Sunday, November 01, 2015

Captain John Cecil Glossop Pownall, Royal Field Artillery

John Cecil Glossop Pownall was born in Kensington, London in 1891, his birth registered there in June that year.  He was the oldest son of Henry Harrison and Blanch Pownall and he appears on the 1901 census, living with his parents and siblings at Ades, Chailey.  Today, Ades still stands but has been divided into a number of individual flats.  At the time John was living there though, it was a sizeable estate comprising the main house, Hickwells house on the opposite side of Cinder Hill and acres of rolling Sussex countryside.   

Henry Harrison Pownall had bought the estate in 1899 after its previous owner, James Croft Ingram had been declared bankrupt as the result of some unwise investments by his business partner.  Henry practiced the law and in 1901 he was a successful 47 year old barrister living at Ades with his wife Blanch (aged 46) and their children Kathleen (12), John (10), Percy (8) and Lionel (5).  Henry had been born in Bloomsbury, London, his wife in Richmond, Surrey.  With the exception of Lionel who was born in Reigate, Surrey, all the other children had been born in Kensington, London. 

Henry also employed a sizeable contingent of domestics.  Appearing on the 1901 census are Katherine Murdock (governess, aged 42), Margaret Towan (cook, aged 27), Emma Daniels (house maid, aged 42), Jane Popple (house maid, aged 22), Laura Turner (house maid, aged 24), Constance Hobden (kitchen maid, aged 21), Agnes Hobden (Maid, aged 15), Eva Kempton (trade unknown, aged 46), Frederick Game (butler, aged 34), Jane Game (his wife, aged 30), Evelyn Game (daughter of Frederick and Jane, age 6), George Wheeler (footman, aged 23), James Izzard (groom, aged 22) and Albert Leeson, (groom, aged 21). 

In Chailey Through The Centuries, by Edwin Matthias (1996), W G Tharby (born in 1896) recalls that his father worked as a coachman for Mr Pownall.  He recalls Ades in some detail: 

It was like a self contained village with a large park, lake, home farm, coverts and large gardens.  In the stables my father had grooms to do most of the work while in the house, there was a large staff consisting of butler, housekeeper, footman, head parlourmaid, parlourmaids, housemaids, cook, kitchen and scullery maids.

In the servants hall the butler and housekeeper ruled with great dignity and everyone sat in order of rank for meals.  A head gardener and about a dozen under-gardeners looked after the extensive gardens and the glass houses while a bailiff ran the home farm.  There was also a game-keeper.  Father had a rent-free cottage with a well for water and oil lamps and candles.  In addition he received free milk, coal, vegetables, uniform and working suits, plus £2 a week.  When he drove the landau which had a crest on the highly polished door panels, he looked very smart in his blue uniform and top hat.  He wore a cockade on one side of his topper.  The groom who sat beside him with folded arms was similarly attired.  He had to jump down smartly to open the carriage door and let down the step when required.  On Sunday mornings, when old enough, I accompanied father to the stables.  He would see the horses were properly groomed and bedded with clean straw.  Everything had to be spotlessly clean.  The horses were better housed than some human beings at that time.  After his inspection we returned home to collect mother for church. 

At Christmas a large tree was installed in the billiards room.  It was brightly decorated and a large pile of presents stood nearby.  Every employee on the estate, also wives and children, were there to receive a present.  The butler handed them to Mr Pownall for the men and to his wife for the wives and children.  On November 5th each year, a miniature Crystal Palace illumination was laid on, even a framework to carry set pieces.  All employees and families assembled in the billiards room which had several large windows overlooking the park.  Here the display was staged and after the set pieces a large bonfire was lit and the rockets went up to an accompaniment of oos and ahs. 

When harvest was completed on the home farm a real Sussex Harvest Home was provided and a good roast beef and beer was enjoyed, followed by a sing-song which was an all male affair. 

John Pownall’s medal index card tells us that he arrived in France on 24th June 1916.  Chailey Parish Magazine notes him for the first time in October 1916 noting him as Captain C Pownall of the Royal Field Artillery (which presumably indicates that he was referred to as Cecil rather than John).  In December, the parish magazine records him as CG Pownall.   

On 14th June 1917 on page 5860 of the Supplement to The London Gazette, Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery, the following information is noted: “The undermentioned to be Lts.  1st June 1916, except where otherwise stated: 2nd Lt (Temp Capt) J C G Pownall and to retain temp rank of Capt.” 

Captain Pownall appears to have served throughout the war and his name appears in the parish magazine up to and including July 1919.  Precious little is known of his service however and to date I have not been able to find his service record at The National Archives. 

John Pownall’s younger brother, Lionel Henry Yorke Pownall, also served his King and Country during the First World War and was killed in action in May 1915.  The boys’ sister, Kathleen Etheldred Pownall was an active member of Sussex 54 VAD.

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