Liddell History


Paternal family of Rosalind Blower ne้ Liddell (my Grandmother). This information comes from my Uncle Dr. Robert Hunter Hill of Vancouver, her son. The records go back to the 1700s, and for several generations the family seems to have been based in Cumberland (Burgh by Sands). My Great Great Grandfather is listed as William Hodgson Liddell "of Edinburgh", and some of his six children were buried there.

Charles and John

There is only detailed information about my Great Grandfather and his siblings. The oldest brother Charles was the first to become established on the China coast. He went out to Shanghai where he married Elizabeth Birt and inherited Birt's Wharf, where there were warehouses (go-downs), the site of active trade in feathers and carpets among other things. They expanded the firm to Hankow, Tientsin and Harbin. The younger brother John (Great Grandfather) had emigrated to Canada where he bought a section of land somewhere outside Winnipeg with financial assistance from his family to the extent of fifty pounds. He worked this land for ten years, with the assistance of Donald Waters, a paid hand. The ranch was not a financial success. John then visited his brother Charles in China and joined the firm which became known as Liddell Bros. The British pronunciation of this name placed emphasis on the first syllable, but there was another firm in Shanghai called "Little Bros." and the Chinese were confused by the two names which sounded the same to them. The Liddells then decided to emphasize the second syllable of the name, a custom which has persisted in subsequent generations of this part of the family. The Prairie ranch was let to Donald Waters but remained under Liddell ownership until 1949 when it was sold to Waters at a low price. Liddell Bros. were in difficulty at the time as their assets in China had been seriously compromised by the communists. Uranium was subsequently found on the land, so Waters got the best of the deal. Thomas Hodgson Liddell RBA b.1860 d. 1925, younger brother, was an artist of some repute. He married Mary McLean in 188? in Brooklands.

Charles and Elizabeth returned to Britain, just before the turn of the century, and settled in Shire Newton, Monmouthshire. Charles is listed in the 1901 census. They must have bought Shirenewton Hall from Mr. and Mrs. Lowe (a botanist and genealogist) just after the census, and the family lived there until recently. For more details see here.

Charles, May, Marion, Thomas, Elizabeth and John Liddell

Marion Liddell  (ne้ Hellyer)

John Liddell met my Great Grandmother Marion Hellyer (aka Amama) while she was on a trip to Japan with her Father. She had been offered the alternatives of being a debutante or going on this journey, and she chose the latter. John sought her hand in marriage - a proposal which was not immediately appealing to her father Frederick Hellyer. He would not give his consent and told her she must return to Chicago with a commitment that there would be no communication between the couple for a year. At that time he was prepared to reconsider if they were still determined. When the year was up, John Liddell went to Chicago where they were married and had four children.

My Grandmother, Rosalind, was in China as a young child and the family would repair to the hills in Japan during the very hot summer weather. My Mother has photographs of her and aunts dressed in Kimonos in the gardens of the Fujya Hotel in Myanoshita. My Uncle visited this hotel in the late eighties and found in an old register an entry for the year 1910, in my Great Grandmother's handwriting "Mrs. Liddell and daughters from Shanghai." They had a large house in Shanghai (Hungjao?), but sent the children to England for boarding school: parents made regular visits to Britain but much of the holiday time from school was spent with family friends. Rosalind was closely associated with the family of Charles Mayne. John Liddell died when my Great Grandmother, Marion, was only about 40; she kept in close contact with her British and her American family for the rest of her life. She would come to England nearly every year, with a Chinese amah. She kept a flat at No.11 King Street and had a large Lanchester car with a chauffeur called Francis. For several years, when my Uncle Rob was between 6 and 11 years of age, she would take him,  his cousins and Rosalind (their Parents were in Shanghai) to Pontresina in Switzerland over the new year holidays. The Grand Hotel Bellavista, where they stayed, always had a fancy dress ball and Marion liked the family to be attired according to some theme. Costumes would be purchased ahead of time at Clarkson's, well known theatrical costume people in London. These trips ceased with the threat of hostilities in the late thirties.

Marion Liddell (Amama) at her home in Hong Kong

Another memory of that time is of a dance when Robert was attached, as a partner, to a child called Amaryllis Fleming. She was half sister of Peter Fleming - well known writer and explorer - and Ian Fleming, better known as the author of the James Bond novels. She wore a fantastic gown which had belonged to her grandmother, evidently a tiny woman. Uncle Rob later saw this young lady perform as a professional cellist, with flaming red hair. Her mother had been separated from Fleming for some time and there was a rumour of a liaison with the painter Augustus John (a notorious womaniser with red hair). This rumour is substantiated by Amaryllis, who died in 1999, following a distinguished musical career. It was not until she was in her early twenties that she learned that Mrs. Fleming and Augustus John were her real parents, the previous story being that she was adopted.

Rosalind Blower (ne้ Liddell) b.1902

Rosalind married Thomas William Hill in 1924 in Switzerland, and had one child, my Uncle Robert Hunter Hill b. 1926 Switzerland. Thomas died in 1927 from Tuberculosis. My Grandmother bought Little Lanley Farm, Hampshire in 1935, and married again in 1938 to Maurice Blower, who was a musician with a Doctorate of Music from Oxford University. His real interest lay in composition - he also taught and was involved with local choirs etc. They had three children, Thomas was born in 1938, my mother Marion in 1942, and William in 1946.

Thomas inherited musical talent and was a choral scholar at St. George's Windsor, being head choirboy at the funeral of King George VI. He went on to Radley with a music scholarship and was then an officer in the army before going up to Cambridge to read law. He married Elizabeth Carmichael and had three daughters, Camilla, Fiona and Emma.

My Mother Marion went out to visit her half-brother Rob in Vancouver in the early 60s. She then married David Kemp in 1966 and moved to Tonbridge where David taught. He became headmaster in 1990, Master of the Worshipful Company of Skinners, and Chairman of Kent County Cricket Club. Marion is a botanical artist. They have three children, Anthony who is profoundly compromised with Tuberous Sclerosis, William and Peter.

William has Down Syndrome. He was at home until teenage years, and now lives in an adult group home 'Care' at Warberton, Sussex.

Rosalind's oldest sister Georgiana married Harold Reynell and had two children, Eugenie and John. They spent much of their time in China. John stayed with Rosalind whilst recovering from a severe attack of the measles. During the war, Georgiana (Great Aunt Georgie) took a flat in Chelsea.

John, Eugenie and their Mother Georgiana

Eugenie married Gregory Haines - then a naval officer, whose mother lived in Petersfield, close to Little Langley Farm. They had five children, the oldest Fiona married Henry and they had a farm in Somerset. After Henry died, Fiona moved to the south of France. Another daughter is Gayle, who is a professional pianist, also living in France.

John Reynell was in the Navy during the war. Subsequently he was associated with Uncle Jack Liddell's business out in Borneo. He was married to Pam and had two children, Peter (died at sea) and Victoria - then divorced Pam and married Tilly and had two more children, Keith and Melissa, and lived on Vancouver Island

Great Uncle Jack, Rosalind's only brother, took over the business in Shanghai as a young man. He had a very difficult time during the Japanese invasion when he was interned as a political prisoner. The business then suffered severe reverses after the communist regime succeeded the Japanese. He was married for a time to Billie, and then after the war he married Mora, living first in Hong Kong and then in California.

Great Aunt Marion, Rosalind's last sister, married Rob Bremner. They came home from China and started a fruit farm in Little Baddow, Essex. This was a large apple farm where my Uncle Rob used to go and pick apples during the war as an obligation to do 'war work' during the school holidays. They had no children.

Charles and John Liddell had a sister, Maude (Mary Hannah) who married a Dane named Norgaard. They had a daughter called Ana, who was befriended by Rosalind. Ana was involved in some kind of missionary work in India, and in her latter years was dependent on financial help from Amama (Ana's Aunt, my great grandmother).

Sir. Charles and Bessie Liddell

Sir. Charles Oswald Liddell b.1851 Edinburgh, married Elizabeth Kate Birt b. 1861 Romsey, in 1880 at the Anglican Cathedral in Shanghai, China. Bought Shirenewton Hall c1901. They had eight children:

Percy William Oswald Liddell b.1881 Shanghai d. 1967, married Gwendoline Ray Whittall b.1888 d. 1978. They had five children, the third of whom was Ian Oswald Liddell who won the Victoria Cross in the second world war.

Kenneth Charles Liddell b.1883 Shanghai, married Lydia.

Norman Oswald Liddell b.1886 Shanghai, married Florence. They had a son Malcom Liddell who married Brandy ?

Colin John Liddell b.1888 Shanghai

Charles Bertram Liddell b.1889 married Alinne Beatrice Mason, who had two children Charles Anthony Mason and June Jaqueline. June Married ? Marshall and had a daughter Rosanna Marshall.

Dorothy Catherine Liddell married ? Cottrell

Marion Bessie Liddell b.1898 Shanghai, married Jim Whittall (brother of Gwendoline?) and had two children

Enid Muriel Liddell b. 1900 Chepstow, Co Monmouth. c. Shirenewton Hall married Marshall O'Donovan and had a son Timothy O'Donovan, who married Veronica, who had two sons.