The First World War and Lambeth Palace

Among the papers of Archbishop Davidson survives a typescript list of relatives and friends of members of the Lambeth Palace household serving in the War (ref: LPL Davidson 22). It includes the name Craufurd Ellison, a reminder of the connections between three episcopal families whose relationships are documented by the Library’s holdings. Craufurd Tait Ellison was the son of Agnes Sitwell Ellison (née Tait), she in turn the youngest daughter of Archibald Campbell Tait (Archbishop of Canterbury 1868-82) and Catharine Spooner Tait.

Agnes Tait and her sisters
Agnes Tait and her sisters (ref: MS 4502/41)

Agnes (b. 1860) died in 1888 after giving birth to her son Craufurd, soon after her marriage in January that year. She was buried at Addington, where the Archbishops had a Palace at that period. The 1891 census shows her young son living with his widowed father, his father’s brother and sister, his grandfather, and four female servants (including his nannie, Susannah Soan), in Warwick Square (Pimlico). By 1901 he was at school in Rottingdean, Sussex.

The name Craufurd was resonant in the Tait family, as it was earlier the name both of the Archbishop’s father (d. 1832), and of the Taits’ only son, also a clergyman: Craufurd Tait (b. 1849) had died in 1878, followed soon after by his grieving mother, both memorialized in an account published after their deaths by the Archbishop. The family’s history is well-known for the earlier loss in 1856 of five of their seven children to scarlet fever, leaving only Craufurd and one sister surviving. Further daughters were born to the Taits after the tragedy. The Library holds records of the Tait family, including this photograph picturing Agnes (standing), Lucy (left) and Edith (ref: LPL MS 4502 item 41), and also including letters and papers on the engagement and marriage of Agnes Tait to John Henry Joshua Ellison (another clergyman) and her death (ref: LPL MS 4499 ff. 215-233, MS 4500 item 2).

Craufurd Ellison was thereby the nephew of Archbishop Davidson, though his wife Edith (née Tait), who was Agnes’s sister. Randall Davidson was a friend of their brother Craufurd Tait (the Library holds records of a tour of Egypt and Palestine they made together in 1872-3, ref: LPL MSS 1602-1603), who was instrumental in Davidson’s ordination to the ministry by his father Archbishop Tait; Davidson subsequently became the Archbishop’s chaplain.

In the 1911 census Ellison, then in his early twenties, was already serving in the military, a 2nd Lieutenant, and his marriage certificate records that he was married to Marjorie Wynyard (daughter of a retired Colonel) in the chapel at Lambeth Palace on 2 August 1914, with Archbishop Davidson officiating and Edith Davidson among the witnesses (also recorded in the Chapel register, ref: LPL MS 2886 p. 33).

Marriage record of Craufurd Ellison
Marriage of Craufurd Ellison (ref: MS 2886 page 33)

The marriage was by special licence issued on behalf of the Archbishop – the number of licences for August 1914 is noticeably increased over the same period the preceding year, presumably owing to the circumstances of the War (ref: LPL FM III/23). The Library holds letters to Randall and Edith Davidson from and concerning their nephew, including letters of 1890-1 written on behalf of the infant Craufurd enumerating his activities such as spinning his top and feeding the ducks, and early letters in his own hand (including one to Uncle “Wrangle”). A letter from his nannie written soon after his wedding in 1914 describes the sun suddenly shining on the bridal couple as Craufurd put on the ring, recalling the moment when the same thing occurred as his mother first held her child in 1888. There are also letters of farewell following the outbreak of War in 1914 and reporting Craufurd’s injury in the early months of War (ref: LPL MS 4499 ff. 234-289). Following his war service with the King’s Royal Rifles, he is listed (in Kelly’s Directory 1920) as a Captain living in Wiltshire. He died as a Major in 1942, his name appearing on the war memorial in Wilton, Wiltshire alongside that of John Damer Craufurd Ellison (b. 1915), his only son, who died on war service in North Africa the following year. He also had a daughter (b. 1919) – another Agnes, like his mother.

The Library also holds records of the Ellison family among the papers of Gerald Ellison (Bishop of London 1973-81). He was the son of John Henry Joshua Ellison (1855-1944), who had married Agnes. Craufurd Ellison was thereby the (much older) half-brother of Gerald (b. 1910), who was the son of John’s second wife. Among the family material which survives in the Ellison papers are visitors’ books from the family homes dating from 1901 onwards – including the signature of Craufurd Tait Ellison (ref: LPL Ellison P/2/2).

Additional information from genealogical sources on the Ancestry website.

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