Euphemia Isabella Skinner

Euphemia Isabella Skinner

b: 7 JUN 1847
d: 10 SEP 1939
Cultured, eccentric, energetic, sophisticated, beautiful, intelligent. From autobiographical notes by Edward Holroyd Pearce (Lord Pearce) 1989:

"My grandmother's family had been gentlefolk for many generations but not people of any social importance. He [my grandfather] had married at a young age a beautiful girl from a large family who had grown up with his own large family (an intimacy that produced three marriages between the various children). Her name was Miss Euphemia Isabella Skinner. The family got their name from the Skinner to King Ethelbert, who ran off with the King's daughter. The intrepid couple went to Normandy to escape the royal wrath and lived as humble Skinners at Falaise. The roving eye of Count Robert perceived the possibilities of their beautiful daughter and she became the mother of the Conqueror. When the Conqueror came to England in 1066, her brother, Sir Robert Skynnere, came too. My grandmother's pedigree always moved me to enthusiasm because it had many strange and exciting people in it. Canute and Hardicanute were in it on her mother's side. St. Louis of France was there through his daughter's marriage to an English peer; and there was the turbulent knight William de Tracey who murdered Thomas a Beckett. There too was the ill fated Chief Justice Montagu who was persuaded to write out Edward VI's will in favour of Lady Jane Grey and suffered for that indiscretion under Mary. And there were many other famous names to fire my imagination. Robert Bruce of course came into it because her grandfather, (a general who fought at Waterloo) when stationed as a handsome young officer in Edinburgh had won the heart of a Laird's daughter of the Macleans of Ardgour.

My grandmother, like her brothers and sisters, had physical beauty, vivid intelligence, enormous courage and a strong capacity for disregarding all known social rules. While her husband lived she had, mingled with her love, a Victorian awe of him that kept her more or less within the bounds of convention, but after his death she cast aside the shackles. She had a pleasant gift of composition and occasionally her verses or articles were printed in the Spectator. She was full to the brim with Shakespeare. At times in her old age her memory was erratic, and she would claim the authorship of things that had in fact been written by Shakespeare. But as she also sometimes attributed to Shakespeare poems that she had written herself, she kept the scales fairly even.

When she was ninety I confided to her some problem that was worrying me. Whereat she declaimed in a strong deep voice
'Nay, never falter. No great deeds are done
By falterers who ask for certainty.
No good is certain; but the steadfast mind,
The undivided will to seek the good,
'Tis these compel the elements, and wring
A human music from the indifferent air.
Say that we fail?
We nurse the bright traditions of our race
And leave our spirit in some other breast'.

I : (much impressed):
'That's jolly good. Who wrote it?'
She: 'Why, Miss Elliott, of course'
I (irreverently): 'What, our George?'
She (petulantly):
'No, no, of course not, I mean the Miss Elliott who was governess to the Montgomery Kassingbirds'

She then roved on to some other subject, and I never found out who the governess Miss Elliott was, whether she ever did write poetry, and whether in fact she ever existed. Just recently I discovered from John Betjeman at the club that the lines were written by George Eliot.

I feel sure that she was not pulling my leg since that definitely was not her kind of joke. This sort of thing made my grandmother's conversation very intriguing. As she lived to the age of 93 and saw (quite undismayed) the beginning of the world war, she was an important person in my life and she was always a source of mingled pride, affection and apprehension to her grandchildren. She took to her bed at the age of seventy and ran the house from there as her mother had done after sustaining a carriage accident in early middle age. She only rose to sally forth to tea with cronies of her youth or go the rounds of those who still held 'studio Sunday' before sending-in day at the Royal Academy, or to hold her 'at homes' on the first Sunday of the month for the dwindling ranks of her contemporaries."

"For some part of every holiday we used to stay with our grandparents in London. They lived in a handsome house and everything was much more stylish than at our home. Every morning my grandmother drove her horse 'Tommy' round London with us in the 'Tommy-cart'. When motor omnibuses started to beset the London streets she still continued her daily drives. She had been used to horses all her life and she cared nothing for the traffic. Generally she would have some friend with her and my sister and I would sit perched on the hard back-seat with our backs to the driver while 'Laddie' the spotted Dalmatian dog galloped along just below us. We would pay flying visits to her various friends round Kensington, South Kensinton, Putney or Barnes, or do domestic errands to shops or the like.
We saw the tarmac ribbon of the road unfurling just beneath our feet and stretching into the distance. We watched the many coloured buses as we trotted past them. We gazed at the passers-by and speculated on their lives and characters, all to the accompaniment of the merry clatter of the horse's hoofs. It was lovely to sit snug in a big rug in winter with the cold air on one's cheeks, or to feel the warm winds of summer and taste the hot smell of the tar. Sometimes my grandmother (who was then over 60) would take us to the public baths and swim about in the deep end, towing us to the side again and again as we continually slid down the water-shoot.

In 1914 when war came my grandmother was convinced that Tommy would be requisitioned for the front and maltreated. So she drove off in the Tommy-cart to Scotland. He and it were never seen again. What exactly happened is not known since she later gave various irreconcilable accounts of the matter.

When the Earl's Court exhibition was first held she promised for our birthday presents to take us on every side show. She kept the promise. I always regarded her as equal to anything; but I felt a pang of apprehension and regret when the wiggle-woggle, a dreadfully bumpy contrivance for self torture, caused her wide Edwardian hat to fly spinning from her head and her grey hair shook around her face.
She contrived to give a conspiratorial air about nothing in particular. My grandfather liked things to be done with decorum. She loved indecorum. If by chance the maid had brought one porridge plate too few and you were late for breakfast she would be delighted to put your porridge on a used plate just in time before you entered the door, saying to the others with a dramatic whisper in her deep voice 'n'en parlez pas', which infallibly reached your ears and made you aware that something was going on to your detriment. For some unknown reason she always used the French tongue for conspiracy. We were all reasonably good at French, and her whispered pronunciation, though fluent, was not sufficiently Gallic to make it at all hard to follow. So the use of the French tongue concealed nothing and revealed that dirty work was afoot. When we caught a murmur of 'prenez garde' as we came into the room, we set our wits on the stretch; and many eyed Argus had nothing on us for the next few hours, or at least until we had wormed the secret out of our more soft hearted and confiding mother.

Her possessions were tucked away in complete confusion in odd drawers. At Christmas she wasted the wildest lottery. Sometimes she would give most handsome and generous presents with casual largesse; sometimes with enormous patter and sales talk she would give one a much wrapped up thing that was old, useless and unattractive. On these occasions my mother would tactfully during the day tell her that unfortunately we were not old enough to appreciate the present. She would then with rather frosty condescension withdraw the unappreciated article and replace it by something more reasonable.

At Christmas there was always a real family gathering. We four were the only grandchildren but there were five uncles and aunts. Like all grow-ups, no doubt, they felt that we children improved the fun at Christmas and they were kindness itself. They even listened with apparent enthusiasm to our recitations and charades. All the old Christmas ritual was there. My decorous bearded grandfather opened up with genial jollity that was reminiscent of old Mr. Warden at Dingley Dell and my grandmother was even more gracious, smiling and commanding than usual. The large drawing room, with chandelier and attractive wall lights, with fine antique furniture, and closely hung pictures, was the perfect room for Christmas decorations and festivities. There was plenty of space for charades with a back stage entrance from the conservatory that adjoined it. My grandmother of course was good at guessing with her quick intelligence and intuition. This enabled her to do a good many conspiratorial asides telling the word secretly but visibly to my aunts and uncles before the act was anywhere near completion; and furtive echoes of her deep voice were heard, 'Ne dites pas encore', 'laissez finir', 'N'en parlez pas', and the like. My grandfather would sit generally contented and patriarchal, gazing round proudly at his pictures of which was a connoisseur and puffing at his pipe, with an Olympian enjoyment of the frivolous antics of his family.

My grandmother was, as one might have expected, an ardent suffragette. She had been one of the pioneers of women's bicycling, women's clubs and other feminine activities. But for my grandfather she would have been a militant, as were some of their relatives. I felt rather male about this and disapproved of it; but I was badly worsted in argument. And I felt very humbled when we attended a sufragette rally in the park in the tommy-cart which was adorned with purple and green favours.

They used to have Shakespeare readings" in their drawing room, since they were both keen Shakespearians. Various friends would come to them. My grandmother always dressed up in sweeping Edwardian clothes and looked very beautiful. Her rich clear voice as she rose to the height of some Shakespearian crisis must have been audible, I used to think, at the other end of Kensington. My sister and I were sometimes privileged to 'stay up' and listen (or even take a small part) while the performers read some play with a booming gusto and dramatic enthusiasm that modem self-consciousness would never tolerate."

Uncle Jack (JAC Pearce):

He remembered in 2003 that she had Turner mezzotints all round her drawing room. Frank Short was a friend of her husband's, and had worked on Turner mezzotints.

Christine Myers says:

She had a leg brace which she threw off the day before her wedding and never wore again. She was a good customer of Barkers and John Barker himself would greet her when she got out of her carriage. She spent a lot of money on hats. She walked down Holland Villas Rd with one foot in the gutter (not comme il faut) picking up lumps of coal and putting it in her bag - she was not conformist and she was frugal.

She went swimming the day before Daphne was born, probably on holiday in Margate - Holroyd was probably in North Africa on a donkey. He retired at forty so probably they did not have much money. They enjoyed Shakespeare readings together but normally spent holidays apart. He was a lawyer.

Philip Ray-Jones says:

She had a radio in bed (memorable because it was such a new invention) at No 2 Holland Park Villas. She went to bed when she was 60 and vowed never to get out again. We buried her ashes at Carbis Bay in our garden under a pear tree by the back door - she was about 94 when she died.

Alan Ray-Jones writes:

We called her 'Dear,' and were very much in awe of her - at least I was. I remember only a palatial bedroom, a very large bed and a very important very old lady in itl, apparently not in the least ill and very much in command. By the time she died I was nine but I saw her only rarely, probably at Christmas when we made the long journey by train to London from our home near St Ives, Cornwall. My mother's scrapbook has in it a blue envelope with a poem signed E I C scribbled on it and dated May 9th 1922. It seems unlikely that the subject was my mother, who by then was 23 years old, but it could have been my Uncle Jack, who was ten:

"Patter patter little feet
Making music quaint and sweet
In the garden up the stair
Patter patter everywhere

Ripple ripple little voice
How you make my heart rejoice
Bringing sunshine where you come
Life and hope to everyone

Chatter chatter patter patter
With a never ending clatter
Round the garden, down the stair,
Love and laughter everywhere."


From Calendar of wills at FRC:

CHAPLIN, Euphemia Isabella of 2 Holland Villas Road, Kensington, London, widow died 10 September 1939 at Sunnyside Ralphsride Bracknell Berkshire Amdinistration London 5 February to Irene Kate Pearce (wife of John William Ernest Pearce). Effects £4,133 16s
  • 7 JUN 1847 - Birth - ; Brighton, Sussex, England (1881 Census)
  • 10 SEP 1939 - Death - ; Sunnyside, Ralph's Ride, Bracknell, Berkshire
  • 1871 - Residence - ; Paddington (?), London
  • FROM 1873 TO 1908 - Residence - ; Kensington, London
  • 1908 - Residence - ; Kensington, London
  • EST 1870 - Medical -
  • 28 FEB 1917 - Note -
  • 1871 - Residence - ; Paddington (?), London
  • FROM 1873 TO 1908 - Residence - ; Kensington, London
  • 1908 - Residence - ; Kensington, London
John Major Skinner , Lieut General
16 FEB 1752 - 10 OCT 1827
Allan Maclean Skinner , Q.C.
14 JUL 1809 - 23 MAY 1885
Ann Maclean
12 DEC 1773 - 16 JAN 1864
Euphemia Isabella Skinner
7 JUN 1847 - 10 SEP 1939
John Harding , MA, Rev
5 MAY 1779 - 10 MAY 1861
Caroline Emily Harding
22 OCT 1812 - 12 JAN 1901
Anna Maria Willoughby
1 SEP 1776 - 18 NOV 1857
Family Group Sheet - Child
PARENT (M) Allan Maclean Skinner , Q.C.
Birth14 JUL 18099 Cadogan Place, Chelsea, London, christened there 22 August 1809 (Parish of St Luke)
Death23 MAY 1885 Reading, Berkshire
Marriage20 DEC 1837to Caroline Emily Harding at Nolton Chapel, Bridgend, Glamorganshire
FatherJohn Major Skinner , Lieut General
MotherAnn Maclean
PARENT (F) Caroline Emily Harding
Birth22 OCT 1812Rockfield, Monmouthshire, christened at Dunraven Castle December 1814
Death12 JAN 1901 Abbotsham, Devonshire.
Marriage20 DEC 1837to Allan Maclean Skinner , Q.C. at Nolton Chapel, Bridgend, Glamorganshire
FatherJohn Harding , MA, Rev
MotherAnna Maria Willoughby
FEuphemia Isabella Skinner
Birth7 JUN 1847Brighton, Sussex, England (1881 Census)
Death10 SEP 1939Sunnyside, Ralph's Ride, Bracknell, Berkshire
Marriage16 AUG 1870to Holroyd Chaplin at Bickington or Newton Abbott? in South Devon, see Matilda Adriana Chaplin's diary for Tuesday 16 August 1870.
MJohn Edwin Hilary Skinner
Birth11 JAN 1839
Death20 NOV 1894at Sétif, Algeria, where he was buried
Marriage30 APR 1864to Louisa Sarah Chaplin at Christ Church, Marylebone, London
FCaroline Rachel Skinner
Birth14 JUL 1840
FAnna Cordelia Skinner
Birth14 JUL 1840
Marriage13 AUG 1863to Parkes Willy , Rev
FFlorance Marion Skinner
Birth13 AUG 1842
Death12 APR 1918Florence
Marriage4 JUN 1863to Walter Holden Steward at Tixall, Staffordshire. The marriage certificate giving details can be obtained through the index in book 1a page 134 of
FKatherine Louisa Skinner
Birth17 OCT 1843
Marriage16 NOV 1876to Ashley George Westby
FMaud Elizabeth Skinner
Birth25 OCT 1844Brighton, Sussex
Death24 JUN 1904
Marriage20 DEC 1871to Allan Chaplin , Col at Bridgend, Glamorgan
MAllan Maclean Skinner , C.M.G.
Birth20 MAR 1846Brighton
Death14 JUN 1901Canterbury
Marriage23 SEP 1875to Ellen Shelford at St. Saviour's, Clapham
MClifton Newman Curtis
Family Group Sheet - Spouse
PARENT (M) Holroyd Chaplin
Birth17 MAR 1840Edgbaston, Warwickshire, England (1881 Census) on St Patrick's Day
Death23 DEC 1917 72 Edith Road, West Kensington, Middlesex
Marriage16 AUG 1870to Euphemia Isabella Skinner at Bickington or Newton Abbott? in South Devon, see Matilda Adriana Chaplin's diary for Tuesday 16 August 1870.
FatherJohn Clarke Chaplin
MotherMatilda Adriana Ayrton
PARENT (F) Euphemia Isabella Skinner
Birth7 JUN 1847Brighton, Sussex, England (1881 Census)
Death10 SEP 1939 Sunnyside, Ralph's Ride, Bracknell, Berkshire
Marriage16 AUG 1870to Holroyd Chaplin at Bickington or Newton Abbott? in South Devon, see Matilda Adriana Chaplin's diary for Tuesday 16 August 1870.
FatherAllan Maclean Skinner , Q.C.
MotherCaroline Emily Harding
FIrene Kate Chaplin
Birth1 MAR 1873Westbourne Park Villas, Paddington, London, England
Death22 JUN 1962Hampstead, London, England
Marriage16 APR 1898to John William Ernest Pearce at St. Annes? (corner of Church St & Kensington High St.)
MAllan Nugent Chaplin
Birth8 JUN 1871London, Middlesex, England (1881 Census)
Marriage27 NOV 1897to Mildred Hall
FMatilda Effie Chaplin
Birth20 JUN 1874Kensington, London (probably)
Death20 DEC 1874Kensington, London (probably)
FPhyllis Chaplin
Birth7 JUN 1879Kensington, London (1881 Census)
Death27 JUL 1924
Marriage24 JUN 1901to Philip Herbert Cowell
MTheodoric Chaplin
Birth14 FEB 1881Kensington, London (1881 Census)
Death29 OCT 1906Kingston near Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, by falling off a cliff.
FDaphne Grace Chaplin
Birth6 SEP 1884Broadstairs, Kent
Death16 FEB 1964
Marriageto Daphne Grace Chaplin
Marriage13 APR 1916to Cecil Arbuthnot Gould at St Barnabas Church, Kensington, London - witnesses E I Chaplin and Holroyd Chaplin - to get marriage certificate see ind
Picture Gallery
[S16298] Calendar of wills 1858-1943
Descendancy Chart
Euphemia Isabella Skinner b: 7 JUN 1847 d: 10 SEP 1939
Holroyd Chaplin b: 17 MAR 1840 d: 23 DEC 1917
Irene Kate Chaplin b: 1 MAR 1873 d: 22 JUN 1962
John William Ernest Pearce b: 4 APR 1864 d: 25 JAN 1951
Edward Holroyd Pearce , Lord b: 9 FEB 1901 d: 27 NOV 1990
Erica Priestman b: 1906 d: DEC 1985
Richard Bruce Holroyd Pearce b: 12 MAY 1930 d: 1987
James Edward Holroyd Pearce b: 18 MAR 1934 d: 11 JUN 1985
Phyllis Margaret Pearce b: 8 FEB 1910 d: 6 JUN 1973
Edward Douglas Eade b: 7 FEB 1911 d: 24 DEC 1984
John Allan Chaplin Pearce b: 21 OCT 1912 d: 15 SEP 2006
Helen Nugent Pearce b: 22 NOV 1917 d: 6 APR 1920
Effie Irene Pearce b: 18 AUG 1899 d: 26 JAN 1996
Raymond Ray-Jones b: 31 AUG 1886 d: 26 FEB 1942
Holroyd Anthony Ray-Jones b: 7 JUN 1941 d: 13 MAR 1972
Allan Nugent Chaplin b: 8 JUN 1871 d: 1917
Son Chaplin b: 29 NOV 1900 d: ABT 29 NOV 1900
Matilda Effie Chaplin b: 20 JUN 1874 d: 20 DEC 1874
Phyllis Chaplin b: 7 JUN 1879 d: 27 JUL 1924
Philip Herbert Cowell b: 1870 d: 1949
Theodoric Chaplin b: 14 FEB 1881 d: 29 OCT 1906
Daphne Grace Chaplin b: 6 SEP 1884 d: 16 FEB 1964
Daphne Grace Chaplin b: 6 SEP 1884 d: 16 FEB 1964
Cecil Arbuthnot Gould b: 1883 d: 1917