My Paternal Family
Aunt: Flossie/Florrie/Florence Sugden (nee Wray) born 1889
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Aunt Flossie indirectly provided the only evidence that the Wrays were remotely interested in their family history.  When I began contacting my cousins, several produced (with an air of reverence) the distribution document of her estate which detailed her siblings or their children who were alive in 1978. Even my father, who was not known for nostalgia, had kept his copy. Although we knew her as ‘Flossie’, her parents named her ‘Florry’.  She was born on 15 August 1889 at Back Lane, Preston and was eventually baptized on 12 July 1891.  She started school very early - on the 25 April 1892 - indeed the headmistress commented that ‘Florence Wray is young for Standard Three’, in 1898. Her school record is only noteworthy because she was knocked down and injured in the playground by Herbert Robinson (the son of Preston’s tailor) in 1899 and was later absent for ten days in the summer of 1902 with ‘a gathering in her head’. On 4 April 1904 (a Sunday), Flossie now aged fourteen was ‘bird-keeping’ (ie bird-scaring) with one of her brothers when she asked three Hitchin youths the time. They went on towards two empty houses where they broke twenty-six panes of glass with stones and a
catapult. Flossie was a witness in the resulting court case. The houses were owned by Hannah Squires and were situated at Sootfield Green, so Flossie and her brother were in a nearby field, maybe of Castle Farm. Bird-scaring was a spring-time task when the corn had been newly sown. Children were employed to go out to the fields as soon as it was light and remain there until the birds had gone to roost. Despite the long hours, the work was welcomed - perhaps the child was paid 6d a day. They went to work with a wooden rattle, or beat an old pail with a stick - or just shouted at the birds. Perhaps Flossie’s enquiry about the time revealed how she was looking forward to being released from her labour - it was common for young bird-scarers to ask passers-by what the time it was.
The 1911 census found ‘Florence’ (sic) working as a cook for the architect Cecil Henry Perkins and his family, at Church Road in the heart of Bracknell, Berks. He was involved in work at Herstmonceux Castle, Sussex. Quite how she qualified for this position is a mystery - although Dad always said that their mother was a “good cook’’. Possibly Flossie’s association with this architect smoothed the way for her next career move. Flossie trained as a nurse, at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridgeshire. Her acceptance by the nursing profession shows some resourcefulness. Flossie served in the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service Reserve during WW1 (see medal card below). When the armistice was signed, she was transferred or “lent” to the Queen Alexandra’s Military Nursing Service for India (QAMNSI). The nursing service was ‘incredibly concerned with social class and status’. Preference was given to daughters of professional people such as teachers, chaplains and Army officers. The following are typical comments in the minutes of the Nursing Board:
‘Not in the least acceptable; her father is a shoemaker.’                          ‘Not a lady by birth nor by education.’ ‘Hardly up to standard, personally and socially.’
Quite how Flossie ‘got through this social net’ and later married above her station (as we shall see) is a mystery. However, sometime in 1919, this thirty-year-old nurse from Preston sailed for five weeks to India through the Suez Canal and then travelled a further two days across the Indian sub-continent to the dust and heat of the North West Frontier. She received a medal for her service at Waziristan from 1919-21 (shown at bottom of page). A niece remembers being spellbound by Flossie’s stories of her Indian experiences – of panthers who carried off small animals from the camp at night. Then came an announcement in Pioneer Mail and India Weekly News Vol 48 Page 46: “A marriage has been arranged and will shortly take place between Miss F Wray of Preston, Hertfordshire  and Captain H Sugden IAR”.
On 14 April 1921, Florence (sic) Wray (25! - she was 31) married Harold Sugden (31) at St Thomas’ Church, Dera Ismail Khan (shown right) in the diocese of Lahore, Pakistan (see certificate below). The occupation of the couple’s fathers was not required on the marriage certificate – it would have been interesting to read her description of Alfred Wray’s occupation. Harold Sugden’s ancestry was quite different to Flossie’s modest origins.
Harold’s grandfather, William Sugden (born 1816 in Bath), was a surgeon and apothecary. Harold’s father, Edward Sugden, was born in 1850 at Backwell in Somerset. At the age of 21, he studied to be an architect. He then switched careers and trained as an Anglican clergyman at Chichester Theological College. He was a curate at St Mary Magdelene, Dundee (1878-82) and later the priest in charge of the Episcopalian Churches at Carnoustie (1882-89) and Coupar Angus (which is 10 miles north-west of Dundee 1887-1900). Using his architectural expertise, he also designed several church buildings in Scotland such as St John the Baptist Episcopal Church, 116 Albert Street, Dundee (1885) and the Church of St Margaret, Lochee, Dundee. Edward married Elizabeth Mary Sparks in 1887 at Chepstow, Monmouthshire and they had a son, Harold (born 8 June 1891 at Coupar Angus, Forfar), and a daughter. In 1901, Harold was at Heaton Lodge Boarding School at Kirkheaton, Yorkshire. According to the Indian Army records at the British Library, H. Sugden was appointed to the Indian Army on 4 September 1918. In January 1919, he was a Lieutenant in the infantry and became a temporary Captain in 1920 until October 1922 - he described himself as a Captain when he married in 1921. He was released from the army in October 1924. It is generally believed by Flossie’s family that the marriage foundered because of pressure from Harold’s relatives. That she kept her engagement ring and passed it on to a favourite niece perhaps indicates her feelings about her marriage.
When she returned to her parents’ home at Preston, she became a matron at ‘Foxholes’ maternity home in Hitchin (right) which is a measure of her ability and strong (not to say stern) character. She was known as ‘Matron Sugden’ and was nursing there in 1951 when her mother died. She would drive there (somewhat erratically) which again was comparatively unusual for a woman at that time.  Later, Flossie worked in a home for the elderly at Stevenage. As soon as she heard that the cottage at Chequers Lane could be bought, she visited the owner, Mr. Vickers, and purchased it. Her sister, Maggie, remembered that Flossie was very generous to her children.
Flossie’s next door neighbours were the Newells (at 6 Chequers Cottages). Chris Newell’s instant memory of Flossie was that she saved his sister Barbara’s life when a boiled sweet lodged in her throat. She was turning blue, when Flossie ‘popped it out’.
Towards the end of her life, Flossie became a little unbalanced. She locked her sister, Nan, out of the house and a villager remembers being terrified at school because Flossie arrived there declaring that there was a terrible epidemic and demanding that all the children had to be vaccinated. Flossie died intestate on 19 July 1966 at Fairfield Mental Hospital, Stotfold, Beds. Her immediately disposable estate was valued at £4,500. Her sister Nan continued to live at the family home until her death in 1978. Then, 5 Chequers Cottages was sold for £18,000.
Of Harold Sugden
For some years I had tried to find the whereabouts of Aunt Flossie’s husband, Harold Sugden, after the mid-1920s. The break-through happened with the publication of the 1939 Register which provided this information:
The presence of Harold’s mother and sister here at  St Annes, Park Avenue, Westward Ho, Devon (a detached bungalow) confirms that Flossie’s husband was living in the West Country in 1939. He was noted ‘M’ on the Register (ie married) and his occupation was ‘locomotive fitter’. Now Harold could be found in the 1911 census - with his family:
The Sugdens were living in nine-roomed, semi-detached 21 Westbridge Road, Portswood, Southampton. The family were able to employ a servant. Harold was an apprentice in a locomotive department. Further records of his railway employment at this time were discovered. He had worked probably as an apprentice at the London and South Western Railway engineering yard, Eastleigh, Hants from 7 October 1907 until October 1912. He was then employed by a motor company before starting work as a fitter back at the Eastleigh works on 8 July 1913. He left this job because he was considered to be ‘unsuitable’ on 13 July 1914 when his character was assessed as good and his abilities as fair. A fortnight later, the World War 1 began. On 28 October 1914, Harold left London on the Khiva bound for Calcutta, India. He was described as a fitter. Harold’s destination was Assam which had recently become a more settled area after the border with Tibet had been agreed. It may be that he was going to work on the Indian railways, but more likely he was to work as an engineer on a tea plantation - this employment was sometimes advertised in the British press. Harold was initiated into the Freemasons at their Unity Lodge, Nazira, Assam on 11 January 1918 when he was noted as a tea planter. He took up a commission in the Indian Army on 4 September 1918 and resigned from the Lodge on 30 March 1921. Harold’s mother, Elizabeth Mary Sugden, died at Park Avenue, Westward Ho on 9 July 1956. Perhaps significantly probate to her estate (value: £822) was granted to her daughter, Ethel. Ethel died on 26 June 1969. She in turn left an estate of £2,366 and was living at Donnington House, Westward Ho - which was probably a care home on the coast then, as it is today. Perhaps there was a reason why Harold was not involved in the distribution of his mother’s estate as we will see. After noting in 1939 that he was married and living with his mother and sister in 1939, Harold married again:
Harold married the widow, Florence Kate Wainstein, at Bath register office on 5 August 1941. Florence had married Simel Wainstein/Vanstein at Paddington, Middlesex in early 1927. Simel was probably Jewish. They had two sons: Silas R Wainstein (born 1927) and Isaiah L Wainstein (1930). Possibly both sons preferred to be known later by their middle names which were Russell and Leon. Russell (a Bath rugby player and police constable) also adopted his mother’s maiden name Colwill. The relevance of this will become clear. In 1939, Florence like Harold was living at Westward Ho (at 5 Park View Terrace) together with her aged parents and probably her two sons though two undisclosed names have been blacked out of the record. When he married, Harold told the registrar that he was a widower. This was, of course, untrue. Flossie was still very much alive. Harold was a bigamist. He died a few months after Flossie, on 12 February 1967, at 30 Upper East Hayes, Bath. The informant was his stepson Russell Colwill (sic).
Both Flossie and Harold died intestate, without making a will. Flossie’s estate was administered by her sister, Maggie Whitby with help from her brothers, Jack and Sam Wray. It was evidently assumed that either Flossie and Harold had divorced or perhaps Harold had died. None of the Wray family appear to have had an inkling that Harold was alive, living in England, legally still Flossie’s husband and therefore entitled to her entire estate. Instead, after tracking down the locations of Flossie’s surviving siblings or the children of those who had died (a process that took more than two years) Letters of Administration were granted on 16 September 1968.Then, Flossie’s assets were distributed (in error) and the family agreed that Nan be allowed to continue living at 5 Chequers Cottages. By this time, if Flossie’s estate had been correctly administered, Harold’s sister, Ethel Sugden, would have been the sole beneficiary.
Demonstrating once again due to the power of the internet, this article was found by someone with close connections to Harold’s family, who kindly sent several photographs which contribute significantly to this story:
Edward and Elizabeth Sugden with Ethel and Harold
Harold Sugden
Florence Kate Sugden (nee Wainstein)
Flossie’s WW1 medal card and her Waziristan medal
The photograph of Flossie with the cherubic boy at the beginning of this article was taken in the summer of 1951 at a Wray/Littlefield wedding in Portsmouth. I just wish I could remember the occasion…..
1 January 1954
Foxholes Maternity Home, Hitchin
More information about what unbalanced Aunt Flossie has been provided by a cousin. In later life she travelled to work using a ‘Quickly’ motor bicycle such as the one shown right. These machines began to be produced in 1953, The motor unit included a 49 cc two-stroke engine, a two or three-speed transmission, a bicycle pedal assembly to start the engine and assist propulsion up hills, and a centre-stand. I understand that Flossie was involved in an accident of her way to work which affected her.