Sisters of St Helena

Ellen and Maude Boughton-Leigh

Chloe Boughton-Leigh c1910-14 ;
Portrait by her friend Gwen John
Leeds Art Gallery

We have recently been contacted by Margaret O’Sullivan who was asking about these two sisters who lived in St Helena at the point. She did not know anything much about their life on Canvey or indeed when they came here. She gave us access to her research thus far and asked if we could help.  We had not heard of the sisters and personally I had no idea where St Helena was. Thanks to Martin Lepley we now know when they arrived and where they lived.

The following is some of my own research in addition to Martins and Margarets.

St Helena was a three bedroomed bungalow built on or before 1923. The occupier at that time was A. J. Poulson, the owner Charles Meggs. The bungalow was in Van Diemens Pass on the south/west side at the junction with Springfield Road.

Maude painted by her sister Ellen (Chloe)

In 1924 Miss Ellen Leigh was noted as being the occupier. Ellen and her sister Maude lived there until their deaths in 1947 and 1945. They were not at the property in the 1939 register but it is highly likely because of the recent death of their brother (see newspaper clips below) and war on the horizon they may have retreated to the family home in Warwickshire. They are buried in St Katherine’s Churchyard. I understand from the notes I have that there is no stone. I know the whereabouts of the grave and will investigate when we are allowed to venture out.

Henry Allesley Ward-Boughton-Leigh

Ellen Theodosia Ward Boughton-Leigh, known as Chloe, born 1868, was the first child of landowner, poet and antiquarian Edward Allesley Boughton Ward-Boughton-Leigh and his wife Ellen Caroline Butler. The family were from a long line of upper class families from the Midlands. Maude Mary Ward Boughton-Leigh, known as Grilda, was the second child born 1870. They were born at Euston Place, London and baptised at St George’s, Hanover Square. There were three other daughters Ada Rose, Edith Violet and Mabel Constance. The third child was a son and the heir to the estate, Henry Allesley Ward-Boughton-Leigh.

The main family home was  Brownsover Hall near Rugby, Warwickshire.

Brownsover Hall

In the 1890s both Chloe and Grilda trained alongside the artist Gwen John (1876–1939) at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, the first British institution to allow women to draw from life models.  All three remained lifelong friends and letters to Gwen John from Chloe, 1907–38 (64 letters) and from Grilda, 1906–c.1932 (9 letters) are in the National Library of Wales ref.NLW 22304C . Subjects included exhibitions by their contemporaries such as one in 1920 by the painter Madge Oliver (1875–1924). After further study at the Atelier Cormon in Paris, Grilda, with her sister Chloe, made several subsequent visits to the city in the first two decades of the twentieth century. They employed as a model Gwen John, who from 1904 lived in France, and sent her presents to make her life more comfortable. The sisters also commissioned a portrait from Gwen John of Chloe now in Leeds MAG..Both Gwen John and Chloe Boughton-Leigh were converted to Catholicism and together visited a convent near Brussels in the 1930s.
Quote from Margaret O’Sullivan’s research.

They were locally known with the surname of Leigh. Unfortunately we do not know a lot about the sisters’ lives on Canvey. We have been told that many of their paintings and drawings including the painting  by Gwen John above, were found in the bungalow, St Helena, after their death.

If anyone can add anything please comment below.

With grateful thanks to Margaret O’Sullivan for bring this to us and allowing us to publish some of her research.

Also thanks to Martin Lepley for helping with the property.


Comments about this page

  • A very interesting story Jan. Sorry I couldn’t give you any info but these ladies would have disappeared from their bungalow by the time I started my childhood wanderings around that way when I was 8/9yrs. Dad didn’t mention them either although they were near neighbours of Mrs Lawes who he called the ‘poetess’. Maybe they didn’t buy Stevens bread.

    By Graham Stevens (10/04/2020)
  • I know you are not quite that old Graham I was hoping you would remember the bungalow.

    By Janet Penn (10/04/2020)

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