The British Water Colour Collection

The Gateway, Baalbec David Roberts  Herbert Powell collection
The gateway, Baalbec   David Roberts
Herbert Andrews Powell first came to my attention as the Lieutenant Colonel of The newly established War Hospital in Guildford, Surrey in 1916.  Born in Kent in 1863, after graduating from Corpus Christi College in Oxford he trained in medicine at Bart’s Hospital in London.  Herbert Powell began his career as a doctor in practice in Winchester but by 1897 he had moved to his deceased father’s home, “Piccard’s Rough,” in Guildford and had given up practising medicine.

This did not mean that he was idle.  While in Winchester he had publishing a book of poetry, “Lyrics of the White City,” but verses such as,
“Behold the day-king, full astir
In royal opulence,
Kindle the mystic gossamer
To an unseen incense,
And princely rise
Through breathless skies
In splendour to his noon-day audience.”
may not have proved as popular as he had expected so he put all his energy into civic duty.  Within a year he was a member of the Guildford Board of Guardians running the local poor law institution and increasingly he involved himself with the District and County Council. He was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Surrey County Nursing Association from its formation and in 1916 helped to establish a local nursing home.  He was a member of the Guildford Education Committee and in 1900 he was added to the committee of the Peace on Guildford Bench.

Samuel Atkins, ‘Shakespeare's Cliff, Dover’ date not known Powell collection
Shakespeare's Cliff, Dover   Samuel Atkins

In 1915 during the early stages of the First World War, Herbert and his wife Elizabeth Powell placed their house, “Piccard’s Rough,” at the disposal of the War Office.  It provided 50 beds for sick and wounded soldiers with Mrs Powell as its Commandant and Mr Powell as Medical officer.  In 1917 this hospital was reserved for the convalescence of military nurses. 

George Chambers, ‘The Hay-Barge’ date not known Powell collection
The Hay Barge  George Chambers

In the meantime, in March 1916 the Workhouse Infirmary was requisitioned as a Military Hospital and Herbert Powell became its Commandant.  He was given the honorary title of Lt-Col. and was ably assisted by Major Hancock RAMC.  Initially there was accommodation for 300 patients but later it could take 480.  The nursing staff were mostly volunteers from the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment who had taken a nursing certificate or special training.  A major part of Powell’s responsibilities was transporting the wounded soldiers from Guildford station to the War Hospital in Warren Road.  Many British, Australian and Canadian soldiers were tended there.

From April 1919 the hospital was used primarily for cases of malaria and in 1919 it ceased to be a military hospital enabling Herbert and his family to return to their pre-war lifestyle.  He had resigned his honorary Commission in 1918 but in 1922 he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey.

Tour d’Horloge, Rouen, 1829, graphite and watercolor on paper by David Cox, British, 1783-1859. Presented to Tate Britain by the Art Fund, Herbert Powell bequest in 1967.
Tour d'Horloge, Rouen  David Cox

Throughout his life, Herbert Andrews Powell collected fine watercolours, perhaps following on from his father Thomas Wilde Powell, who was a patron of the Arts and Crafts Movement.  He was encouraged by his wife, Elizabeth, who came from the Courtauld family.  Herbert’s sister, Christiana Herringham, was an artist, copyist and art patron.  In 1903 she was the only woman on the committee which established the National Art Collection, originally the idea of John Ruskin, to preserve Britain’s artistic heritage.  In 1929 Herbert began giving his collection of British watercolours to the nation, to be exhibited around the country, and subsequently the Herbert Powell Collection became part of the National Arts Collection.

Memorial at Watts Cemetery

Herbert Powell was a trustee of the Watts Gallery in Compton, Surrey from 1905 until 1946.  His son Lawrence Powell, an architect, designed the Sunken Gallery and later also became a trustee.  There is a memorial to Herbert Andrews Powell at Watts Cemetery where he was buried in January 1950.

Mary Lago, “Christiana Herringham and the Edwardian Art Scene,”  1996
Powell, “Lyrics of the White City,” 1896
Surrey Advertiser at Surrey History Centre, Woking
Guildford Institute Scrapbook, “The Great War,” compiled by M C Elias Morgan
Samuel Atkins, ‘Shakespeare's Cliff, Dover’   
The Gateway, Baalbec David Roberts  
George Chambers, ‘The Hay-Barge”
Tour d’Horloge, Rouen, 1829, graphite and watercolor on paper by David Cox, 
Herbert Powell Collection in  and

Searching for a tombstone at St Mary's Lambeth

When I first began to research my HOPKINS ancestors, who were Lightermen on the Thames, I discovered from an online contact that hidden in the churchyard of St Mary at Lambeth was a tombstone bearing the name Robert Hopkins who died in 1849.  After some time I went in search of this tomb lying in the shade of Lambeth Palace, in the grounds of what is now the innovative Garden Museum.

At first I was disappointed, finding only the imposing tombs of Captain Bligh and John Tradescant, so I enquired at the Reception area and was lucky enough to meet Christopher Raven who was compiling a list of the memorial stones.  He immediately recognised the name Robert Hopkins and took me to the West side of the “dry garden” where the dark slab I was seeking lay half covered by low lying shrubs.

On the tombstone I found listed 6 people with four different surnames; Robert and Elizabeth Hopkins, who were my great great great grandparents, Sarah Proctor and George and Mary Martin who meant nothing to me and Thomas Armstrong, a name of significance.  Through several generations the Hopkins family used the name Armstrong as a middle name for their sons but there was no evidence that the Hopkins family ever married into the Armstrong family.  I found the link in the apprenticeship bindings records for the company of Watermen and Lightermen.  Thomas Armstrong was a Master Lighterman to whom Robert Hopkins was apprenticed for 7 years from the age of 14.  On completing his apprenticeship in 1811, Robert Hopkins married Elizabeth Norris in St Martin in the Fields, the Lightermen’s church, with Thomas Armstrong as a witness.

The next connection I discovered was that George Martin and Thomas Armstrong were in business together as coal merchants.  All the families lived in Bishops Walk which lay between St Mary’s church and the present day site of St Thomas’ Hospital.  In pre-embankment days there was easy access to the river and the lightermen were able to operate the flat bottomed Thames barges, using the ebb and flow of the river to move their craft to transport coal. 

George Martin had married Mary Norris, who may have been the aunt of Elizabeth Norris, Robert Hopkins’ wife.  George and Mary had a son, George, who died as a child but their surviving daughter Sarah married Thomas Armstrong.  From his will I was able to discover that when Thomas died in 1820 they had no children so he left everything to his wife Sarah.  Two years later Sarah married Charles Proctor, a bachelor, at St Pancras.  Once again Sarah had no children so by the time Charles died Sarah Proctor was a very wealthy woman.  In addition she was the only heir of her father George Martin. 

Sarah's six page will is quite complex.  She left £6000 to Robert Hopkins and other bequests to Robert’s wife Elizabeth Norris and to Elizabeth’s brother & sisters, Thomas, Sophie, Sarah and Harriot Mary Norris.  There was also a bequest for Emma Hopkins, the daughter of Robert & Elizabeth.

It is most probable that Sarah Proctor left instructions that Robert and Elizabeth Hopkins should be buried alongside the Martin family rather than in the overflow graveyard on Lambeth High Street.  Perhaps she was unaware of the practices of two body snatchers in the graveyard in 1817.

Finding romance on the back of a postcard

Over the last few months I have been scanning old postcards of Edwardian actresses which are in an album I inherited from my grandmother.  Most of the postcards were sent shortly after my grandmother moved with her mother from Rotherhithe to Bournemouth and the majority were sent by her old friends especially “Kate.”

It is always interesting to read the message on the back of the postcard but these are usually about the weather!  One card, however, proved more exciting.  The photo is of Miss Gabrielle Ray, the Edwardian actress who in the 1900s posed for thousands of photographic postcards.  She first appeared on stage, age 10 in 1893 and became famous appearing in many productions in London until her marriage in 1912.  To read more about this beautiful actress please go to

The postcard was postmarked in Brockley in south London on December 5th 1906, when my grandmother was 22.  She had suffered from polio as a child and so had to wear a built up boot due to one leg being shorter.  As you can see in my scan of the postcard the text is very chatty, passing on gossip. “Have you heard this news from Rotherhithe that (Totty) Miss Walker of Culling Road is engaged to a (gentleman of independent means) still a chance after that eh!”

I couldn't resist finding out more about this couple so I went straight to street search of the 1901 census on .  There in Culling road I found my grandmother’s elder brother Percy, her uncle Thomas and also at number 58, Louisa A. Walker age 36 living with her father Samuel Walker, retired Customs Officer and her younger sister Ada, a teacher.  Exploring earlier census returns I found another sister who was a teacher but no occupation was given for Louisa.

My next success was to find a marriage using on June 24th 1908 between Louisa Alice Walker age 43 and William Halcomb Miles age 47 at Christchurch, Rotherhithe.  William’s father was secretary of the SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge).  The couple settled in Catford, where according to the 1911 census they had 6 rooms and a bathroom. 

Another interesting point is that on the 1911 census, it states that William was deaf from birth and that Louisa is living on private means.  As young Louisa had remained at home while her sisters worked as teachers I wonder if it was actually Louisa who was deaf.  Lastly I discovered Probate records show that William died on February 11th 1934 leaving £3543 8s 3d and his wife Louisa died four years later leaving £3259 2s 2d.

My grandmother didn't find a man of independent means but a few years later she met a young trainee architect in Bournemouth whom she followed to Canada and married in 1912.  I have yet to discover more about Kate.