Lady Agnes Jekyll (daughter of William Graham, MP) was Gertrude Jekyll’s sister-in-law being married to her brother Sir Herbert Jekyll (1846-1932). They lived at Munstead House, Busbridge.
Lady Agnes Jekyll was rewarded with the honour of Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in the 1918 New Year Honours List for her war work with the Order of St John running a medical supplies warehouse in Clerkenwell and as a volunteer in the wartime ambulance service.
“Both in her public work for those of her own sex who were in trouble and in her private relations Lady Jekyll was the kindest of women, and possessed in a remarkable degree the love and gratitude of people of all walks of life.” From Lady Jekyll’s obituary published in The Times on 29 January 1937.
In her autobiographical introduction to Ne Oublie Lady Jekyll describes the war years:
“Life in London was full and gay through 1912-1914. Then the crash came, and one can remember little but a hideous confusion throughout the next five dark anxious years. The hospital supply work from St John’s Gate absorbed my energies, variegated with air raid duty at night, and the minor difficulties of commissariat and transport for all of us. Herbert was working on the Finance Committee of St John and Red Cross and involved with many war-time activities. Everywhere was grief and death. My son in law Francis McLaren was killed flying, and my sister Frances and her husband Jack Horner, and her daughter Katherine Asquith both suffered grievous bereavement when Edward and Raymond were killed.”
Lady Jekyll is regarded for being a ‘domestic goddess’ and is better known today for her “Kitchen Essays” which were published in The Times after the 1914-18 war. These were later published as “Kitchen Essays, with recipes and their occasions” Nelson (1922) and a facsimile was published by Persephone in 2001.
Throughout her life she was concerned with causes connected to the welfare of women and girls both locally and nationally. She was chairman of the visiting committee of the Borstal Institution for Girls, Aylesbury, she was on the Management Committee of East End Maternity Hospital, from 1925 she was a magistrate on the Guildford Bench and she sat on the panel of children’s courts and later became a governor of Godalming County Grammar School.
Her goddaughter Mary Lutyens wrote of visiting the Jekylls at their London address and at Munstead in her biography of her father Edwin Lutyens, (Edwin Lutyens by his daughter Mary Lutyens, published by John Murray, 1980) “Agnes Jekyll was a very cultivated woman, widely read: she had travelled much with her father and had a host of friends”. She continues with praise for the hospitality offered to visitors to Munstead and descriptions of the house and observes “Lady Jekyll as I remember her was very plump, with beautifully dressed hair and a soft pink face”.
Her funeral service at St John’s Church, Busbridge, was reported in The Surrey Advertiser on 3 February 1937. It was attended by such a large congregation that there was not room for all within the church. Besides her family, the mourners included representatives from all the public bodies and good causes she had been involved with. Lady Agnes Jekyll DBE is buried in the churchyard of Busbridge Church. The inscription on the Jekyll Memorial reads “Also of Agnes Jekyll whose spirit ever dwelt in loving kindness”.
Text by Miriam Farr, Surrey History Centre