Around 1890, an advertising pamphlet or flyer was published by Montgomerie’s patented malt extract digestive bread, biscuits and rusks, “as used in the Queen’s household.” These highly superior biscuits were “Highly recommended by the medical profession and frankly, I am appalled that they are not available on the NHS today, such is their wonderousness. Not surprisingly, people rushed to offer their testimonials to the greatness of this product, not least HRH Princess Christian, who considered all Montgomerie’s products to be most excellent. Amongst the illustrious contributors was one Rhoda Milne, of Gotham House, Clarendon Park Road. She wrote to say
I shall feel greatly obliged if you will send me twelve boxes of Malt rusks, for infants. Gregory, your agent here, is out of them, and says he will not have any more for a fortnight. I am entirely without, which is rather a serious matter, as nothing else suits my baby as well. Yours truly, RHODA MILNE.
So who was Rhoda Milne and why was she so desperate for these rusks? Well, she was born Rhoda Stuart in Brighton c1858 and married John Milne, a Lancashire yarn agent, in London in 1885. By 1891 they lived at Gotham House with children Helen (b1886) and John (b1889) – both born in Clarendon Park Road – and two servants. The family stayed there, going on to have another daughter Elizabeth, until some time between 1901 and 1907, when they moved to Ashleigh Road (near Narborough Road). John died in 1907 aged just 49, leaving the sizeable sum of £10, 206. His son John – who by the way was probably the baby in the pamphlet who was greedy for malted rusks – continued the yarn agent and merchant business started by his father. I imagine his mother had received a fee from Montgomerie’s for allowing her letter to be published as advertising. I looked for a likely Gregory agent for the rusks but couldn’t find anything convincing.
As to Gotham House on Clarendon Park Road – you would hardly know it was ever called that now. There is only the gate post, which has been carved with the name, to show. It’s divided up into flats now and a bit run down; a bit of a come-down from being the home of a successful businessman with a family and two or three servants.
I see this gatepost four times a day so I am pleased that I came across the Montgomerie’s biscuits advertising leaflet that made me find out a tiny bit about some of the former occupants of the house. If only I could find some of those rusks in the shops today! Regards, Elizabeth.