Surviving Buggy Row

The Tyas family (sometimes known as ‘Tice’) were survivors. They survived the workhouse and living in a slum, and while they were undeniably  truculent and liked a drink or two, they flourished and multiplied  against all the odds.

Their story starts in February 1844 when Richard, the pater familias, allegedly deserted his wife Harriet and their eight children: Edward, Richard, William, Esther, Filmer, John, Mary and Priscilla, who were all placed in the Elham Union Workhouse at Ethchinghill (1). He appeared before the local magistrates charged with this offence  but was discharged, and the family were reunited a week later (2). They were back again for another short stay in April that year, but thereafter managed to survive outside. They moved from the house in Dental Street, Hythe where they had been living to Windmill Row, and another three children were born: George, James and Fanny.

Windmill Row was, to put it bluntly, filthy. In Hythe, it was commonly known as ‘Buggy Row’. Its sixteen houses had been built to accommodate temporarily the men of the Royal Waggon Train who dug the Royal Military Canal over forty years before. There were no internal stairs, and the tenants reached their upstairs rooms by means of ladders There were just four outside taps for all sixteen dwellings, none of which had a sink, and six outside water-closets. But the census shows that most of the people living there were not paupers, they were in work: there was just no other accommodation to be found at an affordable rent. The landlord knew that and was not motivated to make improvements.

Richard earned his living as a labourer and Harriet went out to work as a charwoman. By 1851, their two eldest sons had left home. Edward, at eighteen, had married his pregnant girlfriend, ten years older than him and already the mother of an illegitimate child. He had found work as a hotel porter.

Richard junior had joined the Merchant Navy as an apprentice in 1850, but left the next year, returning to marry Emily Moseley in St Leonard’s Church, Hythe. He, too, was just eighteen and Emily was pregnant. They went to live in London, where Richard worked as a groom, but a couple of years later were back in Kent. In 1854, he ‘borrowed’ a horse and cart from a Folkestone baker and drove it to Hastings to deliver some herring. However, having sold the fish, he spent the next few days drinking the proceeds. His remorse at the magistrates court enabled him to escape trial and he went to live in Ramsgate where he became a fly-master, hiring out horse-drawn transport.

William was the next to leave, but his first attempts at independent living were not successful and he had another stay in the workhouse in 1852. The first Tyas daughter, Esther, also went to London, and married there in 1858.

In 1854 Richard senior was charged with fighting with two of his own sons in Tontine Street in Folkestone and with striking one of his daughters in the melee. He was drunk at the time. When a constable came to break up the fight, he also resisted arrest. In court, he was very contrite and swore that if let off, he would take the pledge. The magistrate told him that if he intended to become a teetotaller the best place to start would be Dover gaol and sentenced him to fourteen days.

Tontine Street in Folkestone, where Richard Tyas brawled with his family…

and Dover Gaol, in the Maison Dieu, where he served his sentence

The fourth Tyas son, Filmer, was evidently a chip off the old block. In 1857 he was sentenced to twelve months in prison for assaulting a police constable, a term he served in Canterbury gaol. In 1861 he appeared in court charged with disorderly conduct at the Coopers’ Arms public house on the Bayle in Folkestone. Most of the family now lived in the town. Filmer ensured that drink was always available to him by lodging at another public house, the Princess Royal in the town, and later at the Engineer beerhouse in what is now Guildhall Street. Perhaps his behaviour was trying: the landlord told him to leave in 1868, but he refused and became violent. A constable was called and inevitably, Filmer assaulted him, too. He was taken to Folkestone police station, where his mother turned up and created such a disturbance that she, too, was arrested. At the subsequent court hearing, Filmer was charged seven shillings and sixpence, and Harriet was discharged.

The Princess Royal public house near the harbour in Folkestone

At the time of this last event, Filmer was a married man, but living separately from his wife. He had married Ann Tidmarsh at the church of St Mary and St Eanswythe on 6 April 1862, but thereafter she disappears from the public record. Filmer signed his name on his marriage certificate, so had a degree, at least, of literacy.

Filmer last appears in public records when he is in court again, this time charged with illegal prize fighting at a farm near Dover in 1874. The case collapsed because the witnesses were too frightened to testify. Filmer died aged only forty-four, and was buried on 8 January 1881.

His father, Richard, meanwhile had died in 1868, and Harriet moved in with her daughter Mary. Mary had married Thomas Fisher, a publican who kept the Eagle Inn in Guildhall Street. Her brother George, the youngest of the Tyas sons married and worked early in his life as a boatman, before taking over the licence of the Bradstone Arms in Folkestone in the late 1870s. Like Filmer, he died in early 1881. After his death, his widow Alice kept on the licence.

Priscilla, the third Tyas daughter, broke with family tradition and as far as is known had no connection with the licensed trade. On 17 August 1862, at the age of seventeen, she married Edward Bush Johnson in Folkestone parish church. Edward was a corporal in the Royal Artillery. Priscilla, like her younger brother George who witnessed the ceremony, could not write.

The youngest Tyas child, Fanny, married a mariner, Robert Weatherhead in 1866. They had at least seven children, but Fanny managed to combine her domestic duties with running a public house in Seagate Street in Folkestone.

Buggy Row in Hythe was, disgracefully,  not demolished until the 20th century. In 1888 Hythe’s Medical Officer of Health described it as ‘in a most dilapidated condition, the foundations and grounds impregnated with filth’, but the landlord ignored him. Three years later, the Ratepayers Association demanded that the dwellings be taken down as  ‘the ground, back and front, is a vast cesspool, growing more dangerous to health every day.’  Again, they were ignored.  The town council finally took action and condemned them in 1904, sixty years after the Tyas family had lived there.

  1. Kent Archives G/El/AM
  2. Kent Archives Hy/JP1
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Escaping the Workhouse

Mary Ann Finn was born in Saltwood, just up the hill from Hythe, in 1825 and baptised at the church of SS Peter and Paul there on 10 April the same year. Her parents were Thomas, a labourer and Margaret nee Norcock (though she often called herself Harriet). Thomas Finn had himself had a difficult start in life, having been left an orphan. The overseers of the Poor in Saltwood where he was born put him out as an apprentice and he later moved to Dover before returning to the Hythe area. He and his wife had two more daughters after Mary Ann, Emily and Esther. Esther was described in the census records as ‘an imbecile from birth.’ The family moved to Church Hill in Hythe, where they lived next door to a family called Piety.

Church Hill, Hythe, today

The Piety family comprised John, his wife Ann and two sons, John and Thomas, who like their father were labourers. John senior had also apparently diversified into smuggling, as did so many others. In 1832, he and his brother Thomas were caught landing smuggled goods near Fort Twiss in Hythe and sent for trial, but were released when the evidence of the leading witness was contradictory, as it was so often found to be.

But both smuggling and legitimate work were sometimes not to be had in the harsh economic climate of the 1830s and both John Piety and his neighbour Thomas Finn were obliged to throw themselves occasionally on the mercy of the Overseers of the Poor later in the decade.

The year 1845 brought a watershed for both families. John Piety senior had already died and now both his widow Ann and his next-door-neighbour Thomas Finn died. The widowed Margaret/Harriet Finn took Emily and Esther and went to live in Stade Street in Hythe , where they subsisted on ‘outdoor relief’ paid by the parish overseers. Mary Ann, however, stayed in Church Hill, moving in next door with John Piety junior, twenty years older than her, as his ‘housekeeper’.

The relationship was clearly more than that, however, and the couple married on 12 October 1851 at Saltwood parish church in a ceremony witnessed by John’s brother Thomas and Mary Ann’s sister Emily. None of the party were able to sign their names and made their marks on the marriage register. This is the last time that Thomas Piety appears in the records. He seems to have vanished, or more likely just changed his name and tried his luck elsewhere.

Mary Ann was pregnant when she married and her daughter, another Mary Ann, was born before the end of the year. Almost exactly two years after their marriage, John Piety died and was buried on 23 October 1853. Mary Ann was destitute. John had left no other family, and her own mother, living on parish relief and with a disabled daughter, was in no position to help.

Mary Ann took work as a charwoman when she could, but between 1854 and 1855 she often had to apply for relief from the Parish Overseers herself. Unlike her mother, she was sent to the Elham Union workhouse. This was in Etchinghill,  four miles north of Hythe, and opened in 1836. She was in and out of the establishment every two or three weeks, sometimes with her daughter, sometimes without (perhaps she left the child with her mother). Then on 16 March 1856, she gave birth again, in the workhouse this time, to a son, William Henry. He was baptised in the nearest church, at Lyminge, on 14 June 1857.

A sketch of Elham Union Workhouse at Etchinghill, now demolished

The pattern of frequent admission to the workhouse continued, usually with both the children. But the frustrations of her unsettled life began to tell. On 8 September 1859, she was sent to gaol for forty-two days for an unspecified offence. She was returned from prison to the workhouse, but in January of the next year she smashed seventy panes of glass at the workhouse over a two-day rampage, and in March was sent back to prison for another forty-two days’ hard labour at Canterbury prison.

St Augustine’s Prison and House of Correction, opened in 1808 in Canterbury

On her release – again back to the workhouse – Mary Ann tried another way to vent her feelings. On 15 May 1860 she was charged with damaging a bolster. Another inmate reported that during the night she ripped open the bolster, which was filled with straw, took it down to the courtyard and set fire to it with a candle. When asked what she was doing she replied that she was ‘burning the foreigners’. The workhouse medical officer reported that the last time he had seen Mary Ann she was dressed ‘in a singular style,’ behaving oddly and talking about selling vegetables and watercress which she believed she had in her possession. He believed that this was all an act as she had previously been reasonable. The master of the workhouse told the court that she was ‘eccentric and sometimes violent’. He said that if she was dissatisfied with her lot, she would work herself up into a rage. She was judged not to be insane and sent back to prison for another six weeks. This would have suited the Poor Law authorities very well, as, had she been sent to the County Asylum in Maidstone, they would have had to foot the bill for her care.

After that brief period – when she may well have been suffering from psychotic episodes – Mary Ann settled down, and, in 1862, got married again. Her choice of husband, John Finn Avery, may, to judge from his name, have been a kinsman, and was fourteen years younger than her, having been born in Dover in 1839. He was a labourer, and the couple lived together, apparently quietly, in Folkestone, and Mary Ann took in washing to make ends meet.

However, Mary Ann’s daughter was not included in the happy family and was left in the workhouse. On 15 May 1868, aged sixteen, she was ‘moved to the home at Dover’. She must have run away, because on 25 April 1870, she was readmitted to Elham Union workhouse under an order of removal from London, together with a child who had been born in February that year, although no record exists of its birth in London or anywhere else. She left the workhouse with her baby daughter two days later, and perhaps she did now go to her mother, for the child died in Folkestone shortly afterwards and was buried at Christ Church in the town on 5 May 1870.

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The tower of Christchurch, Folkestone. The rest of the church was destroyed by enemy action in 1940

Mary Ann junior then seems to have tried working as a servant for a living, but it didn’t work out. She was readmitted to the workhouse, destitute, on 6 Feb 1871. She somehow got herself out of the place and went back to London, where she met and married James Dabbs, a second-hand bookseller eleven years older than her. They married in Holborn, where they continued to live, in the Peabody Buildings there, and where they raised a family of three sons and three daughters. There was no more workhouse for Mary Ann Dabbs and her children. Frederick, the eldest, was apprenticed to an engineer but went into the printing trade; James and William became warehouse porters; Ruth worked as a machinist making children’s clothing; Mary Ann was an album binder; and Ellen, the youngest, kept house for her father after her mother’s death.

Mary Ann Dabbs nee Piety died in 1907. She had escaped the cycle of poverty and destitution and overcome her early mistakes and her upbringing. Meanwhile, her sisters had also died, Esther, the disabled child, in the workhouse. Her mother, widowed again in 1900 and too old now to take in washing, went back to the workhouse herself and died there in 1906.

And what became of her son, William Henry? He disappears from the records after his mother’s marriage. There is nothing in the censuses or the records of death and marriage. He appears not to have taken his step-father’s name either. Perhaps he was adopted, or sent abroad, or maybe even claimed by his natural father.

Always a Man

William Lionel Man was born on 7 December 1832 at Halstead Hall, Halstead, Kent, the son of Harry Stoe Man and Louisa Caroline Man nee Fowle.  He was baptized on 13 January 1833 at St. Margaret’s, Halstead.

Halstead Hall was not the family seat. William’s father had bought it, using his wife’s money, in about 1828. He seems to have had little money of his own. He was declared bankrupt in 1818 and was incarcerated, for a while, in the Fleet prison in London. He paid his debts and was married the next year, but in 1824 was dismissed from his position as a purser in the Royal Navy for fiddling his expenses account. With the job went his navy pension. He was declared bankrupt again in 1843. Fortunately, the house was in his wife’s name.

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Halstead Hall

Harry was at best eccentric, at worst just plain bloody-minded.  He (illegally) drained and enclosed the village pond. He knocked down the gateposts of the church to make space for his wife’s carriage.  When angry, he whistled through the holes in his cheeks left by the passage of a pistol ball during a naval engagement with the French in 1802. His gravestone was inscribed:

I have said to corruption thou art my father/ to the worm thou art my mother and sister.

William was the couple’s eighth child of eleven.

The eldest, Eleanor, married in middle age to a Welshman who habitually talked to inanimate objects, including his boots. The next, Harry, became a  major in the Turkish Contingent and fought in the Crimean War. He never recovered from being thrown out of a window in St Petersburg and died aged forty-two. He always took off his hat when he saw a barrel of sugar because he had sugar investments. A younger brother, Septimus, got sunstroke in India, which, coupled with an unhappy love affair, unsettled his mind, though he succeeded in becoming a barrister.  He would walk about Paris dressed as an Admiral and when at Halstead Hall insisted on living in the basement where he played Spanish love songs on the guitar.

William started life conventionally enough, and he was articled to a solicitor in London. He then scandalised his family by marrying Rosa Cooper, who was not only an actress, but a Roman Catholic, too – or at least he said he did. There is no record of his marriage in England, Scotland or Wales, to ‘Rosa Cooper’, which may have been a stage name, or to anyone else.  So who was Rosa? She remains a mystery. She had been acting on the London stage since she was in her early teens, and some of her reviews refer to her as ‘the celebrated American comedienne.’ In 1850, she made her first appearance in a tragedy, as Lady Macbeth, with disastrous reviews, but she persevered until the reviews improved. She and William had a son, Horace, in 1856, but she continued to perform.

For a while, William combined the law with an interest in the stage.  At first, he seems to have acted as Rosa’s manager and publicist.

 

An 1856 advertisement for Rosa Cooper’s lectures. Her qualifications may have been exaggerated

By 1857, he had joined Rosa on the stage, performing as ‘Lionel Harding’. Perhaps he did not meet with huge initial success, as he left his lodgings in Swansea without paying he bill

 

In 1858, he and Rosa were performing in an entertainment entitled Matrimony at Greenwich.  Rosa’s performance was much praised. They then created the London Dramatic Company and went on tour, with mixed results. At Faversham they played to several near-empty houses in succession until they offered to give away a silver watch to one lucky audience member. The theatre that night was packed with boys and young men who cat-called and shouted ‘where’s the watch’ until the cast gave up and allegedly left town without paying for their lodgings. Better times came and in 1863 William and Rosa were performing together with William Montague’s company in Chelmsford and Cranbrook, where they were described as ‘popular favourites’ and Rosa ‘drew forth rapturous approbation’ as Lady Macbeth.

                                                                                Rosa Cooper as Lady Macbeth (www.manfamily.org)

Perhaps to the Man family’s relief, they then decided to perform in the colonies, leaving Horace with his paternal grandmother.  In 1865 they were in New Zealand, performing Shakespeare for the actor-manager Charles Dillon’s company. In 1870 they were in Sidney, where Rosa appeared in ‘her well-known and artistic realisation of the character of Lady Isabel in East Lynne’. This gave her the immortal lines: Dead! Dead! And never called me mother!

                                                                                   William Lionel Man as Hamlet (www.manfamily.org)

In 1872 they were giving ‘drawing-room entertainments’ in the Polytechnic Hall in Sidney with ‘very limited success’. It was a sad time for them: their son Horace had died the previous year aged fifteen. The circumstances of his death are unclear. According to his death certificate, he died of dropsy (oedema). This can be a symptom of heart or kidney disease. His death was not registered by a family member, of whom there were plenty at Halstead Hall, but by an unknown illiterate woman, Elizabeth Grosvenor,  who was ‘present at the death’.  The cause of death was not certified, which means he was not under the care of a doctor. His father, William, is described as ‘a lawyer’.

Five years later, Rosa was dead herself, of cholera, in Calcultta ( now Kolkata).

The next we hear of William is in 1880, when on 20 July at Holy Trinity church in Maidstone, he married Mary Fowle Starnes, a distant relation of his mother. They moved in with Mary’s aunt, Mary Cutbush, in King Street, Maidstone. William seems to have given up the stage on the death of Rosa: it was always she who drew the better reviews.  In 1881, he was making his living as a journalist.  He wrote under the pseudonym of ‘The Lounger’ commentaries which were syndicated to local newspapers. He also wrote a book Lecture on Shakespeare with the Reverend T. Archibald S. White, who delivered the lecture itself. The reverend gentleman’s full name was Thomas Archibald Starnes White, a relation of William’s wife.

William and Mary moved to Hythe in about 1890 and lived in Beaconsfield Terrace.

Beaconsfield Terrace, Hythe

Why Hythe? One attraction may have been the presence in nearby Sandgate of William’s brother, Edward Garnet Man, who lived in a house called ‘Halstead’.  He had spent much of his career in Burma and now passed his time writing letters to the newspapers, being a JP and supporting the Primrose League.

William did not go out of his way to make friends in Hythe and made it clear that he despised the mores  of polite society, the established church and humbug in general. He did, however, like the White Hart inn, which, according to his nephew Morrice, he frequented rather too often,  and he gave occasional recitations.

He died on 30 March 1904 at home in Hythe. An obituary published in the Folkestone Herald is fulsome. It tells us that he studied acting at Sadler’s Wells, where he met Rosa, who was then one of the stars of the company. The couple emigrated to Australia where they took a theatre in Melbourne.  His health had been broken by his experiences in India when Rosa died , so he retired to Hythe to improve his physical well-being. His later years were apparently spent trying to contact his old pals and help them:

Many a broken-down actor, poor scene shifter, and in one instance a poor old charwoman, who had formerly held some minor part in the Melbourne Theatre, can attribute the comparative ease and comfort of their declining years and their rescue from terrible poverty, to his kindness and generosity. 

Unfortunately, none of this chimes with what is verifiable about William’s life, and if he rescued ‘broken-down actors’ from lives of penury, then he was generous to a fault, as he left in his will only £399. 3s 9d. He was cremated on 6 April 1904 at Woking cemetery and his ashes were interred at St. Margaret’s, Halstead

Mary remained in Hythe until her death in1916. She left nearly £30,000 in her will. Perhaps it was her money that William was so generous with.

After her death, the couple’s nieces and nephews had a tablet erected to them in St Leonard’s church.

 

It is ironic that William is remembered in the church, a place he visited only to scoff at the clergy, but the plaque is at the back of the church, on the north aisle wall. It is above an area now used as a bar to serve wine and beer when concerts are held in the church. It seems an appropriate place for William.

There is a coat of arms on the plaque.

The motto reads Vir Semper – Always a Man. An expert in heraldry visited St Leonard’s church a few years ago and recorded all the coats of arms. His conclusion on the Man plaque was that ‘the arms, crest, and motto do not appear in the usual literature (BGA, GA2, Elvin, Fairbairn) in relation to the name Man’.

Sources: Millennial Halstead: A Kentish Villager History by Geoffrey Kitchener, M.A.

                http://www.manfamily.org  for details of William’s wider family. It also has a memoir of William by his nephew, Morrice.

Armenia, India and Mesopotamia: the Finnis Grandchildren

Robert Finnis, upholsterer of Hythe,  had a great many grandchildren, despite the fact that three of his nine children died young and another three had no offspring. Of the three remaining, George had two daughters, one of whom died young. The other, Elizabeth, made, for a young woman brought up in Hythe, an extraordinary marriage, to Lazar Josef Constantine, an Armenian. His widowed mother had subsequently married Lord Congleton.  The connection can only have been through her Lynch cousins, two of whom also married Armenians (see below). Elizabeth was the last person to be buried in the Finnis vault at St Leonard’s church, in 1913.

Elizabeth, Robert’s eldest daughter, married Henry Blosse Lynch of Partry House, Co. Mayo, and gave birth to eleven sons.  Five of these, Henry, Robert, Michael, Stephen and Thomas, made their fortunes, and sometimes met their deaths, in exploring the Middle East.

Henry Blosse Lynch (junior) joined the Indian Navy at sixteen, taking part in a survey of the Persian Gulf.  He had a flair for languages, and learned Arabic, Hindustani and Farsi.   As a lieutenant, he was second-in-command of Colonel Chesney’s expedition to transport overland the components of two steamships across northern Syria to meet the Euphrates, there to re-assemble the steamships (the SS Euphrates and Tigris) and to navigate the Euphrates as far as the Iranian Gulf. The intention was to seek a new trade route with India and the Far East.  Henry commanded the Euphrates and his younger brother Robert, a lieutenant in the 26th regiment of the Bengal Army, the Tigris, the smaller vessel. Robert and twenty other men were drowned when a sudden storm capsized his vessel in May 1836.

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Henry returned, much feted, to England, later in 1836, was granted an audience with the king, William IV and wrote articles for the Royal Geographical Society. A minor and now forgotten poet, Henry Richardson, wrote a very long (eighty-eight page) poem,   The Loss of the Tigris; a poem. In two cantos. Inscribed to the commander, officers, and men of the Euphrates Expedition. An excerpt follows:

There were two brothers in the death-doomed bark;
And one escaped, the other’s life was reft;
And here the words of holy Scipture mark;
“One Shall be taken, and the other left!”
Dark and inscrutable are Wisdom’s laws!
But, Lynch you perished in a noble cause,
And your brother lives to carry through,
Bright deeds of glory denied to you.

In 1839, another younger brother, Michael, was sent out to Baghdad with three more disassembled steamships.  He also undertook some surveying work in Armenia and died there in 1840 aged twenty-eight. No poet eulogised his death.  There were, however, still two younger brothers left ( the very youngest, Frederick, had died aged twelve).  Henry understood the commercial potential of Mespotamia and Armenia and he succeeded in interesting his uncle, Thomas Quested Finnis, in importing goods, unobtainable elsewhere, for his provisions company, Finnis and Fisher. It is likely that he also received financial backing – Thomas Quested Finnis was very rich. The two younger brothers, Thomas Kerr and Stephen, duly set sail.

Stephen was only twenty-one, and he stayed for the next thirty years, establishing Stephen Lynch & Co. in Baghdad and Lynch Brothers & Co. in Basra as traders in commodities. In 1858, he founded the London and Baghdad Banking Association  and used this financial leverage to obtain from the British Foreign Office the sole right to navigate the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and to maintain two steamers on those rivers. He and Thomas Kerr then established the Euphrates and Tigris Steam Navigation Company and commissioned their own steamers, the peak of their achievement being the two-funnelled SS Blosse Lynch, 270 feet in length and 46 feet on the beam, in 1878. She was later used for river trips for tourists and remarkably, was pressed into service during World War 1, armed with 18-pounder field guns strapped to her decks.

view-of-baghdad-with-the-dijla-and-the-customs-house-william-perry-fogg-1874

The Dijla, another Lynch Brothers steamer, moored on the Tigris at Baghdad  (William Perry Fogg, 1874, Harvard Art Museum, Fogg Collection)

 

In the 1850s, Thomas Kerr, who had by then travelled extensively throughout Mesopotamia and Persia, was appointed Consul-General for Persia in London. He was made a Knight of the Order of the Lion and the Sun by the Shah of Persia  and married Harriet Sophia Taylor whose mother was Armenian and father the Brtish political resident at Baghdad.  Their son, Henry Finnis Blosse Lynch, continued his father’s exploration of Armenia and was widely published on the subject.

H. F. B. Lynch.png

Henry Finnis Blosse Lynch, traveller, business man and, briefly, Liberal MP for Ripon. He was a great- grandson of Robert Finnes

Stephen married an Armenian woman, Hosanna, the youngest daughter of Hatchick Mackertich, vice consul at Baghdad on 10 November 1859.

Henry, meanwhile, had moved on to India, married and eventually retired to Paris, where he died.

The other brothers led exemplary, if less adventurous, lives.  John Finnis became a barrister; Edward Patrick joined the Bombay Infantry and retired as a Lt. Colonel; George Quested  became a surgeon and at first joined his brothers in the Middle East, but on hearing of the dreadful depredations of the famine in Ireland, returned home to help. The family, together with others locally chartered the ship the Martha Washington to bring corn meal from America for their tenants. George Quested died of Typhus in 1848.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The obelisk commemorating George Quested Lynch at Partry House

 

Brownlow (by now his parents had run out of second Christian names)  became an Anglican church minister in Ballyhane, Co. Mayo. He was remembered by  one parishioner as a simple and trusting man. He was also, by his brothers’ standards, quite poor, having an income of only £165 a year from his parish which had no residence or glebe attached to it.

In the meantime, the cousins of the Lynch men were growing up. They were the sons and daughters of Col. John Finnes, who had been killed in the Indian Mutiny.

Robert Francis Finnis was the eldest son of John Finnes and his wife Sarah and was born on 13 June 1839 in Dinapore (now Dinapur) in India.  His uncle Thomas Quested Finnis enrolled him in the Company of Bowyers in 1862, but clearly Robert Francis was not cut out for a life of trade and by 1865 was a lieutenant in the Indian Navy. That year, at the church of St Bartholomew the Less in London, he married Ernestine Maria Sparks, daughter of R.H. Sparks of Charterhouse. He died at Tandil, Argentina, on 22 Nov 1868, by which time he was a former lieutenant, so not cut out for the navy, either.  Why he was there is unknown. The widowed Ernestine went on to marry twice more.

The memorial to Robert Francis Finnis and John Finnes in St Leonard’s church, Hythe. 

John, born barely a year after his brother in Burdwan, Bengal became a cadet in the Indian army at the age of sixteen, just after the death of his father in the Indian Mutiny.  He was commissioned lieutenant in December 1857, took part in campaigns at Oude, Shapore and  Dadoopore and went on the Mahsud Waziri expedition in  1881. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel in February 1884 and served on detachment to the 2nd Punjab Infantry as second-in-command. In September that year, while on leave at Mussoorie,  a hill station in the lower Himalayas, he had some decayed teeth removed by a dentist. An abscess formed in his jaw and, trying to relieve the pain, John took too much laudanum.  Although medical help was summoned, he died.

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Mussurrie Hill Station, where John Finnis died and is buried.

He had married, on 27 February1869 in Bengal, Florence Stanley McGowan.  At his death, Florence, still only thirty-four, was left with seven children, though another three had died young. She had an army pension, but John had been left nothing by Thomas Quested Finnis who had died the previous year, though he left £6000 for the children. She returned to England, living at first in London but latterly in  Dolgellau in Merionethshire with her daughters and sister. She died in 1916, not long after the death of her eldest son John Fortescue  Finnis, fighting in Mesopotamia.

The memorial to John Fortescue Finnis, great-grandson of Robert Finnis, in St Leonard’s church, Hythe. 


                                                                      John Fortescue Finnis, who left a widow and son

George Carruthers Finnis, the next son of John and Sarah,  was born in Calcutta on 2 July 1845. On the family’s return to England, he was raised by his uncle, Thomas Quested Finnis, who evidently discerned a kindred spirit. George was enrolled in the Company of Bowyers and worked for his uncle’s provisions company.  He maintained his family’s links with Hythe and married a local woman Emma Elizabeth Fagge, daughter of a Hythe physician, on 27 October 1870 in the parish church. His aunt Jane died the following year, and George appears to have inherited her house in Regent’s Park – at least, he lived there for the next twenty years. He also inherited £12,000 from Thomas Quested Finnis. He became a JP, but that was the extent of his civic life, and he died of pneumonia aged fifty-two.  Elizabeth went back to Hythe and she and George have their own memorial in St Leonard’s church.

The memorial to George Carruthers and Elizabeth Emma Finnis erected by their two sons

Another brother, Thomas Quested Finnis shunned the usual male Finnis occupations and became a dairy farmer in Pangbourne, where he died aged forty on 17 February 1890

Three daughters survived to adulthood. Louisa Jane married Captain Charles M’Laughlin a naval officer. Sophia Margaretta (Sophie) married Ross Willaume Hayter, then a civil servant,  and travelled the world with him, first to India, then to Canada in 1888 and finally the USA, though they both died in Hampshire.

Lucy Ann, the youngest child, not two years old when her father was killed, married Grimble Vallentin,  a distiller and Master of the Worshipful Company of Distillers. They had two daughters and a son, John, baptised in St Leonard’s church, Hythe in 1882. A career soldier, John Vallentin  served in South Africa from 1901 to 1903, and then on the North-West Frontier of India and Gibraltar.  He arrived in France soon after the outbreak of war , in October 1914. On 7 November 1914 at Zillebeke, Belgium, when leading an attack against the Germans under very heavy fire, he was struck down, but seeing that the other officer leading the attack had been killed, he rose and continued before being himself killed. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

His body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. His Victoria Cross was presented to his widowed mother by George V at Buckingham Palace on 16th November 1916. She also had a plaque placed in St Leonard’s church in his memory

The memorial to John Franks Vallentin, VC, in St Leonard’s church


                                                                   John Franks Vallentin, a great-grandson of Robert Finnis

 

The Cobays Part 3 – Bond Street and Hythe Heroes

Robert, William Richard and Henry Thomas Cobay were the third, fourth and fifth sons of George and Hannah Cobay respectively. None married, all became mayors of Hythe and all spent their lives in what might loosely be described as the property business.

Robert, born in Quebec in 1849, and William, born Winchester in 1853, moved to Hackney as young men. They worked for a cabinet maker, Robert at first as his apprentice and later his works manager and William as his clerk. They lodged together, and with them was twenty-eight-year old Tom Robinson, a surveyor. Ten years later, they were all living in the same house in Amherst Road, Hackney, but the Cobays  had become house furnishers. Tom Robinson was now  a merchant’s clerk.

Their younger brother Henry, meanwhile remained in Hythe. In 1874, William and Robert bought the Hythe  business of Finnis and Ronalds, upholsters, cabinet makers and auctioneers. They stayed in London, but Henry ran the business for them in Hythe without becoming a partner. In 1889, Messrs Cobay Bros sold at one auction alone a large house complete with its own lodge and servants’ cottages and five substantial building plots. Full particulars of the sale were to be obtained not from Henry in Hythe, but from Messrs Smee and Cobay of Finsbury Pavement, London.

William had set up another business, with Arthur Rosling Smee, trading as cabinet makers and upholsterers. In 1887 they refurbished the Palace Hotel in Hastings. Other hotel contracts followed: the Royal Links in Cromer, the Grand in Eastbourne, Brown’s in London’s Albemarle Street. By 1899 they had a showroom in Bond Street.

Cobay Smee & Cobay

They also had their own furniture manufactory in Moorfields.

cobay furniture

cobay furniture2

William, though, had business interests elsewhere. In the1890s, he headed a syndicate which bought land on the Leas in Folkestone from Earl Radnor, built the magnificent Metropole Hotel and then disposed of it to Gordon Hotels Ltd. William became a director of this organisation.

Cobay metropole

The Metropole Hotel in Folkestone not long after its opening. It still stands today, very little changed.

He purchased the derelict Seabrook Hotel in Hythe, refurbished it completely, and in the surrounding sixteen acres of scrubland created gardens, croquet lawns, tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course. It re-opened as the Imperial Hotel, which still welcomes guests today.

Cobay Imperial

The Imperial Hotel on the seafront at Hythe

The brothers, and Tom, had moved out of Hackney and into Grosvenor Square, but in 1903 both Tom, and Henry Cobay, who had remained in Hythe, died. Henry was only fifty. In 1905, Smee and Cobay completed their last big contract, the redecoration and refurbishment of the Royalty Theatre in Dean Street in 1905. The Times said their work made it ‘one of the brightest and prettiest theatres in London’.

Then in July, the London Gazette announced that Smee and Cobay would cease trading:

NOTICE is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore
subsisting between us the undersigned,
Arthur Rosling Smee and William Richard Cobay,
carrying on business as Cabinet Makers and Upholsterers,
at 139, New Bond-street, in the county of
London, under the style or firm of SMEE AND COBAY,
has been dissolved by mutual consent as and from the
first day of January, 1906. All debts due to and owing
by the said late firm will be received and paid by the
said Arthur Rosling Smee.—Dated this 21st day of July,
1905.
ARTHUR ROSLING SMEE.
WILLIAM RICHARD COBAY

William returned to Hythe and lived with Robert, as had their parents and siblings before them, in the house at 40 High Street, but they did not give up the house in Grosvenor Square and were still listed as ratepayers for several more years, until William bought a house at Hyde Park . He, at least, still had business interests in London. He was chairman of the Apollo Theatre in London, and had a financial interest in two Birmingham theatres, but still had local interests and established the Metropole Laundry in Hythe. It serviced both the Imperial and the Metropole Hotels and provided employment for many Hythe women. The laundry’s steam whistle blew promptly at a quarter to eight each morning to summon them to work.

Both Robert and William now involved themselves in local politics. Their brother Henry had, like his father, been three times mayor of Hythe. Robert was mayor, too, in 1911. But it was William’s mayoralty during World War One which had the greatest impact.

Cobay William

William in mayoral robes and chain

Although not an Alderman, he was elected as Mayor in 1914 and re-elected unanimously every year until 1918. During this time he donated to and raised over £23,000 for various good causes, including the Belgian Relief Fund and the Red Cross. He laid out ornamental gardens in Ladies Walk, which leads from the Royal Military Canal to the sea, and beautified the canal banks. He argued that the war would be over some day and that Hythe must be prepared to welcome its visitors again. He visited sick and wounded soldiers and took an interest in the welfare of their families.
One of these families comprised the widow and children of Frank Fisher, a grocery assistant who had been killed in November 1917. His wife, Flo, had been very ill since the birth of their fifth child, but Frank was conscripted regardless. He was killed eleven days after he arrived in France. William set up a fund to help his family and headed the subscription list with £5. A week later it had reached £62. 5 .0. and William decided to extend the beneficiaries to include all families bereaved and left in need by the war and those men incapacitated through war service. He called it the Hythe Heroes Fund.
A year later he had the £2000 he wanted and applications were invited. The names of recipients were kept secret, but included 55 mothers, 37 widows, 32 incapacitated, 17 various relations, and 72 children.
He seems to have been genuinely loved by the people of Hythe. When the war was over he was granted the Freedom of the Town, a rarely-bestowed honour. There was talk that he would soon be knighted, but he died before that could happen.
He died in at his Hyde Park house following an operation for appendicitis. His funeral was a grand affair. He could have opted for a grand grave, but he chose instead to lie with his parents and brother Henry in St Leonard’s churchyard. He left, in his will, £79,199.
The last remaining Cobay brother, Robert, took William’s death badly. He tried to take on William’s business interests as well as continuing to run Cobay Bros in Hythe. He became chairman of the Imperial Hotel, the Metropole Laundry and the Sandling, Saltwood and Hythe Estate, but by 1922 his health had broken down and he died two years later, leaving £100, 337 in his will.
A Mr Butler bought the auctioneer’s business. The furniture from the family home in the High Street was sold off and Mr Butler auctioned the fifty oil paintings and the Axminster carpets on behalf of Robert’s executors.
Before he died, Robert had left Hythe one last gift. He ordered a set of oak panels, with gilt lettering, to be hung in the Town Hall in memory of his brother William. It lists all the mayors of the town. It is still there today, the name of Cobay appearing eleven times.

Friends and Bellringers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mersham Hatch, the seat of the Knatchbull family

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

In 1830, John was appointed the Parish Constable for the town of Hythe, an unpaid position which he combined with running his shoemaking business in the High Street. Policing was at that time a very parochial affair. Parish constables, often unwilling volunteers and just as often barely literate, confined their activities to their own towns. Then in 1829 Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police and in 1835 an Act of Parliament required all English boroughs to set up a police force. The response in Kent, as elsewhere, was unenthusiastic, because the force had to be funded by ratepayers who saw in it no advantage over the existing arrangements. By 1837, only just over half of Kent towns had taken action, and in some places, such as Sandwich and Tenderden, the ‘force’ was a solitary constable. In Hythe, little changed. John Friend was re-named Chief Constable, and had a couple of part-time constables under him. He carried on making shoes, though now he had a salary of £5 a year. He was also required to collect coal duties, market dues, money due for sale of beach (ie shingle for use as ballast) and to deliver summonses on behalf of the Corporation (3).

In 1844 the Town Council offered to make it worth his while to give up his business and become a full-time policeman, to which he agreed. By then he had five part-time constables under him (1). He still had no uniform, but in 1853 the town council finally bought him ‘a policemen’s coat'(2).  His house also functioned as the Police Station, which given that he had eight children cannot have made life easy for Susannah, his wife. The borough police forces continued to function until 1888, co-existing with the Kent County force after 1857, but by this time John had retired. He finally took his pension at the age of seventy in 1874.

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

The bell tower of St Leonard’s Church, Hythe

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Kent Archives Hy/AM/2/1

2. Kent Archives Hy/AM/2/2

3. Kent Archives Hy/AM/2/1

 

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

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

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

Remainder hidden behind tree stump.

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

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

Geoffrey Hill 1927

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

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

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

A Dieu

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

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

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

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

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

At about this time, Frederick was advertising in the Building Trades Directory that he had built ‘residences in England, Ireland, Spain, Shanghai, &c.’ although there is no evidence that he travelled to these more exotic locations. Although continuing to practise in London until at least 1874, he started visiting Hythe in 1847, and in 1877 he was building himself a seafront house in Hythe, named for his wife, Moyle Tower (it did, in fact, have a small tower at the back, complete with flagpole). He had bought from Hythe Corporation at a knockdown price an unfinished hotel which he converted.  He and Sarah spent their retirement there, during which time Frederick became in 1886, Mayor of Hythe, despite not being an alderman.

 

mEDALmedal 2

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

Image result for moyle tower hythe

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

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

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

In 1897 his health started to deteriorate and by 1898 he was described as ‘an invalid’ who needed constant care and could only go out in a bath chair. He died on 17 November1901 and left the very tidy sum of £39, 801 in his will.

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

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

Another view of Moyle Tower,   from the back

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

 

Moyle Court, Hythe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freda Palmer nee Porter

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

Poongy Boy

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

On their return to the UK, they came to live in Seabrook, next to Hythe, where Charles died in November 1898. Freda joined the VAD at the outbreak of World War One and worked as a nurse at the Bevan Hospital in Sandgate until she broke down through overwork during the course of a night shift. Thereafter, she worked there as a mail clerk until 1919 .

Freda had moved away from Hythe to Farthing Common by the time of her death. The younger Freda became an English teacher and worked at a private school in Sandgate, before marrying a vicar who had been an assistant priest at Hythe, Arthur Octavius Scutt.

Freda Scutt, nee Palmer

 

Arthur Octavius Scutt

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

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

Avis Scott, the epitome of 1950s sophistication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Wages of Sin

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

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

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

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

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

By the time of his marriage, Charles had become an Excise Officer, working for the Inland Revenue. This was a plum post and an unusual occupation for the son of a baker. It was hinted in the press that Sir Stewart Marjoribanks,  Hythe’s MP, had got the post for him, as a reward to his father for some assistance at the time of the municipal elections.  Thomas was later charged with bribing electors.

Charles was posted to Yorkshire, and the couple’s first two children were born in Pickering and another in Kirby. They then moved to Huddersfield, where they seem to have had a comfortable life, with a live-in servant, and another child was born.  Then it all unravelled.

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

York Castle Prison

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

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

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

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

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

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

Workhouse children, heads shaved to prevent lice and nits

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

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

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

 

Cordite and Milk Stout – the Abel sisters

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

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

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

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

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Frederick Augustus Abel as a young man

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Carlota enrolled in the Women’s Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) in May 1912,  and worked as a nurse at the Bevan Military Hospital in nearby Sandgate during the First World war, She started her service there on 8 October 1914  but was forced to leave in July 1918, having contracted septic poisoning while nursing.  She finished the war as a Staff Nurse.  In the 1930s, she and George travelled twice to South America, perhaps to visit her birth family. Her brother, Juan Carlos, had emigrated to the USA.

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

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

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

The grave of George Laurie Mackeson and his wife Carlota

 

Five Generations of Soldiers and Seafarers

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

Generation one

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

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

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

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

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…and his memorial in Sandgate, where he lodged.

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

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

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

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

Generation Two

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

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

 

Generation Three

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

The Siege of Sevastopol

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

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

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

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

Generation Four

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

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

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

His name is recorded on the Tower Hill memorial in London

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The SS Persia

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

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The SS Kaiser-I-hind

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

Generation Five

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

THE GRAVES

 

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

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

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

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

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

20170224_104539

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

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

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

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

20170224_104909

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

Illegible died 20th January 1898

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

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

 20170301_134145

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

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

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

Enter not into judgement with Thy /servant O Lord

 

Inscription

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

Remainder illegible

Footstone: A M N 1866