The Glyns - Part 6

Part 6 - Margaret, Last Of The Ewell Glyns

Margaret Glyn
Margaret Glyn
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

It may be unusual to start a narrative at the end and then talk at length about someone who is not the subject, but that is what I will do, because the diversion is relevant to Margaret Glyn's story.

In order to write about Margaret, I have relied heavily and gratefully on Mr Charles Abdy's short book, 'The Glyns of Ewell', and it was he who led me on to this trail by referring to a court case which took place in 1948, after Margaret's death. The actual subject-matter of the case is not particularly important in the wider context, but it concerned codicils to her will, and the plaintiffs alleged that she was completely infatuated with and unduly influenced by her main beneficiary, Dr Leigh Vaughan Henry, claims which the court dismissed.

Leigh Vaughan Henry (apparently his full name was Leigh Francis Howell Wynne Sackville de Montmorency Vaughan Henry, but birth and christening records simply record him as 'Leigh Henry') was born in Liverpool in 1889, the only son of John Henry, a singer and musician from Porthmadog, and Kate Georgina Maud (née Wells). He became a Doctor of Music and a Doctor of Philosophy; he was a composer, conductor, critic and author.

In 1911 the Henry family (including daughter, Prudence, who was a musical student) lived at 11 Catharine Street, Liverpool, an upmarket area. There is no doubting Leigh Henry's musical credentials and this is presumably how he came to meet Margaret, who studied and composed music and wrote books about it. Her particular interest was early British music for keyboards, a passion she shared with her brother, Sir Gervas Powell Glyn, and Leigh Henry.

Catharine Street, Liverpool.
Catharine Street, Liverpool.
Image source: Wikipedia Commons

Henry held a number of prestigious posts and shortly before the First World War he was working in Florence. At some point around that time he married a woman called Nancy, who was an editor for the Oxford University Press and a friend and literary associate of the author D H Lawrence. In 1914 he received an invitation to visit Germany, which he did, and was promptly interned in a camp for civilian prisoners of war, where he remained for almost the entire duration of hostilities. He escaped in 1917. The camp in question, at Ruhleben1, near Spandau, was not exactly Colditz: it was run according to the Geneva Convention, was self-governed by the inmates and Henry was involved in putting on plays and musical entertainments. He even smuggled out a volume of poetry which Nancy hoped would find a publisher via Lawrence.

Ruhleben Prison Camp - Click to enlarge
"A prophetic bird's eye view of Ruhleben Prison Camp when the war ends."-1916;
drawing by Hobart Egremont, one of the interned. Click to enlarge
Image source: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/

During the inter-war years he continued his musical and writing activities, conducting performances for many of the Royal Family and, according to his own account, he was internationally known and associated with many well-known personages. He most probably was, but it did not cut any ice with the authorities later on. One personage in particular, a great friend of David Lloyd George, was Winifred Coombe-Tennant, a somewhat eccentric Englishwoman who had immersed herself in Wales and all things Welsh; she was also a medium using the pseudonym of 'Mrs Willett' and had an extra-marital affair with Lord Gerald Balfour, which produced a son whom she hoped would become the second Messiah (he became a monk in the end).

By 1931 Henry was divorced from Nancy and, in Greenwich, New York, he married a divorcée called Paula Lecler, an American poet who travelled widely, according to the newspaper report. (I believe that she might well have been 'LeCler' and could have been the woman who, during the 1930s, became an intrepid foreign correspondent, visiting the troublespots of Europe and interviewing the big 'names' of the day, including Nazi leaders; she was imprisoned by the communists in Spain and her adventures were such that they would make an excellent film entitled 'The Perils of Paula'). The marriage was short-lived and in 1933 Henry married another divorcée, a German-born US citizen called Mrs Hedwig Steinborn Palmerly.

Leigh Vaughan Henry opening Dorset House, Ewell as a residence for the elderly in 1946
Leigh Vaughan Henry opening Dorset House, Ewell as a residence for the elderly in 1946
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Whatever else Henry may have been doing, in the early 1930s he became an overt fascist and obtained a senior position with Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists; he was placed under surveillance by MI5. In 1935 he quarrelled with Moseley, resigned from the BUF and continued his activities independently. According to MI5 and Special Branch at the time, he sought interviews with Hitler and Goebbels, made a propaganda broadcast for the latter, wrote letters to German officials ending in 'Heil Hitler', was planning to purchase arms and form fascist units and intended to go to Constantinople to work for the German legation there. The authorities thought he was dangerous, although others have described him as eccentric and a fantasist.

It was also stated that Hedwig Henry had gone to Germany to look after her mother and considerable mileage was made out of this. In April 1940 Leigh Henry was fined and bound over to keep the peace for six months. The charge was 'using insulting words whereby a breach of the peace was likely' and the words in question were 'disgusting and unbridled language against the Jews'. He was described as 'rabidly pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic' and I do not think there was any doubt about that.

Did Margaret Glyn know all this? I think the answer is that she must have done, since they probably had a mutual circle of friends and acquaintances in the musical world. However, even if she didn't know then, she certainly did very soon afterwards.
Margaret Henrietta Glyn painting
Margaret Henrietta Glyn painting
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

In April and May 1940 complaints were made that concerts at which Henry appeared were being used by him to make violent anti-war and seditious speeches and it was known that the ultimate financial backers of the concerts were the Nazis. These were probably his last public utterances of that nature because, on 7th June 1940, police broke into his premises and arrested him. Henry said that they brandished revolvers, a claim which the police denied. Apart from incriminating documents that were seized, the police also allegedly found extremely obscene paintings and photographs of Hedwig Henry in the nude.

Henry was interned under the Defence Regulations and it would appear that he remained in custody until the war ended, at Liverpool, Brixton and Ham Common (then an interrogation facility). Incarceration did not, however, shut him up in the verbal sense. Initially his behaviour was recorded as 'indifferent' and there followed a string of extremely articulate but increasingly vehement formal complaints, including unsuccessful applications for writs of habeas corpus and mandamus2, about the process by which he had been detained and the inhuman treatment he was receiving in prison (far worse than in the German camp at Ruhleben, he said), claims which were contested by the prison authorities. This went on for a couple of years and then he appears to have quietened down, perhaps realising that he would not get anywhere, since the dice were very much loaded against the internee3. Another important factor in forming a view of him is that by 1940 he was in financial difficulties.

The first and only intimation we have that Margaret Glyn was aware of all this was an application for a 48 hour parole made by Henry from Brixton Prison on 31 December 1941, just four days before Sir Arthur Glyn's death. He said that he was the heir to an estate in Wales (might this have had something to do with Mrs Coombe-Tennant?) and needed to talk to a testatrix of whom he was a potential beneficiary and who was 'likely to succeed to the property of a brother with failing faculties'; he would probably need to go to Ewell and he offered up Arthur and Margaret as sureties.

As a postscript to the saga of Leigh Henry's marital history, in 1951 Hedwig brought a divorce action, accusing him of cruelty and adultery. The case was thrown out on the grounds that they were not legally married in the first place, Hedwig having obtained a mail-order 'quickie' divorce from Mexico in respect of her marriage to Mr Palmerly, which was not recognised in England.

Henry died in 1958 and his fascist activities, which might have got him indicted for treason had he been allowed to continue on that path (as happened to his friend, the American poet, Ezra Pound, in the United States), appear to have been airbrushed out of existence. His short obituary in 'The Times' referred only to his more innocent 'career'. Did they simply not pick up on it (hard to believe for 'The Times') or was it by then considered a national irrelevance?

Having established the kind of man Leigh Henry was, we can now return to Margaret Glyn; she was born in Ewell on 28th February1865, the third child of Sir George Lewen and Lady Henrietta Amelia Glyn.

Painting of Margaret Glyn as a child
Painting of Margaret Glyn as a child
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

One imagines that George and Henrietta were reasonably enlightened parents for their time, especially in their treatment of daughters. Margaret seems to have been quite modern, liking riding and sailing. She studied music privately in London and was obviously a linguist too, since she published a translation of the text of Wagner's opera 'Parsifal'. Her particular speciality was English keyboard music from the 16th and 17th centuries; she published books on Elizabethan Virginal Music and Orlando Gibbons, played the organ, violin and viola and composed prolifically, her output including six symphonies. On the Ewell front, she wrote about the topography of the parish and supported local chamber music concerts.

In 1908 she purchased the Old Malt House in Church Street, Ewell, which was intended as a music room and for display of the antique musical instruments collected by her and Gervas; she also held concerts there.

Margaret Glyn
Margaret Glyn
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

In 1911 she bought a five acre site, called Hatch Furlong, with the specific intention of saving it from development, and eventually she conveyed it to the National Trust, thinking that they were in a better position to protect it. Her confidence was misplaced and, despite a long and vigorous campaign by Margaret, the land became part of the Ewell Bypass. However, as compensation to the people of Ewell, she fought to have the site of the old Nonsuch Palace Banqueting Suite turned into a public open space: this involved another battle with the authorities, which she won. Additionally, she bought Bourne Hall and its grounds and in 1945 sold them to the council on generous terms and today the site houses the impressive new Bourne Hall and a public park. In 1942, after Arthur's death, she had done the same thing with Rectory House. At that time they were living at the Well House in Church Street, where they had moved around the time of their mother's death.

The Plaque on the The Well House, Ewell
The Plaque on the The Well House, Ewell
Image by Maureen Barlin source: www.flickr.com

The pinnacle of Margaret's musical career came just in the nick of time, in 1945, the year before her death. Leigh Henry conducted the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of her 6th Symphony at the Welsh Eisteddfod and she was initiated as Bard.

Margaret had done what she could during her lifetime to preserve the things that she loved about Ewell, but there remained the thorny question of what would happen when she had gone. We now return to 31 December 1941, when Leigh Henry asked for parole to go to Ewell. Whether or not this was allowed I do not know, but a discussion was obviously imperative from Margaret's viewpoint, since Arthur was just days away from death and Henry was her chosen 'heir'. She had no one else left.

In the final two years of her life Margaret fiddled with her will, adding codicils, all undoubtedly with the intention of both preserving her property and perpetuating her musical legacy. To the latter end she set up two companies. She died on 3rd June 1946, aged 81, probably believing that she had done all she could.

How could this be so? Effectively she left everything directly to or under the control of a man who, although her great friend and a kindred spirit in musical terms, had only recently been released from prison because, in the view of the authorities, his Nazi sympathies and activities were too dangerous for him to be on the loose. He was also extremely unpleasant, stirring up hatred against Jewish people. Perhaps Margaret, being an independent woman who thought for herself, felt that he was entitled to his convictions even if she did not agree with them (and I cannot believe that she did).

Mr Abdy says in his book that he could find no evidence that Henry spent any money in furthering the aims of the companies Margaret had established to ensure that neither she nor the music she loved were forgotten, and in due course he sold off most of the property he had inherited. He did do us one big favour, however, in allowing the Council to acquire papers and the Glyn photo albums, and many of those pictures have appeared in these articles.

Leigh Henry may not have done much to perpetuate the memory of Margaret Glyn, but now at least she has a page of her own on this website and, just recently, her short book, called "The Rhythmic Conception of Music', was reissued.

Margaret Glyn with Cat
Margaret Glyn with Cat
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Linda Jackson © November 2011

Links to previous and next parts.

Footnotes

1. For older readers, one of his fellow inmates was the well-known racing tipster 'Prince Monolulu' (actually Peter Mackay).

2. 'Mandamus' is a court order which compels someone to do something. In this case Henry wanted the court to compel the Home Secretary and other authorities to comply properly with the rules - such as they were.

3. 'Due process' was not in great evidence as far as wartime internments under the Defence Regulations were concerned: there were no trials and, if the authorities thought you were a threat to national security, then they could and did lock you up for the duration. The only criterion was that the Home Secretary had reasonable cause to believe that the subject had hostile associations.

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Blake Girls
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