The Onlooker notes

Notes by Angus Willson (1985)

One remarkable feature of “The Onlooker“, and one which provides further insight into Alice’s character, is the form of the original manuscript. It was written, in pencil, on one hundred and fifty nine used Christmas cards. (see image on first page) It is clearly marked “Rough Draft” and the “Synopsis” is no more than the chapter headings as given. In preparing the text very few changes have been made beyond the expansion of abbreviations and the plentiful addition of commas. The occasional, but tantalising, inserted notes have been included in square brackets, thus [ ]. Alice made few corrections in the course of writing which is creditable bearing in mind that it consists of nine interwoven chronologies.

Although much of her own life is told through events involving others in the family, the story ends with a brief, almost plaintive, self-analysis. Contrasted with the purposeful, and almost strident, introduction this emphasises that we are sharing an unfinished version of the memoirs.

It might be considered peculiar that there is so very little about the second world war and the post-war period. However, it was clearly Alice’s main intention to relate personal incidents concerning the family. Although her occasional references to wider matters are illuminating, the appeal is in her identification of character traits. It is a shame that her role as observer does not extend into the later period of her life and include more on the generation for whom “The Onlooker” was intended. Alice died in 1965 and over twenty years later it is intriguing to consider how she might view the “new age” in terms of the social changes influencing the role of the family.

Granny Jane Ascoli – Jane Elizabeth Palmer

1  The Parents

Curiously. Alice does not refer to her mother’s name which was Jane Elizabeth Palmer. Her father’s name, Marcus Ascoli, is identified in Chapter 3 as Walter’s middle name.

W E Forster, in charge of the Education Department in Gladstone’s first administration, was a Quaker and a Radical.

The East End Mission where both parents worked was called ….

Fathers time in the army

Location of the Guildhall Library

Horatio Bottomley

Chas. H. Spurgeon was a well-known non-conformist preacher.

Boer War 1899-1902

Marcus interred in Chingford Cemetery

Jane interred in Chingford Mount Cemetery. Family Grave No. 43870. (The In Memoriam card was mis-printed as No. 48370 and corrected by hand.)

2  Elizabeth Alice Ascoli

Locations of houses:



Walthamstow Clapton

Locations of schools:

Stepney old and new

Walthamstow small private school

Sunday School and Baptist Church Mission School

Y.W.’s Bible Class


small cottage in country

moved to town, near sea

Interred in Sutton Road Cemetery, Grave No. 17904 Plot U.

3  Walter Marcus Ascoli

Walthamstow Grammar School

Tottenham Grammar School

LMS branch to Southend

Is it possible that the scholarship book allowance could be a quarter of a qualified teacher’s salary?

Woodford, Essex. 1 Marlborough Road

Higham’s Park

South Benfleet, Kitscroft


Hayes, Kent


Married Emily Mary Simmons and had two sons:

Reginald Marcus Ascoli, who married Hilda and had two sons

Eric Walter Ascoli – emigrated to Rhodesia – married (1) Marion who had a son Peter and married (2) ?
“NOTICE is hereby given that by a deed poll dated the 8th day of July 1940 and duly enrolled in the Supreme Court of Judicature on the ninth day of August 1940 I ERIC WALTER ASCOTT of The Elms Newbridge Gardens Bridgend in the county of Glamorgan B.Sc. M.R.C.V.S. a natural born British subject renounced and abandoned the surname -of Ascoli. —Dated the l0th day of August 1940. ERIC WALTER ASCOTT, formerly Eric Walter Ascoli. (079)”
The London Gazette, 20 August 1940 (page 5122)

4  Edith Amelia Ascoli

Aunt Jenny (note alternative spelling in chapter on Percy)

Royal Normal College for the Blind, Upper Norwood

School in Rhyl, North Wales

Although Alice twice refers to Edith having died in 1917, an In Memoriam card says May 4th, 1919. Aged 37 years. Interred at Chingford Mount Cemetery. Private Grave.

5  Herbert Albert

Scheme for land in Canada and charitable organisation


Canadian Regiment at Vimy Ridge

Details of burial and commemorative certificate: Commonwealth War Graves Commission, H A

Commonwealth War Graves
Commonwealth War Graves

In Memory of Private H A ASCOLI
874052, 27th Bn., Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment)
who died on 10 April 1917
Remembered with honour

Veterans Affairs Canada – Virtual War Memorial and Book of Remembrance


6  The twins – Henrietta Lilian and Beatrice

Short-hand typists school

Swedish iron firm

Friend’s Meeting House, Walthamstow

George Hamilton Archibald

James Ryan was studying at Livingstone College when they met. They engaged in 1909.

Kingsmead Training College, Selly Oak

Pathe family at Trouville, Summer 1911

Father’s relative in Paris

Beatrice went to Madagascar in 1909 ?

John Ormerod Greenwood, 1978, Whispers of Truth. Quaker Encounters Volume 3. William Sessions: York. (pages 84-88)

Location of Mission

Young woman who accompanied Beatrice to Madagascar

Beatrice buried in Norwegian cemetery close to Morondara

Henrietta interred at Chingford Mount cemetery, No. Grave 43870.

Molly Ryan married Tom Watson: one daughter, one son

Susan Mary Watson, married Christopher: two sons, Jonathan, Matthew (15 July 1977)

Michael Watson, married two daughters, Rebecca?, Phillipa.

Arthur Ascoli

London Missionary Society

Married Bertha Toms

The names of Arthur’s children are not given: girl (died age 6) +1

2 boys, bachelors in 1962. Walter married Lucille, Henry married Laura?

2 girls, both married. Alice

Arthur died in

Percy Edwin Ascoli

Cable firm

Interred in Walthamstow Cemetery, Family Grave No. 301 C/A.

Married Margaret Ramsey

Margaret Ascoli later re-married to become Margaret Wiltshire

Lorna Ascoli married Alfred Willson and later married Peter Fermer:

Janet Willson married David Thomas: Andrew, Philip

Stephen Willson married Elizabeth Smith: Robyn, Natasha, Amy

Angus Willson married Margaret Prince

9  The Onlooker herself – Alice Maud Ascoli

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