Today’s post comes from one of our regular contributors. Kathy Nichols has been volunteering with the project since we started in 2014. As well as being an integral part of the team that scans and catalogues the collection, she has also successfully researched many of our sitters and subjects and has also acted as a mentor for some of our less experienced volunteers. Her posts are always beautifully written and researched and even with limited information she always manages to bring the subjects to life with exactly the kind of human detail that we would hope to attach to all our plates. If only it were that simple! With thanks to Kathy for today’s piece.
This is Miss Marie Beryl Valentine La Fargue who was born in Sutton in February 1896, shown here in a delicate study of a young girl on the threshold of womanhood. The photograph was taken on the 21st September 1915.
Here she is just two weeks later (4th October 1915) with a more mature and business like air. Perhaps the first visit to the Knights Whittome studio was for the family album and the other for a travel document or official record?
There’s a lot we don’t know about Miss La Fargue’s life but information gained from the most readily available records gives us a hazy outline.
She was the only child of Frederick Russell La Fargue and his wife Marie Nielson La Fargue (née Nicholson). The couple were married at Christ Church, Sutton on 5th October 1894 and lived in the Sutton area until about 1920.
Frederick described himself as a Brazilian merchant in a family business in the 1911 census. His home address was “Old Fields”, Stanley Road, Sutton. He was born in Haslemere, Surrey, the son of surgeon George Heriot La Fargue and by 1881 was a pupil at The Royal Medical Benevolent College which later became known as Epsom College.
The La Fargues were descended from a Huguenot family from the Bordeaux area in France who fled to England to escape religious persecution in 1692. Their story is told in “The Annals of a Quiet Family” by J.H. Philpott M.D published in the Proceedings of the Huguenot Society 1901-1904. Over fifty thousand Huguenots fled to Britain during the 17th and 18th centuries so that they could keep the Protestant faith and worship freely. They integrated into society and many present day Britons are descended from them.
At the time these photographs were taken in 1915 Miss La Fargue was 19 years old. She had been a pupil at Sutton High School (she attended there from 1906 to 1914). School magazines reveal snippets of information about her.
In autumn 1913 she received special mention for her fifth form Board Exam results, by spring 1915 she had passed her Home Nursing Exam and in the summer of 1915 she passed her Care of Children Exam. We also learn from the magazine entries that she preferred to be known as Beryl La Fargue.
Did she take up a career after leaving school – did she become a nurse or a nanny or maybe she worked in the family firm? With her nursing qualifications she may have been a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) nurse or assistant during World War One. Being under twenty-three, she would have been too young to be sent to the front, but she could have been assigned to help at either a local hospital or one elsewhere in the UK. Perhaps she remained at home and helped her mother manage the household as many middle class women did at the time.
The Sutton High School Jubilee book shows that at some time prior to 1934 she had married and was living at Norfolk Lodge, Doyle Road, Guernsey.
General Register Office records reveal that she married Gordon Archer in the last quarter of 1928 in the Fulham registration district.
He was born in Portsea, Hampshire in 1894 and served with the 15th London Regiment, Post Office Rifles during World War One. He was commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment in 1917 and later transferred to the RAF. By 1928 he was a Flight Lieutenant at No. 3 Training School in Grantham, Lincolnshire.
Tragically, the marriage can have only lasted a few weeks as Gordon died on 24th November 1928 at the age of 34 after a flying accident which happened on 31st October 1928. He was in an Avro 504 single engine biplane on a training flight at RAF Grantham when it crashed on a low turn after takeoff. He is buried at St Andrew’s Churchyard, Cranwell, Lincolnshire.
We don’t know how Beryl recovered from this or what she did for the next twelve years or so but, thanks to Nazi record keeping, we know that she was living in the Channel Islands during the German occupation. She is recorded as being the wife of Colonel Cyril Wellborne and was living in St Helier, Jersey in January 1941. Their official marriage took place in 1945 in London when the war in Europe had ended. Beryl was his fourth wife; he married twice in Bombay and twice in London.
Colonel Cyril de Montfort Wellborne was born in Bloomsbury on 2nd July 1884. (His solicitor father, Harry, lived in Wallington, Surrey for many years.) Cyril attended Dulwich College and afterwards obtained a commission in the Indian Army. He later joined the Indian Police and was eventually appointed Inspector General of Police in Burma.
Fans of George Orwell may be interested to know that Colonel (then Major) Wellborne was in charge of the force during the author’s time as a police officer in Burma (1922-1928). He called Orwell a disgrace to Eton College following his handling of an incident which ended in the death of an elephant. Orwell later wrote the essay, “Shooting An Elephant” (published in 1936). His novel “Burmese Days” (published 1934) paints a picture of the British expat’s life in provincial Burma.
Colonel Wellborne retired to Jersey in about 1937 having been awarded an OBE in 1928 and made a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in 1936. During the Nazi occupation of Jersey he was arrested together with many others and sent to an internment camp at Laufen in Germany. After the war it is thought that he continued to live on Jersey until his death in 1965.
We think that Beryl remained on Jersey during the occupation. Life under German rule wasn’t too harsh for most islanders at first. There was the risk of being shot for not complying with the rules and Jewish people were sent to concentration camps as opposed to internment camps. For those who remained on the island there was the basic loss of liberty, there was a curfew and ID cards had to be carried.
As the Allies started to gain the upper hand in the war food, fuel and medicines came to be in short supply. During the winter of 1944-45 many islanders were saved from starvation by Red Cross parcels. Over seventy years later Liberation Day is still celebrated on each year on May 9th.
All we know of Beryl after the war, apart from her marriage to the Colonel, is that her mother was buried at St Brelade’s Cemetery, Grouville, Jersey and that she was the executor of her mother’s estate in 1954.
If anyone knows more about the life and times of Beryl La Fargue we would be very pleased to hear from you.
Sources: Ancestry: UK Census Collection/Sutton Parish Records/England and Wales National Probate Calendar/ IGI/ FreeBMD/archive.org/ worldwar1schoolarchives.org/ Sutton High School Jubilee Book 1884-1934/ Google/ London Gazette/ rcawsey.co.uk/Acc1929/jerseyheritage.org