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Etheldreda Janet Laing, née Winkfield (1872–1960)


Etheldreda Janet Laing (née Winkfield), artist and photographer, lived at Bury Knowle House in Headington from 1899 to 1923.

Etheldreda’s childhood

Etheldreda was born in Ely, Cambridgeshire in 1872. She was the daughter of Richard Winkfield (born in St Martin-in-the-Fields, London in 1836/7) and Sarah Janet Nunns (born in Burslem, Staffordshire in 1835/6). Her unusual first name is explained by the fact that her father was Headmaster of King’s School, Ely, which had its origins in a religious house founded by St Etheldreda.

Etheldreda’s parents were married in the West Bromwich area in the third quarter of 1864 and had the following children:

  • Marian Stephanie Winkfield (born in Stony Stratford, Bucks in 1866/7, registered Potterspury district first quarter of 1867)
  • Richard Ernest Winkfield (born in Stony Stratford, Bucks in 1867/8, registered Potterspury district first quarter of 1868)
  • Thomas Hugh Winkfield (born in Stony Stratford, Bucks in 1869, registered Potterspury district second quarter of 1869)
  • Etheldreda Janet Winkfield (born in Ely in 1872, registered there third quarter)
  • Edward Guy N. Winkfield (born in Ely in 1873, registered there third quarter)
  • Elinor Beryl Winkfield (born in Brighton in 1874, registered Steyning district third quarter)

Etheldreda’s parents lived at Stony Stratford in Buckinghamshire for the first five years of their marriage, but by the time of the 1871 census her father (who was a graduate of the University of Cambridge) had been appointed Headmaster of the King’s School in Ely and Vicar of Chettisham. The family lived at the school, and Etheldreda was born at Ely in 1873.

The 1881 census shows Etheldreda (8) staying at the seaside at Grafton Villas, Hunstanton, Norfolk with her mother Sarah and Marian (14), Edward (7), and Elinor (6). Her father and brother Thomas (11) were at home at the school in Ely, and her older brother Richard (13) was away at boarding school (Cordwallis College in Cookham, run by the Revd Thomas J. Nunns, doubtless a relation of his mother).

Ten years later in 1891, Etheldreda (18) was at home with her father at the school in Ely: she studied drawing in Cambridge before her marriage, and this may explain why she was not away on holiday with her mother and siblings. She continued with her art, working as a miniaturist.

By 1895, Etheldreda’s father was Rector of Dry Drayton in Cambridgeshire.


Etheldreda’s husband

Charles Miskin Laing was born at the port of Rotherhithe in London in 1862/3 (St Mary’s parish, birth registered first quarter of 1863), the son of Charles Parkinson Benjamin Laing (a master mariner born in Witham, Essex in c.1815) and Mary Ann Lawson. His parents were married at Rotherhithe in the first quarter of 1862, and he was their only child.

The 1871 census shows Charles aged 8 living with his parents at 12 Lee Terrace, Lewisham, London with three servants (a cook, parlour maid, and housemaid).

Ten years later in 1881, Charles’s father, now described as a “retired sailor”, was at home in Lee Terrace with two servants, while Charles (18) and his mother Mary (56) were away, staying with two servants at Rose Bank in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight. Later that year his father died at the age of 66 (registered Lewisham fourth quarter of 1881).

On 15 October 1881, when he was 18, Charles was matriculated at the University of Oxford (Magdalen College). He gained his BA in 1885, and his MA and BCL in 1888, and became a barrister-at-law.

In 1889, while he was still single, Charles look out a lease on 6 Rawlinson Road in North Oxford, and the 1891 census shows him living there with his widowed 66-year-old mother Mary and three servants. Within a few months, his mother was dead (registered June quarter, 1891).

As well as working as a barrister, Charles was an Oxford City Councillor for the North Ward from 1890.


Marriage of Charles and Etheldreda Laing, and early years in Oxford

The forthcoming marriage of Etheldreda was announced thus in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 20 July 1895:

The marriage of Mr. Councillor C. M. Laing, of this city, with Miss Etheldreda Janet Winkfield, daughter of the Rev. R. Winkfield, Rector of Dry Drayton, and niece of Canon and Mrs Bulstrode, is fixed for July 23rd, at Little St Mary’s Church, Cambridge.

The marriage duly took place on 23 July 1895, and the couple moved into Laing’s house at 6 Rawlinson Road, Oxford. The first of their two daughters was born there:

  • Janet Marian Laing (born in Oxford on 18 January 1898).

In the same year Etheldreda’s mother died in Cambridgeshire at the age of 65 (registered Chesterton, third quarter).


Life in Headington

Bury Knowle House

The Laing family moved to Bury Knowle House in Headington in 1899. Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 13 January 1900 reports how Messrs Hill, Upton & Co of George Street had installed “a complete electric light plant, with engine, dynamo, and accumulators at Bury Knowle, for C. M. Laing, Esq.”. Charles Miskin Laing listed his only recreation as hunting in Who’s Who in Oxfordshire (1936), and would have made good use of the adjoining stables when he lived in Bury Knowle House..

On moving up to Headington Laing retired as city councillor for the North Ward “owing to change of residence”; but he had been elected Chairman of the Conservative Party in the city in 1897 and continued to serve in this post until 1920.

In the 1901 census Etheldreda Laing (28) is shown living at Bury Knowle House with her husband Charles (38), who was still described as a barrister-at-law, and their three-year-old daughter Janet. They had five indoor servants living with them in the house, and a gardener living at the lodge on the London Road. Their second daughter was born at Bury Knowle:

  • Iris Carola Laing (born in Headington in 1903, birth registered second quarter)

When autochrome plates first came on the market in 1907, Etheldreda decided to try her hand at colour photography, and had her own darkroom made at Bury Knowle House. Her favourite subjects were her two young daughters, and in 1908 she took photographs of them in the garden of Bury Knowle House: examples include Two girls on a balcony, Girl with a parasol sitting on a bench; Two girls together in a garden; Girl with a bunch of flowers

Etheldreda and Charles Laing were also at home at Bury Knowle at the time of the 1911 census, with their daughters Janet (13) and Iris Carola  (7), as well as five servants and a governess.

On 22 January 1913 a photograph of Etheldreda appeared in the Oxford Journal Illustrated when she was out with the South Oxfordshire Hounds at Woodeaton.

Although Etheldreda’s husband was aged 50 at the outbreak of the First World War, he worked in a Red Cross unit in France in 1915, and was then attached to Cowley Barracks as Posting officer to the 43rd area, holding the rank of Major.

The Laings continued to live at Bury Knowle House until 1923.


After Headington

Etheldreda’s father, Richard Winkfield, lived to be 92 and died in Cambridgeshire in 1928.

Charles and Etheldreda Laing’s elder daughter, Janet Marian Laing, became the second wife of Howard Montagu Bulmer de Sales La Terrière in about 1930: they had no children.

Etheldreda and her husband were were still living in Oxfordshire in 1936.

Charles Miskin Laing was living at 218 Kew Road, Richmond when he died in a nursing home there at the age of 76 on 7 September 1939. His effects came to £12,364 9s. 1d. An “In Memoriam” notice was placed in The Times seven years later on 7 September 1946.

Etheldreda’s younger daughter, Iris Carola Laing became the second wife of Sir John Randolph Shane Leslie on 30 May 1958, when she was 55.

Etheldreda Laing died at 5 Morpeth Mansions, Westminster at the age of 88 on 22 December 1960. Her effects came to £2,489 17s. 3d.

The following “In Memoriam” notice was published in The Times six years later on 21 December 1968:

Etheldreda Janet Laing. Dec. 22, 1960. Charles Miskin Laing, Sept. 7, 1939. To their beloved and living memory.

The Laings’ elder daughter Mrs Janet Marian de Sales La Terrière died on 5 September 1985 in Malvern, Worcestershire at the age of 87, and their younger daughter Mrs Iris Carola Leslie died in 1995.


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