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The Bowlby Family

Lady Maria Bowlby

Lady Maria Bowlby widow of Major-General Anthony Bowlby opens in a new window owned Combe House during the war and died in the Village.

In May 2014 a Yorkshire man Tom Brown and his wife called at Combe House when we were not there and told our tenants living in the Cottage that his Grandmother Lady Maria Bowlby widow of Major-General Anthony Bowlby opens in a new window had owned the house.He sent us an interesting email and photos (below) about the Bowlby family.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

TOM BROWN’S EMAIL from 2014

She never owned a car, but the groom would drive her around with a horse and trap, including to Stinchcombe church every Sunday. I recall her as a very erect and proper old lady, in whom I rather in awe. She was very deaf, but otherwise in good health for many years. 
I recall her 90th birthday which would have been in March 1957, and she died not very long afterwards; I remember her funeral in Stinchcombe church.

(She is not buried in Stinchcombe Churchyard but likely to be with her husband in the family cemetery at Brookwood Woking)

Last week was the first time I have really been back and I was most grateful to your tenants for letting us into the yard. From the outside the house itself seems to have changed very little. The biggest difference is from the traffic which was minimal then and of course the M5 had not been built, so the big hedge now on the side of the road was  not there and the door on that side of the house was used quite a lot. The outbuildings of course have changed much more, and I recall the garden as much bigger – characterised then by little knee high hedges bordering all the paths. 
I’m afraid I only have 2 photos of the house and garden and I attach a scan. They show my grandmother with my elder brother and sister, and I guess were taken around 1940.”

CH-Bowlby photos
Tom Brown’s Bowlby photos with Lady Bowlby, Tom Brown, his sister and elder brother

A Strange Coincidence or Fate?

Recently, my brother Mike, having read this article, mentioned:

“Sophie Bowlby who was my contemporary – a lecturer in Geography at Reading back in the day had a mum called lady Bowlby somewhere in Gloucestershire. Sophie of course went to Cambridge and then to Northwestern to do her PhD and then came to Reading the same year I was appointed a lecturer – 1972 – after being a research assistant. Sophie used to use the external mail to send letters to her mum addressed to Lady Bowlby somewhere in Gloucestershire. Sophie is alive and well”

It turned out that Lady Bowlby was Sophie’s grandmother as further a further email revealed.

“Dear Mike – Happy New Year to you! It was unexpected, but very nice to hear from you and even more unexpected to find out about your brother living in Coombe House and to see the photos.  The house hasn’t changed much externally. They brought back many very happy memories I very much enjoyed reading your brother’s account of the house and thought I would send a few more reminiscences which may be of interest.

Lady Maria Bowlby was my grandmother and I spent many summer and Christmas holiday there as well as many weekends with my parents. The Yorkshireman whose email is shown in your brother’s discussion of the history of the house is my cousin Tom.  I remember the house and garden very well as a happy and welcoming place. I may also confess that during a period of enthusiasm for fossils I hacked out several from the walls of the house!

When I stayed there you could hop over the fence between the ‘yard’ and the farm yard by a stile which meant for me, that when some cousins were staying,  we could go and play in the hay barn and see the milk being processed. I was rather nervous of the geese so didn’t venture into the farmyard without company.

Lady Maria Bowlby
Lady Maria Bowlby in her Pony Trap

I also remember going out with my grandmother with the pony Tommy in the trap to shop in Dursley or to follow the hounds. Tommy lived in the stables at Coombe House and earlier my sister had a pony called Freckles who lived there also. The horses were looked after by Mr Feltham who also acted as gardener and odd job man and lived in a cottage over the road. I have a photo of my sister on Freckles outside the house which I will copy and send to you for your brother.  Apparently my grandmother did have a car before she moved to Coombe House but it suffered an accident and thereafter she used the pony and trap.  I also remember the Stinchcombe Silver Band  – I think they practiced in a hut up the road but they certainly came and played carols outside the house at Christmas time. 

Berkeley Hunt 1957
Berkeley Hunt at Combe House – March 1957
Lady Maria Bowlby
Lady Maria Bowlby outside Combe House

The garden was for me a big playground with a swing on an apple tree on the lawn and a big (it seemed big!) kitchen garden in the part sloping down towards the road beyond the house. There were many gooseberry and redcurrant bushes, raspberry canes, peas and beans from which to steal a few edibles. You could climb over a stile into the field adjacent to the garden in which young heifers and bullocks were often kept.

My grandmother was a keen walker even into her later 80s and we often climbed the hill by the track through the woods which started a little way along the road – in the autumn to collect blackberries or often just to see the view and walk around the golf course.

I also remember the inside of the house very well – tho I don’t remember the lino in the hall – I think it was flags in the kitchen, so maybe it was the new owners who put them down. I am sure it is very different now. I think my sister and my cousin (Tom’s sister) visited the house – maybe 15 or 20 years ago – and were shown round and told me how nice it was inside. My grandmother died sometime after her 90th birthday but I have a photo which I will unearth and send showing the Berkeley Hunt having a meet at Coombe House on her 90th birthday which may be of interest.

The Edith M Friend listed as living there in 1958 was one of the servants my cousin Tom mentions as having lived with my grandmother. She had been nanny to all 6 of my grandmother’s children and stayed with her after they grew up until my grandmother’s death. She moved to a home in Bristol after my grandmother died and must have stayed on for a few weeks or months until she was able to move. She was a clever and rather sharp- tongued women.

Anyway – I hope this is of interest to your brother! I will send the photos when I can find them. Sophie”.

Freckles at Combe House
Freckles with Anthea & Sophie and Tony Combe House 1945/6

New Correspondence from Tom January 2021

For what it’s worth, my family’s connections with Glos go further than my Uncle Tony. Two of Lady Maria’s daughters, my aunts Winnie and Marion Bowlby, also lived there. They grew up in London, where they studied at the Royal Academy of Music, but later moved to Glos during WW2, to work as ‘land girls’ on local farms (it must have been quite a change). They never married, and after the war stayed on and had a house built for themselves just outside Wotton-under-Edge where they lived together for the rest of their lives. They taught the violin and cello at Cheltenham Ladies College, but their real passion in life was hunting with the Berkeley which they did several times each week in the winter. Marion eventually died in a riding accident. I have to admit that while I much enjoyed my visits to my Uncle Tony in Ozleworth, I used to dread visiting my aunts who never talked about anything but hunting!

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1 Comment

  • Wow! That is just a fantastic coincidence which has opened up another panorama on the village — “… hunting 2 or 3 times a week in winter…” — different world but only really a generation or so away!

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