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Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet


The Autobiography of Mrs St Osyth Wood

mrs wood
Date 1940
Mrs Wood Age 54 yrs

St Osyth Mahala Eustace-Smith
was born 1886 in Hampstead, London.
She was the daughter of Thomas Eustace Smith and Katherine St Osyth Howard.
Her father Thomas (b1855/d1936) was a JP and Barrister with offices located at No4 North Hill in Colchester.

Her mother was Katherine Howard (b1853/d1933) before marriage.
Born in Bedford, the daughter of James Howard
(b1821/d1889)MP, Agricultural Engineer employing 700 hands, landowner and farmer
Katherine’s mother was called Mahala and came from St. Osyth in Essex.
"Mahala" is also very common name originating from Hebrew meaning "tenderness"

At some period in time the family moved out of Wormingford Grange to take up residence at his offices in Colchester (see footnote)

St Osyth was very active in local community work before and after her marriage.

Records show:- “The Colchester National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) was formed in January 1912 with Miss Eustace Smith (Wormingford Grove, near Colchester) as its secretary”. She would have been 26yrs old at this time.
This reference appears on p91 of Elizabeth Crawford’s book The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland.
It is also mentioned in the Essex County Standard on Feb 10th 1912.

Unlike the militant "Suffragettes" these women campaigned for the vote through non-militant means, so they didn’t resort to the arson attacks and other violent protests.

On the 7th June 1918 "The London Gazette" reported Miss St Osyth Mahala Eustace-Smith receiving an OBE for her work as "Hon Secretary, Essex Local War Pensions Committee".
She would have been 32 yrs of age at this time.

St Osyth was married (age 38yrs) to Thomas Wood on 2 July 1924 in Wormingford Church, Essex.
Wormingford is the adjacent parish to Bures.
<<<< Read text

The London Gazette and The Times reported her death on Nov 1st 1970, residing at: Cedar House, Wasperton. Warwick.
She would have been 84 years of age. Her ashes like her husband Thomas were interned at Parsonage Hall.
According to records, St Osyth left a personal estate of £799,000.

St Osyth Mahala Eustace-Smith

Notes from Parish Council Minutes dated March 1961,
confirming the Hall benefactor.

It seems reasonable to imply that her Christian name of "St Osyth" was taken from her mothers middle name.(Katherine St Osyth Howard).
Katherines own mother, "Mahala Howard" originated from St Osyth, a village in Essex - presumably the origin of the family name.

<<< Age 75yrs

Mrs Wood originally made a small donation to the Parish Council in order to start the fund raising for a new Village Hall to replace the delapidated wooden Victory Hall.

The initial fund raising acheived very little response from the parishioners, they thought it was up to the Parish Council to finance.
However, the Parish Council opted for another wooden structure at a cost of £3,000.
St Osyth was not impressed with this suggestion and put forward the argument for a modern brick structure. However the cost of this would be in the region of £10,500 which would include the fittings. With no more ado, St Osyth donated £7,000 towards the cost with the remainder coming from the Ministry of Education.

So, the Parish Council didn`t finance the new Hall whatsover, it was financed by these two single donations.

Today, very few people in the community know of St Osyth and think the Village Hall was financed by the Parish Council - incorrect assumption.

village hall plaque
Opening of the Bures Village Hall 1961.
(Plaque inside the entrance door)

The St Osyth Wood Cups

Mrs Wood donated two cups (see below) to the the organisors of the the Music Section of Sudbury Festival of Performing Arts - originally "Clare Festival". They are awarded each year to Schools and Churches for their outstanding musical achievements.

wood In the 1950's Mrs St Osyth Wood was President of the then Clare Festival.
Clare School (presumably Junior) wanted to have a school orchestra to enter the Festival so Tom Wells (author of these memories) asked the parents to look in their attics for any "old fiddles" Some 30 turned up & after repairs had been done a string orchestra was formed. Mrs St Osyth Wood said that they ought to have some woodwind so she bought a clarinet & flute for the school & paid for a tutor to come from Bury St Edmunds to teach pupils how to play them.

<<< dated 1940.

Mrs Wood then donated a cup, called the "St Osyth Wood Part Song Cup for Adult Choirs".
The first recipient was in 1968 – Gt Waldingfield Church, although it does say on the front, "Presented by Mrs St Osyth M E Wood OBE 1967"
However, this may have been given a lot earlier as Clare Festival was originally only for choirs. It was the schools responsibility to engrave their schools name on the cup, it`s possible earlier winners may not have undertaken this task.
The current holder is "Braintree Male Voice Choir"

Later she then presented the Festival with the "St Osyth Wood Junior Schools Orchestra Cup" This now resides with St Margaret's Preparatory School at Gosfield, being the latest winner during 2009.
The cup`s inscription confirms the first recipient was Clare Primary School in 1966.

The cup was not presented for some years, but came to light again a couple of years ago when the Sudbury Festival reallocated a new block of classes as an inducement for new entrants!

Courtesy of Mrs Helen Flute, Sudbury Festival for considerable assistance.
also St Margarets Prep School Gosfield for their patience.
Acknowledgment to:- "A Festival President Presents his Festival Reflections" by Tom Wells, which has not been printed or published.

Village notes contributed from various sources.

It has been well documented that St Osyth smoked untipped cigarettes incessantly, Weights and Woodbines, and was a very generous, fiercely intelligent and almost frighteningly observant woman.
The latter can be substantiated by the following story:-

During 1962/3 a local resident decided to build a very modern home at Mount Bures based on a design from the Ideal Home Exhibition. The lounge and kitchen being upstairs with a balcony to make full use of the panoramic views across the valley. When the owner arrived at the building site one day to see the progress, she was greeted with a chauffeur driven car standing on the drive and Mrs Wood making herself at home on the site. The owner was informed by Mrs Wood wearing a formidable flowery hat, that this modern type of house was a blot on the landscape which she could see from Parsonage Hall. It was a disgrace ! She was very polite, but made her views known about modern construction techniques.
Parsonage Hall is approximately 1.5miles from the house in question.

St Osyth was also noted for her ability to create dolls furniture out of mahogany, an extremely hard wood to work with.
The Essex Handicraft Association (now closed) drew up plans for a magnificent Dolls House in 1955 to Architectural standards based on a typical large Essex House, it was subsequently called "The Essex Model House".
The initial idea emanated from Lady Riche of Boreham Manor, using the services of architect Martin Evans from Feering.
Nobody was prepared or could build such a house and the concept didn't materialise for several years until St Osyth accepted the challenge.
It was a magnificent construction, made out of Mahogany and the furniture made out of "Pear" wood. It had genuine parquet flooring.
It was so large, it is rumoured a professional plasterer was employed to decorate the interior.
This stood for some time in Parsonage Hall at Bures on display.

Today, it stands on display at the Braintree Museum - Click here for detailed images
(thanks to Janet Brunswick, Aylesbury for this information)

St Osyth also made two complete model villages. They were based on real places and had everything from the Church and grave yard to the School and Manor. The detail was fantastic with little tiny flower beds, a dove cot, cedar and poplar trees together with walls off all kinds.
One of the villages is located in Scotland and the other location is unknown.
(thanks to Virginia Smalley, Scotland)

Needlework and embroidery was another one of her many skills - St. Osyth had put in her will that her workbox and needlework should be passed on to the Embroiderers Guild. This is now kept in the archives of the Embroiderers Guild at Hampton Court, Middlesex.
Located within the palace are two craft organisations: the Embroiderers Guild and the Royal School of Needlework.
see notes below by Neville Hume.

Dr Wood and St Osyth also help finance the purchase of Vicarage Meadows during the 1940`s. This now accommodates the local Cricket Pitch and lies adjacent to todays Recreation Ground.

St Osyth was supposedly a Governess at Roedean School for Girls at Brighton (unconfirmed by Roedean)
However, St Osyth was a pupil at Roedean from the Summer Term 1900 to the end of the Michaelmas Term 1902.

St Osyth contributed £100 to start of the village contributions for a new Village Hall. The sum required was never reached and St Osyth made up the balance, the final figure may have been in the region of £12,500.
The plaque inside the door today just says "opened by St Osyth Wood June 1960" - this is an understatement she did more than open it, she financed the entire project.

There is record of a "St Osyth M E Wood" being a passenger on two ships. One arriving at Liverpool and the other at Southampton. Her name is just documented as being a passenger, cannot be too many people with that name. No idea of date.

St Osyth was 80yrs when she moved out of Bures to live with her Godson, Christopher Swan in a beutifull Cedar House at Wasperton.
Parsonage was too large now for her to maintain and so she moved away in order that someone else could manage her affairs
Christopher and his wife Marianne converted an annex for St Osyth together with her housekeeper to live in.
Christopher was of a friend of Joyce Swan from Roedean.
He died in a car crash within a year of St Osyth's death.
(Virginia Smalley)

"St Osyth" by Neville Hume.

St.Osyth came from a wealthy background and never had to work for financial reward. She was self-taught in many aspects of embroidery and was highly intelligent. In the early 1950s Queen Mary invited her to lunch and to bring some pieces of her work to Sandringham House having heard of her work via one of her ladies-in-waiting who had seen her embroidery in an arts and crafts exhibition in Blakeney, Norfolk. St. Osyth worked two pieces of silk embroidery for the Queen, one of which was a copy of the centrepiece of her casket which was a portrait of Queen Elizabeth the first. She also made a lot of miniature furniture for the Essex Model house which is on display in Braintree Museum. This entailed carpentry, painting, upholstery and lacquering all in miniature and was exquisite work.

She was awarded the OBE in June 1918 for her duties as Honorary Secretary of the Essex Local War Pensions Committee. She performed many duties in the 2nd World War and was a generous benefactor to the village of Bures where she and Thomas lived at Parsonage Hall virtually all their married lives. She also supported artists in other media - for instance Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Osyth was a very retiring and private person.

She spent the last 3 years of her life in Wasperton, Warwickshire sharing a home with her godson and his wife. They were Christopher and Marianne Swann. Christopher was the son of her school friend from Roedean.

She died on 1st November 1970 in Wasperton and was cremated and her ashes returned to Parsonage Hall. Christopher inherited her estate but was killed in a car crash only 10 months later. St. Osyth had put in her "Will" that her workbox and needlework should be passed on to the Embroiderers Guild. This is now kept in the archives of the Embroiderers Guild at Hampton Court, Middlesex.
Located within the Palace are two craft organisations: the Embroiderers Guild and the Royal School of Needlework

My link with St. Osyth was via my parents who both worked for her when she lived with her husband in Bures. My father (Alfred Hume) was her chauffeur / gardener and my mother was her housekeeper. After her husband's death in 1950, they moved into the Parsonage Hall to help her to maintain the house. My brother and I therefore grew up knowing her. She showed kindness and generosity to both of us to help further our careers as she did to untold others.

For instance, just one of her many kind gestures was to donate the cost for rebuilding the village hall in Bures in the early 60s with a donation of some £7,500.

The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth 2nd was held on 2nd June 1953.
To commemorate this event, St Osyth planted various plaques on trees on the Recreation Ground.
It would appear at the same event the Recreation Ground was renamed the "St Osyth Playing Field"

see 1953 Coronation brochure>>>

Suffolk Free Press, December 1948







Research by Alan Beales .webmaster
Death and Christian name information taken from Who`s Who.
Smith Dock Company info taken from Wikipedia
Acknowledgement to Amanda and Neville Hume, Virginia Smalley.
NUWSS information
Courtesy of Colchester Museum Resource Centre

Death of Thomas Smith:- Essex seax records: Recites: ...that Thomas Eustace Smith, formerly of Wormingford Grove, afterwards of 4 North Hill, Colchester, barrister at law, died 8 August 1936, seized of property as above appointment of the vendors as executors of the will of Thomas Eustace Smith, proved 19 November 1937

updated 03/02/2017