A simple stone cross in St Leonard’s churchyard, Hythe, marks the resting place of one of Hythe’s greatest benefactors and his family.
Inscription In affectionate/remembrance of/Frederick Davis/eldest son of the late/Maurice Davis of Langport/died June 2nd 1896/aged 53 years
Arthur Randall Davis/son of the above Maurice Davis/and Clara Maria Davis/died February 4th 1932 Aged 76
Edward T. Taylor/born 8th Feb. 1847/died 25th Sep. 1916
Edith Mary/wife of Arthur Randall Davis/born 4th Novr. 1848 /died 15th Sep. 1928
Frederick and Arthur Randall Davis were born in Langport, the third and seventh children respectively of Maurice Davis and his wife Clara Maria nee Randall. Although Frederick is described on his tombstone as the eldest son, he was, in fact, the second, his older brother Maurice having died at the age of two years.
Their father variously described himself as an architect, builder and surveyor. In 1836 he won the contract to build Wincanton Union workhouse, and now established, he married in 1838, settling in Langport, Somerset, where he was responsible for carrying out the restoration of the parish church.
Frederick was born in 1842 and joined the Merchant Navy as a young man, gaining his second and first mate’s certificates in Liverpool in his twenties, but rarely surfaces in records of the times, because presumably he was often abroad. In 1872 he gained his master’s ticket and later served as captain, before coming to Hythe. Perhaps he was already ill when he arrived.
Arthur Randall Davis was born on 21 August 1855. He qualified as a medical doctor after study at the London Society of Apothecaries, which had, since 1815, been able to grant licences to study medicine. He took the post of assistant to Dr John Hackney at 97 High Street, Hythe (now demolished), later becoming a partner. He married Edith Mary Taylor in London in 1880 and the couple lived at 115 (now 99) High Street, before moving to ‘Oaklands’ in Stade Street, Hythe in 1901. He was an active member of a huge number of local societies: The Orchestral Society, The Parochial Church Council, the local branch of the League of Nations, the Conservative Association, the bowls club, the cricket club and various archaeological societies. He was also a philanthropist, being president of the town dispensary, which provided free medical care to the poor, giving First Aid lectures in the town and serving as a governor of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Folkestone. During the First World War he worked at the Bevan Hospital for injured servicemen in Sandgate, despite the fact that both his partners had joined the R.A.M.C and left him to deal with the whole Hythe practice. In 1918 he gave land which he owned to the town council to be used as allotments for the poor. His compassion extended to all living creatures. In 1899 he wrote to the Evening Standard to protest against lions being used in circus performances. He was an early advocate of banning all animal acts as both cruel and demeaning.
He was also an early owner of a motor car, and when he died owned a Morris Oxford 14.9 tourer, though it seems he could not drive, as he employed a chauffeur at least until the outbreak of the First World War.
He was remembered in Hythe for his kindnesses, his great height, and his dislike of modern music and jazz. Reports of his death seem to carry a real sense of loss. A plaque on the wall of ‘Oaklands’ remembers his ‘gentle and kindly’ nature, and his obituary notes his ‘outstanding character’. He bequeathed ‘Oaklands’, a substantial house of fifteen rooms, and most of its grounds, to the Borough of Hythe. In 1934, a public library was opened there followed the next year by a museum. Hythe Town Council now occupy the building, and the library is still in an adjoining annexe.
‘Oaklands’, the home of Arthur Randall Davies and his wife Edith
Arthur married Edith Mary Taylor, the second daughter of John and Harriet Taylor, nee Holloway, of Sene Farm, Newington. She lived with her parents at their farm, and later at Marine Parade, Hythe, until her marriage to Arthur Randall Davis. The year after their marriage Edith gave birth to a son, named Maurice John after his grandfathers, but the baby lived for only six weeks. There were no other children.
Now barely visible, the initial ‘MJD’ (Maurice John Davies) who is buried with his grandparents John and Harriet Taylor
Inscription John Taylor/born 26th Jany 1800/died 21st Sept. 1874
Harriet Taylor/wife of the above/born 29th January 1810/died 8th April 1880
M.J.D./born July 13th 1881/died August 29th 1881
Like her husband, Edith cared about animal welfare and was on the local committee of the RSPCA for eighteen years before her death, being involved in the provision of painless euthanasia for cats and dogs. She and Arthur made Oaklands available to all the organisations to which they belonged, and to others, for fund-raising events, at which she usually acted as hostess.
She had a brother, Edward Tapsell Taylor, two years older than her, her parents’ only son. He was sent to Sevenoaks School, and later became a member of the Stock Exchange, but seems not to have settled to a regular way of life. Never married, he lived throughout his life in various lodgings in Kent and London. He died in Ashford, where he had been boarding with a blacksmith.