The funeral arrangements have been announced for Anthea Gordon, who was the Bursar of Surrey House between 1965 and 1995 and who passed away on 8 October.
A service will be held at 2.30pm on Monday 7 November at Hither Green Crematorium, Verdant Lane, London SE6 1TP.
The photograph to the right was kindly supplied by Gillian Donaldson, the wife of Anthea’s nephew Gary Donaldson. It shows Anthea wearing her Women’s Royal Naval Service uniform.
Writing to Vivienne Rose, Associate Director (Administration and Campus Services) Gillian said:
“Anthea Gordon was the great niece of General Charles George Gordon of Khartoum. My husband is his great, great nephew. When working at the MoD during our early married life, he used to salute the statue of ‘Uncle Charles’ outside MoD Main Building, by the Thames, as he passed him on his way into the office each morning.
“Anthea’s maternal grandfather, Sir Norman Leslie KCB, was an important figure in the Admiralty and played a key role as Minister for Convoys from 1917-18. Anthea’s great nephew, Ben, was christened ‘Benedict James GORDON Donaldson’ in 1996 to continue the family name.”
Mary Bright was the Head of Residencies, Catering and Conferences at Goldsmiths during Anthea’s time and was her line manager. She has many fond memories of working with Anthea:
“I remember Anthea so well – running Surrey House like clockwork – including the gardens which she developed into a delightful space for the girls of the Hall. She maintained those gardens for several years after her retirement. Anthea was also a hugely enthusiastic cook and provided great food for the Hall and I think also for the Rotarians lunches that were held there.
“Anthea’s sister, Sonia, was Bursar of Aberdeen Hall at the top of Granville Park. They were a real force to be reckoned with; from quite another era and tradition.
“The Gordon family had been in military service for five generations before the birth of the famous General Gordon of Khartoum. Anthea and her sister had a series of letters from their great, great uncle to his brother – presumably their great, great grandfather Enderby Gordon, which my daughter, Sacha, restored for them as part of her paper conservation studies at Camberwell.
“Anthea was a very highly principled person who, in modern parlance, was very much ‘her own person’. I was recently looking at some biographical information about the great General Gordon and particularly noted a passage which referred to his temperament that I could definitely see reflected in Anthea: ‘a tendency to disregard authority and the rules if he felt them to be either stupid and/or unjust’. Anthea was definitely not impressed by what she felt were unintelligent or pointless regulations! But she was kindness itself and many of her students will remember her as caring and kind.”
Vivienne Rose, Associate Director (Administration and Campus Services) has received many messages from people who have been touched to hear of Anthea’s passing. A Surrey House student from the late 60’s wrote:
“Many thanks for the message about Miss Gordon, reading it brought back many memories. In my first year I lived on the same small corridor where Anthea Gordon had her rooms and subsequently stayed on in a couple of vacations to help out as a chamber maid or kitchen hand for foreign language conferences. We had some good laughs but she expected things to be done to a certain standard! It was quite hard work, but a way of staying in London rent free, with meals and some wages.”
Other tributes from staff and past students include:
“Anthea was an old school type. She was a hoot, often appeared stern, patrolling the hallways with her huge bunch of keys, but always very caring too, of me as well as her girls.”
“She used to give me packets of bacon and eggs when I’d missed having breakfast with the residents. I know she knew it was because I was hungover or hadn’t been home the night before, but she never said a word!”
“She really loved looking after the hall’s gardens and was very proud of the Orangery. I’d often find her in them in the evenings and I think she tended to them after she retired too.”
“A real character; her dress code had me thinking of Miss Marple every time I saw her.”
“A very kind lady, every time she came to my office would bring some little goody like fruit or piece of cake”.
“When they installed a hoist lift from the top floor of Surrey House (where the shared bathrooms were) to let people down the outside in an emergency, the builders wanted to test it with a bag of cement. Anthea insisted that if any of ‘her girls’ were going to have to use this contraption then it should be tested on her first. With her usual spirit she got herself strapped into the hoist and let down the front of the building”.
Our thoughts are with Anthea’s family and friends during this sad time.
The middle photograph above shows Surrey House, where Anthea was Bursar (credit: Goldsmiths Special Collections and Archives) and is believed to have been taken in the 1970s. The bottom photo shows Surrey House as it is today.