In January 1923, the Huband family was advertising in the French press for a governess for their little boy. Initially, the stipulation was that the lady should be about 40 years old. She had to be able to teach piano. And she had to be of the Protestant faith. The address given was 11 Clarence Square, Brighton.
It is possible that at first the adverts did not attract the right applicants. By the end of 1923, this appeal in Offres d’emploi [Situations vacant] had widened its net. The applicant could be French or Swiss, the age range had dropped to “between 25 and 35”. It was made clear that there was only one seven-year-old boy to teach and that the governess would have a room to herself.
Did one or even more successive governesses take the post and then leave? Was the child somewhat difficult? Were Mr and Mrs Huband too demanding? Whatever the case, similar adverts appeared intermittently throughout 1923.
From November 1923 until May 1925 all seems to have gone well, but in the next advert (below), in L’Écho de Paris, the inducements became more tempting.
The Hubands were looking for a younger woman aged 26-30 and were pointing out the splendid location of their house in the centre of town and near the sea. And more importantly, not only can the prospective governess / piano teacher learn English, but she would be offered a salary. This seemed to have been successful as no further adverts appeared for over a year. All was well in the Huband household. Apparently. However, between January and November 1928 no less than 20 adverts appeared in French papers. The little boy was now 12. Was he starting his troublesome teenage years?
Strangely, the last set of almost identical adverts to the one above, published in Le Gaulois, gave the contact address as chez Patin, Grand’rue, Dieppe [c/o Pantin, High Street, Dieppe]. The family possibly liked to holiday in France as several of the 1923 adverts had borne the contact address as the Hôtel Régina in Wimereux, Pas-de-Calais.
Presumably it was either Cecil Huband or his wife Annie who had placed the ad in the newspapers. They had arrived at 11 Clarence Square, Brighton, in 1918 with their toddler son Paul, having lived previously for a few years “above the shop” (chemist and camera supplies) at 23 Duke Street Brighton. After 20 years at No. 11, the family moved some 30 yards away to 9 Clarence Square.
By this time, 1939, young Paul was a student at the Royal College of Music. Although Paul was in residence in Clarence Square in September 1939, it is most likely that as a young, fit man of 23 he had already been conscripted into the army.
(c) Dunkirk 1940 Museum (www.dunkirk1940.org)
If, as Paul’s ID card (above) indicated, he was a member of the 1st Armoured Division, the history of the Division then allows the hypothesis that Paul arrived in France via Le Havre on 15 May 1940. By the end of May, the Germans had pushed a wedge through the Franco-British troops, forcing over 300.000 men north of the wedge to be evacuated from Dunkirk, but leaving battalions such as the 1st Armoured to continue fighting south of the German wedge at Abbeville and along the river Somme. Did Paul serve alongside the French where his knowledge of the French language would have stood him in good stead?
(c) Dunkirk 1940 Museum (www.dunkirk1940.org)
Other than details gleaned from the history of the 1st Armoured Division, nothing is known of Paul Huband’s later role in the war. As a member of the Field Security Corps of the 1st Armoured Division, he was initially based at their HQ in Aldershot in July 1940. Did he ever return to France covertly? After all, the Field Security Corps did eventually become Military Intelligence (MI6). The fact that he was entitled to wear civilian clothes, is intriguing. More information about Paul would be very welcome.
Paul’s father lived on in Clarence Square until his death in 1961, Annie, his mother, died in 1966 when, it would seem, the house was sold.
Why did Paul not want to live in the house? He was a very busy man. He had done rather well with his piano teachers. As early as 1934 he had won a gold medal at the Bournemouth Music Festival. In 1963 the tables were turned and he was one of the judges at the very first Leeds Piano Competition. In 1951 Paul was Assistant Regional Director of the Arts Council of Great Britain until he was appointed as Head of BBC Music in the North a few years later. He regularly presented music programmes both on radio and television in the late 1950s, although his earliest radio appearance had been as a piano duetist on the National Programme in June 1939.
Paul Huband’s final post was as General Manager of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. As the orchestra was based at the Maida Vale Studios in north London, it was natural that he should want to live in London and certainly by 1965 he was living in Barnet, north London with his wife Rene. Paul Huband, the little boy from Clarence Square, died in Dover in 1988 at the age of 73.
One thought on “A francophile family in Brighton”
This is a well researched and fascinating account of the life of the young Paul and his family. It’s nice to know that he survived the horrors of war and lived what seems to have been a happy and productive life.
And what of the unnamed and faceless “gouvernantes” who followed one another through the portal of the Huband home? I wonder how they fared in the invasion and occupation of their homeland. We can but hope for the best.