Edith Anne Featherstone: Henry Norris’ Second Wife
Last updated: February 2009
FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Everyone inherits someone else’s relations when they marry and Edith Featherstone was no exception. Although Henry Norris was not in contact with many of his relations, especially on his mother’s side, Edith will still have had plenty of in-laws to get to know. Her mother-in-law Georgiana was still alive, and indeed died as late as August 1929. And of course there was Ada Patience, the unmarried sister, who lived with Edith Norris from Edith’s marriage to Ada’s death - over 40 years.
In the first few years of her marriage Edith will have seen a lot of Anne Ellis and her husband Albert because Albert and Henry had probably known each other from school-days and they were also freemasons in the same lodge. Anne and Albert Ellis had two children, Bernard and Lilian. However, the intimacy may have declined after Albert’s sudden death in 1904. Henry Norris looked after his widowed sister and her children, and Georgiana Norris went to live with them; but they may not have been in touch quite so often.
Next in age in the Norris family was John Edward, and his wife Helen. Although the brothers saw a lot of each other - John Edward worked for Henry at Fulham FC and then at Arsenal FC - I haven’t found any evidence that Edith and Helen became great friends, possibly because John Edward and Helen had no children.
Henry’s youngest sister Lilian married Percival Gillbard in 1901, possibly on the same day as Edith married Henry Norris. The Gillbards had a daughter, Carlene, in 1903 - the same year as Edith’s daughter Peggy was born - but took their daughter with them when they went to live in Kobe, Japan, in 1906. Percival ran a silk export business in Kobe until all its assets were destroyed in an earthquake, probably in the late 1920s though Edith’s grandchildren are not certain of the exact date. Although Lilian did make trips back home sometimes, bringing Carlene, Percival seems to have stayed in Japan for most of Edith’s married life, and Lilian’s second child, Rowland, was born during World War One in Japan so his relations won’t have seen him until the 1920s.
In addition to these close relations, Georgiana and Henry Norris were still in touch with people whose relationship was more distant, like Patricia Goddard (Patty), who was related through Georgiana Norris’ mother. Patty’s daughter by her first marriage, Jessie King, married Edwin Charlton. Edith’s eldest surviving grandchild also remembers a Miss King, who perhaps was a cousin of Jessie.
These members of Henry Norris’ family came to events like christenings and important birthdays but they didn’t come to the first two receptions given by Edith and Henry as mayor and mayoress of Fulham because the guest-lists for those were comprised of local political contacts. However, apart from those in Japan, most of the adults went to the great reception of March 1913. Most of them also went to the reception of October 1919 and by this time Bernard and Lilian Ellis were old enough to go. Most went to Joy Norris’ wedding in July 1923 and on this occasion Lilian Gillbard was in England; and Bernard Ellis had got married so his wife went too.
Edith’s relationships with her own family are more puzzling than those she had with her husband’s family. She was the eldest of four children herself but she only seems to have kept in contact with her sister Mary Elizabeth Featherstone. I couldn’t find any record of her brothers going to any of the social events organised by Edith and Henry Norris; nor to Joy’s wedding; and this absence leaves me wondering whether the boys had died young or emigrated.
I couldn’t find several of Edith’s relations on the 1901 census: neither of her brothers, nor her uncle Horace who’d been living with her in her grandmother’s household in 1891. I couldn’t find Mary Featherstone either, but I did find a marriage for her, to William Henry Harris in 1905. She married in West Ham, where the rest of the family remained when Edith went to live with Ann McDonnell. Ann McDonnell may have gone to live with Mary Harris: her death was registered in West Ham in 1909, around the time Edith Norris first became mayoress of Fulham.
Until recently I thought that Mary Featherstone Harris had two children: Percival Charles born 1906, and Arthur born 1907. There was a Percy Harris working for Allen and Norris in the early 1930s. Henry Norris left him £200 in his Will. I thought that Edith had done her sister a good turn by finding a job for her son. However, in December 2008 I was contacted by a descendent of Arthur Harris who told me that they had always understood Arthur to have been an only child! So now I am confused and am assuming either a coincidence of surnames and place of birth; or a bust up in the Harris family of monumental dimensions with neither brother acknowledging the other’s existence ever again. Arthur Harris was not left any money by Henry Norris and doesn’t seem to have worked for Allen and Norris.
Mary Featherstone Harris and her husband didn’t attend any of the Norrises’ social events. Nor did they go to Joy’s wedding. However, Arthur Harris’ descendent emailed me a tale about Arthur’s wedding in Blackpool in 1935, when the bride was completely upstaged by a female relative who turned up to the wedding in a chauffeur drive Rolls-Royce! - Edith Norris.
Edith seems to have remained closest to her McDonnell relations. Her uncle Walter, who lived with his family so close to Ann McDonnell in 1891 and 1901, went with his wife Anne to the receptions in March 1913 and October 1919; and with their son (also called Walter) they went to Joy’s wedding in 1923. However, they didn’t go to Henry Norris’ funeral or send a wreath.
Edith also kept in touch with her mother’s sister Bridget Agnes (called Agnes) who married George Oakley in 1881. George Oakley was a blacksmith, the son of another blacksmith also called George. The father of the George Agnes married had moved from Essex to Plumstead. Agnes and her George lived in Charlton after their marriage and I couldn’t help wondering if he was employed at the Royal Arsenal and might even have known John Humble and supported Woolwich Arsenal FC; though this is pure speculation. George and Agnes Oakley had three children - another George, Evelyn (called Eva) and Lionel who died aged only a few months. Evelyn married Edward Crone (Ted) from Charlton in 1912. Ted was a mechanical engineer. The Crones went to the reception of March 1913; a George Oakley also attended, accompanied by a Miss Walls - I guess this is Evelyn’s brother, not her father, perhaps bringing his fiancée. A George Oakley went to the reception held in October 1919 but the Crones didn’t; I don’t know which George this is. The Crones, a Mr and Mrs Oakley and a Mr George Oakley all went to Joy’s wedding: Evelyn, her brother and his wife, and their father, I presume. Agnes Oakley didn’t go to any of the social events; she may have died young but I couldn’t find a death registration for her so that’s a bit of a loose end there.
Through Henry Norris’ involvement in local politics, freemasonry, football and property development, he built up a formidable list of acquaintances whom Edith got to know in the years after she married him. Some families became friends over many years - those of Edwin Evans, Tom Green, James Watts - with the fathers and mothers, and then their children as well going to social events organised by the Norrises. However, some of these men were Henry Norris’ age and I wouldn’t have supposed that Edith would have become intimately friendly with their wives, who were years older than she was. There was also a small group of women that she might have found difficult to get to know, wives of men who had got wealthy in their own lifetimes, who didn’t go with them to the kind of dance and reception that Edith often organised. Ellen Allen, wife of William Gilbert Allen, was one of these; though I’m sure Edith and she came to know each other, most of Ellen’s children were older than Edith’s so the children didn’t become friends. Other women who seem to have avoided social events were Mrs Edwin Armfield - he was the man who was constituency party chairman in the months which led up to Henry Norris’ de-selection. And Clara Hodge, wife of Fred Hodge of Hodge and Pavin the ironmongers, likely suppliers of Allen and Norris. Although Clara Hodge didn’t go to social functions in the 1920s the Hodges moved to a house on Richmond Green, very close to where the Norrises were living, so Edith got to know Clara then.
Henry and Edith Norris had many acquaintances through his involvement in building and politics in Fulham. The Norrises were friends (rather than acquaintances) with George Flèche and his wife, William Middleton and his wife, and George Peachey and his wife. In Peachey’s case the friendship survived the death of Susanna Peachey in 1911 and Edith got to know his sister Mabel Whitelock instead. Mabel’s daughter Violet was a little younger than Joy and Peggy Norris. I say elsewhere in these files that the friendship between the Norrises and the Middletons - though close enough in 1914 for them to go on holiday together - didn’t survive the purchase by Middleton of some shares in Arsenal FC. After the two men grew estranged their wives, if they had been friends, were no longer able to continue so.
After the Norrises moved to Richmond in 1913 they made new friends there. The Hodges. A Mr Lennox Field and his wife and his mother who may have been old friends of Edith as in 1901 they were living in Putney. Joseph Mears (brother of Augustus who owned the freehold of Stamford Bridge) and his wife who were both about Edith’s age. The Pearsalls, whose daughter became a close friend of Peggy Norris. And the Gillemans. After Henry Norris finally gave up being mayor of Fulham there was not quite so much opportunity to make friends in Fulham but Edith did develop a friendship with the wife of John Hammett, whose family ran a butcher’s business in Dawes Road and Wandsworth Bridge Road. I do not know for certain John Hammett’s wife’s christian name; he was married in 1906 either to Mabel Harriet Price or to Emily Anne Webb. As very often with Edith, Mrs Hammett’s children also thought of themselves as friends of hers - Radmore and Irene.
And finally, in the House of Commons Henry Norris found something in common with fellow MP W G Perring, who had a slender majority in a west London constituency. The Perrings and their children became friends of the Norrises.
Edith seems to have had a real gift for friendship. I’m sure she had many more friends than just these, some of whose names I must have become aware of but whose significance I have missed.
Friends were nice to have, but Edith’s daughters came first. In one of his speeches as mayor of Fulham Henry Norris briefly mentioned his belief that parents should be prepared to pay for their children’s education if they could afford it; and by that time, of course, he could afford it. Edith agreed with him that their daughters must have every advantage money could buy them. Although sending them away to boarding school must have been a wrench for her, all three daughters went to Roedean - to get the kind of education their parents couldn’t even have dreamed about in their own youth and, perhaps, to make the right kind of friends.
At home, Henry Norris at least seems to have been rather a Victorian-style pater familias. His niece Carlene Gillbard remembered an incident when only his daughter Nanette’s quick-thinking saved both girls from getting one of Norris’ telling-offs, for coming down the main staircase instead of using the servants’ back stairs as they had been instructed. However, in 1927 Nanette also recalled being allowed to run wild in Fulham Town Hall during the war, so perhaps for his daughters at least, Norris may have been more bark than bite. This business about children using the servants’ stairs really was a very Victorian attitude and I suppose Henry Norris could scarcely have got away with it if Edith hadn’t agreed with him. Perhaps she was more conservative in her attitudes about how her own children should be raised, than she seemed about her own role when taking an active part in local politics.
Judging by their appearances in Fulham Chronicle doing musical turns at fund-raising concerts, Edith encouraged all her daughters to be creative. She also made them aware that not every everyone had their advantages - she took them to parties she organised for Fulham’s poor children; and she and Henry made them donate money on one occasion to a war charity. However, neither she nor Henry Norris wanted their children educated for a career. All three daughters ‘came out’ - a process involving a great deal of entertaining, which I’m sure Edith enjoyed very much, and a great deal of money spent - and then were expected to marry, despite the shortage of marriageable men the carnage of war had left. In fact Peggy (according to her children) never expected to marry and did at one stage in the 1920s attempt to set herself up in business as a dressmaker - a rather ironic harking back to Henry Norris’ first wife.
According to one of his grand-children, Henry Norris believed women couldn’t be trusted to handle money - a view Edith’s trouble with her bank account in 1926 would only have reinforced. Once they had come out Norris was happy to keep his daughters in funds but until he died only Edith had an income of her own. Perhaps some money was settled on Joy when she married but when Peggy and Nanette needed money, they had to make a case, to their father while he was alive, and afterwards to his trustees. Not that Norris kept them short - in the 1920s he kept a car solely for their use; and they seem to have had a pretty good time - one of Norris’ children described them to me as ‘flappers’. I presume Edith was happy with the situation and didn’t think it strange that her daughters had no money of their own - it would have been typical amongst the families they knew.
Joy, the eldest daughter, was the star. The fact that the house in Villefranche was called ‘Villetta Joy’ tells its own tale. When Joy married Edward Cecil Barton (called Cecil) on Saturday 28 July 1923, no expense was spared. According to the account in Fulham Chronicle, the Norrises even hired a photographer to take a ciné film of part at least of the proceedings; though it seems to have got lost since. The wedding took place in St Matthias Richmond and was followed by a reception at the Norrises’ home in Lichfield House a short distance away; in his speech as father of the bride Henry Norris felt obliged to apologise to everybody for the weather which had been typically English, but everything else went well.
Joy was marrying a man she had known since school days, whose father was a dentist in Richmond, so the wedding was a notable local social event that year. Joy’s bridesmaids came in pairs each pair wearing a different outfit. They were a careful selection of family and friends, in which her parents’ acquaintances predominated: Joy’s sisters Peggy and Nanette; her cousins Lilian Ellis and Carlene Gillbard; Ella Allen daughter of William Gilbert and Ellen Allen; Elsa Hall daughter of William Hall; Violet Whitelock niece of George Peachey; and Joy’s friends Freda Last, Mabel and Pat Latham and Lorna Barton the bridegroom’s sister. Joy’s dress was made of silver brocade and had a train. Edith had also chosen brocade, her dress was beige shot with silver and gold thread.
Cecil Barton was an army officer so in the years after her wedding Edith and Henry Norris didn’t see their daughter very often. Joy followed her husband abroad, first to Istanbul and then to India where Peggy went to visit her in the late 1920s. Joy had two children. I’ve said above that Peggy didn’t expect to marry. However, in April 1934 she married Derek Livsey whom she had met (no doubt as her parents had hoped) through a school-friend. Henry Norris was living the quiet life by this time, and Peggy was a very different character from her elder sister. The wedding seems to have been a quiet affair; I couldn’t find any coverage of it in the papers.
Marrying a man over a decade older than herself, Edith may have held the thought in the back of her mind that she might be in for a long widowhood. Henry Norris’ health was poor from quite early in the 1920s; his grandchildren tell me he had a problem with his pituitary gland which caused his nose to swell, and he had heart trouble. He died of a heart attack, in his sleep at home in Barnes on Monday 30 July 1934. His funeral was held on the following Thursday, 2 August, at Barnes Cemetery. Despite the short notice and the holiday period it was well-attended. As well as friends and relations, George Allison was there to represent Arsenal and James Dean represented Fulham FC. Leslie Knighton also went; he will have discovered later that Henry Norris had left him some money. Several former Fulham councillors attended and the current mayor represented the Borough. There were also several representatives from Fulham Lodge number 15. Edith had asked clergy she had known in Fulham to officiate, so the Rev Probert took the service, assisted by the Rev Orpwood. The West London Observer gave a poignant description of Edith as a “frail figure...visibly affected by the proceedings” and the Fulham Chronicle noted that she “dropped a spray of pink roses on to the coffin” as it was lowered into the grave.
The local papers in Fulham published long obituaries of Henry Norris and at last he got his wish of de mortuis nil nisi bonum: there was nothing in them, even in their coverage of his time in football, to cause Edith any more distress than she was already suffering.
The trust fund set up for Edith by Henry Norris in 1918 had been intended to continue until her death, so she continued to receive the same income that she had done before Henry died. This was a generous sum and she and Ada Patience Norris were able to continue to live at Sirron Lodge on Barnes Common. Like most of her generation Edith had never learned to drive, but she was able to keep on Henry Norris’ chauffeur and his Rolls Royce.
In his last few months of his life Henry Norris had been resisting his daughter Nanette’s wish to marry James Thomas. Thomas’ mother lived in Henley-on-Thames and Nanette must have met him through the Norrises’ circle of acquaintances there. Henry Norris thought that James Thomas’ career as an officer in the RAF would not make him a steady and reliable husband for his daughter. However in October 1934 Nanette’s engagement to him was announced, so it seems that on this occasion at least, Edith Norris was more prepared than her husband to give her daughter her desire. Nanette and James were married the following year.
Until World War 2 Edith and Ada Patience lived at Sirron Lodge, Barnes for most of the time, visited by a growing number of Edith’s grandchildren. The Blitz drove them out and they went to set up house in Peggy’s freezing barn near Windsor, but Edith still owned Sirron Lodge Barnes at her death, though she did not die there. 1946 was a difficult year for Edith - both John Edward Norris and Ada Patience Norris died. John Edward Norris had been a director of Allen and Norris Limited since it had been set up in 1931; after 1934 he represented the interests of the trustees of Henry Norris’ Will as well as his own interests. Between 1946 and (probably) 1949 Edith was a director of the company (so she had shares in it) and she too probably represented the interests of herself and her daughters.
Edith died on 8 August 1951 of pernicious anaemia having - typically, I think - refused to have a medical fuss made over her condition. The trust fund set up for her by Henry Norris ceased at her death and all the property it represented reverted to her daughters’ trust fund, but even without it her estate was worth £13,339. In her Will, prepared by solicitor Alan Horsley of Rodgers Gilbert and Rodgers (the firm that her husband had used for his family business) she left houses built by Allen and Norris in Inglethorpe Street, Kenyon Street and Harbord Street Fulham, and one property on Wimbledon Park Road to her eldest grandchild, Joy’s son Rex. She left money to her sister Mary Harris; and to her housekeeper Sarah Cranch. Edith’s grandchildren remember Sarah well. Originally hired as a housemaid she’d served first Henry and Edith, and then Edith for many years, becoming the mainstay of the establishment especially during the war. Edith left her cousin Evelyn Crone a piece of jewellery and everything else went to her daughters including a large number of furs.
Edith’s surviving grandchildren remember her with great affection. They do not know very much about her life before the 1920s so I hope this short biography has filled in the blanks about her public career.
EDITH AND FOOTBALL
Edith did attend some football matches but it was usually when she was going to present a cup to the winning team; she doesn’t seem to have gone to watch football for the sheer joy and cussedness of it. Her daughters did go sometimes - Joy once lost her dog and it ran loose on the pitch - but essentially they inherited Edith’s lack of interest. Edith might have been no football fan but she did lend a modicum of support to her husband’s football teams. When the first list of shareholders in Fulham Football and Athletic Company Limited was published in July 1903 Edith had bought two shares in it, and Ada Patience Norris had also bought two. They both still owned those shares at least as far as 1937. In June 1927, just before the start of the investigation into Arsenal FC which led to Henry Norris’ banning from football management, Edith bought five shares in Arsenal Football and Athletic Company Limited; she still owned those in 1941 but was not listed as a shareholder in 1948. When Henry Norris died he still owned substantial shareholdings in both companies. For a couple of years, his shares in Fulham FC were held by Edith but by December 1937 she had sold or given them to John Edward Norris - though I’m not sure in what capacity he held them, whether as a fan, or as a trustee of Norris’ trust fund for his daughters. Edith doesn’t seem ever to have been the owner of her husband’s shares in Arsenal FC: by 1936 they too were in John Edward Norris’ hands as trustee executor of his Will.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE SOURCES OF ALL THIS INFORMATION, SEND ME AN EMAIL AND I’LL SEND YOU THE SOURCES FILE.
Copyright Sally Davis February 2009