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Roland Vaughan Gwynne
Roland Gwynne - 1930.jpg
46th Mayor of Eastbourne
In office
Preceded by Alderman Miss A Hudson
Succeeded by Mr Alderman L Maclachlan
Personal details
Born 16 May 1882
Died 15 November 1971 (aged 89)
Eastbourne, Sussex
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Residence Folkington Manor

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Roland Vaughan Gwynne, DSO, DL, JP (16 May 1882 – 15 November 1971) was Mayor of Eastbourne, Sussex, from 1928 to 1931. He was also a patient and close friend of the suspected serial killer Dr John Bodkin Adams.


Gwynne's father made a fortune in the nineteenth century from an engineering business, Gwynnes Limited, and bought estates in Sussex with the proceeds. Gwynne's mother, May, was 41 when he was born. He was the last of nine children (though two had died). Until the age of 13, he was dressed by his mother as a girl in frocks, with bows, necklaces and long ringlets.[1] He was educated privately before being sent to Trinity Hall, Cambridge.[2]

The renowned harpsichordist Violet Gordon-Woodhouse was one of his sisters. One brother, Rupert, was Member of Parliament for Eastbourne from 1910 until his death in 1924; his daughter was the celebrated cookery writer Elizabeth David.


After university he served in the honorary post of Judge's Marshal. On 2 April 1904 he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Sussex Yeomanry[3] and made Lieutenant on 1 April 1908.[4] In 1904 Gwynne aided Viscount Turnour in his maiden election campaign in the constituency of Horsham, which Turnour then held for the next 47 years.[5] In 1910 Gwynne was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple, where he practised in the Probate and Divorce Division.[6]

The First World War broke out when Gwynne was 32. He was sent a white feather, a symbol of cowardice, by a "friend of the family"[1] and in September 1916 he volunteered for active service. He won the Distinguished Service Order in Flanders in 1917 while attached to the Queen's Royal Regiment, much to the surprise of his family. He was wounded twice, leaving him with a permanent limp.

On 8 April 1921, he was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Sussex.[7] In 1922, his mother died, leaving most of her money to Gwynne due to a family disagreement. That same year, Gwynne put his name forward as a Conservative candidate for Lewes, East Sussex, but withdrew it when his brother Neville hinted to the selection committee that Gwynne was a homosexual (around this time MP Noel Pemberton Billing was leading a witch hunt against homosexuals). John Bodkin Adams arrived in Eastbourne that same year.

Rupert died in 1924, just after being re-elected to Parliament. Gwynne inherited his estate, but settled for local politics, being High Sheriff of Sussex in 1926/27 and then mayor of Eastbourne in 1928.[6] While he was mayor, in 1929 the town bought 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) of land surrounding Beachy Head, to save it from development, costing the town around £100,000.[8]

His term as mayor ended in 1931. On 9 November that year, he was made the 8th ever Honorary Freeman of Eastbourne for his services to the borough.[9] He stayed in local politics, being Chairman of the East Sussex County Council from 1937 to 1940.[6]

He constantly had financial problems, caused on the one hand by his extravagant lifestyle (he was famous for the wild parties he held at Folkington Manor, attended by, among others, The 1st Marquess of Willingdon, who had previously served as both Governor General of Canada and Viceroy of India, and Rudyard Kipling) and on the other, by his sexuality, which made him a prime target for blackmail. Indeed, his butler Wilde was known by those close to him to be one such person extorting money from him.[10] After Gwynne's death, love letters from various local jockeys were found among his papers.[1]

During the Second World War, he took to drink.[1]

In 1947, burdened with debt, he was forced to rent out Folkington and move into the smaller Wootton Manor.

John Bodkin Adams[edit]

Gwynne never married but he developed a close friendship with John Bodkin Adams, an unmarried Eastbourne general practitioner and suspected serial killer, with whom he went on frequent shooting holidays to Scotland and Ireland. He would visit Adams every morning at 9 a.m.[1]

During the police investigation into Adams, a note written by a journalist was uncovered linking Adams sexually to a member of the local police and a local magistrate. The police officer is strongly suspected to have been the Deputy Chief Constable of Eastbourne, Alexander Seekings, and the magistrate to have been Gwynne. Despite the illegality of homosexual sex in 1956/57, the matter was not investigated further by police.[1]

In 1956, Adams was arrested on suspicion of murdering two of his patients. Gwynne was Chairman of the Magistrates in Lewes, East Sussex, and had to step down from the committal hearing owing to a conflict of interest.

During the proceedings though, Gwynne was seen dining with Lord Chief Justice Rayner Goddard and former Attorney General Hartley Shawcross at a hotel in Lewes.[1] Goddard had by then already appointed the judge for Adams' case, Patrick Devlin.

After their meeting at the hotel Gwynne crashed his car while driving home. No evidence was adduced he had been drinking. The meal was seen by one of the investigating officers from Scotland Yard, Charles Hewett as further indication that the Adams' trial was the subject of concerted judicial and political interference.[11]

During the actual trial, while the jury was out discussing the verdict on Adams' first charge of murder, Goddard phoned Devlin to urge him in the case of Adams being found not guilty, to grant Adams bail before he was tried on a second count of murder. Devlin was surprised since a person accused of murder had never been given bail before in British legal history.[12]

A month after the trial on 10 May 1957, Goddard heard a contempt of court case against magazine Newsweek and the shop chain W. H. Smith, which on 1 April during Adams' trial had respectively published and distributed an issue of the magazine containing two paragraphs of material "highly prejudicial to the accused", saying that Adams' victim count could be "as high as 400". Each company was fined £50.

On 12 February 1957, just before Adams' trial began,[13] Gwynne was knighted. Adams was sensationally acquitted of one murder charge and another was withdrawn controversially by the Attorney General.

Gwynne cooled his relationship with Adams and even admitted to police when interviewed in connection with the investigation into Adams, that he had given instructions to be buried in a lead-lined coffin. This unusual procedure was usually designed to protect the water table from contamination or to preserve evidence in case an exhumation might ever be necessary.

Post Adams[edit]

Gwynne fell into depression and in 1963 suffered a stroke. He was made a ward of the Court of Protection in 1965, which prevented him from controlling his own money and possessions.

He died on 15 November 1971, in a nursing home, aged 89. His death certificate was signed by Dr Adams.[14] His last will left his estate, valued at around £1.7 million[15] to Sir Dingwall Bateson, who, in the event, predeceased him.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Cullen, Pamela V., "A Stranger in Blood: The Case Files on Dr John Bodkin Adams", London, Elliott & Thompson, 2006, ISBN 1-904027-19-9
  2. ^ "Gwynne, Roland Vaughan (GWN900RV)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ London Gazette
  4. ^ London Gazette
  5. ^ The Sussex County Magazine
  6. ^ a b c Ken Good, The House of Gwynne, Bookmarque Publishing 2002
  7. ^ London Gazette
  8. ^ The Times, 30 October 1929. p. 11
  9. ^ List of Freemen of Eastbourne
  10. ^ Cooper, Artemis (2000), Writing at the Kitchen Table, HarperCollins, p. 266, ISBN 0-06-019828-1 
  11. ^ Cullen, Page 633.
  12. ^ Devlin, Patrick; "Easing the Passing", 1985
  13. ^ London Gazette
  14. ^ Cullen, p. 635
  15. ^ In 2002's money (according to K. Good, p.19)

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146 videos foundNext > 

LOHENGRIN de Richard Wagner (1999-2000)

Fragment de l'Acte III Roland Wagenführer (Lohengrin) Gwynne Geyer (Elsa) Hartmut Welker (Telramund) Direcció musical: Peter Schneider Direcció d'escena: ...

The Good Doctor Bodkin-Adams - Murder Docudrama 1988

Here's the excellent docudrama - The Good Doctor Bodkin-Adams - BBC Circa 1986 starring the brilliant Timothy West as Doctor John Bodkin Adams in The true ...

Pengwyn - Transitions

Original arrangement performed by Benjamin Gwynne, aka Pengwyn. Equipment used: Roland SPD-SX Boss RC-505 Loop Station Roland Handsonic HPD-20.

Jungle - Busy Earnin' (Pengwyn - Live Instrumental Remix)

A rework of the brilliant song, Busy Earnin' by Jungle. Equipment used: Roland SPD-SX Boss RC-505 Loop Station Roland Handsonic HPD-20 Korg 'Microkorg' ...

Pengwyn - Mandolin Groove

Original arrangement performed by Benjamin Gwynne, aka Pengwyn. I wrote this song a while ago but recently managed to adapt it to be played live using drum ...

Richard Wagner: Lohengrin 3

Lohengrin: Roland Wagenführer Elsa von Brabant: Gwynne Geyer Ortrud: Eva Marton Friedrich von Telramund: Hartmut Welker König Heinrich: Hans ...

Evil Doctor

John Bodkin Adams (21 January 1899 – 4 July 1983) was an Irish general practitioner, convicted fraudster and suspected serial killer.[1] Between 1946 and ...

Pengwyn - Deep Forest

Benjamin Gwynne, aka Pengwyn, performing an original arrangement using equipment from Roland and Boss. Equipment used: Roland SPD-SX Boss RC-505 ...

Pengwyn - Yao Bop

Hip-Hop song using Chinese samples performed by Benjamin Gwynne, aka Pengwyn. Equipment used: - ROLAND SPD-SX - BOSS RC-505 LOOP STATION ...

He's Alive

He's Alive sung by Gwynne and Lynne Baldridge (twins) Listen for the incredible note at the end!

146 videos foundNext > 

1 news items

WA today

WA today
Sat, 12 May 2012 18:01:52 -0700

Rowland Gwynne isn't going to give his mother flowers on Mother's Day. After all how do you give your mum flowers when she already has 20,000 roses at home? For all the hassled sons and daughters rushing to buy flowers this weekend, spare a thought for ...

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