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. Photo of Ellen as a child below.

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.EHooke1web

He was educated 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. London Shipping Chronicle Extract 1921At 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. See extract from the London Shipping Chronicle, 1921 - right.

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! See photos of some of his homes here.

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".

Further letters, written to George's son Cyril between 1916 and 1915 have survived. You can read them here at G A Hooke Letters 1916-1925

2023 07 10 115738George's Retirement

George retired from the Civil Service in August 1921 and received this silver plate from his colleagues. (Click on the image for a closer view of the inscription) He had started work as a Civil Servant aged 14 after passing an exam and retired aged 64, an amazing working life of 50 years devoted to the General Register Office of Shipping and Seamen.

He wrote regularly to his son, Cyril, first between 1916-19 while Cyril ws serving in Belgium during WW1 and then after Cyril went out to India with the Army. Cyril kept many of these letters or parts of them, dated 1919-1922 and they provide a wonderful family history as well as fascinating social history of that period. Transcriptions of these letters will soon be available here. They provide much detail about George's perspectives on retirement, his happiness with life, love for his family, how his income increased over the years, his pension arrangements, family holidays in Switzerland (1921,1922), his ruminating about buying a motor or a motor cycle with side-car (neither of which happened!) and much more.


Throughout his life George was a very keen and gifted chess player, just below master standard and capable of beating genuine masters like Sir George Thomas on his day. Richard James, a chess historian, has researched this aspect of George's life, along with detailed, annotated boards of some of the chess games he played. I was very happy for Richard to use information from this family site in publishing a couple of pieces about George and he kindly agreed that I could reference his work here. For a fascinating depiction of George Archer Hooke's chess career please do take a look at the following two links to "Minor Pieces", published in the British Chess News. (October 2022)

(Links to Minor Pieces articles about his sister Alice Elizabeth Hooke's chess exploits can be found on her webpage: Alice Hooke)

Minor Pieces 46: George Archer Hooke Part 1 - British Chess News

Minor Pieces 47: George Archer Hooke Part 2 - British Chess News

Minor Pieces 47: Part 2 also provides additional information about George's death while playing a chess match at home, as I will describe next.

Ellen's Death

More letters, kept by my grandpa (Cyril) some 30 years later, as George's wife lay dying of cancer, give us an even closer insight into the heart of gentleman George. These letters were written during 1928 to 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 four daughters in attendance. The news was conveyed to Cyril by telegram and by 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 of George's letters in turn and in full here (Ellen Hooke's Death) 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:



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



I hope by that time I shall be more like my old self and able to entertain him in many ways. I will do my best. I have received so much kindness in every home. I an most anxious to pass on all I can. But we are principally looking forward to your arrival early nextyear. There will be a gap but we must take what we have got. When I am gone I do not want anyone to be sad. Your mother felt the same, asked that we should not go into mourning, and perhaps your sisters, dressed in buff coloured dresses looked irregular but we can defy tradition. Still I felt it most difficult to practice what I preach and not to be very sorrowful.

Your ever affectionate Dad 






Since I published George's letters to Cyril written before and after Ellen's death, I found and transcribed another set of letters from his four daughters, Cyril's sisters, written between June and September 1928. These are a rare treasure trove of a family coping with grief and expressing their love for Mother and each other, made possible because Cyril was so far from home and they desperately wanted to keep him as close as possible, fully informed about his Mother's illness and death. This, of course, was in the days before international telephone calls when telegrams conveyed urgent news and the next best thing was airmail.

These letters reveal just how much care these young women, Mildred, Trixie, Frances and Ella gave to their Mother in her final days and their tremendous love and respect for her as she bore her illness with such grace and stoicism. It also emerges that Cyril was alone during this time, separated from Elaine and baby George, presumably because of a military posting in India. His sisters all voiced their great sympathy for him.

They also reveal more social history as the family spent some time on holiday in Bude after the funeral and took a tour in a car instead of a char-a-banc! Three of the four sisters were certainly sporting types, as described by Frances (who it seems was less so), playing golf and surfing the waves at Bude! We know from other sources that they also went snow ski-ing in the 1930s and played tennis. 

At this point in time, Mildred, aged 37, had just been a year in post as Headteacher of Bradford Girls Grammar School, where she appointed young socialist Barbara Castle (Betts) as Head Girl to the consternation of the Liberal and Tory toffs making up the vast majoity of the clientele of the school.

Frances, aged 36, lived at home and was the primary carer for her mother, Ellen.

Trixie, aged 35, was a statistician, who, like Mildred, had graduated from Cambridge with a Maths degree.

Ella, aged 33, no longer worked for the League of Nations and had commenced work as the Secretary of Nottingham Girls Grammar School.

Cyril, aged 31, was serving in the army in India, where he had married Elaine just two years previously, with their first child, George.

Here are the letters in sequence, beginning in June 1928 when Mother had been sick for a couple of months. All four young ladies wrote their own accounts of Mother's death just before her funeral and then there are couple more about their stay in Bude. I have published these with the transcript alongside each page of all the letters.

George's Death

George himself 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.

Here is a transcript of the last letter we have from George to Cyril (out in India) as he looks forward to seeing his beloved son again on his next return home. Sadly, that was not to be, as this letter was written on the 17th October just seven weeks before George's sudden death. Now 77, age was taking its toll on him as can be seen by his scrawly handwriting and brevity, rather than the much more typical long letters written in a beautiful flowing script. Trixie's comments written on the reverse side also reveal George's growing limitations.

Final Letter to Cyril 1934Final Letter to Cyril 1934 PTO


3 Woodlands Road, Barnes, 8.W.13          17th October 1934

Dear Cyril,

Your success on the stage is splendid. Bravo! We are looking forward to seeing you and yes, we shall like to congratulate you then.

Before then you will have met the son-in-law of my old friend, B.A.Jones and if you wiil help him it will be the best you can do to help yourself. You will both require Military Law and trying to see both sides of the case will be very beneficial.

Dearest love, and looking forward to another letter.

Your very affectionate Dad,  GAH

PTO From Trixie

Congrats on the success of the play. I wish I could have seen it.

Dad is going on quite well but he is able to do much less than he was. However we are persuading him to a few luxuries in the shape of a "gentleman in waiting" etc. and hope to make life fairly comfortable for him. Much love, T.


Here is the telegram sent to Cyril in India, informing him of his father's death.

2024 02 03 15.34.13 1WEB

Here are two published obituaries.GAH Obituary BWEB

GAH Obituary p1WEB



Here are two letters sent by Cyril's sisters telling him about his father's death.


You can read George Archer Hooke's will and see the location of his grave in Richmond and East Sheen Cemetery here.

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. 

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

George Hooke's Homes

George A Hooke's Will and Grave

Ellen Hooke's Death