Stella Alston (1881-1970)

In 1930 a portrait of John Thomas Alston of Moore Park (1780–1857) by John Graham Gilbert (1794-1866) was gifted to Kelvingrove Gallery by Mrs. Stella Alston. John Thomas Alston had been Provost of the City of Glasgow between 1820 and 1822. A copy of the painting is depicted below.

Figure 1. Graham-Gilbert, John; John T. Alston (1780-1857), Provost of Glasgow (1820-1821). © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(

ur donor Stella Alston was born at 3 De Vere Gardens, London in 1881. Her parents were Mr Charles Parbury and Mrs Annie Parbury from Australia. [1]

Mr Parbury was an Australian merchant, who traded between India and Australia. However, they lived most of their time in London. Stella was one of nine children and she was brought up in London’s De Vere Gardens, one of the very fashionable areas of London where many artists and writers lived. Some of those notable residents were writer Henry James, poet Robert Browning and H. Kempton Dyson (1880–1944), English structural engineer, civil engineer, architect, editor and author. [2]

On 16 July 1903 our donor Stella Parbury married Mervyn Campbell Stephen who was also from Australia and whose grandfather was the famous member of the Australian Legislature Sir Alfred Stephen (1802-94). [3]

Mervyn Campbell Stephen had studied law at Trinity College, Cambridge and had become a barrister. Their daughter Sheila Annie was born on 28 November 1904. The Stephen Family, then sometime in between 1905 and 1911, had moved to Eastbourne as the 1911 English Census records that their residence was 15 Jevington Gardens, Eastbourne. However, Mr. Mervyn Campbell Stephen died suddenly on 20 October 1912, at the young age of 36, leaving Stella a widow and mother of a young child. [4]

Later in 1914 Stella married again. [5] Her husband was Mr. George Alston whose previous wife Mary Charlotte Thompson had died in 1912.

George Alston’s father was a tea planter in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka). The tea plantation in Ceylon was called Craighead, which was the name of the Alston family home in Scotland. [6] George Alston was a relative of John Thomas Alston, the Lord Provost of Glasgow and the subject of our painting.

After researching his genealogy, it was discovered that John Thomas Alston was, in fact, the grand uncle of Stella’s husband George Alston (i.e. brother of his grandfather). [7] John Thomas Alston was born in Glasgow, one of six children of John Alston (1743–1818), a bank cashier with the Thistle Bank, and his wife, Patrick Craigie (sic).The family later lived at 56 Virginia Street, Glasgow.John Thomas moved to separate lodgings at Clyde Street in 1818. In 1820 he succeeded Henry Monteith as Lord Provost of Glasgow. He then bought Moore Park, a simple Georgian villa by David Hamilton in the Broomloan district of Glasgow. The house was photographed in 1870 by Thomas Annan just prior to its demolition for railway improvements in the city. After that he was known as John Thomas Alston of Moore Park. [8]

Returning to our donor’s life, Stella and George Alston, after their marriage, lived in Newbury, Berkshire, England. However, later they moved to Duns in Berwickshire, Scotland where they lived together in Nesbit House until George’s death on 5 June 1930. [9]

Stella’s daughter, Sheila Annie Stephen, after her first marriage to Mervyn Campbell Stephen, married Sir David George Home of Blackadder on 5 January 1933. [10] He had been born on 21 January 1904. His father was Sir John Home of Blackadder, 12th Baronet, and his mother was the Hon. Gwendolina Hyacinth Roma Mostyn.

Sir David George Home was educated at Harrow School, Harrow, London and graduated from Jesus College, Cambridge University in 1925 with a Bachelor of Arts BA. He succeeded as the 13th Baronet Home, of Blackadder, on 19 October 1938. [11] He fought in the Second World War and gained the rank of Temporary Major in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. He was admitted to the Royal Company of Archers and was the director of Edinburgh & Dundee Investment. Sir David and Sheila Annie had four children. [12]

After her husband’s death in 1930, Stella Alston returned to England and lived in London. She died there on 3 May 1970 and her death notice was in The Times of 6 May 1970. She was widowed twice before she was fifty and had seen two world wars.

Our donor’s son-in-law Sir David Home died on 17 January 1992 and his wife, Sheila Annie, soon after on 16 May 1992. They are both buried in the Grange Cemetery Edinburgh. [13]


[1] London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1920 Kensington and Chelsea St Stephen, Kensington 1847-19011891 English Census.


[3]   search for Alfred Stephen, Lt. Governor NSW, Sir C.B.;K.C.M.G.

[4] Death cert. Mervyn Campbell Stephen in 

[5] The Westminster, London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1935 (

[6] 1871 Scotland Census .

[7] Alston family tree search:


[9] George Alston’s Death Cert. (




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