George Schreiber of Roden House, 23 Pittville Lawn
George Schreiber lived with his family at Roden House in Pittville Lawn from the time he bought the property from the developer Robert Stokes in 1836 until his death in 1878. After his death, his family remained in the house for the rest of the century – making them one of the most established “first families” of Pittville. When he died, he was widely regarded as one of the most respected inhabitants of the town.
George was born to William Schreiber1 and his wife Mary (nee Sewell) in Wickham Market, between Ipswich and Lowestoft in east Suffolk, on 19 October 1794. George was the sixth of eight children, and one of three boys in the family who took the king’s shilling for the Napoleonic Wars. His twin brother, Thomas, in due course became a vicar in Bradwell in Essex.
He was educated at the Grammar School at Dalham in Suffolk and at the age of nineteen his appointment as Cornet (the lowest officer rank) in the 11th Regiment of the Light Dragoons [i.e. a cavalry regiment] was announced in the London Gazette for 28 December 1813:
“11th [Regiment of Light Dragoons] … George Schreiber, Gent. To be Cornet, by purchase, vice Des Voeux. Dated December 23, 1813.”
His elder brother James Alfred Schreiber was already well established in the 11th Light Dragoons and it must have seemed to George that he was joining the family regiment.
It was as a Cornet with the 11th Light Dragoons that George experienced the event that was to characterise him for the rest of his life. The Dragoons arrived at Ostend on 2 April 1815 to join the forces countering Napoleon. George took part in the action at Quatre Bras and continued with the regiment as they approached Waterloo. On 18 June battle commenced, after a night of torrential rain:
“It was a frustrating morning for the British cavalry who had to stand and watch an infantry battle. Against Wellington’s wishes, the heavy cavalry made a brilliant charge that was spoiled by its failure to re-form. The 11th under the command of Lt Col Money were sent into action when it looked as if the enemy were breaking up. They broke a French infantry square and carried on with the pursuit of Napoleon’s fleeing soldiers.2“
George’s horse was shot from under him, but he and his brother James survived the battle. Accounts differ, but either George or James was wounded;3 casualties for the 11th were quite light – five wounded and one killed. Both George and James, along with their colleagues on the field of battle, were awarded the Waterloo Medal to commemorate their achievement.
The Waterloo Medal
(Wikicommons)Promotion came quickly to George after Waterloo. On 11 July 1816 he was gazetted Lieutenant4 and in 1821 “exchanged” or transferred to the 18th Hussars and, with the reduced military threat, was placed on half pay as Captain.5
It is as “Captain Schreiber” that we first meet him in Pittville Lawn in 1836. [See the house record here.] He is recently married, to Anne Hume, seventeen years his junior, and the couple have their first child, Augusta. At the time of the 1841 census another daughter, Agnes Cecilia, has come along and the family are living with George’s sister-in-law Emma and four female servants. A year later the couple have a boy, named after his father George, followed a year later by Grace Adelaide.
Life in Pittville Lawn was problematic at first, as George entered into a protracted dispute with the Pittville developer and builder James Creed over building lines. George maintained that Creed could not build as near to the road as he planned on the lots he had bought from Pitt, as this would interfere with George’s enjoyment of his own property and its vistas. The dispute became a court case, and it was settled in the Court of Chancery on 30 and 31 May, 1839, to the dissatisfaction of George Schreiber, who was told by the Judge that he “was not entitled to avail himself, as against either Creed or Pitt, of the covenants of 1827, or of the agreement of 1833, for the purpose of preventing the completion of Creed’s house in the manner intended”. The full case report of “Schreiber v. Creed” may be read here.6
By the time of the 1851 census George’s household was growing and Roden House is home to an astonishing eighteen people. George and Anne’s children Augusta, Agnes, and George are at home, but Grace is not there on census night. George’s nine-month-old niece Constance Hume is in evidence, as is his twenty-six-year-old niece Amelia Buck. There are five servants, including George Brooks, who (quite contrary to normal practice in Pittville Lawn) has his wife and five children living with him.
In 1851, after nearly forty years of soldiering on full and half pay, George finally retired, being promoted (as was the custom) on the same day to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. We can see that the Cheltenham Annuaire was quite slow to pick up this new title, reflecting only from its 1855 directory. 1855 itself was both sad and happy for George and his family. In April his Cambridge-educated nephew Charles Schreiber, the eldest son of his late brother James Alfred (with whom George fought at Waterloo), contracted a highly successful marriage with socialite and social reformer Lady Charlotte Guest, widow of the late Sir John Guest, Bart.7 But in the same year George’s twelve-year-old daughter Grace died.
George supported his nephew Charles in his nascent political career. Charles unsuccessfully contested the parliamentary seat of Cheltenham in 1859, pipped at the post by his Liberal adversary. At one point:
“Charles Schreiber made a speech from the balcony of Roden House in Pittville and introduced his wife to his supporters but — as she wrote — ‘taking care not to mention my radical politics’.“8
The balcony at Roden House
In 1861 George’s eldest daughter, Augusta, was well married at St Mary’s Church, Cheltenham, to “the Rev. Thomas Tweddle, M.A., of St. John’s College, Cambridge, second son of the late Thomas Tweddle, Esq., of Askerton Castle, Cumberland”.9 And more excitement was just around the corner as, in July 1865 George’s nephew Charles was elected Conservative M.P. for Cheltenham, wresting the seat from the Liberal Hon. F. Berkeley. In the following year George other surviving daughter, Agnes, was married (by George’s brother Thomas) to the Rev. Hugh Pearson, B.A.10
And so for the 1871 census the household list looks quite different from previous years:
George was by then 76 years of age and his wife was 58. His niece Mary (aged 20) lived with them, as did Hugh and Agnes Pearson – George’s daughter Agnes and her new husband. Despite a household of five family members, there were now only three servants, the regulation cook, parlour maid and house maid.
George’s experiences at Waterloo must have been a matter of some pride to him. He will have known that at the other end of Pittville Lawn in 1861, in Dorset Villa, was another Waterloo veteran, Edward Whinyate, senior to George at the time of the battle and another military retiree to Cheltenham. In addition, the country did not forget its Waterloo heroes. From time to time anniversaries were noted in the newspapers, and it became clear as the years rolled on that George was gradually becoming one of the last surviving officers from that great battle. In 1875 the Teesdale Mercury of 23 June ran an article on:
“Waterloo Veterans. – The following are the names of veteran survivors of the ever-memorable battle of Waterloo.”
It listed “Lieut.-Col. George Schreiber” along with about seventy other veterans of the battle sixty years earlier.
Sadly George Schreiber would not last for many more anniversaries of his moment of glory. He died at home on 5 March 1878, at the age of 83 and was buried at St Mary’s Church in Cheltenham next to his daughter Grace, who had predeceased him by twenty-three years.11 “The deceased”, wrote the London Standard:
“was the youngerst of three brothers who held commissions in the same regiment – the 11th Light Dragoons – and who all saw service either in the Peninsula or in the campaign of Waterloo, Lieutenant Colonel G. Schreiber having been present at the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo, where he had his horse shot under him”.12
1 See Burke’s Landed Gentry (1847), vol. 2 p. 1197: “Schreiber of Henhurst”.
2 http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armyunits/britishcavalry/11thltdragoons.htm (accessed 16 January 2014)
3 The Battle of Waterloo: containing the series of accounts published by Authority (1816, ed. 8) pt. 2 col. 8: “A List of Officers in the Netherlands, 1815 … 11th Light Dragoons… Captain. J. Alf. Schreiber… Cornet George Schreiber, w[ounded].”
4 London Gazette (1816), 30 July p. 1478.
5 London Gazette (1821), 1 December p. 2343.
6 Nicholas Simons Reports of Cases Decided in the High Court of Chancery by the Right Hon. Sir Lancelot Shadwell (1845), vol . 10 p. 9.
7 Morning Post (1855), 11 April p. 4: “Marriage in High Life”.
8 Gwen Hart, A History of Cheltenham (1981), p. 232.
9 Essex Standard (1861), 25 December.
10 Bristol Mercury (1866), 21 July.
11 Gloucestershire Notes & Queries (1877), vol. 3 p. 655.
12 Standard (1878), 12 March.