The father of the Hythe Hutchinsons was Scrope Hutchinson, born in Southwell, Nottinghamshire in 1782, the son of Nicholas and Elisabeth Hutchinson. His birthplace was a house built by his father which later became the Sacrista Prebendal, one of the homes of the prebends of Southwell minster. He studied medicine at the University of Halle in Germany and became a member of the Royal College of Physicians. He married, in May 1806 at Tonbridge, Anne Hammond. At this time, her residence was given as Deal, Kent, and his as Southwell.
The birthplace of Scrope Hutchinson
The couple moved to Hythe shortly afterwards and six children followed, all born in the town, though one, a daughter, died as an infant. Scrope practised medicine and was appointed senior medical officer for the 52nd Light Infantry, Sir John Moore’s regiment based at nearby Shorncliffe. In 1839, he moved to Dover and later to London, to live with his eldest son. He died there on 25 November 1847. In his will he left about ten thousand pounds and an extensive library of medical and other books.
The first child of Scrope and Anne Hutchinson was a daughter, also called Anne, born in 1807. She died aged only eighteen in 1826 and was buried in a new vault finished in time for her funeral in St Leonard’s church.
The stone marking the vault where Anne Hutchinson was buried
The eldest son, William Barclay Hutchinson, born in Hythe in about 1809, became a physician and like many Victorians with mundane surnames, added his second given name to it to make him Dr Barclay Hutchinson. After studying at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and in Paris, he practised in Guilford Street, Bloomsbury, and was Medical Officer attending the Foundling Hospital.
He became a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1829 and a Fellow in 1842. As eldest son, the care of the family’s womenfolk fell to him after his father’s death and in 1851, he can be found in Guilford Street with his mother, his aunt and both his surviving sisters, Mary(1811-1856) and Isabel (1821-1908).
William Barclay Hutchinson
William remained unmarried and retired to 12 Onslow Gardens, Brompton where he died in on 17 July 1869.
On the morning of 26 January 1843, a small group of dignitaries and a huge crowd of Dover citizens (probably including George’s father) gathered to watch the event. A small tunnel had been pierced through the cliff. From this three shafts had been sunk from which galleries had been excavated. At the end of each gallery was gunpowder, brought from the Faversham Gunpowder Works. George checked all was correct and then the galleries were sealed with tightly rammed chalk and sand. At 2.15pm a dull, muffled boom could just be heard by the audience and at the same time there was a heavy jolting movement of the earth. The bottom of the cliff, according to one bystander, ‘seemed to dissolve.’ Then the face of the cliff slowly sank giving way to clouds of chalk. The directors of the SER gave George a handsome piece of silver plate in gratitude.
The demolition of Round Hill cliff
In 1845 George married Margaret Ellen Bevan, the daughter of William Hibbs Beavan in Crickhowell. She accompanied him to his posting in Gibraltar where their children were born and where George was promoted Captain. Returning to the UK, he was sent to Anglesey for more explosives work and on 25 February1851 died there ‘from hurts received while supervising blasting of a rock’.
The youngest Hutchinson offspring, Charles Scrope, born on 8 August 1826 in Hythe, followed George into the Royal Engineers after an education at University College School. He rose from Gentleman Cadet in 1843 to Colonel in 1876. He, too, was posted to Gibraltar and married there Christina, daughter of William Ross on 6 January 1852 . Four daughters and two sons followed.
On their return to England, Charles was posted to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, where he taught, eventually being appointed Professor of Fortifications. In 1867, however, he was seconded to be an Inspector of Railways, a post he held until 1897, combining it for the first eight years with his military obligations. He was responsible, among other things, for holding enquiries into railways accidents and inspecting works. During his career he held over a thousand enquiries and made six thousand five hundred inspections, including over seven years, quarterly inspections of the building of the Forth Bridge.
The opening of the Forth Bridge in 1890
Unfortunately, he also inspected, and recommended for opening, the newly-built Tay Bridge in 1878. The next year, during a violent storm, it collapsed, killing an estimated seventy five people. At the subsequent enquiry, it was found that the cross bracing of the piers and its fastenings were too weak to resist heavy gales. The designer, Sir Robert Bouch, was blamed, but Charles escaped the mob fury that Bouch suffered.
The Tay Bridge after its partial collapse
He retired from the army in 1877 with the honorary rank of major-general and was created a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1890. A colleague wrote of him:
‘He never spared himself and often after a comfortless night journey in cross-country trains, he would snatch a hurried breakfast at some dreary railway buffet and begin a long day’s work of inspection at 8 o’clock in the morning, much to the surprise and not always to the joy of the railway officers, who wondered how in the world he got there.'(1)
Charles died at Blackheath on 29 February 1912 and a memorial plaque was erected in St James’ Church, Kidbrooke.
To be continued…
- Stanley Hall, ‘Railway Detectives: 150 Years of the Railway Inspectorate’, London: Ian Allen Ltd, 1990, p.30
Details of the demolition of the Round Hill Cliff are taken from http://www.doverhistorian.com
With thanks to Brin Hughes