Rank or Title
Date of Birth
Date of Death
30 Nov 1945
Place of Birth
World War I Address
Place of Death
Soldier or Civilian
Lady Alice Wernher, as she was known throughout the period of the First World War, was not only the lady of the manor of Luton with her country residence at Luton Hoo, she was also one of the town's biggest benefactors.
Almost every charitable list included her name among the donors, be it meat and vegetables for local hospitals, uniforms for the Luton Volunteer Training Corps, ambulances for the Red Cross at the front, gifts for front-line troops, or paying for buildings in Luton to be converted for military purposes such as hospitals.
Luton Hoo itself became a military HQ that hosted troop reviews by Lord Kitchener and King George V in the autumn of 1914. It was also used as a hospital for officers.
Alice Sedgewick Mankiewicz, born 1862, was the socialite daughter of Jacob James Mankiewicz, from Danzig. On June 12th, 1888, she married German-born Julius Charles Wernher (born April 9th, 1850), who made his fortune from diamond mines in South Africa. Their London address was Bath House, Piccadilly, where Sir Julius built up a considerable art collection.
The Luton connection began in 1903, when Sir Julius bought Luton Hoo. He had the interior remodelled and extensive modifications made to the exterior, giving the house the look that became familiar to Lutonians until its closure to the public in 1997. But Sir Julius died on May 21st, 1912, and Lady Wernher remained a widow throughout the Great War.
There were three Wernher children - Sir Derrick Julius (June 7th, 1889 - March 6th, 1948), Major-General Sir Harold August (January 16th, 1893 - June 30th, 1973) and Second-lieutenant Alexander Pigott (born January 18th, 1897), who was killed in action with the Welsh Guards at Ginchy on September 10th, 1916, during the battle of the Somme, and was buried in the Citadel Military Cemetery, near Fricourt.
On September 25th, 1919, Lady Wernher remarried and became Baroness Ludlow. Her new husband was Henry Ludlow Lopes, 2nd Baron Ludlow, who was born on September 30th, 1865, and also had a previous marriage. He was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, and was an Inner Temple barrister. He had succeeded to the Ludlow title on Christmas Day 1899 on the death of his 71-year-old father. He fought in the First World War as a staff captain.
It was to be a short and not especially happy marriage. Baron Ludlow died on November 8th, 1922, at the age of 57 in a horse riding accident. As he had no children, his title died with him.
After the Luton Town Council fiasco over its handling of the Peace Day celebrations in July 1919, Lady Wernher became became the appeaser. She gave permission for, and attended, a drumhead memorial service in the Hoo grounds on Sunday, July 27th, 1919 (the council had banned ex-service organisations from holding such a service in Wardown Park to mark Peace Day). An estimated 20,000 people attended, including previously snubbed ex-servicemen and their families.
That was not a one-off event. On Thursday, August 16th, an ex-servicemen's sports day and cricket match with evening entertainment was held at the Hoo, and on September 18th some 6,300 older pupils of Luton schools were entertained at Luton Hoo Park, parading there along Park Road in a procession a mile long.
On June 12th, 1920, LadyWernher presented the Luton Hoo Memorial Park to the people of Luton in memory of her son killed in 1916. On December 10th,1922, she unveiled the town war memorial outside the Town Hall to all the men of Luton who gave their lives in the Great War.
Lady Ludlow died on November 30th, 1945, at 82 Portland Place, London. She was 83 and had been in poor health for some time. Flags on Luton Town Hall were lowered to half mast in tribute to her memory. The Vicar of Luton officiated at her funeral at East Hyde on December 3rd, 1945.
Lady Ludlow's £2,828,000 will included bequests to numerous institutions and charities, including the Luton and Dunstable Hospital, Luton Children's Hospital and Luton Parish Church. Her staff also benefited.
Lady Wernher was so popular with local ex-servicemen that in September 1919 she was invited by the DS&S to be one of its candidates in the following November elections to the Town Council. It was an invitation that was not taken up.
The Hoo itself was inherited by Sir Harold and Lady Zia Wernher, who decided it was uncomfortably large to live in and hence allowed public access to much of it during the summer months to see its unrivalled art collection.
The slideshow below shows Lady Alice with Princess Victoria Louise at Luton Hoo before the opening of the YMCA Hut at Biscot Camp in 1916, the funeral procession for Sir Julius Wernher in May 1912 and Lord and Lady Ludlow with the hounds at Luton Hoo.