Tuesday, 25 December 2012

On the First Gay Day of Christmas ...

... my blogger gave to me -


Sir Nick Partridge (left) is Chief Executive of the Terence Higgins Trust and one of the UK’s leading AIDS campaigners. He was knighted for service to healthcare in 2009.

A partridge was a traditional game bird at Christmas, but if we dig up Nick’s Partridge roots we’ll find he has another seasonal game birds sitting in his family tree.

The family link is still remembered in Nick’s full name – Nicholas Wyndham Partridge. The name Wyndham descends through his mother’s family, the Wilders. The Wilder family come from Wallingford in Berkshire. They earned a fortune during the Industrial Revolution by starting up an iron foundry. There are still iron structures in Wallingford today which were cast at Wilder’s foundry. The business is still in existence as Lister-Wilder, a leading agriculture and garden machinery manufacturer, though the family sold the business in 1998.

Sir Nick’s grandfather, Richard John Wilder, a partner in the foundry, was married to Crystal Elsie Stride. It is her family which provides the seasonal game bird connection though it is probably one which Nick might not be too keen to publicise!

Crystal Elsie Stride was the daughter of Herbert Wyndham Stride, the head gamekeeper to Sir Walter Gilbey at Elsenham Hall in Essex. Stride’s father was also a gamekeeper and farm steward, and Herbert himself entered the gamekeeping profession as soon as he left school. By the age of 27 Herbert was head gamekeeper to Sir Walter, living in a cottage on the Elsenham estate. In 1900 he and his family moved out of the cottage and rented a neighbouring farm at Little Henhan. That’s when things started to happen.

As head gamekeeper it was Herbert Stride’s responsibility to ensure that there was plenty of game for the landowner and his guests to hunt. This included pheasant. On Sir Walter’s estate the pheasant lived freely among the woods rather than in special pens.

In 1906 Sir Walter discovered that Herbert Stride had been selling thousands of pheasant’s eggs to another gamekeeper in north Wales for several years. Stride was prosecuted for the theft of some 9,000 eggs. In his defence Stride claimed the eggs came from pheasants living on his own farm and were not from Sir Walter’s estate. The court didn’t believe him and he was found guilty. The judge sentenced him to one year’s hard labour.

Stride appealed against his conviction but it was upheld, so presumably he had to undergo his one year’s hard labour. That seems rather harsh punishment to me – people get less than that these days for queer-bashing!

By 1911 Herbert Wyndham Stride was living as a farmer at Britwell Priory in Oxfordshire. He died in 1919 at the age of 55 leaving an estate worth over £25,000.

So, from pheasants to partridges. Herbert’s granddaughter Patricia married Ernest Partridge in 1948 and they were the parents of Sir Nick Partridge.

Perhaps today’s heading should have read “A Pheasant in Partridge’s Family Tree”.

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