Tag Archive: Sir John Ashley Mullens


The 1911 Census gives us some idea of the social order within which Elvira was raised.

Although John Ashley Mullens signed off the form, he and his wife were away at the time, staying at Ossemsley Manor near Christchurch.

The Mullens offspring remained at the family’s London home, which was then at 31 Lowndes Square  (a couple of hundred yards from Elvira’s Mews terrace). Lowndes Square was in 1911, as it is now, a singularly expensive location. Roman Abramovitch has property there, which should give you a flavour of the area.

The census lists the three Mullens children

Cyril John Ashley Mullens 14
Elvira Enid Mullens 7  (I do wonder when exactly Elvira ditched the rather prosaic Enid for the more exotic Dolores – she is Dolores from at least 1924 onwards.)
Avril Ivy Mullens 1

and then, what one could term, a sufficient retinue of servants

Frederick Scott Holder 51
Amy Frances Holder 51
Alfred Rewes 30
Ada Ellen Roper 32
Winifred Lawrence 24
Alfred Back 18
Lizzie Hyde 31
Violet Willett 16
Frank Bennett 24
Joseph Lane 21
Bessie Holmes 21
Lilian Mau 19
Ada Smith 19
Olive Alice Reading 21
Elizabeth Glendon 30
Ellen Phillip 42
Emily Davis 35
Annie Kempshall 30
Clementina Taylor 48
Edith Alice Payne 25
Elisa Flora Gukenbuhl 29
Annie Fry 35
John Henry Herford 24

All very Upstairs, Downstairs, I think you’ll agree. I presume it was fairly standard but it does make me wonder if Elvira’s notorious high-handedness with taxi-drivers, police constables and such-like was less down to her temperament and more to do with simply growing up in a world where there were hot-and-cold running minions, ministering to every need.

Ossemsley Manor

Ossemsley Manor was built in 1908 .  Confusingly, it is listed as the home both of Sir Alfred Cooper, a tea merchant, and Sir Stephen Gatty,  King’s Counsellor for Gibraltar.Sir Alfred’s son was there in 1911 at the time of the Mullens visit.It is best known as the childhood home  of Hester Gatty, who married Siegfried Sassoon in 1933. Sassoon was connected to the Bright Young People through his affair with the ( visually anyway) brightest of them all, Stephen Tennant.

Hester Gatty

Current guides to the Manor (now luxury flats) state that in the 1950s and1960s it was a country club cum night club  run by Walker Cup golfer Ernest Milward, and that it featured in the Profumo scandal as one of the sites of the liaison between the Minister for War and Christine Keeler. This may be true but it is not mentioned in either of the books on the Profumo scandal that I have read.

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(Thanks to Gill for reminding me of this.)

Elvira’s father outlived his errant daughter by less than a year. This is a list of funeral attendees. There is an obvious mistake in naming a son, Elvira’s brother died in World War One, but it offers a picture of absolute respectability compared to the circles Elvira moved in.

:SIR JOHN MULLENS

The funeral of Sir John Ashley Mullens took place at Long Cross, near Chertsey, on Saturday. Canon H. J. F. Tringham officiated. Among those present were: – Lady Mullens, Mr. J. Mullens (son). Colonel Rushton Adamson (brother-in-law). Sir Charles and Lady Lamb (brother-in-law and sister). Mr. Max Adamson (brother- in-law). Major G. Mullens, Mr. Charles Mullens. Mr. W. J. Mulens. Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Leveson-Gower (son-in-law and daughter), Mr. and Mrs. W. Stent (brother-in-law and sister), Mr. J. H. R. Stent. Vice-Admiral and Mrs. Usborne. Miss Carlisle, Mr. Henry M. Carlisle, Mr. and Mrs. Geoffrey Hart, Colonel Manchall. Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Baker, Mr. C. Stocken (representing the Committee of the Stock Exchange Benevolent Fund), Mrs. Allen and Miss Allen Mr. and Mrs. Quilter. Mr. D. Berdoe-Wilkinson. Mr. C. S. Woodrow, Mr. and Mrs. S. W. G. Trinaham, Mr. E. S. Cripps (representing Messrs. Mullens and Co. and the managers, London Stock Exchange). Captain H. S. Harrison-Wallis., R.N.. Mr. and Mis. Richmond-Temple, Mrs. Charles Seymour, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Baker. Lieutenant-Colonel H. T. Green. Lieutenant-Colonel Reginald Cooper, Mr. Arthur Watson.
Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins, Mr. Paget-Cooke. Captain Quare, Mrs. Morris-Hall. Mr. Henry Eastwoocd (representing Board of Managers of the London Orphan School and the Royal British Orphan School, Watford); Sir Herbert Lush-Wilson. K.C.. Mr. Gordon Anketell. Mr. H. S. Parfitt. Major J. L. Nickisson, Mr. E. N. Dalton (deputy chief cashier, Bank of England), Mr. Harry Preswich, Mr. John P. T. Boscowen (representing partners of Messrs. R. Levison and Co.). Brigadier-General and Mrs. H. Tusson, Colonel and Mrs. W. Symon, Mr. Malcolm Adamson, Mr. D G. Catterns (representing the Governor of the Bank of England), Mr.and Mrs W S. Marshall. Mrs.A. Tooney, Mrs J Shipton, and Mr J. Deacon.

Probate £216,843/5/9d to the public trustree.

1 Jan 1938 Christ Church, Long Cross, Chertsey, Surrey

Christ Church is no longer in use. Rather worryingly it is listed as “up for disposal” which doesn’t sound good.  I think too that the Mullens country house at Barrow Hills nearby is now a golf club.

Gertrude Gamble (Barbara Graham)

In August of 1932, probably on Friday 26th,  a forty two year old woman called Gertrude Gamble committed suicide by throwing herself from a window of her hotel room in Half Moon Street. For the previous three years she had been known as Barbara E, Graham and had a history of drug dependency and depression. Her inquest aroused some interest as her suicide note had mentioned Elvira Barney who, along with one Tom Chadbourne, she blamed for her current state of despair. Elvira’s father attended the trial but the inquest did not pursue that line of inquiry.

Half Moon Street

This was fortunate for the Mullens family because apart from her final note Gertrude had sent two letters, one to Elvira and one to her mother, containing some outrageous accusations. The Daily Sketch had got hold of these but passed them on to the Police who (officially anyway) dismissed them as the ramblings of a very disturbed individual. The sex scandal contained in the letters I have dealt with already (see https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/audrey-and-kenneth-carten/ ) but there is other information contained within them which, if true, tells us quite a lot about Elvira and her lifestyle in the aftermath of the trial. It is not a very uplifting tale.

According to her letters, Gertrude had been “employed” to look after Elvira following the trial. Her mother had wanted Elvira to undertake a “rest treatment” in the country,  On the threat of  the “country house” cure Elvira had rushed round to Gertrude, who tended to her while they made arrangements to go to the South of France. Gertrude tells of nursing her and bathing her head after Elvira had downed a bottle of brandy. Elvira left for France with the Cartens and Gertrude followed.

To Gertrude’s apparent horror,  Elvira had got very drunk on the boat and instead of heading to the Hotel Continental in St.Raphael  had stayed the night in a sleazy hotel nearby. She then told Gertrude that she wanted to be with friends in Cannes and gave the hitherto loyal carer money for a second-class ticket home.  Elvira didn’t see her off – she was meeting the young man with whom she was to have the car car crash later that day (https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/princess-karolyi-and-more-car-crashes/).Feeling deceived and smarting from an attack on her own narcotic excesses, Gertrude, on her return to London, wrote to Lady Mullens, detailing her daughter’s many vices and presenting herself as the victim of a callous and calculating degenerate. She wrote pretty much the same angry note to Elvira.

Two extracts from the letters are particularly revealing, Firstly, in an attempt to uphold her own character she writes “As for the drugs – I can refer you to Dr. Ripman  who will tell you that I take my 3 pills a day just like a dose of medicine. I don’t drink, I don’t sniff cocaine and I don’t keep pimps.”  Although I’m not sure she’s got the right word with “pimps”, this, if accurate, is confirmation of Elvira’s general predilections, which though widely suspected are elsewhere only hinted at.

Secondly, she suggests that Elvira’s motives in sending her packing were so that no stories of her excesses might get back to England, causing her mother to cut Elvira’s allowance. Given that Elvira’s actions had precisely the opposite effect this seems unlikely but it gives weight to a fairly constant feature in Elvira’s various scrapes – she was always more concerned with what her mother might say and do than any action on behalf of the authorities.

Whether these letters were ever received and how the Daily Sketch got hold of them is a mystery. How true they are is also uncertain. They are certainly not “deranged”  in the way the Police argued. The betrayal they speak of has the ring of something deeper; they bear all the hallmarks of the revenge of a spurned lover. There is also a distinct class antagonism about them (“you say I am not good enough to know your daughter but.. etc”).

Anyway, three weeks later Gertrude Gamble was dead. It is fairly safe to assume that her passing was not much mourned by the Mullens family. In three months Elvira had (probably) shot her lover, Michael, nearly killed Countess Karolyi in a car crash and, in the mind of one sad soul at least, hastened the suicide of a former companion.Not exactly what one would term an uneventful summer.

Incidentally, the Hotel on Half Moon Street was owned by Charles Urban, the pioneer of colour cinema. Gertrude’s last note was to Mrs. Urban, apologising for any trouble her actions had caused.

Read more about Charles Urban here http://www.charlesurban.com/index.html

Update on Charles Graves

The incident between Elvira and Charles Graves (see  https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/charles-graves/ ) actually happened earlier than I thought.

In the Robert Graves collection at St.John’s College,Oxford, there are two draft letters (with annotations by the poet) to Sir John Mullens concerning the end of Charles’ engagement to Elvira. One is from Charles Graves (dated 26th September 1924) and the other from  their mother, Amy Graves, dated the 27th September.

Although I have yet to see the letters, a number of points arise from this information alone. Firstly, the engagement, ” unofficial” and the result of a “brief flirtation” according to Charles Graves in his autobiography, was obviously a more serious and public affair than he suggested, with both families heavily involved in clearing up the mess.Were they covering up a potential scandal or was there more to it than that? Why are the letters with Robert when he was not particularly close to his brother ?

Secondly, it confirms that Elvira’s emotional state and her fears of rejection were always a matter of concern to those around her and not everything can be blamed on the worthless Mr.Barney, or on her later predilection for drink and drugs.

Finally, it suggests that Elvira was training for the stage for a rather longer period than usually implied. This would partly explain the number of actors and actresses in her circle of friends and acquaintances.

Hopefully, the letters might clear up the question of the gun and whether Charles or Viva King’s account of the episode is closer to the truth.