RECORDS OF THE VIZARD FAMILY OF DURSLEY, GLOUCESTERSHIRE
Frances Ann Roper, née Hubbard, 1975
The Vizards are a very old county family who have lived for many years at Dursley Gloucestershire. The Almshouses in Dursley were built by the family during the Victorian period, and one wall of the Church is covered with their Memorials. The earliest date I can recall is during the 15th century, but they must go back much further, as there is a story that they were descended from John of Gaunt (1340 -1399), son of Edward III.
A quiet, law-abiding family
The Vizards were a quiet, law-abiding family, and few of them made any name for themselves. The only one whose did so was another William who defended Queen Caroline of Brunswick during the court case brought against her by her husband, George IV. For many years I had a contemporary portrait of him, but this was lost, together with almost all our family possessions by enemy action during the 1939 - 45 war.
About the turn of the last century  there were three brothers, John, Edward and, I believe, William.
The eldest, John, lived at Ferney Hill a large family mansion near Dursley.
There is a little petrifying spring in the grounds of Ferney Hill and I have seen it gushing out of the hillside into a small stone basin. A bird’s nest, containing eggs, had been placed in the water, and was thickly encrusted with limestone and completely petrified.
Great-Uncle John had ten children, nine daughters and one son, Herbert, who came about the middle of’ the family. As further daughters came along they were numbered off, and the three youngest were Bertha Septima, Norah Octavia and Ada Nona.
I vaguely remember seeing them, as very old ladies when I was a small child and was taken to Ferney Hill by my Mother. Great-Uncle John had the family characteristic of extreme shyness, and became virtually a recluse in his later years. He so disliked visitors that he had a long corridor built from the front door extending a long way down the drive, in which he had a series of concealed mirrors, by means of which he could see any would be caller, and give the footman instructions as to whether he was “at home” or “out”, depending upon whether he wanted to see the visitor or not. Besides the characteristic of intense shyness the family has the characteristic of an oblong face with forehead and lower jaw of almost the same width, thus giving rise to the traditional “Lanten jawed Vizards”. The family nose is long and straight with a slightly flattened tip, and the forefingers are unusually long, being nearly as long as the middle finger. I have inherited the Lantern jaws the nose and the long forefinger, though (thankfully) not the shyness.
In later life the old gentleman became paralysed in one leg, but insisted on going to Church every Sunday in the family church. He had a rope tied round his lame leg, and the verger had to walk backwards down the Church to the Vizard pew - a large box pew at the front - lifting the lame leg at each step. John Vizard allowed himself to sit during most of the Service, but insisted on standing up for the Creed. In order to assist himself he had a rope attached to the front of’ the pew, by means of which he hauled himself to his feet and managed to stand for the Creed.
[In Victorian Hangover the above anecdote is attributed to Great Uncle Henry.]
The youngest of the three brothers lived ( I think) at Ancre Hill, a large mansion near Monmouth. I know hardly anything of his family though I understand he had about ten children. On a visit to Monmouth of recent years I saw the name Vizard on a Solicitor’s plate, and should like to have called in to see if we could establish relationship but time forbad.
Mother’s Father, Edward
Edward, the middle brother, was my Mother’s Father. He married Ann Foley of the family of Lord Foley of Great Witley Court, Worcestershire. He proposed to her at St. Anne’s Well on the Malvern Hills, which, at that time was probably a secluded and charming retreat.
They were probably married in 1836 or thereabouts. I calculate it as follows: My Mother was born in 1859, the youngest by five years of the rest of the family. The eldest child was Anne Elizabeth, who was 22 years older than Mother. This means that she must have been born in 1837 so the parents must have been married about a year earlier. Taking it that my Grandmother was about twenty or so when they married, that means that she must have been born during the first decade of the 19th century. She died about 1902 and I have a very vague recollection of her as a very old lady in a shawl and white frilled cap, sitting in a large old Victorian armchair. It is most unusual that so long a span of time should be covered by two generations, and can be explained by the fact that my Mother was born very late in her Mother’s life, and I also was born very late in my Mother’s life, but I think the situation must be almost unique.
My Aunts and Uncles
The children of Edward Vizard and Ann Foley are as follows:
The curious and unusual name of Trewren occurs occasionally among the Vizard men. I have never come across it elsewhere. It is on record that a Vizard married a Phelps during the first half of last century. The Phelps of Madeira were cousins of my Father on his Mother’s side, but they did not discover this till many years after they were married.
Anne Elizabeth, Hemel Hempstead
Anne Elizabeth (Aunt Elizabeth) was a nurse, and eventually became Matron of the Kings College Hospital Convalescent Home at Hemel Hempstead, Herts. My Mother, also a trained nurse, became her Assistant Matron. As they were both trained nurses the home took in patients at a far earlier stage of convalescence than most similar establishments, and my Father, Arthur John Hubbard, M.D. was the visiting consultant. He was at that time, junior partner in a firm of doctors in the town. It was there that my parents met and became engaged and subsequently married. My mother's father died quite shortly before the date set for the wedding, and it was his last wish that the wedding should not be postponed owing to his death. At that time the period of mourning was very long and strictly observed. My mother was married in grey, not white, on account of being in half mourning. I have seen her wedding dress of a very pretty grey silk with a small bonnet, in the fashion of the late Victorian period.
In 1956 I took a post as Locum Pharmacist for four weeks at the new West Herts Hospital , and immediately recognised the old Convalescent Home, now incorporated in the modern buildings, from photographs which I had seen at home. I also found the half demolished house which had been my patent’s first home, and recognised it by the name. “Durrance” cut into the capstone of one of the pillars of the drive. On my next visit the house had entirely disappeared, due to widening and modernization of the High Street, but the capstone with the name on it was lying in the mud of the torn-up drive. Both my elder brothers had been born in that house.
Uncle Andrew entered the Navy and eventually became Harbourmaster at various Naval Bases, among them Kingston, Jamaica, Hamilton Bermuda, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Whilst in Jamaica he met Nina Hinckson, the pretty and spoilt daughter of a very wealthy family of sugar planters. She made a bet with a girl friend that she would marry the next British Naval Officer who proposed to her, though she was only about 16 at the time. Uncle Andrew was that unfortunate man. She must have been completely helpless and inefficient in the running of a house, though of course she was accustomed to scores of negro servants, many of whom had been slaves in earlier days. Aunt Wese had to go out to run the house and help bring up the children, and was with them for many years. There were several children of whom five survived.
Arthur, the eldest was within a year or two the same age as Mother. He became Surgeon Commander R.N. married and had two daughters.
The second son, Leonard was also a Naval Officer, and died unmarried.
The third son, Harry, was a highly skilled constructional engineer, and had a very good post in South African mines, but unfortunately he was epileptic, and had on that account to give up his work while still a comparatively young man. He was extremely nice, and came to stay with us at Little Dean and we children liked him immensely. Harry died unmarried.
The next child was a daughter, Maud, she was not very pretty but very sensible and competent, and took over the housekeeping when old enough. She died unmarried.
The youngest, Winnie, was extremely pretty and high-spirited, but
unfortunately she also was epileptic, the epilepsy had obviously bee introduced
into the family by Aunt Nina. She used to stay with us a lot, particularly while
we were on holiday at Pevensey, on the Sussex coast, and were all very fond of
her. She died, unmarried, while in her twenties.
Aunt Bella went out to South Africa, as, I believe, a nurse. While there she married Colonel Hook (I never knew his Christian name) who treated her very badly on account of her hereditary deafness. He was a cousin of the Colonel Paget of the contingent of Paget’s Horse, which was very famous during the Boer War. She had two daughters, Dulcie and Olga, and had brought them to England for their education at a very good girls’ school in Ealing. Olga, who must have been 12 or 13 at the time, taught me to read at an incredibly early age, somewhere about 18 months to 2 years old. I have very clear memories of my very early days, and can never remember the time when I could not read. They finished their education and returned to S. Africa when I must have, been about five, and I was taken to see them off in the Tintagel Castle. The atmosphere and smell of the ship was the beginning of my great love of ships which has remained with me all my life.
As an example of my early memories I will here mention a mental picture which I have had all my life, but which I could not explain till long after I was grown up. The picture is of being very low down, and surrounded by a forest of long black legs which were topped by masculine faces, many of them bearded, which seemed to brush the ceiling. It was only after many years that I realised that this must have taken place at my Grandmother’s funeral. Mother told me that I was left in the nursery under care of the nurse, during the funeral, but that I completely disappeared as soon as the family had returned from the Church. I was eventually found in the smoking room where all the men of the family had retired for a quiet smoke, standing on the hearth rug making my small self agreeable to all the gentlemen. My picture of the forest of long black legs must have been those of my many uncles, though I was no more than two at the time.
My grandfather, Edward Vizard, always wanted to be a doctor and commenced his training but had to give it up owing to ill health. He then practised dentistry for a time and it wad during this period when he was practising in Scarborough, Yorkshire, that my Mother was born. He had to relinquish this also due to ill health and then bought a property at Sissinghurst, Kent, as he had been told he needed an outdoor life. Here he ran a very successful fruit farm and orchards, and Sissinghurst was always my Mother’s best loved home Their near neighbours were the Horsleys, Mr. Horsley being a very famous Victorian artist. Mother’s contemporary and best friend was one of the sons, Victor, who later became Sir Victor Horsley a world famous surgeon.
It must be remembered that at the time my Grand father commenced his hospital training there were no antiseptics, no anaesthetics and no penicillin or other antibiotics. Surgery was of the crudest, amputations were about the only possible operations, and were conducted with the patient fully conscious, and having to be held down by main force by a number of assistants. There was no knowledge of antiseptic technique, and Florence Nightingale had not yet come on the scenes with her wonderful work of instituting cleanliness in hospitals. They could have been hardly better than the Mediaeval “Pest houses”. My grandfather must have been very comfortably off as he had his many sons trained in various professions, and all the older daughters, down to and including Aunt Jessie, were sent to school in Germany, which was the “done thing” among gentlefolk at the time. It must be remembered that there were no Government Grants to help with education, everything depended upon the father’s own income. Mother, being so much the youngest, was not sent to school in Germany but went to a boarding school in London.
Philip, the next son, was the intellectual of the family, and was in the Legal Profession and quite well-off. He had a large house in Hampstead, which was the centre of the intelligentsia of the period. His wife was the aunt of the world-famous archaeologist, Sir Mortimer Wheeler. They belonged to numerous intellectual and scientific societies, and saw very little of the group of relatives at Ealing. I only remember seeing him once when I was quite small.
John was the most handsome and popular of the family. He also began training as a doctor, but contracted “Brain fever” (probably meningitis) and died unmarried in his early twenties.
Maria Louisa (Aunt Wese)
Maria Louisa (Aunt Wese) came exactly in the middle of the family as regards age, being eleven years younger than Aunt Elizabeth and eleven years older than Mother. She acted as Mother's governess till the latter went to school at about 13, and taught her from the same books from which she had been taught in her childhood. Mother also taught me from these same books, which were in the form of question and answer, the answers having to be learned by heart.
These books are now collectors’ specimens, and are in the Worthing Museum among the archives.
Aunt Wese was everyone’s friend, ready at a moment’s notice to step into the breach in the case of any crisis in any branch of her widespread family. She always came to stay with us at Little Dean for several weeks every summer for many years, and was the most perfect companion that a small child could desire. She could tell all the old English fairy stories, Cinderella Goldilocks and the three Bears etc. etc. and also had the delightful gift of spinning exciting stories straight out of her head. She also knew all the old Victorian talking games, “How, When and Where etc. and was a mine of early Victorian quotations and tags. Mother also had this delightful gift of spinning stories straight out of her head, and I have inherited the same gift, to my great joy. Aunt Wese's stories were always exciting and inspiring to the childish imagination, very different from the prosaic and pedestrian stories which I have heard told to small children on “Listen with Mother". Aunt Wese never forgot any birthday among her many nephews and nieces, and always sent Christmas presents to everyone. She was a second Mother to all her younger relatives, and we adored her. She never married.
Sophie was the prettiest and most lively and attractive of all the sisters. She and Aunt Jessie were very near in age and both trained as nurses. In the early ‘80s of last century the South African diamond mines were being developed, and many young Englishmen went out as managers and in other administrative capacities. Sickness among them became so rife that an appeal was sent out for English nurses to come and help to look after them, and Aunt Sophie and Aunt Jessie went out together. Probably Aunt Bella also went. The conditions were so bad and the work so heavy that Aunt Sophie became ill from overwork and died at Kimberley.
Jessie was my Mother’s favourite sister despite the eight years difference in their age. She was most charming, merry and high spirited, utterly unselfish and loveable. She married William Carter who was Manager of one of the Kimberley diamond mines and had been a patient of hers. He was by no means of as aristocratic birth as Aunt Jessie, and was painfully aware of it. When I was a small child they had a very large house just outside Sutton, Surrey, in the best part of the town, with billiard room, fields and orchards and a very large garden as Uncle William was a very keen gardener. He liked to grow exotic plants and vegetables and was apt to make such remarks as “Such and such should always be in a gentleman’s garden” They always had wine on the dinner table and he was apt to remark that such and such a rare wine “should always be on a gentleman’s Dining table”. There was always a complete air of hush-hush about his occupation, we were only told that he was “something in the City”. It was not till many years later, long after I was grown up, that I learned that his business was concerned with ladies wholesale textiles and clothing, which was considered extremely infra dig at the time. I spent many happy times with the Carters at Sutton, both in their first house as a child, and later when they moved to a still larger house in the same area of Sutton.
When Aunt Jessie’s first child was on the way, at Kimberley , they sent for
Mother, who had just finished her nursing training, to come and be with her.
This was in the early 1880s, and there was no railway built between Kimberley
and Cape Town. The baby became very ill as the climate of Kimberley was quite
unsuitable for babies at that time, so Aunt Jessie and Mother were sent down to
Cape town, doing the whole of that endless journey by bullock wagon. Uncle
William could not get away from his work to accompany them and they were sent in
the charge of a reliable half-breed of the name of Klaas. Mother learnt quite a
lot of the Taal language (now known as Afrikaans), so much so that many
words stuck in her vocabulary. I still have to stop and think before referring
to field glasses as “Vaerkekers” or to a signpost as a “Wegweiser”. In spite of
the fact that Uncle William entirely ignored his own relations, Aunt Jessie,
with her aristocratic background, had no such inhibitions. She could never have
them to stay, but kept in touch by correspondence.
Aunt Jessie had five children.
Miles, the baby for whose arrival Mother went out to Kimberley, died, either during the terrible journey by ox-wagon down to Cape Town, or shortly after, in infancy.
The next was Bernard. He entered the Navy for a time but left to go into his father’s business. During the Second World war he held a very nigh position in the Air Force. He was about 16 years or so older than I, but was always extremely kind to me; as a small child he allowed me to play in the very well-equipped carpenter’s shed where he was an enthusiastic amateur carpenter, and later on an excellent amateur mechanic and always had cars, with which he would tinker for hours, while allowing me to watch as I grew older. I was always very fond of him. He died unmarried with in the past six or seven years.
Jerome (Joe) the second son entered the Navy and became Paymaster Commander. He
was very tall and thin and seldom at home, but was
Patience (Pats), the only daughter, was about twelve years older than I, but very kind to me when I stayed them as a small child and as I grew older we became close friends. She was extremely pretty, so much so that she was known as “Pretty Patty". Uncle William had her trained in music, though whether she had any real love of it, or whether he considered it the “Lady Like” thing to do, I don’t know. She was intensely shy, and had an almost pathological horror of men, apart from her own brothers. She died unmarried within the last few years.
Robert, the youngest, became a Naval Officer. He married and later emigrated to New Zealand, where I believe he is still alive though well over 80. He had, I believe, two or three daughters.
William George was the youngest son, and the nearest in age to Mother, being five years older. (Both my parents had a brother named George so I had two Uncle Georges, one Hubbard and one Vizard). He was a solicitor and the ideal bachelor uncle. He often used to come and see us at Ealing, and was always extremely kind to us children, playing games and romping all over the floor with us. We were very fond of him. In late middle age he was trapped by some designing female who, in the phraseology of the period, accused him of “trifling with her affections”- the very last thing he would be capable of doing. Though I could not have been more then 5 or 6 at the time, I well remember the utter dismay and distress of all the family when he felt it was the only honourable thing to do to marry her. Naturally I was not told any details, but children pick up a great deal from overhearing their elders talk . Uncle George was bitterly unhappy and died shortly afterwards. No children.
Charlotte Marian, my Mother, was born on the 28th of October 1859. My grandfather had always treated all his older children with the true Victorian severity, but he relaxed his methods very much with my Mother who was his youngest and favourite and she was always devoted to her father. My Mother was a very strange character. I believe she was by nature hot tempered and intensely emotional, but she had such a stern sense of duty to God the Church and the Bible, that she repressed all her natural impulses with a will of iron. She was small and quiet though with a good sense of humour, but she had a much stronger character than my father or brothers, and ruled with family with an iron hand though always in a velvet glove. She died 30th March 1940.
My parents were married in 1888. Mother was Asst. Matron at the Hemel Hempstead Convalescent Home where her eldest sister was Matron and my Father, Arthur John Hubbard. M.D. was the visiting consultant. They became engaged on Tuesday, 10th Jan. 1888, and Married on Tuesday 10th July 1888. Mother has told me that during the whole period of their married life, those two dates have never again coincided on Tuesdays. My Father was born on the 7th Nov. 1856 and died on 3rd. Feb. 1935. While he was proposing to Mother in the Dispensary at the Hospital he was exceedingly nervous and was fidgeting all the time with one of the drug jars. Later on Mother annexed this jar, and it is still in my possession, holding a collection of precious and semi-precious stones which she brought back with her from South Africa, from the Vaal River.
My parents' children
Their first child was a daughter, born 27th April 1889. She was to have been called Mary Waddington, but the birth was so difficult and protracted that she was stillborn. Mother contracted the dreaded puerperal fever, and her life hung in the balance for months. Despite Father’s best efforts, and it must be remembered that by this time anaesthetics and antiseptics were in common use, though penicillin and the antibiotics were still unknown, she was desperately ill for a very long time, and it was feared that she would never be able to have any more children.
However my eldest brother, the Rev. John Waddington Hubbard was born on 15th Jan. 1896, amid much rejoicing. He (Jack) was a gentle amenable boy, extremely brainy and intellectual, and he and I were always, and have always remained, the greatest of friends.
My second brother, the Rev. George Edward Hubbard was born the 31st July 1897. George was not put too fine a point on it a perfect little devil, disobedient and utterly perverse, and how Mother ever coped with him I cannot imagine.
The only daughter (myself) Frances Ann Hubbard, was born on the 6th of Dec. 1899.
My youngest brother, Arthur Benoni Hubbard, was born on the 20th Jan.1901. Ben was a Mongol, but a very “High-grade” one. I spent a great deal of my childhood in looking after him and eventually taught him to read and write. hen I eventually went to boarding school at the age of 13, Mother could no longer cope with him, and they flatly refused to send him into an Institution. He was sent to live with the widow of a clergyman, and Mother would only have him home during my school holidays, so that I could look after him. He died at the age of 44.
During the time we lived at Ealing we saw very little of Father. He had built up a very prosperous practice in the West End and was away all day, only getting home after we were all in bed. We only saw him for couple of hours on Sunday afternoons. He retired in 1910 when we left Ealing and went to Little Dean, Gloucestershire, and he and I became devoted to each other. I had much more of the mentality and temperament of his family than of my Mother’s, though I was so like her in face.
On August 22nd 1933 I married Arthur Cecil Roper (“Doc”). He was the brother
of a college friend of mine, and when she first introduced us in 1920 our
dislike of each other was instant, mutual and intense. Many years later I
learned that he had told her not to bring "That tow - headed chatterer” (me)
near him” and to myself I always though of him as “that great, rough bear”. We
lost sight of each other for the next nine or ten years, but when we eventually
met once more, it was another three years before we realised that we were right
for each other and have now been blessed with 42 years of superbly happy life.
We have no children.
All the Vizard sisters had the most glorious heads of hair. As a child my Mother’s hair was so thick that she often had chinks cut out of it, as it was believed at the time that too much hair “took your strength”. Aunt Wese in particular had the most wonderful hair, golden in colour and very curly. Of course they all had to wear their hair in the Victorian fashion, with centre parting and pinned up into a tremendous bun of plaits at the back, the two sides being brushed flat. Aunt Wese was in constant trouble with her Father about her hair. He considered curls frivolous and “worldly”, and was constantly sending her up to her room to brush her hair down flat. She would dampen the brush and do her utmost to flatten it, but of course directly it dried it curled as much as ever, and she was in trouble all over again. The Vizard hair has the curious property of never going grey. Even in her old age Aunt Wese’s hair never went a true grey and still showed traces of its early gold. Mother’s hair was much darker than mine, but even at her death at the age of 80 it hardly had more than a sprinkling of grey. My own hair gets its very fair colouring from my Father’s family (Hubbards) but in thickness and fineness of texture it comes from my Mother’s family.
Although at the time of writing this, I am 75 years of age, my hair is almost exactly the same colour as it has been ever since my childhood. As a child it was extremely beautiful, being very long and curly and a clear gold. I believe Mother was very proud of it but was so afraid that I should become vain of it that she never gave me the slightest hint about it, except that she would never have it cut or plaited. I crew up hating my hair, which was always getting terribly tangled and was a perfect pest to keep properly brushed, While I was at school during the 1914 1918 war, “bobbed” hair was coming in and all my contemporaries were having theirs off. Over and over again I begged Mother to let me have mine off, but was invariably met with a stonewall refusal, with no explanation. The natural result was that, as soon as I became 21 and thus attained my majority, the first thing I did was to go and have my hair off. I shall never forget the feeling of lightness and relief on being able to get rid of all the pins and combs which I had had to use to keep it “up”. I was studying pharmacy in London at the time, and when I wrote and told Mother what I had done, she refused to have me at home for my holidays for a long time. If she had told me that she took so much pride in the beauty of my hair I should not have become vain - it was too much of a nuisance for that, but I should have been more ready to fall in with her wishes. Mother’s hair was much darker than mine though she had the same blue eyes and very fair, close-grained skin that I have inherited from her, and to the day of her death she was almost unwrinkled, though of course she had the usual nose to mouth laughter lines.
Mother was extremely musical and an excellent pianist, though she had never
been professionally trained. She started to teach the piano while I was still so
small that the piano stool had to be turned to its highest limit, and a very
thick book placed on top, in order that my tiny hands could be in the right
position. I had to do five finger exercises with a penny on the back of my hand,
and it must be remembered that these were the real old, large pennies, not the
miserable little metric "pence" in use today. Her teaching was so good that when
I went to a large boarding school at the age of 13, I was the only one in the
Junior house to be put with the Senior Music mistress. However she was very
quick tempered and taught in a very florid style, and she frightened me so much
that on my first holidays Mother found that my playing had deteriorated so badly
that she acceded to my request to be put with the Junior Music mistress, who was
young and pretty and gentle, and very kind to me. Under her tuition my playing
rapidly recovered, and she also gave me lessons on the School Chapel Organ, at
which she was the Organist. As a child I well remember the thrill when my
fingers at last became long enough to compass an octave, though they eventually
lengthened to such an extent that one note over the octave was my natural span,
and I could hold down two notes over.
Frances Ann Roper, née Hubbard, 1975