Monday, 21 November 2016

How to Rise in Society, the Housemaid's Tale; Stephen Lancaster Lucena (1805-1876) and Anne Maria Lucena (1834-1908), Lavender Hill Cemetery, Enfield


This is not a well known memorial, perhaps because it is off the beaten track in the otherwise uninteresting late Victorian cemetery at Lavender Hill in Enfield. It is not listed and I had never heard of it until I came across it in Richard Barnes excellent book on sculpture in London cemeteries ‘The Art of Memory’ (with some striking photographs of it by Stiffleaf). Incredibly Hugh Meller fails to mention the memorial at all in his 200 word dismissal of Lavender Hill in ‘London Cemeteries’ despite mentioning 3 other, markedly inferior, tombs including Henrich Faulenbach’s which is barely 50 yards away. Its situation in the cemetery is so prominent that it is almost impossible not to see it; the only possible explanation for Meller’s omission is that at the time of his visit it must have been completely overgrown by holly and ivy. The memorial shows Stephen Lancaster Lucena’s second family in a sentimental grouping with the two children Stephen and Annie Elizabeth being read to by their mother Anne Marie, quite probably from the bible or some other religious book as the little girl is clearly praying. Even the dog seems attentive to the word of God. The domestic group was originally watched over by a pair of guardian angels but only one is now in situ, the other, toppled from its base, now lies headless and wingless behind the monument, the head is completely missing but the broken wings are tucked into a niche on the main memorial for want of any better place to put them.  The piety of the sculptured group conceals a series of late Victorian and early Edwardian scandals; both of the children were conceived outside of wedlock, their mother a household servant in their father’s house and in later life the praying little girl, Annie Elizabeth, went through a spectacularly messy divorce from an army major which resulted in the murder of her mother and the suicide of her ex husband.

Stephen Lancaster Lucena was born in London in 1805. His father, JoĆ£o Carlos Lucena, was a Portuguese born marrano, a new Christian, born into a family that may have continued being secretly Jewish since the 16th century.  If so their religion did not survive the family move from Portugal in 1761 to the then British colonies in North America, initially at Rhode Island where his father was granted a patent for the production of Castile soap.  The family eventually settled in Savanah where he married Joanna Lavien, the daughter of a prominent Jewish West India merchant. Joanna’s father left her extensive estates in South Carolina and Georgia in his will but these were confiscated when John Charles, as he was now known, remained loyal to the British crown in the American revolution. By the 1790’s John Charles was in London where he became the Portuguese Consul. In 1791 he married again, in Hampstead, to Mary Ann Lancaster (he had become a practising Anglican whilst in America) with whom he had four children.  He died in 1813 was buried at St Pancras Old Church.  He died a wealthy man, leaving an estate worth over £100,000.


Stephen Lancaster Lucena became a solicitor and in 1829, at the age of 24 married Susan Kite at Shifnal in Shropshire. They set up home in Enfield and had three children, William, Clara and Charles. Something was clearly not right in the marriage and by 1841 they were separated; Stephen was living alone in Enfield and Susan was a resident of Marine Parade in Dover with the three children. There was at least one temporary breach in what otherwise became a lifelong separation between the couple; in the 1851 census Stephen and Susan are declared as living under the same roof, back in Enfield, but interestingly none of the children are declared. They were probably in Shropshire with their grandparents as that is where they show up in the census of 1861. By that time the 56 year old Stephen was living at Rose Cottage in Enfield with just the company of a cook, the 64 year old Hannah Benn from Cranford near Uxbridge and a housemaid, Hannah’s unmarried 27 year old daughter Anne Maria. Hannah must have turned a blind eye to the romance that blossomed between the aging solicitor and her daughter, despite the age gap of 30 years and the fact that her employer was still very much married to his estranged wife. In 1865 Anne Maria gave birth to a son who was registered by both parents as Stephen Lancaster Lucena Benn and baptised at St Mary’s, Bryanston Square, just off the Marylebone Road, on 25 October. On the 1871 census Stephen was living at 42 Windmill Hill, Enfield, with the 5 year old Stephen declared as his son and Anne Maria as his housekeeper! The census does not mention the baby Anne Maria had given birth to the previous year, Annie Elizabeth Lucena born on 10 September 1870 and baptised at St Pancras Old Church on 7 June 1871.  Susan, the estranged wife was living as a lodger with a family called Boud in Penge according to the census but by October that year she was dead. Stephen seemingly did not rush to grasp the opportunity to regularise Anne Maria’s ambiguous position as housekeeper and mother to his two youngest children; the couple eventually did marry but not until 1874.  Two years later Stephen himself was dead and Anne Maria commissioned the splendid memorial at Enfield showing his loving family being watched over by guardian angels in hr husband’s absence. We don’t know how much the memorial cost but it would have taken a sizeable chunk from Stephen’s estate which Anne Maria swore was worth less than £4000 when she registered probate. Two years later she was forced to re-swear the vale of the estate at less than £8000 but even then she was almost certainly considerably under declaring her dead husband’s assets.

Anne Maria as depicted on the memorial
Anne Maria must have been a lively character. In 1879 the 21 year old Henry Hill Banyard paid for a marriage license to allow him to marry the 45 year old (and very wealthy) widow. The marriage never took place. Anne Maria consoled herself with property speculation; in November 1882 she bought the freehold of two plots on Kensington Road looking towards Kensington Palace.  In 1883-4 Holland and Hannen builders constructed an ornate mansion, Chenesiton House, with library, billiard room, morning and drawing rooms and a six stall stable, to the design of architect J.J. Stevenson (now the 5 star Milestone Hotel). In 1891, the year her 21 year old daughter Annie Elizabeth married the 24 year old soldier Henry George Coates Phillips, Anne Maria was living in some style at her luxurious new home with a staff of 7 live in servants including a butler. These were giddy heights to have reached for the girl from Cranford who had started life as a housemaid until she had the luck to be seduced by a solicitor more than twice her age. If she felt any hubris it was her son in law, Major Phillips, who was to prove her nemesis.  Her daughter’s marriage was not a happy one.  The young Welsh Guard had been made a Captain the year before the wedding and was often away from home on duty, serving in Malta and then in South Africa where he was present at the relief of Ladysmith in 1900. Whilst in South Africa, when not fighting he whiled away the time by conducting liaisons with local married women, eventually getting himself named as co-respondent in a divorce case at Witwatersrand Court where it was proved that he had paid the lady in question sums varying between £5 and £10 to entice her into “committing misconduct” with him to the eternal chagrin of her husband. These stories made their way back to England and the Major would have received a frosty reception from his wife when he finally made it home from the battle grounds of Natal.

Chenesiton House in Kensington Court, Anne Maria's palatial mansion

Annie Elizabeth and Major Phillips divorced in 1906; the case was widely reported in the newspapers.  According to the Dundee Evening News of 26 July 1906 “there was an aristocratic case in the London Divorce Court yesterday. The Court was crowded, and there was an impressive array of counsel. Barristers wandered in, too, from the duller courts to join in the throng of the curious. The petitioner, Mrs Phillips, said to be of independent means and living at Kensington, asked for a divorce from her husband, Major Henry George Coates Phillips, because of his alleged misconduct and cruelty.” The paper admiringly described Annie Elizabeth as “a tall, dark, handsome woman, with finely cut features, wearing a large black hat and costume, and a white fancy blouse with a bunch of roses.” In her divorce suit Annie Elizabeth alleged that her husband had been unfaithful with two women (apparently his South African infidelity was not mentioned) and in his counter suit the Major claimed that his wife had misbehaved herself with a Mr Eric Gordon. The first business of the court was to deal with the withdrawals of the allegations of adultery by both parties; instead the case revolved around two incidents which showed the Major’s cruel and unusual behaviour. The first incident took place in December 1904; the Major had knocked his wife down when they returned to their house from a ball leaving her with a bloodied head. As a result of this and other incidents she had taken out an injunction against him and he was ordered to keep half a mile away from her. The other incident took place in August 1905 when Annie Elizabeth had been staying with a friend, Daisy Ouchterlony, in Hampshire. The Major had broken into the house in the early hours of the morning, cut the communication cables so that the servants could not be summoned for help, and then made his way to the bedroom where his wife was sleeping. He woke her up and threatened her with a revolver, forcing her to sign a letter withdrawing the divorce petition. The Judge granted Annie Elizabeth a decree nisi but divorce was not to be the end of her troubles with her husband.

On 31 December 1906 the Major was bound over to be of good behaviour for 12 months at the Hampshire assizes in Winchester after being found guilty of attempting to commit suicide the previous day by suffocating himself with coal gas. He had broken into Annie Elizabeth’s house at Velmead in Church Crookham and tried to kill himself there. Exactly a year later the marital problems of Anne Maria’s daughter and the Major came to tragic climax on New Years Eve 1907. Annie Elizabeth and her mother were both at home at Velmead celebrating with Annie’s good friend Daisy Ouchterlony. The Tamworth Herald of Saturday 11 January 1908 described what happened next:
“A little before o'clock midnight she [Daisy Ouchterlony] and Mrs. Phillips went out to the steps of the front door see what the weather was like. Just as they were standing there, Mrs. Phillips's dog ran down the steps barking at something in the darkness. [Daisy] thereupon went to the bottom of the steps to see what the dog was barking at, leaving Mrs. Phillips standing at the top of the steps. In a second or so someone knocked [her] down. She became dazed with the fall, and when she came to herself she found she was lying on the ground at the foot the steps. At that moment she heard several shots in the hall. She got up and rushed into the house, and the first thing she saw was Mrs. Phillips running past the door leading into the kitchen. Then she saw Mrs. Lucena, Mrs. Phillips's mother, on the floor, and also Major Phillips and Mr. Smith, Mrs. Phillips's solicitor. Mr. Smith was calling to some one to bring a rope, so she rushed to the stables for assistance. Then she went back to the house, there were several people in the hall then. Mrs. Lucena was sitting in chair, and her face was being bathed. The Major was roped, and several people were watching him.”


At the inquest into her ex husband’s death Annie Elizabeth described hearing her friend ‘scramble’ in the darkness when she went to see what was causing the dog to bark. She had an electric torch and in its faltering beam she saw the Major emerge out of the darkness and spring up the stairs where he “caught hold her arm, dragging her into the hall. Holding a revolver to her head, he said, ‘This is your last chance, Liz.’ She said, ‘Do let me live; don't kill me.’ Just then the butler came in. The Major pointed the revolver at him and ‘You come a step nearer and I will shoot you dead.’” Annie Elizabeth tried to wrestle the gun from him but the retired soldier was too strong. Anne Maria then came into the hall from the library to see what all the commotion was about. Seeing his mother in law the Major let go of his wife and grabbed hold of her. “You have been the cause of all this,” he told Anne Maria, dragging her towards the drawing room. The terrified 74 year old pleaded for her life but the Major raised his revolver to her cheek and fired at point blank range.  He then shot another member of the party in the groin and tried to shoot his wife as she went over to their terrified 13 year old daughter Bertha Corysande, who had caught her dress on the banisters as she tried to flee the carnage. As she wrestled with the trapped dress Annie Elizabeth heard another shot and looked up to see her husband sink to the ground. He had shot himself in the head. Taking no chances members of the household staff tied him with rope from the stables. He wasn’t unbound until a doctor had certified him dead. Giving evidence at the inquest the doctor told the court that the Major had expanding bullets in his gun and that he was sure that he had died almost instantaneously. It took Anne Maria four days to die, no doubt in considerable agony. “The jury, after a deliberation lasting 55 minutes, found that Major Phillips committed suicide by shooting himself with a revolver, and they further considered that he was morbidly insane through his long brooding over the divorce proceedings and his long separation from his wife and child.”

A few days later Annie Elizabeth had to go over the traumatic events again at the inquest into her mother’s death. She told the court that the Major had previously “attempted to murder her mother. They were all living in London at the time at South Kensington. Early one morning—about 3 o'clock—her mother came into her room with him. Her face was blackened, and she stated that he had tried to kill her. She said that he had gone into her room and hit her over the head when she was asleep with a sand bag. He afterwards fell down by the side of the bed (her mother told her), and said, ‘I do not know what is wrong, and why I have done this.’ A specialist was consulted about this time, and he…. said the major was subject to homicidal mania. Major Phillips hated her mother. Her mother gave him £5,000 to go into Lloyd's, and she never had a penny back. She guaranteed him another £5,000. Mr. Gardiner: ‘Therefore she was his benefactress and not his enemy?’ Yes. The witness, continuing, said he was always saying he wished her mother dead before went to South Africa and after.” The verdict of the jury was that the Major had feloniously and with malice aforethought murdered Anne Maria. The funeral took place a few days later in Enfield, the vault was reopened and Anne Maria joined her husband and son (Stephen junior had died in 1900 at the age of 34). Annie Elizabeth never married and died in 1959 in Essex, at the age of 88.