Lady Lucy Bertram Markham, CBE, was born in Glasgow on August 2nd, 1873. She was the daughter of Captain Albert Berwick Cunningham of the Royal Horse Artillery and Georgiana Glentworth Cunningham. Lucy's father had a South African business connection in the gold mining industry in South Africa, where, in 1889 in Pretoria, he patented a chemical extraction process to separate gold from rock ore. His eldest son and Lucy's brother, Calvert, was a member of the 'Society of Chemical Industry' specialising in mineral extraction methods. Calvert was also a Captain in the Royal Artillery who fought in the 2nd Boer War in South Africa in 1899.
Also in South Africa at this time was Arthur Markham, whom, after his first wife sued for divorce in 1895, left his Leicestershire farming estate and ventured off on a self-educating world tour. On the death of his father in 1888 aged just 22, Rugby School educated Arthur, inherited the equivalent in today's value of £40 million. He spent around 2 years in South Africa intrigued by the opportunities there, particularly in the mineral mining business in which his family were involved and in which, he himself had been apprenticed as an engineer at the coalface. His father had taught him that a thorough knowledge of a business from top to bottom was essential for success. It was possibly in South Africa though their mutual business interests, that Arthur Markham met Albert and Calvert Cunningham and was introduced to Lucy.
Arthur and Lucy were married on 17th September 1898 and moved into their new home at Stuffynwood Hall, which had been leased for them by Arthur's brother, Charles Markham, whom, as eldest, was heading the family's Staveley coal, iron & steel empire created by their father. Charles and their mother, Rosa, were keen to keep Arthur in England as his adventures had taken him far and often into danger. The family had been distressed by a Times newspaper report a few years earlier that Arthur, acting as their correspondent reporting on the massacres occurring in Armenia, had been captured and held by the Kurds and that the British Government were negotiating his release.
The owner of Stuffynwood Hall, Joseph Paget, had died in 1896 leaving the estate to his wife who decided to make her home in Brighton. This proved to be very fortuitous as Mansfield, a town neighbouring the Stuffynwood Estate, was to be without an MP due to illness. Subsequently, the vacant seat was fought over at the 1900 General Election, which Arthur won convincingly. Arthur also began building his own coal mining empire as well as participating in the running of the family's iron and steel company. His political career was assisted by his younger sister, Violet, a liberal activist, whom, in her own right gained considerable respect from her peers. It was of considerable surprise to me that there was no mention of Lucy in Violet's autobiography, particularly as she writes much about her fondness and closeness to Arthur.
In August 1899, Charles, the first of Arthur and Lucy's four children was born at Stuffynwood Hall. Sadly, a few months later at Stuffynwood, on the 24th November 1899, Lucy's mother, Georgiana, died of cancer aged just 52.
Two more children were born at Stuffynwood Hall; December 1905, Mansfield Markham and it is recorded in the parish register, although the birth certificate can not be found, that Joyous Markham was born at Stuffynwood Hall on the Monday, 21st July 1902 and was baptised at St Chad, Pleasley Vale on the Stuffynwood Estate on 3rd September 1903.
There couldn't have been a worst time and place to bring up a young family. The Stuffynwood Estate neighboured Shirebrook, where a new colliery had recently started, resulting in a rapid increase in population. Unfortunately, the colliery owners couldn't build houses fast enough, subsequently, hastily built huts were erected in fields to house the families of workers. The 1901 census lists a number of huts on the Stuffynwood estate that were occupied by colliery workers. It is reported, that in a period between 1898 and 1902 around 150 children died of typhoid as a result of sewage contaminating the drinking water. Arthur Markham, whom, incidentally, had no interest in the Shirebrook Colliery Company, was a harsh critic. In his capacity as MP for Mansfield, he expressed his outrage at the lawlessness and drunken behaviour that he attributed to lack of policing and unlicensed alcohol sales. The Shirebrook Colliery workings had also begun to affect the Hall such that Markham entered a legal dispute with the owner, Helen Elizabeth Paget, with whom he had a lease contract.
The mining subsidence issues, rendering the Hall unsafe, led to the Markhams leaving Stuffynwood for London in 1906, where they took up residence at 48 Portland Place, near Westminster. The 1911 census shows that this was still their main residence, recording both Joyous and Mansfield living there with 14 servants! The eldest child, Charles, 11, is recorded boarding at Heatherdown, the famous prep school that has now closed. The school had many famous boarders including Princes, Edward & Andrew. Records also show that in 1907, Markham bought Wyken Grange and 250 acres of farmland in Warwickshire, although the 1911 census records that the property & farm had tenant farmers. In 1911, Arthur was made Baronet of Arusha, East Africa by the Asquith government for his services to politics, however, his health was failing. His doctor had diagnosed his chest pains has serious angina, recommending that he rest or face the prospect of death. The same year, the newly titled Sir Arthur & Lady Markham, bought the romantic Beachborough Park near Folkestone, a historical country estate where Arthur could relax and where Lady Lucy could play her part as hostess to Arthur's political & business associates. I cannot find an exact date for them taking posession of the property but it must have been close to the 2nd April, the 1911 census date, as Arthur & Lucy are recorded as staying close by at the Grand Hotel, Folkestone. They may have already bought it and decided on a seaside break though! Lucy was a few months pregnant at the time with Arthur Markham Jr, born October 21st 1911.
Sir Arthur and Lucy had become close friends and allies to a future prime minister, David Lloyd George, to whom they gave every assistance in his fight for social reform. According to the book, 'Tempestuous Journey: Lloyd George, His Life and Times' by Frank Owen published 1955, the Markhams loaned their new home for a while to Lloyd George who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1911, the book states that Lloyd George rested there through Spring to recover from an exhaustion related illness brought on by his self-imposed workload. After the death of his 17 year old daughter in 1907, he had worked 16 hour days to cope with his grief. Although he enjoyed the fishing lakes and the company of his daughter, Megan, Lloyd George had a private telephone line installed to maintain contact with his department who were formulating The National Insurance Act, which he had worked tirelessly to develop to get passed through Parliament. His medical consultants refused to permit his return to London but nonetheless, Lloyd George was able to detail and fine tune his bill by telephone from Beachborough.
Then Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, recuperating at the Markham's Beachborough Park with his daughter, Megan. Photo from 'Tempestuous Journey: Lloyd George, His Life and Times' by Frank Owen, published 1955.
1912 Renault 20/30-hp Type CE Limousine
August 1914 brought the First World War. The Markhams were consulted some months earlier and willingly gave up their residence for use as a military hospital to be operated by a Canadian voluntary administration. The family moved back north, close to Mansfield, taking up a lease dated August 1st 1914, on the very grand Newstead Abbey, a country estate that was once owned by the poet Lord Byron. Before they moved out of Beachborough, they financed and directed internal structural alterations to facilitate its use as a 130 bed hospital and also financed state of the art medical equipment including a X-ray machine. Their financial assistance made a great deal of difference. Between the opening in October 1914 and closure in early 1919, they received 3000 wounded soldiers of which only 30 died.
Sadly, Arthur Markham's wartime workload caused his cardiac failure on August 5th 1916, aged just 50. Lady Markham remained at Newstead Abbey, at least until July 1919. On the death of Sir Arthur, Lloyd George honoured his friend in the Commons " I am perfectly certain that men of all parties, whatever their views may be with regard to Sir Arthur Markham's actions or opinions', have heard of his death with regret. There are many who differed from him in views, perhaps differed more from his methods, but 1 do not believe that any one for a moment ever doubted his sincerity or his patriotism or his utter fearlessness. His courage has never been equaled under the most trying circumstances."
Violet Markham, sister and political ally, was devastated at her brother's death. Both had campaigned for better social and employment conditions for the country's workers and their families and particularly for the Markham family's employees who amounted to many thousands. Lloyd-George had implemented the people's budget, introduced pensions and the welfare state at the expense of the rich and indeed at the expense of the very wealthy Arthur Markham who was a willing payer of the new 'super tax'.
The Markham's old friend, David Lloyd George, was now the Prime Minister but by the summer of 1922 his triumphs were overshadowed by more corruption charges. He had, in 1912, been embroiled in corruption charges involving insider trading on the stock market using privileged knowledge by virtue of his position. Finally, in 1922, he was ousted from power after accusations of selling honours to raise party-funding cash. Lady Markham was hostess to many Liberal Party party fund raising events and her husband had been a major contributor to party funds, so it may not have surprised some that in 1920 she was rewarded in the New Years Honours List with a CBE. The London Gazette reported Lucy Bertram Lady Markham is awarded the CBE for 'services in the entertainment of the Officers of Oversea Forces' Records show that she was involved with the Goverment Hospitality Fund.
It would be a travesty if anyone were to doubt the integrity of Sir Arthur and to suggest his baronetcy was bought. He infact mocked this culture and the gentry. He once booked a table at an upper-class London restaurant for a dozen of his miners still in their pit clothes and covered in coal dust! His loan stand against his own party & government against the conscription of under-age boys during WW1 is testament that Sir Arthur was not in the least influenced by anyone or anything other than his own moral conscience.
WW1 had brought bumper profits for the family's coal, iron & steel companies but post war economic factors caused a slump in price and demand. Although Sir Arthur died leaving his wife & children very wealthy indviduals, the bulk of their annual income was derived from their Colliery Company dividends and as such an economic depression was a very serious blow to their liquidity. By September 1921, records show that Lucy's home was now in Warickshire, possibly Wyken Grange. Beachborough House was sold and the lease at Newstead Abbey had ended.
In 1922, Lucy's connection with the Liberal Party in her hostess capacity with the Government Hospitality Fund continued. She had become a recognised socialite in high society circles reknown for her charitable fund raising activities. Her daughter, Joyous, was now 19 and at a Swiss finishing school. Sir Charles Markham, 2nd baronet, after his Harrow education, was now heading his father's collieries under the guidance of his Uncle Charles Paxton Markham. Mansfield was 17 years of age and his younger brother, Arthur, just 11.
During 1922, Lucy was remarried to Lt-Colonel James O'Hea, however, it appears another would be suitor, considerably younger, had considered himself as good as married to her and on hearing the news was so bitterly disappointed that he hastily launched libel litigation against the Sunday Times. The publication of events caused Lady Markham considerable embarrassment. James Conway Davies was a Cambridge educated intellectual and Secretary of the Government Hospitality Fund. He was introduced to Lady Markham in 1921 because of her desire to become involved as hostess to the foreign missions. Lady Markham had also become a student in economics and found she had a great deal in common with Davies despite the age gap. Davies claimed they began a romance in July and by October were engaged, although she wished there not to be a formal anouncement for fear of upsetting her children. Unfortunately, Lady Markham told a few close friends of the engagement and the News of the World printed the story in January 1922. Mr Davies accompanied Lady Markham on her hostess duties and at a Downing Street luncheon met the Chairman of the Sunday Times who congratulated them both while pressing them for first knowledge of the wedding date. The couple then separated for six weeks as Lady Markham was travelling through Europe to Switzerland to visit her daughter, however while in Paris she became ill. It was not until March 11th that Davies spoke with Lady Markham who broke off the relationship due to objections from her children. Finally, on the 16th October, Lucy informed him that she was marrying Lt-Col O'Hea, arranged for the next day. Mr Davies' libel case was issued against the Sunday Times for printing the following news item.
The marriage of Lucy Lady Markham to lt-Colonel James O'Hea at St James's Catholic Church, Spanish Place, last Thursday, provides the most complete, if somewhat belated, denial of the rumour so dilligently circulated at the beginning of the year that Lady Markham had become engaged to Mr J. Conway Davies, ex secretary of the Government Hospitality Fund. This report was never contradicted because, as an intinate friend of Lady Markham remarked, "There was nothing to deny, the engagement was never officially announced". Lady Markham was abroad when the report was first circulated and was unaware of the future planned for her while Mr Davies, who ought to have known, refused either to confirm or to deny the report".
The Sunday Times apologised to Mr Davies while the Judge criticised Mr Davies for the embarrassment caused to Lady Markham.
On the 24th July, 1925, at St James, Spanish Place, London, another marriage took place. This time it was Lucy's daughter, Joyous, who married Count Edward Raczynski a Polish aristocrat, lawyer and diplomat, whom, in London in 1979 aged 88, became the Polish President in exile. His career in the diplomatic service began in 1919 at the Polish embassy in Switzerland and later worked at the Polish embassy in London. After the marriage in 1925, he was transferred to Warsaw. Joyous became dangerously ill the following year with a severe infection that necessitated the removal of a kidney. A poignant letter written by Lucy to her nephew, Douglas, in South Africa during Joyous's illness in 1926, describes her heartbreak at this time. She also describes her concerns over the future of the coal industry. In 1926, the Trades Union Congress decided to stretch its militant muscles for the first time over wages, job cuts and working conditions in the coal mining industry. The General Strike in May of that year brought the country to a standstill, bringing talk of nationalisation and subsidies, both of which did not bode well for shareholders. The main gist of Lady Markham's letter was the disposal of a farm she had purchased in South Africa. I have translated Lucy's handwriting and attached it on the next page. A copy of the original letter was kindly supplied to me by Sheréll Cunningham, Lucy's great-neice, and can be found on the link 'letter' above.
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