The indefatigable Henry Bean Mackeson of Hythe was as assiduous in producing offspring as he was in every other area of his life: he and his wife Annie Adair (Lawrie) had seven, including twin girls. The oldest was another Henry, born on 4 May 1861 and baptised in St Leonard’s church the next month. By the age of nine he was already a boarder at Uppingham School, where he completed his education and survived an outbreak of typhoid before studying chemistry at Edinburgh. Chemistry would have been a useful subject for a brewer, but he seems not to have taken a degree and by the age of nineteen was back in Hythe and describing himself as just that. The brewery was still relatively small, employing thirty-six men. By this time, only Henry’s youngest sister Elizabeth was also still at home. Four other sisters were at a private school in London and his only brother George was still at Uppingham.
Uppingham School, where both Henry and George Mackeson were educated.
Henry joined the East Kent Militia – the Buffs – as a second lieutenant as soon as he was he was eighteen and rose to become a captain by 1891. Then, while taking part in a parade in Canterbury, he was thrown from his horse, which then fell on him. He was seriously ill in hospital for eight months, and though he recovered, the accident left him permanently lame, with one leg shorter than the other. He was returned home from hospital by train, in a specially constructed ambulance carriage. To make the journey home from Hythe station as painless as possible, straw was laid in the ruts in the roads.
Henry Bean Mackeson died in early 1894, leaving Henry junior and George in charge of Mackeson’s Brewery, with Henry the senior partner. Eleven months later, on 23 January 1895, in Surbiton, he married Ella Cecile Ripley, a twenty-seven-year-old stockbroker’s daughter. Although he was still then living in the family home in Hythe, ‘The Dene’, he and Ella set up house in Trinity Crescent, Folkestone, in a house much grander than anything Hythe had to offer. Brother George took over ‘The Dene’ with his bride Carlota Abel.
St Olave’s, the Mackeson home in Folkestone is now converted into an apartment block
Henry and Ella’s road to parenthood was not easy. After eight years of marriage, a daughter was stillborn in 1903, but then Harry Ripley Mackeson was born on 25 May 1905 and his brother Graham Lawrie Mackeson two years later. Tragically, Henry’s sister Annie, known as Pansy, died at St Olave’s during a visit in 1910, aged just forty-three. She had married John de Mestre Hutchison on June 3 1896 at St Leonard’s Church and is buried in the churchyard there. She had a daughter, Brenda.
Annie’s grave in St Leonard’s Churchyard, not far from that of her brother.
In/memory of/Annie Lawrie/wife of/Captn John de M. Hutchison R.N./died 27th Novbr 1910
Meanwhile the brewery was thriving and expanding and went on acquiring property. As well as owning public houses, and building new ones, the brothers owned off-licences and hotels. Henry became a JP, like his father before him, but had limited interest in civic affairs. He and George were more interested in cricket and both served on the committee of Kent County Cricket Club. Ella, a keen horsewoman was a regular at horse shows, where she often rode tandem.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, Ella and Henry handed over their house to the military for use as a convalescent home. Ella spent the war years as a VAD nurse at the Manor Hospital in Folkestone. When it was over, Henry and George sold the business and Henry and Ella retired to Littlebourne House at Littlebourne near Canterbury. The transformation into a country gentleman was complete. Ella joined the newly formed Women’s Institute, the Mothers’ Union and the District Nursing Association. After a short illness, she died on 8 April 1933, and although the funeral service was held in Littlebourne, she was buried in St Leonard’s churchyard in Hythe.
Ella’s obituary is interesting and is indicative of a shift in the way the family viewed themselves and wanted to be viewed. The fact that Henry was in trade is glossed over. Instead we learn that:
She was married in 1895 to Mr Henry Mackeson, son of Mr Henry Bean Mackeson of Hythe, where the family have owned extensive property for over a hundred years.
The following year, Henry’s sister Mary Jane, one of the twins, died in Tonbridge. She was only the second of Henry Bean’s children to die. Henry himself died in May 1935 and was buried with Ella. He had requested that no flowers be sent to his funeral, but that instead donations should be made to the Kent and Canterbury hospital which had saved his life fifty years before.
The grave of Henry and Ella Mackeson in Hythe.
Under the shadow/of the cross/lies/Ella Cecile/beloved wife of Henry Mackeson/died 8th April 1933/aged 66 years
Also Henry Mackeson/died 19th May 1935/aged 74 years
Harry Ripley Mackeson, the elder son of Henry Mackeson and Ella attended Rugby school and later Sandhurst College where in 1925 he was awarded the sword of honour. He also played hockey and polo and captained the shooting eight and the fencing team. He was commissioned in the Royal Scots Greys, promoted Captain in 1936 and Lt. Colonel in 1940. After D-Day he commanded an armoured brigade and was involved in heavy fighting in the advance from Normandy to Ghent. By the end of the Second World War he was a Brigadier.
He had married Alethea Cecil Chetwynd-Talbot, daughter of Reginald George Chetwynd-Talbot, on 22 February 1940. The Duchess of Gloucester, one of the bride’s cousins, was at the wedding.
Harry Ripley Mackeson and Alethea Cecil Chetwynd-Talbot on their wedding day
As the war was drawing to a close, Harry’s uncle, George Lawrie Mackeson, was elected as president of the Hythe Conservative Association. Weeks later, the town’s MP, Rupert Brabner, a much-decorated air ace, was killed when the plane taking him to Canada was lost over the Azores. In May 1945, Harry was chosen by the Conservatives as their prospective parliamentary candidate. He had, in fact already been selected by Horncastle Conservative Association, but he and Alethea preferred, they said, to live in Hythe.
Hythe had voted Conservative since 1895, and Brabner had secured a comfortable majority in 1939. Harry had other advantages: he was (relatively ) local and his family well-known and he and his wife had impeccable war records – Alethea has joined the ATS as a private. The Labour candidate was only twenty-one and from Hertfordshire; the Liberal man was from Teignmouth.
Harry threw himself into electioneering, attending VE teas, whist drives, memorial services, visiting women workers at the steam laundry and talking to fishermen, often accompanied by Uncle George. On election day, the party ‘flooded the streets with cars’. All this, though, produced a final majority of less than two thousand, in a country which had turned its back on Winston Churchill and the Tories and voted in a Labour government.
The constituency of Hythe was abolished in 1950 and became part of the new Folkestone and Hythe constituency. Harry stood again in the General Election that year, on a patriotic and anti-nationalisation ticket. He wanted, he wrote, to ‘preserve what is best in the British Way of Life’, and to reinforce the point, his election jeep was festooned with red, white and clue bunting. It worked. His majority was now nearly ten thousand and to celebrate he blew the ancient mote horn at Hythe town hall. In the snap election of 1951, his majority was even larger.
Harry served under Winston Churchill as Deputy Chief Whip 1950-52, as a Lord of the Treasury from 1951 to 1952 and as Secretary for Overseas Trade from 1952 to 1953. In the 1954 New Year’s Honours list he was created a Baronet for public and political services and chose the title ‘of Hythe in the County of Kent’. In the 1955 election he was once again returned with a comfortable majority.
Harry Ripley Mackeson at the 1955 General Election
He did not seek re-election in 1959, saying he wanted more time for his family and business interests (he was, among other things, a director of Mackesons).
Harry died in January 1964 aged fifty-eight and was succeeded in the baronetcy by his son Rupert. He also had a daughter, Fiona Mariella. At time of his death he was living in at the Old Rectory, Great Mongeham, not far from Deal in Kent. Alethea outlived him and stayed on there until her death in 1979, though she also had residences in Portman Square, London, and in Norfolk.
Harry was buried with his parents in St Leonard’s churchyard, Hythe
A small tablet at the foot of his parents’ grave commemorates Harry Ripley Mackeson: ‘And their eldest son/Brig. Sir Harry Mackeson Bt./the Royal Scots Greys/born 25th May 1906/died 25th Jan. 1964/ MP for Hythe and Folkestone 1945-1959’