Three Marys

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

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

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

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

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

and the King’s Head, still thriving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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The Worthington Family, Coachmakers – revisited

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

Worthingtom William

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

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

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

Because I live you shall live also John XIV 19

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

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

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

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

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

 

Worthington House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Worthington Hill left

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

This is their advertisement.

Worthington advert

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

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

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

Worthington grave2

The inscription on his grave reads:

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

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

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

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

Remainder illegible

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

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

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

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

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

 

Worthington Arthur

Arthur’s name on the Arras Memorial

Robert was the next Worthington brother to pass away.

 


Worthington Grave 3

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

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

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

Robert Worthington (photo Roger Worthington)

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


kildrummie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

(photos: Roger Worthington)

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

 

The Mills of God Grind Slow…

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

 

See the source image

The Flying Horse Inn in Canterbury, still trading today

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

Hampton Hill, now called Hempton Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                              Carter’s Barracks in Sydney, front view…

and the yard at the back

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

The treadmill at Carter’s Barracks

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

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

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

With thanks to Mike de la Mare for the map

 

Frank White – A Republican in Hythe

Frank White arrived in Hythe in 1888 from Hastings and set up shop as a butcher in the once-dilapidated ‘Smuggler’s Retreat’, an old house in the High Street where he had restored the ground floor. He claimed that he had learned his trade while working on Queen Victoria’s estates in Windsor, which if true, was ironic, as he was a committed republican. He had been married to Clara (Wakefield) for seven years and they had three sons and a daughter. A final child was born the next year.

The Smugglers Retreat in Hythe High Street, now demolished

Frank made his first foray into local politics in 1889, aged thirty-two when he was chosen by the Hythe Ratepayers Association to oppose the Mayor in the East Ward. He took only nineteen votes, to the Mayor’s ninety-six, but was undaunted.

He founded the next year the Hythe Liberal and Radical Association, which held meetings in the room above his shop. With the Labour party still to be born, this attracted the left-wing element in the town,not admittedly a large number, the main political bias being Conservative. They speedily decided that the House of Lords should be abolished. At their annual dinner in 1892, Frank proposed the toast to the Queen – and rather shockingly added that he hoped she would be the last monarch to reign.

In 1893 the Ratepayers Association adopted him as a candidate to be a Guardian of the Elham Union workhouse in Etchinghill. He topped the poll . He was, however, still determined to become a councillor and in the November 1893 elections he achieved this by one vote: standing as an Independent, he defeated the Ratepayers’ Association’s official candidate in Middle Ward.

                                                                  Frank’s election pitch, 1893

In 1896 he was returned again with a sizeable majority.

During the 1890s, he worked hard to secure better conditions for the inmates of the workhouse, though he lost his position as a Guardian of the Poor because his work made it difficult to attend fortnightly meetings. He always cycled to the workhouse and on one occasion arrived soaked and covered in mud; instead of apologising, he used his condition to emphasise the need for an indoor staircase at the building so that women inmates did not have to go outside to reach their dormitory. He also supported the introduction of an old age pension, so that the destitute aged did not have to go to the workhouse.  The money, he said, would come from taxing the idle rich and rack-rent landlords.

A few years after opening his first shop at the Smugglers’ Retreat as ‘The English and Colonial Butcher’, he was able to move to better premises opposite at 50 High Street (now 106). When he was in trouble for slaughtering on the premises, he built a slaughterhouse two miles to the west of Hythe. His most ambitious project was to convert a large private house in the High Street opposite Theatre Street into the Wilberforce Temperance Hotel, with his wife as proprietor.

The Wilberforce Temperance Hotel, now also demolished

After that, it was, as far a business was concerned, all down hill.

In 1895 he sold the butcher’s shop as a going concern for £500 and for the next two years traded as an auctioneer and fruit salesman in Hythe and Folkestone. The venture failed. After that he had no regular employment, but did odd jobs such as removals, selling fish, and portering at auctions, earning about £1 a week. Clara kept things together by taking in lodgers at their home in Saltwood Gardens, near the seafront in Hythe.

Frank had lost his council seat, too, but stood again in 1902 and was successful and as controversial as ever. He objected to restricting the number of licences given to motor bus proprietors, saying that more cars meant improved communication between Hythe and Folkestone – and a better chance of reduced fares. When he persisted in arguing with the Mayor, John James Jeal, he had to be removed from the council chamber by a constable. In 1905 he presented a scheme for the municipalisation of the canal boats, which was approved by the General Purposes Committee. Then objections came from councillors who did not want Sunday boating; attempts to keep the two matters separate failed, and the scheme was rejected. He said Hythe Town Council was the laughing-stock of Ashford Market for buying horses without a proper veterinary certificate: boys ran from the station to the Market saying, “Here they come: we’ve got ’em again!” He continued to argue the need for a public convenience on the seafront. He urged the Council to employ an attendant to prevent noisy children disturbing band performances in the Grove.

He was re-elected in 1905, but disaster was not far off.  A small strip of land in South Road owned by the Council was appropriated by a neighbouring householder, who fenced it in and claimed it as his own in 1906. The Council decided to pull down the fence, and produced documents proving ownership. The householder instructed his solicitor to oppose this. It became clear that expensive litigation would be involved, and the Council decided it was not worth spending public money on so small a piece of land. This angered Frank and he said that if the fence was replaced, he would pull it down. It was, and he did. The result was a lawsuit, which he lost. Since he could not pay the costs of the lawsuit, he was adjudged bankrupt. By law a bankrupt could not be a councillor.

In 1908 he was found guilty of being drunk and disorderly in the High Street and  by 1911 he had lost his home and was lodging in Wood Road. He said he was married, but Clara was not there. Then he seems to have rallied.

By 1913 he was the Town Crier who concluded his ‘cries’ with ‘God Save the People’ instead of the traditional ‘God Save the King’. When councillor Jeal (a Seabrook builder against whom Frank had a particular animus) was defeated in an election he cried ‘The King of Seabrook is dead. No flowers.’ He was not actually an employee of the council, but they supplied his bell. He was ordered to return it and told his services were no longer required.

He was, when war broke out, theoretically too old for active service, but in January 1917, he joined the Royal Defence Corps, telling them he was fifty-four (he was actually sixty). They judged him fit enough, despite his varicose veins and a bunion which stopped him marching. He was sent to guard German prisoners of war in Scotland, probably at Stobs camp in the Borders.

Prisoners of war at Stobs camp, 1918

He was discharged in Canterbury in January 1919; his true age had been discovered.

In 1919, he applied to have his bankruptcy discharged, saying he did not want to die a bankrupt and intended to go to Russia to help the revolutionary forces. He was discharged, but did not, as far as we know, get to Russia, though he did make at least one more attempt to get a seat on the Council, in 1921.

He died in Rampart Road in 1925.

John Price’s New Year’s Celebration

John Price was born in Hythe in 1810 and became a harness-maker in the town. It was a skilled trade which would have left him, as a single man, with a little cash left over at the end of the working week.

On New Years Eve 1833, he decided to spend some of this hard-earned money and took himself to London to see in the New Year.  Once there, he somehow fell in company with another young man, twenty-year-old William Butler, a bricklayer. Butler later said that John asked him to go to Merton with him, which they did, returning the next day.  During the return journey, they continued their celebrations in the time-honoured way, by putting away a lot of alcohol.

The pair then went to an eating-house near the Surrey Theatre in Blackfriars Road where they met a young woman already known to Butler, Mary Cooper who worked as a prostitute.  They all had something to eat, and some more to drink, and then Mary  Cooper took them both to her lodgings in Jeffreys Buildings in Westminster, which seems to have functioned as a brothel . She and John then went to bed together, though John had passed out by 1030pm.

The almonry, Westminster, the site of Jeffreys Buildings

Mary Ann Morgan lived in the same building and when she came home that night was told by Butler that he had a ‘flat’ in Mary Cooper’s room – the term means a person who is easily deceived, a patsy or sucker we might say today.  Mary Ann and Butler put their heads together and hatched a plan.

Mary Ann went to Mary Cooper’s room and the two women sat chatting on the bed while John snored. Butler came in, too, and said that he would take John’s greatcoat and jacket for safe keeping.  To be absolutely sure that they were safe, he would give them to his friend, Henry Harber, who would return them the next day.

John woke up at about three o’clock the next morning and even in his befuddled state, noticed that his clothes were missing. He did not believe his new friends when they told him that his things were being kept safe and went off in search of a policeman, whom he soon found – one Constable Suttle. Suttle went back to the house with him, heard the story and did not believe it either. He arrested both women and Butler.  Butler protested that his own coat had been stolen too. Unimpressed, Constable Suttle took them to the police station and put them in the cells, but at this point Mary Ann Morgan broke down and confessed that she and Butler were supposed to meet Henry Harber, who really did have the clothing,  at the Duke of York’s monument  that morning and they would, together, sell the items. The clothing was worth five pounds, a decent sum, and in one of the pockets was the bonus of a handkerchief worth two shillings.

The intrepid constable made his way to the monument, at the junction of Regent Street and The Mall and sure enough found Henry Harber sitting on the steps, wearing John’s clothes over his own. The handkerchief was round his neck . Suttle arrested him, too. Harber, a nineteen-year-old labourer,  was only a short young man, five feet nothing tall, so we must assume John was a lot larger.

The Duke of York’s monument and steps today

At the magistrates court the next day, 3 January, Mary Cooper, Mary Ann Morgan and William Butler were charged with stealing John’s clothes; Henry Harber was charged with receiving stolen goods. Mary Cooper, who had only taken John to bed, was discharged; Mary Ann Morgan was admitted King’s evidence and the men remanded to stand trial.

John went back to Hythe, but the case was widely reported in the press, including in Kent, under headlines such as ‘A Caution to Countrymen’. Hythe is a small town and news travels fast. Everyone must have known the rather sordid details of his New Year’s holiday. He did not even get his clothes back, as they were kept as evidence. Then the case was heard at the Old Bailey and John, of course, had to appear as prosecutor, a daunting experience for a young man unused either to the big city or to the grandeur of the most important court in the country.

Inside the Old Bailey

Butler and Harber were found guilty. Butler did attempt a rambling defence about his own clothes being taken and never having seen either Mary Ann Morgan or Harber on the night in question. All Harber could come up with was that he had found the clothes the night before. Both were found guilty and sentenced to seven years transportation. They were both transported  to New South Wales on board the Surrey on 9 April. John went back to harness making in Hythe and died, still single, in 1852.

Probably none of them cared to recall the events of News Year’s Day, 1834

Walter and Son: a High Street Fixture

Daniel Walter was born on 7 January 1831 in Marden, the second son of Charles, a shoemaker & his wife Mary. On 1848, in Marden, he married Elizabeth Leeds, a famer’s daughter. Although both still in their teens, they moved to Hythe and started a business making and selling shoes and boots. Daniel at first bought, or leased, a small shop at 13 (now 30) High Street, then moved a few yards east to no. 15 (now 34).

Every pair of shoes was made on the premises, and they were of all types. In 1856, Daniel designed the ‘Hythe Shingle Boot’ for the newly-created School of Musketry. It was a sort of blucher boot, suitable for walking on the shingle at Hythe Ranges, where target practice took place on the beach (and still does). Adverts described it as ‘especially adapted for Rifle Practice, Sporting or the Country’. This was a clever move. It gave him access to the School – in 1856 they even gave him a pass – and to the officers and their ladies. Much bespoke work followed as did work from the officers at Shorncliffe camp. Women outworkers embroidered the delicate ballroom slippers and fancy ankle boots.

For more robust work, Daniel had a workshop in the yard at the back of the shop but one night in November 1865, fire broke out and quickly spread. Hythe Fire Brigade attended, but as often happened, there was an inadequate supply of water and Daniel lost his workshop, which was of wood with a corrugated iron and felt roof, and all its contents. He then discovered that the building and stock, valued at £100, were not insured, only the house and shop and their contents being covered by his policy. However, the directors of the Kent Fire Office generously allowed him £40 compensation.

He somehow recovered and in 1874, he bought no. 41 (now 88) High Street, a handsome double-fronted shop – or it was when he had redesigned it.

He wanted his new shop to stand out from the ordinary. He went up to London’s West End to see how they did things there, and decided on two fully-glazed full length windows either side of a glazed door, instead of the more usual small panes of glass from waist height and a wooden door. People thought he was mad and that the glass would soon be smashed, but it was not, and the deep windows show-cased his goods beautifully. Not only that, but the shop looked fashionable, a little bit of the West End in quiet Hythe.

The salon on the first floor of Daniel’s Hythe shop in the early 1900s

Daniel’s family grew even more rapidly than his business. He and Elizabeth had five children before her death; he then married Anne Leaver of Lydd, a greengrocer’s daughter, by whom he had another ten children before she, too, died in 1891. Three years later he married Susan Mary Challice, who presented him with a daughter in 1895. That is three wives and sixteen children.

Walter (far right back row) & his extensive family. He is standing next to his six sons

Amidst all this business and family activity, he found time for other things, He was the first Bandmaster of the Hythe Town Band and ensured that his sons played musical instruments, too; he was a member of the Cinque Ports Volunteers based at Fort Twiss; he was elected to the Town Council in 1889 representing the Hythe Ratepayers Association and was a member of the Liberal Party.

In religion, he was a Congregationalist. They had worshipped since 1817 at the Ebenezer Chapel in what is now Chapel Street, just behind Daniel’s first two shops. In 1867, the number of worshippers was growing and larger premises were needed. According to his obituary in the Folkestone Herald’ Daniel bought a piece of land in the High Street known as Old Walnut Tree Yard, then proceeded to raise the money from the members of the congregation to pay him back and also to build a splendid new church which opened the following year. Records do not confirm this, and the conveyance of the land is shown as being ‘to Joshua Wilson and others’ (1). However, Daniel was a key player in the church, which he joined in 1850, soon after his arrival in Hythe and acted as trustee, deacon and pew rent collector.   His second wife, Anne, joined immediately after their marriage in 1870 and was active herself.

One of Daniel’s sons by his second wife, Harry, joined his father in the business, which became ‘Walter & Son’ and he took over the reins when his father retired from both business and the Town Council in 1904.  One of his first actions was to have electric lighting installed in the shop. He had already started to buy in ready-made shoes from K, Lotus and Saxone, among others.


                                                                             A 1912 advertisement for Walter & Son

In 1919, he opened a shop at 29 Sandgate Road, Folkestone ideally placed for clients of the big hotels and he refurbished the Hythe shop in 1928. Harry’s son Gerald, born in 1911, joined him in the business the following year and they opened a second Folkestone outlet. Controversially, even at the time, the shops started to use x-ray machines on children’s feet for fitting shoes.

Daniel, who had retired to Coda Villa in Seabrook Road with Susan and his little daughter Dorothy,  did not die until 1930, a few days after his ninety-ninth birthday, with his wife and daughters Dorothy and Edith at his bedside.  He had been ill for only a few weeks before this. Four of his six sons attended his funeral (Harry was convalescent in France and Charles had died), but of his ten daughters, only the youngest, Dorothy, was there and of the grand-children, none except Harry’s son Gerald.  It does not suggest a close-knit family.  The funeral service was held in Congregational church and then the Hythe Town Band led the cortege to St Leonard’s church where Daniel was buried near the northern boundary.

The shoe business carried on. Harry opened  another shop in Tunbridge Wells in 1940. He died in 1943 and after the war, Gerald expanded the business further, into Dover, Deal and Ashford. The Ashford shop was officially opened by the stage and screen actress Victoria Hopper who was married to Gerald’s brother Peter.

Victoria Hooper at the opening of the Ashford shop

Another shop in Tenterden followed in 1964.

Gerald, like his grandfather Daniel, was civic-minded. He served as town mayor, founded Hythe Rotary Club (which still flourishes today) and was closely connected with Hythe’s biennial Venetian Fete. There is still a memorial cup presented in his name for the best floral float.

In 1973, the Hythe shop was graced by a visit from Marjorie Wallace, then ‘Miss World’ (though not for much longer: it was discovered that she was a single parent and she was de-throned). The Chamber of Commerce had arranged for her to visit the town.

 

More glamour at Walter & son: Marjorie Wallace being measured for shoes

A 1978 venture into Rochester was short-lived and was soon followed by closures at Ashford, Tunbridge Wells and Dover. Tenterden and Folkestone followed suit and the last to go were the shops in Deal and Hythe in 2010. Gerald died in 1998.

Kent Archives:  N/F1998/4/1/1

Sources: Folkestone and District Local History Society Newsletter no. 14 Spring 2003; Iris Pearce; Alethea Lester; Lynda Ryan; Alan Joyce; Mike Umbers; David Paton; Tim Lawrence, Peter White; Dorene McCormack

Sinners and (Latter Day) Saints – Part One

James Warby, a soldier with the 43rd Regiment of Foot, who had fought in the Peninsular Wars at the Battle of Nivelle in 1813, hung up his boots in Hythe, married Mary Woods and raised a family. All was well until, in April 1834,his eldest son, eighteen-year-old William, was found guilty of stealing a half-sovereign from Susanna and Andrew Lawler.  He had gone to the house to sell potatoes and noticed where the cash was kept.  He contrived to loiter after the sale. A small child was present whom he sent off on an errand, and once alone helped himself to the money, which he changed at a butcher’s in Sandgate. He was sentenced to six months in the town gaol.

He spent his sentence alongside Alexander Swain, who had received six months for burglary. By February the next year, they were both back in the same gaol, charged with stealing a pet rabbit from a local solicitor. Swain, probably fearing a stiff sentence, persuaded a seventeen-year-old girl who was visiting her brother in the gaol to give him her clothes. He walked out of the gaol dressed in a blue gaberdine frock and a hat. Of course, he was soon missed and only got as far as Rye before being apprehended the next day.

In court, both men were sentenced to seven years’ transportation. They were removed to the prison hulk Fortitude at Chatham. William, who was reported in gaol to have been bad-tempered and violent was apparently sobered by the hulk experience and was described as ‘orderly’. The men were transported on the ss Norfolk,  arriving in van Diemens Land (now Tasmania) on 28 Aug 1835. Once there, Alexander Swaine disappears from the records and probably died either during the voyage or shortly after arrival.

Van Diemen’s Land was known as a convict hell. Work was hard and punishments harsh. William received fifty lashes in September 1837 for disobeying orders.

 

A sketch of a Van Diemen’s Land chain gang

 

Henceforward, he kept out of trouble and got his Certificate of Freedom in 1842. The next year he sailed for Sydney, not just to get away from the place of his servitude, but to rejoin his family.

James Warby had brought his wife and family to New South Wales in 1839. It was not in fact, unusual for convict’s families to do this. Convicts rarely returned home and often their letters made Australia seem more attractive than England at a time of economic depression.  James must have decided that a reunion on the other side of the world was the best course of action, though he could not possibly have known how it would turn out. With him, apart from his wife Mary, were his other sons, John (19), James (17), Thomas (8) and daughters Mary Ann (15) and Celia (12). They arrived at Port Jackson as Bounty Immigrants then moved on to Morpeth and finally Maitland.

All the children married.

Mary Ann married first, just before her seventeenth birthday. She and her husband had fourteen children. Celia was next. She married John Chivington, a former convict,  on 13 Feb 1845. They had four children, but only two survived to adulthood.  Then James married Mary Ann Blanch in 1846 in Morpeth; John married in 1855 and had seven children and finally Thomas married in 1856 in Maitland and had eleven children.

On 25 February 1851, the husband of William’s younger sister, Celia, died.  William, now in New South Wales, moved in with her.  In 1853, their first child together was born and thereafter William and Celia lived together as husband and wife until their deaths, days apart, in September 1900.

We cannot know whether, from Celia’s perspective, this relationship was consensual or abusive. Whichever was the case, it brought terrible suffering to their children. They had seven, four of whom had  catastrophic disabilities: Noah, who lived to be forty as an ‘invalid’; Samuel, who died aged twenty-six, ‘a cripple from birth’;  Thomas, who lived only a few months and died of ‘inanition’, an inability to feed or drink; John, who died aged forty-four in an ‘asylum for imbeciles’.  It could be said that William’s real crimes were committed not in Hythe but in Australia.

To be continued….

Details of William’s life after leaving Van Diemen’s Land are taken from the Warby family’s site:

http://www.thetreeofus.net/3/182026.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hole Family – Part 3

William Hole was born in Hythe in 1793, the son of John and Elizabeth Hole and was the younger brother of James Hole, who is buried in St Leonard’s churchyard (see The Hole Family Part One). His father was a fisherman. Like his brother, he was intended for a life of shop-keeping and was apprenticed to a Hythe trader. He then went to London to establish his own business but failed several times and was declared bankrupt on 30 April 1827, when his wax and tallow chandlery in the Edgware Road was unsuccessful. After that, he kept an Italian warehouse in the same street. In 1822, he had married Harriet Whittaker.

A fellow-townsman lived nearby. He was Thomas Knowles, eleven years older than William and was the son of George and Ursula Knowles of Hythe. His father worked in the brewery. When young, Knowles was a footboy and afterwards a footman in London. He was declared insolvent in 1819 and again in 1825. In April 1829, he was admitted to a debtors’ prison in Whitecross Street as he owed one George Vincent £40. He was discharged as insolvent in August but did not leave prison until November. He then, with tears in his eyes, asked for a loan to redeem a suit of clothes from the pawnbroker. The governor lent him £4 9s. A few weeks later, the governor met him in the street, very smartly dressed and reminded him about the loan. He never got the money back. During this time, Knowles was living at 2  Lion Terrace Edgeware Road. He was married and had a son.

In 1836, Knowles and Hole set up the Independent and West Middlesex Assurance Company. This was a business for which they were entirely unfitted, but that was irrelevant.   Hole was the secretary. The directors included Knowles; George Williams, a solicitor who had been declared bankrupt in December 23 1832; and the appropriately named James Devereux Hustler, surgeon, who had been in the King’s Bench prison in January 1835 in ‘utter destitution’. Another dozen names were added to the official list, but these were, alas, all fictitious. George Edward Williams, the son of George Williams was the auditor and Knowles’s son worked as a clerk in the offices, which were in Portman Square, off Baker Street in London. It was, and is, a very grand location.

London’s Portman Square, little changed since the 1840s

A little later, more genuine (at least as far as their names were concerned) directors were taken on. Hole’s brother-in-law, William Whittaker, was one. Another was his wife’s sister’s husband, William Edward Taylor, a journeyman locksmith and bell-hanger. He was appointed a director and attended the office on Fridays. His job was to sign anything put in front of him and for this he was paid £80 a year. He was told to dress smartly and to wear rings on his fingers. Hole actually gave him a ring to wear to the office and docked his pay if he did not. Then there was George Wilson, who kept a school in Edgeware Road and applied to be a clerk at the firm. He was accepted and his name was placed on the list of directors. He also attended one day a week and signed policies and annuity deeds.

An advertisement (Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History)

The Company’s prospectus was lavish. They offered annuities at an astonishing 10% per annum and insurance policies. They claimed to have £1 million in funds, raised by selling shares at £50 each and that the Duke of Wellington was among their clientele.

Hole, Knowles, Williams and Hustler agreed to appropriate a certain number of shares to each of them for what they called their vested rights. They drew money on these and bought carriages and smart grey horses with the cash.  They settled shares on their respective wives, too.

Then Hole and the solicitor Williams fell out and there were mutual recriminations. Hole was eased out, but got an impressive golden handshake: £20,000 with an annuity of £600, the freeholds of houses in Gloucester Street, Surrey Place and Maida Vale and ‘a splendid silver cup with lid’. He went in 1839.

The next year, rumours started in the press that the company was not what it seemed. Hole was recalled. He asked for a statement of business since his departure and was told that the company had received £38,000-£40, 000 and it had all been spent. He refused to get re-involved.

Williams also retired from the business leaving it in the hands of Knowles and Hustler and went abroad. Hole was then persuaded to put his signature on two promissory notes for £500. Inevitably they were refused. Hole made it clear that he intended to leave the country and was promptly arrested. He spent a month in prison and his goods were seized and sold. He had put the property he had acquired in 1839 in trust for his wife and children, but this was overturned in court and the houses were forfeit, too.

Knowles disappeared. It was rumoured that he was abroad and that he had been seen playing ‘rouge et noir’ in Baden-Baden.

The gaming tables of Baden-Baden. Was this where Knowles spent his ill-gotten gains?

The business had been a sham from the start, though it did, occasionally, actually pay out on policies and annuities were paid until 1840. Many people lost their life savings. A Dr Harrison had been persuaded to part with £600 to buy an annuity, some of which was his wife’s. He said she died of a broken heart after the money was lost. A man called Thomas Higgs killed himself after losing £100. The company had issued over three thousand worthless policies and the total swindled was reckoned to be £300,000. The press called it an ‘atrocious system of robbery’, ‘villainous’ and ‘plunder’, though one journalist thought ‘it is most astonishing how any man in his senses could be lured into the gilded but clumsily baited snare’.

In 1842, Hole was sued by eleven investors who hoped to get their money back. He was found liable for £5000. He tried to avoid payment by claiming insolvency, saying he owed £80, 732. The case was dismissed.

William Hole died, destitute, in 1849. His widow Harriet, now fifty-nine, had little option but to go into service as a monthly nurse.

Frank Bourne- a modest hero

Frank Edward Bourne was perhaps an unlikely man to become a national hero, and to star, albeit posthumously in a blockbuster film. Born on 24 April 1853 to James, a labourer who took work wherever he could find it, and his wife Harriet, he was their eighth child and grew up in Balcombe, in Sussex (population in 1872, 880). Somehow, his mother managed to find space in their cottage to take in foster children. Frank must have gone to school, because as an adult he could read and write and helped his illiterate colleagues with their correspondence.

Life in Balcombe would not have offered anything other than a labourer’s life, and when he was eighteen, Frank joined the 24th Regiment of Foot at Reigate. He was paid six shillings a day, most of which was withheld for messing and washing. He was very quickly promoted  corporal and then sergeant and just after he was sent to South Africa in February 1878, he was promoted Colour Sergeant. He was still only twenty-four: privately, his men called him ’The Kid’ or sometimes ‘Boy Bourne’.

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Frank Bourne as a young man

In January 1879 the regiment, now the South Wales Borderers, was sent to Pietermaritzburg under the command of Lord Chelmsford. Thirteen companies, including Frank’s own ‘B’ company crossed the Buffalo River into Zulu country on 11 January. While the rest of the men carried on to engage the enemy, ‘B’ company was left behind at a mission post to guard the hospital stores. The mission was called Rorke’s Drift.

Frank’s ‘B’ Company

Chelmsford’s five-thousand-strong force was humiliatingly defeated by the Zulus at Isandlwana. The enemy then turned their attention to the mission. ‘B’ company, believing themselves to be safe, had done nothing to fortify the place. They made do with what they had – sacks of mealie ( Indian corn) and biscuit tins. They had about 150 fighting men plus some hospital patients.

One depiction of the Battle of Rourke’s Drift

The battle started at 4.30pm when the mission was attacked by between three and four thousand Zulu warriors. The attack continued all night. The Zulus departed the next morning shortly before the arrival of Lord Chelmsford’s relief column. Remarkably, only seventeen men of ‘B’ company had been lost. Of the survivors, eleven were awarded the Victoria Cross and four, of whom Frank was one, the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

The battle was headline news for months, every snippet of information being fed by the press to a public greedy for detail (and it has been suggested that the government encouraged this appetite, to gloss over the disastrous events at Isandlwana). The number of Zulus in the attack crept up to six thousand. One woman, an artist, wanted to paint the scene for the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition and had a miniature Rorke’s Drift built in her garden. Dozens of pictures have since been painted, the battle was  even turned into a war game and Rorke’s Drift into a tourist attraction.

A Rorke’s Drift war game set-up

That the battle is well-known to so many today is in part due to the 1964 film Zulu. Frank was played by Nigel Green, incongruously nearly a foot taller than the historical figure (Frank was only 5 feet 6 inches tall; Green was 6 feet 5 inches) and much older (Green was forty at the time compared to Frank’s twenty-four).

Nigel Green as Frank in ‘Zulu’. He is wearing an Indian Mutiny medal, from 1857, when Frank was four years old. 

For Frank, though, the aftermath was business as usual. As well as his DCM, which came with an annuity of £10, he was offered a commission, but turned it down as he could not afford the expense involved. He was sent to India and served in that country and Burma for the next fifteen years. On 27 September 1882, he married, in St Thomas’s Cathedral, Bombay (Mumbai), Eliza Mary Fincham. She had been born in Harwich, the daughter of a mariner.

St Thomas’s Cathedral, Mumbai – a splendid setting for a wedding

Their first son, Percy, was born hundreds of miles from Bombay, in Secunderabad, in 1883. The next son, Sydney, came into the world in Burma. At daughter, Beatrice was born on Boxing Day 1889 at Ranikhet, a hill station in Northern India.

The next year, Frank decided to take his commission, twelve years after it was offered. He was sent home, and his next child, another daughter, was born in Berkshire. Then, in May 1893, he was made adjutant of the School of Musketry in Hythe. It must have been a relief, to his wife at least, to have somewhere to call home.

The School of Musketry, Hythe, now demolished

The fourteen years in Hythe passed peacefully. Another daughter was born; Frank was promoted captain; his son Percy joined the Royal Navy Pay Office; Frank was promoted major and his son Sydney got a place at Christ’s Hospital School in London.

Frank in later life in a captain’s uniform

In 1907 Frank retired from the army. He seems, during his stay in Hythe, to have been modest about his South African adventure: the local press reported his role at Rorke’s Drift as part of a tribute when he left. He was also presented with a large oil painting of the battle, which he kept afterwards in his study.

He and Eliza retired to Beckenham, where he became assistant secretary of the National Miniature Rifle Club. ‘Miniature rifles’ were what is now called small bore rifles and their recreational use at small ranges had been encouraged after the Boer War in order, it was hoped, to produce a body of men who in the event of war would already be skilled marksmen.

Frank’s retirement did not last long. When war broke out in 1914, he went to the War Office and offered himself for active service but was told he was too old. Instead, he was sent to Dublin to run the new School of Musketry there. During this time he was responsible for training over 10,000 British and Irish marksmen and was rewarded at the end of hostilities with the honorary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and an OBE.

He went back to Beckenham and miniature rifles. Both his sons had served in, and survived, the war. Percy became a Commander in the Pay Service and Sydney a stockbroker in Newcastle. There was sadness when his second daughter, Constance, died in Beckenham in 1922 and his wife Eliza in 1931.

Frank moved in with his eldest daughter. Beatrice, who was married to an architect and ran a tea room in Dorking. He died on VE Day, 8 May 1945, the last survivor of the action  at Rorke’s Drift.

Frank’s grave in Beckenham cemetery. He is buried with Eliza and Constance

After his death, a blue plaque was put on Frank’s house in Beckenham

In 1936, Frank had given an interview to the BBC about his experiences at Rorke’s Drift. The original recording is not extant, but it was transcribed and can be read here:

http://www.rorkesdriftvc.com/defenders/tran.htm

 

 

Thomas Head Raddall, Father and Son

 

Thomas Head Raddall, senior and…                                                 Thomas Head Raddall, junior

Thomas Head Raddall senior was born in Hampshire on 6 December 1876, the only son of another Thomas, a draper’s assistant, and his wife Eleanor. He had four sisters.

His father seems to have had a nervous breakdown, attributed to alcohol abuse. The family left Hampshire and moved to West Ham. Young Thomas worked as a cashier in an office near St Paul’s Cathedral, where he ate his lunchtime sandwich each day until when he was just fourteen or fifteen, he enlisted in the Royal Marines as a drummer boy and was sent to the Royal Marines depot at Deal. He stayed there until just before his eighteenth birthday and during this time he met Ellen Marion Gifford (Nellie) of nearby Eastry, who was to become his wife.

The Royal Marines depot at Deal, now private housing

He then enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, Portsmouth Division on 18 October 1892 and saw service in the Far East from 1896 to 1900, cruising between Hong Kong, Weihaiwei in the north-east of China and Kobe and Nagasaki in Japan. Back in the UK, he married his Nellie on 23 September 1900 at Eastry. Their first child, a daughter, was born in Deal ten months later.

Thomas had been promoted and now applied for a post at the quaintly-named School of Musketry in Hythe. In fact, it now trained men in the use of modern rifles and machine guns. Thomas was himself a first-class marksman and he got the job and the rank of Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor. It was in the married quarters of the School that Nellie gave birth to a son, named Thomas Head Raddall for his father. The birth took place on Friday 13 November 1903, but Nellie, obviously a superstitious woman, always told her son he was born on 14 November. He was baptised at St Leonard’s church.

The School of Musketry in Hythe, since demolished

Young Thomas later remembered Hythe as a ‘sleepy watering place’. He learned to walk in the School’s Barrack square and attended the National School in the town, where in the library he became entranced by the stories of Fenimore Cooper with his Indians and Leatherstockings. Encouraged by his music-loving father, he went to piano lessons with ‘a little, ape-faced man’ who whacked his fingers with an ivory baton when he made a mistake.

Thomas senior, meanwhile, was realising that the School of Musketry, Hythe, the British army and Great Britain itself had little more to offer him and his family. The high spot of his time in the town had been his membership of the British rifle team at the London Olympics of 1908. He was full of ideas and wanted more opportunity for his children. When he was thirty-five, in 1913, he applied for a post in Canada as a firearms instructor for the militia and was successful. In May  that year, the little family – there was now another daughter – sailed for Halifax, Nova Scotia. Hythe was very civilised compared to the small wooden house without electricity in which they now lived.

War broke out in Europe the next year. Thomas senior enlisted on 22 September 1914. and got a commission in the Winnipeg Rifles. He was sent to France in 1915 but managed to stop in Hythe on the way to catch up with old friends. He was shot in the arm at Ypres and was the first wounded soldier to return to Nova Scotia but was soon back in France and in 1916 was promoted Captain. Wounded in 1917, he fought at Passchendaele, now as a major; by August 1918, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel.

He was killed on 9 August 1918 by machine-gun fire, in a wheat field while leading his men in an attempt to capture Hatchet Wood near Amiens. During his war, he had been mentioned in dispatches three times and awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He was buried in what was to become the Manitoba Cemetery, Caix and commemorated on the war memorial in Hythe.

Thomas’s name on the Hythe War Memorial

Nellie and her children meanwhile had narrowly escaped death in Nova Scotia when a French ship full of explosives blew up in Halifax harbour, destroying large parts of the town. Young Thomas’s school was temporarily the town mortuary for some of the two thousand people killed.

A street in Halifax after the explosion

Thomas senior’s death left his widow in worsened financial circumstances. Her only income was his army pension and since the explosion, everything necessary for life had rocketed in price. Thomas and his older sister had to leave school and get jobs. Thomas failed to get his first choice of work as a trainee reporter and took a training course to enable him to work as a wireless officer on merchant ships. He passed the course and started his career as a ‘sparks’ on the ss War Karma in 1919.

His mother, meanwhile, had gone back to Kent with her daughters, where she hoped her limited income would go further. They settled at Kingsdown, near Dover, but things did not work out. Many of her old friends had moved on, often the men had been killed in the war, and Kingsdown was so quiet that Ellen feared that the marriage and employment prospects for her daughters were limited. In 1921 they went back to Canada. The girls took typing and shorthand classes and got jobs in the city of Halifax.

Kingsdown in the 19th century

At nineteen, Thomas decided to leave the sea, went to business school and took a job as a book-keeper in a paper mill in Liverpool (Nova Scotia). While working there, he met and in 1927 married Edith Freeman. The next year their first child was stillborn.

In 1931, Thomas started writing. His first efforts, commissioned by his employer, were a series of small books on the history of Nova Scotia. These included advertising for the paper industry. Encouraged by their reception, he started writing short stories, which were also well received and gave him enough extra income to buy his house in 1935, by which time he had a small son and daughter.

At the outbreak of war, he tried to join up, but was told his wireless operating skills were out-dated, though he was commissioned as a reservist. He had now published his first novel, His Majesty’s Yankees and in 1943 signed a contract with Doubleday Doran for a second, Roger Sudden.

Thereafter, there was no looking back. He quit his job and became a full-time writer at forty. He was prolific and best known for his meticulously researched historical fiction. He received Governor General’s Awards for three of his books, The Pied Piper of Dipper Creek (1943), Halifax, Warden of the North (1948) and The Path of Destiny (1957) and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1971.

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The three prize-winning books by Thomas Head Raddall

In 1991 he endowed the he Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award to provide ‘the gift of time and peace of mind’ so essential to the creation of new work and which he himself had lacked in his early writing days. His family continues to support the award.

Thomas died on 1 April 1994. He was so esteemed in Canada that an exact replica of his study, furnished with his possessions, is on view at the Thomas Raddall Research Centre and his correspondence is housed at the Dalhousie University Archives.