Finding the Two Wives Fowler, Part 1
Today’s post sees us welcome Ben Weston to the Cemetery Club fold. Ben by trade is a carpenter, and has accompanied Sheldon on finding out who Montague Fowler was, which itself has awoken his strong passion for genealogy. Without much arm-twisting, he wanted to contribute a series of his own to the Cemetery Club. Today he starts his entries, concerning the puzzling situation regarding our dear Reverend…and his TWO wives.
Where is Ada? Why is this Denise buried with Montague? For this new series I will be looking into the two wives of Montague Fowler, revealing if we had missed a big part in his life like a remarriage or if this honest Reverend had something he had been hiding all this time.
The stables where the story began
We visited where I used to live to see if we could get access to that old chest which had the document that started our quest off to see if we could get more answers. The man who owned the hayloft was away so we could not see it that day, but in the entrance hall was a picture of…Denise!
She was there on the wall for all the years I lived there. Basic research on the internet revealed Ada, Monty’s first wife, was an amateur playwright (using the name Gaston Gervex) who had many shows performed: one being written for the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt. Later research showed the picture in the hallway was of Sarah and not Ada. We also looked in to seeing how the chest with Montague’s schoolwork got there in the first place, and it seems Denise, or Lady Fowler, lived there until her death.
Sarah Bernhardt, the actress who slept in her own Coffin.
But we had another woman to think of. The day started with the excitement of finally meeting Ada Fowler, the Reverend Sir Montague’s first wife. I’d researched where and when she was buried, but was unsure if I had the right church or not. I woke up late and didn’t have time to look at its correct location. I then had a phone call from Sheldon with a quivering voice explaining he was about to be on BBC radio talking about the Cemetery Club and the revelation that local councils were short of burial space. We spent the first hour of the morning wondering what he was going to say, mainly me telling him to plug Monty and myself, during which gave me time to find the correct church. The interview he gave to Vanessa Feltz can be found here.
There were two parts to today; to get Monty’s will and the other to see Ada’s grave. I know Sheldon was more keen to get the will which promised to clear up the issue of whether he had children or not and who they were, but with my infatuation with the Fowler family as a whole, mine was to see where Ada was laid to rest.
Arriving at the Probate Office in Holborn I was quickly pulled to one side by security and made to hand over the can of deodorant that was in my rucksack. We then went to the seventh floor, where Sheldon collected the will and read it ‘quietly’ (with a woman constantly coughing as if to say he should stop!). The will confirmed he had THREE daughters (two by blood, one from Denise’s previous relationship) not the two I was originally led to believe. The third I actually had researched, and found the husband on a genealogy website tracing royal blood, but dismissed her due to lack of proof that she was Montague’s daughter.
Other points that came to light in my research:
Montague talking about the ‘regret of the enormous expenditure caused me by years of litigation in regard to the disentail of Braemore‘ and how he was sorry to the staff members there, which we couldn’t understand why.
We saw lady Denise Fowler being called DAME for the first time.
Colonel Frank Hilder listed as being the guardian over his daughters.
‘Lucie’, the eldest daughter, who through various documents alternated between being a Fowler and a Chailley was revealed to be his step-daughter.
While we were there we ordered the wills for Evelyn Denise Newling, the oldest blood daughter of Montague and of course, Ada Fowler, his first wife.
We presumed Ada was his only wife and were thrown a little when we found out about his second wife Denise. At this time we know little about her and how Montague became a father and step-father. I have also found out that Ada died in what seemed to be a quiet house in Richmond. We now think this was a second home situated conveniently next to Richmond Park so she could continue their love of deer hunting.
We left the Probate Office and made our way to Richmond in search of Mrs Montague Fowler. When arriving at Richmond (both for the first time) we instantly noticed an 18th century church in the high street which was wedged between new buildings, which has now been converted into an estate agents. We walked straight to the Thames and both instantly fell in love with Richmond Bridge, which was completed in 1777. Walking further along the Thames, we took a path through an open field with grazing cattle. We found ourselves walking down a narrow foot path: I could tell Sheldon was wondering where we were going as I told him earlier “it’s this way I promise, I memorised the route from Google-maps this morning” and as soon we exited the footpath, lo and behold there stood St. Peter’s of Petersham.
The churchyard was very well kept, there were no graves that were over grown with weeds or plants, making it very easy to identify the markings on the headstones. Sheldon and I instantly set off into search mode, looking for any signs of Ada! Saving the details of the search, (all two hours of them) all I can say is that we found no signs of Ada being here! I did speak to a local who told me that the church was open to the public on Sundays which contained an index listing all the burials interred here.
By this time we were both exhausted and went back to Richmond to get some food. So the search for Ada continues! I myself will not give up on finding Monty’s first wife!