‘Tim’ Shelford and His Daughters

 

Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he comes finds watching St Luke XII
In/memory/of/Thomas Shelford C.M.G./late of Singapore/died 12th January 1900, aged 60
Born at Preston Suffolk/died at Guildford Surrey
Also of Jessie Fullarton Shelford/wife of the above/died 29th March 1928. aged illegible
Also of Gwen More Shelford/born 21st Sept 1877/died 12th Dec 1961
Also of/Edith Shelford/died 5th February 1953. aged 73

 

Thomas Shelford was born on 23 November 1839, the fifth child and third son of William Heard Shelford, rector of Preston, Suffolk, and his wife Emily Frost Shelford, nee Snape, the daughter of another rector. His elder brothers William and Leonard became an engineer and a clergyman respectively, but Thomas was delicate, with a weak chest, and when his father died in 1856, he moved with his mother to Bury St Edmunds. She maintained him and his five younger siblings on income from her properties.

In 1861 or ’62, however, he travelled to South Africa and then on to Singapore, arriving in 1863. He joined a firm of merchants as an assistant, but, by the time of his retirement had become a partner and a significant player in Singapore’s civic and political life. Known to his friends as ‘Tim’, he became in 1872 Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and its representative in the Legislative Council of Singapore and later part-funded the re-launch of the daily newspaper the Singapore Free Press. He was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1892, a rare honour outside the civil service and the military

The town hall in Singapore

He married firstly Flora Hastings Lawrie, on 24 December 1867 at St Andrew’s church Singapore.

St Andrew’s church, Singapore

She was the daughter of George James and Laura Lawrie, who are both buried in St Leonard’s Churchyard, Hythe. They had five children before her death on 24 August 1873. She died, aged only thirty-two, while visiting her parents in Ayrshire, shortly after giving birth to a daughter.
‘Tim’ remained a widower for eleven years, before marrying another Scotswoman, Jessie Fullarton Baird in 1876. She was the daughter of Alexander Baird and Margaret nee Cowan, and was born in Ochiltree, Ayrshire, where her father was a cattle dealer and innkeeper.

‘Tim’ Shelford retired in 1897 and returned with his wife and the couple’s two daughters to the UK, where they lived in Guildford.  Apparently his wife and daughters could not adapt to life in the East.  Why he is buried in St Leonard’s remains a mystery. His former parents-in-law, the Lawries were dead and buried in St Leonards, and his first wife’s sister, Annie Adair Mackeson was still alive and living in the town. After her husband’s death, Jessie and her daughters also moved there, living at a house called ‘Holmwood’ and later at another called ‘The Dentalls.’

Mary Gwenmore Shelford (known as ‘Gwenmore’) was born 21 Sept 1877 in Wandsworth, the elder daughter of Thomas Shelford and his second wife, Jessie. Her younger sister, Edith, was born in the Straits Settlement of Malaysia. When the family moved to Hythe after their father’s death, Gwenmore and Edith both became Sunday School teachers at St Leonard’s church, and set up a children’s library there.

In early January 1907, notices appeared in the press announcing the engagement of Gwenmore to the Revd. Frank Hay Gillingham, a military chaplain and first-class cricketer who played for Essex. The marriage never took place. Frank eventually married someone else, but Gwenmore did not.

During the First World War she worked with the V.A.D at the Bevan Hospital in Sandgate. She died in Hythe, where she had been living at the Imperial Hotel. Edith had predeceased her by eight years.


In/loving memory of/Robert Lawrence St Colum Bland/born 22nd October 1905/died 26th January 1907
“Not my will but Thine be done”

Laura, the older half-sister of Gwenmore and Edith had married Captain Robert Norman Bland. They lived in Singapore where Robert was Resident Councillor of Malacca. Robert junior was their third child, and died during a visit to the UK. He and his mother were staying at Saltwood Gardens in Hythe. He is buried next to his grandfather and not far from his maternal great-grandparents George James and Laura Lawrie.

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The Jeweller’s Son and the IRA

Cibbie
Cibbie/In loving memory/of/our darling son/Cyril Ball Ninnes/born January 21st 1892/died September 9th 1904
In every heart he knew fond love/a sanctuary in every human face/and when God missing him in Heaven said come/it did not seem a solitary place/I think he only flushed in sweet surprise/to see the golden floor beneath his eyes
In loving memory/of/Basil Evelyn St Clair Ninnes/who died at Sandgate/April illegible 1933 aged 39 years
In memory of/Antonia Frances Ninnes/died June 4th 1941
In memory of/Frederick Ninnes/who died 3rd August illegible/aged illegible
R.I.P.
Of such is the kingdom of Heaven

Benjamin Frederick Ninnes  was born in Tunbridge Wells, the son of James Walker Ninnes, a watchmaker, and his wife Frances. Benjamin also became a watchmaker, and at about the time of his marriage, set up shop at 32 (later 64) High Street Hythe.

Ninnes Ad

 

He expanded his business to include silver and gold smithing, providing medals and buttons to, among others, the army and the Metropolitan Police. He also dealt in antiques, counting the author Joseph Conrad, who for a time lived at Pent Farm in nearby Postling,  among his regular customers. He donated a silver challenge bowl to Hythe Golf Club. He died in Hythe in 1927.

He had married Antonia Frances Ball ,  the eldest child of William St James Ball, an army captain and Queen’s Foreign Service Messenger, and his wife Priscilla.  She was baptised in Richmond, Surrey, on 8 April 1869. The fact of her father’s occupation was clearly important to Antonia: she included it on the memorial to her older son in St Leonard’s Church and in the obituary to her younger son in the local newspaper. Antonia kept at least the antiques side of her husband’s business going after his death and took up golf and, in her fifties,  driving a motor car, though she was fined for dangerous driving in 1933

Cyril Ball Ninnes was the elder of the sons of Benjamin and Antonia Ninnes. He was born and died in Hythe, baptised on  27 Feb 1892 at St Leonard’s and buried at the same church on 12 Sept 1904. The gravestone in the churchyard bears the legend ‘Cibbie’. a contraction of his initials, CB.  He is also commemorated on a plaque on the south wall of the nave.

Cibbie2

 

The family lived at 5, Hillside Terrace in the town and Cyril was apparently educated at home by a governess. Perhaps he was a sickly child. He died at home.

The second son, Basil Evelyn St Clair Ninnes was born on 24 January 1895 in Hythe and was baptised in St Leonard’s church on 16 April that year. He was educated at Hazlewood school, where he played football and cricket for the school and was a chorister.
On 5 January 1908, he entered the Royal Naval College Osborne and at Christmas 1909 went on to the Royal Naval College Dartmouth where he excelled at cricket and hockey. He left in 1911 for a posting to the armoured cruiser HMS Cornwall which went on a six-month cruise of the Canary Islands, the West Indies and of North America before returning in July 1912. A month later he was posted to HMS King Edward VII, was appointed as a Midshipman in the Royal Navy on 15 September 1912 and was sent to Malta. His naval records show that while he was average at most things, he was regarded as a steady young man who would make a good officer.

However, back in the UK in he became ill and was admitted to Chatham Hospital in 1914, where he was treated for suspected TB. He was invalided out of the Navy in March 1915, but made a short-lived recovery and was commissioned as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant in the Administrative Branch of the Royal Air Force in June 1918. He was sent to France in October, but was almost immediately injured. Although he had hoped for a permanent commission, the return of ill-health meant that he was transferred to the Unemployed List on 6 September 1919.

He returned to his parent’s home the Blue House in Hillside Street, Hythe. What he did for the next year is unclear. It is possible he helped his father in the business. However, in December 1920 he joined the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (ADRIC). This was a para-military police unit, which with very few exceptions, accepted only ex-officers from the British Army (or one of the Empire armies). They served as separate units from the Royal Irish Constabulary, which had little control over them. ADRIC should not be confused with the Black and Tans, which was made up of ex-British Other Ranks and served as part of the RIC.

Ninnes - ADRIC

In 1921 Basil was serving in Ireland with ‘L’ Company of the Auxiliaries which was stationed at West Muskerry, County Cork. The Company had to drive twice a week to Banteer to pick up supplies and drove the same route each time. A local unit of the Irish Republican Army had noted their routine and prepared an ambush for them. On 16 June 1921 the IRA men let the first convoy of the day pass by and return unhindered. The second convoy was also allowed to pass, but the ambush was arranged at the village of Rathcoole for their return. The convoy consisted of four vehicles and twenty-five personnel. Basil was travelling in the second vehicle. At 7.30pm the four lorries were passing through the ambush area on their return journey when three landmines, which had been placed on the road, exploded. One mine detonated as the last of the four lorries drove over it, a second mine was then detonated under the second vehicle in the convoy, and the final mine detonated under the leading vehicle which had turned around to go back to assist. A firefight developed. Most of the IRA positions were to the south of the road, but two sections were to the north to prevent the Auxiliaries using the walls on that side as shelter. The engagement lasted until about 9.45pm, when a stalemate was reached and the IRA withdrew without having sustained any casualties. Two Auxiliaries had died during the attack and a number had been badly injured, including Basil.
He was awarded £2000 compensation and went back to Hythe. He was still only twenty-six years old.
He maintained his links with the military, becoming club secretary of the Royal Air Force Club in Piccadilly, despite his very short association and continued to used his military rank of second lieutenant. In 1928 he became Secretary of the Folkestone Greyhound Racing Company, which was hoping to take a lease on fourteen acres of land off Danton Road, Cheriton, near Folkestone to build a track, complete with a ‘motor parking ground’. It was to open in 1929 and provide accommodation for ten thousand visitors. Greyhound racing in the area had previously been held at Westenhanger, but was stopped at the outbreak of war. The plan met with some local resistance on the grounds that it encouraged gambling, but in any event, the company seems to have collapsed within a very short time, and greyhound racing did not return to the area until the nineteen forties.

Ninnes greyhound 3 march 1928
In 1930 he married, in London, Ida Henrietta Blyth Tanare. Ida was the daughter of a local hotel manager and town councillor, James Tanare, who until his death had run with his wife the Royal Kent Hotel in Sandgate, near Hythe. Now Ida and her mother Sarah ran it together. Basil moved in with them at the hotel, which seems not to have been one of the most up-market outfits in the little town, its advertising being mostly based on its proximity to Shorncliffe camp, the nearby military base. By now, ill-health had forced his resignation as the RAF club’s secretary, and it was at the Royal Kent Hotel that he died on 7 April 1933.

Royal-Kent-Hotel-1908-Sandgate

Ida never remarried, but gave up the hotel business and ran an antiques shop in Folkestone. She died in 1952.

 

More Mackesons – and a Scottish Poet

The simple gravestone of the founder of Madras Christian College and his wife

In/memory/of/ George James Lawrie,D.D./Minister of Monkton, Ayrshire, born at Loudon Oct. 10th 1796/died at Hythe Feb. 14th 1878

And of Laura Louisa, his wife,/who died at Hythe April 25th 1896/ aged 91 years

George James Lawrie was the eldest son of Archibald Lawrie a minister of the Church of Scotland and Ann M’Kittrick Adair. He won an Exhibition to the University of Glasgow, where he gained his D.D. and became a Presbyter of the Church of Scotland at St Andrew’s Church, Madras (now Chennai) in November 1823.

St Andrew’s Church, Chennai, which was consecrated in 1821

He was Presbyter-in-charge from 1824 to 1839, but evidently found time to travel about the sub-continent and to meet Laura Louisa Ludlow, the second daughter of Samuel Ludlow F.R.C.S., Residency Surgeon of Delhi. The family lived there in a house built by her father locally nicknamed ‘Ludlow Castle’. She married George James Lawrie on 21 Aug 1827 at Calcutta.

‘Ludlow Castle’, Delhi

There, he and a colleague founded a school for boys, which originally had fifty-nine pupils, but has since expanded to become Madras Christian College, with a 365-acre campus and a huge student population.

Part of the present-day campus of Madras Christian College

On 11 January 1839, George resigned his post, and returned to take up the incumbency at Monkton, where he is remembered as being ‘sensible, upright, and kind-hearted, but possessed of a highly-cultured mind.’  Both his father and grandfather had been literary friends of Robert Burns, and George wrote, too, publishing Songs and Miscellaneous Pieces . In 1887 his poetry was used in Modern Scottish Poets. He is credited with having written the song Dae ye mind o’lang, lang syne: the first verse (of many) follows. It is to be sung to the tune of John Peel.

Do ye mind the sunny braes
Whaur we gathered hips and slaes,
And fell among the bramble busses,
Tearin’ a’ our claes;
And for fear they would be seen
We gaed slippin’ hame at e’en,
But were licket for our pains in the morning.

George and Laura had four daughters. The second, Annie Adair Lawrie, married Henry Bean Mackeson of Hythe and some years later her now elderly parents moved to the town to live near her, at a house called The Elms. George died of ‘natural decay’ aged eighty-two, and he and Laura are buried together in St Leonard’s churchyard. children.

 

Until the day dawn

In/loving memory/of/Henry Bean Mackeson/born at Hythe Dec. 11th 1812, died at Hythe Feby 29th 1894
Also Annie Adair his wife/born 26th of August 1835/died 26th of April 1913
Also of their daughter/Mildred Adair Murray/wife of/Colonel H.W. Murray/born at Hythe March 13th 1868/died at Hythe October 17th 1964

Henry Bean Mackeson was the youngest son of Henry and Mary Jane Mackeson nee Hayman. He was baptised at St Leonard’s church in the town on 8 January 1813. His father and uncle William were co-owners of Mackeson’s Brewery in Hythe, which they had bought a few years previously. Heavy investment in the business had paid off, and it was now a thriving concern and a major employer in the town.
Henry Bean followed his father into the family business, but it may not have been his first choice of occupation. in the 1820’s Peter Fisher, another uncle, wrote to his father that if Henry ‘be disposed to try the navy in a medical way I will do my best towards procuring him an assistant surgeon’s appointment.’ It was not, however, to be, and once decided on a life ashore, Henry threw himself into Hythe affairs with enthusiasm. Indeed, he appears to have been one of those tireless Victorians for whom nothing was off-limits.

The malt house at Hythe, one of the few remaining Mackeson brewery buildings


Besides running the business, he became a keen amateur geologist and Fellow of the Geological Society, and some of his work was published in A History of the Weald of Kent. He was town mayor nine times, in an unbroken run from 1872 to 1880. He was churchwarden of St Leonard’s church during the years when the vicar, Thomas Hall, was fund-raising and planning the renovations of the church, and his efforts are commemorated on a plaque in the church.

A modern edition of Henry Bean Mackeson’s work

The town council had, until a new town hall was built in 1794, met in the room over the church porch, the Parvis. Here, Henry discovered the ancient records of the town rotting away and had them removed to more suitable storage in the town clerk’s office. He found time to become a captain in the Cinque Ports Volunteer Rifles, and later in life to act as a director of the Elham Valley Railway.

His funeral on 8 March 1894 was attended by the entire town corporation, their pew draped in black, and one of his favourite pieces of music, Beethoven’s Funeral March, was played.

He had married, on 18 April 1860, Annie Adair Lawrie, the second of the four daughters of George James Lawrie and Laura Louisa Lawrie nee Ludlow. She was born at sea off Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Her mother brought her back to the UK in 1837, and they were joined by the family soon afterwards, when her father became Minister of Monkton, Ayrshire. She married Henry Bean Mackeson in the church there. They had seven children, including twin daughters. She died in Tonbridge.

Mildred Adair Murray nee Mackeson was born in Hythe, the sixth child of Henry Bean Mackeson and Annie Adair Mackeson and baptised in St Leonard’s church on Easter Sunday 1868. In the same church, in 1899, she married Henry Walker Murray of the Royal Army Medical Corps.. They had a son and two daughters. Mildred travelled with her husband to his various postings, including to Nova Scotia and, his last post before retirement, Gibraltar. Henry died in Tunbridge Wells in October 1942. Mildred died in the Folkestone area.

‘Safe Home at Last’: The Vicar who Transformed his Church

In loving memory/of/ Thomas Guppy Sarsfield Hall/ born September 2nd 1844/died Janry 11th 1922
“Safe home at last”
Also of Charlotte Sophia/his wife/born April 2nd 1855/passed on Feb 26th 1933
Also of their son, Robert/Sep 15.1876 – May 1939
Also in loving memory of/their grandson/Captain Peter F.S.Dobson/4.April 1918-23 Feb. 1966.
Also of their daughter Deborah Clare Dobson/mother of the above/ 26.Jan.1883 – 7. May 1971

In loving memory of/ T E F Sangar/ the only and dearly loved son of/ the late Reverend Sangar and Charlotte his wife/ who fell asleep 15th Dec 1892

Thomas Guppy Sarsfield Hall was born at Blackrock, County Cork, the second son of Robert Hall by his second wife Sarah nee Sarsfield Head. The family were well off but as the second son of a second wife, Thomas needed to take up a profession, so when he graduated from Peterhouse, Cambridge, he took holy orders and was sent as a curate to All Saints, the parish church of Bakewell in Derbyshire. He was then sent to a country parish near Maidstone. This was apparently very damp, and his already weak chest was affected – he had suffered as a young man from rheumatic fever – so the Archbishop sent him to Hythe as curate to recover. Here he fell in love with the boss’s daughter, Charlotte Sophia Sangar, daughter of the vicar of Hythe.

During their courtship, Thomas became vicar of St Faith’s church in Maidstone town centre, but Charlotte’s father decided that the time had come for him to retire, leaving the benefice of Hythe conveniently vacant. In 1873, Thomas and Charlotte were married and he became vicar of Hythe, a post he held for the next twenty-six years.

The church he inherited was apparently very dilapidated by this time, and the low, plaster ceilings created a dark and dismal interior. Thomas studied the history of the church assiduously, and became convinced that the architects and craftsmen who had worked on the enlargement of the church in the thirteenth century had left their work unfinished, probably interrupted by the carnage of the Black Death. He decided to put matters right.

Despite general apathy, and a ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ attitude on the part of most of his parishioners, Thomas managed to enlist the interest and support of the influential – and rich – Mackeson family who lived in the town and still manged their brewery there. He raised the sum of £10,000 – perhaps half a million pounds in 2017 – and employed a top architect to remove the plaster ceilings over the nave and chancel, and in the chancel he put a great vaulted roof. It has been compared to the architecture of Canterbury Cathedral.

The remodelled chancel of St Leonard’s church

The modest plaque commemorating the work of Thomas Hall

St Leonard’s has one peculiarity, found in only one other church in England – an ossuary. Known as ‘the crypt’, even though it is not, the collection contains over a thousand skulls and innumerable long bones, all neatly stacked. Earlier historians have described them as the remains of Danish pirates, men who fell at the Battle of Hastings or victims of the Black Death, without any substantiation for these claims. Today, work is concentrating on scientific analysis to establish the bones’ origins.

The ‘crypt’ of St Leonard’s Church in 1907

Thomas interested himself in the bones, too, and published a booklet entitled The Crypt of St Leonard’s Church and the Human Remains Contained Therein. He came up with the novel conclusion, based on no evidence whatsoever, that when Hythe’s three other parish churches had fallen into decay, many centuries since, their graveyards had been dug up and the bones removed to St Leonard’s.

The pamphlet written by Thomas Hall on St Leonard’s Crypt

His other achievements while in office were to stop people grazing sheep in the churchyard, to be a trustee of St Bartholomew’s almshouse in Hythe, and to introduce St Leonard’s Parish magazine, a publication which still thrives today.

Over the years, he was offered other, more lucrative benefices, but refused to leave Hythe until in 1899 he suffered from a serious illness and applied to the Archbishop, Frederick Temple, for permission to resign, as he felt that he could no longer serve the parish as he wished. The Archbishop thanked Thomas for the ‘long and excellent service’ he had rendered to the church and accepted his request.

The parish raised enough money to buy him a Bechstein Grand piano, present him with a cheque and make a present of bangles to his wife. He was also given a magnificent illuminated copy of the address made to him when he left, with pictures of the church before and after its restoration.

After a period of rest, Thomas recovered enough to be appointed to the benefice of St John the Baptist, Dodington, near Sittingbourne, before retiring to 15 Castle Hill Avenue in Folkestone, where he died.
His funeral at St Leonard’s seems to have been marked by real sorrow at his parting. The great and the good of the town gave eulogies, the grave was lined with cypress and laurel, and on Sunday, a muffled peal was rung by the church bell ringers and the flag on the tower was flown at half-mast.

Thomas had met Charlotte in Hythe, and was married in the church here. All nine of his children were born in Hythe. In his retirement in Folkestone he was a frequent visitor, and he often said that Hythe was his real home. The great achievement of his working life, the remodelling of St Leonard’s was completed here, and it was St Leonard’s he chose for his last resting place. He clearly held the church, and the town, in great affection. The words ‘safe home at last’ on his gravestone surely have a double meaning.

Charlotte Sophia Hall nee Sangar was born at Shadwell Rectory, the only daughter of Benjamin Cox Sangar and his wife Charlotte nee Fothergill. Her father was Rector there from 1846-1872, before moving to St Leonard’s Church in Hythe, where he was vicar from 1862 to 1873. Charlotte, known to her family as ‘Lollie’, married Thomas Hall on 6 June 1873 in St Leonard’s church Hythe, in a ceremony officiated by the chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Perhaps her father was too ill to conduct the service himself, though he acted as a witness. He submitted a request to resign his living in the same week as the wedding, and retired to Eastbourne, where he died six months later.

Over the next nineteen years, nine children were born to Thomas and Charlotte, six daughters and three sons. Thomas had started life signing himself ‘Thomas Hall’. On his marriage certificate he was ‘Thomas Guppy Hall’, but in 1911 he signed his census return ‘T.G. Sarsfield Hall’. His sons added a hyphen and the family name became ‘Sarsfield-Hall.’

When Thomas died, Charlotte moved to Tunbridge Wells where she played a full part in civic life, particularly in the Girls’ Friendly Society, The Mothers’ Union and the women’s’ branch of the Conservative Party. She also continued to play competitive croquet, a sport she had taken up as a girl, and to win prizes at the All England Club’s tournaments in Wimbledon.

Thomas may have regarded Hythe as home, but perhaps Charlotte preferred Dodington. She named her house in St James’s Road for the place.

Robert Sarsfield-Hall, the couple’s eldest child, married Alice Walker. and the couple had four children.
Deborah Clare Dobson, nee Hall was born on 26 Jan 1883 and married Andrew Edward Augustus Dobson, an army officer on 10 June 1913 in Dodington church. The couple had two sons, one of whom was Peter, buried here. He was born in London and died in Canterbury.

Charlotte Hall had one sibling, Theophilus Edward Fothergill Sangar, who preferred to call himself plain ‘Edward’. He was born in 1856 and baptised in Shadwell. He attended school in Chelmsford and later became a railway clerk, living in Islington. He died in Hythe, though by that time his sister was no longer living in the town and was buried in the churchyard two days later, on 17 December 1892.

Friends and Bellringers

Three graves in St Leonard’s churchyard mark three generations of the Friend family.

In/affectionate remembrance/of/John Friend/born 26th August 1804/died 15th October 1881
Also/in loving memory of/Susannah/wife of the above/born 14th April 1807/died14th December 1888

In/ loving memory/of/Louisa Jane Friend/born 31st March 1849/died 20th July 1890

In loving remembrance of/William Thomas/second son of/John T. And Anne E. Friend/who died of consumption/the 2nd of May 1879/in the 19th year of his age

Also/John Thomas Friend/father of the above/died August 26th 1884/aged 54 years
In the midst of life we are in death

John Friend senior, the first of his family to come to Hythe, was born in Mersham, the third of the nine children of his father, who was in the service of the Knatchbull family. The Knatchbull baronets had lived (and still do) at the Mersham Hatch estate since the time of Henry VIII. The estate then covered about eight hundred acres, and the baronet during John’s youth, Sir Edward, was certainly in need of servants as he produced nineteen children with his three wives.
He was a country squire of the old school, who became MP for Canterbury and opposed any legislation which had even the whiff of liberalism, including the Corn Laws and Catholic Emancipation. He tore up his much-admired park, with its avenues of trees and homes for aged retainers, and had their dwellings transplanted to another spot where they could not spoil his view.

Mersham Hatch, the seat of the Knatchbull family

Whether John Friend did not want to work for this man, or whether there was no place for him, he did not follow in his father’s footsteps and became instead a shoemaker. He moved to Hythe and married there Susannah Divers. She was the daughter of Thomas and Susannah Divers of Ashford, and was baptised there on 17 May 1807. She and John were married in St Leonards church, Hythe, on 2 August 1828. They had eight children together over the next twenty-one years, though one, Elizabeth, died as a child.

In 1830, John was appointed the Parish Constable for the town of Hythe, an unpaid position which he combined with running his shoemaking business in the High Street. Policing was at that time a very parochial affair. Parish constables, often unwilling volunteers and just as often barely literate, confined their activities to their own towns. Then in 1829 Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police and in 1835 an Act of Parliament required all English boroughs to set up a police force. The response in Kent, as elsewhere, was unenthusiastic, because the force had to be funded by ratepayers who saw in it no advantage over the existing arrangements. By 1837, only just over half of Kent towns had taken action, and in some places, such as Sandwich and Tenderden, the ‘force’ was a solitary constable. In Hythe, little changed. John Friend was re-named Chief Constable, even though he was the only officer, and he carried on making shoes.

In 1844 the Town Council offered to make it worth his while to give up his business and become a full-time policeman, to which he agreed. His house also functioned as the Police Station, which given that he had eight children cannot have made life easy for Susannah, his wife. The borough police forces continued to function until 1888, co-existing with the Kent County force after 1857, but by this time John had retired. He finally took his pension at the age of seventy in 1874.

When not policing or shoemaking, John’s great passion was bell-ringing. According to his obituary
‘He was well known throughout the county as a famous campanologist… He showed extraordinary aptitude in mastering the most intricate methods in the science and his achievements are recorded on tablets in the towers of the churches at Ashford, Hythe, Folkestone and many others in the county.’
As well as regular ringing, he enjoyed the challenge of ringing peals, which involved thousands of changes. He took part in at least fifteen peals at St Leonard’s and elsewhere, twelve of them as conductor – the one who calls the changes to the other ringers. He was the conductor for the record-breaking peal at Hythe with 13,440 changes on 4 May 1846. To quote the Kentish Gazette it was
…the greatest number of changes ever rung in the county by one set of men. It took seven hours and fifty-five minutes… although towards the end exhaustion was evidently manifest by a little irregularity.

The bell tower of St Leonard’s Church, Hythe

In 1860, John decided that one of the tenor bells at St Leonard’s should be replaced and two extra treble bells added to the existing six. He raised through public subscription only enough to pay for the two new bells, which he ordered from one George Stockham at a cost of £95. The bells were delivered and hung the next year, and a special peal was to be rung on 8 July followed by a celebratory dinner for all involved.

It was a disaster. The peal was scheduled to last from noon until six in the evening, but it soon became only too apparent that the new bells were discordant, and the terrible noise reportedly drove half the inhabitants of the town mad. The vicar, who lived across the road from the church, found the noise so unendurable that he could not finish his midday meal, and gave orders that the bells should be silenced.

John tried to make the best of a bad situation. At the official dinner that night, he praised the new bells, out of courtesy to Stockham, he later said. Stockham sent workmen to Hythe who for a fortnight chipped at the bells to try to get them to harmonise with the others, which was not wholly successful. The people who had subscribed were furious with John, and he refused to pay Stockham. Stockham sued him and won. The end result was that John was declared bankrupt in 1863.

Nothing stopped his bell-ringing, however, and he continued to ring until he could no longer get up the church tower stairs. In 1878 he and Susannah celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary in some style. The mayor of Hythe granted them the use of the town hall, and after some speeches, the whole party went up to the church where
‘… a select band performed some excellent scientific touches of a bob-major, treble bob-major, grandsire triples and grandsire caters.’
At the ‘substantial spread’ which followed back at the town hall, the company were entertained by hand bell ringers. What Susannah thought of all this is not recorded.

 

Hythe Town Hall, the scene of John and Susannah Friend’s Golden Wedding celebrations.

When John died, in 1881, his fellow-ringers acted as pall bearers at his funeral. His widow Susannah followed him to the grave seven years later and their youngest child, Louisa, seven months after that.

The eldest child of John and Susannah, John Thomas Friend, also became a bell-ringer, though he never achieved his father’s status. He was baptised in St Leonard’s church on 30 October 1830. By the time he was twenty-two, he was working in a shop in Tonbridge Wells owned by Henry Sawyer, grocer, tea dealer and cheesemonger. It was a large establishment in the High Street, employing several other assistants. If John had any ambitions to work in the retail trade, he soon dropped them, and by 1858 he had become a gardener and was living in Dover High Street. However, in 1861 he was employed as ‘High Bailiff in the County Court.’ The County Court was not located in a single town: there appear to have been several locations across Kent and there may have been a court room in Folkestone, as Melville’s 1858 Directory lists one William Larkins of Guildhall Street in Folkestone holding the post. of High Bailiff.  How John came to be appointed is a mystery, but it was secure, salaried employment and must have been a godsend in uncertain times. Perhaps the salary was not enough, however, as his obituary records that he held ‘other posts’.

John married Annie Elizabeth Day in Dover, on 23 February 1858, and they moved back to Hythe, presumably when John was appointed as Bailiff. They had at least four children: John, born in 1858, William in 1860, Alice in 1863 and Charles in 1868. Annie Elizabeth died in April 1875 and is buried in St Leonard’s churchyard. Not long afterwards, John took up market gardening, though he still seems to have held onto his court post. In 1881, after young William’s death, only Alice remained with him at home. Charles was boarding at a school in Prospect Road, Hythe.

John’s death was sudden: he had been involved in arranging some sports to take place to celebrate  the turning of the first sod of the Elham Valley Railway when he was seized with paralysis at the door of George Wilks, Hythe’s town clerk. He was carried home, but succumbed during the night.

The eight bells of St Leonard’s lasted until 1928, when they were recast, and in 1992 two others were added. They can still be heard across the town every Sunday morning.

I am indebted to the late Jack Barker of Hythe for the research into John Friend’s bell-ringing career

 

 

The Porters of Moyle Tower: Architecture, Hieroglyphics and Marilyn Monroe

Three  generations of the Porter family are buried in St Leonard’s churchyard:

Inscription To the memory of/Fred.W.Porter/born 19th October 1821/died 17th November 1901
Illegible of Sarah

Remainder hidden behind tree stump.

Inscription In loving memory/of/Christine Palmer/born Oct 29th 1891/died June 30th 1909

I am persuaded that he is able to guard/that which I have committed unto/Christ that day

Geoffrey Hill 1927

Gerard Edward Palmer/born April 16th 1895/died March 2nd 1946

Inscription In memory of Ida Hill/born 2nd June 1854/died 19th August 1905/widow of Samuel Hill who died/and was buried at Cannes February 1894

Also in memory of Geoffrey/only child of Samuel & Ida Hill/ who was buried in this churchyard/born 28th August 1890/died 17th May 1927

A Dieu

Inscription In/loving memory/of/Charles Willis Palmer/born 25th March 1850/died 18th November 1898

And of Freda his wife/died 3rd July 1955/ aged 95 years

The paterfamilias was Frederick William Porter, the second son of William Edward Porter and his wife Anne (née Coultate). He was born on 19 October 1821 in Rathmines, Dublin, where his father, who came from Kent, was Clerk of Recognizance at the Court of Chancery.   As a young man Frederick studied architecture under Louis Vulliamy  in London, and subsequently returned to Ireland and took up residence in Kent Terrace, Dalkey, a suburb of Dublin. This was a terrace of four houses on Barnhill Road which had been built by his father in 1839. He set up his own practice as an architect here and exhibited three architectural designs at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1843.

In October 1848, he married Sarah Moyle in Liverpool and the couple moved to London, where Sarah’s parents lived in some style in the exclusive Russell Square in Bloomsbury.  The next year  Frederick and W.A. Boulnois exhibited a design for a county lunatic asylum at the Royal Academy. Frederick’s practice was then at 13 Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia. He was still there when he became a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1855.  Five years after this he became Surveyor to the Clothworkers’ Company an ancient London Guild which also had properties in Co. Derry.  Frederick took on other work in Ireland, too: in 1868-70 he designed the Church of Ireland church at Castlerock, Co. Derry.  It is typical of the High Victorian interpretation of the Early English Gothic style. The stone used is very dark basalt with white Glasgow trim to the windows and doors and banding. The plan is cruciform with a three-sided chancel with an engaged north-western tower providing access. Gabled buttresses support the tower and walls. The lancet windows, often in groups of three, originally had diamond panes.

The Church at Castlerock, Co. Derry, designed by Frederick Porter.

At about this time, Frederick was advertising in the Building Trades Directory that he had built ‘residences in England, Ireland, Spain, Shanghai, &c.’ although there is no evidence that he travelled to these more exotic locations. Although continuing to practise in London until at least 1874, by 1877 he was building himself a seafront house in Hythe, named for his wife, Moyle Tower (it did, in fact, have a small tower at the back, complete with flagpole) and they spent their retirement there, during which time Frederick became in 1886, Mayor of Hythe, despite not being an alderman.

 

mEDALmedal 2

The medal presented by the town of Hythe to Frederick Porter to commemorate his mayorality in 1886-87, which included the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee

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Moyle Tower in the 1920s when it had been acquired by the Holiday Fellowship. The ‘tower’, no longer with its flagpole, is at the rear of the house.

In 1895, he became Master, or Prime Warden,  of the Worshipful Company of Saddlers, a City of London livery company.

The silver-gilt Porter Ewer, presented by Horatio (Horace) Porter to the Saddlers’ Company in 1916 in memory of his father. Horatio was then  was Prime Warden of the organisation.

But then his health started to deteriorate. By 1898 he was described as ‘an invalid’ who needed constant care, and the following year could only go out in a bath chair. He died on 17 November1901 and left the very tidy sum of £39, 801 in his will.

Sarah, raised a Presbyterian, had become an Anglican on her marriage, but was apparently very open-minded in matters of religion, and took a great deal of interest in Hythe’s non-conformist churches. Her funeral was attended by most of the local Salvation Army congregation. She was a well-known philanthropist and hosted annual parties, or ‘treats’, for up to fifty needy children at Moyle Tower. Each child was given a toy and a warm garment (the parties were held in winter) before a sit-down tea and games. Apart from these occasions, however, she preferred the working classes to be kept at a distance, and complained to Hythe council about the troupes of minstrels who performed on the beach near her house. She was also a supporter of the Society for the Preservation of the Beauty of Hythe. For the last thirty-four years of her life she was a semi-invalid, and devotedly cared for by a Miss Digance, a nurse. There were four other live-in servants to care for her, and for her daughter Freda who lived with her in her final years.   At Sarah’s death, the Moyle Tower flag was flown at half-mast.

Sarah died on 5 March 1912, and was laid to rest with her husband in St Leonard’s churchyard on 9 March in a grave lined with moss and decorated with primroses.  The house contents were removed and those which the family did not want were auctioned off, including a 7ft 6in mahogany sideboard, two grand pianos, Axminster and Oriental rugs, and French and Italian bedsteads. It was suggested that Moyle Tower should be bought by the council for use as municipal offices, but the idea came to nothing and it was put up for auction in June 1913. It had, according to the auctioneers, five reception rooms, twenty-one bedrooms and dressing rooms, stabling and a garage. Whoever bought it seems not to have used it and it was requisitioned on the outbreak of war by the army and used to house men of the Devon Regiment. After the war it was offered for sale again, before finally being bought by the Holiday Fellowship in 1923.  The organisation provided (and still does, as HF Holidays) affordable activity holidays in the UK and abroad, and Moyle Tower existed in this capacity until 1979.

Another view of Moyle Tower,   from the back

Then, with the refugee crisis of the Vietnamese boat people, the British Council for Aid to Refugees acquired the building and transformed it into a reception centre for ninety people. Furnished by donations, it opened its doors on 8 November.  All the refugees were eventually rehoused across the UK, and the centre closed in Spring 1981. It was by now something of a white elephant, and not long afterwards was demolished and a block of flats – Moyle Court – erected in its place. It is nice to know that Sarah’s name is still remembered.

 

Moyle Court, Hythe

The house, when the Porters owned it, had boasted quite a large detached garden with tennis courts at the end of Ladies Walk.  Sarah’s executors leased this to Hythe Council for a number of years and it was used by Hythe people for tennis, band concerts, and, in 1914, for a mass meeting in response to Kitchener’s call to arms. During the First World War, the garden was taken over by the WAAC, based at nearby Princes Parade, for sports.

The Porters had seven children, although one, their first-born, died in infancy.  The eldest survivor was Bertha, born in 1853. Remarkably for the time, she studied Egyptian hieroglyphics in London under Francis Llewellyn Griffiths, a noted Egyptologist, and at the University of Gottingen under Kurt Sethe. She edited the Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs, and Paintings and was also employed by Oxford University in compiling The Dictionary of National Biography, for which she completed over a hundred and fifty biographies before her retirement in 1929.  In London, she lived with her brother Horatio, who had inherited the Russell Square house, but later moved to Oxford where she took lodgings in the Banbury Road. She died in 1941.

A volume of the huge work started by Bertha Porter and completed by her assistant Rosalind Moss.

The next eldest was Ida. Born in 1855, she married Samuel Hill in 1889 in London. Their only child, Geoffrey was born the next year. Samuel died in February 1894 at the Villa Alpina in Cannes, aged only forty-three. It is not known why he was there – perhaps it was for his health.  Ida and Geoffrey moved in with her parents in Moyle Tower, and Ida became a hospital nurse, another unusual occupation for a well-off young woman at the time. She died in Tunbridge Wells.

Geoffrey, born on 28 August 1890, was orphaned just before his fifteenth birthday. He had been a boarder at Seabrook Lodge School in Seabrook Road, Hythe, run by Henry Strahan who was also the Mayor of Hythe, but nothing is known of his later education except that he attended Cambridge University. In the vacations, he stayed with his mother’s sister, Ethel, in Ashford. He then became a member of the London Stock Exchange.

When war broke out in 1914, he was among the first to join up, on 3 August. He served as a gunner until commissioned on 6 November 1915. He was described as being six feet tall with fair hair and blue eyes. He was wounded on 22 April 1916 and sent home, and it seems that he did not then return to active service. He re-enlisted as a driver in the Territorial Service in 1921, but was discharged from this at his own request after only a year. The circumstances of his death are not known, nor why he appears to be buried with his cousins Christine and Gerard Palmer but is also commemorated on his mother’s gravestone.

A potted history of Seabrook Lodge School where Geoffrey Hill boarded.

The next Porter daughter was Ethel, born in 1857, who married James Turner Welldon, a solicitor and first class cricketer who played for Cambridge and Kent. The couple lived in Ashford and had a daughter, Ethel Barrow Welldon.

Another daughter, Freda, was born to the Porters in 1858.  She grew up to marry, in 1887, Charles Willis Palmer, District Commissioner for Forests in Burma. He had been born in Paddington, the son of Edward and Caroline Palmer. His father was a superintendent on the Great Western Railway, and in 1857 took up a post as Agent for the East India Railway in Burma (then part of India). He later became Chairman of the Railway Board, and retired in 1873. Charles meanwhile was educated at Lancing College, where he was a keen cricketer, before following his father to Burma.  He lived and worked in Burma for some years, was married and widowed there and returned to the UK to marry Freda Porter.

Freda Palmer nee Porter

Freda returned to Burma with him and all three of her children – Freda, Christine and Gerard – were born in the country.

Poongy Boy

‘Poongy Boy’, the ceramic figure young Freda Palmer brought back with her from Burma to Hythe.

On their return to the UK, they came to live in Seabrook, next to Hythe, where Charles died in November 1898. Freda had moved away from Hythe to Farthing Common by the time of her death. The younger Freda became an English teacher and worked at a private school in Sandgate, before marrying a vicar who had been an assistant priest at Hythe, Arthur Octavius Scutt.

Freda Scutt, nee Palmer

 

Arthur Octavius Scutt

Freda and Arthur (who was vicar in Appledore and Thurnham) had four children: Christine, a vet (remembered for jumping her horses over the pews at Thurnham when they were in the churchyard during spring cleaning); Avis who became an actress (as Avis Scott)  and worked with Noel Coward and Richard Burton, before becoming a BBC TV Continuity Announcer who was sacked for being too glamorous; Robin who, as ‘Mark Paul’, composed the music for Ruby Murray’s hit Softly Softly, and as Robin Scott, was awarded the Legion D’Honneur by De Gaulle for his work in the BBC French Service and later established Radio One (he was the first voice on Radio 1 before “Arnold” and Tony Blackburn!) and another son who, as a pacifist, was imprisoned as a conscientious objector, campaigned for peace for much of his life, studied Classics at Oxford and later in life a achieved a second degree in German.

The actress Avis Scott with a young Richard Burton in ‘Waterfront’, released in 1950

Avis Scott, the epitome of 1950s sophistication

Freda and Arthur married in February 1914, and Freda was given away by her brother, Gerard. He had been educated at Lancing College like his father, and joined the London Regiment during the war which ensued and fought at Gallipoli. He became a Captain and was awarded the Military Cross ‘for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when leading his company in a raid. He was responsible for killing a number of the enemy and displayed great energy in superintending the destruction of the enemy’s works’.

.In peacetime, he became a travelling salesman, who only comes to attention when he was fined for drunk driving in Aberdeen in March 1939. Later that year he married Violet Quick in Brighton, and eventually died in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.  He left an estate valued at just under £4000.

Of Christine Palmer, the middle Palmer child who died aged just eighteen, nothing is known.

Frederick and Sarah Porter finally had a son, Horatio, on 22 June 1861. He studied architecture under his father, and ultimately inherited his father’s positions as Surveyor to the Clothworkers’ Company and Prime Warden of the Saddler’s Company. . He was also architect to the Sun & Patriotic Insurance Company and designed a new office for the company in College Green, Dublin, in 1908, continuing the Irish connection. It was described as ‘quite one of the best contributions to the street architecture of Dublin during recent years’ with a ‘quiet and restrained use made of the classical tradition that is specially appropriate to Dublin’. Horatio, who in later life called himself Horace, also designed proposed alterations to the Sun and Patriotic’s old premises in Trinity Street in 1912.  He was Mayor of Holborn from 1911 to 1912, and like his father, a Freeman of the City of London.  He died unmarried in London on 29 July 1918.

College Green Dublin, the scene of Horatio Porter’s most important work.

In 1910, he paid for a new west door at St Leonard’s church, in memory of his father.  the window above contains the arms of the Porter family, together with those of the Saddlers Company and the City of London

20170928_123111The west door of St Leonard’s Church, Hythe 

The Porter’s last child was another daughter, Maud, born in 1866. She married Alderson Burrell Horne on 22 December 1887 at St George’s Church, Bloomsbury. He was an actor, owned a West End theatre and was a theatrical producer, known by the stage name Anmer Hall. He was evidently very successful, leaving at his death in 1954 an estate worth half a million pounds.  Maud had the financial means to travel widely, and took along her widowed sister Freda, her niece, another Freda, her chauffeur, Cornelius, and the Rolls-Royce.  Like her sister Bertha, Maud seems to have been particularly interested in Egypt, but also visited the Holy Land.

A trip to the Pyramids. Freda Scutt nee Palmer is on the far right, seated on a camel

An enlargement, showing Maud Horne ,ee Porter next to Freda, and Cornelius the chauffeur next to her.

The couple had a daughter, Janet, and a son, David, who became a distinguished character actor on the stage and later in film, appearing with Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl.

David Horne, actor, who died in 1970. He would have remembered Moyle Tower as a family home and perhaps seen its transformation.

With thanks to Win Scutt for additional material and photos and to Boyd Porter for additional information.

 

 

The Wages of Sin

Inscription In/loving memory/of/Charles Winter Garrett/who died the 6th Sep 1854/in his 38th year

And of/Catherine/widow of the above/who died the 23rd October 1880/in her 67th year

Also of/Henry John/grandson of the above/and son of W and M E Laker/who died the 22nd February 1880/aged 5 months

In my Father’s house are many mansions John XIV C2V

Charles Winter Garrett was born in Hythe and baptised there on 4 May 1817. He was the son of Thomas , a baker, and Mary Garrett. On 15 February 1842, in the same church, St Leonard’s, he married Catherine Wood. She was the daughter of Thomas Wood, a carpenter, and his wife Elizabeth and was also born in the town.

By the time of his marriage, Charles had become an Excise Officer, working for the Inland Revenue.  He was posted to Yorkshire, and the couple’s first two children were born in Pickering and another in Kirby. They then moved to Huddersfield, where they seem to have had a comfortable life, with a live-in servant, and another child was born.  Then it all unravelled.

The investigative branch of the Inland Revenue became suspicious of Charles, either through a tip-off or perhaps because his lifestyle was not congruent with his income. What they discovered was that Charles was swindling both them and the shop-keepers he dealt with, and had been doing so for years. His modus operandi   was to pretend to new traders that he could grant licences for the sale of beer, tobacco and tea, and that he was authorised to receive payment for them. He would call on the wife of applicants for such licences  while the man was at work, tell her that she must pay for the licence, take the money and tell her that everything was now legal and that nothing more needed to be done. He then pocketed the cash. He was dismissed  from his post and arrested. Out of fifty-odd cases uncovered, he was prosecuted for three, and appeared  before magistrates in August 1853. He said nothing in his defence, and although bail was offered, he did not apply for it. In the opinion of the court reporter, he was suffering from great mental anguish. He was committed for trial and in December he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to twelve months hard labour. He was imprisoned in York Castle.

York Castle Prison

This was a new prison on the existing Castle site, built to cope with increasing numbers of felons.  It took ten years to build, between 1825 and 1835.   There was a huge new wall in a dark millstone put up so that the whole Castle Site, including Clifford’s Tower, was enclosed and cut off from the city.  The most remarkable feature was the four prison blocks that radiated like the spokes of a wheel.  At the hub was the new governor’s residence.

Government inspectors reported at the time that Charles was there that the health of the prisoners and the cleanliness of the buildings were commendable, and the diet adequate. In other respects the prison was not a good one. The staff, which in 1835 had consisted of a keeper, underkeeper and porter, and matron had not been increased by 1851. There was therefore insufficient supervision, resulting in lax discipline and constant communication between the prisoners, which contravened the government’s rules that there should be no communication at all. No schoolmaster was ever appointed and the prisoners either taught one another  or received occasional lessons from the chaplain.  The hard labour that Charles was required to perform was either stone-breaking or chopping wood.

Perhaps the labour was too much for Charles. In the early hours of one September morning in 1854 , his cell-mate heard him moaning and called for a warder. By the time someone was found to unlock the cell door, Charles was dead. There was a post mortem examination and an inquest and it was ascertained that he had died from ‘an attack of spasms of the heart’. The coroner recorded that this was due to  ‘the Visitation of God’. The coroner noted that Charles had secured the respect of the officials through his good conduct, and that he left a widow and five children to lament his loss.

Catherine had already had over a year to lament her situation.  When Charles was arrested, she lost her home and any means of support. She was destitute, and could not even stay in Huddersfield to be near Charles because Victorian Poor Law dictated that she must be provided for by the parish of her birth – Hythe. So, back to Hythe she went, with her four children and heavily pregnant. It seems that there was no-one there willing or able to take her in, and she had no option but to apply to the Overseers of the Poor for relief. They sent her and her children to the workhouse.

Hythe fell into the catchment area for the Elham Union Workhouse, which was, in fact, in Etchinghill, a village four miles to the north of Hythe.  The family were admitted there on the morning of Saturday 3 September 1853. Catherine was given the number 121 to stitch on her workhouse clothes; the children were given their own numbers, and taken from her, to be kept in separate accommodation. They were aged from five to one.

Workhouses were intended to be as unpleasant as possible, so that only the truly desperate would throw themselves on the mercy of the parish. Children were generally allowed only minimal contact with their parents, perhaps only for an hour on Sundays. The diet was deliberately unpalatable and monotonous and bedding often only straw paillasses.

Workhouse children, heads shaved to prevent lice and nits

They were there for over a year. Catherine’s fifth child, Mary Elizabeth was born in the workhouse on November 17 1853. A few weeks after her husband’s death, Catherine applied to be discharged. She must have received funds or help from someone else to do so. In 1861 the family was living at Albion Cottages in Hythe and Catherine was working as a needlewoman. Her eldest son, Thomas, was already an apprentice tailor and the others were at school. By 1871, she was taking in laundry to make ends meet and the only child left at home, Mary Elizabeth, was working as a domestic servant. A hard life, but at least a self-sufficient one.

Three years later, on 24 November 1874, Mary Elizabeth married William Laker from nearby Postling. He worked for Mackeson’s brewery  in Hythe as an engine driver and the couple set up home in Trafalgar Cottage, Bank Street. By 1881 they had three children.  Henry John was their second son. Nine months after his death, another son was born to the couple, the last before William’s premature death. However, on Christmas Day 1901, in Hougham near Dover, Mary Elizabeth married George Richard Videan and the couple set up home back in Hythe, where they lived in the High Street until Mary Elizabeth’s death in 1931.

Charles Winter Garrett was not buried in the grave in Hythe with his wife and grandchild. There would have been no money to bring his body home, but he was not forgotten. His eldest son, Thomas, who was apprenticed to a tailor as a lad grew up to become a tailor in his own right, got married and raised a family in Folkestone. Thomas was probably the only one of the children to have had any memory of his father and the disaster that he brought upon the family, but he chose to call his own eldest son Charles Winter Garrett, in memory not of a swindler who died in prison but of a loved and much-missed father.

 

The Lady and The Bus Conductor

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In memory/of/George William Wallace/D’Arcy Evans/who died on Sept 8th 1906/aged 46 year

A simple gravestone, no indication of family, or expressions of regret or piety, but it conceals a story which stretches from Ireland to England to South Africa and Canada.

George William Wallace D’Arcy Evans was born on 4 October 1860 at Knockaderry House, County Limerick. He was the second son of John D’Arcy Evans and Marion Evans nee Wallace, perhaps best described as minor Anglo-Irish landed gentry.

Knockaderry House

As befits a second son who had no great expectations, he joined the army as a young man, but it seems there was not even enough money to buy him a commission, as he joined as a trooper and served for three years in the ranks of the South Wales Borderers. He was finally commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Irish Rifles in 1886. and served as Superintendent of Gymnasia in Colchester. He was promoted to Captain in 1894.

He had married Harriette George Marion Gledstanes Richards on 18 July 1889 at Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin.  She came from a similar background to George and was the daughter of Captain George Gledstanes Richards of Macmine Castle, County Wexford. She was born on 11 August 1869.

Macmine Castle – not really a castle, but a country house

Three sons were born to the couple over the next three years, though the third died before his second birthday. Then, in 1895, George exchanged into the 20th Hussars and sailed with his young family to India, where his only daughter was born.  However, their stay on the sub-continent was brief. After just a year, George exchanged again, this time into the Bedfordshire Regiment. Life in India did not suit everyone.  They were living in Mhow (now  Dr. Ambedkar Nagar) in Bengal, where summer temperatures can reach 43 degrees centigrade and winter fall to minus 4.

Back in the UK, George seems to have found his niche in the army in writing textbooks. These included Field Training Made Easy in Accordance with the Revised Syllabus Contained in the New Infantry Drill and The Non-Commissioned Officer’s Guide to Promotion in the Infantry.  The Army & Navy Gazette praised them for their clarity and usefulness. Harriette also wrote a book, In Mermaidland, and Other Stories, which the Gazette dismissed as ‘a very slight production for children.’ The Liverpool Mercury, however said that they were four beautiful stories and that the humour pervading the book made it very enjoyable.

But in December 1897, Harriette admitted to her husband that she had been unfaithful to him. They separated, but in 1900, on learning that she had given birth to a child in 1898, George took her back. The child seems to have been accepted by George as his own, and given Evans family names: Hardress Waller Eyre D’Arcy Evans. George told Harriette that she had ‘a clear, fresh start’ and that he would protect her against anybody. The family lived for a while together at 34 St Leonard’s Avenue, Bedford.

However, the next year, Harriette started a new liaison with a man she met on a bus, Charles Abbott. He was, in fact, the conductor of the station omnibus, which ran from the George Hotel in Bedford. Charles was already married, a fact which, Harriette said later, he did not share with her immediately. He was also, at nineteen, very much younger than her, although he may not have told her that immediately either. He had lied about his age at his marriage to Edith Bainbridge only the year before, saying that he was twenty-one, whereas his Canadian death record shows his date of birth as 22 May 1882. Since by the time he died there was no need for subterfuge, this is likely to be correct. He was the son of William Abbott, a shepherd, and his wife Martha.

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The George Hotel, Bedford, on the left of the picture

The couple corresponded. He called her ‘my dearest darling’, she wrote him ‘hysterical’ letters. Harriette was confronted by Edith in the street, but refused to give up her lover. She wrote to Charles suggesting that they elope to Canada, where they could live on her small private income of £200 a year.

He agreed.  On 1 June 1901, while George was out riding, Harriette escaped from the house and met Charles at Bedford station. They took a train to Liverpool where they stayed at a hotel under the names Mr and Mrs Brown, and under those names they sailed for Canada.

George had run out of patience, and divorced Harriette the next year, though he was by then in South Africa, fighting the Boers. He was adjutant of the 36th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry during the Boer War.  Charles was divorced by Edith in 1905. She had heard nothing at all from him since his elopement.

George relinquished his South African post in 1903 and rejoined the Bedfordshire Regiment. It is unclear why he was in Hythe when he died, although he may have had business with the School of Musketry in the town.

Meanwhile, Charles and Harriette married in Canada in 1908 and spent the rest of their lives together in south Saskatchewan as Mr and Mrs Abbott-Brown, a good compromise. They had five children together, although their only son,  born in 1912,  predeceased them, dying in a house fire in 1955.  Harriette’s only daughter by her first marriage, Silvia,  was able to spend time with her mother in Canada.

Charles and Harriette died in British Columbia within months of each other, he on 20 February 1960, she on 30 September that year.

The grave marker for Harriette and Charles. .

Burke’s Peerage air-brushed Harriette from their history.  It gives her date of death, but no details of her second family.  However, since then, descendants of both her first and second husbands have made contact and met.

Cordite and Milk Stout – the Abel sisters

The story starts with two brothers, Frederick Augustus Abel, the elder of the two, and John Sangster Abel.

Frederick was born on 17 July 1827 in Woolwich, then in Kent.   At seventeen, he started to study  chemistry at the Royal Polytechnic Institution and in 1845 became one of the original twenty-six students of A.W. von Hofmann at the newly-founded Royal College of Chemistry. In 1852 he was appointed lecturer in chemistry at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, succeeding Michael Faraday, who had held that post since 1829. From 1854 until 1888 Abel served as ordnance chemist at the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, establishing himself as the leading British authority on explosives.

Together with Sir James Dewar, he invented cordite, later adopted as the standard explosive of the British army. Abel also made studies of dust explosions in coal mines, invented a device for testing the flash point of petroleum and found a way to prevent guncotton from exploding spontaneously.

He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1860, knighted in 1883, and created a baronet in 1893.

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Frederick Augustus Abel as a young man

His first wife was Sarah Selina Blanch who had been born in Bath in 1826, the daughter of James and Elizabeth Blanch of Bristol. They married on 16 December 1854. There were no children of the marriage, and Sarah did not live to see her husband’s most important invention. She developed cancer and on 29 May 1888, on returning from a trip to the Continent for her health, died in Hythe.

The grave of Sarah Selina Abel nee Blanch, which she shares with her adopted daughter. 

John Sangster Abel was one of Frederick’s younger brothers. He emigrated to Chile, to Copiapo Province, which is in a rich copper and silver mining district. Perhaps he was seeking his fortune there. He married a Chilean woman, Jenoveva Recabarren. their daughter Luisa Isabella Aspasia Abel was born there on 22 June 1866 and baptised at Rosario on 9 July that year. The next year, on 17 August 1867, another daughter, Carlota Jenoveva Abel was born. A brother for the girls, Juan Carlos Abel, followed in 1869.

Before 1875, the children’s parents were both dead, and they were sent to England to live with their Abel relations, being adopted by the childless Frederick and Sarah.

According to her obituary, Luisa, who did not marry, first visited Hythe in 1890, and was so impressed with the town she decided to make it her home.  She played a full part in the life of the parish church, St Leonard’s, being a member of the choir and the Parochial Church Council, and taking responsibility for decorating the altars with flowers each week. She was also involved with the local British Legion.  She died in 1932, and was given a splendid funeral attended by the great and good of the town. The next year, a stained glass window dedicated to St Dunstan was erected in the church in her memory, paid for by her sister.

 

The window (on the right) in the south transept of St Leonard’s Church in memory of Luisa Abel

Carlota Abel married George Laurie Mackeson, of the Hythe brewing family on 29 April 1893 at Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street, Chelsea. The couple also lived in Hythe, at The Dene in Hillside Street. Their were no children of the marriage.

Carlota enrolled in the Women’s Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) in May 1912,  and worked as a nurse at the Bevan Military Hospital in nearby Seabrook right though the First World War, starting her service there on 8 October 1914. She finished the war as a Staff Nurse.  In the 1930s, she and George travelled twice to South America, perhaps to visit her birth family.

George Laurie Mackeson was born in Hythe on 19 November 1865, the second son of Henry Bean Mackeson, owner of the Hythe brewery, and Annie Adair Mackeson. He was educated at Uppingham School before joining the family business.  He was associated with it until it was taken over by Whitbread in 1929, and was working there when it introduced its Milk Stout in 1907.

He was a great supporter of both Kent County Cricket Club and of Hythe Cricket Club in particular  and became President of both. He owned the land on which the Hythe club played and left it to his nephews, asking them to ensure that the game would continue to be played on the site. His obituary described him as ‘an old English gentleman who seemed to have survived from the Victorian age.’

George died in 1950, and Carlota in 1960, aged 93.

The grave of George Laurie Mackeson and his wife Carlota

 

Five Generations of Soldiers and Seafarers

In St Leonard’s churchyard in Hythe are commemorated five generations of the same family, many of whom served their country on land or at sea.

Generation one

The dynasty started with James Nelson, who was born in Scotland in 1781 and who joined the British army as a young man. He served as a private, first with the 78th West Highlanders, a regiment set up specifically to fight the French, and later with the Royal Staff Corps, a short-lived set-up, founded in 1800 and disbanded in 1837. It was a combat engineer Corps during the Peninsular campaign, and James served with it at the battle of Corunna in January 1809.

It is likely that he travelled there from Hythe with Sir John Moore’s forces, who had been sent to Spain to assist in resistance to Napoleonic rule. The little town of Hythe, with a population of under two thousand, was swamped by the presence of ten thousand troops at the height of the Napoleonic wars. Weatherboard accommodation and a temporary military hospital were built at the western end of the town and William Cobbett wrote that ’the hills are covered in barracks’.   Moore himself was based at Shorncliffe barracks, just a couple of miles away. He did not return from Corunna with his men. He was buried wrapped in his military cloak in the town ramparts, dying after he heard that the French had lost the day. Hythe commemorates him with a road named for him, and another for the battle in which he died, and he has a memorial on the seafront at nearby Sandgate.

After the battle of Corunna, the returning troops were paraded at Hythe, but were in a sad state. Unceremoniously disembarked at Dover, they had been obliged to make their own way back to the town. The hospital was full of the dying and injured, and the presence of maimed soldiers in the town was a common sight.

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Sir John Moore is fatally wounded at the Battle of Corunna…

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…and his memorial in Sandgate, where he lodged.

In 1813, James was back on the Iberian Peninsula, this time with the Duke of Wellington, who led the British forces there. On 21 June of that year, he fought in the battle of Vitoria, which finally ended the Napoleonic domination there.

Between the two battles, James had married Jane Hills, and their first son, James, was born the next year in Hythe.  Another son William was born in 1813, and then another, Henry, in France in 1817. Presumably Jane had accompanied her husband there. The birth is recorded in military records. A daughter, Jane, was born in Chatham in 1820, the year her father took James took his army pension of a shilling a week. Finally, another son, John, was born in 1825 in Hythe.

James had taken his family back to the town where he had been stationed,  and turned his hand to buying and selling. He worked as beerseller, dealer and chapman (trader or peddler) and grazier with land on the Innings between the town of Hythe and the coast. He lived with his family in Shoemakers Bridge Place, at what was to become in the next generation of the family, the Nelson’s Head Public House.

His wife, Jane Nelson nee Hills was baptized on 3 April 1785 at Chiddingstone, Kent, the  daughter of  John Hills and his wife Elisabeth. She married James Nelson on 13 August  1811 at Newington-next- Hythe.

Generation Two

The son born to James and Jane in France was Henry Nelson. As a young man, he first tried his hand as a slipper maker in London, but was perhaps unsuccessful and returned to Hythe where he worked as a labourer before he took over the licence of the Nelson’s Head public house in Bank Street from his brother John.  He married Mary Anne Back in Cheriton on 28 September 1836

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The building in Hythe, now a restaurant, which used to be The Nelson’s Head public house

 

Generation Three

Their eldest  son was Henry James Nelson.  He worked as an errand boy before joining the Land Transport corps, a very short-lived organisation founded in 1855 to deal with transport in the Crimea, where Britain was fighting Russia, and disbanded in 1856. It had been set up as a quasi-military organisation and recruited both civilians and regular army officers. Henry James died when the corps was involved in the siege of Sevastopol. The town was the home of the Russian tsar’s fleet, and a prime target for the British and their allies. It was besieged for a year from September 1854 to September 1855, and saw fierce fighting. It was presumably during the unsuccessful bombardment which started in April 1855 that young Henry died. He can only have been in the Crimea a matter of weeks.

The Siege of Sevastopol

The eldest daughter of Henry Nelson and Mary Anne Back was Jane Frances Nelson. She did not marry, but spent many years keeping house for her father’s brother, John Nelson. In her old age, she lived with her widowed younger sister Annie in Rosebery House, Parkfields, Hythe (now in Albert Road). Jemima Elizabeth Nelson was the sixth child of Henry and Mary Ann Nelson. She became a school teacher, and after a period teaching in Buckinghamshire, she returned to Hythe where she taught and lived with her parents until their deaths. In later life she lived in Corunna Cottage in Parkfields next door to her sisters Annie and Jane Frances. She did not marry.

Another sister, Alice Mary Nelson, who died as an infant is also buried in the churchyard.

The fourth child of Henry Nelson and Mary Ann was Charles Rice Nelson, born in Hythe in 1844 and baptised there on 1 December 1844.  He was apprenticed to a carpenter as a young man and carried on his trade after his marriage to Catherine Godfrey in on 12 November 1866. The couple lived in Theatre Street Hythe. For a few years, Charles also took on the licence of the Bell Inn in East Street, Hythe, but later returned to carpentry living in Nelson Villa in Albion Street.  After his retirement, he took employment as a collector for the gas company and secretary to a friendly society. Catherine died in 1915. The couple had ten children.

Image result for the bell inn hytheThe The Bell Inn, Hythe

Generation Four

John Henry Charles Nelson was the eldest child of Charles Rice Nelson and his wife Catherine. His first job was as an office errand boy, but he went on to become a builder and house decorator, and lived at 2 Bank Street Hythe.  He married Mildred Stoakes who was born in Stanford, not far from Hythe, the sixth child of John Stoakes, a master carpenter, and his wife Thomasina Dora. Before her marriage, she was in service with Dr Arthur Randall Davies in the High Street. She married John Henry Charles Nelson in 1893 in London, and they had six children.

The second son of Charles Rice Nelson and Catherine,   Edward James Nelson was baptised in Hythe on 13 September 1868 and died in London just after his eighteenth birthday.

The third son, Charles Rice Nelson jnr was baptised in Hythe on 14 June 1874.   As a young man he worked as a book stall assistant before joining the merchant navy as a general servant. He was among the 334 lost when his ship the ss Persia, on her way to India, was torpedoed seventy miles off Crete by a German submarine on 30 December 1915. SS Persia was attacked at 1.10 pm on a rising sea. She was struck on the port side and within five minutes the port side boiler exploded. She sank quickly. Passengers had collected their lifebelts and made their way to the lifeboats, but the incline of the ship hindered their launching and passengers slipped on the steeply canted deck and were washed overboard. It was reported two of the life boats floundered and went down. Four life boats made their way to safety and many of the remaining survivors were picked up by a trawler some 30 hours after the sinking, but Charles was not among them.

His name is recorded on the Tower Hill memorial in London

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The SS Persia

Henry Nelson was the fourth son of Charles Rice Nelson and Catherine. He started his working life as a servant with the Blyth family of Saltwood near Hythe, but very soon joined the Merchant Navy where he worked as a steward. His ship, the P&O -owned SS Kaisar-i-hind was launched in 1914 as luxury passenger ship sailing to India and Australia. She was requisitioned by the Royal Navy for transporting troops to the Middle East and India, and survived several attempts to torpedo her. Henry’s death, officially recorded as pleuro-pneumonia, appears to have been from natural causes, and may have stemmed from an infection or underlying condition.

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The SS Kaiser-I-hind

His sister Flora, the second daughter of Charles Rice Nelson and Catherine, married Henry Beckwith, a merchant navy officer, and moved to Gravesend, where the marital home was called ‘Nelson Villa.’

Generation Five

Charles Edward Beckwith, the second son of Henry and Flora Beckwith, born on 26 October 1910, also went to sea, but chose the Royal Navy. He attended Dartmouth College, and saw action in both World War II and the Korean War. He later served in North Africa, Hong Kong, Malta and Gibraltar as Paymaster, and on leaving the navy took employment with the shipping line Niarchos. He then lived in Hampstead, but on retirement moved to Hythe, where he was a generous benefactor of St Leonard’s Church and an instigator and great supporter of musical performance there.

THE GRAVES

 

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Inscription In/loving memory/of/Edward James Nelson/the beloved son of/ Charles Rice and Catherine Nelson/who died 21st October 1886/aged 18 years

Also/Charles Rice Nelson/Late of P&O. SS Persia/who was drowned at sea/30th December 1915/aged 41 years

Also/Henry Nelson/late of P&O SS Kaisar I-Hind/who died of pneumonia 31st May 1918/in hospital at Alexandria/aged 41 years

And of/Charles Rice Nelson/who died 5th November 1925/aged 81 years

Commander/Charles Edward Beckwith/son of/Henry and Flora Beckwith/nee Nelson/died 27th July 2002/aged 91 years

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Inscription  In memory of/James Nelson/born 16th June illegible/died 16th Novr illegible

And he said unto me my illegible/ for the illegible/..this made perf.. illegible

Also of John Henry Charles/Nelson/died 23rd March 1942/aged 75 years

And of/Mildred Nelson/died 12th Novr 1943/aged 76 years

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Inscription Illegible/Henry Nelson/born 8th March 1817/died 26th August 1881

Illegible died 20th January 1898

And/Jane Frances/daughter of the above/born 2nd May 1842/died7th January 1922

Jemima Elizabeth Nelson/born 6th October 1849/died28th October 1926

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Inscription In memory of/James Nelson, formerly of the 78th West Highlanders,/and the Royal Staff Corps who after/serving his King and Country in Holland, Spain and France from 1800/ to 1821  settled at Hythe and died/April 29th 1849 aged 68 years

Also of Jane his wife/died April 13th 1848 aged 65 years

Also of Henry Nelson/grandson of the above/Sub Superintendant Land Transport/Corps who died before Sebastapol/ June 4th 1855 at the early age of 17 years.

Enter not into judgement with Thy /servant O Lord

 

Inscription

Headstone: Illegible memory/Alice Mary/the beloved daughter of/Henry & Mary-Ann/Nelson/who departed this life/January 26th 1866/aged illegible years and 10 months

Remainder illegible

Footstone: A M N 1866