Betrayed: Sarah Mannering

On a bitterly cold February day in 1786, a carter drove into Hythe with a passenger, a ‘near perished’ young woman, heavily pregnant, whom, he said, he had found in a miserable state on the road from Dymchurch.

He took her to the home of the mayor, Henry Mercer.  She had only a few shillings on her and knew no-one in the town. Shocked, he called in the Overseers of the Poor, who arranged accommodation at the Duke’s Head inn for the woman, who gave her name as Sarah Mannering.  It would be weeks before she could tell them anything else, as she soon became ill with a fever which lasted twelve weeks, during which time her child was delivered stillborn.

The Duke’s Head, Hythe, closed now for some years

Finally, on 31 May, she told her story. She had been born Sarah Monk, in Essex. On 4 July 1784, in Romford, she married William Mannering. At that time, she was living in Purleigh and he in Upminster.

On 21 January 1786 he left her ‘to shift for herself’.  She kept the letter he sent soon afterwards, to show to the Overseers of the Poor. It reads:

To Sarah Mannering, Romford, Essex- Loving wife and child I write you this to let you know that I am Determined to go to the East Indies Immediately so I would have you Never think to see me no more. I would have you go to the Overseer and make him Carry you home. I am tired of my life in England and Therefore By God I will go to the East Indies Directly. I shall [en]list in the morning. May God attend you which shall be the Constant Prayer of your Disturbed husband which is ruined Forever. If I shall live to return again I will come to see you. Pray God Bless you and my Child forever.

From yours, William Mannering.

Presumably, since he was going to enlist and go to the ‘East Indies’, he was intending to join the army of the East India Company, which effectively governed the sub-continent. Whether he did or not, or just went away and changed his name, we cannot know, or why he considered himself to be ‘ruined’.

William seems confident that the Overseers will take Sarah ‘home’ – perhaps to Purleigh – but he was ignorant in this respect of the Poor Law. When Sarah married him, his place of settlement became hers, too, even if she had never set foot there.

The 1662 Act of Settlement had established the tenet that everyone had a place of settlement where you could legally obtain Poor Law relief.  Further legislation in the 1690s said that you could gain a settlement through, birth, marriage, apprenticeship, regular employment for a period of a year, renting a house worth £10 per annum, paying parochial taxes, or serving as a parish office.  William had told Sarah that his place of settlement was Lydd on the Romney Marsh, though she did not know why.  Records do not show that he was born there, so presumably he must have have claimed to have been apprenticed there or worked there for a year. It is an unusual place for an Essex man to be sttled. 

Sarah evidently could not shift for herself, and two weeks later she was arrested while begging and taken before a magistrate. She told them that her husband’s place was at Lydd. The magistrate, a man called Bynion, issued a vagrant pass and she was sent to Lydd, some eighty miles distant and a three- or four-day journey, depending on the state of the roads in early February.  The Romford authorities arranged her transport to Rainham in Kent and then found a man called Arnold at a public house there to take her on the second leg of the journey in his cart.

The Ship Inn, Lydd

Lydd is now a small town and was then even smaller, most of its population officially engaged in fishing and unofficially in smuggling. On arrival, Arnold headed for the Ship inn, where he made enquiries and was told he should speak to Mr Gilbert, the Deputy Overseer of the Poor.  Gilbert made his own enquiries and told Sarah the next day that her husband did not have settlement in Lydd and that she could not stay. He gave her another vagrant pass and ten shillings and sixpence and told her to leave the town.  Since she is described as being visibly pregnant, ‘big with child,’ knew no-one locally and the weather was then freezing, this seems incredibly callous.  

Gilbert sent a passing small boy with Sarah to show her the road to Romney.  She walked to Romney and then on to Dymchurch, a distance of about eight miles. There she spent a night at the Ship inn and the next day she tried to walk on to Hythe, but was found on the road by a Good Samaritan in ‘a pitiable state’. The man got her into his cart and took her to Hythe.

T

The Ship Inn, Dymchurch, still open in the 21st century

Sarah was by then in Hythe poorhouse where she remained until she persuaded the Hythe overseers in 1787 to give her four shillings to help her go to Purleigh.  She had been betrayed by her husband, by the Poor Law system and by most of the men who administered it. Now she wanted to go home. Whether or not she reached her destination, we don’t know.  A short detour along the way would have taken her into London, a magnet for the poor and dispossessed. Whatever the case, Sarah disappears from history. We can only wish her well.  

The Hutchinsons of Hythe Part 1: Practical Men

The father of the Hythe Hutchinsons was Scrope Hutchinson, born in Southwell, Nottinghamshire in 1782, the son of Nicholas and Elisabeth Hutchinson. His birthplace was a house built by his father which later became the Sacrista Prebendal, one of the homes of the prebends of Southwell minster. He studied medicine at the University of Halle in Germany and became a member of the Royal College of Physicians. He married, in May 1806 at Tonbridge, Anne Hammond.  At this time, her residence was given as Deal, Kent, and his as Southwell.

The birthplace of Scrope Hutchinson

The couple moved to Hythe shortly afterwards and six children followed, all born in the town, though one, a daughter, died as an infant.  Scrope practised medicine and was appointed senior medical officer for the 52nd Light Infantry, Sir John Moore’s regiment based at nearby Shorncliffe. In 1839, he moved to Dover and later to London, to live with his eldest son. He died there on 25 November 1847. In his will he left about ten thousand pounds and an extensive library of medical and other books.

The first child of Scrope and Anne Hutchinson was a daughter, also called Anne, born in 1807. She died aged only eighteen in 1826 and was buried in a new vault finished in time for her funeral in St Leonard’s church.

The stone marking the vault where Anne Hutchinson was buried

The eldest son, William Barclay Hutchinson, born in Hythe in about 1809, became a physician and like many Victorians with mundane surnames, added his second given name to it to make him Dr Barclay Hutchinson. After studying at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and in Paris, he practised in Guilford Street, Bloomsbury, and was Medical Officer attending the Foundling Hospital.


The Foundling Hospital in London

He became a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1829 and a Fellow in 1842.  As eldest son, the care of the family’s womenfolk fell to him after his father’s death and in 1851, he can be found in Guilford Street with his mother, his aunt and both his surviving sisters, Mary(1811-1856) and Isabel (1821-1908).

William Barclay Hutchinson

William remained unmarried and retired to 12 Onslow Gardens, Brompton  where he died in on 17 July 1869. 

The next son was George Rowan Hutchinson, baptised in St Leonard’s church Hythe in February 1815, though the curate noted in the register that he was born on 1 January 1813. He was by the age of eighteen a lieutenant in the  Royal Engineers and quickly became an explosives expert, especially skilled at creating simultaneous explosions. His talents were called upon when in 1842, the South Eastern Railway was obliged to blow up the Round Hill cliff between Folkestone and Dover in order to run the railway between the two towns and connect the port of Dover to the rest of the country.

On the morning of 26 January 1843, a small group of dignitaries and a huge crowd of Dover citizens  (probably including George’s father) gathered to watch the event.  A small tunnel had been pierced through the cliff. From this three shafts had been sunk from which galleries had been excavated. At the end of each gallery was gunpowder, brought from the Faversham Gunpowder Works.  George checked all was correct and then the galleries were sealed with tightly rammed chalk and sand.  At 2.15pm a dull, muffled boom could just be heard by the audience and at the same time there was a heavy jolting movement of the earth. The bottom of the cliff, according to one bystander, ‘seemed to dissolve.’ Then the face of the cliff slowly sank giving way to clouds of chalk.  The directors of the SER gave George a handsome piece of silver plate in gratitude.

The demolition of Round Hill cliff

In 1845 George married Margaret Ellen Bevan, the daughter of  William Hibbs Beavan in Crickhowell. She accompanied him to his posting in Gibraltar where their children were born and where George was promoted Captain.  Returning to the UK, he was sent to Anglesey for more explosives work and on 25 February1851 died there ‘from hurts received while supervising blasting of a rock’.

The youngest Hutchinson offspring, Charles Scrope, born on 8 August 1826 in Hythe, followed George into the Royal Engineers after an education at University College School. He rose from Gentleman Cadet in 1843 to Colonel in 1876. He, too, was posted to Gibraltar and married there Christina, daughter of William Ross on 6 January 1852 . Four daughters and two sons followed.

On their return to England, Charles was posted to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, where he taught, eventually being appointed Professor of Fortifications. In 1867, however, he was seconded to be  an Inspector of Railways, a post he held until 1897, combining it for the first eight years with his military obligations. He was responsible, among other things, for holding enquiries into railways accidents and inspecting works. During his career he held over a thousand enquiries  and made six thousand five hundred inspections, including over seven years, quarterly inspections of the building of the Forth Bridge.

.

The opening of the Forth Bridge in 1890

Unfortunately, he also inspected, and recommended for opening, the newly-built Tay Bridge in 1878.  The next year, during a violent storm, it collapsed, killing an estimated seventy five people. At the subsequent enquiry, it was found that the cross bracing of the piers and its fastenings were too weak to resist heavy gales. The designer, Sir Robert Bouch, was blamed, but Charles escaped the mob fury that Bouch suffered.

The Tay Bridge after its partial collapse

He retired from the army in 1877 with the honorary rank of major-general and was created a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1890. A colleague wrote of him:

‘He never spared himself and often after a comfortless night journey in cross-country trains, he would snatch a hurried breakfast at some dreary railway buffet and begin a long day’s work of inspection at 8 o’clock in the morning, much to the surprise and not always to the joy of the railway officers, who wondered how in the world he got there.'(1)

Charles died at Blackheath on 29 February 1912 and a memorial plaque was erected in St James’ Church, Kidbrooke.

To be continued…

  1. Stanley Hall, ‘Railway Detectives: 150 Years of the Railway Inspectorate’, London: Ian Allen Ltd, 1990, p.30

Details of the demolition of the Round Hill Cliff are taken from http://www.doverhistorian.com

With thanks to Brin Hughes

W

Back to Armenia – more Finnis stories

To understand the next chapter in the story of the Finnis descendants, we must go back to the wife of Henry Blosse Lynch, Rosa. She had a sister, Khatoon.

Khatoon’s marriage was rather less controversial than that of her sister. She married  a merchant called Yusuf Constantine and had a son, Lazar and a daughter, Miriam. The family lived in Baghdad and when Khatoon’s husband died, she and her children moved in with her sister and brother-in-law, Robert Taylor,  in the same city. Shortly afterwards she was introduced to John Vesey Parnell (later 2nd Lord Congleton) who was on a largely unsuccessful missionary trip from England on behalf of the Plymouth Brethren. He did, however, manage to convert Khatoon and their marriage followed shortly afterwards, on 21 May 1833.  They were both widowed (Parnell’s wife had died on the journey out), so it seems that the niceties of an extended courtship were dispensed with.

They travelled back to England with the ten-year-old Lazar and his four-year-old sister Miriam

Parnell succeeded as Lord Congleton in 1842 when his father hanged himself. He and Khatoon, who lived in Great Cumberland Place in London, had no children of their own. Lord Congelton was frequently away from home, preaching and baptising adult believers all over England. Khatoon died in 1865.

At this point, we return to Hythe. Lazar, who became a civil engineer,  married Elizabeth Ann Finnis of Hythe grand-daughter of Robert Finnis, upholsterer, in 1861.  They must have met in London through Elizabeth’s half-Armenian cousins. The  bride was given away by her uncle, Thomas Quested Finnis, who gave a splendid wedding breakfast and ball for the couple at his home in Wanstead. The couple lived with Lazar’s mother for a while, but later in Cambridge Terrace, just around the corner.  It was a short marriage as he died only five years later on 8 April 1866.  He had made his will only weeks earlier, leaving a thousand pounds to his step-father who was the sole executor (perhaps in repayment of a loan) and the rest to his wife. Elizabeth Ann, a childless widow, moved back to Hythe to live with her maiden aunt Sarah Finnis and after her death rented a house in Arthur Villas in Stade Street. AHe lived there with a paid companion, Charlotte Lane, dying in 1913, still a widow and was buried in the Finnis family vault at St Leonard’s church, its last occupant. She had only stocks and shares left to bequeath and these went to a niece she had never met, daughter of her half-brother John Elphicke Castle, who had emigrated to Canada in the 1850s.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Ann’s cousin, Thomas Kerr Lynch, had married Harriet Taylor, the daughter of Robert Taylor and Rosa.  Their son, Henry Finnis Blosse Lynch (HFB, to distinguish him from all the other Henrys) continued the exploration of the Middle East started by his father and uncles.

Born on 18 April 1862, HFB was educated at Eton, the University of Heidelberg and Trinity College, Cambridge. As a child, he was surrounded by Armenian relatives: his grandmother, Rosa and her sister Khatoon, who lived nearby; Khatoon’s son, Lazar and his sister Miriam; his uncle Stephen’s wife, Hosanna.  His father and uncles travelled to and from across continents, to Armenia, Persia and Mesopotamia. His uncle Henry, together with his wife Caroline, HFB’s aunt, visited from Paris.

After Cambridge, he studied law and was called to the Bar in 1887, but seems never to have practised as a barrister, instead joining the family firm of Lynch Brothers, becoming company’s chairman in 1896. He had been admitted as a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Bowyers of the City of London in 1888 – evidently the name of Finnis still had some influence there.

HFB Lynch

Business took him to the Middle East, but he was still attracted by Armenia and in 1893-4 and again in 1898 made extended visits to the country where he travelled extensively, sometimes in the company of a Blosse Lynch cousin, yet another Henry. Together they climbed Mount Ararat. The result of his travels was a two-volume book, Armenia: Travel and Studies. illustrated with his own photographs and published in 1901.

Mount Ararat, 

HFB then turned his attention to politics . In 1906-1910 he was the Liberal MP for Ripon in Yorkshire but lost the seat to Edward Wood, later Lord Halifax.  He then contested the constituency of Gloucester but lost to the Conservative candidate by three votes and apparently decided to retire from politics. He lived latterly in Wardington House near Banbury, but died, ‘suddenly’ on 24 November 1913 at Calais. He is buried at Kensal Green.

Wardington House, now a nursing home

His only sibling, Eva, meanwhile, had married twice, the first time disastrously. At only twenty, she had accepted the proposal of John Charlton Kinchant, a captain in the 11th Hussars, who told her and her father that his only debt was £100 owed to his tailor. During the honeymoon in Paris, he admitted that in fact he had gambling debts amounting to over £12,000, which his new father-in-law paid off to avert disgrace. Kinchant was also obsessively jealous and often beat his wife, who understandably petitioned for a judicial separation after seven years of misery.

She was granted a divorce at the end of 1889 and in 1913 married the French Naval Attache to London, Commander (later Comte)  Rothiacob. They eventually retired to St Raphael on the French Riviera, where Eva died  on 19 December 1943 and where she is buried.

 

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 joined her brothers in 1856, married later that year John Westgarth – and then they both disappear from the record.

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

 

 

Frederick Mackeson and the Jewel in the Crown

 

 

In 1801, two brothers from Deal bought a brewery in Hythe. They were Henry and William Mackeson. Though business acumen or force of personality – or both – Henry became the senior partner, patriarch of the Mackeson dynasty in Hythe and started the business on the road to international fame.  William and his family, however, have their own monument in St Leonard’s church, Hythe which lists the adventures of some of his ten children

William married, in 1797, Harriet Reynolds and their first son, Charles William was born in Deal. The next nine – another seven sons and two daughters, came into the world in Hythe. William had not much of a head for finance and and when he died, during a trip to Bath in 1821, it was revealed that he had huge debts. His brother Henry stepped in to ensure that Harriet was not left destitute, but her sons needed to find paid occupations.

Charles William had predeceased his father at just nineteen years old. The next son, John, worked at the brewery for at least seven years after his father’s death, before moving to London, where he described himself as an accountant. In retirement he moved in with his widowed sisters and died unmarried in 1892. John had difficulty accepting that his father’s negligence had resulted in the family’s impoverished state and in 1840, his uncle Henry had to make a witnessed statement that William’s estate had not been sufficient to cover his debts.(1)

John’s younger brother Henry Scrope Mackeson became a physician, married twice and had five children. He died in 1875. George became a civil servant, also married twice and had a son. He died in Uxbridge in his early fifties. Thomas joined the Royal Navy, where he saw service at the Battle of Navarino during the Greek War of Independence in 1827; endured a hellish trip in a surveying vessel down the African coast in 1830, when more than half the crew died of fever; and finally succumbed himself in Malta aged twenty-eight. William Lawrence and Julius Arthur both joined the Bengal Native Infantry and both died of fever in India, in 1842 and 1847 respectively.

The daughters both married. The elder, Isabel, married a solicitor in Canterbury Cathedral and died childless in 1886. Her younger sister Harriet Sophia married an army chaplain and travelled with him to Agra, where he died of fever eight months after their wedding. Harriet returned home and lived latterly with her sister.

Which leaves the fourth son, Frederick, who managed to avoid both marriage and death from fever.

He was born on 2 September 1807, educated at the King’s School, Canterbury and joined the Bengal Native Infantry in 1825. After a spell as political agent in the Punjab, he was sent to Peshawar, now in Pakistan, where he stayed during the first Anglo-Afghan War and where he earned a reputation as a first-class soldier and linguist.  His next conflicts were the first and second Anglo-Sikh wars when notably, after the battle of Chillianwala in 1849, he swam the treacherous Jhelum river to warn comrades on the other side of an imminent Sikh attack. That year he was promoted Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel.

The next year he was chosen for a special escort duty – accompanying the Koh-i-noor diamond to England.  The British had won the war and the diamond was ceded to Queen Victoria under the Treaty of Lahore (or stolen, depending on your point of view). On 1 February 1850, the jewel was sealed in a small iron safe inside a red dispatch box, both sealed with red tape and a wax seal, which for the sea voyage to England was placed inside a larger iron safe.  It was a miserable trip.  During a stopover at Mauritius, there was an outbreak of cholera on board and the locals threatened to open fire on the vessel unless it departed immediately. Back at sea it was caught in an enormous storm.  Finally on 1 July the diamond was handed over to the East India Company who formally presented it to the queen two days later.

She and Prince Albert did not much care for it and nor did the British public who viewed it at the Great Exhibition in 1853. The cut meant that it did not sparkle and when viewed head on looked like a black hole. Prince Albert had it recut by Garrards, the royal jewellers. Now it was dazzling and the queen had it put in a circlet, but still did not like it: ‘no one feels more strongly than I do about India or how much I opposed our taking those countries and I think no more will be taken, for it is very wrong and no advantage to us. You know also how I dislike wearing the Koh-i-Noor’ she wrote to her daughter twenty years later.

After Victoria’s death,  the stone was used in the crowns of the Queen Consorts.

The Koh-i-noor in the crown of the late Queen Mother

Frederick went back to India and was appointed Deputy Commissioner for Peshawar where he was known by the locals as ‘Kishin Kaka’ . One evening in September 1853, as he was hearing appeals on his veranda, he was greeted with a salaam by a Muslim from Swat and presented with a piece of paper. The man then stabbed him. He died four days later on 14 September. The assassin was hanged and his body burnt.

Frederick is buried in Peshawar and as well as the memorial in St Leonard’s church Hythe he has another in Canterbury Cathedral.

Frederick’s tomb

The inscription on his Canterbury Cathedral memorial….

… and the full monument

His mother Harriet died in 1855, having four times received the news of a son’s death in a faraway land.

The full text of the memorial in St Leonard’s church is:

In memory of/William Mackeson/of this town/who died at Bath 10th April 1821, aged 47 years

Also of Harriett, his wife,/who died at Canterbury 19th December 1855, aged 79 years

And of Charles William, their eldest son/who died 19th May 1819, aged 19 years./ The remains of the above are deposited in a vault/near this and adjoining the church.

Also in memory of/Thomas, their fifth son, lieutenant in the Royal Navy/who died at Malta 4th October 1837, aged 28 years./He served at Navarino 20th October 1827, and in/H.M’s surveying vessel Hecla on the West Coast of Africa 1829-30/and was one of the few officers who survived/the trials of that expedition.

William Lawrence, their seventh son, lieutenant and adjutant,/19th regiment Bengal Native Infantry,/who died at Bombay 30th October 1842, aged 26 years

Julius Arthur, their eighth son, lieutenant,/33rd Regiment Bengal Native Infantry,/who died at Neemuch 28th September 1847 , aged 29 years./He served in the Cabul campaign 1842,/and in the Sutlej campaign 1845-6.

And/Frederic, their fourth son, Lieutenant Colonel Bengal Army,/Companion of the Bath/Member of the Third Class of the Douranee Empire/and Commissioner of Peshawur,/who died 14th September 1853,/of a wound inflicted by a Mahometan fanatic/aged 46 years./He served in all the campaigns and important operations/on the north western frontier of India from 1838 to 1853,/during the whole of which eventful period/he was engaged in appointments/of the highest political responsibility and distinction./A monument has been erected to his memory/and in honor of his character and public services/at Peshawur, where he fell, and in Canterbury Cathedral,/by his friends and admirers in India.

 

  1. Taken from a partial history of the Mackeson family held in the Hythe Civic Society Archives and signed only ‘DHC/JAR 4.2.60’.

Alice and Harry: the Finnis French Connection

I thought, having completed ‘Armenia, India &  Mesopotamia: The Finnis Grandchildren’ eighteen months ago,  that I had also completed the story of the descendants of Robert Finnis, upholsterer of Hythe, but a telephone conversation with Christopher Young proved me very wrong. Christopher is a retired judge who studied history after his retirement and developed a particular interest in Henry Finnis Blosse Lynch. 

In that last post, I left Henry Blosse Lynch, Robert’s grandson, in 1856 in Paris with his wife and the comment that he died there. There was, in fact, more to come. 

Henry had gone to Paris with his wife, Caroline Anne, the daughter of Robert Taylor and his wife Rosa. Their love story was unusual even scandalous, as Robert, then a nineteen-year-old British army ensign, had eloped with Rosa, the daughter of an Armenian merchant, when she was twelve.  

 

Robert Taylor in later life        Christopher Young

Their children did not arrive until some years later, which gives me hope that until then the relationship was innocent. It was not, latterly however, without excitement. In 1808, when travelling with her infant son  to join her husband in Bombay (Mumbai),  Rosa’s  ship was captured by pirates and a ransom had to be paid to get her back. The adventure made her the talk of Bombay for months to come. Later, in 1829, after a trip to England, she eschewed the usual sea journey and travelled  overland from England to Baghdad where her husband (now Major Taylor) was the British resident. One of his claims to fame was that he had found near Nineveh a hexagonal clay tablet containing King Sennacherib’s account of his conquests. In the same way that the Parthenon marbles became known as ‘Elgin’s marbles’, so Sennacherib’s prism became ‘Taylor’s prism’. Rosa sold it to the British Museum in 1850 where it can still be viewed.

‘Taylor’s prism’

But I digress. Henry Blosse Lynch and Caroline Taylor had five children. In Paris, Henry established himself  as a well-known and popular member of the English colony. At the conclusion of the Persian war of 1856–7, he was delegated by Lord Palmerston to conduct the negotiations with the Persian plenipotentiary, which resulted in the treaty of Paris of  March 1857.  He also wrote papers for the Royal Geographic Society on the Tigris. The children grew up .

Henry Blosse Lynch

The second was Alice, born during Henry’s soldiering days in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1844.  Regarded as a great beauty, she married in 1867 Adolf Wilhelm Kessler, a banker.

Alice Blosse Lynch at about the time of her marriage

Adolf Kessler

Their son Harry was born in Paris on 23 May 1868.  Two years later, the couple visited Bad Ems, a spa town on the Rhein. Also holidaying there was the Kaiser, Wilhelm I, who was smitten by Alice, introduced himself on the promenade and remained an admirer for the rest of his life. This, of course, resulted in rumours that the two were lovers and that Alice’s children were by the Kaiser, despite the fact that Harry was born well before they met. The rumours were fuelled by Wilhelm’s insistence on being godfather to Harry’s sister, Wilhelmina and by his ennoblement of Adolf, who became a count (or more correctly, Graf). Otto von Bismarck , the German Chancellor, was another admirer, enchanted, he said, by Alice’s singing. 

The admirers: Wilhelm I, Bismarck and Bülow,

Admiration could have its downside.  Another of Alice’s devoted followers was Bernhard von Bülow, later another German Chancellor. He made an ill-judged attempt to seduce Alice while her husband was away and was rebuffed. He took his revenge fifty years later by using his memoirs to suggest that Alice, now long dead, had been the mistress of General Georges Ernest Boulanger, soldier and nationalist politician. In fact, these rumours had been current years before, but had been successfully quashed by the family. 

Alice in later life, rather ethereal

Alice consoled herself with amateur theatre where she performed the works of Maupassant to invited audiences and was congratulated by Ibsen himself on her performance as Nora in The Dollshouse . He especially liked  hertempestuous’ dancing of the tarantella. (1) 

Adolf died of throat cancer on 22 March 1895 and Alice never recovered from her loss. She developed a debilitating but undiagnosed illness and retreated from society, refusing to see old friends except occasionally in dimmed light. Winters were spent hidden in her Paris apartment, summers in a semi-derelict chateau in Normandy. Her correspondence with her beloved son Harry during her declining years was full of misery. She died on 19 September 1919. Harry was devastated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Kessler as a young man

Harry (in full, Harry Clement Ulrich Kessler) was a brilliant but complex character. Educated in France, England and Germany, he studied law and art history in Bonn and Leipzig  respectively. His biographer, Laird M. Easton, describes his contribution to the cultural and political life of Germany (and beyond) during the inter war years as aesthete, art patron, diplomat, diarist and peace campaigner.  He supported artists such as French sculptor Aristide Maillol, Belgian architect Henry van de Velde, English theatre designer Gordon Craig, and Austrian poet and playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal;   during World War 1 he served as a soldier, propagandist, and secret agent and after it embarked on a public career as a committed internationalist and pacifist, a stance that led ultimately to his exile from Germany after Hitler’s rise to power.  

Harry Kessler in 1936

Harry returned to Paris, then went on to Mallorca and finally to the southern French provinces. He died in 1937 in Lyon at a hostelry owned by his sister (now the Duchesse de Frioul) and is buried in the family plot at Père Lachaise cemetery, Paris.  He never married. His preference was for beautiful young men, notably a French cyclist called Colin. As I write this, I cannot but think how impossibly vulgar Harry would find the notion of being the subject of a blog post. 

His grandmother, Rosa, meanwhile, widowed, went  first to Boulogne and then to England where she stayed with her daughter Harriet in Cleveland Square, Bayswater. Her grandson, who lived with her, could remember  could remember her running her hennaed hands over his face and telling him he had the features of her late husband. She died in 1873. 

To be continued…

  1. Laird M. Easton, The Red Count: The Life and Times of Harry Kessler  (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002) p. 19

What’s in a name? Quite a lot…

 

As a result of new research findings and contact from a family member, this is an updated version of a post first published in 2017.

Campbell Kelton Grave

In loving memory/of/ Major Frank Murray Campbell/died 8th March 1910
“Come unto me, ye weary, and I will give you rest”
In tender loving memory of /Major Percy St. G. Kelton/who died in Paris 28th of June 1924
R.I.P.

Two men, both soldiers, who died fourteen years apart, in two different countries with seemingly nothing to connect them, not even a name. And, as it turns out, neither man started life with the name on the gravestone and as for the military ranks – well, read on..

Frank Murray Campbell claimed on census returns to have been born in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire in about 1859, but there is no record anywhere in Hertfordshire or indeed anywhere in England of a birth registration or baptism in this name. In fact, there are no records at all of him until he married Julia Gertrude Kortoske Curtis, born in Canada, in London in 1880.  This is because he was at birth called Frank Calisher, the second son of Henry Calisher, a diamond merchant and his wife Marion. He was though, born in Cheshunt.

Frank had an older brother and two younger sisters and was educated at a private school in Northfleet. At about the time he left school, he started to use the name ‘Murray Campbell’ as his father already did for business purposes.

His new wife Julia was probably the daughter of either Benjamin or Raphael Kortoske who traded in hats and caps in Montreal and London. The family changed their name to Curtis after a disastrous bankruptcy and fraud case was proved against them.

Frank and Julia went to South Africa, where their first daughter, Marion May, was born. On their return to London, they lived in Hampstead and Frank worked as a stockbroker. Two more children, Sybille and Edmund were born.

campbell

Frank in uniform                     (Photo Mrs Avril Williams) 

Frank joined the 4th Volunteer Battalion the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment in 1891 and attained the rank of major. The battalion saw service during the Boer War, but there is no evidence that Frank was with them and he did not use his military rank in private life.

Then in 1906, Julia sued for divorce. At that time, a woman could not obtain a divorce for adultery alone. There had to be an additional cause, such as cruelty.   By then Frank was living at 8 Beaconsfield Terrace, Hythe, the home of Rina Kelton.

Campbell Beaconsfield

Beaconsfield Terrace, Hythe, in the early years of the 20th century

Rina Henriette Kelton nee St Goar was the very rich widow of a stockbroker, originally called Carl Kahn. She had been born in Germany on 25 October 1858 to a wealthy Jewish family. She and her husband moved to London. Carl – now Charles – died in 1905 and left a considerable sum of money to Rina and their two sons, Gerald and Percy, but stipulated that they must change their name to Kelton

Rina lived mostly in Park Lane in London but had a holiday home at Beaconsfield Terrace in Hythe, which she rented from Lady Evelyn Cooper-Key, the widow of an admiral. She was known in the seaside town for her largesse. There was not a church nor a charitable institution which did not benefit from her generosity and ’Madame Rina Kelton’, as she insisted on being called,  was often asked to open garden parties and sales of work. She endowed the School of Musketry with the Kelton Cup, to be competed for at football. How she managed to mix in respectable society while living with a divorced man is a mystery. It may be that she passed him off as her spouse. One oral history interviewee, speaking in the 1980s, remembers that she had a ‘husband’.(1)

Frank died at Rina’s home, of a massive facial abscess due to a failed dental implant. One or more gaps in his dentition had been replaced by the teeth of a dead person. In the days before antibiotics, this was a risky procedure and in his case it failed catastrophically. Death must have been ultimately from organ failure due to sepsis and he would have been in agony in his final days.(2)

Attempts at dental implants were not new and had been made with some success by the Etruscans, using oxen teeth and in first millennium South American using stone or Spondylus shells – and sometimes this was successful. From about 1600 attempts were made to use human teeth, but the results were usually at least unpleasant and at worst fatal.

Frank was attended during his last illness by his sister, Violet Rachel Curtis. She had married Louis Curtis (born Louis Kortoske and probably Julia’s brother or cousin) in 1875 and they too, had gone to South Africa, to Kimberley, after their marriage. Their daughter, another Marion was born there before they, too, returned to the UK.

Frank’s cremated remains were interred in St Leonard’s churchyard on 29 January 1914, four years after his death. He left in his will £360 and named as his executor his widow, Rina Kelton, though there is no record of a marriage. It is to be hoped that some of this was returned to Julia and his children, whom he had left destitute.

The other man commemorated on the gravestone, Percy St Goar Kelton was born Percy St Goar Kahn on 28 December 1886, the elder son of Charles and Rina Kahn. he was educated at Harrow School, Queen’s College Cambridge and the University of Hanover.  He served in the territorial division of the East Kent Regiment, ‘The Buffs’ from August 1909 to 1913, when he resigned.  He was a man of independent means, with no need to work, and devoted himself  to gambling at cards and  horse racing. He lived with his mother whose residences were now at Hanover Square and ‘Castlemead’, Hythe.

In September 1914 he took his motor car to Paris and worked as a civilian driver attached to the British Army Headquarters in Paris. He also did some interpreting in interviews of German prisoners as he was bilingual.  Apart from that, his Commanding Officer said that he made a nuisance of himself, as he thought that being an unpaid chauffeur was beneath him.  He was, according to the same man, ‘bumptious, swaggering and loud’ and he ‘lied quite a lot’. (2)

According to Percy’s own account, he was involved in fighting near Compiegne. He killed two German soldiers and took one prisoner. He took the bullet-riddled helmet of one of his victims and had it sent, via a French woman who was escaping, to his mother. This sounds very much like one of Percy’s inventions, since as a civilian he was not involved in military action.

His behaviour was so erratic, that for a time he was suspected of being a spy and investigated in February 1915, but no evidence was found to support the allegation.

In 1915, he was commissioned as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps for temporary service. However, a subsequent medical examination found that he was unfit for service either at home or abroad as he had undergone surgery for a hernia which left him unable to walk far or carry heavy weights.  Instead, he was sent to Shoreham in Sussex to work for the General Army Staff. (3)

He did, however, manage to join the West Africa Frontier Force, but in January 1917 contracted malaria. Six months later he was invalided home and was admitted to the London General Hospital. It must have been in this period that he met  Elizabeth MacBride, the daughter of Mr and Mrs William MacBride of New York, whom he married at St James’s Church, Spanish Place, London on 12 December 1917. American and British officers formed a guard of honour for the couple.

He then went back to Africa; whether Elizabeth went too is unknown. His medal card seems to show that although he had attained the rank of Captain, he worked after the war, until at least 1921, as a civilian  owner-driver for the force in the Gold Coast Regiment. He was mentioned in dispatches in early 1919, and in 1920 awarded the Military Order of Aviz by the King of Portugal – part of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) was a Portuguese colony.

campbell kelton medal card

Nothing further is known of him, except that at the time of his death his permanent residence was the Hotel Brioni on Brioni, an island off the coast of Istria. He died of peritonitis in Paris. Probate was granted to his brother Gerald, though he left only £253 19s 7d,  in Kelton family terms, a pittance. His mother placed a death notice in the local press which stated that he was awarded the Military Cross, but there is no supporting evidence for this, nor is there any indication that he became a major, as  Rina claimed on his gravestone.

His mother had moved to Folkestone by 1939, but died in 1944 in Wokingham, aged eighty-five.

  1. Hythe Civic Society Archives
  2. Details of Frank’s death and dental implants : Dr B.J.Williams MA, MRCS
  3. WO 339/16864  National Archive
  4. ibid.

Religion, Ramsgate and Revolution – the Piety family

My interest in the Piety family was sparked when an American descendant of Austen Piety contacted St Leonard’s church in Hythe seeking some information. I was able to give him the details he wanted, but the research piqued my interest. I wanted to know more about this family, but the usual first port of call, the genealogy websites, threw up a miscellany of information, little of it referenced to any verifiable source.

There were various, sometimes conflicting, dates of birth and of death; mention of a burial in Wye in a non-existent graveyard; a mysterious and now-vanished document in a Hythe church; suggestions that Austen Piety deserted his wife and claims that he was an army chaplain. There is even a photo of Austen, though he died in 1815, thirty-odd years before commercial photography became a possibility.

What follows is what I have been able to piece together from the records.

Austen’s father, Thomas, was born in about 1706, though where is unknown. Some internet sources state that it was in Lancashire and name his parents as Winfield Piety and Maryana Grover, but in fact he was the son of Richard Piety and Elizabeth Austen. Thomas himself, in his will, names his mother as Elizabeth Austen and states that she is buried with her husband in St Leonard’s churchyard in Hythe and that her family are interred nearby.(1)  Marriage records show that Elizabeth Austen married Richard Piety in Canterbury on 21 September 1699 and that he was ‘of Newington neare Hythe’ (2).

It is not easy to trace Thomas’s family as he was a Baptist. Baptists did not christen infants, preferring the adult baptism of believers. Fortunately (for us, anyway), marriages and funerals could still only be performed in the Church of England, so records of these are extant.

Thomas married three times. The first marriage was on 6 August 1733 to Alice White, a widow. (3) At that time, they were both living in Stelling. This refers to the  village Stelling Minnis situated between Hythe and Canterbury and about five miles from Hythe. Alice became the mother of  Thomas junior (c. 1737) Austen (c.1738)  They seem to have lived in Hythe, as in 1745, Thomas wrote to the Duke of Newcastle from the town about local smuggling (4).  Newcastle, the brother of the Prime Minister, was a powerful man, but the news of smuggling can hardly have come as a surprise to him, since it had been rife in the area for many years. In what capacity Thomas was writing is unknown and until the National Archives at Kew re-open, will remain so.

Thomas also kept himself occupied with Baptist church affairs. By 1749, he was attending meetings of the General Assembly of the Baptist Church in Southwark, representing the Hythe congregation and later became a ‘Messenger’, a co-ordinator of evangelists (5).  There were, too, difficulties to be dealt with when a congregation of Particular Baptists was established in the town (6). Thomas was a member of the General Baptists. The difference was theological: Particular Baptists believed that Jesus died only for the elect; General Baptists that He died for all mankind. Each group saw the other as a threat to the Truth.

In 1758, however, he was appointed as minister for the General Baptist church in Ramsgate. Ramsgate is about thirty-five miles from Hythe, but Thomas was wealthy enough to afford a carriage and could drive there. In fact, he seems to have lived there for a while and now represented Ramsgate at the Baptist Assembly (6). He had an incentive to move as on 1 January 1860, now a widower, he married again to a local woman, Ann Chilton(8).  She was the widow of Richard Chilton, ‘gentleman’, who had been prominent in the Ramsgate Baptist church until he married Ann, who was not then a Baptist herself. ‘Marrying out’ was forbidden, but the law was often broken. Richard Chilton had been the subject of an enquiry but was ultimately forgiven (9).  He died in 1758, leaving his wife, as his sole heir, very comfortably off (9).  She must have been received into the church at some point after their marriage.

Ramsgate at about the time Thomas was there

The Ramsgate congregation was struggling and Thomas went to the Kent Association of Baptist Churches to seek help. He said he had only one deacon, who was aged and lived outside the town. Although they could not help, Thomas’s connections in the church ensured that he received the assistance he needed from Barfestone, Eythorne and Wingham congregations (11).  His was not a large congregation and did not have its own baptistry, necessary for total immersion. Adult believers were instead baptised in the sea at Sandwich, having first formally accepted the Six Principles of the General Baptists: Repentance, Faith, Baptism, Laying on of Hands, Resurrection of the Dead and Final Judgment.

Eythorne Baptist church, the oldest in the country

Eventually, though, Thomas and Ann moved back to Hythe, but left an endowment of three hundred pounds with the Ramsgate church to support a ministry there (12).  Later, they diverted the money to serve as a mortgage to a group of four London churches which wanted to build a meeting house in White Horse Alley in St Sepulchre, Shoreditch. (13).  The building later became the venue for meetings of the General Assembly, of which Thomas became a Moderator in 1770 (14).

White Horse Alley in Shoreditch

Ann Piety died in Hythe in June 1776 and was buried there (15).  Just before her death, she had obtained permission from Thomas to donate the interest on the three hundred pounds mortgage to the General Baptist Church in Thanet (16).

Twenty months later, on 23 February 1778, Thomas married for a third time and his choice of bride must have raised a few eyebrows and warranted a paragraph in the Kentish Gazette:

On Monday last was married at Hythe by the Rev. Mr Potts, Mr Thomas Piety in the seventy second year of his age, to Miss Green, of Saltwood, aged twenty two.(17)

St Leonard’s Church, Hythe, where Thomas married Elizabeth Green and where he is buried

Almost exactly three years later, Thomas died and was buried in the churchyard of St Leonard, near to his parents, as he had requested in his will (18). He had drawn this up a few weeks after his marriage, seven pages of densely written instructions. His wife, Elizabeth, got a water mill and its land in the neighbouring parish of Newington together with a coach and stable yard in Hythe, half the silver plate and all the furniture from their house. Austin, the younger son by the long-departed Alice, got all the rest of the real estate and his  brother Thomas an annuity of fifty pounds.  There were a few smaller requests, including to Baptist churches and to his first wife’s family in Stelling. Then, toward the end of the document is a rather extraordinary direction. Thomas says that if Elizabeth takes any legal action or

any other Matter or Thing to Obstruct or hinder the disposition of my real and personal estate according to my Mind and Will herein before declared then and in such case I do solemnly and expressly declare my Mind and Will to be that my said wife Elizabeth shall forfeit the Gifts and Bequests herein before made to her my said wife and shall not receive any Benefit or Advantage whatsoever from this my Will or from any of the devises or bequests to her herby made and provided.(19)

He had been married for fourteen weeks when he wrote this. Did he perhaps suspect that Elizabeth had married him for his money? Or was he, by then an old man, persuaded into this by his sons who thought that their new stepmother might have ulterior motives?

Elizabeth remained a widow for four years and married again in 1785 (20). Thomas junior did not long outlive his father, dying in Whitechapel in 1787. He had married and had a daughter, Elizabeth Austen Piety, named for her grandmother, who lived less than two years. The child was baptised in St Mary Matfelon church in Whitechapel , which might suggest that Thomas junior, though he had earlier in life attended the General Assembly, did not remain a Baptist. However, he lived in Mill Yard in Whitechapel, the site of a Baptist Church and was interred in the Baptist Burial Ground there (21).

Mill Yard Baptist Church & burial ground in the 19th century

His brother, Austen, meanwhile, had taken a different route and gone to America. The genealogy websites all quote from a memoir written by a family member of Austen’s first wife in 1886, a hundred and twenty years after the events (22). Over that time span stories can become distorted, deliberately or not. It claims that Austen was an officer in the British Army , based at Fort Pitt (now in Pittsburgh). Fort Pitt was built in 1759 to 1760 by the British 60th Regiment of Rifles during the Seven Years war, when the British in America fought the French and the Indian Nations. The 60th remained there to garrison the fort throughout the 1760s when Austen is alleged to have been there. Their  Regimental Chronicle lists all the officers of this time, from Lt. Col. to ensign and includes surgeons and chaplains. Austen’s name is not among them (23).

Fort Pitt as it was when Austen was there

All the websites agree that it was there that he married Sarah Polk (or Polke or Pollock), probably in 1763.  He was ordered to Fort Kaskaskia, a French stronghold which they ceded to the British in the same year. Sarah accompanied him on this journey. They then returned to Fort Pitt.  All the accounts also agree that the couple had four children – Elizabeth, Sarah, Nancy and Thomas – and that Austen deserted them in 1774 and returned to England.

In fact, the British Army had abandoned Fort Pitt in 1772. If Austen was still there two years later, he had either resigned his commission or had never been in the army in the first place and was just a settler seeking his fortune in the New World, as so many young men did. The fort was seized by Virginian militiamen in 1774.

But when he left his family, as he undoubtedly did, Austen did not go to England.

By 1774, tensions between the British and the colonists were rising and fearing for their lives, many loyal settlers were beginning to flee northwards.  It is possible, even probable, that his wife and in-laws  sympathised with the rebels and that this disagreement  caused a family rift, as it did in very many cases. In 1776, the colony declared itself independent, leading to a prolonged and bloody war.

Austen is next heard of in 1777 as the Conductor of Artillery for Lieutenant-Colonel Barry St Leger of the British Army in Canada,  though he was acting as a volunteer (24).

Austen’s Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. St Leger

He had joined the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, established in Montreal by Sir John Johnson of New York state in spring 1776.   In March 1777, Austen applied to the War Office in London for preferment and this was granted in August when he was made an ensign in Captain Richard Duncan’s company of the same regiment (25).   The next year he was promoted lieutenant (26).

A re-enactment group in the uniform of the ‘King’s Royal Yorkers’

The company, otherwise known as the King’s Royal Yorkers’ or Johnson’s Greens  saw a fair amount of action during the war. Some historians have suggested that while the regiment was greatly feared by the enemy, that it was often inhumane towards them in defeat. It took part in many actions and raids on the New York frontier and helped defeat twelve hundred rebels at Johnstown in October 1781. Before that engagement, Austen made his will in Montreal, where the city records note it as ‘The Last Will and Testament of Lieut. Austen Piety, Royal New York Regt.’  After their final confrontation, at Fort Oswego, the regiment was disbanded in September 1783. As a loyalist soldier, Austen would have been offered land to settle in Canada, but instead chose to go back to  Hythe.

There he formed a new relationship, with Sarah Judd. Their first child, Elizabeth, was born in 1786 and they were married in 1788. The marriage was technically bigamous, since Sarah Polk was still alive and did not die until 1835, but Austen swore an affidavit that ‘many years ago he married Sarah Pollock and about 14 years ago by reason of the troubles in America they were obliged to separate and he believed her dead’. He was declared to be a widower(27).  It is possible that when the war was over, Austen tried to make contact with his family, but they were long gone from Fort Pitt. According to her descendant, Sarah with her  children and three of her many brothers had settled in Kentucky in 1780 (28). That is about five hundred miles away. It seems that Austen’s first wife had given up hope, if she ever entertained any, of a reunion.

Austen and Sarah Judd went on to have five more children, including twin boys, but only their first, Elizabeth , and last, Richard (both named for their Piety grandparents), survived to adulthood. All were baptised as infants at St Leonard’s church. This does not necessarily mean that Austen had abandoned the Baptist church. The Test Act of 1678, still in force, ruled that anyone wanting to take a public post, including in the armed services, had to have a certificate stating that they were a communicant member of the Church of England. In order to take communion, one had first to have been baptised in an Anglican church.  Austen described himself as ‘a gentleman’. He might expect his sons to be gentlemen, too and it was expected of gentlemen that they would, in however humble a capacity, take on some public duties.

Austen and his family stayed in Hythe until at least 1798, but by 1801, when Richard was born, they were in Ashford, Kent and later moved to Canterbury, where Austen died (aged seventy-seven, according to his burial record)  in July 1815. His body was taken back to Hythe where it could be interred near the graves of his father and infant children (29).

His will, a brief document, was signed by him on 12 July and probate was granted on 26 July (30). He left everything to Sarah and made her and their daughter Elizabeth joint guardians of Richard, who was still a minor and joint executrixes.

The family stayed in Canterbury. Sarah died in 1837 and Elizabeth, unmarried, in 1847. Perhaps Austen, by the end of his life had not been well off. His son Richard had to work for a living and became a clerk in a bonded warehouse storing imported leaf tea. He did, however, inherit the water mill which his grandfather Thomas had originally bequeathed to his third wife and which he leased out (31), and owned other property in Hythe, too. (32). Both his daughters were born in the town, though the family’s main residence was in Camberwell. His daughter Sarah married; the other, Mary Ann did not.

The Piety’s watermill, now restored

Austen Piety’s English descendants are few, if any, but on the other side of the Atlantic, his children by Sarah Polk produced prodigious numbers of offspring and his descendants there today must run into the thousands.

With thanks to Mike de la Mare for information about the watermill

Information about the King’s Royal New York Regiment is taken from ‘American Loyalist Troops 1775-84’ by Rene Chartran (New York: , Bloomsbury Publishing, 2008). 


  1. Kent Archdeaconry Marriages, Canterbury St Alphege , 1699
  2. National Archives PROB 11/1076/113
  3. Kent Archdeaconry Marriages, Canterbury St Alphege , 1733
  4. National Archives SP 36/77/2/134
  5. William Thomas Whitley, Baptists in East Kent  in The Baptist Quarterly 2:2 April 1924
  6. Ibid. 
  7. Ibid.
  8. Kent Archdeaconry Marriages, St Lawrence in Thanet, 1760
  9. Whitley
  10. National Archives PROB 11/836/132
  11. Whitley
  12. Ibid.
  13. London Metropolitan Archives ACC/2570/1
  14. Minutes of the General Assembly of the General Baptist Church in England
  15. Burial Records, Hythe St Leonard
  16. Kentish Gazette 05 June 1776
  17. Kentish Gazette 28 February 1778 and Kent Archdeaconry Banns, Hythe St Leonard
  18. Burial Records, Hythe St Leonard
  19. National Archives PROB 11/1076/113
  20. England Marriages 1538-1973, http://www.familysearch.org
  21. London, Docklands And East End Baptisms, Docklands Ancestors & England Deaths & Burials 1538-1991, http://www.familsearch.org.
  22. Indiana Magazine of History Vol. 10, No. 1 (March1914), pp. 83-109
  23. Nesbit Willoughby Wallace, Regimental Chronicle and List of Officers of the 60th or King’s Royal Rifle Corps (London: Harrison, 1879)
  24. The King’s Royal Yorkers, Capt. Duncan’s Coy, http://www.royalyorkers.ca
  25. National Archives WO 28/9/49
  26. The King’s Royal Yorkers
  27. Canterbury Marriage Licences 1781-1809
  28. Indiana Magazine of History Vol. 10, No. 1 (March1914), pp. 83-109
  29. National Archives PROB 11/1571/144
  30. East Kent Burial Index, http://www.findmypast.co.uk
  31. Newington Tithe Map and Apportionment Schedule 1840
  32. Canterbury Cathedral Archives U101/II/M/12