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Alice Blake Gibb

Epithet: Donor of The Grove, Ramsey (1880-1971)

Record type: Biographies

External sources: The Grove

Biography: From ‘New Manx Worthies’ (2006):

Alice and her sister Janet Gibb spent their earlier days on the Calf of Man where their father was suffering from a disease which had caused him to be invalided home from Madras and from which he would die in 1887. On his death their mother [Sara] was left with the two girls, aged nine and seven, and Will, a ten month old baby.

Sara's father-in-law built her a house on the brooghs and she returned to Port Erin with Will, but the girls went to live with their widowed Gibb grandmother at The Grove, North Ramsey. This house had been bought and enlarged - initially as a holiday home - by their Gibb grandfather, a major Liverpool ship owner, who died in 1867. The girls joined their two unmarried aunts, Mary and Janet. The latter was to live until 1933, aged 99.

The Grove remained an entirely female household, but Janet and Alice were surrounded by mementoes of the life of a 'wonderful grandfather'. When Granny died in 1897, they had been based for ten years at The Grove, never losing touch with their Turnbull grandfather, but enabling their mother to earn a living in Port Erin by taking in boarders and helping in the family grocer's business, thus giving Will an education.

By 1900 the girls were grown-up young ladies leading a life of picnics and decorous parties, but money was getting very short. Grandpapa had never made a will and so his estate had to be divided between his widow and surviving children.

Although Janet and Alice were spinsters, they were active and enjoyed life. Janet, petite and pretty, played goalkeeper for Ramsey Ladies' Hockey Club. She explained that she saved goals by 'bending me (sic) knees and smothering the ball with my skirt'. Alice, physically more robust, was fascinated by motorbikes, now making their entry into Manx history. Auntie soon put a stop to such dreams. 'Now you must promise that you won't go away or get married or anything because you must look after the garden and the pony.'

Then came World War I. When it ended the girls were 40-ish so marriage was not in prospect. Janet had stayed at The Grove, looking after Auntie, but secretly envying Alice who went off to work in a huge munitions factory at Chilwell near Nottingham. By 1934, having inherited The Grove on Auntie Janet's death, Janet and Alice were on their own and in their 50s.

The 1960s and '70s brought a dramatic change to the neighbourhood. Housing estates sprang up on every side. Although the sisters were increasingly impoverished, not being qualified by reason of age for state pensions, they abhorred the prospect of Granny and Grandpapa being 'buried' under acres of building bricks. Approach to the Manx Museum ultimately resulted in the 'gifting' to the Island of the house and grounds, its contents and some fourteen acres of surrounding fields for a token payment of £10,000. Alice died in 1971, but Janet saw matters to a conclusion before her death in 1974, aged 96. The two sisters share a grave in Maughold new churchyard.

Thereafter The Grove has provided the Island's people and visitors with a rare picture of Victorian life.

Biography written by J. Stowell Kenyon.

(With thanks to Culture Vannin as publishers of the book: Kelly, Dollin (general editor), ‘New Manx Worthies’, Manx Heritage Foundation/Culture Vannin, 2006, pp.190-1.)

Culture Vannin

#NMW

Gender: Female

Date of birth: 10 September 1880

Date of death: 1 January 1971

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