Edward William Hubert Castell (b.1936)

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In 1962 shortly after I moved into Grosvenor Gardens, I met William, we found ourselves sitting together watching a hideous film, Samson and Delilah, and thus began our long relationship, which has lasted all these years. We shared great passions for travel,  and the arts, and we began our wonderful trips to many parts of the world, and to most parts of the British Isles. We were determined and indeed set out to see, all the great cities, architecture and monuments of the world, as many of the great museums and art collections as it was possible, the great classical sites, the great landscapes and natural wonders, cathedrals, churches, country houses, castles, etc.etc. We were also determined to see as many operas, plays and musicals as we could and visit all the great theatres. Quite an agenda we set ourselves and writing this in our 80s, I am glad to say that we achieved much and more.  William was kind and gentle, very highly strung and in a perpetual state of anxiety. I was his first gay relationship, in fact I was the first gay person he had ever met or spoken to. I had a few other gay friends at the time but slowly they went their ways but William and I had found each other and we became partners for life. He had been born in Stanmore, was a year older than me and lived with his parents in Northwood.  His mother, Peggy, was crippled with arthritis and his father Ted, after retiring from working in the stationery business, devoted his life to looking after her.

Helen Maud ‘Peggy’ Lancaster (1911-1974).  Peggy, William’s mother, had been born Kimberley, South Africa and educated at Wynberg High School for Girls where she became Head Prefect and led an idyllically happy life in Kimberley and Cape Town.

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William’s mother Helen Maud Lancaster (1911-1974) 

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Peggy with her adoring father

In 1931 she boarded the Edinburgh Castle and came to London to study at Guys Hospital as a physiotherapist.

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Peggy, top right, on board the Edinburgh Castle. She was not to see her homeland for many years

She passed her exams at Guys Hospital and was clearly intending to return home.

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Fellow pupils in Guys Hospital London. Peggy is in the second row from the front, second from the right and Joan who eventually became William’s stepmother is in the same row, fifth from the left.

But then she met Ted on holiday at the Manor House, Burton Bradstock, just a few miles from Bridport, where William and I were to finally settle down.  She did not return home but married Ted.

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William’s beloved grandfather Hubert Joseph Lancaster
at the age of 3

Hubert Joseph Lancaster (1878-1952), Peggy s father had left Medway, Kent where his father was a draper, though the family had been farmers for many years in Wreay in Cumberland had, at a young age, set off to make his fortune in South Africa.  From Cape Town he made his way to Kimberley during the early days of the diamond rush.

In 1905 he returned to Wreay to find a wife, and met and married Helen Postlewaithe (d.1959).

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Hubert Joseph Lancaster (1878-1952)
and Helen Postlewaithe (d.1959).

Helen’s father was William Postlewaite (1862-1892) a schoolmaster of Wreay   Hubert and Helen returned to Kimberley where they set up home and Hubert made a quite comfortable fortune working for De Beers.

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A cartoon of William’s grandfather Hubert. 
Apparently he was a very good public speaker 

He got involved in the Boer War and was in the siege of Kimberley. He eventually settled down to be the storemaster in charge of all the stores at De Beers.

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He served in the 2nd Battalion of the Kimberley Regiment during the 1st World war, serving in South West Africa.

Peggy was their only child, and William was to be Peggy and Ted’s only child. Due to the outbreak of war Peggy was not to see her parents again till 1948. They thought of sending William to his grandparents in South Africa at the beginning of the war to keep him safe, but after the sinking, by the Germans, of a ship which was carrying children from England they decided not to send him after all. They had made for him a small metal disk which had William’s name and English address on one side and his South African address on the other, It now resides in the collection of the British Museum.

Henry Edward ‘Ted’ Castell (1901-1987).  Ted had come from a very different background. He was the eldest of four sons of Henry Booth Castell (1875-1943), who was a somewhat cold, reserved and detached man, and Nellie Blanche Harley (1875-1936), who was, by all accounts, loved by everyone.

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Nellie Blanche Harley (1875-1936) 
William’s grandmother

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I could not resist putting in this photograph of William’s father and his brothers taken about 1906. Left to right, John Harley Castell (1903-1954), Ted (1901-1987), Philip James Castell (1905-1976) and Richard Arthur Castell (1904-1961).
Four children of a very well-to-do Edwardian family

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Henry Booth Castell (1875-1943) (above) , Ted’s father, was the son of Henry Castell (1848-1915).

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Taken in 1888 the only known photograph of
Henry Castell (1848-1915)

Henry Castell (1848-1915). As a young man this Henry had left the failed jewellery business of his father in Ramsgate and come to London to seek his fortune. He landed up sleeping under the counter of his master, a stationer in London and learned the business literally from the ground up.

He eventually made his fortune and in 1878 formed a stationers company called Castell Bros. Ltd in Warwick Lane, in sight of St Paul’s cathedral.  In 1894 he formed a partnership with his brother John Castell (b.1854). In view of what was to happen it is fascinating to read the Articles of Partnership which “Witnesseth that in consideration of the mutual trust and confidence which they the said Henry Castell and John Castell have in each other…”.  Eventually the company expanded and expanded till they were ‘Wholesale and Export Stationers and Envelope Manufacturers, Pepys Works, Clerkenwell, London’ and from the sole piece of stationery left, the building in Clerkenwell appears to have been a massive 6 storeys high stretching down two blocks.

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The choice of the brothers of ‘Pepys’ as their brand name was fortuitous as they became very well known manufacturers of diaries as well as the makers of card games

Wedderburn Road.  Henry lived in some style in Wedderburn Road, Highgate, with servants, carriages and presumably every comfort that a wealthy Victorian/Edwardian gentleman considered necessary.  William’s father remembers going to Wedderburn Road for evening soirées, where friends and relatives would be encouraged to sing, play the piano and dance. He can remember squirming to hear a recitation by one of the aged aunts of ‘Dear Little Jammy Face’ which set him and his brothers into giggles.

The suicide. Then a few days before Christmas 1915, just as they were all beginning to prepare for a family get-together , Henry, got up at 7.30 am, came down the stairs at Wedderburn Road,  had breakfast with his wife, went into his study and at 9 o’clock precisely, shot himself. It was only very late in life that William uncovered the story of the suicide.  It had been kept secret, to such an extent that no one in William’s family knew of it. Apparently Henry is said to have been depressed as he was slowly relinquishing his hold on the business, and was very worried about the war.  At the inquest Nellie Hazell, a housemaid ‘said she was called and saw Mr Castell lying on the floor smothered in blood. Mrs Castell called the deceased’s name twice and then fell on her knees’. He had shot himself in the mouth whilst standing behind the door of his study, the bullet had passed through his brain and had stuck in the ceiling. Death was instantaneous.  A verdict of ‘Suicide while of unsound mind’ was returned.

Castell Bros.  The business fell into the hands of his brother who apparently milked it for all it was worth and with the connivance of the chief accountant misappropriated the funds of the business and bled it to virtual bankruptcy. No one knows to this day what happened to the Castell Bros fortune which is reckoned to have been immense . One wondered if Henry had recognised that his brother was a rogue and that the business was heading for some sort of catastrophe as he was slowly relinquishing the reins. Ted, who would, we are sure, have uncovered  what was going on,  as his feckless father who was due to inherit a fortune had no head for business, had been  sent off to the north of England to sell the company stationary and it is doubtful if he was a success. To see William’s father, very tall, elegantly dressed with a southern accent walking into corner shops in the north of England trying to sell the company’s wares does not bear thinking about.  I suspect he was a disaster as a salesman. He was then sent off to the Far East including China of all places, which is about as far away as his wicked uncle could send him so that he would not discover the nefarious going’s on at Castell Bros.

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Ted somewhere in the Far East on the back of one of these he has written ‘3 September 1932 my 21st Dinner at the Regent Palace’

On one of his voyages he shared a cabin with another man who picked up Ted’s toothbrush, and when Ted remonstrated, had the response that he thought it was the communal toothbrush.

He returned to find the company almost bust and managed with a great deal of effort, with the help of his brother John, to salvage what little there was to salvage. The business such as it was, was sold off in 1931 by Ted and his brother John to Amalgamated Press, Uncle John and the chief accountant having scarpered.  It is presumed that the proceeds were divided among the extensive family, though it is known that both Ted and John refused to receive anything.  This gave Ted’s  parents a reasonable income and enabled his useless father to leave some £10,000 in his will in 1943.

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The Castell family, left to right William’s father Henry Edward ‘Ted’ Castell (1901-1987), Ted’s father Henry Booth Castell (1875-1943)  Richard Arthur Castell (1903-1961), Ted’s mother Nellie Blanche Harley (1875-1936), John Harley Castell (1903-1987) who helped Ted salvage part of the business and Philip James Castell (1905-1976)

Ted and Peggy get married.  In 1933 whilst holidaying at the Manor House, Burton Bradstock, where Ted and his brothers had been holidaying since they were very young children, Ted met Peggy a fellow guest and fell in love. We have many , many photographs of that summer in which they look so happy and carefree.

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Ted and Peggy beneath the cliffs at Burton Bradstock which were to become so familiar to us so many years later

Ted and Peggy were married on 28 July, 1934 at Hampstead Parish Church.

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Peggy and her father 

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Front row, left:  Ted’s father and mother
Front row, right, Peggy’s father and mother and on the far right, 
Sarah Jane Leggatt (1853-1941), William’s great-grandmother who had married Henry Castell who had committed suicide. 

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Peggy and Ted setting of for their honeymoon
at The Headland Hotel, Newquay.

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Ted and Peggy on the honeymoon
with the Headland Hotel in the background 

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William: February 1937

William born on 22 November 1936.

Death of Ted’s mother. Tragedy  struck in December that year, Ted’s mother died, having been run down by a bus.

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William taken in 1938

Shortly afterwards Ted’s mother died his father married his very Cockney nurse companion. The family was outraged and the four sons refused to have anything to do with her.  Ted’s father took his revenge.  Under the terms of his will he left assets of some £10,000 (which in 1943 was a considerable sum of money) the interest from which was to go to his wife. He made the National Westminster Bank his executor and, cutting out his own sons, provided that on the death of his wife, the capital was to be divided between whatever grandchildren there were. The bank helped themselves to a large percentage of the capital each year, for their expenses, to such an extent that when she finally died there was a shadow of that £10,000 left for the grandchildren, of which there were not very many, and each  received a couple of hundred pounds which was all that was left of that handsome estate.  For whatever reason, the bank was never held to account.  The lesson of all this is never make a bank your executor, the bastards will help themselves annually to large quantities of your capital in the way of expenses until nothing is left.

The Castells’ war.

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During the war Ted became a Flight Lieutenant, and then a Squadron Leader in the RAF. In January 1945 he was mentioned in despatches. His job was to brief and debrief RAF pilots and personnel going off on bombing raids. It must have been a highly responsible and heart-breaking job. Peggy decided that she and William would follow Ted around to all the different airfields he had to serve in, so began an odyssey for them both.  I think we calculated that William went to eight different schools.  The homes they were placed in ranged from the husband who returned home drunk each and beat up his wife, to the lady who, resenting their being forced on her, insisted that Peggy, whenever she used the kitchen, should walk around the side of the house with the food, to their rooms at the back, no matter what the weather, to comfortable farm houses where they made friends for life. It was a very peripatetic life and could not have been good for William, though he has many good memories.

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Int/Ops Section. Royal Air Force, Wickenby, Lincolnshire

Front: Sergeant Powell, Sergeant Crawley, Squadron Leader Castell, Sergeant Collyer, Corporal Hobbs and Lance Corporal Lewin
Back: Flight Lieutenant Gardner, Corporal Fowkes, Flight Officer Taunt, Flight Lieutenant Tredwin, Squadron Leader Cappi, Flight Officer Gradon, Flight Lieutenant Calvert and Flight Sergeant Johns   

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William in 1946 aged 9

The Castells’ after the war. William and his mother go to South Africa.  In March 1947 Peggy and William set off for South Africa on the Carnarvon Castle to meet up with his grandparents whom he had never seen and for Peggy to meet up with her parents after 16 years.

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They were met in Cape Town by William’s grandparents, spent a few days there then went on to Kimberley where William’s grandparents still lived.

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William and his grandfather at Sea Point, Cape Town

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William and his mother beneath Lion Rock, Cape Town

William can remember idyllic days in South Africa, with wonderful food to eat particularly after suffering under the rationing in England and being taught to swim by his grandfather in the magnificent seas off Cape Town.  He often said he thought he had stepped into a dreamlike wonderland. His grandfather then undertook an incredible journey by car, taking them across Africa from Kimberley to the Victoria Falls and back to Kimberley via the  Kruger National Park.

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William with his grandfather and their dog Mackie 

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William’s grandfather at the Victoria Falls

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The Victoria Falls

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William and his grandparents
At ‘World’s View’, Cecil Rhodes grave, Matopo Hills, near Bulawayo

The trip to the Victoria Falls must have been an exciting journey and probably gave William his thirst for travelling which he never lost. Back at Kimberley he was sent to a school run by the Christian Brothers, and one of the masters introduced him to George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss. He devoured books from that time on. They sailed on the Cape Town Castle in July 1947 and returned home.

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Cape Town Castle

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William in 1949

Ted and Peggy build a house in Moor Park. In 1950 Peggy’s father gave them the money to design and build their own very handsome house in Moor Park.

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The newly built house in Moor Park. Sadly they were fated to be there for a very short while. 

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 William in the wilderness of the garden

In 1952 William’s grandparents came for a visit, their first visit to England since the war.  They all went on a holiday to Bonchurch, Isle of Wight.

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William with his mother and grandfather in Bonchurch 

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William looking so happy 

William’s grandfather dies.A few days after they returned from the Isle of Wight, William’s grandfather died.

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William’s grandfather’s medals and masonic insigna. They now all reside in the National Army Museum collection.

Top row: 1899-1902. South Africa Medal with Bars: South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902, Orange Free State and Defence of Kimberley. Inscribed Pte. H. J. Lancaster, Kimberley Town Guard.
1914-15 Star. Inscribed Capt.H.J.Lancaster
1914-20 British War Medal. Inscribed Capt.H.J.Lancaster
1914-19 Victory Medal. Inscribed on back: The Great War for Civilisation. Dr Grote Oorlog voor de Beschaving 1914-1919.
Inscribed: Capt, H. J. Lancaster
Africa Service Medal: 157558. ACEI G. J. Lancaster
Middle row: Kimberley Star, presented in 1900 by the Mayor of Kimberley to the defenders of the town who served during the three months’ siege ending on 15 February 1900. Inscribed on back: Mayor’s Siege Medal 1900
Two Masonic Insigna
Bottom row. Miniatures of medals on top row.

Further tragedy. Then, almost immediately after the death of her father, tragedy struck again, Peggy became very ill, and it was discovered she had contacted a vicious form of rheumatoid arthritis which left her terribly crippled and deformed and in considerable pain for the remainder of her life. Everyone was devastated as their comfortable world collapsed around them. They had to leave their lovely home in Moor Park and move into a flat in Northwood.  Sadly William’s grandmother died a few years later and Peggy inherited her estate which meant that financially they were to be extremely comfortably off for the rest of their lives.

William.  William was educated at The Hawthorns, Redhill and Merchant Taylors.

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William at the Hawthorns. Third row from front, 10th from left.

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William at Merchant Taylors School.  Front row far left.

William loathed school, where more time seemed to be spent on the games field than in the school room.  As he had no interest whatsoever in games, the whole games thing instead of building character made him feel inferior and demoralised.  What is remarkable is that no one at the school found out that he was an incredibly fast runner.  I only discovered this when we were in the middle of the countryside and the last bus was due and it was imperative we catch it. I have never seen anyone run so fast. He, of course, was quite unaware of this ability. He had always been able to run fast and thought nothing of it.  He caught the bus and had them wait for me.  On his father’s foolish insistence he was put into a stream of pupils who were learning Latin instead of modern languages. He could not stand Latin and maths was and remained gibberish to him so his expensive private education was for nought.

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William goes to Paris. In 1954 after leaving school William was sent by his parents to Paris for a few months so that he could learn French he and went to stay with a French family. 020All William can remember is that the meals were very frugal and he felt starved most of the time, added to which it was freezing cold, and he had very little money.  On his return he went to work as a trainee journalist for the Windsor, Slough and Eton Express. He was paid a pittance and had to live in digs locally. 021He spent his days roaming around on his bicycle picking up local stories for the paper, covering council meetings and spent most evenings studying at the East Berks College of Further Education, learning shorthand and typing, economics, central and local government and I think journalism as I see from his papers that he joined the National Union of Journalists. Oh, and he also sneaked off and learned to drive. He told me he was absolutely worn out by the end of the day and began to have attacks of deep anxiety particularly when it slowly dawned on him that he was gay. He carried this blistering anxiety around with him for many years and it only ceased about a year after we met.

Ste Maxime. One great piece of luck was that the family was invited to stay for their summer holidays each year with an old friend who lived in a very large and handsome villa in Ste Maxime in the South of France.  There they lived in great style, servants use of a car with chauffeur, etc.

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The villa at Ste Maxime. William on the top flight, his father in the centre and their hostess at the bottom

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William and National Service.   National Service loomed and against his father’s wishes, which were to defer it, he made one of the most important decisions of his life and decided to do his National Service. So off to Acton he went for his medical which he passed.  He did his basic training at Formby Lancashire.  His fellow National servicemen were mostly from Salford of all places, and he found them incredibly helpful and supportive. He was called The Professor and helped many of them with their letters and in return they helped him with his ironing and folding his gear for inspection and any practical task he found difficult. In fact it sounds as if he became their sort of mascot and was looked after by everyone. After basic training  he was assigned to the War Office in Whitehall as part of a public relations team answering questions from the press.  Looking through his  National Service Book he is referred to as Sergeant and then as Staff Captain. These titles must have been given him whilst serving at the War Office during his National Service.  During the day he wore civvies and on Friday, he had to don his uniform and go and collect his pay. It states in his Service Book that ‘lack of officer status has not handicapped him, he is tactful, zealous and energetic and willing. He requires no supervision and is thoroughly honest. As a Staff Captain I grade him Above Average’.  Which is a bit of a let down after all that enthusing.

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The family continued to have their holidays at the villa in the South of France.   William and his father on the beach.

William and I could not help thinking that while the Castell family enjoyed holidays in a very grand villa in the South of France, the Holdaways were holidaying in a wooden shack among the sand dunes of Gronant in Wales.

William and the Civil Service. At the end of his National Service in 1958 he applied successfully for a post, as a Civil Servant, in the same office. He was to remain with the Civil Service for the rest of  his working life, first in the Ministry of Defence, then to the Home Office, and back to the Ministry of Defence.  He finally went to the Central Office of Information.

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British Hondorus. One of William’s first major assignments with the MOD was to British Honduras, in 1961, to cover the Army’s humanitarian efforts relating to the devastation caused by an earthquake and hurricane ‘Hattie.  He had a camera man with him and he went to interview army personnel and send to their home town papers, human interest stories.  William was always able to put people at their ease with his kindly and polite manners He stopped off in Jamaica on the way home.

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The terrible stench and the flies and baking hot sweaty nights is what he can remember, not to mention the terrible plight of the local people

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                                           Jamaica

The following year we met.

William and Derek
I was still living at Willesden Green, London, when William and I met, and we spent many happy hours together in my small flat. We discovered a great deal about each other and found our likes and dislikes were almost the same; we were both interested in the arts, liked listening to music, enjoyed the theatre and loved walking. I remember the very first trip we did was the Ely Cathedral.

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Little did I think we would eventually see all Britain’s cathedrals, most of its country houses, ancient monuments and  scenery and would travel the world.

The Pyrenees. This was not a good beginning to our foreign travels, though we did see some magnificent scenery.  We had joined a rambling club and eventually went on our first holiday, which was almost a disaster, walking in the Pyrenees with the Ramblers’ Association.

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010                    How on earth William got to the centre of this waterfall is a mystery 

The scenery was magnificent, it was just that, instead of stopping half-way up a mountain among the wild horses and flowering shrubbery, we had to climb above the vegetation line to the bare rocks, usually the highest point that could be found for the day, have our lunch at the top and come back down, it usually rained in the afternoon and we got drenched each day.

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Wild horses and the whole valley strewn with wild flowers.
No stopping, to the top we must go

Before we set off one of these climbs, the food was distributed amongst us so someone carried the bread, someone the tomatoes, two or three the drinks, etc. etc. This way our leader ensured that no one broke off and went back but had to make it to the top in duty bound to his companions.

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Having been almost broken on the first day, I then managed to pick myself up and started to walk with the A team at the front. Sadly on the first day, William, taken by the beautiful and apparently clean water of the mountain streams, drank from one of them and was extremely ill and remained so for most of the remainder of the holiday.

What on earth William was doing swimming in that freezing water, there were actual small icebergs floating off picture to the right, but he never could resist a swim whenever it offered. 

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One day we climbed, to what was announced to be the highest peak in Andorra, and reached the top with a thick mist descending prior to the afternoon rain. We had our lunch and I have to say that the thought of clambering down the mountain all afternoon in the pouring rain was not very inviting, and then our leader took us around to the other side to where we had climbed.  What faced us was a slope of scree, tiny pebbles which went straight down the mountain and pitched up at a small lake on which were floating small icebergs. ‘This is the quickest way down’ he said and started down this incredible slope amid a shower of stones.  One by one we stepped off and descended this terrifying slope. After a while one got one’s stride and I found it an incredible sensation. I left William at the top, finally he jumped down and the next thing I knew he was hurtling past me with the best of them. You had to put on the brakes at the bottom or pitch up into the lake laden with small iceberge. Fortunately we all made it without mishap.  Exciting though it was we decided that ‘rambling’ was not for us and we dumped the Ramblers Association soon after.

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The quaint ‘open’ carriages.  We were thoroughly relived to get back in one piece, William by now feeling very unwell

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Back to civilisation in Perpignan where we consoled ourselves with a visit to the Musee des beaux-arts Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743) which had a number of his fine portraits. Sadly, William was becoming very unwell and we somehow made it back to the UK.

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William. 1963 

 

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