Alice Mary Hemery
Alice Mary Hemery was born in 1852 in Jersey. She married the Rev Charles Gosselin McMahon Wilder on 23 November 1869. He was the Rector of Great Bradley in Suffolk. In 1871 they are recorded as having four servants. They had two children, Ethel Leila Wilder, born 1872 in Suffolk, who died in 1942, and Evelyn Augusta Wilder. Alice died on 9 December 1927. A third child called Mabel had died soon after her birth in July 1870.
Alice’s husband is described as a ‘young sporting parson’ He apparently broke his neck hunting and left her little money. She made her home at Glencairn with Minnie (Emily). Later when aunt Julia became ‘a little vague’ and someone was needed to live with her to look after things, Alice lived at Colomberie for six months of the year. Julia Hodges and another relative each took three months with her.
After the death of her husband, Alice Wilder and her daughters seem to have spent their time visiting different members of their families. In 1881 they are with the Bentleys, in 1891 two of them with the Kernaghans, in 1901 Alice with the Cookes, Ethel at Colomberie and Evelyn in Birkenhead with two of the Kernaghan girls.
Evelyn Wilder also visited Julia at Colomberie. At the end of her visit Julia said ‘My dear, you have received a great deal of hospitality, we must give a party for you before you go home'. As she sketched out the proposed guest list Evelyn realised that only the most select people were to be asked – none of the people she would have specially liked were being considered. So she resolved to do something about it. When Aunt Julia went to place the orders for the party, Evelyn took careful note of what was ordered and where – and went round the following day and trebled the orders for everything! She then sent out all the extra invitations. As the days passed, Aunt Julia would say mildly at breakfast, ‘How very strange. I would have thought all our replies would have been here by now, yet there are a great many more in the post this morning!’
There was a beautiful staircase at Colomberie with a minstrel’s gallery. For Aunt Julia’s parties musicians would play in the gallery, she would come down to receive the Governor and would conduct him to the drawing room on the first floor where he would receive all the other guests with her. More and more guests arrived, and the party was a great success. And when it was over the moment came for Evelyn to make a clean breast to Aunt Julia of what she had done. Aunt Julia sat quite still and didn’t speak for a while. At last she said ‘Well my dear, I must thank you for giving me the best party I have ever had.’ Evelyn felt a complete wretch but thought it was marvellous of Aunt Julia to take it like that. It shows the circles Aunt Julia normally moved in, and that Evelyn had plenty of friends in Jersey.
Earning a living
After the death of their father, Evelyn and Edith were in the difficult position of having to earn their livings in a day when a lady could only earn her living respectably by being either a governess or a companion. Evelyn was resolved to be neither. She did all sorts of jobs. Apparently the job she liked best was managing the needlework school attached to a convent in Sicily. There were many English and American visitors to Sicily, and Evelyn received people who came to see the needlework and managed all the business side of the school. She did this for several years.
Uncle Edward Hemery left the Wilders money, and Edith and Evelyn built themselves a villa in St Moritz, the Villa Roselle. Evelyn came back and worked in munitions during the First World War. She had to photograph guns destroyed in action and was able to prove by her photographs that many of them were being blown to bits by faulty British ammunition rather than by German action. Her work was important enough for her photographs to be displayed at a meeting of the Cabinet called on this subject. Far stricter controls were then brought in for armament manufacturers. She and Edith went back to St Moritz after the war. It is believed that sometime in the 1920s the villa was sold and Evelyn came back to England.
Evelyn had a morning chocolate service in jewelled Sevres porcelain, apparently painted by Boucher, which had come from Colomberie. She left it to the Cheltenham Fire Brigade for their kind help when the kitchen chimney caught fire.
Evelyn researched the family history in Jersey and also holidayed in Normandy to try and find the links there. She made many notes.