Essie Gaden’s Chair

This chair was always known as Essie’s Chair in the family of  Robert (Bob) Gaden who has donated the piece to the Land of the Beardies History House in Glen Innes, NSW.

Essie was aunt to Bob’s father Edward William Gaden, who was the son of Edward Noel Gaden. The chair made by Essie was hand carved with ‘poker work’ decoration.

Essie's chair

Essie Jenyns Gaden was the third child and second daughter of Sydney solicitor Edward Ainsworth Gaden and his wife Agnes Lilian Atherton. They initially lived in Sydney but then moved to Shepherd Street, Bowral and during the week he lodged at the Sydney Golf Club, catching the train back home on Friday afternoons.

Essie was born in March 1895.

GADEN.-March 21, at her residence, Adderstone, North Sydney, the wife of E. A. Gaden, of a daughter. (Sydney Morning Herald, 23 March 1895)

 NSW BDM Register 16749/1895     GADEN ESSIE J to EDWARD A (father) AGNES L (mother), ST LEONARDS (District)

Essie was named Essie Jenyns after a Shakespearean actress who was a close friend of her mother.


Playgoers who appreciate the “legitimate drama” will have noticed with regret that Miss Essie Jenyns, at the Criterion Theatre, will make her final appearance on Friday next. It has been arranged that there shall be two performances given on that day. In the afternoon “As You Like It” will be played, and in the evening, when the occasion will be a benefit to Miss Jenyns, the play will be “The Merchant of Venice.” On account of the great demand for tickets for the benefit the management have been compelled to set apart a few rows of the stalls as dress-circle seats. The audience each night of the present engagement has been a very large one, so there is every reason to believe that those who wish to see this talented young actress’s last performance will do well to be early in their places. (Sydney Morning Herald, 27 June 1888).

As a child Essie was an attendant at several weddings including that of Ina and Sydney Christian early in 1902.


A quiet but pretty wedding took place in St. John’s Church, Darlinghurst, on February 11, between Mr. Sydney Ernest Christian, eldest son of the late Mr. W. B. Christian, and Miss Ina Edith Christian, third daughter of Mr. J. B. Christian, of “Bondville,” Elizabeth Bay. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Canon Pain, assisted by the Rev. E. C. Beck. The bride, who was given away by her father, wore a very becoming trained gown of white satin, veiled with chiffon, trimmed with Honiton lace, a wreath of orange blossom, and a tulle veil. She wore a pearl pendant, and carried a bouquet of choice flowers, the gifts of the bridegroom. Her sisters, the Misses Helen and Lily Christian, were her bridesmaids. They wore dainty costumes of white silk, trimmed with black bebe velvet, chiffon fichus, and black picture hats. Three small maids were also in attendance, the Misses Essie Gaden, Mary Mathias, and Helen Morris, wearing white muslin frocks over silk slips, and white muslin hats trimmed with satin ribbon. They all carried bouquets of red carnations and roses, and wore pretty brooches, the gifts of the bridegroom. Major E. G. Antill acted as best man, and Mr. H. St. John Sweetland as groomsman. After the ceremony Mrs. Christian entertained a few intimate friends and relations at “Bondville,” and later in the day the newly-married pair left for their honeymoon, the bride wearing a gown of blue linen, prettily strapped and stitched, the vest, collar, and cuffs being of embroidered lawn; while a dark-blue straw hat trimmed with chine ribbon and black quills completed her costume.  (Australian Town and Country Journal, 22 February 1902).

 The Gaden family was well enough known to make the newspaper Gossip Columns.

 TEA-TABLE GOSSIP  Miss Essie Gaden is the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Roland Graham at Toorak. (Sunday Times, 6 May 1923).

 Essie wanted to travel to England… there is a delightful family story of her and a friend meeting Essie’s crusty, cantankerous father in a Coffee House. They told Mr. Gaden that they wanted to go to England and if he said ‘no’ they would slap his face and make a scene in public!

They did travel to England and it was there that Essie met and married Norman Hays, a man nearly thirteen years her senior.

 The marriage was celebrated at St. Mary Abbott’s, Kensington, on January 15, of Mr. Norman Isitt Hays, seventh son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Hays, to Miss Essie Jenyns Gaden, second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Gaden, of Sydney. (The Australasian [Melbourne], 27 February 1926).

Essie and Norman spent time in South Africa where Norman was in some sort of trade agency type of work and he was involved with vegetable farming.

They visited Australia in 1936 and stayed with Essie’s brother Noel and his family in Scone. It appears that the Hays had no children of their own.

 Mr. and Mrs. Norman Hays, who reside in England, and are now on an extended holiday in Australia, are staying at present with Mr. and Mrs. E. N. Gaden, at Scone. Before her marriage, Mrs. Hays was Miss Essie Gaden. (Scone Advocate, 28 August 1936)

 After the outbreak of the Second World War, Essie’s first cousin Major Geoffrey Gaden was fighting in France. In May 1940 he was one of the last of the 338,000 troops evacuated from Dunkirk and it was then that he asked Essie and Norman to take on a very special task. After the Dunkirk disaster, Geoffrey realised that life in Britain would become very difficult under attack by German bombs, with invasion a real possibility. He begged his cousin Essie and Norman (who were two of the very few people with the necessary documentation to be allowed to leave the country) to save his children by taking them to his homeland of Australia. Thus Essie and Norman became surrogate parents to six year old Michael and his sister Valerie.

They left England in July 1940 on a 12 passenger cargo ship the Port Fremantle in a convoy bound for New York. After they berthed the Italian waterside workers, in sympathy with their German counterparts, set fire to the ship’s cargo, forcing a very quick evacuation with young Michael clad only in a dressing gown. Norman and Essie continued on with their young charges, travelling to Australia via the Panama Canal and Auckland New Zealand. From there they boarded the American passenger ship Monteray which took them to Sydney.[1]

Apparently Essie owned land in Glen Innes and the group travelled from Sydney to Glen Innes by train and initially stayed at the Royal Hotel until they moved into a timber framed house constructed from cedar on the southern end of Church Street, about one mile from the town centre. Here Norman reignited his love of gardening and it was here that Michael developed his love of carpentry. Did he learn this from cousin Essie? Is this where Essie’s chair was made?

Later Essie and Norman moved to Macquarie Street in Glen Innes for the rest of WWII. Michael and Valerie attended Glen Innes Public School, Michael recalling the Skinner twins, the McEwin and Menzies boys in his class, with teacher Miss Nivison. These were the Gaden children referred to by Bud Brown in her autobiography Coffee with Roses, Miss Brown’s story. [2] She wrote:

The Gaden children, evacuated to Glen Innes from England, have always claimed that I taught them to sing – my favourites, hence forcibly theirs, being “There is a tavern in the town” and “Coming in on a wing and a prayer”. I was about 12 then, and couldn’t sing a note.

 Subsequently the children’s father was medically evacuated from his posting in Iceland and he retired from the Army on 30 October 1943. Geoffrey and Barbara then embarked for Australia on a ship owned by James Waite of Adelaide. In May 1944 Michael and Valerie were reunited with their mother who traveled by train up to Glen Innes to collect them. They returned to Sydney where their father had arranged temporary accommodation at the Watson Bay Hotel. From the start of second term in 1944 Michael attended Cranbrook School as a boarder in Rawson House and from 1948 to 1952 Valerie was a student of SCEGS Darlinghurst.

After the end of the war Norman and Essie Hays returned to Sydney, living in Heydon Street, Mosman where Essie died in 1957, aged 62 years.

Death registration  29032/1957 HAYS     ESSIE JENYNS     EDWARD AINSWORTH (father)    AGNES LILLIAN (mother)            CHATSWOOD (District)

After Essie’s death a bereft Norman returned to England, sending occasional letters back to the family of Essie’s nephew Bill Gaden.

A few years later Bill’s son Bob had a vague memory of “I think he died in Bognor Regis” but contact was lost.

Guessing that Norman returned to this area of Sussex because he had family there, we made contact with the Rootsweb Genealogy Mailing list for Sussex…. from the marriage notice we knew Norman’s middle name was Isitt and also his father’s name was Alfred.

Sure enough the most wonderful help was forthcoming so we now know the following:-

The census records show that in 1891 Norman was with his parents at 11 Waterloo Square, South Bersted (a village in the Arun district of West Sussex, England, which forms part of the built up area of Bognor Regis) and in 1911 he was visiting his sister Norah and her family in Epsom, Surrey.

Norman had returned from Sydney to live permanently in the UK on 4 May 1959 and his intended place of residence at that time was “Orchard End”, Southdown Road, Bognor Regis.

Norman’s ‘Death Notice’ appeared in ‘The Times’ newspaper (22 August 1970):

 On August 20th 1970 peacefully in his 89th year, Norman Isitt Hays, beloved husband of Essie Gaden of Sydney, Australia (deceased). Last surviving son of Alfred & Caroline Hays, much loved. Cremation 11:30 am Tuesday August 25th at Guildford Crematorium. Cut flowers to Gould & Chapman Ltd, Grayshott, Hindhead.

 GRO Death Index.  Name: Norman Isitt Hays, Birth Date: 5 Apr 1882, Date of Registration: Sep 1970, Age at Death: 88, Registration district: Surrey South Western, Inferred County: Surrey., Volume: 5g, Page: 1228

Surrey SW Registration District lies in rural West Surrey, in the area surrounding Guildford, so it would appear that he died there, although Bognor Regis may still have been his home address. The reason is because The Royal Surrey County Hospital is in Guildford and that has long been a specialist centre, especially for cancer treatment. Patients from the Bognor area would often be sent there (and also the Royal Marsden at Sutton) for treatment at that date.

If he returned to Bognor Regis for burial, the most likely locations are the churchyard at South Bersted or the town’s cemetery in Hawthorn Road. The nearest crematorium at that date would have been Findon Crematorium, near Worthing.

Probate index: HAYS Norman Isitt of Mount Alvernia, Bramshott Chase, Hindhead, Surrey died 20 August 1970, Probate London 16 October [1970], GBP 23975, so his last residential address was Hindhead, Surrey.

Norman died a relatively wealthy man with £23,975 to his name and we assume it would have been left to any remaining sisters and his nieces and nephews in England.

The Glen Innes connection continued when Essie’s youngest sister Gwendoline Courtenay Mackaen Gaden, always called Nancy, moved to Glen Innes. Nancy was born in 1908 and suffered from epilepsy and was not allowed to do anything for herself. She didn’t even know how to make a cup of tea. Her father’s Will (he died in 1938) left money to care for her so she never had to work during her life. She spent much of her time knitting socks and christening shawls.



After her father’s death Nancy lived initially with the Allens at Avoca Beach and then in 1963 she went to East Gosford before going to the CWA House in Glen Innes. She eventually needed a higher level of care and moved to the Tamworth area where she died at Moonbi House, Kootingal in 1996.


More on Geoffrey Charles Guy Gaden

Geoffrey Charles Guy Gaden was born in 1895 to Charles William Gaden and his wife (also his cousin) Isabel Cecelia Dibbs. She was the daughter of Sir Thomas Allright Dibbs and Tryphena Gaden and the niece of Sir George Dibbs, Premier of NSW.

From February 1910 Geoffrey was a student at ‘Shore’ School in Sydney. According to the Register he was student 1469 with his father’s address given as Idlemere,  Lavender Bay.

At some point Geoffrey contacted typhoid so at the age of 15 he was sent to a colder climate of England with the hope it would improve his health. He became a student at Lancing College in Shoreham, Sussex. On the outbreak of the First World War he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Irish Regiment (the Connaught Rangers) in July 1915 at the age of twenty.

In February 1917 he joined Major General FC Poole’s expedition to North Russia. He was subsequently awarded two Russian medals, the Order of St Anne (with Swords) and the Order of St Stanislaus (with swords) in 1917.

In January 1919 he embarked for Basra, India, and then returned to Australia to visit family for a few months. He transferred from the Connaught Rangers to the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment and spent time in Iraq and then the Colonial Office in Barbados. It was here he met and married Barbara Landon, a teacher at Queens College. They were transferred to India where their son Michael was born in August 1933 in Chakrata. When he was just 10 months old Michael was brought to Australia to visit relatives.

In 1935 the family was back in England and Geoffrey was promoted to Major. Soon after the start of the Second World War, by October 1939, Geoffrey and the British Expeditionary Force were fighting in France.

In 2014 Geoffrey’s World War I Diary was found under floor boards by a house renovator in Manly. The article with details was in the Daily Telegraph of 4 September 2014.


 More on the Gaden Clan

 Our branch of the Gaden’s are descended from William Hart Gaden and his wife Eliza Burton. William was born in St John’s, Newfoundland in 1799, to George Gaden and Emma Thistle. The family was involved in the shipping trade between St John’s and Poole in Dorset.

Eliza was born in England to Emmanuel Matthew Burton and Maria Taylor of Finsthwaite Hall, Lancashire. Emmanuel Burton owned cotton mills (which were attacked by the Luddites) and also Graythwaite House in the picturesque Lake District of England.

William Hart Gaden and Eliza Burton married in Hawkshead, Lancashire in 1829 and lived in St John’s Newfoundland where the first six of their children were born; the seventh was born on a ship off the coast of Cork, Ireland. The family then moved to NSW where their eighth child was born in Sydney.

On arrival in NSW William Hart Gaden set up a trading business based in Bent Street. He acted as the Belgian Consul and also sold goods as well as space on the ships.

William and Eliza’s eight children were:-

Maria Emma, b 1830, died unmarried in 1904 in Parramatta.

Cecelia Pymm, b 1832, she married Adam Davidson, had 3 sons and 4 daughters and lived on the Darling Downs of Queensland.

William Henry, b. 1833, married Georgine Boyce, 3 sons and 2 daughters. He became an explorer and pioneer of the Rockhampton area.

Thomas Brocklebank, b 1835, married Rosalind Davidson Mackaen, 14 children, including 9 sons. He was a banker with the Commercial Bank.

Roger Taylor Burton, b 1836, married Susanne Esther Parnell, 2 sons and 8 daughters, a pioneer of the Wellington area.

Robert Wakeham, b 1838, married Marion King Murray, 4 daughters. He had land at Brindgingabba, near Bourke, NSW.

Tryphena, b 1839, married Sir Thomas Allright Dibbs, lived at Graythwaite (now Shore School), 1 son and 7 daughters.

Edward Ainsworth, b 1841 in Sydney, married Frederic Eugene Kate Marsh, they had 2 daughters, lived on the land at Dulacca, Queensland. [3]

William Hart died in 1842 leaving Eliza to care for their young family with baby Edward just a few weeks old. The funeral notice read:-

Died at his house in Bent Street on Sunday evening the 23rd inst, after a few days of bilious fever William Hart Gaden Esq. the Belgian Consul to this colony. Mr. Gaden was an honourable man, a kind and affectionate husband and a good father. To his widow and eight young children his loss is irreparable. (Sydney Herald, 25 January 1842)

 William Hart Gaden is buried in the graveyard adjacent to St Peters Church and his headstone is still in existence, however not in the original position as the road was widened in 1927 and the front headstones were moved to the rear of the graveyard.

Fortunately for Eliza she was supported by Charles Abercrombie, a man who had become a friend to the family on their voyage to NSW, and in 1846 Eliza married him. Charles was a well know explorer who may have named the Abercrombie Caves near Bathurst and the Gaden Caves near Wellington.

 At Ryde, by the Rev. G. E. Turner, A.M , on Tuesday, the 28th instant, Charles Abercrombie, Esq., of Five Dock, to Eliza, relict of the late William Hart Gaden, Esq., Belgian Consul. [Sydney Morning Herald, 30 July 1846]

 Eliza and Charles Abercrombie went on to have two children of their own, Isabella born in 1847 and David in 1848.

The Gaden ancestor most associated with this story of Essie’s Chair is Thomas Brocklebank Gaden. One of his sons was Charles William Gaden (1859-1923), the father of Geoffrey Charles Guy Gaden and another son was Edward Ainsworth Gaden (1864-1938) who was father of Noel, Molly, Essie, Jim, Kitty and Nancy,


© Caroline Gaden, wife of ER Gaden, grandson of Noel.

[1] Michael Gaden, A Very Fortunate, Challenging Life, 2011, self published from Bordertown, South Australia.

[2] Bud Brown, Coffee with Roses, Miss Brown’s story, 1983, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, page 17, ISBN 0 949924 68 7

[3] Family history research by the author

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s