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 - geograph.org.uk - 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.

 

t

 

 

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.

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.

Remembering John Ifield

Some criminals transported to Australia seem to us today to have committed relatively minor offences and many were first time offenders. John Ifield was not one of these. In fact, he managed to receive not one but two sentences of transportation for seven years.

John  was the son of Robert, a blacksmith and freeman, and Elizabeth Ifield and was baptised in Hythe on 14 June 1801. He had three younger siblings.   The rest of the family appear to have lead quiet and respectable lives. His brother Robert had the licence of the King’s Head in Hythe for a time (1) and his mother ended her days as an inmate of St John’s Hospital in Hythe, an almshouse which required its inhabitants to be ‘of good character’. (2)

John worked as a labourer but by the time he was twenty-two he was supplementing his income with thieving, although judging by the number of times he was caught, he was not very adept at it . In 1823 he was sentenced to twelve months in prison for larceny. In July 1825, he got nine months for another larceny when he stole a woollen shawl from Richard Boddington. In 1826, he stole three ‘drawers’ from the storehouse of Mackeson’s brewery and nine shilling pieces from Edward Dray. The magistrates’ patience had come to an end, even if he was the son of a freeman. He was sentenced to seven years transportation.

By this time, actual transportation depended on the needs of the receiving colony and on the health and character of the prisoner. Unruly and physically strong men were shipped out as soon as possible; others might, at the discretion of the officers and surgeon, be allowed to serve their sentence on the hulks. This is what happened to John. These sentences were divided into three periods, each decreasing in severity, but all included labour ashore, including loading and unloading vessels, construction and repairs, re-painting ships, cleaning cables and scraping shot.

Conditions were grim. On board the Justitia moored at Woolwich between 1830–1855 prisoners slept in groups in tiered bunks. Each had an average sleeping space of 5 feet 10 inches long by 18 inches wide. Weekly rations consisted of biscuits and pea soup, accompanied once a week by half an ox-cheek and twice a week, by porridge, a lump of bread and cheese. None of the ships had adequate quarantine facilities and there was an ongoing contamination risk caused by the flow of excrement from the sick bays.(2)

A typical prison hulk

John was originally imprisoned on the hulk Retribution at Sheerness, but was transferred to the Ganymede at Chatham on 6 Sept 1826. It had originally been the French frigate Hébé captured in 1809. He served nearly seven years, being released on 10 April 1833 under a free pardon which indicated that the sentence of transportation had lapsed.

He managed to keep out of trouble for the next four years, but in 1837 he was charged with stealing a pig worth twenty shillings, the property of Thomas Laws at Newington-next-Hythe . At the East Kent Quarter Sessions on 3 January 1838, he pleaded guilty and was again sentenced to seven years .

This time, either New South Wales was in need of labour or John was not judged fit to remain on the hulks. He was transported to Australia on board the Bengal Merchant on 24 March 1838. In Australia, he seems to have behaved himself and got his ticket of leave in September 1842, by which time he was described as a collar and harness maker and was living in Illawarra, New South Wales.  The area had been cleared by settlers using convict labour and  used for dairy farming.

Illawarra before it was ‘cleared’…

… and afterwards

Seventeen years later, in May 1859 John was recorded as living in the Electoral District of Narellan.  It was a small, but steadily growing town where plots of land were being sold off. Perhaps John had finally settled down to a regular (and legal) way of life.

Nothing further is known of his life, but…

Ifield is an uncommon name in England, even more so in Australia. It is, of course, best known for being the surname of a yodelling singer from New South Wales, especially popular in the sixties after the success of his single ‘I Remember You’.

Is there a connection?

    1. Kent Archives H1431
    2. Kent Archives EK/2008/2/Book 13 1853
    3. Philip Atherton: Life inside the prison hulks: Staying alive.

Reformatory Boys 3- George Cloke

George was born in Saltwood in 1858, the second child of William and Julia Ann (or Juliana) Cloke. His father was an agricultural labourer and later a quarry labourer.  George never attended school and by the time he was thirteen, he was at work as a ‘farm boy’, which mostly involved bird-scaring, and he also got some work helping the ‘navvies’ who were building the railway line from Sandling to Hythe.  His mother died in 1871.

William Cloke then moved his family to Albion Cottage in Stade Street in Hythe where he set up home with a Mrs Tanton, or, in the words of the authorities at the Royal Philanthropic School, where they ‘lived in fornication’.  William’s decision is understandable: he had only one daughter, Jane, aged nine when her mother died and too young to keep house for her father and two older brothers.

The arrangement did not work out well. George’s older brother, John, left to go into service in Kentish Town. Little Jane, at eleven, was sent to work in service in Sandgate.  George was simply turned out of the house.  He resorted to stealing and was found guilty, with William Impett, of stealing eighteen eggs from a shed in a field. On 23 Jan 1874 he was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment in Canterbury followed by five years at the Royal Philanthropic Reform School in Redhill. In the magistrate’s opinion, he was ‘utterly neglected’.

Official protection of vulnerable children was a long way in the future, and there was nothing else the magistrates could have done to safeguard George. Unfortunately, admission to a Reformatory was dependant on having served a prison sentence first.

He was described when he arrived at the School as being 4 feet 10 inches tall with dark hair and a ’round, chubby, rustic face’.  His father, who earned about  £1 a week in the quarry was ordered to pay one shilling and sixpence a week towards his keep, though the Town Council also contributed.

Boys working on the School farm

George did not get off to a good start at Redhill. Barely seven months after his admission he was punished by being isolated in the school’s cells for three days for breaking into a cottage on the site. Thereafter however, he mostly kept out of trouble, apart from a few minor infringements of the rules.

The only people to visit him during his stay were his brother and sister.  In  1878, George was given permission to spend Christmas with John, at his invitation. By then, George had been allowed out on licence to work in service.

He was discharged from the School in February 1879 and went to live in Chalk Farm, near his brother.  In September that year, he went back to the School on a visit and said he was doing well. He survived a period of unemployment the next year, but then got a job making new flowerbeds in Regent’s Park.

All subsequent reports back to the School suggest that he that he had settled down and was in good work, including labouring at Cannon Street on the Metropolitan Line extension. He married in 1881 and he and Matilda (or Mary as she was known), his wife, went on to have three sons and two daughters (though three other children died young). They lived in Napier Road, East Ham, near to the Central Park.

From about 1897, for nine years, he was employed by the Beckton Gas Light and Coke Company, but in January 1906 he was told his services were no longer required and was given one hour’s notice. He had the confidence to take the company to court, claiming that as he was paid weekly, he should have been given a week’s notice. His erstwhile employers contended that he was employed by the hour, but paid weekly for convenience and the magistrates upheld their claim. Fair employment law was also a long way in the future.

He soon found other employment and moved house to Telham Road, a five-roomed house which he shared with his son, another George, and his family. We know this from the 1911 census which George completed in a firm, clear script. Thirty-seven years earlier he had been homeless, illiterate and ‘utterly neglected’. If the Royal Philanthropic School gave him nothing else, it gave him literacy.

Information about George’s time at the Royal Philanthropic School is taken from their admission registers at Surrey Archive in Woking: 2271/10/16 page 205

 

Reformatory Boys 2 – William Impett

William Impett was born on 20 March 1860, the sixth child of Richard Impett, a labourer and his wife Phoeba Maria, a charwoman, who then lived in Lympne, where Wiliam was baptised. They later moved to Chapel Street in Hythe, which was little more than a lane behind the High Street, lined with small workmen’s dwellings. The family seem to have been respectable, except that Richard was once convicted of trespass in search of game at Sandling Park – poaching was generally regarded (except by landowners and magistrates) as an acceptable way of putting food on the family table when times were hard.

William attended the National School in Hythe for four years, but as soon as he could be useful and contribute to the family’s income, he was working with the ‘navvies’ on the construction of the railway line running down from Sandling to Hythe. His contribution was necessary because his father had become ‘crippled and unable to work’.  However, the work did not last long, possibly because William was only 4 feet 7 inches tall and ‘undersized’.  The Overseers of the Poor granted outdoor relief to his parents and their youngest child, but this did not extend to maintaining William once he was thirteen. He was judged to be able to go out to work and as he had no job, he was put in Elham Union Workhouse on 12 June 1873.

By now he had a reputation in Hythe of being a petty thief – though not yet convicted – and of being ‘very troublesome to the police’.  Once in the workhouse, he absconded, though he was found and returned.

He managed for a while to return home – perhaps his mother or a friend had found him some temporary work – but he also returned to crime.  On 23 Jan 1874, he was sent to prison for a month for stealing eighteen eggs. This was to be followed by five years detention in a reformatory. He served his prison term in Canterbury gaol, and exactly a month later, on 23 February 1874, still just thirteen years old, he was admitted to the Royal Philanthropic School at Redhill in Surrey, together with George Cloke, who was convicted of the same crime.

This institution had been established by the Philanthropic Society, a group concerned with the care of homeless children left to fend for themselves by begging or thieving. Those admitted were children of criminals or those who had been convicted of crimes themselves. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the school was classed as a reformatory, under the Reformatory Schools Act 1854, most of its pupils being committed by the magistrates and paid for by the local authorities. Farm work was the principal occupation, although carpentry, tailoring and other trades were also taught. The aim of the Committee was ‘to assimilate, so far as the diverse conditions permit, the life and administration of the school to that of the great public schools of England’. It encouraged many of its inmates to emigrate, usually to Canada or Australia, rather than face unemployment and a possible return to criminality, on their release.

The Royal Philanthropic Farm School near Redhill

William was almost immediately in trouble at the Reformatory, and weeks after his arrival was caned for ‘going dirty to chapel.’ The punishments continued through out his stay, mostly for what we might think of as horseplay or high spirits.  Every three or four months, he rebelled and was noisy, or disorderly in the dormitory, or threw things around. Sometimes he was confined to the School’s cells (not a feature of most English public schools).

He was visited occasionally by his family. His mother and her sister, who lived in Lambeth and William’s older brother Harry came in November 1874. In October 1875, his father and Harry visited. This was the last time William would see his father, who died in early 1876, aged fifty-nine. His mother and aunt visited again in June that year, but that is the last recorded visit until his release on 24 February 1879.

The school kept tabs on its ex-pupils, mostly via local police reports. Perhaps this was to assess the success or otherwise of its regime. William went straight into employment as a servant in Folkestone, but the post did not last long. By May 1880 he had no regular work. However, in September he wrote to the School that he was working as a deck hand on board the brig Florence of Whitstable, sailing from London to Hull.

Sea Street in Whitstable today

Whitstable harbour in the 1880s. Most of the traffic was to Newcastle to fetch coal

He continued sporadically in this line of work and lived in Sea Street in Whitstable, though he spent time in Hythe, perhaps with family. His mother and a couple of brothers still lived locally.

It was during one of these visits, in 1889, that he he was convicted of common assault and sent to prison again, this time for two months. Then one night in 1893, returning drunk to his home in Whitstable, he tried to kill himself. The knives he sharpened for the purpose were confiscated by his landlord but he then swallowed a packet of precipitate powder. He was taken to a police station and treated with an emetic, but then charged – suicide was then still a criminal offence. When he appeared in court again, he told the magistrates he had signed the pledge never to drink again, and was let off another prison sentence.

He had, however, not many years left to live. On 2 February 1898 a huge storm ravaged the east coast of England, with many losses at sea. William was one of them, swept overboard when his boat, the smack Ranger, en route to Grimsby was hit by a huge wave. He was a month short of his thirty-eighth birthday and had never married.

William’s behaviour after leaving the School – the violence, drink and suicide attempt – may suggest that he had been traumatised by his time there. We cannot know. What we can be sure of is that in his case, the system failed him.

The information about William’s time at the Royal Philanthropic School is taken from their archive (2271/10/16 page 206) held at Surrey Archives in Woking. 

‘Toby MP’ in Hythe

Henry Lucy by ‘Spy’

Henry Lucy was one of the most famous English political journalists of the Victorian era. He was both a serious commentator of parliamentary affairs and an accomplished humourist and parliamentary sketch-writer, acknowledged as the first great lobby correspondent. And he lived in Hythe – or at least weekended there.

Henry was born in Crosby, near Liverpool on 5 December 1842, the son of Robert Lucy, a rose-engine turner in the watch trade, and his wife, Margaret Ellen nee Kemp. He was baptized William Henry at St. Michael’s Church and the family moved to Everton, Liverpool soon afterwards. His mother taught him to read by the age of four and then he attended the private Crescent School until he was twelve. His first job was as junior clerk to Robert Smith, a hide merchant. In his spare time, he wrote poetry for the Liverpool Mercury and went to night school to learn Pitman’s shorthand.

It paid off and in 1864 he was appointed chief reporter on the Shrewsbury Chronicle, but also supplied ‘penny-a-liners’ of Shropshire news for London newspapers.

Then, in 1869, he took his life savings of £200 and went to live in Paris to learn French.

On his return, he became a reporter for the Pall Mall Gazette, who immediately took advantage of his knowledge of French and sent him on a mission to Belgium.  In 1873 he was despatched to report on the enquiry into the wreck of the Northfleet, an emigrant ship which in January, while riding at anchor off Dungeness, had been run down by a large steamer which then proceeded on her way. The enquiry was split between Dover and Lydd and providentially the drive between the two towns took him through Hythe, which charmed him with its ‘old-fashioned roofs and house fronts dating back beyond Stuart times’.

In October that year, he married Emily Anne White, the daughter of his old schoolmaster, and they started to visit the town for holidays.

Emily Lucy as a young woman   Photo: C. Melchers

At this stage, his career began to take off. He was Parliamentary reporter for the Daily News from 1873, took a trip to Canada in 1878 to report on a Royal visit and became Parliamentary sketch writer for Punch from 1881. Used the nom-de-plume ‘Toby, M.P.’ he wrote the weekly column ‘The Essence of Parliament’ for the next thirty-five years. In 1880, he also began writing for The Observer the ‘Cross Bench’ column, which continued for twenty-nine years

In August 1883 he and Emily bought from St John’s Hospital in Hythe a plot of land between North Road and Hillside Street in the town. (1). They paid £150 for it. (2) He wrote to his solicitor that he was thinking of asking Frederick Porter to design his house and asked for his address – it was Moyle Tower on the seafront in Hythe. (3)

The deeds to the house were destroyed during the second World War, so we don’t know if Frederick Porter obliged, but while Henry and Emily took a round-the world journey, the house took shape: ‘rock-built, red-tiled Whitethorn, where roses grow beyond compare, and through late spring nights the nightingale sings’. (4)

The Lucys’ ‘weekend cottage’, Whitethorn…                               Photo: C. Melchers

         

…and with its roses beyond compare    Photo: C. Melchers

The gardens were larger than at present and abutted the gardens of the Commandant of the School of Musketry. He and Henry were able to chat companionably over the garden wall.

Henry and Emily moved their furniture into the house in September 1884 though they maintained their London home at 42 Ashley Gardens

Henry loved Hythe and wrote fondly of it, though he was less impressed by the increasing number of ‘excursionists’. He appreciated the slow pace of life there. He wrote of the bathing establishment:

‘…regularly at the end of September the pump gets out of order, and the new year is far advanced before the solitary plumber of the place gets it put right. He begins to walk dreamily round the place at Easter. At Whitsuntide he brings down an iron vessel containing unmelted solder, and early in July the pump is mended. The mending of the pump is one of the epochs of Hythe, a sure harbinger of the approaching season.’ (5)

In 1886, Henry became editor of the Daily News, a short-lived post. He was busy compiling permanent records of his Punch parliamentary sketches, A Diary of Two Parliaments (2 vols., 1885–6); A Diary of the Salisbury Parliament, 1886–1892; A Diary of the Home Rule Parliament, 1892–1895; A Diary of the Unionist Parliament, 1895–1900 ; and The Balfourian Parliament, 1900–1905. These amount to a history of the Commons in its heyday, and have been extensively mined by historians.

Henry was also a long-time friend of Ernest Shackleton and raised funds for his expedition to the South Pole by using his influence to obtain a financial grant from Parliament. As a gesture of thanks, Shackleton named a mountain in Antarctica for him, Mount Henry Lucy.

Ernest Shackleton

Henry’s acquaintance was extensive and he moved in exalted circles. He was present at a dinner party in 1908 when Clementine Hozier met, for the second time, a young Winston Churchill, and this time fell in love. Henry was knighted in 1909 and he and Emily (now Lady Lucy) received over two hundred telegrams of congratulation from the great and the good. They included politicians, ambassadors, editors, actors, and bishops. One who wrote a letter was Herbert Beerbohm Tree, a hugely successful actor-manager

Sir Henry and Lady Lucy later in life                                                                                       Photos: C. Melchers

The title was perhaps only what he felt to be his due, as he believed that his father should have inherited the Lucy baronetcy together with the family estate at Charlcote, Warwickshire. He said that his father had lost touch with the titled family and on the death of one of them with no sons it went to a cousin who was more distant than his father. He said, though, that he was not bitter.

Henry died of bronchitis at Whitethorn, on 20 February 1924, aged eighty-one and was buried quietly in Saltwood as the snow fell on his grave. Whitethorn was in the parish of Saltwood and Emily had worshipped at the parish church there, rather than the closer St Leonard’s in Hythe. Henry, meanwhile, walked one of their succession of dogs on Sunday mornings.

His obituaries were mostly flattering, even reverent. The Times wrote: ‘Never in the House, but always of it, Lucy seemed to occupy for a long time a position of his own, as a species of familiar spirit or licensed jester, without which no Parliament was complete.’

But he was rich and famous and therefore bound to have his detractors. Ambrose Bierce, an American journalist wrote spitefully, ‘I knew Lucy very well – a little toadie, who afterwards toadied himself into a title.’

Henry left a huge sum of money, over a quarter of a million pounds, and was probably the wealthiest Victorian journalist who was not also a newspaper proprietor. In his will he endowed a ‘Sir William Henry Lucy Bed’ at Shrewsbury’s Royal Salop Infirmary ‘in memory of his pleasant connection with Shrewsbury’ as a journalist but also left legacies of £1000 each to forty seven other hospitals and benevolent institutions and  £3000 to Hythe charities. In December 1924, Lady Lucy got permission from Hythe Town Council to plant an avenue  of cypress trees from the Cricket Ground to South Road in Hythe and to erect a commemorative tablet. The avenue was to be known as ‘Lucy’s Walk’.  She also endowed a Lad’s Club in Saltwood, which still stands and is in regular use today, not far from the churchyard where Henry is buried. .

Emily continued to use Whitethorn and in 1935, she donated £1,000 to found the Sir Henry Lucy Scholarship at Merchant Taylors’ School, Crosby. She and Henry had no children of their own. She died in Hythe in 1937.

Emily in old age in her garden at Whitethorn   Photo: C. Melchers

In 1948 the orchard adjoining Whitethorn was sold for building and with it the main entrance gate in North Road, bearing the house name. The new building thus became ‘Whitethorn’ and the old house ‘Lucy’s’, and the steep lane next to it, ‘Lucy’s Hill’, though in all probability, that is what the locals had always called them.

A caricature of Henry Lucy, by Kate Carew

With thanks to Chris Melchers for additional information

  1. Kent Archives: EK2008/2 111(1-12)
  2. Kent Archives: EK 2008/2/Book 13
  3. Kent Archives: EK2008/2/112.
  4. Henry W. Lucy Sixty Years in the Wilderness,  London, Smith Elder, 1911, p84
  5. Henry W. Lucy Faces and Places, London: Henry & Co, 1892, p. 7

Reformatory Boys 1 – the Dearman Brothers

On 5 June 1875, two boys were admitted to the Royal Philanthropic School at Redhill: Edwin Dearman, who had turned twelve the day before, and his brother James, a month off his fourteenth birthday. They had just served twenty-one days in Canterbury prison, convicted by the Hythe magistrates of begging and vagrancy and were to spend a further four years at Redhill. Both already had previous convictions, for firing straw, wilful damage, vagrancy and petty theft.The notes taken on their admission make sad reading.

Edwin, at 4 feet 6 inches tall, was judged to be ‘undersized’ and had ‘an old face.’ James was 4 feet 8 inches tall. He had been employed at stone breaking on the roads at seven shillings and sixpence per week per week and greasing railway wagons at six shillings a week. Both were illiterate.

Their father was William Dearman, a sailor’s labourer, reported by the magistrates to be of a very bad character. He had himself been in prison twice. Their mother, Mary, was also apparently of a bad character. The family lived in Dental Street in Hythe.  The boys had an older brother, William who was serving in the 36th rifles, a sister Eliza who sold watercress at Folkestone and lived in Sandgate and there were also  younger sisters, Elizabeth, Susan and Clara.

The Hythe magistrates reported that the boys had been convicted on 15 May 1875 of ‘unlawfully wandering abroad and lodging in an unoccupied house without visible means of sustenance’. They noted:

This boy and his brother bear very bad characters and are sent out by their parents nearly every day to beg, their father being a confirmed drunkard. Unless they bring home some food they receive a severe beating which causes them frequently to stay out all night.

The magistrates had limited options for helping Edwin and James: the reform school was the best one, but its admission rules required that they serve a prison sentence first. When they arrived they were separated into different ‘houses’ (the school tried to model itself on the English public school system). Visitors were allowed, but the only recorded visit they received during their time at the School was from their mother in 1876.

Edwin was regularly caned  during his stay for fighting, stealing, lying and disobedience. After his discharge, he sold herrings in Hythe, but then got work at sea on the coal brigs plying between the north-east ports and Kent. In September 1882 he served seven days for assaulting a police officer. He got married in 1887 to Mary Jane Stockbridge, but the marriage did not last and by 1890 he was living with Elizabeth Austen, a widow, in Middle Wall, Whitstable, where many of the brigs berthed.

Whitstable Harbour in the 1890s, when Edwin Dearman lived there

They had a least two children together, but the relationship was often violent and both liked a drink.  By 1909, Elizabeth had left him, taking the children to Dover. Edwin went to Woolwich, where the same year he was homeless and arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

He must have rallied as in 1916, he enlisted in the Royal Navy, though he was over fifty. He was soon discharged, not for drunkenness or bad behaviour, but simply for being too old.

Edwin died in Stepney in 1937.

While at the reform school, James was better behaved at first, apart from some minor infringements of the rules, but in 1878 he stole from a cottage on the grounds and was birched and confined in the cells for four days. He continued throughout the rest of his stay to be difficult – he used tobacco, bullied younger boys and cut up his own boots. In May 1879, it was reported that he had, when he first came to the school been keen to emigrate to Australia or Canada, but his family brought pressure to bear on him, saying they wanted him at home. They could, they said, get employment for him at sea. He was released on licence to work in May that year.

The ‘work at sea’ did not materialise. The next year, Hythe Police reported to the school that he was occasionally hawking herrings, but then he got full-time employment with a local fish-dealer, Stephen Cloke.  They suspected he was sometimes up to no good, but could prove nothing.

Then on 30 June 1884, James married Minnie Cousine at St Leonard’s church. Her full name was Miriam Ann and she was the daughter of  a Frenchman, Louis, and an Englishwoman, Mary and has been born in Heathfield, Sussex.  The love of a good woman evidently turned James’s life around. For a start, the children started arriving – there would be fifteen eventually, though one died young. The family moved from a tiny cottage in Chapel Street, a narrow lane behind the High Street, to a slightly larger house in Frampton Road. Then, while continuing to work as a labourer and later fish seller  James joined the lifeboat crew in 1890, eventually becoming coxswain. When he retired in 1917, he held five medals for saving life and had been granted a Royal National Lifeboat Institution pension. He was, rather mysteriously, known to the lifeboat crew as ‘Charcoal’.

The Hythe Lifeboat crew in 1891. I think James is fourth from left…

…an enlargement shows a similarity to the verified picture of James below

When war was declared in 1914, James enlisted in the army, despite being over fifty, giving his age as thirty-eight years and four months. The truth was made known to his commanding officer by the sergeant-major, who knew him, and he was sent home.

The war and the succeeding years brought much sadness to the family.

In 1910, James and Minnie’s sixth chid, Sam, had joined the army and served with the East Kent Regiment, the Buffs. He was mobilised at the outbreak of war in 1914 and sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force on 27 December. Six weeks later, on 10 February 1915, he died of wounds.

Samuel Dearman 30 July 1893– 10 February 1915 

That same year, John, the second son, died of natural causes aged twenty-eight and Stephen, the third son, who worked as a brewer’s drayman, joined up. He was wounded, invalided home, sent back to the front, was gassed and finally was taken prisoner in March 1918. He was home in time for Christmas that year. The sixth child, Edwin (or Edward) served in the Royal Field Artillery, but survived.

In June 1917, James and Minnie’s eighth child, seventeen-year-old Ben, was walking with his brother and two friends along the canal bank when they met two other boys, one of whom, the  fourteen-year-old, ‘Teddy’ , was carrying a rifle (for which he had a licence), as he planned to shoot rats. None of the boys actually saw what happened and at the inquest there was some disagreement as to whether Teddy knew the gun was loaded, as he was carrying cartridges in a tin box. They heard a shot and saw Benjamin fall, with his hand to his stomach. A local man and a soldier came to help and a doctor was called. Benjamin was taken home and then transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Folkestone, where he died following an operation. The coroner’s verdict was ‘Accidental Death’.

The fifth child, Bill, a milkman, presumably unfit for overseas service, joined the Labour Corps during WW1, but was suffering from TB, which was aggravated by the work he carried out. He was a patient in the Royal Herbert Hospital, Woolwich for a while, but died at home on 28 July 1919.

The Commonwealth War Grave of William Dearman ( 30 November 1894 – 28 July 1919) in Horn Street Cemetery, Hythe

In 1922, both the eldest child, James Lewis (or sometimes Lewis James) and the eleventh, Polly died. James was thirty-nine and Polly nineteen. In 1927, their youngest sister, Kathleen (or Catherine) died ‘after a long illness’. Was the TB which carried off Bill to blame for all these adult deaths?

James died in 1936. His was a hard life, bravely lived. Minnie survived him by twelve years. She received help in her widowhood from the trustees of St Bartholomew’s Hospital. (1)

James and Minnie Dearman                                    Photos: Dave Lear

  1. Kent Archives EK2008/2 Book 19

Details of the brothers’ convictions, background and stay at the reform school are in Surrey County Archives 2271/10/16 pp 308-9

With thanks to Kathryne Maher for additional information and to Dave Lear for the photos of James & Minnie