George Frederick Banham was the only child of Cambridge Veterinary Surgeon, George Amos Banham and his wife, Elizabeth. His family lived at 15 Downing Street, Cambridge were his father had a surgery and also a shoeing forge on the premises in 1891. George junior had been born on 23rd August 1888 and followed his father into veterinary work. He became a M.R.C.V.S. and for the 1911 census was in Newtown, Montgomeryshire, working for Veterinary Surgeon Frederick William Watchorn.
He joined the Army Veterinary Service in the Great War and achieved the rank of Captain, a title he continued to use throughout his life. By the time the National Register was compiled at the outbreak of the Second world War in 1939, George Banham was living in Westington, Gloucestershire. Also in his household were Elsie Cockburn (b. 1890) and Margaret Merriman (b. 1916). Both were recorded as having ‘Domestic Duties, but Elsie, a divorcee, was ‘unpaid’, a term usually given to a housewife. A few months earlier, the Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser had carried a short notice concerning Elsie Cockburn and George Banham. Samuel Crosby Cockburn had been granted a decree nisi on the grounds of Elsie’s adultery with George Frederick Banham. Cockburn’s costs were awarded against Banham.
Samuel Cockburn had married Elsie Simkin in 1914 and they had two children, Edmund (b. 1916) and Mercy (b. 1919). George Banham married Elsie Cockburn in 1940 when they were both around 50 years of age, so they had no children of their own.
In 1951, George Banham put up for sale ‘A Gentleman’s Imposing Miniature Estate known as Wellesbourne Hall’ (Leamington Spa Courier, 6th July 1951). It was said to be a William and Mary period building with six Principal Bedrooms, plus a 17th century cottage and 15 acres of land. There are number of newspaper reports in the 1940s and 1950s of his participation in horse trials.
Then, in 1955, George Banham was reported in the Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser as selling the Barford House estate, as he was going to move to Wickhamford Manor. It was said that until recently he had been a noted exhibitor of lightweight hunters.
There are few references to the Banhams at Wickhamford Manor in the press, but in April and July 1961 they opened the gardens and grounds to the public. The latter event included a statement that the Manor was ‘closely associated with the Gunpower Plot of 1605’. The evidence for this claim was not provided!
A TV Times article about the village, published on 13th May 1960, mentions in passing Capt. George Banham and his wife as occupants of Wickhamford Manor, ‘which retains its ancient splendour’. Around 1970, the Manor was sold to Hugh Philip Terry of Southery Farms Ltd; his daughter was married in Wickhamford church on 4th September 1970 and her address was given as the Manor.
George Frederick Banham died in Bristol on 19th April 1978 aged 89 years. Elsie Banham died in Watton, Norfolk on 17th December 1986.
Elsie’s daughter, Mercy, married jump jockey, and later racehorse trainer Fred Rimell, in 1937 and she went on to be a successful trainer herself after his death in 1981. Mercy died in 2017 and in one obituary is was said that ‘Under the influence of a dominating mother, she spent almost more of her formative years in the show-ring than she did at school, and due to severe asthma, she actually went to school only between the ages of eight and 11. Later she had a governess’.
Tom Locke – February 2019