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.
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.