Captain Sears

In 1936 the house and grounds known at that as “Hume House” in Castle Street Thornbury were sold to Captain Sears.  He promptly renamed it “Ruskin House”.  Captain James Edmonds Sears was a prospective parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party and the name of the house reflected his political leanings.  The house later became known as Fairfield House

James was the son of a printer, also called James Sears, and his wife Sarah.  He married Jessie May Day in Fulham in 1900.

The census of 1901 shows him with his wife Jessie in Thames Ditton in Surrey.  He was born in Camberwell in Essex and he was an editor. Other websites mention that Captain Sears was a member of London County Council and that he stood down in 1907.  This appears to be a confusion with John Edward Sears who may well have been a relation of Captain James Sears.

The 1911 census shows that he was living in Gablehurst, Quebec Road East Dereham with three sons; Christopher aged 9, Charles aged 8 and Eric aged 5 years.  This Census says he was “Editor of Hobbies.”

James Edmonds Sears was a Captain in the Royal Army Service Corps during World War I.  His address on discharge from the army was Kosy Kot, Outwood Common Road, Billericay in Essex.

Gas Free Room

In 1933 James Sears became well known when he appeared in Bow Street Court.  He was charged with damaging a wreath.  He had removed a wreath from the Cenotaph and thrown it in the Thames.  His action was because it was placed there by an emissary of Herr Hitler, Dr Rosenberg.

Dr Rosenberg had earlier publicly justified the harsh measures taken by the Nazi Government against Communists and Jews.  The German newspaper “Berliner Tageblatt” expressed astonishment that Captain Sears had only been fined for this behaviour.  He believed (not without cause) that a similar act in Germany would have been treated more severely.

The Sunderland Echo of 11th May 1933 reported on Captain Sear’s trial for this offence in which he explained that he had served throughout World War I, which he had entered as a private aged 40 and had risen to the rank of Captain.  He held the Mons Star and was chairman of the Aylsham branch of the British Legion.  He explained that his actions were ” a deliberate national protest against the desecration of our National War Memorial by the placing on it of a wreath by Hitler’s emissary.

At the time of this incident The Times reported that he was aged 59 and an estate developer living at The Orchard in Aylsham, Norfolk.

In 1935 he stood for election as the parliamentary candidate  for St Pancras South West.  He failed in his attempt and the Conservatives held the seat with a 9.98% majority (2,365 votes).

In September 1936 Ruskin House (as it was then known) was the venue for a meeting of the Thornbury Divisional Labour Party which was attended by Rt Hon. Arthur Greenwood MP Deputy Leader of the Opposition.  Arthur Greenwood spoke against the arms race, although he felt the country should meet its obligations and he was concerned about the rise of Fascism.  His speech seems to have been designed not to upset anyone but during the time he was speaking an aeroplane circled very low around that part of Thornbury.  Parts of his speech were completely drowned out.  We have no idea if this was deliberate!  Captain Sears also spoke.  He explained that he joined the Labour Party because he believed the teachings of God should be applied to everyday life in a practical way.  He was even then drafting a bill proposing a glass of milk for every school child every day in an attempt to solve the problem of malnutrition.  This measure was not implemented until the Free School Milk Act of 1946.  We do not know if Captain Sears’ efforts played any part in this.

In 1936 there was also a report of Captain Sears and his wife attending a Labour Party dance at Berkeley.  They arrived during the interval and Captain Sears spoke vehemently about the dangers of Fascism and about the two million malnourished children in this country.  Presumably the dancing then resumed!

In 1937 the local Gazette had a letter from Captain Sears from his home in Ruskin House, Thornbury.  The letter expressed Captain Sears’ concern for child welfare in Thornbury.  He wrote of his astonishment a T.B. clinic and a child welfare clinic used the same room in the health clinic in Thornbury.  To make matters worse that room had no ventilation.  He wrote to the Medical Officer for the County asking if the clinic could be extended so that two rooms could be added.  He offered to start a fund to equip the two extra rooms as a dental clinic and a sunray clinic.  The forthcoming Carnival and Flower show which were under the auspices of the Labour Party would be in aid of this fund.  We do not believe that this attempt was successful.  It was not until September 15th 1949 that the newspapers announced that the old Thornbury Clinic was to be converted into Thornbury Dental Clinic.

Captain Sears seemed to have had something of a talent for invention and design.  The Western Daily Press of 10th July 1937 reported on the factory that “has been opened at Kingswood for the manufacture of a new air-lock device for use in sealing rooms against poison gas, which has been invented by Capt. J. E. Sears.”  We have above on the right an extract from a newspaper article about Captain Sear’s invention .

On August 28th 1937 the Gazette carried an article about the resignation of Captain J E Sears from the Thornbury Division of the Labour Paarty.  He had resigned because he had informed the executive committee of the Labour Party that he was unable to subscribe to the funds as much as he had done in the past.  The committee responded that they would have to find another candidate.  The article referred to the great contribution Captain Sears had made during his two years in Thornbury during which time he had lived at Ruskin House.  The Labour Party expressed the hope that the Sears would stay in touch with Thornbury, although he had “now left town.”  In August 1937 Capt. Sears sold the house to John P. F. de Salis, who again changed the name.

This time the house became known as “Fairfield House.”

James Edmonds Sears died in the Hotel d’Horizon, St Brelades on the island of Jersey on 23rd July 1951.  Probate was granted to his son Christopher who was a building contractor.