ALBERT GUDGIN & HIS FAMILY AT OLNEY MILL

ALBERT GUDGIN AND HIS WIFE KETURAH

The history of the GUDGIN family is unknown before Albert GUDGIN and his wife, Keturah TIMS, except for the names and professions of their parents through Albert’s and Keturah’s birth certificates. Albert’s father, John GUDGIN who married Ann MOORE, was a farmer and a beer shop keeper. John and Ann GUDGIN had at least two children, Albert and Joseph. Keturah’s father David TIMS who married Martha FINCHER, was a wheelwright. David and Martha TIMS are believed to have had three children, Keturah, Min (presumably from Minnie) and Lou (presumably from Louise).

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Hand coloured view of the Mill, Mill House and Church – 1905

Albert GUDGIN was born in Langford, Bedfordshire on 14 August 1856. He established the GUDGINs as millers and corn merchants when he worked the Toddington Mill near Bedford. He moved to Cardington Mill in 1882 and then he bought the Mill at Olney, Buckinghamshire in 1894. It is not known whether Albert owned or rented the previous Mills at Toddington and Cardington. From documentation it appears that the purchase price of Olney Mill, the Mill House and the Mill Cottage was £1,450. When it was contemplated that the Mill, the Mill House and cottage would be sold in April 1930 after William GUDGIN’s death the combined value of these buildings was considered to be about £1,800.

Olney Mill was one of the older flour mills in England and was built near the site of the old manor house or ‘Great House’ as it was known. This house was where the Mill gardens are now.

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Artist’s impression of ‘The Great House’

The Mill itself covered some 3.50 acres of land, although the total area of land was originally given as 5.25 acres. The Mill House, a classical Georgian property, and immediate gardens were 1.25 acres and the remaining land was the land between the mill race and the river and some marsh land across the river from the Mill. The Mill House had seven bedrooms and two box rooms on three floors and outbuildings that contained offices, four garages and store rooms. The gardens included a large lawn, a large vegetable garden, a croquet lawn and an orchard. Albert also bought the farm across the road from the Mill, the fields across from the Mill and farmlands called ‘Cherry Orchard’ up to the ‘second planks’ or the second bridge across the tributaries of the Great Ouse and the fishing rights to the Great Ouse.

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Albert Gudgin with (probably) two of his daughters by the front door of the Mill House

After moving into the Mill, Albert almost immediately sold the farm lands to a Mr Johnson. Between 1894 and 1916 Albert bought nine cottages in Olney, Emberton, Bedford and Northampton as well as some land and a small factory in Olney. These buildings were presumably bought as investments. The purchase prices quoted for three of the properties were between £300 to £700 each. The cottages in East Street, Olney were rented out at five shillings and at seven shillings and sixpence per week in 1956.

Albert married Keturah TIMS on 25 November 1880 at Stanbridge, Bedfordshire. Keturah was born on 27th May 1854 in Weedon, just outside Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Since they married at Stanbridge, Bedfordshire, this is probably where Keturah’s parents were living in 1880. Stanbridge is four miles west of Dunstable. There are two undated photographs taken of Albert and Keturah when they were quite young and these may have been taken at the time of their engagement. Albert’s photograph was taken in Dunstable and Keturah’s was taken in Luton, so they were probably taken before they were married. Dunstable and Luton are almost connected so they may have lived very close to each other. Albert was reported to be a Freemason.

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Gudgin family group c1911

Albert and Keturah had one son. William (Bill) in 1886. and six daughters, Florence (Flo) in 1881, Beatrice (Bet) in 1882, Lily (Lil) in 1884, Constance (Con) in 1887, Elsie (Ess) in 1890 and Winifred (Pearl) in 1895. Their first daughter, Flo, was born at Toddington Mill, the next five were born at Cardington Mill, and the final child, Pearl, was born at Olney Mill. Of the seven children only Flo, Ess and Pearl married. The three spinster sisters, Lil, Bet and Con, apart from being away from the Mill House when they were working, lived most of their lives there. In the 1920s the phone number of the Mill was Olney 6! There is a photograph of Albert and some of his family taken outside the Mill when he bought his first car in 1908. This was a model T Ford that was probably made in Slough, England.

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Albert and family with his Model T Ford outside the mill in 1908

Albert died in Olney on 28th October 1915 aged 59. In his will dated June 1914, Albert left £4,800 that was divided between his six daughters. The Mill was left to his son, Bill GUDGIN to operate but Albert stipulated that his widow ‘shall be at liberty to occupy the Mill House free of any charges whatever but in the event of the marriage of my said son (Bill) this direction shall be null and void.’ Albert left all his other real estate to his trustees in trust and for them to pay all the rents and profits to his widow ‘for the rest of her natural life’ so long as she did not marry again. If she did marry again she was to get £100 per year and his estate was to be divided equally among his children who were alive at the time of his death. He also left £100 to his old servant William Crouch.

In 1930 a ‘peppercorn’ lease agreement was entered into between Harry BROOK of 24 Bushmead Avenue and Ernest George Fellows, Bank Manager of 25 Arthur Street Nottingham, and Keturah GUDGIN. In return for ‘the yearly rent of a peppercorn’ and maintaining the insurance, etc. Keturah had the use of ‘the Mill House, the cottage, the gardens, outhouses and appurtenances’ for as long as she lived. In a list of Keturah’s investments dated 1932, she had an annual income of £638 from a capital of about £13,000. The income included £50 per year from the seven cottages that Albert had purchased in the late 1890s or early 1900s. Most of the income was from 3.5% War Stock, the remainder being from stock in New Zealand (5%), South Rhodesia (4.5%), South Africa (5 %) and other stocks and debentures (3 to 6%). According to her monument Ketulah died in Olney on 15 June 1936.  She was 82. In her will dated June 1935 she left £7,751. This was divided between her children, Lil, Con, Bet, Pearl, Flo and Ess, leaving them each £1,074. Keturah also left bequests to each of her six grandchildren, John and David HANSON, Barbara and Peggy BROOK and Michael and Margaret OWEN.

Albert and Keturah’s monument, built of gray granite, is in the churchyard of Saint Peter’s and Saint Paul’s church, Olney, which incidentally is very close to the Mill House. Six GUDGIN family members have been buried at this site. The gravestone was probably erected by Keturah after Albert died in 1915.

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Albert bowling presumably at Olney Bowling Club c.1910

Keturah’s sisters, Min and Lou TIMS, were both evacuated from Balham, London during the Second World War. Min married and is thought to have had two sons but nothing more is known of them. Lou never married and she lived for a number of years with Flo (nee Gudgin) and Jimmy HANSON in the ‘Chancery’ now No. 9 High Street, Olney. She had her own, very large, self-contained flat.  This would have been above the International Stores grocery shop that was there at that time. Lou was a tiny person and is remembered for having beautiful white hair as well as a sharp tongue! She always looked magnificent dressed in black lace. She died in Olney at the end of World War ll or in the early 1950s. There is no evidence of Lou being buried in Olney. 

 FLO GUDGIN

Albert and Keturah s first child was Florence Minnie GUDGIN, or Flo, who was born at Toddington Mill on 20 July 1881. Flo went to Alexandria, Egypt as a nurse in World War I where she met Jimmy HANSON whom she married on 18 September 1917. Jimmy s family came from Denby Dale in Yorkshire. He was a short, fat man and weighed about 16 stone (224 pounds) in 1950. He was with the YMCA and he later became superintendent of a mission in the rough part of the east end of London that was known as the ‘Old Mahogany Bar’. This mission hall was one of a chain of seven that formed the Wesleyan (later Methodist) East End Mission The hall was originally opened in 1859 as Wilton’s Music Hall and was located off the ‘notorious western end of Cable Street’ in Grace’s Alley. It was closed in 1879 after its ‘gin-sodden and bawdy heyday’, and after an evangelical group supposedly had entered the building and prayed that it might one day be put to a better purpose.

Jimmy and Flo worked there for nearly 15 years throughout the 1920s. They  had two children, John Albert born on 4 October 1919 and David in 1922. Jimmy and Flo struggled to maintain a multitude of good works that ranged from free breakfasts for undernourished children to a billiards room and cocoa-bar (the original ‘mahogany bar’) for coloured seamen. They lived in a flat at the top of the hall. The music hall was a rag merchant’s warehouse in 1964 when John Betjeman, on behalf of the Music Hall Society, objected to the plan to pull the hall down for redevelopment. Jimmy’s son, John HANSON, wrote to the Daily Telegraph at this time to give some information on the history of the hall.

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Croquet being played on the Mill House lawn c1910

Flo and Jimmy moved to Olney from London in about 1941 and lived for many years in ‘The Chancery’ at 9 High Street. As previously mentioned, for a number of years, Lou TIMS also lived with them after she and her sister, Min, had been evacuated from Balham, London during World War ll. Jimmy died of a heart attack in Olney on 11th November 1956. Flo then moved to a small terraced house at 38 East Street at the junction of East and Newton Streets. Flo died in Olney on 29 March 1960.

 BET GUDGIN

Beatrice GUDGIN, or Bet, was born at Cardington Mill on 15 September 1882. In her birth certificate her date of birth was initially given as 15 October 1882 but there is a note on the certificate that there had been a clerical error and the date was changed to 15 September 1882 by the Registrar on 2 December 1882. The name of her mother was given as ‘Keturah GUDGIN formerly Timms’. It is known that this is a misspelling since Keturah’s birth certificate gives the spelling as TIMS. It is a surprising error for an official certificate. Bet went out to Cairo, Egypt as a children’s nanny or governess when she was about 20 years old. She then trained as a nurse and worked at the Municipal Hospital in Burnley for many years where she became Sister Tutor. She was there during World War ll in 1943 according to her identification card. There is an undated photograph of Bet when she was a young nurse that was taken in Stratford, London. It is thought that she trained in Burnley but this photograph may indicate that she did her training in London.

According to her identification card Bet returned to Olney in July 1946 It is presumed that this is when she retired from nursing. At the Mill she looked after the gardens with the help of Arthur George, the gardener. George, as he was known, started working at the Mill in November 1957 at a wage of £7:10 shillings per week with a house, rates and insurance stamps paid. His house for many years was the Mill Cottage which is attached to the Mill gardens. His wage progressed in increments to £10:16 shillings in August 1968. Bet used to go to St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church, the ‘high’ church in Olney, with her sister Con. This was different to the other two sisters Lil and Flo who went to the Congregational Church further up Olney High Street.

Bet was a Governor of Christ’s Hospital School near Horsham. West Sussex. She purchased this position and it enabled her to send four of her nieces and nephews to this school by awarding them a ‘presentation’. They were John and David HANSON and Michael and Margaret OWEN. Bet also offered a ‘presentation’ to Guy POWELL, son of Peggy (nee BROOK) and Sam POWELL. Bet took up bridge in her later years and became quite good at it. She died of cancer on 16 December 1969 aged 86. Bet bequeathed a black, ebony games table to Barbara BROOK. Barbara said that she found a letter and a photograph to Bet from a Reverend in one of the drawers. Supposedly Bet had a romance with a Reverend for quite a long time but he was already married and couldn’t leave his wife. Bet’s sisters used to tease her about going to church so frequently. lt is possible that Barbara confused this romance with one of Lil’s because she also was supposed to have had a long term romance with a Reverend.

Bet and Lil’s monument is with that of their parents, Albert and Keturah GUDGIN in Olney Churchyard.

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Two of the Gudgin girls out for a ride in a pony and trap

LIL GUDGIN

Lily GUDGIN, or Lil, was born at Cardington Mill on 12 May 1884. It is interesting that in her mother’s will, Keturah referred to her as Lillian. Lil virtually raised her younger sister, Pearl, because there was such a large difference in the ages between Pearl and her mother. Keturah was 41 years old when Pearl was born. Lil also acted as a second mother to Barbara BROOK. Barbara can remember Lil climbing over the high stone wall around the top mill garden when she went to see her boy friends. She would climb on top of the summer house to get on top of the wall which was about 12 feet high. Lil went to the local school in Olney so it is presumed that her brother and sisters also went there. She took ambulance (Volunteer Ambulance Driver) and Red Cross training during World War l.

She stayed at the Mill all her life initially helping her mother to run the house. Lil was always known for looking after the ducks, geese and chickens at the Mill and was generally responsible for the cooking. There is one oil painting of 3 birds by her so she may have painted as a hobby. There were at least 3 men that wanted to marry her but they all were considered to be not good enough for her by her father, Albert! One of these was Charlie Coles. He was not allowed to marry her because he didn’t have a steady job. Another man was Tom Hackney. He wasn’t sober or sombre enough for Albert GUDGIN! Tom gave Lil a gold fox mask on a gold broach which was passed on to Barbara BROOK. When he found he couldn’t marry Lil, he gave her a gold and black mourning ring. Lil always wore this on her little finger and also passed this on to Barbara. Lil was never very good at making up her mind. lf she had been more decisive she may have eloped with one of her boyfriends. In Lil’s 1935 passport she referred to herself as a housekeeper. She was the last of the three GUDGIN spinsters, Lil, Bet and Con, when she died in Newport Pagnell Hospital on 9 April 1970 aged 84. She had been in rather poor health since Bet died in December 1969. She spent some time in a number of rather cheap and unpleasant nursing homes because she felt that she couldn’t afford anything better. There was a short memorial service for her at the Cowper Memorial Church on 20 April 1970.

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Gudgin girls in their tennis dresses – 1907

In Lil’s will dated November 1964 she bequeathed her motor car to her sister, Pearl. This was a black Wolsley 4/44 that was in pristine condition. It had been washed and polished every week by ‘Gardener’ (Arthur George) and was hardly ever driven! Jacqui TANNER (nee FORREST) used the car for a while in 1968 when she was working at Tonbridge Wells. Lil left £500 to her Godchild, Barbara FORREST, and £300 to each of her nephews and nieces, Peggy POWELL, Richard BROOK, Michael OWEN and Margaret CAINES. Lil also left £50 to Arthur George of East Street, Olney who had been the Mill gardener for many years and £20 to Mary Millwood, also of East Street, who had been her ‘help’ for many years. The Mill was left to Bet, but since Bet had died in 1969, it went to Pearl. Lil left the Mill Cottage and £500 to John HANSON. The remainder of her estate was left two-thirds to her sister, Pearl, and one-third to her other sister, Bet. Lil specifically wished to be cremated and ‘that such cremation shall be preceded by a very simple family ceremony.’

BILL GUDGIN

William Archibald GUDGIN, who was known as Bill or Will, was born at Cardington Mill on 29 January 1886. He took over the Mill from his father on Albert’s death in 1915 and he ran it successfully until his early death on 17 July 1929 at the age of 43. He died of tuberculosis of the bone that he had contracted in the trenches during World War l. Initially his foot had been amputated but then his leg was taken off at the knee and then the whole leg was removed. He still managed to play golf with an artificial leg. He had planned to marry his red-headed nurse when he recovered but he didn’t have the opportunity. He was ill for a long time. Barbara BROOK can remember that straw was put down on the Mill drive to deaden the noise made by the Mill traffic so as not to disturb him. Bill was a very successful businessman selling corn and commodities in Bedford. He left £46,000 in his will, that was a small fortune in 1929. This amount should be compared to the estimated value of the Mill, Mill House and the Mill Cottage at £1,800 in 1930. 11zMill House & Billc1912

Bill Gudgin in front of the Mill House c1912

Bill’s assets included his real property that consisted of:

The Mill and Mill House (These realized £1,450 in 1930) In a letter dated June 1930 the Mill and Mill House were left by Bill to Lil, Bet and Con.
‘Trefusis’, High Street, Olney (This realized £600)
Land sold to Johnson (£1,867)
Land sold to Olney Parish Council (£481)
4 cottages in Church Street, Olney (These realized £147 and were left to Con)
3 cottages in Mill Street (or possibly Church Street), Olney (These realized £248 and
were left to Lil and Con)
A house at 126 High Street, Olney (This realized £300)

The values above seem to be very low as well as not corresponding with the initial purchase prices given in other documents such as £300 to £700 for each of the cottages. Presumably these prices must be the amounts realized after the mortgages had been paid off. Bill’s other assets totalled £45,967. In his will, dated 1922, Bill referred to some of this property as ‘stables, cottage, land and premises recently bought by me from Lord Lewisham.’

Death Duties to the extent of £5,163 had to be paid on Bill’s estate. The £37,030 that was distributed from his estate produced £5,305 to each of Pearl, Ess, Lil, Bet, Con, Flo and Keturah. Since Bill was into commodities and stocks and shares, he would probably have been severely affected had he lived a few more years when the slump was at its worst.

Bill and Con’s monument is with that of their parents, Albert and Keturah GUDGIN in Olney Churchyard. The inscription reads:

‘In loving memory of William Archibald only son of Albert & Keturah GUDGIN who died July 17th 1929 aged 43 years ‘He hath fought the good fight,’ also of Constance Kate sister of the above who died July 23rd 1952 aged 64 years ‘Underneath are the everlasting arms’.

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A classic view of the Mill and Mill House c.1910

CON GUDGIN

Constance Kate GUDGIN or Con was born at Cardington Mill in 1887. She also trained as a nurse. She worked with ‘her boys’ at Stoke Mandeville Hospital during the First World War so she lived away from the Mill during that time. Con was a district nurse for many years and was a well known figure travelling around in her Austin 7 in and around Olney and Northamptonshire. She was keen on gardening and was in charge of the extensive Mill gardens She looked after the flowers while gardener, Arthur George worked on the vegetables. Con knew she was ill in 1951 when she said good-bye to Barbara FORREST at Olney train station when Barbara left to go out to Malaya. She said, ‘Good-bye Barbara. I won’t be seeing you for a long time ‘ On 23rd July the following year, Barbara sensed that something had happened to Con and it was confirmed some days later that she had died on that particular day from cancer of the womb.

ESS GUDGIN

Elsie Louisa GUDGIN, or Ess, was born at Cardington Mill on 20 September 1890. She also went to Egypt, as a governess where she met Captain Hugh OWEN. It was thought that Hugh was about 5 years older than herself but a handwritten note gives a birth date of 24th December 1889. Hugh came from a family of drapers, Owen and Owen in London. They were quite an affluent family because of the drapery shops. Hugh was one of a large family, there were perhaps 9 or possibly 13 children. There is a photograph of Ess with the Giza pyramids in the background. She was trained as a teacher, probably in Bedford. Ess and Hugh were married at an Army wedding in Olney on 7th April 1920. Ess and Hugh adopted 2 children, Michael and Margaret, who were both born in 1932. Michael, as a child, narrowly avoided a serious accident at the Olney Mill when he fell into the mill stream beside the front door of Mill House. This is just ahead of where the mill stream flowed under one of the big water wheels. Luckily he was grabbed just in time. Ess and Hugh lived for many years at Watertown, Umberleigh in Devon, the OWEN’s family home. Hugh was a keen bee keeper and fished for salmon on the stretch of the River Dee that he owned. Ess died in Devon on 18th April 1964. Hugh remarried in 1968 at the age of 80 to Betty, who had been a friend of both Hugh and Ess. Hugh died in about 1978.

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A classic view of the rear of the Mill

 PEARL GUDGIN

Winifred Pearl GUDGIN, or Pearl, was the youngest child. She was born at Olney Mill on 12 January 1895. She was very spoiled and was sent to boarding school in Preston Brighton at the age of 12. Before this she probably went to the local school in Olney. She went to a finishing school in Germany and then she completed a secretarial course that was probably in Bedford. She worked at the Opera House at Covent Garden, London as either a secretary or as a personal assistant. She must have lived in a flat somewhere in London. She then obtained a job in Bedford where she met her future husband, Harry BROOK. Pearl attracted Harry’s attention by putting fresh flowers on his desk each day. When she worked in Bedford she lived in Olney and travelled across the 12 miles by train each day. This is probably the reason that she moved away from London.

Pearl and Harry were married in Olney on 5 September 1917. Pearl always kept in close touch with her GUDGIN sisters at the Mill in Olney and travelled across for many years from Bedford on most Sunday afternoons for afternoon tea at the Mill. She never took a driving test because she had started to drive before tests were instigated. Her driving sometimes reflected this and became rather erratic when she was driving her green Morris Minor when she was in her seventies.

Pearl produced a large number of brushed, knitted wool rugs for the family and many were sold at the Olney garden parties She made these rugs during the winter since they kept her legs warm!

 OTHER SNIPPETS

The Mill itself was rented out to Messrs Coales and Sons for many years. In July 1946 Harry BROOK wrote to Bet, Lil and Con saying that he had negotiated a new lease of the Mill for 21 years from August 1949 at £150 per year. Harry said that this was a substantial improvement on the previous lease.

From about 1935 to about 1969 there was an annual fete or garden party in the Mill gardens for the Olney Congregational Church. Crafts and produce were sold as well as fund-raising games such as bowls and darts. The fete was once opened by Pearl BROOK (nee GUDGIN) as well as by her daughter, Barbara FORREST (nee BROOK).

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The Mill Fete being opened in 1954 by Barbara Forrest (nee Brook) daughter of Pearl BROOK (nee GUDGIN). The gentlemen seated are believed to be Jimmy Hanson and the Congregational Minister the Rev. Gray

The Mill and Mill House are well remembered by many of the BROOK family and their children for the many river picnics on the River Ouse that started there. Initially the GUDGINs had a rowing boat but this was later changed for a punt. Upstream of the Mill there was Goosey where there was a natural swimming hole. Further upstream the river widened into the Broads and then the Island where the picnics were held. The island was about an hour’s paddling from the Mill.

THE END OF THE MILL

The working part of the Mill that was attached to the Mill House was completely destroyed by fire in 1965 one night when Lil and Bet were sleeping in the Mill House. It was thought that the fire may have been arson but this was never proved. There had been a few smaller fires previously that had been attributed to the spontaneous ignition of the powdered flour. The Mill House and the Mill were insured for £8,000 and the Misses GUDGIN received a settlement of £6,622 from the fire insurance company. From this amount 5% or £331 had to be paid to the insurance assessors. It was considered that the Mill had been very underinsured Under the guidance of John HANSON, the remains of the Mill were demolished. The contractor offered to do the work at no charge in return for him receiving the stone from which it was constructed. After a few years the contractor made a good profit because he managed to sell the old stone at a considerable price.

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Result of the Mill Fire 1965

The Mill House and the accompanying property (excluding the ‘gardener’s cottage’ that had been willed to John HANSON, son of Jimmy HANSON and Flo GUDGIN, by Bet GUDGIN in 1969) was offered for sale at £20,000 in May 1970 after Lil died. The grounds were advertised as being ‘over 3.5 acres’ but the Mill, Mill House and gardens were 1.25 acres. The whole property was reportedly sold for £15,800 The Mill had been in the family for a total of 82 years. The house and gardens were extensively renovated by the new owners, Captain and Mrs Stewart, who had lived at Western Underwood. The renovations included completely rewiring the electrical system, having a septic tank installed and converting some of the storage buildings into two flats. Up to that time the sewerage was channeled directly into the Mill sluice! In 1986 the Stewarts added an extension to the house where the working part of the Mill used to stand. The Mill House was then a private residence that offered bed and breakfast and dinners. The Mill was back on the housing market in April 1992 at a price of about £400,000. Supposedly it was sold in about September 1992 in the region of £350,000.

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Aerial photograph of the Mill Property c1971

Direct link to:  Olney Roller Mill in the early twentieth century

Return to: Preface – Olney Roller Mill and the Gudgin Family (& the video)

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