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Henry Sanderson Furniss, 1st Baron Sanderson of Hunmanby (1868–1939)


Henry Furniss
Lord Sanderson in 1930
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use

Henry Sanderson Furniss was born in London on 1 October 1868, the elder son of the barrister Thomas Sanderson Furniss (1833–1912) and his wife (and second cousin) Mary Sanderson (d.1899).

Henry was blind from birth and could not read, but was able to distinguish large objects. He was privately tutored, and entered Hertford College, Oxford in 1889 when he was 21 to study Modern History.

On 23 January 1902 he married Averil Dorothy Nicholl, the daughter of Henry Frederick Nicholl of Twyford: they had no children.

He was a lecturer at Ruskin College in Walton Street, Oxford from 1907 to 1916, and its Principal from 1916 to 1925.

In 1918 Furniss and his wife both became members of the Labour Party, and that year he stood unsuccessfully in the General Election as the candidate for the Labour Party in Oxford.

Following his retirement in 1925, Furniss built a house at 44 Jack Straw's Lane. He explains in his memoirs why he chose to move up to Headington:

It would be difficult to find a worse climate than that of Oxford, lying, as it does, low down in the valley of the Thames. But round the city and in its near neighbourhood are delightful hills, and on one of these, Headington Hill, some friends of ours were selling plots of land on their estate. We had never regarded 1 Bardwell Road as anything but a temporary arrangement, and now that there was nothing to make it necessary for us to live in the heart of the city, we determined to make one more experiment in house-building, to the great amusement of our friends, amongst whom our constant removals and building operations had become a sort of standing joke. When in search of a name for the new house we debated the possibility of finding something which would be a link with Ruskin College. “Why not,” said my friend Barratt Brown, who succeeded me as principal, “call it 'Unto this Last'!” However, we finally contented ourselves with the more prosaic “North End”.

North End in 1939

Furniss went on to write:

Just before Christmas [1925] we moved into our new house, North End, Headington Hill. The house is at the far end of Pullen's Lane, a lane which takes its name from an old tree which was planted in the seventeenth century by Josiah Pullen, vice-principal of my college — Hertford. It was called “Joe Pullen's Tree”. I have, however, yet another link with Joe Pullen, for he was chaplain to my ancestor Bishop Sanderson, whose death-bed he attended and whose funeral sermon he preached. We were very much pleased with our new house, which, though only two miles from the centre of Oxford, is practically in the country. How long it will remain so is another matter.

In 1929 Furniss and his wife were both unsuccessful as Labour candidates for Headington in the Oxford City Council elections:

This work was interrupted for a time by a new electioneering campaign in which we both took a part. Headington was in the spring of this year [1929] taken into the city of Oxford, and in March an election for an entirely new Council for the whole of the enlarged city was held. My wife had in former years twice stood as a Labour candidate for the Oxford City Council, but without success, and she was asked to become one of the Labour candidates for Headington. I was also asked to stand, and we spent a busy week or two canvassing and speaking at meetings in different parts of the district. However, we shared the fate of all the Labour candidates put up throughout the city. My wife got a few more votes than I, but I was not at the bottom of the poll! A little later at a by-election one Labour candidate was returned.

On 18 June 1930 Furniss was created Baron Sanderson of Hunmanby in the County of York in recognition of his distinguished career in education.

The title became extinct when Baron Sanderson died at the age of 70 on 25 March 1939 at the Landsdowne Club in Berkeley Square, London.

Furniss grave

He was buried in Headington Cemetery, on 28 March 1939, and his grave marker (right) is probably the tallest one there. The four sides of the plinth read:

BARON SANDERSON
OF HUNMANBY

HENRY SANDERSON FURNISS
1868–1939

PRINCIPAL OF RUSKIN
COLLEGE 1926–1925 

AND AVERIL HIS WIFE
26TH NOVEMBER 1962 

 


 

There is a much fuller entry on
Henry Sanderson Furniss

in the Oxford Dictionary
of National Biography

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including those in Oxfordshire:
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Wikipedia entry for Furniss

Henry Sanderson Furniss,
Memories of Sixty Years

(Methuen Publishing, 1931): online

© Stephanie Jenkins

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