MORE ON MENDELSSOHN’S DAUGHTER’S GRAVE

In the article about the grave of Felix Mendelssohn’s daughter (October Parish Paper), the two Oxford ladies named in the piece were NOT great-grand-daughters of the composer, but friends of his grandson, a Fellow of Magdalen College, Paul Victor Mendelssohn Benecke. Their surname was, confusingly, Deneke. Margaret Deneke was a friend of Paul Benecke, who had inherited his grandfather’s papers, correspondence and a large quantity of musical material, and it was through her that this large and important Mendelssohn archive was acquired for the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

She wrote a short book about Paul Benecke, which has a family tree showing that his mother (the lady in St. Giles churchyard) was in fact a cousin of the man she married, Charles Victor Benecke. The Deneke and Benecke families were neighbours in Denmark Hill, north London, and Margaret Deneke tells of musical evenings there, with the great nineteenth century violinist Joseph Joachim (for whom Brahms wrote his violin concerto). Mr. Benecke was a man of business in the City of London. His family had moved here from north Germany.

Paul and his younger brother Edward Felix Mendelssohn Benecke went to Haileybury School near Hertford. From there Paul won a scholarship to Magdalen College Oxford, and later became a Fellow; he taught Classics (Latin and Greek), but he also taught History to C.S. Lewis, who later joined him as a Fellow at Magdalen, and Margaret Deneke describes him as a theologian, so he was quite a scholar!

For many years the Beneckes lived in Roehampton, described in the Haileybury Register for 1886 as both “SW” (South West London) and “Surrey”. However as the area became built over, they moved out to Barnet, so that they could live in the country. Their home was Norfolk Lodge on Dancers Hill Road, where musical Sunday evenings with Joachim continued. It is now a Montessori School.

The younger son, Edward, was killed in the Alps in 1895, and the family was distraught. His mother, Marie, died of grief two years later, and the nearest churchyard was ours in South Mymms – Norfolk Lodge is in St. Giles parish, despite the Barnet address. So that’s why we have Mendelssohn the composer’s daughter in the churchyard.

William Marsterson