A high society wedding that took place in Somerset more than 160 years ago forged an astonishing family connection to Winston Churchill. Here I look at how my mum’s family were connected to an aristocrat and adventurer who became Churchill’s stepfather.
When he married the most famous woman of her era, Montagu Porch, an aristocrat, adventurer, archaeologist, and hero of the Boer and Great Wars, became stepfather to a man who would become Britain’s greatest ever Prime Minster – Winston Churchill.
Montagu – or Montie as he was known – wed Winston’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill on June 1, 1918.
He was her third husband. Aged 41, he was 23 years younger than Lady Churchill. Montie was three years younger than Winston who, at the time, was a rising star in British politics, serving as Minister of Munitions in Lloyd George’s coalition government in what turned out to be the final year of the Great War.
For the first time it can now be revealed that Montie – whose ancestors for many years owned the world-famous Glastonbury Abbey – was connected to my mother Sarah Helena Arscott’s family through marriage.
Jane Arscott (1751-1837) – my great-great-great-great aunt – married Okehampton surgeon Christopher Lethbridge on May 24, 1771 in Bideford.
Their grandson, Vicar Elford Copland Lethbridge (1830-1905), married Julia Porch (1838-1920) in Glastonbury on April 17, 1860.
Julia, the daughter of wealthy banker Thomas Porch, was the aunt of Montie, who was born on March 15, 1877 in Glastonbury and who, before and after the Great War, worked in the Civil Service in Nigeria. He first met Lady Churchill in Rome in 1914.
Winston – who became Prime Minister in 1940, during the Second World War – was among those who witnessed their wedding at Paddington Register Office in London on June 1, 1918.
Lady Churchill died after a fall in 1921, aged 67.
Five years later, Montie married Donna Giulia Patrizi, the daughter of an Italian politician, and lived in Italy until she died in 1938. He then returned to Glastonbury where he died in November 1964, aged 87.
Elford Copland Lethbridge, born on January 29, 1830 at his father Robert Lethbridge’s estate at Flushcombe, New South Wales, Australia, was curate of West Thurrock in Essex when he married Julia at St John’s Parish Church in Glastonbury.
After graduating at Oxford University, Elford’s first curacy was at Buckland Monachorum in Devon. He later became Vicar of West Thurrock with Purfleet in Essex, Vicar of St George’s Pendleton in Lancashire and Rector of Tolleshunt Knights in Essex. He was finally Vicar of Mill Hill in Middlesex.
Elford died on February 22, 1905 in Monte Carlo, Monaco, aged 75. The Hendon and Finchley Times reported on March 3, 1905 that he had gone to the Riviera ‘to seek the benefit of a milder climate.
‘He was beloved by the poor in every parish which he served, and gained the esteem of all by his upright life. Duty was the keynote of his existence and he never spared himself where duty called him,’ said the newspaper.
Elford was buried in Monaco Cemetery on February 25, 1905 after a requiem service at the Church of St Cyprian. On the same day, the bell at St Paul’s Church, Mill Hill was tolled in his memory and flags at the church and at Mill Hill School were flown at half-mast.
Julia was the eldest daughter of Thomas Porch, whose father owned the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey between 1825 and the mid-1840s.
Thomas Porch (1808-1877) was a joint owner of Stuckey’s Bank and was four times elected Mayor of Glastonbury.
He for many years lived at Abbey House – built by Thomas’s father, John Fry Reeves in 1829 – in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey.
Thomas inherited nearby Edgarley Hall – which became the junior school for Millfield in 1945 – on his 21st birthday.
Julia – whose younger brother, Reginald, was the father of Montie Porch – died on January 25, 1920 in Croydon, Surrey, aged 83.
- The full story of my family connection to Churchill is told in Jane Arscott’s extraordinary connection to Australian ‘royalty’ and Winston Churchill. For further information about this publication, please contact me here at the website.
Sir Winston Churchill (Public Domain image19086236948.jpg, via Wikimedia Commons, created December 30,1941). Title: The Roaring Lion. Photographer: Yousuf Karsh.