This is the grave of William Worthington and his wife, Blanche. The inscription reads:
William Worthington /entered into rest March 12th 1893/ in his 72nd year.
Only good night beloved, not farewell/a little while and all his saints shall dwell /in hallowed union indivisible/ good –night good -night
Because I live you shall live also John XIV 19
Also of Blanche Worthington /widow of the above/died Jan. 31st 1912/aged 92
Jesus Christ who died/that we should live together/with Him. Thes. 5. 10.
William Worthington was the founder of the business which became the Worthington coachworks on East Street in Hythe, on the site now occupied by Worthington Court. He was born in 1821 in the town in relatively humble circumstances and lived in Elm Terrace in Hillside Road as a boy.
He became a wheelwright by trade, but was obviously an ambitious young man. He married the girl next door, Blanche Lucas in 1843 and four years later, when he was twenty-six, he set up the Worthington Carriage Works.
His business flourished and so did his family. He and Blanche had nine children. By 1871 they had moved to The Avenue in Hythe living in this house overlooking the Royal Military Canal and very near the works.
By the time he was sixty, when he was employing a workforce of nine, he had bought ‘The Gables’ in North Road, an even bigger house, high up above the town and the church. It was clearly a step up from in the world in more ways than one.
One of his more unusual jobs was building the carriages for the Sandgate Hill lift in 1891. It was one of four cliff lifts in the Folkestone area taking visitors up and down from the beach to the grassy Leas and the town above. This one was a hybrid between a water balance lift and a conventional tramway.
William and Blanche had three sons, Robert, William and Frederick and after their father’s death, their business became Messrs Worthington Bros, Coach Builders. By 1909 they had become Worthington Brothers Ltd.
This is their advertisement.
(the date of 1847 written on the card is incorrect!)
William, the middle son, was the first to die.
The inscription on his grave reads:
In/loving/memory/of/William/Worthington/born Nov. 22nd 1854/died Nov. 7th 1906
Not slothful in business/fervent in sprit/serving the Lord. ROM.XII.II.
And of Mary Ann/wife of the above/born April 3rd 1857. Died March 7th 1925.
Also Arthur./ dearly loved son of the above/who was killed in the battle of Arras
William had married Mary Anne and had four children and they lived in his father’s former home overlooking the canal. William had to overcome a disability in order to succeed in life, as he had been born with only one ear, and poor hearing in the other one. He relied to a great extent on lip reading. He was, like his brother Robert, a stalwart of the Methodist Church in Hythe and was a Sunday School teacher, steward and trustee. He took his duties seriously. Apparently if he missed someone at church on Sunday, he would find out where they lived and looked them up. As he worked all day, the only opportunity he had for doing this was in the evenings. In the countryside round the town, the nights were very dark in winter.
One evening in November 1906, when he was 52, he left the house at about half past seven in the evening. It was drizzling and later rained hard, but he did not take a coat with him. He didn’t tell anyone where he was going. This was in the days when there was a railway line running from Sandling station, which is still in use, down to Hythe station which has long since closed.
Shortly after nine thirty, the driver of the train from Sandling to Hythe felt a bump and felt his ballast shift, as if he had hit something. It was too dark to see anything, but when he got to Hythe, he and the Station Master went back up the line in a spare carriage. At the Saltwood crossing, where a footpath crossed the railway line, they found William on the line, dead from terrible head injuries.
There was an inquest two days later at Saltwood, which returned a verdict of accidental death, as the jury supposed that William could not have heard the train coming. This despite the fact that the evidence of the train driver and the Station Master was that William had clearly been lying down, between the tracks and parallel with them, when the train hit him. It seems likely that the verdict was a kind decision on the part of the jury designed to help William’s family and widow, and not just from the stigma of suicide. He had two insurance policies on his life, but they only covered accidental death. In the event, he seems not to have left his family very well off. After his death Mary Anne ran a boarding house in Cobden Road. Perhaps he did have money worries.
Things did not get better for Mary Anne.Her son Arthur worked in the family business, as a manager. When war broke out in 1914, he combined this with working as an evening driver to transport medical staff and volunteers to the Bevan Hospital at Sandgate. He was also organist at the Methodist Church where he played every Sunday. I can’t find out when he joined up, but he was killed in the Arras offensive on 3 May 1917, although his body was never found. His mother had to wait fifteen months after his disappearance for the War Department to declare him dead.
Robert was the next Worthington brother to pass away.
In loving memory of/Emma/the dearly loved wife of/Robert Worthington/born March18th 1856/died May 10th1906
Also the above/Robert Worthington/born October 15th 1845/died December 19th1908
“In Your presence is fullness of joy” PS XIV 11
Like his father, Robert became the father of nine children, including three sons, and his public life flourished, too. He was another stalwart of the Wesleyan church, Secretary of the Hythe institute and had been a member of the fire brigade. He lived in a house called ‘Kildrummie’ on Tanners Hill, Hythe. A substantial house, with six bedrooms, a dining room, drawing room and morning room, and large garden it was just the place for a successful business man. It was also within site of the works.
One Saturday evening in December 1908, when he was 64, he was off to Folkestone, and walking along the Seabrook Road flagged down a motor bus. Once on board he was taken ill and the coach diverted to the nearest doctor’s surgery, Unfortunately, by the time they got there Robert was dead, so the doctor made all the other passengers get off the bus so that it could take the body back to Hythe.
After Robert’s death, the business was run by the surviving brother, Fred, assisted by his nephew, William’s son Arthur. Fred was very much the baby of the family, 19 years younger than his brother Robert. The firm already had a good reputation for producing carts, carriages and even a coach for one of the royal house of Siam. They moved with the times, and invented a hybrid mode of transport called the Worthington cycle car in 1912, which seems to have been a sort of motor bike.
At the same time, they were developing a car, the Worthington Runaraound. Only one was ever built. This is its specification:
It was originally powered by an 8hp horizontally-opposed twin engine, but this was replaced by an 8.9hp V-twin J.A.P. The transversely mounted engine drove by two chains to a countershaft, final drive being by belt.
It was intended to sell the car for £90, but the company overstretched itself and got involved in the other latest transport craze, the aeroplane and in the end failed to produce either car or plane. I don’t know when the company stopped trading, but Fred, who lived at Twiss Villas in Twiss Road, later worked as a ‘coach painter’. He didn’t die until 1948, aged 84, but was survived for some years by two daughters who lived in the town.
Many of old William Worthington’s other descendants emigrated to Australia, Canada and the USA.