Reformatory Boys 2 – William Impett

William Impett was born on 20 March 1860, the sixth child of Richard Impett, a labourer and his wife Phoeba Maria, a charwoman, who then lived in Lympne, where Wiliam was baptised. They later moved to Chapel Street in Hythe, which was little more than a lane behind the High Street, lined with small workmen’s dwellings. The family seem to have been respectable, except that Richard was once convicted of trespass in search of game at Sandling Park – poaching was generally regarded (except by landowners and magistrates) as an acceptable way of putting food on the family table when times were hard.

William attended the National School in Hythe for four years, but as soon as he could be useful and contribute to the family’s income, he was working with the ‘navvies’ on the construction of the railway line running down from Sandling to Hythe. His contribution was necessary because his father had become ‘crippled and unable to work’.  However, the work did not last long, possibly because William was only 4 feet 7 inches tall and ‘undersized’.  The Overseers of the Poor granted outdoor relief to his parents and their youngest child, but this did not extend to maintaining William once he was thirteen. He was judged to be able to go out to work and as he had no job, he was put in Elham Union Workhouse on 12 June 1873.

By now he had a reputation in Hythe of being a petty thief – though not yet convicted – and of being ‘very troublesome to the police’.  Once in the workhouse, he absconded, though he was found and returned.

He managed for a while to return home – perhaps his mother or a friend had found him some temporary work – but he also returned to crime.  On 23 Jan 1874, he was sent to prison for a month for stealing eighteen eggs. This was to be followed by five years detention in a reformatory. He served his prison term in Canterbury gaol, and exactly a month later, on 23 February 1874, still just thirteen years old, he was admitted to the Royal Philanthropic School at Redhill in Surrey, together with George Cloke, who was convicted of the same crime.

This institution had been established by the Philanthropic Society, a group concerned with the care of homeless children left to fend for themselves by begging or thieving. Those admitted were children of criminals or those who had been convicted of crimes themselves. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the school was classed as a reformatory, under the Reformatory Schools Act 1854, most of its pupils being committed by the magistrates and paid for by the local authorities. Farm work was the principal occupation, although carpentry, tailoring and other trades were also taught. The aim of the Committee was ‘to assimilate, so far as the diverse conditions permit, the life and administration of the school to that of the great public schools of England’. It encouraged many of its inmates to emigrate, usually to Canada or Australia, rather than face unemployment and a possible return to criminality, on their release.

The Royal Philanthropic Farm School near Redhill

William was almost immediately in trouble at the Reformatory, and weeks after his arrival was caned for ‘going dirty to chapel.’ The punishments continued through out his stay, mostly for what we might think of as horseplay or high spirits.  Every three or four months, he rebelled and was noisy, or disorderly in the dormitory, or threw things around. Sometimes he was confined to the School’s cells (not a feature of most English public schools).

He was visited occasionally by his family. His mother and her sister, who lived in Lambeth and William’s older brother Harry came in November 1874. In October 1875, his father and Harry visited. This was the last time William would see his father, who died in early 1876, aged fifty-nine. His mother and aunt visited again in June that year, but that is the last recorded visit until his release on 24 February 1879.

The school kept tabs on its ex-pupils, mostly via local police reports. Perhaps this was to assess the success or otherwise of its regime. William went straight into employment as a servant in Folkestone, but the post did not last long. By May 1880 he had no regular work. However, in September he wrote to the School that he was working as a deck hand on board the brig Florence of Whitstable, sailing from London to Hull.

Sea Street in Whitstable today

Whitstable harbour in the 1880s. Most of the traffic was to Newcastle to fetch coal

He continued sporadically in this line of work and lived in Sea Street in Whitstable, though he spent time in Hythe, perhaps with family. His mother and a couple of brothers still lived locally.

It was during one of these visits, in 1889, that he he was convicted of common assault and sent to prison again, this time for two months. Then one night in 1893, returning drunk to his home in Whitstable, he tried to kill himself. The knives he sharpened for the purpose were confiscated by his landlord but he then swallowed a packet of precipitate powder. He was taken to a police station and treated with an emetic, but then charged – suicide was then still a criminal offence. When he appeared in court again, he told the magistrates he had signed the pledge never to drink again, and was let off another prison sentence.

He had, however, not many years left to live. On 2 February 1898 a huge storm ravaged the east coast of England, with many losses at sea. William was one of them, swept overboard when his boat, the smack Ranger, en route to Grimsby was hit by a huge wave. He was a month short of his thirty-eighth birthday and had never married.

William’s behaviour after leaving the School – the violence, drink and suicide attempt – may suggest that he had been traumatised by his time there. We cannot know. What we can be sure of is that in his case, the system failed him.

The information about William’s time at the Royal Philanthropic School is taken from their archive (2271/10/16 page 206) held at Surrey Archives in Woking. 

‘Toby MP’ in Hythe

Henry Lucy by ‘Spy’

Henry Lucy was one of the most famous English political journalists of the Victorian era. He was both a serious commentator of parliamentary affairs and an accomplished humourist and parliamentary sketch-writer, acknowledged as the first great lobby correspondent. And he lived in Hythe – or at least weekended there.

Henry was born in Crosby, near Liverpool on 5 December 1842, the son of Robert Lucy, a rose-engine turner in the watch trade, and his wife, Margaret Ellen nee Kemp. He was baptized William Henry at St. Michael’s Church and the family moved to Everton, Liverpool soon afterwards. His mother taught him to read by the age of four and then he attended the private Crescent School until he was twelve. His first job was as junior clerk to Robert Smith, a hide merchant. In his spare time, he wrote poetry for the Liverpool Mercury and went to night school to learn Pitman’s shorthand.

It paid off and in 1864 he was appointed chief reporter on the Shrewsbury Chronicle, but also supplied ‘penny-a-liners’ of Shropshire news for London newspapers.

Then, in 1869, he took his life savings of £200 and went to live in Paris to learn French.

On his return, he became a reporter for the Pall Mall Gazette, who immediately took advantage of his knowledge of French and sent him on a mission to Belgium.  In 1873 he was despatched to report on the enquiry into the wreck of the Northfleet, an emigrant ship which in January, while riding at anchor off Dungeness, had been run down by a large steamer which then proceeded on her way. The enquiry was split between Dover and Lydd and providentially the drive between the two towns took him through Hythe, which charmed him with its ‘old-fashioned roofs and house fronts dating back beyond Stuart times’.

In October that year, he married Emily Anne White, the daughter of his old schoolmaster, and they started to visit the town for holidays.

Emily Lucy as a young woman   Photo: C. Melchers

At this stage, his career began to take off. He was Parliamentary reporter for the Daily News from 1873, took a trip to Canada in 1878 to report on a Royal visit and became Parliamentary sketch writer for Punch from 1881. Used the nom-de-plume ‘Toby, M.P.’ he wrote the weekly column ‘The Essence of Parliament’ for the next thirty-five years. In 1880, he also began writing for The Observer the ‘Cross Bench’ column, which continued for twenty-nine years

In August 1883 he and Emily bought from St John’s Hospital in Hythe a plot of land between North Road and Hillside Street in the town. (1). They paid £150 for it. (2) He wrote to his solicitor that he was thinking of asking Frederick Porter to design his house and asked for his address – it was Moyle Tower on the seafront in Hythe. (3)

The deeds to the house were destroyed during the second World War, so we don’t know if Frederick Porter obliged, but while Henry and Emily took a round-the world journey, the house took shape: ‘rock-built, red-tiled Whitethorn, where roses grow beyond compare, and through late spring nights the nightingale sings’. (4)

The Lucys’ ‘weekend cottage’, Whitethorn…                               Photo: C. Melchers

         

…and with its roses beyond compare    Photo: C. Melchers

The gardens were larger than at present and abutted the gardens of the Commandant of the School of Musketry. He and Henry were able to chat companionably over the garden wall.

Henry and Emily moved their furniture into the house in September 1884 though they maintained their London home at 42 Ashley Gardens

Henry loved Hythe and wrote fondly of it, though he was less impressed by the increasing number of ‘excursionists’. He appreciated the slow pace of life there. He wrote of the bathing establishment:

‘…regularly at the end of September the pump gets out of order, and the new year is far advanced before the solitary plumber of the place gets it put right. He begins to walk dreamily round the place at Easter. At Whitsuntide he brings down an iron vessel containing unmelted solder, and early in July the pump is mended. The mending of the pump is one of the epochs of Hythe, a sure harbinger of the approaching season.’ (5)

In 1886, Henry became editor of the Daily News, a short-lived post. He was busy compiling permanent records of his Punch parliamentary sketches, A Diary of Two Parliaments (2 vols., 1885–6); A Diary of the Salisbury Parliament, 1886–1892; A Diary of the Home Rule Parliament, 1892–1895; A Diary of the Unionist Parliament, 1895–1900 ; and The Balfourian Parliament, 1900–1905. These amount to a history of the Commons in its heyday, and have been extensively mined by historians.

Henry was also a long-time friend of Ernest Shackleton and raised funds for his expedition to the South Pole by using his influence to obtain a financial grant from Parliament. As a gesture of thanks, Shackleton named a mountain in Antarctica for him, Mount Henry Lucy.

Ernest Shackleton

Henry was knighted in 1909 and he and Emily (now Lady Lucy) received over two hundred telegrams of congratulation from the great and the good. They included politicians, ambassadors, editors, actors, and bishops. One who wrote a letter was Herbert Beerbohm Tree, a hugely successful actor-manager

Sir Henry and Lady Lucy later in life                                                                                       Photos: C. Melchers

The title was perhaps only what he felt to be his due, as he believed that his father should have inherited the Lucy baronetcy together with the family estate at Charlcote, Warwickshire. He said that his father had lost touch with the titled family and on the death of one of them with no sons it went to a cousin who was more distant than his father. He said, though, that he was not bitter.

Henry died of bronchitis at Whitethorn, on 20 February 1924, aged eighty-one and was buried quietly in Saltwood. Whitethorn was in the parish of Saltwood and Emily had worshipped at the parish church there, rather than the closer St Leonard’s in Hythe. Henry, meanwhile, walked one of their succession of dogs on Sunday mornings.

His obituaries were mostly flattering, even reverent. The Times wrote: ‘Never in the House, but always of it, Lucy seemed to occupy for a long time a position of his own, as a species of familiar spirit or licensed jester, without which no Parliament was complete.’

But he was rich and famous and therefore bound to have his detractors. Ambrose Bierce, an American journalist wrote spitefully, ‘I knew Lucy very well – a little toadie, who afterwards toadied himself into a title.’

Henry left a huge sum of money, over a quarter of a million pounds, and was probably the wealthiest Victorian journalist who was not also a newspaper proprietor. In his will he endowed a ‘Sir William Henry Lucy Bed’ at Shrewsbury’s Royal Salop Infirmary ‘in memory of his pleasant connection with Shrewsbury’ as a journalist. In December 1924, Lady Lucy got permission from Hythe Town Council to plant an avenue  of cypress trees from the Cricket Ground to South Road in Hythe and to erect a commemorative tablet. The avenue was to be known as ‘Lucy’s Walk’.  She also endowed a Lad’s Club in Saltwood, which still stands and is in regular use today, not far from the churchyard where Henry is buried. .

Emily continued to use Whitethorn and in 1935, she donated £1,000 to found the Sir Henry Lucy Scholarship at Merchant Taylors’ School, Crosby. She and Henry had no children of their own. She died in Hythe in 1937.

Emily in old age in her garden at Whitethorn   Photo: C. Melchers

In 1948 the orchard adjoining Whitethorn was sold for building and with it the main entrance gate in North Road, bearing the house name. The new building thus became ‘Whitethorn’ and the old house ‘Lucy’s’, and the steep lane next to it, ‘Lucy’s Hill’, though in all probability, that is what the locals had always called them.

A caricature of Henry Lucy, by Kate Carew

With thanks to Chris Melchers for additional information

  1. Kent Archives: EK2008/2 111(1-12)
  2. Kent Archives: EK 2008/2/Book 13
  3. Kent Archives: EK2008/2/112.
  4. Henry W. Lucy Sixty Years in the Wilderness,  London, Smith Elder, 1911, p84
  5. Henry W. Lucy Faces and Places, London: Henry & Co, 1892, p. 7

Reformatory Boys 1 – the Dearman Brothers

On 5 June 1875, two boys were admitted to the Royal Philanthropic School at Redhill: Edwin Dearman, who had turned twelve the day before, and his brother James, a month off his fourteenth birthday. They had just served twenty-one days in Canterbury prison, convicted by the Hythe magistrates of begging and vagrancy and were to spend a further four years at Redhill. Both already had previous convictions, for firing straw, wilful damage, vagrancy and petty theft.The notes taken on their admission make sad reading.

Edwin, at 4 feet 6 inches tall, was judged to be ‘undersized’ and had ‘an old face.’ James was 4 feet 8 inches tall. He had been employed at stone breaking on the roads at seven shillings and sixpence per week per week and greasing railway wagons at six shillings a week. Both were illiterate.

Their father was William Dearman, a sailor’s labourer, reported by the magistrates to be of a very bad character. He had himself been in prison twice. Their mother, Mary, was also apparently of a bad character. The family lived in Dental Street in Hythe.  The boys had an older brother, William who was serving in the 36th rifles, a sister Eliza who sold watercress at Folkestone and lived in Sandgate and there were also  younger sisters, Elizabeth, Susan and Clara.

The Hythe magistrates reported that the boys had been convicted on 15 May 1875 of ‘unlawfully wandering abroad and lodging in an unoccupied house without visible means of sustenance’. They noted:

This boy and his brother bear very bad characters and are sent out by their parents nearly every day to beg, their father being a confirmed drunkard. Unless they bring home some food they receive a severe beating which causes them frequently to stay out all night.

The magistrates had limited options for helping Edwin and James: the reform school was the best one, but its admission rules required that they serve a prison sentence first. When they arrived they were separated into different ‘houses’ (the school tried to model itself on the English public school system). Visitors were allowed, but the only recorded visit they received during their time at the School was from their mother in 1876.

Edwin was regularly caned  during his stay for fighting, stealing, lying and disobedience. After his discharge, he sold herrings in Hythe, but then got work at sea on the coal brigs plying between the north-east ports and Kent. In September 1882 he served seven days for assaulting a police officer. He got married in 1887 to Mary Jane Stockbridge, but the marriage did not last and by 1890 he was living with Elizabeth Austen, a widow, in Middle Wall, Whitstable, where many of the brigs berthed.

Whitstable Harbour in the 1890s, when Edwin Dearman lived there

They had a least two children together, but the relationship was often violent and both liked a drink.  By 1909, Elizabeth had left him, taking the children to Dover. Edwin went to Woolwich, where the same year he was homeless and arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

He must have rallied as in 1916, he enlisted in the Royal Navy, though he was over fifty. He was soon discharged, not for drunkenness or bad behaviour, but simply for being too old.

Edwin died in Stepney in 1937.

While at the reform school, James was better behaved at first, apart from some minor infringements of the rules, but in 1878 he stole from a cottage on the grounds and was birched and confined in the cells for four days. He continued throughout the rest of his stay to be difficult – he used tobacco, bullied younger boys and cut up his own boots. In May 1879, it was reported that he had, when he first came to the school been keen to emigrate to Australia or Canada, but his family brought pressure to bear on him, saying they wanted him at home. They could, they said, get employment for him at sea. He was released on licence to work in May that year.

The ‘work at sea’ did not materialise. The next year, Hythe Police reported to the school that he was occasionally hawking herrings, but then he got full-time employment with a local fish-dealer, Stephen Cloke.  They suspected he was sometimes up to no good, but could prove nothing.

Then on 30 June 1884, James married Minnie Cousine at St Leonard’s church. Her full name was Miriam Ann and she was the daughter of  a Frenchman, Louis, and an Englishwoman, Mary and has been born in Heathfield, Sussex.  The love of a good woman evidently turned James’s life around. For a start, the children started arriving – there would be fifteen eventually, though one died young. The family moved from a tiny cottage in Chapel Street, a narrow lane behind the High Street, to a slightly larger house in Frampton Road. Then, while continuing to work as a labourer and later fish seller  James joined the lifeboat crew in 1890, eventually becoming coxswain. When he retired in 1917, he held five medals for saving life and had been granted a Royal National Lifeboat Institution pension. He was, rather mysteriously, known to the lifeboat crew as ‘Charcoal’.

The Hythe Lifeboat crew in 1891. I think James is fourth from left…

…an enlargement shows a similarity to the verified picture of James below

When war was declared in 1914, James enlisted in the army, despite being over fifty, giving his age as thirty-eight years and four months. The truth was made known to his commanding officer by the sergeant-major, who knew him, and he was sent home.

The war and the succeeding years brought much sadness to the family.

In 1910, James and Minnie’s sixth chid, Sam, had joined the army and served with the East Kent Regiment, the Buffs. He was mobilised at the outbreak of war in 1914 and sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force on 27 December. Six weeks later, on 10 February 1915, he died of wounds.

Samuel Dearman 30 July 1893– 10 February 1915 

That same year, John, the second son, died of natural causes aged twenty-eight and Stephen, the third son, who worked as a brewer’s drayman, joined up. He was wounded, invalided home, sent back to the front, was gassed and finally was taken prisoner in March 1918. He was home in time for Christmas that year. The sixth child, Edwin (or Edward) served in the Royal Field Artillery, but survived.

In June 1917, James and Minnie’s eighth child, seventeen-year-old Ben, was walking with his brother and two friends along the canal bank when they met two other boys, one of whom, the  fourteen-year-old, ‘Teddy’ , was carrying a rifle (for which he had a licence), as he planned to shoot rats. None of the boys actually saw what happened and at the inquest there was some disagreement as to whether Teddy knew the gun was loaded, as he was carrying cartridges in a tin box. They heard a shot and saw Benjamin fall, with his hand to his stomach. A local man and a soldier came to help and a doctor was called. Benjamin was taken home and then transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Folkestone, where he died following an operation. The coroner’s verdict was ‘Accidental Death’.

The fifth child, Bill, a milkman, presumably unfit for overseas service, joined the Labour Corps during WW1, but was suffering from TB, which was aggravated by the work he carried out. He was a patient in the Royal Herbert Hospital, Woolwich for a while, but died at home on 28 July 1919.

The Commonwealth War Grave of William Dearman ( 30 November 1894 – 28 July 1919) in Horn Street Cemetery, Hythe

In 1922, both the eldest child, James Lewis (or sometimes Lewis James) and the eleventh, Polly died. James was thirty-nine and Polly nineteen. In 1927, their youngest sister, Kathleen (or Catherine) died ‘after a long illness’. Was the TB which carried off Bill to blame for all these adult deaths?

James died in 1936. His was a hard life, bravely lived. Minnie survived him by twelve years. She received help in her widowhood from the trustees of St Bartholomew’s Hospital. (1)

James and Minnie Dearman                                    Photos: Dave Lear

  1. Kent Archives EK2008/2 Book 19

Details of the brothers’ convictions, background and stay at the reform school are in Surrey County Archives 2271/10/16 pp 308-9

With thanks to Kathryne Maher for additional information and to Dave Lear for the photos of James & Minnie

A Vicar’s Wife and Her Children

Fanny Dixon was born on 29 April 1834 in Pentonville and married Lawford Wlliam Torriano Dale on  1 June 1854. He was the senior curate of St Pancras church in London, but three years after their marriage was appointed Vicar of Chiswick, a living he held until his death in 1898.

St Nicholas’s Church, Chiswick

 

The children started arriving in 1855 and appeared at roughly eighteen-monthly for the next twenty-five years. Only the youngest, born in 1881, did not survive. Fanny was by then nearly fifty and had fourteen other children, all of whom were baptised by their father

The maintenance of such a large household must have been more than a full-time job,  and in 1871,             Fanny’s mother and niece were also living with the family as well as paid help – a nurse, a governess,           a cook and four housemaids. Fortunately, the vicarage was enormous.

Chiswick vicarage, home to the fourteen Dale children

The role of vicar’s wife was a demanding one, too, with an expectation that the woman would be involved in as many good works in the parish as possible. Fanny found time to organise the establishment of a Public Kitchen to feed the Chiswick poor.

Then, in 1887, it was announced that because of ill-health, she was leaving Chiswick and moving to Hythe, taking her youngest, Clement, with her. The extent of her subsequent activities in Hythe does not suggest any great degree of illness. It is possible that there were other reasons for her departure from the vicarage and that her ill-health was a polite fiction.

In Hythe, she joined the Ratepayers’ Association, a non-party political organisation which sought value for money from the town council. It accepted all rate payers as members, including women. Fanny was a member by 1892, when she fell into disfavour with them after writing a letter to the Guardian newspaper in which she allegedly ‘dragged the town through the mire’. In fact, she had not: her accusers had not read the letter, but were acting on hearsay. They backed down when presented with the truth, but Fanny’s relationship with them suffered.

She turned instead to social welfare, becoming a member of the Ladies’ Visiting Committee to the Elham Union Workhouse. She visited during 1893 and 1894. She considered the Matron greatly overworked ‘and has need of a capable needlewoman’. She made a thorough inspection of everywhere permitted, including the cook’s house, the laundry and the female tramps’ ward. She had long talks with an inmate who was very unhappy and troublesome to the staff and considered the woman was really mentally unbalanced. Visiting the infirmary, she said she thought the straw pillows were too hard ; but when she provided a feather pillow, the Matron would not issue it without permission from the Board of Guardians.

Frustrated she decided that she ought, in fact to be a Guardian, one of the managers of the workhouse, and when a vacancy arose in 1893, she put her name forward. Another contender was Albert Day, a slum landlord in Hythe and owner of the notoriously dilapidated row of dwellings (it would be glorifying them to call them houses) known locally as Buggy Row. Fanny put it on record that she thought that Day should not be allowed to be a Guardian. She said that in one of his properties a child had recently died because of the conditions in which he lived and that Day, who was also an undertaker had  profited even from this, charging £5 for a coffin.

The local paper, the Folkestone and Hythe Herald was outraged. It said that her comments were in ‘extreme bad taste’ and that the people of Hythe should be grateful to men like Day who were  ‘induced to fulfil the role of Guardian at considerable inconvenience to themselves’. It called her one of the ‘screeching sisterhood’ (their soubriquet for any woman who had an opinion about public affairs) and that ‘this ladybird will not rest and fold her wings until she has alighted on that topmost bough of the tree on which she has fixed her ambitious gaze’.  Fanny did not become a Guardian; Albert Day did.

Fanny died in 1897 of a burst blood vessel on the brain and was buried in Chiswick.  She was joined in the grave by her husband a year later.

Their children had all grown. Of the seven daughters, two married, two became nuns and the other three,  Lilian, Grace and Cicely all moved to Hythe to live with their eldest brother, Herbert Dixon Dale (known to the family as ‘Dicky’), now the Vicar of Hythe.

Herbert, born in on 22 October 1855, had not in his earlier life aspired to the priesthood and started training as a solicitor. In the early 1880s, however, he recognised his vocation and was ordained as a priest in 1884. Two years later, he became curate at the church of St Mary and St Eanswythe in Folkestone.

The church of St Mary & St Eanswythe, Folkestone

On 25 October 1899, he became vicar of St Leonard’s in Hythe and his maiden sisters joined him in the vicarage there.  They had inherited nearly all their father’s estate, amounting to about £7000.

Herbert remained unmarried and the sisters carried out the good works normally expected of the vicar’s wife, but unburdened by the additional demands of motherhood, they gave it their all.

Grace, born in 1860,  followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a Lady Visitor to the workhouse. She also succeeded where Fanny had failed, and became a Guardian (without any attendant adverse publicity). She was superintendent of the church mother’s meeting; supervised the cooking in the soup kitchen and distribution of food to the poor; was a Sunday School teacher; founded a Lad’s Social Club in Hythe and offered free private tuition to poor boys; she was a member the ladies’ choir and kept the church accounts.

In 1906, Grace developed appendicitis She did not survive the consequent surgery and died aged forty-six.  On the afternoon of her funeral town shops shut and despite a bitter wind and driving rain many hundreds of mourners were at the church and afterwards at the graveside.

Grace Helena Dale

Her memorial in St Leonard’s church, Hythe

Lilian and Cicely were less active in the parish, though Lilian acted as assistant church organist. Both of them came into their own on the outbreak of war in 1914. Cicely became Commandant of Hythe Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and Commandant Registrar of the Bevan Hospital in nearby Sandgate. She worked fifty-six hours (not including overtime) every single week from 8 October 1914 to 31 March 1919, by which time she was sixty-nine. She was awarded the MBE in 1921. Lilian worked at the Bevan, too, in the mending and patching room for twelve hours a week. She could not do more, according to her records, as she was ‘not strong’.

Doctors and nurses (and dog) at the Bevan Hospital

After the war, their lives had changed for good. Their brother Herbert had surprised his parishioners, and possibly himself, by getting married in 1916 at the age of sixty. His bride was Edith Olive Chessyre Molyneux  of Warwickshire. It was a quiet wartime wedding and as befitted their ages (Edith was thirty-nine) there was no white dress, no wedding flowers and no reception. They were married by Herbert’s cousin, another Rev’d Dale.

Shortly after their wedding, they had a close encounter with death. On 25 May 1917, Gotha bombers, returning from a failed raid on London, dropped bombs in Hythe and Folkestone. Herbert was chatting with his verger, Daniel Lyth, in the churchyard when flying shrapnel struck them both. Daniel died soon afterwards of his injuries, but a tobacco tin in Herbert’s pocket deflected the metal which struck him.  Edith, visiting Folkestone, was also slightly injured.  They were lucky: over seventy people died that day and many more were injured.

Lilian and Cicely tactfully removed themselves from the vicarage when Edith moved in and went to live in Marine Parade, where they wrote, directed and sometimes performed in amateur dramatic productions, including operettas. Lilian died in 1937 and Cicely in 1946. They are buried with Grace in St Leonard’s churchyard.

The grave marker for Grace, Lilian and Cicely Dale in St Leonard’s churchyard, Hythe

Two others of their brothers, Clement and Edgar, had also become Anglican priests. Two more joined their siblings in Hythe, though not at the vicarage. Gerald, who had made his fortune in Argentina, set up home in Hill House in Hillside Street. During the war he too worked at the at Bevan Hospital and acted as a Special Constable. He and his family returned to Argentina in 1928. At about the same time, another brother, Leonard, was returning from that country, after many years as a rancher, to settle in Cornwall. The other Hythe resident was brother Harold, an accountant, who lived in the town with his family until the 1930s.

Herbert Dixon Dale retired from his living in 1926 and went with Edith to live in nearby Saltwood. There he devoted himself to history. In 1931 he published The Ancient Town of Hythe and St Leonard’s Church Kent which was reprinted several times and then became interested in wider subjects and gave talks on such subjects as ‘The Influence of the English Monasteries on Art and Commerce’.

Herbert died on 8 January 1945. Edith recorded in her diary that day: ‘ My darling Dicky passed away at 6.20am’.(1) He is buried in Markbeech church, near Edenbridge, where he died. Edith died in 1965 and is buried in Saltwood churchyard.

Herbert’s grave                         Photo: Charles Sale

 

  1. Kent Archives H/U21/Z10

 

 

Three Marys

On 2 February 1815, a young Irishwoman approached the Hythe Overseer of the Poor, George Scott. Her name, she said, was Jane Harris and she was the wife of George Harris, a soldier in the 95th Regiment, and the mother of his five children. George had been sent overseas, to America and had not left her any means of support. She showed him a document , which proved all she said and asked him for money to get her and the children to Dover, where she had friends who would help her.

George Scott had no reason to doubt her. Many soldiers left their families unsupported when they were posted and he knew that the 95th, the Green Jackets, were constantly on the move. He gave her six shillings and sixpence.

Shortly afterwards, however, he was told that a party of ‘vagrants’ was in town and using false documents and that his ‘Jane Harris’ was one of them. He found her at the Duke’s Head inn, in company with two other women, Mary Welch and Mary Davis, and several children.

The Duke’s Head in Hythe, empty now for some years…

Scott then went and searched the yard of another public house in Hythe, the King’s Head, and found a quantity of stolen printed forms for emergency passes, mostly issued by the City of Canterbury.

and the King’s Head, still thriving

He said later he had been ‘acting on information.’ The information came from Mary Davis.  She really was the wife of a soldier, but had fallen in with the group and subsequently fallen out with them and was now getting her revenge. She also told Scott that it was Mary Welch who was the organiser of the scam. It was she who supplied the documents but not the one presenting -‘uttering’ – them, so she was at one remove from the offence. Presumably she also got a cut of the ‘takings’.

‘Jane Harris’, whose real name was Mary Supple, was arrested, along with Mary Welch, who had been wanted for some time by Bow Street police in London. Both women were committed to Hythe Town gaol. In fact the fraud had been going on across the county. Only weeks before the Hythe arrests, another woman was detained in Rochester for exactly the same trick, but using the name of Easterwood. She was sentenced to seven years transportation, and that was the sentence Mary Supple received, too, from the Hythe magistrates. Mary Davis gave evidence for the prosecution. Of the organiser, Mary Welch, there is no further trace after she was sent to London for trial.

Mary Supple had been born in County Cork in about 1791 and had married Patrick Beehan, though whether he was at this stage alive or dead we do not know. They had a child together, another Patrick, born in 1813 in Ireland. Little Patrick was with Mary when she was arrested and was transported with her in July 1815. They sailed on board the ship Mary Anne along with ninety-nine other women convicts for New South Wales, arriving on 19 January 1816 – this was an unusually long voyage.

Between 1788 and1852, about twenty-four thousand women were transported to Australia. Some of these, until about 1820, were given their ticket of leave on arrival – if they had either money or a recommendation from the ship’s captain.  The others were sent to The Female Factory at Parramatta, a squalid loft above a gaol.

We don’t know which of these happened to Mary, but she had the very good sense to find herself protection early on.  She married, or perhaps co-habited  with, James Nugent, another convict who had been sentenced to twenty-one years in 1811 for highway robbery. A single convict woman in New South Wales was incredibly vulnerable and regarded by the authorities, other convicts and free settlers alike as  fair game for abuse and exploitation.

Mary  worked as a launderess and she and James had three children: James,  Mary and Thomas.

She died in 1830, but all her children, including her first, Patrick, survived childhood and married and had children of their own and lived long lives. Their descendants still live in Australia.

 

 

The Worthington Family, Coachmakers – revisited

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

Worthingtom William

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

William Worthington /entered into rest March 12th 1893/ in his 72nd year.

Only good night beloved, not farewell/a little while and all his saints shall dwell /in hallowed union indivisible/ good –night good -night

Because I live you shall live also John XIV 19

Also of Blanche Worthington /widow of the above/died Jan. 31st 1912/aged 92

Jesus Christ who died/that we should live together/with Him. Thes. 5. 10.

William Worthington was the founder of the business which became the Worthington coachworks on East Street in Hythe, on the site now occupied by Worthington Lodge.  He was born in 1821  in the town in relatively humble circumstances and lived in Elm Terrace in Hillside Road as a boy.  

He became a wheelwright by trade, but was obviously an ambitious young man. He married the girl next door, Blanche Lucas in 1843 and four years later, when he was twenty-six, he set up the Worthington Carriage Works.  

His business flourished and so did his family. He and Blanche had nine children. By 1871 they had moved to The Avenue in Hythe living in this house overlooking the Royal Military Canal and very near the works.

 

Worthington House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time he was sixty, when he was employing a workforce of nine, he had bought ‘The Gables’ in North Road, an even bigger house, high up above the town and the church.  It was clearly a step up in the world in more ways than one.

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

One of his more unusual jobs was building the carriages for the Sandgate Hill lift in 1891. It was one of four cliff lifts in the Folkestone area taking visitors up and down from the beach to the grassy Leas and the town above. This one was a  hybrid between a water balance lift and a conventional tramway.

Worthington Hill left

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

This is their advertisement.

Worthington advert

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

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

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

Worthington grave2

The inscription on his grave reads:

In/loving/memory/of/William/Worthington/born Nov. 22nd 1854/died Nov. 7th 1906

Not slothful in business/fervent in sprit/serving the Lord. ROM.XII.II.

And of Mary Ann/wife of the above/born April 3rd 1857. Died March 7th 1925.

Also Arthur./ dearly loved son of the above/who was killed in the battle of Arras

Remainder illegible

William had married Mary Anne and had four children and they lived in his father’s former home overlooking the canal.  William had to overcome a disability in order to succeed in life, as he had been born with only one ear, and poor hearing in the one he did have.  He relied to a great extent on lip reading. He was, like his brother Robert, a stalwart of the Methodist Church in Hythe and was a Sunday School teacher, steward and trustee. He took his duties seriously. Apparently if he missed someone at church on Sunday, he would find out where they lived and look them up. As he worked all day, the only opportunity he had for doing this was in the evenings.  In the countryside round the town, the nights were very dark in winter.  

One evening in November 1906, when he was 52, he left the house at about half past seven in the evening. It was drizzling and later rained hard, but he did not take a coat with him. He didn’t tell anyone where he was going.  This was in the days when there was a railway line running from Sandling station, which is still in use,  down to Hythe station which has long since closed.

Shortly after nine thirty, the driver of the train from Sandling to Hythe felt a bump and felt his ballast shift, as if he had hit something. It was too dark to see anything, but when he got to Hythe, he and the Station Master went back up the line in a spare carriage. At the Saltwood crossing, where a footpath crossed the railway line, they found William on the line, dead from terrible head injuries.

There was an inquest two days later at Saltwood, which returned a verdict of accidental death, as the jury supposed that William could not have heard the train coming. This despite the fact that the evidence of the train driver and the Station Master was that William had clearly been lying down, between the tracks and parallel with them, when the train hit him.  It seems likely that the verdict was a kind decision on the part of the jury designed to help William’s family and widow, and not just from the stigma of suicide.  He had two insurance policies on his life, but they only covered accidental death. In the event, he seems not to have left his family very well off. After his death Mary Anne ran a boarding house in Cobden Road. Perhaps he did have money worries.

Things did not get better for Mary Anne. Her son Arthur worked in the family business, as a manager.  When war broke out in 1914, he combined this with working as an evening driver to transport medical staff and volunteers to the Bevan Hospital at Sandgate.  He was also organist at the Methodist Church where he played every Sunday.  I can’t find out when he joined up, but he was killed in the Arras offensive on 3 May 1917, although his body was never found. His mother had to wait fifteen months after his disappearance for the War Department to declare him dead.  

 

Worthington Arthur

Arthur’s name on the Arras Memorial

Robert was the next Worthington brother to pass away.

 


Worthington Grave 3

In loving memory of/Emma/the dearly loved wife of/Robert Worthington/born March18th 1856/died May 10th1906

Also the above/Robert Worthington/born October 15th 1845/died December 19th1908

“In  Your presence is fullness of joy” PS XIV 11

Robert Worthington (photo Roger Worthington)

Like his father, Robert became the father of nine children, including three sons, and his public life flourished, too.  He was another stalwart of the Wesleyan church, Secretary of the Hythe institute and had been a member of the fire brigade. He lived in a house called ‘Kildrummie’ on Tanners Hill, Hythe.  A substantial house, with six bedrooms, a dining room, drawing room and morning room, and large garden it was just the place for a successful business man. It was also within sight of the works.


kildrummie

One Saturday evening in December 1908, when he was 64, he was off to Folkestone, and walking along the Seabrook Road flagged down a motor bus. Once on board he was taken ill and the coach diverted to the nearest doctor’s surgery, Unfortunately, by the time they got there Robert was dead, so the doctor made all the other passengers get off the bus so that it could take the body back to Hythe.

After Robert’s death, the business was run by the surviving brother, Frederick, assisted by his nephew, William’s son Arthur.  Frederick was very much the baby of the family, 19 years younger than his brother Robert. The firm  already had a good reputation for producing carts, carriages and even a coach for one of the royal house of Siam.  They exported all over the British Empire, including to India.

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

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

They moved with the times, and invented a hybrid mode of transport called the Worthington Duocar, or cycle-car, which had an 8-hpV-twin engine complete with a fan-cooled automatic carburettor. At the same time they were developing a car, the Worthington Runaraound. Only one was ever built. This is its specification:

It was originally powered by an 8hp horizontally-opposed twin engine, but this was replaced by an 8.9hp V-twin J.A.P. The transversely mounted engine drove by two chains to a countershaft, final drive being by belt.

It was intended to sell the car for £90,  but the company overstretched itself and got involved in the other latest transport craze, the aeroplane and in the end failed to produce either car or plane. The firm went bankrupt in 1914,  but Frederick, who lived at Twiss Villas in Twiss Road, later worked as a ‘coach painter’.  He had married Florence Emily, the daughter of Albert Day, a businessman and sometime mayor of Hythe. They had three children, Olive, Lena and Stanley.

 

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

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

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

(photos: Roger Worthington)

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

 

The Mills of God Grind Slow…

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

 

See the source image

The Flying Horse Inn in Canterbury, still trading today

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

Hampton Hill, now called Hempton Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                              Carter’s Barracks in Sydney, front view…

and the yard at the back

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

The treadmill at Carter’s Barracks

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

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

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

With thanks to Mike de la Mare for the map

 

Frank White – A Republican in Hythe

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

The Smugglers Retreat in Hythe High Street, now demolished

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

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

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

                                                                  Frank’s election pitch, 1893

In 1896 he was returned again with a sizeable majority.

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

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

The Wilberforce Temperance Hotel, now also demolished

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prisoners of war at Stobs camp, 1918

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

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

He died in Rampart Road in 1925.

John Price’s New Year’s Celebration

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

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

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

The almonry, Westminster, the site of Jeffreys Buildings

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

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

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

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

The Duke of York’s monument and steps today

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

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

Inside the Old Bailey

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

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

Walter and Son: a High Street Fixture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


                                                                             A 1912 advertisement for Walter & Son

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

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

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

Victoria Hooper at the opening of the Ashford shop

Another shop in Tenterden followed in 1964.

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

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

 

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

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

Kent Archives:  N/F1998/4/1/1

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