|In search of a seat!
Years ago, whilst living for a while in a small flat in Highgate
I had intended to make enquiries as to the validity of my Aunties claim that a bench
with my Grandfathers name on it was situated somewhere on the Kenwood Estate in
recognition of the large donation of money he had donated to "Save Kenwood for the
Nation" some years before his wool factories were seized in Poland and he was
relieved of his wealth. I didnt know who I should contact and never managed to get
round to it. A couple of weeks ago, whilst leafing
through a magazine, I came across a number to call for information on walks around the
Kenwood grounds and thus got swiftly & directly in touch with Matt Baker at the
Kenwood Estate office.
Matt seemed extremely interested not only in my enquiry regarding
the bench, which, unfortunately has not yet been found (It is quite possible that the
original has by now perished as it is over 70 years since my grandfather came in contact
with the KenWood Preservation Society) but also asked if I would like to write a few words
for the Kenwood magazine on the subject.
Sadly for me, I never met my grandfather. William Whittingham
died in 1939, several years before I was born. I have never heard a negative word about
him, and have gained the impression from my father and other relatives, that he was a
kindly, and hardworking family man, adored by my grandmother, Henrietta, daughter Grace
and three sons of which my father Jack was the middle one. My cousin Digby, who had been
strictly brought up by his father who was in the Army in India, remembers the exhilaration
of being gently chided with a smile by Henrietta on the red-geranium lined steps of 42
York Place, for going outside onto the stray "the both of them in their
William was a Wool Broker. The family firm J. Whittingham &
Sons had been started by his father, Joseph in
It states somewhere that the gift was
given to the Nation because he had been too old and all three sons too young to fight in
the first world war. All three however, were just the right age for the next war in which
the youngest, Derek flew Hurricane's in the Battle of Britain and also took part in the
very fierce defence of Malta.
See his Diary 1941.
In 1922 an appeal was launched to save 100 acres of the Kenwood
estate for the public. It was about to be sold and built on.
My Grandfather William Whittingham gave the
largest donation to the appeal. In July 1922 he presented a cheque of £50.000 to the
council as a gift for a park for the poor of London. According
to an article in the Times dated October 22 1922, this gift has happily decided the fate
of Kenwood which would otherwise have been sold and built on.
According to my late father, Jack,
Grandpa Whittingham was hoping for a title which
was not forthcoming.
According to my cousin Digby, his Mother Grace said that he
turned one down.
We shall never know now which was the true story. However, I
shall continue to look for his "seat" in the lovely Kenwood grounds, and even if
it is not to be found, this search has been most rewarding.