We have based this account of Violet Mundy on a number of written sources and we are particularly grateful to Mary Neathey and Nick Large for their profiles of this remarkable lady.
The Hon. Violet Morgan was born on 24th September 1860 at Ruperra Castle, Newport, Monmouthshire. She was the daughter of Frederick Courtney Morgan and Charlotte Anne (nee Wilkinson) and niece of 1st Viscount Tredegar Godfrey Charles Morgan. As a Captain in the 17th Lancers, Godfrey was in command of a section of the Light Brigade that rode into the ‘Valley of Death’ at the Battle of Balaclava. He was only 22 at the time and by the end of the charge he was second in command of the remaining troops and commanding officer of his regiment. We understand from Wikipedia that in May 1902 he bought the lordships of the manor of Newport and Caerleon from the Duke of Beaufort. Please see the Tredegar House website for more information.
The Newport City Library has a copy of a book of sketches published in 1890 by Violet which illustrates her great love of hunting and of horses which stayed with her throughout her life. Click here to see the book on line and scroll through its pages
On 28th August 1894 Violet married her first cousin once removed, Basil St John Mundy, at St James Church, Piccadilly, London. Basil was born in Southsea on 4th April 1862, the son of Major-General Pierrepont Henry Mundy and his wife Harriet Georgina (nee Tyler). Basil’s mother died in 1865 and his father married Geraldine Fitzgerald Townsend (or Townshend) Stephens in Thornbury in 1870.
In 1871 Pierrepont was staying with his widowed first mother in law and her family in Glamorgan. His sons Godfrey Harry Brydges Mundy aged 11 and Basil St John Mundy aged eight were also with their grandmother and father. The 1881 census shows Basil was at a private boarding school called Hyde Hall in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire. His father and Geraldine were living in Thornbury House which was located in Castle Street where Warwick Place now stands.
Basil was appointed Lieutenant in the 1st Dragoon Guards on 2 August 1882, and transferred to the 5th Lancers shortly afterwards. In 1885 he served with the Sudan Expedition at Hasheen and at the destruction of Temai for which he was awarded the Egypt and Sudan medal with clasp and Khedive Star. He was promoted to Captain in August 1887, transferred to the 15th Husars in July 1890. .
Following their marriage Basil and Violet spent a few years mostly in Aldershot where his regiment was stationed. In 1895 they were in Bray, Ireland where their son, Frederick Charles was born on 8th March.
Basil was promoted to Major in April 1897. On his retirement from the Army the Mundys moved to live at ‘The Farm’ at Thornbury. This property had been purchased by Basil’s step-mother, Geraldine Mundy, and in 1899 leased together with much of the agricultural land on the railway side of Thornbury to Basil.
Basil and Violet must have been living at The Farm by May 1899 because Basil was charged and fined 10s for keeping and using a carriage at Almondsbury. They were living there in the 1901 census, although at the time of the census Frederick was visiting his step-grandmother, Geraldine Mundy in Thornbury House.
‘The Farm’ was sometimes called Thornbury Farm, and shortly after being bought by the Mundys it became known as ‘The Grange’ for a few years before reverting to its former name of The Farm. Just to confuse matters, the house is now known as ‘Thornbury Grange’. Click here to read about the history of The Farm
In 1913 The Times announced that a Royal Warrant had been granted that the children of Frederick Courtney Morgan, amongst them Violet Mundy, should be given the same title rank and precedence as the younger children of a Baron, to which they would have been entitled had their father survived his brother the late Viscount Tredegar.
Their son, ‘Freddie’ attended Clifton College and following a long voyage on one of Sir W. Tatum’s boats, he joined Tatum’s shipping office in Cardiff. In August 1915 he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Division at Gallipoli and served in Salonika for three months in 1916, and then went to France. He was involved in the RND attack at Beaumont Hamel and received gunshot wounds to his chest in September 1916. He was invalided home and awarded a Military Cross for gallantry and devotion to duty. He re-joined the Anson Battalion in France in April 1917 and in September he led a daring and successful raid on enemy trenches at Angres, north of Arras. He remained in France until severely wounded by a shell on 26th October. At the time he was at the rank of Temporary Lieutenant and was taking part in the assault on Varlet Farm. He was buried at Duhallow Advanced Dressing Station Cemetery, Ypres.
Although Violet and Basil were practising farmers, their common interest was hunting. She was a good shot with a rabbit gun, but horses apparently came first. She bred, raced and hunted them. She had hunted with the pack at Tredegar from her childhood and a portrait at Tredegar House shows her as a young woman hunting near Ruperra Castle with her father. The stables at The Farm had been moved from Aldershot to Thornbury House, and then to The Farm. Provision had been made in her father’s will enabling Mrs. Mundy to keep two race horses in training and after her husband’s death on 26th August 1926 at the age of 64, this interest became predominant. Her racing colours were well-known all over the country and she ran many successful horses, culminating in Avenger. This horse had won the National Hunt Steeple Chase at Cheltenham in 1936 and it was the favourite for the 1936 Grand National, but fell and broke his neck the fourth fence from home. Unfortunately Mrs Mundy was ill that day and couldn’t attend the race so she heard the news on the wireless whilst confined to her bed. The Pathe News website has the original newsreel showing the race which refers to Mrs Mundy and shows Avenger’s tragic fall. Click here to see this newsreel
Apart from horses, Violet had various other interests. She was Chairman of the Women’s Institute, a benefactor of the Thornbury Social Club, and was a President and the first woman to belong to the local branch of the Farmers’ Union. The fact that she was welcomed at the latter’s Annual Dinner indicates that her conversation was more robust than was considered normal in a woman of her generation. She sketched competently, and her cartoon of a farmer returning from market is beautifully and amusingly executed. She was, as well, a religious woman, attending the Parish Church regularly. It was said that she walked to the Church and back twice every Sunday.
Violet continued to ride side-saddle with the hunt until well into her 70’s. She did however have an interest in motor cars and possessed at one time or another, an early Vauxhall, a Humber Snipe and a little two-seater A. C.
Mrs Mundy – the woman
She was undoubtedly a forceful and charming person. When young, she was a beautifully proportioned woman with a strong straight nose and glorious dark golden hair, which she retained until her death. She was always immaculately and appropriately dressed, whether in serviceable boots and white coat for schooling horses, or in delicate and fashionable clothes for social functions. In an age when women were subject, first, to their fathers and then to their husbands, she stood out as a mighty independent person. Not only did she travel all over the West Country, following the Berkeley, Bathurst and Beaufort Hunts before she was married, but afterwards retained control of her estates.
Small in stature, she had remarkable presence and her manner could be imperious. Sally Gordon remembered how Violet would pull up her horse outside Dents Grocers Shop (now Riddifords) and shout “Dent!” The owner or one of his assistants would scuttle out dutifully to take her order.
Yet she never let the role of the lady interfere with her work as a farmer. According to an obituary in The Times she was known for breeding of dairy shorthorn cattle and Gloucester Old Spot pigs. She might be seen driving a pony and cart down the High Street, transporting a load of manure, or haranguing and joking with fellow farmers beside the pens at Thornbury market. She was often the only female at the local branch dinners of the NFU.
Violet died at The Farm on 22nd December 1943, appropriately in the saddle room. Violet’s estate amounted to £52,876. She left a variety of bequest including £6000 for a recreation ground, park or pleasure ground for Thornbury (see below).
The Mundy Playing fields and other bequests
The Western Daily Press of 27th March 1933 reported on the decision made by Thornbury Parish Council to support Thornbury Town Trust in its battle with the Charity Commissioners to use some accumulated money to buy land and provide a recreation field for the town. The money they had saved now totalled £2,546. The Rev Frank Harker was very forthright in his support of this scheme, especially it seems “in view of the fact that the most suitable field had now been handed over to the luckier children attending the Thornbury Grammar School.” The problem remained of finding a suitable field.
In token of her interest in, and affection for Thornbury she had announced in 1937 that she would give the Parish Council £6000 for the provision of a recreational park or pleasure ground for the town. At the suggestion of her solicitor, Mr Wicks, she bought the Close and Coldstones fields and The Close House to enable them to be used for these purposes. The purchase of Close House was necessary because there was a restrictive covenant preventing the use of the two fields as a recreational ground or playing field in favour of Close House. Mr Wicks advised Mrs Mundy that this restriction could be removed if the Parish Council owned the house as well as the fields and that they could then resell the house without the covenant if it was not needed for other purposes.
The Parish Council were very grateful to Mrs Mundy and they were allowed to use the fields during the remaining years of Mrs Mundy’s life at a small annual rent. Following Violet’s death in 1943 her will instructed that her trustees should give the properties to the Parish Council. As they were valued at the time of her purchase at £2530 for the fields and £2000 for Close House, the remainder of the £6000 was made up as a cash endowment to be used for the laying out and maintenance of the park to be called ‘The Mundy Recreation Park and Pleasure Ground’.
The original idea was to use The Close House as a pavilion and a recreation centre (a public library was also suggested in one newspaper article) and to build a swimming pool in its grounds using the water from the stream running through the fields. However the Parish Council decided to build a pavilion nearer the football pitch and tennis courts.
The Western Daily Press of 7th October 1937 showed a large photograph of the opening of the Mundy playing field by Lord Bledisloe.
In addition to the £6,000 she left for the Playing Fields, Violet’s will also left the following bequests:
1: £500 to the Fabric Fund of the Parochial Church Council.
2: £750 and clothing and 10s a week for each for keeping her little white terrier dog Rick and a little fawn whippet Fip to her maid Esther Bettan. The two dogs had however died during violet’s lifetime.
3: Vilner Farm, live and dead farming stock (not horses) and cart mares to her groom, Fred Day.
4: Medals awarded to her late husband and late son to her nephew, Lord Tredegar.
5: £100 to William Savery.
6: Two months wages to her maidservants and other employees.
7: £100 to Almondsbury Hospital
8: £200 to Thornbury Burial Board to enable them to keep the burial ground in good repair and in particular to keep the graves of her husband, of Mary Mallis, of Johnnie Chaston and herself and to keep the inscriptions thereon legible.
9: The remainder to be divided between the Bristol Dogs home, Bristol General Hospital, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol Eye Hospital, Mullers’ Orphanage and the Waifs and Strays Society.