Radford, Emma Louisa


Published in DA Transactions, 1937.

EMMA LOUISA, LADY RADFORD, J.P., F.R. HIST, SOC., F.S.A., who had been a member of the Association since 1888, died suddenly at Brighton on 26 April, 1937.

Her unexpected decease was a great shock not only to her colleagues in the Association but to all who had been connected with her in public work in the County of Devon.

She was the widow of Sir George Heynes Radford, J.P., Senator of the University of London, and M.P. for East Islington, 1906-1917.

Lady Radford was the daughter of the late Mr. Daniel Radford, J.P., of Bridge House, Lydford, and later of Mount Tavy, Tavistock. She was justly proud of being the first Devon woman to be elected to the Society of Antiquaries. On her election in 1936 the press alluded to this “unique family distinction”, three of her brothers having been Fellows of the same Society.

A keen student, an author of outstanding ability, an ardent historian, she was in addition a woman of affairs and sound judgement. It was not therefore matter for surprise that the Association at varying times conferred on her every honour at its disposal. Foremost among these was the office of President. In 1928 at the Lynton meeting she occupied the chair, the first, and so far the only woman to hold this high office. The range of her research work and historical interests is indicated by the following list of papers read by her at our Annual Meetings. Many deal with the Tavistock district, where she first joined, and where her absence in 1937 (after 48 years regular attendance) was much felt: Lady Howard of Fitzford, XXII; Lydford Church and Town, XXI and XXXVII; Sydenham House, XXVII; Andrew and Nicholas, Edmund and Richard Tremayne, XXX, XXXIII; The Wyses and Tremaynes of Sydenham, XLI; Tavistock Abbey and Charter, XLVI; Thomas Larkham, XXVI. Among other papers contributed to our Transactions are the Folk-Lore Reports in Vols. XLIII and XLIX, Henry de Bracton, LXIV; Nicholas Radford, XXXI; The Fight at Clyst and Plymouth China, XLIV; The Courtenay Monument in Colyton Church, XXXIX, LIII, and Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Devon, LXVII; Tinners of Devon and their Laws, LXIII, and Early Printing in Devon (her Presidential Address), LX.

The paper on Tavistock Charter deserves especial mention since it includes a reprint of the actual Charter granted by Charles II which had been ignored or forgotten till Lady Radford unearthed it at the Public Record Office. Her researches into the question of the birth-place of Sir Francis Drake excited much correspondence and controversy. Largely through her efforts a memorial tablet was erected at Crowndale near Tavistock, where it was unveiled by Sir Rudolf Bentinck, the Admiral commanding at Plymouth in 1927.

The foregoing summary of these fruits of a busy life might well seem to have occupied the whole of its energies, but in addition to these literary pursuits Lady Radford found time for much public work. Before going to Exeter 18 years ago, she represented Surbiton on the Kingston Board of Guardians, was Chairman of the Kingston-on-Thames branch of the Women’s “Land Army” and member of the Ralegh Tercentenary Committee in London and in Devonshire. She was the first co-opted woman member on the Old-Age Pensions Committee for Surrey at its formation.

In 1922 she was appointed one of the first women magistrates for Exeter, performing her duties assiduously till the time of her death. Exeter will miss her devotion to many of its societies and interests; she was an active member of the Council of the Friends of the Cathedral, a patron of most of the Exeter musical and artistic organisations, and effectively supported that city’s slum clearance and re-housing schemes.

She was the first woman President of the Devon and Exeter Institution, an office which she held at the time of her death, in addition to her Presidency of the Exeter Branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association. She was interested in Brabazon work and a regular attendant at the meetings of the Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society and of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The large and representative gathering at the funeral service in the Cathedral on April 29 was sufficient indication of the respect and esteem in which Lady Radford was held.

Lydford was the home of her girlhood, there she sang in the Church choir, there she was happily married, and there she now lies by her husband’s side in a quiet corner of the Churchyard.

Mr. G. McNeile Rushforth, F.S.A., an intimate friend of the family writes:

“The death of Lady Radford deprives not only the Devonshire Association but the whole County, and especially the City of Exeter, of a remarkably gifted personality. Her range of interests and activities was so wide that it is worth while to consider the various influences and elements which went to make up her many-sided character.

Lady Radford’s Obituary Notice of her father, Daniel Radford, J.P., written for this Association in 1900, makes it unnecessary to dwell further on him here, but we may mention that his great friend, the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, in dedicating the first volume of his Reminiscences to Lady Radford in memory of her father in 1923, says ‘During his long life the author has known many good men but none whose counsel and help have been to him more inspiring’.

Her marriage to her first cousin, George Heynes Radford, the founder of a well-known firm of London solicitors (Radford and Frankland of Chancery Lane) opened to her a new world of knowledge and experience. Intellectually his interests were in literature and politics rather than antiquities. He published volumes of verse and essays, and his was ‘the other hand’ that contributed the essay on Falstaff to Augustine Birrell’s Obiter Dicta. A Liberal in politics, he represented West Islington on the London County Council for ten years before winning the eastern division of the borough from the sitting Conservative member in the Parliamentary Election of 1906. His legal experience was of great service to Mr. Asquith’s Government in framing the Copyright and Criminal Law Amendment Bills, and he was knighted by King George V for his work for Education and Housing. A tribute was paid to his memory by the London County Council when (ten years after his death) they named a block of their working-class flats Radford House.

After her husband’s promising political career had been cut short by his death in 1917 (a victim of overwork in the war) Lady Radford settled in Exeter, where her home in Pennsylvania Park became the centre of her varied activities, practical, social and antiquarian. Her impressive character and wide experience brought her to the front, and it is hardly too much to say that in her later years she became a dominating personality in Exeter. No enterprise seemed to be complete without her co-operation, which was always freely given. One of her great interests was the Cathedral, her regular place of worship. It was due to her initiative that the famous English Jurist, Henry de Bracton (or Bratton) was commemorated in 1923 by the founding of a Bratton scholarship at the University College of the South-West, and by a memorial slab in Exeter Cathedral. She took an active interest in the setting up of an English altar on the site of ‘the Altar of Blessed Mary that Bracton made’ at the Octocentenary celebrations in 1933.

Though her historical and antiquarian studies were confined to English subjects, she (with her husband, and later with her daughters and son-in-law) was fond of foreign travel, especially in those parts of Europe where she could hear and speak French, which she did with fluency and enjoyment, having been at school near Paris. Quite late in life, however, she made an excursion as far as Hungary.

Like most of her family, Lady Radford was a collector, as evidenced by her collection of Plymouth china, a subject of which her paper for the Devonshire Association (subsequently extended for the London Devonian Year Book) showed her mastery; and the lives of the famous clockmakers, Daniel Quare, Thomas Tompion and Bartholomew Newsam which she contributed to the Dictionary of National Biography are evidence of scholarly research following keen interest in her subject. She will be remembered in this Association for the way in which she read her papers, her clear enunciation, pleasant voice, and sense of humour, all adding to the enjoyment of her hearers.

Besides the Devonshire Association other local antiquarian societies enjoyed her support, notably the Exeter Diocesan Architectural and Archaeological Society, at whose meetings and excursions she was frequently present, and in whose Transactions she published in January, 1933, a revised version of her paper on Tavistock Abbey, a subject she had made her own. She also supported the younger archaeological enterprises which have done much for the exploration of the most ancient fortified or inhabited sites in the West. Here she took a special interest in the work of her nephew, Mr. Ralegh Radford, F.S.A., who has now left Devonshire to fill the important post of Director of the British School at Rome. The brilliant way in which he has continued and enhanced the family tradition of archaeology was a legitimate source of pride to her.

Lady Radford enjoyed the blessing of being able to continue her activities and interests to the last, with physical health and intellect unimpaired. And she was no less fortunate in her end. She had gone to Brighton for a change of air and scene, and there, after a happy Sunday, she died peacefully in her sleep on April 26.”

Papers published in DA’s Transactions

Year  Vol.Pages
1889Mrs G. H. RadfordHistory of the Church at Lydford, with some Account of Its Rectors21171-200
1890Mrs G. H. RadfordLady Howard of Fitzford [1596-1671]2266-110
1892Mrs G. H. RadfordThomas Larkham [1602-1669]2496-146
1895Mrs G. H. RadfordSydenham27358-361
1898Mrs G. H. RadfordAndrew and Nicholas Tremayne30147-157
1901Mrs G. H. RadfordEdmund and Richard Tremayne [Edmund dd 1582, Richard dd 1584]33322-331
1903Mrs G. H. RadfordNicholas Radford, 1385(?)-145535251-278
1905Mrs G. H. RadfordLydford Town [Saxon origins and later history]37175-187
1907Mrs G. H. RadfordThe Courtenay Monuments in Colyton Church39144-155
1909Mrs G. H. RadfordThe Wyses and Tremaynes of Sydenham41131-151
1912Mrs G. H. RadfordThe Fight at Clyst in 145544252-265
1912Mrs G. H. RadfordPlymouth China44382-393
1914Mrs G. H. RadfordThe Charter of Tavistock46176-184
1921Lady RadfordHeraldry in Relation to the Courtenay Tomb in Colyton Church53216-225
1922Lady RadfordHenry de Bracton: A Plea for Remembrance [born 1200]54205-215
1928Lady RadfordEarly Printing in Devon (Presidential Address)6051-74
1930Lady RadfordNotes on the Tinners of Devon and Their Laws62225-247
1935Lady RadfordMargaret Beaufort, Countess of Devon67291-298

See also