SIR GEORGE FARRAR, HIS FAMILY, & CHICHELEY HALL

Born on June 17th 1859, George Farrar was one of the four sons of the late Dr. Charles Farrar. Charles had been in medical practice at Chatteris, North Witchford, Cambridgeshire, †and his wife Helen (who died at Bedford, aged 82) was the daughter of John Howard, of Cauldwell House, Bedford. John was the founder of the Britannia Ironworks, and after an education at Bedford Modern School, in 1878 George travelled to South Africa with his brother, Sidney, to represent their uncle, Sir F. Howard, in the sale of agricultural machinery. However, since he arrived with only £30 in cash, for he and his brother an irresistible lure was the opening of the goldfields at Barberton, from where in 1886 they passed on to Johannesburg, where George began to acquire land on the unexplored eastern portion of the Rand. Despite only the discovery of coal, George was convinced that the area held gold deposits, and within a few years he and Sidney, who had carried on his profession as a successful qualified civil and mining engineer, became the heads of the East Rand Proprietary Company. Then in Johannesburg, on June 3rd 1893, with his financial fortunes well established George married Ella Mabel Waylen, the daughter of the late Dr. Charles Waylen, of the Indian Medical Service. Through George’s perseverance the Angelo was the first mine to be brought to a productive stage and yield good results, and this was just as well since for his part in the Jameson Raid, he was only saved from the penalty of hanging by a fine of £25,000, paid in the form of a cheque by his brother Sidney. However, the Jameson Raid did much to precipitate the second Boer War, at the outbreak of which George and his third brother, Percy, volunteered for the forces of the Crown. Joining the Kaffrarian Rifles, George saw a great deal of active service, and as well as being mentioned in despatches would be awarded the D.S.O. Then in 1902 he was knighted, and after the conflict, under the new Constitution he became leader of the opposition in the first Transvaal Parliament. For his role in the creation of the Union of South Africa, in 1911 George was created Baronet Farrar, whilst in other activities at a farm that he owned outside Johannesburg he would breed many prize winning cattle. At the outbreak of the First World War, Sir George Farrar was on holiday in America but he took the first boat back to England and offered his services. His residence was Chicheley Hall, which, as his accommodation when in England, he had rented since at least 1899, and although he was due to join General Sir Hubert Hamilton’s staff in Belgium, on the day before his intended departure he was instead ordered by the authorities to South Africa, where, with the rank of Colonel, he was appointed upon his arrival to General McKenzie’s force. Being despatched to German South West Africa (in advance of the main force) he proceeded as Assistant Quartermaster General to Luderitz Bay, and there became engaged in organising the base camp. Apart from maintaining the water supply for the troops, his role mainly involved him in rebuilding the railway, which had been destroyed by the Germans, and for safety whilst travelling on the tracks he usually journeyed in an armoured car, or on a trolley. Meanwhile, at Chicheley, Lady Farrar was also helping in the war effort, and on Monday September 7th 1914 she conveyed eight local young men in her car to the military depot at Northampton, where they intended to join Kitchener’s Army. Of these, Arthur Wright, Harry Boxall, Frank Clarke, Fred Heard, Bob Seamarks, and George Hopkins all passed the medical, but Edward Griffin and a lad named Fountaine, were rejected. Lady Farrar’s daughters were also doing their bit, and during the interval of a well attended children’s patriotic concert, held in the village schoolroom on Friday, October 30th 1914, Miss Muriel Farrar clearly explained the formation of a local fund to assist the Belgians’ Colony, which was about to be formed in Olney. The £2 raised by the event was then forwarded to Lady Farrar. By now Sir George was gaining increasing renown for his work, and in November 1914 the Johannesburg correspondent of ‘The African World’ wrote; “From influential sources I learn that Sir George Farrar has been doing highly creditable service at Cape Town and Ludereritzbucht. On arrival at Cape Town the transport arrangements called for particular and competent attention. Men were put onto one boat and then marched to another, and disorganisation generally was rife. This condition of affairs was the result of General Beyers’ refusal to support the campaign in German West-Africa. The Government was told that the one man to put things right was that born organiser, Sir George Farrar, and wisely it was decided to place him in charge. Some people did not quite like what was deemed an interference with their work, but were firmly told that it would be much the best for them to obey instructions. The appointment has been entirely justified.” At Chicheley, as equally conscientious were his wife and daughters, who were toiling tirelessly to assist and help organise the many relief agencies which had now arisen in North Bucks. In fact at Chicheley Hall, Lady Farrar entertained the famous contralto, Miss Ada Crossley, who appeared at two concerts in aid of the Serbian Distress Fund. These raised £110, and one of the performers would be Lady Farrar’s 16 year old daughter Gwen, an accomplished cellist. In the last week of March 1915, Miss Muriel Farrar travelled to France to begin work in connection with the Soldiers’ Rest Homes, and the realities of the war were starkly brought home in May, when news arrived that her 27 year old cousin, †Captain John ‘Joey’ Farrar, of the 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment, had been killed in action on Sunday morning, May 9th 1915, during the British attack on Aubers Ridge. Captain Farrar was the only son of Mrs. and Captain Farrar, D.S.O., of Milton Ernest House, Beds., and he had been previously mentioned in despatches by Sir John French. Then just over a week later came more tragic news, with a report that during his military work in German South West Africa, Sir George Farrar had died †on Thursday, May 20th 1915, from injuries sustained when his motor trolley collided at Kuibis with a construction train. Travelling from Chicheley, Lady Farrar happened to be in London on that Thursday morning, and when told the news by the country’s High Commissioner she immediately left for South Africa. After the tragic accident, the body of Sir George had been taken to Luderitz Bay, and there it was embalmed prior to removal to Johannesburg, for burial on a kopje at Bedford Farm, a beautiful country house that Sir George and Ella had created in the Transvaal. Attended by Lady Farrar, the funeral service was held in South Africa on Wednesday evening, June 6th 1915, and simultaneously a memorial service took place in Chicheley Church. This was attended by almost all the villagers as well as many army officers, and in his presiding address the Reverend G.F. Sams said; “It is men of this type to whom we must look to bring us victoriously through the gigantic struggle in which we are now engaged, and the sad, bitter thought comes home to us that these are the very men who are now being cut off in their thousands, while the laggards and the degenerates are left behind to cumber the ground and to transmit their worthless characteristics to future generations.” Leaving unsettled property in Britain to the gross value of £80,557 (net †£78,724), Sir George in his will had stated that he was domiciled in the Transvaal, and probate of his will, with regard to his English property, was granted to his brother Captain Percy Farrar, D.S.O. of Milton Ernest House, Bedford. Another brother, Charles Frederick Farrar, was left £2,000, to be increased to £5,000 should the total value of the estate exceed £500,000, and to his nephew, John Harold Farrar, he also left £2,000. As for his mother, Mrs. Helen Farrar, of Bedford, she would receive an annuity of £500, whilst to his widow he left all his household and personal effects, plus - subject to certain provisions - one third of the income of his residuary estate for life, with the direction that her income should not be less than £5,000 per annum. The ultimate residue of his property he left in equal shares to his children, directing that the share of each son should be double that for each daughter, and that the share of each daughter, and one half of that of each son, should be retained upon trust. However, in the event he had six daughters but no son, and so the title became extinct at his death. On Wednesday, March 15th 1916 the first of the Chicheley women land workers, Mrs. Warren and Miss Hopkins, began work in the gardens at Chicheley Hall, and also helping to maintain the nation’s food supply were Lady Farrar and Mrs. Wellesley Taylor, of Sherington Manor, who were the representatives of the Bucks War Women’s Committee for the district. This was tasked with giving information to those farmers who required female labour, and by the invitation of Lady Farrar, on Thursday afternoon, March 23rd 1916, from the Newport Pagnell district many agriculturalists and their wives attended a meeting at Chicheley Hall, the object of which was to discuss the labour problems with regard to the land. No doubt being held in the drawing room, which was the usual venue for such occasions, Mr. Nugent Harris, the secretary of the Agricultural Organisation Society (a body recognised by the Government) explained the advantages of agricultural co-operation, and Lady Farrar said that although many farmers did not like the idea of co-operation, for smallholders it was essential, and with many men away at the war - as soon would also be those now in civil employment - farmers would need women working on the land. She knew that farmers laughed at the thought, but “We are going to show you that we are useful on the land, if you will only let us help you.” (In 1940 the chairman of the Bucks Agricultural Committee would tell the members that the land girls were “as good as gold.” “One of the best girls I had in the last war was a Cockney from Bow Bells, and she tackled every job on the farm. She would not have left me, only the fool got married.”) Regarding the commercial and agricultural life of England and the Colonies, Mr. Nugent Harris then paid tribute to the work of Sir George Farrar, and continued that the Agricultural Organisation Society, of which he was secretary, had been trying for 14 years to get farmers to realise that they must pull together, and during that time 600 organisations had been established. The pros and cons of employing women were then discussed, and afterwards the assembly was entertained to tea by Lady Farrar. During the course of the war she would be prominently engaged in organising the Women’s Land Army in North Bucks, and, being greatly interested in agricultural matters, in July 1916 she and her daughters attended the Bedford Show. Also Lady Farrar had done much to promote the relief of the Belgian refugees in the district, and on the afternoon of Saturday, July 8th 1916 she opened a gala day and military sports at Wolverton, held in the Park Recreation Ground, to raise funds for the cause. In the introduction it was said that Lady Farrar “had shown her great philanthropy on every occasion and had never failed when called upon to give her grateful assistance and her generous quota to that worthy fund.” In reply Lady Farrar said that she thought “the sun was coming out and they were going to enjoy themselves. They were also going to help to contribute to the comfort of those homeless people who had been forced to come to this country.” To much applause she then declared the gala day open. From employment at the stables at Chicheley Hall, at the outbreak of the war Reginald Brown had been one of the first volunteers to join up from the village, but now news arrived that after 17months at the Front, and having been involved in much hard fighting, serving with the Beds. Regiment he had been killed in action in France on July 31st 1916. The fourth son of the late Charles Brown, of Chicheley, he was only a few days short of his 26th birthday, and the last letter to his mother had been written on the eve of his death. At Chicheley he had been a member of the church choir and a bell ringer. In January 1917, it was announced that at the recent exams of the London Royal Academy of Music, Miss Gwendoline Farrar had passed with honours in violoncello playing, and was now entitled to use the letters L.R.A.M. after her name. Indeed, she was billed as such when performing at two concerts at the Electric Theatre, Newport Pagnell, which included Gervase Elwes, a world renowned tenor. As a position which offered ‘good wages,’ in June 1917 a strong, tall lad was required as a pantry boy at Chicheley Hall, where in the grounds in fine summer weather a grand fete and bazaar was opened by Lady Farrar on Thursday, September 6th 1917. The proceeds were for the North Bucks War Hospital Supply Depot at Newport Pagnell, of which Lady Farrar was the President, and apart from the attractions of the fete the mansion was open to visitors. From the terrace, throughout the afternoon the band of the Royal Engineers (Fenny Stratford) played a high class programme of music, and in one corner of the grounds Mr. Hardrup, ‘a clever artist,’ who had been engaged by Mrs. Vaughan Harley, of Walton Hall, silhouetted the patrons of the fete. The boy members of the Royal Engineers at the Newport Pagnell Signal Depot gave a display of acrobatics, and two high class dramatic entertainments were arranged by Corporal Uttridge, a versatile performer who, as an elocutionist of the highest rank, had made his mark in the dramatic arts long before joining up, having held a leading position in the famous Oscar Asche Company. In other entertainments, songs were given by his regimental colleagues, whilst as for Corporal G. Keay, he had other talents, giving exhibitions of sword and Indian club swinging. In fact these were perhaps useful skills, since in August 1915 it had been announced that, with recruit drills being held at the police station every Tuesday evening, Newport Pagnell special constables were to be instructed in the use of the cutlass and sword. Many being guests of the Committee, wounded soldiers from the V.A.D. Hospital at Newport Pagnell sold programmes, as well as providing other assistance, and the Boy Scouts also afforded excellent help. The stalls were located on the lawn in front of the mansion, and under the supervision of Lady Farrar a staff of lady helpers, clad in white frocks and blue check caps and aprons, representative of the South African colours of Lady Farrar, dispensed refreshments. Miss Farrar catered for rides on her Shetland pony, and in the afternoon a tennis tournament took place. September 1917 was also the month that two bulls from the herd maintained by Lady Farrar were sold for £750 and £650, with a heifer calf realising £150. Before the war, Sir George had accompanied General Botha to Holland, as part of a commission to purchase a quantity of the famous Freisland herd for the South African Government, and he acquired a number of those that were not accepted by the Government’s representative. These he then bred at his Bedford Farm at Johannesburg, and following his death Lady Farrar continued with the herd, and, despite some 60 being sold in 1916 at auction for more than £7,000, gained marked success in the breeding of the Freislands. On Thursday, November 1st 1917 at St. Luke’s Church, Chelsea, Miss Helen Farrar, the eldest daughter of Lady Farrar, married the Australian born Major Basil Hobson Turner, R.F.C., the 32 year old son of the late Walter Henry Turner, formerly of Coomrith, Queensland. Captain Johnson, R.F.C., was the best man, and owing to mourning in both families the ceremony was of a quiet nature, with the bride being given away by her uncle, Captain Percy Farrar, D.S.O. The bridesmaids were the bride’s sister, Miss Muriel Farrar, and the Hon. Kitty Lawrence, cousin of the bridegroom. For her wedding day the bride wore ivory velvet, trimmed with bands of silver embroidery and outlined with white fur, and, with a wreath of orange blossom holding her veil in place, her court train, of blush pink satin, was hung from the shoulders on pink chiffon, outlined with silver. In the evening, at Chicheley the occasion was marked by the ringing of the church bells. (Born on October 2nd 1894, Helen died in 1983 at White River, Eastern Transvaal, South Africa, her husband having predeceased her in 1947, also in South Africa). On Thursday, December 27th 1917, thirty seven patients from the Tyringham V.A.D. Hospital were entertained to tea at Chicheley Hall by Lady Farrar, and afterwards games and other amusements took place. Then on Bank Holiday 1918, despite the dull and showery weather the annual fete at Chicheley Hall was held in aid of funds for the North Bucks War Hospital Supply Depot. The grounds had been placed at the disposal of the organisers by Lady Farrar, President of the Depot, and although the fete was open to the public at 2p.m., the opening ceremony took place at 3p.m., with Lady Farrar supported by Miss Wood and Miss McFarren, of Tyringham (who were the managers of the Depot), Lady Winifrede Elwes, Lady Tweedmouth, Mrs. Younghusband, Mrs. Knapp (chairman of the Depot Committee), and Mrs. Purvis. After a few appropriate opening remarks by Lady Farrar, Lady Elwes said that it was with the greatest pleasure that she had come to open the fete that day, and speaking of the worthy cause for which they were fighting, and the bravery of those in the Forces, she gave the reasons why Britain had entered the war, and quoted a poem by Rupert Brooke. On behalf of the Depot, Mrs. Knapp then thanked her for coming to open the event, of which a popular feature, organised by the Misses E. & I. Allfrey, was a tennis tournament. Having begun in the morning, this would raise a profit of £9 10s, and it was thanks to the invaluable assistance of Lieutenant Carr, and several officers from the Royal Engineers Wireless Depot at Newport Pagnell, that the six courts had been marked out. Raising £3 12s, during the day the storing of cycles and other conveyances was in the charge of Mr. J. Clarke and his assistants -Messrs. F. Hopkins, E. Brown, F. Caustin, and V. Clarke - and in other activities two excellent concerts were given, with that in the evening performed by the “Merry Magnets” Party from Newport Pagnell. Visitors wishing to see the mansion were shown around by Lady Tweedmouth, Miss Wood, Miss McFerran, Mrs. Wellesley Taylor and Mr. Birkenruth, and this raised £15 1s 6d. A provision stall was in the charge of Mrs. George Tayler, amongst others, a six month old pig sent by Mrs. Boswell, of Crawley Grange, realised £14 10s, whilst a cake competition, organised by Miss Holt, brought in £1 9s. In fact Miss Holt was also amongst those who had arranged a stall for the sale of handkerchiefs and lavender, which raised £20 19s 1d. Supervised with others by Lady Farrar, teas were served in a marquee, further contributing £24 12s 8d to the funds, to which the Misses Kathleen and Margaret Salmons added by selling buttonholes. Other attractions included hoop la, in the charge of the Misses D. Odell and E. West, and a fish pond, and clock golf. As for Lady Farrar’s French governess, she worked extremely hard giving children rides on a Shetland pony. ‘A’ Company of the Fenny Stratford Signal Depot of the Royal Engineers performed a gymnastic display, and during the afternoon the Newport Pagnell Excelsior Silver Band played various selections, as also the music for dancing in the evening, when an extra treat was the presence of the Royal Engineers Band (Chatham), who had been motored over from Fenny Stratford. Considerable help in erecting the concert stage, stalls etc. had been given by the men of the Royal Engineers Depot, Newport Pagnell, of which Captain Mowatt was the commanding officer, and there was considerable interest when he read the Prime Minister’s message to the nation, which concluded to much applause. The day finally closed with Mr. F.W. Coales proposing a vote of thanks to Lady Farrar, and, including the £50 from the gate receipts, nearly £220 was raised. Tragically, just a day after the signing of the Armistice Private Vesey Douglas Clarke, of the Royal Berks Regiment, died of wounds in No. 1 South African General Hospital, France. He was the third son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Vesey Clarke, of Chicheley Hall, and was aged 19. After the First World War, Lady Farrar and her daughters continued to live at Chicheley Hall, and with her continuing interest in horse racing, on Monday November 10th 1919 at the Leicester race meeting Lady Farrar’s ‘King Alfred’ would win the Milton Plate, from a field of six runners.†