Aunt Flossie indirectly provided the only evidence that the Wrays were remotely interested
in their family history. When I began contacting my cousins, several produced (with
an air of reverence) the distribution document of her estate which detailed her siblings
or their children who were alive in 1978. Even my father, who was not known for nostalgia,
had kept his copy.
Although we knew her as ‘Flossie’, her parents named her ‘Florry’. She was born
on 15 August 1889 at Back Lane, Preston and was eventually baptized on 12 July 1891.
She started school very early - on the 25 April 1892 - indeed the headmistress commented
that ‘Florence Wray is young for Standard Three’, in 1898.
Her school record is only noteworthy because she was knocked down and injured in
the playground by Herbert Robinson (the son of Preston’s tailor) in 1899 and was
later absent for ten days in the summer of 1902 with ‘a gathering in her head’.
Addendum: Of Harold Sugden
For some years I had tried to find the whereabouts of Aunt Flossie’s husband, Harold
Sugden, after the mid-1920s. The break-through happened with the publication of the
1939 Register which provided this information:
The presence of Harold’s mother and sister here at St Annes, Park Avenue, Westward
Ho, Devon (a detached bungalow) confirms that Flossie’s husband was living in the
West Country in 1939. He was noted ‘M’ on the Register (ie married) and his occupation
was ‘locomotive fitter’.
Now Harold could be found in the 1911 census - with his family:
The Sugdens were living in the nine-roomed, semi-detached 21 Westbridge Road, Portswood,
Southampton. The family were able to employ a servant. Harold was an apprentice in
a locomotive department. Further records of his railway employment at this time were
discovered. He had worked probably as an apprentice at the London and South Western
Railway engineering yard, Eastleigh, Hants from 7 October 1907 until October 1912.
He was then employed by a motor company before starting work as a fitter back at
the Eastleigh works on 8 July 1913. He left this job because he was considered to
be ‘unsuitable’ on 13 July 1914 when his character was assessed as good and his abilities
as fair. A fortnight later, the World War 1 began.
On 28 October 1914, Harold left London on the Khiva bound for Calcutta, India. He
was described as a fitter. Harold’s destination was Assam which had recently become
a more settled area after the border with Tibet had been agreed. It may be that he
was going to work on the Indian railways, but more likely he was to work as an engineer
on a tea plantation - this employment was sometimes advertised in the British press.
Harold was initiated into the Freemasons at their Unity Lodge, Nazira, Assam on 11
January 1918 when he was noted as a tea planter. He took up a commission in the Indian
Army on 4 September 1918 and resigned from the Lodge on 30 March 1921.
Harold’s mother, Elizabeth Mary Sugden, died at Park Avenue, Westward Ho on 9 July
1956. Perhaps significantly probate to her estate (value: £822) was granted to her
daughter, Ethel. Ethel died on 26 June 1969. She in turn left an estate of £2,366
and was living at Donnington House, Westward Ho - which was probably a care home
on the coast then, as it is today. Perhaps there was a reason why Harold was not
involved in the distribution of his mother’s estate as we will see.
After noting in 1939 that he was married and living with his mother and sister in
1939, Harold married again:
The 1911 census found ‘Florence’ (sic) working as a cook for the architect Cecil
Henry Perkins and his family, at Church Road in the heart of Bracknell, Berks. He
was involved in work at Herstmonceux Castle, Sussex. Quite how she qualified for
this position is a mystery - although Dad always said that their mother was a “good
cook’’. Possibly Flossie’s association with this architect smoothed the way for her
next career move.
Flossie then trained as a nurse, at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridgeshire. Her acceptance
by the nursing profession shows some resourcefulness. Flossie served in the Queen
Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service Reserve during World War One. When the armistice
was signed, she then was either transferred or “lent” to the Queen Alexandra’s Military
Nursing Service for India (QAMNSI).
The nursing service was ‘incredibly concerned with social class and status’. They
gave preference to daughters of professional people such as teachers, chaplains and
Army officers. The following are typical comments in the minutes of the Nursing Board:
‘Not in the least acceptable; her
father is a shoemaker.’
‘Not a lady by birth nor by education.’
‘Hardly up to standard, personally
Quite how Flossie ‘got through this social net’ and later married above her station
(as we shall see) is a mystery. However, sometime in 1919, this thirty-year old nurse
from Preston sailed for five weeks to India through the Suez Canal and then travelled
a further two days across the Indian sub-continent to the dust and heat of the North
West Frontier. She received a medal for her service at Waziristan from 1919-21 (shown
at bottom of page). A niece remembers being spellbound by Flossie’s stories of her
Indian experiences – of panthers who carried off small animals from the camp at night.
On 14 April 1921, Florence (sic) Wray (25!) married Harold Sugden (31) at St Thomas’
Church, Dera Ismail Khan in the diocese of Lahore, Pakistan (see certificate below).
The occupation of the couple’s fathers was not required on the marriage certificate
– it would have been interesting to read her description of Alfred Wray’s occupation.
Harold Sugden’s ancestry was quite different to Flossie’s modest origins.
Harold’s grandfather, William Sugden (born 1816 in Bath), was a surgeon and apothecary.
Harold’s father, Edward Sugden, was born in 1850 at Backwell in Somerset. At the
age of 21, he studied to be an architect. He then switched careers and trained as
an Anglican clergyman at Chichester Theological College.
He was a curate at St Mary Magdelene, Dundee (1878-82) and later the priest in charge
of the Episcopalian Churches at Carnoustie (1882-89) and Coupar Angus (which is 10
miles north-west of Dundee 1887-1900).
Using his architectural expertise, he also designed several church buildings in Scotland
such as St John the Baptist Episcopal Church, 116 Albert Street, Dundee (1885) and
the Church of St Margaret, Lochee, Dundee.
Edward married Elizabeth Mary Sparks in 1887 at Chepstow, Monmouthshire and they
had a son, Harold (born 8 June 1891 at Coupar Angus, Forfar), and a daughter. In
1901, Harold was at Heaton Lodge boarding school at Kirkheaton, Yorkshire.
According to the Indian Army records at the British Library, H. Sugden was appointed
to the Indian Army on 4 September 1918. In January 1919, he was a Lieutenant in the
infantry and became a temporary Captain in 1920 until October 1922 - he described
himself as a Captain when he married in 1921. He was released from the army in October
It is generally believed by Flossie’s family that the marriage foundered because
of pressure from Harold’s relatives. That she kept her engagement ring and passed
it on to a favourite niece perhaps indicates her feelings about her marriage.
When she returned to her parents’ home at Preston, she became a matron at ‘Foxholes’
maternity home in Hitchin (right) which is a measure of her ability and strong (not
to say stern) character. She was known as ‘Matron Sugden’ and was nursing there in
1951 when her mother died. She would drive there (somewhat erratically) which again
was comparatively unusual for a woman at that time. Later, Flossie worked in a home
for the elderly at Stevenage.
As soon as she heard that the cottage at Chequers Lane could be bought, she visited
the owner, Mr. Vickers, and purchased it.
Her sister, Maggie, remembers that Flossie was very generous to her children.
Flossie’s next door neighbours were the Newells (at 6 Chequers Cottages). Chris Newell’s
instant memory of Flossie was that she saved his sister Barbara’s life when a boiled
sweet lodged in her throat. She was turning blue, when Flossie ‘popped it out’.
(Above): Flossie and Harold’s marriage certificate. There was an announcement in
Pioneer Mail and India Weekly News Vol 48 Page 46: “A marriage has been arranged
and will shortly take place between Miss F Wray of Preston, Hertfordshire and Captain
H Sugden IAR”
Towards the end of her life, Flossie became a little unbalanced. She locked her sister,
Nan, out of the house and a villager remembers being terrified at school because
Flossie arrived there declaring that there was a terrible epidemic and demanding
that all the children had to be inoculated.
Flossie died intestate on 19 July 1966 at Fairfield Mental Hospital, Stotfold, Beds.
Her immediately disposable estate was valued at £4,500. Her sister Nan continued
to live at the family home until her death in 1978. Then, 5 Chequers Cottages was
sold for £18,000.
As a young boy, I was a little afraid of Auntie Flossie. She seemed fierce, strict
and demanding. She glared at me and bristled with trembling lips during the most
trivial of chats.
Harold married the widow, Florence Kate Wainstein, at Bath register office on 5 August
1941. Florence had married Simel Wainstein/Vanstein at Paddington, Middlesex in early
1927. Simel was probably Jewish. They had two sons: Silas R Wainstein (born 1927)
and Isaiah L Wainstein (1930). Possibly both sons preferred to be known later by
their middle names which lwere Russell and Leon. Russell (a Bath rugby player and
police constable) also adopted his mother’s maiden name Colwill. The relevance of
this will become clear. In 1939, Florence like Harold was living at Westward Ho (at
5 Park View Terrace) together with her aged parents and probably her two sons though
two undisclosed names have been blacked out of the record.
When he married, Harold told the registrar that he was a widower. This was, of course,
untrue. Flossie was still very much alive.
Harold was a bigamist.
He died a few months after Flossie, on 12 February 1967, at 30 Upper East Hayes,
Bath. The informant was his stepson Russell Colwill (sic).
(Above) Flossie’s WW1 medal card and her India General Service Medal - Waziristan
1919 - 21
Postscript: I am so pleased to have a photograph (shown, top) of her next to me at
a family wedding in 1951, smiling and enjoying herself. I only wish I could remember
Both Flossie and Harold died without making a will. Flossie’s estate was administered
by her sister, Maggie Whitby with help from her brothers, Jack and Sam Wray. It was
evidently assumed that either Flossie and Harold had divorced or perhaps Harold had
died. None of the Wray family appear to have had an inkling that Harold was alive,
living in England, legally still Flossie’s husband and therefore entitled to her
entire estate. Instead, after tracking down the locations of Flossie’s surviving
siblings or the children of those who had died (a process that took more than two
years) Letters of Administration were granted on 16 September 1968.Then, Flossie’s
assets were distributed (in error) and the family agreed that Nan be allowed to continue
living at 5 Chequers Cottages. By this time, if Flossie’s estate had been correctly
administered Harold’s sister, Ethel Sugden, would have been the sole beneficiary.
On 4 April 1904 (a Sunday), Flossie now fourteen was ‘bird-keeping’ (ie bird scaring)
with one of her brothers when she asked three Hitchin youths the time. They went
on towards two empty houses where they broke twenty-six panes of glass with stones
and a catapult. Flossie was a witness in the resulting court case. The houses were
owned by Hannah Squires and were situated at Sootfield Green, so Flossie and her
brother were in a nearby field, maybe of Castle Farm.