Annie Pasteur (1861-1946)

Annie Pasteur, the second daughter of Henry and Caroline Pasteur, was born at Elm Grove, Walton-on-Thames on 25 July 1861. Henry Vernet was her godfather, and her aunt, Anna de Candolle, her godmother. The Pasteurs had six children, William (afterwards Dr. W. Pasteur, C.B., C.M.G.), Edward (who died young), Isabel Mary (who married Sir John Twigg, K.C.I.E.), Annie, Mary Sophy (who died unmarried), and Charles Henry (afterwards senior partner in Francis Birch and Christian, stockbrokers, and a Vice-President of the Alpine Club); and they were, without doubt a particularly united and devoted family. It must be remembered that they were as much Swiss as English, perhaps indeed more so; and from their earliest days, they were in the closest touch with their Swiss cousins at Geneva.

When eight years old, in 1869, Annie Pasteur went through Paris with her father, mother, and two sisters, Isabel and Mary, the year the war broke out and stayed for three months at Geneva. Coming home, she clearly remembered seeing wounded soldiers in stations and restaurants, and having to return to England through Brussels (where Mary was lost for some hours) instead of through Paris. Next year, she remembered seeing German officers strutting about in Paris.

The family always went to Geneva each summer for some months. Before her father bought Sacconex from his uncle, the Pasteurs used frequently to stay at Malagny, the home of Professor Marcet, her grandfather. She remembered vividly, at eighty-two years of age, the long corridor at Malagny along which the children used to slide on a sort of palliasse, and where the “school-room” usually had meals. M. Marcet had a dîner de famille at Malagny every Sunday for all his children and grandchildren, and for many years they sat down thirteen to dinner during the summer months, without apparent ill-effects!

Annie was at school, from fifteen to seventeen years of age, at Holly Hill, (8) Hampstead. She spent her seventeenth to eighteenth year at Geneva for her “instruction religieuse” (preparation for confirmation) and stayed with her uncle, Adolphe Pasteur, at Morillon. The “instruction” was given by M. le Pasteur Choisy, and consisted in a class of girls of her own age which assembled in Geneva once or twice a week; and there was also private tuition. The year ended with an examination, followed by the actual confirmation. The Genevese girls did not normally go to any balls or public festivities during this year, but Annie Pasteur, being English, was allowed more latitude. She went to a large ball given by her aunt and godmother, Anna de Candolle, to an amateur revue written by a cousin, M. de la Rive, at his house at Presinges, and to several other functions; but for all these, the permission of M. Choisy had first to be obtained. Not many years before, the French Emperor had stayed with M. de la Rive at Presinges for some weeks, immediately after leaving France, Mme de la Rive finding the strict ceremony extremely irksome. On reaching England, the French Emperor sent two Scotch deer-hounds (9) as a present to the de la Rive’s deaf and dumb daughter.

Annie learned the piano at school, and singing at Geneva under Ketten. After the year at Morillon, she came home and lived with her father and mother at 19 Queen Street,(10) Mayfair, for the next eighteen years. The Pasteur family was very musical, William playing the violin, Charles the violin and viola, and so on. Annie did much singing and accompanying on the piano, and acting in amateur theatrical companies — for example, she sang “Lady Angela” in an amateur production of Patience. Each summer, usually in June, the whole family migrated to Grand Saconnex, and from there they usually visited the mountains.

In January to May 1886, Annie Pasteur and her sister, Isabel, with a French maid, went to Egypt where they stayed at Shepherd’s Hotel and then with Sir Colin Scott-Montcrieff. (11)

She married George Morse on 6 December 1893, and had four children; George Geoffrey, born 4 April 1896, Francis John, born 26 July 1897, Christopher Charles, born 19 November 1898, and Nancy Corona, born 20 September 1902. Her youngest son, Christopher, was killed on active service with the R.F.C. in France on 14 November 1917. The other two sons also fought in France during the war, Geoffrey in the East Surrey Regiment (captain, wounded, Military Cross), and John in the R.F.C. and R.A.F. (squadron leader, Croix de Guerre).

From the time she was married, with the exception of 1895 when they took a house temporarily in Thorpe Road, Annie Morse lived always at Beech Hill, Thorpe St. Andrew, Norwich. She was extremely active, both mentally and physically, and took a large part in charitable and other duties in Thorpe village and in Norwich. Besides acting as Mayoress and Lady Mayoress during her husband’s two mayoralties, she was President of the Norwich Women’s Conservative Association for many years, and of the Thorpe Women’s Conservative Association; President of the Thorpe Nursing Association; Treasurer and President of the Norwich Sick Poor, for many years; on the committee of the Jenny Lind Children’s Hospital, in Norwich, and the committee of the Norwich Triennial Musical Festival; President of the Thorpe Women’s Institute for twenty years, and for a time, on the Norfolk Executive; on the Board of the Thorpe Schools; on all Thorpe activities and President at one time or another of most of them, and on many other charitable and other boards and committees in Norwich.

Beech Hill was a most comfortable house. There was a big garden, with stables — where the daughter of the house kept two hunters and a groom to look after them — and a squash court; and several cottages went with the property. There was also a smaller house called Wayside, at the end of and adjoining their garden, usually occupied by a relative or friend. Five indoor servants were kept at Beech Hill, a cook, kitchen-maid, parlour-maid, housemaid, and under-housemaid. Outside, there was William, the chauffeur, and two gardeners with sometimes a boy or unemployed man, as a third. William was their coachman, turned chauffeur; he was the same age as Lady Morse, and had been with them a great many years. He was a delightful character, a grand old chap and no doubt had been an excellent coachman; but he was a very doubtful driver of a motor-car. He always had very large cars to drive, and when both he and Lady Morse reached the eighties, be was positively dangerous; I, personally, went in fear of my life, but my mother-in-law sat serenely and quite unperturbed in the back of the large vehicle, taking the most appalling and nerve-shattering risks as perfectly normal and saying “It’s quite all night, Jim, I have the greatest confidence in William.” (12) And so she had, and no harm ever came to them or to anyone else; but it was a miracle, indeed. Perhaps it is unnecessary to add that the staff were very well treated and looked after, and the upper ones had been at Beech Hill for many years.

Lady Morse was exceptionally fond of children, and was very good with them. She liked nothing better than to have her family about her, to do things for them, and to spoil them: they came first and last, nothing was too good for them, no trouble too much. She was an exceptional needle-woman, of a skill not often found in these days of bustle and hurry. Up to eighty years of age, she thought nothing of shopping in London all the morning, having a lunch party at Brown’s Hotel (where she always stayed), shopping again in the afternoon, with a dinner party followed by a theatre at night. The fact that she had had a bad heart in 1910 and had then been told that she would never walk upstairs again, did not affect her in the least. She hated the idea of having breakfast in bed, and unless she was really ill, came down regularly at 8.30, even to her last illness at eighty-five years old. She was never a mountaineer in the technical sense, but the Morse family went most years to Switzerland in the summer, and generally to the mountains.

She died at Beech Hill on 19 September 1946, aged eighty-five. Until she had the stroke from which she died, she kept an amazing energy and vitality.(13) She was the kindest of people, and a considerable personality.


(8) Run by Miss Norton, a relation of Mr. Justice Wills who was a great friend of the family and grandfather of Lieut.-Gen. E. F. Norton, see Appendix V. [back to text]

(9) Annie Pasteur often saw these deer-hounds. The bitch had a litter of four puppies, one of which, called Ivor, was given to the Pasteurs at Grand Saconnex, but it died of distemper. [back to text]

(10) This house was partly destroyed by a German bomb in the Second World War. [back to text]

(11) That was what she told me, but I dare say that Lady Scott-Montcrieff was also there! — I think that it was he, perhaps, whom the family knew best. [back to text]

(12) In one car, I may say, William was unable to change into any lower gear without stopping. If, therefore, he once got into top gear in Norwich, he had to continue through all traffic at a speed not less than 20 m.p.h. [back to text]

(13) On 1 July 1943, when Lady Morse told me the details of her early life which are recounted above, she was staying with her brother C. H. Pasteur, at Barrowfield, Much Hadham. She, then, showed little signs of her eighty-one (nearly eighty-two) years of age. She had recently, under some protest, agreed to rest for an hour or two in the afternoon. She came down to breakfast regularly at 8.30, sewed, mended, picked fruit, helped wash-up (alas! we thought that the lack of staff was only a war-time shortage!), played with the children, and did all manner of household tasks. Her brain, hearing and so on were as acute as ever. She went to bed at 10.30 — 11 p.m., always the last to move. She travelled from Norwich to Bishop’s Stortford quite happily by herself and thought it slightly ridiculous that people should want her to take any special care. [back to text]

Source: Family Notebook, Volume 2. MORSE-PASTEUR, by Brigadier J.R.T. Aldous. Printed privately for Brigadier J. R. T. Aldous by Jarrold & Sons Ltd, Norwich, 1964. Courtesy of J.G. Aldous

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