Florence Louie Sillitoe Lewis was born in Wolverhampton in early 1879. Her father, Frederick Lewis, was an iron mineral broker. Both Florence and her elder sister Leonora were given the name Sillitoe after their maternal grandfather, a hide merchant who had spent many years in Buenos Aires, Argentina. All their aunts and uncles, on their mother’s side, were born in Argentina. Their mother, Louisa, the youngest, was born in Lancashire.
In the 1881 census, the girls were living with their parents at 7 Summerfield Road, Wolverhampton. The family had three domestic servants. By 1901, their father had died and they were living with their widowed mother in Kensington Court Gardens, London, with one servant.
Family in Datchet
Florence’s sister, Leonora, married Alexander Phayre Churchill in early 1908 at St Mary’s Church, Datchet. This suggests that the family was living here around that time. (Leonora and Alexander went on to have two daughters, Patricia Ellen and Primrose Elizabeth Daphne.)
By 1911 (possibly earlier) Florence and her mother had moved to Queensmead, a 10-roomed house in Buccleuch Road, Datchet, where they were living with a cook and domestic servant. (By 1915, the Widcombes were living to this address. They lost a son, Charles Ingleton Widcombe, during the war.)
Florence’s mother died in November 1911. Her probate records show that she was still living at Queensmead but that she had died at Princess Christian’s Nursing Home in Windsor.
Living at The Avenue
Leonora’s husband was in the military. During the war, while he was away, Florence, her sister Leonora, and presumably Leonora’s daughters, lived at 4 The Avenue, now number 7 (the house on the right of the photograph) during WWI. This house previously been the home of Ronald Brakspear before the war and then Leslie Nugent who died in December 1914. Both men are remembered on Datchet’s War Memorial.
50 hours a week with the VAD
Leonora and Florence both volunteered with the Voluntary Aid Detachment. Florence’s Red Cross records confirm that she was living with her sister, Mrs Leonora Churchill, in The Avenue.
Florence volunteered from September 1916 to February 1919. She clocked up 5926* hours of unpaid work which consisted of ‘nursing, night and day duty’. She had worked one day a week in the kitchen ‘before taking certificates for wards’, qualifications which allowed her to work as a nurse. (*5926 hours is an average of about 48 hours a week, every week from 18 September 1916 to 7 February 1919 although, at the start, Florence was only working one day a week.)
Florence was attached to the Bucks 14 VAD; Slough VAD Hospital Duchess of Connaught Auxiliary Military Hospital, Section A, Middle Green, Slough, Bucks. This was ‘Birchfield’, near Langley. The VAD hosital had previously been at St Bernard’s Convent (now St Bernard’s Catholic Grammar School) but had moved to Birchfield at the end of 1915. The hospital was attached to the Duchess of Connaught’s Canadian Red Cross Hospital at Taplow (in the grounds of Cliveden).
After the war
Florence, her sister Leonora, brother-in-law Alexander Churchill, and nieces, Patricia and Primrose, appear to have lived together in The Avenue for a few years after the war. They were still listed, under the name ‘Churchill, in local directories around 1920-1922. By 1925, Leonora and family had moved back to Essex.
Florence lived in Datchet until her death in 1966. She appeared in Kelly’s Directories as ‘Miss Lewis, The Avenue’ from 1924. She died at King Edward VII Hospital in Windsor. Probate was granted to her nieces’ husbands. Patricia had married Hinton Roger Swire Sanguinetti, and Primrose had married Archibald Hugh Maitland Stewart.