The Cunard Connection

Edward M Padelford
Changes to The Grove House
In 1923 Wilfrid Ashley leased The Grove to Florence Grosvenor, Baroness Ebury, widow of Robert Victor Grosvenor 3rd Baron Ebury. It would seem, from her last will and testiment, written on the 31st of August 1922, that Baroness Ebury had a home at 79 Glousester Place, Portman Square London. It may be that either The Grove was a second home, or by 1923, she had sold her home in London and moved into The Grove. Further research into this is required to establish the facts. 

Florence died on the 20th October 1927, aged 43, cause of unknown. The gross value of her estate was £78,033. In her Will she left everything to her mother, Mrs Florence Cunard. 

We have very little recorded for these years of The Grove's history, but we do have some background into Florence Baroness Ebury and her mother, Mrs Florence Cunard, who took over the lease of The Grove upon the death of her daughter, and later purchased the freehold of part of The Grove estate including the house and lakes. 

Florence, Baroness Ebury was born Florence Burne Padelford in 1884 in the USA. She married Robert Victor Grosvenor  on the 1st Febuary 1908 in London. Robert was the eldest son of Lord Robert Wellesley Grosvenor 2nd Baron Ebury. 

Robert Victor had been educated at Harrow. Formerly a captain in the 13th Middlesex Regiment Volunteers, he had served in the South African War 1900-1901 receiving the Queen's Medal with three clasps. He had unsuccessfully contested the Lichfield Division of Staffordshire in the Liberal Unionist interest in 1906. He succeeded to the peerage upon the death of his father in 1918. Robert would be remembered as the person who sold the family home comprising of a 3,000 acre estate and the mansion house of Moor Park at auction in 1919, apparently because his wife, Florence, refused to live there. 

Mrs Florence Cunard was the widow of her second husband, Ernest Halibuton Cunard, who had died on the 6th November 1926. Her husband had been one of the directors of the Cunard Shipping Company. Florence Cunard was born Florence Mc Pheeters in 1858 in Pennsylvania USA. She married her first husband, Edward Macomber Padelford on the 9th of October 1880 in New York. The marriage ended in divorce, with the degree absolute being granted in 1890. The fact of her divorce, I believe, was not public knowledge here in England, as Burkes Peerage and a newspaper article both state that she was the widow of her first husband. 

New York Times Cutting.Shortly after her divorce she and her daughter Florence and her unmarried sister, Miss Ella Mc Pheeters, moved to Europe. In 1902 they were living in London. In May 1903, after her marriage to Ernest Cunard, Florence petitioned the court in New York to grant her perpetual alimony. Subsequently, in February 1905, she sued Edward M Padelford for $23,000 in back alimony, a fact that made headlines in The New York Times, but not here in England. 

In fact her ex-husband went on to make more headlines after his divorce, in The New York Times in February 1893, when he married his second wife. 

A burglary at The Grove was reported in The Harrow Observer and Gazette on Friday May 5th 1930. 




Scotland Yard detectives under superintendent Cornish, one of the 'Big Five' were actively engaged in the neighbourhood of Stanmore Common on Tuesday investigating a clever burglary, carried out by a gang of expert thieves at The Grove, the country mansion of Mrs.Ernest Cunard. A valuable picture by Hoppner, which was carefully removed from its heavy gilt frame, and part of a valuable collection of silver plate were taken. The Grove, which is occupied by Mrs. Cunard in the summer months, is the rendezvous of many prominent society men and women, for Mrs.Cunard entertains on a lavish scale. No sound was heard on Tuesday morning, and it was not until the gardener, Mr.J.Allsopp was going his early round, that the burglary was discovered. The library window had been forced. Lying on the lawn was a silver tray and a number of silver spoons, clear indication of the sudden flight of the thieves.


There were four people living in the house - the caretaker, Mr. Fred Weston, his wife and daughter, and an under-gardener, Mr. W. Gilbert - but they heard nothing. Mr and Mrs Weston was wakened by a fit of coughing . This was about 3.30am. He switched on the electric light, and it showed through a fanlight on to the front of the house. This is believed to have disturbed the burglars, who thinking that they had been heard, made off. They evidently had a car hidden in the bushes not far from the house, for tyre marks were discovered there. Outside the library window were found a number of footprints, but no finger prints of any value have been discovered, clearly indicating that the burglars were experts. Forcing the library window they went through the library and into the dining-room which adjoins. There they forced a cupboard in which were kept the keys of the strong-room which leads out of the dining-room and in which were stored thousands of pounds worth of old plate and silver articles.


These the thieves began to take and hand out of the window. Exactly what has been stolen from the strong-room is not known, but a large quantity of silver has been taken. Meanwhile one of the burglars lifted the picture from the wall. 

An "Observer" representative who was allowed to make a close examination of the room found that the picture, a half-length oil painting of William Grimstone, had not been cut from its frame as was at first supposed. With great deliberation and care it had been removed intact, and its heavy gilt frame, which bore the inscription "William Grimstone, Hoppner 1758-1810," rehung in its original position.


The head gardener, Mr.J.Allsopp, who lives in a house about a hundred yards from the mansion, was going through the garden early on Tuesday, when, to his suprise, he saw a tray lying outside the library window.

"I went over and there I saw a number of spoons and other silver articles lying about on the grass," he stated, "and the library window was open. The thieves had evidently a thorough knowledge of the interior of the house and also knew where to find the keys of the strong-room. They had been taken from a cupboard in the dining-room, which had been forced open. The picture which they took out from the frame is, I believe, a very valuable one."

"They were very careful to prevent anyone disturbing them," one of the servants told our representative, "for they locked all the doors communicating with the servant quarters, and if we had heard them we could not have got into the dining-room."

Scotland Yard detectives and finger-print experts were quickly on the scene, but it is clear that the burglars used gloves to prevent leaving any imprints behind. The only clue which the police have at the moment are the footprints of two men, wearing rubber-soled boots, on the grass outside the window.


"The first I heard of the robbery was shortly after 7am to-day (Tuesday) when the police telephoned to me," said Mrs. Cunard. "As far as I know the thieves took the picture, which I have had for over 20 years. They also went to my safe, opened it with a key - how they discovered where the key was kept I am at a loss to know - and took away the plate, which I kept there for safety. I understand that detectives consider this to be the work of expert thieves, owing to the fact that they have left no finger-prints, and to the care with which they carried out the raid. I understand that the thieves did not disturb anything, and they must have planned everything very carefully before entering my house, which they did, I am told, through the library window.


There have been several burglaries in the Stanmore area during the past few weeks. This is the third burglary at The Grove in six years. About two years ago thieves visited the house in exactly the same way, forcing the library window. But then they made off without taking anything of value, disturbed, it was believed, by the barking of a dog. 

Mrs. Ernest Cunard, before her marriage to a grandson of the founder of the Cunard Line, was Mrs Ernest Padelford, the widow of an American. She bought The Grove from Colonel Wilfrid Ashley some years ago. It is a beautifully furnished house on which Mrs. Wilfrid Ashley had expended much of her skill as a decorator. 

Hoppner's paintings command high prices. Last year his famous group of the Sackville children from the collection of Lord Sackville at Knole Park was sold at a figure which was estimated to be well over £50,000. In 1923 a portrait of Lady Dashwood King was sold for £18,000, and in 1926 a painting of Lady Louisa Manners fetched £18,900


Mentioned in the above newspaper article are Mr. Frederick Weston and his wife Agnes who, at the time of the burglary, were named as the house keepers of The Grove.  In Mrs. Cunards Last Will and Testiment dated 1931, Mr Weston is mentioned as an under-gardener. Below are photographs taken at The Grove that belong to the descendants of Frederick & Agnes Weston.

Mrs Florence Cunard with Ruth, Blanch and other staff The Front of The Grove House c1930
Mrs Agnes Weston in The Grove Kitchen Garden Miss Ella McPheeters with the butlers dog by The Grove House
Frederick Weston on The Grove Lawn Albert by the wheel Barrow, Frederick Weston on the Broom
Miss Ella McPheeters with the Fisher Family & Atom the dog The Gate House at The Grove, (person unknown)
Mr Frederick Weston & Statue, by 'The Lilly Pond' Frederick Weston & Geof Buckingham


 In 1934 application for a development to be known as Sunray Park Estate (Part of "The Grove Estate") was made to Harrow Council by Relleen & Betts on behalf of Film Plays Limited for the layout and creation of Film Studios and the building of 200 houses. 

Two surveyors reports, the first dated 11th June 1934 states;- 

Ref No.86 - Development - Sunray Park Estate (Part of "The Grove Estate") Watford Byepass Road Stanmore North by Film Plays Ltd. 

This is an application to develop 36.75 acres of land for purposes of erecting approximately 200 residences together with Film Studio Offices, Refreshment and Dance Hall, Billiard Room, 6 Studios, Tennis Courts and Swimming Pool. 

The site is on the south side of the Watford Byepass Road adjacent to the Northern boundary of the District. 

The land is zoned in the Town Planning Scheme for residential purposes, 12 houses to the acre for a small area on the front, and 8 to the acre at the back. 

Apart from any consideration as to whether a departure from the Town Planning proposals be allowed, the proposal involves a big problem as to drainage. 

There are no main drainage facilities available. The natural fall of the land is westward to the area of the Watford Rural District Council who have no sewers in the vicinity. 

The nearest available sewer vested in the Harrow Urban Council is in Wood Lane, nearly a mile south of the site, and the sewage would need pumping. The Hendon Council have a sewer in Elstree Hill 100 yards from the site, but here again pumping would be necessary. 

The second surveyors report, dated 9th July 1934 states:- 

Adverting to the previous report in respect to this application, the applicants have attended at the offices for an interview to explain more fully their proposals.

Mr.Rex Wilson of the Company indicated that the proposals were for the erection of the Studios to studied architectural design, embracing various periods. So that the building would be used as a back ground for filming, to avoid the necessity of erecting special scenery. 

The houses on the inside of the roads and immediately backing on the studios are proposed to be retained by the Company, and these too, are suggested to be built as period houses. 

The land on the outside circle will be sold for ordinary speculative development. 

Thus it is claimed that the erection of Studios will not prejudice development on adjoining estates. 

On the question of drainage difficulties, it appeared from the discussion that the applicants would be prepared to guarantee the council against loss on Capital Works, possibly to the extent of advancing money for the proposed works, subject to refund when sufficient development has accrued to meet interest and capital charges. 

It is estimated that the cost of putting down pumping plant, with rising main and other works necessary for the disposal of the drainage from the area would be £5000. 

The company are anxious to have an expression of opinion from the Council as to whether they would be prepared to approve a satisfactory scheme on these lines, as further progress of their negotiations and the preparation of particulars of their proposals are dependent on such degree of approval. 

Permission was refused by the Town Planning Committee, in a report dated the 10th of September 1934, states:- 

Permission refused on the following grounds: 

  1. Site is within a residential character-zone.
  2. No opportunity afforded owners in locality for making representations - applicants not having complied with council's request for application to be advertised.
Mrs Florence Cunard died on the 24th of January 1935, the gross value of her estate was £203,786. In her last will and testament, which amounted to 14 pages with two codicils, she wished to be cremated and that her ashes be thrown to the winds. She also wished that there should be no flowers and that no memorial service be held. 

Everything that Mrs Florence Cunard owned was to be managed by Trustees, her house at 27 Portman Square in London was to be sold, but The Grove and all of its contents, including household furniture, plate, plated articles, china, pictures, motor car, and accessories, carriages, stable furniture, wines and liquors, garden live and dead stock in and about The Grove could be used, at no charge, by her sister, Miss Ella McPheeters, for the remainder of her life. Anything that Miss Ella required would be paid for by the Trustees of Mrs Cunard's Estate. 

Mrs Cunard also stated in her will ....that Subject to the foregoing bequests and to the devises and bequests contained in my said will and the first said Codicil thereto and to the payment of the death duties thereon and to the payment of any duties arising on the death of my said sister in respect of her interest in my estate and "The Grove" and to any other payments properly chargeable to my estate I GIVE DEVISE AND BEQUEATH the remainder of my estate of every kind and description (including "The Grove" if not sold or otherwise disposed of by me) Unto The Queen's Institute of District Nursing... 

The Grove house, photograph taken around 1936-38, click here to see to changes to the house between 1906-1936.

Below shows an ariel photograph of The Grove and surrounding area taken on the 18th June 1941. For points of
interest on the map click here.