The poor Cornish pub girl who went from rags to riches

It was a love story that crossed the class divide – a teenage girl whose mother ran a tough tin mining pub in the heart of Cornwall who married a member of the aristocracy who was studying in the county.

She was Mary Glasson, the “reclusive” daughter of Grace, who ran Tyacks Hotel in Camborne in the early 1900s.

He was Francis Egerton Grovesnor, a Harrow schoolboy, the future Lord Ebury and a descendent of the first Marquis of Westminster.

Although the centre of the tin trade, life in the Cornish town wasn’t easy for Mary. Her father John Glasson died when she was around three years old. Her mother Grace married again to James Rowe in 1890 and they carried on running Tyacks Hotel and its bars, which of course is still going strong in Camborne.

Life would change dramatically for Mary when Francis arrived in the Cornish town at the dawn of the 20th century.

Tyacks Hotel in Camborne pictured around the time it was run by Mary Glasson’s mother Grace

Camborne School of Mines was perhaps an unusual choice for a former public schoolboy from a privileged background, but Francis studied mining at the famous establishment while a teenager.

At that time the school of mines’ main building stood just yards away from Tyacks.

Perhaps Francis’ and Mary’s eyes met over the little town square that separated the two buildings.

There is some suggestion that Francis may have been lodging at the hotel and may have asked for a pint of ale, served by Mary, who was helping her mother out behind the bar.

Either way, a swift romance ensued and on July 21, 1902 they married at St George’s Church, Truro, when they were both just 19. Although, rather naughtily, the couple both stated they were 21 on the wedding certificate.

The fact that Mary gave her address as Vivian Row, Penzance, suggests the couple may have married in secret, especially as the family church was just across the road from Tyacks in Camborne.

There were no members of either family in attendance and, unusually for a member of the aristocracy, no mention was made of the marriage in the national newspapers of the time.

The only known picture of Lady Ebury, alias Mary Glasson from Tyacks in Camborne, who is pictured receiving a bouquet of flowers

Soon after the wedding the couple left Cornwall when Francis studied under Benedict Kitto, of London, and worked as a labourer and pitman in mines in the Isle of Man.

Then in 1903 the couple moved to Canada where he found work as a metallurgical chemist. He held various appointments and in 1912 was asked by the late Duke of Sutherland to organise an Imperial immigration scheme in Canada.

At the outbreak of the First World War Francis joined the 29th Vancouver Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force and was later wounded while serving in France. He was mentioned in dispatches four times and was decorated several times.

Nine years after their marriage, Mary Glasson from Camborne became Lady Ebury when Francis was made the 4th Baron of Ebury of Ebury Manor following the death of his brother in 1921.

He became known as the ‘Shopkeeping Peer’ after becoming chairman of the Army Navy Co-operative Society.

The couple had three children – the Hon Maud Elizabeth Grosvenor, known as Betty, Robert Egerton Grosvenor, who succeeded his father as 5th Baron Ebury of Ebury Manor, and the Hon Hugh Richard Grosvenor.

Sadly, Francis died in 1932 after breaking his leg in a horse riding accident in Northants.

Francis and Mary’s glamorous daughter Betty married Viscount Harcourt in 1931.

Tragically, their eldest son Robert died young like his father when he was killed in a motor racing accident at the age of 43 in 1957.

Reconnecting with Cornwall, Francis and Mary’s third child Hugh married Margaret Jacobs, daughter of James L Jacobs, of St Ives.

A death notice for Lord Ebury, who married Mary Glasson from Camborne

After the death of her husband, Mary was left their property, Gew House, at Marazion. Later in 1939 she was living with an elderly servant at a large property called Chy-an-Garrack in St Ives, which later became the Garrack Hotel.

The house was sold in 1947 and there is little known of the last few years of her life until her death in 1960.

It does appear that marrying into the aristocracy might have had an impact on Mary though – at birth she was given the middle name Abraham, after her mother’s maiden name. However, after marrying to Francis she changed it to the far more refined Adela.

Many thanks to David Wilson, whose research on his Cornish history blog forms the basis for this article and loan of images.

Cornwall Live