Who is Len Howard?

An appendix to “Len Howard” (my blog entry of 30 April 2009)

After updating my blog entry twice, I decided to publish my research notes on Len Howard on a page of its own.

I’ll begin with a possible timeline. The inspirational source for this timeline is the genealogy suggested on Len Howard’s Wikipedia Discussion; namely, that Len Howard, aka Gwen Howard, is the daughter of Henry Newman Howard (1861) and Florence Howard (née Warman), and youngest sibling of Kingsley Newman, Olive, and Ernest Dudley. I have supported this information with British public records, information provided by Len Howard in her books, information provided me through correspondence between myself and a volunteer member of the Ditchling History Project, and the writings of Henry Newman Howard (the British dramatist and poet referenced on Wikipedia, whom I believe is the same person as Gwen Howard’s father). Enquiries are welcome.

  • 1861/2 Newman Howard is born
  • 1861 is the year given on Len Howard’s Wikipedia Discussion page. June 16, 1861 is the birth date given on Newman Howard’s Wikipedia Article. 1862 is the year given in the 1891, 1901, and 1911 British census. I believe all five of these references are to the same person. In the 1891 and 1901 census, his name is recorded as Henry N Howard; in 1901, however, it is recorded as H. Nestman Howard (a typo?). In 1911 and 1901, he was identified as an author; in 1891, as a chartered accountant. The census consistently cite Hertfordshire as his birthplace, but are less consistent on the details (in 1911 and 1901, Kings Langley; but in 1891, Watford).

  • 1885 Newman Howard marries Florence Warman
  • In the 1911 census, it is noted that Newman and Florence have been married 26 years. Although I have not seen a copy and am not privy to the details, I have confirmed that a marriage certificate does indeed exist for one Henry Newman Howard, registered in the first quarter (between January and March) of 1885 in Middlesex (district of Edmonton). In all three census, Florence is identified as Florence M, born in London (in the 1891 census, the additional detail of London, Lovington Park is included); in the 1911 census, her birth year is listed as 1861, but in the other two census her birth year is listed as 1862. Warman is given as Florence’s maiden name on Len Howard’s Wkipedia Discussion page. Also note the dedication poem to Newman Howard’s Kiartan the Icelander (1902), which is entitled “To F.H.” (Reprinted in Collected Poems. London: Macmillan, 1913. Page 3. Page n19 in the Google reader).

  • 1886 Kingsley Howard is born
  • Kingsley Newman Howard is not listed as a member of the household in any of the British census I consulted. I could not find any record of him in the 1891 census, although he would have been 5; his sister Olive, 4 years old, was living at home. I wonder if Kingsley was away at boarding school, because that’s where he was in 1901: he is recorded on the census as Kingsley N Howard (born 1886 in Finchley Middlesex), a boarder and student aged 14 years at The School House, Chapel Lane, Stratford on Avon. In 1911 he is listed as Kingsley Newman Howard, single male aged 25 (born 1886 in London), an articled clerk and one of five boarders in a family home on Lupus St. in Westminster.

  • 1887 Olive Howard is born
  • The 1891, 1901, and 1911 census are consistent on this point, and they all have her born near Middlesex (in 1891 and 1911, Whetstone; in 1901, Finchley). Yet Olive is a complicated character. An article in The Beacon (Feb 2007) erroneously states that Olive Howard was Len Howard’s true name, and that Len Howard was Olive’s brother. A red herring! Here may be another: Newman Howard wrote two poems entitled “To My Daughter Olive,” both of which appear in his Collected Poems (London: Macmillan, 1913). One is the dedication to The Guaranches: An Idyl (page n367 in the Google Reader), and the other is an independent poem (page n541 in the Google reader). Both poems strike me as responses to a daughter who died in childhood. Dead?! Of course, people did sometimes name a child the same as its deceased infant sibling, didn’t they? Perhaps there were two Olives. A final point for consideration: in the 1891 census, Olive is identified as Olive H; in 1901 and 1911, she is Olive F.

  • 1891 Howard family living in Wallington, Surrey
  • The census lists Henry, Florence, and Olive living with 3 female servants at a home called The Beeches on Stanley Park Road.

  • 1892 Dudley Howard is born
  • Although, between 1901 and 1911, he changes from Ernest D Howard to E Dudley Howard, Dudley is a consistent character: born 1892 in Wallington, Surrey. In 1911 he is identified as an art student.

  • 1894 Gwen Howard is born
  • The census are consistent on this point and both cite the birthplace as Wallington, Surrey. She is identified as Gwendolen in 1901; Gwendolen M in 1911. Len Howard’s death certificate (of which I have a copy, and about which you are welcome to contact me), identifies her as Gwendolen Howard, and notes an approximate birth year of 1893. Finally, an anonymous source on Wikipedia provided the information that Len Howard was 79 years old when she died, which, according to both the anonymous source and Gwendolen Howard’s death certificate, would make her birth year approximately 1894.

  • 1901 Howard family living in Toddington, Bedfordshire
  • The census lists Henry, Florence, Olive, Dudley, Gwendolen, and a visitor named Philippa Marett (age 32, single) living with 2 female servants at a home called The Wainholm in Parsonage End.

  • 1911-1914 (at a minimum) Howard family living in Aberdovey, Wales
  • First, The 1911 census lists Henry, Florence, Olive, Gwendolen, Dudley, and a niece named Margaret Hannay (age 22, an art student) living with 2 female servants at a home in Preswylfa, Aberdovey. Second, in the December 24, 1914 issue of the New York Times, a letter is published by one George Haven Putnam (New York, December 23, 1914) that includes a letter written him by the English writer, Newman Howard (Aberdovy, North Wales, December 7, 1914).

  • 1929 Newman Howard dies
  • See Newman Howard’s Wikipedia Article.

  • 1938 (approximately) Gwen Howard leaves London, where she had been a professional musician, for Ditchling, Sussex, and a life of reclusion
  • In the preface to Living with Birds, which was first printed in January 1952, Len Howard writes: “Fourteen years ago I left London and began living with wild birds flying freely in and out of my small cottage in Sussex.” If we assume the preface was written in 1951, this means Len Howard left London in 1937. However, it appears likely that she floated around for a few years before moving into Bird Cottage. The current owner of the property writes in response to this page (see below) that Gwendolen Howard purchased the land on which Bird Cottage was to be built on September 9, 1938. I have been told that, in an article published in Ideal Home (April 1961), the author Cynthia Ellis writes that, on the advice of doctors, Len Howard left London prior to 1939 and lived in a hut until Bird Cottage was built. Ellis also apparently writes that Howard was a musician in London, playing viola in an orchestra for Malcolm Sargent, giving music lessons, and organizing concerts for children from the slums. That Len Howard is an accomplished musician, and equally that she is later a reclusive person, is apparent from reading her books and has been reinforced to me through personal correspondence.

  • 1940 Remaining Howard family living in Budleigh Salterton, Devon
  • My source for the following information is arrived at second-hand through personal correspondence: Because of the war, two children were billeted with the Howard family, which in 1940 consisted of Olive, taking care of her mother and brother Dudley. Their home in Budleigh Salterton was again called The Wainholm (see entry for 1901). One of these children (now grown, of course), is the original source of this information; she also affirms my original apprehension that Henry Newman Howard, Len Howard’s father, and Newman Howard, the author, are one and the same person.

  • 1949-1957 (at a minimum) Len Howard publishes her writings about birds
  • First, Howard’s first book, Birds as Individuals, was first printed in January of 1952, and in it Howard thanks certain periodicals for allowing her to reprint some sections of the book; a commenter on my periodicals page provides summer 1949 for an early date. Second, I have a copy of a periodical from 1957 which features an article written by Howard. See my Periodicals page for more information.

  • 1962 Olive and Dudley Howard die; Howard family living in Ottery St. Mary, Devon
  • See Len Howard’s Wikipedia Discussion page. Olive and Dudley died within 11 days of one another: first Olive on 2 August, then Dudley on 13 August. Apparently there is a death record for Olive, but none has been found that confirms this death date for Dudley.

  • 1973 Gwen Howard dies
  • An anonymous informant on Wikipedia writes that Len Howard died on January 5, 1973, at Bird Cottage at the age of 79. Gwendolen Howard’s death certificate records her as dying on January 5, 1973, at Bird Cottage in Ditchling, due to heart failure; her death was registered five days later. Through personal correspondence, I have learned that by the time of her death, Len Howard was apparently receiving visiting care, and that it may be one of these attendants who found her body.


There is a rumour going around (apparently begun by Miss. Howard herself, in long-ago conversation with a local boy), that Len Howard is related to the Duke of Norfolk. I am confident that Len Howard is related to Henry Newman Howard, the author, and, according to the office of the Duke of Norfolk’s Archives, there is no relation between these two (that is, the Duke’s family and Newman Howard).

Bird Cottage, the site of Len Howard’s literary birding activities, a.k.a. 91 Lewes Rd., Ditchling, Lewes, East Sussex, England, BN6 8TZ. Bird Cottage was recently on sale here (link may not be active for much longer). A list of planning applications to the property can be discovered through the Lewes District Council website here: there are 4 planning applications recorded for the time Len Howard lived at Bird Cottage: (1) 16 Oct. 1958 application to erect one dwellinghouse at site of 91 Lewes, withdrawn (2) 8 Nov. 1958 application to erect one dwellinghouse on site part of 89-91 Lewes, approved (3) 12 Nov 1958 application for dwelling adjoining “Beardsland” within curtilage of 91 Lewes, approved (4) 12 Feb 1959 application to erect 2 dwellinghouses on site within curtilage of 91 Lewes, approved. More information about the property is forthcoming.


9 thoughts on “Who is Len Howard?

  1. Great.

    I am now owner of Bird Cottage. The deeds have Gwendolen buying the the land on which Bird Cottage is built on 9 September 1938.

    There are also several deeds relating to the transfer of land as a bird sanctuary.

    We also have copies of what appear to be unpublished manuscripts that are in her style but about country and village life rather than ornithology.

    About Bird Cottage: the path leading to Lewes Road where Gwen had her signs still exists although the overgrown gate is gone.

    Some of the land once belonging to Bird Cottage has been sold off but the extended plot is almost all mature trees, some of which correspond to her plan of the garden, and grass.


    1. As I child I lived next door to Bird Cottage at Beardsland.
      Len Howard bought the land to build Bird Cottage from my great aunt.


  2. Apropos her possible relationship to the Duke of Norfolk, maybe email someone at Arundel Castle and find out?

    Duke of Norfolk’s archives lower down the page, scroll down.

    Good to hear from the current owner of the house. But would he want his full address on public display, I wonder? Your blog is web-searchable. (Just a thought – not a criticism).


    1. Hello, thanks for that link, I will look into it. Otherwise, the full address of Bird Cottage is available online in a number of places (planning applications, realty websites), and it was the owner himself who self-identified. I have since sent him an email thanking him for his comment etc., so if he is uncomfortable with his publicity in retrospect, he may contact me about it.


      1. Wow, what service! I contacted the Duke of Norfolk’s Archives this morning and already received a response! No relation, apparently. I’ll update above.


  3. I am Len (Gwendolen) Howard’s great niece (Kinglsey’s grandaughter), and I can confirm that our branch of the Howard family has nothing to do with the Duke of Norfolk’s branch.

    My parents, Gill and Richard Howard, cleared out the house in Ottery St Mary in August 1962. Olive and Dudley had been living on their own since their mother Florence died in, I think, 1961, aged 100 and 3 months. I can remember visiting Dudley in hospital just days before he died (had he been taken to Hampshire to be near Kingsley? My memory is hazy). I think both he and Olive were buried in a churchyard near Ottery. I may have photos and could probably find the church given time and opportunity!

    Susan Copus (nee Howard)


  4. Just found all this wonderful information on the Howard family,At the moment i am researching the family as my 1st cousin 2x removed married a Andrew Barlow Howard ,His father was Kingsley Newman Howard and mother Janet Barlow,If anyone has any photos of the family i would be very grateful,


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