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The Bowen-Davies Connection

A missing chapter in 'Gummy's Story' is that of the Bowen-Davies family whose living members I was unable toDr Bowen-Davies meet up with before my book was published ~ this now remedied. Jessie Constance Rankin (1857 to 1949) was one of the daughters of Birmingham solicitor, William Rankin (1829 to 1885), and she married Dr William Bowen-Davies (left, courtesy of Radnorshire Museum.) in 1879. According to the Powys website the doctor "was active in many aspects of local affairs, including the setting up of the Cottage Hospital of which he was medical director- a post for which he received no remuneration. He was involved in the church, local government and education in the town, as well as being a magistrate. He even helped to form the town's golf club and was its first president". At the time of the census of 1891 his home and surgery were at 'Brynarlais', Llandrindod Wells, in Radnorshire (below) where alBrynso were Jessie, and their five children, Dora,10, Gwladys,9, Elystan,7, Gerwyn,5, and Essylt, just 5 months old, plus the family's servants. Their sixth child, Olwen, was born 8 years later, in 1899. The doctor was later forced to retire due to heart problems, moving to Exmouth in Devon, and in 1908, he died. With Hitler's bombs falling on ExmouthBowen-Davies in the early 1940s, Jessie went to stay at the home of her grandson, Gavin Gibbons, and by the time war was over she was too old to return home and died in Shrewsbury at the age of 92. The former family home, 'Brynarlais', later became the Town Hall and is today the local Tourist Information Office.The five children are pictured, left, Dora, Olwen and Essylt seated with Elystan and Gerwyn behind.

View the Bowen-Davies Family Tree

William and Jessie's eldest daughter, Dora, married Charles Reginald Brigstocke, who Joyce wedding became private secretary to Winston Churchill during World War 2. They had a son and two daughters. The son, Geoffrey, became a diplomat but was tragically killed in the DC-10 air-crash outside Paris in March 1974. His wife, Heather Brigstocke became Lady Brigstocke and was High Mistress of St Pauls Girls School - Rachel Weisz the actress was one of her pupils. She re-married in 2000 but died in a road accident in 2004. Geoffrey and Heather had 3 sons and a daughter. The younger of Dora's daughters, Pamela Joyce, married Dr. Henry Gwynne Vevers (photo right with, on far left, Dora and Reginald Brigstocke).

Elystan (1883 to 1947) lived in Cardiff and was employed by Davie & Meredith, builders. He married Katie Guinlan in .... and they had three children: Caradoc, Peter and Catherine.

GerwynThe younger of William and Jessie's two sons, Gerwyn, (12 Dec 1885 to March 1971) (left) had planned to train as a solicitor but had a weak chest and his mother decided it would be better for him to leave the cold, damp climate of Wales aPortrait 2nd go to live in her family's home county of Essex. Thus he came to be lodging at Rochford in the lead-up to the Great War and would frequently visit his Rankin cousins at 'Broomhills' for Sunday lunch. A little anecdote handed down reveals: "when he was offered a second helping of something at the table he would often say: 'I don't mind if I do', much to the irritation of his aunt, Ellen (Rankin)". Gerwyn was a keen amatuer photographer leaving several interesting albums of family photos.

Early in 1922 Gerwyn married Olive Williams (14 Apr 1896 to May 1985) (right) at Kingston in Surrey. They bought the 234 acre Ulting Wick Farm, near Maldon in Essex where they lived until 1936 when in the height of the depression they were forced to sell up at a lowly £11 per acre. They moved ½ mile down the road to a 17 acre small-holding known as "Broomfields" where they reared sheep and later poultry before establish a boarding kennels. Both were fond of their dogs and bred Cavalier King Charles spaniels one of which achieved the best of Breed at Crufts Dog Show in 1965. They also won "The Champion of Australia" award around the same time. Olive "was a colourful character who had a close connection to nature and all that made up the countryside around her. She lived until her 90th year and enjoyed the occasional tonic of egg, milk and brandy whisked together some mornings before venturing out with her dogs. She was a nurse during the First World War and oversaw refugees on a local air base in World War 2. Gerwyn and Olive later kept whippets and raced them until Olive was well into her mid-80s".

Places 3
Places 4
Ulting Wick
Ulting Wick
Ulting Wick Farm, near Maldon, Essex ~ then and now.

See also Ulting Wick.pdf
[From “Hatfield Peverel In Old Picture Postcards Volume 2” by Joyce P. Fitch]

Gerwyn and Olive had three sons, the first William (Bill) went to school in Exeter the home town of his Williams grandparents, and became a choir boy in the cathedral. With the outbreak Bill Carolineof war in 1939 he fancied joining the navy so took exams in morse code to become a wireless operator, This led to his serving on Norwegian merchant ships plying the Atlantic bringing food from the USA. When he was de-mobbed he went into local government taking more exams, this time to become a sanitary inspector in which role he was mainly employed in drawing work. He later moved to Leicester where he was involved in testing for pollution - and then to Wickford in Essex as a public health inspector - of slaughterhouses, etc. His next job, in a similar field, took him to Coventry which job he hated so returned 'home' to Essex. About this time his wife, Caroline, who he married in 1948, became pregnant. Having always wanted to be a writer he began writing for one or two publications before teaming up with his brother Tony and John Martin, see below.

Tony (1928 to 1992) initially worked for Pan Books as an artist-director and in 1955 set up the artists' agency John Martin & Artists Ltd with photographer John Martin. The firm was instrumental in finding artists to illustrate books and covers. Bill joined then 3 years later as their book-keeper/accountant. Tony married Josephine Carroll in 1970 and they have two daughters.

Essylt Bowen-Davies married James Gibbons in 1920. They had two sons, the eldest, Gavin, becoming another writer. He wrote several guides to Wales and three of his novels were published - intended for teenage boys - about UFOs and space travel. He is said to have been "very clever but somewhat eccentric". He married writer/translator, Irene Rosalind Anderson from Aberdeen in April 1963.

Olwen was a writer, mainly of children's books, and became the gay companion of the novelist Clemence Dane (real name Winifred Ashton) whose book, 'The Moon is Feminine' is set in Brighton. They shared homes in London and at 'The Caravans, Midhurst in Sussex. Dane died in 1965 while Olwen lived on till 1986.

Dora Family
Gerwyn, Dorothy, Dora, Geoffrey, Bill & Joyce
Jessie in old age
No Feather Bedding
Gerwyn in hockey team middle row far right
Gerwyn at Brynarlais
Bill Bowen-Davies on farming
in the 1920s


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