Monday, 23 February 2015

Kenneth Bolton Legg (1889-1990): Surveyor and Centenarian

Kenneth Bolton Legg was a grandson of Kate Bainbrigge Legg nee Ivall (1836-1917), a daughter of David Ivall (1795-1850), who was a successful coachmaker. David was a brother and business partner of my ancestor Thomas Ivall (1781-1835).

Kenneth was born on 25 November 1889 in the North London suburb of Crouch End. His parents were Frederick George Ivall Legg, a heating and ventilation engineer and Emily Eliza Legg nee Bolton. Kenneth was baptised on 9 February 1890 at Christ Church, Crouch End. The 1891 census shows Frederick (aged 32) and Emily (33) Legg living at 16 Shanklin Rd, Crouch End with their sons Frederick (6) and Kenneth (1), two boarders and a servant.
Kenneth and his mother Emily Eliza

Kenneth’s mother died in 1894 when she was aged 34 and he was 4. His father remarried in 1896 – to Emily Burnett who was aged 25. They had a child, Elsie Beryl Legg, in 1900. In 1901, the family were living at a house called “Ivall” at 4 Bromley Common, Bromley. The household consisted of Frederick (aged 41, a mechanical and electrical engineer), Emily (30), Frederick (16), Kenneth (11), Elsie (7 months), a cook, nursemaid and nurse. From the number of domestic staff employed, the family seem to have been comfortably off. Electoral registers show Frederick George Ivall Legg at this address from 1896 to 1905. In 1907 he is listed at "Ivall", Southborough Road, Bickley.

Kenneth attended the privately run Bromley High School until he was aged 15. In 1905, his father found him a job as a junior clerk in the office of the Goods Manager, London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. In 1910, legislation was passed to tax land values. Kenneth was moved to the Estate Office to assist the surveying work required for this.
Frederick George Ivall Legg in 1908

The 1911 census shows Kenneth, aged 21, as a draughtsman in the Estate Department of a Railway Company. He was living at White House, Purley Downs, Purley with his father Frederick (aged 52, a consulting mechanical engineer in the catering industry), stepmother Emily (40), half sister Elsie (10) and a domestic servant. The house had nine rooms and so was presumably quite spacious.
Kenneth’s stepmother Emily in 1911

Germany invaded Belgium on 4th August 1914 and Britain declared war on Germany in response. Only eight days later, on 12th August 1914, Kenneth volunteered for Army service, joining the 2nd Battalion City of London (Royal Fusiliers) as a Private. He was by then aged 24 years 8 months and a qualified surveyor employed by the London Bridge & Southern Counties Railway Estate Office at London Bridge. His height is given as 5 foot 9 inches on his attestation papers, part of Kenneth’s army record which is held by the National Archives at Kew. He was posted to Malta on 5th September 1914 as part of an expeditionary force sent to protect this important naval base. On 6th January 1915 he was sent to fight in France. Kenneth applied for a commission on 13 February 1915. This was granted on 24 March 1915, when he was appointed to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

On 10th February 1917, Kenneth married Olive Emily Howes at Saint Margaret’s Church, Plumstead. He was aged 27, a Lieutenant HM Land Forces, address 22nd Training Essex Battalion, St Albans. She was aged 22, living at 74 Dallin Road, Plumstead, the daughter of Edward John Howes, a farmer. Olive worked at Woolwich Arsenal, making small-arms ammunition.

Kenneth was injured at Ypres on 20th September 1917. He left his unit on 23rd September 1917 and was sent to the UK, arriving at Southampton on 23rd October 1917. A medical board on 29th October 1917 reported that “He sustained a wound to instep of right foot. The origin is uncertain whether it was due to shrapnel or to a bayonet wound accidentally inflicted by himself. The wound became very septic and has had to be opened on 2 occasions and drained. Not yet healed. No TB present.” A medical board on 13th April 1918 reported that he had recovered.

He was wounded again in October 1918 in the Battle of Courtai, while serving with the 26th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers. This was one of a series of battles in Northern France and Southern Belgium that pushed the Germans back prior to the end of the war on 11th November 1918. A medical board on 6th November 1918 stated “When in action on 25.10.18, he sustained a GSW of the left calf severe. A shell fragment entered the left calf, causing a large wound and becoming impacted in the muscle. It was removed through the entrance wound. The wound is not yet healed.” (GSW means Gun Shot Wound). Kenneth was treated at the 2nd Western General Hospital, Manchester. He was discharged from the army 29th March 1919 and was awarded the Victory, British and 15 Star campaign medals. In 1981 Kenneth wrote some notes about his life. He summarised his war service as follows
“I was not a very good soldier but certainly fortunate. In from the first week to the end with two blyghties (one instep, one calf), I was only in the line itself for three months.”

 Kenneth in 1916

After Kenneth was discharged from the army, he returned to his job with the Railway and moved to Chartlands Cottage, which was near Westerham in Kent. Olive and Kenneth Legg had three children namely Joan (born 1919 in Streatham), John G (born 1922 in Godstone, Surrey died 1927 of leukaemia) and Brian Bolton Legg (born 1932 in Wandsworth, died 2003). In 1922, the family moved to 41 Common Road, Earlswood, Surrey and then Croham Lodge, Croham Rd, Croydon. In 1925, Kenneth got a job with Hillier, Parker, May and Rowden, a company that specialised in letting business premises, especially to shops like Woolworths, C & A and British Home Stores, who were then opening chains across the country. Kenneth’s job was to build up an investment department by encouraging investment in commercial property.

Electoral registers show Kenneth and Olive living at 2 Stanley House, Albion Road, North Clapham in 1928 and 1929, at 4 Grant House, Albion Road, North Clapham in 1931, at 31A Old Town, North Clapham in 1932 and 1933 and at 74A Thurleigh Road, Battersea in 1935 and 1936. Kenneth’s memoirs say that on Sundays, he and Olive used to catch a bus into the countryside to do a walk of about 12 miles, so it seems that he had recovered from his war wounds. In 1937, the family moved to Wildcroft, Coombe Park, Kingston Hill. The 1939 national register lists Kenneth and Olive at this address and shows that he was an ARP (air raid precaution) warden and she was an ARP ambulance driver. Wildcroft was bombed and badly damaged in 1940, Kenneth and his family having a narrow escape from injury. It was rebuilt soon after the war. In 1948, Kenneth, Olive and their son Brian moved to a house called “Southover”, in Colgate, near Horsham in Sussex.

Over the years, Kenneth did well with Hillier, Parker, May and Rowden and was promoted. In his work, he met with Chairmen and Managing Directors of London based companies, including Harold MacMillan (who later became Prime Minister). When Kenneth retired in 1955 aged 65, he was the senior partner in the firm. 

Around 1954, Kenneth, Olive and Brian moved to a 100 acre farm called Stonewall, 6 miles north of Ipswich. Olive and Brian farmed it for about six years, Olive running the animals and Brian the fields. Brian married in 1960 and then Kenneth and Olive moved to Dunburgh, a hamlet near Beccles in Norfolk, where they built a bungalow called “Dunburgh Meadow”. They lived there until 1973, when they moved to a house called “Pines” in Beccles.


Olive died in 1981 aged 87. Kenneth reached the age of 101 before he died on 9 December 1990 at Clare Hall Nursing Home, Ston Eastern, near Bath. He is the only one of my relations (that I know of) to reach 100. He was one of about 4,000 centenarians (of which about 400 were men) alive in England and Wales when he died. Since then the number of centenarians has risen sharply. In 2008 there were 9,600 (of which 1,200 were men).

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