Globetrotters: The Tiffen Family of Hythe

A grave in St Leonard’s churchyard, Hythe:

In memory of/William Tiffen/died Oct 15th 1855 aged 71.

Also Charlotte/wife of the above/died May 8th 1876 aged 84.

Also Charlotte Davenport, eldest daughter of the above/died Septr 21st 1862 aged 47,

And Theodore Alfred Davenport, her husband/died Jany 28th 1868 aged 63.

And George Ernest Augustus,/their infant son died 1862 aged 4

It is almost impossible, when researching Hythe history, to find any early nineteenth century printed document, directory  or advertising poster that was not printed by William Tiffen. He was born in Bocking, Essex, on 10 January 1785, the son of a miller. At the age of twelve, he was apprenticed to a printer, John Shearcroft in his home town but had moved to Kent by 1809 when he married Sarah Stevenson in Folkestone. He then set up shop as a printer in Hythe catering mostly for the military, but as they started to leave the area he moved to new premises in 1813 and diversified. In a shop with living accommodation on the corner of Mount Street and the High Street ‘nearly facing the Guildhall’ (it was later gutted by fire and demolished) he became ‘bookseller, stationer, printer and bookbinder’  Then he set up a lending library and a Reading Society, of which he was president, a smart business move.

He and Sarah had a son, William Stevenson Tiffen, but Sarah died while he was a infant. William then married Charlotte, the Hythe-born daughter of Henry and Mary Stokes, on 19 December 1813. Together, they had eight children.  William had probably been born into a non-conformist family. His son by Sarah was baptised in a non-conformist chapel, but when his eldest son by his new wife was baptised in St Leonard’s church, William took the opportunity to be baptised into the Church of England himself, on the same day. Thus officially an Anglican, he became an overseer of the poor and churchwarden.

All seemed to be going well, though there was sadness when, in 1837, his eldest son, William Stevenson Tiffen died and was buried in Folkestone. William continued to expand his business and in 1845 opened a library and reading room overlooking Folkestone Harbour. This was another smart business move as the railway had reached the town which was now easily accessible to cross-channel travellers and holiday-makers.

Then William himself died in 1855 and it became apparent that he had overstretched himself. He had certainly taken out a mortgage on his Hythe premises and there must have been other debts. The house and shop were cleared and everything sold – printing machinery, stock in trade, carpets, pictures, ornaments, bedsteads and bedsheets. The premises were sold and Charlotte moved into two rented rooms in Folkestone and was later taken to court for failing to pay her rent. The children left the town and, most of them, the country.

In fact, the eldest had already gone. Charlotte (born in Hythe on 5 January 1815) married Theodore Alfred Davenport on 17 March 1843, and moved with him to Boulogne, where he taught. She and her husband had six daughters and two sons, though the younger died aged four. Charlotte and Theodore both died in Boulogne, she in 1862, he in 1869.

The next was Henry Stokes Tiffin, born on 12 July 1816. As a young man he qualified as a surveyor and moved to Sussex to work, lodging in Hastings with the White family, who had two daughters. On 27 September 1841, he signed a contract with the New Zealand Company to work as an assistant surveyor; three days later he married the younger White daughter, sixteen-year-old Caroline and three days after that the newly-weds sailed on board the Brougham to New Zealand. They arrived in February 1842. Caroline had become pregnant during the voyage and died in October that year, giving birth to a stillborn son. Her brother William heard the news when he arrived in New Zealand in November.

Eventually four more of William’s siblings and assorted other family members would make the same journey half way round the world.

Henry was set to work surveying the Wairarapa, on the North Island.

The Wairarapa as it is today

An early NZ surveyor’s bivouac

Liking what he saw, he rented eight thousand acres at a cost of twelve pounds a year and now needed sheep to graze there. He acquired several hundred and drove them from Wellington with the assistance of his sixteen-year-old brother who had also arrived in the country. Frederick John Tiffen had been born in Hythe on 27 July  1828 but would never return.  He managed Henry’s flocks until 1852, when he went to Australia but found that he disliked the climate and worked his passage back to New Zealand after six months.   From then on, for a few years they were sheep farmers, but in 1855, Henry left the station in Frederick’s hands and returned to England. There he married the older White sister, Louisa Anne, now twenty-eight.  On their return to New Zealand the next year, they were accompanied by another Tiffen brother, the youngest, Louis Ansell (but known just as Ansell), born in 1829 in Hythe and now in his mid-twenties, together with his older sister, Mary Elizabeth, born in 1824

Henry returned to surveying and found time to take an active part in local politics and to continue acquiring land, but his private passion was horticulture and his garden in Hawke’s Bay was renowned.

Henry Tiffen’s house & gardens

Now a wealthy man, and childless, he planned to travel to seek out European plants which might thrive there, but Louisa’s death in 1875 meant he would travel alone.  He was away for a year. Then in 1880 he travelled to Japan where he was much taken by the persimmon plants, several of which he brought home.

Henry then acquired a new travelling companion, his niece Amelia Mary, the daughter of his late sister Charlotte.  A multi-lingual and cultured woman, she had married Joseph Randall who died in Ghana in 1869 and left her destitute until Henry invited her to become his housekeeper in 1876.  In 1881, they travelled to California where he was much impressed by the vineyards and oranges but thought that the wool was ‘rubbish’.

Henry Stokes Tiffen in his fifties

Back home, he tried growing tea and tobacco in his garden and planted his own vineyard of twenty-seven acres, the largest in New Zealand and produced his own wine. That same year he sailed again to England for surgery to remove cataracts.

Henry died on 21 February 1896 and is buried in Old Napier cemetery.

Henry’s grave marker…

…and the grave of his two wives, sisters Louisa & Caroline

Henry’s brother Frederick John had married, in 1859, Lucy Eleanor Monteith and they went on to have six children. After his marriage he acquired his own land for grazing and a house, Elmshill.

Frederick John Tiffen as a young man

He also acted as a government inspector of sheep and as returning officer in local elections. If Henry was the enterprising brother, Frederick was the diligent one. He kept records of every business and financial record and a daily journal recording his travels (which were extensive) and those of his family and their arrivals and departures. He died in 1911.

Frederick John Tiffen in later life.

The other brother, Ansell, worked as Henry’s manager for many years, dying unmarried in 1916. In 1881 he visited England, returning home with his brother-in-law Edmund Wiginton (see below) and niece, Milly.

Amelia Mary Randall, Henry’s niece and housekeeper, inherited half of his estate, making her wealthy in her own right. She moved from Henry’s house in Napier to another in the middle of his (now her) fruit farm, which produced  apricots, apples, peaches, persimmons, figs, plums and pears. Her younger sister Henrietta Charlotte Davenport, who had worked as a governess, sailed from England to join her. They continued to develop the farm, called Greenmeadows, until it was the largest on the North Island.  Amelia died on 17 October 1930, leaving £50,000, all left to various charities and to the Baptist church.  Henrietta had died in 1918. Henry’s beloved garden in Napier eventually became Tiffen Park.

Henry’s sister Mary Elizabeth, who joined her brothers in 1856, married later that year John Westgarth – and then they both disappear from the record.

And there was another Tiffen offspring in New Zealand, too – Belinda. The youngest child of William and Charlotte Tiffen, she was born Belinda Alice Ansell Tiffen  in Hythe on  30 September 1831. She married in Folkestone 1860 Charles John Allen Haselden and they emigrated that year. Charles became under-secretary of the NZ Department of Justice and the couple had six children.  Belinda died in Auckland on 28 October 1923.

Belinda’s gravestone

Her brother, Charles Hart Tiffen, born in Hythe in1826, did not get as far as New Zealand, but spent much of his adult life on the continent. His wife, Esther Carmelina, was  born in Italy; their three daughters and a son,  came into the world in Nice.  Charles operated for a time as a wine merchant in Brighton, where one daughter died, but the family were in Folkestone from about 1889, where they lived in Guildhall Street.  One daughter, Esther (or Mlle. Esther Tiffen as she advertised herself), gave lessons in French and Italian; the other, Helen, taught violin, viola, organ and pianoforte. At their father’s funeral, they were joined by their brother, William Henry Tiffen, who had also been born in France but decided to stay there. He ran a successful removals company in Paris  in partnership with James Arthur, a company which still exists today.


William Henry Tiffen & his business partner John Arthur

Charles Hart Tiffen died in 1899, leaving only £158 and some real estate in New Zealand.

The emigration of seven of the Tiffen children left only one in England – Amelia, born in Hythe in 1818. She married Edmund Wiginton, another stationer and book-seller, on 17 June 1859. Amelia had taken over her father’s library in Folkestone and her new husband joined her in the business. They extended the range of goods they offered to include glassware, costume jewellery and scent bottles which they bought in Paris (perhaps when visiting their Tiffen relatives).  Their first child, a daughter, was stillborn in 1860, but another, Amelia (again! but known as Milly) born in 1862, survived. There would be no more children.  Some time in the 1870s, the family moved to Cornwall. Amelia’s mother, Charlotte died in 1876 and it may be that freed from this responsibility, she and Edmund felt able to spread their wings, too. However, Amelia died in 1880. Edmund and Milly then perhaps surprisingly, emigrated to New Zealand, travelling in 1881 with Henry and Ansell Tiffen who had been home on a visit. It was not a permanent move, however. By 1889 they were back  in Saltash. Edmund remarried that year and Milly embarked on a nursing career which eventually saw her appointed matron of the Johnson Hospital in Spalding.

Much of the detail of the life of Henry Stokes Tiffen is taken from his biography by Ian St George



Frederick Mackeson and the Jewel in the Crown



In 1801, two brothers from Deal bought a brewery in Hythe. They were Henry and William Mackeson. Though business acumen or force of personality – or both – Henry became the senior partner, patriarch of the Mackeson dynasty in Hythe and started the business on the road to international fame.  William and his family, however, have their own monument in St Leonard’s church, Hythe which lists the adventures of some of his ten children

William married, in 1797, Harriet Reynolds and their first son, Charles William was born in Deal. The next nine – another seven sons and two daughters, came into the world in Hythe. William had not much of a head for finance and and when he died, during a trip to Bath in 1821, it was revealed that he had huge debts. His brother Henry stepped in to ensure that Harriet was not left destitute, but her sons needed to find paid occupations.

Charles William had predeceased his father at just nineteen years old. The next son, John, worked at the brewery for at least seven years after his father’s death, before moving to London, where he described himself as an accountant. In retirement he moved in with his widowed sisters and died unmarried in 1892. John had difficulty accepting that his father’s negligence had resulted in the family’s impoverished state and in 1840, his uncle Henry had to make a witnessed statement that William’s estate had not been sufficient to cover his debts.(1)

John’s younger brother Henry Scrope Mackeson became a physician, married twice and had five children. He died in 1875. George became a civil servant, also married twice and had a son. He died in Uxbridge in his early fifties. Thomas joined the Royal Navy, where he saw service at the Battle of Navarino during the Greek War of Independence in 1827; endured a hellish trip in a surveying vessel down the African coast in 1830, when more than half the crew died of fever; and finally succumbed himself in Malta aged twenty-eight. William Lawrence and Julius Arthur both joined the Bengal Native Infantry and both died of fever in India, in 1842 and 1847 respectively.

The daughters both married. The elder, Isabel, married a solicitor in Canterbury Cathedral and died childless in 1886. Her younger sister Harriet Sophia married an army chaplain and travelled with him to Agra, where he died of fever eight months after their wedding. Harriet returned home and lived latterly with her sister.

Which leaves the fourth son, Frederick, who managed to avoid both marriage and death from fever.

He was born on 2 September 1807, educated at the King’s School, Canterbury and joined the Bengal Native Infantry in 1825. After a spell as political agent in the Punjab, he was sent to Peshawar, now in Pakistan, where he stayed during the first Anglo-Afghan War and where he earned a reputation as a first-class soldier and linguist.  His next conflicts were the first and second Anglo-Sikh wars when notably, after the battle of Chillianwala in 1849, he swam the treacherous Jhelum river to warn comrades on the other side of an imminent Sikh attack. That year he was promoted Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel.

The next year he was chosen for a special escort duty – accompanying the Koh-i-noor diamond to England.  The British had won the war and the diamond was ceded to Queen Victoria under the Treaty of Lahore (or stolen, depending on your point of view). On 1 February 1850, the jewel was sealed in a small iron safe inside a red dispatch box, both sealed with red tape and a wax seal, which for the sea voyage to England was placed inside a larger iron safe.  It was a miserable trip.  During a stopover at Mauritius, there was an outbreak of cholera on board and the locals threatened to open fire on the vessel unless it departed immediately. Back at sea it was caught in an enormous storm.  Finally on 1 July the diamond was handed over to the East India Company who formally presented it to the queen two days later.

She and Prince Albert did not much care for it and nor did the British public who viewed it at the Great Exhibition in 1853. The cut meant that it did not sparkle and when viewed head on looked like a black hole. Prince Albert had it recut by Garrards, the royal jewellers. Now it was dazzling and the queen had it put in a circlet, but still did not like it: ‘no one feels more strongly than I do about India or how much I opposed our taking those countries and I think no more will be taken, for it is very wrong and no advantage to us. You know also how I dislike wearing the Koh-i-Noor’ she wrote to her daughter twenty years later.

After Victoria’s death,  the stone was used in the crowns of the Queen Consorts.

The Koh-i-noor in the crown of the late Queen Mother

Frederick went back to India and was appointed Deputy Commissioner for Peshawar where he was known by the locals as ‘Kishin Kaka’ . One evening in September 1853, as he was hearing appeals on his veranda, he was greeted with a salaam by a Muslim from Swat and presented with a piece of paper. The man then stabbed him. He died four days later on 14 September. The assassin was hanged and his body burnt.

Frederick is buried in Peshawar and as well as the memorial in St Leonard’s church Hythe he has another in Canterbury Cathedral.

Frederick’s tomb

The inscription on his Canterbury Cathedral memorial….

… and the full monument

His mother Harriet died in 1855, having four times received the news of a son’s death in a faraway land.

The full text of the memorial in St Leonard’s church is:

In memory of/William Mackeson/of this town/who died at Bath 10th April 1821, aged 47 years

Also of Harriett, his wife,/who died at Canterbury 19th December 1855, aged 79 years

And of Charles William, their eldest son/who died 19th May 1819, aged 19 years./ The remains of the above are deposited in a vault/near this and adjoining the church.

Also in memory of/Thomas, their fifth son, lieutenant in the Royal Navy/who died at Malta 4th October 1837, aged 28 years./He served at Navarino 20th October 1827, and in/H.M’s surveying vessel Hecla on the West Coast of Africa 1829-30/and was one of the few officers who survived/the trials of that expedition.

William Lawrence, their seventh son, lieutenant and adjutant,/19th regiment Bengal Native Infantry,/who died at Bombay 30th October 1842, aged 26 years

Julius Arthur, their eighth son, lieutenant,/33rd Regiment Bengal Native Infantry,/who died at Neemuch 28th September 1847 , aged 29 years./He served in the Cabul campaign 1842,/and in the Sutlej campaign 1845-6.

And/Frederic, their fourth son, Lieutenant Colonel Bengal Army,/Companion of the Bath/Member of the Third Class of the Douranee Empire/and Commissioner of Peshawur,/who died 14th September 1853,/of a wound inflicted by a Mahometan fanatic/aged 46 years./He served in all the campaigns and important operations/on the north western frontier of India from 1838 to 1853,/during the whole of which eventful period/he was engaged in appointments/of the highest political responsibility and distinction./A monument has been erected to his memory/and in honor of his character and public services/at Peshawur, where he fell, and in Canterbury Cathedral,/by his friends and admirers in India.


  1. Taken from a partial history of the Mackeson family held in the Hythe Civic Society Archives and signed only ‘DHC/JAR 4.2.60’.

Religion, Ramsgate and Revolution – the Piety family

My interest in the Piety family was sparked when an American descendant of Austen Piety contacted St Leonard’s church in Hythe seeking some information. I was able to give him the details he wanted, but the research piqued my interest. I wanted to know more about this family, but the usual first port of call, the genealogy websites, threw up a miscellany of information, little of it referenced to any verifiable source.

There were various, sometimes conflicting, dates of birth and of death; mention of a burial in Wye in a non-existent graveyard; a mysterious and now-vanished document in a Hythe church; suggestions that Austen Piety deserted his wife and claims that he was an army chaplain. There is even a photo of Austen, though he died in 1815, thirty-odd years before commercial photography became a possibility.

What follows is what I have been able to piece together from the records.

Austen’s father, Thomas, was born in about 1706, though where is unknown. Some internet sources state that it was in Lancashire and name his parents as Winfield Piety and Maryana Grover, but in fact he was the son of Richard Piety and Elizabeth Austen. Thomas himself, in his will, names his mother as Elizabeth Austen and states that she is buried with her husband in St Leonard’s churchyard in Hythe and that her family are interred nearby.(1)  Marriage records show that Elizabeth Austen married Richard Piety in Canterbury on 21 September 1699 and that he was ‘of Newington neare Hythe’ (2).

It is not easy to trace Thomas’s family as he was a Baptist. Baptists did not christen infants, preferring the adult baptism of believers. Fortunately (for us, anyway), marriages and funerals could still only be performed in the Church of England, so records of these are extant.

Thomas married three times. The first marriage was on 6 August 1733 to Alice White, a widow. (3) At that time, they were both living in Stelling. This refers to the  village Stelling Minnis situated between Hythe and Canterbury and about five miles from Hythe. Alice became the mother of  Thomas junior (c. 1737) Austen (c.1738)  They seem to have lived in Hythe, as in 1745, Thomas wrote to the Duke of Newcastle from the town about local smuggling (4).  Newcastle, the brother of the Prime Minister, was a powerful man, but the news of smuggling can hardly have come as a surprise to him, since it had been rife in the area for many years. In what capacity Thomas was writing is unknown and until the National Archives at Kew re-open, will remain so.

Thomas also kept himself occupied with Baptist church affairs. By 1749, he was attending meetings of the General Assembly of the Baptist Church in Southwark, representing the Hythe congregation and later became a ‘Messenger’, a co-ordinator of evangelists (5).  There were, too, difficulties to be dealt with when a congregation of Particular Baptists was established in the town (6). Thomas was a member of the General Baptists. The difference was theological: Particular Baptists believed that Jesus died only for the elect; General Baptists that He died for all mankind. Each group saw the other as a threat to the Truth.

In 1758, however, he was appointed as minister for the General Baptist church in Ramsgate. Ramsgate is about thirty-five miles from Hythe, but Thomas was wealthy enough to afford a carriage and could drive there. In fact, he seems to have lived there for a while and now represented Ramsgate at the Baptist Assembly (6). He had an incentive to move as on 1 January 1860, now a widower, he married again to a local woman, Ann Chilton(8).  She was the widow of Richard Chilton, ‘gentleman’, who had been prominent in the Ramsgate Baptist church until he married Ann, who was not then a Baptist herself. ‘Marrying out’ was forbidden, but the law was often broken. Richard Chilton had been the subject of an enquiry but was ultimately forgiven (9).  He died in 1758, leaving his wife, as his sole heir, very comfortably off (9).  She must have been received into the church at some point after their marriage.

Ramsgate at about the time Thomas was there

The Ramsgate congregation was struggling and Thomas went to the Kent Association of Baptist Churches to seek help. He said he had only one deacon, who was aged and lived outside the town. Although they could not help, Thomas’s connections in the church ensured that he received the assistance he needed from Barfestone, Eythorne and Wingham congregations (11).  His was not a large congregation and did not have its own baptistry, necessary for total immersion. Adult believers were instead baptised in the sea at Sandwich, having first formally accepted the Six Principles of the General Baptists: Repentance, Faith, Baptism, Laying on of Hands, Resurrection of the Dead and Final Judgment.

Eythorne Baptist church, the oldest in the country

Eventually, though, Thomas and Ann moved back to Hythe, but left an endowment of three hundred pounds with the Ramsgate church to support a ministry there (12).  Later, they diverted the money to serve as a mortgage to a group of four London churches which wanted to build a meeting house in White Horse Alley in St Sepulchre, Shoreditch. (13).  The building later became the venue for meetings of the General Assembly, of which Thomas became a Moderator in 1770 (14).

White Horse Alley in Shoreditch

Ann Piety died in Hythe in June 1776 and was buried there (15).  Just before her death, she had obtained permission from Thomas to donate the interest on the three hundred pounds mortgage to the General Baptist Church in Thanet (16).

Twenty months later, on 23 February 1778, Thomas married for a third time and his choice of bride must have raised a few eyebrows and warranted a paragraph in the Kentish Gazette:

On Monday last was married at Hythe by the Rev. Mr Potts, Mr Thomas Piety in the seventy second year of his age, to Miss Green, of Saltwood, aged twenty two.(17)

St Leonard’s Church, Hythe, where Thomas married Elizabeth Green and where he is buried

Almost exactly three years later, Thomas died and was buried in the churchyard of St Leonard, near to his parents, as he had requested in his will (18). He had drawn this up a few weeks after his marriage, seven pages of densely written instructions. His wife, Elizabeth, got a water mill and its land in the neighbouring parish of Newington together with a coach and stable yard in Hythe, half the silver plate and all the furniture from their house. Austin, the younger son by the long-departed Alice, got all the rest of the real estate and his  brother Thomas an annuity of fifty pounds.  There were a few smaller requests, including to Baptist churches and to his first wife’s family in Stelling. Then, toward the end of the document is a rather extraordinary direction. Thomas says that if Elizabeth takes any legal action or

any other Matter or Thing to Obstruct or hinder the disposition of my real and personal estate according to my Mind and Will herein before declared then and in such case I do solemnly and expressly declare my Mind and Will to be that my said wife Elizabeth shall forfeit the Gifts and Bequests herein before made to her my said wife and shall not receive any Benefit or Advantage whatsoever from this my Will or from any of the devises or bequests to her herby made and provided.(19)

He had been married for fourteen weeks when he wrote this. Did he perhaps suspect that Elizabeth had married him for his money? Or was he, by then an old man, persuaded into this by his sons who thought that their new stepmother might have ulterior motives?

Elizabeth remained a widow for four years and married again in 1785 (20). Thomas junior did not long outlive his father, dying in Whitechapel in 1787. He had married and had a daughter, Elizabeth Austen Piety, named for her grandmother, who lived less than two years. The child was baptised in St Mary Matfelon church in Whitechapel , which might suggest that Thomas junior, though he had earlier in life attended the General Assembly, did not remain a Baptist. However, he lived in Mill Yard in Whitechapel, the site of a Baptist Church and was interred in the Baptist Burial Ground there (21).

Mill Yard Baptist Church & burial ground in the 19th century

His brother, Austen, meanwhile, had taken a different route and gone to America. The genealogy websites all quote from a memoir written by a family member of Austen’s first wife in 1886, a hundred and twenty years after the events (22). Over that time span stories can become distorted, deliberately or not. It claims that Austen was an officer in the British Army , based at Fort Pitt (now in Pittsburgh). Fort Pitt was built in 1759 to 1760 by the British 60th Regiment of Rifles during the Seven Years war, when the British in America fought the French and the Indian Nations. The 60th remained there to garrison the fort throughout the 1760s when Austen is alleged to have been there. Their  Regimental Chronicle lists all the officers of this time, from Lt. Col. to ensign and includes surgeons and chaplains. Austen’s name is not among them (23).

Fort Pitt as it was when Austen was there

All the websites agree that it was there that he married Sarah Polk (or Polke or Pollock), probably in 1763.  He was ordered to Fort Kaskaskia, a French stronghold which they ceded to the British in the same year. Sarah accompanied him on this journey. They then returned to Fort Pitt.  All the accounts also agree that the couple had four children – Elizabeth, Sarah, Nancy and Thomas – and that Austen deserted them in 1774 and returned to England.

In fact, the British Army had abandoned Fort Pitt in 1772. If Austen was still there two years later, he had either resigned his commission or had never been in the army in the first place and was just a settler seeking his fortune in the New World, as so many young men did. The fort was seized by Virginian militiamen in 1774.

But when he left his family, as he undoubtedly did, Austen did not go to England.

By 1774, tensions between the British and the colonists were rising and fearing for their lives, many loyal settlers were beginning to flee northwards.  It is possible, even probable, that his wife and in-laws  sympathised with the rebels and that this disagreement  caused a family rift, as it did in very many cases. In 1776, the colony declared itself independent, leading to a prolonged and bloody war.

Austen is next heard of in 1777 as the Conductor of Artillery for Lieutenant-Colonel Barry St Leger of the British Army in Canada,  though he was acting as a volunteer (24).

Austen’s Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. St Leger

He had joined the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, established in Montreal by Sir John Johnson of New York state in spring 1776.   In March 1777, Austen applied to the War Office in London for preferment and this was granted in August when he was made an ensign in Captain Richard Duncan’s company of the same regiment (25).   The next year he was promoted lieutenant (26).

A re-enactment group in the uniform of the ‘King’s Royal Yorkers’

The company, otherwise known as the King’s Royal Yorkers’ or Johnson’s Greens  saw a fair amount of action during the war. Some historians have suggested that while the regiment was greatly feared by the enemy, that it was often inhumane towards them in defeat. It took part in many actions and raids on the New York frontier and helped defeat twelve hundred rebels at Johnstown in October 1781. Before that engagement, Austen made his will in Montreal, where the city records note it as ‘The Last Will and Testament of Lieut. Austen Piety, Royal New York Regt.’  After their final confrontation, at Fort Oswego, the regiment was disbanded in September 1783. As a loyalist soldier, Austen would have been offered land to settle in Canada, but instead chose to go back to  Hythe.

There he formed a new relationship, with Sarah Judd. Their first child, Elizabeth, was born in 1786 and they were married in 1788. The marriage was technically bigamous, since Sarah Polk was still alive and did not die until 1835, but Austen swore an affidavit that ‘many years ago he married Sarah Pollock and about 14 years ago by reason of the troubles in America they were obliged to separate and he believed her dead’. He was declared to be a widower(27).  It is possible that when the war was over, Austen tried to make contact with his family, but they were long gone from Fort Pitt. According to her descendant, Sarah with her  children and three of her many brothers had settled in Kentucky in 1780 (28). That is about five hundred miles away. It seems that Austen’s first wife had given up hope, if she ever entertained any, of a reunion.

Austen and Sarah Judd went on to have five more children, including twin boys, but only their first, Elizabeth , and last, Richard (both named for their Piety grandparents), survived to adulthood. All were baptised as infants at St Leonard’s church. This does not necessarily mean that Austen had abandoned the Baptist church. The Test Act of 1678, still in force, ruled that anyone wanting to take a public post, including in the armed services, had to have a certificate stating that they were a communicant member of the Church of England. In order to take communion, one had first to have been baptised in an Anglican church.  Austen described himself as ‘a gentleman’. He might expect his sons to be gentlemen, too and it was expected of gentlemen that they would, in however humble a capacity, take on some public duties.

Austen and his family stayed in Hythe until at least 1798, but by 1801, when Richard was born, they were in Ashford, Kent and later moved to Canterbury, where Austen died (aged seventy-seven, according to his burial record)  in July 1815. His body was taken back to Hythe where it could be interred near the graves of his father and infant children (29).

His will, a brief document, was signed by him on 12 July and probate was granted on 26 July (30). He left everything to Sarah and made her and their daughter Elizabeth joint guardians of Richard, who was still a minor and joint executrixes.

The family stayed in Canterbury. Sarah died in 1837 and Elizabeth, unmarried, in 1847. Perhaps Austen, by the end of his life had not been well off. His son Richard had to work for a living and became a clerk in a bonded warehouse storing imported leaf tea. He did, however, inherit the water mill which his grandfather Thomas had originally bequeathed to his third wife and which he leased out (31), and owned other property in Hythe, too. (32). Both his daughters were born in the town, though the family’s main residence was in Camberwell. His daughter Sarah married; the other, Mary Ann did not.

The Piety’s watermill, now restored

Austen Piety’s English descendants are few, if any, but on the other side of the Atlantic, his children by Sarah Polk produced prodigious numbers of offspring and his descendants there today must run into the thousands.

With thanks to Mike de la Mare for information about the watermill

Information about the King’s Royal New York Regiment is taken from ‘American Loyalist Troops 1775-84’ by Rene Chartran (New York: , Bloomsbury Publishing, 2008). 

  1. Kent Archdeaconry Marriages, Canterbury St Alphege , 1699
  2. National Archives PROB 11/1076/113
  3. Kent Archdeaconry Marriages, Canterbury St Alphege , 1733
  4. National Archives SP 36/77/2/134
  5. William Thomas Whitley, Baptists in East Kent  in The Baptist Quarterly 2:2 April 1924
  6. Ibid. 
  7. Ibid.
  8. Kent Archdeaconry Marriages, St Lawrence in Thanet, 1760
  9. Whitley
  10. National Archives PROB 11/836/132
  11. Whitley
  12. Ibid.
  13. London Metropolitan Archives ACC/2570/1
  14. Minutes of the General Assembly of the General Baptist Church in England
  15. Burial Records, Hythe St Leonard
  16. Kentish Gazette 05 June 1776
  17. Kentish Gazette 28 February 1778 and Kent Archdeaconry Banns, Hythe St Leonard
  18. Burial Records, Hythe St Leonard
  19. National Archives PROB 11/1076/113
  20. England Marriages 1538-1973,
  21. London, Docklands And East End Baptisms, Docklands Ancestors & England Deaths & Burials 1538-1991,
  22. Indiana Magazine of History Vol. 10, No. 1 (March1914), pp. 83-109
  23. Nesbit Willoughby Wallace, Regimental Chronicle and List of Officers of the 60th or King’s Royal Rifle Corps (London: Harrison, 1879)
  24. The King’s Royal Yorkers, Capt. Duncan’s Coy,
  25. National Archives WO 28/9/49
  26. The King’s Royal Yorkers
  27. Canterbury Marriage Licences 1781-1809
  28. Indiana Magazine of History Vol. 10, No. 1 (March1914), pp. 83-109
  29. National Archives PROB 11/1571/144
  30. East Kent Burial Index,
  31. Newington Tithe Map and Apportionment Schedule 1840
  32. Canterbury Cathedral Archives U101/II/M/12 

Ordinary Lives

Charles Henry Layzell was born in Kennington, London in January 1871, one of the nine children of James Layzell, a cab driver, and his wife Harriet.

James & Harriet Layzell       (Warren Layzell)

Nearly sixteen years later, on 16 September 1885, Charles presented himself to the recruiting sergeant of the Oxford Light Infantry and told him that he was eighteen years old and a blacksmith. The sergeant may or may not have believed him, but he saw a likely lad, sturdy and five feet six inches tall (a good height in those days). He signed him up for seven years.

It was a good decision, both for Charles and for the British army. Charles was promoted corporal in 1888 and in 1891 was appointed as a third-class instructor at the School of Musketry in Hythe. Only the very best marksmen in the British Army were selected, so he must have been an excellent shot.

The School of Musketry in Hythe

Two years later he extended his service by another five years. The School of Musketry and Hythe provided  congenial places to raise a family, and Charles was now a married man. He had wed Jennie Greenhouse in December 1890 in Portsmouth and a daughter and three sons followed: Jennie Ruth, Kenneth Charles Stewart, Hector James More and Wilfred Frank.

Charles & Jennie on their wedding day    (Warren Layzell)

Meanwhile, Charles’s next youngest brother, Arthur James, had followed in his footsteps in more ways than one. He, too, joined the Oxfordshire Light Infantry, in1889; he, too, added three years to his age in order to do so. His military career was shorter than his brother’s. He was sent to India in 1891, where he suffered from a variety of mostly minor complaints before being discharged as unfit for further service in 1900. He then got married, to Rhoda Worthy and returned to London where he managed a coffee shop in Kensington.

Perhaps this was not a success. At any rate, by 1904 he had joined Charles in Hythe and was working as a civil subordinate labourer at the School of Musketry. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Charles had arranged the job for him. Arthur and Rhoda lived in St Nicholas Road in Hythe with their daughters, Jennie and Ruth (both names used by Charles and his wife for their daughter).

Arthur’s home in St Nicholas Road

Charles was himself going from strength to strength. He had been promoted to first-class instructor, extended his term of service by another twelve years and then, in 1905, become Regimental Sergeant Major. He applied for a further extension of service and exceptionally this was granted, a recognition of the esteem in which he was held.

Charles as RSM                            (Warren Layzell)

Both brothers had declared themselves to be Anglican when they enlisted, but their service records show that they then both became Wesleyans. Once in Hythe, their religious paths diverged. Charles started attending the services held in meeting rooms in Park Road, Hythe. The congregation, known as ‘the Brethren’ was run by Eliza Southee, the survivor of a group of three women who had established a religious community there. Charles sometimes preached and he conducted Miss Southee’s funeral service. Arthur became a member of the Salvation Army, which had opened an outpost in Hythe in 1895. He and Charles were also both active members of the temperance movement.

The Salvation Army Hall in Hythe

Then there was another parting of the ways.

In 1909 Charles was transferred to the School of Musketry (Imperial Forces) South Africa in Bloemfontein. Why South Africa? In the early twentieth century hundreds of thousands of British people, many of them young men, but families, too, emigrated to the USA and the British Empire. They were motivated by the opportunities promised for jobs and land. Charles’s adjutant at the School of Musketry was Major Frank Bourne, who had also made his way up through the ranks and who had served in South Africa during the Zulu wars. Did he recommend the country? And did Charles intend at that time to emigrate permanently? Or did he regard this as a temporary posting?

In 1910 the Union of South Africa was created and the next year Britain withdrew most of its forces. Charles, however, stayed on, though it appears from his records that he was still a British soldier He even got yet another extension in 1911 and remarkably, qualified as an interpreter in ‘Cape Dutch’.  The South African authorities established their own school of musketry, at first in the old president’s house in Bloemfontein, but a few months later moving it to Tempe, where the first courses were held.

The old presidents house in Bloemfontein, first home of the SA School of Musketry

The first course held at the SA School of Musketry. Charles is far right, second row from back (1)

Charles took his pension in December 1912. Less than two years later he was back in harness, joining his erstwhile colleagues at Potchefstroom, where they trained volunteers for overseas duty during World War 1. During this time, Charles was commissioned and held the rank of Captain when he finally took permanent retirement.

Charles in an officer’s uniform with his family  (Warren Layzell)

Meanwhile, back in Hythe, Arthur was having a rather less exciting time. In the same year that Charles took his pension, Arthur had the misfortune to have his foot shattered when a motor car ran over it. He was off work for some time, but the accident seems to have preyed on his mind and he took to writing long letters to the local newspaper about the amount of traffic on the roads. This extended to encompass the general state of the roads and, eventually, to anything else that annoyed him. Top of the list in the 1920s were Trade Unionism and the Labour Party, both of which he loathed and he was the only civilian subordinate at the School of Musketry to refuse to join a union. The leader of Hythe Labour Party rather spitefully pointed out that this did not stop him accepting the five shilling pay rise negotiated by the union.

Sadly, his daughter Ruth died in 1925, aged twenty-one. She had worked at the Co-operative stores in Hythe High Street and was ill for only three weeks before her untimely death.

The brothers saw each other once more, when Charles and his wife travelled back to the UK in 1927 for a visit and stayed at St Nicholas Road. Then he went back to South Africa where he carried on his gospel work and was employed at the South African Mutual Buildings in Johannesburg. He died on 6 October 1933. His children stayed in South Africa and their descendants live there still.

Arthur survived him by eleven years. Widowed, he moved to Tunbridge Wells and passed away there in 1944.

Ordinary lives, perhaps, but they encapsulate the opportunities becoming available to ordinary men in the late nineteenth century. Both Charles and Arthur would have left school at thirteen at the latest. The army provided Charles with the wherewithal to use his talents and achieve a materially better life  and the flourishing non-conformist churches gave him an outlet for his spiritual side. Arthur’s letters to the press, despite his brief education, are coherent and grammatical and although only a general labourer, he was confident in taking to task local politicians and decision-makers – and in spurning the notion that as a working man, he should embrace socialism.

And a postscript: as an old man, Wilfred Layzell, Charles and Jennie’s youngest son, remembered playing around an old yew tree that stood outside his parents accommodation. The building is long gone, replaced by sheltered housing, but the tree lasted into the twenty-first century, until a branch fell on a resident and it was removed.

The tree that Wilfred remembered…

  1. Neville Gomme, The South African Army College Military History Journal , Vol 2 No 3 – June 1972

The Very Respectable Vicar of Lympne

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

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

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

Denton church…

Swingfield Church - - 410212.jpg

and Swingfield church

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

Image result for hythe kent church

St Leonard’s church, Hythe…

See the source image

St Mary’s church, Stodmarsh..

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

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

A caricature of William Henry Gregory published in Vanity Fair

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

The remains of Eastbridge church today

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florence Bravo – wronged woman or murderer?

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

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

Sir Henry Chartres Biron

He died unmarried in 1940.

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

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

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

Henry Brydges Biron                (Fiona Jarvest)

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

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

The Tichborne Claimant

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





The KIng of Seabrook

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Victorian houses in Cannongate  Road                                                                                               Google Maps

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

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


And as it is today, with just a footbridge

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

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

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

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


John as Mayor of Hythe in 1902

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Jeal in later life

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

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

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

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi


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

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

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

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

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


Kilcoy Castle, no longer crumbling

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

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

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

Children followed: eight sons and a daughter.

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

The site of Rachel’s house in Hythe

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

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

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

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

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

Hythe’s first National School

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

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

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

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

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

Map showing the present Douglas Avenue, which bisected the estate

Douglas Avenue today

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

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

The inscriptions in full:

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

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

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

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

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


1. Kent Archives H/U61/1

With thanks to Andy Curran and Mike de la Mare


The Lady and the Bus Conductor


In memory/of/George William Wallace/D’Arcy Evans/who died on Sept 8th 1906/aged 46 years

A simple gravestone, no indication of family, or expressions of regret or piety, but it conceals a story which stretches from Ireland to England to South Africa and Canada.

George William Wallace D’Arcy Evans was born on 4 October 1860 at Knockaderry House, County Limerick. He was the second son of John D’Arcy Evans and Marion Evans nee Wallace, perhaps best described as minor Anglo-Irish landed gentry.

Knockaderry House

As befits a second son who had no great expectations, he joined the army as a young man, but it seems there was not even enough money to buy him a commission, as he joined as a trooper and served for three years in the ranks of the South Wales Borderers. He was finally commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Irish Rifles in 1886. and served as Superintendent of Gymnasia in Colchester. He was promoted to Captain in 1894.

He had married Harriette George Marion Gledstanes Richards on 18 July 1889 at Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin. She came from a similar background to George and was the daughter of Captain George Gledstanes Richards of Macmine Castle, County Wexford. She was born on 11 August 1869.

Macmine Castle – not really a castle, but a country house

Three sons were born to the couple over the next three years, though the third died before his second birthday. Then, in 1895, George exchanged into the 20th Hussars and sailed with his young family to India, where his only daughter was born. However, their stay on the sub-continent was brief. After just a year, George exchanged again, this time into the Bedfordshire Regiment. Life in India did not suit everyone. They were living in Mhow (now Dr. Ambedkar Nagar) in Bengal, where summer temperatures can reach 43 degrees centigrade and winter fall to minus 4.

Back in the UK, George seems to have found his niche in the army in writing textbooks. These included Field Training Made Easy in Accordance with the Revised Syllabus Contained in the New Infantry Drill and The Non-Commissioned Officer’s Guide to Promotion in the Infantry. The Army & Navy Gazette praised them for their clarity and usefulness. Harriette also wrote a book, In Mermaidland, and Other Stories, which the Gazette dismissed as ‘a very slight production for children.’ The Liverpool Mercury, however said that they were four beautiful stories and that the humour pervading the book made it very enjoyable.

But in December 1897, Harriette admitted to her husband that she had been unfaithful to him. They separated, but in 1900, on learning that she had given birth to a child in 1898, George took her back. The child seems to have been accepted by George as his own, and given Evans family names: Hardress Waller Eyre D’Arcy Evans. George told Harriette that she had ‘a clear, fresh start’ and that he would protect her against anybody. The family lived for a while together at 34 St Leonard’s Avenue, Bedford.

However, the next year, Harriette started a new liaison with a man she met on a bus, Charles Abbott. He was, in fact, the conductor of the station omnibus, which ran from the George Hotel in Bedford. Charles was already married, a fact which, Harriette said later, he did not share with her immediately. He was also, at nineteen, very much younger than her, although he may not have told her that immediately either. He had lied about his age at his marriage to Edith Bainbridge only the year before, saying that he was twenty-one, whereas his Canadian death record shows his date of birth as 22 May 1882. Since by the time he died there was no need for subterfuge, this is likely to be correct.

The George Hotel, Bedford, on the left of the picture

The couple corresponded. He called her ‘my dearest darling’, she wrote him ‘hysterical’ letters. Harriette was confronted by Edith in the street, but refused to give up her lover. She wrote to Charles suggesting that they elope to Canada, where they could live on her small private income of £200 a year.
He agreed. On 1 June 1901, while George was out riding, Harriette escaped from the house and met Charles at Bedford station. They took a train to Liverpool where they stayed at a hotel under the names Mr and Mrs Brown, and under those names they sailed for Canada.

George had run out of patience, and divorced Harriette the next year, though he was by then in South Africa, fighting the Boers. He was adjutant of the 36th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry during the Boer War. Charles was divorced by Edith in 1905. She had heard nothing at all from him since his elopement.
George relinquished his South African post in 1903 and rejoined the Bedfordshire Regiment. It is unclear why he was in Hythe when he died, although he may have had business with the School of Musketry in the town.

Meanwhile, Charles and Harriette married in Canada in 1908 and spent the rest of their lives together in south Saskatchewan as Mr and Mrs Abbott-Brown, a good compromise. They had five children together, although their only son, born in 1912, predeceased them, dying in a house fire in 1955. Harriette’s only daughter by her first marriage, Silvia, was able to spend time with her mother in Canada.

Charles and Harriette died in British Columbia within months of each other, he on 20 February 1960, she on 30 September that year.

The grave marker for Harriette and Charles.