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Muckleston Family History Group

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Gertrude Annie Muckleston was born on 13th January 1909 the daughter of Frederick Rowland Muckleston and Mildred (nee Ferguson). Frederick was a successful shirt collar manufacturer. There is no evidence that he fought in WWI and it is therefore possible that his occupation was deemed an essential one. Gertrude was more commonly known as Ann, although the childhood name used by her mother was Nancy and she had just one sibling a brother who was three years older named Rowland Frederick Muckleston.

On 14th December 1924 the Mauretania ship’s register shows a 17 year old Nancy Muckleston whose occupation was “theatrical” arriving in New York. Nancy Rigg was Ann’s stage name and at the time of this trip she was actually just 15 years old. Her next of kin was given as Mildred Muckleston. In her early years Ann as we will now call her was an actress, a model and an acclaimed beauty.

In 1934 she was to meet her future husband, Leonard Plugge, for the first time at a party in the home of the owner of Meltonian Shoe Creams. At the time she was about to become engaged to the head of a dairy company and she was being courted by the famous cricketer Greville Stevens. Ann’s mother was very ambitious for her daughter and encouraged her to consider Leonard (known as Lennie) as a possible husband as he was extremely rich and well connected, despite the fact that he was 20 years older than her and nowhere as handsome as her other suitors.

Greville Thomas Scott Stevens

                                                            Cricketer Greville Stevens


Captain Plugge, as he liked to be known, created the International Broadcasting Company in 1931 as a commercial rival to the British Broadcasting Corporation by buying airtime from radio stations such as Normandie, Toulouse, Ljubljana, Juan les Pins, Paris, Post Parisien, Athlone, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome. IBC worked indirectly with Radio Luxembourg until 1936.


Later that year the following article was to appear in a newspaper:


The Bexhill Chronicle – Wed 11th July 1934.

On Wednesday residents and visitors rallied to the support of the town's first Concours d'Elegance, where they saw cars with cruising speeds of much greater than 54mph, and capable of twice that figure. They did not, however, have evidence of their power (except when the judges lifted the bonnet to reveal a glittering engine), for Wednesday's event was no speed trial. It was exclusively a beauty show for motor cars.


Bexhill's first Concours was a brilliant success, and it is hoped that it will be the forerunner of many similar events.


The scene on the East Parade on Wednesday morning was a very gay one. The cars, numbering over 80, were assembled on the sea side of the road, occupying nearly half a mile, the Sackville Hotel being the centre. The sun streamed down brilliantly and the sparkling sea formed an ideal background for the long line of cars. It would be difficult to imagine a more colourful sight. There was a good display of flags and bunting of all descriptions and the cars themselves were, for the most part, painted in bright hues.


Judging began at 11 o'clock, the cars having been marshalled to their various classes earlier in the morning. Already crowds of people were inspecting the exhibits, and were soon expressing keen delight in all they saw.


There were 26 classes catering for every type of car imaginable, from the under £200 model to luxurious vehicles priced at over £1,500.


Competitors came from all over the country; London, Shoeburyness, Canterbury, Brighton, Hendon and Newport Pagnell are only the names of a few places where the news of a Bexhill Concours had attracted entries.


The judging of the cars did in no way concern the coach or engine work. In the general classes marks were awarded for elegance of line, harmony of colouring, and comfort and taste of interior.


Never before in Bexhill had such a galaxy of cars been assembled. Every car on show had some feature to distinguish it from its neighbours. There were, of course, the usual standard models in the smaller classes but among the big cars it was obvious that the models had not been tied down to price in their construction but had been built with the one idea of producing a unique and distinctive car.


The biggest car on show was a 50hp Daimler owned by a Mr A. Webber of Wandsworth, who carried off the prize in the class of car costing over £1,500. This model was the centre of great attraction, being obviously a car which the man in the street seldom has an opportunity to inspect. It was a magnificent car, its quiet black colouring being perfect tone with the dignity of the model.


Sports cars were well in the majority and made imposing pictures with their long, low and super stream lining. Among the most powerful were three superb Lagondas. Great interest was also taken in an MG Tiger whose radiator was smothered with badges of car clubs all over the world.


Ladies, somewhat naturally, took a very large part in the show. Nearly half the competitors were members of the fair sex, and some very charming ensembles were to be seen. It was noticeable that the majority of the ladies had charge of extremely fast looking cars. The models exhibited by them were, perhaps, the most tastefully coloured in the show. Most of the ladies wore hats and dresses, harmonising with the general colour schemes of their cars.


The success of Captain L.F. Plugge's SS in a number of classes was very popular. This big white car was in the charge of Miss M.L. Bloch and Miss A. Muckleston and among other awards won the Cup and Grand Prix d'Honneur Banner presented by Lieutenant Commander Montague Grahame-White for the smartest ensemble of car, passengers and driver. These two young ladies, dressed in white hats and frocks, presented a charming picture with their powerful sports car.


Among the other lady competitors was Miss Paddie Naismith, the actress, who with her sister, Miss Jill Naismith exhibited an attractive Standard car fitted with a radio.


Judging lasted for about four and a half hours, an interval of one hour and a quarter being taken for lunch at one o'clock. Shortly before 5 o'clock a low pitched drone filled the air as the drivers switched on their engines prior to a procession round the town of all the entrants. With the prize winners leading, a tour was made through the main streets, returning to the East Parade for the prize presentation.


Lennie proposed to Ann several times and whilst in the United States proposed yet again over the telephone to Ann who was at her parent’s home in Muswell Hill, London and this time she accepted and agreed to meet him in New York.

Leonard Frank Plugge, by Bassano Ltd, 4 March 1936 - NPG x151933 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Portrait of Leonard Frank Plugge which appears in the National Gallery.


The following entries appeared in the New York Times:

Thursday October 18th 1934


Muckleston - Plugge

Announcement has been made of the engagement of Miss Ann Muckleston, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. F Rowland Muckleston of London, England, to Captain Leonard F Plugge, also of London, but now in New York. Miss Muckleston arrived on Tuesday from London for a visit with friends here.

The announcement was made last night at a dinner in the Rainbow Room of the RCA building in the Rockefeller Centre, given by Captain Plugge, who is governing director of the International Broadcasting Company.


Lennie was not going to give her the chance to change her mind and it was a very short engagement as the following article appeared in the New York Times a few days later.


Friday October 26th 1934




Head of London Broadcasting Concern Takes English Girl as His Bride Here.


Miss Ann Muckleston, only daughter of Mr. And Mrs. F Rowland Muckleston of Mucklestone, Shropshire and London, England was married to Captain Leonard F Plugge, president and governing director of the International Broadcasting Company of London, yesterday afternoon in the chantry of St Thomas Church, which had been decorated with palms and white lilies. The Reverend Dr. Roelif H Brooks, the rector, performed the ceremony in the presence of many English and American friends.


The bride entered the chantry with George Townsend of Greenwich, who gave her in marriage. Her gown of ivory satin had a high neckline and a long train of satin.


Miss Molly Townsend was the bride’s only attendant.


Captain Plugge, the only son of Frank Plugge of Brighton, Sussex, England and the late Mrs Plugge had Patrick Egan, yachtsman of London, for his best man. There were two ushers, Clarence Moore of this city and Noel Egan of London.


The ceremony was followed by a reception at the Waldorf-Astoria. Captain Plugge and his bride will make a six month motor tour of the United States, later going to Honolulu before returning to London. The bride since her arrival in this country on October 16th, has been the guest of Mrs. Shirley Bracey of the Langdon. Captain Plugge during the World War served in the Royal Naval reserve and later in the Royal Air Force. He is a nephew of Colonel Arthur Plugge, who commanded the Auckland Battalion in Gallipoli, and who died two months ago.


A record of the marriage was recorded in the Consular marriage register.


In December they left New York on their motor tour of the United States which also took in Los Angeles and the Grand Canyon. They also spent a few days with William Randolph Hearst.


Whilst on honeymoon Lennie had purchased a new home at 98, Park Lane in Mayfair, London. They were to frequently entertain and throw many lavish parties in this house.


Ann was now married to a man with political ambitions and Plugge became the Conservative Member of Parliament for Chatham in October 1935 beating four other candidates. He held this position until 1945.


Plugge himself pronounced his name "Plooje", his father had been born in Belgium and had Dutch ancestry. It was only when he stood in an election for the parliamentary seat of Chatham that he agreed to the slogan "Plugge in for Chatham" and thereby accepted the way that almost everybody else pronounced his name.


In 1936 Lennie purchased a former WW1 American submarine chaser which he renamed the Lennyann and converted it to a luxury yacht with dark oak panelling and a four poster bed – there was also a crew of nine.


Eldest son Leonard Frank Plugge (to be known as Frank to distinguish him from his father) was born on 13th January 1937 in the bathroom of the house at 98 Park Lane. The birth was attended by qualified nurses and a nurse and nursemaid were added to the staff. The Daily Mirror on announcing the birth describes Ann as, “one of the most beautiful Westminster wives”.


For her birthday in January 1938 Lennie gave Ann a fantastic diamond necklace and threw her a party in Monte Carlo in the Empire Room at the Hotel de Paris and many close friends were invited.


The couple decided they needed a bigger house and purchased a property in nearby Hamilton Place, (number 5) a property first owned by the 4th Earl of Buckingham in 1812. It was an impressive property with a garden of about two acres. The basement of this house was extended to create accommodation for the ever growing staff. This extension spread out under parts of the garden and even the pavement. The mews held the couple’s seven very expensive cars. As with the house in Park Lane many grand parties were held here.


Summers were spent in Cannes where the couple’s yacht was moored and they attended a constant round of parties.


There are a number of newspaper articles relating to Lennie's business interests including the following.


Monday June 26th 1939

Plugge's Plug

International Broadcasting Co. of London annoys the augustly uncommercial B. B. C. by spraying Britain, from stations on the Continent, with frankly commercial plugs for British products. Go-getting head of I.B.C. is Leonard Frank Plugge, a sleek and portly gentleman who got himself elected to Parliament from Chatham in 1935. Captain Plugge (he was a Naval Reserve and R.A.F. man during the War) not long ago bought one of London's best addresses, the Leopold de Rothschild house in Park Lane, and equipped it with radio and television in every room. Another house of his in Park Lane has a telephone switchboard and 37 telephones, more than any other private house in the city.


On 26th June 1940 the Plugges left England aboard the ship Duchess Of Atholl for Montreal, Canada amid concerns that an invasion was imminent and that the Germans may win the war. This caused a bit of an uproar in the UK as shown in the following newspaper article.


Monday July 22nd 1940

"Representative of the Rat"

Opening their Sunday Dispatch last week, Londoners saw pictures of Heiress Doris Duke Cromwell, and Mrs. Mavis Constance Tate, M. P., who cried out in the headline: "WHAT I WOULD HAVE SAID IF MP.s HAD NOT SHOUTED ME DOWN."


In the House a few days earlier Mrs. Tate was silenced by repeated cries of "Order! Order!" when she attempted to make a scandal out of the fact that three British MP.s recently arrived in North America. These are: the Duke of Windsor's onetime flying instructor, Captain Alexander Stratford Cunningham-Reid, who gets $50,000 a year for life from a former wife whom he divorced for adultery; onetime subway engineer Captain Leonard Frank Plugge, who after a nouveau-riche success with International Broadcasting Co. boasted, "I often compare myself to Clive of India—he created a great thing, so have I with my commercial broadcasting!"; and John Roland Robinson, who is chairman of a British Guiana gold-mining company and husband of Maysie Casque, an heiress with Woolworth connections.


In the House of Commons, irate Mrs. Tate implied that His Majesty's Government should not have let these three MP.s go overseas during the present crisis, and she did not feel any better when it came out that Captain Cunningham-Reid announced as his reason for asking an exit permit that he was going to handle Heiress Doris Duke Cromwell's refugee British tots.


Cried Mrs. Tate: "Does the Home Secretary consider it was a suitable selection on the part of the Children's Overseas Reception Board to choose as their representative a member of this House [Captain Cunningham-Reid] whose division record is under 5% [i.e., who stays away from Commons sessions nine-tenths of the time], whose association [constituents] has passed a vote of censure on him, and who also happens to be a reserve officer?"


Mrs. Tate was shouted down at this point by the House, concluded her remarks in the Sunday Dispatch: "In no conceivable circumstances should members be allowed for any personal reasons to leave this island when it is threatened with invasion—for that is not representative of the British people. It is only representative of the rat. If members apply for an exit permit, except for Government business, they should be forced to apply for the Chiltern Hundreds.* Moreover, unless they return to their country in its hour of need, they should forfeit their [British] nationality!"


All this was good Sunday-feature stuff on an island where most people expect to be bombed any minute. The Daily Express headlined the landing in Halifax of Captain Cunningham-Reid: "MP. ARRIVES WITH 2,000 CHILDREN." In Montreal, the best crack that MP. Cunningham-Reid could think of was: "That woman again!"


*There is no provision in British law for resigning from the House of Commons, but a member loses his seat by elevation to the peerage or taking a post such as one of the virtually imaginary stewardships of the Chiltern Hundreds, nominal jobs with token pay and no duties.


Captain Plugge decided to return to the UK in August leaving Ann and the infant (Leonard) Frank with friends in New York. Whatever reason he gave for the trip was accepted and he continued his parliamentary duties.


The family’s income had dropped with the outbreak of war but Ann was still able to rent an apartment in New York. As restrictions prevented any large sums of money being taken out of the UK she had her jewellery with her and sold various pieces to pay the bills and live quite comfortably; even employing a governess for her son. She worked as an unpaid receptionist for the charity British War Relief but still managed to attend many social occasions. It was one of these occasions that Ann met “Black” Jack Bouvier and it was agreed she would take a cottage in East Hampton for the summer. This was the playground of the rich.



                                                          Ann and Black Jack Kennedy


An affair ensued, one of many that Jack Bouvier had engaged in, which had resulted in divorce from his wife in 1940. At East Hampton the couple and their children, Jack had two daughters from his marriage, Jacqueline who was to go on to marry Jack Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis and Caroline and they spent the summers with their father. Young Frank began to look on Jack as his father and the two girls grew close to Ann. Jack was only a couple of years younger than her husband but he was charming and good looking and of course very rich. The affair was to continue when they returned to New York.


Meanwhile back in the UK the house at Hamilton Place was bombed and all seven cars in the mews were destroyed and many ground floor windows were blown out. Lennie was also not going short of female company whilst his wife was away. In early 1943, the relationship with Jack now having lasted two years, Ann wrote to Lennie asking for a divorce and saying that she wanted to live in America. He was not happy and told her if she pursued the matter he would obtain custody of young Leonard Frank.


Not wanting to cause trouble by unofficially leaving the UK again Lennie managed to get included in a Parliamentary Delegation which was going to Washington. He spent time with Ann and finally persuaded her to try again and return to the UK with him. Lennie had a minor heart attack but after recovering the couple and their son returned to England setting sail in April 1943 and spending 3 weeks in Lisbon. They should have been on a flight which was shot down, actor Leslie Howard was on board, but (Leonard) Frank had an illness and the return was delayed. The family eventually returned home in mid June 1943. The worst of the air raids were over but there was still the occasional need to head for the basement. The house was still in a poor condition from the bombing.


Ann was never to see Jack Bouvier again but stayed friends with his daughter Jackie and was to feature in her book, Jacqueline Bouvier: An Intimate Memoir.


Jacqueline Bouvier / Kennedy / Onassis was to claim in her memoirs that she believed the twins to be her half siblings due to the fact that twins ran in her father’s family and they had some of her father’s looks. As there were 18 months between her last meeting with Jack Bouvier and the births, this was hotly denied and a lawsuit was even taken out against the Sunday Times who repeated the claims. The newspaper made an out of court settlement and issued an apology.


For their 10th Wedding anniversary Lennie threw a lavish party for Ann, inviting 400 guests. Shortly after this her father Frederick Rowland Muckleston was to pass away. Ann was now heavily pregnant and spent quite a bit of time with her widowed mother. Twins were born in the Middlesex Hospital on 4th November 1944 and she named them Gale Ann Mildred and Greville Roland Chase (the same name as that of her first love!). Jacqueline Bouvier / Kennedy / Onassis was to claim in her memoirs that she believed the twins to be her half siblings due to the fact that twins ran in her father’s family and they had some of her father’s looks. As there were 18 months between her last meeting with Jack Bouvier and the births this was hotly denied and even a lawsuit was taken out against a newspaper who repeated the claims.


With the end of the war political fortunes changed and Lennie lost his parliamentary seat, his yacht had been destroyed during the war, as had the broadcasting offices and compensation was sought but overall the financial situation for the Plugges, now with three young children, was vastly reduced from that before the war although they were far from destitute. Things were strained and Ann and Lennie started to live apart with Ann remaining at Hamilton Place. The couple however remained friends and continued to attend many social events together. Eventually Hamilton Place was sold and Ann moved into Lowndes Square. The Mick Jagger film Performance was to be filmed in this house.


Les Ambassadeurs Westminster



     5 Hamilton Place, as seen above, became a casino in 2012 it was put on the market for £50m


Ann’s brother Rowland died in Whipps Cross Hospital on 5th April 1951 aged 45, he had married Norah Hogan in 1931 but their 20 year marriage had not produced any children. At the time of his death the couple were living in Leytonstone, Essex. Norah did not remarry and died in Dover in 1971.


By now her mother had moved to Hastings and was involved in quite a serious accident possibly on her way to stay with her daughter for Christmas.


Dec 23 1958

DRIVER'S ESCAPE IN TRAIN CRASH 18 PEOPLE TREATED IN HOSPITAL FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT TUNBRIDGE WELLS, DEC. 22 The driver of a diesel electric train had a remarkable escape from serious injury when his train collided with the rear of a stationary diesel electric train in Tunbridge Wells Central station shortly after 1p.m. to-day. Eighteen people were admitted to hospital. The stationary train, which had travelled slowly from Hastings, was waiting to link up with the second train, also from Hastings, to form a fast train to Charing Cross when the collision occurred. The main Hastings-London line was still blocked at midnight. Railway workers used crowbars to free the driver of the second train, Mr. Charles Giles, aged 62, of Church Down, Bromley, from his wrecked cab. He escaped with lacerations of the scalp and left cheek. With two passengers he was detained in hospital. The others were Mr. William Cross, aged 75, of Ashley Gardens. Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells, who had minor injuries and Mrs. Janet Burr, aged 61, of Croft Road, Hastings, who suffered concussion. The condition of all three was described as comfortable. Another passenger, Mrs. Mildred Muckleston, aged 70, of Hill Street, Hastings, who had fractured ribs, was discharged from hospital to the care of her daughter. The others taken to hospital were discharged after treatment for cuts and bruises. Many other passengers were given first aid for minor cuts and shock on the platform.


Mildred was in fact 75 but she probably knocked a few years off for the reporter.


Both (Leonard) Frank and Greville attended Eton and in November 1959 aged 22 Frank married Gillian Westwood and went to work for his father until 1962 when he sold the Company.


In 1964 daughter Gale Ann also married age 20 to Jonathon Benson, a film director, but the marriage was to end in divorce. She moved to Argentina in 1967 and returned to England the following year.


1967 was also the year that Ann lost her mother; she died on 15th November aged 84.


Gale Ann Benson.jpg


Gale Ann Plugge.


In the late 1960s Gale Benson, as she was now known, a model and DJ then started living with a man who called himself Hakim Jamal and went on to change her name to Hale Kimga (an anagram of her first name and Hakim) and started wearing African clothes.. Hakim Jamal (real name Alan Donaldson) was born in Roxbury, a black district of Boston, in 1933. His father was a drunk, his mother left when he was six. He started drinking at ten and was using heroin at fourteen. In his early twenties he spent four years in prison and was committed to an asylum for two attempted murders. At twenty-seven he was converted by the teachings of Malcolm X, leader of the Black Muslim movement, Nation of Islam, and his life changed. He became an eloquent spokesman for the black urban underclass in America. However Hakim Jamal was descending into madness.


Benson and Jamal moved to Guyana in 1971, before moving later that year to the commune of Michael X in Trinidad, who had fled the UK while bailed on charges of extortion and robbery.


Gale was white and rich and as Michael X began to believe his own con, he went the route of many a minor messiah before him and spilt blood. On the morning of 2 January 1972 a group of men including Michael X took Gale out for a walk outside the commune. Arriving at a hole in the ground they started digging until it was about four feet deep. One of the men turned to Gale and asked, "What do you think this is for?" She shrugged, and the man replied, "This is a fresh hole for decomposed bodies". They pushed her in, two of the men attacking her with a cutlass, badly wounding Gale in the chest and throat. She was buried alive, some of the men jumping on the soil to keep her down until she succumbed. The autopsy later found inhaled dirt in her lungs.


Her badly decomposed body was found seven weeks later, and eventually two of the men were convicted of her murder, after one of the group turned witness for the prosecution. Stanley Abbott and Edward Chadee were sentenced to death, but one was commuted to life imprisonment. Another of the group drowned at sea, and barber Joseph Skerritt was murdered and his body put in the same grave as Gale's. Michael X was charged with Gale's murder but never tried; her own brother suspected that Malcolm X was not the murderer as she was frequently arguing with Hakim because of her infidelity. However he was sentenced to death for the murder of Skerritt on 21 August 1972, and hanged in Port of Spain’s Royal Gaol in May 1975. Her lover Hakim Jamal was murdered in Boston in the United States in 1973, just over a year after Gale died.


The movie The Bank Job (2008), claims Michael X was in possession of indecent photographs of Princess Margaret stored in a bank vault, and was using them to blackmail the British establishment. Hattie Morahan plays Gale, who the movie portrays as a spy whose role is to find any additional photos or negatives Michael X may have.


When the body was found several weeks later it was down to her brother Greville, an attorney, to go and identify it. Lennie by now had moved to live in California and it was he who was first notified by a newspaper of the murder.


The following year tragedy was to strike for a second time. Greville was asleep in the back of a van being driven by a friend when it was hit by a truck and Greville died outright.


Frank was now Ann’s only surviving child but he gave her two grandchildren. By his first marriage he had a son Dominic Alexander Plugge born in 1960 and after divorcing his first wife he remarried and had a daughter who was called Francesca Gale D Plugge born in 1980.


Ann remained in London and Lennie continued to live in California, existing on a small pension and it was here in Los Angeles that he died on February 19th 1981 aged 91 of heart disease having suffered a severe stroke the year before.


In 1989 Ann was 80 years old and the headlines read “Tragic Secret of Jackie’s British Brother and Sister.” Living alone in an apartment Ann was besieged by the press. Jackie had come to the assumptions she made in her book due to a letter she received from her father in 1950. Jackie had kept in touch with Ann and even visited in 1949 and correspondence took place between the two women even when Jackie was first lady.


Ann herself died on 18th July 1993 of leukaemia.