Family of Donaldson

This document was passed on to me by Sarah , the niece of Ruth Donaldson-Hudson 


FAMILY  OF  DONALDSON    (Written by Ruth Donaldson-Hudson in about 1953)


   The DONALDSONS, as the name clearly indicates, are of Scottish origin. Years ago I remember my Grandmother, Mrs. R. D. Balfour, herself born as Catherine Elizabeth Donaldson, telling me that her grandfather, Alexander Donaldson had come from Dumfriesshire and had subsequently settled at Wigton, Cumberland where he married an English wife, Elizabeth Hudson (see above, under HUDSON) .

   Dumfriesshire is a wide county to search for ancestral records; however, an invaluable clue was provided by a letter written in 1837 by John Donaldson (son to Alexander) , who mentions a Cottage in Langholm, which his father had left to his (Alexander's) brother during his life. A subsequent visit to the Registry House in Edinburgh, where I was able to examine all the Langholm Parish Registers, was most rewarding.

   In the second half of the 18th Century, there was, it appears, a clan of Donaldsons in Langholm, and all of them were weavers. My great-great-grandfather ALEXANDER DONALDSON was born Dec.26th 1758 at Langholm. (This agrees very closely, if not exactly, with the monument in Wigton Church which records his death in April 1819 at the age of 59 - see below. Actually he must have turned 60 at the time of his death.) He was "son to Robert Donaldson weaver in Langholm & Mary Hope his wife".

   Looking further back, I found the marriage in 1750 of - "Robert Donlson weaver & Mary Hope Daughter of the Deceased Thomas Hope in Irving Cemetery. Regularly proclaimed & Married April 6th." (1)


The Register of Baptisms 1690 - 1729 is missing altogether and it was therefore impossible to trace the date of birth of this ROBERT DONALDSON, which is likely to have taken place about 1725 to 1729. Of course it is possible that Robert was not a native of Langholm but came from a neighbouring parish (if so, where to search?), or maybe from much farther afield. After the Jacobite Rising of 1745-46 many of the Highland Clans were proscribed and penalised, which led thousands of clansmen to leave their ancient Highland homes (2), where they were subjected to the most severe measures of repression. Moreover a great many at this period Anglicised their names (e.g. MacDonald to Donaldson). So it was not inconceivable that the Donaldsons, weavers in Langholm, had migrated to Dumfriesshire from the Highlands. To draw again on Granny Balfour's reminiscences, she believed that her forebears had come originally from "somewhere near Elgin". Elgin is a long way out of MacDonald country, but if we substitute "somewhere in the North of Scotland" for "near Elgin", we may be not so far from the truth.  In any case, it is all very vague and we must therefore start our family history with the Langholm weavers.


(1)   I was lucky to find this entry as between its date and may 1760, there are but two marriages recorded - one in July 1752 and one in 1759, which reflects carelessness on the part of the minister or his clerk.

(2)  30,000 Highlanders sought refuge in the American Colonies. Not the least of their troubles were the exactions of the new landlordism, established on the English model, the old clan system having been forcibly abolished.



   To return to ROBERT DONALDSON and MARY HOPE his wife, their family consisted of three daughters and two sons:

(1)   Ann, b. 1751

(2)  Elizabeth, b. 1753

(3)  Mary, b. 1757

(4)  Alexander, b. 1758

(5)  Thomas, b 1761


   I beg to query the name Thomas for the youngest child and would substitute Robert - the one mentioned by John Donaldson in his letter of 1837, who there says "he has been dead two years". Sure enough the Langholm Register gives the death of Robert Donaldson (Weaver) on Oct. 19th 1835, aged 74. This would date his birth at 1761. The name Thomas may simply be a slip on the part of the write of the Register, or perhaps the child was christened Thomas Robert (or Robert Thomas) - Thomas in memory of his maternal grandfather.

   In view of the fact that the elder son was named Alexander, it seems fairly safe to assume that Robert the Weaver was the son of an earlier Alexander, whose death is recorded in 1752:

   "Feb 1st Alexander Donaldson weaver in Langholm died had the new mortcloth paid" (3)

   Another Langholm weaver was Henry Donaldson. He & Jean Fall "his spouse" also had a son Alexander (b. 1752), as well as two daughters, Elizabeth and Ann (Note the similarity of Christian names between this family and Robert's) and it is quite likely that Henry & Robert were brothers.

   Besides these two, there was another Henry, who married Barbara Beattie (or Beatty)(1757); also two John Donaldsons, married respectively to Helen Hotson and Jean Gowanlock (also spelt Going Lock). It is impossible to say what the precise relationship was between these different Henrys and John - cousins of varying degrees is about all we can safely hazard.

   To conclude this account of the Langholm Donaldsons, Robert the Weaver (father of Alexander and the younger Robert died January 22nd 1785. In January 1803 a Mary Hope was buried: although the Register (at this period the entries give only the bare name and are devoid of all other information as to age, occupation or place of residence) does not specify that she was the relict of Robert Donaldson, I am inclined to think that this was his widow and therefore our ancestress. (It is common in Scotland to retain the woman's maiden name even in the case of a wife or widow.)


(3)  Mortcloth - The pall covering a coffin on the way to the gravesite. The mortcloth was hired out to parishioners by the kirk session or the guild. Information on mortcloth hire can be found in kirk session minutes.


   We now come to ALEXANDER DONALDSON, my great-great-grandfather, born (as we have seen) at Langholm on Boxing Day 1758.

   He does not appear to have followed the family trade of weaving; certainly he forsook his native land. There is nothing to tell us why, or precisely when, he left Langholm and crossed over into Sassenach territory. But in all events we find that in 1787, at Aikton, Cumberland (about 4 miles north of Wigton) -

"Alexander Donaldson of the Parish of Wigton Batchelor and Betty Hudson of the Parish of Wigton were married in this Church by Banns tenth day of September 1781 by me J. Wilkinson, Curate. In the presence of   Joseph Ridley   Robert Donaldson"


   This marriage is very important to us as a family: it lead ultimately to my Grandfather, Charles Donaldson, inheriting a large fortune and the estate of Cheswardine from his great-uncle Thomas Hudson II, who was brother to Elizabeth (Betty) Donaldson; and from the union of these two families, Scottish and English, we derive our double name.


   ALEXANDER DONALDSON   left a fine silver snuffbox, engraved with the legend:



   From this circumstance it has come about that Alexander is always referred to by descendants as "His Box"! (Oddly suitable considering his birthday was on Boxing Day.)

   Apart from the snuffbox, which suggests that he was probably quite well-to-do, we never knew anything about Alexander Donaldson nor of what he did. But by stumbling on an old Deed of Mortgage, 1805, Hudson to Donaldson (which I have already mentioned in an earlier section, under THOMAS HUDSON I), I was led to the discovery that Alexander Donaldson was a Clockmaker, and his father-in-law, Thomas Hudson, a stationer, both of Wigton.


   THIS INDENTURE made the Second Day of August ……. In the year of our Lord one thousand Eight hundred and two Between Thomas Hudson of Wigton in the County of Cumberland Stationer of the one part and Alexander Donaldson of Wigton aforesaid Clockmaker of the other part WITNESSETH that for and in consideration of the sum of TWO HUNDRED POUNDS of Lawful Money to the said Thomas Hudson in hand well and truly paid by the said Alexander Donaldson ……….. He the said Thomas Hudson ……. Doth Grant Bargain Sell and Surrender unto the said Alexander Donaldson his Heirs and Assigns All that his the said Thomas Hudson's Customary piece or parcel of Land situate……….. in Wigton Croft with the Weaving Shops Erections Buildings thereon Erected and Built, ………. With their and every of their Appurtenances all which said premises are now holden of the said Sir


Mrs. Jordan, Antique Dealer in Penrith is well acquainted with Donaldson clocks; but up to the time of writing I have not seen one.


Frederick Fletcher Vane Baronet (Lord of the Manor of Wigton) as a Customary Estate of Inheritance … by payment of the apportioned yearly Customary rent of Eight pence and a Twenty penny fine certain and now in the occupation of the said Thomas Hudson or his Undertenants Together with all and singular Houses Outhouses Edifices Buildings now Erected and Built or which shall or may at any time hereafter be Erected and Built upon the said piece or parcel of Land …….. TO HAVE AND TO HOLD the said Customary piece or parcel of Land with the Weaving Shops Erections and Buildings (etc) unto the said Alexander Donaldson his Heirs and Assigns for ever according to the Custom of the said manor of Wigton Yielding and paying therefore yearly ….. the yearly Customary rent of Eight pence…….

 And so it goes on. The gist of the document is that Thomas Hudson undertakes to repay the principal (£200) with lawful interest; and that in default of repayment upon reasonable request, Alexander Donaldson, his Executors, Administrators or Assigns may take such legal action as may be necessary to convey and assure the said premises above granted and surrendered to Alexander Donaldson, his Executors or Assigns.


   On the outside of the Deed is written in Thomas Hudson II's handwriting:-

                                    Principal                       200-----------

                                    Interest 30 mos.               7.   10.    0.

                                                                        207.   10.    0.

   Again on the outside of the Deed, the younger Thomas Hudson has made the note:-

                                    This deed has been settled as follows

                        Mr. Bigland's Note for                                     £120

                        Cash----------------------                           37.   10.   0.

                        Do. On loan to Mrs H. from theBrewery               50.   00.   0.

                                                                                                 207.   10.    0.

   ALEXANDER & ELIZABETH DONALDSON had a family of five sons and two daughters. Both of the latter died young, one at two and the other at eight years old. Each in turn was called Ann. There is a quaint old picture, which I have known all my life because it used to hang in our schoolroom at Cheswardine, and it is linked with the memory of the younger Ann. To the parents' grief at losing their second daughter was added that of having no likeness of her. They therefore had a picture painted of the child's favourite doll, to remember her by. The picture is of no artistic merit, but for the family it has a peculiar, and a rather pathetic, interest.

   Of the five sons:-

(1)   Thomas (1788-1837) was a Wine Merchant in the City of London and was possible in partnership with his uncle Thomas Hudson (II). If so, "T.H.D. & Co." (referred to in John Donaldson's letters) may have stood for Thomas Hudson, Donaldson & Co* Thomas died unmarried "whilst on a visit to his friends"


·         See also in Appendix, under Dixon.

   2 Robert (1791-1880) married Alice Jordison and was the father of two sons:         

a)    Christopher

b)    Charles

In some old notes I find Robert described as "of Funchal, Madeira". Evidently he too was in his uncle's wine business and presumably managed the vineyards in Madeira.*

   Christopher, I believe, followed him in the vineyards and lived all his life out in Madeira.

   Sometime in the 1920's, my cousin, Jack Leche, met a lady, then married to an American, who was related to the Donaldsons of Madeira, where she was born and bred. Whether she was born a Donaldson, or whether she was the widow of a Donaldson, Jack could not remember. If the former, she might have been a granddaughter of Christopher. She was completely Portuguese in looks, but it is more than probable that Christopher (or his son) married into a local Madeiran family.

*Donaldson's interests in Madeira were ultimately bought up by one of the big local firms.

   3 Charles (1794-1861) left no issue

   4 John (1803-1856) was my great-grandfather and is dealt with in details later on.

   5 Henry (1808-1858) left no issue


   To complete this account of Alexander Donaldson (His Box) I give the following inscription from a monument in Wigton Church:

                        Erected to the memory of Alexander Donaldson of Wigton

Who departed this life on the 27th of April 1819, aged 59 years. Also of Ann the daughter of Alexander and Elizabeth Donaldson who departed on the 13th July 1799 aged 2 years and also of Ann their daughter who departed on the 1st of may 1809 aged 8 years. Also of Thomas their son Wine Merchant in the City of London who died whilst on a visit to his friends on the 16th day of Jany. 1837 aged 49. Also of the above named Elizabeth Donaldson who died on the 31st day of March 1849 aged 83 years.


2nd Generation

   We now come to my Great-Great-Grandfather JOHN DONALDSON, fourth son of Alexander, "His Box", the Clockmaker.

   Born in 1803, he married in 1835, CATHERINE HALLILEY. Her father Anthony Halliley, of Wigton, a Yorkshireman by birth, was partner in a firm of calico printers. (See below, under section Halliley )

   JOHN DONALDSON was a partner with his eldest brother Thomas and with his Uncle Thomas Hudson (II) in a brewery at Wigton. He has left many Letter Books, covering about 20 years from 1826 onwards, which deal very largely with the business of the brewery. Personal and family affairs come into them too. These Letter Books (when they have eventually all been transcribed) will, I hope, speak for themselves and need no comment from me.


   A report on the Wigton property, made for my grandfather, Charles Donaldson-Hudson in 1889, mentions "Donaldson House", Brookside, Wigton, as being in a "fair state of repair". This, presumably, was John Donaldson's residence in Wigton, as long as he was managing the brewery. Just how long he continued in active control of the business is not known; nor have I yet found out when the family connection with the brewery ceased. But it is certain that after Uncle Hudson's death in 1852 John Donaldson made his home at Cheswardine and that he also had a London house, Gloucester Terrace, Hyde Park.

   By Uncle Hudson's will Cheswardine was left to John's younger son, Charles; but John was tenant for life, or at any rate during the son's minority. As it happened, however, he was only to enjoy his new estate for four years.

   Elsewhere I have given a brief character sketch of Mrs. John Donaldson (see under HALLILEY), a woman of rough speech, pungent humour, and rude uncouth manners - if all the stories about her are to be believed. Her portrait shows an unattractive, unpleasant-tempered woman in middle age, who to the distress of her relations lived on to be nearly 92.

   Of JOHN DONALDSON, on the other hand, very little is known. (My Grandmother Balfour, who was his youngest child, was only three years old when he died and barely remembered him) Judging from his portrait, which shows him to have been rather good-looking, he seems to have been of a gentle and mild disposition, with none of the asperity and arrogance that characterised his wife. But that he could be firm on occasion is evident from many of his letters. No doubt his firmness with his wife caused her to allude to him in those terms that earned him the family sobriquet of The Bad Man (which "Old Granny" pronounced "Bod Man")

   He does not appear to have enjoyed very good health and his letters contain references to digestive troubles. Then, 1855, he begins to write of a severe affection of the throat, which made swallowing difficult and painful and at times produced loss of speech. These were symptoms of that fatal disease (cancer of the gullet, as appears on his Death Certificate) which carried him off in 1856, at the comparatively early age of 53.



1. THOMAS DONALDSON, the eldest, born in 1836, appears to have been a dashing and rather wild young man, devoted to horses and hunting, and at an early age rather too fond of racing for his father's liking. He is the hero of an escapade that is supposed to have lost him his inheritance. He was staying once at Cheswardine with Uncle and Aunt Hudson; he was then about sixteen and full of high spirits (circa 1852? So around the time of his Uncle's and Aunt's deaths - MAWH)  One afternoon, Uncle Hudson, standing at the library window, is horrified to see his elder great-nephew Tom riding a pig back and forth over the flower beds below the house. A shrewd and careful, as well as prosperous, business man was Thomas Hudson, and there and then he is supposed to have decided that this young and irresponsible scapegrace Tom was no fit person to inherit his wealth and that Charlie, the younger brother, should be the heir.

   I have heard my Grandmother Balfour (sister to Tom & Charlie) declare the great Pig-Riding episode had nothing to with the choice of Charlie as the heir. According to her, Charlie was a very delicate little boy, he never went to school until he was twelve, (1852?) but with his sister Annie (next in age above him) spent most of his early years with Uncle and Aunt Hudson. They were a childless couple and Charlie became as a son to them. The more boisterous Tom, though he would often go to Cheswardine during his holidays, they never knew so well. So what was more natural, said Granny Balfour, than that Uncle Hudson should leave the property to the great-nephew whom he knew so well and to whom he and his wife were so attached?

   There is a certain amount of truth, probably, in what Granny Balfour said; but do not let us leave the Pig Ride entirely out of account. From letters written in Sept. 1852 we know that Tom, aged 16, was then being educated by Mr. Hutchins, near Stroud in Gloucestershire, where Charlie (aged 12) joined him about that time. In 1855 both brothers were being tutored by a Mr. Kensit at Betchworth Vicarage, Surrey. A Mr. Gibson, writing to Tom in 1859, refers, however, to Rugby School and more than once. It is difficult to fit Rugby into the chronological picture, but the likeliest explanation is that he was there for only a short time, before going to Mr. Hutchins, whose establishment was probably more of a crammer's than an ordinary school. Later Tom went up to Magdalen College, Oxford (while Charlie, in due course, went to Merton College).

   One thing emerges - that Tom was no scholar: he was often taken to task about his handwriting, and he was weak in Arithmetic! Before 1859 he appears to have joined a regiment of Rifles, perhaps a Militia or Volunteer formation. Then we find his father's old friend, Henry Gibson, using his influence to help Tom to obtain a commission in a Cavalry Regiment, "without the bother of the usual examinations". This was achieved through the good offices of "an Old General" with whom Mr. Gibson was well acquainted, Tom duly obtaining a Cornetcy in the 3rd. Dragoons alias 3rd. Kings Own Hussars, at the age of 23.

(Thomas Hudson's will was signed on the 29th June 1850 - Tom Donaldson would have only 14. A codicil to the will was signed on 13th April 1852. Alterations of settlements for Tom Donaldson and others were included in the codicil.)


   (See later section OLD FAMILY LETTERS - from which I have roughly pieced together the details of Tom's education and of his slow progress into the Army.)


   In 1867 Tom was a Captain and his regiment was quartered at Hounslow. One Saturday evening he was riding home on his favourite charger, after being on duty at the Barracks. After he had parted company with one or two brother officers, "his horse became very restive and unmanageable; it reared up, the poor Captain fell backwards and fractured his skull, dying within a few hours of the accident. The regiment subscribed to a stained glass memorial Window, which is in the Chapel of Cheswardine Church.

CAPTAIN THOMAS DONALDSON married in 1860 (Louisa Helen Elizabeth KIRWAN, one of three beautiful Irish sisters. His regiment was serving in Ireland when he joined it in 1859, and from Ireland brought back not only a wife, but also a magnificent specimen of head and antlers of the extinct Irish Elk. This fossil, which in my time hung first in the dining-room and later in the smoking-room at Cheswardine, was discovered in a peat bog on the Kirwan family estate.


Descendants of Thomas Donaldson: He had one daughter and three sons:-

1)     Helen Louisa, whom we called Aunt Nelly, was born in 1861; she married first Captain F.W. Ind, R.A. (who died in 1887) and secondly Captain (later Lt. Col and O.B.E.) Wellesley (Dick) Pigott of the Rifle Brigade. When I knew Aunt nelly in the middle 1920's she was a very old lady, and most amusing, with a wonderful repertoire of anecdotes about Old Granny Donaldson.

2)    Walter Kirwan Donaldson (1863 - 1933) was more or les a cripple from birth. He married and had two sons, both of whom I knew slightly:

v  Archibald Kirwan Donaldson, born 1890, who is married but has no children.

v  Eric Kirwan Donaldson, born 1898, was a Commander R.N., when he died at Durban S.A about 1944. He married Muriel Macbean and left two children:-

v  Peter Kirwan, Lt R.N.

v  Wendy.


3)    Gerald Kirwan Donaldson (1865 - 1932) emigrated to Australia and married out there. He left a daughter Kathleen (Russell), who once came to Cheswardine and with whom I still exchange Xmas cards and an occasional letter, and three sons, all of whom are married and have children

v  Alan Kirwan Donaldson, born 1900

v  Helen Kathleen Donaldson, born 1905 married Norman Russell

v  Dermot Kirwan Donaldson, born 1907

v  Brian Kirwan Donaldson, born 1911


4)    Thomas Reginald Kirwan Donaldson, (1867 - 1893). There is a window to his memory, in Cheswardine Church - high up in the south wall of the chancel.


3rd Generation: Children of John Donaldson

2.   ANNIE, elder daughter and second child of John and Catherine Donaldson, was born in 1839. In 1862 she married Captain Robert DYMOND in the 3rd. Light Dragoons (K. O. Hussars), a brother officer of Tom Donaldson. They had two children:-

1)     Frank Noel DYMOND, born 1864, who was drowned in Argentina in 1889. He is commemorated by a very lovely stained glass window, at the west end of the north aisle (Actually the south aisle) in Cheswardine Church.

2)    Minna DYMOND, born circa 1873, who married Capt. Claude Milburne (S. Staffs Regt.), by whom she has

v  Heather Milburne, born 1901, who married …………… Leason and has a daughter

v  Jack Milburne, late of the Scots Guards, now living in Kenya.


Minna, for all her 80 odd years, is still (1953) bright and alert. She lived near Petworth, Sussex.


Aunt Annie Dymond died in 1916, and old Robert Dymond (a very good looking man, I always heard) about two years later.

   I never knew Aunt Annie, but she probably saw me as a baby of two or three years when she came to Cheswardine for Old Granny Donaldson's funeral in 1905. To me she was only a name, but a very living name whose handwriting I knew, for up to her death she always sent me a Christmas card (and, as I remember, I was always made to write a dutiful of thanks).


4.   Catherine Elizabeth (whom I am taking out of turn) was the second daughter, and very much the youngest child, of John and Catherine DONALDSON, not appearing until 1851 - while Charlie, the third child, was born in 1840.  ("I was what they call an afterthought", she told me once.)

   She was born in January of 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition, and about September she was taken as a babe in arms to the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, so that she might be able to tell her descendants that she had seen the Great Exhibition. When in her teens, she paid another visit to the Crystal Palace - but by then it was removed to Sydenham Hill - to see Blondin, the famous tightrope walker. (October 1st 1888)

   She spent her early years at Cheswardine, she and her mother living there with her brother Charlie. When he married in 1870, she and "Old Granny" went to live in Stanhope Gardens, London. Early in 1876 (aged 25) she married Robert* Drummond Balfour, a partner in Capel & Co., Stockbrokers, by whom she had:-

1.     Muriel (Molly) BALFOUR, born 31st Oct 1876 - - my Mother

2.     Melville BALFOUR M.C., born 1878, who followed his father in Capel & Co. He married Margaret (Daisy) Lascelles and is the father of:-

1.Anthony Melville BALFOUR, born 1916, late Capt. Scots Guards and M.C. killed in action at Anzio 1944.

2.Colin James BALFOUR, born 1924, R.N.. He married in 1949 Prudence Colvin and is the father of:-

1.     James John Melville BALFOUR, born 1951.



    3.   Alec Edward BALFOUR, born 1880, who married Mademoiselle May d'Harcourt and is the father of:-

1.     Brenda BALFOUR, born 1920, who married Comte Francois de Bourbon-Busset

2.     Roy BALFOUR, born 1922, late Lt. Scots Guards, killed in action at Salerno 1943

3.     Cynthia BALFOUR.


We (i.e. my generation) have happy recollections of our FOUR grandparents and of their various kindnesses to us. "Grandad" was a forceful and vigorous character, full of energy with a great zest for life, a man of good business ability at the same time devoted to sport and games. He had been up at Magdalene College, Cambridge; there he had won his Cricket Blue in his first year, and played four years running for his University. He was a man of quick and impatient temper and could be very aggressive. He fell out with his brother-in-law Charlie, and for two pins would have fallen out with my father, when the latter went to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage. He quarrelled with his brother Archie Balfour, and the quarrel went on for about ten years, until they accidentally met one day at their lawyer's office and the foolish bygones were suddenly allowed to become bygones! As children, however, we only saw the sunnier, fun-loving side of the character. He liked to join in our games and would enjoy himself like a schoolboy. I remember the last time he came to Cheswardine, at the latter end of 1914, which was also the last time I saw him. After tea we (Twinks, John and I) were ballyragging in the saloon and he joined lustily in our cushion fights etc. until he was nearly exhausted. But, "I haven't enjoyed anything so much for a long time", he said.

He died in May 1915, of a stroke.


By contrast, "Granny" was, as you might say, the gentle Zephyr to the rude Boreas of Bob. As I remember her in my early youth and her middle age, she was quiet and lethargic, rather invalidish, not the sort of person to make a great impression on small children. Yet as a girl, I believe, she had been cheerful and sprightly and full of life, a fine horsewoman, and very fond of hunting. The fact of the matter probably was that Grandad with his superabundance of vitality had sapped her energies; nor can a man of his fiery temperament have …… a very easy to live with. As long as he was alive, she remained in the background and drawn in upon herself, perforce taking a passive negative part where he was the very active positive element. But after his death, she seemed to come into her own and in the late sixties took more or less a new lease of life. A woman of shrewd judgment, she managed her affairs in a businesslike manner; she enjoyed her little social round of calls and bun-fights in Hertfordshire, near Welwyn, and adored a big party such as the family gathering which was held on her 80th birthday at Claridges. She persisted, as ever, in the habit of valetudinarianism which she acquired in middle life, and the number of bottles of different medicines, tonics and so forth, with which she lived and travelled, was always a standing joke. But she had in actual fact a very good constitution and lived to be nearly 96. She died in September 1946.

3.  Charles Donaldson, my grandfather, the younger son and third child of John and Catherine DONALDSON, was born in 1840. As a small boy he was reputedly very delicate and he never went to school. Earlier in this chapter (under Tom Donaldson) I have related how Charlie at the age of twelve joined his elder brother at Mr Hutchins' tutorial establishment near Stroud; and two years later both boys were with a Mr Kensit at Betchworth Vicarage. Thence, in due course, Charlie went up to Merton College, Oxford, Tom having preceded him to Magdalen. What Charlie read at Oxford, and whether he took his degree, I do not know.

   I have already told (see again under Tom Donaldson) how Charlie was his great-uncle Thomas Hudson's heir. Uncle Hudson died in 1852 and it was not until nine years later, in 1861 that Charlie came of age and succeeded to the property. It was then that he assumed the additional name and arms of Hudson; henceforth he was Charles Donaldson-Hudson.

   In 1870, he married Sara Marie ("Barley") Streatfeild (see also under Streatfeild), by whom he had three daughters and an only son - my father.

   Under Thomas Hudson's will Charlie was only a tenant for life, the estate being settled on an unborn life, namely Charlie's son. Failing any sons being born to C.D.H., it was to go to his nephews; Tom's boys (see later section - More Letters"). The estate was vested in Trustees therefore, and in 1872 there was only one, a Mr Bennett of Lincoln's Inn. Mr Bennett apparently resigned about this time, and two more trustees were appointed in his place - Mr., afterwards Sir, Reginald Cust (a brother of Barley's stepfather) and the Hon. George Kenyon (younger son of the 3rd Lord Kenyon and great-uncle of the present baron). Judging from old letters, there seems to have been complete mutual confidence between the Trustees on the one hand and my grandfather on the other. He could afford to spend liberally, but he was by no means extravagant and he laid out his money wisely and well.

   In his time a great deal of afforestation and building was carried out on the estate. When "The Benefactor" bought the property in 1833, it must have been in a fair state of neglect and dereliction, owing to the previous owners - Jervis of the Hill -having ruined themselves by family quarrels and endless chancery law-suits. I do not know how much Uncle Hudson did to improve it, but I remember Granny Balfour telling me that the place was almost bare of timber when Charlie came into it in 1861. He set about repairing this state of affairs by extensive planting, especially of conifers. In fact he rather overdid it and my father, in his time, was at pains to clear much of the timber his father had planted, particularly round the house and its approaches. For example, the "pinetum" on each side of the front drive was felled when I was about ten or eleven and the ground brought back to park land.

   As regards building, some cottages in Chipnall, those in Tag Lane, and the Estate Yard was put up in Charlie's time. With one exception there were no new farmsteads built by him. (The rebuilding and reconditioning of farms fell to my father's lot; he also built many new cottages, besides altering old ones.) Charlie, however, has

Three major achievements to his credit: the building of a new village school, the rebuilding and restoration of the Church, and - by no means least - the building of Cheswardine Hall.

   Before 1870 there was a "School-Room" at No 4 Cheswardine, opposite the west end of the Church, which was presumably very small and poky and quite inadequate after the passing of the School Board Act. The site of the present school was then occupied by Church Farm buildings. My grandfather built a new farmstead at the Haywood, demolished the old farm buildings and in their place put up a school and schoolmaster's house.


   In 1884, the old church was in a dangerous state of dilapidation and at a Parish Meeting it was reported that its repair "cannot safely be delayed". The parishioners pledged themselves to raise a fund to help towards the restoration of the fabric, and the Squire promised his full co-operation. In practice, of course, almost the whole burden fell on him, and I think he might justly claim Sir Christopher Wren's epitaph for his own: "Si momentum requiris circumspice"  (If you would see his monument look around.) The rebuilding and restoration took three years, 1886-89, and as a result Cheswardine is the possessor of a very fine parish church, in which the new (chancel, nave and aisles) is most skilfully blended with the old (tower and chapel).

   Charles Donaldson-Hudson had inherited a house which had been begun by major Henry Zachariah Jervis in the first years of the 19th century, had remained half-finished for about 25 years while lawyers wrangled over Chancery suits, and had finally been completed by Thomas Hudson after 1833. It was of medium size and, from old pictures, looked rather attractive; but my Grandmother Balfour (who was brought up in it) always maintained that it was a very inconvenient house. After the son and heir (my father) was born in 1874, Grandfather Charlie proceeded, in the following year, to demolish the old house and build in its place the present Hall. The architect, whose name I forget, was the man who contrived that abomination of Scottish Baronial architecture, Dunrobin Castle, for the Duke of Sutherland. At Cheswardine he adopted a sort of bastard Elizabethan style - if style there was any, combined with unsightly plate glass windows and fussy ornamental finials on the gables and other stonework, with the result that succeeding generations were saddled with a large unwieldy mansion which, from the aesthetic point of view, can only be described as a monumental monstrosity. On the other hand it was extremely well constructed: the bricks were of the best, the timber well seasoned, and the workmanship excellent.


   In addition to his many activities as a landlord and squire, my grandfather embarked a parliamentary career. He stood for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Staffs) in 1878, when he was defeated by the Liberal candidate, Edge. But in 1880, he won a "great Conservative victory" in the same constituency, which he represented until 1885.




Two interesting points about these elections are the very small size of the electorate in those days, and the fact that in 1880 two liberals stood against one Conservative.




18th April 1880

Edge (Liberal)



Donaldson-Hudson (Conservative)


Donaldson-Hudson (Conservative)



Allen (Liberal)


Liberal Majority



Edge (Liberal)





Conservative Majority



Against this must be remembered that in 1878 women did not have the vote

   In 1882-83, my grandfather bought the Advowson of Cheswardine Vicarage. From about 1840 the Hardings of Old Springs had been Patrons of the Living, and two members of that family were successively Vicars of the parish. But in 1882 Egerton Harding, who with his son had "given himself to the Pope", (see "More Letters") offered the Advowson, or Right of Presentation, to his neighbour at Cheswardine hall, who after consultation with his trustees purchased it for £2,500.

Advowson The right of nomination or presentation to an ecclesiastical benefice. An advowson is held by a patron, who may he an individual or institution, clerical or secular. The patron presents the candidate to the appropriate Bishop for institution and induction, though the nomination may he refused. An advowson is a form of property which may he bought, sold or given away and is subject to civil law. An advowson appendant is one annexed to a manor or estate, an advowson in gross is in the gift of an individual.

   In 1883 or 1884 my Grandfather was hunting one day round Norton-in-Hales. A mile or two beyond Norton village a lane lead up across fields to Bellaport Old hall and on its way passes under a low railway bridge. As my grandfather rode under the bridge, his horse suddenly took fright and reared up, giving his rider a terrible blow on the back of his head. When he came home from hunting, he said that his head ached but beyond that made light of his accident. Had anyone but known it he had been very severely concussed and he should have been kept in bed, in a semi-darkened room, for a week or more. As it was, within a few days of the accident he went up to London on his Parliamentary duties; and as one of Gladstone’s Irish Home Rule Bills was then hotly under discussion, the House had several all-night, or late –night sittings – than which nothing could have been worse for a man with concussion of the brain.

            The effects of the accident were not immediately felt or seen. But after a year or so he began to have terrible headaches, and he became extremely depressed to the point of melancholia. His doctor advised him to travel, and he made several trips abroad, to Norway and India among other places. Far from improving under this treatment, he gradually became iller and iller. From what I have been able to gather from various sources, he would have awful brain-storms and fits of wild screaming. A slow paralysis set in, too, and he had a special pony-drawn bath chair built, in which he could go out and take the air. There was always a resident doctor in the house and latterly he had a male nurse as well. Tragic as it was for him, it was no less for his wife and children. By the time the latter had reached their teens, an age at which they most needed a father to guide and counsel them, they were almost entirely cut off from him by his illness. It dragged on for several years, the paralysis increasing all the time, and towards the end his brain became seriously affected. He died in 1893, in his fifty-third year, an age at which most men are hardly past their prime.


            My Grandmother took a very wise step after his death, by having a post-mortem performed on his brain. The surgeon who made the examination, and who had been told nothing of the previous of the case (i.e. the hunting accident), found that a part of the brain had been displaced, thereby causing pressure on certain spinal and cerebral nerves; and the report added that the displacement might well be accounted for by a severe blow on the head. A great deal more is known about concussion, and in these days brain surgery can perform such wonders that my grand-father could probably have been saved, not only from a premature death, but from all the long years of suffering which he had to endure.


   It is very difficult to assess Charles Donaldson-Hudson as a man, to make a true estimate of his character. To me he has always been a shadowy figure, and the illness that overclouded the last six or seven (Or should this be ten) years of his life deepens the shadow. My father, who was only nineteen when he died, never said very much about him. The impression one has, however, is of a quiet, retiring sort of man, kind, gentle and considerate. There is no doubt he was a conscientious landlord, he took a leading part in all affairs that concerned the village and the district, he served his fellow citizens at Westminster, on the local magistrates benches (J.P. for Co. Salop and for Staffs), and as a major in the Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry. In all these ways he was the true County Squire, fond of riding and hunting, and giving his services to the local community. But there was another side to him: he was devoted to music, especially that of Beethoven, and he played the violin extremely well. I should imagine too that he was scholarly and read a good deal. In his younger days he does not seem to have given any trouble to his parents or tutors, as regards work at his studies - so unlike his brother Tom. Indeed his letters are those of a well-educated, cultivated man: well written in a formed and legible handwriting, and very clearly expressed. He shows too a great deal of good sense and business acumen, as when he discusses the state of Consols, the insecurity of Portuguese securities, the desirability of changing certain investments for others, the political situation at home (with special reference to the arch-enemy, Gladstone) and son on.

   Who knows what he might have achieved in more than one sphere had he not had his fateful accident and been able to enjoy the normal allotted span of life?


  Of my Grandmother Barley it is almost equally difficult to give a portrait. Although much more has come down by way of hearsay about her than about my grandfather, I never knew her. Only once can I positively recollect having seen her, on one of her rare visits to Cheswardine, and that occasion, oddly enough, I associate with a bonfire in the orchard. I suppose I was then about four or five, and we children were assisting at the bonfire and trying to roast potatoes in the hot ashes. I remember her standing by and watching, for a short time only, our fun and games; but I cannot in the least recall what she looked like or anything about her - nothing except a faint and blurred picture.


Barley was a very beautiful woman, most dignified in her bearing, and gracious in manner, in short very much the "grande dame". In a book of memoirs, the late Sir George Leveson Gower, a friend of her half brother Harry Cust, alludes to her as "the beautiful Mrs. Donaldson-Hudson". She was always wonderfully dressed, in an individual style of here own.

   In fact she was intensely individualistic. Whether as the chatelaine (woman owner, occupier or caretaker of castle) entertaining at Cheswardine, or as hostess in a London drawing-room, or as the lady of the manor visiting the old and sick people in the village, she was the focal point. Admiration was meat and drink to her and she had to be the centre of attraction and interest, the star under the spotlight. She and my mother never got on well; the queen mother no doubt disliked giving ground to the young queen consort. So much did she disapprove of my father marrying my mother, that she would not attend the wedding - and he her only son.

   Nevertheless, despite these foibles, Barley had many excellent qualities. Pious by nature and upbringing, she did a great deal of good work for charitable causes. She took a genuine interest in all the villagers, and the old people, who have spoken to me about her, were devoted to her. She supported a Church Mission Room in Wigton, and in Cheswardine she started a "Coffee House" with a view to encouraging temperance among the working men.*

   Mentally, she was well equipped. She was a good French scholar and was widely read. She enjoyed Browning's friendship, and Rhoda Broughton, the novelist, was for many years a very close friend. But Rhoda's acid tongue, and the fact that she brought Barley and her family, not to mention Charlie - then a very sick man, into one of her books eventually caused a breach between them.

   She was not without practical ability: during the last years of Charlie's life, when he was unable to deal with any business, and for two years after his death, when she was my father's guardian, she attended to the administration of the whole estate. True she had a land agent to do the actual work, but the responsibility was entirely hers, and very well she seems to have managed. In this connection, it is amusing to note the following passage from one of her letters to George Kenyon, a trustee: "Uncle Reggy (Cust) says he is quite easy in his mind - as should I steal the rents, you and he can stop my jointure!"


   In 1895, she married Charles Collier, who had been resident doctor in attendance on my grandfather at the time of his death. Charles Collier (whom we called "Goffer", because he was godfather to my brother Michael) was 15 years her junior. He had been a very promising surgeon at the London Hospital, where he had been assistant to Sir Frederick Treves, the eminent surgeon. A big, fine



* This temperance movement was not a great success, as the good honest working man continues to like his beer better than coffee. One is reminded of the Old Music Hall ditty: "Fancy me, Eliza Stubbs, Joining these 'ere women's Clubs, Fancy me deserting the Pubs, At my time of life."

+ The Cust family, with characteristic wit, described her second marriage as the "Great Colliery Disaster"

upstanding man, well over 6 ft., he had been a good Rugby player in his student days; he was also an expert fisherman and a first rate shot. His interest lay almost entirely in sport, and there can have been little in common between him and Barley. Altogether they seem to have been an oddly assorted pair. For many years she rented first Tain, and then the Isle of Raasay, off Skye, sporting estates where they went for the grouse shooting and deer stalking. This was entirely for Charles' amusement; Barley must have been considerably bored, spending long months in Scotland. Her milieu was the social life of London, where she had a house in Eaton Gate, and where she could gather all her friends around.

   She died in London in 1909.


4th generation: Children of Charles & Marie Donaldson-Hudson

1.   Kathleen Marie (Kassie), the eldest, born in 1871, married in 1888, at the age of 17½, John Hurleston Leche Jun* (only son of John Hurleston Leche of Carden Park, Cheshire), who was my grandfather's Estate Agent. In those days he lived at the Marsh House (later the keeper's cottage) at the lower end of the park; but after his marriage the Old Hall was turned into the Agent's house, and it was there that Aunt Kass started her married life and that her two sons were born.

   Early in 1894, my uncle Jack Leche went up to Aboyne on Deeside, for the spring salmon fishing. Shortly after his arrival he was taken seriously ill and died of what was called "suppressed" scarlet fever. # Worse was to follow, for the two children then became ill of the same dire disease (caught it was thought from the man-servant who had attended their father) and little Charlie, the younger one of two years old, died of it. Thus within twelve months, my aunt had lost her father, to whom I believe she was greatly devoted, her husband, and her younger child.

   Aunt Kass was a very good-looking woman, as I remember her, and as a girl, I am told was quite lovely. She had considerable intellectual powers and was extremely well read, in French as well as in English. At one time she contributed literary articles to Blackwoods and one or two other periodicals. She had a great sense of humour and was a most witty and amusing companion. But all through her life she had very indifferent health and she died a comparatively young woman in 1922.

   Her son Sir John Hurleston Leche, KCMG, born in 1889, started life as a soldier, in the XII Royal Lancers. After the First World War he entered the Diplomatic Service, for which he was particularly suited because of his linguistic abilities. Among other appointments, he held the onerous post of Charge d’Affaires, at Valencia and then in Barcelona, during the Spanish Civil War, for which he was distinguished by the award of CMG. In 1939, he became






*His elder sister, Florence, was the wife of Hon. George Kenyon, M.P., one of C D-H's trustees. (See above and also under "More Letters")



Minister Plenipotentiary in Guatemala, in 1944 HM’s Ambassador in Chile. He was promoted KCMG in 1949, in which year he retired.

   He married twice. By his first wife Violet Unthank – always known as Rosamond (who died in 1927) he had a daughter:-

   1 Marie Therese Leche, born 1927, who married in 1948 Charles Wiggin, of the Diplomatic Service. They have two daughters.

   By his second wife, Helen (Baba) Janney who died in 1952, he had:-

   2 (Helen) Jacqueline) Leche, born 1929, who married in 1952 Richard Buckmaster (Chartered Company of South Africa).

   3 John Hurleston Leche, born 1933.

 4 Andrew Nicholas Leche, born 1935.

5 Emily Alexandra Leche, born 1942.


Doris (Dolly) Donaldson-Hudson, the second child of Charles and Marie Donaldson-Hudson, was born in 1872. In contrast to her elder sister, Aunt Doll’s chief interests were in dogs and horses and country pursuits. As a girl I imagine her as rather tomboyish, for she and my father were constant companions and playmates in their childhood and youth. They rode and hunted together, they drove a donkey tandem in a wonderful vehicle known as the “Coster Cart” (which survived for years and, hand-drawn, was invaluable for work in the garden). As a young woman she promised to be quite good at drawing, making animals her special study, but she never kept it up.

   In 1894, She married Philip Tatton Davies-Cooke, of Gwysaney, Mold and of Owston, near Doncaster, by whom she had three sons. She died in 1935, but Uncle Phil lived on to over 80, dying in 1946.

   Their sons

   1 Major Philip Ralph Davies-Cooke (late of the Royal Dragoons) born 1896, married in 1924 his cousin Kathleen Mabel Davies-Cooke and has: -

      1 Philip Peter Davies-Cooke, born 1925, Captain Royal Dragoons.

      2 David William Davies-Cooke, born 1931.

      3 Philippa Kathleen Davies-Cooke, born 1938.

   2 Richard Anthony Davies-Cooke, born 1909, married in 1933 Berys Fanning Evans, and has one daughter:-

1 Doris Caroline Davies-Cooke, born 1935.

   3 Paul John Davies-Cooke, born 1916, served with the RAF and was killed in 1940 in the Battle of Britain.



4   Violet Marie Donaldson-Hudson, the youngest child of Charles & Marie Donaldson-Hudson (my father came next in age after Aunt Doll) was born in 1878. From childhood she was always delicate and in the early 1920's she developed diabetes in an acute form, and for the last twenty years of her life she led the life of a semi-invalid. Yet in spite of her chronic bad health, in spite of being bombed out during the Blitz in London in 1940 (The house she was in had a direct hit and she had to be literally dug out of the fallen debris.), she outlived all the rest of her generation and only died in 1944.

   She was a "sport" in the family, and also I am afraid its laughing stock, especially among the younger generation. One can say, without unkindness, that she was not quite quite like other people.

   One part of her mind was well developed. She had a native shrewdness that often took one by surprise, and a very keen judgment of people and things. She had been well educated; like all the rest of the family she spoke fluent French; she was widely read, and had a phenomenal memory for such things as biographical details and anecdotes. She was intensely musical and was quite an accomplished performer on the violin, which she played with deep understanding and great feeling.

   But on the other hand she said and did the weirdest things and would make the most comical remarks, as when she said: "If I were to build a house, I should line the walls with apple charlotte, because there is nothing I know which retains the heat so well"! Her extravagance of ideas was matched by her extravagance with money. Generous and kind-hearted to a degree, she spent wildly and lavishly as the fancy took her and as her heart dictated. If she had a bank balance, so much the better; if she had an overdraft - it didn't matter, she would still spend.

   A great many of her vagaries can no doubt be ascribed to her physical infirmity, a glandular unbalance making for a lack of mental poise. But partly, too, they may be attributed to her rather singular upbringing. Deeply affectionate by nature, she adored her mother who held the leading strings far too closely and made "La Pauvre"* her devoted slave and far too dependant on her. After her mother died, she was like a lost dog without its master and she had neither the health nor the mental equipment to make a life of her own. For some years she had "Moppy" (Miss Grave), the family's faithful old governess and friend, to live with her. Then Moppy was gathered to her fathers, and poor Aunt Vi was left high and dry, without any outlet for her interests and affection.


   We must now return into the mainstream of the family lineage, to my father ---








*My Aunts, Kassie, Dolly and Vi went in turn to a finishing school in Paris, run by les Demoiselles Surrasin, who labelled the three sisters "La belle Kathleen, la brave Doris et la pauvre Violette". Only the last one stuck for life.

   Ralph Charles, the 3rd child and only son of Charles & Sara Marie Donaldson Hudson, was born on 20th February 1874. He was educated at Eton1 (E.C. Austen Leigh's house3 {Ex Kings College, Cambridge & rowing blue, born 30th June 1832, died 17th November 1924]) and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. In 1894 he was commissioned to the XII Royal Lancers, then stationed in Edinburgh; a year or two later they went to Ireland.

   His father having died when he was 19, he became his own master from the time he came of age in 1895, and two years later, at the age of 23 he resigned his commission and came to lead the life of a country squire, to take an active part in the management of his property and to enjoy the social and sporting amenities of his estate. He was a good shot and always very fond of shooting; but in his younger days horses were probably his chief interest. He kept a large stable of hacks2, hunters, polo ponies and driving horses, besides breeding hunters on a small scale. He had his own Four-in-Hand and was a good amateur "whip". At one time he used for his own amusement to drive the London-Brighton coach so many days a week, during the summer months. He would tell how on one occasion he had a young lady passenger - of uncertain age and attraction - on the front seat beside him; so pleasant did she find the manners and conversation of the driver that, on arrival at her destination, she caused her male attendant, who had travelled inside the coach, to tip the coachman a sovereign.

   With the advent of motor-cars, however, he became an enthusiastic driver of the mechanically propelled vehicle and he was to be numbered among the "early motorists". All forms of machinery had a great interest and attraction for him: indeed, anything mechanical was something to be experimented with, to be taken to pieces and put together again. Was this mechanical bent, I wonder, inherited from Alexander the Clockmaker? My brother John had it strongly, and I must confess to the same weakness myself.

   To go back to the subject of horses, I should mention a mare called Harmony, the most wonderful hunter my father ever had. With her he won a series of Point-to-Points, which brought the mare renown in three counties - Shropshire, North Staffordshire and South Cheshire. Though not exceptionally fast, she was a faultless jumper and at every fence would gain a length on the other runners. In four consecutive years she was 2nd, then three times winner, in the North Shropshire Point-to-Point. In another four consecutive years, overlapping the others, she repeated this sequence in the Shropshire v Cheshire Inter-Yeomanry Event. I am now the proud possessor of the "Harmony Trophy" - a silver model of a horse, called the "The Tired Hunter" - which my father bought to commemorate the mare's triumphs.

1 He was a wet bob and in 1892, besides getting his Upper Boats (Victory) rowed in the winning Trial Eight.

2 He greatly enlarged the Stables at Cheswardine, adding 12 loose boxes which now house the bulls belonging to the Milk Marketing Board.

3 Mr E C Austen Leigh, June 6th 1901, "The Flea" - from Vanity Fair