Nelson Norman Wimbush
Nelson Norman WimbushView full burial details
in the cemetery
The grave in Rectory Lane Cemetery commemorates four members of the Wimbush family – husband and wife Norman (1880-1965) and Ida (1884-1963) and their daughters Joanna (1922-2013) and Mary (1924-2005).
Nelson Norman Wimbush was born in Birmingham. A younger brother, Ray, was born a couple of years later. In his young days his parents ran a confectionary shop and café in the central area of the town. He attended Five Ways school and as a teenager became a clerk in the offices of Guest Keen and Nettlefold. With the ambition of becoming a teacher, he attended evening classes and at the age of twenty-three obtained a place as a mature student at St Catherine’s, Oxford.
In this period his father died, leaving the family very badly off, and also his brother Ray, a post office worker, contacted tuberculosis and did not survive. In the 1940s Norman wrote a memoir of his early years up to this time (pending publication). After graduation he obtained a post as a teacher, at the Royal Masonic School in Bushey, and during the same period participated regularly in semi-professional dramatics.
On the declaration of war in 1914 he enthusiastically followed the call of duty and enrolled.
In Spring 1915 he suffered a hit from shellfire and was at first assumed dead by his colleagues, but survived with appalling facial wounds. These were treated at first in France where his survival was in doubt and then with pioneering and basic plastic surgery by the father of plastic surgery, Harold Gillies. He expressed a wish to return to active service but this was impossible.
During his youth in Birmingham Norman’s mother and Ida’s mother had been friends, both being members of the local dramatic society, and he had briefly met and admired Ida when he was sixteen and she was twelve. Their lives moved apart, and in 1908 Ida married. This marriage ended towards the end of the war and Norman and Ida came together again and married in the church in Bromsgrove, where Ida’s mother lived, in 1920.
Ida had two children from her first marriage, Joyce and Peter, and when Norman obtained a post as a lecturer with the London County Council the family set up home in Harrow. Here Joanna and Mary were born. In 1929 the family moved to a large house in Berkhamsted, The Chalet (situated where Chalet Close now is), which was at the end of Shootersway Lane. Norman’s mother, Annie, moved into the adjacent Chalet Lodge (now The Lodge).
Ida was born as Ida Hughes in Castle Bromwich, the youngest of five surviving children. Her family was wealthy – her father having inherited the running of a metal works in central Birmingham founded by his father. Her father died unexpectedly while on the way to work when Ida was four. Her dominant mother then took over running the family and taking care of the business, and there was much dissent in the family and local community when in 1898 she married a much younger man who was an employee of the firm. The elder children were already grown up. An epistolary account of the family at this time by Ida’s brother Jack can be read in the book ‘Dearest Beatie, My Darling Jack’. To avoid gossip in Birmingham, Ida’s mother moved to Bromsgrove, and Ida was sent to school at a convent in Aix. Here she met Hugo, the brother of a German fellow student. In the early 1900s she studied in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Ida and Hugo married in Erdington, Birmingham at the beginning of 1908.
They first lived in Wiltshire where Joyce was born and then in Germany and Austria where Peter was born.
In 1913 they moved to Chichester (Pallant House, now an art museum) where in August 1914 Hugo as a German citizen was arrested and interned. Since married women took their nationality from their husband’s, Ida was now technically a German citizen, though living in England and totally British in ancestry and background. The marriage came to an end and Ida successfully applied to have her citizenship restored. She and her children took her original Hughes surname.
During their life in Berkhamsted Norman and Ida were both members of the dramatic section of the Berkhamsted Operatic and Dramatic Society, Ida acting in several productions and Norman writing plays that were produced by them.
Ida was prominent in the Northchurch Women’s Institute and Norman acted as an air-raid warden during the war – and during this period wrote a detailed memoir of his early life as mentioned above. They housed evacuees from London, refugees from central Europe and members of the Free French at the Chalet during the war.
In 1961 Ida and Norman found maintaining the large house too demanding and moved to a house at the end of Kingsdale Road which they named Arlescote after the village where Norman’s ancestors had originated. When Ida died in 1963, Joanna arranged for the garden to be divided and a new wooden house to be erected in the further half, named Edgehill (now Woodlands). Norman lived here, cared for sometimes by Joanna and sometimes by au pairs, until his death, on holiday with Joanna in Germany, in 1965.
Ida’s daughter by her first marriage, Joyce, is buried, along with her husband and eldest son in Kingshill Cemetery, which replaced Rectory Lane Cemetery in the 1950s.