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Montagu Porch, born at the Abbey House in 1877 [when it was owned by his mother’s family], rose to instant fame in 1918 when he married the most glamorous woman of her time, Jennie Churchill. She was a socialite celebrity more than 20 years his senior.
But, as Roger Parsons explained to the Antiquarian Society on September 24 in his second talk about Glastonbury’s Porch family, there was far more to Montie’s life than simply being Winston Churchill’s stepfather.
With the aid of family photos, Roger journeyed through Montie’s fatherless childhood, fragmented education, ill-starred service in the Boer War, adventures as an archaeologist with Flinders Petrie and wartime dangers and deprivations in West Africa as a soldier and colonial officer.
His marriage into the Churchill family ended in a tragic accident: Jennie fell down stairs during a visit to Mells Manor and died in 1921. Five years later followed another, more secretive, marriage into the Italian aristocracy. His second wife’s early death and the outbreak of the Second World War forced him to return to Glastonbury and a life of self-imposed obscurity and modest comfort, thanks to the Hucker family at Abbey Grange, Magdalene Street, until his death in 1964 aged 87.
Despite repeatedly breaking free of his quiet provincial background, Roger concluded, it seemed Montie’s destiny to return to his roots, but without the joy of children, the satisfaction of a successful career or the prestige of his own home — a life that was certainly full, but perhaps not fulfilled.