I could scarcely believe it when I received a telephone call from the new owners of Boxted House asking for assistance in the selection of paint colours.
The house had previously belonged to my great uncle, Bobby Bevan, and I had spent much of my childhood there.
Although only asked to help with the paint colours, I did a little very basic research into the previous owners of the house:
Work is recorded as having been carried out on the house in 1820.
J. Matthew (Barrister) of 2 Bloomsbury Place, Somerset House and Boxted House was living there in 1833 (Robson’s and Pigot’s Directories).
Mary Elizabeth Fisher-Burton (previously widow of Edward Tompson of Dene House, Great Yarmouth, died on 23rd January 1861 at her son’s (George Edward Tompson) house (Boxted House).
George Edward Tompson J.P. – 1870, 1871 and 1874 (various directories).
(It would seem that the initials embossed in the brickwork of the 1861 extension relate to the Tompson family.)
Captain Francis Peel – 1878, 1882 and 1894 (various directories).
John Sowerby – 1898 (various directories).
“During the 1950s and 1960s, Boxted House became a gathering place not just for artists, but also for writers, politicians, plantsmen-gardeners and other creative individuals. Fine art was just one aspect of the unique environment in which the hospitable Bobby and Natalie lived; friends recall Bobby’s collection of eighteenth-century furniture and Natalie’s collections of Staffordshire and Chelsea ceramics, amongst other features, which when combined with his wine cellar and her kitchen made each visit an unforgettable experience.”1
The following was one of the eulogies written about Bobby and included in the catalogue to the 1975 exhibition at The Minories, Colchester. The R.A Bevan Collection from Boxted House:
“Bobby Bevan was a formidable figure with the head of a Roman Emperor. he gave the impression that he was one who was born to command. In the last War he served in the Royal Navy and was one of the first RNVR officers to achieve the rank of Captain. In the world of commerce, he had a career of outstanding success, becoming in due course Chairman of one of the great advertising agencies of the world. Yet anyone less like the popular concept of an advertising tycoon it would be hard to imagine. When Bobby was Chairman of Benson’s. his office might well have been the room of a Fellow of an Oxford College – and a rather special Fellow at that, with an esoteric taste for ocean racing and fine painting. Photographs of “Phryna”, the yacht he shared with Harold Paton, were flanked by paintings by Gilman, Gore, Ginner and Robert Bevan. As the last named was Bobby’s father, his choice of pictures was not so surprising. What was surprising was the effect such a Chairman had on a modern advertising agency. Bobby Bevan was a very literate man who had an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of English literature. Under his guidance words became the things that mattered at Benson’s. Dorothy Sayers was once a copywriter there…
I began these few words by saying that Bobby Bevan was a formidable figure, yet withal, though he did not suffer fools too gladly, he was kind and he was charming. His real and tangible kindness to innumerable people was done very privately. Bobby was in fact, a very private person, not given to talking about his personal deeds, even less about his personal thoughts or worries. His sympathy to those in distress was almost feminine in its understanding.
Like many others, I miss him most for being someone one could turn to, whether one was in trouble or merely wanted to know something as frivolous as “in which of Peacock’s novels the Reverend Dr. Folliott appeared”. One of us would say “Of course Bobby will know”, and he did.”
1 Alice Strang. “Bobby and Natalie Bevan and the Art at Boxted House”. From Sickert to Gertler. Modern BritishArt from Boxted House. National Galleries of Scotland. 2008.
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