The Hole Family Part 2

The first part of this blog was published in 2016, before I discovered the sad story of Elizabeth Back, nee Hole. I am indebted to David Haynes of Queensland for this extra information.  

Elizabeth Hole, the eldest child of James and Elizabeth Hole of Hythe was born on 24 September 1814. She became a servant and married Daniel Back (or sometimes Beck) in Marylebone, London in 1837. He was also a domestic servant. Less than two years later, they emigrated to Australia, leaving from Plymouth on 13th May 1839 aboard the Lady Raffles with 234 other souls and their baby son, another Daniel. They arrived in September. They were enticed into applying for emigration to the new colony of New South Wales by advertisements posted in London and other cities. This whole adventure must have seemed quite attractive at the time: their passage was paid for and employment was virtually assured once they arrived in Sydney. This was the so-called Bounty system, separate from the Government sponsored scheme.

                                                                         An example of Bounty emigration advertising

 

This opportunity seemed almost too good to be true and it was. Once there, Elizabeth and Daniel and all their co-emigrants were abandoned, left to fend for themselves. The jobs and housing did not materialise and there was no room in the Government-run accommodation.  Elizabeth gave birth again in 1840, to a daughter, Susan but there is no further trace of either of her children. It seems probable that they died.

Elizabeth left Australia, and Daniel, in about 1842. We don’t know whether it was the country or the man she wanted to escape, but she must have been desperate enough to find her own fare. Daniel remained in the new colony and soon developed a new partnership with another woman with whom he had six children before marrying her in 1858. He must have assumed that Elizabeth was dead.

She was not. She had entered the service of Mrs Elizabeth Frederica Crofts, the wife of Peter Guerin Crofts, the retired rector of St. John-sub-Castro in Lewes. She was his second wife and twenty years his junior and Elizabeth was her ladies maid. Their house, in Lewes,  was vast (it is now the HQ of Sussex Police) and required a live-in staff of eight, including a butler, coachman and footman.

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Malling House

The fact that it was in Lewes is significant: Daniel Back had been born near there, his family still lived nearby, so it seems that when she returned from Australia, Elizabeth went to her in-laws rather than her own family in Hythe. It is entirely possible that she was expecting Daniel to join her there.

Peter Crofts died in 1859, but Elizabeth stayed with her mistress until the latter’s death in 1878.  She then returned to Hythe where she lived in Stade Street and described herself as an annuitant and widow.  It is likely that Mrs Crofts remembered her faithful servant in her will and provided a pension so that she would not end her life in poverty. Her old age, though, according to her gravestone, was not a happy time.

She is buried with her sister Mary Hole, born in 1818, who alone of the siblings did not marry. She went to Ashford to live with her brother Thomas, and later with one of his daughters. Eventually she, too, returned to Hythe and lived in St Bartholomew’s almshouse in the town.

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The former St Bartholomew’s Almshouse in Hythe, now a private dwelling

 

In/loving memory/of/Elizabeth Back/who died 3rd March 1890/aged 75 years
Afflictions sore long time she bore/physicians were in vain/til death did cease and God did please/to ease her of her pain
Also of Mary Hole/sister of the above/who died11th December 1900/in her 82nd year
Well done good and faithful servant/enter thou into the joy of thy Lord

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The Tragic Life of Louisa Kidder Staples

William Henry Kidder was born on 24 July 1827 to George and Mary Kidder. His father was a baker and the family lived in Saltwood.  William grew up to become a nineteenth century ‘man and van’, except that he had a horse and cart. He variously described himself as a carrier, potato dealer, greengrocer or hawker of vegetables. He formed a relationship with a young woman, Eliza Staples, who lived with him in Theatre Street in Hythe and who had two children with him, Louisa in 1857 and Ellen in 1862. Eliza died before Ellen’s first birthday and the child was sent to live with her Staples grandparents in Sellindge.  Louisa stayed with her father.

William started another relationship with Frances Turner, a young woman working as a servant in Sandgate. On 1 February 1865, when twenty- two-year old Frances was eight months pregnant, William married her in St Leonard’s church in Hythe. One, or both of them, was aiming for respectability. There was even a marriage announcement in the Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser, and in the Canterbury Journal.

It was a stormy relationship from the start and Frances, or Fanny as she was known, appears to have been a woman whose temper was on a very short fuse. In September 1865, she was convicted of assaulting an elderly neighbour and fined. In November that year, Fanny complained to the police that William had kicked her while wearing his outdoor boots and then pushed her out of the house into the pouring rain. He said he would murder her if she went to court. He was starving her, she said, she had not eaten for two days, and he had ordered her not to suckle her infant daughter, Emma,  because ‘she should not live’. A warrant was issued for William’s arrest. Presumably Fanny withdrew the complaint, as it was taken no further.

According to witnesses who came forward later, Fanny loathed her step-daughter Louisa and treated her appallingly. She regularly beat the child with a broomstick so that she was covered in bruises. She hit her about the head and face hard enough to make her nose bleed and the girl was often seen with blood on her pinafore or with black eyes. She was dressed in rags with broken boots, fed only on scraps of bread and butter and made to sleep in a potato sack in a corner of the cellar. Fanny spoke of her as ‘that bitch.’ Neighbours complained to the police about Fanny’s behaviour, and for a while Louisa was removed from the family to her Staples grandparents, but William neglected to pay for her upkeep and she was returned home. Richard and Rebecca Staples still had six children of their own at home and their granddaughter Ellen, all supported on a railway labourer’s wage.

In June 1867, Fanny was accidentally thrown out of  her husband’s cart, and injured and returned to her family home in New Romney to convalesce. She took with her Louisa and her own child, Emma. On 25 August 1867, William went to fetch them back, but on arrival at the Turners’ house found that found that Fanny had gone out with Louisa, but returned without her. She was sitting weeping in the front room, her gown sodden.

William together with Fanny’s father, John Turner, took lanterns and went to search for Louisa. They soon found her, drowned in a shallow ditch. On their return to the house, Fanny said the child had fallen into the ditch, but William did not believe her and called the police. By the time they arrived, Fanny had changed her dress for a dry one, but the officers found her wet garments stuffed under her bed. They arrested her on suspicion of murder.

The news was all over Hythe by the next day.  Christiana Potter, the headmistress of the Girl’s School,  wrote in her log book on 26 August: received news that one of the scholars was dead – murdered by her mother.  There was no presumption of innocence from the start.

Fanny’s first hearing was at the magistrates’ court soon afterwards. She repeated the story that Louisa had fallen, and added that she had tried to save her, but the magistrates did not believe her either and remanded her in custody to stand trial for murder at the assizes in Maidstone. Meanwhile, Louisa was laid to rest in the churchyard at Sellindge.

Fanny appeared at the assizes in March 1868. William had refused to pay for a defence counsel for her, and the court had to appoint someone. In was in vain. The jury did not believe Fanny’s story that Louisa had been frightened by two horses and run away, or that she had tried to save her. The girl had drowned in less than a foot of water, and could easily have been extricated. It did not help that Fanny’s husband, both parents and a sister testified against her. After only twelve minutes the jury brought in a guilty verdict, and Fanny was sentenced to death.

Back in Maidstone prison, awaiting execution, she became sullen and ill-tempered, apparently complaining that she had been ill-used by the court. She showed no sign of remorse and instructed the Governor of the prison to write to William and tell him to stay away.

However, the tide of popular opinion, which had been against Fanny, began to turn. The Kentish Gazette of 24 March reported that she had been ‘very badly brought up and sadly neglected.’ It noted her illiteracy and complete ignorance of Christian teaching, and her good behaviour in service until she met William Kidder. He, the paper said, had behaved shamefully towards her and had treated his daughter almost as badly as Fanny had. Even worse, he had now taken one of Fanny’s sisters, a girl aged only seventeen, into his house to live with him. In Hythe, the mayor, James Watts, got up a petition for clemency to send to the Home Secretary. The citizens of New Romney did the same.

Fanny relented and dictated another letter to William asking him to visit. She had already received a visit from her parents. She did not admit her guilt to them or show any sign of contrition. The Home Secretary considered the petitions from Hythe and New Romney, but declined to intervene in the case and the execution was set for 2 April 1868.

On 1 April, Fanny’s mother and two of her sisters, one only a few months old visited. So too did William. It was a short interview. Fanny reproached him for having taken up with her sister and he left. His departure upset her, and she shrieked and wailed terribly. The prison chaplain told William to go home and remember that he was the cause of his wife’s suffering and to mend his ways. He went to the pub near the gaol instead and then back to Hythe.

His reception in the town was not a welcoming one. During the evening, a mob estimated to be three to four hundred strong paraded through the streets with an effigy of William which they burnt in front of his house while pelting the building with stones.

Executions were still public in April 1868. It was not until May of that year that legislation was passed to move the events inside the prison. On 2 April, at noon, Fanny was hanged in front of a crowd of two to three thousand people outside the main gate of Maidstone Prison, the last woman in England to be publicly executed. She had been composed during the morning, and dictated to the chaplain a letter to her parents saying she was sorry for her crime. Her last words on the scaffold were ‘Lord Jesus, forgive me’. Once dead, her body was left hanging for an hour, and then taken away for immediate burial within the prison grounds.

William Calcraft, Fanny’s executioner

William stayed in Hythe, with Emma, although it seems the relationship with Fanny’s sister did not endure. No subsequent census return shows him living with a woman, and he did not remarry, dying in 1908. Emma lived with him until she herself got married on 31 August 1891 in St Leonard’s church. Her husband, Benjamin Thomas Jones, was a groom working for the army in Hythe. They did not have children and lived quietly, a far as can be known, in Market Street in Hythe (now Dymchurch Road).

War and Peaceful Hythe

Henry James Schooles was born in Brussels, then part of the Netherlands, on 10 October 1815, one of the three children of Peter Schooles, a surgeon in the 81st Foot (Loyal Lincoln Volunteers) and his wife Eliza, nee Pipon. The regiment’s second battalion, of which Peter was a part, had been stationed there since Napoleon’s escape from Elba earlier that year. The regiment did not take part in the Battle of Waterloo, but it is likely that Peter was drafted in to deal with the aftermath of hundreds of injured soldiers.

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Brussels in 1815, full of British soldiers

The family were moved the next year to Ireland, where another son, Philip Alexander and a daughter Louisa, were born and where Peter endowed a medical facility in Bray, Co. Wicklow. He died in 1818.

Eliza remarried the following year but was soon widowed again and lost her younger son, too. She took Henry, his sister and her daughter by her second marriage to live in Jersey, her birthplace and died herself on the island aged only 46.

Henry’s early education is a mystery, but he graduated from the University of Glasgow with an M.D. in 1837, and enlisted in the British Army on 29 June 1839, joining his father’s old regiment as an Assistant Surgeon. Army Surgeons were required not only on the field of battle, but were employed at British garrisons across the Empire to attend soldiers, their wives and families when they contracted everyday – or more exotic – diseases. Although the medical officer was commissioned and wore the uniform of his regiment, he held no military rank and was entirely under the command of the Colonel of his regiment. He had no trained staff, just a few men detailed to him from the regiment, who usually had no medical knowledge or training.

Henry served at first in Gibraltar, but the regiment was then sent to the West Indies where on 23 February 1843, he married Catherine Louisa Mordaunt Semper in St Kitts. She was the daughter of Hugh Riley Semper, a plantation owner and his wife Caroline nee Fahie. She was one of at least three sisters.

Four years later, Henry became a fully-fledged surgeon and transferred to the 1st/69th Regiment of Foot. On 12 December 1847, he and Catherine arrived in Malta. It was a challenging time to be there. There had been many cases of what was called Common Continued Fever among the men and there was great debate among the army surgeons as to whether this was, or was not, a form of cholera. Henry, who attended an autopsy of one of the dead soon after his arrival, was convinced that it was. The average strength of the garrison was 2,534 men and in 1847-8 there were 29 deaths and on average only 1,550 men were fit and available for garrison duty.

The situation worsened in Autumn 1848 and the regiment was evacuated from its quarters while the rooms were fumigated and whitewashed following deaths there.

Malta in the mid-nineteenth century

The epidemic had run its course by the next year, when Catherine gave birth to her first child, a boy called Henry Rawlins Pipon Schooles. The garrison was not a healthy place for a child: of 220 sick children admitted to the garrison hospital that year, 34 died.

But little Henry survived and the regiment left Malta in 1850 for Barbados and in December 1853, Henry transferred to the King’s Royal Rifles, an infantry regiment that fought at most of the British Empire’s significant engagements during the nineteenth century. Henry served with the second battalion, and was sent to South Africa, where another son, Frederick, and a daughter, Kate were born and then on to India.

Henry and Catherine arrived in Delhi in time for the Indian Mutiny – or First War of Independence as it is known in India, and by the end of the insurrection, Henry had been promoted Surgeon Major.

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One representation of the 1857 mutiny

Then it was off to China where the regiment fought in the Second Opium Wars and assisted in the capture of the Taku (or Dagu) forts and the occupation of Peking (now Beijing).  The surgical work Henry would have done during these engagements would today be regarded as primitive. Without anaesthesia, surgeons could only amputate damaged limbs (which killed one in four patients), cut out embedded shrapnel, open skulls to remove blood clots, let blood (still popular as a ‘cure’) and splint fractures. Serious head, chest and abdominal injuries were untreatable.  If an injured man developed an infection in his wounds, it meant almost certain death.

China was followed by the more peaceful Canada, where Henry exchanged to the Staff and was appointed to the Rifle Battalion Depot in even more peaceful Winchester. In September 1864, he retired on half-pay with the honorary rank of Deputy Inspector General of Hospitals, and took the post of Medical Officer at the School of Musketry in Hythe – perhaps the ultimate in peacefulness.

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The School of Musketry in Hythe, 1853-1968

He and Catherine lived with Kate in Stade Street in the town. In 1868, Henry created something of a stir by refusing to pay a pavement rate of eleven shillings and sixpence to the Town Council, because, he said, his road was not drained and had never since he had lived there, been watered either (to keep down the dust). He was summoned to appear before the local magistrates who were not sympathetic and ordered him to pay up, with costs.

Presumably he did, and he also moved the family to the more salubrious Marine Parade, where he died suddenly on 12 May 1878.

Catherine remained in Hythe for some years after his death, but later moved to Kensington to live with a widowed sister. It was there that she died in 1907.

Henry James Schooles M.D/ surgeon general/born 10th October1815/died 12th May 1878
In loving memory of/Katherine Louisa Mordaunt

Peace perfect peace

The inscription on their grave is perhaps telling of how the years of warfare took their toll.

Their children prospered. Henry junior became a barrister, married and went to his mother’s home, the West Indies. There he became Attorney General first of the Leeward Islands and later of British Honduras, before returning to Europe He was knighted in 1905 and served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar until his death in 1913..

Frederick was educated at a small private school in Chepstow and later joined the army.  In 1884, when a captain, he created a minor scandal by eloping with his Colonel’s wife. They were married after she had been divorced. After her death in 1902, Frederick married again and moved with his new wife to Hythe, which he remembered from his parent’s time there. They lived in Brockhill Road until at least 1939.

Kate married a few months after her father’s death to Walter Rupert Kenyon-Slaney in St Leonard’s church in Hythe. He was a lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade.  The younger brother of a well-known MP, he had a distinguished military career  before retiring to Berkshire. As a widow, Kate  also moved to Hythe before her death in 1944. Her only son, Neville, died unmarried in 1963.

 

 

‘A Very Excellent Grocer’

 

                                                                                       Dan West, in later years

 

Daniel John West was born in Iden, near Rye in Sussex, the second child of Thomas West, a baker and Caroline West, in 1846. He had an older and a younger sister. The family moved to Wittersham, where Thomas farmed 21 acres at Peening Quarter.  As a young man, Daniel worked as an assistant in a grocer’s shop in Tenterden High Street, owned by Thomas Winser. In Tenterden he met Alice Jemima Garnham, the fifth child of Benjamin and Frances Garnham. She was born in Lewes, Sussex, and baptised there on 9 March 1853. Her father became the landlord of the Woolpack Inn in Tenterden High Street.

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The Woolpack Inn in Tenterden, where Dan wooed Alice

Daniel and Alice married in 1874. It was time for Daniel to set up on his own account.

They moved to Hythe, where he established his own grocery business at 149 (now 11 & 13) High Street. He remained there for the rest of his life, though he soon acquired a second shop in the High Street at no. 37 (now no. 80). The second shop carried some grocery lines, but specialised in wines, spirits and bottled beers. According to the author Ford Madox Ford,  Daniel – or Dan as he was universally known – was ‘a very excellent grocer – I wish I knew his equal elsewhere’. Ford often visited his friend, Joseph Conrad in Postling and the pair would stop in Hythe en route to call on H.G.Wells in Sandgate.

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Ford Madox Ford, one of Dan’s customers

Once established, Dan found time for other activities. He became a fireman – and used his grocery assistants as callers-up when the rest of the Brigade needed rousing. The Brigade was then composed of volunteers and in common with most towns, the Hythe men suffered from the indifference of the Town Council. They had no protective clothing or uniforms until 1881; the brass helmets, the Victorian equivalent of the hard hat, did not arrive until 1891. The town’s water supply was routinely turned off at night, because so much was lost through the leaking mains. There was a key to turn it on, but the key-holder lived outside the town. Despite these disadvantages, the Brigade dealt successfully with several blazes during the eighteen eighties.

Daniel became a churchwarden and worked with the Vicar, T G Hall and his fellow-churchwarden Henry Bean Mackeson, to achieve the transformation of the interior of St Leonard’s church, a huge undertaking. He was a town councillor, too, and Mayor in 1889 & 1891. As a town councillor, he was influential in securing a proper water supply for the Fire Brigade, and in 1891, his wife, as Lady Mayoress, opened the Black Rock spring (off Horn Street) with a Guard of Honour of Hythe firemen.

He joined the Snowball Minstrels, a concert party, soon after his arrival in the town. At Annual Dinners and Smoking Concerts he could often be heard, his favourite songs being ‘Tantivy’, ‘Hurrah for the Loom and the Lathe,’ both songs now lost to us, and ‘Up with the Lark in the Morning’,  a music hall favourite whose chorus runs:

For I never drink hard it don’t suit me,
Nor toast my friend with a one, two, three,
Merry and wise is the motto for me,
And up with the lark in the morning.

Indeed, he must have been up with the lark every morning to achieve everything he did and to run a grocery which would have opened at 7 or 8 in the morning and closed its doors at about 10pm.

His wife, Alice, would also be up with the lark, or at least with the baby, every morning, as in the eleven years of her marriage she gave birth to six children: daughters Alice, Mildred, Frances and Florence and two sons, Guy and Gordon. Gordon was born just nine months before her death on 8 October 1885 of ‘a prolonged illness’. She was only thirty-two.

Earlier that year, Dan had caused a stir in the town by having his two shops connected by telephone, a sensible business move, but so radical that the Town Council only permitted it after four hours discussion and insisted it must be ‘at his own risk’. The safety, or otherwise, of telephone wires was imperfectly understood by laymen.

After a year as a widower, Dan married again, to Elizabeth Thompson, the second daughter of Robert Thompson, a GPO civil servant, and his wife Mary. She had worked as a dressmaker before her marriage. The couple had a daughter, Olive.

In 1890, as Mayor, Dan called a public meeting to discuss a programme of band music and a sea regatta. Someone – possibly Edward Palmer, the editor of the Hythe Reporter – put forward the idea of a procession of decorated boats on the Royal Military Canal. Dan approved the idea and the inevitable committee was formed. The first-ever Venetian Fete was on Wednesday, 27th August and the event was a great success. The boats were illuminated, as were the bridges and the day ended with a two-hour firework display. With some intermissions, the fete has continued to this day.

A twenty-first century Venetian Fete

The 1898 fete included land-based decorated tents on the banks of the canal. Dan rigged his up to resemble a famous advertisement for Mazawattee tea (which he stocked), persuading one of his sons and a friend to dress up as old ladies enjoying a nice cup of tea together. He had, he said, intended to launch a balloon in the shape of an elephant – full-sized – but it suffered a last minute puncture.

The advertisement Dan copied in his tent. He even had a blue cloth and tea caddy

 

Dan’s approach to publicity was never discreet. Instead of large advertisements in the local papers, he arranged with the editors to have his name inserted at the end of several short news items on a page, making it impossible for the reader to ignore him. In one column, one might read:

Dan West for Wines and Spirits
Dan West for Bottled Beers
Dan West for Whitbread’s Ale
Dan West for Butter and Cream
Dan West for New Strawberry Jam
Dan West for Lemon Squash
Dan West for Bacon and Hams

Dan’s ads were sometimes incongruously placed

He even used his roof to advertise. On the back of the chimney and roof, facing away from the High Street where shoppers could see the window and down Mount Street, where they could not, the words: ‘West For Bottled Beer’, with an advertising sign beneath.

Dan West’s shop from Mount Street…

… and the same view today

Dan seems to have lived quietly during the early days of the twentieth century, perhaps building up his property portfolio. He had invested in the new builds on the Sandling Estate, as well as buying smaller houses in Hythe and ‘a country dwelling with a parcel of land’ at Bilsington. He owned nineteen buildings at the time of his death. Elsewhere, he had plenty to keep him occupied. He was also, as well as an alderman, a trustee of St Bartholmew’s Hospital (an alms-house) and an active member of the Freemasons and of the Folkestone, Hythe and Sandgate Grocers’ Association.

He comes to attention again in 1911 during the festivities to celebrate the coronation of George V in June. There was the customary torchlit parade in the evening – though by now there were as many motor vehicles as horse-drawn carts and horses taking part. Dan chose to ride, dressed, of all things, as Buffalo Bill. As he was by now a portly man in his mid-sixties, this sounds like a joke at his own expense – or perhaps to amuse his grandchildren.

He was still active when war broke out in 1914, but suffered a bad fall not long afterwards. He declined to take part in the rifle shooting classes ordered by the Town Council for all able-bodied men. Referring to his now great bulk, he said that ‘should any Huns appear in the High Street, I’ll fall on them: that should be sufficient.’ He was now said to weigh twenty-six stone and conducted his business sitting on a barrel in the middle of his shop.

He died in January 1917, and his funeral was attended by members of the Town Council, the Hythe Fire Brigade (in full uniform) and the local Lodge of Freemasons. He was remembered for years afterwards with affection for his good nature and as a successful businessman. As late as 1932, a local newspaper referred to him as the ‘leading grocer of the area’. Daniel was buried with Alice, his first wife.

Elizabeth, his widow, carried on living above the shop in the High Street until a year before her death in 1930, when her health was failing. She went on holiday in hope of a cure, but did not return. She is buried with Daniel.

Guy, as the elder son, took on the business, as ‘Dan West and Son.’. He had never known any other career, having worked as an assistant to his father until the latter’s death. Gordon,  meanwhile, went to work for a butcher before joining the South African Police in 1905.  Guy married Gertrude Agnes Banfield in Leyton, Essex, in October 1907 and brought her back to Hythe, where doubtless she, too worked in the business, although it may not have been her ideal occupation – her obituary describes her as ‘rather retiring’.  She had been born in Exeter, the daughter of Edwin Banfield, an accountant, and his wife Eliza.   The couple had a son, Dan, and a daughter, Nora. At least during the early days of their marriage, they lived in Twiss Road, Hythe.

Guy was excused service during the first World War as he was, at first, indispensable to his father and, after 1917, running the business single-handed. He did, however, serve in the Motor Volunteers and as a Special Constable. He seems otherwise to have taken little interest in town life. Perhaps he suffered from always being called, even in his wife’s obituary  ‘the son of Dan West, an Alderman and mayor’ – and this sixteen years after Dan’s death.

Gertrude died in 1933, after a two-year illness. Guy sold the business in 1937 and died himself in 1939. All Dan’s daughters had married and moved away from the town and Gordon did not return from South Africa.  There was to be no dynasty.

The West family plot in St Leonard’s churchyard, Hythe

Illegible memory/of/Alice J West/the beloved wife of D. J. West/who departed the 8th day of October 1885/in her 33rd year/after a prolonged illness
Also in loving memory of/Daniel John West/for many years churchwarden/of this parish/who died/12th January 1917/aged 71 years
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God
Elizabeth West/died June 6th 1930/aged 80 years
To the memory of/Guy West/died 23 June 1939/aged 60 years
In loving memory/Gertrude A West/died Dec 18th 1933 /aged 59 years
Illegible Thomas
Illegible
In the midst of life we are in death.

 

A Radical Blacksmith?

Beneath a yew tree in St Leonard’s churchyard, lies a rather battered table tomb, long buried under landslip. Rediscovered in October 2013, part of the inscription, protected from the elements for generations, could still be seen: ‘liam Ga…who was Bay… and Mayor for the Yeare 1650 … Ancie … he… Yeare is….. departed this mortall life on the LORDS day the 23 of February 165…being of the age of 52 yeares’.

This is the tomb of William Gately

William Gately was born in late 1599 or early 1600, the son of John Gately and Phillice, nee Possingham. His father had a house and smithy backing onto Hythe Green, which he leased from St Bartholomew’s Hosptial. His mother died when he was six, and his father married three times more, having two more sons, before dying himself at Rye in 1624, making his fourth wife, Alice, a widow. She went to live in New Romney, leaving the business and domestic premises to William, who had also become a blacksmith.

A seventeenth century smithy

Now in charge of his own business, and with his stepmother living elsewhere, William was in need of a wife to run his house, which included a hall, with two chambers over, an entry room, garret, kitchen, buttery, stables and outside storage.  He married Ann Dryland on 2 October 1627 in Wye. Their first child, John, was baptised in Hythe on 31 August 1628, but is not mentioned in his father’s will, so presumably died young. Their second and third sons, both called William, and the fourth, Samuel born in 1642 also had short lives. Their only daughter, Elizabeth, to whom William eventually left most of his estate, was baptised in Hythe on 11 Jul 1630.

Unlike his father, who had carefully avoided any form of civic duty,  William embraced civic life with some enthusiasm. In February 1633, the Corporation charged him with collecting contributions towards cutting out the haven, one of several, ultimately futile, attempts the town made to save its harbour. He evidently performed this task satisfactorily, and in August was made freeman and jurat. He still had to pay £1.3.0d for the privilege. Tax collecting seems to have been his forte, as he was appointed on several occasions to this task, including the collection of the generally unpopular Ship Money  imposed on the country by Charles I in1634.

He also served as churchwarden at St Leonard’s in 1639 and 1641. This post was not necessarily eagerly sought after. It involved attending the bishop’s visitation to present the parish registers; keeping records of those who did not attend church, as required by law; collecting the subsequent non-attendance fines; maintaining charitable bequest; keeping church accounts and keeping the church in good repair. The vicar of Hythe, William Kingsley, was unlikely to have been often in the town to offer advice. He was also Rector of Saltwood, Rector of Ickham and Archdeacon of Canterbury Cathedral. Parliament removed him from all his livings in 1644 for pluralism.

From 1640, William often attended the Brotherhood and Guestling, the annual meeting of the Cinque Ports, with the Mayor and in 1649 he was appointed one of their Bailiffs to Yarmouth. This was an ancient post which had in the past produced confrontation, and even violence between the people of Yarmouth and the Bailiffs. The role of the latter was to be present in the town during the herring fair, to attend court sessions daily and pass judgement. There were also visits to church and a certain amount of feasting. It was another post which some avoided if at all possible. It entailed a long journey and several weeks spent away from home and from one’s trade or business.  William Gately was selected because a Mr Bachellor from another of the Cinque Ports had refused to go – and was fined the huge sum of £50 by the Brotherhood for his transgression.

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The Brotherhood and Guestling still meets in the 21st Century

William’s experience as Bailiff seems to have been an unfortunate one. On his return, the Corporation gave him £25 in recognition of the dangers and ‘travail’ he had endured during his journey. This was quite unprecedented. The trip may have had a salutary effect: the next month he made his will, unlike many at the time who waited until death was imminent.

In 1650 he was chosen to be Mayor. It was a difficult time – the Corporation was nearly bankrupt and started the year with a deficit. They were unable to pay for the timber bought to repair the haven and were being threatened with legal action, while further expenses were incurred placing guns on the Mount and re-glazing the Town Hall. William may have been relieved when his term of office ended, as all Mayoralities did, at Candlemas, 2 February the next year. Eighteen days later, on Sunday 20 February 1651 ‘at four of the clock in the afternoon’, he died.

William had been quite acquisitive during his lifetime and left his family well provided for. He had bought land in Bilsington in 1640 and in Saltwood in 1648, and owned silver plate and a ‘feather bedd, well furnish’d’ (a feather bed was a mattress, but rather superior to a lumpy flock one; the furnishings were the bedstead, posts, drapes and linen). His acquisitiveness, however, had led to court cases, including with his own mother’s family, where he was shown to have appropriated goods to which he was not entitled, and in 1649, when Bailiff to Yarmouth, and despite the generous gratuity he received, he overlooked paying his clerk his allowance. The man had to beg the Brotherhood for it after William’s death. For all that, William was generous in his bequests, remembering his apprentices past and present, his half-brothers John and David, an aged aunt, his god-daughter and the new minister of Hythe, William Wallace, who received forty shillings.

This last bequest is interesting. Wallace, who hailed from Aberdeen, was a Calvinist Presbyterian of particularly radical views.  His clerical duties were confined to baptisms and communion: marriage for him was not a sacrament and he said no prayers at burials. That William Gately thought highly enough of him to leave him money tends to suggest that the blacksmith shared his radicalism in religious matters. He was, now that the Church of England was effectively dis-established, able to express his views without fear and worship as he wished. And since he supported a radical minister, did he also support the parliamentary forces that had enabled him to preach freely? Probably.

William Gately’s signature (produced by permission of Canterbury Cathedral Archives)

It seems he was not long survived by his daughter or wife. The land in Saltwood was to pass to his niece Susan Gately, if they both died. It was sold by Susan in 1660, so Ann’s and Elizabeth’s deaths must be assumed.  Susan, the daughter of William’s brother John and only known surviving grandchild of John Gately senior, married in 1675, and had children.

The minster, William Wallace, was ejected from his Hythe living at the Restoration and went to preach (illegally,now that the Church of England and its bishops were also restored) ) to dissenting communities in Hove.

 

Death on the Beach


Inscription:  Sacred to the memory of Lieutenant George Dyer of the Royal Navy son of the late Major General Dyer/of the Royal Marines and grandson of Rear Admiral Alexander Innes/while zealously engaged in … of his duty…near here… the six men under … the 12th of April … remainder illegible
In memory of Eliza widow of Lieutenant George Dyer/who died illegible/on the 22th of illegible 1852… remainder illegible

George Dyer was born on 23 October 1791 in Stoke Damarel, Devon and baptised in March the next year at Charles the Martyr church in Plymouth. He came from a distinguished military family. His father, another George was at the time of his son’s birth a captain in the marines, soon to become the Royal Marines. Most unusually, he had also been painted as a young man by a leading portraitist, James Northcote, a pupil of Joshua Reynolds. The picture was displayed at the Royal Academy in 1781 and is now owned by the Royal Navy museum.

George Dyer senior, at the age of twenty-two. 

He married Susannah Innes on 14 Oct 1789 at Devonport. She was the daughter of Rear Admiral Alexander Innes who, when he had died in 1786, was commander in chief of the Jamaica Station, a place noted for the ill-health of its personnel. In 1805 George fought with Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. He was seemingly a very religious man, evidenced by the inscription on his gravestone, which records that ‘religion was his guide through life’ and by the anecdote that he preached sermons to the crews of his vessels in the absence of a chaplain, apparently preferring this method of character improvement to the more usual one of corporal punishment.

Young George was the eldest of three children and the only son. Expectations that he would serve in the Army or Navy must have been high, and probably inescapable. He duly joined the Navy, and was based in Plymouth near his home, which he visited often. By 1815, he was a lieutenant on HMS Imogen, a 16-gun brig-sloop.

He was then twenty-four, and his father decided to seek preferment for him. The system for advancement in the navy was based not on merit, but on having a powerful patron. George senior was well-connected and wrote frequent letters to men of influence to try to find his son a suitable ship and possibly promotion. Lord Melville, a former Secretary for War could not help. Nor could Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Buller, even though young George was sent to visit him. He was next despatched to wait on Admiral Sir John Duckworth, who promised to pull strings. He did, and on 22 August, young George received an order to proceed to Portsmouth by the Severn frigate as there was a likelihood of a vacancy for a lieutenant on HMS Havannah, a frigate.

Image result for lord melville                                              Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, who declined to help George…..

Image result for sir edward buller                                                              …..as did Sir Edward Buller

Before he left, George senior took his son shopping – to a book sale. There George junior bought, among others, two volumes of Ovid’s poetry, a History of Greece and one of Rome, Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, and Du Fresnoy’s Cartographies of Time. He was clearly a serious-minded young man.

The vacancy on the Havannah did not materialise, but George was appointed to another frigate, the aged Pique. His father died two years later, but left nothing to George, bequeathing everything to the young man’s sisters, Anne and Susannah. This was, he said, because George had inherited from his grandfather and he was ‘not to think that I hold him in any less affection than his sisters’.

The next eleven years of his naval career are a blank, until he surfaces in Hythe in 1826, still a lieutenant, as commanding officer of the Coastguard at Fort Twiss. The Coastguard had been set up in 1822 as an anti-smuggling operation, and its instructions also stipulated that when a wreck took place the Coast Guard was responsible for taking all possible action to save lives, taking charge of the vessel and protecting property.

George had married, on 4 January 1816 in the Isle of Wight, seventeen-year-old Eliza Osmond. His father had died the following year, as had his patron, Sir John Duckworth. One possible explanation for the posting to Hythe may have been the presence in the town of his maternal uncle, Colonel John Innes. Now without influential support, did George turn to his uncle to act as his patron?

Image result for admiral john duckworth

Admiral Sir John Duckworth

In the early hours of Wednesday 5 April, the station received reports of smugglers in the area. George went down to the beach, where he met the captain of HMS Ramilies and some of his men. Ramilies was engaged on the coastal blockade. Patrolling the beach, they heard gunfire coming from the direction of Shorncliffe, followed by a round of fire close by. This had been fired by John Lemon, a Ramilies seaman and it killed George Dyer outright. Coastguard rules were clear that a man should not open fire unless ordered to do so or unless violence had been offered to him. Since in this case, neither had happened, Lemon was charged with manslaughter and court martialled.

He was found guilty, but received a reduced sentence of 14 days at the request of George’s wife Eliza, who stated she believed it was an accident. George was buried with military honours, including a firing party of 103 men, who marched in procession from Fort Twiss to St Leonard’s church.

Eliza, whose origins remain a mystery, married again in 1829, to George Elgar, a surgeon, though perhaps not a very successful one. In 1851, the couple were lodging in a carpenter’s house in Maidstone and George is described as ‘surgeon, not practising’. Eliza died on 8 March 1852 at Romney Place, Maidstone and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard there. Less than three weeks after her death, her widower petitioned the Admiralty for the eight pounds and ten shillings that was owing from her widow’s pension. Did he spend some of the cash having her name inscribed on the tombstone of her first husband? It would have been an economic way of remembering her, if funds did not stretch to a tombstone of her own, and a large space had been left on George Dyer’s tomb to add her name when the time came.

 

The inscription for Eliza on George Dyer’s tomb. 

George Elgar married again the year after Eliza’s death and had three children, went bankrupt in 1861 and died in 1867

Col. John Innes died in Hythe in 1836 and is buried a stone’s throw away from his nephew’s grave.

The gravestone of John Innes and his wife

Three Men and a Lifeboat

 

Lionel Lukin’s gravestone in St Leonard’s churchyard, Hythe, bears easily the longest inscription of them all:

In this grave is interred/the body of Lionel Lukin – born at/ Dunmow in Essex the 1st of May 1742 – in/1767 he became a member of the Coach Makers Company of London and after/60 years of various success in that busi/ness – settled at Hythe in 1824 with the/humble hope that the same divine pro/vidence which had been his guide and/protector during a long and chequer’d/ life would permit him to conclude it in ease and tranquillity and finally remove /him to a better and eternal inheritance/through the merits and intercession of /Jesus our Redeemer – died the/ 16th of February 1834.

This Lionel Lukin /was the first who built/ a life boat/and was the original inventor of that/principle of safety/by which many lives and much property/have been preserved from shipwreck/and he obtained for it the King’s patent/in the year/ 1785.

Lionel Lukin was the son of a well-to-do farmer, William Lukin, and his wife Anne nee Stokes.  He was descended from Admiral Lionel Lane who had fought in the Dutch Wars in the 1650s; the name Lionel was clearly important to the family and was repeated down the generations. This latest Lionel, who was baptised on 17 June 1742,  had ten younger siblings.

He did not go to sea, but was apprenticed to Joseph Smith, a local coach-maker, in 1759. He moved to London and became a member of the  Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers in 1767. At sixteen, he had inherited money from his maternal uncle which may well have helped him set up in business as three years later he was in Westminster, with his own concern, in partnership with a Mr Beech in Long Acre, a street running from St Martin’s Lane to Drury Lane and at that time dominated by coach-builders.

He was, by nature though, an inventor with a strong philanthropic bent.  He designed a ship’s stove which could be used in rough weather, an invalid’s bed, which could be manipulated by a single attendant and which he gave to several London infirnmaries and a raft  for rescuing people who had fallen through ice, which he presented to the Royal Humane Society and which was successfully used in Hyde Park.

Lionel Lukin with fashionable wig, stock and cravat. 

The Society was even more impressed by his ‘unimmergible boat’ for which he obtained a patent in 1785. The design included adding buoyant gunwhales to the sides of the boat and watertight bulkheads within, thus making it much lighter than the body of water it would displace in sinking. Underneath, a false keel of cast iron was to act as a ballast. He had purchased a Norway yawl, which he fitted up in this way and tried out on the Thames. Later, Lionel would add holes in the bottom to allow shipped water to escape. He intended the boats to be used on board ship as lifeboats – though that word did not then exist.

The plans for Lionel’s unimmergible (or insubmersible) boat

It has been claimed that this venture was financed by the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent and George IV) with whom he was acquainted, although his obituary in ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine ‘ notes only that the prince ‘condescended to take an interest.’ The Prince was then only twenty-two, and known chiefly for his extravagance, illicit amours and his feud with his father, George III.  But there could be some truth in the story. Christopher Hibbert, in his magisterial biography of the prince, records that he was liberal with his charitable donations (1). Also, by 1783 Lionel was supplying harnesses to the household of Queen Charlotte, the prince’s mother, so it is conceivable that he met the prince while visiting the royal stables.

File:George IV, when Prince of Wales - After Gainsborough 1782-85.jpg

George IV when a young man 1782-1785   (commons.wikimedia.org)

Lionel tried to interest the Admiralty in his design, but there was no response. He took the advice of a Captain James, deputy-master of the Trinity House, and lent his boat, which he named the Experiment, to a Ramsgate pilot, to be tested in rough weather. The boat was an unqualified success, even enabling its skipper to carry on his smuggling trade in the worst weather, an outcome not, presumably, intended by the inventor.  The boat was eventually impounded at a foreign port.  However, the following year,  Archdeacon John Sharp, a trustee of the Bamburgh Charities, who had created a mini-welfare state in the town, asked Lionel to convert a coble – a traditional fishing boat of the area. Lionel took on the job and Bamburgh still claims to be the first place to have a dedicated rescue lifeboat, which was in service for many years.

Lionel’s next boat, the Witch, was tested by Sir Sydney Smith and other naval officers, and its worth was  publicly displayed at Margate. But Lionel had to contend with seafaring prejudices, and his unimmergible boats, though they attracted attention, were in little demand. Apart from the one built for Bamburgh, only four were ordered, one of which proved very useful at Lowestoft. This, the Frances Anne,  was tested in 1807 in dreadful weather and it was calculated that even full of water and with 50 people on board, she would not sink. She was in use for the next fifty years, saving three hundred lives.

Despite the claims on his gravestone, Lionel was not the only man to have an interest in saving life at sea.  After  a particularly tragic shipwreck off the mouth of the Tyne in 1789, when the whole crew of the Adventure  perished while hundreds of people, helpless, looked on, a local competition for a lifeboat design was started.

It was won by William Wouldhave (or Woolhave), plumber, glazier and parish clerk of South Shields, who designed a boat with a straight, heavy keel and high-peaked ends with watertight cases,  which was self-righting and unsinkable. A plain-spoken and difficult man, he refused the prize money of only a guinea and never built his boat, though his memorial, in St Hilda’s churchyard in South Shields also  claims that he invented the lifeboat:

Sacred to the memory of William Wouldhave, inventor of that invaluable blessing to mankind, the lifeboat’

He also has a public house in South Shields named for him ‘ The Wouldhave’.

Another entrant, the boatbuilder Henry Greathead, was unsuccessful in the competition: his design was said to resemble a butcher’s tray, in that it was flat and oblong. However, as Wouldhave had no interest in building his boat, Greathead was offered the job of building a lifeboart designed by the competition committee. The end result was, like Lionels’s Experiment,  based on a Norway yawl. The sides were cased with cork, four inches thick, secured with copper plates. When full of water amidships, one third at each end would be out of water, and it could continue underway without foundering.  It was tested at the beginning of 1790.

Greathead did not take out a patent on his boat, but its adoption by North Shields and then other ports led  to a House of Commons committee awarding him £1200, in addition to the hundred guineas given by  both Trinity House and Lloyds  of London.

 

Henry Greathead

 

Even at the time, there was some controversy as to who could rightly claim to have invented the lifeboat. In 1790 Lionel published a description of his lifeboat, with scale-drawings and declared that Greathead’s boat was in general built according to the principles set out in his patent, and had no additional safety features. In 1806 a Mr Hailes put forward the claims of William Wouldhave as inventor of lifeboats, and Lionel replied with three letters to the Gentleman’s Magazine, in which he set out his own claims to priority. These he afterwards published as a pamphlet dedicated to the Prince of Wales, entitled The Invention, Principles of Construction, and Uses of Unimmergible Boats.  Lionel’s obituarist in the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine was of the opinion that the naming of the respective boats was crucial. Lionel called his an ‘unimmergible boat’; Greathead called his ‘a Life Boat’, which ‘spoke at once to the sympathies of the heart’.

Controversy aside, Lionel continued to prosper in his business, becoming a master coachbuilder in 1781and eventually Master of the Coachmaker’s Company.  He had started to accumulate property early in his career, starting with a substantial house in Dunmow, had married a widow, Anne Gilder,  been widowed himself and married again, in 1803, to Hester Clissold. The son of his first marriage, another Lionel, also became an inventor with a strong interest in shipbuilding. He had helped his father build the Frances Anne and presented to the Admiralty several ideas for ventilating ships and curing them of dry rot, none of which seem to have been taken up. His sister, Ann, married John Helyer Rocke in 1896 and went to live in Somerset.

Lionel moved to Hythe when he was in his eighties and his eyesight was failing, though he kept a financial interest in the Long Acre business. He lived in Elm House, not far from St Leonard’s Church.  In the same year he wrote to the Chairman of the newly-founded Institution for the Preservation of Lives and Property from Shipwreck (later the RNLI) offering to ‘contribute anything in my power to the success of the proposed Institution’.  There is no record of any reply and while in its first report the Institution paid tribute to a number of people who had contributed to life-saving in shipwreck, Lionel’s name is not there.

He was ill for only a few days before his death and had made his will two years earlier. It is unusual in that his son received only £10. The rest of his considerable estate was to be invested by his executors to provide annuities for his wife, his daughter and for his four granddaughters, two by his son and two by his daughter. The  women’s annuities were for their ‘separate use’ and would not devolve to any husbands they might have. His father, William, had taken the same approach, leaving his sons, who could be expected to support themselves, only £5 apiece, while the daughters received the residue of his estate.

In 1892, the vicar of Hythe, the Rev’d Thomas Sarsfield Hall, started a fund-raising campaign to erect a memorial window to Lionel in St Leonard’s church.  He did not raise quite as much as he hoped, but in October that year made up the balance of £40 himself and had the lancet window installed above the altar. The window was unveiled by Lionel’s great-grandson, the Rev’d. Charles J. Robinson, vicar of Horsham. The inscription read: To the Glory of God and in memory of Lionel Lukin, the inventor of the lifeboat, who died at Hythe, February 16th, 1834 and lies buried in the churchyard.

Sadly, the window was destroyed by enemy action in 1940, so that today, it is only Lionel’s grave which bears witness to the presence, for a short while, of this remarkable man in Hythe.


 

However, there is a happier postscript: in 1985, to celebrate the becentenary of Lionel’s patent, the Post Office produced a set of commemorative stamps, ‘Safety at Sea.’ The proceeds from this first day cover went to the RNLI

(1) Christopher Hibbert, George IV: London, 1972.

 

The Unfortunate Sons of Margaret Hamilton

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The memorial plaque in St Leonard’s church to the husband and sons of Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Elizabeth Mary Hamilton nee Cragg was born in Stoke Damarel, Devon, the eldest of the five daughters of Rear-Admiral John Bettinson Cragg and his wife Margaret. They lived in Molesworth Terrace, a street of sturdy Victorian villas. She married Thomas Bramston Hamilton, an officer in the Royal Artillery in her home town on 2 June 1864 and as a married woman travelled with him as his military postings took him round the UK, to Ireland, Shorncliffe, Sheerness and finally to Bitterne in Hampshire. Here, Thomas bought Bitterne Grove, a house and estate of about thirty acres,  for £6,600 in 1877 and the last five of their eleven children were born there.

Bitterne Grove

Thomas, who by then had left the army, became president of the Church Missionary Society and of the Church of England Temperance Society and Honorary Secretary of the Bitterne Conservative Association before dying aged only forty-seven on 2 April 1884. It was the first of many losses for Margaret. Edith, her second daughter, died at Bitterne Grove in 1889, aged twenty-two, and five years later, Margaret’s sister, Fanny, died there during a visit.

Margaret moved to Hythe in about 1899. Why is unknown, but she was familiar with the area from her husband’s Shorncliffe posting in the 1870s, when she had had lived in Sandgate. Now, she lived at the Old Manor House, a seventeenth century house just down the hill from St Leonard’s church, where she could manage with just four live-in servants instead of the small army needed to maintain the house and grounds at Bitterne Grove.

The Old Manor House, Hythe

Her third daughter, Hilda Blanche, who is buried with her, married Robert Miles C. Moss, of the Egyptian civil service, in the church in 1899 and the youngest daughter, Gladys, married there in 1903, to Captain (later Lt Col) Arthur Cyril Alington.

Between these two happy events, Margaret had lost three of her seven sons in South Africa.
Kenneth, who had presumably emigrated to Ceylon, joined the Ceylon Mounted Infantry when the Boer War broke out, as a private. Early in January 1900 the Legislative Council of Ceylon unanimously agreed to send a contingent of 125 to South Africa and the Company sailed on 2nd February. The Ceylon Mounted Infantry joined Lord Roberts while he was advancing on Bloemfontein, in time to be present at the engagement of Poplar Grove. On 6th March Lord Roberts wired to Ceylon: “I have just ridden out to meet Ceylon Mounted Infantry and welcome them to this force. They look most workmanlike, and are a valuable addition to Her Majesty the Queen’s Army in South Africa”. The squadron was one of those praised by Lord Roberts in the despatch of 31st March 1900 for good work on the way to Bloemfontein, but for Kenneth it was the end of the road. He died there of enteric fever on 15 May 1900.

His slightly younger brother Ernest, meanwhile, had emigrated to Natal, where he lived in Eshowe, a fairly new European settlement. When war broke out, he joined Bethune’s Mounted Infantry, an irregular corps of 356 British men, on 20 November 1899. Exactly six months later, he was dead, killed in action at Scheepers Nek.

Alastair, the second son, joined the British army on 15 November 1899, a month after the war broke out and served as a second lieutenant in the Royal Irish Fusiliers. The war ended in May 1902, and he resigned his commission in September that year and became a cattle farmer in Carolina in the Transvaal (now Mpumalanga). He was killed by lightning on his farm, Welteveden, on 5 December 1902. The farm was sold after his death for £566, but Alastair had only £12 in cash at the time of his death. The money went to his eldest brother, James.

Alastair and his brothers are commemorated on one memorial at Mpumalanga and there is another at the cemetery at Scheepers Nek which is a reproduction of one in the President Brand cemetery in Bloemfontein.

The memorial to the Hamilton brothers at Mpumalanga (which has been incorrectly assembled). 

The compound at Scheepers Nek where there is another memorial

Money, or the lack of it, played a part in the brothers’ decisions to try life in the colonies. Only James, the eldest son, could expect to inherit. The other six needed to fend for themselves, and emigration was becoming a popular route to a better life for young men of all classes and backgrounds. Two of the sons did follow in their father’s footsteps and join the regular army. James obtained a commission in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, but resigned it in 1890. Patrick, the youngest son, born in 1882, attended Sandhurst and obtained a commission with the Worcester Regiment in 1901. He was sent to Jhami in India and was promoted to captain in 1908. In 1911, he took an extended leave from his regiment, returned to the UK and started flying lessons. This was, at the time, very much a high-risk occupation. His eldest sister, Ethel, later asked their mother why she had not tried to dissuade him. According to Ethel, she replied ‘no one’s personal feelings ought ever to interfere with any man’s career provided it was an upright and honourable one to follow’.[1]

Patrick Hamilton

Patrick then bought his own plane, a French 30 hp single-seater Deperdussin monoplane, constructed mostly of wood, canvas and wire and took it to the USA . His travelling companion was George Miller Dyott, another flier, who shipped his own Deperdussin, a two-seater. Together, they made an exhibition tour, stopping for a while in Nassau and in Mexico. A feature of the Nassau exhibition was a night flight in the two-seater, with Patrick as passenger, carrying a searchlight powered from the ground via cables.

Patrick at the controls of his plane. 

Their success was variable, and came to an end when in December 1911 Patrick’s plane flipped over in mid-air and crash landed. He was unhurt, but the plane was damaged beyond repair. He returned to England in the following February. He almost immediately joined the Royal Flying Corps. In summer, he achieved his Special Aviator’s Certificate and was promoted to Flight commander with a salary of £450 a year. At about the same time, in June 1912, he announced his engagement to twenty-year-old Derryle Elizabeth Law of Atlanta, Georgia, to whom he had been introduced by George Dyott in Long Island the previous year.

On 6 September 1912, he and his observer took off in his Deperdussin monoplane from an airfield in Berkshire as part of a large military exercise. Shortly afterwards, the plane started to disintegrate in mid-air and both he and his observer were killed in the ensuing crash. An engine rod had sheared off and torn out a piece of the engine which hit one of the wing struts.

A service for Patrick and his observer was held in Hitchin, which Derryle attended and then their coffins were placed on a gun carriage and accompanied by a large military escort taken to the railway station. Patrick was to be buried in Hythe with full military honours. Derryle was not present at the ceremony, but sent flowers. Hythe Town Council expressed their sympathy to Margaret Hamilton, and so did the King, George V. In December, Patrick’s eldest sister, Ethel, published a memoir of his life,  A Tribute to a Soldier and Aviator.

Patrick’s funeral at St Leonard’s Church, Hythe

In his will Patrick left £1199. 9s 8d, with probate granted to his executors, his brother-in-law Arthur Alington and a solicitor. Perhaps his affairs were complicated, as they did not apply for probate until 1914. As soon as they did so, a bombshell fell. Derryle sued them for breach of contract, saying she was owed £600. She said Patrick had settled this amount on her but had not paid it. The case went to court.  She said that she and Patrick had become engaged in December 1911 and planned to marry in Washington DC in February 1912. Announcements had been made to family and friends. Then Patrick went off to Mexico, and while there wrote to his family in England about his plans. They replied that marrying would adversely affect his chances of Army promotion.

After the crash in Mexico, which cost him his plane and his career as a show pilot, Patrick returned to the States. He suggested to Derryle that she go back to England with him. He would re-join his regiment, and they would travel together to India, where they would be married. Derryle was having none of it: she wanted to be married with family and friends around her.

Derryle Law

Patrick then offered to give Derrlye £600 if she would agree to postponing the marriage. She accepted this and he signed a declaration before a notary in Philadelphia in February 1912. Two weeks before this he had received a telegram from his mother, who was in Cairo visiting her daughter Hilda. She wrote ‘I implore postponement. Money lost.’ Presumably she was to some extent reliant on Patrick’s income which would be lost to her if he married and she seemed to be in straitened financial circumstances. .


 

Patrick’s settlement of £600 

Patrick brought Derryle and her mother back to England with him. The engagement was announced in the Morning Post and Mrs Law and Derryle met Margaret Hamilton and her daughters. It was not a successful rendezvous. A little later, Patrick telephoned Derryle and told her he could not marry her because all they would have to live on would be ‘a bucketful of debts’. Mrs Law and Mrs Hamilton exchanged venomous letters, each blaming the other’s offspring for the breakdown of the relationship. In court, Derryle was clear that she blamed Margaret Hamilton and her daughters for bringing pressure to bear on Patrick.

Derryle won her case. Why did she bring it? For money, possibly, though she and her mother already had an income of £1200 a year from her late father’s estate. For revenge on the Hamiltons? It seems more likely.

Five years later, Margaret sold the Old Manor House and all its contents, furniture, china, linen, right down to decanters and fire irons, and went to live in Dene Cottage, just along the road. She died soon afterwards and was buried with Patrick.

Hilda, who is also commemorated on their grave, did not die until 1966. She had returned with her husband from Egypt and lived in ‘Marsh View’ in Hythe.

The grave of Patrick Hamilton, his mother Margaret and his sister Hilda. The cross has not fallen – it was placed at an angle on a stone slab – perhaps to resemble a plane. The inscriptions read: Patrick Hamilton, Capt Worcestershire Regt Royal Flying Corps killed on duty Sept 6th 1912
Also Margaret Elizabeth Mary/widow of Major Bramston Hamilton/entered into rest May 13th 1920/aged 73 years
Take thy rest in safety Job XI.18
In loving memory/of/Hilda Blanche/Moss/1871-1966
R.I.P.

The other daughters, Ethel and Gladys died in 1939 and 1971 respectively. Of the surviving brothers, there is little trace. James and Ian disappear from the records, though Thomas was for a while a market gardener in Essex. None of them attended Patrick’s funeral or sent flowers and the plaque commemorating Margaret in St Leonard’s church is from her daughters only. Perhaps they, too, had emigrated.

The plaque to Margaret Hamilton, beneath that of her husband and sons,

Derryle went back to America and a few years later married Carey Brown, a professional soldier who later became a colonel. They had two sons, both of whom joined the US Air Force. In a terrible twist of fate, both were killed in air accidents during Derryle’s lifetime.

George Miller Dyott gave up flying for a living, went to Ecuador and became an explorer.

[1] Ethel Hamilton: A Tribute to a Soldier and Aviator 1913

The Fortunes of War

Daniel Stringer Lyth was born in Richmond, Yorkshire to Robert, a shoemaker and Louisa nee Stringer and baptised there on 2 October 1864, their second son and fifth child. The family lived in King Street, just off the market place. Louisa died when Daniel was only four. In January 1872, he was admitted to the National School in Richmond, and on leaving worked as a farm labourer. He then joined the army, serving with the 4th West Yorkshire regiment. The doctor who examined him reported that the whole of his chest was scarred. This is likely to have caused by burning. Nineteenth century newspapers abound with stories of children falling into fires, often with fatal results.

He did not like the life and bought himself out, but then changed his mind again and re-enlisted in the King’s Royal Rifles on 12 July 1886, signing up for twelve years. He was 5 feet 8 inches tall, with dark grey eyes and dark brown hair. He did not immediately settle here, either, and In December the same year spent a month in prison for an unspecified offence. Thereafter, though, he kept out of trouble. Three years later he was sent to Manipur in north-east India, a princedom which was part of the British Empire and almost continually at war with its neighbours, including Burma, which was Daniel’s next posting.

He was sent home in 1892 and spent the last six years of his service in the UK, being promoted to Lance-Corporal in 1892. Probably some of this time was at Shorncliffe barracks near Folkestone in Kent, because on 9 May 1893, at St Leonard’s church in Hythe, he married a local woman, Hannah Cloke, a dressmaker. A daughter, Dorothy, was born in 1895; another, Christine, in July 1896; and a son, another Daniel Stringer Lyth on 7 August 1898. Exactly a month before, Daniel senior was discharged from the army, having completed his time.

Daniel took an unusual job to supplement his army pension, that of verger at St Leonard’s church, responsible for the order and upkeep of the church, including its furnishings, and grave-digging responsibilities. He also showed visitors around the crypt at the church, which contained (and still does) an extraordinary collection of skulls and long bones. He was present during the 1912 visit by Dr Cross, a well-known phrenologist, who claimed to be able to detect the character of individuals through examination of their heads. Cross opined that the owners of most of the skulls in the crypt had ‘the spirit of warfare’ in them and that one woman was ‘very crafty and cunning and would not have hesitated to kill her husband.’

Some of the skulls at the ossuary in Hythe

The family lived at first in the Hythe High Street and later in Marine Walk Street. Here another son, named for Daniel’s father was born, but little John Robert died aged only seven months in March 1902 and is buried in St Leonard’s churchyard.  There would be no more children

Daniel also worked for a while as Town Sergeant, but it was not a long tenure. This may have been because he was frequently at odds with Hythe Town Council and aired his opinions in the local press. In 1912, by which time he had moved to’ Craigside’ at 1 Castle Road, the Council suggested that as his steps encroached onto the pavement, he should pay an annual ‘acknowledgement’ of two shillings and sixpence, as was usual. He said it was too much and refused to answer the Council’s letters, before offering to pay sixpence. The Council refused his offer and told him to pay the full amount or demolish the steps – which he did. In 1917 he became exercised by the council’s plans to remove vehicle access to Castle Road from the south. Another drawn-out battle ensued, which this time Daniel won, with removable posts to which he had a key supplied. He was described in one newspaper report as ‘gloomy’ and in his obituary as a ‘silent and reserved man’, though to be scrupulously fair, another reporter said he had seen him laugh.

The years of the first world war were to prove devastating for the family. Just before its start, in July 1914,  Dorothy Lyth died aged only nineteen and was buried in Saltwood churchyard (‘Craigside’ was in the ecclesiastical parish of Saltwood by a few yards).

When war broke out, Daniel was still a reservist but too old to be called up. Instead he joined the Cinque Ports Battalion of the Kent Volunteer Force as its Second-in-Command. He combined this with his on-going work as a verger. In the early evening of 25 May1917, twenty-three German Gotha bombers, unable to find their London targets in thick cloud, turned south, followed the railway line to the Channel ports. They dropped bombs en route, including at Hythe, where Daniel was chatting to the vicar, Herbert Dale, and Mrs Dale just outside the church. Daniel was struck in the thigh by a piece of shrapnel. His femoral artery was severed and though he was taken to hospital in Folkestone and operated on, he succumbed that night.

The bombers finished the job in Folkestone, killing sixty-one people, mostly women and children queuing for potatoes.

A map of the raid which killed Daniel Lyth

Daniel was buried in Saltwood churchyard, the service being read by Herbert Dale, who had survived because he had a tin box in his pocket which deflected the shrapnel which hit him.

Daniel’s grave

Daniel junior had by now left home. He was an apprentice seaman with Cardille Turnbull & Sons from November 1914, but was released from his articles when he joined up on 2 March 1915 at Dover. He was then living at Wouldham near Rochester. His surviving sister, Christine, joined him there. He did his initial training at Aldershot and passed out in June 1915. He was recorded as being 5ft 8 inches tall with a dark complexion and dark brown hair- exactly as his father had been at his age.

He originally asked to serve in the Royal Army Medical Corps and sailed from Southampton on 21 September 1915 to Rouen. He transferred to the Buffs in October 1917 at his own request. Daniel, again like his father before him, found it hard at first to settle into army life and was often in trouble for minor offences. He was on leave in the UK from 2 February 1918 to 17 Feb 1918 but was killed in action two months later. His body was recovered and his personal effects – a silver watch, a wallet, dictionary, compass and map – returned to his mother. Perhaps he was buried, though in the turmoil the grave was lost.

Daniel is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium which bears the names of some 35,000 men of the British and New Zealand forces who have no known grave, nearly all of whom died between August 1917 and November 1918. Both Daniel and his father are named on the Hythe War Memorial.

See the source image

Hythe War Memorial

 

Daniel’s misspelt name on the Tyne Cot Memorial

(Folkestone Family History Society)

By the end of the war, the Lyth family had only two members left alive, Hannah and Christine. After Daniel junior had joined up, Christine, who had excelled at school, went to the Bishop Otter Training College in Chichester to train as a teacher.

Bishop Otter College, an establishment for women students

After she had qualified she stayed in Sussex, living and teaching in Hove, and was joined there by her widowed mother. When Christine retired she and her mother moved to Wallington in Surrey, where Hannah died aged ninety-seven in 1961 and Christine in 1976.

Slavery and Elastic Pavements: Miles Brathwaite

Miles Brathwaite as a young man (www.Findagrave.com)

Miles Brathwaite was the third son of the Hon. General Miles Brathwaite (1771-1848), a sugar planter in the Christ Church and St Philip’s parishes of Barbados. He was born there in 1803. His father was always designated ‘honourable’ because he was a member of the island’s privy council; he had no connection with the peerage and his own father, Robert Brathwaite (1723-1791) was also a plantation owner. Miles senior owned one estate, Palmers, and was tenant for life of another, Three Houses. Like all Barbadian planters he relied on slaves to work his land. John Brathwaite, possibly a brother of Miles senior, another  plantation and slave owner and agent for the island, travelled to London in 1788 to give testimony to the British government’s inquiry into slavery. Predictably, he painted a rosy picture:

He stated that prior to about 1768 the treatment of slaves was marked by much more cruelty than since that date. The wanton killing of a slave in Barbadoes (sic) remained nevertheless, by law of August 8, 1788, punishable by a fine of 15 Pounds Sterling only. It was not uncommon, he said, for slaves to suffer for food when corn [bread stuff] was high or a sugar crop failed. Industrious Negroes, of course, raised some provisions, hogs, and poultry about their own huts or on allotments. Even so, he thought a slave was as well off as a free Negro and better than an English labourer with a family. (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvesting sugar cane in Barbados. Note the overseer’s whip.

 

 

Miles junior appears to have joined the Royal Navy, but his service records are not extant, though his portrait (above) as a very young man seems to show him in a naval uniform. He married, on 13 December 1823, Elizabeth Jane Welch. Over the next twenty-two years, they had twelve children together.

The Slavery Abolition Act became law on 1 August 1834, but this did not mean automatic bankruptcy for the Barbados slavers. Two things saved them. In the first place, the British government paid compensation to slave owners for their ‘loss’. Miles senior was awarded £3860 for the one hundred and seventy enslaved people he owned at Palmers and tried to claim over £5000 for those at Three Houses, but this was declined.  In the second place, only children were actually immediately freed. Adults had to serve a six-year ‘apprenticeship’ on terms very little better than slavery before they were freed.

Miles junior may, or may not, have had a share in the compensation. By then he was in business as a merchant in Chepstow Street, Barbados, running two businesses, one alone and another as a partner. He gave his address then as Fortress Terrace, Kentish Town, London. The 1841 census confirms his residence in Kentish Town, but by then his businesses must have gone under, as he is recorded as having no trade or occupation. Elizabeth and their six surviving children were with him. The family moved then to Camden, then on to Pentonville and in 1843, Miles became a director of The Elastic Pavement Company. Although this sounds like a 1970s rock album produced under the influence of LSD, in fact it manufactured, among other things, rubber flooring for stables and a lifeboat made of rubber and cork, which was allegedly unsinkable and, if it hit a rock, would just bounce back.

The company was in trouble by 1845 and by February 1846 was reporting losses of over £5000, while insisting that it needed to increase its capital in order to fulfil ‘large orders from Her Majesty’s government’. It struggled on but was wound up in 1849. This made little difference to Miles, who had been committed to a debtors’ prison in 1846. This was probably at Whitecross Street in Islington, which had the reputation of being the worst in London.

Whitecross Street Prison

Salvation came in an unlikely form when in January 1847 he was appointed as Commander of the Coastguard at Fort Twiss in Hythe. The Coastguard had been set up in 1822 as an anti-smuggling operation, and its instructions also stipulated that when a wreck took place the Coast Guard was responsible for taking all possible action to save lives, taking charge of the vessel and protecting property. Station commanders were generally serving Royal Navy lieutenants and were expected to enforce naval discipline. What qualifications Miles had for the job beyond a brief naval career some years earlier is unclear. It is likely that the post was secured for him through well-placed connections, a common enough practice in the nineteenth century.

Fort Twiss Battery was constructed on Hythe seafront in 1798, a small triangular fort surrounded by a three-and-a-half metre high wall. Miles lived there with Elizabeth Jane and the five youngest of their children – two more had been born in London and one in Hythe. Also living at the fort were six subordinate men with their wives and families. It cannot have been luxurious, compared to a sunny plantation in Barbados served by slaves: there was not even a piped water supply (Miles wrote to Hythe corporation asking for this in 1853) (2). But he had a roof over his head and regular income to support his diminishing family. Only five of his twelve children reached adulthood, and those who did often headed back to the West Indies. While he was in prison, his eldest daughter, another Elizabeth Jane, married a scion of a plantation family, Langford Redwood, who had inherited Cassada Garden plantation in Antigua. He died at sea only two years after the marriage en route to England and Elizabeth married another Antiguan planter.

 

Miles died at Fort Twiss on 26 March 1857. He left no will, and his widow either could not or would not pay for a headstone: this was financed by ‘family and friends’.

The inscription on Miles’s gravestone in St Leonard’s churchyard reads: Sacred to the memory of/Miles Brathwaite/(late RN)/ this tablet is erected by sor-/rowing family and friends/who are cheered with the hope/that from his excellent life, his/firm faith and pious resignation/to the Divine Will, the beloved one is “not lost but gone before”

Elizabeth Jane, now homeless, went at first to live in Croydon, but then moved in with her by now twice widowed daughter Elizabeth in West Derby in Liverpool, where she died in 1879.

And in December 1857, Hythe Council finally agreed to provide piped water to Fort twiss.

(1) Slavery on British West Indies Plantations in the Eighteenth Century, Frank Wesley Pitman, Journal of Negro History, Volume Number: 11 Issue Number: 4, October 1926.

2. Kent Archives Hy/AM/2/1