Life story by Richard’s granddaughter Diana Penson shared with her permission via letters to Jenny Halstead. Additional resources by Yota Dimitriadi
Richard lived with his wife Clara at ‘Clanfield’, 32 (though reported as 34 in some accounts) Alexandra Road. They had 2 sons and 2 daughters. At some point the family lived in Farington where his younger son, Arthur was born, and Richard was the manager of the County of Gloucester Bank. By 1891 the family lived at Market Place, Great Faringdon, Oxon. From 1901 we find references of Richard as the manager of the Reading Branch of Lloyds Bank. His son Arthur followed his footsteps and worked at Lloyds Bank in Cirencester.
Richard was a Free Mason and his name is mentioned in the visit of the Berkshire Freemasons to Lockinge on the invitation of the Provincial Grand Master, Lord Wantage, V.C., (Berkshire Chronicle, Saturday 28 July 1900).
His expertise in finance led Richard to be involved in many philanthropical causes. In January 1901 he took up the role of the Treasurer of a local (Reading) committee set up to support the maintenance of the Cabmen’s Shelter erected in 1891 and funded by Mr Walter Palmer, M.P.. Cabmen had their dinners and tea cooked there. In 1902 he was appointed Treasurer of the Berkshire Friendly Society.
He was also the Treasurer for the Reading Citizen Association and his name comes up in a Public Meeting in support of the Criminal Law Amendment Bill (White-Slave Traffic Bill).
“The ‘White Slave’ legislation – formally titled the Criminal Law Amendment Act (1912) – was a much-rejected private bill which was unexpectedly taken up by the Liberal Government when there was a sudden swell of public support for it. Its primary target was the supposed trafficking of English women and girls to foreign brothels. This was, it was alleged, a growing problem which was proving hard to police. The ‘White Slave’ legislation also tightened the laws concerning prostitution by making it easier to prosecute and punish procurers, ‘bullies’ and pimps.
The coalition of campaigning groups included women from the various women’s suffrage organisations, the churches, and social purity leagues” (Dr Nick Owen research website).
In 1915 Richard was helping in codifying the data collected for setting up the National Register for Reading. The National Registration Act of 1915 provided a register of all persons between the ages of 15 and 65 who were not members of the Armed Forces.
His daughter, May Penson, was a Silver Medalist of the Royal Academy Music. The Medal was originally established as an annual award to the most distinguished student of (in turn) the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. There was only one medal awarded each year, with the student being selected in rotation from the three major Conservatoires.
We find reference to May in the Berkshire Chronicle (Saturday 07 November 1908) at the fundraising concert in support of building St Luke’s new hall organised by Miss Lottie Pesterre.
“Miss May Penson…was the soprano, and possesses a sweet and cultured voice, her upper notes being particularly pure. “Sing, sweet bird of Spring” she essayed first, and subsequently sang with winning charm of style ‘Nymphs and Shepherds’ (Purcell) and ‘Robin Adair'”.
May seems to have followed her father’s involvement in social activity. In 1915 she organised a concert in aid of the Queen’s ‘Work for Women’ Fund but had to postpone it due to illness (Berkshire Chronicle – Friday 26 March 1915).
Richard is buried with his wife Clara. Arthur, his youngest son is also commemorated at his parents’ grave in Reading Old.
Section 79, Row E, Plot 9