Dinner for Lady Rhondda, 23rd March 1933
Can you help me find the missing pieces?
The five mystery guests +6
The clinching evidence for those partially identified
The missing photos
- Relationships, networks and tags
The absent portrait
My puzzling all began with finding a two page Guest List for a dinner held on 23rd March 1933 at which friends and colleagues assembled to present a portrait by artist Alice Mary Burton to Lady Rhondda – suffragette, businesswoman and publisher. The Guest List was buried amongst the box of papers which has come down to me from my grandfather, the Rev. J.T. Rhys, onetime Private Secretary to Mrs Lloyd George at No. 10. Downing Street. The papers had been largely untouched in a box for eighty years. He was one of the 28 gentlemen at the dinner, alongside almost 100 women, amongst them many of the pioneering women of the early 20th century. As one of the Press attending commented “I found it difficult to make a mental note of who was not there”. A handful were familiar names to me, such as Vera Brittain, Harold Macmillan, Eleanor Farjeon, Rebecca West, Winifred Holtby, and Jonathan Cape, and soon I was able to work out the identity of all but a handful. On this website you will find pen portraits of the attendees – where I have also tried to imagine the topics of conversation around the tables – and a number of puzzles, including:
Five Mystery Guests + 6
Who was Mrs Gertrude Roberts? Miss Marian Hodson? Mr W.B. Valentine? Miss Phyllis Crossley? Mr Frank Marshall? And was he related to Miss Florence Marshall? These are all proving to be hard to identify.
And there are six people listed simply as being a Guest of a named person (that person we think the convenor/host of the table and simply having one place unfilled place to make up the even numbers). It is possible the seat was left unfilled. It will probably require a diary to emerge where someone mentions the dinner and specific people. But we can still wonder who were the two Guests of Miss Winifred Holtby on Table 6, where her mother Mrs Holtby was seated with Edith de Coundouroff, and who was the Guest of innkeeper John Fothergill on Table 12, the Guest of Welsh industrialist Tom Callaghan on Table 15, the Guest of Miss Auld on Table 22, and the Guest of Mrs Crosfield on Table 23.
Finally there was a table for the Press, Table 8, but only Kate Isitt of The Manchester Guardian is named. Who might have joined her?
Eleven Requiring Clinching Evidence
There are 11 guests who I have identified with varying degrees of certainty but need clinching evidence. Is Mrs Elizabeth Lucas the writer, who ran an orphanage in France during WW1 and wife of Edward Verrall Lucas? Or was she Elizabeth Lucas the cookery writer? Or are they one and the same person? Or even another Mrs Elizabeth Lucas? Is Miss Auld the suffrage organiser and speaker, Mabel Dorothy Auld? Is Thomas Cole the Conservative Neath businessman? Is Miss Campbell the distinguished medical officer Dame Janet Campbell? Is Mrs E.G. Evans the widow of the well-known Welsh musician Harry Evans? Is Mrs H.M. Ewart the single mother running the family drapery in South London? Is Miss Lanktree the daughter of an Irish policemen? Is Miss Florence E. Marshall the future head of a London girls’ school? Is Mrs George Watts the widow of the Victorian painter George Frederic Watts? Which Mrs Crosfield of the famous Quaker family was in attendance (I have three candidates) if indeed she was from that family at all? Many of the guests are well documented, with learned biographies and featuring in the press of the time. But for some the picture is incomplete and scattered around the pen portraits you will find several puzzles that would help fill in our appreciation of these remarkable people, whether about their early lives, their later careers, their relationships with each other and fun anecdotes.
We have found photographs for three quarters of the guests (including a full house for Table A) but still missing are pictures of Dr Anna Broman (Table 1), Mrs H.M Ewart (T2), of two of the Gledstone/Mason family (T3), of actress Laura Wallis Mills (T5), of Mrs Dillon (T7), of Nora Heald, (T9 – though we have a great drawing), of Miss Evelyn Whyte (T10), of Dr Eva Handley-Read (T14 – though perhaps we have the right one?), of the Misses Blunt, and Gross (T16), of Gwen Harrison, (T17), of Frances Slimon (T18), of three from Table 19 (Mrs Mortimer, Clara Smith and Margaret West), of Mrs Alfred King and her daughter Ida, Mrs Whitworth (T20), of Miss Auld (T22), and of Mrs Crosfield and Mrs E.G. Evans on Table 23. And of course I will be on the hunt for photos of the mystery guests once they have been identified.
Relationships, Networks and Tags
What other interesting relationships lie hidden in this remarkable network of remarkable people? Each table seems to have its main host/organiser, with the guests often having a common interest. In the tags we have noted those who were, for example, well-connected with Winifred Holtby. There are undoubtedly other such networks – education, work, personal relationships, causes they espoused. We’d love to know more of how all these people fit together to help enrich the puzzle. There are for example at least eleven guests who were at some point members of PEN, the writers’ association (which indeed hosted events at The Rembrandt during WW2). And do suggest additional tags which might apply to people: I have been careful, for example, not to overuse the tag feminist, and to use with care suffragist and suffragette. All advice welcome.
And Where Is the Portrait Now?
And almost finally: do you know where the portrait is? A photograph survives with Lady Rhondda standing beside it at the dinner, but unlike the almost identical copy, now hanging in St Fagans National Museum of History at Cardiff, part of the National Museum Wales, the portrait seems to have vanished. Artist Alice Burton was known to have made more than one version of some of her works. It would be wonderful to rediscover it!
And Are You a Relation Too?
And finally, perhaps like me you are related to someone who was at the dinner, or know someone who was. A number of people have been in touch telling me their relative was at this dinner with my grandfather, which is fun. Do let me know. There are response boxes at the end of all the bios, or write your ideas in the box below. Your name and contact details will not be shared without your specific permission. I would be very happy to give full credit for information that helps fill in the Dinner Puzzle! And what table would you have liked to have joined on 23rd March 1933?
And finally, finally, if you can do support the monumentalwelshwomen project which is aiming to erect, over the next five years, five statues to five Welsh women who have made a great contribution, including Lady Rhondda. See Angela V. John’s essay for more information.
STOP PRESS: TIME AND TIDE CENTENARY
14th May was the centenary of the founding of Lady Rhondda’s Time and Tide. To celebrate, Angela V. John has written a new piece on this great anniversary on page 94 of the journal The Welsh Agenda.… enjoy!
 From James Wedgwood Drawbell, A Gallery of Women, Contemporary Portraits No.7. Viscountess Rhondda, Britannia and Eve, 1.11.1933 p61, image ©Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans