Globetrotters: The Tiffen Family of Hythe

A grave in St Leonard’s churchyard, Hythe:

In memory of/William Tiffen/died Oct 15th 1855 aged 71.

Also Charlotte/wife of the above/died May 8th 1876 aged 84.

Also Charlotte Davenport, eldest daughter of the above/died Septr 21st 1862 aged 47,

And Theodore Alfred Davenport, her husband/died Jany 28th 1868 aged 63.

And George Ernest Augustus,/their infant son died 1862 aged 4

It is almost impossible, when researching Hythe history, to find any early nineteenth century printed document, directory  or advertising poster that was not printed by William Tiffen. He was born in Bocking, Essex, on 10 January 1785, the son of a miller. At the age of twelve, he was apprenticed to a printer, John Shearcroft in his home town but had moved to Kent by 1809 when he married Sarah Stevenson in Folkestone. He then set up shop as a printer in Hythe catering mostly for the military, but as they started to leave the area he moved to new premises in 1813 and diversified. In a shop with living accommodation on the corner of Mount Street and the High Street ‘nearly facing the Guildhall’ (it was later gutted by fire and demolished) he became ‘bookseller, stationer, printer and bookbinder’  Then he set up a lending library and a Reading Society, of which he was president, a smart business move.

He and Sarah had a son, William Stevenson Tiffen, but Sarah died while he was a infant. William then married Charlotte, the Hythe-born daughter of Henry and Mary Stokes, on 19 December 1813. Together, they had eight children.  William had probably been born into a non-conformist family. His son by Sarah was baptised in a non-conformist chapel, but when his eldest son by his new wife was baptised in St Leonard’s church, William took the opportunity to be baptised into the Church of England himself, on the same day. Thus officially an Anglican, he became an overseer of the poor and churchwarden.

All seemed to be going well, though there was sadness when, in 1837, his eldest son, William Stevenson Tiffen died and was buried in Folkestone. William continued to expand his business and in 1845 opened a library and reading room overlooking Folkestone Harbour. This was another smart business move as the railway had reached the town which was now easily accessible to cross-channel travellers and holiday-makers.

Then William himself died in 1855 and it became apparent that he had overstretched himself. He had certainly taken out a mortgage on his Hythe premises and there must have been other debts. The house and shop were cleared and everything sold – printing machinery, stock in trade, carpets, pictures, ornaments, bedsteads and bedsheets. The premises were sold and Charlotte moved into two rented rooms in Folkestone and was later taken to court for failing to pay her rent. The children left the town and, most of them, the country.

In fact, the eldest had already gone. Charlotte (born in Hythe on 5 January 1815) married Theodore Alfred Davenport on 17 March 1843, and moved with him to Boulogne, where he taught. She and her husband had six daughters and two sons, though the younger died aged four. Charlotte and Theodore both died in Boulogne, she in 1862, he in 1869.

The next was Henry Stokes Tiffin, born on 12 July 1816. As a young man he qualified as a surveyor and moved to Sussex to work, lodging in Hastings with the White family, who had two daughters. On 27 September 1841, he signed a contract with the New Zealand Company to work as an assistant surveyor; three days later he married the younger White daughter, sixteen-year-old Caroline and three days after that the newly-weds sailed on board the Brougham to New Zealand. They arrived in February 1842. Caroline had become pregnant during the voyage and died in October that year, giving birth to a stillborn son. Her brother William heard the news when he arrived in New Zealand in November.

Eventually four more of William’s siblings and assorted other family members would make the same journey half way round the world.

Henry was set to work surveying the Wairarapa, on the North Island.

The Wairarapa as it is today

An early NZ surveyor’s bivouac

Liking what he saw, he rented eight thousand acres at a cost of twelve pounds a year and now needed sheep to graze there. He acquired several hundred and drove them from Wellington with the assistance of his sixteen-year-old brother who had also arrived in the country. Frederick John Tiffen had been born in Hythe on 27 July  1828 but would never return.  He managed Henry’s flocks until 1852, when he went to Australia but found that he disliked the climate and worked his passage back to New Zealand after six months.   From then on, for a few years they were sheep farmers, but in 1855, Henry left the station in Frederick’s hands and returned to England. There he married the older White sister, Louisa Anne, now twenty-eight.  On their return to New Zealand the next year, they were accompanied by another Tiffen brother, the youngest, Louis Ansell (but known just as Ansell), born in 1829 in Hythe and now in his mid-twenties, together with his older sister, Mary Elizabeth, born in 1824.

Henry returned to surveying and found time to take an active part in local politics and to continue acquiring land, but his private passion was horticulture and his garden in Hawke’s Bay was renowned.

Henry Tiffen’s house & gardens

Now a wealthy man, and childless, he planned to travel to seek out European plants which might thrive there, but Louisa’s death in 1875 meant he would travel alone.  He was away for a year. Then in 1880 he travelled to Japan where he was much taken by the persimmon plants, several of which he brought home.

Henry then acquired a new travelling companion, his niece Amelia Mary, the daughter of his late sister Charlotte.  A multi-lingual and cultured woman, she had married Joseph Randall who died in Ghana in 1869 and left her destitute until Henry invited her to become his housekeeper in 1876.  In 1881, they travelled to California where he was much impressed by the vineyards and oranges but thought that the wool was ‘rubbish’.

Henry Stokes Tiffen in his fifties

Back home, he tried growing tea and tobacco in his garden and planted his own vineyard of twenty-seven acres, the largest in New Zealand and produced his own wine. That same year he sailed again to England for surgery to remove cataracts.

Henry died on 21 February 1896 and is buried in Old Napier cemetery.

Henry’s grave marker…

…and the grave of his two wives, sisters Louisa & Caroline

Henry’s brother Frederick John had married, in 1859, Lucy Eleanor Monteith and they went on to have six children. After his marriage he acquired his own land for grazing and a house, Elmshill.

Frederick John Tiffen as a young man

He also acted as a government inspector of sheep and as returning officer in local elections. If Henry was the enterprising brother, Frederick was the diligent one. He kept records of every business and financial record and a daily journal recording his travels (which were extensive) and those of his family and their arrivals and departures. He died in 1911.

Frederick John Tiffen in later life.

The other brother, Ansell, worked as Henry’s manager for many years, dying unmarried in 1916. In 1881 he visited England, returning home with his brother-in-law Edmund Wiginton (see below) and niece, Milly.

Amelia Mary Randall, Henry’s niece and housekeeper, inherited half of his estate, making her wealthy in her own right. She moved from Henry’s house in Napier to another in the middle of his (now her) fruit farm, which produced  apricots, apples, peaches, persimmons, figs, plums and pears. Her younger sister Henrietta Charlotte Davenport, who had worked as a governess, sailed from England to join her. They continued to develop the farm, called Greenmeadows, until it was the largest on the North Island.  Amelia died on 17 October 1930, leaving £50,000, all left to various charities and to the Baptist church.  Henrietta had died in 1918. Henry’s beloved garden in Napier eventually became Tiffen Park.

Henry’s sister Mary Elizabeth, who sailed to New Zealand in 1856 with Louis Ansell, married on arrival the captain of the ship which had carried her there, the Westminster. She and John Westgarth were  wed on 3 May 1856 at St Paul’s church in Wellington and honeymooned in Taitai. They then sailed on the Westminster to Shanghai, where Mary Elizabeth died on 14 September 1856 and where she is buried in Shantung Road cemetery.

And there was another Tiffen offspring in New Zealand, too – Belinda. The youngest child of William and Charlotte Tiffen, she was born Belinda Alice Ansell Tiffen  in Hythe on  30 September 1831. She married in Folkestone 1860 Charles John Allen Haselden and they emigrated that year. Charles became under-secretary of the NZ Department of Justice and the couple had six children.  Belinda died in Auckland on 28 October 1923.

Belinda’s gravestone

Her brother, Charles Hart Tiffen, born in Hythe in1826, did not get as far as New Zealand, but spent much of his adult life on the continent. His wife, Esther Carmelina, was  born in Italy; their three daughters and a son,  came into the world in Nice.  Charles operated for a time as a wine merchant in Brighton, where one daughter died, but the family were in Folkestone from about 1889, where they lived in Guildhall Street.  One daughter, Esther (or Mlle. Esther Tiffen as she advertised herself), gave lessons in French and Italian; the other, Helen, taught violin, viola, organ and pianoforte. At their father’s funeral, they were joined by their brother, William Henry Tiffen, who had also been born in France but decided to stay there. He ran a successful removals company in Paris  in partnership with James Arthur, a company which still exists today.

 

William Henry Tiffen & his business partner John Arthur

Charles Hart Tiffen died in 1899, leaving only £158 and some real estate in New Zealand.

The emigration of seven of the Tiffen children left only one in England – Amelia, born in Hythe in 1818. She married Edmund Wiginton, another stationer and book-seller, on 17 June 1859. Amelia had taken over her father’s library in Folkestone and her new husband joined her in the business. They extended the range of goods they offered to include glassware, costume jewellery and scent bottles which they bought in Paris (perhaps when visiting their Tiffen relatives).  Their first child, a daughter, was stillborn in 1860, but another, Amelia (again! but known as Milly) born in 1862, survived. There would be no more children.  Some time in the 1870s, the family moved to Cornwall. Amelia’s mother, Charlotte died in 1876 and it may be that freed from this responsibility, she and Edmund felt able to spread their wings, too. However, Amelia died in 1880. Edmund and Milly then perhaps surprisingly, emigrated to New Zealand, travelling in 1881 with Henry and Ansell Tiffen who had been home on a visit. It was not a permanent move, however. By 1889 they were back  in Saltash. Edmund remarried that year and Milly embarked on a nursing career which eventually saw her appointed matron of the Johnson Hospital in Spalding.

Much of the detail of the life of Henry Stokes Tiffen is taken from his biography by Ian St George and with thanks to Laurie Tiffen for additional information

 

 

11 thoughts on “Globetrotters: The Tiffen Family of Hythe

  1. Hello Anne.
    I am a great granddaughter of Frederick John Tiffen. I enjoyed your writing of our family back history. My childhood was on Elmshill , that gg Fred bought after working for several years. I am developing a digital essay that looks into colonial story. We don’t have Covid here, so I am making the most of travelling to old sites in the north island.
    Good on you, writing. I found a sweet little note that Miss Mary Tiffen played a duet of Gynt for an Ibsen play in 1919. I met Charles from Paris in 1959 when he visited us all. And, we know how supportive Gu Henry was to people and ideas. Stephanie Beth ( nee Tiffen ) Christchurch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. It is always a delight to hear from descendants. Interesting to hear that Charles visited ND from Paris – the place really had a magnetic pill for the Tiffens. I would love to see your essay when comp!ete

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  2. Hello Anne
    I too am a great great grandson of George William (Stephanie and I are cousins). Your article is quite brilliant and helped me put together dates of family activities.
    I lived and worked at Mangarara (sold off block of land from Elmshill in 1906) until I sold it in 1990. My interest in great uncle Henry’s (Henry Stokes Tiffen) life and business was sparked when learning about the wine industry in New Zealand and his pioneering of it in Hawkes Bay.
    It will be fun to see a 2nd century celebration of this family arriving in New Zealand in 2041.
    Thank you for your work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Laurie – always a delight to hear from descendants and I am glad you like the post. I wish I could find out what happened to Mary Elizabeth (Westgarth). If you find out, please let me know

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      1. I think I know less about Mary Elizabeth than you. The detail I have is very thin (more like vapour than water); my records show that she married a Captain William Westgarth (date assumed as 1856, place unknown) – you identified him as John Westgarth. The only other ‘detail’ being that Mary or William/John or perhaps both died in Shanghai, China – date unknown.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you for the tip off about Shanghai. Mary Elizabeth died there and is buried there. The marriage to John Westgarth is listed in the NZ BDMs, but they only do hard copy delivery, not pdfs, and to the UK it’s about $ 50+ so I won’t bother

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  3. Hi Laurie. ( via Anne) Get in touch. I talked more in adult life with your sister. I knew you were interested in the wine Industry, though. I remember your dad and mother a bit. Well, you once in 1959.

    I expect to get a co -Colonial project drafted as a digital story with a Canadian by 2023. Did you know I direct documentary film?
    Stephanie

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