Welcome to the North Mymms History Project

A growing collection of books, features, images, documents, and maps, collected, curated, and presented by a team of local volunteers keen to preserve the history of North Mymms

The Burns Family of North Mymms Park 1893-1997

North Mymms Notes - No 16

By Mike Allen

North Mymms House, the 1900s extension on the left Image from A Nott / G Knott, part of the Images of North Mymms Collection
North Mymms House, the 1900s extension on the left
Image from A Nott / G Knott, part of the Images of North Mymms Collection


In this edition of North Mymms Notes, Mike Allen looks at the history of the Burns family of North Mymms Park, who had a large part to play in the development of the parish during the late 1800s and early 1900s. This latest issue (No 16) is reproduced on this site with Mike's permission. This feature has been edited and formatted for the web. The original piece is embedded below.

Walter Hayes Burns 1838—1897

Walter Hayes Burns was born on September 9, 1838, in Newark, New Jersey, USA. He died on November 22, 1897, in North Mymms Park, Hertfordshire. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Newark.

Walter Burns was made a partner in 1878, in J S Morgan & Co. a merchant banking firm based in London and New York City.

He was married in London in 1867 to Mary Lyman Morgan, who was b. 5 Nov 1844 in Hartford, Connecticut, USA, the daughter of Junius Spencer (J.S.) Morgan (father of J. P. Morgan). Upon his death in 1890, from injuries sustained in a carriage accident, J. S left a fortune estimated at about $10,000,000. Allowing for inflation since 1890, this would have been worth something in excess of £200m today. In 1913, following the death of her brother J. P. Morgan, Mary inherited a part of his art collection to add to their own.

Walter and Mary purchased 69 Brook Street, London in 1884 (now the Saville Club) and had extensive remodelling carried out there.

In 1893 they purchased North Mymms Park, and one year later commissioned the firm of respected county house architects Ernest George and Alfred Yeates to effectively double the size. The cool marble loggia with its vaulted mosaic ceiling and ornate bronze door are all that remains from the additions taken down in the 1940s by their grandson Sir George.

The Burns had the public road from Welham Green to South Mimms diverted from its route away from the house. Mary died in 1919 at 69 Brook Street London, leaving an estate worth £62,7392 19s 1d. She is buried in the churchyard at St. Mary’s, North Mymms.

They had three children; William, who was b. 1870, d. 1872, Mary Ethel b.? d.1961 married Lewis Harcourt 1st Viscount Harcourt), and Walter Spencer Morgan.

Extracts from parish magazines tell us something of the wealthy Americans who made North Mymms their home.

September 1899

“During the summer of 1899 (Mrs Burns) daughter (Mary Ethel) was married to Mr. L. Vernon Harcourt, and in honour of her daughter's marriage, Mrs. Burns gave a treat to the children, tea to the mothers in the afternoon and supper to the men employed on the estate in the evening . . . calculated that no less than 663 persons were thus entertained. . . . The men felt grateful not only for the day's pleasure but for the continuous employment provided for them through the winter as well as the summer months "

December 1897

“It is not often that three adult deaths occur in our Parish nearly at the same time, but such was the case last week. (one of whom was) Walter Hayes Burns, Esq., the large-hearted owner of North Mymms Park, whose name is so well known both in this country and America as the head of the Firm which the munificent Mr, George Peabody founded, has been unexpectedly taken from us on the 26th ult. Mr Burns was a large employer of labour in the improvement of his estate, and besides his many public and private charities, had already done much, and was contemplating doing more for the benefit of our Parish. 
"A private Service, attended by the Family and Household, was held in the Entrance Hall of the Mansion on Friday, the 26th ult., at 2.30. The body was then taken to London, and while the Funeral Service took place at St. George's, Hanover Square, on the next day at 12.30, a Memorial Service was held in our own Church at the same time and was attended by the tenantry and employees on the Estate. Beautiful flowers decorated the chancel, and were left, at the special request of the Family, for another funeral in the afternoon. The Psalms in the Burial Service were chanted, and two of the same Hymns sung as at the service in London. Reference was also made to the sad event at both Morning and Afternoon sermons on the following Sunday. The earthly remains are ultimately to rest by those of Mr. Burn's greatly loved brother in America.”

Ruth Evelyn Burns (née Cavendish-Bentinck)

Ruth Evelyn Burns (née Cavendish-Bentinck), by Alice Hughes photogravure, mid 1900s
Image © National Portrait Gallery released under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0

Extract from the parish magazine, August 1919

"It was with deep regret that the parish learned early on Sunday, 20th July, that Mrs. Burns had passed away quite suddenly at her residence in London in the early hours of the morning. . . . She had been able to view the procession during the day. Two days previously the vicar had received from her personally a most kind note in which she expressed the wish that the local peace celebrations would be a great success and enclosed a handsome cheque to help defray the expenses. That the happiness of the parishioners should thus be in her mind during the last days of her life will be remembered with appreciation ... The benefactions of Mrs. Burns in the parish were numerous. She maintained the parish nurse at her sole expense; she presented the Men’s Institute; (now the North Mymms Social Club) and was always ready to respond to any appeal for help. She subscribed largely to the restoration of the church in 1913 and the churchyard was kept in order at her expense."

Walter Spencer Morgan Burns

Walter Spencer Morgan Burns, b. 22 March 1872 in Paris d. 24 December 1929 at the Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo. Not shown as buried at South Mimms.

Estate worth £179,564 6s 1d (£7.5 million 2016) listed as an art collector; built up a collection which included masterpieces of Italian painters, Limoges enamels, outstanding specimens of majolica also formed a valuable library of Napoleonic literature.

Educated at Eton and Trinity College he followed his father into banking. Married Adrienne Shapland 1895 later divorcing her in 1906. Shortly after his decree absolute he married Ruth Evelyn Cavendish-Bentinck b. March 1883 d. April 1978 daughter of William George Cavendish-Bentinck and Elizabeth Livingston on the 9th February 1907. King Edward VII sent a gift and J.P Morgan gave a superb diamond stomacher with huge diamond drops. Ruth Evelyn’s funeral was on the 26th April at St. Mary's with the interment at St. Giles in her families mausoleum.

Extract from parish magazine - January 1930

“The sad news of the death of Mr. Burns, the Lord of the Manor of North Mymms. On Christmas Eve cast gloom over Christmastide in North Mymms. All our sympathies have been with Mrs Burns and her family in their great sorrow and loss. During his ten years residence at North Mymms Park. Mr Burns did much for the Parish in which he had his country home. Our Beautiful new Churchyard was a free gift from him in 1922 and his gift of the fine building which we possess for our Men's’ Institute is more and more appreciated every year. In him we have lost a true friend and a personality of great charm has passed from our midst.”

Walter Spencer Morgan & Ruth Evelyn had two children, Walter Arthur George b. January 1911 d. May 1997, and Cynthia Mary b.1908. d.14th March 1977, who married Sir John Gawen Carew Pole, of Antony House Torpoint Cornwall. Their son John inherited the North Mymms Park Estate upon the death of Walter Arthur George Burns.

Sir Walter Arthur George Burns

Sir (Walter Arthur) George Burns by Walter Bird, bromide print, 7 December 1966 © National Portrait Gallery, London released under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0
Sir (Walter Arthur) George Burns by Walter Bird, bromide print, 7 December 1966
© National Portrait Gallery, London released under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0

Sir Walter Arthur George Burns, (Major General GCVO, CB, DSO, OBE, MC, KSt.J ) was a military man, Colonel of the Coldstream Guards, president of the North Mymms Cricket Club, and a keen garden. He was born in January 1911, and died in May 1997.

Sir George Burns in the rose garden at North Mymms House in July 1976 Image from the former North Mymms Local History Society, part of the Images of North Mymms Collection
Sir George Burns in the rose garden at North Mymms House in July 1976
Image from the NMLHS, part of the Images of North Mymms Collection

He was educated, it is believed, in his early days at the North Mymms Boys' School, then at Eton, and alter at Trinity College, Cambridge. He obtained a commission in the Coldstream Guards in 1932, and served as aide-de-camp to the Viceroy of India, the Marquess of Linlithgow from 1938 to 1940.
He then held several staff posts during the Second World War: Adjutant of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards from 1940 to 1941, Brigade Major of the 9th Infantry Brigade from 1941 to 1942, Support Group Guards Armoured Division in 1942 and 32nd Guards Brigade from 1942 to 1943.

Post-war, he commanded the 3rd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards in Palestine from 1947 until 1950. He then served as Assistant Adjutant General at the London District Headquarters 1951 to 1952, as Lieutenant Colonel of the Coldstream 1952 to 1955, as Commander of the 4th Guards Brigade 1955 to 1959, and as Major-General commanding the Household Brigade and General Officer commanding the London District from 1959 to 1962.

In 1962, he was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order and received the colonelcy of the Coldstream, which he held until 1994. In 1972, he was appointed a Knight of the Venerable Order of St John and was upgraded to a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order on 31 December 1990.

He was Colonel of the Coldstream Guards from 1966 to 1994, appointed Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire in 1961, and served in that office until 1986. He was appointed steward of the Jockey Club in 1946.

He was a patron of cricket, sponsoring the North Mymms Cricket Club by having their pitch and clubhouse on his land at a peppercorn rent and overseeing the building of a new clubhouse. He served as its president from 1931 until his death and he also served on many committees and acted as president of local societies. He had a great interest in Aberdeen Angus cattle and visited many shows up and down the country following his interest.

The memorial to Sir Walter Arthur George Burns in St Mary's Church, North Mymms Image by the North Mymms History Project released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The memorial to Sir Walter Arthur George Burns in St Mary's Church, North Mymms
Image by the North Mymms History Project released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

The Burns as benefactors

From the accounts of the time we find that Mary Lyman Burns maintained the village nurse, kept the churchyard in order at her expense, presented the Men's Institute, and subscribed to the church restoration in 1913. Her son Walter S. gave the new burial ground at St. Mary’s in 1921 when the existing churchyard was deemed to be full, and they gave the site of the War Memorial and the surrounding area with the beautiful trees.

Walter Arthur George served on many committees, one of which was the North Mymms Memorial Hall. Events were held at North Mymms Park to help raise funds to enable the building to commence, the grounds were open for the Red Cross each year to help raise funds. Ruth Evelyn ran many events in support of the Red Cross and during WW II the house became a military hospital with Mrs Burn as its commandant.

The Burns Pavilion, which serves as a clubhouse for the bowls club and changing rooms for the football club, was erected in the families honour. He was president of the bowls club for many years.

Lieutenant, Colonel W.A.G. Burns opening the new pavilion at North Mymms Cricket Club (NMCC) Image courtesy of the NMCC, taken August 2, 1948
Lieutenant, Colonel W.A.G. Burns opening the new pavilion at North Mymms Cricket Club (NMCC)
Image courtesy of the NMCC, taken August 2, 1948

In 1922 Walter Spencer Morgan Burns gifted to the parish two plots of land on which stood the Recreation Hall (now part of the North Mymms Social Club) and the old scout hut in Dixons Hill. In 1960 with these assets The North Mymms Recreational Halls Trust was formed. In the 1990s the land was sold, and in 1992 the Trust was re-named the North Mymms Recreation and Charitable Trust. The capital realised enabled the Trustees to use the interest to help organisations and individuals within the Parish. North Mymms would be a poorer place without the family .

The Cavendish Bentinck Mausoleum, St Giles, South Mimms

The Cavendish Bentinck Mausoleum, St Giles churchyard, South Mimms Image by the North Mymms History Project, released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The Cavendish Bentinck Mausoleum, St Giles churchyard, South Mimms
Image by the North Mymms History Project, released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

It is interesting to note that although the family were regular attendees at St. Mary's, North Mymms, the only member of the family buried there is Mary Lyman Burns. Ruth Evelyn and her son Sir George are both interred in the Cavendish Bentinck Mausoleum in South Mimms churchyard. The architect was Robert Weir Schultz who normally designed in the arts and crafts style, so this example of classical design of his comes as something of a surprise. It seems likely, therefore, that the choice of the classical design was that of the client rather than the architect.

The mausoleum was built for Mrs Elizabeth Cavendish Bentinck of Richmond Terrace, Whitehall. She came from New York, and had married William George Cavendish Bentinck (1854-1909) in 1880. He was the member of parliament for Penryn and Falmouth between 1886 and 1895, a Dorset justice of the peace, and a trustee of the British Museum. They had two daughters, the first of whom, Mary Augusta, died in 1913. Perhaps it was after her death that Elizabeth Cavendish Bentinck, by this time a widow, decided to build the family Mausoleum. It is understood she subsequently moved back to New York, and in 1928 the title deed of the Mausoleum was conveyed to her second daughter Mrs. Ruth Evelyn Burns. Elizabeth returned from the USA at some time as she is shown in the 1939 census, and later died in North Mymms House in 1943, she is interred in the Mausoleum.

The Mausoleum contains the chest tomb of Mary Augusta Ford, b. 1881, d. 1913 (living at that time in Hove Sussex) and her husband John Gorman Ford, b. 1867, d. 11th October 1917 who lived at no 54 Richmond Terrace Whitehall London. He and his family were diplomats serving in Washington & Constantinople. Mary and John were both interred in the Mausoleum on the 16th October 1917. Perhaps the Mausoleum was only finished at this time due to WW I constraints on men and materials?

Clearly Elizabeth Cavendish Bentinck's intention was that she and her daughters and their families were to be interred in the Mausoleum she had built, but why locate it at St. Giles South Mimms? St. Mary’s North Mymms, where her daughter Ruth lived, would have been a more logical place.
It is understood that the then vicar of North Mymms, the Revd. Charles Gordon Ward, refused the request. Perhaps the Bishop of St. Albans did not agree with private Mausoleums and it is possible that with the Cavendish Bentinck's considerable influence the Bishop of London, whose Diocese St. Giles South Mimms was in at that time, and the resident Vicar the Revd. Allen Hay, agreed that a Mausoleum would be a fitting addition to St. Giles’s churchyard.

It is also important to remember that wealthy families would spend most of their time away, only paying occasional visits to their country estates, this is borne out when viewing censuses, the country house would invariably only show the servants.

Note: The piece above was written by Mike Allen in 2018 with thanks to Peter Miller for his input. The original text and images have been edited and formatted for the internet. A PDF of the article is embedded below.

About this series

This is one article in a series of historical features called North Mymms Notes, researched and written by local resident, photographer, and historian, Mike Allen. The pieces are designed to offer a short glimpse into the history of the parish, and are used, by Mike, in local displays and presentations. Mike is one responsible for the Images of North Mymms Collection, and is one of the team responsible for the North Mymms History Project.

1 comment:

Comments on this piece
If you have any information to add to this item, please use the comment box below. We welcome input and are keen to update any piece with new research or information. Comments are pre-moderated, so there will be a delay before they go live. Thanks

Further information
If you require any further information relating to this, or any other item, please use the contact form, because we are unable to reply directly to you via this comment box. You can access it from the 'contact us' link at the top of any page on the website, at the bottom of the right hand side of the website, or at the bottom of any page.