AddThis Smart Layers

From Russia with Talent: The Remarkable de Glehn Family

Located close to a pathway aside Brockley grove in Ladywell cemetery is the headstone of a truly remarkable emigre family of twelve children (and eight servants!) known as de Glehn. The family name changed to de Glehn from their former nobiliary particle von Glehn in outrage after the Germans seized Alfred de Glehn's house in Mülhouse, Alsace in 1917.

 The von Glehn family headstone in Ladywell cemetery.

The von Glehn family lived at Peak Lodge, Sydenham after Robert von Glehn, a merchant from Revel, Russia now Tallin, Estonia, born in 1801 with Germanic roots, became a naturalized British subject. He married Agnes nee' Duncan who was the Scottish stepdaughter of a successful London merchant. The well-connected family counted the composer W.S.Sullivan, the painter John Millais and the musicologist Sir George Grove (buried in the cemetery) who was a 'most frequent habitue' and many others from the London cultural milieu visitors to the home.

Robert died in 1885 and Agnes predeceased him in 1881. I have highlighted a few of the more distinctive family luminaries below.

I have already alluded to Alfred de Glehn (1848-1936) who was a notable designer of steam locomotives. The French Railway Museum perpetuates his name in its address: 2 rue Alfred de Glehn, Mulhouse, Alsace.

Vladimir IIyich Ulyanov better known as Lenin undertook arguably the most momentous railway journey of the 20th century, which began in Switzerland and ended at the Finland station in St Petersburg in 1917 on a U-127 locomotive (de Glehn Compound Locomotive) which is now housed in the Moscow Railway Museum.

Mary Emilie' Mimi' von Glehn (1842-1886) was a gifted pianist who was a close friend of Sir George Grove and goddaughter of the famous scientist Mrs Somerville. He lived nearby and was the secretary of the Crystal Palace and wrote the Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Grove's biographer writes of 'delightful Sunday afternoons' at Peak Hill Lodge with Mimi von Glehn at the piano and Julius Stockhausen, with unwearied voice and unflagging enthusiasm, singing Schubert, Schumann, Bach and Brahms. She died of consumption aged 43 and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, the distinguished composer of English church music, played the organ at her funeral. Mimi is buried here.

Louise Hume Creighton (1850–1936) by Glyn Philpot, 1918

Louise Hume von Glehn Creighton (1850-1936) was a social activist,women's suffragist and writer of popular history and biography. She married Mandel Creighton ( 1843-1900) a University Professor, Church Scholar and Bishop of London,  the year after they met at a John Ruskin lecture in 1871 'when his attention was drawn to the ' girl having the 'courage to wear yellow '! She was one of the first eight pioneering women to sit examinations set by the University of London in 1869 and published no less than twenty-five books , including one on Venereal Disease in 1914!

The Creighton Lecture is an annual lecture delivered at King's College, London on a topic in history. The series , which memorializes historian and prelate Mandell Creighton , began in 1907 with a grant of £650, half of which was donated by his widow.*

Their son, the Reverend Oswin Creighton, a Military Chaplain was killed in France in 1918. Another son, Walter, an actor, took violin lessons from composer Edward Elgar, and was awarded the Military Cross during World War One.

Alexander de Glehn (1838-1908) was a Coffee Merchant who turned his hand to building narrow gauge railways in France and was treasurer of the Protestant Evangelical Society that provided relief in Paris to victims of the Franco -Prussian War of 1870. His son Wilfrid Gabriel de Glehn RA( 1870-1951) was an Impressionist painter, who was elected to the Royal Academy in 1932 and regarded by many as the ' British Renoir'. He was a close friend of the artist John Singer Sargent. He was married to the American born artist Jane Erin Emmet( 1873-1961) one of her forebears was the famed Irish Nationalist leader Robert Emmet who was hanged by the British in 1803.

Another son, Louis de Glehn taught French in Grantchester, near.Cambridge and offered his home, Bryon's Lodge to the famous French writer and future Noble laureate Andre Gide and his lover Marc Allegret to stay, when they travelled to England in 1918.

For those readers who might be interested in Wilfred's Impressionist paintings this delightful montage is worth viewing :

*For a fuller and vividly written background history of  Louise and Mandell Creighton's marriage, the 2000 dual biography by James Covert ' A Victorian Marriage' is recommended.