The Queen Mother’s childhood home and a Victoria Cross hero's untimely end

The Queen Mother’s childhood home and a Victoria Cross hero's untimely end

Lloyd George Domesday records and War Memorials can reveal information about our past family…and that includes those maternal ancestors of King Charles III

Nick Thorne, Writer at TheGenealogist

Nick Thorne

Writer at TheGenealogist

Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon (The Queen Mother) as a girl in 1909

In this month, when Charles III is crowned King, we have come across a royal connection to a house featured in the new release of IR58 land tax records at TheGenealogist. These Lloyd George Domesday records, from the Board of Inland Revenue: Valuation Office, consist of Field Books that record the surveyor’s notes and valuation of properties in the 1910s. Linked to exact plots on accompanying large scale IR126 maps, which TheGenealogist have added to its Map Explorer™ tool, these records and maps can provide us with valuable insights into the property that was once owned or occupied by our past family members in the 1910s. In our royal example for the coronation, here we are able to note the record taken of the Hertfordshire childhood home of the King’s beloved grandmother and former Queen Consort, Elizabeth.

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Remembered by many of us as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, she was born the Honourable Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon on 4 August 1900 daughter of Lord and Lady Glamis. In 1904 her father became 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and her mother the Countess. At this time the young girl then became Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Lady Elizabeth spent her early childhood at her parent’s country home, St Paul’s Walden Bury in Hertfordshire which we have found in the land tax records compiled in between 1910 and 1915.

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Elizabeth) in 1915 at a charity sale doing her part for the war effort.

Birthplace, or not?

There is somewhat of a mystery as to whether the former house was the place where she was born. The birth was certainly registered at Hitchen, Hertfordshire near to St Paul’s Walden Bury, and if we look at the census taken in 1901 then this is also given as her place of birth. Alternatively, there is a theory that she could have been born at her parents’ Westminster home at Belgrave Mansions, Grosvenor Gardens, or even in a horse-drawn ambulance on the way to a hospital! Whatever the reality, this Hertfordshire house was important in her early years. She was even christened in the local parish church, All Saints on 23 September 1900.

Birth registration of HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
GRO Birth Registration for Elizabeth A M Bowes Lyon in Hitchin 1900 on TheGenealogist

The Lloyd George Domesday Survey field book records reveal a large property with many rooms, cottages, a farm and a Park consisting of 190 acres at a time when the Queen Mother would have been a ten year old. The fieldbook is unusual in the amount of detail handwritten by the surveyor on three pages. The record is linked to an attractive coloured large scale map from the time.

Large scale IR126 St Paul-0.2993_51.8738_-0.2632_51.8846_map
Large scale IR126 St Paul's Walden Bury in Hertfordshire locating the house of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne at plot 580
IR58 Field Book for The Bury St Pauls Walden
IR58 Field Book for The Bury St Paul’s Waldren
The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne s country house
The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne’s country house had many rooms
Ground floor of main house
Ground floor of main house, the outbuildings, the farm and gardens all surveyed for the Lloyd George Survey

Brother killed in action

Using the Map Explorer™ we are able to change the record type to view various record sets plotted on historic and modern maps around St Paul’s Walden Bury. These include census records as well as the fascinating War Memorials. If we look at this last category and click through to view the War Memorials in the surrounding area then we will find a roadside cross for the parish. Situated near Whitwell and at the junction of High Street and Codicote Road, it includesthe name of the Hon Fergus Bowes Lyons who was the Queen Mother’s brother and he is the third name on the memorial’s facing for the men remembered in the 1914-1918 conflict. Immortalised on the stone cross, Bowes Lyon was killed in action on 27 September 1915. A click from the pin on Map Explorer to View Memorial Details will show us a satellite and street view map of its location that can be very helpful for the family history researcher.

The roadside cross for the parish of St Paul s Walden Bury
The roadside cross for the parish of St Paul’s Walden Bury
The Hon Fregus Bowes Lyons is the third name
The Hon Fregus Bowes Lyons is the third name on the facing for the men remembered in the 1914-1918 conflict
Location of the War Memorial revealed on TheGenealogist in Whitwell
Location of the War Memorial revealed on TheGenealogist in Whitwell at the junction of High Street and Codicote Road

All levels of society, from officers to enlisted men, will be commemorated on a war memorial and TheGenealogist’s collection includes monuments, statues and plaques of a variety of shapes and sizes, all of which have been fully transcribed. Covering the war dead from various conflicts including the Boer War, the First World War and World War II an ancestor’s inclusion on a memorial can be profoundly moving to find, especially as so many of the war dead will have no actual grave for us to visit.

In adulthood Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon married the Duke of York, second son of George V, and on the abdication of Edward VIII the couple unexpectedly became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

An Australian VC holder who came for the Coronation and met his untimely demise

We have also found an unusual example in the records on TheGenealogist of a memorial commemorating a brave Australian veteran who was awarded a Victoria Cross and survived the conflict only to die on the streets of London a short while before the coronation that he had come to be a part of.

Arthur Sullivan VC
Arthur Sullivan VC

It was 1937 and Sullivan had been selected to join the Australian contingent that was to attend the coronation of our present King’s royal grandparents, George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Sullivan was the only VC recipient in The Australian Coronation Contingent (ACC) that comprised 100 soldiers, 25 sailors and 25 airmen and so was somewhat of a celebrity. In those days a VC holder was treated like a star and sadly this fame, and not an act of war, would lead to his demise before he could even represent Australia in the coronation parade. Arthur Percy Sullivan VC also had another reason for being in the UK. A fellow recipient of the Victoria Cross, British Army Sergeant Arthur Evans, VC, DCM, formerly of the Lincolnshire Regiment, had died in Australia, and Sullivan had promised to escort Evans’ ashes to his family in the UK.

We can look in the military records of TheGenealogist to find the record for Corporal Arthur Percy Sullivan VC. This details more about why he received the highest honour for valour in Britain and at the time, Australia:

Comes from Crystal Brook, South Australia. He served in the European War and was awarded the Victoria Cross [London Gazette, 29 Sept. 1919]; “Arthur Percy Sullivan, No. 133003, Corpl., 45th Battn. Royal Fusiliers For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 10th Aug. 1919, at the Sheika River, North Russia. The platoon to which he belonged, after fighting a rearguard covering action, had to cross the river by means of a narrow plank, and during the passage an officer and three men fell into a deep swamp. Without hesitation, under intense fire, Corpl. Sullivan jumped into the river and rescued all four, bringing them out singly. But for this gallant action his comrades would undoubtedly have been drowned. It was a splendid example of heroism, as all ranks were on the point of exhaustion and the enemy less than 100 yards distant.” London Gazette, 23 Oct. 1919.” War Office, 23 Oct. 1919. His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Non-commissioned Officer.”

Victoria Cross & Distinguished Order Medals from TheGenealogist.jpg
Victoria Cross & Distinguished Order Medals from TheGenealogist

The unfortunate events that led to Sullivan’s death and subsequent commemoration on the railings of the Welington Barracks on Birdcage Walk, a stone’s throw from the coronation route, came about a little over a month before King George VI’s crowning. Arthur Sullivan had been to an afternoon tea in St James’s on the 9 April 1937 with about fifty comrades from the ACC. Having a reunion dinner that evening at the Royal Fusiliers regimental headquarters in the Tower of London, he left the tea party early in order to get ready. It was about 19:40, and it was getting dark as he made his way back to his accommodation at Wellington Barracks, Westminster. Recognised in the road as a VC holder, he was mobbed by autograph hunters in the way that modern celebrities would be today. Sullivan attempted to avoid them, but he slipped and fell hitting his head against the pavement kerb. With a fractured skull a cyclist then also struck him before he could be taken to hospital, where he died soon after, aged only 40. His comrades were devastated and paid for the tablet that now adorns the railings at Wellington Barracks to this day.

Arthur Sullivan War Memorial
Arthur Sullivan VC’s memorial at Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk, Westminster

As the historic events of this May takes place in London, we are remembering the tragic story of a brave Australian soldier who came to London for another coronation back in May 1937. If he hadn’t been awarded a VC then he would never have been in London on that fateful day. Mobbed by fans seeking his autograph he died before even being able to represent his country at the crowning of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and is now in the War Memorials on TheGenealogist.

In the land tax records, known as the Lloyd George Domesday Survey, we have also been able to find the records of the country house in Hertfordshire where Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother grew up and see the war memorial to her brother the Hon Fergus Bowes Lyon, just down the road in the village. A memorial that he shares with all levels of society that had paid the ultimate sacrifice in war.

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