The Stormy Captain – John Warde

In St Edmund’s chapel in Hythe church a black tilting helmet, surmounted by a leopard crest, has hung for as long as anyone can remember.

In an old history of Hythe it is recorded that the grave of  Captain John Warde was discovered when the floor of the chapel was lowered in 1841. It bore the inscription:

Here lieth buried the Body of Captayne John Warde who departed this life the xxviiiday of Janua. 1601. Being of the age lxxxxvi and was a captain lxvi years’. (1)

It followed that the helmet must belong to John Warde, as it hung near his grave, in the manner of a hatchment.

I thought little more of this story,  but then came across in my papers a photocopy of a typewritten document: John Warde of Sandgate Castle. It is heavily amended in manuscript and each part of the biography is supported by references. Under the title is written ‘Cecil Humphery-Smith F.H.S  F.H.G’.  Humphery-Smith, it turns out, was a lecturer at the University of London, founder of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies at Canterbury and an Honorary Fellow of Canterbury Christchurch University. In other words, a reliable source. Here is what he discovered about John Warde, together with my own research.

John Warde was born between 1504 and 1506, probably in Yorkshire, since the arms he later bore were those of the Warde family of Guisely. His parents are unknown, but they were dead by 1515, when John was made a Ward of Court under a Mr Tomlynson of Yorkshire. (2)

The next time he can be positively identified is when, in 1519, he was made a groom (attendant) in the household of ‘the king’s daughter’. (3) This was the three-year-old Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. He was there for at least a year before, in 1520, being posted as a gunner at the Tower of London. (4) Soldiering was to be his future. He was promoted, maybe not rapidly, but steadily, to master gunner, yeoman gunner and finally, in 1540 captain gunner. (5)

The Tower in Tudor times

In summer 1544 he was present at the siege of Boulogne during one of Henry VIII’s ill-advised and usually disastrous campaigns against the French. (6)  It was not one of England’s finest moments. The siege lasted two months but before the English had blown up the walls of Boulogne to end it, they had lost half their troops to dysentery.

The Siege of Boulogne

Three years later, he was fighting again, this time at the battle of Pinkie Cleugh, part of the ‘Rough Wooing’ which attempted to secure a union of Scotland and England. (7)  The Scots were soundly defeated (but still refused to come to terms). Then it was back to France, for the capture of St Quentin in 1557. (8) Princess Mary had now become queen of England and had married Philip of Spain. The English and Spanish were allied in fighting the French at the besieged city and won the day, but the sight of the battlefield gave Philip a permanent distaste for war.

The following year John Warde took part in the rather pointless capture of Le Conquet, a small port near Brest.(9) He was now under the military command of Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick.

Ambrose Dudley, 3rd Earl of Warwick

Mary’s sister Elizabeth had succeeded to the throne and in an effort to support the Huguenots, she engaged in a short campaign in France in 1563. The English captured Le Havre – and John Warde was there, too, still serving Warwick.(10) He was next sent to Ireland to fight against Shane O’Neil, a chieftain who was variously at war with the English and the Scots in furthering his ambitions to be overlord of the whole of Ireland. John Warde raised two hundred men from Devon and Cornwall to join the fight. (11)

O’Neil was assassinated in 1567 and that same year, John Warde, now in his sixties, made a suit to the queen for recompense for his service. (12) She agreed and gave him ‘the rectory or parsonage of Yalding and the advowson of the vicarage’ for thirty years. It would have been reasonable to expect that this would easily last him for the rest of his life. Advowson was the right to recommend a member of the Anglican clergy for a vacant benefice, or to make  an appointment. The rent on the parsonage would also bring him thirty ponds a year.

Yalding church, near Maidstone

In 1569, he was still in Ireland, in Limerick, writing to William Cecil, chief adviser to Queen Elizabeth about about the execution of some prisoners.(13) In fact, he could not have written the letter himself as later records show he was illiterate and must have dictated it to a scribe. He was also in a little trouble for having killed a man called Randolph, but the queen pardoned him for this.

Two years later, he returned from Ireland carrying with him a letter from Thomas, Earl of Ormered and Ossury to Cecil which ‘commends the suit of the bearer Captain Warde  now being discharged who served in winter where no  service was ever done by soldiers and returned barefoot and bodied in effect’. (14) He had to appear before the Privy Council to show why he had lost his equipment and baggage, but was exonerated and offered a knighthood. (15) This, however, was an expensive process and he declined.

What he accepted, the following year, was the post of Captain of Sandgate Castle with an annuity of forty pounds for life, a much more lucrative offer. (16) The castle had been built only thirty years earlier, just a mile or so from Hythe,  as a defence from the French at a vulnerable point on the coast. It comprised a central stone keep, with three towers and a gatehouse and was fitted with a total of 142 firing points for cannon and handguns.

What remains today of Sandgate Castle

A document of 1573 shows  that his duties involved settling disputes between locals and also shows us that he could not write (though this does not mean that he could not read: the subjects were taught to children separately). (17) This is a facsimile of two letters he could manage, ‘J W’:

Sandgate Castle  would not have been a comfortable place to live, though the queen visited in 1573 and is reported to have rested there.  John Warde overcame the accommodation problem by acquiring a house in the Bayle in nearby Folkestone. He was elected mayor of the town in 1579, 1581 and 1583.  The house , now demolished, had his coat of arms, a cross patonce or, on the ceiling.

In Folkestone, John Warde was known as ‘the stormy captain’.  The trouble started when his son, Ambrose (possibly named for the Earl of Warwick) killed one Edward Phillpott. As was the custom, Ambrose’s goods and chattels became forfeit to the the Lord of the Manor of the Bayle, John Herdson. (18) A row ensued, but John seems to have conceded and went to live in Hythe.

Despite his advanced age, he was appointed master of the camp when in 1588, forces were raised in Kent to resist the Spanish Armada.  Five years later, at the age of eighty-eight, he was commissioned to prepare a report of the condition of the castles on the Kent and Sussex coasts. (19)

His last years were disturbed once again by Ambrose’s misdoings and by family strife.  Ambrose had a sister, Hester, who had married Lawrence Baker of New Romney. Baker and Ambrose had several joint financial dealings with various third parties. Baker then borrowed three hundred pounds which he could not afford to repay, and when his creditors became unpleasant about it, insisted that the debt was his brother-in-law’s. Ambrose said it was not and Baker was thrown into gaol in the ‘theefe house’in Lydd, which he said was ‘a vile hole’.

Hester went twice to plead with her brother to no avail. Ambrose allegedly told her that her husband could stay in prison ‘until the lice and mice ate him’ before he would pay a penny of the debt. His wife and children apparently starving, Baker had to sell the silver buttons from his doublet to get them food. He was then persuaded, despite the misgivings of his friends,  to make over all his property, which should have gone to his son, to Ambrose, who said he would give him an allowance of twenty shillings a week. Ambrose almost immediately reneged on the bargain.

John Warde thought that Lawrence Baker was untrustworthy, but also seems to have disapproved of Ambrose’s actions. He asked the Town Clerk of Hythe to come to his house and speak to his son, but it was again to no avail.

Baker wanted some recompense and brought a case against Ambrose in Chancery. The case was heard in Dover before the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Lord Cobham. It then proceeded to a Commission in Canterbury, but was dropped when Baker could no longer afford the costs. This, he said, was because his tenants, threatened by Ambrose, were withholding their rents. Eventually, it was resurrected in the Star Chamber.  The case dragged on from December 1601 to February 1603 and both parties brought  witnesses ready to dish the dirt.

Ambrose was accused of smuggling out of the country ‘great quantities of wool, leather, tallow, corn, munitions’, which he kept in a barn at Sandgate Castle. Baker was described as ‘a man of riotous and unruly behaviour since he came to the years of discretion’. (20)

Unfortunately, the outcome is not recorded and John Warde was no longer interested. he made his will on 25 January 1601 and was dead before the month was out.  Only his tilting helmet survives as a memorial to a soldier who served four monarchs.

With thanks to Mike Umbers for additional information and Brin Hughes for the photograph of the helmet. 

  1.  Herbert H. Dale, The Ancient Town of Hythe and St Leonard’s Church Kent (Hythe: Kipps Bookshop Ltd, 1931)
  2. Calendar of Foreign, Domestic & State Papers Henry VIII, VoII, part II 1517-18, p. 1487 (Brewer)
  3. Calendar of State & Domestic Papers, Henry VIII, Vol. III, part I, p.970
  4. Patent Rolls
  5. ibid.
  6.  mss. R.J. Finmore
  7.  ibid.
  8.  ibid.
  9.  Patent rolls
  10. ibid.
  11.  Calendar of State Papers Ireland 356
  12.  ibid. 399
  13.  ibid 42
  14.  ibid 38 , Vol XXI p. 17
  15. Patent Rolls
  16.  ibid
  17.  Kent Archives CP/Bp45
  18. Folkestone Manor Office
  19. Archaeologia Cantiana, Vol 11 1877
  20.  The case between Ambrose Warde and Lawrence Baker is recorded in Louis Knafla, Kent at Law 1602 (London: List and Index Society, 2012)

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, only two married. Two, Agnes and Margaret, became Roman Catholic nuns. Agnes became Mother Mary Beata of the Sisters of Sion and died in Australia in 1947. Margaret joined St Mary’s Abbey in East Bergholt.(1)  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. Agatha and Margaret were cut out of their father’s will and the other sisters were warned that they, too, would lose their inheritance if they converted to Roman Catholicism.(2)

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 ground plan 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’.(3) 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. Finding a way: Self-Discovery Through Family Research , Diana Dennis, 2021
  2. Ibid.
  3. Kent Archives H/U21/Z10