The Zimapanners

 

 

 

 

                                                

 

The Bohemian Glass Merchant's Daughter

Biography 

Florence Annie Strauss (1872-1916)

 
German-American parents
Florence Annie Strauss was born on 13 September 1872 at 10 St Johns Villas, Brixton Road, Brixton, London. She was the eldest daughter of Gustavus StraussFT, a Bohemian glass merchant and naturalised British subject, born in Germany in about 1843. Florence's mother was Frances Lehmaier, an American citizen who was born in abt. 1852 in Baiersdorf, Erlangen-Hochstadt, Bayern, Germany. Florence's birth was officially registered 40 days later.1

Siblings
Florence Strauss had one brother, Bernard Edwin Strauss (b. 1875) and a sister, Lily Julia Strauss (b. 1877), both of whom were born in the Borough of Lambeth, London.2 
 
Bleak House, Brixton (1881)
Florence was living with her father (38) and mother (29) in Bleak House, 7 Elgin Gardens, Effra Road, Brixton, in the Borough of Lambeth. She lived there with her brother Bernard Edwin (6 yrs) and sister Lily (4 yrs). Their household was run by four domestic servants and a cook.3

Kensington (1891)
In 1891, Florence Strauss was 18 years old and living at 2 West Bolton Gardens, Kensington, London—her parents' address.4 At the time of the census—3 April—no-one is listed as head of the household at this address, and it is likely that Florence, being the eldest child, was left in charge of 'below-stairs' business while her parents were away. There were six servants to manage, including a housekeeper, a lady's maid, a parlour maid, a cook, a house maid and a kitchen maid.5
 
Florence Strauss marries in Theistic Church (1896)
On 15 October 1896, Florence Annie Strauss's life changed completely. The twenty-four-year-old spinster from West Kensington married a 43-year-old bachelor, politician and practising barrister, Charles Augustus Vansittart Conybeare. The marriage was conducted in accordance with to the rites and ceremonies of the Theistic Church.6 The Church was situated in Swallow Street, Piccadilly, in the District of Westminster, London.7 Incidentally, Florence's siblings, Bernard Strauss and Lily Strauss, also married in the Church in 1900 and 1903 respectively, their father being present at both their wedding ceremonies.

Theistic Church
Florence's marriage was officiated by Charles Voysey, the freethinking Yorkshire vicar who was deposed for publishing heretical sermons and for denying the doctrine of everlasting hell. Voysey went on to found the Theistic Church of London in 1871.

Witnesses
The marriage ceremony was witnessed by Frederick C. Conybeare (37), Charles Conybeare's younger brother, and Florence's younger sister, Lily Julia Strauss (20), who married (Sir) George Ernest May KBE on exactly the same day and month and in the same church as Florence seven years later, and became Lady Lily May in 1935. Charles Conybeare's father was no longer alive then8, but Florence's father Gustave (or Gustavus) was, and he presumably was there to give the bride away.

Marriage homes
The couple lived part of their married life in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, their first marriage home, but had a second home, Tregullow House in Tregullow, Scorrier, Cornwall, a country pile that Conybeare had bought or leased from the Williams family in 1891, and later Oakfield Park in Dartford, Kent.  
 
Marriage settlement
Florence's husband, Charles, had signed an indenture on the preceding day, which included a 'marriage settlement' for her. The indenture effectively made Florence a beneficial co-owner of the 'Tregullow Offices' (later Zimapan) along with her husband. The property was, however, put in trust to Conybeare's younger brother, Henry Grant Madan Conybeare and a merchant banker, Isaac Seligman. Although the trustees were also the legal owners of the property, they were only entitled to act on the couple's instructions.9 See also the 1896 Deed of Trust.

Married Women's Property Act
The passing of the Married Women's Property Act in 1883, gave women the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property for the very first time. Conybeare, who had co-authored a treatise on the Act with a colleague barrister called Andrews, was a supporter of women's rights and a member of the Men's League for Women's Franchise10, and so he would have entirely approved of the idea of his wife being able to own property.

Carlyle Mansions (1896-1916)
On 31 March 1901, the date of the England Census, Florence and Charles Conybeare were living at 3 Carlyle Mansions, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London. Carlyle Mansions comprised 24 spacious apartments. In fact, Kelley's Directory of 1897 shows that the Conybeares had moved into Carlyle Mansions shortly after they got married in 1896.

The neighbours
A number of the apartments in Carlyle Mansions were being used to house domestic servants, namely Nos. 1, 6, 7, 14 and 17, which meant that some heads of households owned more than one apartment. Several of the apartments were unoccupied in 1901, namely Nos. 2, 13, 19. Florence's household at No. 3 included two servants—a cook-cum-domestic and a parlour maid—a very modest arrangement by comparison with some of her other neighbours, one of whom had seven servants to look after three people! Her neighbours were largely well-to-do professionals with an average age of 49 (excludes the domestics), and included:

- Mary Yeo, a 61-year-old widow at No. 4, living on her own means
- Frederick Braund, an Australian merchant/employer at Nos. 5, 6 & 7, with his wife 
  and seven live-in servants
- Augustus Spencer, a 40-year-old bachelor and head of the Royal College of Art,
  at No. 8, with a visiting lecturer and two live-in servants
- Mary Caverley, a 73-year-old lady at No. 9, living on her own means with two
   live-in domestics

Children in Carlyle Mansions were conspicuous by their absence. In fact, there were only two under-age children in all the apartments, and they lived at No. 21, and were aged 7 and 2, respectively. Florence was never to have any of her own children.
 
Women's Suffrage
Florence Conybeare and her husband were strong Liberal supporters. Charles and Florence both keenly supported Women's Suffrage. Florence had supported Mrs Dickenson's Women's Suffrage Bill which had received its first reading in August 1907. Up till then, married women living in the same house were not regarded as 'joint owners' of that property in the eyes of the law.

The Dickenson Bill proposed that husband and wife living under the same roof should both be considered as 'joint occupiers' of the property. As a consequence, married women would have equal status with men and be entitled to vote, just like their husbands already could.

Treatise on Women's Suffrage
In 1908, Florence Conybeare wrote a treatise on women's suffrage which was published in the Commonwealth and Empire Review, entitled Some Objections Answered (Wiki). Here, Florence set out the case for giving women the right to vote, and rebuked a fellow suffragist, a Miss Calkin, whom she described as "an educated women anxious to persuade men to deny her sisters political recognition...". Click the above link for an annotated version of her complete treatise.

Florence sells 'Tregullow Offices' (1902)
In 1902, Florence and Charles Conybeare sold the 'Tregullow Offices' (later Zimapan), of which she was the co-beneficiary under the terms of her marriage settlement. Given her rights under the Married Women's Property Act of 1883, Florence Conybeare would have had an equal say in the property's disposal, and her signature approving the sale of the property would have had to have been on the 1902 Indenture. As expected, her signature is indeed on the 1902 Indenture.

Kent (1905-1916)
Between 1905 and 1916, Florence Conybeare lived some of the time in Oakfield Park, Dartford, Kent, and part of the time in 17 Kensington Palace Gardens, London. In 1905, the Conybeares bought or leased Oakfield Park (the house), which was situated in the grounds and estate also known as 'Oakfield Park' [for clarification, see Charles Conybeare's biography].
 
Woman of the Great War
During the First World War, Florence Conybeare became enthusiastically involved in the war effort. Florence was "quite a personality in Dartford" at that time. She wanted to raise sufficient funds to be able to buy and equip an ambulance which would be sent to the Front (France), which would be used to move wounded British soldiers from the battlegrounds back to the field hospitals. She appealed to all 'Florences' to come forward and volunteer their services, manning the ambulance in France. She managed to raise the funds for an ambulance, but her romantic notion of wanting to man the ambulance with paramedics all called 'Florence' [ed. presumably a nod to Florence Nightingale] was never realised.11

Girls Club in memory of Florence
Florence Conybeare died relatively young, without issue, aged 43, at 2 West Bolton Gardens, West Kensington, London, her parents' home, on 29 February 1916. According to the death certificate, she died from septic pneumonia followed a day later by heart failure. Charles Conybeare was present at her death. The residents of Dartford proposed setting up a girls club to commemorate Florence Conybeare's involvement in social work activities on behalf of women and babies.12 The club was eventually opened in the Westgate Road in Dartford.13
  
Obituary 
"It is with sincere regret that many in Dartford will learn of the sudden death of Mrs C.A.V. Conybeare of Oakfield Park, Dartford, which took place at her father's house, West Bolton Gardens, S.W. [ed. London]. Mrs Conybeare has been in failing health for the past 18 months, but no-one anticipated her sudden demise. Her husband, Mr C.A.V. Conybeare, late [ed. former] MP for Camborne, was unfortunately at Canterbury at the time. Mrs Conybeare had been staying with her father, Mr Gustav Strauss.

For some time, Mrs Conybeare has been actively engaged in VAD work14 at Charing Cross Hospital, S.W., and as recently as January 13th, when Lady Henry Grosvenor held a meeting at the new YMCA Hut at Dartford, she was present in VAD uniform. Whatever she took up, Mrs Conybeare did thoroughly and with a will. She was President of the Dartford Women's Liberal Association, and of the Babies Club, for the inception and carrying out of which she was mainly responsible. The body was cremated yesterday, and a memorial service is being held in London today".15 

Ingatestone
Florence Conybeare was buried in the cemetery of St Mary the Virgin Church, Ingatestone, Essex, and lies close to Charles Conybeare's parents. Charles had a large obelisk-shaped memorial erected in her memory, which is mounted upon a square stone plinth, and devised the following poignant inscription:

Here rest the ashes of
Florence Annie
The beloved wife of Charles Augustus Vansittart Conybeare
Late of 'Tregullow', Cornwall
Who gave her life in devoted service to the gallant sons of our Empire
She passed into immortality
on February 29th 1916
aged 43
She is not dead

Florence's memorial, Ingatestone

Photo: Florence Annie Conybeare's memorial, Ingatestone, Essex

Charles Conybeare followed her three years later, and his ashes lie in the same tomb as Florence's.

Probate
Probate was granted on Florence Conybeare's will in London on 18 August 1916, to her husband Charles A.V. Conybeare. Florence died a wealthy lady, leaving effects totalling £5,392 6s 2d, which in today's money (2010) is equivalent to £232,193.16 
 

Footnotes
1. Birth certificate of FAS, 23 October 1872, GRO.
2. The 1891 England Census.
3. The 1881 England Census.
4. Who Was Who, online edition, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007.
5. The 1891 England Census.
6. Marriage certificate, Conybeare & Strauss, 15 October 1896, GRO.
7. Source: Charles Booth Online Archive.
8. Marriage certificate.
9. See the 1896 Deed of Trust.
10. Who Was Who.
11. Dartford and the Great War, by Gethyn Rees, 1998.
12. Yesterday's Town: Dartford, by Geoff Porteus, 1981.
13. As f/n 11.
14. Voluntary Aid Detachment.
15. Dartford Chronicle, March 1916.
16. National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills & Administrations) 1861-1941; TNA's currency converter. 
Image of Charles Voysey, Vanity Fair, 21 Oct 1871, Wikipedia.

 
If you have a photograph of Florence, please contact the author...