Charles Garland

Charles Tuller Garland

Charles Garland came from one of the wealthiest of 19th century New York families. In Moses Kings 1898 book of Notable New Yorkers, his father, James Albert Garland, was listed as a notable Bank Officer, being Vice President of the First National Bank of New York. The Directory of Directors in the City of New York of the same year, records that he had Directorships in the cotton, oil, railway and coal companies. It was hardly a surprise, therefore, with such riches available from the major industries that flourished in the 19th Century, that after his death in 1900, his younger son Charles, should be able to fund the construction of a real tennis court and a well-appointed mansion in the heart of the Warwickshire countryside.

Like a number of other Americans, Garland chose to settle in Warwickshire at the turn of the century and initially rented Ashorne Hill House. He married Margaret Williams, daughter of Frank Williams of Barford, at St. Peter's Church in the village in 1903. He wasted little time in immersing himself in the social life of upper-class county society and possibly encouraged by members of the Warwickshire Hunt, he joined the Leamington Tennis Court Club in 1901. The held view took hold that Garland built his tennis court at Moreton Morrell because he had been blackballed from the Leamington Club or had at least suffered from anti-American feeling. This popular story has been debunked by Charles Wade in his 1997 "History of the Leamington Tennis Court Club" in which he asserts that "this seems most unlikely as wealthy Americans were welcomed into and married into British Society at the time." Although two Americans, one of whom was from the distinguished Van Allen family, were blackballed in 1898, Wade argues that as Garland represented Leamington and Moreton  Morrell on the newly-formed Committee of the Tennis, Rackets and Fives Association in 1907, it was unlikely that he was a persona non grata at the Leamington Club. Sadly, truth does occasionally get in the way of a good story.

Charles Garland supported several local sporting activities including polo, cricket, football and in particular hunting and racing. On the land he purchased in Moreton Morrell in 1903, while works started on the building of Moreton Hall, he also built a polo ground and pavilion and hosted many matches before the outbreak of war in 1914. The Stratford Herald of April 5th 1907 records that on Bank Holiday Monday the local football final "took place between Stockton and Tachbrook for the Garland Cup and attracted upwards of two thousand persons." Not surprisingly, the gate was considered "an excellent one, the proceeds being devoted in aid of the local Nursing Association." The play was "spirited" and was won by Stockton by three goals to nil. At the end of the match, Garland presented the Cup and complimented the players on their skill. No doubt he felt that having presented a Cup and allowed the game to be played on his pitch, he was entitled to express "his regret that so much bad language had been used by some of the spectators, and that if such language were used another year he should not allow the match to be played on his ground. He loved to encourage all good sport, but he would not tolerate disgraceful conduct by a few of the spectators".

A true Anglophile should adopt a love of cricket, and Charles Garland became an aficionado of the game. He created a ground and must have been one of very few Americans to have employed his own cricket professional.

The Moreton Morrell Cricket Club Dinner was held in the polo pavilion in 1907, at which he presented the five best players with a cricket bat each. Garland proposed success to the club” and expressed his hope that they would win the cup next season. He told the assembled company that ‘he had engaged Mr Birch to coach the team and that he hoped that they would turn up to practice every night and also learn to field well’. Without question, such a hope nowadays would receive a cacophony of derision!

Moreton Hall was completed in 1909 after he had built a polo pavilion, laid out a cricket field and built a real tennis court. According to his obituary in the Stratford Herald, “his estate at Moreton Morrell was reputed to have cost him half a million of money". He gave up his American nationality and became a naturalized Englishman in 1914. Both he and his brother-in-law, a fellow American Robert Emmet who lived at nearby Moreton Paddox, raised and trained troops of yeomen at their expense but some technicality prevented the Government taking advantage of the "fine set of fellows who were drilled at Moreton Morrell", so unlike Emmet, who joined the Warwickshire Regiment Garland aimed higher. Keen as ever to improve his social standing, he made use of his considerable equestrian skills to join the prestigious 2nd Lifeguards, a division of the Household Cavalry, as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant on 5th January 1915. He is believed to have been invalided out of the army due to the heart condition which only six years later was to claim his life. Although military records suggest he remained in action until 1919, it is almost certain that he returned to “Blighty” without seeing any action; a likely outcome as the majority of the 2nd Lifeguards were wiped out at the Battle of Ypres in 1915.

At the end of the War, despite having spent much of his fortune at Moreton Morrell, he concentrated his energies on another of his properties, Scaltback Stud at Newmarket, where for much of his remaining years, he indulged in his abiding passion of the "turf". As early as 1906, his racehorse "Oatlands” had come sixth in the Grand National with a starting price of 100-6 and in 1920, "Somme Kiss", a horse described by the Bloodstock Breeders' Review as "a horse of fine physique" and bought for 3000 guineas, won the Newmarket Stakes and ran second to Gainsborough in the 2000 guineas.

Increasingly, Garland divided his loyalties between Scaltback and his London house in Mayfair's Grosvenor Street. In 1920, he sold the Moreton Estate because of the punitive rates of tax levied on him in the U.S and in his adopted country where he opined, he was paying 17 shillings in the pound.

Charles Garland died of a heart attack on June 10th 1921 at the early age of forty six. Details of his will were recorded in the Times of August 16th 1921 when his estate was valued at £347,357 and the will began, perhaps reflecting his order of priorities, with the direction that "his favourite horse Beware, should not be worked but turned out to grass and a comfortable home provided." The next provision concerned property to be left in trust to his three daughters and their issue with the proviso that "should any daughter marry under 20 without the consent of her guardian, she shall for the purpose of his will be deemed to have predeceased him without issue”. His three daughters, Elizabeth, Anne and Jean, not surprisingly, waited a while before committing to marriage! Elizabeth and Anne married once but Jean was married four times to: Arthur Smith-Bingham, Sir Robert Throckmorton 11th Baronet, Greville Baylis and Ronald Calvert 3rd Baron Ashcombe. She and her sister Elizabeth were tragically killed in a plane crash over France on March 5th 1973.

A bequest of £50,000 was left in his will to an adopted son born in Leamington in 1900, who was educated by Garland at Eastbourne College in 1917-18. After his departure to Lincoln College, Oxford, Garland donated £100 to the school's War Memorial Fund.

Garland was a generous benefactor and a most popular addition to the local Warwickshire scene. Among his many recorded benevolent gestures were a donation of £1,000 to the newly formed diocese of Coventry and a gift of land in Moreton Morrell for use as a Church of England school for "the education only of the labouring, manufacturing and other poorer class in the parish" and a school house for the school master. He even presented a £5 prize and a Challenge Cup for the local villages' Horticultural Society.

Charles Garland successfully spent his family’s wealth on levering himself into the upper echelons of English society and became a quasi-English country squire boasting a mansion described as "one of the wonders of Warwickshire”. He became a British citizen and dutifully took to his heart the Church of England and became a Church Warden at the Church of the Holy Cross in the village, He was a philanthropist and patron of many intrinsically English sporting, educational, religious, military and social organizations. Research has shown that he certainly lived his life to the full socially and overall left a considerable mark on his adopted patch of Warwickshire.

But for our purposes, his real achievement has to be the construction of Moreton Morrell Tennis Court in 1905


This article was written by Sir Andrew Hamilton and originally published in the club's centenary brochure in 2005.