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.

 

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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.

A Vicar’s Wife and Her Children

Fanny Dixon was born on 29 April 1834 in Pentonville and married Lawford Wlliam Torriano Dale on  1 June 1854. He was the senior curate of St Pancras church in London, but three years after their marriage was appointed Vicar of Chiswick, a living he held until his death in 1898.

St Nicholas’s Church, Chiswick

 

The children started arriving in 1855 and appeared at roughly eighteen-monthly for the next twenty-five years. Only the youngest, born in 1881, did not survive. Fanny was by then nearly fifty and had fourteen other children, all of whom were baptised by their father

The maintenance of such a large household must have been more than a full-time job,  and in 1871,             Fanny’s mother and niece were also living with the family as well as paid help – a nurse, a governess,           a cook and four housemaids. Fortunately, the vicarage was enormous.

Chiswick vicarage, home to the fourteen Dale children

The role of vicar’s wife was a demanding one, too, with an expectation that the woman would be involved in as many good works in the parish as possible. Fanny found time to organise the establishment of a Public Kitchen to feed the Chiswick poor.

Then, in 1887, it was announced that because of ill-health, she was leaving Chiswick and moving to Hythe, taking her youngest, Clement, with her. The extent of her subsequent activities in Hythe does not suggest any great degree of illness. It is possible that there were other reasons for her departure from the vicarage and that her ill-health was a polite fiction.

In Hythe, she joined the Ratepayers’ Association, a non-party political organisation which sought value for money from the town council. It accepted all rate payers as members, including women. Fanny was a member by 1892, when she fell into disfavour with them after writing a letter to the Guardian newspaper in which she allegedly ‘dragged the town through the mire’. In fact, she had not: her accusers had not read the letter, but were acting on hearsay. They backed down when presented with the truth, but Fanny’s relationship with them suffered.

She turned instead to social welfare, becoming a member of the Ladies’ Visiting Committee to the Elham Union Workhouse. She visited during 1893 and 1894. She considered the Matron greatly overworked ‘and has need of a capable needlewoman’. She made a thorough inspection of everywhere permitted, including the cook’s house, the laundry and the female tramps’ ward. She had long talks with an inmate who was very unhappy and troublesome to the staff and considered the woman was really mentally unbalanced. Visiting the infirmary, she said she thought the straw pillows were too hard ; but when she provided a feather pillow, the Matron would not issue it without permission from the Board of Guardians.

Frustrated she decided that she ought, in fact to be a Guardian, one of the managers of the workhouse, and when a vacancy arose in 1893, she put her name forward. Another contender was Albert Day, a slum landlord in Hythe and owner of the notoriously dilapidated row of dwellings (it would be glorifying them to call them houses) known locally as Buggy Row. Fanny put it on record that she thought that Day should not be allowed to be a Guardian. She said that in one of his properties a child had recently died because of the conditions in which he lived and that Day, who was also an undertaker had  profited even from this, charging £5 for a coffin.

The local paper, the Folkestone and Hythe Herald was outraged. It said that her comments were in ‘extreme bad taste’ and that the people of Hythe should be grateful to men like Day who were  ‘induced to fulfil the role of Guardian at considerable inconvenience to themselves’. It called her one of the ‘screeching sisterhood’ (their soubriquet for any woman who had an opinion about public affairs) and that ‘this ladybird will not rest and fold her wings until she has alighted on that topmost bough of the tree on which she has fixed her ambitious gaze’.  Fanny did not become a Guardian; Albert Day did.

Fanny died in 1897 of a burst blood vessel on the brain and was buried in Chiswick.  She was joined in the grave by her husband a year later.

Their children had all grown. Of the seven daughters, two married, two became nuns and the other three,  Lilian, Grace and Cicely all moved to Hythe to live with their eldest brother, Herbert Dixon Dale (known to the family as ‘Dicky’), now the Vicar of Hythe.

Herbert, born in on 22 October 1855, had not in his earlier life aspired to the priesthood and started training as a solicitor. In the early 1880s, however, he recognised his vocation and was ordained as a priest in 1884. Two years later, he became curate at the church of St Mary and St Eanswythe in Folkestone.

The church of St Mary & St Eanswythe, Folkestone

On 25 October 1899, he became vicar of St Leonard’s in Hythe and his maiden sisters joined him in the vicarage there.  They had inherited nearly all their father’s estate, amounting to about £7000.

 

Herbert Dixon Dale in 1902

Herbert remained unmarried and the sisters carried out the good works normally expected of the vicar’s wife, but unburdened by the additional demands of motherhood, they gave it their all.

Grace, born in 1860,  followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a Lady Visitor to the workhouse. She also succeeded where Fanny had failed, and became a Guardian (without any attendant adverse publicity). She was superintendent of the church mother’s meeting; supervised the cooking in the soup kitchen and distribution of food to the poor; was a Sunday School teacher; founded a Lad’s Social Club in Hythe and offered free private tuition to poor boys; she was a member the ladies’ choir and kept the church accounts.

In 1906, Grace developed appendicitis She did not survive the consequent surgery and died aged forty-six.  On the afternoon of her funeral town shops shut and despite a bitter wind and driving rain many hundreds of mourners were at the church and afterwards at the graveside.

Grace Helena Dale

Her memorial in St Leonard’s church, Hythe

Lilian and Cicely were less active in the parish, though Lilian acted as assistant church organist. Both of them came into their own on the outbreak of war in 1914. Cicely became Commandant of Hythe Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and Commandant Registrar of the Bevan Hospital in nearby Sandgate. She worked fifty-six hours (not including overtime) every single week from 8 October 1914 to 31 March 1919, by which time she was sixty-nine. She was awarded the MBE in 1920. Lilian worked at the Bevan, too, in the mending and patching room for twelve hours a week. She could not do more, according to her records, as she was ‘not strong’.

Doctors and nurses (and dog) at the Bevan Hospital

After the war, their lives had changed for good. Their brother Herbert had surprised his parishioners, and possibly himself, by getting married in 1916 at the age of sixty. His bride was Edith Olive Chessyre Molyneux  of Warwickshire. It was a quiet wartime wedding and as befitted their ages (Edith was thirty-nine) there was no white dress, no wedding flowers and no reception. They were married by Herbert’s cousin, another Rev’d Dale.

Herbert Dixon Dale in later life

Shortly after their wedding, they had a close encounter with death. On 25 May 1917, Gotha bombers, returning from a failed raid on London, dropped bombs in Hythe and Folkestone. Herbert was chatting with his verger, Daniel Lyth, in the churchyard when flying shrapnel struck them both. Daniel died soon afterwards of his injuries, but a tobacco tin in Herbert’s pocket deflected the metal which struck him.  Edith, visiting Folkestone, was also slightly injured.  They were lucky: over seventy people died that day and many more were injured.

Lilian and Cicely tactfully removed themselves from the vicarage when Edith moved in and went to live in Marine Parade, where they wrote, directed and sometimes performed in amateur dramatic productions, including operettas. Lilian died in 1937 and Cicely in 1946. They are buried with Grace in St Leonard’s churchyard.

The grave marker for Grace, Lilian and Cicely Dale in St Leonard’s churchyard, Hythe

Two others of their brothers, Clement and Edgar, had also become Anglican priests. Two more joined their siblings in Hythe, though not at the vicarage. Gerald, who had made his fortune in Argentina, set up home in Hill House in Hillside Street. During the war he too worked at the at Bevan Hospital and acted as a Special Constable. He and his family returned to Argentina in 1928. At about the same time, another brother, Leonard, was returning from that country, after many years as a rancher, to settle in Cornwall. The other Hythe resident was brother Harold, an accountant, who lived in the town with his family until the 1930s.

Herbert Dixon Dale retired from his living in 1926 and went with Edith to live in nearby Saltwood in a house called Bennington.  The garden was set out with the groundplan of a church – though not St Leonard’s.  There he devoted himself to history. In 1931 he published The Ancient Town of Hythe and St Leonard’s Church Kent which was reprinted several times and then became interested in wider subjects and gave talks on such subjects as ‘The Influence of the English Monasteries on Art and Commerce’.

The plans for the garden at Bennington

Herbert died on 8 January 1945. Edith recorded in her diary that day: ‘ My darling Dicky passed away at 6.20am’.(1) He is buried in Markbeech church, near Edenbridge, where he died. Edith died in 1965 and is buried in Saltwood churchyard.

Herbert’s grave                         Photo: Charles Sale

With thanks to Mike de la Mare for the photos of H D Dale & the Bennington garden 

  1. Kent Archives H/U21/Z10

The Worthington Family, Coachmakers – revisited

 This article was originally posted in 2016. since then I have been contacted by Roger Worthington, a descendant of Frederick Worthington, who has provided some lovely family photos & some more background.

Worthingtom William

This is the grave in St Leonard’s churchyard of William Worthington and his wife, Blanche of Hythe. The inscription reads:

William Worthington /entered into rest March 12th 1893/ in his 72nd year.

Only good night beloved, not farewell/a little while and all his saints shall dwell /in hallowed union indivisible/ good –night good -night

Because I live you shall live also John XIV 19

Also of Blanche Worthington /widow of the above/died Jan. 31st 1912/aged 92

Jesus Christ who died/that we should live together/with Him. Thes. 5. 10.

William Worthington was the founder of the business which became the Worthington coachworks on East Street in Hythe, on the site now occupied by Worthington Lodge.  He was born in 1821  in the town in relatively humble circumstances and lived in Elm Terrace in Hillside Road as a boy.  

He became a wheelwright by trade, but was obviously an ambitious young man. He married the girl next door, Blanche Lucas in 1843 and four years later, when he was twenty-six, he set up the Worthington Carriage Works.  

His business flourished and so did his family. He and Blanche had nine children. By 1871 they had moved to The Avenue in Hythe living in this house overlooking the Royal Military Canal and very near the works.

 

Worthington House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time he was sixty, when he was employing a workforce of nine, he had bought ‘The Gables’ in North Road, an even bigger house, high up above the town and the church.  It was clearly a step up in the world in more ways than one.

William & Blanche Worthington in later life (photo: Roger Worthington)

One of his more unusual jobs was building the carriages for the Sandgate Hill lift in 1891. It was one of four cliff lifts in the Folkestone area taking visitors up and down from the beach to the grassy Leas and the town above. This one was a  hybrid between a water balance lift and a conventional tramway.

Worthington Hill left

William and Blanche had  three sons, Robert, William and Frederick and after their father’s death, of cancer in 1893,  their business became Messrs Worthington Bros, Coach Builders. By 1909 they had become Worthington Brothers Ltd.

This is their advertisement.

Worthington advert

(the date of 1847 written on the card is incorrect!)

The Worthington Brothers’ works in East Street (photo: Roger Worthington)

William, the middle son, was the first to die.

Worthington grave2

The inscription on his grave reads:

In/loving/memory/of/William/Worthington/born Nov. 22nd 1854/died Nov. 7th 1906

Not slothful in business/fervent in sprit/serving the Lord. ROM.XII.II.

And of Mary Ann/wife of the above/born April 3rd 1857. Died March 7th 1925.

Also Arthur./ dearly loved son of the above/who was killed in the battle of Arras

Remainder illegible

William had married Mary Anne and had four children and they lived in his father’s former home overlooking the canal.  William had to overcome a disability in order to succeed in life, as he had been born with only one ear, and poor hearing in the one he did have.  He relied to a great extent on lip reading. He was, like his brother Robert, a stalwart of the Methodist Church in Hythe and was a Sunday School teacher, steward and trustee. He took his duties seriously. Apparently if he missed someone at church on Sunday, he would find out where they lived and look them up. As he worked all day, the only opportunity he had for doing this was in the evenings.  In the countryside round the town, the nights were very dark in winter.  

One evening in November 1906, when he was 52, he left the house at about half past seven in the evening. It was drizzling and later rained hard, but he did not take a coat with him. He didn’t tell anyone where he was going.  This was in the days when there was a railway line running from Sandling station, which is still in use,  down to Hythe station which has long since closed.

Shortly after nine thirty, the driver of the train from Sandling to Hythe felt a bump and felt his ballast shift, as if he had hit something. It was too dark to see anything, but when he got to Hythe, he and the Station Master went back up the line in a spare carriage. At the Saltwood crossing, where a footpath crossed the railway line, they found William on the line, dead from terrible head injuries.

There was an inquest two days later at Saltwood, which returned a verdict of accidental death, as the jury supposed that William could not have heard the train coming. This despite the fact that the evidence of the train driver and the Station Master was that William had clearly been lying down, between the tracks and parallel with them, when the train hit him.  It seems likely that the verdict was a kind decision on the part of the jury designed to help William’s family and widow, and not just from the stigma of suicide.  He had two insurance policies on his life, but they only covered accidental death. In the event, he seems not to have left his family very well off. After his death Mary Anne ran a boarding house in Cobden Road. Perhaps he did have money worries.

Things did not get better for Mary Anne. Her son Arthur worked in the family business, as a manager.  When war broke out in 1914, he combined this with working as an evening driver to transport medical staff and volunteers to the Bevan Hospital at Sandgate.  He was also organist at the Methodist Church where he played every Sunday.  I can’t find out when he joined up, but he was killed in the Arras offensive on 3 May 1917, although his body was never found. His mother had to wait fifteen months after his disappearance for the War Department to declare him dead.  

 

Worthington Arthur

Arthur’s name on the Arras Memorial

Robert was the next Worthington brother to pass away.

 


Worthington Grave 3

In loving memory of/Emma/the dearly loved wife of/Robert Worthington/born March18th 1856/died May 10th1906

Also the above/Robert Worthington/born October 15th 1845/died December 19th1908

“In  Your presence is fullness of joy” PS XIV 11

Robert Worthington (photo Roger Worthington)

Like his father, Robert became the father of nine children, including three sons, and his public life flourished, too.  He was another stalwart of the Wesleyan church, Secretary of the Hythe institute and had been a member of the fire brigade. He lived in a house called ‘Kildrummie’ on Tanners Hill, Hythe.  A substantial house, with six bedrooms, a dining room, drawing room and morning room, and large garden it was just the place for a successful business man. It was also within sight of the works.


kildrummie

One Saturday evening in December 1908, when he was 64, he was off to Folkestone, and walking along the Seabrook Road flagged down a motor bus. Once on board he was taken ill and the coach diverted to the nearest doctor’s surgery, Unfortunately, by the time they got there Robert was dead, so the doctor made all the other passengers get off the bus so that it could take the body back to Hythe.

After Robert’s death, the business was run by the surviving brother, Frederick, assisted by his nephew, William’s son Arthur.  Frederick was very much the baby of the family, 19 years younger than his brother Robert. The firm  already had a good reputation for producing carts, carriages and even a coach for one of the royal house of Siam.  They exported all over the British Empire, including to India.

A Worthington Bros. carriage, restored, in 1951 (Photo: Roger Worthington)

A Worthington child’s carriage, designed to be pulled by a dog (photo: Roger Worthington)

They moved with the times, and invented a hybrid mode of transport called the Worthington Duocar, or cycle-car, which had an 8-hpV-twin engine complete with a fan-cooled automatic carburettor. At the same time they were developing a car, the Worthington Runaraound. Only one was ever built. This is its specification:

It was originally powered by an 8hp horizontally-opposed twin engine, but this was replaced by an 8.9hp V-twin J.A.P. The transversely mounted engine drove by two chains to a countershaft, final drive being by belt.

It was intended to sell the car for £90,  but the company overstretched itself and got involved in the other latest transport craze, the aeroplane and in the end failed to produce either car or plane. The firm went bankrupt in 1914,  but Frederick, who lived at Twiss Villas in Twiss Road, later worked as a ‘coach painter’.  He had married Florence Emily, the daughter of Albert Day, a businessman and sometime mayor of Hythe. They had three children, Olive, Lena and Stanley.

 

Frederick Worthington with his wife & young family (photo: Roger Worthington) 

Frederick died in 1948 aged 84, but was survived for some years by Olive and Lena, who lived in Albert Road (named for their grandfather Albert Day) in Hythe.

The stone in Saltwood churchyard commemorating Frederick Worthington, his wife and children

(photos: Roger Worthington)

Many of old William Worthington’s other descendants emigrated to Australia, Canada and the USA.

 

Thomas Head Raddall, Father and Son

 

Thomas Head Raddall, senior and…                                                 Thomas Head Raddall, junior

Thomas Head Raddall senior was born in Hampshire on 6 December 1876, the only son of another Thomas, a draper’s assistant, and his wife Eleanor. He had four sisters.

His father seems to have had a nervous breakdown, attributed to alcohol abuse. The family left Hampshire and moved to West Ham. Young Thomas worked as a cashier in an office near St Paul’s Cathedral, where he ate his lunchtime sandwich each day until when he was just fourteen or fifteen, he enlisted in the Royal Marines as a drummer boy and was sent to the Royal Marines depot at Deal. He stayed there until just before his eighteenth birthday and during this time he met Ellen Marion Gifford (Nellie) of nearby Eastry, who was to become his wife.

The Royal Marines depot at Deal, now private housing

He then enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, Portsmouth Division on 18 October 1892 and saw service in the Far East from 1896 to 1900, cruising between Hong Kong, Weihaiwei in the north-east of China and Kobe and Nagasaki in Japan. Back in the UK, he married his Nellie on 23 September 1900 at Eastry. Their first child, a daughter, was born in Deal ten months later.

Thomas had been promoted and now applied for a post at the quaintly-named School of Musketry in Hythe. In fact, it now trained men in the use of modern rifles and machine guns. Thomas was himself a first-class marksman and he got the job and the rank of Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor. It was in the married quarters of the School that Nellie gave birth to a son, named Thomas Head Raddall for his father. The birth took place on Friday 13 November 1903, but Nellie, obviously a superstitious woman, always told her son he was born on 14 November. He was baptised at St Leonard’s church.

The School of Musketry in Hythe, since demolished

Young Thomas later remembered Hythe as a ‘sleepy watering place’. He learned to walk in the School’s Barrack square and attended the National School in the town, where in the library he became entranced by the stories of Fenimore Cooper with his Indians and Leatherstockings. Encouraged by his music-loving father, he went to piano lessons with ‘a little, ape-faced man’ who whacked his fingers with an ivory baton when he made a mistake.

Thomas senior, meanwhile, was realising that the School of Musketry, Hythe, the British army and Great Britain itself had little more to offer him and his family. The high spot of his time in the town had been his membership of the British rifle team at the London Olympics of 1908. He was full of ideas and wanted more opportunity for his children. When he was thirty-five, in 1913, he applied for a post in Canada as a firearms instructor for the militia and was successful. In May  that year, the little family – there was now another daughter – sailed for Halifax, Nova Scotia. Hythe was very civilised compared to the small wooden house without electricity in which they now lived.

War broke out in Europe the next year. Thomas senior enlisted on 22 September 1914. and got a commission in the Winnipeg Rifles. He was sent to France in 1915 but managed to stop in Hythe on the way to catch up with old friends. He was shot in the arm at Ypres and was the first wounded soldier to return to Nova Scotia but was soon back in France and in 1916 was promoted Captain. Wounded in 1917, he fought at Passchendaele, now as a major; by August 1918, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel.

He was killed on 9 August 1918 by machine-gun fire, in a wheat field while leading his men in an attempt to capture Hatchet Wood near Amiens. During his war, he had been mentioned in dispatches three times and awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He was buried in what was to become the Manitoba Cemetery, Caix and commemorated on the war memorial in Hythe.

Thomas’s name on the Hythe War Memorial

Nellie and her children meanwhile had narrowly escaped death in Nova Scotia when a French ship full of explosives blew up in Halifax harbour, destroying large parts of the town. Young Thomas’s school was temporarily the town mortuary for some of the two thousand people killed.

A street in Halifax after the explosion

Thomas senior’s death left his widow in worsened financial circumstances. Her only income was his army pension and since the explosion, everything necessary for life had rocketed in price. Thomas and his older sister had to leave school and get jobs. Thomas failed to get his first choice of work as a trainee reporter and took a training course to enable him to work as a wireless officer on merchant ships. He passed the course and started his career as a ‘sparks’ on the ss War Karma in 1919.

His mother, meanwhile, had gone back to Kent with her daughters, where she hoped her limited income would go further. They settled at Kingsdown, near Dover, but things did not work out. Many of her old friends had moved on, often the men had been killed in the war, and Kingsdown was so quiet that Ellen feared that the marriage and employment prospects for her daughters were limited. In 1921 they went back to Canada. The girls took typing and shorthand classes and got jobs in the city of Halifax.

Kingsdown in the 19th century

At nineteen, Thomas decided to leave the sea, went to business school and took a job as a book-keeper in a paper mill in Liverpool (Nova Scotia). While working there, he met and in 1927 married Edith Freeman. The next year their first child was stillborn.

In 1931, Thomas started writing. His first efforts, commissioned by his employer, were a series of small books on the history of Nova Scotia. These included advertising for the paper industry. Encouraged by their reception, he started writing short stories, which were also well received and gave him enough extra income to buy his house in 1935, by which time he had a small son and daughter.

At the outbreak of war, he tried to join up, but was told his wireless operating skills were out-dated, though he was commissioned as a reservist. He had now published his first novel, His Majesty’s Yankees and in 1943 signed a contract with Doubleday Doran for a second, Roger Sudden.

Thereafter, there was no looking back. He quit his job and became a full-time writer at forty. He was prolific and best known for his meticulously researched historical fiction. He received Governor General’s Awards for three of his books, The Pied Piper of Dipper Creek (1943), Halifax, Warden of the North (1948) and The Path of Destiny (1957) and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1971.

See the source imageSee the source imageSee the source image

The three prize-winning books by Thomas Head Raddall

In 1991 he endowed the he Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award to provide ‘the gift of time and peace of mind’ so essential to the creation of new work and which he himself had lacked in his early writing days. His family continues to support the award.

Thomas died on 1 April 1994. He was so esteemed in Canada that an exact replica of his study, furnished with his possessions, is on view at the Thomas Raddall Research Centre and his correspondence is housed at the Dalhousie University Archives.

An Institutional Life

Adolphus Harry Peter Valder was born in Hythe on 9 January 1839 and baptised in St Leonard’s church there. He was the son of Henry Robert Valder, a tailor of Theatre Street, Hythe, and his wife Elizabeth nee Castle. The parents lived respectable, quiet lives, although Henry was occasionally fined for failing to pay the pavement rate. Elizabeth may have suffered from dementia at the end. In 1890, she was asked to leave St John’s Almshouse where, as a sober and respectable widow she had been give a place some ten years earlier, for using abusive and threatening language (1). She died two years later, aged 79.

Adolphus Valder used all his Christian names at will during his life. He was sometimes Adolphus, sometimes Harry or Henry and occasionally Peter. In 1858 he decided to be Thomas Castle instead, and joined the British Army at Aldershot under this name. He was 5 feet five inches tall with light brown hair and grey eyes and served in the West Kent Regiment as a bandsman. He was in Malta for nearly five years and was later posted to Gibraltar, where he was discharged in May 1866 as unfit for further service. He had ophthalmia, which the examining physician thought would improve once he was back in the UK. His conduct was described as ‘very good’.

See the source image

The cap badge of the Royal West Kent Regiment. The motto is Invicta – undefeated. 

He married Ann Castle Savage, daughter of Thomas Castle Savage, a bricklayer in September 1868 in St Leonard’s church in Hythe. They went at first to live in Westminster, then Islington. In 1871 Adolphus (then going by the name of Harry) told the census enumerator that he was an officer of HM Customs, which seems unlikely. Later he would describe himself as either a labourer or an army musician.

By 1874 the couple, now with two sons, were back in Hythe. In December 1876, now with another son, they were admitted to the Elham Union Workhouse in Etchinghill.  A fourth son was born there early the next year and the family were discharged on 30 April 1877 (2). In October, Ann and the boys were back, and were joined by Adolphus after Christmas. He then absconded, but was arrested and imprisoned in Dover for deserting his family. The authorities took Ann and her sons to Dover to re-join him. By October, they were all back in Etchinghill.

Thereafter there is a continuous pattern of Adolphus being in prison and his wife and family in the workhouse. Another son, Louis (sometimes Lewis),  was born and the couple’s last child and only daughter, Jane, was born n the workhouse in 1883. The child had to return to the workhouse alone when she was five, as Adolphus was back in prison.

At every other census until 1911, both Adolphus and Ann are to be found in the workhouse, although it seems their stay was not continuous, as in 1902 their son Harry told the army that they were living in Stade Street, Hythe. In 1905, Adolphus wrote to the Incorporated Soldiers and Sailors Help Society, asking for assistance (3). The Society was founded in 1899 with Princess Christian, Queen Victoria’s third daughter and a founder of the Red Cross, as its first President and still exists today as the Forces Help Society. He explained that he had joined the army under a false name and that since then he had been trying, without success, to get a peddler’s licence (he had left the army thirty-nine years previously).  He wanted, he said, to get ‘a living and at the same time get my wife little extras that we are unable to get now.’ He enclosed testimonials, one of which confirmed that Ann was ‘incapable of doing anything’, though it does not say why.  The outcome of his request is not on record.

Both Adolphus and Ann died in the workhouse, he in March 1913 and Ann in August 1915. Both were buried in St Leonard’s churchyard.

Considering their poor start in life and what must have been a rackety upbringing, the Valder children led, as far as can be told, stable and industrious lives.

The eldest child, Charles was born in Westminster on 17 August 1869. His name was registered as Charlie Castle Valder, but he always preferred to use ‘Charles’. In 1884 he was apprenticed to Frederick Court a tailor of Greenstreet, a hamlet near Faversham. He served his six-year term, but in December 1892 went to Shornecliffe, an army base near Hythe and joined the Royal West Kent Regiment. He gave his occupation as ‘musician and tailor.’ Presumably his father had taught him to play an instrument, too. He was five feet four inches tall, with grey eyes and fair hair, and said that he was a Wesleyan. He stayed in the army, as a private, until 14 December 1913, exactly twenty-one years. During this time, he served in the Republic of Ireland, Malta and at various postings in England. On 31 March 1902, at the parish church in Watford, he married Sarah Rushby, and they set up home in Cheriton, the nearest residential area to Shorncliffe army base. There were no children of the marriage. In October 1914, Charles re-enlisted, this time in the Labour Corps. He was soon promoted to corporal and spent the war in the UK, being discharged as medically unfit – he had ‘myalgia’ (muscle pain)- in October 1917. He then found employment as a postman and later as a general labourer and the couple continued to live in Cheriton until Charles’s death in 1949.

When Charles joined the West Kent Regiment, he was following in the footsteps not only of his father but of his younger brother, Harry, who had enlisted two and a half years earlier at the age of eighteen. He gave his occupation as groom. He, too, was five feet four inches tall, with blue eyes and light brown hair. He served in Malakand, near the Khyber Pass, and in South Africa, where he was severely wounded, which is presumably why, in 1901, he was staying with relatives in Foord Road in Folkestone.

Winston Churchill also served at Malakand and wrote about his experiences

Harry was discharged from the army in 1902, worked as a labourer for a while and re-enlisted in 1903, for a short-term engagement, by which time he had grown to five feet five inches tall. He was finally discharged in November 1907 and died in the Ashford area in 1944.

The third son, Ernest, was born in 11 January 1874 in Hythe & baptised there 18 March, where he was given the names Ernest Tom Castle Valder. By 1891, when his parents were in the workhouse, he was working as a porter at the Seabrook Hotel (later the Imperial), a live-in position.

The Imperial Hotel , Hythe in the early years of the 20th century

He moved to Southwark, but stayed in the hospitality sector, working as a potman. He married Amy Alice Murray in 1897, and the couple had two sons and a daughter. He enlisted in the army in 1916, by which time he was running a lodging house in Walworth, and like his older brother Charles served in the Labour Corps in the UK, though his record shows that he was often afflicted with bronchitis. By the beginning of the second world war he was living in Lewisham, where he died in 1951.

His younger brother Louis Castle Valder was born on 4 June 1876. He made his living in steam laundries, working at first in Cheriton, where he had made his home with his wife, and later in Hammersmith.

Foster’s Steam Laundry, Cheriton, in 1903. Is Louis Valder one of the eight men pictured?

 

He had married Ada Florence Perry in Cheriton parish church on 21 April 1901 and they had two sons. He also enlisted during the first world war, enlisting in December 1915 and being mobilised in June 1916. Like his brothers, he was a short man, only five feet one and a half inches tall. He served with the Essex Regiment as a private.

The fifth Valder son was Sidney Castle Valder born in the workhouse in 1877, and who died in Lyminge in 1903. Between those two dates there is no information about him on the public record.

The only daughter, Jane, worked as a servant as a young woman, and married in 1908 in London James Corboy, a railway porter.  They had at least one daughter. Jane died in 1919, perhaps as a result of the ‘Spanish flu’ epidemic that killed so many.

There remains the question of why, since they were all in paid employment, the Valder children did not support their parents and keep them out of the workhouse. Had they given up on their father and his undoubtedly erratic ways?  It could be that the parents did not want to take assistance. Or that help was given but frittered away. Or even that Adolphus and Ann had become so habituated to the workhouse and had so many acquaintances there – many elderly couples were regular visitors –  that it became, however dreary, a second home.

  1. Records of St John’s & St Bartholomew’s Hospitals EK2008/2/90h

2.    Kent Archives G/EL/W1A

3.    Kent Archives Fo/Z2/C2

Making Good

William Buckland Hythe Taffenden was baptised on 24 May 1825 in St Leonard’s Church, Hythe. It is an odd collection of names, and he never used this second and third given names. Buckland is a small parish near Dover, or could be a surname; ‘Hythe’ speaks for itself. The reason behind the names can only have been known to William’s mother, who gave her name as ‘Lydia Taffenden’ to the curate who performed the baptism, but there are no records confirming the existence of anyone of this name. The surname is unusual, confined then almost entirely to Kent and found mostly in the area around Ashford.

Whatever the circumstances of his birth, what can be certain is that he was illegitimate, or ‘base-born’ according to the curate. He was first admitted to Elham Union workhouse in 1839, when he was fourteen and described as ‘a servant, bastard’ (1). He clearly disliked the place, as he was intended to, and later that year he and a twenty-year-old man from Folkestone, Richard Marsh, escaped together, but William was found the next day and brought back. His sin was compounded by the fact that he had escaped wearing the workhouse’s clothing, so was guilty of theft as well.

The next year, the authorities found him a place in service, with Francis Pittock, a surgeon who lived in at Mount Pleasant in Sellindge. It was not a successful venture, and he lost the place and was returned to the workhouse in December 1841. Three months later, on 30 March 1842, he went to Dover and joined the army. The recruiting sergeant described him as 5ft 4 inches tall, only just tall enough, but probably still growing, blue eyed and with a fresh complexion.

The army was his life for the next twenty years and two hundred and nineteen days. Here he found the stability that turned his life around. He had joined the 2nd Battalion, the Rifle Brigade, a Regiment first raised in 1800 as an elite and ‘Experimental Corps of Riflemen’. It trained its men as ‘sharpshooters, scouts and skirmishers’, arming them with rifles which were more accurate and had a longer range than the musket, but took longer to load.

A soldier of the Rifle Brigade, early nineteenth century

The idea of individual soldiers hitting specific targets seemed unorthodox at the time, with the conventional tactic of the mass volley being favoured. The Regiment was trained to use natural cover (wearing green instead of the traditional red, in order to camouflage the soldiers), worked in pairs in the open and trained to think for themselves in order to harass the enemy. The Regiment became an invaluable part of any campaign and was present at most actions of the British Empire including Waterloo in 1815, the Crimean War 1854–1856, and the Indian Mutiny 1857–1859.

William was sent first to Canada, where he spent ten years. Some of this, at least, was spent in Kingston, Ontario. Standing at the head of the St Lawrence River, the city was heavily fortified against attacks from the United States, and the British had a large garrison there. In 1851 William was listed as being posted there as a private – a rank he held throughout his military career.

The harbour in front of the garrison at Kingston, Ontario, in the mid-nineteenth century

From Canada, William was sent to Turkey and on to Sevastopol in the Crimea, where he took part in the battles which characterised the long siege from 1854 to 1855.

 

                                                                                  A rifleman in the Crimea

He was then sent to India and took part in the actions to relieve the siege of Lucknow, which as part of the Indian Mutiny was held by rebelling forces from 1857 to 1858.

The aftermath of the Siege of Lucknow: the ruins of the British Residency

From there he went to Subathu, a fortified town near Simla.

William finally sought discharge from the army in October 1863. He was suffering from dyspepsia when he exerted himself and doctors considered that his long and active career, together with advancing years, had rendered him unfit for further service. He had been awarded four Good Conduct badges, the Crimean Medal and clasp for Sevastopol, the Turkish Medal, the Indian Medal and clasp for Lucknow, and the Long Service Medal. He was sent home and finally discharged on 24 May 1864.

During his army years, he had found time to marry, as on his return home he was described as a widower, but no trace remains of his wife or of any children born to them. Once back in England, he joined the newly-formed Kent Police, and worked at first in Canterbury before being sent to Smarden, near Ashford, where his badge number was 2 and where he lived in Round About Street.

Then, in 1873, he married again, to Eliza Samways, a widow from Dorset. He was sent to police the little village of Preston, near Wingham, in Kent. In 1885 he retired from the police force at the age of sixty, as a constable, first class, and was given a gratuity of £40. This, together with his army pension and whatever funds his wife brought to their union, enabled him and Eliza to live comfortably, at first in Chislet, near Canterbury, and then in Thanington, on the outskirts of the city. William was a ratepayer, and entitled to vote. Not bad for a base-born workhouse boy.

The couple moved to Lambeth in about 1899, and it was there that both of them died, Eliza in 1900 and, aged 82, William in 1907.

  1. Kent Archives G/EL/W1a

The Hole Family Part 2

The first part of this blog was published in 2016, before I discovered the sad story of Elizabeth Back, nee Hole. I am indebted to David Haynes of Queensland for this extra information.  

Elizabeth Hole, the eldest child of James and Elizabeth Hole of Hythe was born on 24 September 1814. She became a servant and married Daniel Back (or sometimes Beck) in Marylebone, London in 1837. He was also a domestic servant. Less than two years later, they emigrated to Australia, leaving from Plymouth on 13th May 1839 aboard the Lady Raffles with 234 other souls and their baby son, another Daniel. They arrived in September. They were enticed into applying for emigration to the new colony of New South Wales by advertisements posted in London and other cities. This whole adventure must have seemed quite attractive at the time: their passage was paid for and employment was virtually assured once they arrived in Sydney. This was the so-called Bounty system, separate from the Government sponsored scheme.

                                                                         An example of Bounty emigration advertising

 

This opportunity seemed almost too good to be true and it was. Once there, Elizabeth and Daniel and all their co-emigrants were abandoned, left to fend for themselves. The jobs and housing did not materialise and there was no room in the Government-run accommodation.  Elizabeth gave birth again in 1840, to a daughter, Susan but there is no further trace of either of her children. It seems probable that they died.

Elizabeth left Australia, and Daniel, in about 1842. We don’t know whether it was the country or the man she wanted to escape, but she must have been desperate enough to find her own fare. Daniel remained in the new colony and soon developed a new partnership with another woman with whom he had six children before marrying her in 1858. He must have assumed that Elizabeth was dead.

She was not. She had entered the service of Mrs Elizabeth Frederica Crofts, the wife of Peter Guerin Crofts, the retired rector of St. John-sub-Castro in Lewes. She was his second wife and twenty years his junior and Elizabeth was her ladies maid. Their house, in Lewes,  was vast (it is now the HQ of Sussex Police) and required a live-in staff of eight, including a butler, coachman and footman.

See the source image

Malling House

The fact that it was in Lewes is significant: Daniel Back had been born near there, his family still lived nearby, so it seems that when she returned from Australia, Elizabeth went to her in-laws rather than her own family in Hythe. It is entirely possible that she was expecting Daniel to join her there.

Peter Crofts died in 1859, but Elizabeth stayed with her mistress until the latter’s death in 1878.  She then returned to Hythe where she lived in Stade Street and described herself as an annuitant and widow.  It is likely that Mrs Crofts remembered her faithful servant in her will and provided a pension so that she would not end her life in poverty. Her old age, though, according to her gravestone, was not a happy time.

She is buried with her sister Mary Hole, born in 1818, who alone of the siblings did not marry. She went to Ashford to live with her brother Thomas, and later with one of his daughters. Eventually she, too, returned to Hythe and lived in St Bartholomew’s almshouse in the town.

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The former St Bartholomew’s Almshouse in Hythe, now a private dwelling

 

In/loving memory/of/Elizabeth Back/who died 3rd March 1890/aged 75 years
Afflictions sore long time she bore/physicians were in vain/til death did cease and God did please/to ease her of her pain
Also of Mary Hole/sister of the above/who died11th December 1900/in her 82nd year
Well done good and faithful servant/enter thou into the joy of thy Lord