The History of the Joy Mead Gardens
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The History of the Agnew Family and the Joy Mead Gardens

The history of the Joy Mead is closely bound up with the story of the Agnew family who bequeathed the gardens to the village in 1922.

Philip Leslie Agnew, the fourth son of Sir William Agnew (1st Baronet), was born in 1864. He was educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford, where he gained a degree in Classics and Modern History. He was called to the Bar in Lincoln’s Inn but did not practice, instead he joined the family firm, Bradbury Agnew &Co. printers and publishers. The firm printed works of all kinds - books, periodicals and encyclopedias - as well as specialising in the printing of Law books. It also produced the Art Journal of the 1851 Exhibition and later became the proprietor of "Punch" with Philip Agnew as Managing Director.

Philip was an accomplished pianist and for many years was associated with the Royal Academy of Music, of which he was Chairman of the Governing Body, for the last 16 years of his life. He was High Sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1924-5 and was also a magistrate in the County. He is remembered by his Great-Nephew as a strict teetotaler, refusing to allow advertisements for alcohol to appear in “Punch” even though this resulted in a drastic loss of revenue for the magazine.

Philip married (Alexandra) Georgette Christian, of Alexandria, Egypt in 1889. Her family were involved in the export of Marsala from Sicily. Georgette wrote two novels, “The Nun” and “The night that brings out the stars”. She also contributed to Punch “Verses descriptive of pastoral beauties of her Northamptonshire home”. She was a member of “The Association for the Revival and Practice of Folk Music” and she revived the Old English pastimes of Morris Dancing and singing games at Littlecourt. She is remembered as an unusual person; “a tiny little woman, who looked as if a high wind would blow her away”. She had a fear of thunder. If a storm approached, all lights would be turned off and all curtains drawn, even if she was in someone else’s house.

The family moved to Littlecourt in Farthingstone (which had been built in 1899) from London, in 1910.

Sadly, Philip and Georgette suffered great tragedy, as all their children died before them. Christine Elaine died as a baby in 1896, before the family moved to Farthingstone. Enid Jocelyn, known as Joy, after whom the Joy Mead is named, married Roger Evans, a Captain with the 7th Hussars on November 2nd and a son, Michael was born to them in 1920 but tragically, Joy died of T.B. within a year of her son’s birth. Michael, himself, only lived until the age of 22, when he was killed in active service in the Middle East, in 1942. The Agnew’s son, Ewan Siegfried, died in 1930, from an illness contracted during World War 1.

In 1921, the year of Joy’s death, the Joy Mead Garden was started, as a memorial to Joy. Mr Agnew purchased an area of ground "2 roods and 8 perches, previously known as the Pound Orchard late in the occupation of Elizabeth Bott". This was to be used as an “open public ground for the resort and recreation of adults and as a playground for children and youth”. It was also intended that the Garden should be used for “lectures, bands, musical and dramatic entertainments, dances and other social amenities”.

The Joy Mead was designed by the Architect, P.P.Panter, and the temple was built by Henry Martin of Northampton, (who also built St. Matthew’s Church in Northampton.) Walls and paving were laid by Mr Pollard of Farthingstone.

On August 3rd 1922, Joy Mead was opened to the parishioners, the first meeting of Managers and Directors having already been held at Littlecourt on July 13th 1922, on which date Joy would have been 24.

Ewan, on behalf of his parents, made a speech in which he stressed that the Garden should be a place of happiness. He then formally presented the Garden to the parishioners. Mrs Price, the wife of the Rector, then declared the Garden open. Mr A. Buswell, on behalf of the parishioners, thanked Mr. And Mrs. Agnew for their most generous gift.

The band of the 5th Northants played the hymn “O God our help in ages past" which was sung by the large company of people present. The band afterwards played for dancing which, owing to the heavy rain, had to take place in the Barn- room, which belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Agnew.

Following Ewan’s death, in 1930, the cloisters were built as a memorial to him and the many others who died in the war. A tablet in the cloisters explains this.

Joy’s son, Michael, married but died within a short time of his marriage. The sundial, designed by P.P. Panter and made by Ivens & Son, was erected as a memorial to him.

Philip Agnew died after many months of ill-health, in Torquay, in March 1938. Georgette lived on until 1957. Littlecourt was demolished in the early 1960’s. It is said that the Agnews considered the house to be a sad home and they did not wish their misfortune to be inherited by anyone else.

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