The Worthington Family, Coachmakers – revisited

 This article was originally posted in 2016. since then I have been contacted by Roger Worthington, a descendant of Frederick Worthington, who has provided some lovely family photos & some more background.

Worthingtom William

This is the grave in St Leonard’s churchyard of William Worthington and his wife, Blanche of Hythe. 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 Lodge.  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.

 

Worthington House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 in the world in more ways than one.

William & Blanche Worthington in later life (photo: Roger Worthington)

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.

Worthington Hill left

William and Blanche had  three sons, Robert, William and Frederick and after their father’s death, of cancer in 1893,  their business became Messrs Worthington Bros, Coach Builders. By 1909 they had become Worthington Brothers Ltd.

This is their advertisement.

Worthington advert

(the date of 1847 written on the card is incorrect!)

The Worthington Brothers’ works in East Street (photo: Roger Worthington)

William, the middle son, was the first to die.

Worthington grave2

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

Remainder illegible

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 one he did have.  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 look 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.  

 

Worthington Arthur

Arthur’s name on the Arras Memorial

Robert was the next Worthington brother to pass away.

 


Worthington Grave 3

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

Robert Worthington (photo Roger Worthington)

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 sight of the works.


kildrummie

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, Frederick, assisted by his nephew, William’s son Arthur.  Frederick 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 exported all over the British Empire, including to India.

A Worthington Bros. carriage, restored, in 1951 (Photo: Roger Worthington)

A Worthington child’s carriage, designed to be pulled by a dog (photo: Roger Worthington)

They moved with the times, and invented a hybrid mode of transport called the Worthington Duocar, or cycle-car, which had an 8-hpV-twin engine complete with a fan-cooled automatic carburettor. 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. The firm went bankrupt in 1914,  but Frederick, who lived at Twiss Villas in Twiss Road, later worked as a ‘coach painter’.  He had married Florence Emily, the daughter of Albert Day, a businessman and sometime mayor of Hythe. They had three children, Olive, Lena and Stanley.

 

Frederick Worthington with his wife & young family (photo: Roger Worthington) 

Frederick died in 1948 aged 84, but was survived for some years by Olive and Lena, who lived in Albert Road (named for their grandfather Albert Day) in Hythe.

The stone in Saltwood churchyard commemorating Frederick Worthington, his wife and children

(photos: Roger Worthington)

Many of old William Worthington’s other descendants emigrated to Australia, Canada and the USA.

 

Advertisements

The Mills of God Grind Slow…

One fine Saturday morning in September 1809, twenty-one-year-old Thomas Ashley of Hythe rode into Canterbury cattle market leading ‘four fine heifers, about half fat ‘and offered them for sale to Edward Norwood, a slaughterhouse owner, for eighty guineas.  Some haggling took place, as was usual, and Thomas agreed on £60 and went to the nearby Flying Horse inn to await payment.

 

See the source image

The Flying Horse Inn in Canterbury, still trading today

Edward Norwood took a closer look at his new beasts. They were sweating and had clearly been brought to market in a hurry. He was suspicious of Thomas’s ready acceptance of a price well below their value, which was about £72.  He took him into custody – presumably with the help of some others, and had him brought before the mayor, who also acted as a magistrate.  Thomas explained that on the previous day, he had been fishing near Dymchurch when  a well-dressed man approached him and asked him to take four heifers to Canterbury market the next morning. He was told to meet another man at the Drum inn at Stanford or on nearby Hampton Hill (near Farthing Common) early in the morning. Thomas duly found the man, called only John, on a hog-maned chestnut pony at Hampton Hill. He was given the mount and the beasts and set off as instructed.

Hampton Hill, now called Hempton Hill

The mayor did not believe him, and given the presence in the story of not one but two mysterious strangers, that is not surprising. Further enquiries revealed that the heifers were in fact the property of Mr Quihampton of Pedlinge, near Hythe and that they had been stolen on Friday night.  As the offence was committed within the liberty of Hythe, Thomas was sent for trial there and also accused of stealing the hog-maned pony from George Pilcher’s stable in Hythe and a pair of boots belonging to John Brazier from another stable, as well as some other items of clothing. Presumably he wanted to look the part when he went to market.

He was incarcerated in Hythe gaol to await trial at the next Sessions, which would be in January. He did himself no favours while in gaol by boasting that he had committed other crimes which he had got away with. Once in court, on 6 January 1810, evidence showed that he was guilty.

Horse theft was a common crime, but carried the death penalty and Thomas had stolen valuable livestock, too. The bench sentenced him to death, but still felt uneasy, as they had not been obliged to pass a death sentence for many years.  The recorder, Mr Boteler, wrote to the Home Secretary asking whether the ‘limited jurisdiction’ of Hythe would afford any grounds for mercy.  He elaborated, as required, on Thomas’s background:  he was strong and healthy but ‘he has always borne a bad character’; his parents were still alive and still in Hythe and while his mother, Mary,  was of good character, his father, another Thomas, was of ‘indifferent’ reputation.The King, George IV, decided to extend his ‘Grace and Mercy’ on condition of Thomas  ‘being transported to the coast of New South Wales for the term of his natural life’.

On 24 February 1810, Thomas arrived on board the ss Zealand, a prison hulk moored at Sheerness. It accommodated over four hundred and fifty convicts. He was recorded there as being five feet five inches tall with blue eyes which were weak – presumably he had poor eyesight. He was given a set of coarse ‘slop clothing’: a jacket, waistcoat and canvas breeches; two shirts; a pair of shoes; a handkerchief, belt and two blankets. To set off the ensemble he was locked into a set of leg irons.

He was there  for over a year and did not sail until 11 April 1811 on board the ss Admiral Gambier  to New South Wales. The voyage was now quicker than it had been in the earliest days of transportation, as ships did not need to carry supplies for their destination and he probably sailed to Rio and then round Cape Horn. The food was coarse but sufficient, except for the lack of greens and the convicts were given a mixture of lime juice, sugar and vinegar to ward off scurvy. The ship reached its destination, New South Wales, on 29 Sept 1811, almost exactly two years after Thomas’s crime was committed.

We know nothing about his early days in the new colony, but sometime after 1823 he became a miller at Carters’ Barracks in Sydney.The barracks was built in 1819 to house convict carters working on the brickfields.  As there were no beasts of burden, chain gangs of twelve convicts drew the brick carts (weighing three quarters of a tonne) over a kilometre to the settlement in Sydney Cove, nine times as day. Perhaps Thomas did this work – he was, after all, strong and healthy and still young. In 1823, two treadmills were installed at Carters’ Barracks and used for the next twenty-five years. One was worked by thirty-six men, the other by twenty.

                                                              Carter’s Barracks in Sydney, front view…

and the yard at the back

Treadmills in English prisons were rarely productive and used solely for the purpose of providing ‘hard labour’. These, however, were actually used for grinding corn, and produced forty bushels a day. Sydney’s sandstone was too soft to use for millstones, so they were imported from England and became one of the most valuable pieces of equipment in the colony. Presumably, since the hard work of grinding was done by other convicts, it was Thomas’s job to maintain the machinery and process the ground meal.  He worked for a master named Lyndsay.

The treadmill at Carter’s Barracks

Thomas got his ticket of leave in 1835 (1) and was now allowed to live where he wished, but was required to  remain in the  employment of Carters’ Barracks treadmill.  His new-found relative freedom was hard for him to deal with and his Ticket was revoked in December 1839 for ‘repeated drunkenness’ (2).  He cleaned up his act and got it back again in 1841 and then seems to have kept out of trouble, as he was allowed to live and work in Yass , three hundred kilometres from Sydney,  on 17 Sept 1845 (3).  A steam mill had opened there in 1842.  Five years later, he moved on to Queanbayam and it was here that he got his Conditional Pardon  on 31 Dec 1847 (4). Convicts with a life sentence could never get a Free Pardon.

He had not long to relish his long-awaited freedom and died on 26 Sep 1848 after nearly forty years servitude (5).

  1. New South Wales Archives 4/4100; Reel 923
  2.  New South Wales Archives 4/4111; Reel 927
  3.  New South Wales Archives 4/4128; Reel 932
  4.  New South Wales Archives 4/4454; Reel 785
  5. New South Wales Archives 4/4549; Reel 690

With thanks to Mike de la Mare for the map

 

Frank White – A Republican in Hythe

Frank White arrived in Hythe in 1888 from Hastings and set up shop as a butcher in the once-dilapidated ‘Smuggler’s Retreat’, an old house in the High Street where he had restored the ground floor. He claimed that he had learned his trade while working on Queen Victoria’s estates in Windsor, which if true, was ironic, as he was a committed republican. He had been married to Clara (Wakefield) for seven years and they had three sons and a daughter. A final child was born the next year.

The Smugglers Retreat in Hythe High Street, now demolished

Frank made his first foray into local politics in 1889, aged thirty-two when he was chosen by the Hythe Ratepayers Association to oppose the Mayor in the East Ward. He took only nineteen votes, to the Mayor’s ninety-six, but was undaunted.

He founded the next year the Hythe Liberal and Radical Association, which held meetings in the room above his shop. With the Labour party still to be born, this attracted the left-wing element in the town,not admittedly a large number, the main political bias being Conservative. They speedily decided that the House of Lords should be abolished. At their annual dinner in 1892, Frank proposed the toast to the Queen – and rather shockingly added that he hoped she would be the last monarch to reign.

In 1893 the Ratepayers Association adopted him as a candidate to be a Guardian of the Elham Union workhouse in Etchinghill. He topped the poll . He was, however, still determined to become a councillor and in the November 1893 elections he achieved this by one vote: standing as an Independent, he defeated the Ratepayers’ Association’s official candidate in Middle Ward.

                                                                  Frank’s election pitch, 1893

In 1896 he was returned again with a sizeable majority.

During the 1890s, he worked hard to secure better conditions for the inmates of the workhouse, though he lost his position as a Guardian of the Poor because his work made it difficult to attend fortnightly meetings. He always cycled to the workhouse and on one occasion arrived soaked and covered in mud; instead of apologising, he used his condition to emphasise the need for an indoor staircase at the building so that women inmates did not have to go outside to reach their dormitory. He also supported the introduction of an old age pension, so that the destitute aged did not have to go to the workhouse.  The money, he said, would come from taxing the idle rich and rack-rent landlords.

A few years after opening his first shop at the Smugglers’ Retreat as ‘The English and Colonial Butcher’, he was able to move to better premises opposite at 50 High Street (now 106). When he was in trouble for slaughtering on the premises, he built a slaughterhouse two miles to the west of Hythe. His most ambitious project was to convert a large private house in the High Street opposite Theatre Street into the Wilberforce Temperance Hotel, with his wife as proprietor.

The Wilberforce Temperance Hotel, now also demolished

After that, it was, as far a business was concerned, all down hill.

In 1895 he sold the butcher’s shop as a going concern for £500 and for the next two years traded as an auctioneer and fruit salesman in Hythe and Folkestone. The venture failed. After that he had no regular employment, but did odd jobs such as removals, selling fish, and portering at auctions, earning about £1 a week. Clara kept things together by taking in lodgers at their home in Saltwood Gardens, near the seafront in Hythe.

Frank had lost his council seat, too, but stood again in 1902 and was successful and as controversial as ever. He objected to restricting the number of licences given to motor bus proprietors, saying that more cars meant improved communication between Hythe and Folkestone – and a better chance of reduced fares. When he persisted in arguing with the Mayor, John James Jeal, he had to be removed from the council chamber by a constable. In 1905 he presented a scheme for the municipalisation of the canal boats, which was approved by the General Purposes Committee. Then objections came from councillors who did not want Sunday boating; attempts to keep the two matters separate failed, and the scheme was rejected. He said Hythe Town Council was the laughing-stock of Ashford Market for buying horses without a proper veterinary certificate: boys ran from the station to the Market saying, “Here they come: we’ve got ’em again!” He continued to argue the need for a public convenience on the seafront. He urged the Council to employ an attendant to prevent noisy children disturbing band performances in the Grove.

He was re-elected in 1905, but disaster was not far off.  A small strip of land in South Road owned by the Council was appropriated by a neighbouring householder, who fenced it in and claimed it as his own in 1906. The Council decided to pull down the fence, and produced documents proving ownership. The householder instructed his solicitor to oppose this. It became clear that expensive litigation would be involved, and the Council decided it was not worth spending public money on so small a piece of land. This angered Frank and he said that if the fence was replaced, he would pull it down. It was, and he did. The result was a lawsuit, which he lost. Since he could not pay the costs of the lawsuit, he was adjudged bankrupt. By law a bankrupt could not be a councillor.

In 1908 he was found guilty of being drunk and disorderly in the High Street and  by 1911 he had lost his home and was lodging in Wood Road. He said he was married, but Clara was not there. Then he seems to have rallied.

By 1913 he was the Town Crier who concluded his ‘cries’ with ‘God Save the People’ instead of the traditional ‘God Save the King’. When councillor Jeal (a Seabrook builder against whom Frank had a particular animus) was defeated in an election he cried ‘The King of Seabrook is dead. No flowers.’ He was not actually an employee of the council, but they supplied his bell. He was ordered to return it and told his services were no longer required.

He was, when war broke out, theoretically too old for active service, but in January 1917, he joined the Royal Defence Corps, telling them he was fifty-four (he was actually sixty). They judged him fit enough, despite his varicose veins and a bunion which stopped him marching. He was sent to guard German prisoners of war in Scotland, probably at Stobs camp in the Borders.

Prisoners of war at Stobs camp, 1918

He was discharged in Canterbury in January 1919; his true age had been discovered.

In 1919, he applied to have his bankruptcy discharged, saying he did not want to die a bankrupt and intended to go to Russia to help the revolutionary forces. He was discharged, but did not, as far as we know, get to Russia, though he did make at least one more attempt to get a seat on the Council, in 1921.

He died in Rampart Road in 1925.