Restoration – Part Four

So the century drew on. Plague came and went, Sir William built his wall, and the haven finally silted up for good and was obliterated by the tides.  The town surrendered its charter and one of the last vestiges of the influence of the Cinque Ports, the annual trip to Yarmouth to sit in judgement on lesser mortals, was abandoned.

There were brief moments of excitement. In the summer of 1672, eight French smugglers boarded a boat belonging to a Mr Williams and took a hostage to France. Three years later a French man-of-war chased a Dutch merchant ship onto the beach at Hythe and fired volleys of bullets at it, a good many of which fell in the town, though no deaths were reported.

In 1685 Charles II died, having been received into the Catholic church on his deathbed. The erstwhile Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, his brother James, became king and provided Hythe an opportunity for canopy-carrying.  The mayor, Robison Beane, who lived in a fine house in the High Street opposite the George inn attended and so did Hythe’s sitting M.P. Heneage Finch.  Also carrying the canopy that day was Samuel Pepys, who served very briefly as M.P. for Sandwich.

The reign of James II was also brief.  He was openly Catholic, but as he was not young and in poor health, his people expected that he would soon be succeeded by his Protestant daughters. A late second marriage, however, produced a Catholic son, who took precedence. This was unacceptable to parliament and the country, and one of the Protestant daughters, Mary, and her husband William of Orange, were invited to take the throne. James, after dithering for a while, let the county in 1688.

Not everyone agreed that William and Mary had a right to the throne. Jacobites held (and still do) that James and his successors were the rightful monarchs. Among these was Hythe’s former M.P., Heneage Finch.

Finch was elected to Parliament in 1685, at the same time that Julius Deedes tried to get himself a seat.  The Lord Warden’s nomination, he was a Guards officer, a courtier and a younger son of the Lord Lieutenant of Kent. On the accession of William and Mary, he refused to take the oath of allegiance and in April 1689 was arrested on charges of Jacobitism. He escaped custody and with five others assembled at Hythe, hoping to sail to France to join James II, who had set up a Stuart court in exile at St Germain near Paris.  Perhaps he thought he would find the people of Hythe loyal to him, as he had so recently represented them.

He was wrong. As he and his friends were preparing to join a small vessel, they were recognised by several Hythe men. They tried to flee on horseback but Finch’s horse threw him, he was arrested and taken to London. He was bailed and eventually discharged for lack of evidence. The men who made the arrest and escorted Finch to London, Thomas Mount, (a sadler), Nicholas Ingham (alehouse keeper), Ralph Hatton, Thomas Tournay (the town clerk), and James Fordred, were recommended to the Treasury for a gratuity.

The arrest sparked a little rush of similar detentions. The next year, Hythe men apprehended Godfrey Cross, who had treasonably been supplying intelligence to the French. This time their prisoner was tried and executed.  In 1692, they detained two ‘suspicious persons’ who were believed to be in correspondence with the king’s enemies.  

In 1691, the boot was on the other foot when the Constable of West Hythe was arrested for concealing two Frenchmen suspected of spying. He himself was suspected of using the inn he owned at Botolph’s Bridge for smuggling goods both into and out of the country. However, the day after his arrest he was found in an ale house in Hythe with his ‘consorts.’  Charges were mysteriously dropped.

At the end of the seventeenth century, Hythe was not the town it had been a hundred years earlier. The population had shrunk by about 50%. Baptisms and burials were half what they had been in 1600, and very few marriages are recorded. Those marriages that did take place were often the second unions of widowed men and women.

This may, in part, have been due to plague. We don’t know how badly Hythe was affected in the last outbreak in 1665/6, but if the town was badly hit, then it took it much longer to recover than other comparable places. What seems to have been happening is that the young people were leaving. They were going, perhaps, to larger towns, but almost certainly many were going to London, the great sump, where there were job opportunities for skilled and unskilled men and women alike.  Once gone from the town, they did not return.

 The Ancient Town and Port was in the doldrums, and difficult years were to follow, but the sea, which had treacherously taken away the town’s haven and livelihoods became eventually its saviour. The rise of the fashionable seaside resort brought new people and new hope to Hythe, and the coming of the military to protect the coast from Napoleon brought new trading opportunities. By the mid- nineteenth century, the town was thriving again.

But that is another story.


Restoration- Part Three

Hythe’s woes were increased by a particularly nasty outbreak of in-fighting in the middle of the decade. By this time some of those disenfranchised from the corporation in 1662 had been allowed to return to the assembly. The origin of the dispute seems to have been in personal animosity, which spilled over into revolt.

George Thurbane, a jurat, and James Minage, a poor citizen of Hythe had some sort of disagreement. Minage took it seriously and started to slander Thurbane, even accusing him of murder. Minage’s cause was taken up by John Handfield and John Finch, former jurats who had been disenfranchised. They encouraged Minage to take his grievances against Thurbane  to the Hythe court. Again and again his complaints were judged to be ‘frivolous’ that is, of no legal merit, but Handfield, who seems to have had a hold over Minage, kept forcing him back into court. According to Thurbane, this was because Handfield was plotting to ruin him.

In 1667, when John Gray was mayor, Handfield and Finch walked into the corporation meeting and claimed that, though disenfranchised, they should now be allowed to sit. Gray agreed, but the rest of the jurats did not, and walked out. Nothing daunted, Gray swore the two men in as jurats.  The town was apparently to be run by a triumvirate. They immediately sacked the town’s counsel (legal advisor) and replaced him with their own man, without any vote being taken. This was presumably to help Minage’s case against Thurbane  being taken seriously.  

The aggrieved jurats who had opposed Handfield and Finch appealed to the Brotherhood and Guestling, who found in their favour. Gray, Handfield and Finch were fined, and when they refused to pay, imprisoned until they did. The legal costs of the jurats’ action against them had been high, and the Brotherhood ordered that everyone of Hythe’s citizens should pay twenty shillings to reimburse them. The Brotherhood would send a collector to Hythe, and he would have the power to seize good in lieu of payment.

It was not the corporation’s finest hour.

The jurats struggled on through the next few years, always broke, and dealing with crisis after crisis, from Sir William Honywood’s wall to the botched election of Julius Deedes to parliament. In 1683, however, they made a controversial choice of town clerk by appointing a non-conformist, Thomas Tournay, who had been removed from office in Rye because of his radical views. It seems that old habits die hard.   The mayor of Rye referred to him as one of ‘those bloody-minded people’ and carefully searched his house for hidden arms before he went, but found none.

The departure of William Wallace from Hythe had not meant that all its inhabitants decided to conform to the Church of England.  The restored bishops in the Church believed that Puritanism had been responsible for disaffection from the King, and were determined to wipe it out. A whole culture of teaching, praying, preaching and singing was made to go away.  The result, which should have been obvious, was that people deserted the church for non-conformists’ gatherings.

Even before Wallace’s departure there were Baptists in Hythe, and they had their own preacher, Richard Hatton. Whilst Baptists were not singled out for persecution like the Quakers, the government did not make it easy for them to worship and their gatherings were made illegal under the Conventicle Act of 1664, although two in Hythe were reported to the authorities in 1669.  Dissenting ministers were also required to live at least five miles outside towns. However, by 1672 it was possible to apply for a licence to hold religious meetings, and one of the fifty granted in Kent was in Hythe. There was, as yet, no permanent chapel, and worshippers gathered together in private houses to pray and listen to the Word of God.  

A religious census in 1676 showed that Hythe had 274 conformists to the Church of England, two Catholics, two Quakers and twenty-three Baptists. The proportion of non-conformists was higher than most towns in Kent. The figures probably refer to heads of household. The population of Hythe had shrunk, but not to a mere three hundred souls.

Restoration – Part Two

There was another general election in April 1661. Phineas Andrews stood for Hythe again, but faced opposition from no fewer than four other candidates. John Hervey (not to be confused with John Harvey, the by now dead parliamentarian) was the Lord Warden’s nomination; the mayor of Hythe, William Knight was another candidate, and Sir Edward Dering probably a third. The identity of the fourth man is unknown. Andrews, who had expected to spend about £20 on his election campaign, complained that he had to lay out seven times as much. He would have complained more if he had known how short his triumph would be:  he died on 23 September 1661.

The other successful candidate was John Hervey, a courtier with ambitions that went beyond representing a decaying Cinque Port, and his time in parliament was marked by his almost complete inactivity. He was ill at the time of Charles I’s coronation and unable to carry the canopy, so Elias Bassett, landlord of ‘The George’ stepped in. Phineas Andrews also represented the town at the ceremony. According to his tombstone in Denton church, his exertions on the occasion led directly to his illness and death.

At the ensuing by-election, on 26 October, Sir Henry Wood another courtier, was returned unopposed.  The corporation had obviously had enough of these placemen, and ordered that he should be returned ‘after he shall have first made his appearance at Hythe to take the oath of Freeman of this town and not before’.  A struggle of will ensued. Twice the corporation reminded him that they expected him to make the journey; twice he refused. At last, on 8 December, six weeks after the election, three jurats travelled to the capital to swear him in.

The fact was that they also wanted to ask him for money to fund some new boats for the town’s fishermen, but as he only offered £40, the fishermen were not interested.  The corporation could offer nothing: the town chest was empty and they finished the year more than £25 in the red.

Suspicions and accusations were still flying around Hythe. In 1662, William Adcock, a grocer who had already been thrown off the corporation was arrested in connection with the escape of Colonel Edmund Ludlow, against whom an arrest warrant had been issued in September 1660.  Ludlow was a radical parliamentarian, who had been one of the judges who condemned Charles I to death.  Charles II, although he had granted amnesty to most of Cromwell’s supporters, did not extend his clemency to regicides.  Ludlow was a wanted man, but managed to escape to Switzerland in 1660.  The government believed that he had escaped through one of the Cinque Ports, but Adcock’s supposed involvement is unknown. After being interrogated in the Tower of London, he was released and returned to Hythe.

Then on 26 August of the same year, six Commissioners for the Well Governing and Regulating of Corporations, a sort of mini-Inquisition, visited Hythe. Parliament had passed a Corporation Act in 1661 which sought to exclude religious dissenters from the governing bodies of corporate towns. It demanded the taking of the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and office holders also had to receive the Sacrament according to the rites of the Church of England.  However, the king and parliament thought it likely that many would do so solely to satisfy the law, so the Act provided for commissioners to examine and purge the corporations, even of those who took their oaths. Charles chose country gentlemen with their local knowledge, not courtiers, as Commissioners.

Twenty-six of the Hythe jurats and freemen swore the oaths. The Commissioners still disenfranchised five of them, together with another twelve who refused to take the oaths. Altogether seventeen freemen and jurats were banned from the corporation or holding office either for political or religious reasons. John Finch and Ferdinando Bassett were also obliged to resign as wardens of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, as this was a corporation office.  It is a wonder the corporation was able to function at all.

Throughout the 1660s the corporation struggled to keep afloat financially. It is not impossible that the loss of so many experienced jurats led to mistakes being made. Their solution to the problem was to sell their capital assets. Land was sold to Elias Bassett and Julius Deedes.  Other land was mortgaged. Penny House and Grayfields were also sold, together with some land know as St Clare’s, again to Elias Bassett. The mayor, who was the same Elias Bassett three times during the decade, refused to accept his traditional salary. It was only £10 a year, and a man of Elias’s evident wealth could easily afford to forego it.

Politics, Politicians and People – Part Four

The installation of the Lord Warden, however, was small-time when compared to the opportunity to attend the coronation of the monarch. ‘Barons’ of the Cinque Ports had been called upon to carry the canopy over the king or queen at the coronation since time immemorial (the right was called ‘ancient’ at the time of Richard I).

Elizabeth I died in March 1603, and by May, the Lord Warden was writing to his ports that they should take great care in their choice of representative. He must be ‘fit for the service’ although whether this meant physically capable of carrying the canopy or of pleasing appearance was not clear. He was more specific in July: ‘I wish you to be very cautious and wary that they may be men of the meetest and comliest personage amongst you’ and also that they should be fit and well. The coronation was not to be marred by the ugly, the old or the lame.

The Brotherhood and Guestling decreed that every baron returned to the coronation should wear ‘one scarlet gown down to the ankle, citizens fashion, faced with crimson satin, gascaine hose (a sort of loose breeches), crimson silk stockings and crimson silk shoes and black velvet caps’. They would also be responsible for their own travel and accommodation costs for the occasion, so anyone without a healthy disposable income was also excluded.

Elizabeth had reigned for over forty years, and the fact was that no-one now alive remembered how a coronation worked. Francis Raworth, the town clerk of Dover, was despatched to London to consult the Lord High Steward and the livery books to try to find out what should be done. He made some enquiries about the cost of scarlet and crimson satin and silk while he was there, and was horrified to report that ‘scarlet is valued at £3.10s. the yard at least and crimson satin at 15s. the yard’.

The corporation of Hythe chose Thomas Sprott to be their representative. No doubt he was comely, fit and reasonably well-off, but the deciding factor must have been that he was a draper and therefore able to buy cloth wholesale, not retail.

In the event, the coronation was a muted affair, as plague had visited London.  Sprott, though, was proud enough of the part he played to have it recorded on a stone placed over his grave in St Leonard’s church

The memorial stone of Thomas Sprott (or Spratt) which is now on the Vestry wall in St Leonard's Church, Hythe
The memorial stone of Thomas Sprott (or Spratt) which is now on the Vestry wall in St Leonard’s Church, Hythe

‘ Here lieth the bodi of Thomas Sprotte Juratt and Susan his first wife who whilst he lived was thris Mayor and Baylif to Yarmoth and on of those that did cary the cannopye over the King at his Cronation who died 21 January 1619′

The honour of carrying the canopy had some additional perks to make up for the outlay on crimson and scarlet cloth and the expenses of getting to London and overnight accommodation. The Cinque Ports barons were invited to the ceremonial banquet after the coronation and were given part of the cloth of gold of which the canopy was made, together with a share in the silver staves which supported it and the silver bells with which it was decorated. The silver was usually melted down and made into other objects, some of which are in the Victoria and Albert museum today. Perhaps coronation silver was the origin of the silverware seized by the corporation from Thomas Sprott.

Thomas Browning (gentleman) of Hythe was chosen to carry the canopy at the coronation of Charles II in 1626. A Mr Monings of Dover was rejected by the Lord Warden, Buckingham, because he was ‘too low of stature’ and also because he had stopped Buckingham’s parliamentary nomination at Dover from being elected. Buckingham was by this time careless of whether anyone knew of his petty vengefulness or not. He believed he was untouchable.

In 1661, at the Restoration coronation, Elias Bassett, jurat and landlord of the ‘George’ inn was chosen to carry the canopy, an unlikely choice given his previous commitment to parliamentary rule, but the country was full of such ‘reformed’ characters.

The coronation was marred by an unseemly tussle recorded by Samuel Pepys:

but only the King’s Footmen had got hold of the Canopy and would keep it from the barons of the Cinque ports; which they endeavoured to force from them again but could not do it till my Lord Duke of Albermarle caused it to be put into Sir R Pye’s hand till tomorrow to be decided’.

The barons got their silver the next day, but in the melee they had lost their places at the banqueting table. The king had the footmen imprisoned and dismissed.

In 1685, for the coronation of James II, Julius Deedes was chosen by the corporation, but rejected by the Lord High Steward as his behaviour in the recent parliamentary had been questionable, to say the least of it.  Julius responded by getting his son, William, elected as a Hythe freeman, and immediately placed at the top of the ‘reserve list’ for the Cinque Ports in case anyone should be unable to perform the service.  There is no other recorded instance in the seventeenth century of a father and son being freemen in Hythe at the same time. There were obvious implications for the impartiality of the voting system. In the event, Julius’s ploy did not work, and no member of the Deedes family attended the 1685 coronation.

James fled into exile in 1688, and his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange were invited to take the throne as joint monarchs. At last Julius achieved his ambition and carried the canopy at their 1689 coronation. It was not an entirely happy event as the Archbishop of Canterbury refused to participate and the new king himself thought the ceremony was ‘a popish mockery’.

The coronation procession of William and Mary. One of the canopy bearers was Julius Deedes
The coronation procession of William and Mary. One of the canopy bearers was Julius Deedes of Hythe

A Tide in the Affairs of Men – Part Four

Smugglers were not necessarily all from the normal criminal classes. In 1601 a Star Chamber case against Ambrose Warde, gentleman and later mayor of Hythe, revealed some details he would rather have kept private. The suit against him was brought by his brother-in-law, Lawrence Baker of New Romney who had married Hester, Warde’s sister. Baker, a man of small fortune and seemingly less sense, got his business and financial affairs inextricably muddled with those of Warde.  He borrowed three hundred pounds which he could not afford to repay, and when his creditors became unpleasant about it, insisted that the debt was his brother-in-law’s. Warde said it was not and Baker was thrown into gaol.  His wife and children apparently starving, Baker had to sell the silver buttons from his doublet to get them food. Warde (and this was his own family he was talking about) said that Baker could stay there ‘until the lice and mice ate him’ before he would pay a penny.

Baker then apparently mislaid whatever brains God had given him. He was persuaded to make over all his property, which should have gone to his son, John, to Warde, who said he would give him an allowance of twenty shillings a week. Warde immediately reneged on this. Baker wanted some recompense and in bringing his case to court he brought with him a host of character witnesses ready to dish the dirt on Warde.

In the first place, it was revealed that Warde was a murderer. He had stabbed to death a man called Philpott, but had acquired a royal pardon for ‘a great sum of money’. Furthermore, it was alleged that he was using his father’s position as Captain of nearby Sandgate Castle to facilitate an extensive smuggling operation. He used the barn at the castle to store ‘great quantities’ of wool, leather, tallow, corn, and most seriously munitions, which were shipped illegally overseas. He had beaten and severely injured one of the officers at the castle who threatened to betray him and threatened a fisherman, who became suspicious of his night-time activity, with the press gang.

Warde naturally denied this detailed allegation, and the fisherman who reported his activity and threats later unaccountably withdrew his statement. He had been mistaken, he said. No charges were brought.

The customs men were not above suspicion, either. In 1622 John Browning, the cousin of the Thomas Browning (gentleman, let it not be forgotten) whom we met earlier, was accused of offering to smuggle some wool to France for Simon Head of Alkham. He told Head that he could get him six shillings a quarter, which is what he had got when he smuggled and sold his own wool. Browning was, at the time, the Customs Searcher for Hythe. The matter came to light when a Biddenden man offered Head four shillings and tenpence a quarter, and Mrs Head told him that they had received a better offer from Browning.  When the matter was investigated, the usual wall of silence descended.  Mrs Head denied saying anything of the sort, and her husband backed her up.  Three witnesses to the conversation heard only the discussion about prices and nothing about Browning. The case was dropped.

When they did try to enforce the law, things could get nasty for the customs men. William Sneath was the Collector for Customs for Hythe in 1657, and one night, seeing a sloop approaching the shore at Shornecliffe (just along the coast eastward from Hythe), he suspected smuggling. It was not a usual landing place. He tried to seize the goods ‘for the Commonwealth’ but was set upon by the recipients, about twelve men armed with staves. They had come ready for trouble.  His assistant, Josias Swaffer was also injured, as was another assistant, Edward Carter, who tried to fire the small gun he used for fowling, the only weapon he had, but who was knocked down and beaten.  The mayor of Hythe, James Arthur, who was also a physician, was called out at midnight to patch them up.

The problem did not go away. In 1662, the son of the mayor of Hythe was arrested at Sandwich  for ‘extraordinary insolence and violence used against the Customs Officers’  James Basset was the gamekeeper at the country house of  Viscount Strangford, Hythe’s M.P. He was accompanied by the estate’s gardener and three known smugglers. Perhaps it was a youthful prank – he was only twenty three, and the case against him was circumstantial. At any rate, he survived the escapade, perhaps with some influential intervention.

Thirteen years later, it was the mayor himself who was implicated in criminality. When a smuggler was killed by a customs official early in 1685, Julius Deedes, Hythe mayor, falsified evidence against the officer at the inquest. Knowing that he was liable to be arrested, he took advantage of a providential parliamentary election in Hythe and secured a seat. He secured with it parliamentary privilege against charges. The electorate was made up of the mayor and corporation of Hythe, and Deedes not only voted for himself in the election, but as mayor was also the returning officer. His plan backfired when his election was declared invalid, he was forced to resign as mayor, and most humiliatingly of all, the lord high steward of England vetoed his nomination as one of the canopy bearers at the coronation of James II.

Deedes bounced back and was re-elected to parliament in 1689 and allowed to take part in the coronation of William and Mary, but his new-found respectability was short-lived. In May1692, fourteen of his employees were arrested for a serious assault with staves on Customs officers who had seized sixteen bags of wool from a barn belonging to Deedes, which they said were destined to be smuggled. The Customs Board said that it had been a legal seizure, based on ‘reasonable suspicion’. Deedes said the Customs men were acting illegally, as they had no constable with them as the law required, which was a little disingenuous of him as the said constable, Birch, was one of the men assaulting the customs officers and was in his pay. Deedes himself, at the time of the attack, was conveniently at home, twelve miles away, but Birch had incriminated him by showing his written order to some men at Lydd.

The situation looked bleak for Deedes, but he was saved once again from prosecution, this time by dying, in September 1692. He was something of a blot on the escutcheon of an otherwise unimpeachably respectable family.