A Beautiful Nuisance: The Life and Death of Hon.Gwyneth Ericka Morgan

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A Beautiful Nuisance

The Life and Death of Hon. Gwyneth Ericka Morgan

Introduction

On Thursday 11 December 1924, in a London gripped by dense, black fog, the Hon. Gwyneth Ericka Morgan left her last known home and slipped into oblivion. She made her exit quietly by the back door of The Niche – no. 3, Lancaster Avenue, Wimbledon. No one knew where she was going; she had at least the sum of £70 in her pocket, mainly in £5 bank notes, with a few coins. In today’s currency, this is well over two thousand pounds.

Before leaving her bedroom, Gwyneth folded her pyjamas and placed them neatly beneath the little white dog who was her beloved pet: a breed of Blenheim whose bloodstock was reared by her maternal grandmother, Susan, the Countess of Southesk. The animal was later found by housemaid Kate Blacklock, still lying asleep on its mistress’s neatly-folded nightwear.

The precise time Gwyneth departed The Niche is unclear. The rest of the household heard nothing to rouse them from their beds, although Kate Blacklock later reported that she thought she had heard footsteps in the passageway and a door bang shut in the wee small hours.

Gwyneth’s disappearance came to light at around 9.45a.m., when Blacklock went to wake her. This was a time much later than usual. Gwyneth rarely had an unbroken night’s sleep owing to illness; she was recovering from typhoid fever and dysentery.

Gwyneth’s last recorded words, to her maid the previous evening, had been:

“Goodnight Blacklock; I hope I shall not have to disturb you tonight.”

As the only daughter of Lord Tredegar, a wealthy Welsh coal baron and landowner, from a well-connected family once nicknamed the Kings of South Wales, no woman who went missing in the 1920s in London created more fodder for scandalmongers, gossipers and newspaper speculation than the Hon. Gwyneth Morgan. Curiously, it was more than a month after the events of 11 December 1924 that her family announced her disappearance.

Gwyneth’s body was found four months later in the River Thames.

Many had thought Gwyneth destined to die young; her only sibling, an older brother, Hon. Evan Morgan, among them. His judgement is clear in a long poem entitled In Pace, which Evan dedicated to Gwyneth after her death. In its lines, he describes his sister – once hailed a “beautiful nuisance as “having a soul that was mutinous but a body frail. The complete poem is reproduced as an Appendix to our work.

This book is the most comprehensive record of Gwyneth’s life and death researched to date. Its starting point was the discovery of her gravestone at St Basil’s Churchyard, Bassaleg, near Newport,  in the summer of 2006. The memorial is a remarkably fine carved figure in Forest of Dean stone and Italian marble of a young girl. Her eyes gaze out over the River Ebbw, like a present-day Lady of Shallot.

The inscription on the stone reads:

Gwyneth Ericka Morgan only daughter of Lord Tredegar

Died December 1924  Aged 29.

We were intrigued. Who was Gwyneth Ericka Morgan? Why had she died so young? Why is there no precise date of death shown on her gravestone? These questions have taken us on a journey stretching across Wales, England, Scotland, Italy, and USA, with some surprising findings.

Monty Dart & William Cross, Newport, Gwent, 2012

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