Frank Bourne- a modest hero

Frank Edward Bourne was perhaps an unlikely man to become a national hero, and to star, albeit posthumously in a blockbuster film. Born on 24 April 1853 to James, a labourer who took work wherever he could find it, and his wife Harriet, he was their eighth child and grew up in Balcombe, in Sussex (population in 1872, 880). Somehow, his mother managed to find space in their cottage to take in foster children. Frank must have gone to school, because as an adult he could read and write and helped his illiterate colleagues with their correspondence.

Life in Balcombe would not have offered anything other than a labourer’s life, and when he was eighteen, Frank joined the 24th Regiment of Foot at Reigate. He was paid six shillings a day, most of which was withheld for messing and washing. He was very quickly promoted  corporal and then sergeant and just after he was sent to South Africa in February 1878, he was promoted Colour Sergeant. He was still only twenty-four: privately, his men called him ’The Kid’ or sometimes ‘Boy Bourne’.

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Frank Bourne as a young man

In January 1879 the regiment, now the South Wales Borderers, was sent to Pietermaritzburg under the command of Lord Chelmsford. Thirteen companies, including Frank’s own ‘B’ company crossed the Buffalo River into Zulu country on 11 January. While the rest of the men carried on to engage the enemy, ‘B’ company was left behind at a mission post to guard the hospital stores. The mission was called Rorke’s Drift.

Frank’s ‘B’ Company

Chelmsford’s five-thousand-strong force was humiliatingly defeated by the Zulus at Isandlwana. The enemy then turned their attention to the mission. ‘B’ company, believing themselves to be safe, had done nothing to fortify the place. They made do with what they had – sacks of mealie ( Indian corn) and biscuit tins. They had about 150 fighting men plus some hospital patients.

One depiction of the Battle of Rourke’s Drift

The battle started at 4.30pm when the mission was attacked by between three and four thousand Zulu warriors. The attack continued all night. The Zulus departed the next morning shortly before the arrival of Lord Chelmsford’s relief column. Remarkably, only seventeen men of ‘B’ company had been lost. Of the survivors, eleven were awarded the Victoria Cross and four, of whom Frank was one, the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

The battle was headline news for months, every snippet of information being fed by the press to a public greedy for detail (and it has been suggested that the government encouraged this appetite, to gloss over the disastrous events at Isandlwana). The number of Zulus in the attack crept up to six thousand. One woman, an artist, wanted to paint the scene for the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition and had a miniature Rorke’s Drift built in her garden. Dozens of pictures have since been painted, the battle was  even turned into a war game and Rorke’s Drift into a tourist attraction.

A Rorke’s Drift war game set-up

That the battle is well-known to so many today is in part due to the 1964 film Zulu. Frank was played by Nigel Green, incongruously nearly a foot taller than the historical figure (Frank was only 5 feet 6 inches tall; Green was 6 feet 5 inches) and much older (Green was forty at the time compared to Frank’s twenty-four).

Nigel Green as Frank in ‘Zulu’. He is wearing an Indian Mutiny medal, from 1857, when Frank was four years old. 

For Frank, though, the aftermath was business as usual. As well as his DCM, which came with an annuity of £10, he was offered a commission, but turned it down as he could not afford the expense involved. He was sent to India and served in that country and Burma for the next fifteen years. On 27 September 1882, he married, in St Thomas’s Cathedral, Bombay (Mumbai), Eliza Mary Fincham. She had been born in Harwich, the daughter of a mariner.

St Thomas’s Cathedral, Mumbai – a splendid setting for a wedding

Their first son, Percy, was born hundreds of miles from Bombay, in Secunderabad, in 1883. The next son, Sydney, came into the world in Burma. At daughter, Beatrice was born on Boxing Day 1889 at Ranikhet, a hill station in Northern India.

The next year, Frank decided to take his commission, twelve years after it was offered. He was sent home, and his next child, another daughter, was born in Berkshire. Then, in May 1893, he was made adjutant of the School of Musketry in Hythe. It must have been a relief, to his wife at least, to have somewhere to call home.

The School of Musketry, Hythe, now demolished

The fourteen years in Hythe passed peacefully. Another daughter was born; Frank was promoted captain; his son Percy joined the Royal Navy Pay Office; Frank was promoted major and his son Sydney got a place at Christ’s Hospital School in London.

Frank in later life in a captain’s uniform

In 1907 Frank retired from the army. He seems, during his stay in Hythe, to have been modest about his South African adventure: the local press reported his role at Rorke’s Drift as part of a tribute when he left. He was also presented with a large oil painting of the battle, which he kept afterwards in his study.

He and Eliza retired to Beckenham, where he became assistant secretary of the National Miniature Rifle Club. ‘Miniature rifles’ were what is now called small bore rifles and their recreational use at small ranges had been encouraged after the Boer War in order, it was hoped, to produce a body of men who in the event of war would already be skilled marksmen.

Frank’s retirement did not last long. When war broke out in 1914, he went to the War Office and offered himself for active service but was told he was too old. Instead, he was sent to Dublin to run the new School of Musketry there. During this time he was responsible for training over 10,000 British and Irish marksmen and was rewarded at the end of hostilities with the honorary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and an OBE.

He went back to Beckenham and miniature rifles. Both his sons had served in, and survived, the war. Percy became a Commander in the Pay Service and Sydney a stockbroker in Newcastle. There was sadness when his second daughter, Constance, died in Beckenham in 1922 and his wife Eliza in 1931.

Frank moved in with his eldest daughter. Beatrice, who was married to an architect and ran a tea room in Dorking. He died on VE Day, 8 May 1945, the last survivor of the action  at Rorke’s Drift.

Frank’s grave in Beckenham cemetery. He is buried with Eliza and Constance

After his death, a blue plaque was put on Frank’s house in Beckenham

In 1936, Frank had given an interview to the BBC about his experiences at Rorke’s Drift. The original recording is not extant, but it was transcribed and can be read here:

http://www.rorkesdriftvc.com/defenders/tran.htm

 

 

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Thomas Head Raddall, Father and Son

 

Thomas Head Raddall, senior and…                                                 Thomas Head Raddall, junior

Thomas Head Raddall senior was born in Hampshire on 6 December 1876, the only son of another Thomas, a draper’s assistant, and his wife Eleanor. He had four sisters.

His father seems to have had a nervous breakdown, attributed to alcohol abuse. The family left Hampshire and moved to West Ham. Young Thomas worked as a cashier in an office near St Paul’s Cathedral, where he ate his lunchtime sandwich each day until when he was just fourteen or fifteen, he enlisted in the Royal Marines as a drummer boy and was sent to the Royal Marines depot at Deal. He stayed there until just before his eighteenth birthday and during this time he met Ellen Marion Gifford (Nellie) of nearby Eastry, who was to become his wife.

The Royal Marines depot at Deal, now private housing

He then enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, Portsmouth Division on 18 October 1892 and saw service in the Far East from 1896 to 1900, cruising between Hong Kong, Weihaiwei in the north-east of China and Kobe and Nagasaki in Japan. Back in the UK, he married his Nellie on 23 September 1900 at Eastry. Their first child, a daughter, was born in Deal ten months later.

Thomas had been promoted and now applied for a post at the quaintly-named School of Musketry in Hythe. In fact, it now trained men in the use of modern rifles and machine guns. Thomas was himself a first-class marksman and he got the job and the rank of Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor. It was in the married quarters of the School that Nellie gave birth to a son, named Thomas Head Raddall for his father. The birth took place on Friday 13 November 1903, but Nellie, obviously a superstitious woman, always told her son he was born on 14 November. He was baptised at St Leonard’s church.

The School of Musketry in Hythe, since demolished

Young Thomas later remembered Hythe as a ‘sleepy watering place’. He learned to walk in the School’s Barrack square and attended the National School in the town, where in the library he became entranced by the stories of Fenimore Cooper with his Indians and Leatherstockings. Encouraged by his music-loving father, he went to piano lessons with ‘a little, ape-faced man’ who whacked his fingers with an ivory baton when he made a mistake.

Thomas senior, meanwhile, was realising that the School of Musketry, Hythe, the British army and Great Britain itself had little more to offer him and his family. The high spot of his time in the town had been his membership of the British rifle team at the London Olympics of 1908. He was full of ideas and wanted more opportunity for his children. When he was thirty-five, in 1913, he applied for a post in Canada as a firearms instructor for the militia and was successful. In May  that year, the little family – there was now another daughter – sailed for Halifax, Nova Scotia. Hythe was very civilised compared to the small wooden house without electricity in which they now lived.

War broke out in Europe the next year. Thomas senior enlisted on 22 September 1914. and got a commission in the Winnipeg Rifles. He was sent to France in 1915 but managed to stop in Hythe on the way to catch up with old friends. He was shot in the arm at Ypres and was the first wounded soldier to return to Nova Scotia but was soon back in France and in 1916 was promoted Captain. Wounded in 1917, he fought at Passchendaele, now as a major; by August 1918, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel.

He was killed on 9 August 1918 by machine-gun fire, in a wheat field while leading his men in an attempt to capture Hatchet Wood near Amiens. During his war, he had been mentioned in dispatches three times and awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He was buried in what was to become the Manitoba Cemetery, Caix and commemorated on the war memorial in Hythe.

Thomas’s name on the Hythe War Memorial

Nellie and her children meanwhile had narrowly escaped death in Nova Scotia when a French ship full of explosives blew up in Halifax harbour, destroying large parts of the town. Young Thomas’s school was temporarily the town mortuary for some of the two thousand people killed.

A street in Halifax after the explosion

Thomas senior’s death left his widow in worsened financial circumstances. Her only income was his army pension and since the explosion, everything necessary for life had rocketed in price. Thomas and his older sister had to leave school and get jobs. Thomas failed to get his first choice of work as a trainee reporter and took a training course to enable him to work as a wireless officer on merchant ships. He passed the course and started his career as a ‘sparks’ on the ss War Karma in 1919.

His mother, meanwhile, had gone back to Kent with her daughters, where she hoped her limited income would go further. They settled at Kingsdown, near Dover, but things did not work out. Many of her old friends had moved on, often the men had been killed in the war, and Kingsdown was so quiet that Ellen feared that the marriage and employment prospects for her daughters were limited. In 1921 they went back to Canada. The girls took typing and shorthand classes and got jobs in the city of Halifax.

Kingsdown in the 19th century

At nineteen, Thomas decided to leave the sea, went to business school and took a job as a book-keeper in a paper mill in Liverpool (Nova Scotia). While working there, he met and in 1927 married Edith Freeman. The next year their first child was stillborn.

In 1931, Thomas started writing. His first efforts, commissioned by his employer, were a series of small books on the history of Nova Scotia. These included advertising for the paper industry. Encouraged by their reception, he started writing short stories, which were also well received and gave him enough extra income to buy his house in 1935, by which time he had a small son and daughter.

At the outbreak of war, he tried to join up, but was told his wireless operating skills were out-dated, though he was commissioned as a reservist. He had now published his first novel, His Majesty’s Yankees and in 1943 signed a contract with Doubleday Doran for a second, Roger Sudden.

Thereafter, there was no looking back. He quit his job and became a full-time writer at forty. He was prolific and best known for his meticulously researched historical fiction. He received Governor General’s Awards for three of his books, The Pied Piper of Dipper Creek (1943), Halifax, Warden of the North (1948) and The Path of Destiny (1957) and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1971.

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The three prize-winning books by Thomas Head Raddall

In 1991 he endowed the he Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award to provide ‘the gift of time and peace of mind’ so essential to the creation of new work and which he himself had lacked in his early writing days. His family continues to support the award.

Thomas died on 1 April 1994. He was so esteemed in Canada that an exact replica of his study, furnished with his possessions, is on view at the Thomas Raddall Research Centre and his correspondence is housed at the Dalhousie University Archives.

Police and Politics

                                                  A sketch of John Bennett Tunbridge in 1894

John Bennett Tunbridge did not have an advantageous start in life. He was born in New Romney on 17 November 1850, the illegitimate son of a servant, Mary Tunbridge.  He spent his early years with her, his grandparents and their seven other children, until his mother’s marriage to William Apps, a groom.  By the age of ten, he was working as a butcher’s boy, though he must have combined this with school, as so many children did.  He could not possibly have imagined that he would one day travel to South America on the trail of a wanted man or catch the eye of the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

He had received enough education to join the Metropolitan Police in December 1867, though he had initial doubts and resigned three months later. He then re-joined in September 1869. By 1871 he was a police constable.

He was also able enough to be promoted sergeant only two years later. On 17 November 1877 in Harrow, he married Ellen Maria Hatch, an Irishwoman and the daughter of a Royal Irish Constabulary officer. She was exactly three years younger – they shared a birthday and married on that date, too.  John was promoted inspector the next year.  From 1881 he served in the detective branch, working in the commissioner’s office from 1887. It was during this period that he and his family (a daughter, Milly Norah, had been born in 1882) started visiting Hythe, where in 1886 he intervened when a man tried to eject two boys from a boat on the canal, hitting one of them with an oar. The other man came off worse.

Boating on the Royal Military Canal was – and still is – a popular summer pastime

Professionally, he was involved in the capture of Thomas Neill Cream, the ‘Lambeth Poisoner’ who murdered women sex workers with strychnine.

 

John Tonbridge               and    Benjamin Cream

Photographed at the time of the latter’s arrest*

 

He was then sent to Argentina to bring home  Jabez Balfour, a corrupt financier who had left thousands of investors penniless and then fled the country.

A ‘Vanity Fair’ caricature of Jabez Balfour

John set off on 27 January 1894 and sailed from Southampton to Buenos Airies for what turned out to be a rough and unpleasant month-long voyage. On arrival, he checked into the Grand Hotel. Balfour had already been arrested, and the press confidently expected he would be back on British soil by the end of March. This was wishful thinking.  Balfour employed lawyers to fight his extradition, then, through pleading ill-health, managed to get himself released from prison. In April, matters were no further forward, but John received the news that he had been promoted to Chief Inspector.  Balfour appealed to the Supreme Court. In August he was rumoured to have been surrendered to the British authorities (ie John), but this was untrue: he had merely been re-imprisoned.  In November, the extradition was confirmed by the Supreme Court, but Balfour was then charged with other offences, which took precedence and his removal was delayed – again.

John took action. Unable, as a police officer, to communicate his misgivings directly to the British press,  he wrote in January 1895, to a friend who shared his letter with journalists. In it John complained that he had given up hope of any extradition within the next four-and-a-half  years. The ploy worked and in February a replacement was sent out to relieve him. As if to spite him, Balfour was finally removed from Argentina in April. He was subsequently sentenced to fourteen years penal servitude.

John decided to call it a day. He retired  in September 1895 with an ‘exemplary’ certificate and a substantial  pension, and the family moved permanently (or so it seemed) to Hythe, where John had acquired property.  The local paper, the Hythe Reporter, suggested that his experience would make him a very useful town councillor. It was not to be, or not yet.

On the other side of the world, the New Zealand Police Force was in need of a man to clean up its corruption-ridden operation. Premier Richard Seddon, visiting London,  asked the advice of Sir Edward Bradford, chief commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and John Tunbridge’s name was mentioned. Perhaps, in his mid-forties, John felt too young to retire and he agreed to go to New Zealand, sailing from Plymouth to  Wellington (first class) in 1897 to become Police Commissioner for the country.  Ellen and Milly accompanied him.

RichardSeddon1905.jpg

                                                Richard Seddon, Prime Minister of New Zealand 1892-1906.

The next year he travelled round the country with the Royal Commission on Police, learning about the work of his police force and contributing ideas on reform.  After the Commission reported, along lines which accorded with his own views, he had a mandate for sweeping changes and the government gave him a free hand.  He began improvements at once, focusing on the crucial role of non-commissioned officers – the ‘backbone’ of the organisation.  He established a training college in Wellington, created a pension scheme for policemen and introduced merit-based promotions and increased pay.

He was, of course, subject to criticism. Some said his newly-efficient police force imposed a ‘reign of terror’; others thought he was too lax in internal discipline, especially with regard to drunkenness. In April 1902,  the government  overturned his lenient treatment of Nelson police who had been accused of inefficiency, immorality and corruption. John believed their offences to be minor, but the government apparently made its decision on the basis of information provided privately. What should have been an internal police matter had led to public political censure of the commissioner.

John, in protest,gave in his notice in January 1903 – which led to widespread condemnation of the government’s actions, but to no avail. John, Ellen and Milly  sailed for England and retired once more to Hythe, where they lived in North Road.

That he would become a councillor was inevitable, and in 1904 he made his first foray into local affairs by suggesting that unemployed men should be used to build homes for the working classes on council-owned land.  In November 1905 he was elected to serve on the council, but was not immediately popular with his colleagues, especially with John James Jeal, a builder who had been violently opposed to John’s home-building plan.  The feud continued for years and neither man lost an opportunity to undermine the other.

John’s background meant that he was used to giving orders and used to being obeyed.  As a councillor, he was often accused of being domineering and intolerant of faults in others, however trivial. He was much criticised for his action when two children stole apples from his garden: they were on a three weeks’ holiday in Hythe arranged by the Jewish Open-Air Fund Association, and he had them sent home immediately. In 1906, he  took particular exception to a travelling show: ‘…. on the stage outside, a lady kicked her legs about and showed a superabundance of rather unclean lace. Many people think there is too much of this going on, but no doubt it is a very great attraction to a certain part of the neighbourhood.’ Another letter to the local paper next week remarked that  ‘this apparently self-appointed censor of the public morals of our town’ had been singularly unobservant: the dancer with the frilly petticoats was, in fact, a boy.

In 1907 he found himself on the wrong side of the law when he struck ex-Councillor Frank White in the face at a meeting of the Hythe Ratepayers’ Association after White called him a liar. White brought an action for assault; John pleaded guilty, claiming provocation and was fined £1 with 9/- costs.

Despite the criticisms, John was re-elected year after year and continued as a councillor and JP for the rest of his life, serving as mayor in 1909.  He took a particular interest in beautifying Hythe by planting trees and shrubs and in providing allotments and decent housing for working men and always insisted on value for money in the Council’s activities. When war broke out, he volunteered to serve as a Special Constable, an experience which must have been strange after a gap of over forty years.

He died at home on 6 October 1928 after only a few days illness and was buried in Saltwood churchyard. He died only a few miles from his New Romney birthplace, but his journey had encompassed the whole globe.

John’s grave in Saltwood churchyard. He is buried with Ellen

(Paul Dennis)

In 1907 , His daughter, Milly Norah had  married, in Saltwood church, Innes Harold Stranger, a lawyer who went on to become a King’s Counsel.

Ellen died, also in Hythe, in 1934.

* With thanks to Colin Garrow

 

Tragedy and Farce – The Hyhams

James and Anne Hyham had four sons and a daughter, born between 1798 and 1810. James, a shoemaker,  died young in 1812, but his widow managed to bring up her children without asking for parish relief. Anne received an annual gown each December from Mrs Ward’s charity, set up in 1751 to provide clothing for poor people of Hythe who received no help from other sources. It was perhaps her only new dress each year (1).

John, the eldest surviving son, was born in 1800 had a chequered career which stretched from the ineptly criminal to the farcical.  He became an agricultural labourer  and in 1825 married Elizabeth Brizeley. They had a son, James, in 1828 but Elizabeth died soon afterwards. John and James lodged at Redbrooke Cottages in Saltwood, until John decided one day in 1845 to pose as a pig dealer at Ashford Market. There he met a  Canterbury butcher, Mr Minter, offered to sell him two pigs, took Minter’s money and promised to deliver the animals the next week. Having no pigs, he went to Mr Rayner’s farm in Burmarsh, about five miles from Hythe, and stole two, got them into a cart and travelled all night to Canterbury to deliver them. Mr Rayner offered a £50 reward for information leading to the return of his animals and this yielded results. John was tried at Dymchurch and sent to prison for a year.

Ashford Livestock market in 1856

On his release, he married Martha Crapnell in 1847 and the couple went to live in Chapel Street, Hythe, where John worked a cordwainer (shoemaker), but he changed tack again and by 1861 was in charge of the canteen at Fort Montcrieff in West Hythe, a Coastguard station.  Then in the 1860s he was appointed Hythe Town Crier.

Perhaps life was a little dull, as in June 1868 he (aged 68)  and Isaac Hogben (53), a local fish dealer, decided to have a race to Canterbury.  Money – £5 each – was put on the race – and they set off up Stone Street in their horse-drawn carts. On arrival, each claimed victory.  John persuaded several people to swear (after a trip to the Flying Horse Inn) that he had won, but Hogben still denied it. To make matters worse, they were both arrested for ‘furious driving’ on the last leg of the race along Dover Road and fined £1 each

The Flying Horse Inn, at the end of Dover Road in Canterbury, the finishing point of the race.

The next month, he got involved in a fracas with a bill poster. John was working delivering advance publicity for a travelling circus and came into conflict with Richard Back, a local photographer who was equally keen to promote the annual Forresters’ fete at Brockhill. Each kept pasting his posters over those of the other. To quote the local newspaper:

On the morning of the fete, the rival bill-posters met under the market, each with a paste-pot and brush, defying each other. As soon as Back put up a poster, Hyham tore it down. The latter struck Mr Back and threw the contents of his paste-pot over him. Mr Back put up his arm to defend himself and somehow his paste brush ended up in Hyham’s mouth

Each of them was fined £1 16s.

It may be no coincidence that later that year, John retired as Town Crier.  He died ten years later.

His sister Elizabeth was the next oldest child. She was born in 1804 and married Edward Dixon Clarke in the town on 11 January 1830. Edward was a shoemaker but also worked for the Hythe town council as Town Sergeant and coal meter  (weighing coal which was delivered to the stade by collier boats), but was removed from office in 1838. Some suggested this was because he had voted for Conservative councillors rather than the Radicals (later Liberals) who now had the majority – votes were not then secret. His case was taken on by Edward Watts, formerly Town Clerk and himself at odds with the council. He was finally, in 1842, offered £25 compensation and in 1844 was reinstated with a salary of £5.16s a year.

He died two yeas later aged only forty-two, leaving Elizabeth pregnant with her ninth child.

After her husband’s death, Elizabeth remained in their Hillside Street home.  Like her mother before her, she managed to bring up her family without relying on the Overseers of the Poor, by taking work as a monthly nurse, caring for women and their new-borns in the weeks after childbirth.  She died herself in 1853

Elizabeth’s grave in St Leonards Churchyard

She is buried with her husband and an infant daughter

All her children’s ups and downs would have been a worry to their mother, Anne, but it was her youngest, Thomas, born in 1807, who must have broken her heart.

Thomas became a shoemaker, but on 6 January 1827, when he was just nineteen, he was convicted at a Hythe Sessions of the Peace of Highway Robbery and sentenced to death.

On 1 November the previous year, he had been drinking in the Bell public house along with a seaman of the Coastal Blockade, John Pendall and several other men. Pendall left before the others to return to Fort Twiss, where he was based, but was attacked by two men, pushed to the ground and relieved of his silver watch. He did not know his assailants’ names, but recognised one of them from earlier in the evening.  The description he gave the constable to whom he reported the attack was enough to lead to Thomas’s arrest.  He escaped at first and threw the watch behind some bushes, but was soon re-captured. The other man was never found and Thomas did not give him away.

Thomas was removed to Maidstone prison to await execution.

His mother got up a petition to appeal to the King for clemency. The grounds were that Thomas was young; that he had got into bad company and was drunk when the offence, which was his first,  took place. He was, the petition said, truly repentant. The petition was signed by seventy-one Hythe citizens and eleven of the jury  who had tried him and was accompanied by a supporting letter from Stuart Marjoribanks, the town’s M.P. (2). On 13 March, Sir Robert Peel, the Home Secretary, wrote to the Maidstone magistrates whom managed the prison that the King, George IV, was pleased to extend his mercy and pardon the crime, providing that Thomas be transported for life to Van Diemen’s Land or New South Wales.

His mother had saved his life, but must have known that she would never see him again.

He was sent first to the prison hulk the Dolphin, moored at Chatham. Hulks were decommissioned ships, no longer fit to go to sea and were convenient temporary holding quarters for convicts awaiting transportation to Australia and other penal colonies. During the day the convicts laboured in the Chatham dockyard. Thomas’s gaoler reported that he was from a respectable family and that his behaviour was ‘orderly’.

The hulks were overcrowded and disease-ridden and it may have come as a relief to set sail on 24 May 1827 on board the SS Champion , arriving in New South Wales 17 October 1827. Thomas was one of a hundred and twenty-eight passengers, fifty seven of whom had had life sentences. On arrival, he was put to work in a road gang. He waited nearly seventeen years for his Ticket of Leave, which gave him some limited freedom, by which time he was in Goulbourne in the southern tablelands of New South Wales. It had a population of about seven hundred. He petitioned for a conditional pardon 1849, which was refused, and again in 1855(3). The outcome is unknown and from then on Thomas disappears from the record.

His mother died as a Sister of St John’s Hospital in Hythe. The title ‘Sister’ referred back to the hospital’s medieval religious origins. It had always accepted Hythe men and women of good character who had fallen on hard times. Anne ended her days in relative comfort, at least.

  1.  Kent Archives: H1205
  2. National Archive: HO 17/25/182
  3.  New South Wales Archives 4/4185; Reel 951

The Luck of the Lotts

William and Margaret Lott of Hythe had six sons between 1727 and 1742. They were a well-to-do family, but subject to rather more  dramatic changes of luck and quirks of fate than most. The boys all grew up and married and had children of their own, and all was well until 1768.

John was their eldest, a butcher by trade, with a shop and substantial house and stables in Hythe. He had married, been widowed and had a little daughter, Mary. In his mid-forties, he became enamoured of  a twenty-year-old servant in his household, Susannah Mummery. He proposed marriage,  but Susannah refused and when he became importunate, she left his service and went to live in Rolvenden.

There she met a young man called Benjamin Buss, who, it was claimed in one report ‘subsisted chiefly by smuggling’. Benjamin suggested to Susanna that as John Lott was well-off, she should marry him as he would be bound to die first and she would inherit. She appears to have been persuaded by this argument, and the marriage took place in Rolvenden on 15 August 1768. John now had only eleven days left to live.

 

 

Rolvenden church, where John Lott married Susannah Mummery

Susannah later said that it was immediately after the marriage that Benjamin Buss suggested poisoning John Lott. He seems to have accompanied the couple on their return to Hythe and visited the apothecary, Mr Gipps, there and bought two ounces of ‘corrosive sublimate’, mercuric chloride. It was then widely used for treating syphilis, but in larger doses was a poison.

The first attempt to murder John was at an inn in Burmarsh, near Hythe, where John was a regular. He had ridden out there with Susannah and Benjamin, presumably to view his stock, as his brother William a grazier, leased thirty acres there. They ordered a milk bumbo, a mixture of milk, rum, sugar and cinnamon, but John’s portion was laced with poison. He vomited, but recovered. Unfortunately for Susannah and Benjamin, the substance left a suspicious sediment in the bottom of the drinking vessel.

The Shepherd and Crook Inn at Burmarsh

 

Benjamin purchased more corrosive sublimate, which Susannah administered and John finally succumbed on 26 August, having made his will two days earlier. Poisoning was suspected. Susannah, who had bought mourning clothes  as a grieving widow would, was interviewed by a magistrate and seems to have confessed immediately and implicated Benjamin Buss. He denied everything, but they were both arrested and confined in Canterbury Gaol.

The ruins of Canterbury Castle, which housed the County gaol in the eighteenth century

They were brought for trial on 8 March 1769, but as a key witness, Mr Gipps the apothecary, could not attend, they were remanded in Maidstone gaol. There, at the end of April, Susannah gave birth to a daughter whom she named Betty. She said the child was John’s and that she and Benjamin had never been intimate. If the child was conceived on her wedding night, it would have been born at thirty-seven weeks gestation, which is perfectly plausible. Susannah kept the child with her in prison and had her brought into the courtroom to be suckled during her trial.

The trial finally took place in July and the guilty verdict was almost a foregone conclusion. Susanna and Benjamin were both sentenced to death. On 21 July 1769 they were taken to Penenden Heath. Benjamin was hanged first, followed by Susanna, dressed in her mourning clothes. Her body was then tied to a stake and burnt.

Little Betty Lott, now an orphan, does not seem to have been claimed by anyone. Presumably the Lott family thought she was Benjamin’s child. Susannah’s mother, Elizabeth, was still alive and maybe Benjamin Buss had family, but the child was unwanted. She died, aged two, in Maidstone and was buried in All Saints churchyard.

John cannot have suspected Susannah of poisoning him, since his will, made only forty-eight hours before he died, left her £300. This represented over eleven years earnings for a skilled tradesman, so was a substantial sum, but maybe not what she and Benjamin Buss had hoped for. However, John’s main concern was to provide for his daughter Mary. His house and shop, all his stock cattle and swine, his household goods, furniture and ready money all went to her as soon as she was twenty-one. Until then she would be under the guardianship of John’s brother William.

William was a year younger than John and had worked with another brother, Robert, as a grazier until the latter’s death in 1766.  Robert’s widow married again four years later, but had the good sense to insist on a pre-nuptial agreement which entitled her to keep the money Robert had left her. She made good use of it by lending it out to her former brothers-in-law, George, the fifth son and Richard, the sixth son, who was a carpenter. She charged them 4% per annum.

William had no need to borrow money, and already owned two properties in Hythe (1).  He had married Elizabeth Marsh and had a son, another John, who was apprenticed to a Canterbury surgeon, Mr Loftie.  In 1779 when this John was twenty-two, and still apprenticed, he inherited from a maiden aunt of his mother’s a small fortune.

The aunt (or ‘cozen’ as she called herself), Elizabeth Rolfe, had been a devoted friend of a wealthy woman called Catherine Thompson nee Eaton. The relationship seems to have been particularly close, and Miss Rolfe was generously remembered in Catherine’s will. Catherine gave her ’all my furniture and household goods whatsoever excepting my crimson damask which I give to my nephew Peter Eaton’. She also got all Catherine’s clothes and jewellery ‘except my diamonds’ and an annuity of £250 a year plus £4500. She was now a wealthy woman herself, and John inherited nearly everything, on one condition – that he change his surname to Eaton. Elizabeth Rolfe wanted her dear friend’s maiden name to go down in history.

This did not work out quite as she had wished.

Elizabeth Rolfe’s will. This section says ‘…continuing in the name of Eaton as must his son and son’s sons for by no other name shall my fortune be holden by it being the maiden name of my most inestimable friend Dame Cath. Thompson…’

There is no indication that John Lott Eaton ever practised as a surgeon after he inherited: he had no need to engage in what was still ‘trade’ (only university-trained physicians could call their work a profession), but he did erect an ornate memorial to his parents in St Leonard’s church and paid for them to be buried inside the church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lott memorial in St Leonard’s church, Hythe

 

 

John Lott Eaton died in 1807, unmarried and therefore without lawfully begotten sons or daughters.  He was an only child, and he left  his estate to his cousin, Elias Lott, the son of the fifth Lott brother, George.  Elias, as required in Mrs Rolfe’s will duly took the name of Eaton. However, John either overlooked or did not know about a codicil to Elizabeth Rolfe’s will, which stated that he were to die without children then the whole of her fortune should go to the son of Mr Loftie (another cozen), the Canterbury surgeon to whom John Lott Eaton had been apprenticed. This son was, of course, to take the name of Eaton.

He did, very, very promptly. John Lott Eaton died on 3 November 1807. On 17 November 1807, the King had granted a Royal Licence for the name change, which tends to suggest some action before John Lott Eaton’s death. Royal Licences usually took months to arrange. John Skeere Loftie of New Romney was now John Skeere Loftie Eaton. One source states that ‘being of an extravagant temperament, he ran through all his property, and died quite ruined in estate in 1817’. This assessment is borne out by other evidence: in 1816, he was prosecuted for not paying his rates and some of his possessions distrained; in his will he was only able to leave his heir, William, the remainder of a lease on a farm in Cobham, together with the hogs and pigs (but not the crops or sheep).  His widow was left with seven dependant children, and the creditors moved in as soon as probate was sought.

All this must have been galling for Elias Lott Eaton, who had briefly believed himself to be a man of means and had gone to the expense of changing his name for no reason.  He compensated by selling off the Lott family lands in Eastbridge for £3000 in 1811(2) and his uncle William’s Hythe property in 1825 (3), which he had, least, inherited, the Lott brothers not being very successful at producing heirs. He died in 1831, apparently intestate.

John Skeere Loftie Eaton’s heir, William Loftie Eaton did the only sensible thing for impoverished young gentlemen: he emigrated to South Africa in 1820 where he fathered many children.   The name of Loftie Eaton may still be found there. Thus, the name of Eaton, if not Mrs Rolfe’s fortune, was preserved.

  1.   Kent Archives: EK/U204/T114
  2.   Kent Archives: EK/U204/T43
  3.   Kent Archives:  F1966/9/Bt84/7

Two Ways To Get From Hythe to Australia

Two West Hythe brothers, John and Benjamin Cheeseman, both ended their days far from Kent, in Australia, but they made very different journeys there and had very different experiences.

John Cheeseman was born in West Hythe in 1814 and baptised in Burmarsh church on 27 November that year (West Hythe’s own church, St Mary’s, had long since fallen into ruin).

Image result for st mary's church west hythe kent

The remains of St Mary’s church, West Hythe…

See the source image

… and All Saints’ church, Burmarsh, where John was baptised

He was the eldest child of his parents, John and Mary and received some education as he was, as an adult, recorded as being able to read and write. He married Mary Ann Hobday on 17 June 1832 in Folkestone and the couple had two sons, Charles in 1833 and John in 1835. When he arrived in Australia in 1839, he described himself as a shepherd.

West Hythe is on the fringes of the Romney Marsh, which was then home to thousands of sheep and to their shepherds who here were known as ‘Lookers’.  These men tended huge flocks of sheep over a vast area which meant that they had to spend long periods away from home, sleeping and sheltering in small, brick-built huts.  The Marsh is now dotted with these ruined huts, with around a dozen remaining from more than three hundred and fifty . Built of brick, about ten feet square, with Kent peg-tile roofs, bare rafters and a chimney, they were very functional.  All had a small window and a fireplace, but with very little in the way of domestic comforts.

A Looker’s hut near New Romney

Lookers were self-employed, hiring themselves out to graziers. One man might work for two or three . They were more in demand at some times of year than at others – at the lambing season and at shearing time for example.  Outside these times, they may have had to seek other seasonal work.

The wages of many agricultural workers were falling during this period. John now had a wife and two small children, too young to work, to support.  Workers could take several courses of action when destitution threatened: protest (as did the Tolpuddle Martyrs); succumb to the Poor Law and go into the workhouse; become terrorists (as did the Swing rioters) or turn to crime.

John was tried for sheep-stealing  at Hythe in 1837 but acquitted, but on 7 April the following year he was convicted of stealing two bushels of potatoes and sentenced to be transported for seven years.

He was sent to the hulks and sailed on board the ss John Barry from Sheerness on 12 November that year, arriving in Sidney on 22 March 1839. He was unwell on the way out and was treated by the surgeon for pneumonia. He left behind a British winter which would be especially bleak for his wife and children.

Destitute, they were sent to the Romney Union workhouse at New Romney in December (1). Ann was set to knitting stockings and, later, picking half-a-pound of oakum a day. At least the boys could be educated, as they attended the National School in the town, though workhouse children were not always welcome. For one thing, they were frequently scabby, or as, the chaplain put it, suffering from a ‘cutaneous infection, calculated to excite the fears of the Managers of the School and the parents of other children’.  The medical officer said they had, ecthyma, a type of impetigo caused by poor hygiene and crowded living conditions – but not infectious.

 

See the source image

New Romney National School, opened in 1821

The family were still in the workhouse in 1843, when little Charles died there, aged eight of an intestinal complaint.

In Australia, John was assigned to a master named Robson in the Yass district, well-known for its production of fine merino fleece. His  skills as a shepherd would have been valued in this sheep country of New South Wales, where only one in five convicts assigned to masters had any agricultural  experience at all.  He was also used to the long hours of solitude of the Looker system on the Romney Marsh. The difference was that while the meadows in the Marsh are lush, here grass was hard to find and he could be away from the station for days.

He got his Ticket of Leave on 9 May 1843 (2). This allowed convicts to hire themselves out or be self-employed rather than work for the Government on the condition that they remained in a specified area, reported regularly to local authorities and if at all possible, attended divine worship every Sunday. They could also acquire property.

The marriage of John and Ann did not survive their separation.  John could read and write, so could send letters to his wife without having to pay a scribe ( convicts were often able to earn a little personal cash by working overtime). Communication between the couple was possible, though terribly slow – and we don’t know if Ann was literate.  John would have got Certificate of Freedom after seven years servitude in 1845. He could have returned home (if he could get together the fare), or arranged for Ann to join him – Poor Law Guardians would sometimes pay for the passage and Romney Union looked favourably on such applications, which relieved them of the necessity of providing for the family.

Neither of these things happened and by 1851 Ann was living with William Webb, a coal miner, in Yorkshire. They told the census enumerator they were married, but no record of a marriage exists, and would in any case have been bigamous.  It must have been hard for Ann after John’s conviction: years in the workhouse, a widow yet not a widow and the mother of a dead child. Her remaining son, John, worked alongside his step-father in the mines.

Did John senior know of this arrangement, or had communications between the couple broken down?  Whichever was the case, on 10 October 1853 he married a young widow, Christina Stewart, a Scotswoman, at Wagga Wagga.  Such second marriages were not unusual.  John would have known that the chances of anyone finding out that Ann was still alive  were very slim indeed.

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Wagga Wagga in its early days

Christina and her first husband had come to Australia as sponsored free immigrants. She had some money, and used it to buy land in Wagga Wagga which she and John farmed. In 1860, they had a daughter, Amy (perhaps named for John’s little sister Amy), and lived at Wagga Wagga as farmers until their deaths,  Christina’s in 1886, John’s in 1888.  It was almost certainly a materially better life than John could have expected in Hythe.

His surviving son with Ann went on to become an ironstone miner and to father three children. His Australian daughter Amy became a mother of nine.

As well as a little sister, John had a younger brother, Benjamin, who eventually travelled to Australia, too. Benjamin was born, like John, in West Hythe, in about 1828.  He worked as a labourer as an adult and  moved to Dover where in 1848 he married Jane Bass. The couple returned to Hythe where they and their three children lived in Stade Street.  There was another child, too, Thomas Bass, Jane’s illegitimate son.  In February 1853,  Benjamin secured sponsorship from James Egan, who owned a sheep station in Victoria, and the family sailed on board the ss Calliope from Southampton on 3 February 1853. The ship’s records show that Benjamin and Jane had been contracted to work for Egan at the Major’s Line station near Heathcote in Victoria for a period of six months, for which they were to be paid fifty pounds plus rations.

They completed their contract and then followed hundreds of others to the Maryborough goldfields. The goldfields of Victoria may very well have been the lure in the first place.  Gold had been discovered in Ballarat, only 58 km from Maryborough, in 1851 and the area became a magnet for anyone with dreams of a quick fortune.  All that was needed was a licence to prospect, at a cost of thirty shillings a month. When the Maryborough venture proved unproductive, Benjamin and his family moved on to Ararat, where gold had been discovered in 1857.

Edward Roper, Gold diggings, Ararat, ca. 1854–58, oil on canvas, State Library of New South Wales – here, as at Maryborough, prospectors lived in tented accommodation. 

Then Benjamin disappeared or died, though there are no records of his death. His wife, or widow, went on to have another relationship and lived until 1888.

Their eldest son, Alfred, worked as a woodcutter and splitter, an occupation which guaranteed him employment. Australian settlers were busy at the time putting up hundreds of miles of post and rail fences round their sheep stations to control their grazing stock.  For three years, he worked in New South Wales, based at Wagga Wagga, where his uncle John lived with his wife Christina. His wife and children went with him and must have met the elder Cheesemans:  Alfred’s next two children, born in Wagga Wagga, were called – John and Christina.   They returned to Victoria in 1877, where they raised their family of twelve children.

His half-brother Thomas, who now used the name Cheeseman, also married and had seven children and Frances, his sister (who was known as Annie) also married and also produced seven children.

John and Benjamin Cheeseman had between them at least thirty-three grandchildren who reached adulthood.  There must be huge numbers of descendants of these Hythe brothers in Australia and England and who knows where else.

  1. Kent Archives G/Rm/AM2

2.     New South Wales Archives 4/4176; Reel 948

Details of John’s second marriage and Benjamin’s life in Australia have been taken from http://www.graemecheeseman.com

An Unlikely Philanthropist

Alfred Bull lived an ordinary, industrious and dutiful life, until, in his old age, he became unexpectedly the most talked about man in Hythe.

He was  the son of Harry and Mary Ann Bull and was born on 30 September 1830 in Lewes where he was baptised in January the next year. He was the middle child of a family of nine. His father, who had previously been in partnership with his own brother Charles as a wool stapler, had set up a grocery business in the High Street the year before Alfred’s birth. He ran into financial difficulties and sold the business in 1827 to pay off his creditors, but opened a hatter’s shop and a stationery shop soon afterwards. He died in 1840. Coming from such a large family, Alfred could not have expected to inherit (if, indeed his father left anything), and having completed his apprenticeship with a Lewes draper he moved away to Kent where he worked for Lewis and Hyland, drapers of Ashford.

He was nearly thirty when he moved to Hythe and set up shop on his own account. He leased two adjacent High Street shops which were already trading as draper’s ; not long afterwards he was able to buy them and convert them into one premises. He lived over the shop and insured his furniture and effects for £100 and his stock in trade for £300(1). Remarkably, the shop is still there and is still a draper’s, now trading as Eldridge’s.

Eldridge’s as it was in about 1900…

 

… and as it is today  

The alley next to it is still called Bull’s Passage

Now established, he could propose marriage and on 24 April 1845, at St Mary’s church in Ashford, he married Maria Cobb, a tailor’s daughter.

His business prospered. For a while his brother Henry, also a draper, worked with him and in 1851 they employed two male live-in assistants. Ten years later, things were very different. The babies started arriving a couple of years after the marriage of Alfred and Maria and came at regular intervals thereafter. Maria died, aged only thirty-seven, two months after giving birth to her sixth child, a fourth daughter. Alfred, widowed, with a family of six children under ten and a business to run, turned to his family in Lewes for help.

His older unmarried sister, Maria, moved in as housekeeper and stayed with Alfred until her own death aged fifty-nine in 1864. Alfred’s youngest child was still then only ten, so another maiden sister, Frances, took over. She died in 1873, by which time Alfred had retired and the children all grown. The sisters are buried next to Alfred’s wife in St Leonards’s churchyard.


                                                  Sacred/ to the memory of/ Maria Bull/ died 24 May/ 1864/ aged 59 Years
                                             Also of Frances Bull/ sister of the above/ who died at Hythe/17th May 1873/ aged 51.


                                  Sacred/ to the memory of/ Maria/ the beloved wife of/ Alfred Bull/ who died October 24th 1858/ aged 37.

 

The business was sold to Leonard Lorden, another draper, who sold it in 1896 to George Eldridge, whose name it has retained through various changes of ownership. Alfred, meanwhile, retired to Hardwick House, near the Bell Inn. This was  in the parish of Newington-next-Hythe and he was obliged to relinquish his posts as Hythe town councillor and JP which he had held for many years, performing his duties conscientiously but quietly. He was able, however, to remain as a trustee of St Bartholomew’s almshouse in the town and from 1886 served on the Burial Board.  With him lived his three unmarried daughters, Mary Anne, Ellen and Maria.

Then once more there was another huge change in his life, caused by another death. His father’s brother, Charles Bull had married and had a son of his own, another Charles. This Charles was articled to a Lewes solicitor, then joined the London firm of Palmer France & Palmer in 1845 . He eventually became a partner and the firm became Palmer & Bull. He had a London house in Bedford Square and a country residence in Billingshurst and was under-sheriff for Sussex for many years. He was also very rich, a lifelong bachelor and his unmarried only sister was dead. He died himself, suddenly, in spring 1890.

Inexplicably, for a solicitor whose doctor had told him he had a weak heart, he died intestate. Alfred, now seventy-five, was his nearest relative and inherited his fortune, a whopping £133, 358. That is about £10 million today.  Alfred did what lottery winners do now – bought himself and his daughters a big new house. Called ‘The Gables,’ it was in Shorncliffe Road, Folkestone, and was described by the auctioneer as ‘a mansion’. The family employed three live-in servants.

Then Alfred’s thoughts turned to philanthropy. He purchased a plot of land on the south-eastern corner of Mount Street  in Hythe and paid for – at a cost of £4000 –  the erection of a two-storey building to be a public facility for the town of Hythe. Building started in 1891. It was carpeted and furnished and heated by Perkin’s patent hot water apparatus. On the ground floor were a library, a room for reading and games, and a ladies’ room.  A wide staircase led to a magnificent hall which could seat nearly four hundred, with smaller rooms that could be used as dressing-rooms.

Alfred also built a row of model cottages, still called Bull’s cottages, in St Leonard’s Road, with the rental income to be used for the maintenance of what was to be called simply The Institute. It was to be administered by three trustees who Alfred appointed. He was now to aged and too ill to take on the task himself. He chose two Hythe businessmen, Robert Worthington, a coachbuilder , and Leonard Lorden, to whom he had sold his business. The other trustee was Robert Sidle, ‘gentleman’. The trustees had very little restriction on how the Institute could be used –  ‘as a public reading room, Mechanics’ Institute, museum, lecture room, class room, gymnasium or recreation room, for the holding of public and private meetings, concerts, theatricals, lectures, classes, exhibitions and other entertainments of every description for the benefit of the inhabitants of and visitors to the Borough of Hythe’ The trustees could levy or raise entrance fees and/or subscriptions to provide funds and could, if they wished, sell the property(2).

 The first of the row of Bull’s Cottages, tucked away behind St Leonard’s Road, Hythe

Alfred laid the foundation stone in 1891. Under the stone was buried a sealed bottle containing a national daily paper, the current issue of the Hythe Reporter newspaper and a copy of the inscription on the stone: This stone was laid by Alfred Bull Esq., J.P., on the 2nd November, 1891. There was no mention that he had paid for the building.

The opening ceremony took place shortly before Christmas 1892. Alfred was in poor health and his elder son, Frederick, another draper, had died earlier that year, so it was a quiet event.  Later in December he gave a dinner at the White Hart hotel in Hythe for the workmen engaged on the building but could not himself be present. In February 1893 he invited to tea at the Institute all Hythe inhabitants over the age of sixty. A hundred and one accepted and his daughter Ellen represented him at the event. The Institute, though it often struggled financially (Bull’s Cottages brought in only £60 a year) was a popular local amenity, especially the large hall with its space for entertainments of all kinds.

Alfred died in 1894, having enjoyed his good fortune for only four years and was buried in Folkestone cemetery. The Folkestone Herald said when he died that ‘his name will have a permanent endurance and be embalmed in grateful recollection in Hythe.’   This was unfortunately not true, partly because of his own modesty. Had he decided to call his building ‘The Bull Institute’ following the example of J. D. Beaney who founded the Beaney Institute in Canterbury, he might be better known.  Modernisation was against him too: in the 1960s, a road widening scheme required the demolition of the Institute, whose foundations now lie under Prospect Road.

After his death, his surviving children proved that being rich does not necessarily make you happy. Mary Anne, the eldest daughter, became engaged to a widowed Rye brewer and wine merchant in 1893. The wedding was planned for April 1894,  but her intended, Herbert Chapman, died suddenly of ‘a painful malady of the head’ days before the event.  In August that year Thomas, her brother, contested his father’s will in the Probate Court. He had been left only £8000 and claimed that the three sisters who had lived with Alfred had exerted undue influence over him.  The case dragged on for three years until it was settled out of court. How much Thomas actually received  is not known. Then Emma, the only daughter who married, died aged forty-six of cancer of the liver in 1899.

The other sisters did not continue living together. ‘The Gables’ was sold to a retired General (later it became the Radnor Hotel and, during the 1940s, Folkestone Police Station).  Mary Anne returned, alone, to the family’s old home, Hardwick House in Hythe and died there aged fifty-five. Everything she owned was auctioned off by her executors, who were her solicitor and the brother of her dead fiancé. Ellen went to live in Bournemouth with a paid companion. She died there aged fifty-one . Maria moved to Tonbridge and died in 1918. She left a will but the named executors, her sisters, had all died many years before so her brother Thomas’s attorney handled her estate.

The sisters may have lived apart in life, but they sleep together in death.  Mary Ann and Maria rest in one grave in Folkestone cemetery,  and the adjacent plot, with an identical headstone, is occupied by Alfred and Ellen.

The identical graves of Alfred, Mary Anne, Ellen and Maria Bull

 

Thomas had emigrated to Ontario in the early 1870s. He married there, moved to Saskatchewan and then to Santa Clara in California. Along the way, he and his wife had eleven children.  He used his inheritance to set up in business as a fruit farmer and later a rancher, and died in 1931, aged eighty.

Thomas Bull of Santa Clara and his grave and that of his daughter Kate

(www.findagrave.com)

There is a postscript, or rather two. When the Institute was demolished, the foundation stone was saved and placed near the site.


And in 1999, a great-great grandson of Alfred visited Hythe from Santa Clara. He called in at his ancestor’s old shop and presented to Hythe Library a picture of Alfred, which still hangs there today.

 

  1.  Kent Archives: U2593/B24/51
  2.  Kent Archives: EK/U17/T1

An Institutional Life

Adolphus Harry Peter Valder was born in Hythe on 9 January 1839 and baptised in St Leonard’s church there. He was the son of Henry Robert Valder, a tailor of Theatre Street, Hythe, and his wife Elizabeth nee Castle. The parents lived respectable, quiet lives, although Henry was occasionally fined for failing to pay the pavement rate.

Adolphus Valder used all his Christian names at will during his life. He was sometimes Adolphus, sometimes Harry or Henry and occasionally Peter. In 1858 he decided to be Thomas Castle instead, and joined the British Army at Aldershot under this name. He was 5 feet five inches tall with light brown hair and grey eyes and served in the West Kent Regiment as a bandsman. He was in Malta for nearly five years and was later posted to Gibraltar, where he was discharged in May 1866 as unfit for further service. He had ophthalmia, which the examining physician thought would improve once he was back in the UK. His conduct was described as ‘very good’.

See the source image

The cap badge of the Royal West Kent Regiment. The motto is Invicta – undefeated. 

He married Ann Castle Savage, daughter of Thomas Castle Savage, a bricklayer in September 1868 in St Leonard’s church in Hythe. They went at first to live in Westminster, then Islington. In 1871 Adolphus (then going by the name of Harry) told the census enumerator that he was an officer of HM Customs, which seems unlikely. Later he would describe himself as either a labourer or an army musician.

By 1874 the couple, now with two sons, were back in Hythe. In December 1876, now with another son, they were admitted to the Elham Union Workhouse in Etchinghill.  A fourth son was born there early the next year and the family were discharged on 30 April 1877 (1). In October, Ann and the boys were back, and were joined by Adolphus after Christmas. He then absconded, but was arrested and imprisoned in Dover for deserting his family. The authorities took Ann and her sons to Dover to re-join him. By October, they were all back in Etchinghill.

Thereafter there is a continuous pattern of Adolphus being in prison and his wife and family in the workhouse. Another son, Louis (sometimes Lewis),  was born and the couple’s last child and only daughter, Jane, was born n the workhouse in 1883. The child had to return to the workhouse alone when she was five, as Adolphus was back in prison.

At every other census until 1911, both Adolphus and Ann are to be found in the workhouse, although it seems their stay was not continuous, as in 1902 their son Harry told the army that they were living in Stade Street, Hythe. In 1905, Adolphus wrote to the Incorporated Soldiers and Sailors Help Society, asking for assistance (2). The Society was founded in 1899 with Princess Christian, Queen Victoria’s third daughter and a founder of the Red Cross, as its first President and still exists today as the Forces Help Society. He explained that he had joined the army under a false name and that since then he had been trying, without success, to get a peddler’s licence (he had left the army thirty-nine years previously).  He wanted, he said, to get ‘a living and at the same time get my wife little extras that we are unable to get now.’ He enclosed testimonials, one of which confirmed that Ann was ‘incapable of doing anything’, though it does not say why.  The outcome of his request is not on record.

Both Adolphus and Ann died in the workhouse, he in March 1913 and Ann in August 1915. Both were buried in St Leonard’s churchyard.

Considering their poor start in life and what must have been a rackety upbringing, the Valder children led, as far as can be told, stable and industrious lives.

The eldest child, Charles was born in Westminster on 17 August 1869. His name was registered as Charlie Castle Valder, but he always preferred to use ‘Charles’. In 1884 he was apprenticed to Frederick Court a tailor of Greenstreet, a hamlet near Faversham. He served his six-year term, but in December 1892 went to Shornecliffe, an army base near Hythe and joined the Royal West Kent Regiment. He gave his occupation as ‘musician and tailor.’ Presumably his father had taught him to play an instrument, too. He was five feet four inches tall, with grey eyes and fair hair, and said that he was a Wesleyan. He stayed in the army, as a private, until 14 December 1913, exactly twenty-one years. During this time, he served in the Republic of Ireland, Malta and at various postings in England. On 31 March 1902, at the parish church in Watford, he married Sarah Rushby, and they set up home in Cheriton, the nearest residential area to Shorncliffe army base. There were no children of the marriage. In October 1914, Charles re-enlisted, this time in the Labour Corps. He was soon promoted to corporal and spent the war in the UK, being discharged as medically unfit – he had ‘myalgia’ (muscle pain)- in October 1917. He then found employment as a postman and later as a general labourer and the couple continued to live in Cheriton until Charles’s death in 1949.

When Charles joined the West Kent Regiment, he was following in the footsteps not only of his father but of his younger brother, Harry, who had enlisted two and a half years earlier at the age of eighteen. He gave his occupation as groom. He, too, was five feet four inches tall, with blue eyes and light brown hair. He served in Malakand, near the Khyber Pass, and in South Africa, where he was severely wounded, which is presumably why, in 1901, he was staying with relatives in Foord Road in Folkestone.

Winston Churchill also served at Malakand and wrote about his experiences

Harry was discharged from the army in 1902, worked as a labourer for a while and re-enlisted in 1903, for a short-term engagement, by which time he had grown to five feet five inches tall. He was finally discharged in November 1907 and died in the Ashford area in 1944.

The third son, Ernest, was born in 11 January 1874 in Hythe & baptised there 18 March, where he was given the names Ernest Tom Castle Valder. By 1891, when his parents were in the workhouse, he was working as a porter at the Seabrook Hotel (later the Imperial), a live-in position.

The Imperial Hotel , Hythe in the early years of the 20th century

He moved to Southwark, but stayed in the hospitality sector, working as a potman. He married Amy Alice Murray in 1897, and the couple had two sons and a daughter. He enlisted in the army in 1916, by which time he was running a lodging house in Walworth, and like his older brother Charles served in the Labour Corps in the UK, though his record shows that he was often afflicted with bronchitis. By the beginning of the second world war he was living in Lewisham, where he died in 1951.

His younger brother Louis Castle Valder was born on 4 June 1876. He made his living in steam laundries, working at first in Cheriton, where he had made his home with his wife, and later in Hammersmith.

Foster’s Steam Laundry, Cheriton, in 1903. Is Louis Valder one of the eight men pictured?

 

He had married Ada Florence Perry in Cheriton parish church on 21 April 1901 and they had two sons. He also enlisted during the first world war, enlisting in December 1915 and being mobilised in June 1916. Like his brothers, he was a short man, only five feet one and a half inches tall. He served with the Essex Regiment as a private.

The fifth Valder son was Sidney Castle Valder born in the workhouse in 1877, and who died in Lyminge in 1903. Between those two dates there is no information about him on the public record.

The only daughter, Jane, worked as a servant as a young woman, and married in 1908 in London James Corboy, a railway porter.  They had at least one daughter. Jane died in 1919, perhaps as a result of the ‘Spanish flu’ epidemic that killed so many.

There remains the question of why, since they were all in paid employment, the Valder children did not support their parents and keep them out of the workhouse. Had they given up on their father and his undoubtedly erratic ways?  It could be that the parents did not want to take assistance. Or that help was given but frittered away. Or even that Adolphus and Ann had become so habituated to the workhouse and had so many acquaintances there – many elderly couples were regular visitors –  that it became, however dreary, a second home.

 

  1. Kent Archives G/EL/W1A
  2. Kent Archives Fo/Z2/C2

Making Good

William Buckland Hythe Taffenden was baptised on 24 May 1825 in St Leonard’s Church, Hythe. It is an odd collection of names, and he never used this second and third given names. Buckland is a small parish near Dover, or could be a surname; ‘Hythe’ speaks for itself. The reason behind the names can only have been known to William’s mother, who gave her name as ‘Lydia Taffenden’ to the curate who performed the baptism, but there are no records confirming the existence of anyone of this name. The surname is unusual, confined then almost entirely to Kent and found mostly in the area around Ashford.

Whatever the circumstances of his birth, what can be certain is that he was illegitimate, or ‘base-born’ according to the curate. He was first admitted to Elham Union workhouse in 1839, when he was fourteen and described as ‘a servant, bastard’ (1). He clearly disliked the place, as he was intended to, and later that year he and a twenty-year-old man from Folkestone, Richard Marsh, escaped together, but William was found the next day and brought back. His sin was compounded by the fact that he had escaped wearing the workhouse’s clothing, so was guilty of theft as well.

The next year, the authorities found him a place in service, with Francis Pittock, a surgeon who lived in at Mount Pleasant in Sellindge. It was not a successful venture, and he lost the place and was returned to the workhouse in December 1841. Three months later, on 30 March 1842, he went to Dover and joined the army. The recruiting sergeant described him as 5ft 4 inches tall, only just tall enough, but probably still growing, blue eyed and with a fresh complexion.

The army was his life for the next twenty years and two hundred and nineteen days. Here he found the stability that turned his life around. He had joined the 2nd Battalion, the Rifle Brigade, a Regiment first raised in 1800 as an elite and ‘Experimental Corps of Riflemen’. It trained its men as ‘sharpshooters, scouts and skirmishers’, arming them with rifles which were more accurate and had a longer range than the musket, but took longer to load.

A soldier of the Rifle Brigade, early nineteenth century

The idea of individual soldiers hitting specific targets seemed unorthodox at the time, with the conventional tactic of the mass volley being favoured. The Regiment was trained to use natural cover (wearing green instead of the traditional red, in order to camouflage the soldiers), worked in pairs in the open and trained to think for themselves in order to harass the enemy. The Regiment became an invaluable part of any campaign and was present at most actions of the British Empire including Waterloo in 1815, the Crimean War 1854–1856, and the Indian Mutiny 1857–1859.

William was sent first to Canada, where he spent ten years. Some of this, at least, was spent in Kingston, Ontario. Standing at the head of the St Lawrence River, the city was heavily fortified against attacks from the United States, and the British had a large garrison there. In 1851 William was listed as being posted there as a private – a rank he held throughout his military career.

The harbour in front of the garrison at Kingston, Ontario, in the mid-nineteenth century

From Canada, William was sent to Turkey and on to Sevastopol in the Crimea, where he took part in the battles which characterised the long siege from 1854 to 1855.

 

                                                                                  A rifleman in the Crimea

He was then sent to India and took part in the actions to relieve the siege of Lucknow, which as part of the Indian Mutiny was held by rebelling forces from 1857 to 1858.

The aftermath of the Siege of Lucknow: the ruins of the British Residency

From there he went to Subathu, a fortified town near Simla.

William finally sought discharge from the army in October 1863. He was suffering from dyspepsia when he exerted himself and doctors considered that his long and active career, together with advancing years, had rendered him unfit for further service. He had been awarded four Good Conduct badges, the Crimean Medal and clasp for Sevastopol, the Turkish Medal, the Indian Medal and clasp for Lucknow, and the Long Service Medal. He was sent home and finally discharged on 24 May 1864.

During his army years, he had found time to marry, as on his return home he was described as a widower, but no trace remains of his wife or of any children born to them. Once back in England, he joined the newly-formed Kent Police, and worked at first in Canterbury before being sent to Smarden, near Ashford, where his badge number was 2 and where he lived in Round About Street.

Then, in 1873, he married again, to Eliza Samways, a widow from Dorset. He was sent to police the little village of Preston, near Wingham, in Kent. In 1885 he retired from the police force at the age of sixty, as a constable, first class, and was given a gratuity of £40. This, together with his army pension and whatever funds his wife brought to their union, enabled him and Eliza to live comfortably, at first in Chislet, near Canterbury, and then in Thanington, on the outskirts of the city. William was a ratepayer, and entitled to vote. Not bad for a base-born workhouse boy.

The couple moved to Lambeth in about 1899, and it was there that both of them died, Eliza in 1900 and, aged 82, William in 1907.

  1. Kent Archives G/EL/W1a

The Hole Family Part 2

The first part of this blog was published in 2016, before I discovered the sad story of Elizabeth Back, nee Hole. I am indebted to David Haynes of Queensland for this extra information.  

Elizabeth Hole, the eldest child of James and Elizabeth Hole of Hythe was born on 24 September 1814. She became a servant and married Daniel Back (or sometimes Beck) in Marylebone, London in 1837. He was also a domestic servant. Less than two years later, they emigrated to Australia, leaving from Plymouth on 13th May 1839 aboard the Lady Raffles with 234 other souls and their baby son, another Daniel. They arrived in September. They were enticed into applying for emigration to the new colony of New South Wales by advertisements posted in London and other cities. This whole adventure must have seemed quite attractive at the time: their passage was paid for and employment was virtually assured once they arrived in Sydney. This was the so-called Bounty system, separate from the Government sponsored scheme.

                                                                         An example of Bounty emigration advertising

 

This opportunity seemed almost too good to be true and it was. Once there, Elizabeth and Daniel and all their co-emigrants were abandoned, left to fend for themselves. The jobs and housing did not materialise and there was no room in the Government-run accommodation.  Elizabeth gave birth again in 1840, to a daughter, Susan but there is no further trace of either of her children. It seems probable that they died.

Elizabeth left Australia, and Daniel, in about 1842. We don’t know whether it was the country or the man she wanted to escape, but she must have been desperate enough to find her own fare. Daniel remained in the new colony and soon developed a new partnership with another woman with whom he had six children before marrying her in 1858. He must have assumed that Elizabeth was dead.

She was not. She had entered the service of Mrs Elizabeth Frederica Crofts, the wife of Peter Guerin Crofts, the retired rector of St. John-sub-Castro in Lewes. She was his second wife and twenty years his junior and Elizabeth was her ladies maid. Their house, in Lewes,  was vast (it is now the HQ of Sussex Police) and required a live-in staff of eight, including a butler, coachman and footman.

See the source image

Malling House

The fact that it was in Lewes is significant: Daniel Back had been born near there, his family still lived nearby, so it seems that when she returned from Australia, Elizabeth went to her in-laws rather than her own family in Hythe. It is entirely possible that she was expecting Daniel to join her there.

Peter Crofts died in 1859, but Elizabeth stayed with her mistress until the latter’s death in 1878.  She then returned to Hythe where she lived in Stade Street and described herself as an annuitant and widow.  It is likely that Mrs Crofts remembered her faithful servant in her will and provided a pension so that she would not end her life in poverty. Her old age, though, according to her gravestone, was not a happy time.

She is buried with her sister Mary Hole, born in 1818, who alone of the siblings did not marry. She went to Ashford to live with her brother Thomas, and later with one of his daughters. Eventually she, too, returned to Hythe and lived in St Bartholomew’s almshouse in the town.

Image result for centuries hythe

The former St Bartholomew’s Almshouse in Hythe, now a private dwelling

 

In/loving memory/of/Elizabeth Back/who died 3rd March 1890/aged 75 years
Afflictions sore long time she bore/physicians were in vain/til death did cease and God did please/to ease her of her pain
Also of Mary Hole/sister of the above/who died11th December 1900/in her 82nd year
Well done good and faithful servant/enter thou into the joy of thy Lord