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Posts Tagged "Archbishop designate Justin Welby":

The Chronicles of the Welbys (part the second)

And so we continue to explore the roots of our new Archbishop of Canterbury. Bishop Justin himself described his father as ‘a mysterious character‘, and this is certainly the conclusion any genealogist would draw after several fruitless excursions down assorted blind alleys. I think it unlikely Gavin Welby had a secret life he was trying to hide (although employment in Her Majesty’s Secret Service cannot be altogether ruled out!). But the only time the official records seem to have pinned him down with any degree of certainty was on his death bed. Although even then, his date of birth is given as 28 November 1914, which does not tally with ships’ passenger records which suggest he was actually born three or four years earlier. He is usually listed as British, though on the 1940 Census he is said to have become a naturalised US citizen (again, I can find no trace of this via ancestry). His place of birth is variously given as Castletown, Uxbridge or Northwood, Hillingdon (but these London suburbs adjoin each other). If this were so, his birth should be recorded in English records but I can find no trace.

His father, Bernard, died in February1930 and in October 1930 Gavin arrived in New York, according to press reports with £5 in his pocket. Knowing of Edith Lutyens Bel Geddes’ experience ten years later, I know that it is not always a question of cash in hand: at that point New York, in particular, was very susceptible to English people and it seems Gavin fell on his feet and rapidly prospered, by bootlegging as his son claims or by other means. He made trips to England in 1937, 1938 and 1939, giving his mother’s address in Gloucester Place, London as his base.

During the Second World War, he seems to have returned to Britain to serve in the army as ‘Gavin Bernard Welby’ was gazetted on 9 August 1943 as being promoted to Second Lieutenant.

By 1951, it seems Gavin Welby was a man about town in London. The social page of The Times dated 16 June 1951 shows him as the proverbial spare man at a dinner given by the Chilean ambassador and his wife. And by October, he is standing as the Conservative candidate against Richard Crossman in the General Election at Coventry.








Gavin Welby’s marriage with Jane Portal was duly reported in ‘The Times’ as having taken place on 4 April 1955 in Baltimore where, according to press reports, they eloped in the face of disapproval by her parents. However, the Portals evidently relented since a month later they gave a reception to meet the couple at the home of Jane’s uncle, R A Butler, 11 Downing Street. The Butler side of Bishop Justin’s family has several priests, including three generations of  The Revd Weeden Butler: (1742-1823), (1767-1814) and (1806-1865). A brother of the second Weeden, the Revd George Butler, became headmaster of Harrow School.

“His father’s family were German Jewish immigrants who moved to England to escape anti-Semitism in the late 19th century”, says the official press release announcing Bishop Justin’s appointment. And indeed, on the ship’s passenger list in 1930, when Gavin Welby first went to America, he describes his nationality as British but his ‘Race or people’ as German.

He evidently returned to join the British Army during the Second World War as he was gazetted on 9th August 1943 as having been promoted to Second Lieutenant. (His name was given as Gavin Bernard Welby, rather than as Gavin Bramall Welby as seen on the register of his death).

Gavin and Jane Welby were divorced in 1958.  He continued to live at various addresses in South Kensington or Knightsbridge until his death in 1977.

In the next chapter of this chronicle, we will look at his father Bernard, which is where we come to the end of the known facts about the Welby antecedents and launch on the more speculative parts of this account…

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