Archibald John Mills, ‘Archie’, was born 2 November 1882. He was the third son of
the Dockyard shipwright, James and Rose Mills. In 1891, the family was living at
7 Great Southsea Street, Portsmouth. Archie passed a Maths exam at the Municipal
Technical Institute in 1899 and received a second-class freehand drawing award in
1901. In that year he was also a pupil teacher. The Mills household were living at
51 Lawrence Road, Southsea.
Archie was a teacher all his working life. He trained at Winchester Diocesan Training
College and then, like his older brother, Charlie, he learned his profession at St.
Lukes School, Southsea where he was an assistant master from 1903-05. He was appointed
to the Beneficial School at Kent Street, Portsea 26 August 1907.
Eight men met in 1754 and formed the Beneficial Society which was a mutual aid organisation
devoted to providing free education for the poor children of Portsea. The Beneficial
School was built in 1784. It was a red brick building of two stories (see left).
The ground floor was one large classroom and the upper storey was the headquarters
and meeting room of the Society. The school is remembered affectionately as ‘Old
When the Great War broke out, Archie escaped military service because of his varicose
veins. He was appointed Headmaster of the school on 8 March 1917. Two conditions
of his appointment were that ‘he lived in the District of Portsea and consented to
form an Evening Commercial and Dockyard Examination Class’. In view of his father’s
shipwright trade, this was hardly an imposition.
After browsing to this page, John Stockwell from Brisbane, Australia e-mailed to
say that his father, Rupert Smith attended the Beneficial School and that he had
a class photograph from 1925 which included Archie Mills, the form master, Mr Lush
and Rupert (ringed) which is shown above.
Archie appears to have been a royalist. In 1939 he wrote to Buckingham Palace to
have pictures of the King and Queen signed. These were unveiled at the school on
28 July 1939. Also, the school log book, written by Archie notes the following:
During Speech Day in July 1939, Archie was congratulated for the ‘excellent work
done in the school. After a Governmental inspection, he was said to be ‘an alert
man’. Archie responded saying that they tried to make to school something more than
a place of education - a place to which the boys liked coming’.
A couple of months later, in September after the outbreak of War, Archie wrote to
the Portsmouth Evening News to inform parents of how their children (who had been
evacuated to Basingstoke) were being cared for. He reported that they were in ‘really
good homes..in the best part of the town...and are being kindly treated by the people
with whom they are staying’. Archie later taught at Binstead Road School, Portsmouth.
Archie’s wife and children
Archie (36), who was then living at 39 Lawrence Road, married Annie Ellen Oates,
‘Nellie’ (left) in the late summer of 1919 at Edmonton, London.
Nellie was born on 1 August 1889 at Yatton Keynell, which is near Chippenham in
Wiltshire. Both of Nellie’s parents were schoolteachers.
Archie and Nellie had two children: Laurence John Mills (right) was born 1 October
1920 and Sylvia Joy Mills, born in 1925. She died aged fifteen months on 15 March
1927 and was buried at Highland Road Cemetery, Southsea. A memorial pillar was inscribed,
Their home - 64 Lawrence Road, Southsea, Portsmouth
After Archie’s mother died, his father moved in from across the road from 51 to 64
Lawrence Road, Southsea.
I sometimes visited my great uncle on my own - but never early in the morning as
they were notorious late risers. There was a bell-pull on the door jamb and, when
yanked, a jangling bell could be heard deep inside the house.
I remember the house being dark with a peculiar smell. I discovered ‘bubble and
squeak’ when lunching at Uncle Archie’s home. Red currant bushes grew in the back
Nellie had lost an arm. She was a philatelist and designed a stamp series which
was used by the GPO. She had a valuable stamp collection which included a ‘Penny
Black’ and a rarer, but less famous, ‘Tuppenny Blue’. I think Archie and Nellie
made me welcome or I wouldn’t have visited them alone - nor would I have such clear
memories of them.
Mills family relations
There were tensions in the family. Nellie and my grand-mother, Eadie, ‘hated each
other’. Archie and his nephew, Patrick Mills didn’t ‘get along’. Archie was a Freemason
(which may have smoothed the way of his appointment as Headmaster) and was a Grand-master
of the Lodge*. His brother, Charlie, had no time for masons. Archie was tall, outgoing
and made friends easily. He appears autocratic and domineering in photographs while
my grandfather, Charlie seems laid back. Patrick, Charlie’s son, recalls hearing
them talking in another room and being unable to distinguish between their voices.
Aged 80, Archie died on 14 February 1963 at St Mary’s Hospital, Portsmouth leaving
an estate of £3,879. Nellie (83) died on 1 February 1973. Both were buried at Highland
Road Cemetery, Southsea.
Of Laurence John Mills
Laurence was born on 1 October 1920. He was educated at Portsmouth Grammar School.
During their Speech Day in 1939, the only student success highlighted was Laurence’s
scholarship award of £60 pa to take a degree-course in coal-mining at Birmingham
University, from which he later graduated with a First Class Honours BSc.
He was an Officer Cadet during WW2 and rose to the rank of Major.
Having already entered the mining industry, a series of promotions ensued culminating
in his a full-time appointment to the National Coal Board in 1974. Three years later,
Laurence was awarded the CBE. In 1963, he and his family were living at ‘Lake View’,
Measham Road, Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire. Laurence died on 27 January 1994
when he was living at 35 Dove Park, Chorleywood, Rickmansworth, Herts. His estate
was valued at £170,175.