The Beddington connection

My great-grandfather Louis Walford was born in Tasmania to Samuel and Rosetta Moses; Louis and his brothers changed their names from Moses to Walford as was fairly common at the time. Many Jewish people in the nineteenth century Anglicised their names, some of the Moses family became Moss, or Morse as well as Walford. Rosetta and Samuel were cousins, she had been born Rosetta Moses and she had a number of brothers most of whom changed their name to Beddington. I don’t know what inspired them to choose that name, there is a small settlement in the borough of Sutton which is called Beddington, the name dating back to the Domesday Book and beyond.

I was researching my family tree and wondered if Louis had been as close to his cousins as I am to mine, so I began to look at his wider family. His Uncle Samuel, his mother’s brother married  Zillah Simon who had been born in Jamaica  Samuel and Zillah became renowned in London society for their elegant house parties, and must have been like celebrities in their time. When Louis arrived from Tasmania he must have been delighted to meet his little cousins, Ada, Evelyn, Sybil and Violet, and their brothers George, Charles, Frank and Arthur. The girls in particular became celebrities in Victoria society, and each had a fascinating life.

Ada married Ernest Leverson, a diamond merchant, and they had two children, little George who died as a baby, and Violet, named I guess for Ada’s youngest sister. Ernest and Ada separated but she became a successful writer, and published many novels including The Twelfth Hour, Love’s Shadow , The Limit, Tenterhooks, Bird of Paradise and Love at Second Sight. She was a close friend and confidante of Oscar Wilde and he called her his Sphinx; in 1930 she published  Letters to the Sphinx from Oscar Wilde, with Reminiscences of the Author. She was well-known in literary circles, and counted among her friend George Moore, Max Beerbohm, the Sitwells, Somerset Maugham, Ronald Firbank, Percy Wyndham Lewis and T.S.Eliot. Her daughter, Violet who married Guy Wyndham, wrote a memoir of her mother.

Ada’s sister Evelyn married Walter E. Berhens; tragically their oldest son, Walter Louis died at Ypres in 1917, serving his country in World War I. His brother Edward Beddington-Berhens also served and survive and was awarded the Military Cross and bar to the Military Cross for conspicuous bravery. In August 1917

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During a very heavy bombardment of his battery he showed the greatest courage and promptitude in extinguishing fires amongst camouflage and ammunition. He also brought under cover a serjeant who was badly wounded. His energy prevented the destruction of much ammunition and material,”

and in June 1918

 For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Whilst acting as forward observation officer he maintained his communications for four hours under a heavy barrage, and sent back much useful information. On the infantry being forced to withdraw, he manned a trench with his observation post party, in addition to which he maintained communication with his battery, which was thus able to do great execution in the enemy ranks. On the following day, although all communication was cut, he succeeded in keeping a line in working order for a period of ten hours, thus enabling artillery fire to be brought to bear on hostile attacks. His fearlessness and determination were magnificent and his energy unremitting.”

Evelyn died in 1910 and was spared the tragedy of losing Walter Louis; she would have been so proud of Edward. He was knighted in 1957, for promoting European co-operation; maybe it was his experiences as a young officer in the dreadful war which stimulated this passionately commitment. He was married three times, firstly to the daughter of Sir Montague Burton, secondly to Princess Irena Obolensky, and thirdly to Irene Kane.

Evelyn and Ada’s sister Sybil married David Seligman and two children, Esmond and Vincent. She was famous, or infamous for becoming the mistress of Giacomo Puccini. She was a beautiful woman but her life was  touched by sorrow; her son Edmond suffered from a chronic illness and Sybil nursed him until his death in 1930. She had lost her brother George when he was 21, her sister Evelyn when she was 46, and now her son. If you are interested in Sybil’s extraordinary life have a look at this:

The youngest sister, Violet Zillah was another beauty; Sir Arthur Sullivan became enamoured of her and proposed. he was an old man and she declined his offer. Violet married Sidney Schiff, who was better known as Stephen Hudson the writer. Their home was a popular meeting place for artists, musicians and writers, including  Wyndham Lewis, Delius, Middleton Murrys, T. S. Eliot, Marcel Proust and Max Beerbohm

What an extraordinary family they were. The daughters’ beauty must have come from the Moses as well as the Simon side of their family, as you can see from this picture of their second cousin:

My grandmother, Ida Walford
My grandmother, Ida Walford


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