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Welwyn Garden City


R. L. Reiss - A Memoir

Author: Celia Reiss

Published: 1965*

Format: Hardback 8½" by 5½" with 42 pages

* There is no publication date nor name of publisher mentioned anywhere in the book. The printers were Swindon Signcraft Ltd. The last date mentioned in the text is in 1962. I have guessed a publication date of 1965.
 

 
 


R. L. Reiss (from the book frontis)

This is only a short book but the writing is very dense and there is much information in it. Quotations are colour-coded as follows:

Richard Reiss green
Celia Reiss red
Richard Reiss junior brown
Christian Gierlöff purple
others (as named) blue


Synopsis


Chapter 1 - The Philanthropic Beginnings

The first chapter of the book is mostly in Richard Reiss's own words, taken from his autobiography and social history of Welwyn Garden City, which was only part-written when he died.

Richard's mother's father, Sir Richard Baggallay, was Conservative MP, and Solicitor General then Attorney General under Disraeli.

Richard's parents from the beginning intended that he, too, should be a barrister, and should go to his father's Oxford College, Balliol. His parents were Liberal Unionists. His father was an East India merchant. In his spare time his father did social work and had founded a boys' orphanage in Blackheath. Living comfortably in South Kensington, Richard was nevertheless aware of the plight of poor people.

He went to Marlborough School where he concentrated on mathematics and games to the detriment of other subjects, and where as head boy he had responsibility over 50 boys. His contemporaries there included William Jowitt (later Lord Chancellor) and Geoffrey Fisher (Archbishop of Canterbury). He was coached in mathematics privately by W. H. Beveridge (Lord Beveridge).

He went to Balliol to study mathematics in 1902 and was there for 4 years. From his third year onwards he also studied law and got a First in Mathematics and a First in Law.

... I combined my academic work with a limited amount of social work going from time to time in the vacations to the 'Oxford Medical Mission' in Bermondsey. During the whole of my life at Balliol I took little interest in party politics. I returned to Oxford for a time as Lecturer in Law at Magdalen.

During his Oxford career Dick and Alec Paterson, later to achieve great distinction in Prison Reform, became, with others, closely concerned with the Oxford Medical Mission (now renamed the Oxford and Bermondsey Clubs). The inspiration came from Dr. John Stansfield. "The Doctor" by the late Barclay Baron gives a vivid picture of his life and work. Dick was Bursar there for some years.

In his academic and law studies Dick was particularly influenced by Bentham's "Theory of Legislation" and Dicey's "Law and Opinion in England". He evolved his ambition to go to the Bar and then into politics with a view to the formulation of legislation based on his ideas for the cure of social evils he had observed in Bermondsey.


Chapter 2 - The Liberal years

In September 1908 we became engaged and we were married in 1910. No words can describe the increasing happiness of our life together during nearly fifty years.

Peggy Sichel (youngest daughter of his cousin Walter Sichel) writes: Again his pleasure in talking of letters and his liking for the fine arts made discussion of these subjects with him of perpetual interest. He had a special taste for water colours and drawings by such artists as Girtin, David Cox and Peter de Wint, and had a collection of them.

In 1909 Richard stood unsuccessfully as Liberal candidate for Chichester.

Although my interest in the housing problem was first aroused as the result of my experience in Bermondsey, the first direct work I undertook was in connection with rural rather than urban housing. I became associated with the National Land and Home League, formed to promote better conditions in rural areas, of which Mrs. E. R. Pease was Hon. Secretary and on which her husband E. R. Pease, the Secretary of the Fabian Society, was an active worker, and I was appointed Chairman of the Housing Committee early in 1911. This experience, coupled with the fact that I was then associated with the Liberal Party, led to my being appointed head organizer of the rural enquiry by the Committee set up by Mr. Lloyd George in 1912 with the Rt. Hon. A. H. T. Acland (the grandfather of Sir Richard Acland, M.P.) as Chairman.

I organized an enquiry into conditions in over 2,000 villages in Eng land and Wales and drafted most of the rural report which was published under the title 'The Land' (Vol. I. Rural) and I later drafted the housing section of the urban volume.

By 1914 Richard had become Liberal candidate for S.E. St Pancras, but when the War came he volunteered and became an officer in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. His younger brother was killed in October 1914, and Richard went to Gallipoli in the following year, and then to Egypt. Celia was expecting a child ...our hopes for family which had been disappointed many times were just being revived.

The liners on which they moved had good libraries and he re-read many of the English classics and was most happy when he read his favourite "Love in the Valley". Meredith’s descriptions of English scenery brought back the beautiful places we had seen together.

Next he went to Mesapotamia where conditions were appalling. After bouts of malaria, sand fly fever, colitis and suffering from the effects of the heat and anæmia, he was sent to do an administrative job at Campbellpore in India on the N.W. Frontier where he was appointed cantonment magistrate. He visited Peshawar and the Khyber Pass where he saw a camel train with thousands of camels bringing families down for the cold weather. When in India he received a cable from Celia saying that he had a son.

In 1917, when again in Mesapotamia, while his troops were pushing the Turks back beyond Baghdad, he was seriously wounded with a shot through the lung which put him out of the war. Richard was back in England by August, 1917.


Chapter 3 - Reconstruction

At the suggestion of Mr. Seebohm Rowntree, Lloyd George arranged for my being seconded to the newly formed Ministry of Reconstruction of which Dr. (later Lord) Addison was Minister, for the purpose of working out the problems of post war housing.

In 1918 he read his housing paper to the Town Planning Institute (see list of publications below), and in the years following spoke on housing at meetings all over the country. He was made Chairman of the Conference on Christian Politics, Economics and Citizenship (COPEC).

In 1918 he received a deputation from 3 members of the Executive Committee of the Garden Cities and Town Planning Association asking him to become Chairman. This became the main interest of his life. He also served on the Unhealthy Area Committee under Neville Chamberlain 1919-20. Another interest was in the control of drunkenness through the Temperance Legislation League which campaigned for state control of the alcohol trade.

Also in this chapter, there is a detailed and very interesting account of Richard's involvement in settling the 1919 national railways strike. This account is in the words of B. Seebohm Rowntree, whose quotes below are in blue.

Rowntree had been asked by Sydney Walton to assist in settling the strike. I had previously been working on social matters with R. L. Reiss and I telephoned to ask him if he would come and join me in the task which I was seeking to perform. We worked together on the problem steadily until 4 o’clock, by which time we had arrived at a conclusion as to the way in which the Strike might be settled. This was stated on half a sheet of notepaper.

The strike had been called by Cramp who was the Union President, but Rowntree went to see the Union Secretary, J. H. Thomas, who thought the strike was a mistake. Thomas thought he could get the Union to agree to Rowntree's proposals, and said he would approach the men, while Rowntree was to see the PM without telling him that Thomas was involved. Rowntree went to No. 10 and spoke to the PM and some cabinet members who were sceptical about the Union agreeing to the proposals. However, next morning Rowntree breakfasted with the PM who said that the government might agree to the proposals if some changes were made.

I went then to see Thomas again. As it was most important that members of the Trade Union and the Conciliation Committee shouldn't know that I was working on the matter, I had to exercise great care so that I should not be seen when I went to see Thomas.

Negotiations continued like this for several days with Rowntree in daily consultation with Richard. Thomas gave Rowntree permission to tell the PM in confidence that he was in contact with Thomas. At the next meeting the PM told Rowntree not to see Thomas again, and this warning was repeated by Bonar Law. However, Rowntree went back to Thomas while at the same time Bonar Law (who was thought by Rowntree to be a hopeless negotiator) was negotiating with the Consultative Committee. Reiss had suggested a minor alteration in the terms which we had drawn up for the settlement. The cost of the proposal that he made was insignificant, but the proposal saved the face of the unions.

By 4 o'clock the following day the strike was settled without anyone outside knowing really how this had been achieved. Rowntree was interested to read the following in York Evening Press:

One is tempted to wonder how much Mr. Bonar Law had to do with the settlement of the strike. He, at any rate, it was who met the intermediary deputation from the Trade Unions in Mr. Lloyd George's absence on Saturday evening at 10, Downing Street and that visit marked the definite favourable turn in the efforts at 'bridge building'. Mr. Bonar Law would be the last to have it said that on that auspicious occasion he was acting without being in the fullest accord with the views of the Prime Minister; but it is just possible that the genius for compromise and straightforwardness which he has shown as Leader of the House of Commons did not lose its power at the round table conference when desperate issues were at stake.

After the War, Richard joined the rising Labour Party whose idealism appealed to him. He worked for the Fabian Society and became a member of the ILP. He was selected as candidate for Colchester. He quickly acquired a most devoted and enthusiastic following and became a close friend of the Bensusan Butt family with whom we always stayed. Dr. Ruth Bensusan Butt, an able woman, was an indefatigable Labour Councillor. Dick nursed the constituency for eight years and, in the last election he fought there, missed success by 622 votes. The local Liberal Party deeply regretted they had not supported him. The only election he fought elsewhere was in Preston, Lanes, where he stood with Dr. Lyster. His interest in social affairs increased and widened but he took less part in party politics.

In 1922, Harold Lacey, Principal and Secretary of Hampstead Garden Institute, invited Richard to join its Board on the recommendation of Dame Henrietta Barnett. He also became a governor of the Henrietta Barnett School and served on it long after Dame Henrietta had died.


Chapter 4 - Life in Welwyn Garden City

This is the longest chapter and occupies more than a quarter of the book. Celia says that when Welwyn Garden City was founded in 1919 it became the most absorbing activity in Richard's life. She describes what happened in the words of the Norwegian writer Christian Gierlöff. I have reproduced Gierlöff's words in full below because I find them particularly interesting since they highlight Richard's key contribution at the crucial point when the Desborough land came up for sale. Gierlöff said:

Since 1920 Richard L. Reiss was a Knight of the Royal Order of St. Olav, Norway's only, and rarely granted, Order of Knights. I will tell why this distinction by King Haakon VII was conferred upon him.

Since my early youth I had several times been to England when I, in the early Spring of 1919 came to London to acquaint myself with its progress in town planning and housing. Then my first visit was to see the Chairman of the 'Garden Cities and Town Planning Association of Great Britain', Captain Richard L. Reiss, in Gray's Inn. From the very first moment I most remarkably had a strong feeling of meeting an old intimate friend, the same strong feeling as when I later on met Ebenezer Howard and Seebohm Rowntree. In all the years to come we kept on in the same friendship, or brotherhood, of the greatest value to me and my work.

One May morning in 1919 - the date would be really important to historians - a telephone call from Hatfield came through to Reiss in his office in Gray's Inn. I happened to be sitting there. Having had the very short telephone message he turned to me and said: 'It is Howard, he was rather excited. He asks me to meet him at the small teashop near Kings Cross. I wonder why but -'

Yes, why could not Howard also this morning come to Gray's Inn - instead of calling - without any explanation - the Chairman to a small teashop ? But there we soon get the explanation.

At Hatfield - on his way with an earlier train from his dear Letchworth to London - his attention was caught by a poster telling that a part of Lord Desborough’s property was to be sold at auction very soon - I do not remember in how many days but they were very few. He jumped off his train and walked over the property - 'an ideal site for a new garden city! Reiss should come and see' -

The next train took us to Hatfield. We spent a good long time walking all round the property. The only human being we met in the whole beautiful, peaceful landscape was near the Manor, a colonel with his gun - out to shoot partridges for his dinner, I supposed - but he watched us with interest while Howard demonstrated up and down the estate, the ideal site.

Reiss on the spot made up his mind. He meant to make it possible to secure in time enough money for the rather high deposit at the auction and would himself make a first and solid cash contribution, while I for my part was lucky to be able for the same purpose to hand over to Howard on the spot a small note. (For this very unassuming note I later on got a share certificate kept as a trophy through many years till it was handed over to one of Dick's Boys' Clubs as a foreigner's humble sign of admiration for both him and the Welwyn Boys.)

Having made up his mind Reiss lost no time to reach London City, and I with him - it is not every day one can live to see the birth of a new town ! The first visit was to Mr. J. R. Farquharson. Oh, yes, certainly, he agreed -

Howard made his bid at the auction, and we could heartily congratulate him as a landowner, a rather big landowner. But Richard Reiss was just the man needed at his side, both that first day and all the following days, as far as I could watch them and all their difficulties. I have strong doubts that Howard's idea and Welwyn Garden City would have become a reality without Richard Reiss, his vision, his whole personality to an extraordinary degree, inspiring sympathy and credit, his energy and calm efficiency, with his excellent staff and collaborators.

I saw wonders made out of a wonderful idea.

I very soon succeeded in convincing Dick Reiss that it was his duty with Mrs. Celia to come to my country to tell in lectures and show in lantern slides Britain's new town planning and housing policy, also maintaining that Norway's air would prove beneficial for that lung of his which was shot through in the Mesopotamian war.

During the last week of August 1919 he, with Mrs. Celia took part in a national housing and town planning congress warmly welcomed by a large attendance and had a complete success with his lectures.

During the following fortnight he gave 20 lectures in our towns north to Trondheim, everywhere in crowded halls with the same success, and always with the town councils and other municipal authorities invited. In Oslo also members of the government were present, and in the city's largest hall was every seat engaged.

Along with this wholly voluntary lecture tour went many more private conferences and discussions with Reiss and such Norwegians who were interested in town planning and housing problems, and the lasting success of his visit 'a gift to Norway' - was obvious.

Celia continues with the events as they unfolded and which are widely known. In June, 1919, Howard convened a meeting at 3, Gray's Inn Place with Messrs. Purdom, Reiss, Bolton Smart, and Osborn. The 1,457 acres had been bought at auction plus further land afterwards. The company Second Garden City, Ltd was registered and later, in August, Sir Theodore Chambers joined as Chairman. In May, 1920, that company was succeeded by the company Welwyn Garden City Limited with wider powers. At the first ordinary general meeting in 1921, Sir Theodore said:

This Company was formed in May 1920 for the purpose of developing a complete modern town on an estate four square miles in extent, situated on both sides of the Great Northern main line 21 miles from London. At that time the nearest railway stations were remote from the centre of the property and the land was acquired at a purely agricultural value...

With the assistance of our experts we have carefully studied the whole area and have completed the plan of the town which will provide for a population of 40,000 to 50,000 inhabitants with an industrial area which will be second to none in the country...

Then later, in 1948, at the Public Enquiry into the New Town Designation Order, Sir Theodore said:

The avowed objective of this Company was to create on virgin territory, a new, self dependent industrial town of 40/50,000 inhabitants as a practical and beautiful illustration of the best and most economical method of providing for the expansion of industry and population as outlined by Sir Ebenezer Howard in his book 'Garden Cities of To morrow'.

The Reiss family went to live in Welwyn Garden City in 1922. Celia uses the words of her son Richard to recount what it was like in the early years. Richard (junior) said:

The first few years were wonderful years for us children. There was the excitement of a new house being built, space to play, woods to roam in, trees to climb and there were other children to do it with.

Although I do not remember the founding of the Garden City, at a very early stage, when we were moving here (I was nearly six years old) I learnt that we were in at the birth of a New Town. A great team of experts, idealists, directors and workmen were going to build the ideal planned city. My father who seemed to be the centre of leadership in everything took me round with him.

Everything had to be started new. Here was a deep well for pumping water, here clay was being dug and bricks shaped and cooked in kilns, there were sidings to serve great new factories, here were the huts where workmen lived, brains thought, clerks administered, the people worshipped: here was a shed called 'Bank' to get money...

I learnt that my father was intensely concerned that human relationships should be kindlier, that people should play cricket and be fair to one another, that everyone should have the necessary facilities to be more sociable, have fresh air and to play cricket and that was why he was a socialist. I wanted to be a socialist too, because then we should love one another. That was what God wanted, only man prevented it. That was why my father with his friends set about making a new town.

We had great fun. The light railway carrying bricks to different parts of the town was a joy...

Richard junior continues by regretting his father's absences to Colchester at election time, but also remembers his last attempt for Parliament when he stood at Preston in 1935. On that occasion, a portrait of the whole family was included in the election address, and Richard junior sat with his father on the platform. Richard (junior) continues:

My impression is that in Welwyn Garden City party politics did not enter his work at all. He was entirely devoid of party feeling when working for the town.

Stephen, Delia and I went to the newly established council school between the ages of six and ten. This was 'democratic'. It was a great experience looking back. I learnt to live with other classes. I also learnt besides the usual school subjects, all the swear words and obscenities known to our language; these I had to unlearn when I got home. On the other hand I had many friends and met much sportsmanship and characterful persons.

Celia goes on to say that her husband was prime mover in a wide variety of activities. He was treasurer of the Health Association which organized child welfare and district nursing services. As well as building a nursery school, he was active as a member of the Educational Association and took a special interest in the founding of Peartree Boys' Club. He formed the Cricket Club, and with Mr Ogilvy founded the Golf Club on the land which the Reiss's house overlooked.

In 1929, he resigned as Chairman of the TCPA, but became Chairman of the London Labourers Dwellings Society in the same year. In 1930 he became a member of the LCC Housing Committee, and in the following year, member of the Government's Committee on Employment and Regional Planning.


Chapter 5 - The New World

Richard visited the U.S.A. in 1937 as lecturer and housing consultant at the invitation of the American National Public Housing Conference. He repeated the visit in 1938 and in 1939. He was accompanied by Celia in 1938. He made one further visit to America, in 1942, to give information on war time housing in England.

This chapter of the book was written by Miss Helen Alfred, Executive Secretary of the NPHC. She explains that a public housing bill was before Congress, supported by Roosevelt, to fund low-rent municipal housing and that Richard was to play a prominent role in promoting popular support for this program, which was opposed by powerful real estate interests throughout the country.

He began with a speech at the 1937 three-day annual meeting of the NPHC which was opened by Mrs Roosevelt. He subsequently appeared before state legislators, visiting cities in the Eastern, Central and Southern States. He also addressed other bodies including trades union organisations. Wherever he went he was much appreciated and received wide publicity.

In the Chicago Daily News he is quoted thus:

Despite the fact that £65,000,000 is appropriated annually (1937) by the British government for building and slum clearance purposes, the indirect savings to the Government resulted from less money spent for the care of tuberculosis cases, infant welfare and other charity cases, has more than justified the expenditure . .

In the areas improved by government subsidy, for instance, infant mortality rate has decreased as much as two-thirds and the tuberculosis cases have dropped more than 50 per cent...

Considering only the savings to government, we have found public housing to be a good investment. The standards of living have been raised, thousands are given employment, and in place of acting as a drag on private building activity, as many contractors feared, it has on the contrary worked out with such success that public housing is now accepted generally as a permanent government policy.

Miss Alfred says Because of the unusually fine quality of his speaking voice radio time was also readily made available to Captain Reiss, and his area of influence among listening audiences was thus greatly widened.


Chapter 6 - 1938-1948

In the lead up to WW-II, Richard assisted Jewish refugees from Europe. His name is inscribed in the Golden Book of Welwyn Garden City Hebrew Congregation.

He was active in organising the evacuation of mothers in wartime, and in the formation of the Home Guard. He undertook lecture tours to troops on post-war housing plans, including one to Syracuse in 1943 after the campaign in Sicily. Along with F. J. Osborn, Richard supported the TCPA's Country Town Committee which promoted new towns and improvements to existing towns. The Committee Chairman, G. N. C. Swift, said The Abercrombie Plan, with its proposals for new towns in the home counties, and the Government’s own plans for new town corporations in various parts of England, were in no small measure prompted by the writings and constant work of F. J. Osborn and R. L. Reiss.

In 1948, Richard was presented with the Howard Memorial Medal for distinguished services to Town Planning at the Howard Memorial Dinner at the Waldorf Hotel. At the dinner Fred Osborn said:

We meet to honour two men, one whose work has passed into history and one who is still contributing to history in the making. Now the purpose of the Howard Memorial medal is to remind ourselves and others of a great idea; the second purpose of the medal is to honour in their lifetime men who have given long and consistent service to the Garden City idea and (it is a stiff double qualification) who have made a distinguished contribution to advancing that idea...

I want to add my personal tribute to Richard Reiss as one who has worked with him for 30 years both in the national planning movement and in Welwyn Garden City. Others have spoken of his national work. I will add only this, that he has been one of the best all-round men in the T.C.P.A. team. He is a good cricketer; he will bat first if asked, and last if necessary; on his day he is a deadly bowler; and he is a most decided umpire. But his greatest merit is his untiring energy in the field. He has done untiring field work for us all over England, in four strenuous tours in America, and in one glorious tour in Norway - still remembered there.

I have a letter here from Christian Gierlöff, a former chairman of the International Federation (for Housing and Town Planning) who tells of Richard Reiss' highly successful lecture tour in Norway in 1919, which he says opened a new era in housing and planning there. To this day, he says, as a result of that visit, all school children in Norway learn from their textbooks about Ebenezer Howard and the garden city movement. The contacts he and Mr. Gierlöff established between English and Norwegian municipalities have lasted, and have been a factor in relations between the two countries.

One of the less realized facts about Welwyn Garden City, and one of the things that had been most important for its contribution to the practice of town development, has been that some of the ablest and strongest of a very strong promoting group have lived in the town all through and taken an active part in its life. This was not in a spirit of missionary welfare or patronizing benevolence. They were joining in creating a society for themselves and their own families as well as for their fellow-citizens - a new and better society - and they succeeded. In that Richard Reiss played a unique part. As a director of the company he was a factor in development policy - housing, economic development, and finance. As a citizen he was a leader in the health organization, in the educational organization, and especially in the extremely well-run Boys' Clubs, which I think are his special love.

Mrs. Reiss also has been and still is one of our most active and best known citizens, having given many years of quiet devoted work to the health association and other social institutions. Not the least of their achievements is that they have brought up in Welwyn Garden City a family of five, who have become in their turn personalities in the town, and most of whom are here tonight with their husbands and their wives.

Richard and Celia Reiss have, I think, exercised a permanent influence for good on the new town to which they have given so much of their lives.

This little Medal is a symbol of respect and appreciation that is well deserved and very widely felt. We all hope it will give you as much pleasure as its presentation gives to us.


Chapter 7 - The Statutory New Town

Once the decision had been made for the creation of the Welwyn Garden City Development Corporation, the Minister of Town and Country Planning, Lewis Silkin, wrote to Richard, in June 1948. Silkin wrote:

I have today announced my decision to designate sites for the New Towns at Welwyn and Hatfield. I should therefore like to write at once to ask if you would be willing for your name to be included as prospective Vice-Chairman in the list of proposed members of the Development Corporation which I shall shortly be sending to the local authorities concerned.

I recognise that hitherto you have opposed the Order establishing the New Town and as Vice-Chairman of the Welwyn Garden City Company that you put the Company's point of view at the Enquiry, but now that the decision is taken and the question of whether or not there is to be a New Town is settled, I should like to feel that your wide experience and unique knowledge is not lost to Welwyn during the difficult early years of the new town. Furthermore, the experience you have gained as Vice-Chairman of the Welwyn Garden City Company will be of inestimable service to the Corporation.

Mr Gosling was to be the Chairman of the D.C. and Louis de Soissons continued as architect. A master plan was prepared and the Ludwick development, ultimately to house 8,000 people, went ahead. On Richard's suggestion a full-time social worker/youth leader was appointed, which was a novel idea. A social club was started in an old dwelling house and eventually the Ludwick Family Club was built.

He continued to take part in all the town activities but he was advised to avoid excessive strain to his heart and was obliged to resign the Vice-Chairmanship and finally his seat on the Board in 1955.

That his public duties were reduced gave him more leisure to enjoy his grandchildren, to their delight and his. The careers of his sons and daughters were of unending interest to him.

Richard Reiss died on 30th September 1959 in the fiftieth year of his marriage.

 
 

 

 
 

Publications by R. L. Reiss listed on the last page of the book

1913 - LAND ENQUIRY COMMITTEE REPORT : RURAL

1918 - THE HOME I WANT

1918 - (March) - paper to TPI Reconstruction with particular reference to housing.

1924 - THE NEW HOUSING HANDBOOK

1924 - COPEC COMMISSION REPORT : VOL III - THE HOME

1926 - THE TOWN PLANNING HANDBOOK

1926 - TOWN THEORY AND PRACTICE (Joint)*

1937 - BRITISH AND AMERICAN HOUSING (NPHC)

1937 - (June) - paper to TPI Recent developments in city planning and housing in the U.S.A.

1945 - MUNICIPAL AND PRIVATE ENTERPRISE HOUSING (Dent)

Writings in Town and Country Planning, the review of the TCPA, particularly 1919-29 and 1943-53.

* I think this was published in 1921 not 1926. The book can be viewed here.

 
 

 

 
 

The following information about Richard L. REISS and his family I have got from publicly available records (LDS/IGI, GRO, censuses):

His parents were Charles Arthur REISS, East India merchant, and Florence Lacy BAGGALLAY, who were married 15th June 1882, Kensington.

He was baptised Richard Leopold REISS 20th May 1883, South Kensington. His siblings were baptised Horace Baggallay REISS (1886), Stephen Lacy REISS (1889), Caroline Sylvia REISS (1893).

On census night 1891 (RG12-675-67-12) age 7, scholar, he was 'visitor', at Mapletreuse, Cowden, Kent, with his parents Charles and Florence REISS, who were also visitors, in the household of his uncle Ernest BAGGALLAY, Police Magistrate, born Bloomsbury. Also present were Ernest's wife Emily, and children Richard (13), Dorothea (5) and Frances BAGGALLAY (3).

On census night 1901 (RG13-1924-80-11) age 17, he was pupil, at Cotton House (Marlborough School), Preshute St George, Wiltshire. The Head of Household recorded in the census (in Cotton House) was Marius GOULD, Assistant Schoolmaster.

He married Mary Celia Blanche BUTTS, daughter of Henry Hill BUTTS (barrister) & Blanche RICHARDS, in Easebourne, Midhurst, Sussex, 9th August 1910.

Son Richard H. REISS birth 1916, 2nd qtr Kensington Registration District.
Son Stephen C. REISS birth 1918, 3rd qtr Epsom R.D.
Daughter Mary D. F. REISS birth 1920, 2nd qtr St Pancras R.D.
Daughter Rosalind B. REISS birth 1923, 1st qtr Hatfield R.D.
Son Bernard B. REISS birth 1926, 1st qtr Hatfield R.D.

Richard L. REISS death 1959, 4th qtr Hatfield R.D. age 76.
Mary Celia B. REISS death 1976, 2nd qtr Cambridge R.D. age 87 (birth date 21st December 1888).

 
 

 

 
 

WEM's memoirs

I have found on the Web a document entitled WEM's memoirs which refers to the Reiss family in Welwyn Garden City. The WEM of the title is William Einar Miall. These paragraphs are from that document:

By 1923 we had moved from Wendover, via Caterham, where we stayed a few weeks with relatives, to Welwyn Garden City, in Hertfordshire. This was in the very early days of Welwyn and it was probably an exciting and interesting place. Letchworth had been the first garden city, and Welwyn was the second. I suppose it attracted some enterprising families. There were several families whose parents were close friends of my mother and dad. Three families who we knew well in those days were the Dawsons, the Reisses, and the Herons. Their kids were our contemporaries, more or less.

Dick Dawson, the eldest child of the Dawsons was a very good-looking chap and was engaged to, or a close friend of a budding film star, Dinah Sheridan. He became a plastic surgeon in the early days of that specialty. His sister Ruth was a close friend of Archie Cochrane: they had met just before the Second World War and I believe Ruth was hoping the relationship would lead to marriage when Archie returned after the war. Archie Cochrane looms large in later parts of this story. The younger sister, Mollie, became a close friend of my aunt, Mollie Dixon.

The Reiss family were an interesting lot. Richard, the eldest, joined the Friends Ambulance Unit during the war, (I can't remember what he did later). Stephen ran the Aldeburgh festival. Delia married Patrick Heron, Rosalind read medicine but I don't know what happened to her and Bernard, the youngest also read medicine and was the tutor for general practice at Cambridge University.

The Herons were a very artistic family. Tom Heron, the dad, started and directed a factory printing beautiful silks - Cresta Silks - many of the designs for which were the work of his eldest son Patrick, who was then probably still a teenager, Tom was also something of a poet. Eulalie, the mum, was also artistic. Patrick Heron became one of the best known of modern artists. Mike also joined the Friends Ambulance Unit (the FAU) and later became a monk. Joanna became a good friend of ours when we moved up to Staveley, and Giles, who is now a liberal councillor living near Whitby, I don't know.

The Herons and the Dawsons, and I think occasionally the Reisses had holidays at Rose Castle*.

* Rose Castle was part of Beatrix Potter's estate under the National Trust.

 
 

 

 
 

Captain Richard Reiss, his wife Celia and their children at their home in High Oaks Road in 1926. This picture is from The Archive Photographs Series. Welwyn Garden City by Angela Eserin, published in 1995 by The Chalford Publishing Company.