Exciting life beyond the country mansion at Guy’s Cliffe

FOLLOWING publication of his book Recollections of a Country Mansion - which is all about Guy’s Cliffe in Warwick - amateur historian Terry Roberts has uncovered dozens of local connections to the aristocratic families who once occupied the grand house.

One was the story of a former housekeeper, Eliza Wedgbury, who in 1874 left the service of the Percy family in disgrace after becoming pregnant. Soon afterwards a new home was provided for Eliza, who went to live in two adjoining cottages in Windy Arbour, Kenilworth.

After the birth of her illegitimate daughter, Nelley, Eliza went on to marry Henry Soden, the former gardener at Guy’s Cliffe and the pair, who had two children together, Ada and Maurice, and went on to open a hardware shop in Warwick Street, Kenilworth.

As a result of his research, Mr Roberts has managed to trace Eliza’s great-grandaughter, 83-year-old Margaret Moss, who today lives in Coventry. As it happened Mrs Moss’s late brother, the former Rugby councillor Ron Ravenhall, had already done a good deal of family geneology before his death.

Mr Roberts said: “I’ve learned that when Nelley grew up she married Walter Stickley in Kenilworth and they had four children: Marjorie, Elsie-June, Lester and Albert. Sadly she was to die of consumption at the age of 38 and is buried in St Nicholas’s churchyard.

“The eldest of Nelley’s children, Marjorie, did not have a family. But Lester had three children and became a well-known scrap merchant in the town; Albert had two and continued to live in Windy Arbour while Elsie-June went on to marry Les Ravenhall and moved to Holland in the late 1920s.

Even today Margaret still clearly remembers her childhood in Holland where her father worked as an importer for the Coventry Eagle Motor Cycle Company and how, as a British subject, he was thrown into a concentration camp at the start of the Second World War.

As a teenager she remembers how all the family’s assets were confiscated and their move from a comfortable suburb to living in a cottage in the woods near Arnhem where, for three years, her brave mother risked her life by helping to hide Jewish families fleeing the Nazis.

Margaret says proudly: “After the war my mother was awarded a medal of honour by the Israeli government. Her name, Elsie-June Ravenhall, is still dispayed on a tableau in Jerusalem. Sadly, she died shortly before the visit in 1985 of Louis Vellerman, one of the Jewish citizens she helped to hide.

“It seems there is quite a lot of spirit in our family - dating right back to Eliza who overcame the problems of having to leave Guy’s Cliffe back in 1874 to give birth to my grandmother.”

• Terry Roberts will be talking about his book, memories of a country mansion, in Hill Close Gardens, Warwick, at 11am on October 2 as part of the Warwick Words Festival which runs from Sepetember 17 to October 9.