A Tale of Two Mayors

The first Mayor of Hythe was elected in 1575, when Elizabeth 1 granted the town a royal charter. The Bailiff would be replaced by a mayor and would be supported by a town corporation with the right to own land and hold a fair. The scarcity of early records means that we know little of the early post-holders. It is not until the 17th century that they start to surface. One pair were Thomas Browning and David Gorham, who were both mayor several times in the 1620s.

The mayor was elected from among the jurats (town councillors). Browning and Gorham were of very different backgrounds.  The Brownings were gentlemen; Thomas’s uncles had been mayors and his sister had married into the influential Tournay family of Saltwood. In 1620 Thomas started his own campaign to become mayor by wining and dining his colleagues, an unsubtle tactic which did not go unnoticed by his opponents. Nevertheless, it proved successful, and he became mayor in 1621, and again in 1625.

In the meantime, David Gorham, not a gentleman but a fisherman, had been made mayor in 1623. He was also the Cinque Ports Bailiff to Yarmouth in the year of Browning’s second term of office. This was the execution of an ancient Cinque Ports right, which gave the portsmen authority over the Yarmouth fishermen during their herring ‘fare’ or fishing season, once a year.  The Bailiff, elected by the Cinque Ports’ Brotherhood and Guestling,  had the right to try criminal and commercial cases in the town during the time of the fare. During this time, court sessions were held daily rather than weekly. 

Not unnaturally, the Yarmouth men generally resented the Cinque Ports Bailiffs, and their reluctant toleration sometimes erupted into quarrelsome, if not violent, outbursts. The position was not eagerly sought after.  Quite from the chilly reception, the length of the trip must have been a deterrent. The Bailiff was expected to stay in Yarmouth from towards the end of September until early November. That was a long journey and a long time away from earning one’s livelihood, and probably time that most of the jurats could ill-afford.

In 1610, the nominee removed himself from Rye so that he no longer lived in a Cinque Port and was therefore ineligible; in 1613 another man pleaded that he was ‘too weak’; and another resigned the freedom of a Cinque port. But David Gorham, a fisherman who understood the fishing business, did his duty. 

An early view of Yarmouth….

… and a little later

He was elected mayor again himself in 1626. However, that year Browning trumped him by being selected to be one of the Cinque Ports ‘barons’ to carry the canopy at the coronation of Charles 1 in March. This was another ancient Cinque Ports right and those attending expected to sit at the Chief Table for dinner afterwards in the Great Hall at the right hand of the King. The canopy and its silver staves and bells which were provided by the Lord High Steward or Treasurer were ‘retained by the Barons as their fee’.

So there was a financial reward, but it was a right that only a well-off man could exercise. For the previous coronation in 1603, the Brotherhood and Guestling had decreed that every canopy-bearer should wear

’one scarlett gowne downe to the ancle, citizens fashion, faced with crimson satin, gascaine hose [a sort of loose breeches], crimson silk stockings and crimson silk shoes and black velvet caps.

These they had to buy for themselves and provide their own food and horse hire for the trip. The gentleman Browning could afford this; the fisherman Gorham probably could not. 

The coronation of Charles I took place on 2 February 1626.  His Roman Catholic Queen refused to participate in a Protestant ceremony. The coronation was marred by an unseemly tussle recorded by Samuel Pepys:

but only the King’s Footmen had got hold of the Canopy and would keep it from the barons of the Cinque ports; which they endeavoured to force from them again but could not do it till my Lord Duke of Albermarle caused it to be put into Sir R Pye’s hand till tomorrow to be decided’.

The portsmen got their silver the next day, but in the melee, they had lost their places at the banqueting table. The king had the footmen imprisoned and dismissed.

 The beginning of 1627 saw Browning’s downfall. He was dismissed as jurat ‘for divers misdemeanours and for telling the secrets especially about the election and choosing our burgesses to Parliament and telling lies about them many times in a gross and ill manner’. This was uncompromising language, and Browning had no intention of letting it pass.  He petitioned anyone and everyone he knew, starting with the Lieutenant of Dover Castle, Sir John Hippisley, who passed the matter up to the Duke of Buckingham, the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The corporation were required to explain themselves. While awaiting a decision, Browning sought the opinion of the Cinque Ports’ Brotherhood and Guestling – who found in his favour. They judged that the case against him was ‘weak and feeble’ and ordered that the corporation and Browning ‘reconcile themselves’ and reinstate him.  However, in 1628, Buckingham  concluded that the real reason for Browning’s dismissal was ‘his contemptuous behaviour towards Mr Gorham’.(1) That has the ring of truth.

The Duke of Buckingham in about 1625

The names of Browning and Gorham do not appear again on the list of Hythe mayors.  Browning was fined in 1629 for, with others, ‘a riot in the town’, but then disappears from the public record. David Gorham was buried in St Leonard’s churchyard in 1629. 

George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham and favourite of James I , was assassinated in August 1628. 

1 Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1628-29 (1859), pp. 431-438.

Other references from Hythe corporation records held at Kent History and Library Centre and from the White and Black Books of the Cinque Ports


Joseph Horton and the Astrologers

Joseph Horton, miller, flour merchant and ship-owner of Hythe was a businessman, hard-working and honest. The success of his enterprises allowed him to build a fine family home, ‘Rockdean’ in Hythe’s Hardways End (now St Leonard’s Road). He and his wife Fanny had three sons and Joseph became a Hythe town councillor.  They were a respectable non-conformist family, but the conventional façade hid a rather more unorthodox aspect of Joseph’s life and belief system:  astrology.

‘Rockdean’, still standing today

According to his youngest son, Joseph’s several childhood experiences of ‘narrow escapes from Death by accidents’ and then being struck by lightning when he was 17 led to a fear of the unexpected. Then, when he was 21 in about 1815. a friend lent him some books by Dr Sibly.  

This was Ebenezer Sibly, surgeon and astrologer of London who had published the New and Complete Illustration of the Celestial Science of Astrology in four volumes in 1784. Astrology was undergoing something of a renaissance after years of neglect, but now, reflecting the spirit of the Age of Reason, it was presented as being a rational science. 

Dr Sibly

Joseph was convinced by Sibly’s arguments and when he became a father, some years later  he must have wanted to spare the family the constant fear of unexpected calamity. He therefore had the boys’ horoscopes drawn up. Sibly had died in 1800, so Joseph turned to the celebrity astrologer of the day, ‘Zadkiel’.

James Morrison aka Zadkiel

‘Zadkiel’ was actually Richard James Morrison, a former Royal Navy lieutenant. After leaving the navy through ill health, he devoted himself to the study of astrology, naming himself after an archangel. In 1831 he published The Herald of Astrology (price 2 shillings) which became an annual publication under the title  Zadkiel’s Almanac. In it, the astrologer made predictions for the coming year.   Starting out as ‘Zadkiel the Seer’, by 1836 Morrison was signing himself  ‘Zadkiel Tao-Sze’. He presented himself as the Grand Master of Tao-Sze, a secret society whose aims were, appropriately, secret. The ‘Athenaeum’, in its obituary of Morrison in 1874, suggested that his death had  reduced the society’s membership to two. 

Thanks to Zadkiel’s horoscopes of the Horton offspring. we know the exact details of the births of Joseph’s sons: 

Joseph Tilbe Horton at 0947 on 24 June 1830

Benjamin Bassett Horton at 0434 on 27 May 1836

William Brown Horton at 0724 on 4 April 1839 

The horoscopes are detailed astrological charts, incomprehensible to the uninitiated, but William’s also has a narrative: 

He will have a straight & well made body, his hair will be very dark brown and his complexion rather dark and gloomy looking. He will suffer from acidity of the stomach and should take no sugar or sweets at all. He will have few children who  are likely to be cut off by sickness or sudden accident in their infancy.

Fortunately, the Horton family  still have a photo of William, and though not very clear, we can make out a slightly-built (but very straight) man with dark hair and beard. William married Anna Oldfield and together they had no fewer than eight children. Four of them were indeed cut off in their infancy: two little girls of five and two who died in August 1871, and two boys died aged  five and three in March 1876, all probably of infectious illness. The infant mortality  rate in the early nineteenth century was falling, but parents could still expect that one in three of their children would not to see their fifth birthday, so the predicted deaths of William’s children only reflects the reality of the time.  The other children grew up, though two more did die as a result of accidents: George, who drowned in the sea aged eighteen and Milly, who died as the result of a fire aged fifty-nine. 

William Brown Horton

Joseph continued to worry and his anxieties were not helped by another ‘very narrow escape from a serious accident’ in 1844, which was witnessed by his son William. 

He now consulted another  astrologer but not about his chances of being cut down in his prime. He enquired as to the advisability of insuring his ships and land property and the man he trusted to  advise him went by the name of ‘Raphael’ or more exactly ‘Raphael III’ as he had succeeded two earlier incarnations. This man was actually a Mr Medhurst  who had published Raphael’s Pythoness of the East; or, Complete Key to Futurity. It was, he claimed ‘translated from the original manuscript of the celebrated mystical divining book, formerly in the possession of Her Imperial Majesty the Empress Josephine. This extraordinary work was consulted by Prince Puckler Muskau and others, during his sojourn in England, with the most astonishing success’.  

Joseph Horton in later life

Having considered Joseph’s birth date and time and the positions of the planets, Raphael advised him to insure all his property on land, as he feared that Joseph might be the target of an incendiary attack or of  ‘lawless persons’ in an ‘excited mob’. He did not see any evil indicated with regard to the ships and did not think that there was any need to incur the expense of insuring them . 

The advice seems counter-intuitive, and it is to be hoped that Joseph ignored it. In 1845, one of his ships, the ‘Three Brothers’, coal-laden, was driven high and dry on the beach at Sandgate during a storm, though it did outlive Joseph and was finally lost on the Goodwin Sands in 1882. There are no recorded incidents of mob violence or arson attacks in Hythe in the mid-nineteenth century. 

Joseph himself died in 1873. His sons grew to adulthood and prospered. We hear no more of astrology – though it may have been a well-kept family secret. 

Sources: Kent History and Library Centre, H/U18/35/1, Horton papers

               Hythe library, Horton file, undated document annotated ‘Written by Wm, Brown               Horton ‘ 









The Jacklings

On 11 August 1909, Lucy Jackling, wife of Percival Jackling, gave birth to her first child, a son, David. Nearly four years later on 10 May 1913, he was joined by a brother, Roger. The boys grew up to be talented and capable men like their father and all had a strong sense of philanthropy.

In 1909, Percy (as he was always known) and Lucy Jackling were living at ‘Lloyd’s Bank House’ at 148 (now 15) High Street Hythe. They were, in fact, living ‘over the shop’ in the accommodation provided upstairs from the bank where Percy was the manager. When Roger was still a baby, war broke out and Percy served as a captain in the Machine Gun Corps. He also helped to establish the regiment’s Prisoner of War Relief Fund of which, as a banker, he naturally became the honorary treasurer. He was awarded the CBE in 1920 for his work in the organisation.

The original site of Lloyd’s Bank in Hythe High Street

After the war, he became treasurer of the Hythe Ex-servicemen’s Association. When that was wound up in 1921, Percy made himself useful as vice-president of the Hythe British Legion and led fundraising to provide a bungalow for a severely disabled ex-serviceman.

Meanwhile, his sons were being educated locally at Seabrook Lodge Preparatory School and in 1922, the family moved up the hill to 70 North Road, Hythe. Lloyd’s Bank was moving from its premises into larger, rather grander accommodation at 62 High Street, where it remained until its closure in 2018. Percy stayed with them and also managed a sub-branch at Dymchurch. By way of leisure, he was a member of both Hythe Cricket Club and the Bowls Club and was on the committee of the Hythe Institute.

Lloyd’s Bank Hythe 1922-2018

Roger attended Felsted School and perhaps David did, too. David was articled to a firm of Folkestone solicitors and having qualified, went to work for ‘a well-known city firm’. Roger meanwhile went to London University where he achieved a Diploma in Public Administration and took part in amateur dramatic productions. Later, he passed the Law Society’s book-keeping examination.

David married his childhood sweetheart, Eileen Edwards, known as Betty in 1933. It is unclear what Roger’s occupation was, but it involved transatlantic travel and by 1938 he was living in New York where he met and married a British-Candian RADA-trained actor and journalist, Joan Tustin.

Joan Tustin

War broke out again and the brothers served their country in different ways. David joined the Coldstream Guards, eventually reaching the rank of Colonel. He was Chief of the Plans and Operations Division at Allied Forces HQ from September 1943 to July 1945  and also worked on relief programmes for Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece. Later, he worked for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in Germany and he was awarded the OBE and the US Legion of Merit in 1947.

Roger, meanwhile, had joined the British diplomatic service in 1939 as acting vice-consul in the British consulate in New York.  His abilities and energy were soon recognised – he became known as ‘crackerjackling’ – and after a brief spell in Ecuador he was posted to the embassy at Washington DC, where he remained until 1947.

After the war, David, who had a strong dislike of socialism, became the Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North Kensington, but stood down before the General Election ‘for health and other reasons’.  In fact, North Kensington was not his first choice, which was the Hythe constituency, but he was not selected there, being defeated by Brigadier Harry Ripley Mackeson, scion of the brewing family.

He and Betty diivorced, and in 1948, he married Margaret Beyfus.

Roger was also back in the UK, working for the cabinet secretariat of Prime Minister Clement Atlee. From there he went to The Hague and to Bonn, then the capital of West Germany, as economic adviser and later minister.

He then spent some time in London working for the cabinet secretariat of Clement Atlee and went from there to The Hague and back to Bonn.

Percy died in 1954 in Patrixbourne, near Canterbury, where he had retired.  During these last years, he devoted much time to the Friends of the Kent and Canterbury Hospital.  David, too, was involved in helping hospital patients, in his case those of the Princess Louise Hospital for Children in Kensington for whom he arranged a permanent holiday home in Littlehampton.

David worked as a business consultant during the 1950s and lived in Lymington, Hampshire. On 26 May 1960 he drove to Lymington Police Station, parked his car outside and shot himself in the head, dying instantly. He left five notes to family members and it appears that he had money worries. His brother told the inquest that these could easily have been resolved if only David had told him.

David Jackling in 1940

By then, Roger was once again based in the USA, as Assistant Under-Secretary in Washington.  In 1965, the year in which he was knighted, he was President of the Security Council. He returned to Bonn as Ambassador in 1968 and over the next four years held negotiations with the other allies, resulting in the Four Powers Agreement in 1971. He led the UK delegation to the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea from its inception in 1973 until he retired in 1976.

Sir Roger Jackling

Sir Roger retired to America, where he died in 1986.


A Titanic Memorial in Hythe

In dear memory of Edward Pomeroy Colley/ Born 15 April 1875, Entered into Eternal/Life 15 April 1912 through the sinking/of the Steamship “Titanic”/Whoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it

Hythe Civic Society Elizabeth Bowen (writer) lived here 1965-1973

Two memorials, two names: Edward Colley and Elizabeth Bowen, one inside St Leonard’s church, Hythe, the other just yards away on the wall of a house on Church Hill. What is the connection?

Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen was born on 7 June 1899 in Dublin, the daughter of barrister Henry Bowen and his wife Florence nee Colley. Both families were part of the extensive network of Irish gentry and her father owned Bowen Court in County Cork, where Elizabeth spent her summers.  Her father became mentally ill in 1907 and her mother took her to live in England. They lived for a while in Lyminge, near the church, but eventually settled in ‘Clyne House’, in North Road, Hythe.

Florence Isabella Bowen nee Colley

They were probably the first tenants after the house had been ravaged by fire in January 1911. The owner, Frederick Butler, was called away from a Town Council meeting when a candle in the nursery set the curtains on fire.  Mrs Butler rescued the children, but the roof and top storey were destroyed.

Cline House after the fire….

… and in its later years

Florence already had family living in England and one sister, Constance, had become a medical doctor there. However, Constance became ill, probably with TB and in 1911 was in a sanatorium in Henley. By 1912, about the time that Florence and Elizabeth moved to Hythe, Constance was in Folkestone, possibly for the sea air. If so, it was ineffective, and she died in the town on 15 February 1912. She was buried in Folkestone (Cheriton Road) cemetery.

Dr Constance Colley’s grave in Folkestone

On 6 April that year, the youngest brother of Constance and Florence, Edward Pomeroy Colley, visited ‘Clyne House’.  A university-educated civil servant in his mid-thirties, he had, during the Klondike Gold Rush, opened a successful mining brokerage firm in Vancouver. Now he had business interests on both sides of the Atlantic and frequently travelled between Dublin and a home in Vancouver.  He had been in Ireland for Christmas 1911, and was planning to return to Canada to work as a consultant to the industrialist and politician James Dunsmuir.

Edward Pomeroy Colley

After a short stay in Hythe, he travelled to London and from there to Southampton, where he boarded the Titanic. He died on his thirty-seventh birthday.

More tragedy was to follow. In September 1912, Florence Bowen died of cancer aged forty-eight at ‘Clyne House’.  She is buried in Saltwood churchyard.

Florence Bowen’s grave, the stone identical to that of her sister

Elizabeth went to live in Harpenden with her aunt Laura Colley, who was housekeeper to her brother, the Rev’d. Wingfield Colley, curate in charge of St John’s Church in the town.

Elizabeth’s career as a novelist is well documented elsewhere as are her mariage blanc and her lovers. Later in life, now widowed, she returned to Hythe. On the face of it, it was an odd decision. Her short time in the town as a child must have been associated with the loss of her mother, aunt and uncle and she chose to live in a house, ‘Carbery’, only a stone’s throw from ‘Clyne House’, just around the corner.  Her old home was then still standing, though it was later demolished and replaced by a block of flats.

Elizabeth Bowen

It was in Hythe that Elizabeth wrote her last novel, ‘Eva Trout’, published in 1969. The protagonist experiences, as Elizabeth did as a child, the shock of relocation from Ireland to the Kent seaside, although she settles in Broadstairs rather than Hythe. But the flat, windswept hinterland of Thanet is not dissimilar to the Romney Marsh and the estate agent who sells Eva Trout her house is Mr Denge. It is a name with a local flavour:  Denge Marsh lies between Lydd and Dungeness.

Elizabeth also arranged for the brass wall plaque in St Leonard’s in memory of her uncle. He has another in the church at Harpenden, where Elizabeth passed her teenage years.

In 1972, Elizabeth spent Christmas in Ireland with friends, but became unwell and was hospitalised on her return. She was diagnosed with lung cancer and died at University College Hospital on 22 February 1973, aged 73. She is buried with her husband in St Colman’s churchyard in Farahy, near the site of Bowen’s Court, which had been demolished in 1960. 

Elizabeth is buried with her husband, Alan Charles Cameron

Thanks to Iris Pearce for the information about Clyne House and to Rita Weisz for finding Florence Bowen’s grave

The Best of Black Dogs

Many thanks to Robert Melrose who did much of the research for this post 


In the garden of Eastbridge Court in Hythe is a small stone cross.  It bears the inscription:

Ici repose Tippo, le meilleur des chiens noirs; le jour de sa mort son ami Chamant a gagner les Deux Milles Guinees a Newmarket, 12 Mai 1877

In English:

Here lies Tippo, the best of black dogs; on the day of his death his friend Chamant won the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket, 12 May 1877

Originally located under the shade of a mulberry tree in the grounds of what was then Eastbridge House, it was moved, perhaps when the tree was cut down.

The clue to Tippo’s origins lies in the mention of ‘his friend Chamant’ who won the 2000 Guineas. Chamant was a French-bred racehorse, jointly owned by Charles-Joachim Lefèvre and Count Frederick la Grange. The horse had been brought to Newmarket the previous year to be trained by Tom Jennings and his first year of racing made him the third most successful horse of 1876 in Britain. As a three-year-old in 1877 he won the 2000 Guineas ‘with consummate ease’ but sustained an injury which ultimately ended his racing career. He spent the rest of his life at the German Imperial Stud, siring many more winners and dying in 1898.

His owner, Lefèvre, was a very wealthy, flamboyant character and significantly successful in the horse-racing world, winning no fewer than seven English classics.  His portrait was painted in London by a French artist, Jean-Leon Gerôme, who had fled the Franco-Prussian war.

Lefèvre was married to Marie-Anne D’Escoubleau de Sordis, considered a beauty. She, too, was painted by Gerôme at about the time of her marriage. Her husband’s portrait can be seen reflected in the mirror behind her.

More importantly for our purposes, she is holding a small black dog. It has been identified as a Griffon Bruxellois and surely, this must be Tippo.

Unfortunately, there is no record of either M. or Mme, Lefevre staying in Hythe.  They did, however, have a daughter, Marie-Jeanne, baptised in London in 1872., The gravestone for Tippo and its language seem just the sort of thing which might be made to comfort a little girl grieving for her pet, ‘the best of black dogs’.

As a postscript, this is not the only doggy grave marker in Hythe. This little plaque was in the wall of a garden:

Fido Dec’r 9th 1811

The name of his bereaved owner is sadly illegible, and Fido was probably not as well-connected as Tippo, but undoubtedly as dearly loved.

Four Daughters

The father of the family, Absalom Pelue, settled in Hythe after he left the army in 1877. He was a long way from his original home. He had been born in St Erth in Cornwall in about 1833 one of the seven children of a copper miner. This was the occupation he and his brothers turned to as well, until in 1856 he joined the Scots Fusiliers in Aberdare. The Rhondda is a long way from Cornwall and it is possible he had travelled there to take work as a coal miner, but thought better of it. From his army records, we know that Absalom was a big man for the time: five feet eleven inches tall with a forty-inch chest.

He spent most of his service in England, but was posted to Canada for just over two years in the 1860s, There he married Bridget Creed, who had been born in Montreal in 1844. When he brought her home, it was to the School of Musketry in Hythe, to which he transferred in 1865. It had only been set up a dozen years earlier, but now had an established staff.

Hythe in the 19th century

The couple’s four daughters were Catherine Margaret (or sometimes Margaret Catherine) born 1865, Frances Ann Jemima , 1867; Emily, 1869; and Isabella Mary (or Mary Isabella), 1871. Perhaps because of their father’s military career, two of the women married soldiers themselves and five of Absalom’s grandsons joined the armed forces.

After leaving the army, Absalom worked as a labourer and the family lived in St Leonard’s Road and later Park Road in Hythe. He died in 1896 and is buried in St Leonard’s churchyard. Bridget took work as a sick nurse with Mrs Constantine nee Finnis, a widow.

Catherine Margaret married Charles William Middleton, a house painter,  in Farnborough in January 1893. He was only twenty and the bride lopped four years off her age. They went back to Hythe and lived in Chapel St and had three sons and two daughters. Later they moved to Market Street, now Dymchurch Road.

Catherine & Charles lived in part of this building  in Market Street

On 6 September 1885, at St Leonard’s church Hythe, Frances, or ‘Fanny Annie; as she signed herself, married a twenty-six-year-old soldier. He was Theophilus William Turner from Bristol. Theophilus gave his residence as Aldershot where his regiment was now based. The previous year, it had been at Shorncliffe, but when the order came to decamp to  Aldershot, Theophilus had deserted. Perhaps it was for love of Fanny. ‘Fanny Annie’ sounds like the affectionate  name her family, or perhaps just Theophilus, used.

The wedding was a matter of some urgency as Fanny was pregnant – with twins as it turned out. Francis Theophilus and William James were baptised in St Leonard’s in  April 1886. By then, Theophilus had left the army, but was still on the reserve list. The next year, Frances Theresa was born, then Isabella Katherine Alice in 1889. Shortly afterwards, the family moved to Plaistow. Another daughter, Lilley was born,  Edith Marie followed in 1894 but died aged two.

Theophilus had now become a house painter, like his brother-in-law Charles Middleton and joined the Amalgamated Society of House Decorators and Painters. In fact, he became the treasurer of the Plaistow branch. One day in July 1896, he stole the branch’s funds of £10.5s.8d and got on a train to Bristol. He said later ‘It was all through the drink. I did not know where I  was until I got to Bath’.  He travelled on to Bristol and having spent the entire amount handed himself in at a  police station in August. Meanwhile, his frantic wife had reported him missing.

A police officer from Limehouse travelled down to arrest him. Theophilus said he was very sorry and had never been in trouble before (forgetting his desertion, presumably). In court, he offered no defence and it was reported that he was previously of a very good character. His Union said it was prosecuting with reluctance. Theophilus was sentenced to twenty-one days hard labour.

We don’t know if drink was an ongoing problem or if this was a momentary aberration, but by 1899 the family had separated.  Frances had returned to live in Hythe  with her children. Her father had died, but her mother and sister still lived in the town.

Frances lived in a tiny house in Theatre Street, where she took in washing. She now had another child, George Robert, born after her return to the town. The house was not big enough for all the children: Francis (Frank) lodged with his aunt Catherine and her family in nearby Chapel Street and worked as a groom at the School of Musketry;  His twin, William, lived with their grandmother, Bridget Pelue, in Park Road and worked as a gardener; their sister, Frances junior, went into service at the Wilberforce Temperance Hotel in Hythe High Street – she was only thirteen.

The Wilberforce Temperance Hotel

The twins, aged fifteen, joined the army as soon as they could, signing up to the 1st Battalion, the Scots Guards, in  November 1901.

In April 1904, Frances sent George, her youngest, off to school for the afternoon after his dinner break at home. At about 5.30pm, her neighbour called round to ask if he was back yet. A child had fallen into the Royal Military Canal,  she said.  George’s body was recovered from under Scanlon’s Bridge. He had been playing at fishing with a friend and slipped into the water. Desperate attempts were made by Dr Arthur Randall Davis to resuscitate him, without avail. The banks were not fenced and at the inquest, a recommendation was made that there should be some sort of barrier to prevent a recurrence. Frances was devastated by the death, sobbing throughout the inquest. The boy is buried with his grandfather, Absalom Pelue, in St Leonard’s churchyard, Hythe.

The canal in Hythe in the early twentieth century

Frances later moved to a larger house in Frampton Road and hired herself out as a nurse, an occupation her mother had followed.

In 1911, the twins Frank and William were serving as drummers in Egypt. The regiment returned home in 1913, but in 1914, formed part of the British Expeditionary Force. By then, Frank was a Lance-Corporal. He embarked from Southampton on 13 August 1914 and was reported missing during the first Battle of Ypres. He had in fact been taken prisoner. He died of wounds and ‘traumatic tetanus’ in Reserve Hospital, Halberstadt, Germany on 17 November 1914 and is buried at Niederzwehren Cemetery. His twin survived the war.

Frank Turner

Frank’s grandmother, Bridget Pelue, collected his medals in 1922 – the British War Medal, Victory Medal and 1914  Star. It was also she who arranged for a brass plaque in his memory to be erected in St Leonard’s church.

The memorial to Frank in St Leonard’s church

Bridget spent her last years in St Bartholomew’s Hospital in Hythe and died in 1926.

Bridget’s last home, St Bartholomew’s Hospital in Hythe

Her third daughter, Isabella Mary had married in September 1890, George Robert Hackford in St Leonard’s church. He was a sergeant in the Lincolnshire Regiment  based at Shorncliffe. A son, another George, was born later that year. A daughter,  Caroline followed a year later,  then a son Charles born in Aldershot,  a daughter  Isabella Mary in Malta, a son Frank (who died as a baby) in Cairo, and another son Robert in Lincoln. George senior, now a sergeant-major  took his discharge in 1906 and went to live in Derbyshire. His wife Isabella died two years later in 1908, perhaps while visiting Hythe, as her address was given as 4 Windmill Street in the town. George later re-married and ran a working men’s club in Chesterfield where his niece, Lilley Turner, worked for him. All three of his sons joined the armed forces, the eldest dying of pneumonia in India aged nineteen.

The youngest Pelue daughter married Filmer Thomas Shaw, a labourer, in St Leonard’s church on 27 July 1903. Their only child died young. They lived in Albert Road, Hythe. Filmer died in 923, Emily in 1942.

I thought when I started this how easy it would be to research the name ‘Pelue’ as it is so unusual. How foolish of me. The family’s name has turned up being spelt or transcribed as ‘Pellow’, ‘Pellew’, ‘Pillow’ ‘Peliewe’,  ‘Pelve’ and ‘Pelne’.  





The Strongman

In February 1949, Alfred Woollaston died in the County Hospital in Ashford. A sixty-nine year old widower, he had lived in North Road in Hythe since just after the war. He was now past his prime and the war years had not been kind to him, but at the turn of the century, launching his career in the music hall, he had been described as ‘a most beautifully proportioned athlete’ .

His stage name was ‘Monte Saldo – The Young Hercules’.


Alfred Woollaston aka Monte Saldo

He was born Alfred Montague Woollaston in Holloway, London, on 23 December 1879, the fourth child of George Frederick Woollaston, a boot maker, and his wife Adelaide. He  became interested in body building in his teens, but his first job, which he started in 1895 was more prosaic: he worked as a booking clerk for the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway at their office in Brighton‘s Grand Hotel.

The job only lasted a couple of years before he was taken on by Eugene Sandow, a German strongman who specialised in ‘muscle display performances’ and included both Alfred and his younger brother Frank in his touring show. They were now known as Monte and Frank Saldo.

A fellow performer was Italian bodybuilder Ronco; together he and Alfred devised their own strongman stage act, ‘Ronco & Monte’.  They toured Europe and had a six month contract at the Royal Aquarium in London. Then Alfred got together with Frank and another brother, Edwin, to form a new act, ‘The Montague Brothers’. They appeared at the London Hippodrome and in Europe.

One routine was a great crowd-puller. A Darracq car, complete with passengers, was driven onto the stage, up a ramp and onto a bridge. The ramp and supports were removed leaving Alfred, underneath a section of the bridge, supporting the entire weight of the vehicle and its contents. In 1906 they introduced an ‘artistic’ routine ‘The Sculptor’s Dream’ which involved Frank and Alfred acting as mirror images of a statue and Edwin taking the part of the dozing sculptor.

The brothers’ joint enterprise was short-lived: Frank became a successful lyricist and Edwin ran a café. Alfred opened the Apollo-Saldo Academy in London, together with William Bankier, a wrestling promoter known professionally ‘Apollo the Scottish Hercules’. He next, in 1909, got together with German strongman Max Sick (Maxick) to develop what they called the  Maxaldo system of exercise and muscle control. Maxick was interned at the start of World War One and the business arrangement came to an end. Alfred for a time carried on alone.


Then  he joined forces with one Mark Lemon, changed the name of the system to Maxalding and took offices in Golders Green Their method, they claimed ‘makes Men more Virile, Magnetic, Courageous, and Successful. makes Women more Attractive, Beautiful and Magnetic’. The advertising must have worked as in 1923 they took premises in London’s Pall Mall. This was a step too far and was too expensive. In 1926 they were declared bankrupt.  Although undoubtedly a fine athlete, Alfred was perhaps a less than astute businessman. 

Alfred continued to advertise the system until his death and to describe himself as a teacher of physical culture. In 1937 he published a book, How to Excel at Games and Athletics. He left London, moving the family to Shepherdswell, near Dover. His son Frederick (later known as Court Saldo)  visited Folkestone during this time. However, the family was in London in 1941 when Alfred’s wife was killed during a bombing raid and Alfred himself was badly injured. His younger son was killed in action in 1944.

The older son, Frederick, seems to have taken on what was left of his father’s business and continued promoting Maxalding until the 1970s.



Charles Latham, Farmer-Knight

Charles George Latham was born at the Coastguard station in Hythe on 26 January 1882, the sixth child of Thomas Latham, a coastguard and his wife Isabella. Both his parents were Irish; his father had joined  the Royal Navy a Boy Sailor, and transferred to the Coastguard in 1873. Thereafter, he served in Cork and Dymchurch before arriving in Hythe.  Although not yet forty, he took his pension in 1883, perhaps through ill health, as he died in July the next year.  Isabella, widowed with eight children seems to have moved to London, where she died herself in 1889. Charles was just seven.

The next year, the four youngest children were sent to Australia – Sarah, aged ten; Violet, nine, Charles and little Alfred aged only five.  The older children were either already there or arrived soon afterwards. They settled in Hay, sited approximately midway between Sydney and Adelaide.  Although there is much scandal around the transportation of orphans to Australia in the nineteenth century, the Latham children seem to have thrived and Charles certainly went to school in Hay. All the children eventually married and had families of their own.  Charles himself married Marie Louisa von Allwörden on 24 June 1903 , in Hay

The couple moved to Western Australia to take up 1,000 acres of land east of Perth. Farming here was difficult and not helped by a severe drought in 1914. Charles cleared salmon gum, gimlet and morrell by chopping and burning and battled the drought by carting water. He shot the kangaroos which ate his first crops and put up fences against rabbits; and he carted supplies fifty miles from the railhead. Eventually he had a successful wheat farm.

The vast tracts of wheat land around Narembeen, where Charles settled

His later military records tell us that Charles was a tall, well-built man,  standing six feet tall and weighting a hundred and eighty pounds.

When war broke out. Charles joined up as a volunteer in the First Australian Imperial Force in March 1916. He was assigned to the 16th battalion and in October sailed from Fremantle. He arrived in Plymouth on 2 December.  From there, he was sent to Tidworth Camp, on the edge of Salisbury Plain, where he qualified as an instructor at the Bombing School and was promoted to Corporal. Then he travelled to Folkestone, only five miles from his birthplace in Hythe. In March 1918, he was back in England, having been wounded by gunshot and admitted to the Fort Pitt Military Hospital in Chatham, before returning to France in September 1918.  During his long convalescence, was he able to revisit his boyhood haunts? Perhaps.

His older brother Thomas, serving with the same Force, was killed in action in 1917. His body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Villiers-Bretonneux memorial.

Charles ended his war as a sergeant and returned to Western Australia, where he soon doubled his land holding. Even before the war, he had started to take an interest in politics, and in 1920 joined the newly-formed Country Party. The next year he became its Member of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia. The party’s general position on social matters was centre-right, but it favoured socialist economic policies for agriculture,  including support for farmers through government grants and subsidies or through community appeals.

Charles George Latham

In 1930 Charles became the parliamentary leader of the Country Party and continued his crusade for farmers’ rights. Later that year, under his leadership, the party joined with the National Party and he served as deputy Premier of Western Australia from from 1930 to 1933. From 1933 to 1942 he was the Leader of the Opposition. At that point, he resigned to fill a vacancy in the Senate, but lost the 1943 election.

He was back in Parliament in 1946 and served as Minister for Agriculture in 1952-3, finally retiring at the age of of seventy-eight in 1960.

Charles in later life

Throughout his political career, Charles was pro-British. In a speech in 1942 he said:  I am an Englishman, and proud of it. No matter what Australia does, we can never repay the Old Country for what it has done for us. Not afraid of hard work himself, and proud of his achievements since he arrived in Australia  as an eight-year-old orphan, he had little sympathy for the unemployed. During the Depression of the 1930s he suggested to Premier James Mitchell that a fire hose be turned upon a large crowd demonstrating outside the Treasury Building. His advice was not taken.

He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1948. This Order was founded by George III in 1818 and is awarded to British subjects who have rendered extraordinary and important services abroad or in the Commonwealth.

A widower since 1946, Charles died on 26 August 1968, survived by his two sons and their families.


The Professor

‘Rags to riches’ (and sometimes back to rags) stories are not uncommon in this blog, but this man’s journey was probably the most extraordinary of them all.

John Fryer came into the world in Hythe in on 6 August 1839. His father, another John, had married Mary Ann Wiles, originally of Kingston, near Canterbury, the  previous year.  John senior worked with his own father in the family grocery in Hythe  High Street. They  seem to have been prosperous at that time and owned the premises from which they traded, but the business failed in 1852 and everything was auctioned to pay the debts,  including a barrel organ ‘with three barrels set for sacred music’. Although John Fryer senior is sometimes claimed to have been a Methodist minister, there are no records of this, though there are a few of him preaching – aided no doubt, by the barrel organ.

He and Mary Ann had a long-standing fascination for all things Chinese, to the extent that Mary Ann made rice ‘a substantial part of her diet’. John  junior,  who shared their interest,  was educated at Prospect House academy in Hythe, where he was nicknamed ‘Chin Chong’. He earned part of his school fees by working at Mackeson’s brewery in Hythe. He then took an apprenticeship as a pupil teacher at St James in Bristol, a ‘ragged school”. This qualified him to attend Highbury teacher training college to which he won a scholarship.

On graduating, John accepted the position of headmaster at St Paul’s college in Hong Kong.  The post he took on is better described as ‘only master’ as the school, set up to teach English to Chinese boys with an interest in Christian ministry,  had then just thirty-odd pupils (today it has two thousand). He sailed for the Far East via the Cape of Good Hope, a journey which took a hundred and forty two days. He was homesick and did not care for his fellow passengers. and wrote in his diary:

It is with a combination of curious feelings that this journal is commenced. There is a mingled hope and fear, gloom and light; anticipations of a bright future, and occasional forebodings of ill
John Fryer
St Paul’s College Hong Kong in  the 19th century

He stayed at St Paul’s for two years before taking a post as an English teacher in Beijing, with the intention of learning Mandarin. Here he met other teachers and politicians and mingled with the diplomatic corps. The job was sponsored by the Church Missionary Society and they agreed to pay the passage to China for John’s fiancée, Anna Roleston of Chudleigh, Devon.

The long-awaited reunion was a disaster. When Anna arrived in Beijing, she was pregnant, apparently by the captain of the ship on which she had sailed. Their relationship had continued throughout the voyage. John later said that the man had somehow administered to her a strong aphrodisiac. This seems unlikely, a story invented by either Anna or John to excuse her behaviour. It also bears a remarkable resemblance (sea voyage, love potion, betrayed groom) to the legend of Tristan and Isolde.

John did the decent thing and quickly married Anna, but the scandal was so great that she was obliged to return to England with her child, Willie. The Church Missionary Society was appalled and wrote:

It is quite impossible that we should retain as an  accredited Agent of the Society one whose wife is under such a cloud. 

John had taken Anna to Shanghai to join her ship home and now, without funds, found himself stranded there. However, another school teaching post was offered, which he had little choice but to accept. He applied to the American Mission for work, but was rejected, again because of the scandal. In 1868, he finally managed to secure employment with the Chinese government at the Kiangban Arsenal  as secretary and interpreter.

He wrote:

It is a great relief to feel settled and able to get on quietly with one’s work. Indeed I may say I was never more happy in my life than I am in my new situation of Translator of Scientific Books for the Chinese Government. It is an honourable and useful position as well as being respectable, and with a salary of £800 a year

The Fryer’s house at Shanghai

He stayed for twenty-eight years, brought Anna back out and started a family. Anne, born at the end of 1871, was followed quickly by John, Charles and George . At some point after the birth of George in 1878, Anna took them back to England, perhaps on a visit to family or to arrange education. She died there at her home town of Chudleigh in 1879. The children were sent to Kent and boarded for a while in Canterbury and nearby Blean. Her first child, Willie,  appears in the 1871 census for Chudleigh, living with his Roleston grandparents, but is then untraceable

Anna’s grave in Chudleigh.

In Memory of Anna, the Beloved Wife of John Fryer of Shanghai China, who Entered Into Her Rest on the 20th October 1879, aged 41 Years. After a Long and Severe Illness Her End Was Peace.

On 8 June  1882 John married again, to an American, (Anne} Eliza Nelson. The following year, they set out for England to arrange the futures of John’s children. They travelled via New York, Eliza’s home town. Here, Eliza was taken ill and John travelled on to Hythe alone for the reunion with his parents and children. Eliza joined them later at the house John had rented for them and apparently enjoyed visiting all the ‘historic curiosities’ of Hythe, including St Leonard’s church and Saltwood Castle. She stayed until January 1885, though John soon returned to China. When she re-joined him, she took the oldest child, Anne, and the youngest, George, with her. John  junior and Charles were to attend Prospect House Academy in Hythe, as their father had done.

In 1888 the family were on the move again. Leaving George in China, but taking Anne with them, John and Eliza collected the other boys from Hythe and took them to New York. Anne and John junior were to study at Alfred University, Eliza’s alma mater, while Charles went back to China with them.

Four years later, Charles and George were uprooted from China again and taken by Eliza to California. It was intended that they would all study eventually at the State University at Berkeley. Their father came to visit their new home and had an interview with the President of the University, who happened to mention funding for a Chair in Oriental Languages and Literature

During his time in Shanghai, John had translated over eighty Western scientific works, collaborating with scientists and mathematicians. He also established the Shanghai Polytechnic Institution and Reading Rooms in 1876 and taught there himself. Eventually, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate. He also acquired a  Chinese name, Fu Lanya. But now it was time to move on.

Fu Lanya………………………………………and his second wife

In 1896, John left China to become the University of California’s first Professor of Oriental Language and Literature.  Apart from two long trips back to China, in 1900 and 1908, John worked at Berkeley until his retirement in 1913.  when he became Professor Emeritus. Towards the end of his life, was described as ‘a man of rare intellectuality, much learning and strong moral fibre’.

The Fryer family at their California home

His daughter Anne married; John junior took on his father’s post in Shanghai, but died of typhoid in 1896; Charles also married and became a professor at McGill University in Montreal; and George joined a shipping firm in Shanghai.

John & Eliza Fryer in later life

Eliza Fryer died in 1910 and John in 1920

The grave of John and his wife in Oakland, California


Fred Daganais,  John Fryer’s Early Years in China, Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 36 (1996), pp. 129-149.

David Wright, John Fryer and the Shanghais Polytechnic: Making Space for Science in Nineteenth Century China, Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2009

Theodore Huter, Bringing the World Home: Appropriating the West in Late Qing and Early Republican China,  2005
Nellie Blessing Eyster, A Beautiful Life: Memoir of Mrs Eliza Nelson Fryer, 1847-1910, Lack Bros, Berkeley, date unknown

The Man Who Built a Railway

At the Hythe terminus of the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, in the booking office window, is a small sign bearing the words ‘Greenly Coffee Shop’. It is rather an odd way to remember the engineer without whom there would be none of the iconic locomotives and stations that RHDR  passengers have come to love.

Henry Greenly had an early connection with the railways. His father was a train guard in Birkenhead, where Henry was born on 3 June 1876, the first of five children, The family moved to west London when Henry was eleven. He won a London County Council scholarship, took up a place at a Science School and  eventually won a scholarship to the Regent Street Polytechnic. 

In 1897, he started work in the drawing-office of the Metropolitan Railway Company at its Neasden works, but he did not stay long, despite the security of employment the position offered.  Two years earlier, he had started a lifetime’s contributions to engineering  debates in a letter  to the Engineer about early Great Western locomotives. He was not afraid to take the great engineers of the day to task over technical issues, and he soon became both well known and respected. As a result, on 15 October 1896, he was appointed to a subcommittee at the Science Museum alongside twenty-five distinguished engineers, with the objective of establishing a permanent railway museum.  

While on the board, he was invited to join the staff of the Model Engineer and Amateur Electrician’ periodical, a position he acceptedThat same year, 1901, he married Lilley Maria Richardson, daughter of a London businessman. They had a daughter and two sons. 

One of the many callers to his magazine’s offices was Wenman Basset-Lowke, a pioneer in making scale models, with whom Henry formed a long-lasting friendship. He often acted as a consultant to Bassett-Lowke’s world famous model engineering concern in Northampton.    

Henry in 1906

Henry was a prolific publisher on the subject of model railways. His first book, The Model Locomotive,  was issued in 1904 and was followed by many others, Model Electric Locomotives and Railways (1921) becoming the ‘bible’ for the model railway world. He founded, in 1908, the Models Railways and Locomotives magazine which became a platform from which he could share his knowledge and expertise with others.

Henry’s first book………………………………….and his magazine

The last two decades of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth saw a small craze for miniature passenger-carrying railways. Henry worked with Basset-Lowke on one 15 inch gauge railway at Blackpool. another in Rhyl and one in Geneva. 

Rhyl Miniature Railway, opened 1911, still running today

The First World War called a halt to such activities and Henry spent the duration in the Drawing Office of the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough.  In peacetime, his first venture was the design and construction of a scenic miniature railway at ‘Dreamland’ in Margate which operated until 1979

The Dreamland Railway

He next worked on a narrow gauge railway in Cumberland,  from Ravenglass up to the village of Boot, where haematite iron ore was mined and which was a favourite starting point for hikers. 

His work there brought him to the attention of two very rich racing drivers and miniature railway enthusiasts, Count Louis Zborowski and Captain John Howey. Both had dreams of creating their own railway line and had hoped to buy the Ravenglass line and extend it. Thwarted in this ambition, they nevertheless, with no site or permission to build, commissioned Henry to design two locomotives in 1924. 

Captain John Howey                                      Count Louis Zborowski 

Later that year,  Zborowski was killed while racing in the Italian Grand Prix.  Howey decided to carry on alone and in 1925 charged Henry with finding a place to build his railway.  Henry settled on New Romney, where there was no existing railway connection and where the surrounding land was flat enough to allow trains to run at speed. There were of course, various legal hoops to be jumped through and objections to be overcome, but Henry dealt with them all and brought the first locomotive, Green Goddess,  down to the Romney Marsh. Finally, in May 1926, a Light Railway Order was signed.

Green Goddess (Loco 1) today on the turntable at Hythe Station

Northern Chief (Loco 2)

Howey now started spending seriously. Green Goddess was joined by Northern Chief and then by Southern Maid, Samson, Hercules, Typhoon and Hurricane, all still in service today . The original plan had been for a single track line as far as Dymchurch. Now Howey decided on double track all the way to Hythe. This delayed the opening, but Howey had the good fortune to receive a royal visit from the Duke of York (later George VI). The Duke took a ride with Howey on Northern Chief, which the invited press duly recorded, providing invaluable publicity. Henry, however, was left out in the cold. Seldom more than a few feet away from the Duke during the visit, he was not introduced. Was Old Etonian millionaire embarrassed to acknowledge his scholarship boy Chief Engineer? Or did he just forget his manners? Whatever the case, Henry was angry and the relationship soured. 

With the completion of the line to Hythe, the railway was opened to the public on 17 July 1927. The first train left New Romney at 0630, arriving at Hythe forty-five minutes later, with three interim stops. 

The approach to Hythe station

The line was extended to Dungeness in 1928, to a station designed by Henry, as all the others had been. Howey then departed for Australia via Canada for one of his regular long holidays. In his absence, Henry and the General Manager of the RHDR, a Mr Bellamy had a major falling-out. It concerned drawings for new locomotives with better protection for the drivers. The designs were based, apparently without his permission, on Henry’s originals. One evening in January 1929, Henry went to the office, took them away and burnt the lot. Mr Bellamy called the police who arrested Henry and took him to Lydd Police Station. Nothing could be proved against him and he was released and received compensation. But the adventure was over.  Henry promptly left New Romney, where he and his family had lived for some years, and never returned. 

Henry in later life

The family moved to Heston, Isleworth and Henry continued to design scale models, as busy as ever. One of his creations, in 1938,  was a seven-and-a-quarter inch gauge locomotive for the Saltwood miniature railway owned by Frank and Alexander Schwab.  Called the Maid of Kent, she ran until 1975. 

The Saltwood miniature railway

Henry was invited to the twentieth anniversary celebrations for the RHDR, but was too ill to attend and to meet the guests of honour, Laurel and Hardy. He died at his home, on 4 March 1947 and was buried at Heston parish church. He was survived by his wife, who when she died in 1967 was buried beside him.

Captain Howey died in 1963. He had a diesel locomotive named for him by RHDR. Henry Greenly did not.


Two books were used to research this post. The first,  The Miniature World of Henry Greenly  was written by Henry’s daughter and her husband and is naturally biased in favour of Henry. The other was One Man’s Railway: J.E.P. Howey and the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway  by J.B. Snell. The title says it all. 

And finally, here is a video of Green Goddess arriving at New Romney station at nearly a hundred years old