Restoration – Part Four

So the century drew on. Plague came and went, Sir William built his wall, and the haven finally silted up for good and was obliterated by the tides.  The town surrendered its charter and one of the last vestiges of the influence of the Cinque Ports, the annual trip to Yarmouth to sit in judgement on lesser mortals, was abandoned.

There were brief moments of excitement. In the summer of 1672, eight French smugglers boarded a boat belonging to a Mr Williams and took a hostage to France. Three years later a French man-of-war chased a Dutch merchant ship onto the beach at Hythe and fired volleys of bullets at it, a good many of which fell in the town, though no deaths were reported.

In 1685 Charles II died, having been received into the Catholic church on his deathbed. The erstwhile Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, his brother James, became king and provided Hythe an opportunity for canopy-carrying.  The mayor, Robison Beane, who lived in a fine house in the High Street opposite the George inn attended and so did Hythe’s sitting M.P. Heneage Finch.  Also carrying the canopy that day was Samuel Pepys, who served very briefly as M.P. for Sandwich.

The reign of James II was also brief.  He was openly Catholic, but as he was not young and in poor health, his people expected that he would soon be succeeded by his Protestant daughters. A late second marriage, however, produced a Catholic son, who took precedence. This was unacceptable to parliament and the country, and one of the Protestant daughters, Mary, and her husband William of Orange, were invited to take the throne. James, after dithering for a while, let the county in 1688.

Not everyone agreed that William and Mary had a right to the throne. Jacobites held (and still do) that James and his successors were the rightful monarchs. Among these was Hythe’s former M.P., Heneage Finch.

Finch was elected to Parliament in 1685, at the same time that Julius Deedes tried to get himself a seat.  The Lord Warden’s nomination, he was a Guards officer, a courtier and a younger son of the Lord Lieutenant of Kent. On the accession of William and Mary, he refused to take the oath of allegiance and in April 1689 was arrested on charges of Jacobitism. He escaped custody and with five others assembled at Hythe, hoping to sail to France to join James II, who had set up a Stuart court in exile at St Germain near Paris.  Perhaps he thought he would find the people of Hythe loyal to him, as he had so recently represented them.

He was wrong. As he and his friends were preparing to join a small vessel, they were recognised by several Hythe men. They tried to flee on horseback but Finch’s horse threw him, he was arrested and taken to London. He was bailed and eventually discharged for lack of evidence. The men who made the arrest and escorted Finch to London, Thomas Mount, (a sadler), Nicholas Ingham (alehouse keeper), Ralph Hatton, Thomas Tournay (the town clerk), and James Fordred, were recommended to the Treasury for a gratuity.

The arrest sparked a little rush of similar detentions. The next year, Hythe men apprehended Godfrey Cross, who had treasonably been supplying intelligence to the French. This time their prisoner was tried and executed.  In 1692, they detained two ‘suspicious persons’ who were believed to be in correspondence with the king’s enemies.  

In 1691, the boot was on the other foot when the Constable of West Hythe was arrested for concealing two Frenchmen suspected of spying. He himself was suspected of using the inn he owned at Botolph’s Bridge for smuggling goods both into and out of the country. However, the day after his arrest he was found in an ale house in Hythe with his ‘consorts.’  Charges were mysteriously dropped.

At the end of the seventeenth century, Hythe was not the town it had been a hundred years earlier. The population had shrunk by about 50%. Baptisms and burials were half what they had been in 1600, and very few marriages are recorded. Those marriages that did take place were often the second unions of widowed men and women.

This may, in part, have been due to plague. We don’t know how badly Hythe was affected in the last outbreak in 1665/6, but if the town was badly hit, then it took it much longer to recover than other comparable places. What seems to have been happening is that the young people were leaving. They were going, perhaps, to larger towns, but almost certainly many were going to London, the great sump, where there were job opportunities for skilled and unskilled men and women alike.  Once gone from the town, they did not return.

 The Ancient Town and Port was in the doldrums, and difficult years were to follow, but the sea, which had treacherously taken away the town’s haven and livelihoods became eventually its saviour. The rise of the fashionable seaside resort brought new people and new hope to Hythe, and the coming of the military to protect the coast from Napoleon brought new trading opportunities. By the mid- nineteenth century, the town was thriving again.

But that is another story.


Restoration- Part Three

Hythe’s woes were increased by a particularly nasty outbreak of in-fighting in the middle of the decade. By this time some of those disenfranchised from the corporation in 1662 had been allowed to return to the assembly. The origin of the dispute seems to have been in personal animosity, which spilled over into revolt.

George Thurbane, a jurat, and James Minage, a poor citizen of Hythe had some sort of disagreement. Minage took it seriously and started to slander Thurbane, even accusing him of murder. Minage’s cause was taken up by John Handfield and John Finch, former jurats who had been disenfranchised. They encouraged Minage to take his grievances against Thurbane  to the Hythe court. Again and again his complaints were judged to be ‘frivolous’ that is, of no legal merit, but Handfield, who seems to have had a hold over Minage, kept forcing him back into court. According to Thurbane, this was because Handfield was plotting to ruin him.

In 1667, when John Gray was mayor, Handfield and Finch walked into the corporation meeting and claimed that, though disenfranchised, they should now be allowed to sit. Gray agreed, but the rest of the jurats did not, and walked out. Nothing daunted, Gray swore the two men in as jurats.  The town was apparently to be run by a triumvirate. They immediately sacked the town’s counsel (legal advisor) and replaced him with their own man, without any vote being taken. This was presumably to help Minage’s case against Thurbane  being taken seriously.  

The aggrieved jurats who had opposed Handfield and Finch appealed to the Brotherhood and Guestling, who found in their favour. Gray, Handfield and Finch were fined, and when they refused to pay, imprisoned until they did. The legal costs of the jurats’ action against them had been high, and the Brotherhood ordered that everyone of Hythe’s citizens should pay twenty shillings to reimburse them. The Brotherhood would send a collector to Hythe, and he would have the power to seize good in lieu of payment.

It was not the corporation’s finest hour.

The jurats struggled on through the next few years, always broke, and dealing with crisis after crisis, from Sir William Honywood’s wall to the botched election of Julius Deedes to parliament. In 1683, however, they made a controversial choice of town clerk by appointing a non-conformist, Thomas Tournay, who had been removed from office in Rye because of his radical views. It seems that old habits die hard.   The mayor of Rye referred to him as one of ‘those bloody-minded people’ and carefully searched his house for hidden arms before he went, but found none.

The departure of William Wallace from Hythe had not meant that all its inhabitants decided to conform to the Church of England.  The restored bishops in the Church believed that Puritanism had been responsible for disaffection from the King, and were determined to wipe it out. A whole culture of teaching, praying, preaching and singing was made to go away.  The result, which should have been obvious, was that people deserted the church for non-conformists’ gatherings.

Even before Wallace’s departure there were Baptists in Hythe, and they had their own preacher, Richard Hatton. Whilst Baptists were not singled out for persecution like the Quakers, the government did not make it easy for them to worship and their gatherings were made illegal under the Conventicle Act of 1664, although two in Hythe were reported to the authorities in 1669.  Dissenting ministers were also required to live at least five miles outside towns. However, by 1672 it was possible to apply for a licence to hold religious meetings, and one of the fifty granted in Kent was in Hythe. There was, as yet, no permanent chapel, and worshippers gathered together in private houses to pray and listen to the Word of God.  

A religious census in 1676 showed that Hythe had 274 conformists to the Church of England, two Catholics, two Quakers and twenty-three Baptists. The proportion of non-conformists was higher than most towns in Kent. The figures probably refer to heads of household. The population of Hythe had shrunk, but not to a mere three hundred souls.

Restoration – Part Two

There was another general election in April 1661. Phineas Andrews stood for Hythe again, but faced opposition from no fewer than four other candidates. John Hervey (not to be confused with John Harvey, the by now dead parliamentarian) was the Lord Warden’s nomination; the mayor of Hythe, William Knight was another candidate, and Sir Edward Dering probably a third. The identity of the fourth man is unknown. Andrews, who had expected to spend about £20 on his election campaign, complained that he had to lay out seven times as much. He would have complained more if he had known how short his triumph would be:  he died on 23 September 1661.

The other successful candidate was John Hervey, a courtier with ambitions that went beyond representing a decaying Cinque Port, and his time in parliament was marked by his almost complete inactivity. He was ill at the time of Charles I’s coronation and unable to carry the canopy, so Elias Bassett, landlord of ‘The George’ stepped in. Phineas Andrews also represented the town at the ceremony. According to his tombstone in Denton church, his exertions on the occasion led directly to his illness and death.

At the ensuing by-election, on 26 October, Sir Henry Wood another courtier, was returned unopposed.  The corporation had obviously had enough of these placemen, and ordered that he should be returned ‘after he shall have first made his appearance at Hythe to take the oath of Freeman of this town and not before’.  A struggle of will ensued. Twice the corporation reminded him that they expected him to make the journey; twice he refused. At last, on 8 December, six weeks after the election, three jurats travelled to the capital to swear him in.

The fact was that they also wanted to ask him for money to fund some new boats for the town’s fishermen, but as he only offered £40, the fishermen were not interested.  The corporation could offer nothing: the town chest was empty and they finished the year more than £25 in the red.

Suspicions and accusations were still flying around Hythe. In 1662, William Adcock, a grocer who had already been thrown off the corporation was arrested in connection with the escape of Colonel Edmund Ludlow, against whom an arrest warrant had been issued in September 1660.  Ludlow was a radical parliamentarian, who had been one of the judges who condemned Charles I to death.  Charles II, although he had granted amnesty to most of Cromwell’s supporters, did not extend his clemency to regicides.  Ludlow was a wanted man, but managed to escape to Switzerland in 1660.  The government believed that he had escaped through one of the Cinque Ports, but Adcock’s supposed involvement is unknown. After being interrogated in the Tower of London, he was released and returned to Hythe.

Then on 26 August of the same year, six Commissioners for the Well Governing and Regulating of Corporations, a sort of mini-Inquisition, visited Hythe. Parliament had passed a Corporation Act in 1661 which sought to exclude religious dissenters from the governing bodies of corporate towns. It demanded the taking of the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and office holders also had to receive the Sacrament according to the rites of the Church of England.  However, the king and parliament thought it likely that many would do so solely to satisfy the law, so the Act provided for commissioners to examine and purge the corporations, even of those who took their oaths. Charles chose country gentlemen with their local knowledge, not courtiers, as Commissioners.

Twenty-six of the Hythe jurats and freemen swore the oaths. The Commissioners still disenfranchised five of them, together with another twelve who refused to take the oaths. Altogether seventeen freemen and jurats were banned from the corporation or holding office either for political or religious reasons. John Finch and Ferdinando Bassett were also obliged to resign as wardens of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, as this was a corporation office.  It is a wonder the corporation was able to function at all.

Throughout the 1660s the corporation struggled to keep afloat financially. It is not impossible that the loss of so many experienced jurats led to mistakes being made. Their solution to the problem was to sell their capital assets. Land was sold to Elias Bassett and Julius Deedes.  Other land was mortgaged. Penny House and Grayfields were also sold, together with some land know as St Clare’s, again to Elias Bassett. The mayor, who was the same Elias Bassett three times during the decade, refused to accept his traditional salary. It was only £10 a year, and a man of Elias’s evident wealth could easily afford to forego it.

Restoration – Part One

The Long Parliament finally dissolved itself after nineteen years and another general election was called. The Lord Warden, Admiral Edward Montagu, endeavoured to exercise his customary right to nominate a candidate, but Hythe corporation ignored him. They politely assured him of their utmost endeavours on his behalf, ‘could they prevail with the freemen’. The freemen preferred to return Viscount Strangford of nearby Westenhanger and Phineas Andrews, the squire of Denton Court.

At this election, correctly sensing the prevailing wind, Hythe elected two Royalists sympathisers. Strangford was the grandson of John Smythe who had sat in parliament for Hythe in 1604. He had spent the interregnum quietly plotting the king’s return until his arrest in Canterbury in 1659. He was subsequently released on £5000 bail.  Andrews was a wealthy financier, who had sometimes bankrolled the king’s favourite the Duke of Buckingham and allegedly had supported Charles II in exile. He only occasionally lived at Denton, having acquired it from a ruined Royalist during the Commonwealth. He was a friend of Henry Oxinden of Barham (the cousin, confusingly, of Henry Oxinden of Denton) who supported his election.

This new parliament, the so-called Convention Parliament assembled on 25 April 1660, and soon afterwards accepted the Declaration of Breda in which Charles II agreed, amongst other things, to pardon many of his father’s enemies. Charles was declared king, and the proclamation of his sovereignty was read out in Hythe on 12 May, in no fewer than four places to make sure that no-one could be in any doubt: at the market place, the west and east bridges and at Mr Beane’s conduit in the High Street.  The corporation decided they deserved a celebration at the ‘White Hart’, where the landlord Ferdinando Bassett sold them wine to the value of £4. 4. 0. Beer was provided for lesser mortals by Mr Fordred.

Charles arrived in Dover on 25 May 1660, to be met by the mayor and a huge crowd of citizens and noblemen. He was presented with a Bible, which he took and said it was the thing that he loved above all things in the world and then rode off in a coach towards Canterbury. According to Pepys ‘the shouting and joy expressed by all is past imagination.’

Charles soon sacked the Lord Warden, Edward Montagu, who had been a Colonel in the New Model Army,  and appointed his own brother, James, Duke of York, instead.  James’s chief claim to fame at this time was that he was reputed to be ‘the most unguarded ogler of his time.’

James, Duke of York, brother of Charles II and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

The Duke passed on to Hythe corporation the king’s instructions that any Royalists who had formerly been excluded from office were to be readmitted, and any who had been ‘eminently active against the King, and especially such as expressed themselves in opposition to his late happy restoration’ were to be removed. The winter of 1660 to 1661 saw a purge of the corporation.  The Lord Warden’s enforcer was Francis Vincent. A royalist of impeccable credentials, he was rewarded at the restoration with the governorship of Dover Castle, and judged that at Hythe, seven men were of ‘dangerous principles’: William Meadow, William Adcock, John Lambe, John Cheeseman, Peter Johnson, Richard Kimber and Edward Brande. The corporation agreed with his assessment and in early January 1661 they were ordered to be dismissed from the assembly and banned from holding all offices of trust in the corporation.

Vincent had not finished with Hythe, however, and later that month wrote again about the former Mayor, Michael Lushington, who ‘seven or eight years ago had spoken much to the prejudice of His Majesty and his royal father.’ Apparently, Vincent had an informer in Hythe.   Lushington was also dismissed.  He did not take this lying down. He wrote to Hythe’s M.P. Phineas Andrews who obtained a mandamus – a court order- telling the mayor, William Knight, to reinstate Lushington. Knight was furious and threw a spectacular tantrum, but had to comply, for the time being, at any rate.

Jurats and freemen were not the only ones to be removed from office. In 1660 William Wallace was ejected as Minister of Hythe because of his dissenting views.  He went to Brighton, where, without a church, he continued preaching in private houses. These prayer meetings, or conventicles, were prohibited by Act of Parliament in 1664, but when the authorities came to arrest him, his little congregation gathered round him to protect him. Since several were pregnant women, the constable would risk no violence and Wallace escaped.  Later, when the law permitted, he was licensed to preach in Hove and East Deane and continued to do so until his death in 1678.