Skip to main content

Robert Septimus GARDINER (1856-1939)

Robert Septimus Gardiner.
Robert Septimus Gardiner.
Grave of Robert Septimus Gardiner in Hastings Cemetery.
Grave of Robert Septimus Gardiner in Hastings Cemetery.
Biographical Details

Robert Septimus Gardiner (1856-1939) was the youngest brother of Caroline Florence Mourilyan (née Gardiner), who was the sister-in-law of Eugénie Sladden (née Mourilyan).

Robert was born on 26th March 1856 in Bonn, Rheinland, Prussia, the youngest of nine children and the seventh son (hence the middle name of Septimus) of the Reverend George Gregory Gardiner and his wife, Frances Mary (née Touchet).  Robert’s father was the English Chaplain in Bonn from 1851-1859.

At the age of three, Robert moved with his family in 1859 to Paris, where Reverend Gardiner had accepted a post as Chaplain of the English Protestant Chapel in Avenue Marboeuf.  The Siege of Paris, which lasted from 19th September 1870 to 28th January 1871, put an end to the Gardiners’ time in Paris.  They left Paris in a hurry, shortly before the capture of the city by Prussian forces which led to French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the establishment of the German Empire as well as the Paris Commune.  At the time of the 1871 census, Robert was living with his parents and eldest sister, Florence, in Chapel House, Princess Square, Plymouth.

Robert studied at Grenoble University and was fluent in French, German and English.  At the time of the 1881 census he was lodging at 80 Warwick Street, Westminster, London.  By 1890, Robert was living at Laleham, Staines.  In both the 1881 and 1891 census, Robert’s occupation was given as Secretary to a Gas Company; it is possible that he may have been working for the Imperial Continental Gas Association, which is the company for which his brother-in-law, Fred Mourilyan worked.  Electoral registers for the period reveal that Robert also had a house at 181 Piccadilly from 1887 and from 1894 a flat at Buckingham Palace Mansions.

In 1896 Robert married Alice von Ziegesar, 18 years his junior, who was the daughter of the late Baron von Ziegesar (curiously, Robert’s father, had conducted the wedding ceremony of Alice’s parents back in 1871 in Paris).  Robert and Alice had three sons:  Cyril George Robert (1897-1973), Gerald Austin (1900-1990) and Nevile Charles (1904-1954).  (Their second son, Gerald, was a future Labour politician and Lord Chancellor 1964-1970.)  By 1901 the family home was at Cadogan Square; Robert and Alice were out of the country at the time of the census but their two sons were present with several servants in charge.  Robert was also out of the country at the time of the 1911 census.

The 1918 electoral register gives Robert’s home as Hardres Court, Canterbury, but the Gardiners were living there from at least June 1915 as Fred and Florence Mourilyan went to stay with them for a fortnight.  It is possible that they may have rented the property for the duration of the war.

Robert was knighted in the 1922 Birthday Honours list for services to industry.  The newspaper reports of the time gave the reason as:  “Editor of ‘The Near East’, manager of important collieries and shipping undertakings in the north of England.”  A successful businessman he served on the boards of many companies, including Rodney Steamship Company, Pelton Steamship Company of Newcastle-on-Tyne, British Gas Light and other gas companies.

On the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Robert and Alice and their son Cyril and his wife were living at Addington Palace Country Club Hotel – an 18th-century mansion near Croydon.  Two months later, Sir Robert died at Addington Palace Country Club on 16th November 1939, aged 83.  He was buried in Hastings Cemetery.

Letters mentioning this person: