Cayzers at Cove 1885 – 1918

Part 3: Mamie moves in (1902-1918)

For some years now, Sir Charles Cayzer had accumulated houses. In Scotland, Ralston and Gartmore Houses were still in use, but Clevedon had become an outlier in every way.  The house had been let to the Cowan family since 1897, but it looks as if the lease had recently ended and the house was empty again.  Finally, in July 1902, Sir Charles made his eldest daughter, Mamie Vereker, an offer she couldn’t refuse.

The offer was Clevedon.  More exactly the offer was to make over Clevedon House legally to Mamie, together with £1000 with which Mamie could furnish the empty house.  This was an extraordinarily generous gift to his daughter, who was living with her husband John “Jack” Medlicott Vereker and their family in a rented house, 80 Cromwell Road, London.

Mamie talked it over with her husband and wrote back, thrilled at the offer: [4th July 1902]   In answer to your letter & after due consideration, Jack & I wish to thank you very much indeed for your very generous offer of Clevedon, which we accept with the greatest of pleasure.  No doubt the transfer of the estate will take some time but I presume you will have this all legally done, & let us fully understand the terms of the lease etc.  From your letter & our talk I understand you give me the whole place entirely for my own & to do what I like with.  I also accept your offer of a £1000 to furnish etc with, as without that I did not see my way to taking the place. […]

  If you can place the money \or a portion of same/ in a bank for me at once, I can begin to see after things for the house.  I would prefer it in a different bank to my money, as I want to draw the £1000 solely for Clevedon keeping it altogether separate from any other monies & paying as I get things for the house.  I hope it will be a great pleasure to you & Mater to come to Clevedon & see it inhabited by the family once again.

The children could never have better Summer quarters & it will always be there to send them for a change at any time.  I have begun to realise what a lovely \Coronation/ gift you are giving me & as Jack says getting more excited every minute, he is as bad, & talks of being all sorts of things at Cove J.P. etc. […]

[PS] I suppose Tugwell can remain until we get someone else & get a bit settled?

There is more to this letter than may be immediately obvious.  Sir Charles was giving Clevedon to Mamie, because Mamie’s (almost 10-year) marriage was on rocky ground, financially and personally.  Her husband, now Major John (“Jack”) Vereker after his exertions in the Boer War, was unable to succeed at any civilian job he tried, and as some of these were financial businesses (one selling life insurance, and later a stint as a Name at Lloyd’s) he was always in some debt.  His personal income was small, although Mamie had a large trust fund, but between them they could hardly afford the lifestyle they enjoyed in London.  By July 1902 Mamie had five children, the youngest of whom had been born earlier that year, and so on the surface everything was fine.  But now Clevedon and the bank account would be her personal property, and could not be used by Jack to underwrite any new business ventures, or seized by his creditors to pay his debts.  Realistically there was little to do at Cove, but the letter, which she would certainly have shown to her husband before sending, suggests that either she has not entirely realised that Clevedon would have to be their main home, or she was really telling Jack that the house was only a holiday home, since it was galling enough to have a wife who was richer than you, but must have been doubly galling that she was now putting a free roof over your family’s head.  Jack was not a fan of his patriarchal father-in-law and would probably have found this sudden burst of enormous generosity in favour of his wife hard to swallow, but Mamie assured her father that Jack was excited too.  Mamie was pouring a lot of oil on troubled waters as she accepted this gift.

Mamie, Jack and the children moved up to Cove in July 1902, and the house did indeed become their main residence for the next ten years, although they kept 80 Cromwell Road since there was difficulty in getting anyone else to take over the lease. This was also the time when Jack held his interest in Lloyd’s and still needed a London base.  The gardener at Clevedon, Tugwell, who had enthusiastically fired off those shots at the Vereker wedding celebratory bonfire was not fired, in spite of Mamie’s postscript.  Perhaps he was, after all, the best gardener in Cove.

The Verekers settled down, and Mamie added three more children to her brood over the next few years.  Money was always tight, and in 1904 she secretly asked her father for £38 to buy a piano for the house, as a Christmas gift.  In 1906 she tried to sell Clevedon, as she explained to her father in one letter “we want next year to settle in England & get a country place that can be a permanent one, it is impossible to live here all the year round with nothing to do.”  Mamie was asking £2000 for Clevedon, but was willing to rent it out, instead.  She managed to let it for a few months, but no-one wanted to buy it, and to her annoyance, just after she’d let the house, one of the ceilings fell down.  It transpired that one of the hitherto unknown features of Clevedon was that the ceilings fell down at a rate of roughly one a year, and there was also a problem with subsidence as she wrote to her father in 1907.  The house might well look like a cross between an Italianate villa and a wedding cake, but in truth the shoddy quality of the speculative build was starting to show.  With Clevedon unlet and unsold, the Verekers were soon back in residence at Cove.

Towards the beginning of 1908 Mamie’s second oldest brother, Major John (“Jack”) Sanders Cayzer came to visit Jack Vereker at Cove.  Like Jack Vereker, Jack Cayzer had been a professional soldier, and had served in the Boer War with distinction; like Jack he had struggled to find his place in the world when he had left the army; and like Jack, he had a strained relationship with Sir Charles Cayzer.  Now back in the UK after some time convalescing abroad (he had contracted TB during his military career), Jack Cayzer needed an occupation, and had offered to manage the Gartmore estate.  Sir Charles appears to have been reasonably acquiescent, so Jack looked for somewhere to live, and rented a house in Kilcreggan, not too far from his friend and his sister in Cove.  As he had not yet taken possession of the Kilcreggan house, Jack spent a few days with Jack and Mamie at Clevedon, and left on the morning of Monday 13th January to travel to Gartmore.  That evening, after a furious row with his father about the Kilcreggan house (Sir Charles thought that Jack should live at Gartmore) Jack stormed up to bed.  The next morning, he was found dead, having died during the night of a heart attack, said the newspapers.  Sir Charles and Lady Cayzer were devastated.

Jack’s body was taken to Glasgow, and from there his cortege set out via the Gourock ferry for Cove, and the Barbour cemetery where Jack joined his grandparents in the Cayzer family plot.  His is the third and final inscription on the funeral monument.  Sir Charles and Lady Cayzer were too upset to attend the funeral, but alongside Mamie and Jack Vereker stood younger brothers Gus, Bertie, and Harold; and brothers-in-law Jack Jellicoe and Charles Madden.  This may well have been the last time that so many of the Cayzer family gathered together at Cove.

View of the inscriptions on the Cayzer grave monument, 2019

ON 23rd MARCH 1889
ON 27th MARCH 1900
2nd SON OF
BORN 24th OCTOBER 1871
DIED 14th JANUARY 1908
So he giveth his beloved sleep

That August, Mamie and Jack Vereker’s marriage hit a serious bump, and both parties contacted lawyers.  After much toing and froing, the couple were persuaded not to take drastic action, and by the end of the year, they were living back together at Clevedon.  But it was clear that there was a problem, and Sir Charles looked once again for a way to fix it.  Cove was a quiet backwater, but perhaps things might be a little livelier if the couple moved to another of his now superfluous properties, Ralston House.  Over Christmas 1908, at Gartmore, Sir Charles offered Ralston to Mamie.  The offer came with an additional £500 per annum for the additional expenses Mamie would incur living nearer to the bright lights of Glasgow.

Mamie, ever practical, did the maths and then sent her father a letter with the figures laid out neatly:

[10th January 1909] […] Jack & I have been talking over expenses, & living here & I will put some facts before you.  First of all, living at Cove:

Clevedon cost me yearly –
Rates                                     }
Taxes                                    } £150

Gardener                             }
Ordinary repairs               }
Gas & coal                               £50

3 months away in winter.
For rent say                            £150

& I keep 6 servants there only.

Ralston. Yearly

Rent                                                £200
2 extra indoor servants              £100
Charwoman                                    £12
Carriage, horse & coachman     £200
Electric light & coal                     £100
Telephone                                        £10
[actually it only adds up to £622!]
I require 8 indoor servants here.

You will see by this that even with the extra £500 I am to get if we stay here it would be impossible to manage.  We cannot go in for any extra expenses as Jack’s affairs have still to be cleared, & will take a few years yet, that is one of the reasons we had agreed to settle at Cove for.

We might go without the carriage, but it would be difficult, & it is no use living here and pigging it, when we could live at Clevedon very comfortably & go away for the Winter months on our income.

The benefits here, are, a better social position, (but this again adds to expenses).

Also Jack has more to do, only if we stay here.  I think you should let him manage the place under your wishes.

I am sure you will agree that to live here in the position I ought to occupy is very different to existing here counting every penny spent.  & it could only mean existing on the proposed expenditure.  The school bills do not decrease, but in future the schooling would be easier to manage & less expensive here.  After Jack’s affairs are settled of course we will be better off but other expenses come on & I have said nothing about repairs etc that will have to be done as years go on.

Now I leave it to you to decide if you can see your way to arrange for us to live here on our income.  We are only too willing to do so, & we will look after & enjoy the place.  Of course we may let “Clevedon” but I [must] be certain of doing so & one must not count upon it.  Will you let me know your decision soon, as I think it is as well to settle matters & know exactly where we are & what is going to be.  Hoping I am not worrying you too much dear, with fondest love, & ever so many thanks for the very happy time we had together for Xmas & New Year.

Your loving daughter
Mamie Vereker

Mamie’s maths and fondest love did not impress her father, and no further allowance was forthcoming.  Later letters confirm that by April 1909, the Vereker family were living back at Clevedon.  It’s important to point out that Mamie’s hand-to-mouth existence here included the bare minimum of six servants, excluding the gardener (presumably our old friend, Tugwell) who was added into the basic running costs at Clevedon.

For three more years the Verekers lived the quiet life in Cove.  And then, finally in July 1912, Jack Vereker left Clevedon and refused to return.  The marriage really was over.  Mamie filed for divorce and gained her freedom in December 1913.

Although Mamie retained ownership of Clevedon after the divorce, she seems to have set her sights further afield.  In September 1915 she married her second husband, Robert McGlashen, a dour 60-year old Scot who had never been married before.  The marriage was annulled less than a year later in mid-1916, on the grounds of incompetence (Mr McGlashen did not defend the action).  This opened the way for her next marriage, to Captain Ernest Black, in October 1917.  Now living with her new husband in England, and with her father having died in September 1916, Mamie felt no compunction in unburdening herself of her Scottish property.  In October 1918 she sold Clevedon to a Mr Greenlees, whose family retained the house until the 1940s.  This then was the final break of the Cayzer family with Cove.  As far as matrimony went, Mamie’s third time was indeed the charm, and she lived happily with Captain Black, until her death in 1930.


Letters quoted are from The Cayzer Family Archive.
Many thanks to Richard Reeve, author of the history of Cove and Kilgcreggan “A Victorian Burgh” (2005).