The Reverend Gentlemen

 

In memory of/Alfred Winnifrith/Mar 22 1842- Jan 2 1923/Priest, M.A., D.Litt, Medaille du Roi Albert/Schoolmaster in Hythe for many years/vicar of Mariansleigh 1885-1913/author of “Men of Kent and Kentish Men”/”The Fair Maids of Kent”/and other works
Also of Mary/March 13 1839-Feb 19 1919/his wife for 53 years
They befriended Belgian refugees/ and Hythe prisoners of war/1914-1918
R.I.P

Alfred Winnifrith came from a modest background. He was born in Penshurst, Kent on 22 April 1842, the son of a blacksmith, Thomas Winnifrith and his wife Lucy, nee Langridge and had two younger sisters. After leaving school, he trained as a teacher and took up a post in Coven, Staffordshire.

On 22 December 1863 he married Mary Anne Baker, only daughter of Thomas Baker of Hythe at St Leonard’s Church and they returned to Coven where their first son, Alfred Baker Winnifrith was born the following year. The year after that, they returned to Hythe, where Alfred took over Prospect House School, and another son, Bertram, was born there. A third son died as an infant.

 

 An early advertisement for Prospect House School. The house still stands in Hythe. 

 

The school flourished, but Alfred had other plans. In spring 1874, he and the family moved to Oxford, where he studied for the priesthood and in 1876 he was ordained Deacon and became assistant curate at St John’s church in Cleckheaton, Yorkshire. He kept the school going, however, and appointed a headmaster in his place. The income must have meant that he could support his family on a tiny stipend. It was not normally expected that curates would be married men with children, and Alfred and Mary now had another son, Douglas, born in 1876.

Alfred found time to continue his studies. He was awarded an MA in 1878 and soon afterwards became the first Incumbent of the newly-formed Parish of St Luke’s, Cleckheaton. He still needed to supplement his income, and took some private pupils for tuition.

See the source imageSt Luke’s Church, Cleckheaton

They stayed in Cleckheaton for another seven years, until in 1885, Alfred became Rector of Mariansleigh in Devon.

See the source image

Mariansleigh Church

Their sons were becoming adults. Alfred junior became a priest like his father and took a curacy in another Devon parish, Dalwood. Bertram ran the school in Hythe. He was by then married to Emily, a Plymouth woman, and they had a daughter, Ethel. Emily died, aged only twenty-eight, in 1894, and Bertram’s parents brought the little girl up.

Alfred remained single, but he had a secret. In 1896, Henry Hern, a Devon miller, sued his wife Rosa for divorce, citing as co-respondent Alfred Baker Winnifrith, curate of Dalwood. The affair had been common knowledge – on one occasion at a School Board meeting, all the members left the room in disgust when Alfred put in an appearance. He was seen using the back stairs at the Herns’ home and Rosa visited his lodgings. The couple were seen kissing. Henry Hern wrote to Alfred’s mother complaining about his behaviour. Rosa, confronted by her husband, took her six-year-old son and, apparently, vanished.

Alfred denied it all and got his brothers and parents to give evidence to the court in his favour. He said he had no idea where Rosa had gone, but produced a letter from her which confirmed that theirs’ was a platonic friendship and that he had tried to reconcile husband and wife.  The jury did not believe him and granted Henry Hern a decree nisi and gave him custody of his son.

Alfred did not give up trying to prove his innocence. His counsel advertised widely for Rosa and she was eventually found in Yorkshire where she was working as a ‘pianiste’ in a public house. She said she had no idea about the divorce proceedings, despite the fact that the case made the national news for several days in a row and she emphatically denied adultery. Alfred now took the case to the Court of Appeal. His application for a new hearing was refused and the judge remarked that ‘he had much to learn before he became fitted for the cure of souls.’ He also awarded costs against Alfred.

Rosa went back to Yorkshire, where she worked as a barmaid at a hotel in Leeds. Alfred went to Hythe, to work in the school in Prospect House. It seemed to be over, but on 4 December 1896, Inspector Conquest of Scotland Yard arrived at the Hythe school and arrested Alfred. The next day he  travelled to Leeds and arrested Rosa. They were both taken to Bow Street Police Station and charged with perjury and conspiracy. Bail was refused and they were remanded in custody.

It was alleged that when she left Henry Hern, Rosa and her little boy went to Ashford, not far from Hythe, where she took lodgings. There, Alfred visited her regularly, taking a bedroom which connected with hers. His frequent absences from his parish were noted. Rosa then moved to Barnsley, leaving the child in the care of an Ashford woman, whom she paid with money given to her by Alfred. In Barnsley she worked as a barmaid, under an assumed name, and Alfred wrote at least twice a week. She kept his photograph in her room.

  The court artist’s sketch of Alfred Winnifrith junior

The evidence that they had lied to the divorce court was clear, and on 12 January 1897, they pleaded guilty to all charges. Three days later, they were sentenced – Alfred to eighteen months hard labour and Rosa to six. Bertram got up a petition asking for mitigation of Alfred’s sentence, which he circulated widely, but to no avail. They were both held in Wormwood Scrubs: Rosa learnt macramé and how to make bead curtains; Alfred sewed mail bags. Once released, they married in 1899, and together ran a school in Clapham and had a daughter, Alfreda. Alfred had, of course, been defrocked.

The widowed Bertram, meanwhile, got on with running the Hythe school, and married again, to Edith Maude Blaker in 1897. They had five children together and Edith ran a girls’ school alongside the boys’ institution at Prospect House.

A 1902 advertisement for the school.

Bertram was awarded an MA from Oriel College, Oxford in 1901, was ordained in 1904 and ‘priested’ in Canterbury Cathedral in 1905. He combined duties as a curate in Cheriton and later Saltwood with school teaching until he was appointed as Rector of Ightham in 1907. Even there he continued to run a small school.

The third son of Alfred and Mary, Douglas, also got an MA from Oxford and was ordained in 1900. He chose to become a Chaplain to the Armed Services serving in Malta from 1908 to 1912 and then in Dublin. He had married Margaret McCartney in Liverpool in 1907. At the outbreak of the Great War he was sent to France, was mentioned in despatches and wrote movingly of his experiences during the Retreat from Mons in The Church in the Fighting Line:

Through the wet cornfields I rode, accompanied by three or four men of the Royal Army Medial Corps, and whenever we found a fallen comrade we bore his body to a corner of the field, to secure as far as possible its never being disturbed, and there we dug a shallow grave. Often, of course, more than one, sometimes three or four, and in one case eighteen men did I bury in one grave.

 

 

Meanwhile, Alfred senior’s wife Mary was spending less and less time in Mariansleigh as the winters were too severe for her. Alfred resigned the living in 1913, citing her “delicate state of health’ and returned to Hythe, where they lived at Prospect Lodge and where, in December that year, they and their sons and grandchildren celebrated their Golden Wedding.

Alfred became Chairman of the local Association of Men of Kent and Kentish Men and wrote a book, Men of Kent and Kentish Men, recording biographical details of no fewer than 680 Kent worthies. Another book,  Fair Maids of Kent, followed. When war broke out, he set about making himself useful.

Belgian refugees were beginning to stream into the country, and Alfred co-ordinated Hythe’s efforts to accommodate some of them and provide food, clothing and schooling for the children. He also took a particular interest in local men taken prisoner of war, visiting their families and arranging to have parcels of food, underwear and tobacco sent out to them. Mary assisted him in these endeavours, packing the parcels herself. Their house became a rendezvous for troops stationed in the town, whether Territorials or Canadians, they were always made welcome at the gatherings held there.

There was sorrow, too.  Alfred and Mary’s granddaughter Alfreda died in 1914, and Mary herself in February 1917.  She was buried in St Leonard’s churchyard in the same grave as Bertram’s first wife, Emily.  Douglas, with the forces in France, missed her funeral.

When peace came, Alfred’s work was recognised. In 1919, for his literary work he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Literature by the Central University of America. In 1920 he was awarded the Medaille du Roi Albert avec Rayure at an investiture held at Folkestone Town Hall by the Belgian Consul in recognition of his work with Belgian refugees.  The former Hythe prisoners of war gave him a silver inkstand.

But he kept on working. For three years after the war ended he entertained some 30 Hythe men returned from prisoner of war camps to ‘a substantial meat tea’ at Mrs Gravenor’s tea rooms. He arranged for a tablet to the memory of Thomas Quested Finnis, one time mayor of Hythe and Lt Col John Finnis his brother, both men of Hythe, to be installed in the gardens of Prospect Lodge and for another to be erected in the High Street to the memory of the inventor of the steam screw propeller, Sir Francis Petit Smith who was born at 31 High Street. He also presented a bell for use at St Michael’s church, the ‘tin tabernacle’.

He died on 2nd January 1923 at Prospect Lodge and was buried with Mary. It was said in his obituary that ‘no man loved Hythe better’.

Bertram followed him to the grave the next year. In his will he left £7267. This was divided equally among his wife and his children by Edith, but Ethel, the daughter of his first marriage, received only £500. She had emigrated to Canada alone three years earlier to work as a lady’s companion.

The surviving brothers erected the brass plaque to their father in St Leonard’s church, at a spot directly above the pew they had occupied as a young family, sixty years before.

The grave of Alfred, Mary and Emily Winnifrith in St Leonard’s churchyard

Alfred died in Clapham in 1950 and Douglas in 1955 in Tunbridge Wells.

I am grateful to Kathryne Maher and Christopher McGonigal for their original research into the Winnifrith family. 

 

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A Canadian Adventure and a Canadian Adventuress

The father of the Trueman family of Hythe did not have an auspicious start in life. Henry William Truman was born in 1857 in the Elham Union Workhouse, the son of Jane Trueman, a single woman. His father was not named. What became of Jane is unknown, but little Henry was taken in by Thomas and Harriet Pilcher, who kept the Providence beerhouse in Hythe High Street. There must presumably have been a blood relationship, since the Pilchers already had a brood of children and were in no need of an extra mouth to feed.  Thomas Pilcher died when Henry was twelve, during the dreadful winter of 1869-70. The town’s water pipes were frozen and he collapsed trying to carry water down from a spring at the top of the hill. Harriet carried on the business alone. Thomas took the Pilchers’  name and was raised as their son. When he left school, he worked as a groom and assumed his birth name.

On 14 November 1876, at St Leonard’s church, Hythe, he married Rosanna Burrows of Ashford. She was the fourth child of the eight of James Burrows, a coach smith and his wife Abigail. Their wedding ceremony seems to have been rather chaotic. The bride misrepresented her age, saying she was twenty-one, not nineteen. Her Christian and surnames were both misspelt as was Henry’s surname. Nearly fifty years later, they went back to the church to have the record set straight.

Trueman1

They set up home in Theatre Street, Hythe, a road of mostly small terraced cottages. Their first son, James Henry (Jim) was born on 17 April 1878 and William John in 1880.  Frederick Charles followed in 1881, then Harry Sydney (Sid) in 1886. By 1891 Henry was prospering. The family lived in Bartholomew Street, and he had become a cab driver and groom, and also a ratepayer, which entitled him to a vote. They stayed there until at least 1901, by which time the three eldest boys had left home and young Sid, at fifteen was apprenticed to a carpenter.   Once Sid had left home as well, Henry and Rosanna moved to 50 North Road, where they ran a general store and Rosanna’s father James moved in with them. He died in 1911 and is buried in St Leonard’s churchyard.

Their eldest son, Jim, became a tram conductor. Horse-drawn trams had started running from Hythe to Folkestone in the 1890s and by 1894 ran all the way from Red Lion Square in Hythe, where the tram sheds and stables were built, to the Sandgate hill lift, which took visitors up to the Leas.  Because of its seating arrangement, the tram was known locally as ‘the toast rack’.

Trueman toastrack

The ‘toast rack’ on its way back from Folkestone to Hythe. The conductor is standing at the back. 

Trueman tramsheds

The tram sheds at Hythe, now converted into offices.

In 1899, Jim married a local girl, Cecilia Powell, the daughter of a marine storekeeper. They settled in Frampton Road, not too far from the tram sheds and two children were born: Georgina in 1900 and James Percy in 1902. Then, perhaps not seeing any great future in his line of work, Jim and Cecilia and their children emigrated to Canada in 1913. During the early-twentieth century, emigration from Britain reached unprecedented levels, with approximately 3.15 million people leaving between 1903 and 1913. The most popular destination during these years was Canada, drawing almost half of Britain’s emigrants.

They sailed on board the Sicilian  from London on 27 March 1913 and James, entirely untruthfully, told the immigration authorities that his occupation was ‘farming.’  The family went to Elgin County in Ontario, but within months Cecilia had developed Bright’s disease (which could be any sort of kidney failure)  and she died in hospital on 7 April 1915.

Jim and the children moved on to Fronterac, also in Ontario and Jim took up house painting instead of farming.  By now, war had broken out in Europe, and Jim immediately joined the Princess of Wales Own Rifles, a reserve infantry regiment, but did not volunteer then for overseas service. When he did, on 1 November 1916, he joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps, and was attached to a Field Ambulance Unit.  He had brown eyes, dark brown hair and was 5 feet 5 inches tall.  Two weeks before this, he had married again, to Violet Bertha Reid. When he joined up, he made his will, leaving everything to her.

Trueman marriage licence

He returned to England on Boxing Day 1916, aboard the SS Olympic  and was sent to Dibgate Camp, used as a training depot for the Canadians and very near to Hythe.  Within a month he was admitted to hospital at Sir John Moore barracks in Shorncliffe and by April was seriously ill with nephritis (kidney disease).  Although he rallied briefly, he was discharged from the army as no longer fit for service on 29 June the next year, and died at his parent’s home in North Road a month after that, on 24 July 1917.  He had told the military authorities that he did not want to return to Canada.

Jim was buried in the same grave as his maternal grandfather, James Burrows. His children were at his funeral, probably old enough now to make the journey from Canada alone. Rosanna Trueman, Jim’s mother, became their guardian. Violet, however was not there.  The army discovered that she had not legally been Jim’s wife: she had ‘married’ several soldiers in order to receive the separation allowance when they were sent overseas. Sensibly, Violet, if that was in fact her name, disappeared.

James Percy grew up to become a gardener, married and did not die until 1981.  Georgina married Percy Blackman, had a son and was still living in Hythe in 1939.

Jim’s next brother, William, stayed put in Hythe and opened, when he was still a young man, a newsagent and tobacconist in Bank Street, where he also lived with his wife and four children – Vera, Edna, Iris and Wilfred. He also took on the old family home in Bartholomew Street and rented it out. A Conservative, he was also a Freemason and member of the bowls club.  In his forties he became ill and missed his mother’s funeral in 1927, which took place not long after she celebrated her Golden Wedding Anniversary with Henry. William died, aged only forty-eight in 1928. and was buried in Saltwood churchyard.

Trueman Saltwood

William’s grave in Saltwood churchyard. His wife Emily Evelyn is buried in the same grave.

Frederick Trueman, the third brother, had meanwhile left Hythe but had not gone far – only to Folkestone where he worked for some years for a brewery, E. Finn and Co., of Lydd, first as a clerk, later as manager of their Folkestone branch. He spent his working life in the catering trade, later with Maestrani’s in Folkestone and towards the end of his life at Slatter’s Hotel in Canterbury. Both were considered to be rather up-market establishments.

Trueman Maestani

The Maestrani family’s café and restaurant in Folkestone. It was demolished in the 1930s.

Slatters Hotel in Canterbury, now also demolished    Trueman Slatters

Frederick did not marry, and died in 1930, also aged forty-eight, weeks after his father. He is also buried in Saltwood, while his father is with the rest of the family in St Leonard’s churchyard.

Sid, the baby of the Trueman family went away, too, to Plumstead. He seems never to have become a carpenter, but worked as a canvasser and collector for a second-hand clothes dealer. He married and moved to Maidstone.  He is absent from the list of mourners at his family’s funerals, but occasionally sent a wreath. He died in 1959.

But there is a postscript. For years, the Canadian Army and Commonwealth War Graves Commission listed Jim as having no known grave, as although his family had notified the army that Jim was dead, they had not told them where he was buried. His name was recorded instead on the Brookwood Memorial to the missing in Surrey.

Trueman Brookwood

Brookwood Memorial

Then, in 2015, two Canadian researchers, Diana Beaupre and Adrian Watkinson contacted St Leonard’s church. They were – and still are – researching the whereabouts of the graves of Canadian soldiers who died in the UK. We were able to tell them exactly where Jim’s grave was, and a couple of years later, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission erected an official War Grave memorial, in addition to the existing headstone. Since then, however, that original stone, already badly weathered when its inscription was recorded in 2015, has collapsed.

Trueman grave

The Trueman grave in St Leonard’s churchyard as it was in 2015. The inscription could only be partly deciphered:

Nearer my God to thee
In memory of/ …mes Henry …/…. 25th I….h aged …
… James Henry Trueman/ died July 24th 1917 aged 40
Rosanna Trueman/ died December 29th 1927/ aged 71 years
And/ Henry William Trueman/ died February …th 1930 aged 72 years.

On the obverse:

Also of Cecilia/Wife of James Trueman/who died 7 April 1915/buried Kingston Canada

Trueman war grave

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone for James Henry Trueman, the only CWGC stone in St Leonard’s churchyard. 

The fascinating research being undertaken by Diana and Adrian can be seen here:

https://www.canadianukgravesww1.co.uk/

I am indebted to them for providing me with a record of Jim’s military service from the Ottawa Archives.

A lifeboat hero and a skinny-dipping vicar

Richard James Crump was born in Hythe in 1844, the elder of the two children of Richard and Sarah Crump, though Sarah had four children from an earlier marriage. He was baptised in St Leonard’s church on 5 January 1845. The family lived in Stade Street, Hythe. Richard’s father was a shrimper or sailor, depending on the season, and Richard, too, became a fisherman and married, in 1876, Mary Ann Jessup, a farmer’s daughter from Sevenoaks.

Sometime in the 1880s he diversified. Mary Ann received an inheritance from her father, and the couple used it to hire the Hythe sea bathing establishment on Marine Parade. The lease ran for three years and made Richard the proprietor. This involved operating the hot and cold sea baths, guiding the bathing machines down to the sea and running the tea room and reading room. It was a good post for a couple and came complete with its own adjacent accommodation, ideal for the Crump’s family of five children. Richard added the further attraction of trips around Hythe bay in his boat.

Bathing machines had been perfected by a Margate Quaker, Benjamin Beale. They were horse-drawn caravans, screened at both ends. The would-be bather waited in the tea room or reading room for a machine to become available. When one was free, the bather, fully-dressed, climbed inside and undressed. Women, and sometimes men, changed into bathing costumes. Once the machine had been driven into the sea, the driver operated a pulley and the front screen which was rather like a hood, unfurled, so that the bather could descend into the sea in complete privacy in a bath about three-and-a-half metres long by two metres wide. Later, when swimming rather than taking a dip for health reasons, became popular, the modesty hood was dispensed with and the machine was just a means of getting into the sea without having to expose one’s person to public view in a bathing dress.

Crump2

Hythe beach with bathing machines in the late nineteenth century. Note the fully-dressed non-swimmers.

The Hythe bathing establishment had opened in 1854, built by the corporation at a cost of £2500. It had been financed by selling a stretch of beach to the west of the town to the army for use as a rifle range.

Not everyone chose to use the bathing establishment and its machines. The military frequently bathed in the sea to the east of the town off Seabrook, and not all of the soldiers wore bathing dress. In the mid-1880s, passers-by were reported to have been grossly offended by the sight of the skinny-dippers. The corporation arranged for an eighty-foot – long canvas screen to be erected. Even worse was the sight of ‘a certain reverend gentleman’ who also refused to wear bathing clothes. The town clerk was obliged to write to him cautioning him against such behaviour and the corporation enacted bylaws to regulate suitable attire in 1886.

Richard’s lease of the sea baths endured until at least 1903, but by 1911 he had returned to his previous occupation of fishing, though still occupying the same house. The bathing establishment had by now been converted into public baths for the people of Hythe. Bathing machines were going out of fashion, and many visitors preferred now to put up their own tent on the beach.

Crump 3

The same beach with bathing tents and no machines visible. 

In the meantime, Richard had assisted in saving the crew of the Benvenue, which foundered off Sandgate early one November morning in 1891 during a terrific storm. The captain and four crew members were drowned, and the remaining crew clambered up the mizzen mast and clung on. A lifeboat was launched from Hythe, but capsized, killing a crewman. The Coastguard repeatedly fired rockets in an attempt to get a line to the vessel, to no avail. Only when the wind abated in the evening could the Sandgate lifeboat, with a scratch crew of fishermen, including Richard, and some coastguards, rescue the twenty-seven survivors, who had been in the rigging for sixteen hours.

See the source imageh

The rigging of the Benvenue, still visible after the storm.

Richard and Mary Ann retired to Arthur Villas in South Road, not far from his erstwhile bathing establishment. Perhaps he missed the life. In December 1918, as soon as it was safe to go back on the water after the Armistice was declared, he was advertising to buy two or three small pleasure boats, probably with a view to offering trips round the bay once again. He died three years later, and Mary Ann, buried with him, thirteen years after that.

Crump4

Richard’s name on the kerbstone of his grave. Mary Ann’s name, on the opposite side, is now underneath the turf. The churchyard lies on a steep hillside.

Crump 5

Edward Watts, True Blue

Edward Watts was the second son of James and Hannah Watts, born in 1804, and became a solicitor, in partnership with a Mr Brockman. They had offices in Great Conduit Street, Hythe. In 1829, he was appointed Master Extraordinary in the Court of Chancery (responsible for taking affidavits for the court). At home, he became a town councillor, and like his father before him, a staunch Conservative.  Like his father, too, he could expect to remain a councillor for the rest of his life. However, he was living in interesting political times and this was not to be his future.

The Whig government of Lord Grey, having carried out reform of parliamentary constituencies in 1832, turned its attention to local government. A Royal Commission was appointed to investigate municipal boroughs. The Commission comprised eighteen men, nearly all Radicals, members of a loose political grouping who wanted to reform the way in which Great Britain was governed.  They came also to be known as Liberals. They investigated 285 towns, most of which were found wanting. As a result, the Municipal Corporations Act became law in 1835, requiring 178 town councils to reform their practices. Hythe was one of them.

Edward was by this time Town Clerk as well as a councillor. The Act specifically forbade this combination of offices and Edward resigned the councillorship. In January 1836, an election was called, the first in Hythe in which voting was along party political lines, Conservatives versus Liberals.  178 men were allowed to vote, and they voted in a Liberal majority. The Liberals also fielded a candidate for the post of Town Clerk, one George Sedgwick, another solicitor. He won the post, but the council were now faced with the fact that according to Edward’s contract, they had to buy him an annuity for life, which would, reportedly, use up all their funds for the next four years.  Rates would therefore have to increase substantially.

In May that year, Edward presented his claim for compensation. It was for £3306. 15s. 2d., about a quarter of a million pounds today. Voting had been close in the election, and there were claims that some men had been excluded from the list of voters erroneously. Edward acted for those among them who were Conservatives, and although the case failed he announced his intention of seeking a mandamus from the Court of King’s Bench to force the issue.

At the next annual election of councillors, late in 1836, Edward was voted in again as a town councillor. The council, however, for reasons which remain obscure, refused to accept this election as legal, and when Edward arrived at the council chamber to take his oath of office, the Mayor refused to hear it and told him to leave. Edward refused. The Mayor then instructed his constable, who was also the town gaoler, to eject him by force, and Edward was manhandled from the chamber.

Whether or not Edward sought a mandamus, we do not know, but he would not give up on the question of the Conservative voters who were disenfranchised in January 1836.  He got the MP for East Kent (a new constituency created by the Reform Act of 1832) to petition the House of Commons stating his case. There was no point in asking the Hythe MP to do this. Sir Stewart Marjoribanks was a Liberal himself.

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Sir Stewart Marjoribanks, MP for Hythe 1829-1837 and 1841-1847

Eventually, Edward won. Two Liberal councillors were charged with having ‘unlawfully, corruptly and designedly’ altered the borough’s rate book in no fewer that 300 cases to disenfranchise some men and give a vote to others (eligibility to vote was dependant among other things, on having paid all your rates). Their counsel’s only defence was that they were ‘ignorant and illiterate men’. They pleaded guilty and spent four months in Maidstone gaol.

Edward was reinstated as Town Clerk when George Sedgwick  failed to attend council meetings. He stayed in the post until his death over twenty years later. On 30 September 1840, in Reigate, he married Amelia Bunn, and the first of their nine children was born almost exactly a year later.

Legal matters aside, Edward was also very interested in the railways. He was one of the founder members of the Elham Valley Railway Company which wanted to run from Canterbury to Folkestone and worked tirelessly to bring the railway to Hythe, although he did not live to see the opening of either line.

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The site of part of the Elham Valley Railway which operated from 1887 to 1947 and is now a pleasant footpath.

                    The opening of Hythe Station. The line from Sandling was open from 1874 to 1951

Edward steered clear of further controversy, and now seemed to be living the respectable life of a small town solicitor and family man. Except that in 1855, he was declared bankrupt, owing over £90,000. This he attributed in court to heavy losses in the building of his new house,the depreciation of property and debts owing to him amounting to £27,000. The new family home was put on the market.  It had an acre of land, coach house and stabling, drawing room, dining room, library and eight bedrooms. Edward, rather than being sent to a debtor’s prison was given bail with sureties, presumably from his brother James,  and went to live in Islington but his family stayed in Hythe, in Marine Parade.  He was discharged as a bankrupt in 1856, returned to Hythe and continued to practice as a solicitor and act as Town Clerk.

However, the bankruptcy would not go away. In 1855, Edward had arranged a mortgage for a Mr Green, in which a friend of his, a Rev’d Formby advanced the money. Formby passed the cash to Edward, who delayed before passing it to Green and when he was declared bankrupt, the money was included in his assets. His brother, James, repaid Formby, but in 1858 the Reverend gentleman applied to the Court of Chancery to have Edward struck  off. The Lord Chancellor disagreed, but awarded costs against Edward. On his return to Hythe, the horses were taken out of his carriage and it was pulled through the street by delighted townsmen while the town band played and cheering crowds lined the streets.

The rest of Edward’s life was, as far as we know, quiet, though not without sadness.  Two sons, Ernest Edward and William Benjamin, died young at eleven years and a few months respectively. Asthmatic all his life, an attack of bronchitis eventually proved fatal for Edward and he died on 1 June 1867 aged sixty-two.

His family erected an impressive obelisk over his grave, with space enough for all his family’s names. It is, however, badly weathered, and only Edward’s name and the names of the sons who died as children can, just, be deciphered.

Of his three daughters, Matilda remained single; Josephine married Horatio Case and Alice married firstly Sir Edward Hay Drummond-Hay, the former Governor of St Helena and secondly Henry John Maxwell. The second son Albert became a solicitor in Wimbledon; the third, Percy, went to Ceylon as a tea planter and died there at the age of thirty-six; and the two youngest, Montague and Herbert became clerks in the Metropolitan Water Company and lived in Surrey.

After his death his widow moved with her youngest children to Westminster. She lived latterly with Matilda in Putney where she died in 1897

What’s in a name?

Campbell Kelton Grave

In loving memory/of/ Major Frank Murray Campbell/died 8th March 1910
“Come unto me, ye weary, and I will give you rest”
In tender loving memory of /Major Percy St. G. Kelton/who died in Paris 28th of June 1924
R.I.P.

Two men who died fourteen years apart, both soldiers, apparently in two different countries with seemingly nothing to connect them, not even a name.
Frank Murray Campbell claimed on census returns to have been born in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire in about 1859, but there is no record anywhere in Hertfordshire or indeed anywhere in England of a birth registration or baptism in this name. In fact, there are no records at all of him until he married Julia Gertrude Kortoske Curtis, born in Canada, in London in 1880. She was probably the daughter of either Benjamin or Raphael Kortoske who traded in hats and caps in Montreal and London. The family changed their name to Curtis after a disastrous bankruptcy and fraud case was proved against them.
Frank and Julia went to South Africa, where their first daughter, Marion May, was born. On their return to London, they lived in Hampstead and Frank worked as a stockbroker. Two more children, Sybille and Edmund were born.

campbell

Frank in uniform                     (Photo Mrs Avril Williams) 
Frank joined the 4th Volunteer Battalion the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment in 1891 and attained the rank of major. Then in 1906, Julia sued for divorce. At that time, a woman could not obtain a divorce for adultery alone. There had to be an additional cause, such as cruelty.   By then Frank was living at 8 Beaconsfield Terrace, Hythe, the home of Rina Kelton.

Campbell Beaconsfield

Beaconsfield Terrace, Hythe, in the early years of the 20th century
Rina Henriette Kelton nee St Goar was the very rich widow of a stockbroker, originally called Carl Kahn. She had been born in Germany to a wealthy Jewish family. She and her husband moved to London. Carl – now Charles – died in 1905 and left a considerable sum of money to Rina and their two sons, Gerald and Percy, but stipulated that they must change their name to Kelton

Rina lived mostly in Park Lane in London but had a holiday home at Beaconsfield Terrace in Hythe, which she rented from Lady Evelyn Cooper-Key, the widow of an admiral. She was known in the seaside town for her largesse. There was not a church nor a charitable institution which did not benefit from her generosity and ’Madame Rina Kelton’, as she insisted on being called,  was often asked to open garden parties and sales of work. She endowed the School of Musketry with the Kelton Cup, to be competed for at football. How she managed to mix in respectable society while living with a divorced man is a mystery. It may be that she passed him off as her spouse. One oral history interviewee, speaking in the 1980s, remembers that she had a ‘husband’.
Frank died at Rina’s home, of a malignant tumour of the face. His sister, Violet Rachel Curtis was with him. She had married Louis Curtis (born Louis Kortoske and probably Julia’s brother or cousin) in 1875 and they too, had gone to South Africa, to Kimberley, after their marriage. Their daughter, another Marion was born there before they, too, returned to the UK.
Frank’s cremated remains were interred in St Leonard’s churchyard on 29 January 1914, four years after his death.
Percy St Goar Kelton was born Percy St Goar Kahn on 28 December 1886, the elder son of Charles and Rina Kahn. he was educated at Harrow School, Queen’s College Cambridge and the University of Hanover.  He served in the territorial division of the East Kent Regiment, ‘The Buffs’ from August 1909 to 1913, when he resigned.  He was a man of independent means, with no need to work, and devoted himself  to gambling at cards and  horse racing. He lived with his mother whose residences were now at Hanover Square and ‘Castlemead’, Hythe.

In September 1914 he took his motor car to Paris and worked as a civilian driver attached to the British Army Headquarters in Paris. He also did some interpreting in interviews of German prisoners as he was bilingual.  Apart from that, his Commanding Officer said that he made a nuisance of himself, as he thought that being an unpaid chauffeur was beneath him.  He was, according to the same man, ‘bumptious, swaggering and loud’ and he ‘lied quite a lot’. (1)

According to Percy’s own account, he was involved in fighting near Compiegne. He killed two German soldiers and took one prisoner. He took the bullet-riddled helmet of one of his victims and had it sent, via a French woman who was escaping, to his mother. This sounds very much like one of Percy’s inventions, since as a civilian he was not involved in military action.

His behaviour was so erratic, that for a time he was suspected of being a spy and investigated in February 1915, but no evidence was found to support the allegation.

In 1915, he was commissioned as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps for temporary service. However, a subsequent medical examination found that he was unfit for service either at home or abroad as he had undergone surgery for a hernia which left him unable to walk far or carry heavy weights.  Instead, he was sent to Shoreham in Sussex to work for the General Army Staff. (2)

He did, however, manage to join the West Africa Frontier Force, but in January 1917 contracted malaria. Six months later he was invalided home and was admitted to the London General Hospital. It must have been in this period that he met  Elizabeth MacBride, the daughter of Mr and Mrs William MacBride of New York, whom he married at St James’s Church, Spanish Place, London on 12 December 1917. American and British officers formed a guard of honour for the couple.

He then went back to Africa; whether Elizabeth went too is unknown. His medal card seems to show that although he had attained the rank of Captain, he worked after the war, until at least 1921, as a civilian  owner-driver for the force in the Gold Coast Regiment. He was mentioned in dispatches in early 1919, and in 1920 awarded the Military Order of Aviz by the King of Portugal – part of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) was a Portuguese colony.

campbell kelton medal card
Nothing further is known of him, except that at the time of his death was living at the Hotel Brioni on Brioni, an island off the coast of Istria. He died of peritonitis in Paris. Probate was granted to his brother Gerald, though he left only £253 19s 7d,  in Kelton family terms, a pittance. His mother placed a death notice in the local press which states that he was awarded the Military Cross, but there is no supporting evidence for this, nor is there any indication that he became a major, as  Rina claimed on his gravestone.

His mother died in 1944 in Wokingham, aged eighty-five.

  1. WO 339/16864  National Archive
  2.  ibid.

The Cobays Part 3 – Bond Street and Hythe Heroes

Robert, William Richard and Henry Thomas Cobay were the third, fourth and fifth sons of George and Hannah Cobay respectively. None married, all became mayors of Hythe and all spent their lives in what might loosely be described as the property business.
Robert, born in Quebec in 1849, and William, born Winchester in 1853, moved to Hackney as young men. They worked for a cabinet maker, Robert at first as his apprentice and later his works manager and William as his clerk. They lodged together, and with them was twenty-eight-year old Tom Robinson, a surveyor. Ten years later, they were all living in the same house in Amherst Road, Hackney, but the Cobays  had become house furnishers. Tom Robinson was now  a merchant’s clerk.
Their younger brother Henry, meanwhile, who had remained in Hythe set himself up as an auctioneer and house furnisher and by the time he was in his mid-twenties was employing five men. His business traded under the name Cobay Brothers, so presumably either Robert or William or both had an interest. In 1889, Messrs Cobay Bros sold at one auction alone a large house complete with its own lodge and servants’ cottages and five substantial building plots. Full particulars of the sale were to be obtained not from Henry in Hythe, but from Messrs Smee and Cobay of Finsbury Pavement, London.
William had set up another business, with Arthur Rosling Smee, trading as cabinet makers and upholsterers. In 1887 they refurbished the Palace Hotel in Hastings. Other hotel contracts followed: the Royal Links in Cromer, the Grand in Eastbourne, Brown’s in London’s Albemarle Street. By 1899 they had a showroom in Bond Street.

Cobay Smee & Cobay

They also had their own furniture manufactory in Moorfields.

cobay furniture

cobay furniture2

William, though, had business interests elsewhere. In the1890s, he headed a syndicate which bought land on the Leas in Folkestone from Earl Radnor, built the magnificent Metropole Hotel and then disposed of it to Gordon Hotels Ltd. William became a director of this organisation.

Cobay metropole

The Metropole Hotel in Folkestone not long after its opening. It still stands today, very little changed.

He purchased the derelict Seabrook Hotel in Hythe, refurbished it completely, and in the surrounding sixteen acres of scrubland created gardens, croquet lawns, tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course. It re-opened as the Imperial Hotel, which still welcomes guests today.

Cobay Imperial

The Imperial Hotel on the seafront at Hythe

The brothers, and Tom, had moved out of Hackney and into Grosvenor Square, but in 1903 both Tom, and Henry Cobay, who had remained in Hythe, died. Henry was only fifty. In 1905, Smee and Cobay completed their last big contract, the redecoration and refurbishment of the Royalty Theatre in Dean Street in 1905. The Times said their work made it ‘one of the brightest and prettiest theatres in London’.

Then in July, the London Gazette announced that Smee and Cobay would cease trading:

NOTICE is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore
subsisting between us the undersigned,
Arthur Rosling Smee and William Richard Cobay,
carrying on business as Cabinet Makers and Upholsterers,
at 139, New Bond-street, in the county of
London, under the style or firm of SMEE AND COBAY,
has been dissolved by mutual consent as and from the
first day of January, 1906. All debts due to and owing
by the said late firm will be received and paid by the
said Arthur Rosling Smee.—Dated this 21st day of July,
1905.
ARTHUR ROSLING SMEE.
WILLIAM RICHARD COBAY

William returned to Hythe and lived with Robert, as had their parents and siblings before them, in the house at 40 High Street, but they did not give up the house in Grosvenor Square and were still listed as ratepayers for several more years, until William bought a house at Hyde Park . He, at least, still had business interests in London. He was chairman of the Apollo Theatre in London, and had a financial interest in two Birmingham theatres, but still had local interests and established the Metropole Laundry in Hythe. It serviced both the Imperial and the Metropole Hotels and provided employment for many Hythe women. The laundry’s steam whistle blew promptly at a quarter to eight each morning to summon them to work.

Both Robert and William now involved themselves in local politics. Their brother Henry had, like his father, been three times mayor of Hythe. Robert was mayor, too, in 1911. But it was William’s mayoralty during World War One which had the greatest impact.

Cobay William

William in mayoral robes and chain

Although not an Alderman, he was elected as Mayor in 1914 and re-elected unanimously every year until 1918. During this time he donated to and raised over £23,000 for various good causes, including the Belgian Relief Fund and the Red Cross. He laid out ornamental gardens in Ladies Walk, which leads from the Royal Military Canal to the sea, and beautified the canal banks. He argued that the war would be over some day and that Hythe must be prepared to welcome its visitors again. He visited sick and wounded soldiers and took an interest in the welfare of their families.
One of these families comprised the widow and children of Frank Fisher, a grocery assistant who had been killed in November 1917. His wife, Flo, had been very ill since the birth of their fifth child, but Frank was conscripted regardless. He was killed eleven days after he arrived in France. William set up a fund to help his family and headed the subscription list with £5. A week later it had reached £62. 5 .0. and William decided to extend the beneficiaries to include all families bereaved and left in need by the war and those men incapacitated through war service. He called it the Hythe Heroes Fund.
A year later he had the £2000 he wanted and applications were invited. The names of recipients were kept secret.
He seems to have been genuinely loved by the people of Hythe. When the war was over he was granted the Freedom of the Town, a rarely-bestowed honour. There was talk that he would soon be knighted, but he died before that could happen.
He died in at his Hyde Park house following an operation for an unspecified complaint. His funeral was a grand affair. He could have opted for a grand grave, but he chose instead to lie with his parents and brother Henry in St Leonard’s churchyard. He left, in his will, £79,199.
The last remaining Cobay brother, Robert, took William’s death badly. He tried to take on William’s business interests as well as continuing to run Cobay Bros in Hythe. He became chairman of the Imperial Hotel, the Metropole Laundry and the Sandling, Saltwood and Hythe Estate, but by 1922 his health had broken down and he died two years later, leaving £100, 337 in his will.
A Mr Butler bought the auctioneer’s business. The furniture from the family home in the High Street was sold off and Mr Butler auctioned the fifty oil paintings and the Axminster carpets on behalf of Robert’s executors.
Before he died, Robert had left Hythe one last gift. He ordered a set of oak panels, with gilt lettering, to be hung in the Town Hall in memory of his brother William. It lists all the mayors of the town. It is still there today, the name of Cobay appearing eleven times.

The Cobays Part 1 – A Lincolnshire Lad

As the seventeen-year-old George Cobay left his Lincolnshire village on a cold February day in 1833, could he, an illiterate labourer, have imagined that he would live into the next century, that he would become Speaker of the Cinque Ports, that three of his sons would be mayors of Hythe, that two of them would have businesses in London’s exclusive Bond Street or that he himself would die full of honours and that a Baronet would send a wreath to his funeral? Probably not. What he clearly had though was a desire to see more of the world than Claypole (population 593) could offer.

George was born on 3 October 1815 in Claypole. He started his working life as a labourer, but when he was seventeen he joined the army, making his mark on his attestation papers – he could not write. He served in the 19th Regiment of Foot, where he rose in 1843 to the rank of Sergeant and his character and conduct were judged to be excellent. Judging by his later career, he must also have learned to write. He spent over ten years abroad, in the Mediterranean, the West Indies and North America before being discharged as unfit after twenty-one years in 1854. He was then thirty-nine and was diagnosed as having ‘chronic rheumatism originating and caused by length of service and constitutional infirmity’. George was five feet six inches tall, with hazel eyes and a sallow complexion.

Presumably some of his service in the United Kingdom was in Ireland, because by the time he was twenty-four he was married to Hannah, a Co. Cork woman. She travelled with him on his postings. Her eight children were born in Dublin, Malta, Canada, Cephalonia, at sea in the Mediterranean, Winchester and the last in Hythe, where the family settled immediately George left the army.

Why Hythe? The link is the new School of Musketry in the town. Colonel Hay, the first Commanding Officer, who arrived in the town in June 1853, had appointed that August the first instructor, Sergeant MacKay of the 19th Foot. He was the same rank and from the same Regiment as George. They must have been known to each other. Did Sergeant McKay recommend the place to George? Or recommend George to Colonel Hay? Quite possibly. At any rate, George took the civilian post of mess master at the School.

Image result for school of musketry hythe kent

By 1861 he had acquired the licence of the Swan Hotel in the High Street. It was a large coaching inn and likely to profit from the large numbers of officers and NCOs visiting the town. It was also conveniently situated near the Town Hall and could provide dinners and banquets for civic functions.

He prospered, becoming as well as a landlord,  a landowner. He acquired a parcel of land off Donkey Street on the Romney Marsh and started to call himself a grazier rather than an innkeeper. In 1877 he was able to give Hythe Cricket Club his land next to Ladies Walk in the town. That was the year that Hannah died, aged only fifty-six.

Six of her eight children had survived to adulthood, though two infant daughters, Mary, born in Malta and Maria, born in Quebec, did not. She had seen the eldest three, Margaret, George and John married. The three younger sons, Henry, William and Robert, were well on the way to becoming successful business men, and she had become a grandmother.

George had also become a Town Councillor  in the 1860s, retiring in 1898, and a JP – he was still on the bench only four months before his death.  He was mayor of Hythe in 1881 and 1882 and Speaker of the Cinque Ports in 1882. He was, according to the local newspaper, greatly respected in these roles as well as in private life. His illness was reported in the papers in early August 1900. Until then, he had been in robust good health and enjoyed taking long walks. The chronic rheumatism of his army days seems to have been cured by Hythe’s sea air. His funeral was a grand affair at St Leonard’s church, attended by the great and good of Hythe, and graced by a wreath from the town’s MP, Edward Sassoon, Bart.

The grave of Robert and Hannah Cobay and of their three unmarried sons, Henry, William and Robert. The inscription reads:

In/affectionate/remembrance/of/Hannah the beloved wife of/George Cobay/who died 27th June 1877/aged 56 years
Also of George Cobay/husband of the above/who died 12th August 1900/in his 85th year
Also of Henry Thomas Cobay/son of the above/who died 30th November 1903/in his 50th year
Also of their sons/William Richard Cobay/died 26th March 1920, in his 68th year
And/ Robert Cobay/died 9th May 1924 in his 67th year

To be continued…

‘Tim’ Shelford and His Daughters

 

Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he comes finds watching St Luke XII
In/memory/of/Thomas Shelford C.M.G./late of Singapore/died 12th January 1900, aged 60
Born at Preston Suffolk/died at Guildford Surrey
Also of Jessie Fullarton Shelford/wife of the above/died 29th March 1928. aged illegible
Also of Gwen More Shelford/born 21st Sept 1877/died 12th Dec 1961
Also of/Edith Shelford/died 5th February 1953. aged 73

 

Thomas Shelford was born on 23 November 1839, the fifth child and third son of William Heard Shelford, rector of Preston, Suffolk, and his wife Emily Frost Shelford, nee Snape, the daughter of another rector. His elder brothers William and Leonard became an engineer and a clergyman respectively, but Thomas was delicate, with a weak chest, and when his father died in 1856, he moved with his mother to Bury St Edmunds. She maintained him and his five younger siblings on income from her properties.

In 1861 or ’62, however, he travelled to South Africa and then on to Singapore, arriving in 1863. He joined a firm of merchants as an assistant, but, by the time of his retirement had become a partner and a significant player in Singapore’s civic and political life. Known to his friends as ‘Tim’, he became in 1872 Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and its representative in the Legislative Council of Singapore and later part-funded the re-launch of the daily newspaper the Singapore Free Press. He was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1892, a rare honour outside the civil service and the military

The town hall in Singapore

He married firstly Flora Hastings Lawrie, on 24 December 1867 at St Andrew’s church Singapore.

St Andrew’s church, Singapore

She was the daughter of George James and Laura Lawrie, who are both buried in St Leonard’s Churchyard, Hythe. They had five children before her death on 24 August 1873. She died, aged only thirty-two, while visiting her parents in Ayrshire, shortly after giving birth to a daughter.
‘Tim’ remained a widower for eleven years, before marrying another Scotswoman, Jessie Fullarton Baird in 1876. She was the daughter of Alexander Baird and Margaret nee Cowan, and was born in Ochiltree, Ayrshire, where her father was a cattle dealer and innkeeper.

‘Tim’ Shelford retired in 1897 and returned with his wife and the couple’s two daughters to the UK, where they lived in Guildford.  Apparently his wife and daughters could not adapt to life in the East.  Why he is buried in St Leonard’s remains a mystery. His former parents-in-law, the Lawries were dead and buried in St Leonards, and his first wife’s sister, Annie Adair Mackeson was still alive and living in the town. After her husband’s death, Jessie and her daughters also moved there, living at a house called ‘Holmwood’ and later at another called ‘The Dentalls.’

Mary Gwenmore Shelford (known as ‘Gwenmore’) was born 21 Sept 1877 in Wandsworth, the elder daughter of Thomas Shelford and his second wife, Jessie. Her younger sister, Edith, was born in the Straits Settlement of Malaysia. When the family moved to Hythe after their father’s death, Gwenmore and Edith both became Sunday School teachers at St Leonard’s church, and set up a children’s library there.

In early January 1907, notices appeared in the press announcing the engagement of Gwenmore to the Revd. Frank Hay Gillingham, a military chaplain and first-class cricketer who played for Essex. The marriage never took place. Frank eventually married someone else, but Gwenmore did not.

During the First World War she worked with the V.A.D at the Bevan Hospital in Sandgate as assistant to the Keeper of Linen (her sister Edith) for twenty-six hours a week for the duration. She died in Hythe, where she had been living at the Imperial Hotel. Edith had predeceased her by eight years.


In/loving memory of/Robert Lawrence St Colum Bland/born 22nd October 1905/died 26th January 1907
“Not my will but Thine be done”

Laura, the older half-sister of Gwenmore and Edith had married Captain Robert Norman Bland. They lived in Singapore where Robert was Resident Councillor of Malacca. Robert junior was their third child, and died during a visit to the UK. He and his mother were staying at Saltwood Gardens in Hythe. He is buried next to his grandfather and not far from his maternal great-grandparents George James and Laura Lawrie.

More Mackesons – and a Scottish Poet

The simple gravestone of the founder of Madras Christian College and his wife

In/memory/of/ George James Lawrie,D.D./Minister of Monkton, Ayrshire, born at Loudon Oct. 10th 1796/died at Hythe Feb. 14th 1878

And of Laura Louisa, his wife,/who died at Hythe April 25th 1896/ aged 91 years

George James Lawrie was the eldest son of Archibald Lawrie a minister of the Church of Scotland and Ann M’Kittrick Adair. He won an Exhibition to the University of Glasgow, where he gained his D.D. and became a Presbyter of the Church of Scotland at St Andrew’s Church, Madras (now Chennai) in November 1823.

St Andrew’s Church, Chennai, which was consecrated in 1821

He was Presbyter-in-charge from 1824 to 1839, but evidently found time to travel about the sub-continent and to meet Laura Louisa Ludlow, the second daughter of Samuel Ludlow F.R.C.S., Residency Surgeon of Delhi. The family lived there in a house built by her father locally nicknamed ‘Ludlow Castle’. She married George James Lawrie on 21 Aug 1827 at Calcutta.

‘Ludlow Castle’, Delhi

There, he and a colleague founded a school for boys, which originally had fifty-nine pupils, but has since expanded to become Madras Christian College, with a 365-acre campus and a huge student population.

Part of the present-day campus of Madras Christian College

On 11 January 1839, George resigned his post, and returned to take up the incumbency at Monkton, where he is remembered as being ‘sensible, upright, and kind-hearted, but possessed of a highly-cultured mind.’  Both his father and grandfather had been literary friends of Robert Burns, and George wrote, too, publishing Songs and Miscellaneous Pieces . In 1887 his poetry was used in Modern Scottish Poets. He is credited with having written the song Dae ye mind o’lang, lang syne: the first verse (of many) follows. It is to be sung to the tune of John Peel.

Do ye mind the sunny braes
Whaur we gathered hips and slaes,
And fell among the bramble busses,
Tearin’ a’ our claes;
And for fear they would be seen
We gaed slippin’ hame at e’en,
But were licket for our pains in the morning.

George and Laura had four daughters. The second, Annie Adair Lawrie, married Henry Bean Mackeson of Hythe and some years later her now elderly parents moved to the town to live near her, at a house called The Elms. George died of ‘natural decay’ aged eighty-two, and he and Laura are buried together in St Leonard’s churchyard.

 

Until the day dawn

In/loving memory/of/Henry Bean Mackeson/born at Hythe Dec. 11th 1812, died at Hythe Feby 29th 1894
Also Annie Adair his wife/born 26th of August 1835/died 26th of April 1913
Also of their daughter/Mildred Adair Murray/wife of/Colonel H.W. Murray/born at Hythe March 13th 1868/died at Hythe October 17th 1964

Henry Bean Mackeson was the youngest son of Henry and Mary Jane Mackeson nee Hayman. He was baptised at St Leonard’s church in the town on 8 January 1813. His father and uncle William were co-owners of Mackeson’s Brewery in Hythe, which they had bought a few years previously. Heavy investment in the business had paid off, and it was now a thriving concern and a major employer in the town.
Henry Bean followed his father into the family business, but it may not have been his first choice of occupation. in the 1820’s Peter Fisher, another uncle, wrote to his father that if Henry ‘be disposed to try the navy in a medical way I will do my best towards procuring him an assistant surgeon’s appointment.’ It was not, however, to be, and once decided on a life ashore, Henry threw himself into Hythe affairs with enthusiasm. Indeed, he appears to have been one of those tireless Victorians for whom nothing was off-limits.

The malt house at Hythe, one of the few remaining Mackeson brewery buildings


Besides running the business, he became a keen amateur geologist and Fellow of the Geological Society, and some of his work was published in A History of the Weald of Kent. He was town mayor nine times, in an unbroken run from 1872 to 1880. He was churchwarden of St Leonard’s church during the years when the vicar, Thomas Hall, was fund-raising and planning the renovations of the church, and his efforts are commemorated on a plaque in the church.

A modern edition of Henry Bean Mackeson’s work

The town council had, until a new town hall was built in 1794, met in the room over the church porch, the Parvis. Here, Henry discovered the ancient records of the town rotting away and had them removed to more suitable storage in the town clerk’s office. He found time to become a captain in the Cinque Ports Volunteer Rifles, and later in life to act as a director of the Elham Valley Railway.

His funeral on 8 March 1894 was attended by the entire town corporation, their pew draped in black, and one of his favourite pieces of music, Beethoven’s Funeral March, was played. In the evening the bell-ringers rang a muffled peal.

He had married, on 18 April 1860, Annie Adair Lawrie, the second of the four daughters of George James Lawrie and Laura Louisa Lawrie nee Ludlow. She was born at sea off Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Her mother brought her back to the UK in 1837, and they were joined by the family soon afterwards, when her father became Minister of Monkton, Ayrshire. She married Henry Bean Mackeson in the church there. They had seven children, including twin daughters. After Henry’s death she lived with one of the twins, Mary Jane and died at her home in Tonbridge.

Mildred Adair Murray nee Mackeson was born in Hythe, the sixth child of Henry Bean Mackeson and Annie Adair Mackeson and baptised in St Leonard’s church on Easter Sunday 1868. In the same church, in 1899, she married Henry Walker Murray of the Royal Army Medical Corps.. They had a son and two daughters. Mildred travelled with her husband to his various postings, including to Nova Scotia and, his last post before retirement, Gibraltar. Henry died in Tunbridge Wells in October 1942. Mildred died in Hythe.

‘Safe Home at Last’: The Vicar who Transformed his Church

In loving memory/of/ Thomas Guppy Sarsfield Hall/ born September 2nd 1844/died Janry 11th 1922
“Safe home at last”
Also of Charlotte Sophia/his wife/born April 2nd 1855/passed on Feb 26th 1933
Also of their son, Robert/Sep 15.1876 – May 1939
Also in loving memory of/their grandson/Captain Peter F.S.Dobson/4.April 1918-23 Feb. 1966.
Also of their daughter Deborah Clare Dobson/mother of the above/ 26.Jan.1883 – 7. May 1971

In loving memory of/ T E F Sangar/ the only and dearly loved son of/ the late Reverend Sangar and Charlotte his wife/ who fell asleep 15th Dec 1892

Thomas Guppy Sarsfield Hall was born at Blackrock, County Cork, the second son of Robert Hall by his second wife Sarah nee Sarsfield Head. The family were well off but as the second son of a second wife, Thomas needed to take up a profession, so when he graduated from Peterhouse, Cambridge, he took holy orders and was sent as a curate to All Saints, the parish church of Bakewell in Derbyshire. He was then sent to a country parish near Maidstone. This was apparently very damp, and his already weak chest was affected – he had suffered as a young man from rheumatic fever – so the Archbishop sent him to Hythe as curate to recover. Here he fell in love with the boss’s daughter, Charlotte Sophia Sangar, daughter of the vicar of Hythe.

During their courtship, Thomas became vicar of St Faith’s church in Maidstone town centre, but Charlotte’s father decided that the time had come for him to retire, leaving the benefice of Hythe conveniently vacant. In 1873, Thomas and Charlotte were married and he became vicar of Hythe, a post he held for the next twenty-six years.

The church he inherited was apparently very dilapidated by this time, and the low, plaster ceilings created a dark and dismal interior. Thomas studied the history of the church assiduously, and became convinced that the architects and craftsmen who had worked on the enlargement of the church in the thirteenth century had left their work unfinished, probably interrupted by the carnage of the Black Death. He decided to put matters right.

Despite general apathy, and a ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ attitude on the part of most of his parishioners, Thomas managed to enlist the interest and support of the influential – and rich – Mackeson family who lived in the town and still manged their brewery there. He raised the sum of £10,000 – perhaps half a million pounds in 2017 – and employed a top architect to remove the plaster ceilings over the nave and chancel, and in the chancel he put a great vaulted roof. It has been compared to the architecture of Canterbury Cathedral.

The remodelled chancel of St Leonard’s church

The modest plaque commemorating the work of Thomas Hall

St Leonard’s has one peculiarity, found in only one other church in England – an ossuary. Known as ‘the crypt’, even though it is not, the collection contains over a thousand skulls and innumerable long bones, all neatly stacked. Earlier historians have described them as the remains of Danish pirates, men who fell at the Battle of Hastings or victims of the Black Death, without any substantiation for these claims. Today, work is concentrating on scientific analysis to establish the bones’ origins.

The ‘crypt’ of St Leonard’s Church in 1907

Thomas interested himself in the bones, too, and published a booklet entitled The Crypt of St Leonard’s Church and the Human Remains Contained Therein. He came up with the novel conclusion, based on no evidence whatsoever, that when Hythe’s three other parish churches had fallen into decay, many centuries since, their graveyards had been dug up and the bones removed to St Leonard’s.

The pamphlet written by Thomas Hall on St Leonard’s Crypt

His other achievements while in office were to stop people grazing sheep in the churchyard, to be a trustee of St Bartholomew’s almshouse in Hythe, and to introduce St Leonard’s Parish magazine, a publication which still thrives today.

Over the years, he was offered other, more lucrative benefices, but refused to leave Hythe until in 1899 he suffered from a serious illness and applied to the Archbishop, Frederick Temple, for permission to resign, as he felt that he could no longer serve the parish as he wished. The Archbishop thanked Thomas for the ‘long and excellent service’ he had rendered to the church and accepted his request.

The parish raised enough money to buy him a Bechstein Grand piano, present him with a cheque and make a present of bangles to his wife. He was also given a magnificent illuminated copy of the address made to him when he left, with pictures of the church before and after its restoration.

After a period of rest, Thomas recovered enough to be appointed to the benefice of St John the Baptist, Dodington, near Sittingbourne, before retiring to 15 Castle Hill Avenue in Folkestone, where he died.
His funeral at St Leonard’s seems to have been marked by real sorrow at his parting. The great and the good of the town gave eulogies, the grave was lined with cypress and laurel, and on Sunday, a muffled peal was rung by the church bell ringers and the flag on the tower was flown at half-mast.

Thomas had met Charlotte in Hythe, and was married in the church here. All nine of his children were born in Hythe. In his retirement in Folkestone he was a frequent visitor, and he often said that Hythe was his real home. The great achievement of his working life, the remodelling of St Leonard’s was completed here, and it was St Leonard’s he chose for his last resting place. He clearly held the church, and the town, in great affection. The words ‘safe home at last’ on his gravestone surely have a double meaning.

Charlotte Sophia Hall nee Sangar was born at Shadwell Rectory, the only daughter of Benjamin Cox Sangar and his wife Charlotte nee Fothergill. Her father was Rector there from 1846-1872, before moving to St Leonard’s Church in Hythe, where he was vicar from 1862 to 1873. Charlotte, known to her family as ‘Lollie’, married Thomas Hall on 6 June 1873 in St Leonard’s church Hythe, in a ceremony officiated by the chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Perhaps her father was too ill to conduct the service himself, though he acted as a witness. He submitted a request to resign his living in the same week as the wedding, and retired to Eastbourne, where he died six months later.

Over the next nineteen years, nine children were born to Thomas and Charlotte, six daughters and three sons. Thomas had started life signing himself ‘Thomas Hall’. On his marriage certificate he was ‘Thomas Guppy Hall’, but in 1911 he signed his census return ‘T.G. Sarsfield Hall’. His sons added a hyphen and the family name became ‘Sarsfield-Hall.’

When Thomas died, Charlotte moved to Tunbridge Wells where she played a full part in civic life, particularly in the Girls’ Friendly Society, The Mothers’ Union and the women’s’ branch of the Conservative Party. She also continued to play competitive croquet, a sport she had taken up as a girl, and to win prizes at the All England Club’s tournaments in Wimbledon.

Thomas may have regarded Hythe as home, but perhaps Charlotte preferred Dodington. She named her house in St James’s Road for the place.

Robert Sarsfield-Hall, the couple’s eldest child, married Alice Walker. and the couple had four children.
Deborah Clare Dobson, nee Hall was born on 26 Jan 1883 and married Andrew Edward Augustus Dobson, an army officer on 10 June 1913 in Dodington church. The couple had two sons, one of whom was Peter, buried here. He was born in London and died in Canterbury.

Charlotte Hall had one sibling, Theophilus Edward Fothergill Sangar, who preferred to call himself plain ‘Edward’. He was born in 1856 and baptised in Shadwell. He attended school in Chelmsford and later became a railway clerk, living in Islington. He died in Hythe, though by that time his sister was no longer living in the town and was buried in the churchyard two days later, on 17 December 1892.