Was an Eastbourne man bitten by a lion?

My grandmother Bessie Gordon was born in Eastbourne in 1901 and lived in Taddington Road. (one of the many Eastbourne roads named after a Derbyshire village by the Dukes of Devonshire whose family seat was Chatsworth in that county)

In 1911 my grandma became friends with a four-year old girl who lived two doors away. She had an unusual name – Honor Faux-Upsher and also had unusual parents.  My grandma remembered that Mr Faux-Upsher could not leave the house and his bed was in the front room with a cage over his legs.  Honor said he had been bitten by a lion which, to be honest, was hardly likely for a man who lived in Eastbourne!

Honor’s mother, Mrs Faux-Upsher (Kate) was from Oxfordshire and was the niece of Joseph Paxton, the great architect and landscape gardener who had designed the gardens of Chatsworth House and the magnificent Crystal Palace.  My grandma describes Mrs Faux-Upsher as being tall and good looking; she wore her hair loose around her face but with a tight bun on the top of her head.  For some reason she would always spend one day a week in bed and, with both her parents in bed, it was on this day that my grandmother used to take young Honor out for the day.

Bessie and Honor used to go swimming in the sea which was always the second groyne from the Redoubt – my grandmothers favourite beach.   Nearby there was a wooden stage built on the beach and the two girls would watch the minstrels with their blacked-up faces giving concert-parties.  One of the minstrels called ‘Uncle Charley’ was ‘rather sweet’ on Honor’s cousin, Violet and ‘used to walk out with him’. My grandmother thought it notable that Honor was always dressed in shorts and a tee-shirt for these outings rather than a skirt and blouse.

In later years Honor became a nurse and served as a nurse in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.  My grandmother became friendly with Mrs Faux-Upsher who, in her later years, became completely bedridden. Grandmother remembers she was very intelligent and could speak about virtually any subject.  She even learnt Greek despite being over 70 years old!

Mrs Upsher was a Roman Catholic and her funeral was held at St Agnes Church, Whitley Road.   

So was Honor’s father bitten by a lion?  Well in the 1911 Census, the family can be found living in Taddington Road – and the occupation of William Faux-Upsher?  ‘South African Big Game Hunter (Retired)’  Apparently he had caught a rare disease whilst he was working in Africa.   

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In her later years my grandmother was a campaigner for animal rights; indeed for many years she was the Secretary for the BUAV – the British Union of Anti-Vivisectionists.

If Honor’s father told my grandmother of how he used to shoot lions, he may have started my grandmother on her life-long campaigning against animal cruelty. 

I wonder what became of Honor? As she was an only child I doubt if there are any Faux-Upshers in Eastbourne today. 


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Teresa Fowler says:

    An interesting story, Kevin. Prompted me to do a quick search on Find My Past, which shows Honor as having married, twice (both under her maiden name), firstly in 1938 to Kenneth W Richardson (in Wandsworth District) and, secondly, in 1945 to Jack H Wilson (in Eastbourne District). I guess it’s possible her first husband died during WW2, though I’ve not found a death record to confirm that and there is a record of a Kenneth W Richardson (b 1905 or 1909) having died at sea, in 1955, on board the ‘Khyber’, which was a P&O ship. Honor Mary Wilson (dob 23 Jul 1906) died in 2001 (1st quarter, Eastbourne District), so seems likely she returned to Eastbourne after WW2 and remained there for the rest of her life. Her second husband died in 1967, whereas Honor lived to the ripe old age of 94.


  2. sussextalks says:

    Thank you Theresa – wouldn’t it have been fun to have spoken to her?


  3. Teresa Fowler says:

    It certainly would have. I guess there may still be some Eastbourne people around who did know her and perhaps some more about her life, if only you could find them.
    A couple of other snippets I have discovered are that she travelled to India (on board P&O liners) in 1947 & 1953, the latter being under the name of Honor Mary Gough Wilson. Seems quite a coincidence that her first husband may be the Kenneth W Richardson who died aboard another P & O liner, in 1955, after she’d married Mr Wilson!
    On the 1947 passenger list her occupation is shown as ‘S R Nurse’ but on the 1953 one as ‘Housewife’. On both, her year of birth is (incorrectly) shown as 1907 but I don’t doubt it is ‘your’ Honor Mary.
    Oddly enough, there also seem to be two versions of her death record, one as Honor Mary Wilson, the other as Honor Mary Gough-Wilson. Both show the same other details, so it cannot be two different people. I’ve no idea where the ‘Gough’ came from but, like her father, she seems to have added the hyphen, later (‘Faux’ seems to have been her father’s middle name, and his father’s, too).


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