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Downton, Bunty & Daniel Richmond (27 replies)

GrahamWRobinson
5 years ago
GrahamWRobinson 5 years ago

Downton, Bunty & Daniel Richmond

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GrahamWRobinson
5 years ago
GrahamWRobinson 5 years ago

We've had discussion elsewhere on the forum about Downton Engineering but I thought it better to start a new topic on that of Bunty Richmond, Daniel's wife. Having lived in Bournemouth for many years Downton is not that far away and as a Mini Cooper enthusiast Downton Engineering has always been of interest to me. I remember taking the car to them in the early 1970s although I confess I can't remember what for! It might have been a rolling road session.
Today I set out to see what I could find on the very formidable Bunty!

Having an interest in genealogy allows me to use the Ancestry website so first port of call was there to find out about Bunty's marriage to Daniel. Surprisingly I couldn't find it. Back to the internet and Google where I stumbled across something that said that Daniel and Bunty were never married. In other words they were never actually Mr and Mrs Richmond. In due course I found that Bunty was born Veronica Ritchie Romer in London on 14th April 1921. She was the daughter of a high court judge, the Hon. Charles Romer. His father and Bunty's grandfather was Lord Romer from Tadworth, Surrey. Her uncle was killed in WW1. Whilst it is documented that she was Veronica ‘Bunty' Romer what comes next will really surprise you. I have not found it in any piece on Bunty and her involvement with Daniel and Downton Engineering. I wonder if the likes of Steve Harris, Richard Longman, George Toth, etc. ever knew this? Probably not as it's not the sort of thing she is ever likely to have discussed with anyone let alone her own staff.

By searching through online newspapers I have found out why Bunty and Daniel never married. They couldn't as Bunty was already married! To the best of my knowledge she never divorced and her husband never re-married. Bunty had married in London on 7th November 1944. Her husband was John Harold Whitaker from Lightcliffe, near Halifax, Yorks. John was an engineer who in 1937 can be found working at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, Hants. He was born on 13th April 1912 so was almost to the day 9 years older than Bunty. He died in north east Hampshire in March 1980 aged 67. John was well travelled and I've found him returning on liners from the USA and South Africa. John's father Dr Harold Whitaker was a recognised authority on old maps. Harold also took out a patent in 1920 on an apparatus for singeing fabrics. Clearly the marriage of Bunty to John Whitaker didn't last for very long as by 1947 Daniel and Bunty were running Downton Engineering.

Bunty's surname given at the time of her death in 1977 was Richmond. Some would say that it should have been Romer but I now believe that in truth she died Veronica Ritchie Whitaker unless at some time she had changed her surname by deed poll to Richmond.

Here are some of the newspaper cuttings I have found which tell you more about Bunty, her family and her marriage to John Whitaker:

[attachment=2:1huszv90]VeronicaRomer-Newspaper1940.jpg[/attachment:1huszv90]
[attachment=0:1huszv90]VeronicaRomer-Engagement-Marriage-1944.jpg[/attachment:1huszv90]
[attachment=1:1huszv90]Charles Romer - Lord Romer - 1944.jpg[/attachment:1huszv90]
For a woman that in many ways had achieved so much it was very sad that she finally took her own life. Note from the newspaper cuttings she could speak four languages and learnt to fly at the age of 14. A very able woman no doubt but I sense that by her very nature she didn't have many friends and after losing Daniel she felt very lonely.

Graham

GrahamWRobinson
5 years ago
GrahamWRobinson 5 years ago

Is this of any interest to anyone? As I write this it has been viewed 71 times but rather surprisingly no-one has made any comment.

I'm currently working on Daniel's life prior to arriving at Downton in 1947 and will post what I have found if that is of interest. Some of it will really surprise you!

Graham

Island Blue
5 years ago
Island Blue 5 years ago

[quote="GrahamWRobinson":11xnzvxd]Is this of any interest to anyone? As I write this it has been viewed 71 times but rather surprisingly no-one has made any comment.

I'm currently working on Daniel's life prior to arriving at Downton in 1947 and will post what I have found if that is of interest. Some of it will really surprise you!

Graham[/quote:11xnzvxd]

Enjoyed reading this, thanks for posting up, look forward to the next instalment!

Edington
5 years ago
Edington 5 years ago

Really interesting and would make a good subject for a TV documentary. great stuff Graham

Fricsman
5 years ago
Fricsman 5 years ago

Yes, very interesting Graham.

minidizzy
5 years ago
minidizzy 5 years ago

I have only just seen this. Excellent work and a valuable contribution to the history of the people involved with the Mini Cooper. I look forward to reading more.

RCM397
5 years ago
RCM397 5 years ago

Absolutely fascinating Graham and thanks very much for posting this. If Daniel trained as a Land Agent, which is entirely plausible, he may possibly have attended The Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester - now 're-branded' as The Royal Agricultural University. If you have not already seen it, Daniel's obituary was in fact published in The Times which will possibly feature in their online archive.

Supersonic
5 years ago
Supersonic 5 years ago

Graham

Thank you so much for posting your research on the Richmonds which is absolutely fascinating and nearly unbelievable. Then again sometimes facts are more incredible than fiction. I really enjoyed this detailed article which is the best post on the forum to date.

I'm very surprised that there has never been a book published about Downton Engineering and its place in British motoring history, perhaps this is your next project? The Richmonds might not have been very nice people but we still have plenty to thank Daniel for in the way he helped develop the A series engine.

This forum needs more articles like this about people with connections to the Mini and BMC and there is no reason why this could not happen. I am a member of the 1100 Club and have to say that as a group they are excellent in producing history articles about people who actually made a difference. In fact the 1100 Club produced an excellent book “The Story of the BMC 1100” which was researched and written by Chris Morris. Chris got every member involved including people like Allan G Webb who worked under Sir Alec Issigonis as a young engineer.

Technically this forum now seems to run well and photos are easy to post so that's not a problem. It just seems to lack any 'umph' and there is little interaction between forum members. Interaction is usually to do with some mechanical question or about something being bought or sold. In general members don't seem that bothered about general chat, car registers, etc.

The Car Register section has now been there for over a week and to have not one comment, question or whatever is extremely disappointing, has anyone even said that it's a good idea!

Much the same can be said of the photographic competition, one can hardly say that it has been a runaway success with only 3 entries by February 17 is not reasonable.

Much the same can be said about voting for the greatest Mini driver of all time. With 671 member's eligible to vote and so far 20 have, that is below 3%. Not very good is it?

I estimate about 50% of the forum members do not belong to the MCR. However look at how many of them (over 325) actually post anything? The answer is very few. In fact I'm still trying to work out why they join in the first place!

As the administrator you have done a sterling job and others to their credit have attempted to try and keep things on the boil posting some really good and quite rare photos, now is it not time to turn the gas down a little and ask yourself why are so many not getting involved.

I know a club with similar membership numbers and the age profile is perhaps older than the MCR forum. They have nearly 100% membership contribution on the forum. Even members who are not computer literate have friends and family post photographs and history of their cars.

I am purely trying to be helpful in writing this opinion and hope it will be seen as such.

Keep up the good work.

Alan

GrahamWRobinson
5 years ago
GrahamWRobinson 5 years ago

......... and then there was Daniel Richmond!

After Bunty I thought I would try and find out more about Daniel. Once again progress was slow as I couldn't find the registration of Daniel's birth although I knew he had been born in 1924. Then I had a bit of luck. I found a Robert and Monica Richmond returning by ship to Southampton from India in November 1925. With them was their young son, Daniel who was recorded as being two years of age. In fact he wasn't quite two at the time as I subsequently discovered. He had been born on 13th January 1924 in India. His father was a described as working for the Indian Forest Service. Armed with this information I soon found more. Daniel had an older brother, Christopher James Richmond, also born in India but who had died in 1921 at the age of two. Here are the details of the family's return to the UK.

[attachment=2:1qb57l0z]RichmondFamilyReturnToUK-1925.jpg[/attachment:1qb57l0z]

Note that in the column on the right they are asked where their country of intended residence is. Daniel and his mother are shown as UK but Robert is shown as a country within the British Empire. My guess is that Robert returned to India because of his work but his wife, Monica and son, Daniel remained in England.

Daniel's father was Sir Robert Daniel Richmond, born in Jamaica on 29th October 1878. He appears to have been known as Daniel rather than Robert so no doubt it must have been confusing if his son was also called Daniel! Most of Robert's working life was spent in India. He went to Bedford Modern School. From 1901 he worked for the Indian Forest Service, his last position being Chief Conservative of Forests Madras until he retired from the service in 1932. He was then chairman of the Madras Public Service Commission from 1935-40. He was honoured with a CIE, which is a Companion of the Indian Empire, and was knighted in 1937. Further information can be found on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Richmond He also had one claim to fame and that was that he played cricket for Jamaica! See: http://cricketarchive.com/Archive/Playe ... 14433.html Cricket must have been a great love of his as I believe he continued playing whilst in India. Upon his return to England I've even found reference to him playing in an Old Boys match at Bedford Modern in 1939. He died in Lymington, Hampshire, England on 1st May 1948 aged 69.

The father of Robert Daniel Richmond was James Richmond (b. 1850) who was Scottish. James's father, Robert with wife Jane, was described as a farmer on the 1851 Scottish census but the family subsequently moved to the Glasgow area where Robert was then described as a ‘Manure agent.' Here's more on James Richmond, Daniel's grandfather.

James Richmond, C.M.G., M.I.C.E. was born at Glenhead, Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, Scotland, c. 1850. He went out to Jamaica in early life to join an uncle in Spanish Town who was a contractor to the railway. He then secured a position in the Public Works Department and in 1874 became engineer to the Rio Cobre Irrigation Works. In 1890 he was made Assistant Director of Public Works, and in 1900 Director of the Railway then taken over by the Government. To the reorganizing of the railway he devoted his whole powers and converted a non-profitable into a paying concern; towards the close of his career the Upper Clarendon branch was near completed. He retired from the Public Service in 1913 and, his life dedicated to Jamaica, ended after a painful illness in London on March 20th of the following year. He was created a C.M.G. in 1906 (The Order of St Michael and St George is awarded to men and women who render extraordinary or important non-military service in a foreign country. It can also be conferred for important or loyal service in relation to foreign and Commonwealth affairs.) and in 1909 a member of the Privy Council.

Daniel's mother, Monica Mary Richmond (nee Davy) was born in Hamsey, Sussex on 3rd February 1887. As Lady Richmond she can be found living at Efford Mill House, Everton, near Lymington, Hants from the 1930s until her death in September 1963, aged 76. Efford Mill is about 25 miles from Downton.

Further research revealed something very interesting. Monica Davy's aunt was Emma Fanny Davy (b. 1852 in Jamaica.) As Emma Fanny Davy she married James Richmond therefore becoming Emma Fanny Richmond. Their son was Robert Daniel Richmond b.1878 who in turn married Monica Davy b. 1887 and their son was Daniel Richmond b. 1924. If I have it right Robert Daniel Richmond married his cousin. All quite legal I am sure but the family links were very close as you can see.

Robert and Monica had been married in 1909 at St George's, Hanover Square, London. Monica's father and therefore Daniel's grandfather was Sir James Stewart Davy who was from 1905 to 1913 the Assistant Secretary and Chief General Inspector of the Local Government Board. As you will see from the newspaper cutting of Sir James's obituary it shows that the family had connections with Jamaica.

[attachment=1:1qb57l0z]1915-SirJamesDavy-Death.jpg[/attachment:1qb57l0z]

I also found this:

Sir James Stewart Davy , K.C.B., was born in Manchester, Jamaica, in 1848 and was educated at Uppingham and Balliol College, Oxford. He was called to the Bar in England and entered on the Poor Law Service. In 1876 he became Assistant General Inspector and two years later General Inspector for Yorkshire, and in 1905 Chief Inspector. He was made a C.B. in 1902 and a K.C.B. nine years later. He died on the 16th of November at Pyrford, Surrey, England. His sister is widow of James Richmond, who died in 1914, formerly Director of the Jamaica Railway.

Daniel's grandmother on his mother's side was Johanna Charlotte Davy (nee Flemmich). Her father John Flemmich was Dutch and his wife Chilean. John died in 1892 and according to his probate details left £249,760 which equates to something like £23 million in today's money!

[attachment=0:1qb57l0z]Daniel Richmond-FamilyInfo-RS.jpg[/attachment:1qb57l0z]

I haven't been able to find out where Daniel went to school. I'm pretty sure it would have been a public school but which one? His father had gone to Bedford Modern but whether Daniel went there too I don't know. Unlike his father I don't see him as being a very sporty sort of person. I also don't know whether Daniel went to university or not. In 1939 when the war broke out Daniel would have been 15. By 1942 when he was 18 he would have been due to be called up but may not have had to serve if he was a student. I've found reference that before he took the garage business at Downton he was a land agent and that he had worked for British European Airways (BEA). As BEA was only founded in 1946 he couldn't have worked for the airline for very long before going to Downton.

One reference to Daniel from someone who knew him well implied that he was bisexual. Given the names of his well-known friends and acquaintances mentioned at the same time that could well have been true. However something else I picked up on was that not long before he died of a stroke he was down in Devon fishing and had moved into a hotel with a female, clearly not Bunty!

Daniel was obviously a very gifted engineer with everything going for him and yet I don't imagine for one minute that he had an idyllic life. Living and working with Bunty could not have been easy. My guess is that they rowed constantly. It's easy to jump to conclusions but you do wonder if he took to the demon drink because he was not in a happy relationship. Sadly it was all summed up for me when I found a reference to them by an ex-employee who said ‘They were not very nice people.' Be that as it may, many of us are thankful to Daniel for the way he helped develop the A series engine and the performance of which many of us still enjoy to this very day.

There are still many questions about Daniel and Bunty that go unanswered. I'm still keen to find out about Daniel's life up until the time he went to Downton in 1947, aged 23. I think it's fair to say that given the background of both of them it's not surprising that Daniel and Bunty were a bit of a strange couple.

Graham

RCM397
5 years ago
RCM397 5 years ago

[quote="Supersonic":ttbz1dql]Graham, Thank you so much for posting your research on the Richmonds which is absolutely fascinating...I really enjoyed this detailed article which is the best post on the forum to date....Technically this forum now seems to run well...Keep up the good work.[/quote:ttbz1dql]
Hear, hear.

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