church in Pau attended by a large crowd of both British and French inhabitants. According to Le Journal des Etranges of 22nd January  1893 (a local newspaper for the British Colony in Pau )Matilda was an ”esprit agreeable et cultive,  quel coeur bon et charitable”21.

James Grahame Stewart   (1842-1913)

As we know,our donor’s father, James Grahame Stewart  was born in Nantes in North West France but the family moved to Pau in South West France and by 1850 was spending every winter there while maintaining a house in London. James received most of his education in Pau at Le Lycee de Pau where he was a brilliant honours student. There is no indication that he went to university. He appears to have followed his parents’ habit of spending much of his time in Pau where he played a full part in the life of the community. He was a member of Pau Golf Club and was its President  in 1901 and 1904. He also helped to found the ‘Societe de Jeu des Paumes de Pau’ ( Pau Real Tennis Club). In May 1901 he made a speech on behalf of the British Colony in Pau on the  occasion of the visit of the President of France, Monsieur Carnot, in the presence of the delegation led by the UK Vice Consul of Pau Foster-Barnham.22

There is some evidence that he had similar business interests to his father. For example he was elected a Director of the Bank of Egypt in May 187823. There are reports of his presentation at Royal Levees in London in May 1880 and 188524.

James was 43 when he married Helen Louisa Georgina Ellis at the Holy Trinity Church in Pau on 16th April 1885. Helena was 20 years younger than her husband. She was the daughter of Major Charles David Cunynghame Ellis,  late of the 60th Rifles, and granddaughter of the 1st Baron Seaford of Seaford.  According to the Morning Post of 20th April 1885 Helen was also the niece of Colonel Arthur E Ellis, Equerry to the Prince of Wales  and of the Honourable Mrs A Harding, Lady in Waiting to the Princess of Wales, thus the bride was very well connected.  The best man was Prince Clermant Tonnerre and one of the six bridesmaids was also French, which shows how integrated the Stewarts were with the French population of Pau. The honeymoon was spent in Paris25.

James and Helen appear to have spent much of their life in Pau along with their children, Felicia who was born in 1890 and John Cecil who was born in 1897 as they are nowhere to be found in the UK Census of 1891 and 1901. Only in the 1911 Census does the family appear to have given up spending winters in Pau and were now living at Stonewall Park,  near Edenbridge, Kent. Stonewall Park was a 140 acre estate about 26 miles from London. They lived in a beautiful Georgian House there but also spent time in London for “The Season”.

According to the 1911 Census James was “of independent means”. This probably meant he was living off the trust fund set up by his father26. As we have seen he also had business interests of his own. In 1907 he also inherited   the estate of his uncle, Robert Grahame, who was his mother Matilda’s only sibling. He was Uncle Robert’s sole heir, inheriting £46,530 of personal wealth. This would have the purchasing power of roughly £5millon today.  Robert Grahame was living in Brighton at the time of his death27.

James Grahame Stewart appears to have been well thought of while living at Stonewall Park. When reporting his death in September 1913 The Kent and Sussex Courier stated,” There will be no doubt that his cheery presence will be missed in many a village function. He was a model employer and much respected by all who knew him here”28.

Our Donor.  Felicia Pepys Cockerell (1890-1900)

Felicia was born in London on 4th October 1890 at 19 Carlton House Terrace in London29.  She had one brother, John Cecil, born in 1897.

We  know that there was no trace of the family in either the 1891 or the 1901 census and that this   is possibly because, like her father’s parents, John and Matilda Stewart, Felicia’s mother and father spent a good part of each year living in Pau until about 1911,though still keeping a house in London.

From the 1911 Census we know that Felicia’s home at that time was  Stonewall Park, near Eden Bridge in Kent some 26 miles from London. The Stewarts also had the house in London and as we are aware were obviously wealthy.  Felicia’s father died in 1913 leaving a personal estate of £260,000-worth £26m of purchasing power today.  On her father’s death, by which time Felicia was 23, she had inherited a trust fund of £35,000 -over three and a half million pounds of purchasing power today – which provided her with a very comfortable income. She was a very rich woman30.

Stonewall park 2
Fig. 6 Stonewall Park copyright Matt Clayton for Locations >info@stonewallpark.co.uk

Like most girls of her ‘class’ Felicia did the London Season. In fact she did five Seasons-1908-1913, attending on average four balls a week31. She was presented at court on 15th May 190832.  She also appeared to be interested in amateur dramatics. There is an account in   the Tatler  for Dec 8th and Dec 15th  1909 which shows a photograph of her among a group of other ‘debs ‘ taking part in “St Ursula’s Pilgrimage” a play put on at the Court Theatre in London by the Hon Mrs Edith Lyttleton – a well-known member of London Society  who supported all sorts of women’s and worker’s causes , for example women’s suffrage. This production was in aid of The Industrial Law Indemnity Fund. In 1911 Felicia attended the Shakespeare Memorial Ball at the Albert Hall dressed as Juliet (one of about 40 Juliets! ). Perhaps she wore the same costume she wore the previous year when she played the part of Juliet in, “The Masque of Shakespeare” a theatrical event organised again by Mrs Lyttleton in aid of The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Fund33.  In 1913 she and her mother attended the wedding of Vita Sackville West to Harold Nicholson34. Weddings seemed to feature greatly in her life.

After her father’s death in 1913   Felicia, her mother and brother  moved to The Grove, Exton ,Hampshire. They were living there by 1914.

At the outbreak of WW1 now aged 23 Felicia was still single  – maybe she was a bit choosy-she could afford to be!

By 1915 Felicia was doing her bit for the war by working at the Bere Hill VAD hospital near Whitchurch in Hampshire, leaving her mother at home at The Grove. Her mother had written on the 1915 National Registration Form for Females that she had no skills, could not work in munitions and was very busy at home!35

John Cecil, Felicia’s brother had gone to Eton and aged only 17 joined  the army on 15th August 1914 -5th Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps. He was promoted lieutenant on 14th August 1915 and sent to France. He survived for just a month. He was killed at the Battle of Loos on 25th September 1915.Thus Felicia would inherit everything after her mother’s death36.

There was a notice in The Times on July 23rd 1918 of Felicia’s engagement to Major Walter Headforte Brooke of the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. But the print was hardly dry when an announcement appeared in the same newspaper  the following month saying that the marriage would not take place-not usual in those days37. Had Walter been killed in action like so many young men? That was not the case. He  went on to marry someone else in 1920 and it is not known what went wrong between him and Felicia.

Fig 7 Felicia in 1918, age 28.T From ‘The Sketch’ 7th August 1918 . Copyright Mary Evans Picture Library

There is little information about Felicia during the years after her engagement was broken off. We know she drove a car as she managed to come up against the law in January 1918 by contravening the Gas Restriction Order of February of that year which forbade the use of gas for a private car. She managed to get off on a technicality and only had to pay two shillings costs. One can only presume that Felicia’s life carried  on during the years after the war as it had done before, attending weddings and balls. Her home during this period was 25 Edwardes Square, Kensington.38

At the age of 32 on St Valentine’s Day 1922 she married Frederick Pepys Cockerel MC OBE – he was 14 years older than she was. They married at St Margaret’s Westminster.  There is no information as to how they met. The wedding was reported in The Times the following day. ”Miss Stewart made a lovely Valentine’s Day bride in a crystal and georgette gown with a long silver tissue train”. The bride was given away by her cousin Sir Guy Campbell and the best man was Guy Ridley,a barrister friend of the groom.  Among the many guests The Times listed many titled people. The couple began their honeymoon at Greenwood Gate, Ashdown Forest, the home of The Earl and Countess of Norbury and then went on to the Riviera and Greece. After the honeymoon they lived in Palace Gate Kensington39.

Frederick was a barrister at the time of the marriage. He was a descendent of Samuel Pepys, the diarist, through Pepys’s sister Pauline. His father, also Frederick Pepys Cockerell, was a noted architect as was his grandfather . Frederick  had attended Winchester School and then New College, Oxford but left in 1896 to go out to South Africa where he served in the war against the Boers. He had been a distinguished soldier during the Boer War, after which he spent a couple of years in the Colonial service in South Rhodesia. He was called to the Bar (Lincolns Inn) in 190940. He stood twice, unsuccessfully, for Parliament in 1910 and 1912 as Unionist Candidate for Mansfield in Nottinghamshire41.

Frederick  was one of the Old Contemptibles, entering WW1 at the beginning as a  lieutenant.  He was captured after the battle of Loos, escaped, found his way back to the British lines and was arrested by a Colonel who did not know him and thought he was a German spy. He was a talented linguist and spoke several European Languages as well as several African dialects and served a large part of the war in the Intelligence Unit, ending up as Lt Colonel in the Middle East in charge of the policing of the largest oil depot in the world at that time at Baku. General Dunsterville said of him,”My chief of military police ,the then Captain Cockerell reaches the last degree of unsurpassed skills.” He continued to serve after the war, serving on the Upper Silesia Plebiscite Commission in 192142.

Frederick and Felicia had two children. John Lawrence, born in 1924 and Mary Georgina in 1926. The marriage did not last, however, and in 1928 there appeared a report in The Times of the granting of a decree nisi between Felicia and Frederick  on the grounds of his adultery at Palace Gate and the Park Lane Hotel. Felicia was given custody of the children44.

What does one  do to cheer oneself  up after a divorce? You buy yourself a castle! Holt Castle in Worcestershire to be exact. Felicia and the children, John Lawrence and Mary lived there from 1928 until 1947. In 1939 Felicia was living there with Mary and eight domestic servants45. It is not known how much contact the children had with their father.

Holt Castle, 11745-39
Fig 8 Holt Castle Worcestershire. ‘Country Life’ 20th July 1940. Copyright Country Life Picture Library

There was a notice in a local paper in 1937 saying that Holt Castle Gardens would be open to the public for a couple of afternoons to raise money for Birmingham hospital, so Felicia was obviously involved in local charities46. She also appears to have kept exotic pets as in 1939 she put a notice in The Times advertising a kookaburra for £5, cage included!47

Holt Castle, 11745-39
Fig. 9 The Hall, Holt Castle. ‘Country Life’ 27th July 1940. Copyright Country Life Picture Library

From 1940 to 1945 Holt was leased to Southover Manor School, a private Girls School which had been evacuated from Lewes, Sussex and at which Mary was a pupil48. Felicia also kept a house in London which in 1940 was 8 Westbourne Park Road W2. There is no information to date as to how Felicia spent the war49.

But what happened to Frederick, Felicia’s ex-husband? He married to Grace A. Corbett in 192850. He then attempted to go into show business putting on performances of Russian singers at various theatres52, then opened a book shop in London. He was apparently an expert on old coins and books. He seems then to have   got into financial difficulties after buying an old Tudor house , Ramsden  Bellhouse Hall near Wickford, spending a lot of money trying to get it back to its Tudor glory and throwing many parties. Sadly he committed suicide in April 1932. He was found by police in a garden in Wimbledon with a bottle of poison by his side. According to the inquest he committed suicide while temporarily mentally disturbed. His obituary in The Times described him as, “ a man of great ability and much personal charm”52. After this time Felicia always referred to herself as a widow.

Felicia’s mother died in 1934 and the contents of The Grove were sold53. We can guess that this was probably the time that Felicia inherited our portrait. There was an article in Country Life Magazine in July 1940 about Holt Castle  ( see above figs 8 and 9)  which has photographs of the interior showing many paintings on the walls and which refers in the text to family portraits of Pepys ancestors54. Perhaps we can guess that our portrait may also have been on a wall in Holt Castle and when Felicia downsized in 1947 to go and live in Brooke House in Aldermaston she had no room for this portrait and gave it to Glasgow Art Galleries.

There is little more information available about Felicia after this. Her son John Lawrence had joined the Colonial Service. Felicia sailed from Liverpool on June 19th1952 on MV Apapa, heading for South Africa. She returned on August 11th aboard MV Areol. We may presume she had  visited her son55. Her daughter Mary became an architect, following her grandfather and great grandfather Pepys Cockerell56. There is a reference in the local Aldermaston paper in the 1960s which refers to the local annual fete and lists the various cups and awards which have been presented over the years, one of which was the Pepys Cockerell Cup-so Felicia must have supported events in the local community57.

Felicia died at Brooke House on 10th June 1970 aged 80. The death certificate described her as  the widow of Frederick Pepys Cockerell , bookshop proprietor58. Perhaps she never really forgot him.


  1. https://www.nga.gov Chester Harding; ‘Illustrated Catalogue of the Exhibition of Portraits on loan in the New Galleries of Art,Corporation Buildings,,Sauchiehall St.’(McLellan Galleries) https://babel.hathi.trust.org
  2. GMRC Objects file. Acc 2683

   3.”Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry” Published  1878 James Maclehose and Sons 2nd edition     www.glasgowhistory.co.uk/Books/MansionHouses

4. Robert Grahame of Whitehill .Obituary Glasgow Herald 12/11/1852

  1. Quincey,Josiah “Memoir of James Grahame LLD. ”Charles C Little &James Brown Boston 1845(.Originally) written for the Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
  2. Robley Genealogy http://www.robley.org.uk/jrstoke.html
  3. Harris,Eleanor .’James Grahame’ in “The Episcopal Congregation of Charlotte Chapel”.Online- http://www..stjohns-edinburgh.org.uk.2011
  4. Quincey,Josiah “Memoir of James Grahame LLD.”Charles C Little and James Brown Boston 1845
  5. http://www.brontesisters.co.uk/John_StewartPhotographer.html
  6. Memoirs of the Late Reverend Alexander Stewart DD .One of the Ministers of Canongate ,Edinburgh”.pub William Oliphant 1822.
  7. Luminous -Lint. Photography :History,Evolution and Analysis. http://www.luminous_lint.com/app/photographer/John-Stewart_01/A/

12.  http://www.brontesisters.co.uk/John_StewartPhotographer.html .

13. Rossoni,Raphael (ed) “Pau Golf Club Who’s Who 1856-1966” 2016 https://issuu.com/raphaelrossoni/docs/pgc_who_s_who_1856-1966

  1. Will of John Stewart.GOV.UK. https:www.gov.uk/search-wills-probate
  2. http://www.justabouttravel.net/2014/07/14pau “Pau, it’s such a British City.”
  3. Rossoni, Raphael(ed) Pau Golf Club Who’s Who 1856-1966. 2016
  4. Luminous- Lint.Photography:History,Evolutionand Analysis .http://www.luminous_lint.com/app/photographer/John-Stewart_01/A/
  5. http://www.brontesisters.co.uk/John_StewartPhotographer.html
  6. Will of John Stewart.GOV.UK. https://www.gov.uk/search-will- probate
  7. Register of Statutory Deaths John Stewart. www.ancestry.co.uk
  8. Rossoni,Raphael (ed) Pau Golf Club Who’s Who 1856-1966
  9. ibid
  10. Morning Post(MP) 07/07/1878
  11. MP 08/05/1880 ;MP 12/05/1885
  12. MP 20/04/1885
  13. Will of John Stewart. GOV.UK. https://www.gov.uk/search-will-probate

27. Sussex Agricultural Express   02/02/19

28. Obituary Kent and Sussex Courier 19/09/1913

  1. Register of Statutory Births. Felicia Stewart www.ancestry.co.uk
  2. Will of James Grahame Stewart. GOV.UK Wills Probate and Inheritance. https://www.gov.uk/search-wills-probate
  3. Times 06/02/1954
  4. Times 16/05/1908
  5. Daily Telegraph and Courier 24/06/1910 ; The Globe 21/6/1911
  6. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 25/7/1930
  7. National Registration Act 1915.Form for Females.92A02/A1/22/469/470.Hampshire Record Office
  8. Eton College Chronicle No 1737 8th July 1920
  9. Times 16/09/1918
  10. West London Observer 22/02/1918
  11. Times 15/02/1922; Sheffield Daily Telegraph 15/02/1922
  12. Obituary Times 31/03/1932
  13. Times 25/10/1910 ;Sheffield Evening Telegraph27/09/1913
  14. New York Times 08/01/193o ; Visions of Azerbaijan .Summer 2006. Vol 1.2. http://www.visions.az./news
  15. Register of Statutory Births . John Lawrence, Mary Georgina. www.ancestry.co.uk
  16. Times 23/10/1928
  17. 1939 Register www.findmypast.co.uk
  18. Birmingham Gazette 03/07/1937; Birmingham Mail. 29/7/1939
  19. Times 21/7/1939
  20. National Archives Discovery:East Sussex Record Office .Ref amsnn/AMS6799
  21. London Telephone Directory 1940
  22. Register of Statutory Marriages. www.ancestry.co.uk
  23. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 25/7/1930
  24. Times 31/03/1932
  25. Hampshire Telegraph 10/08/1934; Portsmouth Evening News 25/09/1934
  26. Country Life 20/07/1934;27/07/1934
  27. Outgoing and Incoming Passenger Lists 1890-1960. www.ancestry.co.uk
  28. The Tatler 09/02/1944
  29. Berkshire Record Office. arch@reading.gov.uk
  30. General Register Office Death Certificate Felicia Marie Louise Pepys Cockerell








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