Gerald Berkeley Wills, 1882 – 1979, was a lifelong resident of Marlow. A distinguished architect, famed nationally, he was a founder member of the Marlow Society. His collection of typewritten pages “Notes On Old Marlow” was discovered as recently as last year, 2013, and has never been published before, to the best of everyone’s knowledge.
Written in 1961 when Gerald was 79, they contain a wonderful compilation of local facts, stories and personal reminiscences, many either previously unknown or long forgotten. The faded pages, typed on a machine that had seen better days, have been carefully edited and transcribed by Society member Michael Eagleton, co-author of the popular “Marlow – A Trip Back In Time” booklets.
Michael has added rare old pictures from his extensive collection to compliment each page of Gerald’s text. Michael says that the name Berkeley Wills was new to him when he first came across these “Notes” in a parcel of press cuttings and photos that had belonged to the late local historian Cyril Chalk. He has since found out many details of Gerald’s life and career. He lived at Wolmer Cottage near Marlow Common, a house built to his own design, and backing onto the WW1 soldiers training camp. Mention of this is of special interest in view of the war’s centenary. Locally, Gerald designed the Marlow Cottage Hospital in 1912, and one of his latter-day projects was the Britannia public house in Little Marlow Road, in the late 1950s.
Nationally he was best known for the design of crematoria and the ornate building at Kensal Green Cemetery in West London is probably his best known work, completed in 1932. His granddaughter, Annie Morshead, will be remembered by many Marlovians. She ran one of Marlow’s first boutiques “Oscillation” in the High Street. Annie, now living in Ireland, was unaware of the existence of these “Notes” but does possess a similar collection of Gerald’s memoirs, especially relating to the period of the First World War, and printed out on the same ancient typewriter.
The booklet, “Notes On Old Marlow”, priced at £4.99, is available from Saturday 4th October at W.H.Smith in Marlow High Street, or from the Tourist Information Office in Institute Road. In case of difficulty you can phone 01628 486571 or alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org for a personal delivery or a post-free service.
The Marlow Society is a Registered Charity, No. 262803 www.marlowsociety.org.uk