The Very Respectable Vicar of Lympne

What connects a very respectable Vicar of Lympne with a scandalous widow, a lesbian novel and a notorious fraudster? Read on…

Edwin Biron was born on 21 February 1802 in Dublin. He was probably the son of James Biron of Harold’s Cross, as he was the latter’s sole legatee in 1858. I have found out nothing of Edwin’s early education, though as a young man he studied at Trinity College Dublin and was awarded a BA degree in 1823. He was ordained as a priest by the Bishop of Kildare in 1827 and the next year married Elizabeth Viny, whose stepfather, Robert Craig, was also a clergyman. Their first son, James, was born in about 1829, but died the next year. The second, Robert John,  was born in Dublin on 25 Mar 1830.

Edwin was awarded his MA in 1830 and shortly afterwards moved his family to England where he was appointed curate of Denton and of Swingfield, both in south-east Kent, in 1831. This gave him a stipend of fifty pounds a year plus surplice fees for weddings, baptisms and funerals. Both villages lie on what is now the busy A260 leading from Folkestone to Barham. The church of St Mary Magdalene in Denton, the larger of the two villages is still open for services, but St Peter’s in Swingfield is now ‘redundant’ as the village has all but disappeared.

Denton church…

Swingfield Church - geograph.org.uk - 410212.jpg

and Swingfield church

Edwin and his wife lived in Denton and were there for only four years, but another three children were born: Isabella (who died aged three) in 1831, Edwin junior in 1832 and Henry Brydges in 1835. That was the year that Edwin was appointed curate of St Leonard’s in Hythe, doubling his stipend to a hundred pounds a year. Three years later he was also appointed to the living of Stodmarsh, a tiny village on the Romney Marsh. Three more children were born: daughters Elizabeth in 1837 and Emma in 1839 and another son, Thomas, in 1841. There were losses, too. An infant son, George, died in 1838 and both Emma and Thomas had twin siblings who died shortly after birth.

Image result for hythe kent church

St Leonard’s church, Hythe…

See the source image

St Mary’s church, Stodmarsh..

The last baby died in Lympne, a couple of miles from Hythe and the family’s new home. Edwin had been appointed Vicar of Lympne (which had recently been combined with the parish of West Hythe) in 1840 on the death of the last incumbent, James Bell, who had been in place since 1802. Edwin would serve at Lympne for almost as long.

However, his Irish roots were not forgotten. In 1842, the Dublin Evening Mail reported that he travelled the four hundred miles to Dublin to vote in a by-election in the city. His favoured candidate (voting was not then secret) was William Henry Gregory, a Conservative, the party supported by most Irish landlords. Gregory, a close associate of the Prime Minister Robert Peel, is today only remembered for the ‘Gregory Clause’ which said that anyone applying for Peel’s relief provision during the Irish Famine would not be eligible if they were occupying more than a quarter of an acre. It is relevant that this relief was separate from the workhouse provision and it was expected that landowners, as taxpayers, would finance it. In 1842, a man was entitled to vote in the place where he held property, which might not be where he actually lived – hence Edwin’s long journey.

A caricature of William Henry Gregory published in Vanity Fair

He lived quietly after that. He became a county magistrate and managed Lympne National School. He also became a Freemason and at some point, Rector of Eastbridge on the Romney Marsh. This was not an arduous job: the church had been a picturesque ruin since the fifteenth century. However, a stipend was still payable and at Edwin’s death on 25 January 1877 of ‘congestion of the lungs’, the gross annual value of the combined benefices was estimated at £1190 plus a house and glebe of ten acres. He died intestate, and it was left to his eldest son to sort out the legal mess left by this and by the fact that Edwin had never bothered to prove the will of James Biron when he died in 1858.

The remains of Eastbridge church today

The records show that he had under three thousand pounds at the time of his death, of which twelve hundred was in property in Ireland – nearly fifteen hundred acres of land in county Roscommon and five hundred and thirteen acres in county Tipperary. Whether he inherited or bought this, I do not know. As he died intestate, the land seems to have been divided amongst his surviving sons.

Edwin was survived for eleven years by his wife, Elizabeth, who spent her latter years living with her eldest son. He and his surviving brothers had careers which reflect exactly our ideas of what middle-class young men should do in the nineteenth century: the law, the army and the church. The careers of the Biron sons and grandson who entered the legal profession encompass some of the most notorious trials of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Robert John Biron, the eldest, was educated at the King’s School in Canterbury and Corpus Christi Cambridge, graduating with a BA in 1833. He then studied to become a barrister and ate the twelve dinners required to qualify at Lincoln’s Inn, being called to the bar in June 1854. As his father still lived in Hythe, he was able to pick up some local work and was appointed auditor of election expenses for Hythe in 1858 and Recorder of the town from 1859 to 1883.

In 1861 he married Jane Eleanor Inderwick, whose brother Frederick was another barrister and contemporary of Robert. They had two sons, Henry Chartres and Gerald. Robert’s two claims to fame were that he was one of Her Majesty’s Commissioners enquiring into corrupt practices in Norwich in 1869 and his representation of the widow of Charles Bravo, suspected of poisoning her husband.

In the first case, the unsuccessful Liberal candidate in the 1868 election at Norwich accused the Conservatives of bribing voters ‘of the lower classes’ with money and alcohol and then escorting large groups of them to the ballot box – though many were so drunk they did not know who they were voting for. The judge ruled that the allegations made were accurate, the election was declared void, and the result annulled.

The second case, that of the mysterious death in 1876 of Charles Bravo, was considered so scandalous that women were not allowed into the court room where the inquests were held. Bravo had been taken ill one night shortly after retiring to bed. He had been poisoned with antimony. After his agonising death, two inquests were held. His widow Florence was suspected, especially as she had a colourful past – a failed marriage, an affair with a married man and a predilection for strong drink. Robert represented her at both inquests. The first returned an open verdict, the second murder by a person or persons unknown. Florence, unable to clear her name, drank herself to death soon afterwards.

Florence Bravo – wronged woman or murderer?

John Robert’s eventual reward was to become a Queen’s Counsel in 1883. He died of influenza at his home in Pimlico in 1895 and is buried near Eastbourne with his wife.

His son, Henry Chartres, usually known by his second given name, followed in his father’s footsteps. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, he was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1886. He was born some fourteen years before his grandfather’s death and must have known Hythe and had some connections there as he stood, unsuccessfully, as the Liberal candidate in the 1906 General Election.
Chartres, or Sir Chartres as he became in 1920, presided over the 1928 trial for obscenity of Radclyffe Hall’s lesbian novel, The Well of Loneliness, ruling that the book was an ‘obscene libel’ and that all copies should be destroyed. The book was not published again until 1949. According to The Times, Biron’s ruling was not based on the acts described in the book, which he said did not of themselves make the book obscene, but on the lack of condemnation of the acts and the behaviour of the characters.

Sir Henry Chartres Biron

He died unmarried in 1940.

His younger brother Gerald, born in 1869, broke with every family tradition and went on the stage. His career was spent in repertory, although he did appear in a Royal Command performance at Windsor before his untimely death at the age of thirty-seven.

But to step back a generation – Edwin junior joined the army after an education at the King’s School, Canterbury. A commission as second lieutenant was purchased for him in 1851 and nine years later, he was promoted captain. He served in Calcutta (Kolkata), Bombay (Mumbai) and Mauritius before retiring to his parents’ home in Lympne in 1866. He died unmarried the year after his father, in 1878. His younger brother Thomas also joined the army in 1862, but resigned two years later, dying himself in 1869, aged only twenty-seven.

The last brother, Henry Brydges Biron was destined for the church. Another alumnus of the King’s School, he went on to Cambridge University, graduating in 1858. He was ordained as a deacon the next year and as a priest in 1860. Thereafter he served as curate in Mersham, Biddenden and Harbledown before inheriting his father’s old parish of Lympne in 1882. He also played first-class cricket and his Wisden obituary says that ‘he was a free and attractive batsman who made several good scores for the Gentlemen of Kent’.

Henry Brydges Biron                (Fiona Jarvest)

Henry married Jane Elizabeth Blest, a wine merchant’s daughter in 1867 and they produced four sons and then five daughters. He retired to Barham in 1912 and died there three years later, though he is buried in Lympne and there is a window in his memory in the church there. The newspaper reports of his funeral record that although all his daughters attended, none of his sons were there, but apart from Frank, who died young, the others were all seeking their fortunes abroad. The daughters, with the exception of the youngest, Ruth, all married, and she and her widowed mother lived in Elham until at least 1939.

Edwin senior also had two daughters who reached adulthood. The elder, Elizabeth, married a barrister, James Charles Matthew, in 1861. Like her father, he had attended Trinity College Dublin. He was also Roman Catholic and eventually became only the third Catholic judge to be elevated to the Bench. This barrister’s famous case was that of the Tichborne claimant, when he was junior counsel for the Treasury. One of the longest cases in British legal history, the accused was Arthur Orton (or Castro) who had claimed to be Roger Tichborne, the long-lost eldest son of Lady Tichborne, who just happened to be very rich indeed. She had accepted him as her offspring but there was much evidence to the contrary and the Claimant was eventually convicted of perjury. Many years later he confessed to the fraud.

The Tichborne Claimant

Edwin’s younger daughter Emma married Edward John Briscoe of Tullamore Ireland in May 1861. Her brother Henry, newly ordained, conducted the service. Briscoe was a lieutenant in the 14th Regiment of Foot and five months after the wedding the couple left for Trinidad, where the first of their children was born. Others arrived in Cork and Cawnpore. When Briscoe was sent to fight in the third Ashanti war in 1873-4, Emma returned to her parent’s home in Lympne and have birth to her last child there. Her husband died in Dublin in 1881 of ‘rapid consumption’. He had been made a brevet major in 1874.

 

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The KIng of Seabrook

John James Jeal was born into an ordinary working-class family in Lewisham in 1850. His father was a sawyer and he had an older brother and sister and four younger siblings. John became a carpenter, but he was ambitious and after work went to night school (he probably left full-time education at twelve or thirteen).

He married Emily Edwards in 1874. Their first child was a daughter, the second a son who lived only a few weeks. Another son, Ernest, was born in 1880. By this time, John had set up his own builder’s business, employing ten men and he was doing well enough to have become a rate-payer.

His widowed mother died and he had no other ties in Lewisham, so he took the decision to move to Hythe in 1881. He must have visited – perhaps on a day trip or holiday – and seen the potential in the area for a builder. Both the Seabrook and Sandling Estates on the outskirts of the town had been established and there were plans for all sorts of houses, from the small to the very grand. For a man with ambition, it was irresistible.

He settled the family at Cavendish Villas in Seabrook Road and proceeded to make his name. He soon realised that he needed influence with the Town Council – so stood for election himself in 1884 and was successful. By now he was building houses along the road in which he lived, of the ‘less pretentious’ type. They all sold. In 1888 he started building small houses and cottages in Saltwood. Two more daughters were born. The family had also brought with them to Hythe Alice Putnam, who did the firm’s book-keeping and lodged with them. This arrangement lasted until John’s death.

John took a particular interest in the provision of public transport – good links to Folkestone and London would make his houses more desirable. He wanted an electric tramway to run from Hythe down Seabrook Road to Folkestone and visited Paris and Bournemouth to look at their systems, but there was too much local opposition for his plans to come to fruition.

The South Eastern Railway, under the chairmanship of Hythe’s MP Edward Watkin, bought as much land and property as was available between and around Hythe and Sandgate railway stations. In 1886 it embarked on a road-building scheme for the developing Seabrook Estate. The new Cannongate Road ran from the seafront to Hythe station, and another, Cliff Road, branched off the main road at Seabrook and ran just south of the railway line to Hythe and then via a bridge to the north of it. Here, it was hoped, substantial villas would be built – and they were.

 Victorian houses in Cannongate  Road                                                                                               Google Maps

John himself built a shorter road, now Sea Road. leading to the sea front across the first bridge on the Royal Military Canal, which the local press believed would be ‘a great convenience for carriages’. It enabled the owners of the houses in Cannongate and Cliff Roads to get to the healthy sea air without driving too far.

Sea Road & bridge before World War 2, when it was demolished for defence reasons…

 

And as it is today, with just a footbridge

John’s other concern was for proper drainage in Seabrook – he claimed that Sea Road was often a foot deep in storm water. He was persistent in his demands and eventually took drastic steps to achieve his aim. In 1891 he refused to stand as a candidate for the Town Council as he could harass them about drainage more effectively as a free agent. Then in 1893 he cancelled his membership of all the local clubs and institutions of which he was a member – including the golf club – as a protest. In 1894 the Council conceded that he was right, the drains went in and in 1897 John was back on the Council, elected unopposed for the East Ward.

He was also a Guardian of the Elham Union Workhouse and made it clear that while he was happy to support people whose poverty was due to sickness or old age, he objected to helping the ‘lazy or will-not-work types’. He was in favour of detaining vagrants and subjecting them to forced labour. A hard-working man himself, he expected the same of others, but could be fair: he offered his own workers a pay rise if they attended night school as he had done.

He was a man of contradictions. A church-goer and sometime churchwarden of St Martin’s in Cheriton, he regarded the opposition to Sunday working by some of his fellow-councillors as ‘mock-sentimental’ pointing out that they no doubt allowed their servants to cook their dinners on Sunday. He won this argument and the streets of Hythe were swept on Sundays.

Inevitably, he made enemies, especially among his fellow councillors. Frank White, a committed Republican took every opportunity to frustrate the plans of ‘the King of Seabrook’ as he called him and often their disagreements became petty. John was presiding at a meeting of the Finance Committee and brought his dog with him. Frank White insisted that the dog be removed; on a similar occasion his own dog had been ejected. Another councillor, John Bennet Tunbridge, a former Commissioner of Police for New Zealand, took every opportunity to needle John. Even a discussion on allegedly indecent postcards for sale in a Hythe shop ended in a squabble between the two men.

 

John as Mayor of Hythe in 1902

It was all water off a duck’s back to John, who became mayor of Hythe in 1902 and 1903 and who by 1911 was living in a splendid fourteen room house in Seabrook. His interest in politics, both local and national, continued as he grew older. That year he heard Sylvia Pankhurst speaking at Hythe Institute and proposed a vote of thanks to her: ‘I was once a believer in women having the vote, but when the militant tactics started, I dissociated myself from the Movement. After hearing Miss Pankhurst tonight, however, I am with them.’ The vote of thanks was carried, to loud applause.

His only surviving son, Ernest was still living in Seabrook, in Eastcott Cottages. After an expensive education at Folkestone Grammar School and Kent College at Canterbury, he had trained as a carpenter, but now worked as his father’s clerk. Presumably John wanted him to have a sound knowledge of all aspects of the business so that he could pass the concern on to the younger man when the time came. It was not to be.

In 1903 Ernest had married Minnie Stiles in Dover and their daughter, Emily Joyce, was born the next year. In 1910, he put a notice in the press to say that he would no longer be responsible for his wife’s debts, though he declared in the 1911 census that they were still co-habiting. He had already been taken to court by one creditor, a confectioner, with whom Minnie had run up a bill nearly twice as large as her weekly housekeeping allowance of thirty-five shillings. Then in December 1913, Ernest emigrated to Australia, alone. It must have been a bitter blow to John.

War broke out and Ernest enlisted at Melbourne on 30 October 1914. He embarked on the transport ship Berrima at Melbourne on 22 December and was killed in action at Gallipoli on 27 April 1915. He was buried the same day Quinn’s Post Cemetery. His effects – a knife, handkerchief, notebook, curios and hairbrushes were returned to his father in Seabrook.

John’s reaction to the news of Ernest’s death was swift. He changed his will to ensure that the money he would have left to Ernest would not now go to his granddaughter, Emily Joyce, until she was twenty-one. Presumably this was to stop the girl’s mother getting her hand on it. This is the last mention of the child, or indeed of Minnie, that I can find in any public record.

During the war, meat rationing governed the purchasing of “butchers’ meat”, bacon, and offal; there were other regulations to deal with rabbits, hares and birds caught by members of a household; and separate ones for poultry and game birds. In the past, many families had kept their own pig in back yard or garden, until bye-laws forbade this on grounds of hygiene. Now, the Town Council agreed to allow it on condition that the sties were kept clean. John not only supported the practice, but was responsible for the building a large co-operative piggery behind the Sea View Hotel at Seabrook to be run by local allotment holders district. Once the pigs were established he set about organising the collection of swill from all the neighbouring houses.

Away from the council chamber, he found time to be president of the Hythe Royal National Lifeboat Institution and to play golf – he was a founder-member of Hythe Golf Club. In January 1920, the club gave a dinner to celebrate his seventieth birthday.

John Jeal in later life

His death on 19 June 1920 was unexpected. That afternoon he had been at the Golf Club acting as host to four of the delegates to the next day’s conference at Port Lympne: Lloyd George, President Millerand, Field-Marshal Foch, and General Weygand. Despite recent illness he seemed in good form, but was later taken ill again, and died that same evening.

His will was short and to the point. He divided his estate into six equal parts. One part would go to his wife, another to each of his three daughters, another to Emily Joyce at twenty-one and the sixth to the devoted Alice Putnam, his secretary and bookkeeper for nearly forty years.

With thanks to Ron Greenwood for the aerial photo of Sea Road

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

 

Near the West door of St Leonard’s church, Hythe, stands an impressive table tomb, heavily inscribed. It marks the last resting place of eleven members of the Andrews/Mackenzie/Douglas family and commemorates  five others. But to start at the beginning:-

Edward and Ann  Andrews of Hythe, had four children, all of whom did rather well for themselves. Edward became a tanner and set up his business in Dover.  When he died unmarried in 1798, he left everything to his brother Robert, another tanner, who had premises and quite a lot of other property in Hythe.  There were two sisters:  Mary, who married Robert Tournay, a member of an influential family of landowners, lawyers and clergymen; and Ann who married Henry Gipps, a surgeon.

Robert died in 1801 when his only child, Rachel, was eighteen or nineteen. He left £200 to his wife, plus an annuity of £100 and their dwelling house and its contents for life. Rachel received £100 immediately and £1000 on marriage or reaching her majority. This was for her own use and could not be touched by any future husband. There were some other bequests to his Tournay and Gipps nephews and nieces, but all the rest of his estate was to be managed by his executors and the money invested for Rachel.

Rachel turned twenty-one in 1803, and later that same year, her mother died. In December 1804, in St Leonard’s church, Hythe, she married Kenneth Mackenzie.  The Kentish Gazette reported the event laconically: ‘At Hythe, Colonel Kenneth Mackenzie, of the 52nd Regiment, to Miss Andrews of that place, a lady of considerable fortune’.

Mackenzie was forty-eight, the son of another Kenneth Mackenzie, the owner of a crumbling castle in Kilcoy in modern day Ross & Cromarty, and his wife Janet, the daughter of a baronet. By the age of thirteen, Kenneth junior had joined the army as an ensign. He was commissioned in 1775 and promotions soon followed.

 

Kilcoy Castle, no longer crumbling

Following a decision by the British Army to train some regiments in light infantry techniques,  Sir John Moore, a proponent of the system, offered his own regiment the 52nd Regiment of Foot for the training at Shorncliffe Camp, near Hythe. Kenneth Mackenzie was his lieutenant-colonel. He developed what became known as the Shorncliffe System of drills, exercises and tactics. In their green jackets, the men became a familiar sight in the area, and trained repelling invaders by wading chest-high into the sea at Sandgate.

Riflemen of the Greenjackets at the end of the 18th century

In 1804, he was injured when he was thrown from his horse and was placed on the sick list. This gave him leisure to think of matters non-military and that December he married Rachel Andrews. The marriage was a love match, I hope, but to the advantage of both. He got money, she, a small-town tanner’s daughter, got status and, eventually, a title.

Children followed: eight sons and a daughter.

The family lived in a grand house in Hythe High Street, which seems to have been converted from two other properties, both owned by Rachel (she owned a lot of other property in the town, too, all leased out).   The house had  drawing- and dining-rooms, a nursery, four teen bedrooms, servants’ chambers, cellars, stabling for five horses, a  harness room, coach-house, coachman’s room and poultry yard. The premises were surrounded by a wall, with extensive grounds at the back, but also had one major disadvantage: it was next to the tan yard which Rachel had also inherited. Tanneries stink. It is a peculiarly horrible smell, but perhaps if Rachel had grown up with it, she was unconcerned.

The site of Rachel’s house in Hythe

However, the family were not permanently in residence. When they were, the neighbours knew all about it, as a piper played in the garden while the Mackenzies were at the dinner table. This was a habit of Scottish aristocracy and one later adopted by Queen Victoria at Balmoral, but it is one thing to hear the pipes in the romantic setting of a remote Highland castle, quite another in a small seaside town in Kent. The local newspaper reported the sound as‘ the weird notes of the Scottish national instrument’.

They also adopted the custom of hiring ‘mutes’ to stand vigil at the front door whenever there was a death in the family.  These were, in effect, professional mourners, paid to wear dark clothes and bear sober expressions.  Sadly for Kenneth and Rachel, they had frequent cause to employ these men.

19th century ‘mutes’. If the deceased was a child, the mute wore white, not black, crepe

Kenneth Mackenzie recovered enough after his marriage to go on a campaign to Cadiz and on his return was further promoted. In 1813 he accompanied Sir Thomas Graham to the Netherlands, and acted as governor of Antwerp until 1815. He then retired to Hythe, where he took a keen interest in local affairs and became a jurat. Even in retirement, honours continued to flow. He was promoted lieutenant-general in 1821 and created a baronet ‘of Glenbervie’ on 30 Sept. 1831 and took the name of Douglas (his mother’s maiden name) by royal license a few days later.

In 1814, the couple leased to the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church in England and Wales (usually, for obvious reasons, referred to just as ‘The National Society’) a large, old, rather ramshackle house in the High Street. They stipulated that it should be ‘fitted up as a school’ and so it was.  But by 1844, it had fallen into disrepair and Lady Douglas, as she then was, ordered the Committee in charge of the school to repair it. However, they had not the funds and she gave them notice to quit, making the school homeless. Fortunately, the Parish of St Leonard’s gave them the use of the old Poor House in Stade Street.

Sir Kenneth died at Holles Street, Cavendish Square, on 22 November 1833, and was buried at Hythe. His will and probate inventory both state that he was ‘of Broughty Ferry in Scotland and Upton house near Southampton and of Hollis Street Cavendish Square’, notably not ‘of Hythe,’ though that was where Rachel still lived and where she signed the paperwork relevant to probate. The will was very short, just a few lines and gave £100 to a servant and the rest, about £3000, to his wife.

Lady Douglas died in January 1847. Her death was announced in the press, but the local newspapers did not, as was usual, publish either an obituary or a report of the funeral. In June, all her household possessions were auctioned off, from the landau to the patent mangle to the cruet sets.  There is no trace of a will, and perhaps there was none as for the next three years her children were in dispute in Chancery with her Andrews relatives.

By the time she died, aged sixty-five, Rachel was living alone, apart from her servants, in the big house. She had lost five of her nine children. Sons called Kenneth and  William died in infancy; the eldest, Robert, heir to the title, died of TB in Port Mauritius in 1843;  another Kenneth had died in Ceylon in 1830 and his brother Edward in 1835. That left only Alexander, who died the year after his mother;  Lyndoch who passed away in Jersey in 1859, whence he had removed himself after getting badly into debt in Hythe in 1856 and being forced to hand over his wife’s marriage settlement (1); Donald and his only sister, another Rachel.

Rachel junior married her cousin John Snodgrass, an officer in the 96th Regiment, who died in 1856. After his death she went with her three children to live in Jersey, then Weston-Super-Mare and then to Cardiff where she died in January 1877. She left under £600 in her will. Donald, the youngest child, died at 2 Saltwood Gardens, Hythe, in 1883, after a peripatetic life which saw him go from ‘landed proprietor’ in a big house in Stowting to a very modest house in Hythe.

He died the year after the former family home was finally demolished. After Rachel’s death it had ben rented out, but was simply too large for most families.  For some years it housed a dairy and later a laundry until it was sold to a developer. He built Douglas Avenue, lined with three story houses, through the estate from the High Street. He had intended that the avenue would continue down to the Royal Military Canal, but the new houses were slow to sell and he stopped short. He sold the excess land, which had been a part of the garden, to Hythe Corporation.

Map showing the present Douglas Avenue, which bisected the estate

Douglas Avenue today

The family tomb is covered in names, on all five surfaces The top surface is now so badly weathered that it is impossible to read and we only know what was inscribed there thanks to Mr L. L. Duncan, who recorded it in 1891.

The big house is long-gone, the tomb decaying and the baronetcy became extinct with the death of Sir Sholto Courtenay Mackenzie Douglas, Kenneth’s great-grandson, in 1986.  All that remains of the family in Hythe is the road name.

The inscriptions in full:

Top of the tomb:  Here lie interred the remains of Ann the wife of Edward Andrews Gent who died 22nd September 1766 aged 64 years. Also of Edward Andrews who died 11th January 1770 aged 63 years leaving four children by his said wife namely Edward, Robert, Ann and Mary. Also Edward Andrews, son of Robert and Rachel Andrews who died June 4th 1774 aged eight months. Likewise of Edward Andrews of the Town and Port of Dover, Gent, and son of the above named Edward and Ann Andrews who died 29th August 1798 aged 63 years. Also of Robert Andrews of this Town and Port, Gent, who died 1st January 1801 aged 63 years leaving one daughter Rachel. Rachel wife of Robert Andrews died 22nd December 1803 in the 67th year of her age and is here interred. Also of Donald Douglas who died at Hythe September 30th 1883 aged 62 years.

South side In the vault are deposited the remains of Lieutenant General Sir Kenneth Douglas Baronet of Glenberrie Colonel of the 58th Regiment eldest son of Kenneth Mackenzie Esquire of Kilcoy Castle Rossshire. He entered the Army at the age of 13 and served his King and Country whenever called until his death which took place in London November 22nd 1833 aged 69 years. He assumed the name and Arms of Douglas by sign manual on the 19th October 1831 in memory of his uncle Sir Alexander Douglas of Glenbervie. He married on the 18th December 1804 (when Lieutenant Colonel Mackenzie of the 52nd Regiment) Rachel only daughter of Robert Andrews Esquire of this Town and Port by whom he had nine children and left surviving six viz: Robert Andrews, Alexander Douglas, Edward, Rachel, Lynedoch and Donald. Kenneth and William died in their infancy and Kenneth his third son died in Ceylon.

North side Within this vault are deposited the remains of Rachel Douglas relict of Lieutenant General Sir Kenneth Douglas Baronet who departed this life on the 24th January 1847 aged 64. To the memory of Sir Robert Andrews Douglas Baronet of Glenbervie Major 12th Regiment who died in Mauritius November 1843 aged 36. To the memory of Alexander Douglas Douglas Esquire late Lieutenant 68th Regiment who died in London on 6th May 1848 aged 38 and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. To the memory of Rachel Douglas widow of Major Snodgrass 96th Regiment, died January 15th 1877.

East end In memory of Edward Douglas Ensign 53rd Regiment died November 9th 1833 aged 20. Also of Donald Douglas died September 30th 1885 aged 62 sixth and eighth sons of Lieutenant General Sir Kenneth Douglas Baronet of Glenbervie, both of whom died at Hythe and are interred in this vault.

West end  In memory of Kenneth Mackenzie Lieutenant 58th Regiment third son of Lieutenant General Mackenzie who died and was buried in Ceylon aged 20 years and ten months. Lyndock fifth son of the above died in Jersey 15th May 1859 aged 41 years.

 

1. Kent Archives H/U61/1

With thanks to Andy Curran and Mike de la Mare

 

Remembering John Ifield

Some criminals transported to Australia seem to us today to have committed relatively minor offences and many were first time offenders. John Ifield was not one of these. In fact, he managed to receive not one but two sentences of transportation for seven years.

John  was the son of Robert, a blacksmith and freeman, and Elizabeth Ifield and was baptised in Hythe on 14 June 1801. He had three younger siblings.   The rest of the family appear to have lead quiet and respectable lives. His brother Robert had the licence of the King’s Head in Hythe for a time (1) and his mother ended her days as an inmate of St John’s Hospital in Hythe, an almshouse which required its inhabitants to be ‘of good character’. (2)

John worked as a labourer but by the time he was twenty-two he was supplementing his income with thieving, although judging by the number of times he was caught, he was not very adept at it . In 1823 he was sentenced to twelve months in prison for larceny. In July 1825, he got nine months for another larceny when he stole a woollen shawl from Richard Boddington. In 1826, he stole three ‘drawers’ from the storehouse of Mackeson’s brewery and nine shilling pieces from Edward Dray. The magistrates’ patience had come to an end, even if he was the son of a freeman. He was sentenced to seven years transportation.

By this time, actual transportation depended on the needs of the receiving colony and on the health and character of the prisoner. Unruly and physically strong men were shipped out as soon as possible; others might, at the discretion of the officers and surgeon, be allowed to serve their sentence on the hulks. This is what happened to John. These sentences were divided into three periods, each decreasing in severity, but all included labour ashore, including loading and unloading vessels, construction and repairs, re-painting ships, cleaning cables and scraping shot.

Conditions were grim. On board the Justitia moored at Woolwich between 1830–1855 prisoners slept in groups in tiered bunks. Each had an average sleeping space of 5 feet 10 inches long by 18 inches wide. Weekly rations consisted of biscuits and pea soup, accompanied once a week by half an ox-cheek and twice a week, by porridge, a lump of bread and cheese. None of the ships had adequate quarantine facilities and there was an ongoing contamination risk caused by the flow of excrement from the sick bays.(2)

A typical prison hulk

John was originally imprisoned on the hulk Retribution at Sheerness, but was transferred to the Ganymede at Chatham on 6 Sept 1826. It had originally been the French frigate Hébé captured in 1809. He served nearly seven years, being released on 10 April 1833 under a free pardon which indicated that the sentence of transportation had lapsed.

He managed to keep out of trouble for the next four years, but in 1837 he was charged with stealing a pig worth twenty shillings, the property of Thomas Laws at Newington-next-Hythe . At the East Kent Quarter Sessions on 3 January 1838, he pleaded guilty and was again sentenced to seven years .

This time, either New South Wales was in need of labour or John was not judged fit to remain on the hulks. He was transported to Australia on board the Bengal Merchant on 24 March 1838. In Australia, he seems to have behaved himself and got his ticket of leave in September 1842, by which time he was described as a collar and harness maker and was living in Illawarra, New South Wales.  The area had been cleared by settlers using convict labour and  used for dairy farming.

Illawarra before it was ‘cleared’…

… and afterwards

Seventeen years later, in May 1859 John was recorded as living in the Electoral District of Narellan.  It was a small, but steadily growing town where plots of land were being sold off. Perhaps John had finally settled down to a regular (and legal) way of life.

Nothing further is known of his life, but…

Ifield is an uncommon name in England, even more so in Australia. It is, of course, best known for being the surname of a yodelling singer from New South Wales, especially popular in the sixties after the success of his single ‘I Remember You’.

Is there a connection?

    1. Kent Archives H1431
    2. Kent Archives EK/2008/2/Book 13 1853
    3. Philip Atherton: Life inside the prison hulks: Staying alive.

Reformatory Boys 2 – William Impett

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

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

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

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

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

The Royal Philanthropic Farm School near Redhill

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

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

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

Sea Street in Whitstable today

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Vicar’s Wife and Her Children

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

St Nicholas’s Church, Chiswick

 

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

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

Chiswick vicarage, home to the fourteen Dale children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The church of St Mary & St Eanswythe, Folkestone

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

 

Herbert Dixon Dale in 1902

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

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

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

Grace Helena Dale

Her memorial in St Leonard’s church, Hythe

Lilian and Cicely were less active in the parish, though Lilian acted as assistant church organist. Both of them came into their own on the outbreak of war in 1914. Cicely became Commandant of Hythe Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and Commandant Registrar of the Bevan Hospital in nearby Sandgate. She worked fifty-six hours (not including overtime) every single week from 8 October 1914 to 31 March 1919, by which time she was sixty-nine. She was awarded the MBE in 1920. Lilian worked at the Bevan, too, in the mending and patching room for twelve hours a week. She could not do more, according to her records, as she was ‘not strong’.

Doctors and nurses (and dog) at the Bevan Hospital

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

Herbert Dixon Dale in later life

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

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

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

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

Herbert Dixon Dale retired from his living in 1926 and went with Edith to live in nearby Saltwood in a house called Bennington.  The garden was set out with the groundplan of a church – though not St Leonard’s.  There he devoted himself to history. In 1931 he published The Ancient Town of Hythe and St Leonard’s Church Kent which was reprinted several times and then became interested in wider subjects and gave talks on such subjects as ‘The Influence of the English Monasteries on Art and Commerce’.

The plans for the garden at Bennington

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

Herbert’s grave                         Photo: Charles Sale

With thanks to Mike de la Mare for the photos of H D Dale & the Bennington garden 

  1. Kent Archives H/U21/Z10

Three Marys

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

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

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

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

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

and the King’s Head, still thriving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Worthington Family, Coachmakers – revisited

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

Worthingtom William

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

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

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

Because I live you shall live also John XIV 19

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

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

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

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

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

 

Worthington House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Worthington Hill left

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

This is their advertisement.

Worthington advert

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

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

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

Worthington grave2

The inscription on his grave reads:

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

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

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

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

Remainder illegible

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

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

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

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

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

 

Worthington Arthur

Arthur’s name on the Arras Memorial

Robert was the next Worthington brother to pass away.

 


Worthington Grave 3

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

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

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

Robert Worthington (photo Roger Worthington)

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


kildrummie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

(photos: Roger Worthington)

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

 

The Mills of God Grind Slow…

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

 

See the source image

The Flying Horse Inn in Canterbury, still trading today

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

Hampton Hill, now called Hempton Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                              Carter’s Barracks in Sydney, front view…

and the yard at the back

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

The treadmill at Carter’s Barracks

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

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

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

With thanks to Mike de la Mare for the map