Monday, May 25, 2009

Herry's Early Experiences of Banking

My idea of what retail banking should be like is heavily coloured by my first experiences of it. I opened an account at Barclays* in Winchester when I was about 13 and had just gone to school there and a small amount of money was deposited in my account by my parents and occasionally topped up.

I didn't need much; just enough to go the school shop a couple of times a week for egg and chips (2/6p) to supplement the appalling food that Francis King served in Phil's. Other things were bought on my mother Annette's account - groceries at Cullen's in Jewry St and books at Harrington's in Parchment St. Later we used to go to the Two Bare Feet coffee bar (also in Parchment St) and have weak cappucinos in glass cups and saucers and imagine that we were cool.

As a consequence, I went rarely to the bank (these were the days long before cash machines) to draw out money, but when I did, one entered the rather splendid high-ceiling banking hall and I sought out Carol, an absolutely stunning blonde cashier, who always cashed my £5 cheques with a smile and later some banter. Not infrequently, the manager of the bank, George Corse, would come out of his office beside the cashiers' desks and talk to me. It was then customary for the manager to try meet his customers as often as he could, and I would often see him on the floor of the bank just chatting to people as they came in. He invited me to play golf and on one occasion gave me lunch at the Georgian Restaurant in Jewry St.

In time he used to tease me about Carol, and even much later when he had long retired and I met him on the street, he would remind me of her and my £5 cheques. Sadly I suspect Carol didn't heed Stendhal's advice to beautiful women. But George Corse's bonhomie, humility and customer care could provide a useful lesson to bankers today.

* Above the banking hall were offices where the secretarial school of Miss VM Sprules and MIss A Glyka could be found. Several of my friends attended.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Town Thorns Residential School, Easenhall

Sir Alfred Herbert acquired Town Thorns Manor at Easenhall in the late 1930s as place to which Coventry children could be evacuated in time of war, and gave it to Coventry City Council. After the war, it was turned into a school for children with learning difficulties. The Town Thorns Residential School for ESN Children was opened in January 1954, run by a Mr Brittan and his wife.

Mr Brittan wrote to Sir Alfred and Lady Nina Herbert in January 1954:

"Many times since January 20th when we opened as a residential school for ESN children, the boys and girls have spoken about the "lovely house" and "when are Sir Alfred and Lady Herbert coming to visit us?" We are very grateful for this opportunity to work with these problem cases in such delightful surroundings, and both the children and staff would welcome the chance to thank you personally. Perhaps the best thanks you can receive is to know how great has been the change for good in these children - mentally, morally and physically."

One of the children wrote to them on 1st November 1954, "I am writing to thank you for giving us the use of this school and its grounds. Perhaps you would like to visit us one day for lunch or tea. Please write to say when you can come. Our album will show you some of the things we are doing here. Yours faithfully, Pauline Plant".

Later letters - written up until 1956 (Sir Alfred died in 1957) thank them for various gifts - a boat for use on the lake, 'waist slips' for the girls, fountains pens and propelling pencils and the like.

Although after Sir Alfred died in 1957, Lady Herbert maintained her links with the school, but she suffered a stroke in 1963 and never recovered.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sir Alfred Herbert and St Barbara's Church, Earlsdon

Sir Alfred was considerably involved with helping the inspirational vicar, the Rev Claud Russell, with the building of a new church at Earlsdon, Coventry in 1929-1931. and the Lady Chapel at the church is dedicated to the memory of his second wife, Florence. A later vicar of St Barbara's, Canon Cooke, married his granddaughter June Hollick to Capt Milo Vapenik at Stoneleigh in 1941 and Claude Russell and another local vicar, the Rev AP Wales, remained good family friends for many years.

The history of the church can be found on the church's website here .

The original consecration of the church was reported in The Coventry Standard of 3rd October 1931 thus:

"St Barbara's Earlsdon - Consecration by the Bishop of Coventry - Tribute to Vigorous Leadership - Canon CAH Russell"

On Saturday afternoon, with dignified ceremonial, and in the presence of a large and representative congregation, the Bishop of Coventry (Dr Mervyn Haigh) consecrated the first portion of the new permanent church of St Barbara, situated on the corner of Rochester Road and Beechwood Avenue, Earlsdon. The consecration of the church marks the culmination of a strenuous ten years leadership by the present Vicar, CAH Russell, backed by a no less eager and enthusiastic congregation. It was a happy thought for the Bishop to choose the occasion to make an announcement that he proposed to confer upon Mr Russell an honorary canonry in the Cathedral.

The first sods for preparing the site of the new church were cut on Sept 29th, 1929, the foundation stone was laid by Sir Alfred Herbert on September 28th 1930, and the pillars of the western porch, which is to be given by Freemasons to whom the Vicar is chaplin, were set up at an imposing Masonic service this year. Services were transferred from the old church in Palmerston Road to the new church on Sunday.

The New Church

The new Church has been built by Messrs Harris of Coventry, from the designs of Messrs Austin and Paley of Lancaster and Mr HT Jackson, architiect has acted as Clerk of the Works. It is built in a modernised version of the Mediaeval style and consists of a nave with side aisles, a chancel terminating in an apse, an organ chamber and vestries on the north side, and a porch and a Lady Chapel on the south side. The north aisle and the west front are of a temporary nature, and when funds permit the nave will be extended another bay and a half, the north aisle will be rebuilt, and the permanent west front with the Masonic porch erected. The present accomodation is for 416 people. The design is of the 14th and 15th Centuries, the aisle and clerestorey windows being square-headed and treceried, and those of the apse pointed with the exception of the east window which is circular and is filled with stained glass. The exterior material used is strong and durable Staffordshire brick with internal facings of sand stocks made locally.

St Barbara's is claimed to be the first Church of England church in which the use of reconstructed stone has been permitted. It is a prefect imitation of natural stone and is more durable and less porous. The interior of the chancel, apse and Lady Chapel, and of the nave piers and arches, are of this stone. The rooks are of Columbian pine and the lighting is concealed in the roof timbers. The ancient pulpit, dated 1661, is of a type known as the wine glass, and has been given by Mr J Rochelle Thomas in memory of Jane Rochelle Thomas. The chancel is paved with terrazzo and the sanctuary of the Lady Chapel with marble. The choir stalls have been made from seats removed from the Cathedral.

The Lady Chapel, which is the gem of the building, is divided from the chancel by three arches, in which are elaborately carved oak screens. The chapel forms a memorial to Lady Herbert and the cost of its sumptuous decorations has been borne by Sir Alfred Herbert. It is divided from the nave by a carved oak screen. The three side windows and the eastern rose window contain stained glass. The walls are oak panelled with carved figures of saints on either side of the altar. The roof is of hammer-beam construction and the hammer-beams are carved to represent angels with outstretched wings. The chapel contains a stone with an inscription in memory of Lady Herbert.

The gifts received for the furnishing of the church are too numerous to mention. Sir Alfred Herbert and Mr and Mrs H Mander have given the choir vestry, and Alderman J.I. Bates (a generous contributor to the building fund), has given 50 chairs. [Alderman Bates also contributed to the building of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and a gallery there is named in his honour]. The approximate cost of the building, excluding furnishing and Sir Alfred Herbert's gifts, is £16,000, of which £4000 remains to be raised.

The Service

The congregation filled the new Church long before the ceremony was timed to commence. A procession of clergy entered and took their places in the chancel. They included the following: The Revs Canon Conder (Leamington), Canon TW Downing (Knowle), CVB Robinson and AM Pryde (St Mark's, Coventry), HC James (St Thomas's), GW Clitheroe (Holy Trinity), LEW Bosley (Radford), GHK Pedley and DA Foster (the Cathedral), PA Morson (St Mary Magdalene), and EW Bryan (Whitnash). Among the congregation were the Mayor of Coventry (Ald Batchelor), Sir Alfred Herbert, Mrs Pepper and the Misses Pepper (relatives of the late Lady Herbert). Mr and Mrs Harold Blyth (Leamington), Mr and Mrs J Rochelle Thomas and Miss Rochelle Thomas, Col and Mrs WF Wyley, Ald J.I Bates, Conncillors OM Flynn, TE Friswell,and J Holt, Mrs GA Dickins (Warwick), Mrs AHM Russell, Mrs CAH Russell, Miss M Russell, Miss Evelyn Russell, Mr and Mrs Paley (Lancaster), Mrs WH Herbert and Miss Herbert, (Leicester), Mrs Alfred Herbert, Mr HT Jackson (Clerk of Works), Mr EJ Corbett (Chairman of the Building Committee), Mr JW Lee and Mr WH Spencer.

Punctually and three o'clock the Bishop was heard knocking at the west door demanding admittance. Within was the Vicar (the Rev CAH Russell), with the churchwardens (Mr R Head and Mr H Clements), and the choir. The door of the Church was opened and the Vicar petitioned the Bishop to consecrate the Church. The Bishop having expressed his readiness to do so, the Vicar delivered the key of the church to the Bishop, and after a prayer at the Church door, the procession passed to the sanctuary singing Psalm 122. "I was glad when they said unto me'. The Vicar was accompanied by the Archdeacon of Warwick, Ven H St B Holland (who took the place of the Archdeacon of Coventry), the Provost of the Cathedral ( the Very Rev CE Morton), Mr Walter Browett, (Diocesan Registrar), Mr PS Nichols (Chapter Clerk), and the Bishop's Chaplains (the Revs AK Swallow and R Jones).

After more prayers, the Bishop and his procession visited the appointed places including the font, the praying desk, the lectern, the Chancel steps, the pulpit and the two altars where the Archdeacon read appropriate passages of
Scripture, and the Bishop offered prayer. Then, seated in a chair with a table before him, the Bishop ordered the sentence of consecration to be read by the Diocesan Registrar. This having been done, the Bishop signed it and ordered it to be enrolled and preserved in the miniments of the Diocesan Registry.

The Bishop pronounced the sentence of consecration, setting apart the Church in the name of St Barbara, and then proceeded to the entrance of the Chancel, where he traced the consecration cross on a pillar. During the singing of the hymn 'City of God', a mason carved the cross in the stone. The Bishop then addressed the congregation, and during the singing of the hymn 'O Worship the King', a collection was taken for the building fund. Prayers and the Benediction offered by the Bishop concluded an impressive service. Mr E Alcott (choirmaster and organist) officiated at the organ and the service was sung in a reverent and dignified manner.

[The Coventry Standard then prints the whole of the Bishop's sermon]

After the service the visiting clergy were entertained to tea in the Parish Room.

The ceremony of consecration was concluded on Sunday morning when the Bishop was celebrant at at an early celebration. Special services were held during the day, the Provost preaching in the morning and the Archdeacon of Coventry (Dr JW Hunkin) in the evening.

The Coventry Standard Friday and Saturday October 2 & 3. 1931
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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sir Alfred Herbert's Induction Into Coventry's Walk of Fame

Coventry has created a 'Walk of Fame' in Priory Place near the Cathedralwhere the most famous of those with links to the city (as chosen by the public) are commemorated with plaques set into the pavement.

On Saturday 26th May, Sir Alfred Herbert's plaque was unveiled at a ceremony at which Herry and his brother Piers represented the Herbert family and Herry spoke.

Sir Alfred's gifts to the city were many, and some are enumerated in the brochure accompanying the first opening of The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

It’s a great honour for the family of Sir Alfred Herbert that the public should have voted him on to the city’s Walk of Fame; he loved the city and in particular the many who worked with him and for him building up his highly respected machine tools business which was for a time, the largest in the world.

He was born and brought up in Leicester, but from the time that he persuaded his father to allow him become an engineering apprentice – an unusual career in those days for a public schoolboy from a wealthy background - he made Coventry the centre of his working life.

His first joined the firm of Coles and Matthews in the Butts, but by 1888 he had bought the business in partnership with a school friend and by 1894 had formed the firm that bore his name - running it until his death in 1957 at the age of 90.

In 1889 he married Ellen Ryley, the daughter of the manager of Lloyd’s Bank, who was born in Little Park St, very close to where the Herbert Gallery and Museum stands today. She bore him four children – all daughters. Sadly she died in 1918, just after he received his knighthood for his services to the country as Controller of Machine Tools during the First World War and also just after he bought his estate at Dunley in Hampshire, which was his country home until he died.

Thereafter he married Florence Pepper, a matron at the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital. Very sadly she too died, in 1930, but not before he had begun the negotiations to create Lady Herbert’s Homes and Garden, which are still much valued today.

His final marriage was to our grandmother Nina, herself a widow, in 1933.

They maintained a simple flat ‘over the works’ at Edgewick and used to stay there in the week. However during the war when bombing was expected, they were persuaded to stay with his granddaughter June Vapenik and her husband at Leamington Spa. On the awful night of 14th / 15th November 1940 they were there, and she can remember him watching in agony from the windows, pacing up and down saying ‘My poor men, my poor men’. His granddaughter later took in five refugees from the city, as many did.

Those of you here well know the enormous success of his business up until the time of his death, and of his role as benefactor to the city, but above Sir Alfred’s great talent as an engineer, he was probably an even greater manager and leader of men, and treated every man as an equal. He would go down onto the works floor at all hours and especially on the night shift, cigarette in hand, and chat to whoever was there. As the Bishop of Coventry said at the memorial service for Sir Alfred in the shell of the cathedral in 1957, ‘he thought and cared and planned and suffered ..... with those men with whom he had worked so long. He did not regard them as his employees as much as his friends.’

And the Coventry Standard ‘s headline put it beautifully: ‘The Humble and Eminent Unite In A Tribute To A Man Who Was Both’

Herry Lawford and Dr Piers Lawford
Step-grandsons of Sir Alfred Herbert
Also representing June Gracey (nee Hollick, later Vapenik), his granddaughter
Coventry 16th May 2009

On 24th August 2009 on behalf of Sir Alfred's family, Herry donated the glass sculpture commemorating Sir Alfred's induction into the 'Walk of Fame' to The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, as being the most fitting place for it to rest. Here he is handing it over to Keith Railton, chairman of the Coventry Heritage and Arts Trust outside The Herbert.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Swedish Connection

Apart from some eccentric cousins who lived in Wimbledon, the Baronesses Gwendolyn and Winifred Leyonhrufrud, Herry has no Swedish connections, but on one occasion, he possibly came close to acquiring some.

His senior partner's family [name not included to preserve their privacy] were friends of the Swedish Royal Family. Specifically the senior partner's father had become friends with the King and Queen of Sweden in the South of France and the relationship continued over many years.

In the summer of 1969, the senior partner asked Herry to come down to a dinner party he was giving at his home, Adwell, which he was glad to do, and he stayed the night. The guests at the dinner party were the King and Queen of Sweden, their daughter Christina, Princess Margaretha of Denmark and her husband John Ambler and Lord and Lady Carrington. There was probably another young man, but Herry can't remember him!

He sat next to Princess Christina at dinner and got on very well with her. He also found Lady Carrington very charming - on his other side. [One of the Carrington's daughters married Lord Ashcombe, Camilla's first cousin].

When back in his office a few days later, he had a phone call from Sweden. Unfortunately, he was out and his secretary took the call but said that the caller left no name or number. It's possible that it was Christina; he had given her his card......but that is just a young man's conjecture!