The ancestry of John Murray Phelps and Avocet Frances Burdett-Coutts (née Ashmead-Bartlett)
Family history is a subject that becomes more and more interesting the older one gets. Having a well-documented family confers a responsibility to pass on the information to members of the younger generation. In this way they may be able to ‘know where they came from’. The first two family members whose lives are described on this website are my maternal grandfather, Herbert Seabury Hunt Ashmead Bartlett, and Jessie Beatrice Kitson, my paternal great aunt. They are very different individuals. Seabury was the son of a Member of Parliament, Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett. In 1921, however, he became the heir to William Burdett-Coutts and changed his name by deed poll. Beatrice was the granddaughter of the Leeds industrialist James Kitson, who had founded a railway engineering works in the 1830s. Her father, John Hawthorn Kitson, continued to run the Airedale Foundry and was also a pioneering mountaineer in the Alps. He sometimes climbed with Edward Whymper, who is chiefly remembered for being the first to ascend the Matterhorn in 1865.
The family archive also consists of a large amount of information about the Phelps family, including my great great grandfather, Joseph, who was a wine grower in Madeira. Individuals from the Kitson, Ashmead-Bartlett and Capel-Cure families will be added to the website as it progresses. Both my grandfathers were involved in the First World War and suffered its consequences: Seabury developed an enlarged heart and Murray Phelps probably suffered from what is now recognised as post-traumatic stress disorder. As a solicitor in civilian life, he ended up serving in the Royal Military Police and became Assistant Provost Marshal. As such, he may have been responsible for sending deserters to their death and this weighed heavily on him for the rest of his life.