Maud and Alex McMullen, and family

Maud and Alex McMullen lived at Follyfaunts and then Rockleys between 1930 and the 1950s. Maud is best known locally for her involvement with the Goldhanger Players drama group. The McMullen’s were related to the Kempson and Redgrave families who lived at Corner Cottage during the war, which was part of the Rockleys estate.

Alex and Maud with her mother

Maude and Alex McMullen’s wedding in 1902


An extract from: Follyfaunts House, a History written by Peter Bushell in 2002...

In November 1931 an article appeared in Architecture Illustrated showing a conversion of the dwelling by A.L. McMullen from a Tudor house with a Georgian front of about 1750.

The 1933 directories list the property in the occupation of Alexander Percy McMullen C.B. M.A. At this date it was called Follyfaunts'. The telephone number was Tolleshunt D'Arcy 27.

Alex McMullen [1875-1961] was the youngest son of A.P. McMullen of Hertford. Born 9 October 1875, he was educated at Rugby School, where he was a Science Exhibitioner, then at Merton College, Oxford, where he took a First in Chemistry. On graduating he took a post as an assistant master at Bradfield College. In 1899 he joined the teaching staff of the Royal Naval College, Osborne, transferring the year following to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth where in 1906 he was appointed Head of the Science Department. During the First World War he served as a temporary lieutenant with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve aboard HMS Agincourt being present at the battle of Jutland, where his conduct earned him a mention in despatches.

From 1917 to 1936 he was an adviser to the Royal Navy and others on matters of naval education. He returned to Dartmouth as a master on the outbreak of the Second World War and continued to teach there until 1941.

He shared Follyfaunts with his wife, Catherine Maude [d.1959] whom he had married in 1902 and by whom he had two sons. Records state that Catherine was the 'daughter of the late L. T. Ashwell, Warlingham'. However, local knowledge claims that Catherine was of American extraction, that she was related to the Mellon family of bankers

Maud instituted theatrical performances and built a music-room at Rockleys. The McMullens ultimately moved to Old Times Cottage at Tolleshunt Major.


An extract from:  the mémoires of the late Cyril Southgate...

The Goldhanger Players were formed in the years just before WWII and many local people were involved over the ensuing years. Mrs Maude McMullen was president and producer of many of the productions. She was a grand lady who loved the village and its activities. With her husband she lived in Follyfaunts and later moved to Rockleys where they converted a barn for social events with the help of Goldhanger builder Bernard Mann.


They entertained many guests, including Sir Michael Redgrave and his wife Racheal Kempson, who was Mrs McMullen's sister. Their daughter Vannessa Redgrave also stay for holidays. During the war the Kempsons lived in Corner Cottage, Church Rd.

Vannessa Redgrave opening

a "Bell Fair" in the village Hall


Many plays were performed in the Village Hall including Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice. Mrs McMullen, or Mrs Mac as she was affectionately known, loved costume plays, and obtained beautiful costumes from London theatrical agencies through her family contacts.

The performances ran for two or three evenings including a Saturday, after which all the cast and helpers would enjoyed a social evening in the Rockleys Barn.

During the winter months the barn would be brightly lit, there would be a great roaring fire with logs two feet long, with much party fare provided by the wonderful Mrs Mac and her husband. He loved to wear evening dress for these occasions and played a beautiful grand piano, which was on a raised dais at one end of the barn.

Rockeys Barn earlier

Rockeys Barn recently

The barn’s interior recently

the bay & dais



a 1948 newspaper report...

a 1949 newspaper report...






Goldhanger Players


inscription on the McMullen chair



the McMullen chair

in the Village Hall



from Goldhanger  W.I. minutes...

Mrs McMullen - President Dec 1945 - Dec 1949

“On many occasions a garden meeting was held at Rockleys by invitation of Mrs McMullen”. 


The Family

The McMullen family contains a large number of successful members of the acting profession. It is difficult to establish the exact relationship between members of the family, but these extracts from documents and websites help to identify those relatives...

Select to enlarge



from... “Essex”   by Nikolaus Pevsner in 1954 and James Bettley in 2007


Beatrice Hamilton Kempson (born Ashwell) was born in month 1884, at birth place.

Beatrice married Eric William Edward Kempson circa 1909, at age 24 at marriage place.

Eric was born in October 1878, in Tupsley, Herefordshire, England.

His occupations were Teacher and Schoolmaster R N College.

They had one daughter: Rachel Redgrave (born Kempson).



Rachel Kempson was born in Dartmouth, Devon, the daughter of Beatrice Hamilton (née Ashwell)

and Eric William Edward Kempson, a headmaster.

Kempson married fellow actor Michael Redgrave in 1935,

and became the daughter-in-law of Roy Redgrave and Margaret Scudamore.

Rachel Kempson was the mother of:

Vanessa (born 1937), Corin (1939–2010) and Lynn Redgrave (1943–2010)



Rachel Kempson Biography

Rachel Kempson was born on 28 May, 1910, in Dartmouth, Devon, England, to Beatrice Hamilton (Ashwell) and Eric William Edward Kempson, a headmaster.



On May 28th 1910, Rachel Kempson came into the world at the family home in the grounds of Britannia Royal Naval College. Her father, Eric, who had taught at Rugby School and worked for the Board of Education at Kew, came to Dartmouth as headmaster of the College. His wife, Beatrice, was known to all as Beanie, and they had three children, Rachel and her brothers Eric, whose nickname was Robin, and Nicholas.


extracts from...

Selection and Early Career Education of Executive Officers in the Royal Navy


Submitted by Elinor Frances Romans, to the University of Exeter

as a thesis for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Maritime History, March 2012.


This thesis is concerned with the selection and early career education of executive branch officers in the Royal Navy c1902-1939. The thesis attempts to place naval selection and educational policy in context by demonstrating how it was affected by changing naval requirements, external political interference and contemporary educational reform.

Alexander McMullen - McMullen's association with the Royal Navy began with teaching science at Dartmouth, before serving at sea in the First World War. (His performance at Jutland was sufficiently impressive to see him recommended for early promotion). From 1919-1936 he served as Admiralty Advisor on Education.

McMullen's appointment had much to recommend it beyond economy. He had been Head of Science at Dartmouth from its opening until the outbreak of war and had then served at sea — an attractive combination which also gave him invaluable experience of working with ratings, the education of whom was also part of the Admiralty Education Advisor's responsibilities.

His brief was to give 'sound and responsible advice on the question of education' and his responsibilities extended to all Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel, as well as the civilian workers educated in dockyard schools. The work was important and McMullen's role was potentially vital. But he was hamstrung by being a civilian employed as an advisor and therefore lacking any real power over naval policy.

Eric Kempson (1878-1948) - Taught at Dartmouth before the First World War, saw war service in the Royal Engineers (winning the Military Cross) and subsequently became Head of Science at Rugby. Kempson succeeded Ashford, becoming the headmaster of Dartmouth in 1927, he retired in 1940.

Eric Kempson, the Headmaster of Dartmouth, considered that although in theory open to all, officer entry was in reality limited to boys from wealthy families. He thought that the entrance examinations favoured prep school boys; secondary school boys would not know enough Latin. The examinations were based on the curricula of prep schools so little change could be made, although perhaps French could be offered as an alternative to Latin.


from... The Chelmsford Chronicle of August 1944:


from... The Times Obituary column of November 1945:




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