James Watts: Becoming Respectable

James Watts,  the third son of James Watts senior, acquired most of his father’s arable and grazing lands after the latter’s death. He did not, though,  inherit it. His father’s will was rigorously fair. All his children, male or female, were to inherit an equal share of the rest of his estate. If James wanted the land, he was to be given first option to buy it at a price agreed by the executors and the profits then divided between all the children. When James senior made his will, in 1826, he had two sons older than James, but presumably saw in this third son the potential to make the most of the land and the business acumen to acquire the money needed.

James was born in 1806 and baptised in St Leonard’s church, Hythe, on 11 May that year. He was not entirely a chip off the old block. His father and brother were both active members of the local Conservative Club and outspoken members of Hythe Town council. James however, did not become a councillor until 1842, though he was, of course, a Conservative. In fact it seems that he left Hythe after his marriage for a while and lived in London, where his first two children were born in September 1837 and 1838. He was back in Hythe for the birth of the third child in 1839.

James was undoubtedly respectable. He did not spend fourteen hours a day in the saddle, or throw extravagant banquets like his father; nor get himself violently ejected from the council chamber or become bankrupt like his brother Edward. He became a coal merchant and grazier, and did his civic duty. He was mayor of Hythe no fewer than eleven times, none of which excited much comment in the local press beyond the platitudes of conventional congratulations.  His obituaries are bland. He was ‘competent’; ‘clear and straightforward;’ ‘able and impartial’. He carried on as president of the Hythe Annual Benefit Society, founded by his father, which supported sick townsmen unable to work, and bailed out his brother when he was in dire financial straits. He seems to have been, in short, a ‘safe pair of hands’, the sort of man absolutely necessary to the smooth running of local government.

He had married Charlotte Mount, the daughter of an Aldington grazier, on 6 April 1835. They had seven children, all of whom grew to adulthood. The girls were educated at home by a governess and Charlotte had a nurse for the youngest.  The boys were sent away to school.  But in March 1869, tragedy struck the family.

Their eldest daughter Ellen was also the epitome of small town respectability. She visited the poor; she deputised at St Leonard’s church when the regular organist could not play; she accompanied vocalists at concerts and sometimes sang herself; and she taught in Sunday School. That March day, when she was twenty-nine years old, she went out at about 10am to visit the sick. Crossing the Green, she borrowed a pencil from a carter’s boy, wrote in her notebook then continued across the town to Green Lane, which runs parallel to the canal. She walked further along its banks for a while, then just beyond a bend, drowned herself in four feet of water.B

 

                          The quiet stretch of the Royal Military Canal where Ellen Watts ended her life. 

Her body was found by a bargeman soon afterwards. Her family and friends were at a loss to explain why she had taken her own life. She had seemed happy the evening before, they said. The inquest jury brought in the inevitable verdict that she had committed suicide while of unsound mind. Her notebook was found on the canal bank, under a tree, together with her umbrella.  The note she had written with the borrowed pencil was her farewell to her family and was read in court:

Oh, forgive me dear Mama and Papa and all the dear ones. I have tried so hard to do my duty, but I cannot. I feel I am not like other people; everyone looks so good. But God will not leave you comfortless. Oh, how I have loved you all, dear ones.

James had a vault hastily constructed in St Leonard’s churchyard,  cut into the side of the hill, and after her funeral, which was attended by hundreds of people, Ellen’s coffin was placed in it. The vicar’s wife, Mrs Sangar, placed a wreath of white flowers on it, before the vault was sealed.

                           The badly weathered stone closure on the Watts vault in St Leonard’s Churchyard

Ellen had been the third child of Hannah and James Watts. Her oldest brother, another James, became a clerk to his uncle Edward Watts, but seems never to have qualified as a solicitor himself and later worked on the London Stock Exchange. He lived in Surrey but played first class cricket for Kent between 1855 and 1860 (as a Gentleman, of course).  The next brother, born the year before Ellen, Edward,  became a clerk in the War Office and also lived in Surrey. After Ellen came Bertha, who married Dr John Hackney, a GP with a practice in Hythe High Street. Then came Georgiana, who rather less respectably married a man who was a travelling salesman for Burtons Ales. He died young and she returned as a widow to Hythe. The next sister, Mary Amelia married Commander Arthur Mansell RN: they are both buried in St Leonard’s churchyard. Finally, the youngest, Duncan, became a solicitor and went, like his brothers, to live in Surrey.

James died suddenly in 1872 and was buried in the vault he had built for Ellen. Charlotte outlived him by seventeen years and joined him there in 1889.

After her death, her surviving children gave to St Leonard’s Church a parcel of land at the end of Stade Street, where the family home had stood,  to provide for the building of St Michael’s Church, a so-called iron church.   At this time Hythe was developing fast; hundreds of houses were built on the south side of the Royal Military Canal near to Stade Street, to which working class families were attracted because of their modest rents. The Church wanted to provide for these people and, for a time, ‘mission type’ services were held in the nearby National School.  Once the Watts family had donated the site, a former vicar, the Reverend F.T. Scott, offered to pay for the building and an appeal for funds to furnish the church met with a good response.

See the source image                                               St Michael’s Church, Hythe, the ‘Tin Tabernacle’ 

The  flat pack church was ordered and erected within months and furnished with a wooden altar and pews, gas lighting and a coke stove for the winter months.  It was consecrated as St Michael’s church on 19 September 1893 and has since been sympathetically restored and is a real landmark in the town. Unlike their decaying gravestones, it is a living memorial to the presence of the Watts family in Hythe.

Advertisements

Edward Watts, True Blue

Edward Watts was the second son of James and Hannah Watts, born in 1804, and became a solicitor, in partnership with a Mr Brockman. They had offices in Great Conduit Street, Hythe. In 1829, he was appointed Master Extraordinary in the Court of Chancery (responsible for taking affidavits for the court). At home, he became a town councillor, and like his father before him, a staunch Conservative.  Like his father, too, he could expect to remain a councillor for the rest of his life. However, he was living in interesting political times and this was not to be his future.

The Whig government of Lord Grey, having carried out reform of parliamentary constituencies in 1832, turned its attention to local government. A Royal Commission was appointed to investigate municipal boroughs. The Commission comprised eighteen men, nearly all Radicals, members of a loose political grouping who wanted to reform the way in which Great Britain was governed.  They came also to be known as Liberals. They investigated 285 towns, most of which were found wanting. As a result, the Municipal Corporations Act became law in 1835, requiring 178 town councils to reform their practices. Hythe was one of them.

Edward was by this time Town Clerk as well as a councillor. The Act specifically forbade this combination of offices and Edward resigned the councillorship. In January 1836, an election was called, the first in Hythe in which voting was along party political lines, Conservatives versus Liberals.  178 men were allowed to vote, and they voted in a Liberal majority. The Liberals also fielded a candidate for the post of Town Clerk, one George Sedgwick, another solicitor. He won the post, but the council were now faced with the fact that according to Edward’s contract, they had to buy him an annuity for life, which would, reportedly, use up all their funds for the next four years.  Rates would therefore have to increase substantially.

In May that year, Edward presented his claim for compensation. It was for £3306. 15s. 2d., about a quarter of a million pounds today. Voting had been close in the election, and there were claims that some men had been excluded from the list of voters erroneously. Edward acted for those among them who were Conservatives, and although the case failed he announced his intention of seeking a mandamus from the Court of King’s Bench to force the issue.

At the next annual election of councillors, late in 1836, Edward was voted in again as a town councillor. The council, however, for reasons which remain obscure, refused to accept this election as legal, and when Edward arrived at the council chamber to take his oath of office, the Mayor refused to hear it and told him to leave. Edward refused. The Mayor then instructed his constable, who was also the town gaoler, to eject him by force, and Edward was manhandled from the chamber.

Whether or not Edward sought a mandamus, we do not know, but he would not give up on the question of the Conservative voters who were disenfranchised in January 1836.  He got the MP for East Kent (a new constituency created by the Reform Act of 1832) to petition the House of Commons stating his case. There was no point in asking the Hythe MP to do this. Sir Stewart Marjoribanks was a Liberal himself.

See the source image

Sir Stewart Marjoribanks, MP for Hythe 1829-1837 and 1841-1847

Eventually, Edward won. Two Liberal councillors were charged with having ‘unlawfully, corruptly and designedly’ altered the borough’s rate book in no fewer that 300 cases to disenfranchise some men and give a vote to others (eligibility to vote was dependant among other things, on having paid all your rates). Their counsel’s only defence was that they were ‘ignorant and illiterate men’. They pleaded guilty and spent four months in Maidstone gaol.

Edward was reinstated as Town Clerk when George Sedgwick  failed to attend council meetings. He stayed in the post until his death over twenty years later. On 30 September 1840, in Reigate, he married Amelia Bunn, and the first of their nine children was born almost exactly a year later.

Legal matters aside, Edward was also very interested in the railways. He was one of the founder members of the Elham Valley Railway Company which wanted to run from Canterbury to Folkestone and worked tirelessly to bring the railway to Hythe, although he did not live to see the opening of either line.

See the source image

The site of part of the Elham Valley Railway which operated from 1887 to 1947 and is now a pleasant footpath.

                    The opening of Hythe Station. The line from Sandling was open from 1874 to 1951

Edward steered clear of further controversy, and now seemed to be living the respectable life of a small town solicitor and family man. Except that in 1855, he was declared bankrupt, owing over £90,000. This he attributed in court to heavy losses in the building of his new house,the depreciation of property and debts owing to him amounting to £27,000. The new family home was put on the market.  It had an acre of land, coach house and stabling, drawing room, dining room, library and eight bedrooms. Edward, rather than being sent to a debtor’s prison was given bail with sureties, presumably from his brother James,  and went to live in Islington but his family stayed in Hythe, in Marine Parade.  He was discharged as a bankrupt in 1856, returned to Hythe and continued to practice as a solicitor and act as Town Clerk.

However, the bankruptcy would not go away. In 1855, Edward had arranged a mortgage for a Mr Green, in which a friend of his, a Rev’d Formby advanced the money. Formby passed the cash to Edward, who delayed before passing it to Green and when he was declared bankrupt, the money was included in his assets. His brother, James, repaid Formby, but in 1858 the Reverend gentleman applied to the Court of Chancery to have Edward struck  off. The Lord Chancellor disagreed, but awarded costs against Edward. On his return to Hythe, the horses were taken out of his carriage and it was pulled through the street by delighted townsmen while the town band played and cheering crowds lined the streets.

The rest of Edward’s life was, as far as we know, quiet, though not without sadness.  Two sons, Ernest Edward and William Benjamin, died young at eleven years and a few months respectively. Asthmatic all his life, an attack of bronchitis eventually proved fatal for Edward and he died on 1 June 1867 aged sixty-two.

His family erected an impressive obelisk over his grave, with space enough for all his family’s names. It is, however, badly weathered, and only Edward’s name and the names of the sons who died as children can, just, be deciphered.

Of his three daughters, Matilda remained single; Josephine married Horatio Case and Alice married firstly Sir Edward Hay Drummond-Hay, the former Governor of St Helena and secondly Henry John Maxwell. The second son Albert became a solicitor in Wimbledon; the third, Percy, went to Ceylon as a tea planter and died there at the age of thirty-six; and the two youngest, Montague and Herbert became clerks in the Metropolitan Water Company and lived in Surrey.

After his death his widow moved with her youngest children to Westminster. She lived latterly with Matilda in Putney where she died in 1897

A Desperate Wife

 

In/loving memory of/Henry Rees/ (of Marine Parade Hythe)/who died September 20th 1880/aged 68 yearsAlso of/Zillah Anne/wife of the above named/Henry Rees/who fell asleep in Jesus/ Novr 29th 1893./aged 79 years
“ Not gone from memory or from love/but to her Father’s home above”
And of Josephus Chapman Rees/son of the above/who died April 8th 1900/aged 49 years

Henry Rees was born in Huntington, then part of Radnorshire, now in Herefordshire. His parents were Thomas Rees and Mary nee Evans. Thomas Rees was a distinguished scholar and independent minister of religion who arrived in the district in 1802. He wrote that he found the ‘moral and spiritual state of the neighbourhood truly deplorable’ and promptly set about preaching to convert locals to the paths of righteousness. This was not always well-received: while speaking at Gladrestry a bull was set loose among the crowd of listeners and at Eardisley, in 1804, he was shot at. He eventually, however, had charge of two chapels, at Huntington and nearby Gore, and was appointed schoolmaster of Goff’s School, a charitable foundation which used part of Huntington chapel as the schoolrooms. It had about seventy pupils.

The chapel and school at Huntington

Henry was the oldest son of Thomas and Mary, though there were at least six other children, and he also became a minister of religion. When his father died on 14 May 1858, he succeeded him in both his ministerial and school posts. This continued until Autumn 1861, when accusations were made against him, specifically that he had ‘behaved in an ill manner towards one of his pupils, a young girl’. The trustees of the charity, who ran the school, dismissed him from his position as master and he was expelled from his churches over what was described as ‘a matter of great imprudence.’


Henry and Zillah, his wife, sold up everything, including all their household effects, and moved to Hythe, where Zillah’s parents had retired.

Henry had married Zillah Anne Chapman on 29 March 1850. She had been born in Gravesend on 28 April 1814, the only son of Josephus and Susanna Chapman nee Martin. Her father, too, was an independent minister of religion, who baptised his daughter and conducted her wedding ceremony. He was, like Thomas and Henry Rees, both minister and schoolmaster at the chapel in Princes Street, Gravesend, which had two schoolrooms. After their marriage, Henry and Zillah lived with Henry’s parents in Huntington. They had two sons, Josephus and Henry, and a daughter, another Zillah.

Once in Hythe, the couple lived at West Parade, with their daughter – the boys were away at Shireland Hall School in Harborne, which accepted the sons of clergy of all denominations

West Parade, Hythe

Henry became the minister of the Ebenezer Chapel in Hythe, although he resigned from this position in January 1866 for undisclosed reasons. The congregation presented him with ten pounds, as a parting gift. He continued for a while to call himself a minister, though he had, in fact, became a rate collector, working for the town council. Had he lost his faith, or had the scandal followed him to Hythe? There is no way of knowing. From subsequent events, however, it seems that he had again strayed from the straight and narrow path.

In 1875, Zillah petitioned for divorce.

In 1875, divorce was not respectable. It was particularly unrespectable for the daughter of a minister of religion who was the wife of another minister to accuse her husband of adultery and either cruelty or desertion, for those were the criteria which had to be met for a woman to obtain a divorce (men had only to prove adultery). In fact, this possibility had only been available since 1857: before that it took an act of parliament to legally separate a couple. Zillah must have been desperate to take such an extreme step, but it was to no avail. She was unable to prove her case and it was dismissed the following year. However, she had not long to wait for her freedom.

In his later years, Henry suffered from heart disease. Out walking with one of his sons after supper on a September evening in 1880, he suffered a heart attack and died immediately.

After Henry’s death, Zillah remained at Hythe for a while, letting out rooms to make ends meet, though either her husband or her father, who died in 1879, had left her an annuity. Her lodgers, though, were refined ladies: Mary Guyon and her sister Elizabeth Barr, who had recently moved to the town from Bath. Mary was the widow of Lt. Col. Henry Guyon of the Bengal Army who had died in 1879. Elizabeth was a maiden lady. The sisters brought with them their nurse.

Zillah had rooms to spare because her children had flown the nest. Josephus and Henry had by 1880 set up in business in Witham, near Braintree in Essex, and their sister Zillah joined them as their housekeeper. Josephus had served an apprenticeship with a draper in Fareham, Hants. Once settled in the little town, Henry also acted as honorary organist at the Congregational church, but Josephus, meanwhile, seems to have defected to the Church of England. He attended Vestry meetings and was appointed as a parish overseer of the poor in 1882. Zillah, at least for the present, stayed true to her non-conformist roots and, in 1881, married Francis Richard Wheatley (‘Frank’), another draper, in the independent chapel at Witham. They lived with her brothers at their premises in the High Street.

The chapel at Witham where Henry was organist and where his sister married.

In 1888, Josephus and Henry moved to Newbury, Berkshire, where they set up again as drapers. Their mother joined them there: her lodgers had found permanent accommodation in Hillside Street, Hythe.
The Wheatleys, with their two children, moved to Lowestoft and set up their own, much larger drapery business. They were well off enough to employ a nurse for the children and two live-in servants as well as six assistants. It seems that they, too, changed their religious allegiances. In his later years, Frank was a churchwarden at the Anglican parish church

The Newbury stay was a short one. In about 1892, Josephus and Henry moved again, to Leamington in Warwickshire. Zillah, their mother, died there soon afterwards. The brothers opened another drapery in Warwick Street, this time specialising in black cloth of all sorts, which was useful for mourning, and also for maids’ outfits.

 

But Josephus died aged 49 in 1900, leaving Henry to carry on the business alone. He still traded as ‘Rees Brothers,’ but moved to different premises further down the road and changed his approach. The black fabrics were gone, and now he stocked ladies’ underwear and baby linen.

By 1911, his business seemed to be thriving, and he had five live-in assistants.  Like his brother Josephus, Henry did not marry.

He died in 1939 in Lothingland, Suffolk, the same registration district where his sister, Zillah Wheatley, had died three years previously.

The Preacher


IMG_20180413_103033

Almost hidden behind an old yew tree, the grave of the much-married Benjamin Sackett with its straightforward inscription:

Benjamin Sackett/b. 6 June 1811/d. 8 June 1885
Wesleyan local preacher 54 years
Mary Ann first wife/d. 18 Nov 1842
Lucy second wife/d. 4th March 1868
Emily third wife/ b. 11 May 1835/d. 8 March 1920
Wesleyan Sunday School teacher/60 years

Benjamin Sackett was born in St Lawrence, Thanet on 6 June 1811. His birth name was Benjamin Sackett Cox and he was the result the result of a union between another Benjamin Sackett and Ann Cox. His mother died in childbed, and he was taken in by his paternal grandparents, Jeremiah and Hannah. Nine of their own twelve children had died in infancy.
Jeremiah and Hannah were comfortably off. When he died, Jeremiah owned three houses as well as his own home in Sackett’s Hill, where the family had lived for generations and which can still be found in Broadstairs. It is only a ‘hill’ in Thanet terms, as it rises only a little above the flat landscape of the area.

Sackett’s Hill from the air (Google Maps)

Benjamin’s grandmother died in 1816 when he was only five, and his father married in 1815. It would seem unlikely that his wife would have wanted too much contact with an illegitimate by-blow. After a basic education at a day school, Benjamin was apprenticed to a miller, Henry Hudson, who had a windmill in Grange Road, about four miles from his grandparent’s home.

Henry Hudson’s Windmill later in the nineteenth century

 

During his apprenticeship, he started to attend the Wesleyan Chapel in Broadstairs, and when he was about eighteen years old, according to his son, he found ‘deliverance and joy and a greater love towards God.’ He started preaching soon afterwards, his first sermon being at his old school, where he spoke on the text ‘Almost Thou Persuadest Me to be a Christian’.

On 19 January 1934, now a fully-fledged miller, Benjamin married Mary Ann Cooper of Whitstable in St George the Martyr church, Ramsgate. It was an Anglican church. Although he had now become a Methodist, and although Methodists now worshipped separately from the Church of England, it would be another three years until couples could legally marry in a Methodist chapel. Benjamin and Mary Ann could not wait that long, since she was already three months pregnant. At his marriage, Benjamin used his legal name, Cox, for the last time. Henceforth, he was plain Benjamin Sackett, and all his children were baptised with that surname. Thanet was a long way from Hythe in early nineteenth century terms, and there was no reason why anyone in his new home should know about his unfortunate start in life.

Benjamin had found work in Hythe, working for Mr Horton, who owned several windmills, three in Hardway’s End (now St Leonard’s Road) and one in Windmill Street. This Mr Horton died the next year, but his son, and later his grandson continued with the business and Benjamin stayed with them for the next fifty years.

The Hope Inn in Stade Street, Hythe, with one of Mr Horton’s mills in the background

 

Benjamin and Mary Ann’s first son, another Benjamin, was born on 3 June 1834, followed by Jeremiah, named for his grandfather, on 10 December 1836. That year Benjamin senior  was admitted to the Dover Methodist Circuit as a lay preacher, and two weeks after his son’s birth, was out preaching on Christmas Day, getting lost in a snowstorm into the bargain.

A third son, Jabez, was born in 1841, but the next year, Mary Anne died giving birth to a daughter, Caroline, who within a week followed her mother to the grave. Benjamin needed a substitute mother for his sons, and found one in Lucy Lee, ten years his senior, whom he married in 1844. She became, again according to his son, ‘a true helpmeet for him, and an excellent mother to his children.’

He was certainly in need of one, as he had no leisure time at all. He worked long hours at the mill, six days a week, and Sundays were devoted to preaching. He would think nothing of a twenty-mile walk to a chapel.

His sons all grew up, and all became preachers, too. The eldest, Benjamin, became first a gardener and later a Congregational minister in London. The second, Jeremiah, started work with his father at the mill when he was twelve and also became a miller, though at a bad time: windmills were being abandoned in favour of steam mills. Eventually he moved to Manchester to work as a Missioner. Jabez, the youngest, became a school teacher in Rye and Yorkshire and later moved to Guernsey. All had numerous offspring.


Clockwise from top left: Benjamin Sackett jnr;  Jeremiah Sackett & his children; Jabez Sackett (The Sackett Family Association) 

After Lucy’s death in 1868, Benjamin married for a third time, to Emily Day, a Hythe woman. On Saturday 17 May 1885, aged seventy-four, he walked five miles to fulfil an appointment the next day. During the night he was taken ill and returned home on the following Wednesday. He died quietly, at home, in the early morning of 8 June 1885.
Emily, who was twenty years his junior, survived him by thirty-five years. She had taught at the Methodist Sunday School since she was a girl, and only gave up a year before her death, aged eighty-five in 1920.
She is buried in the same grave as Benjamin. Mary Ann,and Lucy lie elsewhere but are memorialised on the same stone.

 

The Cobays Part 2 – Ontario and Hythe

Margaret Cobay, the eldest child and only surviving daughter of George and Hannah Cobay, married Charles Donatus Bailey on 15 November 1871 in Hythe.  He described himself on the marriage certificate as a gentleman, though he had told the census enumerator a few months earlier that he was an innkeeper, and, in fact, he was landlord of the White Hart in Hythe High Street. He was the son of a plumber and had been born in Hythe. The couple had three children in the next five years, although two died as infants and then Charles died, aged only thirty-eight, in 1876. Early the following year, Margaret gave birth to their fourth child, a daughter. She moved back to live with her father at 40 (now 86) High Street, Hythe with her two daughters and lived there for the rest of her life. Her daughters, Frances and Ellen, both married and her brother Henry moved in after her father’s death. She died aged seventy-seven on 6 August 1916.

86 High Street, Hythe, the former Cobay home.

George, the firstborn son of George and Hannah Cobay, was born in Cephalonia on 4 July 1843. In 1865, he applied to join the Inland Revenue, but needed to prove evidence that he was in good heath. A Hythe physician, Charles Fagge, wrote to the Revenue to say that he had examined George and that he was free from any defects or diseases.

He was duly appointed as an excise officer, and worked in Maidstone. However, he had perhaps inherited his father’s wanderlust, as he is next heard of in Ontario, Canada, where, on his thirtieth birthday, he got married. He took a couple of years off his age, perhaps to disguise the discrepancy between his age and that of his bride. Esther Geraldine Hoyt was only seventeen when they married on 4 July 1873.  She was the daughter of Samuel and Emmeline Hoyt. George said he was a ‘baggage master’.  The couple married in Brantford, a tiny settlement with a population in 1869 of  700. It did, however, have a railway station, which is perhaps where George worked.

Brantford Ontario in 1875, when George Cobay junior lived there (www. history.map.com)

They had two children, Mildred Edina Margaret in 1875 and George Robert in 1877, but sometime in the next three years George died.  By 1880 Esther has moved back into her father’s home, a widow. Only little George Robert is with her, so probably her daughter also had died.  She married again in 1882 and had other children.

George Robert grew up and married, moved to Toronto and had children of his own.

John Cobay, the fourth child of George and Hannah, first tried his hand at farming, at Palm Tree Farm, Lyminge, a village not far from Hythe. He was there when he married Julia Burch, a miller’s daughter, at Newington parish church on 27 November 1872, and his daughter Louisa Julia was born there in 1873. Another daughter, Lizzie Ethel was born the following year. By 1881, however, John had taken on the licence of the White Hart inn, vacated when his brother-in-law Charles Bailey died. Here he remained until his death.

The White Hart in Hythe

A frequent customer was the author Joseph Conrad, who lived at nearby Postling in the early years of the twentieth century. He was sometimes visited there by Ford Madox Ford who accompanied him on his weekly trips into Hythe in a pony and trap. Ford in his memoir describes how at the White Hart

the benign, dark, statuesque and really beautiful Miss Cobay presided in the dimmer recess of that very old tavern.

He says that Louisa was

…invariably silent. The writer at least never heard her utter one word, except that, years after, motoring through that ancient Cinque Port, the writer, for old time’s sake, took a drink at the bar of the White Hart, and Miss Cobay with her enigmatic gaze asked after Mr. Conrad.

 

Image result for joseph conrad

Joseph Conrad

Ford Madox Ford

 

After refreshments, the pair would often continue to Sandgate, to visit their friend H G Wells who had a house there.

John died in 1907, of influenza. Julia, with Louisa’s help, continued to run the White Hart after his death for at least four years. Her brothers regularly held their auctions there.

Lizzie had married, in 1894, Stephen Katinakis at St Leonard’s church in Hythe and moved to Devon. By 1939, she was widowed and she and Louisa, who never married, lived together with Ethel’s only daughter, Betty, in Wiltie Gardens, Folkestone.

 

The ornate but now nearly illegible grave of Charles Donatus Bailey & his family. The inscription reads:

In memory of/Charles Donatus Bailey/who died illegible June 1876/aged 38 years
Also Charles illegible/son of the above/who died 5th April 1875 aged illegible months
Also Ellen Elizabeth illegible/who died 8th June 1876/aged 10 months
Remainder illegible

 

And next to it the grave of John and Julia Cobay. Their inscrptions says:

In loving memory/of/John Cobay/died 21st January 1907/in his 62nd year
Also Julia his wife/born Dec 20th 1846/died Jan 19th 1927

 

To be continued…

The Cobays Part 1 – A Lincolnshire Lad

As the seventeen-year-old George Cobay left his Lincolnshire village on a cold February day in 1833, could he, an illiterate labourer, have imagined that he would live into the next century, that he would become Speaker of the Cinque Ports, that three of his sons would be mayors of Hythe, that two of them would have businesses in London’s exclusive Bond Street or that he himself would die full of honours and that a Baronet would send a wreath to his funeral? Probably not. What he clearly had though was a desire to see more of the world than Claypole (population 593) could offer.

George was born on 3 October 1815 in Claypole. He started his working life as a labourer, but when he was seventeen he joined the army, making his mark on his attestation papers – he could not write. He served in the 19th Regiment of Foot, where he rose in 1843 to the rank of Sergeant and his character and conduct were judged to be excellent. Judging by his later career, he must also have learned to write. He spent over ten years abroad, in the Mediterranean, the West Indies and North America before being discharged as unfit after twenty-one years in 1854. He was then thirty-nine and was diagnosed as having ‘chronic rheumatism originating and caused by length of service and constitutional infirmity’. George was five feet six inches tall, with hazel eyes and a sallow complexion.

Presumably some of his service in the United Kingdom was in Ireland, because by the time he was twenty-four he was married to Hannah, a Co. Cork woman. She travelled with him on his postings. Her eight children were born in Dublin, Malta, Canada, Cephalonia, at sea in the Mediterranean, Winchester and the last in Hythe, where the family settled immediately George left the army.

Why Hythe? The link is the new School of Musketry in the town. Colonel Hay, the first Commanding Officer, who arrived in the town in June 1853, had appointed that August the first instructor, Sergeant MacKay of the 19th Foot. He was the same rank and from the same Regiment as George. They must have been known to each other. Did Sergeant McKay recommend the place to George? Or recommend George to Colonel Hay? Quite possibly. At any rate, George took the civilian post of mess master at the School.

Image result for school of musketry hythe kent

By 1861 he had acquired the licence of the Swan Hotel in the High Street. It was a large coaching inn and likely to profit from the large numbers of officers and NCOs visiting the town. It was also conveniently situated near the Town Hall and could provide dinners and banquets for civic functions.

He prospered, becoming as well as a landlord,  a landowner. He acquired a parcel of land off Donkey Street on the Romney Marsh and started to call himself a grazier rather than an innkeeper. In 1877 he was able to give Hythe Cricket Club his land next to Ladies Walk in the town. That was the year that Hannah died, aged only fifty-six.

Six of her eight children had survived to adulthood, though two infant daughters, Mary, born in Malta and Maria, born in Quebec, did not. She had seen the eldest three, Margaret, George and John married. The three younger sons, Henry, William and Robert, were well on the way to becoming successful business men, and she had become a grandmother.

George had also become a Town Councillor  in the 1860s, retiring in 1898, and a JP – he was still on the bench only four months before his death.  He was mayor of Hythe in 1881 and 1882 and Speaker of the Cinque Ports in 1882. He was, according to the local newspaper, greatly respected in these roles as well as in private life. His illness was reported in the papers in early August 1900. Until then, he had been in robust good health and enjoyed taking long walks. The chronic rheumatism of his army days seems to have been cured by Hythe’s sea air. His funeral was a grand affair at St Leonard’s church, attended by the great and good of Hythe, and graced by a wreath from the town’s MP, Edward Sassoon, Bart.

The grave of Robert and Hannah Cobay and of their three unmarried sons, Henry, William and Robert. The inscription reads:

In/affectionate/remembrance/of/Hannah the beloved wife of/George Cobay/who died 27th June 1877/aged 56 years
Also of George Cobay/husband of the above/who died 12th August 1900/in his 85th year
Also of Henry Thomas Cobay/son of the above/who died 30th November 1903/in his 50th year
Also of their sons/William Richard Cobay/died 26th March 1920, in his 68th year
And/ Robert Cobay/died 9th May 1924 in his 67th year

To be continued…

‘Tim’ Shelford and His Daughters

 

Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he comes finds watching St Luke XII
In/memory/of/Thomas Shelford C.M.G./late of Singapore/died 12th January 1900, aged 60
Born at Preston Suffolk/died at Guildford Surrey
Also of Jessie Fullarton Shelford/wife of the above/died 29th March 1928. aged illegible
Also of Gwen More Shelford/born 21st Sept 1877/died 12th Dec 1961
Also of/Edith Shelford/died 5th February 1953. aged 73

 

Thomas Shelford was born on 23 November 1839, the fifth child and third son of William Heard Shelford, rector of Preston, Suffolk, and his wife Emily Frost Shelford, nee Snape, the daughter of another rector. His elder brothers William and Leonard became an engineer and a clergyman respectively, but Thomas was delicate, with a weak chest, and when his father died in 1856, he moved with his mother to Bury St Edmunds. She maintained him and his five younger siblings on income from her properties.

In 1861 or ’62, however, he travelled to South Africa and then on to Singapore, arriving in 1863. He joined a firm of merchants as an assistant, but, by the time of his retirement had become a partner and a significant player in Singapore’s civic and political life. Known to his friends as ‘Tim’, he became in 1872 Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and its representative in the Legislative Council of Singapore and later part-funded the re-launch of the daily newspaper the Singapore Free Press. He was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1892, a rare honour outside the civil service and the military

The town hall in Singapore

He married firstly Flora Hastings Lawrie, on 24 December 1867 at St Andrew’s church Singapore.

St Andrew’s church, Singapore

She was the daughter of George James and Laura Lawrie, who are both buried in St Leonard’s Churchyard, Hythe. They had five children before her death on 24 August 1873. She died, aged only thirty-two, while visiting her parents in Ayrshire, shortly after giving birth to a daughter.
‘Tim’ remained a widower for eleven years, before marrying another Scotswoman, Jessie Fullarton Baird in 1876. She was the daughter of Alexander Baird and Margaret nee Cowan, and was born in Ochiltree, Ayrshire, where her father was a cattle dealer and innkeeper.

‘Tim’ Shelford retired in 1897 and returned with his wife and the couple’s two daughters to the UK, where they lived in Guildford.  Apparently his wife and daughters could not adapt to life in the East.  Why he is buried in St Leonard’s remains a mystery. His former parents-in-law, the Lawries were dead and buried in St Leonards, and his first wife’s sister, Annie Adair Mackeson was still alive and living in the town. After her husband’s death, Jessie and her daughters also moved there, living at a house called ‘Holmwood’ and later at another called ‘The Dentalls.’

Mary Gwenmore Shelford (known as ‘Gwenmore’) was born 21 Sept 1877 in Wandsworth, the elder daughter of Thomas Shelford and his second wife, Jessie. Her younger sister, Edith, was born in the Straits Settlement of Malaysia. When the family moved to Hythe after their father’s death, Gwenmore and Edith both became Sunday School teachers at St Leonard’s church, and set up a children’s library there.

In early January 1907, notices appeared in the press announcing the engagement of Gwenmore to the Revd. Frank Hay Gillingham, a military chaplain and first-class cricketer who played for Essex. The marriage never took place. Frank eventually married someone else, but Gwenmore did not.

During the First World War she worked with the V.A.D at the Bevan Hospital in Sandgate as assistant to the Keeper of Linen (her sister Edith) for twenty-six hours a week for the duration. She died in Hythe, where she had been living at the Imperial Hotel. Edith had predeceased her by eight years.


In/loving memory of/Robert Lawrence St Colum Bland/born 22nd October 1905/died 26th January 1907
“Not my will but Thine be done”

Laura, the older half-sister of Gwenmore and Edith had married Captain Robert Norman Bland. They lived in Singapore where Robert was Resident Councillor of Malacca. Robert junior was their third child, and died during a visit to the UK. He and his mother were staying at Saltwood Gardens in Hythe. He is buried next to his grandfather and not far from his maternal great-grandparents George James and Laura Lawrie.

The Jeweller’s Son and the IRA

JCibbie
Cibbie/In loving memory/of/our darling son/Cyril Ball Ninnes/born January 21st 1892/died September 9th 1904
In every heart he knew fond love/a sanctuary in every human face/and when God missing him in Heaven said come/it did not seem a solitary place/I think he only flushed in sweet surprise/to see the golden floor beneath his eyes
In loving memory/of/Basil Evelyn St Clair Ninnes/who died at Sandgate/April illegible 1933 aged 39 years
In memory of/Antonia Frances Ninnes/died June 4th 1941
In memory of/Frederick Ninnes/who died 3rd August illegible/aged illegible
R.I.P.
Of such is the kingdom of Heaven

Benjamin Frederick Ninnes  was born in Tunbridge Wells, the son of James Walker Ninnes, a watchmaker, and his wife Frances. Benjamin also became a watchmaker, and at about the time of his marriage, set up shop at 32 (later 64) High Street Hythe.

Ninnes Ad

 

He expanded his business to include silver and gold smithing, providing medals and buttons to, among others, the army and the Metropolitan Police. He also dealt in antiques, counting the author Joseph Conrad, who for a time lived at Pent Farm in nearby Postling,  among his regular customers. He donated a silver challenge bowl to Hythe Golf Club. He died in Hythe in 1927.

He had married Antonia Frances Ball ,  the eldest child of William St James Ball, an army captain and Queen’s Foreign Service Messenger, and his wife Priscilla.  She was baptised in Richmond, Surrey, on 8 April 1869. The fact of her father’s occupation was clearly important to Antonia: she included it on the memorial to her older son in St Leonard’s Church and in the obituary to her younger son in the local newspaper. Antonia kept at least the antiques side of her husband’s business going after his death and took up golf and, in her fifties,  driving a motor car, though she was fined for dangerous driving in 1933

Cyril Ball Ninnes was the elder of the sons of Benjamin and Antonia Ninnes. He was born and died in Hythe, baptised on  27 Feb 1892 at St Leonard’s and buried at the same church on 12 Sept 1904. The gravestone in the churchyard bears the legend ‘Cibbie’. a contraction of his initials, CB.  He is also commemorated on a plaque on the south wall of the nave.

Cibbie2

 

The family lived at 5, Hillside Terrace in the town and Cyril was apparently educated at home by a governess. Perhaps he was a sickly child. He died at home.

The second son, Basil Evelyn St Clair Ninnes was born on 24 January 1895 in Hythe and was baptised in St Leonard’s church on 16 April that year. He was educated at Hazlewood school, where he played football and cricket for the school and was a chorister.
On 5 January 1908, he entered the Royal Naval College Osborne and at Christmas 1909 went on to the Royal Naval College Dartmouth where he excelled at cricket and hockey. He left in 1911 for a posting to the armoured cruiser HMS Cornwall which went on a six-month cruise of the Canary Islands, the West Indies and of North America before returning in July 1912. A month later he was posted to HMS King Edward VII, was appointed as a Midshipman in the Royal Navy on 15 September 1912 and was sent to Malta. His naval records show that while he was average at most things, he was regarded as a steady young man who would make a good officer.

However, back in the UK in he became ill and was admitted to Chatham Hospital in 1914, where he was treated for suspected TB. He was invalided out of the Navy in March 1915, but made a short-lived recovery and was commissioned as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant in the Administrative Branch of the Royal Air Force in June 1918. He was sent to France in October, but was almost immediately injured. Although he had hoped for a permanent commission, the return of ill-health meant that he was transferred to the Unemployed List on 6 September 1919.

He returned to his parent’s home the Blue House in Hillside Street, Hythe. What he did for the next year is unclear. It is possible he helped his father in the business. However, in December 1920 he joined the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (ADRIC). This was a para-military police unit, which with very few exceptions, accepted only ex-officers from the British Army (or one of the Empire armies). They served as separate units from the Royal Irish Constabulary, which had little control over them. ADRIC should not be confused with the Black and Tans, which was made up of ex-British Other Ranks and served as part of the RIC.

Ninnes - ADRIC

In 1921 Basil was serving in Ireland with ‘L’ Company of the Auxiliaries which was stationed at West Muskerry, County Cork. The Company had to drive twice a week to Banteer to pick up supplies and drove the same route each time. A local unit of the Irish Republican Army had noted their routine and prepared an ambush for them. On 16 June 1921 the IRA men let the first convoy of the day pass by and return unhindered. The second convoy was also allowed to pass, but the ambush was arranged at the village of Rathcoole for their return. The convoy consisted of four vehicles and twenty-five personnel. Basil was travelling in the second vehicle. At 7.30pm the four lorries were passing through the ambush area on their return journey when three landmines, which had been placed on the road, exploded. One mine detonated as the last of the four lorries drove over it, a second mine was then detonated under the second vehicle in the convoy, and the final mine detonated under the leading vehicle which had turned around to go back to assist. A firefight developed. Most of the IRA positions were to the south of the road, but two sections were to the north to prevent the Auxiliaries using the walls on that side as shelter. The engagement lasted until about 9.45pm, when a stalemate was reached and the IRA withdrew without having sustained any casualties. Two Auxiliaries had died during the attack and a number had been badly injured, including Basil.
He was awarded £2000 compensation and went back to Hythe. He was still only twenty-six years old.
He maintained his links with the military, becoming club secretary of the Royal Air Force Club in Piccadilly, despite his very short association and continued to used his military rank of second lieutenant. In 1928 he became Secretary of the Folkestone Greyhound Racing Company, which was hoping to take a lease on fourteen acres of land off Danton Road, Cheriton, near Folkestone to build a track, complete with a ‘motor parking ground’. It was to open in 1929 and provide accommodation for ten thousand visitors. Greyhound racing in the area had previously been held at Westenhanger, but was stopped at the outbreak of war. The plan met with some local resistance on the grounds that it encouraged gambling, but in any event, the company seems to have collapsed within a very short time, and greyhound racing did not return to the area until the nineteen forties.

Ninnes greyhound 3 march 1928
In 1930 he married, in London, Ida Henrietta Blyth Tanare. Ida was the daughter of a local hotel manager and town councillor, James Tanare, who until his death had run with his wife the Royal Kent Hotel in Sandgate, near Hythe. Now Ida and her mother Sarah ran it together. Basil moved in with them at the hotel, which seems not to have been one of the most up-market outfits in the little town, its advertising being mostly based on its proximity to Shorncliffe camp, the nearby military base. By now, ill-health had forced his resignation as the RAF club’s secretary, and it was at the Royal Kent Hotel that he died on 7 April 1933.

Royal-Kent-Hotel-1908-Sandgate

Ida never remarried, but gave up the hotel business and ran an antiques shop in Folkestone. She died in 1952.

 

More Mackesons – and a Scottish Poet

The simple gravestone of the founder of Madras Christian College and his wife

In/memory/of/ George James Lawrie,D.D./Minister of Monkton, Ayrshire, born at Loudon Oct. 10th 1796/died at Hythe Feb. 14th 1878

And of Laura Louisa, his wife,/who died at Hythe April 25th 1896/ aged 91 years

George James Lawrie was the eldest son of Archibald Lawrie a minister of the Church of Scotland and Ann M’Kittrick Adair. He won an Exhibition to the University of Glasgow, where he gained his D.D. and became a Presbyter of the Church of Scotland at St Andrew’s Church, Madras (now Chennai) in November 1823.

St Andrew’s Church, Chennai, which was consecrated in 1821

He was Presbyter-in-charge from 1824 to 1839, but evidently found time to travel about the sub-continent and to meet Laura Louisa Ludlow, the second daughter of Samuel Ludlow F.R.C.S., Residency Surgeon of Delhi. The family lived there in a house built by her father locally nicknamed ‘Ludlow Castle’. She married George James Lawrie on 21 Aug 1827 at Calcutta.

‘Ludlow Castle’, Delhi

There, he and a colleague founded a school for boys, which originally had fifty-nine pupils, but has since expanded to become Madras Christian College, with a 365-acre campus and a huge student population.

Part of the present-day campus of Madras Christian College

On 11 January 1839, George resigned his post, and returned to take up the incumbency at Monkton, where he is remembered as being ‘sensible, upright, and kind-hearted, but possessed of a highly-cultured mind.’  Both his father and grandfather had been literary friends of Robert Burns, and George wrote, too, publishing Songs and Miscellaneous Pieces . In 1887 his poetry was used in Modern Scottish Poets. He is credited with having written the song Dae ye mind o’lang, lang syne: the first verse (of many) follows. It is to be sung to the tune of John Peel.

Do ye mind the sunny braes
Whaur we gathered hips and slaes,
And fell among the bramble busses,
Tearin’ a’ our claes;
And for fear they would be seen
We gaed slippin’ hame at e’en,
But were licket for our pains in the morning.

George and Laura had four daughters. The second, Annie Adair Lawrie, married Henry Bean Mackeson of Hythe and some years later her now elderly parents moved to the town to live near her, at a house called The Elms. George died of ‘natural decay’ aged eighty-two, and he and Laura are buried together in St Leonard’s churchyard.

 

Until the day dawn

In/loving memory/of/Henry Bean Mackeson/born at Hythe Dec. 11th 1812, died at Hythe Feby 29th 1894
Also Annie Adair his wife/born 26th of August 1835/died 26th of April 1913
Also of their daughter/Mildred Adair Murray/wife of/Colonel H.W. Murray/born at Hythe March 13th 1868/died at Hythe October 17th 1964

Henry Bean Mackeson was the youngest son of Henry and Mary Jane Mackeson nee Hayman. He was baptised at St Leonard’s church in the town on 8 January 1813. His father and uncle William were co-owners of Mackeson’s Brewery in Hythe, which they had bought a few years previously. Heavy investment in the business had paid off, and it was now a thriving concern and a major employer in the town.
Henry Bean followed his father into the family business, but it may not have been his first choice of occupation. in the 1820’s Peter Fisher, another uncle, wrote to his father that if Henry ‘be disposed to try the navy in a medical way I will do my best towards procuring him an assistant surgeon’s appointment.’ It was not, however, to be, and once decided on a life ashore, Henry threw himself into Hythe affairs with enthusiasm. Indeed, he appears to have been one of those tireless Victorians for whom nothing was off-limits.

The malt house at Hythe, one of the few remaining Mackeson brewery buildings


Besides running the business, he became a keen amateur geologist and Fellow of the Geological Society, and some of his work was published in A History of the Weald of Kent. He was town mayor nine times, in an unbroken run from 1872 to 1880. He was churchwarden of St Leonard’s church during the years when the vicar, Thomas Hall, was fund-raising and planning the renovations of the church, and his efforts are commemorated on a plaque in the church.

A modern edition of Henry Bean Mackeson’s work

The town council had, until a new town hall was built in 1794, met in the room over the church porch, the Parvis. Here, Henry discovered the ancient records of the town rotting away and had them removed to more suitable storage in the town clerk’s office. He found time to become a captain in the Cinque Ports Volunteer Rifles, and later in life to act as a director of the Elham Valley Railway.

His funeral on 8 March 1894 was attended by the entire town corporation, their pew draped in black, and one of his favourite pieces of music, Beethoven’s Funeral March, was played. In the evening the bell-ringers rang a muffled peal.

He had married, on 18 April 1860, Annie Adair Lawrie, the second of the four daughters of George James Lawrie and Laura Louisa Lawrie nee Ludlow. She was born at sea off Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Her mother brought her back to the UK in 1837, and they were joined by the family soon afterwards, when her father became Minister of Monkton, Ayrshire. She married Henry Bean Mackeson in the church there. They had seven children, including twin daughters. She died in Tonbridge.

Mildred Adair Murray nee Mackeson was born in Hythe, the sixth child of Henry Bean Mackeson and Annie Adair Mackeson and baptised in St Leonard’s church on Easter Sunday 1868. In the same church, in 1899, she married Henry Walker Murray of the Royal Army Medical Corps.. They had a son and two daughters. Mildred travelled with her husband to his various postings, including to Nova Scotia and, his last post before retirement, Gibraltar. Henry died in Tunbridge Wells in October 1942. Mildred died in the Folkestone area.

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

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

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

Remainder hidden behind tree stump.

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

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

Geoffrey Hill 1927

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

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

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

A Dieu

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

mEDALmedal 2

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

Image result for moyle tower hythe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another view of Moyle Tower,   from the back

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

 

Moyle Court, Hythe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freda Palmer nee Porter

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

Poongy Boy

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

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

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

Freda Scutt, nee Palmer

 

Arthur Octavius Scutt

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

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

Avis Scott, the epitome of 1950s sophistication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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