The Mystery of the Medals

In 1932 a Miss Gordon deposited some commemorative medals at Hove Museum. No-one at the time had made a note of who she was but the medals belonged to a Frederick A Marshall who had worked in the Diplomatic service in Japan and Europe.

After some searching it was discovered that ‘Miss Gordon’ was Sarah Ellen Rose Gordon, daughter of Sir Henry William Gordon K. C. B. and Lady Henrietta Rose Gordon. Sir Gordon was brother of the famous General Charles George Gordon of Khartoum (1833-1885) whose biography ‘Events in the life of Charles George Gordon’ Henry Gordon wrote in 1886.

Promissory Note issue by General Gordon during the siege of Khartoum (1884)
Promissory Note issue by General Gordon during the siege of Khartoum (1884)

The museum already has a small bust of General Gordon and he is commemorated on some of the porcelain pieces in the collection.

Commemorative jug with a relief portrait of General Gordon (c1884)
Commemorative jug with a relief portrait of General Gordon (c1884)

On his retirement Sir Henry William Gordon, his wife and Sarah lived at Oat Hall, a large villa in Lindfield, Sussex. Sir Henry died in 1887. Around 1900 Lady Gordon and their youngest daughter, Sarah, moved to 100 Lansdowne Place and later to 46 Norton Road, Hove where Lady Gordon died in 1907. She was buried in Holy Trinity Churchyard, Cuckfield with her husband.

In 1913 Sarah made a large donation to Hove Library of 80 Volumes of ‘All the Year Round’ and 5 volumes of ‘Household Words’ (both of these publications being associated with Charles Dickens) plus some other works too.

By 1915 Sarah had moved again to 27 Wilbury Road, Hove where she lived until her death in 1937.

On 28 January 1933 General Gordon’s centenary was celebrated by the mounting of an exhibition at Hove Museum. Sarah and her brother, Louis, lent several relics including tools Gordon took to China. (Encyclopaedia of Hove & Portslade)

The medals that Sarah had donated a year earlier belonged to Frederick Adolphus Marshall who, with his German wife, Luise, and daughter, Genevieve, lived at 19 Tisbury Road, Hove. The families may already have known each other abroad as both had led military lives; Sarah was born in Hong Kong and Genevieve in Paris. After her father’s death in 1905 Genevieve lived with Luise; she left money in trust to Sarah Gordon in her will.

Frederick Adolphus Marshall was born in Hackney in 1824 the son of a coal merchant from Yorkshire. He and six other children lived in Mare Street, Hackney. Frederick, the youngest son, left the family home sometime after 1841. Ten years later the family moved to Southampton. Frederick’s father, John Marshall, had got into considerable debt, living beyond his means and owing £21,226 to the Great Western Coal Company and others. John moved with his wife to a house belonging to his eldest daughter in Eldon Square, Reading, Berkshire where he died in 1861.

According to the Western Daily Press, Bristol, May 16 1905 and the Yorkshire Post

“Mr Frederick Marshall died Friday last at Brighton (12 May 1905) within a few days of his 82nd Birthday. He was one of the oldest and most valued Europeans who have served the Japanese Government. He may, in fact, wrote the ‘Times’ [Newspaper], “be said to have been the first mentor of Japanese diplomacy in Europe: for when upon the inauguration of the new era in Japan, the Mikado determined to establish diplomatic relations in the chief European capitals. Mr Marshall was appointed to act as Secretary of Legation with the first mission which visited London and Paris for this purpose, and he assisted afterwards in the establishment of other Japanese legations in Berlin, Madrid, Lisbon, Brussels, etc.”

Even after Marshall’s retirement he continued to write special reports on subjects of public interest for the Japanese Government. And for many years he was a frequent contributor to the chief British periodicals, and more especially to the ‘Algernon Blackwood’ Magazines.

Lavender Jones