John Price’s New Year’s Celebration

John Price was born in Hythe in 1810 and became a harness-maker in the town. It was a skilled trade which would have left him, as a single man, with a little cash left over at the end of the working week.

On New Years Eve 1833, he decided to spend some of this hard-earned money and took himself to London to see in the New Year.  Once there, he somehow fell in company with another young man, twenty-year-old William Butler, a bricklayer. Butler later said that John asked him to go to Merton with him, which they did, returning the next day.  During the return journey, they continued their celebrations in the time-honoured way, by putting away a lot of alcohol.

The pair then went to an eating-house near the Surrey Theatre in Blackfriars Road where they met a young woman already known to Butler, Mary Cooper who worked as a prostitute.  They all had something to eat, and some more to drink, and then Mary  Cooper took them both to her lodgings in Jeffreys Buildings in Westminster, which seems to have functioned as a brothel . She and John then went to bed together, though John had passed out by 1030pm.

The almonry, Westminster, the site of Jeffreys Buildings

Mary Ann Morgan lived in the same building and when she came home that night was told by Butler that he had a ‘flat’ in Mary Cooper’s room – the term means a person who is easily deceived, a patsy or sucker we might say today.  Mary Ann and Butler put their heads together and hatched a plan.

Mary Ann went to Mary Cooper’s room and the two women sat chatting on the bed while John snored. Butler came in, too, and said that he would take John’s greatcoat and jacket for safe keeping.  To be absolutely sure that they were safe, he would give them to his friend, Henry Harber, who would return them the next day.

John woke up at about three o’clock the next morning and even in his befuddled state, noticed that his clothes were missing. He did not believe his new friends when they told him that his things were being kept safe and went off in search of a policeman, whom he soon found – one Constable Suttle. Suttle went back to the house with him, heard the story and did not believe it either. He arrested both women and Butler.  Butler protested that his own coat had been stolen too. Unimpressed, Constable Suttle took them to the police station and put them in the cells, but at this point Mary Ann Morgan broke down and confessed that she and Butler were supposed to meet Henry Harber, who really did have the clothing,  at the Duke of York’s monument  that morning and they would, together, sell the items. The clothing was worth five pounds, a decent sum, and in one of the pockets was the bonus of a handkerchief worth two shillings.

The intrepid constable made his way to the monument, at the junction of Regent Street and The Mall and sure enough found Henry Harber sitting on the steps, wearing John’s clothes over his own. The handkerchief was round his neck . Suttle arrested him, too. Harber, a nineteen-year-old labourer,  was only a short young man, five feet nothing tall, so we must assume John was a lot larger.

The Duke of York’s monument and steps today

At the magistrates court the next day, 3 January, Mary Cooper, Mary Ann Morgan and William Butler were charged with stealing John’s clothes; Henry Harber was charged with receiving stolen goods. Mary Cooper, who had only taken John to bed, was discharged; Mary Ann Morgan was admitted King’s evidence and the men remanded to stand trial.

John went back to Hythe, but the case was widely reported in the press, including in Kent, under headlines such as ‘A Caution to Countrymen’. Hythe is a small town and news travels fast. Everyone must have known the rather sordid details of his New Year’s holiday. He did not even get his clothes back, as they were kept as evidence. Then the case was heard at the Old Bailey and John, of course, had to appear as prosecutor, a daunting experience for a young man unused either to the big city or to the grandeur of the most important court in the country.

Inside the Old Bailey

Butler and Harber were found guilty. Butler did attempt a rambling defence about his own clothes being taken and never having seen either Mary Ann Morgan or Harber on the night in question. All Harber could come up with was that he had found the clothes the night before. Both were found guilty and sentenced to seven years transportation. They were both transported  to New South Wales on board the Surrey on 9 April. John went back to harness making in Hythe and died, still single, in 1852.

Probably none of them cared to recall the events of News Year’s Day, 1834

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Walter and Son: a High Street Fixture

Daniel Walter was born on 7 January 1831 in Marden, the second son of Charles, a shoemaker & his wife Mary. On 1848, in Marden, he married Elizabeth Leeds, a famer’s daughter. Although both still in their teens, they moved to Hythe and started a business making and selling shoes and boots. Daniel at first bought, or leased, a small shop at 13 (now 30) High Street, then moved a few yards east to no. 15 (now 34).

Every pair of shoes was made on the premises, and they were of all types. In 1856, Daniel designed the ‘Hythe Shingle Boot’ for the newly-created School of Musketry. It was a sort of blucher boot, suitable for walking on the shingle at Hythe Ranges, where target practice took place on the beach (and still does). Adverts described it as ‘especially adapted for Rifle Practice, Sporting or the Country’. This was a clever move. It gave him access to the School – in 1856 they even gave him a pass – and to the officers and their ladies. Much bespoke work followed as did work from the officers at Shorncliffe camp. Women outworkers embroidered the delicate ballroom slippers and fancy ankle boots.

For more robust work, Daniel had a workshop in the yard at the back of the shop but one night in November 1865, fire broke out and quickly spread. Hythe Fire Brigade attended, but as often happened, there was an inadequate supply of water and Daniel lost his workshop, which was of wood with a corrugated iron and felt roof, and all its contents. He then discovered that the building and stock, valued at £100, were not insured, only the house and shop and their contents being covered by his policy. However, the directors of the Kent Fire Office generously allowed him £40 compensation.

He somehow recovered and in 1874, he bought no. 41 (now 88) High Street, a handsome double-fronted shop – or it was when he had redesigned it.

He wanted his new shop to stand out from the ordinary. He went up to London’s West End to see how they did things there, and decided on two fully-glazed full length windows either side of a glazed door, instead of the more usual small panes of glass from waist height and a wooden door. People thought he was mad and that the glass would soon be smashed, but it was not, and the deep windows show-cased his goods beautifully. Not only that, but the shop looked fashionable, a little bit of the West End in quiet Hythe.

The salon on the first floor of Daniel’s Hythe shop in the early 1900s

Daniel’s family grew even more rapidly than his business. He and Elizabeth had five children before her death; he then married Anne Leaver of Lydd, a greengrocer’s daughter, by whom he had another ten children before she, too, died in 1891. Three years later he married Susan Mary Challice, who presented him with a daughter in 1895. That is three wives and sixteen children.

Walter (far right back row) & his extensive family. He is standing next to his six sons

Amidst all this business and family activity, he found time for other things, He was the first Bandmaster of the Hythe Town Band and ensured that his sons played musical instruments, too; he was a member of the Cinque Ports Volunteers based at Fort Twiss; he was elected to the Town Council in 1889 representing the Hythe Ratepayers Association and was a member of the Liberal Party.

In religion, he was a Congregationalist. They had worshipped since 1817 at the Ebenezer Chapel in what is now Chapel Street, just behind Daniel’s first two shops. In 1867, the number of worshippers was growing and larger premises were needed. According to his obituary in the Folkestone Herald’ Daniel bought a piece of land in the High Street known as Old Walnut Tree Yard, then proceeded to raise the money from the members of the congregation to pay him back and also to build a splendid new church which opened the following year. Records do not confirm this, and the conveyance of the land is shown as being ‘to Joshua Wilson and others’ (1). However, Daniel was a key player in the church, which he joined in 1850, soon after his arrival in Hythe and acted as trustee, deacon and pew rent collector.   His second wife, Anne, joined immediately after their marriage in 1870 and was active herself.

One of Daniel’s sons by his second wife, Harry, joined his father in the business, which became ‘Walter & Son’ and he took over the reins when his father retired from both business and the Town Council in 1904.  One of his first actions was to have electric lighting installed in the shop. He had already started to buy in ready-made shoes from K, Lotus and Saxone, among others.


                                                                             A 1912 advertisement for Walter & Son

In 1919, he opened a shop at 29 Sandgate Road, Folkestone ideally placed for clients of the big hotels and he refurbished the Hythe shop in 1928. Harry’s son Gerald, born in 1911, joined him in the business the following year and they opened a second Folkestone outlet. Controversially, even at the time, the shops started to use x-ray machines on children’s feet for fitting shoes.

Daniel, who had retired to Coda Villa in Seabrook Road with Susan and his little daughter Dorothy,  did not die until 1930, a few days after his ninety-ninth birthday, with his wife and daughters Dorothy and Edith at his bedside.  He had been ill for only a few weeks before this. Four of his six sons attended his funeral (Harry was convalescent in France and Charles had died), but of his ten daughters, only the youngest, Dorothy, was there and of the grand-children, none except Harry’s son Gerald.  It does not suggest a close-knit family.  The funeral service was held in Congregational church and then the Hythe Town Band led the cortege to St Leonard’s church where Daniel was buried near the northern boundary.

The shoe business carried on. Harry opened  another shop in Tunbridge Wells in 1940. He died in 1943 and after the war, Gerald expanded the business further, into Dover, Deal and Ashford. The Ashford shop was officially opened by the stage and screen actress Victoria Hopper who was married to Gerald’s brother Peter.

Victoria Hooper at the opening of the Ashford shop

Another shop in Tenterden followed in 1964.

Gerald, like his grandfather Daniel, was civic-minded. He served as town mayor, founded Hythe Rotary Club (which still flourishes today) and was closely connected with Hythe’s biennial Venetian Fete. There is still a memorial cup presented in his name for the best floral float.

In 1973, the Hythe shop was graced by a visit from Marjorie Wallace, then ‘Miss World’ (though not for much longer: it was discovered that she was a single parent and she was de-throned). The Chamber of Commerce had arranged for her to visit the town.

 

More glamour at Walter & son: Marjorie Wallace being measured for shoes

A 1978 venture into Rochester was short-lived and was soon followed by closures at Ashford, Tunbridge Wells and Dover. Tenterden and Folkestone followed suit and the last to go were the shops in Deal and Hythe in 2010. Gerald died in 1998.

Kent Archives:  N/F1998/4/1/1

Sources: Folkestone and District Local History Society Newsletter no. 14 Spring 2003; Iris Pearce; Alethea Lester; Lynda Ryan; Alan Joyce; Mike Umbers; David Paton; Tim Lawrence, Peter White; Dorene McCormack

Sinners and (Latter Day) Saints – Part Two


                                                           James and Mary Warby in middle life

 

James Warby was born on November 15 1822 in Hythe, the son of James and Mary Warby, but died a long way away, having almost circumnavigated the globe.

His older brother William was transported to Van Diemen’s Land in 1835 and four years later, his father took the decision that the whole family would travel across the world and join him – though they ended up in New South Wales and William joined them there when he got his freedom.

On 10 March 1846 James junior married nineteen-year-old Mary Blanch, the child of free immigrants and six months later, their first child was born, the eldest of no fewer than eighteen, including two sets of twins. Sadly, several died as infants and only nine lived long enough to be married, but even that was an achievement in the circumstances in which they lived.

One night in 1852,  when walking home from work, James stopped to listen to two street-corner preachers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons).  He was impressed by what they had to say and attended a meeting, together with Mary Ann and his children, that same evening.  At further meetings they learned about the Mormon settlements in Utah and decided that there, not Australia, was where they belonged.

They were both baptised into the church, by total immersion in the Williams River, in 1853.

An early Mormon baptism

They left their home, and went to stay with a brother  of Mary Ann’s until they set sail from Sydney on 22 March 1854, on the ship Julia Ann together with seventy-odd other converts.  That was the last the family in Australia heard of them. It may be that James wanted to disassociate himself  from the family scandal created by his brother and sister (see Sinners and Latter Day Saints part one). They landed at San Pedro, California in June and settled at first in San Bernardino. There was a large Mormon community already there, sent down from Salt Lake City in 1851 to establish a colony on the Pacific coast, as an out-fitting post for the church, and as a Pacific port where converts might be landed. Formerly they had disembarked at New York. The overland journey to Utah could be shortened by two-thirds.

San Bernardino in 1865

In autumn 1856 or spring 1857 James and his family made the long trip by wagon to Utah, setting up home with three other families at a place called – or named by them – Beaver (it later became famous as the birthplace of Robert Leroy Parker aka Butch Cassidy).

The countryside near Beaver. 

The men started to clear land and  fenced in  twelve acres.  They made roads to get into the canyons where there was abundant timber to build their houses, log cabins with mud roofs and hard-packed dirt floors.

Everything had to be made from scratch – furniture, wagon wheels, scythe handles, churns,  cradles, buckets and washboards. In the early days there was no metal available, so spoons, butter paddles, bowls, and wash basins were all wooden, too. Mattresses were filled with straw. The  women carded wool, spun yarn and wove it into cloth. They cooked what they could grow or hunt. There was no organised education for the children and none of the Warby children ever attended school.

More migrants arrived and gradually life got easier. There was a proper meeting house by 1868 and in  1872 a woollen mill was built and women could now buy fabric off he bolt. James became the proprietor of a sawmill and a lime kiln.  The children grew up and married and had children of their own. Then, extraordinarily, in 1896, most of the clan, including James and Mary (now 74 and 69 respectively) took seven wagons, a hundred  head of cattle, seventy horses and two mules and travelled four hundred miles to relocate in Lucerne Valley (later renamed Manila)  and start the settlement process all over again.

James and Mary in later life

James died in 1906 and Mary in 1915. They had fifty -five grandchildren  and a hundred and sixty-eight great-grandchildren. Knowing about family was (and is) important to Mormons. They believe that the family is the basic unit of earthly and heavenly existence. Those members who have died without being baptised into the church can be baptised after death, to ensure that the family is intact in heaven. It was therefore critical to know exactly who one’s family members were. It was apparently for this reason that James told his children about the illicit union between his brother and sister, William and Celia Warby, in Australia.

The grave of James and Mary (www.findagrave.com)