From Brewers to Baronets – More Mackesons

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.

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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’

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The Reverend Gentlemen

 

In memory of/Alfred Winnifrith/Mar 22 1842- Jan 2 1923/Priest, M.A., D.Litt, Medaille du Roi Albert/Schoolmaster in Hythe for many years/vicar of Mariansleigh 1885-1913/author of “Men of Kent and Kentish Men”/”The Fair Maids of Kent”/and other works
Also of Mary/March 13 1839-Feb 19 1919/his wife for 53 years
They befriended Belgian refugees/ and Hythe prisoners of war/1914-1918
R.I.P

Alfred Winnifrith came from a modest background. He was born in Penshurst, Kent on 22 April 1842, the son of a blacksmith, Thomas Winnifrith and his wife Lucy, nee Langridge and had two younger sisters. After leaving school, he trained as a teacher and took up a post in Coven, Staffordshire.

On 22 December 1863 he married Mary Anne Baker, only daughter of Thomas Baker of Hythe at St Leonard’s Church and they returned to Coven where their first son, Alfred Baker Winnifrith was born the following year. The year after that, they returned to Hythe, where Alfred took over Prospect House School, and another son, Bertram, was born there. A third son died as an infant.

 

 An early advertisement for Prospect House School. The house still stands in Hythe. 

 

The school flourished, but Alfred had other plans. In spring 1874, he and the family moved to Oxford, where he studied for the priesthood and in 1876 he was ordained Deacon and became assistant curate at St John’s church in Cleckheaton, Yorkshire. He kept the school going, however, and appointed a headmaster in his place. The income must have meant that he could support his family on a tiny stipend. It was not normally expected that curates would be married men with children, and Alfred and Mary now had another son, Douglas, born in 1876.

Alfred in middle life

Alfred found time to continue his studies. He was awarded an MA in 1878 and soon afterwards became the first Incumbent of the newly-formed Parish of St Luke’s, Cleckheaton. He still needed to supplement his income, and took some private pupils for tuition.

See the source imageSt Luke’s Church, Cleckheaton

They stayed in Cleckheaton for another seven years, until in 1885, Alfred became Rector of Mariansleigh in Devon.

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Mariansleigh Church

Their sons were becoming adults. Alfred junior became a priest like his father and took a curacy in another Devon parish, Dalwood. Bertram ran the school in Hythe. He was by then married to Emily, a Plymouth woman, and they had a daughter, Ethel. Emily died, aged only twenty-eight, in 1894, and Bertram’s parents brought the little girl up.

Alfred remained single, but he had a secret. In 1896, Henry Hern, a Devon miller, sued his wife Rosa for divorce, citing as co-respondent Alfred Baker Winnifrith, curate of Dalwood. The affair had been common knowledge – on one occasion at a School Board meeting, all the members left the room in disgust when Alfred put in an appearance. He was seen using the back stairs at the Herns’ home and Rosa visited his lodgings. The couple were seen kissing. Henry Hern wrote to Alfred’s mother complaining about his behaviour. Rosa, confronted by her husband, took her six-year-old son and, apparently, vanished.

Alfred denied it all and got his brothers and parents to give evidence to the court in his favour. He said he had no idea where Rosa had gone, but produced a letter from her which confirmed that theirs’ was a platonic friendship and that he had tried to reconcile husband and wife.  The jury did not believe him and granted Henry Hern a decree nisi and gave him custody of his son.

Alfred did not give up trying to prove his innocence. His counsel advertised widely for Rosa and she was eventually found in Yorkshire where she was working as a ‘pianiste’ in a public house. She said she had no idea about the divorce proceedings, despite the fact that the case made the national news for several days in a row and she emphatically denied adultery. Alfred now took the case to the Court of Appeal. His application for a new hearing was refused and the judge remarked that ‘he had much to learn before he became fitted for the cure of souls.’ He also awarded costs against Alfred.

Rosa went back to Yorkshire, where she worked as a barmaid at a hotel in Leeds. Alfred went to Hythe, to work in the school in Prospect House. It seemed to be over, but on 4 December 1896, Inspector Conquest of Scotland Yard arrived at the Hythe school and arrested Alfred. The next day he  travelled to Leeds and arrested Rosa. They were both taken to Bow Street Police Station and charged with perjury and conspiracy. Bail was refused and they were remanded in custody.

It was alleged that when she left Henry Hern, Rosa and her little boy went to Ashford, not far from Hythe, where she took lodgings. There, Alfred visited her regularly, taking a bedroom which connected with hers. His frequent absences from his parish were noted. Rosa then moved to Barnsley, leaving the child in the care of an Ashford woman, whom she paid with money given to her by Alfred. In Barnsley she worked as a barmaid, under an assumed name, and Alfred wrote at least twice a week. She kept his photograph in her room.

  The court artist’s sketch of Alfred Winnifrith junior

The evidence that they had lied to the divorce court was clear, and on 12 January 1897, they pleaded guilty to all charges. Three days later, they were sentenced – Alfred to eighteen months hard labour and Rosa to six. Bertram got up a petition asking for mitigation of Alfred’s sentence, which he circulated widely, but to no avail. They were both held in Wormwood Scrubs: Rosa learnt macramé and how to make bead curtains; Alfred sewed mail bags. Once released, they married in 1899, and together ran a school in Clapham and had a daughter, Alfreda. Alfred had, of course, been defrocked.

The widowed Bertram, meanwhile, got on with running the Hythe school, and married again, to Edith Maude Blaker in 1897. They had five children together and Edith ran a girls’ school alongside the boys’ institution at Prospect House.

A 1902 advertisement for the school.

Bertram was awarded an MA from Oriel College, Oxford in 1901, was ordained in 1904 and ‘priested’ in Canterbury Cathedral in 1905. He combined duties as a curate in Cheriton and later Saltwood with school teaching until he was appointed as Rector of Ightham in 1907. Even there he continued to run a small school.

The youngest son of Alfred and Mary, Douglas, also got an MA from Oxford and was ordained in 1900. He chose to become a Chaplain to the Armed Services serving in Malta from 1908 to 1912 and then in Dublin. He had married Margaret McCartney in Liverpool in 1907. At the outbreak of the Great War he was sent to France, was mentioned in despatches and wrote movingly of his experiences during the Retreat from Mons in The Church in the Fighting Line:

Through the wet cornfields I rode, accompanied by three or four men of the Royal Army Medial Corps, and whenever we found a fallen comrade we bore his body to a corner of the field, to secure as far as possible its never being disturbed, and there we dug a shallow grave. Often, of course, more than one, sometimes three or four, and in one case eighteen men did I bury in one grave.

 

 

Meanwhile, Alfred senior’s wife Mary was spending less and less time in Mariansleigh as the winters were too severe for her. Alfred resigned the living in 1913, citing her “delicate state of health’ and returned to Hythe, where they lived at Prospect Lodge and where, in December that year, they and their sons and grandchildren celebrated their Golden Wedding.

Alfred became Chairman of the local Association of Men of Kent and Kentish Men and wrote a book, Men of Kent and Kentish Men, recording biographical details of no fewer than 680 Kent worthies. Another book,  Fair Maids of Kent, followed. When war broke out, he set about making himself useful.

Belgian refugees were beginning to stream into the country, and Alfred co-ordinated Hythe’s efforts to accommodate some of them and provide food, clothing and schooling for the children. He also took a particular interest in local men taken prisoner of war, visiting their families and arranging to have parcels of food, underwear and tobacco sent out to them. Mary assisted him in these endeavours, packing the parcels herself. Their house became a rendezvous for troops stationed in the town, whether Territorials or Canadians, they were always made welcome at the gatherings held there.

There was sorrow, too.  Alfred and Mary’s granddaughter Alfreda died in 1914, and Mary herself in February 1917.  She was buried in St Leonard’s churchyard in the same grave as Bertram’s first wife, Emily.  Douglas, with the forces in France, missed her funeral.

When peace came, Alfred’s work was recognised. In 1919, for his literary work he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Literature by the Central University of America. In 1920 he was awarded the Medaille du Roi Albert avec Rayure at an investiture held at Folkestone Town Hall by the Belgian Consul in recognition of his work with Belgian refugees.  The former Hythe prisoners of war gave him a silver inkstand.

But he kept busy. For three years after the war ended he entertained some 30 Hythe men returned from prisoner of war camps to ‘a substantial meat tea’ at Mrs Gravenor’s tea rooms. He arranged for a tablet to the memory of Thomas Quested Finnis, one time mayor of Hythe and Lt Col John Finnis his brother, both men of Hythe, to be installed in the gardens of Prospect Lodge and for another to be erected in the High Street to the memory of the inventor of the steam screw propeller, Sir Francis Petit Smith who was born at 31 High Street. He also presented a bell for use at St Michael’s church, the ‘tin tabernacle’.

He died on 2nd January 1923 at Prospect Lodge and was buried with Mary. It was said in his obituary that ‘no man loved Hythe better’.

Bertram followed him to the grave the next year. In his will he left £7267. This was divided equally among his wife and his children by Edith, but Ethel, the daughter of his first marriage, received only £500. She had emigrated to Canada alone three years earlier to work as a lady’s companion.

The surviving brothers erected the brass plaque to their father in St Leonard’s church, at a spot directly above the pew they had occupied as a young family, sixty years before.

The grave of Alfred, Mary and Emily Winnifrith in St Leonard’s churchyard

Alfred died in Clapham in 1950 and Douglas in 1955 in Tunbridge Wells.

I am grateful to Kathryne Maher and Christopher McGonigal for their original research into the Winnifrith family.