The Galton Sisters Back to the Main Historical Society page
Back to the Barwicker Contents page

The Galton Sisters

From the Barwicker No. 101
March 2011

In the mid-1800s two sisters were born in London. Little did they know in their early years that one of them would marry into an Italian banker's family and the other would become Lady of the Manor at Parlington and Lotherton.

The sisters were Evelyne Isabella Galton (born 1853) and Laura Gwendolen Douglas Galton (born 1859). When they were children, their father inherited Himbleton Manor in Worcestershire and they spent most of their childhood in the countryside. Gwendolen was considered a delicate child, so it was ideal for her to live away from London and the dreadful smog which often covered the Capital. Along with her paternal cousins and their families, they would take it in turns to spend much time keeping their widowed grandmother company at her home at Hadzor. The family also stayed with their cousins the Nightingales in Hampshire. A governess was employed to teach the girls the accomplishments of the female gentry and they enjoyed riding their ponies in the surrounding countryside.

Although six years separated their ages they were great companions and when Evelyne married in 1875 and went to live in Florence, Gwendolen missed her considerably. Evelyne sent Gwendolen detailed letters about the grandiose style of living at the Fenzi Villa named 'Rusciano' in Florence. The household had its own liveried coachmen, postillians and footmen. Gwendolen took every available opportunity to visit Florence and it was there that she first heard the narrative Italian songs, the Stornellii. She would invite the singing minstrels into the court yard of Evelyne's villa and give them a drink in return for which they would teach her the words. She had a good singing voice and in later years used to go into the local primary school in Aberford and sing to the children.

Gwendolen loved to travel and prior to her marriage wrote two novels viz La Fenton and A Step Aside, the latter being published during her first year of marriage. She wrote a non-fiction book entitled Among Pagodas and Fair Ladies which was an account of her travels through Burma.

Gwendolen, still single, met Col. Frederick Richard Trench Gascoigne and married him in February 1892. Before their marriage the Colonel took Gwendolen and Evelyne to see his Scottish estate at Craignish. Gwendolen's marriage was a much quieter affair than that of her sister. Evelyne had twelve bridesmaids who were dressed in white muslin dresses trimmed with sashes and scarves. The Italian colours were tastefully introduced in their headdresses.

Frederick and Gwendolen had no bridesmaids but did have two page boys dressed in crimson plus and blue velvet with brocaded waistcoats and matching hats.

Evelyne had three children, twin daughters born in 1876 and a son born in 1880. However she also had a series of tragedies in her life. In June 1882 1 her youngest daughter, Cammilla Maria Christina Ernestina Augusta contracted diphtheria and died. Her husband died as a result of a shooting accident whilst cleaning his gun aged 30.2 Gwendolen had two children Alvary born 1893 and Cynthia born 1898.

In 1891 Evelyne founded an English Grammar school in Florence. She decided to do this as the Italians were impressed by English education and the number of English and Americans living in Florence was increasing annually. The paper reported 'it was expected that the boys' football and cricket matches will make a great sensation in the City of Flowers ,3

Evelyne married the Merchant Banker, Leonard D Cunliffe, in 1898(4) and in 1901 they had nine servants to look after a thirty-seven room house! Evelyne was a frequent visitor to Lotherton and the sisters remained close throughout their lives. Evelyne died at Lotherton Hall in October 1928 and her grave is alongside that of her sister and Col. ,Gascoigne in the new section of Aberford Church yard.

I am very grateful to Michael G Copeland for supplying additional information.


(1) The Standard 28 June 1882
(2) Times 11 September 1883
(3) Leeds Mercury 28 August 1891
(4) Morning Post 28 January 1898

Back to the top
Back to the Main Historical Society page
Back to the Barwicker Contents page