This week, Research Volunteer Lyn Turpin has uncovered an interesting and personally exciting history behind the Officer John Ewart Gilkes – a Boy on the Plaque. Listed on the plaque as ‘Ewart Gilkes’, Lyn had the challenging task of deciphering which male it was she was looking for, to discover his first name was actually John.
Once she traced back the family lineage of John Ewart Gilkes, it became apparent that he was born into money and came from a wealthy background in Brighton. His father was the proud owner of a painter and decorators shop on North Street, which had previously been set up by his grandfather and is where the current Cooperative can be found.
Delving further into his family history, Lyn came across the bizarre coincidence that in 1870s Gilkes father had resided in a house, which she now calls home. Although Brighton is a small place, this quirky correlation was further met with the realization that at the age of 2, Gilkes moved into a house in Hanover crescent, which was the former residence of her current partner.
Like his father, John Gilkes was a businessman. He was an estate agent who lived in a basement flat in Adelaide Crescent with his partner Doris. However, it was not all that meets the eye… Doris divorced John and since, he lived in the house with his second wife.
During his lifetime, John was well travelled and moved around a lot; firstly, as an officer in the army but also for his own leisure. Surprisingly, for his time, John flew to New York in 1947. He also spent Christmas in the Canaries and made a trip to Canada at some point in his life. However, in comparison to his sizeable wealth, a smaller sum of £1,000 was left in his probate and so the mystery continues…
Written by Lizzie Smith