In dear memory of Edward Pomeroy Colley/ Born 15 April 1875, Entered into Eternal/Life 15 April 1912 through the sinking/of the Steamship “Titanic”/Whoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it
Hythe Civic Society Elizabeth Bowen (writer) lived here 1965-1973
Two memorials, two names: Edward Colley and Elizabeth Bowen, one inside St Leonard’s church, Hythe, the other just yards away on the wall of a house on Church Hill. What is the connection?
Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen was born on 7 June 1899 in Dublin, the daughter of barrister Henry Bowen and his wife Florence nee Colley. Both families were part of the extensive network of Irish gentry and her father owned Bowen Court in County Cork, where Elizabeth spent her summers. Her father became mentally ill in 1907 and her mother took her to live in England. They lived for a while in Lyminge, near the church, but eventually settled in ‘Clyne House’, in North Road, Hythe.
Florence Isabella Bowen nee Colley
They were probably the first tenants after the house had been ravaged by fire in January 1911. The owner, Frederick Butler, was called away from a Town Council meeting when a candle in the nursery set the curtains on fire. Mrs Butler rescued the children, but the roof and top storey were destroyed.
Cline House after the fire….
… and in its later years
Florence already had family living in England and one sister, Constance, had become a medical doctor there. However, Constance became ill, probably with TB and in 1911 was in a sanatorium in Henley. By 1912, about the time that Florence and Elizabeth moved to Hythe, Constance was in Folkestone, possibly for the sea air. If so, it was ineffective, and she died in the town on 15 February 1912. She was buried in Folkestone (Cheriton Road) cemetery.
Dr Constance Colley’s grave in Folkestone
On 6 April that year, the youngest brother of Constance and Florence, Edward Pomeroy Colley, visited ‘Clyne House’. A university-educated civil servant in his mid-thirties, he had, during the Klondike Gold Rush, opened a successful mining brokerage firm in Vancouver. Now he had business interests on both sides of the Atlantic and frequently travelled between Dublin and a home in Vancouver. He had been in Ireland for Christmas 1911, and was planning to return to Canada to work as a consultant to the industrialist and politician James Dunsmuir.
Edward Pomeroy Colley
After a short stay in Hythe, he travelled to London and from there to Southampton, where he boarded the Titanic. He died on his thirty-seventh birthday.
More tragedy was to follow. In September 1912, Florence Bowen died of cancer aged forty-eight at ‘Clyne House’. She is buried in Saltwood churchyard.
Florence Bowen’s grave, the stone identical to that of her sister
Elizabeth went to live in Harpenden with her aunt Laura Colley, who was housekeeper to her brother, the Rev’d. Wingfield Colley, curate in charge of St John’s Church in the town.
Elizabeth’s career as a novelist is well documented elsewhere as are her mariage blanc and her lovers. Later in life, now widowed, she returned to Hythe. On the face of it, it was an odd decision. Her short time in the town as a child must have been associated with the loss of her mother, aunt and uncle and she chose to live in a house, ‘Carbery’, only a stone’s throw from ‘Clyne House’, just around the corner. Her old home was then still standing, though it was later demolished and replaced by a block of flats.
It was in Hythe that Elizabeth wrote her last novel, ‘Eva Trout’, published in 1969. The protagonist experiences, as Elizabeth did as a child, the shock of relocation from Ireland to the Kent seaside, although she settles in Broadstairs rather than Hythe. But the flat, windswept hinterland of Thanet is not dissimilar to the Romney Marsh and the estate agent who sells Eva Trout her house is Mr Denge. It is a name with a local flavour: Denge Marsh lies between Lydd and Dungeness.
Elizabeth also arranged for the brass wall plaque in St Leonard’s in memory of her uncle. He has another in the church at Harpenden, where Elizabeth passed her teenage years.
In 1972, Elizabeth spent Christmas in Ireland with friends, but became unwell and was hospitalised on her return. She was diagnosed with lung cancer and died at University College Hospital on 22 February 1973, aged 73. She is buried with her husband in St Colman’s churchyard in Farahy, near the site of Bowen’s Court, which had been demolished in 1960.
Elizabeth is buried with her husband, Alan Charles Cameron
Thanks to Iris Pearce for the information about Clyne House and to Rita Weisz for finding Florence Bowen’s grave