Blanche Helene Umalie Fery...what a name, and what a formidable
presence. Blanche really is like a ship in full sail. There is a twinkle
in the eye too, and a reputation for derring-do - she was someone I think
most of us would have liked to have met, particularly if you were male.
She had a reputation for being great fun - someone who could be relied
upon to liven things up. She was also very kind - a kindness apparently
shown early on to a young man in India who by a chance of fate later became
the Duke of Bedford. He never forgot her, and the numerous references
in the diary to his box at Covent Garden or Drury Lane refer to his generosity
in placing these perks at Blanche's disposal. Much later still, in the
1930s when Blanche was ill and in very reduced circumstances, he would
come to her aid more than once.
Blanche married George Llewhellin sometime in the 1870s. You can
see the paintings she did on her letters to him during her engagement
if click on the link. She continued to paint all her life, decorating
not just her daughter's diary, but plates, cups and all manner of china.
Ysobel remembered interesting little facts about both her grandparents, although she never knew her grandfather. Click on the arrow to hear what she has to say about them both, starting with Blanche.
The young couple were based in India, as George was the manager for the
Maharajah of Darbangha in North East India. They had five children, two
of whom died young of diphtheria. Of the survivors, Eva was the
eldest. She married Cecil Lees, lived in India and had one daughter,
Win. It was Win who drew the maps of Brookfield you can see in the Love
section. She occurs often in the early diaries, as it was the custom in
those days to send children back to live in England. Eva herself was a
competent painter of landscapes, and pictures signed E.M.Lees can still
be found in the houses of her relations. Elliot was next in line, Wynne's adored brother. The diaries are
full of him, and of longing to be with him. He went to plant indigo in
India before the turn of the century, and so the family saw him only occasionally,
but whenever possible Wynne would have an adventure with him, like the
one in 1910 when she met him in Naples and then travelled slowly back
to England on an extended holiday. That's the sort of journey that will
appear in the Travel strip. Elliot married quite late in life, Kay Dixon,
and had no children. Wynne, or Winifred Gladys as she should be known, was born on June
Blanche, unknown, Wynne, George, Elliot and Eva...taken around 1895.
On their return to England Blanche and George settled at Brookfield House
in Tarrant Keyneston, In Dorset, and this became the much loved childhood
home of Wynne. The early diaries are full of this house, and even more,
of the heartbreaking final farewell to it in 1914.
They had hoped for a good retirement, but George died in 1898, and Blanche
then discovered that her financial situation was precarious. This necessitated
visits to India to try and sort out pensions, and various other desperate
measures, including sub-letting Brookfield. No one in those days owned
property - Brookfield was let on a long lease.
However for Eva, Elliot and Wynne the house proved to be an idyllic setting
for their childhood, and when the diaries open in 1895 they have it entirely
to themselves, their parents having set off for a trip to India - which
in those days meant months, not weeks - in this case from November 95
until March 96. The only other adult was their much loved governess, Miss