George Archer Hooke and his wife Ellen Hooke (née Farmer)  

George Archer Hooke and his wife, Ellen, are great-grandparents of mine.






George Archer Hooke: 1857-1934

Ellen Hooke (nee Farmer): 1856-1928

The Hooke family pedigree dates back to the 16th & 17th centuries in Norfolk; the churches of St Nicholas, Blakeney and All Saints, Beeston Regis both being significant and where Hooke graves, stones and plates can still be seen. During the 18th & 19th century the focus of Hooke life moves to a few miles south of Norwich, at Long Stratton. Hooke graves (direct ancestors of mine) can be seen and deciphered at St Mary's church, a beautiful building with its distinctive round tower. (George Archer Hooke wrote a detailed pencil description of this church in the 1920s when he was researching his family roots) The family name was William and the number of William Hookes in the 19th Century is thoroughly confusing. I have ten in the family tree to date! At some point before 1850 most of the Hooke family moved to London and the children and grandchildren of many branches of Hookes were all Londoners.It was here that George grew up and met Ellen, also a Londoner, born and bred.

George and Ellen married on August 27th 1889 at All Saints Church, Fulham. George was a budding chess player from the age of 12, taught by his father, William. His very best performance came in the first British Association Chess Tournament in 1886 when he tied for second place. For a while, both he and his unmarried sister Alice held two of the four positions as Vice-Presidents of Barnes Village Chess Club. The annual subscription was 10/-. Their publicity indicated that, although there were several lady members, more would be welcome! In County matches George represented both Surrey and Middlesex, playing for a variety of clubs. He was selected to play for England v America in the cable-match of 1903 where he lost at Board 10.

He was educEHooke1webated at Wesleyan Training College, Westminster and, aged 16, became a civil servant with the Board of Trade.He was clearly a gifted administrator. In 1894 he was heavily involved in preparing a return respecting the number, ages etc. of seamen on 5th April 1891. The Registrar General of Seamen was requested "to be so good as to convery to Mr Hooke the appreciation of the Board of Trade of the valuable services which he has rendered in the preparation of the Return". That work obviously stood him in good stead as George himself rose to the position of Asistant Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, Board of Trade.At the age of 64, after 48 years of service he was recommended for appointment to a Companionship of the Imperial Service Order. This was for works of special nature including being largely responsible for forming the Central Indexed Register of Seamen in 1913  and developing it under the Registration of Seamen Order of 1918. Other matters were to do with the welfare of the Mercantile Marine which "owed much to his ability and ripe experience".

His other hobbies were mathematics and cycling. He had no wish to own a car, sometimes writing in his letters about the terrible accidents and increasing dangers of motor traffic during the 1920s as car ownership took off. However, he accepted that his son Cyril would not be without his new vehicle!

In his retirement during the late 1920s he did considerable groundwork researching the Hooke family tree, providing his son Cyril with the initial details which set him on a trail of Hooke roots back to the 16th century, as already mentioned in Blakeney, Beeston and Upper Sheringham, This detailed and exhaustive research took place between 1958 and 1965. (All Cyril's research notes and correspondence survive.)

We know a little about Ellen through what she revealed in a delightful account of her childhood, written especially for, and at the request of, her children. You can read a transcript of it here as well as seeing the original pages.You may be able to decipher what she has written better than me in one or two places! We do have quite a lot of photos of Ellen (known as Nellie) and the Farmer family which indicate that she also came from a well-to-do London family background. Her father was an older man, Thomas Farmer, who was nearly 50 when she was born.

Here is George & Ellen's marriage certificate.GAHEFMarriage1889comp2

The Family   George and Ellen had five children, four of whom I knew and met from time to time. They were always generous in sending birthday and Christmas gifts of money to me and my brothers and sisters and no doubt my cousins too! We tried faithfully to remember to send our thank you letters to them during the 1960s and into the 1970s and our memories of them, on the rare occasions that we met up, are fond. Most Hookes have lived in the south of England and only our branch of the Hooke family moved up north, first to Cheadle Hulme and then, in 1959, to Lytham St Annes.

As can be seen from the certificate, George married Ellen in Fulham in 1889 and bought his first substantial terraced property in Tooting before moving to a slightly larger terraced house round the corner at the turn of the century. This house in now worth £2.5m. Later he moved to his final substantial home in Barnes. This is a respectable family, born and bred Londoners!

G-A-Hooke-young-man2Mildred was born first at 5am on Thursday, 18th September 1890 (birth cert) and is the most famous member of the family, both because of her career as a Headmistress (she was awarded the OBE) and also because of the man she married late in life. Read her story here.

Frances (midday, Saturday, 7th September 1891) (birth cert) was born next, followed by Beatrix (known as Trix or Trixie), 2-3am, Saturday, 17th December 1892 (birth cert), Ella, 1am, Monday, 8th April 1895 and finally at 8am on Saturday, 28th November 1896, a boy, Cyril, my grandfather.

Interestingly, the youngest, Ella and Cyril, were not baptised until 15th September 1902, when they were taken to Clopton Church, Suffolk and baptised by the Rector there, George's uncle, Rev Samuel Hooke!

The earliest insight into what George Archer was like as a person comes in this beautiful letter written to his third daughter, Trixie, around the time of her 7th birthday at the close of 1898 as a new century dawned. Letter writing was so important in this era before telecommunications and the internet and this was what he wanted to convey to his seven year old daughter, and all in his most legible, fluent handwriting.

Trixie also kept a whole series of his letters written to her between 1912/13 during her first year at Cambridge University, following in the footsteps of Mildred. These letters provide a unique insight into the Hooke family of that time so click here to discover all about "A Year in the Life of George Archer Hooke and his family, 1912-13".

Other letters, kept by my grandpa some 30 years later in his life as his wife lay dying of cancer, give us an even closer insight into the heart of this gentleman. These letters were written to my grandpa, his son Cyril, who was a Lieutentant Colonel in the British Army in India and married just two years to Ella Marion Oakden, daughter of Ralph Oakden, OBE, LCS who was later knighted for services to the British Empire. Their first son George was just 18 months old and the family were living in India in Allahabad when George's (Snr) wife became ill with an unknown illness. George Archer kept his son and the family informed of progress in this sequence of letters, until finally in August she passed away with George and her daughters in attendance. The news was conveyed to Cyril by telegram and more letters but it was another two weeks before George received a reply from his son. The airmail service was barely 20 years old and had greatly improved communication across the globe but it could still take a couple of weeks for a letter to reach a far-flung Indian outpost of the British Empire! Click here to see one of the first airletters ever sent, back in 1911 by Ella Oakden to her father in India.

You can read a transcript (much easier to read!!!) of each letter in turn and in full  starting here and find out how Ellen died and the family coped together. Here's a sample from the first letter of this archive alongside the entry about Ellen's passing:



George's Death

George died quite suddenly, just six years later, on December 8th, 1934 while playing chess for Barnes against the Croquet Association. He was playing the match at his own home and, on a piece being won, he uttered the words, "That ends the game." stood up to walk around and at once had a heart attack. It was 5.30pm. It was said that this was the death he would have wished but it still came as a great shock to his relatives and a wide circle of friends. His obituary and a photograph were published in the British Chess Association Magazine, from which I gleaned some of the above information. Probate was granted to his daughter Trixie on 6th February 1935 and he left a total of £1525.11s.

To finish, here is the end of the last letter that we have of my Great Grandfather George, as he reflects to my Grandfather Cyril of his failed stoic attempts at not being sorrowful over the loss of his beloved Ellen. Here you can also see how he signed all of his letters. Below is the last photograph I can find of him with daughter Trixie in 1932 at Flanshaw House.

George's Photo Album

FInally, you can see all 48 photos from George's photo album dated from 1920 to 1925, with the last photo possibly being dated 1927, just a year before Ellen died, this being the last photo we have of the two of them together. Just click on the arrow or the thumbnails to see the whole album.

George in the movies!

George's son, Cyril, bought a Standard 8 cine camera just in time to capture this sequence of silent movie of George and his grown-up children at Barnes. It deserved some captions and a bit of music! Enjoy watching on this You Tube link.




A year in the life of George Archer Hooke and his family

George Archer Hooke's photo album

Ellen Hooke's diary for her children

Parents - William & Harriett Hooke

Brother - Henry Hooke




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