Grange House School and Mrs. Whaley Bouchier Nutt

Dysart Harbour the year after Helen was born. In 1861 her family lived a few hundred yards away, in Quality Street.
Dysart Harbour the year after Helen was born. In 1861 her family lived a few hundred yards away, in Quality Street.

What kind of person would make a good headmistress for a Victorian school for young ladies in a mansion in the suburbs of Edinburgh? Presiding over the one in Grange House from 1883-1895 was Helen Hamilton Black: a strong character, her story suggests.

She was born in Fife in 1853 to a father who was a naval officer descended from naval officers, while her mother came from a family of Indian Army officers with Scottish roots. After a childhood in the small coastal town of Dysart, by 17 Helen was at a small boarding school near Bristol. When she was 20 she married in Frankfurt.

Helen Hamilton Black or Johnson or Nutt or Chamberlain

Helen Hamilton Black was a boarder here at Willsbridge House in April 1871. Photo Paul Townsend
Helen Hamilton Black was a boarder here at Willsbridge House near Bristol in April 1871. Photo Paul Townsend

Her husband,  Robert Helenus Johnson, was the son of a judge in Bombay. The couple went to India and lived in Guntur where Robert worked for the Bank of Madras. Their first son was born a couple of years later, but Robert soon died and Helen gave birth to their second child in London. By the time this little boy was three, Helen was “assistant lady superintendent” for an Edinburgh “Institute for Young Ladies”.[ref]Based in Charlotte Square[/ref] Her responsibilities included a dozen teenage girls boarding in the house where she, her children and three servants lived too.[ref]Her mother may have lived with her too. She is with Helen in both 1871 and 1881 censuses and died at Grange House.[/ref]

Her own school and a second marriage

In 1882 she announced in the press that she would be opening her own establishment in Grange House. A couple of months later came her marriage to Whaley Bouchier Nutt, a lecturer in “vocal physiology and elocution”. Whaley had already arranged to rent the Grange mansion house in Edinburgh. More about his life below.

Advertising the education on offer at Grange House, 1890.
Advertising the education on offer at Grange House, 1890.

It was called an “establishment” for the education of “the daughters of gentlemen” and not a “school”. However conventional this sounds, there are signs that Mr. and Mrs. Nutt had some unconventional and innovative ideas.

A “scientific” botanical garden, designed by Patrick Geddes, replaced the rose garden. Presumably the school taught natural sciences, which Geddes believed offered a “unique combination of educational advantages”.[ref]Transactions of Botanical Society of Edinburgh, Vol. 16[/ref] There was a gymnasium: quite progressive for girls’ education in the 1880s, even if they stuck to “ladylike” exercise. Whaley believed there should not be too much emphasis on cramming facts, and  thought that “fashioning the organs of speech” would help both mind and body.[ref]Lecture reported in Dundee Courier 26 November 1892[/ref]

Grange House in the late 19th century
Grange House in the late 19th century

The Nutts were friends of the pioneering Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women, and supported women’s suffrage.[ref]Englishwoman’s Review, December 15, 1886, and April 15, 1890[/ref] Whaley was said to be a “philanthropist”, and they involved the girls at Grange House in fund-raising sales and concerts for an Indian aid mission, with Helen especially supporting their Girls’ Union.[ref]The Indian Female Evangelist. July 1, 1886[/ref]

A new life in South Africa

During her time at Grange House, Helen gave birth to two children: a daughter in 1884 and, ten years later, a son. Whaley died the year after the baby boy was born, in 1895. He left Helen everything he had, but this was just furniture and school equipment and nine hundred pounds of life insurance.[ref]By June, the owners had started eviction proceedings against the Nutts, so there may have been financial difficulties even before Whaley’s death in March.[/ref] Soon she took out a tenancy on a smaller, cheaper house and announced that her school would open there that autumn.[ref]Carrielee in the Colinton Road – Glasgow Herald August 7, 1895[/ref] However, before the end of the year she married again, in London. Her new husband, Harold Goddard Chamberlain, son of a navy Paymaster-General,  was twenty years younger than she was. They moved to South Africa where their son was born in 1898: Helen’s fifth child. She was 44.

Two of her best-known relatives are traveller and publisher John Reddie Black, her step-brother, who had the same name as their father, and war-zone journalist George Steer, her grand-son.

Whaley Bouchier Nutt

Whaley lost his father, Major Justinian Nutt, when he was about twelve. His family were settled in Cheltenham, but he lived in Rugby for two years, and went to school there as a day boy. In his 20s he spent time in Melbourne, with trips back to England. While in Australia he patented an invention for scouring wool. The Rugby School register called him a “Merchant at Manchester”, and there is evidence of a short-lived textile business partnership based there.

Whaley Bouchier Nutt - sketch published after his death in 1895
Whaley Bouchier Nutt – sketch published after his death in 1895

During the 1860s and 1870s, his name crops up in Cheltenham and Leamington newspapers. Mostly these are bland reports on the social pages of him arriving or departing, but a description of a lavish “Bachelors’ Ball” in 1871 says he came in fancy dress “as a Greek”.

After his business partnership was dissolved he started performing “dramatic readings”. Many were near his home in Cheltenham, where he lived with his widowed mother, sister Mary and three servants, but some were further afield. When he was 34 a census gave his profession as “public reader and lecturer”. Reviews described good audiences (not unconnected with his family’s social standing, suggested one reporter) but they were not whole-heartedly enthusiastic.

In 1882 he married Helen in Cheltenham. A local paper called the occasion a fashionable wedding, with an “elegant déjeuner” for family guests including Whaley’s cousin the Rev. J. W. Nutt, who assisted at the ceremony, and Helen’s uncle General Fulton.[ref]Cheltenham Looker-On, 16 Dec. 1882[/ref]

Once in Edinburgh, Whaley’s profession was generally given as “vocal physiologist and elocution” tutor. He called this a “fine art” that brought charm and grace to people’s lives as well as being beneficial to physical health.[ref]Lecture reported in Dundee Courier 26 November 1892[/ref] He taught at Loretto School, the Watt Institute and elsewhere, as well as at Grange House.

In the 1890s he was a visiting tutor at St. Mary’s College in St. Andrews, and at the London-based Chaffee-Noble Training School of Expression. As well as elocution and gesture, the London curriculum included “aesthetic physical and vocal drill”, gymnastics, recitation and criticism.[ref]Advertising in the Morning Post etc.[/ref]

When he died in 1895, a brief obituary called him an “elocutionist of considerable ability”, a man “of a philanthropic disposition” and a “Liberal Unionist in politics”.[ref]Edinburgh Evening News, 6 March 1895[/ref]

More on Helen Hamilton Black’s parents, husbands, children and other genealogy

More on Whaley B. Nutt’s family and ancestors


  • Willsbridge House by Paul Townsend, with Creative Commons license. Added text from  P.O. directory 1863.
  • Dysart Harbour by Samuel Bough, 1854, from Wikimedia.
  • Grange House from McGibbon and Ross, The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland, Douglas 1887-92
  • W.B.Nutt sketch from Edinburgh Evening News, 6 March 1895


Helen Hamilton Black and her family

Helen Hamilton Black, her husbands, children etc.

Helen Hamilton Black b. 22 August 1853 Dysart, Fife, first child of John Reddie Black and Emma Fulton

Robert Johnson, Helen's first husband, was christened at Bycullah, India - probably in this church
Robert Johnson, Helen’s first husband, was christened at Bycullah, India – probably in this church.

2nd February 1874 in Frankfurt she m. Robert Helenus Johnson (b. 21 Aug 1842, bap. 13 Sep. 1842 at Bycullah, d. 14 June 1877, Guntoor), son of Frances née Jeffreys (m. 1826, d.1843) and John Lewis Johnson (1796-1872), judge in Bombay Court.

  • Lewis (Duncan ?) Johnson b. 2 Feb 1876,  Guntoor, at Loretto School, nr Edinburgh in 1891.
  • Robert Francis Hamilton Johnson b. 3rd Oct 1877, London [Internet sources say he worked for Customs and Railway Dept, Cape Colony, S.A. and married a niece of James Xavier Merriman. No reason to doubt this, but can’t confirm it.]

December 1882 in Cheltenham she m. Whaley Bouchier Nutt (b. 4 August 1846 Cheltenham, d. 4 March 1895 Edinburgh)

Read about Helen and Whaley Nutt and the school they ran – click here.

Their children:

  • Emma Cecilia Armitage Nutt, b. 1884, Grange House, Edinburgh
  • Lindsay Llewellyn Nutt (known as Lindsay Llewellyn Chamberlain by 1915 at  Sandhurst) born 2 July 1894 Grange House, Edinburgh, baptised 18 Aug. in Llanaber, Wales, Sandhurst College, Lieut. with 25th Punjabis in First World War, farmer in Ofcolaco  when he m. Vera Adeline Fotheringham in Pietersburg on 4 March 1924.

1895 Q4 in London Helen m. Harold Goddard Chamberlain (b. Dec. 1872, Dartmouth, son of Edward and Susannah, in South Africa he was an accountant)

  • D’Eyncourt Goddard Chamberlain, b. 24 Feb 1898, Sandhurst College, Major at death on 2 December 1942, buried Tunisia

Helen Hamilton Black’s parents, siblings etc.

Dysart Harbour c1850 - part of the home landscape of the Black family.
Dysart Harbour c1850 – close to home for the Black family.

John Reddie Black, HHB’s father, was born 25 Jan 1787 in Dysart, Fife, and died there 7 Jan 1862.

He was the son of James Black, R.N. and Grizel Reddie/Reddy, who married in 1784 in Dysart. (Grizel was apparently born in 1760 in Dysart to John Reddy and Elspet Spence). He was brother of Lieut. James Black, R.N., (b. 22 July 1785,  died before 1849 while serving in the West Indies.) JRB’s other siblings were Grizel, Jean, Alexander, Andrew and George John Purdue. Nephew of Lieut. John Black, R.N., who died 1814.

m.  22 July 1818 Sophia Kiffiana Juliana Hurdis (bap. 29 July 1784, d. 1842, dau. of Jas. Hurdis, Esq., of Seaford, Sussex, sister of Capt. George Clarke Hurdis, R.N.)

  • Ann Catherine Black 16 Feb 1820, died Dec. 1841
  • James Hurdis Black 20 Sep 1821, dip. Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, Nov. 1844, admitted Society of Apothecaries, 22 Aug 1850
  • Grace Sanderson Black 6 Oct 1823, m. Thomas Henry Tuckett 22 Jun 1852, Fife, d. 1871, 1856 and 1871 at Comely Park, Dunfermline, THT a road surveyor, with children:
    • Thomas Lindsay Burn Tuckett b. 1856
    • Stanley Phipps Kerr Tuckett b.1858
  • John Reddie Black 8 Jan 1826, bap. Episcopal Chapel, Kirkcaldy
  • Henry James Black

Secondly, JRB senior m. Emma Fulton (bap. 29 May 1830 Trichinopoly, India, d. 24 June 1889, Edinburgh)

  • Helen Hamilton Black 22 Aug 1853
  • George Stow Black 5 Aug 1855, in 1890s Lloyd’s Captains Register 
  • Emma Caroline Black 5 Sep 1856
  • Henry Somes Black b. 23 May 1858, Navy Commander 1886, m. Jane Greig Miller 3 Jun 1892, Aden, d. Juniper Green nr. Edinburgh 3 Oct 1919, in 1911 living in Bedford with wife and children:
    • Jean Moray Black, age 17 (in 1911) b. Bombay, Ian Reddie Hamilton Black age 12, born Rangoon, Henry Lindsay Black age 9, born Glasgow, Kenneth Ross Hamilton Black age 6, born North Berwick
  • Ann Spence Black 22 May 1860, at 1871 census with mother and brother Henry in Dunfermline at Grace S. Black or Tuckett’s house, 1881 census at Helen’s house in Edinburgh

All John Reddie Black’s children were born in Dysart.

Emma Fulton’s parents were Caroline (Hurdis, widow) when she was m. in Sep. 1820 at Cannanore to Major John Fulton (b. 30 March 1875 Markinch, d. 21 Jan 1853 Innerleven, Fife). Their other children, Emma’s siblings, were:

  • Graeme Auchmuty Fulton b. 19 Nov 1820, Cannanore, Major General of Madras Infantry d. 1886 St. Helier, Jersey
  • James Robert Fulton b. 31 Oct 1821, Cannanore


  • Johnson Black marriage –  The Standard, February 16, 1874;
  • RH Johnson death “son of the late JL Johnson, Esq, judge, Bombay Court”- Aberdeen Weekly Journal July 21, 1877
  • Birth of son [RFHJohnson] to widow of RHJ in London – Aberdeen Weekly Journal  October 10, 1877
  • Loretto School Register for LDJ and RFHJ
  • Sandhurst records for LLC and d’EGC
  • Naval Biographical Dictionary, 1849
  • Index to Wills and Administrations
  • Frances, wife of John Lewis Johnson, died 31 July 1843 Morning Post (Bombay news) -Oct 25 1843


Captain Justinian Nutt and others

Justinian Nutt - from Royal Museums Greenwich collection
Justinian Nutt, in a portrait showing him as officer and gentleman – Royal Museums Greenwich

In 1740 Justinian Nutt was part of a great adventure which led to his rise into the officer class. He went on the round-the-world Anson expedition, first as a lieutenant’s servant and then as the Centurion’s master: an experienced seaman in his late thirties but not yet a commissioned officer.[ref]Rodger, The Wooden World – J. Nutt was “about 36” in 1740[/ref] This indicates that he was not born a “gentleman”, though there is no record of his origins.

After years of service, Justinian Nutt was made a lieutenant and then a captain. Promotion on merit and social mobility was possible in the navy of that era, though unlikely for anyone born “beneath” the lower-middle class, with no schooling at all. Sons of tradesmen who supplied goods or services in dockyard towns, and sons of warrant officers, were more likely than other non-gentlemen to have the opportunity of getting a good start in the navy as an officer’s servant.[ref]Rodger, The Wooden World[/ref]

Scroll down page for Justinian Nutt’s descendants/family tree

Justinian Nutt marries Miss Cooke with her £10,00 - Gentleman's Magazine 1749
Justinian Nutt marries Miss Cook with her £10,000 – Gentleman’s Magazine 1749

By the late 1740s Captain Nutt was an officer at Greenwich Hospital, and in 1749 married Elizabeth Cook who brought with her a dowry of £10,000. Their two sons were given names honouring their father’s senior officers and comrades from the Anson expedition. Lord and Lady Anson and Sir Peircy Brett were godparents to George Anson Nutt. His brother, Justinian Saunders Bentley Nutt, was christened with Captain Saunders and Captain Bentley as his godfathers.

Brett and Bentley were among Captain Nutt’s executors when he died in 1758, and may have helped oversee the boys’ education, along with their uncle Francis Cook. (In 1761 Mrs. Elizabeth Nutt married Lieutenant Charles Bresson, who spent most of his life on shore, having lost a leg as a young man.) For more than a century, navy or army careers were almost the norm for Captain Nutt’s male descendants, with a Justinian in each of four generations.

This makes Whaley Bouchier Nutt, great-grandson of the captain’s, stand out as someone who followed his own path. After researching his role in an Edinburgh school, and discovering that both his father and brother were called Major Justinian Nutt I wanted to know more about his forebears. Read more about the school run by his wife, Helen Hamilton Black or Nutt, or go to a page about him, his wife, Helen Nutt, and their children. Scroll down for an outline of the Nutt family.

Justinian Nutt and the men from the Centurion recovered from danger and scurvy on the Pacific island of Tinian c1741.
Justinian Nutt and the crew of the Centurion recovered from danger and scurvy on the Pacific island of Tinian in 1742.

Four generations of Justinian Nutts and their siblings

I hope the layout and colours, along with dates, will show which generation is which. Please use the comments section for any queries.

Justinian Nutt, b. c1704, d. 1758, Captain at time of marriage in 1749 to  Elizabeth Cook(e), (b. Winchester 1726, d.1797, 2nd marriage to Charles Besson 1761.)

1.  George Anson Nutt (b. 1750, Catherington Hants, godfather Lord Anson, Captain of H.M. 33rd regiment, d.1828)  m. (1) 1783 Mary Smith  m. (2) 1793, Mary Tymewell Blake, d. 1841

  • George Francis Nutt, b.1784, gentleman cadet (army) 1798, d. before 1832
  • Mary, b. 1785, m. Rev. Francis Pelly of Siston, Glos.1806 (He married again 1813)
  • Justinian Nutt (b. 1786, d. 1853), Major in Bombay Engineers, G.A.N.’s “eldest son” by time of his marriage at Bridstow in 1832 to Cecilia Armitage (b. 1804, 5th daughter of Whaley Armitage )
  1. Justinian Armitage Nutt b. December 1832, Major in Bombay Engineers  when m. Lucy Amelia Anstey in 1865, d. 1907 (They had children with Justinian as first or middle name who died as babies in Bengal.) 
  2. Cecilia Mary Nutt b. 1834 Somerset m.1859 John Edward Sutherland Lillie, Bengal Civil Service
  3. Mary Eleonora Nutt b.1836 d.1915
  4. Rachel Emma Nutt b. 1839 Frankfurt
  5. Henry Lowther Nutt b. 1841 Frankfurt, 1868 in Aden m. Eleanor Olivia Anstey, by 1882 Major in Bombay Staff Corps, d. 1896
  6. A daughter b. 1844, Cheltenham
  7. Whaley Bouchier Nutt (b. 4 August 1846 Cheltenham, d.1895 Edinburgh), in 1882 m. Helen Hamilton  Black or Johnson (b.1853, Dysart, Fife, d. South Africa, from 1895 Helen Chamberlain)
  • Henry Anson Nutt b. 1796 Speen, Berks., entered Madras Cavalry in 1819 after attending Woolwich Military Academy, 1833 m. Helen Young, d. 1834
  • Charles Nutt b. c1798 Speen (Rev., lived East Harptree c1860) – sons John William Nutt b. 1834, James Anson Francis Nutt, cadet 1863, Lt-Col 1897, RA, daughters Jane, Maria, Elizabeth

2.  Justinian Saunders Bentley Nutt (b. 1751 Fareham, d. 1811), his will says he was “of Upper Brook Street”, “formerly Commander of His Majesty’s Ship Thetis”.

  • George Lloyd Nutt b. c1800


The portrait of Captain Nutt is a small version, taken from the BBC website, used here in the spirit of “fair dealing“, to make a point about his social status.

The print of Tinian (mis-labelled Tenian) was included in A Voyage round the World, in the Years MDCCXL, I, II, III, IV by George Anson, Knapton 1748, and the digital copy comes from Wellcome Trust/Wikimedia CC4.0


    • N.A.M. Rodger, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy, Fontana 1988
    • Boyds Inhabitants of London Transcription 1754
    • Entries from family bible transcribed in Fragmenta genealogica by Frederick Arthur Crisp, privately published 1889
    • The register book of marriages belonging to the parish of St. George, Hanover square, in the county of Middlesex, Vol 1 1723-1787 – see this for Besson marriage and check date of G.A. Nutt’s first marriage – sometimes another date is given
    • JNutt’s wedding – Morning Post, 24 January 1832, and other newspapers
    • GA Nutt’s death – Birmingham Gazette 13 October 1828
    • Birth of son to the lady of Major Justinian Nutt, on the 15th at Bath – Morning Post – 19 December 1832
    • Death of relict of GA Nutt –  Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 5 August 1841
    • Marriage of Cecilia M Nutt – Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette – 9 July 1859
    • Marriage of HL Nutt – Edinburgh Evening Courant 20 November 1868
    • Birth of daughter to lady of Major Nutt  – The Morning Post, July 16, 1844
    • Birth of son to lady of Major Nutt – Cheltenham Chronicle, 6 August 1846, W.B.N. age 34 in April 1881 census
    • Reports of Cases Decided in the High Court of Chancery: 1859 to 1865 by Sir Richard Torin Kindersley, Vice-Chancellor, Volume 1
    • Death of Mrs. Charles Besson – Greenwich Oracle and Public Advertiser October 19, 1797
    • Marriage of GA Nutt’s “only daughter” – The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 76, 1806
    • Wills of Justinian Nutt (1758) and Justinian Saunders Nutt (1811)
    • And the usual genealogy sites. See “About” page for these.