A review of our March talk - by Anna Alexander

On 26th March Beryl Plent once again gave us the benefit of her knowledge of the families who lived in and around Gateacre, when she told us about Messrs Chapple Gill and Daniel James and their families. The men lived in their country estates on Woolton Hill, Gill in Lower Lee, and James in Beaconsfield, though sadly neither of these houses now exists.

Chapple Gill grew up in Gateacre, in Knotty Cross on Halewood Road. He was a Liverpool cotton broker who took over his father's firm. He married Catherine Smith Carey, daughter of Thomas Carey who built Lower Lee where their wedding took place in 1868, and we were shown a photograph of their wedding. Beryl also showed us a lithograph of Lower Lee from 1852. Another lithograph of the Lower Lee estate from the 1850s showed Garston's St Austin's church and Moel Famau in the distance. We were shown a photograph of Chapple Gill with his groom, and also the well-known James Tissot painting of Catherine Gill with her two children which now hangs in the Walker Art Gallery. A photograph of the drawing room of Lower Lee was followed by one of a sample of colourful, floral wallpaper which may have hung in the house.

Chapple Gill died in 1899 and his wife in 1916. Gill family members are buried by the lych-gate in the Unitarian churchyard, but Chapple Gill and his wife are buried in the Gill family vault.

Daniel James was a metal mining merchant who helped to found the Santa Fe railway in America, as part of Phelps, Dodge and Company. He moved to England with his wife and bought the Beaconsfield estate in 1867. Their son (also named Daniel) returned to New York to work in the firm after the death of his mother. Daniel James senior married for a second time and there were three sons from this marriage, one of whom (Frank) died in Africa after being trampled by an elephant.
Another son, William Dodge James, married the daughter of a Scottish baronet, who was a friend of Edward, Prince of Wales. Daniel James married for a third time to Ruth L. Dickinson from Cumbria. In 1885 William Dodge James paid for the building of Woolton Village Club as a gift. We were shown photographs of William Dodge James and his wife Evelyn Forbes, a society beauty and a good actress and mimic, excellent qualities to have when giving house parties. In 1896, William Dodge James moved to a 9,000 acre estate in West Dean, near Chichester in Sussex. Photographs of the interior of West Dean House were shown.

William Dodge James and his wife had four daughters, and finally a son Edward who wrote poetry and was a great patron of the arts, music and the ballet. In 1964 Edward gave his West Dean estate to the 'Edward James Foundation', which now runs it as a college housing one of the largest tapestry workshops in the world. He moved to Mexico towards the end of his life and built a concrete village, full of surreal statues, and a menagerie, selling much of his art collection to fund this. He died in 1984 aged 77.

Thanks to Beryl for another fascinating talk.

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