Born: 19th March 1899, London, St. George Hanover Square
Married: (1)17th December 1918, Radcliffe on Trent to Lieutenant Douglas Holden Blew-Jones, (2) Geoffrey Harry Rolls Hoare, date of marriage unknown, possibly 1949. Daughter: Belinda ‘Bindy’ Bridget Lambton (1921-2003)
Died: 14th June, 1953, Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands, buried Wilford Hill, Nottingham.
Before the War
Violet Birkin was born in London on 19th March 1899, the second daughter of Charles Wilfred Birkin and Claire Birkin. Charles Birkin was the son of Sir Thomas Isaac Birkin, a lace magnate in Nottingham who left nearly £2.5 million on his death in 1922. Charles Birkin had five brothers and three sisters.
Violet, age two, was living with her parents Charles and Claire Birkin, sister Winifred, age six, and seven servants at 186 Pencastle Circus, Nottingham. Charles Birkin was working as a lace manufacturer.
Violet, age twelve, was visiting Folkestone with her mother Claire, sister Vera, age seven, brother Charles, three, Dorothy Smith, governess, and four servants. They were staying at 13 Clifton Gardens. Her father remained in Nottingham where he was still working in the lace industry. The family home was at Elm House, The Park, Nottingham.
Birkin family move to Radcliffe on Trent, 1912
In 1912, the family moved to Lamcote House, Radcliffe on Trent where they remained for the next twenty years. In 1913 Violet’s sister Freda married William Dudley Ward, Liberal M.P. for Southampton. They had two daughters, Penelope (born 1914) and Angela (born 1916).
During the First World War
Violet Birkin’s adolescence was dominated by her family’s involvement in WWI. Her father had been Lt. Colonel of the 1/7 Battalion (Robin Hoods)The Sherwood Foresters since 1908. After raising the battalion in August 1914, he disembarked in France the following February, was seriously wounded at the Battle of Hooge, July 1915, and returned home around October after hospitalisation for head injuries. Violet’s cousin, Lt. Thomas Birkin, Royal Flying Corps, was killed in action in 1917 and her uncle Harry fought at Gallipoli. Her mother and aunts were deeply involved with the Red Cross. Ethel Lilian Birkin (sister of Violet’s father), became matron in charge of Bayley Hospital, Derby Road, Nottingham. Mrs Margaret Birkin, sister-in-law of Violet’s father (and mother of Thomas Birkin, above), became commandant at Arnot Hill Hospital, Nottinghamshire. Violet’s mother, Claire Birkin worked tirelessly fund raising for the Red Cross before opening Lamcote House as an auxiliary hospital for officers in 1918. Violet Birkin is mentioned in the Nottingham Evening Post,May 1917, helping her mother with a fund raising stall at the Nottingham patriotic fair.
Violet Birkin was engaged as a V.A.D. unpaid nursing probationer with the Red Cross from 20th November 1917 for eight hours a day. She was in the 94th Detachment, Radcliffe on Trent branch of the Red Cross, which was organised by her mother. She was at the Pavilion Hospital, Trent Bridge, Nottingham, until April 1918. She was then transferred to the much smaller Lamcote Auxiliary Hospital for Officers (no dates are given in Violet Birkin’s V.A.D. cards for her period of employment there). The newspaper report of her wedding, below, shows she was well regarded by the patients.
Marriage of Violet Birkin and Douglas Blew-Jones, 1918
Violet Birkin was married on 17th December 1918 at St Mary’s Church, Radcliffe on Trent to a Lamcote hospital patient, Lt. Douglas Holden Blew-Jones from Devon, who was apparently handsome and unusually tall. He was recovering from cardiac strain. The wedding occasion, described effusively in the local paper, was coloured by the war. The family home was still being used as a hospital, nursing staff and patients were present at the ceremony and some of the presents embodied references to the recent conflict.
There was a large and fashionable assembly at Radcliffe church today when Miss Violet Birkin, the second daughter of Colonel and Mrs. Charles Birkin, of Lamcote House, was married to Mr. Douglas Holden Blew-Jones, of the Household Cavalry, the eldest son of the late Mr. W.B. Blew-Jones, of Woodtown, Bideford, Devonshire.
For some months past, Colonel and Mrs. Birkin have lent their beautiful home for the purposes of an auxiliary hospital for wounded officers – a fact which was picturesquely recalled at today’s ceremony, when a guard of honour composed of patients, sisters and nurses from the hospital lined the carpeted approach to the church. Miss Birkin herself has fulfilled the duties of surgery nurse, and is held in regard by grateful patients, present and past, amongst whom her husband is numbered.
The bride, who was given away by her father, wore a gown of white and silver made in the medieval style with a pearl and silver girdle. From the back of her head fell a plain tulle veil, and from her shoulders a beautiful shimmering train. She also wore a wreath of white heather, the emblem of good luck, but she carried no flowers except a spray of orange blossom at the girdle, an ivory-bound Prayer book displacing the conventional bouquet.
There were seven bridesmaids. The first two were the tiny children of her sister, Mrs. Dudley Ward (Penelope and Angela) who were dressed in pretty lemon-coloured frocks of tulle, the short skirts being frilled in the same material and they had silver ribbon round their hair. The “grown-ups” were Miss Vera Birkin (the bride’s youngest sister) Miss Ida Birkin (the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Birkin), Miss Mary Blew-Jones, the bridegroom’s sister, Miss Elizabeth McLellan and Miss Nancy Winterbottom of Derby. Their dresses were of pale lemon charmeuse and chiffon with tulle veils of the same colour, the shoulder straps being silver beaded and their hair was banded with floral fillets. Each of them received from the bridegroom a gold and enamel brooch in the form of the Life Guards badge and they carried bouquets of yellow chrysanthemums. The colour effect as they moved up the church preceded by the clergy and choir was exquisite.
The principal part of the service was conducted by the Rev. H.T. Hayman of Thornhill, the old Robin Hoods chaplain, who, it is interesting to note, married the bride’s parents and sister. He was assisted by the Rev. Cecil Smith, the vicar of Radcliffe. The bridegroom was accompanied to the altar by his younger brother in the capacity of best man. Both were in uniform, the elder brother wearing the Mons ribbon. The service, which was choral, included the 67th Psalm and the hymns ‘The Voice that breather o’er Eden’, ‘Father Divine’ and O, Perfect Love’. Mr Furley, the organist, played appropriate music before the service and during the signing of the register.
A numerously attended reception was afterwards held at Lamcote House, where an imposing array of presents was on view. These included a silver salver and egg stand from the past and present patients at the hospital, a dispatch case and fountain pen from the Radcliffe tradespeople, a volume of poems by Rupert Brooke, the soldier poet, from the Radcliffe Nursing Association and a silver cigarette box with an enamelled Red Cross from the sisters and nurses of the hospital. Later in the day Mr. and Mrs. Blew-Jones left for London.
The bride travelled in a blue silk stockingettee frock and a seal musquash fur coat, her hat being of black velvet with ospreys.
(From the Nottingham Evening Post, December 1918)
After the war: Violet Blew-Jones in the 1920s
Various newspaper reports and obituaries of Birkin family members suggest that the Blew-Jones’ marriage was not lasting or happy. At first, the couple appear to have resided in Devon although there are some references to them also living in Radcliffe on Trent in local history books and directories. There are several reports of the young couple attending meets, hunt balls, point to point, fetes and gymnkanas around Bideford, Devon in the early 1920s. Douglas Blew-Jones became Master of the Stevenstone Hunt in 1921 and in the same year Violet in the role of hon. secretary laboured with untiring zeal and energy at the Bideford gymnkana under the auspices of the Stevenstone Hunt. Her daughter, Belinda Bridget Blew-Jones, was born on December 23rd 1921. After 1925, there are no references to Violet Blew-Jones in Devon and reports of equestrian events thereafter show her husband attending them alone. He was on a number of committees organising such events around Bideford throughout the decade.
At some point, Violet moved back to Radcliffe on Trent. She had kept close links with the village – in 1925, for instance, she deputised for her mother organising a three day bazaar in Nottingham. Her daughter Belinda, who married Lord Lambton in 1940, was, according to her obituaries (2003), brought up by her aunt, Freda Dudley Ward. In 1928 and 1929, Violet had an electoral address at 32 Ovington Square, London where three other people, not including her husband, were living.