Church of Saint John the Baptist in Tomar #WordlessWednesday


The church of St John the Baptist can be found in the Praça da República in the centre of the old town of Tomar in central Portugal. To see more photos of the city of the Knight Templars see here

To read about The Convent of Christ in Tomar.

Helen Lloyd energetic WVS volunteer #WW2 #evacuees #MondayBlogs


In 1938 when the Woman’s Voluntary Services were established, Helen Lloyd, a 39 year old resident of Albury, Surrey, where she lived with her parents, volunteered to take charge of the reception of evacuees in the Guildford Rural District.  We are able to discover a great deal about her ever widening responsibilities for the WVS through the diaries she wrote for the Mass Observation Archive.

From 1939 till 1940, 1100 evacuees arrived in the Guildford Rural District, many in 1940 having been moved from the south coast where they had first been housed.  Apart from the logistics of finding homes for the children, Helen commented in her Narrative Reports to the WVS headquarters that Enuresis (bed-wetting) was a severe problem for families taking care of the children.  Many solutions were suggested throughout the country, such as not allowing children to pick dandelions, but Helen believed, “All that is needed is a legion of old-fashioned nannies who love the children dearly but who stand no nonsense from their charges.”  She may have followed this herself for she remarked in her diary that she had happily replaced a bath and a drink before dinner with a session reading a story to the four boys residing with her family.

The WVS centre for Guildford Borough was organised by Mrs Eileen Leach, but Helen’s base was also in Guildford and she had regular meetings with Mrs Leach. Though not specifically connected with Warren Road Hospital, Helen often went there in her role as WVS district organiser.  Her diary entry for

June 15th 1940

“Took a car full of teapots and cruets to Warren Road Hospital.  Mrs Thomas objected to appeals being made for the hospital as it made public the fact that it was badly equipped – which of course was the case.”

October 26th 1940

“To Warren Road Hospital to give blood.  Had to wait 40 minutes but enlivened the time by gossiping with Mrs Cooper who was taking records.  The operation was extremely simple and I felt ashamed of having a fluttering head.  The doctor was charming and I admired and wished to emulate his bedside manner.”

Helen was concerned that the London boroughs made no attempt to forward the children’s medical records or spectacle prescriptions, but the main medical concerns were obvious.

December 30th 1940

“Had to take two of Mrs Strachey’s children to Warren Road Hospital with impetigo and nits!”

January 31st 1941

“Eight cases of scabies and nowhere to put them; 3 measles contacts and no billets; an expectant mother imminently expecting; a child admitted to Warren Road for impetigo has measles there and no-one is told; a second child of Mrs Strachey’s has scarlet fever though the school doctor pronounced it to be nothing.”

The highlight of June 1940 was the arrival at Guildford station of men evacuated from Dunkirk.  Mrs Leach was in Helen’s office organising food for the trains when there was a message for them to go to the station as soon as possible.  There they found chaos as train after train of hungry and thirsty English, French and Belgian soldiers stopped en route from the south coast.  “The waiting rooms on the platform were transformed into larders and pantries and were filled with people cutting sandwiches.  Churns of hot tea ladled into tins, jam jars, anything that would serve as a cup.”  For four days the WVS continued to serve the soldiers with the, “enthusiastic support of Guildford tradesmen willing to be knocked up at all hours to give goods at a discount of sixty per cent.”

After Dunkirk, the Guildford scheme was instigated, “Whereby we shall keep a list of lodgings, free or otherwise, for the wives and relations of wounded (servicemen) on the danger list.  These people are, if necessary to be met at the station and taken to the hospital or billets.”

Meanwhile the rural WVS were to supply ashtrays, handkerchiefs, drinking beakers, books and games for the injured soldiers at Warren Road Hospital.

On one occasion Helen recorded that a family had been sent from Bristol because the husband was dying of cancer at Warren Road Hospital.  His wife and six children were sent to Ockham Park which made it impossible for them to visit the hospital so she persuaded the Billeting Officer to find them a council cottage in Shackleford.

Later in 1941 Helen Lloyd reported that 3 bombs had dropped near to Warren Road Hospital killing 2 people, injuring 9 and making 200 homeless.  In October 1941 a British Restaurant was opened in Charlotteville.  This was a communal feeding centre, a café where a full hot meal could be purchased for one shilling, served and washed up by the WVS.  At the same time WVS members were knitting scarves, helmets, socks, sweaters and gloves.  By 1941 almost 3,000 children had been evacuated to the 22 parishes in Helen’s Rural District.  In January 1942 when there was thick snow on the ground, Helen skied into Guildford from her home in Albury.

In June 1942 there were 542 WVS members in Guildford Rural District and 1,005 in the borough of Guildford.  An editorial in the Surrey Times of 29th October 1943 expressed the opinion that, “While the grey uniforms of the members of the WVS are seen mingling among the crowds in our streets, few of the public are conscious of the valuable work they undertake.”

For more interesting details:

“Warriors at Home 1940-1942” edited by Patricia and Robert Malcomson

“Women at the Ready: The remarkable story of the Women’s Voluntary Services”by Robert and Patricia Malcolmson

Clara Evelyn, concert pianist, singer and actress


I was intrigued by the words on the back of this postcard from Kate in Lewisham. She told her friend Connie that this famous star had been the pianist they remembered from dancing class when they were younger. With a little research I was able to confirm that Clara Evelyn was born Clara Evelyn Smith. While living with her parents in Rotherhithe and then New Cross she was given a scholarship to study the piano at the Royal College of Music and three years later another scholarship for singing. She also played the piano for her mother’s dancing classes.

Clara was born in 1882 in Camberwell. Her father was an ironmonger and she had 2 brothers and a sister, Ida. In the Edwardian era she starred in several musicals on the London stage including The Merry Widow, and then in The Dollar Princess at Daly’s theatre where she replaced Lily Elsie. In the press she was praised for her excellent singing, though criticised for a slight stoop.

While touring with George Edward’s Merry Widow company she received many excellent reviews and still found time to sing or play at charity concerts. She had further success in the West End in “Girl in the Train” and “Princess Caprice” and she was still performing in concerts in the 1930s.

I wonder if my Grandma, Connie, saw Clara when she came to Bournemouth.

Clara married Julian Day, a merchant banker who also owned more than 50 companies. He died in Switzerland in 1947 but Clara continued living in Chelsea until her death in 1980.

An amazing obituary of Clara Evelyn the last Gaiety Girl written by Hughie Green on a fascinating Blog about Gabrielle Ray.

A horrifying death in actress Gertie Millar's boudoir

In early November 1905 this photograph of the downstairs boudoir of Mrs Lionel Monckton in Russell Square was published in The Sketch, but a very different scene had taken place there. While Mrs  Monckton, better known as actress Gertie Millar, was asleep upstairs with her husband, one of her admirers had crept into the room and shot himself with a revolver. Baron Gunther Rau von Holzhauzen was well known to Gertie, he frequented the theatre whenever she was appearing and sent her many letters. She treated him as a friend, meeting him sometimes for tea with one of her lady friends.

 Gertie Millar was probably the best known musical comedy actress in the country, especially after she appeared at the Gaiety Theatre in "Our Miss Gibbs".  The music for this and most of the other musicals in which she sang was written by her husband former lawyer Lionel Monckton. In 1903 she had appeared in "The Orchid" in front of King Edward VI and Queen Alexandra.

 The Inquest into the death of Baron Holzhauzen was reported in detail in newspapers throughout the country. The parlourmaid described finding broken glass from the window at 7.30 am but it was only at at ten to nine that she spotted the baron's foot as he hid behind the piano. As she ran upstairs to fetch Mr Monckton a shot rang out. The court was told that The Baron "entertained a boyish infatuation" for the actress. It was assumed that intending to commit suicide he decided to spend his last night in the same house as Mrs Monckton.

Lionel Monckton was very unhappy about these events which caused problems in their marriage but he continued to write musicals for her. In 1910 Gertie Millar performed in "The Quaker Girl" which was particularly popular but she was also noticed in society being entertained by the Duke of Westminster.

In an interview with American journalist Alan Dale, she said,

 "Mr. Monckton studies me, of course," she said, "and he can usually gauge my qualities. I never took singing lessons in my life, and I never studied dancing. I can't understand why I am considered a dancer, because I really do nothing. I just jig to the rhythm of the music. I don't consider that there is any art in it. I love dancing, and adore watching it, but I don't admire my own at all."

 In the First World War the public changed their theatrical tastes, Lionel Monckton suffered from ill health and her director George Edwardes died in 1915. Gertie retired from the theatre in 1918. Only two months after Lionel Monckton died in 1924, Gertie Millar married William Ward, the Earl of Dudley. He died in 1932 and Gertie died 20 years later in Chiddingfold aged 73.

For more on the Gaiety Girls


#WalkingSquares by the River Thames

Upstream to watch people messing about in boats.

 Thank you to Becky for inviting me to join in with #WalkingSquares