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Isobel Holst

Gustav Holst's future wife Isobel was born at 1 Myddleton Terrace, Finsbury Road, Wood Green in North...


Isobel and ImogenGustav Holst’s future wife was born at 1 Myddleton Terrace, Finsbury Road, Wood Green in North London on 26th March 1876. Her parents were Ralph Augustus Harrison, at that time a Merchant’s Clerk, and Jessie Elizabeth Harrison nee Davis. Isobel and Gustav met at the Hammersmith Socialist Society in the late 1890s, when they both attended some of the Society’s meetings and Gustav conducted the Socialist Choir, which Isobel joined as a young soprano. Isobel and Gustav married at Fulham Register Office on 22nd June 1901, starting their married life in two rented rooms in Shepherd’s Bush, with Isobel doing dressmaking to help make ends meet. On 12 April 1907 their only child, Imogen, was born.

During World War One Isobel joined other independent-spirited women in volunteering to work for the Green Cross as a part-time driver in the Women’s Reserve Ambulance. In 1923 she accompanied Gustav on his first two-month visit to America. Although from 1914 onwards Isobel spent much of her time in Thaxted, Essex, whilst Gustav was working or travelling elsewhere, when he died she was at his bedside.

Isobel at home in Barnes c.1910 -11

Isobel at home in Barnes c.1910 -11

Isobel had a flair for home making and decorating, and embraced country life. She joined the English Folk Dance Society, Essex Archaeological Society and Essex Agricultural Society and supported the Womens’ Institute as well as Thaxted church. She died in Stow Lodge Hospital, Stowmarket, on 16th April 1969. Isobel has no grave, but her obituary in The Times on 19th April 1969 recorded that she had been “kind and generous”, and brought in to Gustav’s life “grace and ease and comfort”.