Music Webmaster: L.Mullenger@coventry.ac.uk
I was born at 27, Vineyard Hill Road, Wimbledon Park, S.W.19 on May 8th 1905. "Est-ce quil y a des vignes là-bas?" was the rather startling question that greeted me when I went to learn French at Tours. No, there were no vines there. But it gave me to think. A south-facing slope with fertile fields - there might have been some attempt at vine growing in the days before the "developers" got hold of it, which might have given it that unusual name for a suburban street.
Running down at right angles to this slope was Arthur Road - which had once been called Cherry Wood Hill (why ever changed?), then Vineyard Hill - about half way down the slopes then Kenilworth Avenue. Naturally the people of Arthur Road thought themselves superior to the inhabitants of Vineyard Hill and they to Kenilworth Avenue, while the upper side of each road also looked down on the personnel of the lower side.
But none of us really looked on ourselves as suburbans. In our case, we could not help remembering that Gundry is a Cornish name. "Gun" is the Cornish for "down" or "hill", and "-dry" as a suffix is the same as "Tre" as a prefix, so that "Gundry" means "the house on the down", just as "Hendry" means the "old house" and "Landry" means "the house near the sacred enclosure"
My ancestor, who lived at a farm called Boderlogan in the parish of Wendron, not far from Marazion, decided that there was no future for him in Cornwall, so he walked up all the way to London, hearing that there were relatives living at Silver Street, Golden Square. If there was no money to be made in such a locality, then where was there? I have often thought about that ancestor. What route did he choose? How did it fare with him? What sort of reception did he receive from the folks of Silver Street, Golden Square?
At any rate he (or his son) became a prosperous shoemaker, who made shoes for the Princess Victoria. We still have a letter from the Palace saying that the Princess Victoria was very pleased with her shoes. So my great grandfather was able to set up a prosperous business at Soho Square. I only wish we still had that lease, but they sold it to move to Bond Street.
My grandmother on the other side, Annie J. Parsons (née Rexford) seems to have been something of a character. Not only did she bear and bring up twelve children (so that we had plenty of aunts and uncles and cousins) but she helped my grandfather, who was an inventor, in his earlier days, by giving lessons on the harp and piano and even by getting some of her compositions published (and I know how difficult that is!) while he worked away in the basement of their Melbourne House at Blackheath. Luckily his efforts were finally successful, for he invented a metal called manganese bronze which freed ships propellers from corrosion and before he died, he was able, with the aid of his sons to set up a flourishing business, called "The Manganese Bronze and Brass Company" which still exists, though none of the original family are with it.
It is from this side that I get my forename Inglis, for Annie J. was the daughter of an Inglis Rexford, who died young, leaving his wife to found a school at Blackheath, which my Mother probably attended.My great grandmother Rexford had published an English Grammar, which we still have and was probably used in her school.
This side of my family was more snobbish than the Gundry side, for the Celts had never suffered from the Norman Conquest as the Anglo-Saxons had done, lowering them to the position of servants in relation to their Norman Masters. My grandmother Parsons from her high horse of the Manganese Bronze and Brass Company was able to dictate that my grandfather Gundry should retire from the shoemaking business which was regarded as "trade", before she would allow her daughter to marry his son, although my father was a chartered accountant and had never been in the shoemaking business. I think it was this that made my sister Phyllis always prefer the Gundry to the Parsons side, which she regarded as giving themselves airs. As I was always the favourite of my mother I tended to gravitate to the Parsons side, especially as they represented music and inventive ability though I always felt I was a proper Cornishman.
However I think my grandfather Gundry had already retired so there was no difficulty. My mother was duly installed in a house at Barnes and furnished with all the help that could be expected by one in her position - cook, housemaid. In fact she probably suffered from being so pampered, for coming from so large family and a house where there was always much to be done, she began to suffer from the depression which overcame her in her last years. With nothing to do but practise the harp or piano and paint pictures, she began to feel very lonely until my father came home in the evening.
Their life at Barnes together started with a tragedy, for my brother Vivian their first-born, succumbed to "croup" as it was then known. Moreover their second-born, my sister Phyllis, nearly succumbed to the same. But by that time they had engaged a Nanny, our darling foster-mother, Catherine Fenner, who saved her life by staying up with her all night.
My sister Phyllis always assured me that if my brother Vivian had not died, I should never have existed, and as my mother was forty-five when I was born, it looks as though she was right. "That boy," said my future Nanny to my Mother, when she was carrying me, "will be a fine baby." "Oh, Nanny", replied my Mother, "It will be a girl for cussedness sake." But on May 8th - Furry Day at Helston (sometimes called Flora Day) I was born - a fine strapping nine-pounder - the last boy of the family, did they but know it. Forty years later on May 8th hostilities ended and it was VE Day in the Second World War. I was then at the Admiralty and we were all told to have the rest of the day off. I remember going home to play the piano.
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