Always a Man

William Lionel Man was born on 7 December 1832 at Halstead Hall, Halstead, Kent, the son of Harry Stoe Man and Louisa Caroline Man nee Fowle.  He was baptized on 13 January 1833 at St. Margaret’s, Halstead.

Halstead Hall was not the family seat. William’s father had bought it, using his wife’s money, in about 1828. He seems to have had little money of his own. He was declared bankrupt in 1818 and was incarcerated, for a while, in the Fleet prison in London. He paid his debts and was married the next year, but in 1824 was dismissed from his position as a purser in the Royal Navy for fiddling his expenses account. With the job went his navy pension. He was declared bankrupt again in 1843. Fortunately, the house was in his wife’s name.

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Halstead Hall

Harry was at best eccentric, at worst just plain bloody-minded.  He (illegally) drained and enclosed the village pond. He knocked down the gateposts of the church to make space for his wife’s carriage.  When angry, he whistled through the holes in his cheeks left by the passage of a pistol ball during a naval engagement with the French in 1802. His gravestone was inscribed:

I have said to corruption thou art my father/ to the worm thou art my mother and sister.

William was the couple’s eighth child of eleven.

The eldest, Eleanor, married in middle age to a Welshman who habitually talked to inanimate objects, including his boots. The next, Harry, became a  major in the Turkish Contingent and fought in the Crimean War. He never recovered from being thrown out of a window in St Petersburg and died aged forty-two. He always took off his hat when he saw a barrel of sugar because he had sugar investments. A younger brother, Septimus, got sunstroke in India, which, coupled with an unhappy love affair, unsettled his mind, though he succeeded in becoming a barrister.  He would walk about Paris dressed as an Admiral and when at Halstead Hall insisted on living in the basement where he played Spanish love songs on the guitar.

William started life conventionally enough, and he was articled to a solicitor in London. He then scandalised his family by marrying Rosa Cooper, who was not only an actress, but a Roman Catholic, too – or at least he said he did. There is no record of his marriage in England, Scotland or Wales, to ‘Rosa Cooper’, which may have been a stage name, or to anyone else.  So who was Rosa? She remains a mystery. She had been acting on the London stage since she was in her early teens, and some of her reviews refer to her as ‘the celebrated American comedienne.’ In 1850, she made her first appearance in a tragedy, as Lady Macbeth, with disastrous reviews, but she persevered until the reviews improved. She and William had a son, Horace, in 1856, but she continued to perform.

For a while, William combined the law with an interest in the stage.  At first, he seems to have acted as Rosa’s manager and publicist.

 

An 1856 advertisement for Rosa Cooper’s lectures. Her qualifications may have been exaggerated

By 1857, he had joined Rosa on the stage, performing as ‘Lionel Harding’. Perhaps he did not meet with huge initial success, as he left his lodgings in Swansea without paying he bill

 

In 1858, he and Rosa were performing in an entertainment entitled Matrimony at Greenwich.  Rosa’s performance was much praised. They then created the London Dramatic Company and went on tour, with mixed results. At Faversham they played to several near-empty houses in succession until they offered to give away a silver watch to one lucky audience member. The theatre that night was packed with boys and young men who cat-called and shouted ‘where’s the watch’ until the cast gave up and allegedly left town without paying for their lodgings. Better times came and in 1863 William and Rosa were performing together with William Montague’s company in Chelmsford and Cranbrook, where they were described as ‘popular favourites’ and Rosa ‘drew forth rapturous approbation’ as Lady Macbeth.

                                                                                Rosa Cooper as Lady Macbeth (www.manfamily.org)

Perhaps to the Man family’s relief, they then decided to perform in the colonies, leaving Horace with his paternal grandmother.  In 1865 they were in New Zealand, performing Shakespeare for the actor-manager Charles Dillon’s company. In 1870 they were in Sidney, where Rosa appeared in ‘her well-known and artistic realisation of the character of Lady Isabel in East Lynne’. This gave her the immortal lines: Dead! Dead! And never called me mother!

                                                                                   William Lionel Man as Hamlet (www.manfamily.org)

In 1872 they were giving ‘drawing-room entertainments’ in the Polytechnic Hall in Sidney with ‘very limited success’. It was a sad time for them: their son Horace had died the previous year aged fifteen. The circumstances of his death are unclear. According to his death certificate, he died of dropsy (oedema). This can be a symptom of heart or kidney disease. His death was not registered by a family member, of whom there were plenty at Halstead Hall, but by an unknown illiterate woman, Elizabeth Grosvenor,  who was ‘present at the death’.  The cause of death was not certified, which means he was not under the care of a doctor. His father, William, is described as ‘a lawyer’.

Five years later, Rosa was dead herself, of cholera, in Calcultta ( now Kolkata).

The next we hear of William is in 1880, when on 20 July at Holy Trinity church in Maidstone, he married Mary Fowle Starnes, a distant relation of his mother. They moved in with Mary’s aunt, Mary Cutbush, in King Street, Maidstone. William seems to have given up the stage on the death of Rosa: it was always she who drew the better reviews.  In 1881, he was making his living as a journalist.  He wrote under the pseudonym of ‘The Lounger’ commentaries which were syndicated to local newspapers. He also wrote a book Lecture on Shakespeare with the Reverend T. Archibald S. White, who delivered the lecture itself. The reverend gentleman’s full name was Thomas Archibald Starnes White, a relation of William’s wife.

William and Mary moved to Hythe in about 1890 and lived in Beaconsfield Terrace.

Beaconsfield Terrace, Hythe

Why Hythe? One attraction may have been the presence in nearby Sandgate of William’s brother, Edward Garnet Man, who lived in a house called ‘Halstead’.  He had spent much of his career in Burma and now passed his time writing letters to the newspapers, being a JP and supporting the Primrose League.

William did not go out of his way to make friends in Hythe and made it clear that he despised the mores  of polite society, the established church and humbug in general. He did, however, like the White Hart inn, which, according to his nephew Morrice, he frequented rather too often,  and he gave occasional recitations.

He died on 4 March at home in Hythe. An obituary published in the Folkestone Herald is fulsome. It tells us that he studied acting at Sadler’s Wells, where he met Rosa, who was then one of the stars of the company. The couple emigrated to Australia where they took a theatre in Melbourne.  His health had been broken by his experiences in India when Rosa died , so he retired to Hythe to improve his physical well-being. His later years were apparently spent trying to contact his old pals and help them:

Many a broken-down actor, poor scene shifter, and in one instance a poor old charwoman, who had formerly held some minor part in the Melbourne Theatre, can attribute the comparative ease and comfort of their declining years and their rescue from terrible poverty, to his kindness and generosity. 

Unfortunately, none of this chimes with what is verifiable about William’s life, and if he rescued ‘broken-down actors’ from lives of penury, then he was generous to a fault, as he left in his will only £399. 3s 9d. He was cremated on 6 April 1904 at Woking cemetery and his ashes were interred at St. Margaret’s, Halstead

Mary remained in Hythe until her death in1916. She left nearly £30,000 in her will. Perhaps it was her money that William was so generous with.

After her death, the couple’s nieces and nephews had a tablet erected to them in St Leonard’s church.

 

It is ironic that William is remembered in the church, a place he visited only to scoff at the clergy, but the plaque is at the back of the church, on the north aisle wall. It is above an area now used as a bar to serve wine and beer when concerts are held in the church. It seems an appropriate place for William.

There is a coat of arms on the plaque.

The motto reads Vir Semper – Always a Man. An expert in heraldry visited St Leonard’s church a few years ago and recorded all the coats of arms. His conclusion on the Man plaque was that ‘the arms, crest, and motto do not appear in the usual literature (BGA, GA2, Elvin, Fairbairn) in relation to the name Man’.

Sources: Millennial Halstead: A Kentish Villager History by Geoffrey Kitchener, M.A.

                http://www.manfamily.org  for details of William’s wider family. It also has a memoir of William by his nephew, Morrice.

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Armenia, India and Mesopotamia: the Finnis Grandchildren

Robert Finnis, upholsterer of Hythe,  had a great many grandchildren, despite the fact that three of his nine children died young and another three had no offspring. Of the three remaining, George had two daughters, one of whom died young. The other, Elizabeth, made, for a young woman brought up in Hythe, an extraordinary marriage, to Lazar Josef Constantine, an Armenian. His widowed mother had subsequently married Lord Congleton.  The connection can only have been through her Lynch cousins, two of whom also married Armenians (see below). Elizabeth was the last person to be buried in the Finnis vault at St Leonard’s church, in 1913.

Elizabeth, Robert’s eldest daughter, married Henry Blosse Lynch of Partry House, Co. Mayo, and gave birth to eleven sons.  Five of these, Henry, Robert, Michael, Stephen and Thomas, made their fortunes, and sometimes met their deaths, in exploring the Middle East.

Henry Blosse Lynch (junior) joined the Indian Navy at sixteen, taking part in a survey of the Persian Gulf.  He had a flair for languages, and learned Arabic, Hindustani and Farsi.   As a lieutenant, he was second-in-command of Colonel Chesney’s expedition to transport overland the components of two steamships across northern Syria to meet the Euphrates, there to re-assemble the steamships (the SS Euphrates and Tigris) and to navigate the Euphrates as far as the Iranian Gulf. The intention was to seek a new trade route with India and the Far East.  Henry commanded the Euphrates and his younger brother Robert, a lieutenant in the 26th regiment of the Bengal Army, the Tigris, the smaller vessel. Robert and twenty other men were drowned when a sudden storm capsized his vessel in May 1836.

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Henry returned, much feted, to England, later in 1836, was granted an audience with the king, William IV and wrote articles for the Royal Geographical Society. A minor and now forgotten poet, Henry Richardson, wrote a very long (eighty-eight page) poem,   The Loss of the Tigris; a poem. In two cantos. Inscribed to the commander, officers, and men of the Euphrates Expedition. An excerpt follows:

There were two brothers in the death-doomed bark;
And one escaped, the other’s life was reft;
And here the words of holy Scipture mark;
“One Shall be taken, and the other left!”
Dark and inscrutable are Wisdom’s laws!
But, Lynch you perished in a noble cause,
And your brother lives to carry through,
Bright deeds of glory denied to you.

In 1839, another younger brother, Michael, was sent out to Baghdad with three more disassembled steamships.  He also undertook some surveying work in Armenia and died there in 1840 aged twenty-eight. No poet eulogised his death.  There were, however, still two younger brothers left ( the very youngest, Frederick, had died aged twelve).  Henry understood the commercial potential of Mespotamia and Armenia and he succeeded in interesting his uncle, Thomas Quested Finnis, in importing goods, unobtainable elsewhere, for his provisions company, Finnis and Fisher. It is likely that he also received financial backing – Thomas Quested Finnis was very rich. The two younger brothers, Thomas Kerr and Stephen, duly set sail.

Stephen was only twenty-one, and he stayed for the next thirty years, establishing Stephen Lynch & Co. in Baghdad and Lynch Brothers & Co. in Basra as traders in commodities. In 1858, he founded the London and Baghdad Banking Association  and used this financial leverage to obtain from the British Foreign Office the sole right to navigate the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and to maintain two steamers on those rivers. He and Thomas Kerr then established the Euphrates and Tigris Steam Navigation Company and commissioned their own steamers, the peak of their achievement being the two-funnelled SS Blosse Lynch, 270 feet in length and 46 feet on the beam, in 1878. She was later used for river trips for tourists and remarkably, was pressed into service during World War 1, armed with 18-pounder field guns strapped to her decks.

view-of-baghdad-with-the-dijla-and-the-customs-house-william-perry-fogg-1874

The Dijla, another Lynch Brothers steamer, moored on the Tigris at Baghdad  (William Perry Fogg, 1874, Harvard Art Museum, Fogg Collection)

 

In the 1850s, Thomas Kerr, who had by then travelled extensively throughout Mesopotamia and Persia, was appointed Consul-General for Persia in London. He was made a Knight of the Order of the Lion and the Sun by the Shah of Persia  and married Harriet Sophia Taylor whose mother was Armenian and father the Brtish political resident at Baghdad.  Their son, Henry Finnis Blosse Lynch, continued his father’s exploration of Armenia and was widely published on the subject.

H. F. B. Lynch.png

Henry Finnis Blosse Lynch, traveller, business man and, briefly, Liberal MP for Ripon. He was a great- grandson of Robert Finnes

Stephen married an Armenian woman, Hosanna, the youngest daughter of Hatchick Mackertich, vice consul at Baghdad on 10 November 1859.

Henry, meanwhile, had moved on to India, married and eventually retired to Paris, where he died.

The other brothers led exemplary, if less adventurous, lives.  John Finnis became a barrister; Edward Patrick joined the Bombay Infantry and retired as a Lt. Colonel; George Quested  became a surgeon and at first joined his brothers in the Middle East, but on hearing of the dreadful depredations of the famine in Ireland, returned home to help. The family, together with others locally chartered the ship the Martha Washington to bring corn meal from America for their tenants. George Quested died of Typhus in 1848.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The obelisk commemorating George Quested Lynch at Partry House

 

Brownlow (by now his parents had run out of second Christian names)  became an Anglican church minister in Ballyhane, Co. Mayo. He was remembered by  one parishioner as a simple and trusting man. He was also, by his brothers’ standards, quite poor, having an income of only £165 a year from his parish which had no residence or glebe attached to it.

In the meantime, the cousins of the Lynch men were growing up. They were the sons and daughters of Col. John Finnes, who had been killed in the Indian Mutiny.

Robert Francis Finnis was the eldest son of John Finnes and his wife Sarah and was born on 13 June 1839 in Dinapore (now Dinapur) in India.  His uncle Thomas Quested Finnis enrolled him in the Company of Bowyers in 1862, but clearly Robert Francis was not cut out for a life of trade and by 1865 was a lieutenant in the Indian Navy. That year, at the church of St Bartholomew the Less in London, he married Ernestine Maria Sparks, daughter of R.H. Sparks of Charterhouse. He died at Tandil, Argentina, on 22 Nov 1868, by which time he was a former lieutenant, so not cut out for the navy, either.  Why he was there is unknown. The widowed Ernestine went on to marry twice more.

The memorial to Robert Francis Finnis and John Finnes in St Leonard’s church, Hythe. 

John, born barely a year after his brother in Burdwan, Bengal became a cadet in the Indian army at the age of sixteen, just after the death of his father in the Indian Mutiny.  He was commissioned lieutenant in December 1857, took part in campaigns at Oude, Shapore and  Dadoopore and went on the Mahsud Waziri expedition in  1881. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel in February 1884 and served on detachment to the 2nd Punjab Infantry as second-in-command. In September that year, while on leave at Mussoorie,  a hill station in the lower Himalayas, he had some decayed teeth removed by a dentist. An abscess formed in his jaw and, trying to relieve the pain, John took too much laudanum.  Although medical help was summoned, he died.

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Mussurrie Hill Station, where John Finnis died and is buried.

He had married, on 27 February1869 in Bengal, Florence Stanley McGowan.  At his death, Florence, still only thirty-four, was left with seven children, though another three had died young. She had an army pension, but John had been left nothing by Thomas Quested Finnis who had died the previous year, though he left £6000 for the children. She returned to England, living at first in London but latterly in  Dolgellau in Merionethshire with her daughters and sister. She died in 1916, not long after the death of her eldest son John Fortescue  Finnis, fighting in Mesopotamia.

The memorial to John Fortescue Finnis, great-grandson of Robert Finnis, in St Leonard’s church, Hythe. 


                                                                      John Fortescue Finnis, who left a widow and son

George Carruthers Finnis, the next son of John and Sarah,  was born in Calcutta on 2 July 1845. On the family’s return to England, he was raised by his uncle, Thomas Quested Finnis, who evidently discerned a kindred spirit. George was enrolled in the Company of Bowyers and worked for his uncle’s provisions company.  He maintained his family’s links with Hythe and married a local woman Emma Elizabeth Fagge, daughter of a Hythe physician, on 27 October 1870 in the parish church. His aunt Jane died the following year, and George appears to have inherited her house in Regent’s Park – at least, he lived there for the next twenty years. He also inherited £12,000 from Thomas Quested Finnis. He became a JP, but that was the extent of his civic life, and he died of pneumonia aged fifty-two.  Elizabeth went back to Hythe and she and George have their own memorial in St Leonard’s church.

The memorial to George Carruthers and Elizabeth Emma Finnis erected by their two sons

Another brother, Thomas Quested Finnis shunned the usual male Finnis occupations and became a dairy farmer in Pangbourne, where he died aged forty on 17 February 1890

Three daughters survived to adulthood. Louisa Jane married Captain Charles M’Laughlin a naval officer. Sophia Margaretta (Sophie) married Ross Willaume Hayter, then a civil servant,  and travelled the world with him, first to India, then to Canada in 1888 and finally the USA, though they both died in Hampshire.

Lucy Ann, the youngest child, not two years old when her father was killed, married Grimble Vallentin,  a distiller and Master of the Worshipful Company of Distillers. They had two daughters and a son, John, baptised in St Leonard’s church, Hythe in 1882. A career soldier, John Vallentin  served in South Africa from 1901 to 1903, and then on the North-West Frontier of India and Gibraltar.  He arrived in France soon after the outbreak of war , in October 1914. On 7 November 1914 at Zillebeke, Belgium, when leading an attack against the Germans under very heavy fire, he was struck down, but seeing that the other officer leading the attack had been killed, he rose and continued before being himself killed. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

His body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. His Victoria Cross was presented to his widowed mother by George V at Buckingham Palace on 16th November 1916. She also had a plaque placed in St Leonard’s church in his memory

The memorial to John Franks Vallentin, VC, in St Leonard’s church


                                                                   John Franks Vallentin, a great-grandson of Robert Finnis

 

Mayorality and Mutiny: More Finnis Stories

There were three more Finnis sons born to Robert and Elizabeth before their family was complete.

Stephen, was the next-born, baptised in St Leonard’s church on 28 May 1798. He joined the army as a Cadet in 1817 and was commissioned lieutenant in the 29th Bengal Native Infantry the next year. He died at Dinapore (now Danapur), a British garrison town near Patna, on 1 August 1819, aged twenty-one. There appear to have been no heroics attached to his death and it is likely that, like so many before and since in the sub-continent, he succumbed to disease, or, in August, monsoon season, the combination of heat, humidity and mosquitos.

The next son was Thomas Quested Finnis, born in 1801. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to James Smith, bowyer, for a period of seven years from 6th December 1815, his father paying an indenture of £150. He later said he had wanted to join the navy, but that the death of his brother Robert at Lake Erie when Thomas was only eleven had changed his mind. Bows were then (and still are) in use for sporting and recreational purposes, but the purpose of his apprenticeship seems to have been trade.  He was admitted to the Freedom of the Bowyers’ Company in April 1823 and to the Freedom of the City of London in September. Now established, he could take a wife, and married Ann Lydia Ward on 28 March 1828 at St Matthew’s church, Brixton. Four years younger that him, she was the daughter of Henry William Ward, and had been born locally.

He went on to become a partner in a firm of provision merchants, Finnis and Fisher. Starting as grocers in London’s Tower Street, they gradually expanded into provisioning the many ships using the Port of London with goods like ‘marine soap’, which worked in sea water, and preserved meats, game and vegetables for long voyages. They started importing tobacco on their own account and pioneered trade to the port of Bussorah (now Basra) in Mesopotamia (Iraq). Thomas encouraged his Lynch nephews, sons of his sister Elizabeth, to explore the area and in 1851 received from them a set of marbles from Nineveh, some of which are now in the British museum.

Thomas Quested Finnis

He was busy in the civic life of the capital, too, his first appointment being in 1833 as Common Councillor for the Tower Ward, where his business was located. After that, the honours flowed in. He was created an Alderman as well as Sheriff in 1848 and was Deputy Governor of the Irish Society 1843/1844 – this was originally a land-owning and commercial enterprise set up by the London livery companies, but by the 1840s had a mainly charitable function. Thomas was ambitious and it was no secret that he wanted to be Lord Mayor of London. Mrs Caroline Chisolm, a social reformer working with emigrants to Australia, bought her beef for their voyage from him because, she said, ‘he would never be Lord Mayor if he gave the emigrants bad beef’.

Caroline Chisholm’s portrait on an Australian five dollar note

Thomas got his wish in 1856 and was the last Lord Mayor to have his parade on the River Thames.

Canaletto’s depiction of the Lord Mayor’s Parade on the Thames

The traditional dinner followed the procession, attended by the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston; the Chancellor of the Exchequer; the Duke of Cambridge; the Marquis of Salisbury and an assortment of South American ambassadors. During his year in office Thomas entertained the  Crown Prince of Prusia and raised half a million pounds to aid those affected by the Indian Mutiny (which included his own family). Ann Lydia assisted in the fund-raining and always presided at meetings of the ladies’ committees. In September 1857, she travelled to Southampton to meet the first British refugees from the fighting. Thomas was also a member of the Metropolitan Board of Works 1863 to 1866, the Thames Conservancy Board 1872 to 1883 and Treasurer of the Sons of the Clergy from 1874 to 1882.

He was also a member of the City Glee Club. This did not involve him having to sing, but to listen to the club’s professional singers perform catches and madrigals while, probably, enjoying a drink.

By the time he was forty, he was living in a mansion in Wanstead known as Park Gate, a sprawling house with gardens big enough to accommodate a boating lake. It was demolished in 1925, though its gatepost still stand.

 

Park Gate, pictured in 1888 (Wanstead Image Gallery)

Childless himself, Thomas took time to encourage and support his many nephews. Three of his sister Elizabeth’s sons benefited, as did his brother John’s sons, George, Robert, and John.  He gave a home to their unmarried sister, Louisa Jane, and gave a splendid wedding for her cousin, Elizabeth Ann when she married Lazas Josef Constantine, the son of Lady  Congleton.  All of them had lost their fathers. He and Ann Lydia also entertained local school children every year, had special gatherings for ‘ragged shoeblack boys’ and were patrons of Wanstead Infant Orphans Asylum.

However, on 27 November 1861, Ann Lydia, Thomas’s wife of over thirty years died, after three days illness.  Her body was taken to Hythe and buried in the family vault.

Thomas died at Park Gate on 29 November 1883, but the nephews and nieces were not forgotten in his will.  Louisa Jane, now married to Captain Charles M’Laughlin RN,  received the bulk of his £84,000 estate.  Her siblings also benefitted, as did  John Finnis’s widow Sarah and members of the Lynch family of Partry House Co. Mayo.

Thomas was buried in the family vault at St Leonard’s though there is no memorial there to him, or to his wife. There was, in fact, no memorial anywhere in the town until after the first World War, when a plaque was erected at his family home, Prospect House

The memorial to Thomas Quested Finnis and his younger brother John at Prospect House, Hythe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John was the last of the nine children of Robert and Elizabeth Finnis  and was born on 28th January 1804 in Hythe. He joined the armed services of the East India Company, effectively the government of India, on 4 March 1820 and served in the 11th regiment of the Bengal Army.  He was promoted lieutenant 1822 and thereafter his promotions were slow but steady until he became a full colonel in 1854.  He married Sarah Bridgetta Dorothea Roche in India on 2 January 1838 and they had nine children together though two died in 1856.

The Indian Mutiny broke out at 5.30 pm on 10 May 1857. John rode out to address the mutineers in an ill-fated attempt to defuse the situation. Both he and his horse were shot, he was thrown to the ground and shot to death, the first European to die in the conflict.

Colonel John Finnis, looking rather fierce

The Governor-General of India, Charles Canning, wrote personally to Thomas Quested Finnis to tell him of his brother’s death.

One version of the death of John Finnis….

and another. The ‘shot in the back’ version was most popular in the press

 

John’s grave in Meerut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The East India Company awarded his son John a cadetship in Sept 1857 –  they said it was an unsolicited award, but wrote to tell Thomas, the Lord Mayor just the same.  The inhabitants of Tower Ward, who Thomas still represented, paid for a memorial to his brother in the church of St Dunstan in the East.


                       The memorial to John Finnis in St Dunstan’s Church, which was destroyed by enemy action in 1941

John’s wife, Sarah, brought her children, all except John, back to England and to Wanstead, where Thomas and Ann Lydia took them in. Sarah’s pension was only £281 12s 3d a year. After Ann Lydia’s death, Sarah acted as hostess for Thomas at the many civic and charitable events and entertainments held at Park Gate. She died in 1890, and is buried in Highgate Cemetery.

To be continued…

 

Cutting out La Chevrette and other Finnis stories

The Finnis family had a connection with Hythe lasting over a hundred and fifty years and are much memorialised in St Leonard’s church, and elsewhere. Who were they? Their origins were not very grand, but the family eventually included a VC, a Lord Mayor of London, explorers and a naval hero.

The first member of the Finnis family to live in Hythe was Robert, born in Dover in 1754, one of the four children of another Robert Finnis and his wife Ann, nee Spicer. He was apprenticed to a London upholsterer, and, once a master himself, decided to try his luck in Hythe, setting up shop in the High Street in 1776.

He took the sensible step of insuring all this highly flammable stock with the Sun Fire Insurance Company.

He flourished and four years later, on 29 December 1780 in St Leonard’s church, married Elizabeth Quested, the daughter of Stephen Quested and Elizabeth nee Groombridge. They set up home in Prospect House in Hythe and went on to have nine children over the next twenty-two years. Robert took on apprentices himself, leased innings land from the council for grazing sheep and invested in property. As befitted his status, he became a town councillor. In 1794, when the new town hall was built, Robert provided furniture and soft furnishings and was paid £45 14s 8d. That same year, he became Mayor of Hythe.  This was the first of six terms as mayor over the next twenty-six years. The mayorality seems at the time to have been filled by a rota of George and Messrs Tritton, Tournay and Shipdem, each taking their turn every four or five years.

Robert died on 9 August 1832, leaving £6949 12s 11d, a tidy sum for a shopkeeper. He ensured that his unmarried daughter, Sarah, was left freehold property and made specific provision for his widowed daughter, Elizabeth, who lived in Ireland. He also died possessed of a fine silver vase, the gift of Stewart Marjoribanks, MP.

See the source image Stewart Marjoribanks, MP

Marjoribanks had first became one of Hythe’s MPs (the town at this time had two) in 1820. He was a London wine merchant and first visited the town on the eve of the announcement of his candidacy, when he made ‘a liberal distribution of ale to the populace’. He was made a freeman of the town the next year. He served the town until 1837 as an increasingly radical Whig. At some point between 1820 and 1832, he made Robert the gift of the vase – we know this because it is mentioned in the will of Robert’s widow. Why would a politician give an upholsterer a valuable gift? In the early nineteenth century, the answer was obvious – as thanks for help during an election campaign. A little later it was rumoured in the press that Marjoribanks had rewarded another supporter, Thomas Garrett, by securing a plum job for his son. On that occasion, the recipient was subsequently charged with bribing voters. Did Robert Finnis take part in such activities? Possibly. It would not have been unusual for the time. The most we can take from the story is that Robert Finnis was a Whig voter.

His wife Elizabeth survived him by nearly six years. She left two freehold houses to her son George, the son who had stayed in Hythe; and her clothes, linen and half her plate to her unmarried daughter Sarah, except ‘the silver vase presented by Stewart Marjoribanks MP to my deceased husband.’ Sarah also got the furniture of her choice. Elizabeth left money – nineteen guineas each – for mourning clothes to her daughters, sister and daughters-in-law. They would have no excuse not to look the part of the grieving (but prosperous) family.

The sister, Ann, born in 1773, was younger than Elizabeth and, in the event, predeceased her by a year. There was a younger brother, too, Thomas, who served in the Royal Marines, retired with the rank of Captain and in his later years lived with his nephew George Finnis in Hythe. Both were buried, when the time came, with Elizabeth in the Finnis family vault. There are not many vaults at the church – the Mackeson’s have one, as do the Deedes family and the Shipdems, all wealthy and influential people (locally, at least).

The eldest child of Robert and Elizabeth, John Groombridge Finnis died at the age of four, and the second, Robert, met his end as a young man in Canada. His has own memorial plaque in St Leonard’s church, which describes his naval career.

 

He had joined the Royal Navy in 1797 at the age of fourteen, as a midshipman and served on HMS Beaulieu, part of the North Sea Fleet. In 1801, the ship was in a squadron of frigates keeping watch on the French and Spanish fleets at anchor in Brest. England was then at war with both countries. During the night of 21 July, nine of the squadron’s boats, one commanded by Robert, succeeded under heavy fire in capturing and setting lose one of the key French vessels, La Chevrette. In recognition of his leadership, Robert was promoted Lieutenant six weeks later.

‘The Cutting-out of La Chevrette’ (Bristol Museums Galleries & Archives)

By 1813, he was Captain of HMS Charlotte, a 17-gun sloop which got embroiled in a short-lived conflict with America, the result of the latter’s inability to trade with Europe as a result of the war there. In the first battle of the struggle, on 10 September at Lake Erie, Robert was killed outright in the first broadside. His commanding officer, Robert Heriot Barclay wrote: ‘Too soon, alas, was I deprived of the services of the noble and intrepid Captain Finnis, who soon after the commencement of the action fell, and him my greatest support.’ The Charlotte  was captured by the Americans, who won the day.

Robert’s funeral: he was buried together with five other officers on 11 September 1813 at South Bass Island, near Put-in-Bay, Lake Erie

The next child was a daughter, Elizabeth, baptised in St Leonard’s church on 17 May 1785. On 3 December 1803, aged just eighteen, she married Henry Blosse Lynch, a lieutenant in the 27th Foot based at Shorncliffe. He took her to his home, Partry House in Ballinrobe, County Mayo, where she gave birth to eleven sons – of whom, more later. Henry died in 1823 and Elizabeth in 1845.

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Partry House, Co. Mayo, set in an estate of 1500 acres

Another daughter followed, Sarah Maria, born in 1791. She never married, but was well-provided for by her parents and in her later days divided her time between Hythe and the homes of her sister Jane and her brother Thomas,  both of whom lived in London. She died in Hythe on 8 November 1880, leaving an estate of less than £7,000 to her brother Thomas Quested Finnis, her only surviving sibling.

George was the next Finnis child, born in 1793. He decided to follow his father’s example of solid hard work and civic duty. He went into partnership with John Ronalds, an auctioneer and his son Edward, an upholsterer. They traded not only in those two areas, but as estate agents, insurance agents, ironmongers and (bizarrely) bell-hangers. George was also a trustee of St Bartholomew’s alms-house and  JP both for Hythe and for Kent. He was mayor in 1828 and 1833 and looked set to follow his father’s record, but the upcoming young James Watts dominated council life for many years and George did not serve again as Mayor until 1849.

On 11 August 1830, he had married Anne Castle, a widow and together they had two daughters, though one, Jane Maria, died aged eight and is recorded on the same memorial as her father. The other was Elizabeth. Like his father, he supported Stewart Marjoribanks in the 1830 General Election. However, in 1837, it was reported that he now supported the Conservative Party. He died on 3 May 1850 at his sister Jane’s house in Regents’s Park. His wife died on 4 July 1856 in Hackney.

The next child born to Robert & Elizabeth Finnis was another girl, Jane, baptised on 17 May 1796. She married Thomas Pilcher a farmer of Cheriton in St Leonard’s church in June 1818.  Although he continued living in Cheriton, he was a Hythe jurat (councillor), probably because he had married the daughter of a freeman.  There were no children of the marriage and when Thomas died in 1844, he left all his land to his brother Jesse, presumably to keep it in the family. However, Jane was handsomely provided for, with a lump sum of £6000 and a life annuity of £400.

Jane left Cheriton and either bought or leased a house in London, 13 York Terrace in Marylebone, near Regent’s Park.  £6000 could go a very long way indeed in the 1840s.

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York Terrace, London NW1

Jane died on a visit to Hythe on 9 February 1871.

The memorial to the Finnis family in St Leonard’s Church

In a vault near the chancel/are interred the remains of/Robert Finnis Esq./one of the jurats/of this town and port/who died the 9th of August 1832/in the 79th year of his age
And of Elizabeth his wife/who died the 13th of May 1839/in the 77th year of her age
Also those of Ann Quested/the sister of the above named/Elizabeth Finnis/who died 29th May 1838/aged 65 years
Also of Capt. Thomas Quested R.M./who died 17th March 1845/aged 68 years
George Finnis Esq/Mayor of this town died 3rd May 1850/aged 56 years
Jane Maria, daughter of the above/died 3rd April 1844,/ aged 8 years
Also of Sarah Maria, daughter of the/above named Robert Finnis/died 10th November 1880 /aged 89 years
To the memory of/Lieut. Stephen Finnis/of the Bengal Army/who died at Dinapoor in the East Indies/the 1st of August 1819, aged 21
Also to his brother Colonel John Finnis/11th Reg. Bengal Army, aged 53, killed by the mutineer/ of the 20th reg. N.I at Meerut May 10th 

To be continued…

War and Peaceful Hythe

Henry James Schooles was born in Brussels, then part of the Netherlands, on 10 October 1815, one of the three children of Peter Schooles, a surgeon in the 81st Foot (Loyal Lincoln Volunteers) and his wife Eliza, nee Pipon. The regiment’s second battalion, of which Peter was a part, had been stationed there since Napoleon’s escape from Elba earlier that year. The regiment did not take part in the Battle of Waterloo, but it is likely that Peter was drafted in to deal with the aftermath of hundreds of injured soldiers.

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Brussels in 1815, full of British soldiers

The family were moved the next year to Ireland, where another son, Philip Alexander and a daughter Louisa, were born and where Peter endowed a medical facility in Bray, Co. Wicklow. He died in 1818.

Eliza remarried the following year but was soon widowed again and lost her younger son, too. She took Henry, his sister and her daughter by her second marriage to live in Jersey, her birthplace and died herself on the island aged only 46.

Henry’s early education is a mystery, but he graduated from the University of Glasgow with an M.D. in 1837, and enlisted in the British Army on 29 June 1839, joining his father’s old regiment as an Assistant Surgeon. Army Surgeons were required not only on the field of battle, but were employed at British garrisons across the Empire to attend soldiers, their wives and families when they contracted everyday – or more exotic – diseases. Although the medical officer was commissioned and wore the uniform of his regiment, he held no military rank and was entirely under the command of the Colonel of his regiment. He had no trained staff, just a few men detailed to him from the regiment, who usually had no medical knowledge or training.

Henry served at first in Gibraltar, but the regiment was then sent to the West Indies where on 23 February 1843, he married Catherine Louisa Mordaunt Semper in St Kitts. She was the daughter of Hugh Riley Semper, a plantation owner and his wife Caroline nee Fahie. She was one of at least three sisters.

Four years later, Henry became a fully-fledged surgeon and transferred to the 1st/69th Regiment of Foot. On 12 December 1847, he and Catherine arrived in Malta. It was a challenging time to be there. There had been many cases of what was called Common Continued Fever among the men and there was great debate among the army surgeons as to whether this was, or was not, a form of cholera. Henry, who attended an autopsy of one of the dead soon after his arrival, was convinced that it was. The average strength of the garrison was 2,534 men and in 1847-8 there were 29 deaths and on average only 1,550 men were fit and available for garrison duty.

The situation worsened in Autumn 1848 and the regiment was evacuated from its quarters while the rooms were fumigated and whitewashed following deaths there.

Malta in the mid-nineteenth century

The epidemic had run its course by the next year, when Catherine gave birth to her first child, a boy called Henry Rawlins Pipon Schooles. The garrison was not a healthy place for a child: of 220 sick children admitted to the garrison hospital that year, 34 died.

But little Henry survived and the regiment left Malta in 1850 for Barbados and in December 1853, Henry transferred to the King’s Royal Rifles, an infantry regiment that fought at most of the British Empire’s significant engagements during the nineteenth century. Henry served with the second battalion, and was sent to South Africa, where another son, Frederick, and a daughter, Kate were born and then on to India.

Henry and Catherine arrived in Delhi in time for the Indian Mutiny – or First War of Independence as it is known in India, and by the end of the insurrection, Henry had been promoted Surgeon Major.

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One representation of the 1857 mutiny

Then it was off to China where the regiment fought in the Second Opium Wars and assisted in the capture of the Taku (or Dagu) forts and the occupation of Peking (now Beijing).  The surgical work Henry would have done during these engagements would today be regarded as primitive. Without anaesthesia, surgeons could only amputate damaged limbs (which killed one in four patients), cut out embedded shrapnel, open skulls to remove blood clots, let blood (still popular as a ‘cure’) and splint fractures. Serious head, chest and abdominal injuries were untreatable.  If an injured man developed an infection in his wounds, it meant almost certain death.

China was followed by the more peaceful Canada, where Henry exchanged to the Staff and was appointed to the Rifle Battalion Depot in even more peaceful Winchester. In September 1864, he retired on half-pay with the honorary rank of Deputy Inspector General of Hospitals, and took the post of Medical Officer at the School of Musketry in Hythe – perhaps the ultimate in peacefulness.

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The School of Musketry in Hythe, 1853-1968

He and Catherine lived with Kate in Stade Street in the town. In 1868, Henry created something of a stir by refusing to pay a pavement rate of eleven shillings and sixpence to the Town Council, because, he said, his road was not drained and had never since he had lived there, been watered either (to keep down the dust). He was summoned to appear before the local magistrates who were not sympathetic and ordered him to pay up, with costs.

Presumably he did, and he also moved the family to the more salubrious Marine Parade, where he died suddenly on 12 May 1878.

Catherine remained in Hythe for some years after his death, but later moved to Kensington to live with a widowed sister. It was there that she died in 1907.

Henry James Schooles M.D/ surgeon general/born 10th October1815/died 12th May 1878
In loving memory of/Katherine Louisa Mordaunt

Peace perfect peace

The inscription on their grave is perhaps telling of how the years of warfare took their toll.

Their children prospered. Henry junior became a barrister, married and went to his mother’s home, the West Indies. There he became Attorney General first of the Leeward Islands and later of British Honduras, before returning to Europe He was knighted in 1905 and served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar until his death in 1913..

Frederick was educated at a small private school in Chepstow and later joined the army.  In 1884, when a captain, he created a minor scandal by eloping with his Colonel’s wife. They were married after she had been divorced. After her death in 1902, Frederick married again and moved with his new wife to Hythe, which he remembered from his parent’s time there. They lived in Brockhill Road until at least 1939.

Kate married a few months after her father’s death to Walter Rupert Kenyon-Slaney in St Leonard’s church in Hythe. He was a lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade.  The younger brother of a well-known MP, he had a distinguished military career  before retiring to Berkshire. As a widow, Kate  also moved to Hythe before her death in 1944. Her only son, Neville, died unmarried in 1963.

 

 

‘A Very Excellent Grocer’

 

                                                                                       Dan West, in later years

 

Daniel John West was born in Iden, near Rye in Sussex, the second child of Thomas West, a baker and Caroline West, in 1846. He had an older and a younger sister. The family moved to Wittersham, where Thomas farmed 21 acres at Peening Quarter.  As a young man, Daniel worked as an assistant in a grocer’s shop in Tenterden High Street, owned by Thomas Winser. In Tenterden he met Alice Jemima Garnham, the fifth child of Benjamin and Frances Garnham. She was born in Lewes, Sussex, and baptised there on 9 March 1853. Her father became the landlord of the Woolpack Inn in Tenterden High Street.

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The Woolpack Inn in Tenterden, where Dan wooed Alice

Daniel and Alice married in 1874. It was time for Daniel to set up on his own account.

They moved to Hythe, where he established his own grocery business at 149 (now 11 & 13) High Street. He remained there for the rest of his life, though he soon acquired a second shop in the High Street at no. 37 (now no. 80). The second shop carried some grocery lines, but specialised in wines, spirits and bottled beers. According to the author Ford Madox Ford,  Daniel – or Dan as he was universally known – was ‘a very excellent grocer – I wish I knew his equal elsewhere’. Ford often visited his friend, Joseph Conrad in Postling and the pair would stop in Hythe en route to call on H.G.Wells in Sandgate.

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Ford Madox Ford, one of Dan’s customers

Once established, Dan found time for other activities. He became a fireman – and used his grocery assistants as callers-up when the rest of the Brigade needed rousing. The Brigade was then composed of volunteers and in common with most towns, the Hythe men suffered from the indifference of the Town Council. They had no protective clothing or uniforms until 1881; the brass helmets, the Victorian equivalent of the hard hat, did not arrive until 1891. The town’s water supply was routinely turned off at night, because so much was lost through the leaking mains. There was a key to turn it on, but the key-holder lived outside the town. Despite these disadvantages, the Brigade dealt successfully with several blazes during the eighteen eighties.

Daniel became a churchwarden and worked with the Vicar, T G Hall and his fellow-churchwarden Henry Bean Mackeson, to achieve the transformation of the interior of St Leonard’s church, a huge undertaking. He was a town councillor, too, and Mayor in 1889 & 1891. As a town councillor, he was influential in securing a proper water supply for the Fire Brigade, and in 1891, his wife, as Lady Mayoress, opened the Black Rock spring (off Horn Street) with a Guard of Honour of Hythe firemen.

He joined the Snowball Minstrels, a concert party, soon after his arrival in the town. At Annual Dinners and Smoking Concerts he could often be heard, his favourite songs being ‘Tantivy’, ‘Hurrah for the Loom and the Lathe,’ both songs now lost to us, and ‘Up with the Lark in the Morning’,  a music hall favourite whose chorus runs:

For I never drink hard it don’t suit me,
Nor toast my friend with a one, two, three,
Merry and wise is the motto for me,
And up with the lark in the morning.

Indeed, he must have been up with the lark every morning to achieve everything he did and to run a grocery which would have opened at 7 or 8 in the morning and closed its doors at about 10pm.

His wife, Alice, would also be up with the lark, or at least with the baby, every morning, as in the eleven years of her marriage she gave birth to six children: daughters Alice, Mildred, Frances and Florence and two sons, Guy and Gordon. Gordon was born just nine months before her death on 8 October 1885 of ‘a prolonged illness’. She was only thirty-two.

Earlier that year, Dan had caused a stir in the town by having his two shops connected by telephone, a sensible business move, but so radical that the Town Council only permitted it after four hours discussion and insisted it must be ‘at his own risk’. The safety, or otherwise, of telephone wires was imperfectly understood by laymen.

After a year as a widower, Dan married again, to Elizabeth Thompson, the second daughter of Robert Thompson, a GPO civil servant, and his wife Mary. She had worked as a dressmaker before her marriage. The couple had a daughter, Olive.

In 1890, as Mayor, Dan called a public meeting to discuss a programme of band music and a sea regatta. Someone – possibly Edward Palmer, the editor of the Hythe Reporter – put forward the idea of a procession of decorated boats on the Royal Military Canal. Dan approved the idea and the inevitable committee was formed. The first-ever Venetian Fete was on Wednesday, 27th August and the event was a great success. The boats were illuminated, as were the bridges and the day ended with a two-hour firework display. With some intermissions, the fete has continued to this day.

A twenty-first century Venetian Fete

The 1898 fete included land-based decorated tents on the banks of the canal. Dan rigged his up to resemble a famous advertisement for Mazawattee tea (which he stocked), persuading one of his sons and a friend to dress up as old ladies enjoying a nice cup of tea together. He had, he said, intended to launch a balloon in the shape of an elephant – full-sized – but it suffered a last minute puncture.

The advertisement Dan copied in his tent. He even had a blue cloth and tea caddy

 

Dan’s approach to publicity was never discreet. Instead of large advertisements in the local papers, he arranged with the editors to have his name inserted at the end of several short news items on a page, making it impossible for the reader to ignore him. In one column, one might read:

Dan West for Wines and Spirits
Dan West for Bottled Beers
Dan West for Whitbread’s Ale
Dan West for Butter and Cream
Dan West for New Strawberry Jam
Dan West for Lemon Squash
Dan West for Bacon and Hams

Dan’s ads were sometimes incongruously placed

He even used his roof to advertise. On the back of the chimney and roof, facing away from the High Street where shoppers could see the window and down Mount Street, where they could not, the words: ‘West For Bottled Beer’, with an advertising sign beneath.

Dan West’s shop from Mount Street…

… and the same view today

Dan seems to have lived quietly during the early days of the twentieth century, perhaps building up his property portfolio. He had invested in the new builds on the Sandling Estate, as well as buying smaller houses in Hythe and ‘a country dwelling with a parcel of land’ at Bilsington. He owned nineteen buildings at the time of his death. Elsewhere, he had plenty to keep him occupied. He was also, as well as an alderman, a trustee of St Bartholmew’s Hospital (an alms-house) and an active member of the Freemasons and of the Folkestone, Hythe and Sandgate Grocers’ Association.

He comes to attention again in 1911 during the festivities to celebrate the coronation of George V in June. There was the customary torchlit parade in the evening – though by now there were as many motor vehicles as horse-drawn carts and horses taking part. Dan chose to ride, dressed, of all things, as Buffalo Bill. As he was by now a portly man in his mid-sixties, this sounds like a joke at his own expense – or perhaps to amuse his grandchildren.

He was still active when war broke out in 1914, but suffered a bad fall not long afterwards. He declined to take part in the rifle shooting classes ordered by the Town Council for all able-bodied men. Referring to his now great bulk, he said that ‘should any Huns appear in the High Street, I’ll fall on them: that should be sufficient.’

He died in January 1917, and his funeral was attended by members of the Town Council, the Hythe Fire Brigade (in full uniform) and the local Lodge of Freemasons. He was remembered for years afterwards with affection for his good nature and as a successful businessman. As late as 1932, a local newspaper referred to him as the ‘leading grocer of the area’. Daniel was buried with Alice, his first wife.

Elizabeth, his widow, carried on living above the shop in the High Street until a year before her death in 1930, when her health was failing. She went on holiday in hope of a cure, but did not return. She is buried with Daniel.

Guy, as the elder son, took on the business, as ‘Dan West and Son.’. He had never known any other career, having worked as an assistant to his father until the latter’s death. Gordon,  meanwhile, went to work for a butcher before joining the South African Police in 1905.  Guy married Gertrude Agnes Banfield in Leyton, Essex, in October 1907 and brought her back to Hythe, where doubtless she, too worked in the business, although it may not have been her ideal occupation – her obituary describes her as ‘rather retiring’.  She had been born in Exeter, the daughter of Edwin Banfield, an accountant, and his wife Eliza.   The couple had a son, Dan, and a daughter, Nora. At least during the early days of their marriage, they lived in Twiss Road, Hythe.

Guy was excused service during the first World War as he was, at first, indispensable to his father and, after 1917, running the business single-handed. He did, however, serve in the Motor Volunteers and as a Special Constable. He seems otherwise to have taken little interest in town life. Perhaps he suffered from always being called, even in his wife’s obituary  ‘the son of Dan West, an Alderman and mayor’ – and this sixteen years after Dan’s death.

Gertrude died in 1933, after a two-year illness. Guy sold the business in 1937 and died himself in 1939. All Dan’s daughters had married and moved away from the town and Gordon did not return from South Africa.  There was to be no dynasty.

The West family plot in St Leonard’s churchyard, Hythe

Illegible memory/of/Alice J West/the beloved wife of D. J. West/who departed the 8th day of October 1885/in her 33rd year/after a prolonged illness
Also in loving memory of/Daniel John West/for many years churchwarden/of this parish/who died/12th January 1917/aged 71 years
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God
Elizabeth West/died June 6th 1930/aged 80 years
To the memory of/Guy West/died 23 June 1939/aged 60 years
In loving memory/Gertrude A West/died Dec 18th 1933 /aged 59 years
Illegible Thomas
Illegible
In the midst of life we are in death.

 

A Radical Blacksmith?

Beneath a yew tree in St Leonard’s churchyard, lies a rather battered table tomb, long buried under landslip. Rediscovered in October 2013, part of the inscription, protected from the elements for generations, could still be seen: ‘liam Ga…who was Bay… and Mayor for the Yeare 1650 … Ancie … he… Yeare is….. departed this mortall life on the LORDS day the 23 of February 165…being of the age of 52 yeares’.

This is the tomb of William Gately

William Gately was born in late 1599 or early 1600, the son of John Gately and Phillice, nee Possingham. His father had a house and smithy backing onto Hythe Green. His mother died when he was six, and his father married three times more, having two more sons, before dying himself at Rye in 1624, making his fourth wife, Alice, a widow. She went to live in New Romney, leaving the business and domestic premises to William, who had also become a blacksmith.

A seventeenth century smithy

Now in charge of his own business, and with his stepmother living elsewhere, William was in need of a wife to run his house, which included a hall, with two chambers over, an entry room, garret, kitchen, buttery, stables and outside storage.  He married Ann Dryland on 2 October 1627 in Wye. Their first child, John, was baptised in Hythe on 31 August 1628, but is not mentioned in his father’s will, so presumably died young. Their second and third sons, both called William, and the fourth, Samuel born in 1642 also had short lives. Their only daughter, Elizabeth, to whom William eventually left most of his estate, was baptised in Hythe on 11 Jul 1630.

Unlike his father, who had carefully avoided any form of civic duty,  William embraced civic life with some enthusiasm. In February 1633, the Corporation charged him with collecting contributions towards cutting out the haven, one of several, ultimately futile, attempts the town made to save its harbour. He evidently performed this task satisfactorily, and in August was made freeman and jurat. He still had to pay £1.3.0d for the privilege. Tax collecting seems to have been his forte, as he was appointed on several occasions to this task, including the collection of the generally unpopular Ship Money  imposed on the country by Charles I in1634.

He also served as churchwarden at St Leonard’s in 1639 and 1641. This post was not necessarily eagerly sought after. It involved attending the bishop’s visitation to present the parish registers; keeping records of those who did not attend church, as required by law; collecting the subsequent non-attendance fines; maintaining charitable bequest; keeping church accounts and keeping the church in good repair. The vicar of Hythe, William Kingsley, was unlikely to have been often in the town to offer advice. He was also Rector of Saltwood, Rector of Ickham and Archdeacon of Canterbury Cathedral. Parliament removed him from all his livings in 1644 for pluralism.

From 1640, William often attended the Brotherhood and Guestling, the annual meeting of the Cinque Ports, with the Mayor and in 1649 he was appointed one of their Bailiffs to Yarmouth. This was an ancient post which had in the past produced confrontation, and even violence between the people of Yarmouth and the Bailiffs. The role of the latter was to be present in the town during the herring fair, to attend court sessions daily and pass judgement. There were also visits to church and a certain amount of feasting. It was another post which some avoided if at all possible. It entailed a long journey and several weeks spent away from home and from one’s trade or business.  William Gately was selected because a Mr Bachellor from another of the Cinque Ports had refused to go – and was fined the huge sum of £50 by the Brotherhood for his transgression.

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The Brotherhood and Guestling still meets in the 21st Century

William’s experience as Bailiff seems to have been an unfortunate one. On his return, the Corporation gave him £25 in recognition of the dangers and ‘travail’ he had endured during his journey. This was quite unprecedented. The trip may have had a salutary effect: the next month he made his will, unlike many at the time who waited until death was imminent.

In 1650 he was chosen to be Mayor. It was a difficult time – the Corporation was nearly bankrupt and started the year with a deficit. They were unable to pay for the timber bought to repair the haven and were being threatened with legal action, while further expenses were incurred placing guns on the Mount and re-glazing the Town Hall. William may have been relieved when his term of office ended, as all Mayoralities did, at Candlemas, 2 February the next year. Eighteen days later, on Sunday 20 February 1651 ‘at four of the clock in the afternoon’, he died.

William had been quite acquisitive during his lifetime and left his family well provided for. He had bought land in Bilsington in 1640 and in Saltwood in 1648, and owned silver plate and a ‘feather bedd, well furnish’d’ (a feather bed was a mattress, but rather superior to a lumpy flock one; the furnishings were the bedstead, posts, drapes and linen). His acquisitiveness, however, had led to court cases, including with his own mother’s family, where he was shown to have appropriated goods to which he was not entitled, and in 1649, when Bailiff to Yarmouth, and despite the generous gratuity he received, he overlooked paying his clerk his allowance. The man had to beg the Brotherhood for it after William’s death. For all that, William was generous in his bequests, remembering his apprentices past and present, his half-brothers John and David, an aged aunt, his god-daughter and the new minister of Hythe, William Wallace, who received forty shillings.

This last bequest is interesting. Wallace, who hailed from Aberdeen, was a Calvinist Presbyterian of particularly radical views.  His clerical duties were confined to baptisms and communion: marriage for him was not a sacrament and he said no prayers at burials. That William Gately thought highly enough of him to leave him money tends to suggest that the blacksmith shared his radicalism in religious matters. He was, now that the Church of England was effectively dis-established, able to express his views without fear and worship as he wished. And since he supported a radical minister, did he also support the parliamentary forces that had enabled him to preach freely? Probably.

William Gately’s signature (produced by permission of Canterbury Cathedral Archives)

It seems he was not long survived by his daughter or wife. The land in Saltwood was to pass to his niece Susan Gately, if they both died. It was sold by Susan in 1660, so Ann’s and Elizabeth’s deaths must be assumed.  Susan, the daughter of William’s brother John and only known surviving grandchild of John Gately senior, married in 1675, and had children.

The minster, William Wallace, was ejected from his Hythe living at the Restoration and went to preach (illegally,now that the Church of England and its bishops were also restored) ) to dissenting communities in Hove.

 

Death on the Beach


Inscription:  Sacred to the memory of Lieutenant George Dyer of the Royal Navy son of the late Major General Dyer/of the Royal Marines and grandson of Rear Admiral Alexander Innes/while zealously engaged in … of his duty…near here… the six men under … the 12th of April … remainder illegible
In memory of Eliza widow of Lieutenant George Dyer/who died illegible/on the 22th of illegible 1852… remainder illegible

George Dyer was born on 23 October 1791 in Stoke Damarel, Devon and baptised in March the next year at Charles the Martyr church in Plymouth. He came from a distinguished military family. His father, another George was at the time of his son’s birth a captain in the marines, soon to become the Royal Marines. Most unusually, he had also been painted as a young man by a leading portraitist, James Northcote, a pupil of Joshua Reynolds. The picture was displayed at the Royal Academy in 1781 and is now owned by the Royal Navy museum.

George Dyer senior, at the age of twenty-two. 

He married Susannah Innes on 14 Oct 1789 at Devonport. She was the daughter of Rear Admiral Alexander Innes who, when he had died in 1786, was commander in chief of the Jamaica Station, a place noted for the ill-health of its personnel. In 1805 George fought with Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. He was seemingly a very religious man, evidenced by the inscription on his gravestone, which records that ‘religion was his guide through life’ and by the anecdote that he preached sermons to the crews of his vessels in the absence of a chaplain, apparently preferring this method of character improvement to the more usual one of corporal punishment.

Young George was the eldest of three children and the only son. Expectations that he would serve in the Army or Navy must have been high, and probably inescapable. He duly joined the Navy, and was based in Plymouth near his home, which he visited often. By 1815, he was a lieutenant on HMS Imogen, a 16-gun brig-sloop.

He was then twenty-four, and his father decided to seek preferment for him. The system for advancement in the navy was based not on merit, but on having a powerful patron. George senior was well-connected and wrote frequent letters to men of influence to try to find his son a suitable ship and possibly promotion. Lord Melville, a former Secretary for War could not help. Nor could Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Buller, even though young George was sent to visit him. He was next despatched to wait on Admiral Sir John Duckworth, who promised to pull strings. He did, and on 22 August, young George received an order to proceed to Portsmouth by the Severn frigate as there was a likelihood of a vacancy for a lieutenant on HMS Havannah, a frigate.

Image result for lord melville                                              Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, who declined to help George…..

Image result for sir edward buller                                                              …..as did Sir Edward Buller

Before he left, George senior took his son shopping – to a book sale. There George junior bought, among others, two volumes of Ovid’s poetry, a History of Greece and one of Rome, Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, and Du Fresnoy’s Cartographies of Time. He was clearly a serious-minded young man.

The vacancy on the Havannah did not materialise, but George was appointed to another frigate, the aged Pique. His father died two years later, but left nothing to George, bequeathing everything to the young man’s sisters, Anne and Susannah. This was, he said, because George had inherited from his grandfather and he was ‘not to think that I hold him in any less affection than his sisters’.

The next eleven years of his naval career are a blank, until he surfaces in Hythe in 1826, still a lieutenant, as commanding officer of the Coastguard at Fort Twiss. The Coastguard had been set up in 1822 as an anti-smuggling operation, and its instructions also stipulated that when a wreck took place the Coast Guard was responsible for taking all possible action to save lives, taking charge of the vessel and protecting property.

George had married, on 4 January 1816 in the Isle of Wight, seventeen-year-old Eliza Osmond. His father had died the following year, as had his patron, Sir John Duckworth. One possible explanation for the posting to Hythe may have been the presence in the town of his maternal uncle, Colonel John Innes. Now without influential support, did George turn to his uncle to act as his patron?

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Admiral Sir John Duckworth

In the early hours of Wednesday 5 April, the station received reports of smugglers in the area. George went down to the beach, where he met the captain of HMS Ramilies and some of his men. Ramilies was engaged on the coastal blockade. Patrolling the beach, they heard gunfire coming from the direction of Shorncliffe, followed by a round of fire close by. This had been fired by John Lemon, a Ramilies seaman and it killed George Dyer outright. Coastguard rules were clear that a man should not open fire unless ordered to do so or unless violence had been offered to him. Since in this case, neither had happened, Lemon was charged with manslaughter and court martialled.

He was found guilty, but received a reduced sentence of 14 days at the request of George’s wife Eliza, who stated she believed it was an accident. George was buried with military honours, including a firing party of 103 men, who marched in procession from Fort Twiss to St Leonard’s church.

Eliza, whose origins remain a mystery, married again in 1829, to George Elgar, a surgeon, though perhaps not a very successful one. In 1851, the couple were lodging in a carpenter’s house in Maidstone and George is described as ‘surgeon, not practising’. Eliza died on 8 March 1852 at Romney Place, Maidstone and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard there. Less than three weeks after her death, her widower petitioned the Admiralty for the eight pounds and ten shillings that was owing from her widow’s pension. Did he spend some of the cash having her name inscribed on the tombstone of her first husband? It would have been an economic way of remembering her, if funds did not stretch to a tombstone of her own, and a large space had been left on George Dyer’s tomb to add her name when the time came.

 

The inscription for Eliza on George Dyer’s tomb. 

George Elgar married again the year after Eliza’s death and had three children, went bankrupt in 1861 and died in 1867

Col. John Innes died in Hythe in 1836 and is buried a stone’s throw away from his nephew’s grave.

The gravestone of John Innes and his wife

Three Men and a Lifeboat

 

Lionel Lukin’s gravestone in St Leonard’s churchyard, Hythe, bears easily the longest inscription of them all:

In this grave is interred/the body of Lionel Lukin – born at/ Dunmow in Essex the 1st of May 1742 – in/1767 he became a member of the Coach Makers Company of London and after/60 years of various success in that busi/ness – settled at Hythe in 1824 with the/humble hope that the same divine pro/vidence which had been his guide and/protector during a long and chequer’d/ life would permit him to conclude it in ease and tranquillity and finally remove /him to a better and eternal inheritance/through the merits and intercession of /Jesus our Redeemer – died the/ 16th of February 1834.

This Lionel Lukin /was the first who built/ a life boat/and was the original inventor of that/principle of safety/by which many lives and much property/have been preserved from shipwreck/and he obtained for it the King’s patent/in the year/ 1785.

Lionel Lukin was the son of a well-to-do farmer, William Lukin, and his wife Anne nee Stokes.  He was descended from Admiral Lionel Lane who had fought in the Dutch Wars in the 1650s; the name Lionel was clearly important to the family and was repeated down the generations. This latest Lionel, who was baptised on 17 June 1742,  had ten younger siblings.

He did not go to sea, but was apprenticed to Joseph Smith, a local coach-maker, in 1759. He moved to London and became a member of the  Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers in 1767. At sixteen, he had inherited money from his maternal uncle which may well have helped him set up in business as three years later he was in Westminster, with his own concern, in partnership with a Mr Beech in Long Acre, a street running from St Martin’s Lane to Drury Lane and at that time dominated by coach-builders.

He was, by nature though, an inventor with a strong philanthropic bent.  He designed a ship’s stove which could be used in rough weather, an invalid’s bed, which could be manipulated by a single attendant and which he gave to several London infirnmaries and a raft  for rescuing people who had fallen through ice, which he presented to the Royal Humane Society and which was successfully used in Hyde Park.

Lionel Lukin with fashionable wig, stock and cravat. 

The Society was even more impressed by his ‘unimmergible boat’ for which he obtained a patent in 1785. The design included adding buoyant gunwhales to the sides of the boat and watertight bulkheads within, thus making it much lighter than the body of water it would displace in sinking. Underneath, a false keel of cast iron was to act as a ballast. He had purchased a Norway yawl, which he fitted up in this way and tried out on the Thames. Later, Lionel would add holes in the bottom to allow shipped water to escape. He intended the boats to be used on board ship as lifeboats – though that word did not then exist.

The plans for Lionel’s unimmergible (or insubmersible) boat

It has been claimed that this venture was financed by the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent and George IV) with whom he was acquainted, although his obituary in ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine ‘ notes only that the prince ‘condescended to take an interest.’ The Prince was then only twenty-two, and known chiefly for his extravagance, illicit amours and his feud with his father, George III.  But there could be some truth in the story. Christopher Hibbert, in his magisterial biography of the prince, records that he was liberal with his charitable donations (1). Also, by 1783 Lionel was supplying harnesses to the household of Queen Charlotte, the prince’s mother, so it is conceivable that he met the prince while visiting the royal stables.

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George IV when a young man 1782-1785   (commons.wikimedia.org)

Lionel tried to interest the Admiralty in his design, but there was no response. He took the advice of a Captain James, deputy-master of the Trinity House, and lent his boat, which he named the Experiment, to a Ramsgate pilot, to be tested in rough weather. The boat was an unqualified success, even enabling its skipper to carry on his smuggling trade in the worst weather, an outcome not, presumably, intended by the inventor.  The boat was eventually impounded at a foreign port.  However, the following year,  Archdeacon John Sharp, a trustee of the Bamburgh Charities, who had created a mini-welfare state in the town, asked Lionel to convert a coble – a traditional fishing boat of the area. Lionel took on the job and Bamburgh still claims to be the first place to have a dedicated rescue lifeboat, which was in service for many years.

Lionel’s next boat, the Witch, was tested by Sir Sydney Smith and other naval officers, and its worth was  publicly displayed at Margate. But Lionel had to contend with seafaring prejudices, and his unimmergible boats, though they attracted attention, were in little demand. Apart from the one built for Bamburgh, only four were ordered, one of which proved very useful at Lowestoft. This, the Frances Anne,  was tested in 1807 in dreadful weather and it was calculated that even full of water and with 50 people on board, she would not sink. She was in use for the next fifty years, saving three hundred lives.

Despite the claims on his gravestone, Lionel was not the only man to have an interest in saving life at sea.  After  a particularly tragic shipwreck off the mouth of the Tyne in 1789, when the whole crew of the Adventure  perished while hundreds of people, helpless, looked on, a local competition for a lifeboat design was started.

It was won by William Wouldhave (or Woolhave), plumber, glazier and parish clerk of South Shields, who designed a boat with a straight, heavy keel and high-peaked ends with watertight cases,  which was self-righting and unsinkable. A plain-spoken and difficult man, he refused the prize money of only a guinea and never built his boat, though his memorial, in St Hilda’s churchyard in South Shields also  claims that he invented the lifeboat:

Sacred to the memory of William Wouldhave, inventor of that invaluable blessing to mankind, the lifeboat’

He also has a public house in South Shields named for him ‘ The Wouldhave’.

Another entrant, the boatbuilder Henry Greathead, was unsuccessful in the competition: his design was said to resemble a butcher’s tray, in that it was flat and oblong. However, as Wouldhave had no interest in building his boat, Greathead was offered the job of building a lifeboart designed by the competition committee. The end result was, like Lionels’s Experiment,  based on a Norway yawl. The sides were cased with cork, four inches thick, secured with copper plates. When full of water amidships, one third at each end would be out of water, and it could continue underway without foundering.  It was tested at the beginning of 1790.

Greathead did not take out a patent on his boat, but its adoption by North Shields and then other ports led  to a House of Commons committee awarding him £1200, in addition to the hundred guineas given by  both Trinity House and Lloyds  of London.

 

Henry Greathead

 

Even at the time, there was some controversy as to who could rightly claim to have invented the lifeboat. In 1790 Lionel published a description of his lifeboat, with scale-drawings and declared that Greathead’s boat was in general built according to the principles set out in his patent, and had no additional safety features. In 1806 a Mr Hailes put forward the claims of William Wouldhave as inventor of lifeboats, and Lionel replied with three letters to the Gentleman’s Magazine, in which he set out his own claims to priority. These he afterwards published as a pamphlet dedicated to the Prince of Wales, entitled The Invention, Principles of Construction, and Uses of Unimmergible Boats.  Lionel’s obituarist in the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine was of the opinion that the naming of the respective boats was crucial. Lionel called his an ‘unimmergible boat’; Greathead called his ‘a Life Boat’, which ‘spoke at once to the sympathies of the heart’.

Controversy aside, Lionel continued to prosper in his business, becoming a master coachbuilder in 1781and eventually Master of the Coachmaker’s Company.  He had started to accumulate property early in his career, starting with a substantial house in Dunmow, had married a widow, Anne Gilder,  been widowed himself and married again, in 1803, to Hester Clissold. The son of his first marriage, another Lionel, also became an inventor with a strong interest in shipbuilding. He had helped his father build the Frances Anne and presented to the Admiralty several ideas for ventilating ships and curing them of dry rot, none of which seem to have been taken up. His sister, Ann, married John Helyer Rocke in 1896 and went to live in Somerset.

Lionel moved to Hythe when he was in his eighties and his eyesight was failing, though he kept a financial interest in the Long Acre business. He lived in Elm House, not far from St Leonard’s Church.  In the same year he wrote to the Chairman of the newly-founded Institution for the Preservation of Lives and Property from Shipwreck (later the RNLI) offering to ‘contribute anything in my power to the success of the proposed Institution’.  There is no record of any reply and while in its first report the Institution paid tribute to a number of people who had contributed to life-saving in shipwreck, Lionel’s name is not there.

He was ill for only a few days before his death and had made his will two years earlier. It is unusual in that his son received only £10. The rest of his considerable estate was to be invested by his executors to provide annuities for his wife, his daughter and for his four granddaughters, two by his son and two by his daughter. The  women’s annuities were for their ‘separate use’ and would not devolve to any husbands they might have. His father, William, had taken the same approach, leaving his sons, who could be expected to support themselves, only £5 apiece, while the daughters received the residue of his estate.

In 1892, the vicar of Hythe, the Rev’d Thomas Sarsfield Hall, started a fund-raising campaign to erect a memorial window to Lionel in St Leonard’s church.  He did not raise quite as much as he hoped, but in October that year made up the balance of £40 himself and had the lancet window installed above the altar. The window was unveiled by Lionel’s great-grandson, the Rev’d. Charles J. Robinson, vicar of Horsham. The inscription read: To the Glory of God and in memory of Lionel Lukin, the inventor of the lifeboat, who died at Hythe, February 16th, 1834 and lies buried in the churchyard.

Sadly, the window was destroyed by enemy action in 1940, so that today, it is only Lionel’s grave which bears witness to the presence, for a short while, of this remarkable man in Hythe.


 

However, there is a happier postscript: in 1985, to celebrate the becentenary of Lionel’s patent, the Post Office produced a set of commemorative stamps, ‘Safety at Sea.’ The proceeds from this first day cover went to the RNLI

(1) Christopher Hibbert, George IV: London, 1972.

 

The Unfortunate Sons of Margaret Hamilton

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The memorial plaque in St Leonard’s church to the husband and sons of Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Elizabeth Mary Hamilton nee Cragg was born in Stoke Damarel, Devon, the eldest of the five daughters of Rear-Admiral John Bettinson Cragg and his wife Margaret. They lived in Molesworth Terrace, a street of sturdy Victorian villas. She married Thomas Bramston Hamilton, an officer in the Royal Artillery in her home town on 2 June 1864 and as a married woman travelled with him as his military postings took him round the UK, to Ireland, Shorncliffe, Sheerness and finally to Bitterne in Hampshire. Here, Thomas bought Bitterne Grove, a house and estate of about thirty acres,  for £6,600 in 1877 and the last five of their eleven children were born there.

Bitterne Grove

Thomas, who by then had left the army, became president of the Church Missionary Society and of the Church of England Temperance Society and Honorary Secretary of the Bitterne Conservative Association before dying aged only forty-seven on 2 April 1884. It was the first of many losses for Margaret. Edith, her second daughter, died at Bitterne Grove in 1889, aged twenty-two, and five years later, Margaret’s sister, Fanny, died there during a visit.

Margaret moved to Hythe in about 1899. Why is unknown, but she was familiar with the area from her husband’s Shorncliffe posting in the 1870s, when she had had lived in Sandgate. Now, she lived at the Old Manor House, a seventeenth century house just down the hill from St Leonard’s church, where she could manage with just four live-in servants instead of the small army needed to maintain the house and grounds at Bitterne Grove.

The Old Manor House, Hythe

Her third daughter, Hilda Blanche, who is buried with her, married Robert Miles C. Moss, of the Egyptian civil service, in the church in 1899 and the youngest daughter, Gladys, married there in 1903, to Captain (later Lt Col) Arthur Cyril Alington.

Between these two happy events, Margaret had lost three of her seven sons in South Africa.
Kenneth, who had presumably emigrated to Ceylon, joined the Ceylon Mounted Infantry when the Boer War broke out, as a private. Early in January 1900 the Legislative Council of Ceylon unanimously agreed to send a contingent of 125 to South Africa and the Company sailed on 2nd February. The Ceylon Mounted Infantry joined Lord Roberts while he was advancing on Bloemfontein, in time to be present at the engagement of Poplar Grove. On 6th March Lord Roberts wired to Ceylon: “I have just ridden out to meet Ceylon Mounted Infantry and welcome them to this force. They look most workmanlike, and are a valuable addition to Her Majesty the Queen’s Army in South Africa”. The squadron was one of those praised by Lord Roberts in the despatch of 31st March 1900 for good work on the way to Bloemfontein, but for Kenneth it was the end of the road. He died there of enteric fever on 15 May 1900.

His slightly younger brother Ernest, meanwhile, had emigrated to Natal, where he lived in Eshowe, a fairly new European settlement. When war broke out, he joined Bethune’s Mounted Infantry, an irregular corps of 356 British men, on 20 November 1899. Exactly six months later, he was dead, killed in action at Scheepers Nek.

Alastair, the second son, joined the British army on 15 November 1899, a month after the war broke out and served as a second lieutenant in the Royal Irish Fusiliers. The war ended in May 1902, and he resigned his commission in September that year and became a cattle farmer in Carolina in the Transvaal (now Mpumalanga). He was killed by lightning on his farm, Welteveden, on 5 December 1902. The farm was sold after his death for £566, but Alastair had only £12 in cash at the time of his death. The money went to his eldest brother, James.

Alastair and his brothers are commemorated on one memorial at Mpumalanga and there is another at the cemetery at Scheepers Nek which is a reproduction of one in the President Brand cemetery in Bloemfontein.

The memorial to the Hamilton brothers at Mpumalanga (which has been incorrectly assembled). 

The compound at Scheepers Nek where there is another memorial

Money, or the lack of it, played a part in the brothers’ decisions to try life in the colonies. Only James, the eldest son, could expect to inherit. The other six needed to fend for themselves, and emigration was becoming a popular route to a better life for young men of all classes and backgrounds. Two of the sons did follow in their father’s footsteps and join the regular army. James obtained a commission in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, but resigned it in 1890. Patrick, the youngest son, born in 1882, attended Sandhurst and obtained a commission with the Worcester Regiment in 1901. He was sent to Jhami in India and was promoted to captain in 1908. In 1911, he took an extended leave from his regiment, returned to the UK and started flying lessons. This was, at the time, very much a high-risk occupation. His eldest sister, Ethel, later asked their mother why she had not tried to dissuade him. According to Ethel, she replied ‘no one’s personal feelings ought ever to interfere with any man’s career provided it was an upright and honourable one to follow’.[1]

Patrick Hamilton

Patrick then bought his own plane, a French 30 hp single-seater Deperdussin monoplane, constructed mostly of wood, canvas and wire and took it to the USA . His travelling companion was George Miller Dyott, another flier, who shipped his own Deperdussin, a two-seater. Together, they made an exhibition tour, stopping for a while in Nassau and in Mexico. A feature of the Nassau exhibition was a night flight in the two-seater, with Patrick as passenger, carrying a searchlight powered from the ground via cables.

Patrick at the controls of his plane. 

Their success was variable, and came to an end when in December 1911 Patrick’s plane flipped over in mid-air and crash landed. He was unhurt, but the plane was damaged beyond repair. He returned to England in the following February. He almost immediately joined the Royal Flying Corps. In summer, he achieved his Special Aviator’s Certificate and was promoted to Flight commander with a salary of £450 a year. At about the same time, in June 1912, he announced his engagement to twenty-year-old Derryle Elizabeth Law of Atlanta, Georgia, to whom he had been introduced by George Dyott in Long Island the previous year.

On 6 September 1912, he and his observer took off in his Deperdussin monoplane from an airfield in Berkshire as part of a large military exercise. Shortly afterwards, the plane started to disintegrate in mid-air and both he and his observer were killed in the ensuing crash. An engine rod had sheared off and torn out a piece of the engine which hit one of the wing struts.

A service for Patrick and his observer was held in Hitchin, which Derryle attended and then their coffins were placed on a gun carriage and accompanied by a large military escort taken to the railway station. Patrick was to be buried in Hythe with full military honours. Derryle was not present at the ceremony, but sent flowers. Hythe Town Council expressed their sympathy to Margaret Hamilton, and so did the King, George V. In December, Patrick’s eldest sister, Ethel, published a memoir of his life,  A Tribute to a Soldier and Aviator.

Patrick’s funeral at St Leonard’s Church, Hythe

In his will Patrick left £1199. 9s 8d, with probate granted to his executors, his brother-in-law Arthur Alington and a solicitor. Perhaps his affairs were complicated, as they did not apply for probate until 1914. As soon as they did so, a bombshell fell. Derryle sued them for breach of contract, saying she was owed £600. She said Patrick had settled this amount on her but had not paid it. The case went to court.  She said that she and Patrick had become engaged in December 1911 and planned to marry in Washington DC in February 1912. Announcements had been made to family and friends. Then Patrick went off to Mexico, and while there wrote to his family in England about his plans. They replied that marrying would adversely affect his chances of Army promotion.

After the crash in Mexico, which cost him his plane and his career as a show pilot, Patrick returned to the States. He suggested to Derryle that she go back to England with him. He would re-join his regiment, and they would travel together to India, where they would be married. Derryle was having none of it: she wanted to be married with family and friends around her.

Derryle Law

Patrick then offered to give Derrlye £600 if she would agree to postponing the marriage. She accepted this and he signed a declaration before a notary in Philadelphia in February 1912. Two weeks before this he had received a telegram from his mother, who was in Cairo visiting her daughter Hilda. She wrote ‘I implore postponement. Money lost.’ Presumably she was to some extent reliant on Patrick’s income which would be lost to her if he married and she seemed to be in straitened financial circumstances. .


 

Patrick’s settlement of £600 

Patrick brought Derryle and her mother back to England with him. The engagement was announced in the Morning Post and Mrs Law and Derryle met Margaret Hamilton and her daughters. It was not a successful rendezvous. A little later, Patrick telephoned Derryle and told her he could not marry her because all they would have to live on would be ‘a bucketful of debts’. Mrs Law and Mrs Hamilton exchanged venomous letters, each blaming the other’s offspring for the breakdown of the relationship. In court, Derryle was clear that she blamed Margaret Hamilton and her daughters for bringing pressure to bear on Patrick.

Derryle won her case. Why did she bring it? For money, possibly, though she and her mother already had an income of £1200 a year from her late father’s estate. For revenge on the Hamiltons? It seems more likely.

Five years later, Margaret sold the Old Manor House and all its contents, furniture, china, linen, right down to decanters and fire irons, and went to live in Dene Cottage, just along the road. She died soon afterwards and was buried with Patrick.

Hilda, who is also commemorated on their grave, did not die until 1966. She had returned with her husband from Egypt and lived in ‘Marsh View’ in Hythe.

The grave of Patrick Hamilton, his mother Margaret and his sister Hilda. The cross has not fallen – it was placed at an angle on a stone slab – perhaps to resemble a plane. The inscriptions read: Patrick Hamilton, Capt Worcestershire Regt Royal Flying Corps killed on duty Sept 6th 1912
Also Margaret Elizabeth Mary/widow of Major Bramston Hamilton/entered into rest May 13th 1920/aged 73 years
Take thy rest in safety Job XI.18
In loving memory/of/Hilda Blanche/Moss/1871-1966
R.I.P.

The other daughters, Ethel and Gladys died in 1939 and 1971 respectively. Of the surviving brothers, there is little trace. James and Ian disappear from the records, though Thomas was for a while a market gardener in Essex. None of them attended Patrick’s funeral or sent flowers and the plaque commemorating Margaret in St Leonard’s church is from her daughters only. Perhaps they, too, had emigrated.

The plaque to Margaret Hamilton, beneath that of her husband and sons,

Derryle went back to America and a few years later married Carey Brown, a professional soldier who later became a colonel. They had two sons, both of whom joined the US Air Force. In a terrible twist of fate, both were killed in air accidents during Derryle’s lifetime.

George Miller Dyott gave up flying for a living, went to Ecuador and became an explorer.

[1] Ethel Hamilton: A Tribute to a Soldier and Aviator 1913