Elite Edwardian Yachting and Stansted

In 1903 Stansted House was rebuilt, following the fire of 1900, by the owner George Wilder.     In 1912 George Wilder sold the estate to Major George Cecil Whitaker.   Cecil Whitaker, originally from Lymington, had made his fortune importing Marsala wine from Sicily.     From 1902, following an education at Eton and Oxford, he had served as a cavalry officer in the Coldstream Guards and later the Imperial Yeomanry, a regiment which primarily saw service in South Africa.  He moved to the Officer Reserve in 1907.

In 1912 he married Margaret Emma Maitland.  The couple had three children Rosemary (1913), Anthony (1915) and Daphne (1919).

Cecil Whitaker was a major participant in yacht racing during its Edwardian heyday, a period which coincided with the hosting of the 1908 Olympics yacht races in Ryde.  He was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, along with multiple other Sailing clubs around the country including Harwich. He owned, in rapid succession, three of the most beautiful yachts of the time, the equivalent of the superyachts of today. 

1908    Cicely              263 tons gross

1911    Waterwitch     352 tons gross

1913    Marguerite     380 tons gross

 He raced at an international level, regularly competing against Germany and America.  In 1908 he won races at Harwich against both the Prince of Wales and Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm.

Yacht racing was suspended in 1914 with the outbreak of the First world war.   In 1916 Major Whitaker returned to the Coldstream guards, serving at the Somme with the 4th battalion before transferring in 1917 to the Machine Gun Corps.

After the war Cecil Whitaker returned to Stansted and returned to yachting.  He was instrumental in the foundation of Emsworth Sailing Club, holding the initial meetings in a farm on the Stansted estate before purchasing Bath House in Emsworth and serving as the commodore of the club during the early 1920’s

In 1924 Cecil Whitaker sold Stansted to the 9th Earl of Bessborough and moved to Oxfordshire.  He became high sheriff of Oxfordshire and died in 1959.

Tim Cowin   

Chairman, Rowlands Castle Historical Society                                               March 2021

Additional Material  – Jennie Dolman, Rowlands Castle Historical Society

Although he was not there the whole time he owned the estate he and his wife were involved in the community.
He was involved in founding or restarting the social club at Forestside (wooden hut on the Broadwalk nearly opposite the church) and his and his wife’s portraits used to hang there and may still do along with a poster about the opening of the club. I am hoping to be able to look at their minute book somewhen.

In 1914 he and previous owner Geo Wilder were involved in transferring ownership of the 5 1/2 acre Forestside CofE school and school house to Chichester diocese for £400 subject to various trusts while a public elementary school was carried on there.

In 1914 soon after the outbreak of war Mrs Whitaker gave flags and a roll of honour naming the 47 pupils in the army and navy. The Whitakers also had an aircraft come down on the estate – the school log book records that several children were late ´ as they had been following an aeroplane that descended into Stansted Park’.

Each Christmas the Whitakers invited the school to see the tree at the House and receive presents. In 1919 Mrs Whitaker arranged for a charabanc and motor lorry to take the children to Havant to see the circus that had come to town. They were also among the school’s managers.