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US art find sparks local history search

Two old oil paintings of Sir William and Lady Leese have been uncovered in Florida. Now the owner of the paintings wants to know whether they are of the North Mymms couple mentioned in various history books on this site.

Gary Hollingsworth, who lives in Orlando, searched the web looking for more information about the couple named in the paintings and found several references on this site.

Gary then e-mailed feedback to try to find out more about the family. He wants to know whether their home is still occupied and whether there are any decedents still living in the area who might be interested in knowing more the paintings.

Gary, who specialises in art restoration, picked up the paintings from the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach after they were released from the museum's collection. He says they are in need of restoration and, after that is completed in about a month, he will take photographs of the paintings and send them to the Brookmans Park Newsletter. When they arrive they will be posted on the site.

There are at least four references to Sir William and Lady Leese in the history section of this site.

In chapter 12 of Peter Kingsford’s ‘Victorian lives in North Mymms’, entitled ‘Expressions of Loyalty’, there is the following reference.

Everyone was well pleased and there was a balance in hand of £39 15s 6d. which helped to fund the subsequent Welcome Home to Returned Service Men. Sir William Leese, Bart., presiding over the fete, recorded its deep sense of gratitude to Mr Mallett for his untiring efforts without which they feel that no entertainment at North Mimms can possibly succeed.

In the book, ‘North Mymms people in Victorian times’, Peter Kingsford writes about Lady Leese in Chapter 13, ‘The impact of the World War’.

Events changed the women’s and the ladies’ lives, ‘they were all working hard for their country, women will have played a large part in victory’’, the Girls’ Friendly Society was told. The attitude to working on the land had to change as the farms were drained of men and the farmers were pressed to produce more food. No women were employed in 1915 and the view of the Hatfield War Agricultural Committee was that no good could be expected from training them, but in the following year Mrs Tottenham Gaussen of Brookmans was helping to register women workers and before long two ladies were actually co-opted on to the committee. Soon after, women in the parish were getting their armlets issued by the Board of Agriculture. By 1917 the farmers were filling in their forms of application for women workers. A year later all the women who had worked on the land were told to give their names to Lady Leese of Welham Manor so that they could be presented with a stripe for their uniforms.

Dorothy Colville, in her book, ‘North Mymms - Parish and People’ also refers to Sir William Leese in Chapter 10, ‘Our Parish Magazine’.

In the days before the 1914-18 war Banffshire and Ross and Cromarty were favourite holiday places for the local gentry, and although so far away from North Mymms the fortunate holiday-makers did not forget those at home. Sir William Leese, of Welham Lodge, it is remembered, would send home a haunch of venison "to be shared among his neighbours in St. Paul’s Cottages," Mr. Seymour would send a salmon for his outdoor staff, and, what is perhaps best remembered, Lady Clauson would send a big box of Edinburgh rock to the girls at Water End school.

In Chapter 11, ‘Schools’, of the same book, ‘North Mymms - Parish and People’, Dorothy Colville also writes about the involvement of the Leese family in the formation of the local scout troop.

One whose name was included was Oliver Leese. Living with his parents at Welham Lodge, he had been educated at Eton. With his father he had helped to form the first Scout troop in the parish. He was a natural leader. August 1914 saw him a very young lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards. During the 1914-18 war he was wounded three times, was mentioned in dispatches and was awarded the D.S.O. When the war ended he had attained the rank of captain. The Army was his career, and he saw active service during the second world war, being successively C.O. Guards Armoured Division, commander of the 8th Army and Commander-in-Chief Allied Land Forces in S.E. Asia. When he retired in 1946 he was G.O.C.-in-C. Eastern Command.

If you have any information that might help Gary, you can post it in the forum where there is a thread about the paintings. Click here

November 19, 2002

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