Course open

A few weeks ago, Stella Violet mentioned that a plaque, which was on the east side of the old Cedar tree by the men’s 16th tee box was in a rather sorry state and perhaps the club could rejuvenate it as there was a lot of history attached to it.  Thanks to the splendid efforts of Bob Cornish, who did a great job by repainting it and touching up the lettering, and to Neil Faubel for professionally securing the plaque in the ground in sight of golfers walking to the 16th tee, the members are now aware of Pamela Furness.

 Stella has done a lot of research and even remembers her father, the late Charlie Sturridge, who was in service at Hamels Mansion when he was a young lad of 14 years of age, recounting some of the history behind the owners of Hamels Mansion back in the day.  One of our members, Roger Stainton, has graciously updated the information as he is currently writing a history of the past one hundred years of Hamels Mansion.

 The site of Hamels Mansion has had a building on it since the 1580s and it was extensively rebuilt in 1834.  It was not until 1919 when the nephew of the first Baron (Lord) Furness bought Hamels Park at auction for the family use.   The new owner, Haaken Ethelbert Stephenson Furness (known as Bertie) moved into the Mansion with his wife and two young children.  As common with large well-to-do families of the time, cousins, aunts, uncles and the like flitted from residence to residence and Hamels Park became just another dwelling where members of the extended family could pitch up and stay for a week or a month or a year or so.

 The Furness family fortune started with Christopher Furness who made his fortune in the Franco-Prussian War by discovering a way to circumnavigate the land lock engineered by the French who blocked the River Elbe.  By buying up all the available food stuff in Sweden either going to or coming from Russia, Christopher and his brother, Stephen, rented ships and as business increased eventually owned a fleet of ships to transport their goods.  On returning to the United Kingdom, Christopher bought into ship building companies, steel companies and Meanwhile, he married Jane Suggest and had two children, Averill, and Marmaduke (known as Duke).  Not content with his business expansion, Christopher became MP for Hartlepool in 1891.  In 1885 he was Knighted, and Sir Christopher and Lady Jane were off and running.  In 1910 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Furness of Grantley.

 Hamels Mansion was extensively used by various members of the Furness family during the period from 1919 to 1933.  Christopher died in 1912.  His wife, the widow Dowager Jane Furness, moved into Hamels Mansion in 1925 from Grantley Hall.  According to Victor Tott who worked at the mansion at the time, Bertie, one of the fourteen children all born in Sweden to Stephen (Christopher’s brother) and his wife, Mary Ann, moved from Hamels Park to Great Amwell as the Dowager Lady Jane moved in.  Bertie had two daughters, Joan and Pamela.  Pamela, the younger of the two, was credited with planting a Cedar tree in the Park (albeit at the tender age of four and a half years).  Was this the beginning of a love affair with trees?  Perhaps a young nemophilist in the making?

 During this period, Marmaduke took after his father and expanded the family fortune by increasing his shipping and industrial interests.  By the end of the First World War he was reported to be the 6th wealthiest man in the world.  However, his private life was not so successful.  In 1921, his wife, Lady Daisy, died at the young age of 40 on board their private yacht whilst en route to the South of France.  She had undergone abdominal surgery the previous year and was hoping the warmer climate would aid her recovery.  His son, Christopher, was killed in action during World War Two in 1940 while serving with the Welsh Guards for which Christopher was awarded the posthumous Victoria Cross. He was only 27 years of age, as was his sister, Averill, who died in Nairobi after a brief marriage to a white hunter, in  1936.

 Viscount Furness married again in 1926 to Thelma Morgan (twin sister of Gloria Vanderbilt (nee Morgan)), an American socialite.  Thelma was reported to have had an affair with the Prince of Wales (later to become Edward VIII) and introduced the Prince to a married friend, Wallis Simpson, and the rest, as we say, is history.  Stella tells the story a bit better than me. 

 “In 1931, whilst living in Grosvenor Square her friend brought Mrs Simpson round for cocktails.  Thelma and the Prince would regularly meet Wallis and her husband.  In the January of 1934, Thelma went to California with her sister Gloria.  She told the Prince – when he came back from a round of golf – she would be away for five or six weeks and she asked Wallis Simpson to look after the Prince whilst she was away.  When she returned from the States she realised that Wallis and the Prince were extra close, then it all came out.  He abdicated in 1936.”

 Marmaduke’s second son by his marriage to Thelma, William Anthony (Tony),  succeeded the title on 1940 upon his father’s death.  The Right Honourable The Viscount Furness died in 1995 and since he did not marry and had no children – according to an obituary, he took a vow of celibacy upon being rejected by the only woman he ever asked to marry him, Joyce Reeves – both titles became extinct.

 After being used as a private school for the early parts of the 20th Century (from 1934 to 1968) it was purchased by builders Hubert C Leach and subsequently refurbished in 1977 for their Head Office.  During its life as a private school, the actress Sarah Miles and the author, Rose Tremain, were pupils.