George Lines letter from Bellagio

This letter was written by my Grandfather. George Edward Lines, almost certainly in 1914, when he is working at Schweizerische Lokomotiv- und Maschinenfabrik , and before July, as Arnold Freeman is as yet unmarried.
I have left out some of what Grandpa called “padding”.

I was sorry those few flowers I sent in the envelope turned up in an indistinguishable condition - I was amused at Mouse thinking one might have been a daisy ! - it must have been a mess. So I have sent you a tinfull from Bellagio i.e. if they arrive at all. There were hundreds of varieties and it would be interesting to know how many different kinds are actually in the tin - you can make a sporting event out of it & have guesses. Mrs Freeman & the Twins knew practically all the names but of course I have forgotten them. They told me that they would pick up if totally immersed in water. The blue ones were gentians. That's the only tricky name I can remember. Well, I will tell you something about our holiday. Mrs F & Co. having been to München to fetch Daisy & her friend Bessie, they came thro' Swtiz'd on their way to Italy, and I joined them in the train @ Winterthur1 on Saturday afternoon. There were Mrs F.2 Arnold, Daisy, Dolly & Bessie i.e. 6 of us. We went on to Luzern the same night and stayed there till Monday morning. The Sunday we made an excursion to the Rigi which we climbed (per train). Monday morning we took train through the famous  St Gotthard tunnel, with all sorts of curious spirals etc, to Lugano & then by steamer & train we eventually at Bellagio of which the cards will give you a paltry idea. It is very lovely. It would suit you two down to the ground when you have a Continental honeymoon, only you must go about now as later on it is rather too hot they say. It is quite Italian of course and it all adds to the fun having to try and understand the blighters. We bought books on Italian but did not become very expert and when we did get something simple off our chests like good morning for example, it must have appeared to the natives as tho' we were making a speech. I should very much like to be able to speak it as it has such a musical sound when spoken decently. The Italian names too, I think are very pretty, - Bellagio e.g. You might re-christen Pudding - Susan Bellagio Stevens and Peter, - Peter Stefano Stevens ! They'd be bound to make their mark with them. Well as we did absolutely nothing there's not much to tell. We systematically lazed, eat and slept. We had brekker abt. 8, before which the girls annoyed the other residents in the Hotel by singing German Volksongs. After that & brekker, we got our lunch from the hotel & sloped off with it from abt. 2 miles, sat down & read aloud in turns (Shaw's, Cashel Byron' Profession), eat lunch, more reading & then back to tea by the lakeside to the tune of a violin & mandoline orchestra & Italian songs. The whole effect being very agreeable. Most of the time as you (at least Mummie) may imagine the ladies did that incessant needlework which goes beyond my comprehension. I suppose it corresponds w/smoking & is certainly a greater evil. After tea the usual programme was a stroll to shake tea down & prepare a vacuum for dinner. The said stroll inevitably passed thro' the shops, whose owners we exasperated by looking but not buying, at any rate for the next few days when as you can guess those who had money (i.e. all except me) wasted it on all sorts of Italian oddities of unquestionable worthlessness for numerous grandchildren & other kith & kin. Then came dinner which was rather jolly owing to the homeliness of the hotel and the sense of humour possessed by the waiters & Arnold.
After dinner we usually retired to one of our bedrooms and read aloud and did needlework (i.e. the ladies). The Freemans are all very keen on reading and its certainly not a bad way of passing the time. In any case the taste for reading is useful when one is old & a nuisance to everybody else. Arnold had to return to England on the Thursday owing to his girl's mother begin very ill, so I had 4 ladies to chaperon which not being much of a cavalier, I'm afraid I'm not great shakes at. I wished you had all been with us it would have been like Stoke3 again. Perhaps we shall be able to have another holiday together one of these days. I much prefer the Stoke type of holiday. I'm absolutely fed up with hotels very quickly. I'm rather afraid I shan't get any more time off before Xmas as when I asked for the week they gave me to understand in a rather condescending fashion that no holidays are, properly speaking, allowed in the first 2 years !! but that if I had a week I must consider it as my holidays this year! However if I can manage Xmas I will. Thank goodness I've only got 17 more months here. I think I should go mad if I stayed longer, and I certainly shan't do the latter. I rather hope Dee & Win4 will pay me a visit during the summer. I could weekend w/them. By the bye I read an official lookg. document a few weeks back re the lost letter. It gave small consolation however. There was a lengthy statement to the effect that "There was no trace of same in the British Postal Administration". You can picture for yourself the whole of the G.P.O. turning out drawers etc, and telegraphing the whole world over, in a tireless search.


  1. Winterthur was the headquarters of SLM, where Grandpa was working
  2. Mrs F. – Edith Freeman, widow of George James Freeman, and mother-in-law of Grandpa’s sister, Mary Freeman (neé Lines).
  3. I think this says “Stoke”, but it could be something else, e.g. “Stope”  I think I have seen a reference to walks along the “famous daily climbs up the cliffs at Stoke” which Grandpa took with the Stevens family, so presumably near Bristol.
  4. Winifred Lines (1890-1983), Grandpa’s youngest sister. I assume Dee was a friend of hers, or possibly Edith Lines (1880-1957), Grandpa’s eldest sister.

Famous Freemans

My Great Aunt, Mary Lines, daughter of Joseph Lines, married Ralph Freeman at St Olave, Stoke Newington, Hackney, on the 14th of July 1908.
Ralf Freeman’s father, George James Freeman died on 6th of April 1908, shortly before the wedding.

George James Freeman (~1853 – 1908)

George James Freeman, born about 1853, was the son of James Rykes Freeman, whose mother came from Holland, where James was sent as a young man to learn the cigar business. On his return to England James started his own tobacco business in Wales in 1839, which became JR Freeman and son. They produced several well know brands including Hamlet.
George married Edith Marion Henderson in 1875 and they had six sons and three daughters.
Of the sons,  Donald George Freeman (1877 – 1937), followed him into the cigar business, eventually taking over running the business.
Three of the other sons were sufficiently noteworthy in their own fields to warrant Wikipedia articles.

Ralph Freeman (1880-1950)

As well as marrying my Great Aunt,  Ralph became a famous Civil Engineer, designing,  amongst others, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which celebrated its 75th Birthday in 2016.

Plaque on Sydney Harbour Bridge

Arnold James Freeman (1886-1972)

Arnold Freeman was a writer, philosopher, anthroposophist, adult educator, actor, director, Fabian Socialist, Labour Party candidate and co-founder of the anthroposophical magazine, The Golden Blade. He was the founder and first Warden of the Sheffield Educational Settlement.
In the Wikipedia article it says that  “He and his sister Daisy spent a year at the Quaker Settlement in Woodbrooke,” –  Daisy will be (probably) Ada Marion Freeman – see below.
He was also probably the Anthony Freeman who was one of the witnesses, along with Joseph Lines, as the marriage of Ralph Freeman to Mary Lines in 1908.

Peter Bernard William Freeman (1888-1956)

Peter Freeman was Labour MP for Newport from 1945 to 1956.
He as also a director of J.R. Freeman Cigars, despite being a non-smoker, and is credited with inventing the brand name Manikin.
He was a keen tennis player and Lawn Tennis Champion of Wales three times, as well as being a vegetarian and writer on Vegetarianism.
He married Ella Drummond Torrance, daughter of Andrew Mitchell Torrance, Liberal MP for Glasgow Central from 1906 to 1909.

The daughters

Edith Elizabeth Freeman – born 1885, shown as Patty E. in the 1901 Census. She married James Edmonson, 1st Baron Sandford who was Conservative MP for Banbury from 1922 to 1945.

The Twins

Ada Marion Freeman – born 1895. Known in the family as Daisy. She became a doctor and was the family doctor of George Bernard Shaw.
Ellen Dorothy Freeman –  born 1895.  Known in the family as Dolly.

John Robert Box

John Robert Box was my Great Grandfather. He was Born on 17 August 1849 at  21, Upper Charles St, Clerkenwell, and died Died on 17 June 1926 at Lynwood, Emsworth , Hampshire aged  76.


He went to Highgate School, which was known in those days as Roger Cholmeley School, after is founder, Sir Roger Cholmeley. He was a pupil from September 1860 to April 1868.

He was awarded a copy of Richard Whatley‘s commentaries on Bacon’s Essays as School Mathematics  Prize in 1868.


He was a nurseryman, Begonia specialist, Seed Merchant.
In the 1861 Census he is visiting his Great Uncle, George Braund, who was a Linen Draper in Dartford, Kent at the time.
In the 1871 Census he would have been 21, but is not in his parents household and is probably at the home of Robert Bryson, his uncle in Edinburgh.
In the 1881 Census he was 31 and living with his parents, in Hornsey,  at 1 ??Caln Terrace, and his occupation is “Seedsman, Nurseryman and Florist at 7, ??Dest (possibly Forest??) Hill, Kent employing 50 men and boys”
His advertisement in The Gardeners Chronicle of 1887 says

BEGONIA SEED.- Box's Jubilee varieties,
choicest from latest prize singles, per packet, ls. and
2s. 6d; double, the most reliable, very special, per packet,
2s. 6d. and 5s; very extra pure double white, per packet, 5s.
and 10s. Sow now. See other Advertisement of Tubers.
J. R. BOX (for last ten years J. Laing's partner), Surrey
Seed Warehouse, Croydon.

John Laing (whose catalogue from 1894 is shown below) was another Begonia specialist.

Note that this would tie in with John Box 1881 Census entry being Forest Hill as that is where John Laing’s nursery was.
John Box advertised in The Gardeners Chronicle of January to June 1894 where his advertisement reads

BOX'S BEGONIA SEED.— For germination
and quality of flowers superior to all others. Per
packet, single mixed, 1s. and 2s. 6d. ; larger packets, 5s. ;
double mixed, packets. 1s. Qd. and 2s. 6rf. ; larger packets, 5s.
Sow now. Ask for PRICE LIST of Tubers, and Pamphlet
on Culture.
JOHN R. BOX, Seedsman and Begonia Grower, Croydon.

Begonia culture for amateurs says

I have never been able to obtain such good results, either in germinating power or in quality, from bought seed (single or double) as from that of my own saving ; but I may perhaps be allowed to say that by far the best Begonia seed, double especially, I have ever obtained was from Mr. J. R. Box, of Croydon ; both in quality and germinating power nothing better could be desired.

It is possible that the Begonia Rosie Box was named after his eldest daughter Rosina.

In the 1891 Census he was living at 65, Wellesley Road, Croydon, Surrey, England, with Ada, Rosina, Leonard, Dorothy and Margaret, as well as Margaret Waller (22), a Nurse, and Jessica Giles (18), a general domestic servant.

In 1918 he was living at 80, Northampton Road, Croydon (OSM), as  The Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Home and Foreign Service writes to him at this address, reassuring him about his daughter, Margaret, who had gone off as  a volunteer nurse in Serbia.


He married Ada Webster on 6th February 1894 at He had one son, my Grandfather – Leonard Box (1886 – 1967) and five daughters, Rosina Janet Braund Box (1884-1969), Dorothy Box (1887-?), Edith Mary Box (1889-1959), Margaret Ada Box (1890-1986), Norah Constance Box (1898-1987).

From Hotel Mittelhauser in Cologne – 14th August 1913

My Grandfather wrote from the Hotel Mittelhauser in Cologne on 14th August 1913.


This is probably the right hotel. (Note that it does not show up on the published page  – but click the link to see it)

Hôtel Mittelhäuser Cöln.
Fernsprecher No 611
Cöln, den 14 August 1913
Am Haupbahnhof, Dom und Hauptpost
Dear Mummie & Daddie/
Just a line to help keep my English in form. Thought I must admit that up to the present my German seems limited to enquiring for the way and for grub.
However grub seems to be the one and and object of existence over here; no wonder the Germans are so fat.
 You will see I have arrived at Cologne where the "Eau de" comes from. This is really the start of my campaign for a job. Horrid thought !
 I got your card just before I left London - fancy troubling when in the grip of Sciatica. I'm so sorry, because I know it must be pretty bad, for you to ?strike.
 You really must try my infernal machine !
No more 60 mile cycle rides, unless you take at least 2 days over it. If I cycled 60 miles in one day I should have all the -aticas under the sun.
 When at Hamburg I paid a visit to Hagenbecks Zoo. The kiddies would have loved it. The animals are more or less in natural surroundings and are kept from devouring the spectators by trenches or parapets. One of these days a specially expert bear will give an extra long leap & set up a record.
 In one place there were dogs, wolves, teddy bears and lion cubs and a hyaena all living in perfect bliss. The teddy bears were the cheekiest though, and seemed to rule the roost. The hyaena was a surly beggar.
 It is funny here to see dogs helping to pull carts in the streets; everyone seems to work and the women hardest of all. But I suspect the Manager at 3 Abbey Gardens, could give them points. Everyone seems to be in an official position here, and really you could mistake the policeman for field-marshals. They are all very good tempered however and I am no longer frightened of them. By the by, I have seen hundreds of our old friends the British-Holsteins over here. Apparently it is their native place.
 I have been getting lovely peaches for about 6d a pound off the street merchants, but in the shops as soon as they see you’re an Englishman they try & do you. Will I'm rather tired after tramping all day, and being by oneself seems to tire more quickly - so I'll get me to bed - the latter are very comic and consist of a series of different sized pillows & bolsters. Love to all Chief.

Also – diagonally at the top left is written

So sorry to hear abt. Uncle Willie. I never had the pleasure of meeting him byt I am sure he must have been very sweet from what you've told me

3, Abbey Gardens, Keynsham, near Bristol was, presumably, the home of the Stevens family at the time. It does not appear to exist today,  probably its location was under the A4 Keynsham Bypass, close to the site of Keynsham Abbey.

Farming at Grove Farm, Box, Wiltshire

My Grandparents moved into Grove Farm, at Box in Wiltshire some time after the First World War. As they married on 19th August 1922, and Grandpa was discharged from the army on 8th April 1919, it is quite likely that he moved to the farm before 1922.

Grove Farm

Map of Grove Farm courtesy of Steve Wheeler

Grove Farm is a Grade II Listed Building, (or more accurately two terraced houses on the farm are).
Grove Farm, Box Hill, is quite an isolated area which grew up very quickly with stone quarrying after Box Tunnel was built in 1841. The farm was owned by the Northey family, lords of the manor 1726 – 1919, then put up for auction on 24 May 1923, possibly selling (with sitting tenant) to Fred Neate, who owned a considerable amount of land in the area.

It’s called Grove House on the auction Sale Particulars map above where the area farmed by GE Lines is shown pink, comprising 43 acres, 3 roods, 14 perches, described as Valuable Dairy Farm. The farm house was on 3 floors with gas and water supplied which appear to have been installed by the tenant (possibly my Grandfather). The dairy appears to have been a 6-tie cow-stall.
It is on the fringe of Box Hill Common, which was bought by the council for public access after a huge argument in 1970s about developing it.
Thanks to Alan of for the above information.

Farming at Grove Farm

He was probably farming there by 1922, as according to page 74 of “From G&J to Tri-ang” – written by Peggy Lines and privately published – the origin of the name Pedigree came via a visit to the farm:

Then, in 1922, the problem was solved in a somewhat unlikely manner when Will and Walter visited their brother George at his farm in Gloucestershire where he was trying to raise a heard of pedigree pigs. There and then, amidst all the mud and muck which those animals create, the brothers agreed that Pedigree was just the name they had been looking for to describe their beautiful new prams!

I suspect this should be Wiltshire.
While at the farm he sold eggs and chickens

Mr Lines selling Pure, Fertile Eggs at 4s per dozen at the farm plus a variety of cockerels, ducks and specialist hens.

from The Bath Chronicle, 27 January 1923

Mr Lines selling Light Sussex, White Leghorn, Barneveld, Pekin (sic) Drake, White Runners... Inspection Invited

from The Bath Chronicle, 15 March 1924

Thanks to Alan, from for these references.

My Grandmother used to deliver eggs, riding a motorbike with sidecar. This may have been the same motorbike and sidecar which was later used by my uncle Michael and aunt Fanny on their many visits to the Coastguard Cottage at Birling Gap.

Leaving the farm

According to “From G&J to Triang” – page 106

George joined his father in 1923

However I suspect it was later than this as my Uncle Michael, born 16th March 1924, had his birth registered in the Chippenham registration district, whereas my father, Roger, born 12th May 1926, was born in Southgate.
The farm, along with the whole village of Box, struggled in the Great Depression after the war, as chronicled in and this surely was a major factor in my Grandfather giving up the farming he loved to go and help his father in the G&J Lines toy business. It is also probable that the death of his mother, Jane, on 7th June 1925 influenced the decision.

Connections around Box

Box Tunnel

It is possible that one of the things which attracted my Grandfather, as an Engineer by training, to the area was Brunel‘s famous Box Tunnel, which allows the Great Western Railway to pass through the hill on its way from London to Bristol.
Coincidentally Pendon Museum, which is has a large model of the Vale of the White Horse, where I used to live and work, incorporates the Box Tunnel into its scene (there being no suitable tunnel in the Vale to suit the layout).


When he moved away from Grove Farm my Grandfather called the house he rented in Cheam “Pickwick”, and then the house he had built in Kingswood was also named “Pickwick”.
Pickwick is a now part of Corsham, but was probably still a separate hamlet when my Grandfather lived in the area.  A baby boy was found in this area around 1748, and was named Moses Pickwick. His grandson, Eleneazer Pickwick, became a successful businessman, running a coaching business, and it believed that Charles Dickens named his main character in The Pickwick Papers, after the name he saw on coaches on the Bristol to Bath route. My uncle and father then named their family newspaper “The Pickwick Paper“, after the novel by Dickens.

George Edward Lines

George Edward Lines was my Grandfather. He was the son of Joseph Lines and Jane (née Fitzhenry).
A poetic summary of his life can be found in ‘Ode to a Nonagenarian
He was  a prolific letter writer, and I have inherited some of the ones he wrote, which I have used to piece together some of his life story.
In the following OSM links are to OpenStreetmap maps.
He was born in Islington (OSM) on 28th January 1888.
Before the war he went to Germany looking for work there.

His Official War record shows the documented history of his recruitment, wounding in action and being awarded the Military Cross.
His letters written during the war show the more personal side.

He married Doris Joan Stevens, my Grandmother, on the 19th August 1922.
After the war he farmed at Grove Farm, Box (OSM) for a while, until the Depression and his father’s need for his help with the family business sent him back to London.
After the death of his father he worked for Lines Brothers, the toy company founded by his brothers, until he retired.
They were living on Anne Boleyns Walk, Cheam, Surrey (OSM) in 1932,  when Tim was born.

The Cottage,
55, Anne Boleyn's Walk,
Cheam, Surrey
 Tel. Sutton 3081

They moved into  Pickwick, Warren Drive, Kingswood, Surrey (OSM) in 1935 – they had it built – and were still living there in1957.