The Brothers Theakstone

Anatole Theakstone

Anatole Marquardt Theakstone (1899 - 1980) took up his post in the Modern Languages Department of the RGS in 1925.  His brother Louis Marquardt Theakstone (c1899 – 1968) joined the Mathematics Department in 1932.

The brothers (they do not seem to have been twins) were born in St Petersburg and attended a German Gymnasium there before proceeding to Moscow University in the early years of the Soviet Union.  The shared middle name Marquardt suggests it belonged to their mother’s family.  Originally from Prussia, many Marquardts seem to have been resident in the Russian Empire.  Some were Mennonites who sought the freedom to practice their pacifist religious tradition.  Until it became dangerous to do so after the outbreak of the Great War the family probably considered itself to be part of the Russian German community.

Their father, V. E. Theakstone, was presumably of Yorkshire origin, but his family must have been resident in Russia for some generations as the brothers were “without nationality” when they arrived in Britain in around 1919.  Anatole was not naturalized until 1927.

Both enrolled at Edinburgh University and graduated with the four-year MA degree.  Anatole married Jean Buchanan Campbell at St Cuthbert’s parish church there in 1924, the year before he moved to Newcastle.  Louis also obtained a BSc, and between 1925 and 1927 was at Saltey College in Birmingham training as a teacher.  In 1930 he married Ceridwen Jones in St Asaph. 

Louis was commissioned into the Royal Welch Fusiliers (TA) as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1929 becoming Captain in 1937 when he was second in command of the RGS Officers’ Training Corps.  He joined his regiment in 1938 and in September 1941 was appointed interpreter to the British Military Mission in Russia, serving at the international conferences at Yalta and Potsdam.   Louis was remembered by his friend and colleague in Russia, Arthur Herbert Birse (Memoirs of an Interpreter 1967), as always providing willing and cheerful assistance  - especially when dealing with domestic staff.

Louis – now Colonel - returned to the RGS in 1946. He left in 1953 to be Head of Maths at Gateshead Grammar School.  His brother became Head of Modern Languages at the RGS in 1954 where he introduced the teaching of Russian into the sixth form.

F. C. Galbraith O.N., who joined the staff in 1949, and was Head of History in the 1960s, used to tell us that one of the Theakstone bothers had had a part time job in a pharmacy in St Petersburg/Petrograd and had supplied the poison which was used to assassinate Rasputin.

Louis Theakstone

Anatole and Jean in 1924 with Louis
Meeting of the Allied Foreign Ministers
The Yusopov Palace, Koreiz


  1. Thank you for a very interesting post.

    My Mother's maiden name was 'Theakstone' and there are not too many of those around.

    I remember her talking about a branch of the family living in Russia, but I'll have to ask her more about it and see if I can unearth anything additional.

    It also clarifies something a teacher once said to me at school when he found out my Mother's maiden name, "well, you ought to be good at languages with a name like that" - I had no idea what he meant at the time, but presumably he knew Anatole.

  2. Anatole Theakstone (and his wife) then went on to teach modern languages at Dover Girls' Grammar School, where he taught me German and French in the 1960s. Even though getting on in years, he was the most inspiring teacher I ever knew and was responsible for my choosing to study MFL at Edinburgh University myself. We remained friends until he died in 1980. He was my role model when I went into teaching myself (briefly!) He gave his pupils a love for the language, and didn't just impart ways to pass exams.

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  4. Hello. Whereas the photo of Louis Theakstone is undoubtedly correct, I have severe doubts about the photo of Anatole. The photo of him shows an incredible likeness to a Mr Doxford (Jim, I think) who was the art teacher at Gateshead Grammar School until around 1964. Louis was my form master in 1958/59 (Form 1T) and 1959/60 (Form 2T) at Gateshead Grammar and for all that he was a strict disciplinarian, I remember him with great fondness and I have no doubt that he was responsible for my ability (and that of the whole form) in mathematics. Jim Doxford was our art teacher at that time and I have 2 photographs of him and would be amazed if he could have borne such a resemblance to Anatole and worn what appears to be the same hood on the staff photos of those years.

  5. A further comment. I have now studied the photograph carefully and have absolutely no doubt that the photograph is indeed of Mr James Doxford, Head of Art at Gateshead Grammar School. The photograph has been lifted from the "long school photo, 1961" of Gateshead Grammar which can be clearly seen by looking at the uniforms etc of those pupils around him. Can't even start to imagine how it has ended up on the Old Novocastrian website.

  6. We were taught by the Theakstones at DGS. Anatole used to wear a lapel clip which, rumour has it, indicated the award of Legion d'Honneur. I thought I would check - as Legion d'Honneur has been in the news and I wondered what he had done to get it - but have not found him on any lists so far.