The General – part one

The Solly-Flood Family in Hythe 1892 – 1904

General Frederick Solly-Flood and his wife Constance arrived in Hythe in 1892, having bought the Old Manor House, which dated from the seventeenth century and lay a stone’s throw from St Leonard’s church. The general had paid £4000 for their new home. His life, and that of his family, had been peripatetic for the forty-plus years in which he had served in the British army and they must all have been grateful to put down roots at last.

The Old Manor House, Hythe

Frederick was born in 1829, one of the seven children of another Frederick Solly-Flood of Ballynaslaney House, Co. Wexford. His father practised law until gambling debts forced him to sell his practice and accept, in 1866, the post of Attorney-General in Gibraltar. This Frederick was, according to his descendants, a villain. His eldest son, Edward, on his 21st birthday, inherited a substantial fortune from his maternal grandfather. Frederick senior deceived him into signing the whole lot over to him and then lost the lot gambling on the Derby, or so the family story goes. Others suggest that it It may not be true, but whatever the case, Edward was left in desperate straits and lived with his wife and children in Slaney Lodge, which his father had built and rented to him.

Frederick senior’s tenure in Gibraltar is remembered chiefly for one thing: the Marie Celeste mystery.  The American ship was discovered adrift and deserted off the Azores on December 4, 1872. She was brought into Gibraltar by a three-man salvage team who sought their salvage money. Frederick oversaw the legal hearings and decided, based on no evidence whatsoever, that salvage team had murdered the crew of the ship. They were eventually awarded only a fraction of what they might have expected. One historian has described Frederick senior as a man ‘whose arrogance and pomposity were inversely proportional to his IQ’ and as ‘… the sort of man who, once he had made up his mind about something, couldn’t be shifted.’

The Marie Celeste, a so-called ghost ship

Frederick junior was apparently his father’s favourite son. He was born on 19 March 1929 and at twenty years old was commissioned into the 53rd Regiment of Foot. He was sent to India, where he would spend the next 18 years. He served first on the North-west Frontier, then in the Indian Campaign, a response to the Indian Mutiny, then helped relieve Lucknow and Cawnpore. While aide-de-camp to Sir William Mansfield during the course of several campaigns he was severely wounded. His last position in India was as Military Secretary to Lord Sandhurst, Commander-in-Chief in India. He had, by then, reached the rank of brevet-colonel.

His next posting was to Gibraltar, where his father still lived. He was Assistant Adjutant In 1884. He was then appointed Commandant of the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, promoted Major General in 1885 and in 1886 sent back to India to Poona (Pune).

Sandhurst College Muster Roll, 1885, bearing Frederick’s name as Commandant

He had managed to find time to marry, in 1863 in Bombay (Mumbai), Constance Frere. Her family were resident in Bombay, where her father, a lawyer, was a Member of Council, but were originally from Breconshire.  They had four children together: Constance May (known as May), born in 1864; Frederick Frere (Fritz, Freddie or FF) in 1867; Arthur (Artie) in 1871 and Richard (Dick) in 1877. Another son, Claude, survived only a few weeks. Only May moved with her parents to Hythe. Artie and Fritz were already serving in the Army and Dick was at Eton.

After Poona, Frederick retired and he and Constance lived for a while in London before moving first to Folkestone, where they rented a house while looking for somewhere to buy. Frederick had family living in nearby Dover – his maiden sisters Adelaide (Tita) and Frances (Fanny) and another who was widowed, Mary Brewster.  There was also a large military establishment in the area, at Shorncliffe, and Frederick had many friends and acquaintances among the officers.  Among them was Dr John Coates, former Medical Officer at the School of Musketry in Hythe, but now ‘a sad invalid.’ A fellow-Irishman, his career had stretched from the Crimean War to Bermuda to India to Malta and Gibraltar – which is presumably where he met Frederick. He lingered in failing health until 1896 and is buried in Hythe’s St Leonard’s churchyard.

Almost as soon as they moved into the Old Manor House in February 1892, the callers started arriving. Among the first was Colonel Charles Slade, Commandant of the School of Musketry which had been established in the town in 1853. There were calls to be made, too. May was assiduous in cultivating mew contacts – networking, we might say today.  Within a couple of weeks of moving in, she had called on the Halls, the Dennes,  the Hackneys, the Osbornes, the Lovegroves, the Davises, the de Hoghtons, the Mackesons,  the Hutchinsons, and the Baldwins.

The School of Musketry in Hythe in the early 20th century

The Halls and the Dennes were near neighbours, the Halls at the vicarage and the Dennes at St Leonard’s Cottage. Thomas Guppy Hall had been Vicar of Hythe since 1873 having married his predecessor’s daughter, Charlotte Sangar. The Misses Denne were maiden ladies, aunt and niece. John Hackney was a medical man as were Drs Osborne, Lovegrove and Randall Davis. It seems that May might have been seeking out the best man to attend her mother, whose health was always delicate.

Of the others, the de Hoghtons were a military family and James de Hoghton heir to a baronetcy; the Mackesons owned the town’s brewery. and the Hutchinsons and Baldwins had no need for any profession or trade – they were people of independent means.

All these folk lived in Hillside Street, a few yards from the Old Manor House, but May and her father soon cast their net wider (Constance rarely paid calls). By summer they had visited or left cards with Mrs Deedes at Saltwood Castle, with the Brockmans at Beachborough and with the Porters of Moyle Tower.  Frederick attended a garden party at Beachborough and another at Dover Castle to welcome the new Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Frederick Temple Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava. Frederick liked to mix with titled people and always mentioned the encounters in his diary.  By September, the family felt confident enough to throw two small garden parties of their own, with croquet matches part of the entertainment.

The triple-barrelled Lord Warden

Sometimes, however, visitors were not wholeheartedly welcome. In July ‘May stayed at home to receive the Fitzclarences who had invited themselves to tea by telegraph’. The Hon. George Fitzclarence was a son of the Earl of Munster and descended from William IV and his mistress Dorothea Jordan. His wife, Lady Maria, was also an earl’s daughter. Refusing them would have been unthinkable, however bad their manners. Then In October, Frederick returned home from a walk and was ‘appalled by this room full of visitors.’

Similarly, paying calls could be tiresome, In 1893 he records ‘C & I had to dine at the vicarage to meet General & Mrs Trent-Stoughton’.

Walking was something Frederick took seriously. He walked nearly every day, whatever the weather, at least once, often twice. These were not short strolls. His morning walks were often eight miles long and he sometimes walked to Lyminge and back, a distance of about ten miles, with steep climbs. On one occasion he noted ‘walked to Folkestone Town Hall 1h 5 minutes and back in 1h 9 minutes.’ This is a distance of just over 4 miles each way with another steep climb. He was then in his seventies.  He also had a daily exercise routine.

Sometimes he was accompanied by May and often by a dog or two, of which there were a succession. They were never kept on a leash with the resultant fights with other dogs, killing of chickens (for which Frederick had to pay compensation) and running away – but always returned by kind townspeople. He did not like all pets, however, and bought Fritz an air rifle so he could ‘practice shooting at obnoxious cats’.

Gardening was another passion and one in which May joined him, though Frederick also employed a jobbing gardener, Valentine Hobday. He planted a rose garden and visited the American Garden in Saltwood in May each year to admire the rhododendrons and azaleas

The American Garden in Saltwood, still blooming today

Although Constance was often confined to her bed, Frederick seems to have enjoyed robust good health, though he did suffer periodically from ‘my old enemy, weak action of the heart.’ He consulted a doctor who told him there was nothing wrong with his heart but that he was suffering from a ‘disarrangement of the nervous system’. This set him worrying that his mind was going (it was not).

The Old Manor House was very conveniently placed for attending church services. Frederick always went on Sunday morning and often again in the evening. He also sat on the Parochial Church Council. In summer he regularly complained that the church was packed with visitors at the 11 am service, despite there now being an additional 9.30 am service for the military. On one occasion, he was caught unawares by the annual Civic Sunday event, when the mayor and councillors ousted him from his usual pew.

The whole family found the holidaymakers irksome. As well as packing the pews in church, they ‘stop the residents getting on trams & buses’ and on one occasion Constance ‘tried to go to Folkestone by tram but was too disturbed by noisy trippers’.

Frederick was quite dismissive of the town council and Hythe town life in general. The mayor in 1892 was Mr Scott – ‘a builder apparently’. One December he remarked of a torchlit procession in the town: ‘the meaning of it, if it has one, I don’t know, except an evening diversion for the lower orders it being early closing day’. (There was, in fact, no ‘meaning’: torchlight processions were briefly in vogue in the 1890s).  He wrote of the annual illuminated tableaux on the Royal Military Canal that ’they are pleased to call it a Venetian Fete’. Mrs Herbert Deedes, of Saltwood Castle ‘poses as the great lady’, he wrote. His snobbery was based not on wealth – the Deedes family were very well off – but on class and pedigree. He himself was far from rich, but his wife had been presented at court, whereas Rose Deedes had not.

To be continued…

The above is taken from the diaries of Frederick Solly-Flood, kindly lent to me by Robert Melrose of Eastbridge House, supplemented by local research and by  Bob Solly, Solly-Flood Family Notes November 1999 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society


Civic Life and the Gatelys

Beneath a yew tree in St Leonard’s churchyard, lies a rather battered table tomb, long buried under landslip.  Rediscovered in October 2013, part of the inscription, protected from the elements for generations, could still be seen:  ‘liam Ga…who was Bay… and Mayor for the Yeare 1650 … Ancie … he… Yeare is….. departed  this mortall life on the LORDS day  the 23 of February 165…being of the age of 52 yeares’. This is the tomb of William Gately, and his story, and that of his father John, follow. Their lives left only a few traces, but what is known casts a little more light on the history of our town of Hythe.


John Gately was a blacksmith. His origins remain obscure, and he first appears in the Hythe records in 1599 with his marriage to Phillice Possingham. The couple’s son William was born later the same year or in early 1600.  A family man with a trade only lacked premises, and by the following year, John had built himself a workshop on the highway backing onto the Green (now the Dymchurch Road). He presented this as a fait accompli to Hythe Corporation, who agreed to lease him the land at a cost of 2s 8d a year.  The arrangement was mutually beneficial:  the town needed a blacksmith and John needed the business.

Phillice died when little William was only six, and the next year John married Elizabeth Steedman, who lived just five more years. His third wife was Mary, the mother of his son John, born in 1614, but she too died in 1615. Finally, in 1620, he married Alice Wagers.  She was the mother of his youngest son, David, born in November 1621.  Phillice, Elizabeth and Mary are all buried in St Leonard’s churchyard, but the memorials to their short lives, if any, have not survived.

John served as churchwarden for St Leonard’s in 1612, but evidently decided that he did not want to take any further part in civic or church duties.  He never became a freeman or jurat as was the norm of a man of his status.  The office of jurat was, in fact, not universally sought after. In the first place it was expensive. The man in question had to pay to become a freeman – the Corporation usually charged 20 shillings. Then he had to pay again to become a jurat. Once in post, he was expected to devote time to meetings, tax gathering, overseeing works and acting as a J.P., all to the detriment of earning his livelihood, and was often required to undertake work such as mending the sea wall or to lend money to the often-impecunious Corporation. Some who were rich enough paid not to be freemen:  William Deedes paid £10 in 1633 but was later persuaded to accept the honour.

John Gately found another way. In May 1614 the Corporation appointed him guardian of Alice Hempsted, a six-year-old orphan who had inherited lands and money. He would have the profits of renting out the land and the interest on the money until she was of age and would be exempt from payment of local taxes to the Corporation and the Church, and from serving as an officer of the town. Of course, he paid for this an undisclosed sum, but it would seem that for him it was a fair bargain.

 One civic duty he could not avoid was membership of the Trained Band, a local militia. This was obligatory for every able-bodied adult male. John kept his muskets and bandolier, together with a rapier, in his outhouse with his pigs; the Corporation provided powder and match.   The Corporation also provided hospitality at general musters, which were rowdy affairs. In 1626, noting the disorder at such meetings, they directed the Chamberlain to take note of the wine and beer brought into the rooms, and to allow no ‘superfluyitie’.

By 1618, he had left the premises on the Green, but was leasing another house nearby from St Bartholomew’s Hospital of Saltwood. The house included a hall, with two chambers over, an entry room, garret, kitchen, buttery, stables and outside storage.

 In 1625, on a trip to Rye, John was taken ill. A Hythe surgeon, William Stace, attended him, but to no avail, unsurprisingly, given the state of medical knowledge at the time.  Although John’s will has not survived, the probate inventory of his goods has. He was comfortably off, and the furnishings and effects in his house were worth over £68.  He was literate, owning ‘a bible, two smalle bibles (probably the New Testament or the Psalms), a service book and three other smalle books’.   As a comparison, at the same time, John Cocke, a labourer in Saltwood, had in his two rooms goods to the value of £6. 6s  6d.

John’s comparative wealth is not surprising. Blacksmiths served farmers’ needs and could also produce  pots, kettles, chimney backs and weights for use in the home, and as well as his personal possessions, he had wealth in his ‘shop’.  A smith’s tools, his anvil, bellows and vice,  were worth several pounds, but the value of his stocks of coal, iron and finished products such as horseshoes might be much greater.

A 17th century smithy

After John’s death his widow, Alice, went to live in New Romney, where some years later she died in mysterious circumstances, either from falling down a couple of steps or being struck by a stone. Meanwhile, in Hythe, her stepson William took on his father’s house and trade. 

Now in charge of his own business, and with his stepmother living elsewhere, William was in need of a wife to run his house. He married Ann Dryland on 2 October 1627 in Wye. Their first child, John, was baptised in Hythe on 31 August 1628, but is not mentioned in his father’s will, so presumably died young. Their second and third sons, both called William, and the fourth, Samuel born in 1642 also had short lives. Their only daughter, Elizabeth, to whom William left most of his estate, was baptised in Hythe on 11 July 1630.

Unlike his father, William embraced civic life with some enthusiasm. In February 1633, the Corporation charged him with collecting contributions towards cutting out the haven, one of several attempts the town made to save its harbour. He evidently performed this task satisfactorily, and in August was made freeman and jurat. He still had to pay £1.3.0d for the privilege.  Tax collecting seems to have been his forte, as he was appointed on several occasions to this task, including the collection of the generally unpopular Ship Money imposed on the country by Charles I.

He also served as churchwarden at St Leonard’s in 1639 and 1641. This, like the office of jurat, was not necessarily eagerly sought after. It involved attending the bishop’s visitation to present the parish registers, keeping records of those who did not attend church, as required by law, and collecting non-attendance fines, maintaining charitable bequests, keeping church accounts and keeping the church in good repair. The vicar of Hythe, William Kingsley, was unlikely to have been often in the town to offer advice. He was also Rector of Hythe, Rector of Ickham and Archdeacon of Canterbury Cathedral.  Parliament removed him from all his livings in 1644 for pluralism.

Since 1640, William had often attended the Brotherhood and Guestling, the annual meeting of the Cinque Ports, with the Mayor, and in 1649 he was appointed one of their Bailiffs to Yarmouth. This was an ancient post which had in the past produced confrontation, and even violence between the people of Yarmouth and the Bailiffs. The role of the latter was to be present in the town during the herring ‘fare’ or fishing season held between Michaelmas, 29th September and Martinmas, the 10th November to attend court sessions daily and pass judgement.  There were also visits to church and a certain amount of feasting.  It was another post which some avoided if at all possible. William Gately was selected because a Mr Bachellor from another of the Cinque Ports had refused to go – and was fined the huge sum of £50 by the Brotherhood for his transgression. 

William’s experience as Bailiff seems to have been an unfortunate one. On his return, the Corporation gave him £25 in recognition of the dangers and ‘travail’ he had endured during his journey. This was quite unprecedented. The trip may have had a salutary effect: the next month, while in good health, he made his will, unlike many at the time who waited until death was imminent.

In 1650 he was chosen to be Mayor. It was a difficult time –  the Corporation was nearly bankrupt and started the year with a deficit. They were unable to pay for the timber bought to repair the haven and were being threatened with legal action, while further expenses were incurred placing guns on the Mount and re-glazing the Town Hall.  William may have been relieved when his term of office ended, as all Mayoralities did, at Candlemas, 2 February.  Eighteen days later, on Sunday 20 February 1651 ‘at four of the clock in the afternoon’, he died. No prayers were said at his funeral.  Burial services had been abolished by the new puritan authorities in the Church of England.  the church. The burial was not even recorded in the parish registers. There is a gap beteeen March 1645 and October 1653. 

William’s rather elegant signature

William had been quite acquisitive during his lifetime and left his family well provided for. Although his house and workshop and two acres of land were leased from the Hospital, he had bought land in Bilsington in 1640 and in Saltwood in 1648. He also  owned silver plate and a ‘feather bedd, well furnish’d’ (a feather bed was a mattress, but rather superior to a flock one; the furnishings were the bedstead, posts, drapes and linen).   His acquisitiveness, however, had led to court cases, including with his own mother’s family, where he was shown to have appropriated goods to which he was not entitled, and in 1649, when Bailiff to Yarmouth, and despite the generous gratuity he received, he overlooked paying his clerk his allowance. The man had to beg the Brotherhood for it after William’s death. For all that, William was generous in his bequests, remembering his apprentices past and present, his brothers John and David, an aged aunt and the new minister of Hythe, William Wallace.

This last bequest is interesting. Wallace, who hailed from Aberdeen, was a Calvinist Presbyterian of particularly radical views.  His clerical duties were confined to baptisms and communion: marriage for him was not a sacrament and he said no prayers at burials. That William Gately thought highly enough of him to leave him money tends to suggest that the blacksmith shared his radicalism in religious matters. He was, now that the Church of England was effectively dis-established, able to express his views without fear and worship as he wished. And since he supported a radical minister, did he also support the parliamentary forces that had enabled him to preach freely? Probably.

It seems he was not long survived by his daughter or wife. The land in Saltwood was to pass to his niece Susan Gately, if they both died. It was sold by Susan in 1660, so Ann’s and Elizabeth’s deaths must be assumed. It later became part of Weller’s Gift, a local charity for the poor of Hythe. Susan, the daughter of William’s brother John and only known surviving grandchild of John Gately senior, married in 1675, and had children, so perhaps, somewhere, there are still descendants of John Gately. 

The information for this post was taken from the records at the National Archives,  Kent History and Library Centre in Maidstone and at the Canterbury Cathedral Archives;  the Calendar of the White and Black Books of the Cinque Ports and the Parish Records of St Leonard’s Church.

William Gately’s signature is reproduced by permission of  Canterbury Cathedral Archives




A Titanic Memorial in Hythe

In dear memory of Edward Pomeroy Colley/ Born 15 April 1875, Entered into Eternal/Life 15 April 1912 through the sinking/of the Steamship “Titanic”/Whoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it

Hythe Civic Society Elizabeth Bowen (writer) lived here 1965-1973

Two memorials, two names: Edward Colley and Elizabeth Bowen, one inside St Leonard’s church, Hythe, the other just yards away on the wall of a house on Church Hill. What is the connection?

Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen was born on 7 June 1899 in Dublin, the daughter of barrister Henry Bowen and his wife Florence nee Colley. Both families were part of the extensive network of Irish gentry and her father owned Bowen Court in County Cork, where Elizabeth spent her summers.  Her father became mentally ill in 1907 and her mother took her to live in England. They lived for a while in Lyminge, near the church, but eventually settled in ‘Clyne House’, in North Road, Hythe.

Florence Isabella Bowen nee Colley

They were probably the first tenants after the house had been ravaged by fire in January 1911. The owner, Frederick Butler, was called away from a Town Council meeting when a candle in the nursery set the curtains on fire.  Mrs Butler rescued the children, but the roof and top storey were destroyed.

Cline House after the fire….

… and in its later years

Florence already had family living in England and one sister, Constance, had become a medical doctor there. However, Constance became ill, probably with TB and in 1911 was in a sanatorium in Henley. By 1912, about the time that Florence and Elizabeth moved to Hythe, Constance was in Folkestone, possibly for the sea air. If so, it was ineffective, and she died in the town on 15 February 1912. She was buried in Folkestone (Cheriton Road) cemetery.

Dr Constance Colley’s grave in Folkestone

On 6 April that year, the youngest brother of Constance and Florence, Edward Pomeroy Colley, visited ‘Clyne House’.  A university-educated civil servant in his mid-thirties, he had, during the Klondike Gold Rush, opened a successful mining brokerage firm in Vancouver. Now he had business interests on both sides of the Atlantic and frequently travelled between Dublin and a home in Vancouver.  He had been in Ireland for Christmas 1911, and was planning to return to Canada to work as a consultant to the industrialist and politician James Dunsmuir.

Edward Pomeroy Colley

After a short stay in Hythe, he travelled to London and from there to Southampton, where he boarded the Titanic. He died on his thirty-seventh birthday.

More tragedy was to follow. In September 1912, Florence Bowen died of cancer aged forty-eight at ‘Clyne House’.  She is buried in Saltwood churchyard.

Florence Bowen’s grave, the stone identical to that of her sister

Elizabeth went to live in Harpenden with her aunt Laura Colley, who was housekeeper to her brother, the Rev’d. Wingfield Colley, curate in charge of St John’s Church in the town.

Elizabeth’s career as a novelist is well documented elsewhere as are her mariage blanc and her lovers. Later in life, now widowed, she returned to Hythe. On the face of it, it was an odd decision. Her short time in the town as a child must have been associated with the loss of her mother, aunt and uncle and she chose to live in a house, ‘Carbery’, only a stone’s throw from ‘Clyne House’, just around the corner.  Her old home was then still standing, though it was later demolished and replaced by a block of flats.

Elizabeth Bowen

It was in Hythe that Elizabeth wrote her last novel, ‘Eva Trout’, published in 1969. The protagonist experiences, as Elizabeth did as a child, the shock of relocation from Ireland to the Kent seaside, although she settles in Broadstairs rather than Hythe. But the flat, windswept hinterland of Thanet is not dissimilar to the Romney Marsh and the estate agent who sells Eva Trout her house is Mr Denge. It is a name with a local flavour:  Denge Marsh lies between Lydd and Dungeness.

Elizabeth also arranged for the brass wall plaque in St Leonard’s in memory of her uncle. He has another in the church at Harpenden, where Elizabeth passed her teenage years.

In 1972, Elizabeth spent Christmas in Ireland with friends, but became unwell and was hospitalised on her return. She was diagnosed with lung cancer and died at University College Hospital on 22 February 1973, aged 73. She is buried with her husband in St Colman’s churchyard in Farahy, near the site of Bowen’s Court, which had been demolished in 1960. 

Elizabeth is buried with her husband, Alan Charles Cameron

Thanks to Iris Pearce for the information about Clyne House and to Rita Weisz for finding Florence Bowen’s grave

Four Daughters

The father of the family, Absalom Pelue, settled in Hythe after he left the army in 1877. He was a long way from his original home. He had been born in St Erth in Cornwall in about 1833 one of the seven children of a copper miner. This was the occupation he and his brothers turned to as well, until in 1856 he joined the Scots Fusiliers in Aberdare. The Rhondda is a long way from Cornwall and it is possible he had travelled there to take work as a coal miner, but thought better of it. From his army records, we know that Absalom was a big man for the time: five feet eleven inches tall with a forty-inch chest.

He spent most of his service in England, but was posted to Canada for just over two years in the 1860s, There he married Bridget Creed, who had been born in Montreal in 1844. When he brought her home, it was to the School of Musketry in Hythe, to which he transferred in 1865. It had only been set up a dozen years earlier, but now had an established staff.

Hythe in the 19th century

The couple’s four daughters were Catherine Margaret (or sometimes Margaret Catherine) born 1865, Frances Ann Jemima , 1867; Emily, 1869; and Isabella Mary (or Mary Isabella), 1871. Perhaps because of their father’s military career, two of the women married soldiers themselves and five of Absalom’s grandsons joined the armed forces.

After leaving the army, Absalom worked as a labourer and the family lived in St Leonard’s Road and later Park Road in Hythe. He died in 1896 and is buried in St Leonard’s churchyard. Bridget took work as a sick nurse with Mrs Constantine nee Finnis, a widow.

Catherine Margaret married Charles William Middleton, a house painter,  in Farnborough in January 1893. He was only twenty and the bride lopped four years off her age. They went back to Hythe and lived in Chapel St and had three sons and two daughters. Later they moved to Market Street, now Dymchurch Road.

Catherine & Charles lived in part of this building  in Market Street

On 6 September 1885, at St Leonard’s church Hythe, Frances, or ‘Fanny Annie; as she signed herself, married a twenty-six-year-old soldier. He was Theophilus William Turner from Bristol. Theophilus gave his residence as Aldershot where his regiment was now based. The previous year, it had been at Shorncliffe, but when the order came to decamp to  Aldershot, Theophilus had deserted. Perhaps it was for love of Fanny. ‘Fanny Annie’ sounds like the affectionate  name her family, or perhaps just Theophilus, used.

The wedding was a matter of some urgency as Fanny was pregnant – with twins as it turned out. Francis Theophilus and William James were baptised in St Leonard’s in  April 1886. By then, Theophilus had left the army, but was still on the reserve list. The next year, Frances Theresa was born, then Isabella Katherine Alice in 1889. Shortly afterwards, the family moved to Plaistow. Another daughter, Lilley was born,  Edith Marie followed in 1894 but died aged two.

Theophilus had now become a house painter, like his brother-in-law Charles Middleton and joined the Amalgamated Society of House Decorators and Painters. In fact, he became the treasurer of the Plaistow branch. One day in July 1896, he stole the branch’s funds of £10.5s.8d and got on a train to Bristol. He said later ‘It was all through the drink. I did not know where I  was until I got to Bath’.  He travelled on to Bristol and having spent the entire amount handed himself in at a  police station in August. Meanwhile, his frantic wife had reported him missing.

A police officer from Limehouse travelled down to arrest him. Theophilus said he was very sorry and had never been in trouble before (forgetting his desertion, presumably). In court, he offered no defence and it was reported that he was previously of a very good character. His Union said it was prosecuting with reluctance. Theophilus was sentenced to twenty-one days hard labour.

We don’t know if drink was an ongoing problem or if this was a momentary aberration, but by 1899 the family had separated.  Frances had returned to live in Hythe  with her children. Her father had died, but her mother and sister still lived in the town.

Frances lived in a tiny house in Theatre Street, where she took in washing. She now had another child, George Robert, born after her return to the town. The house was not big enough for all the children: Francis (Frank) lodged with his aunt Catherine and her family in nearby Chapel Street and worked as a groom at the School of Musketry;  His twin, William, lived with their grandmother, Bridget Pelue, in Park Road and worked as a gardener; their sister, Frances junior, went into service at the Wilberforce Temperance Hotel in Hythe High Street – she was only thirteen.

The Wilberforce Temperance Hotel

The twins, aged fifteen, joined the army as soon as they could, signing up to the 1st Battalion, the Scots Guards, in  November 1901.

In April 1904, Frances sent George, her youngest, off to school for the afternoon after his dinner break at home. At about 5.30pm, her neighbour called round to ask if he was back yet. A child had fallen into the Royal Military Canal,  she said.  George’s body was recovered from under Scanlon’s Bridge. He had been playing at fishing with a friend and slipped into the water. Desperate attempts were made by Dr Arthur Randall Davis to resuscitate him, without avail. The banks were not fenced and at the inquest, a recommendation was made that there should be some sort of barrier to prevent a recurrence. Frances was devastated by the death, sobbing throughout the inquest. The boy is buried with his grandfather, Absalom Pelue, in St Leonard’s churchyard, Hythe.

The canal in Hythe in the early twentieth century

Frances later moved to a larger house in Frampton Road and hired herself out as a nurse, an occupation her mother had followed.

In 1911, the twins Frank and William were serving as drummers in Egypt. The regiment returned home in 1913, but in 1914, formed part of the British Expeditionary Force. By then, Frank was a Lance-Corporal. He embarked from Southampton on 13 August 1914 and was reported missing during the first Battle of Ypres. He had in fact been taken prisoner. He died of wounds and ‘traumatic tetanus’ in Reserve Hospital, Halberstadt, Germany on 17 November 1914 and is buried at Niederzwehren Cemetery. His twin survived the war.

Frank Turner

Frank’s grandmother, Bridget Pelue, collected his medals in 1922 – the British War Medal, Victory Medal and 1914  Star. It was also she who arranged for a brass plaque in his memory to be erected in St Leonard’s church.

The memorial to Frank in St Leonard’s church

Bridget spent her last years in St Bartholomew’s Hospital in Hythe and died in 1926.

Bridget’s last home, St Bartholomew’s Hospital in Hythe

Her third daughter, Isabella Mary had married in September 1890, George Robert Hackford in St Leonard’s church. He was a sergeant in the Lincolnshire Regiment  based at Shorncliffe. A son, another George, was born later that year. A daughter,  Caroline followed a year later,  then a son Charles born in Aldershot,  a daughter  Isabella Mary in Malta, a son Frank (who died as a baby) in Cairo, and another son Robert in Lincoln. George senior, now a sergeant-major  took his discharge in 1906 and went to live in Derbyshire. His wife Isabella died two years later in 1908, perhaps while visiting Hythe, as her address was given as 4 Windmill Street in the town. George later re-married and ran a working men’s club in Chesterfield where his niece, Lilley Turner, worked for him. All three of his sons joined the armed forces, the eldest dying of pneumonia in India aged nineteen.

The youngest Pelue daughter married Filmer Thomas Shaw, a labourer, in St Leonard’s church on 27 July 1903. Their only child died young. They lived in Albert Road, Hythe. Filmer died in 923, Emily in 1942.

I thought when I started this how easy it would be to research the name ‘Pelue’ as it is so unusual. How foolish of me. The family’s name has turned up being spelt or transcribed as ‘Pellow’, ‘Pellew’, ‘Pillow’ ‘Peliewe’,  ‘Pelve’ and ‘Pelne’.  





The Hutchinsons of Hythe Part 1: Practical Men

The father of the Hythe Hutchinsons was Scrope Hutchinson, born in Southwell, Nottinghamshire in 1782, the son of Nicholas and Elisabeth Hutchinson. His birthplace was a house built by his father which later became the Sacrista Prebendal, one of the homes of the prebends of Southwell minster. He studied medicine at the University of Halle in Germany and became a member of the Royal College of Physicians. He married, in May 1806 at Tonbridge, Anne Hammond.  At this time, her residence was given as Deal, Kent, and his as Southwell.

The birthplace of Scrope Hutchinson

The couple moved to Hythe shortly afterwards and six children followed, all born in the town, though one, a daughter, died as an infant.  Scrope practised medicine and was appointed senior medical officer for the 52nd Light Infantry, Sir John Moore’s regiment based at nearby Shorncliffe. In 1839, he moved to Dover and later to London, to live with his eldest son. He died there on 25 November 1847. In his will he left about ten thousand pounds and an extensive library of medical and other books.

The first child of Scrope and Anne Hutchinson was a daughter, also called Anne, born in 1807. She died aged only eighteen in 1826 and was buried in a new vault finished in time for her funeral in St Leonard’s church.

The stone marking the vault where Anne Hutchinson was buried

The eldest son, William Barclay Hutchinson, born in Hythe in about 1809, became a physician and like many Victorians with mundane surnames, added his second given name to it to make him Dr Barclay Hutchinson. After studying at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and in Paris, he practised in Guilford Street, Bloomsbury, and was Medical Officer attending the Foundling Hospital.

The Foundling Hospital in London

He became a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1829 and a Fellow in 1842.  As eldest son, the care of the family’s womenfolk fell to him after his father’s death and in 1851, he can be found in Guilford Street with his mother, his aunt and both his surviving sisters, Mary(1811-1856) and Isabel (1821-1908).

William Barclay Hutchinson

William remained unmarried and retired to 12 Onslow Gardens, Brompton  where he died in on 17 July 1869. 

The next son was George Rowan Hutchinson, baptised in St Leonard’s church Hythe in February 1815, though the curate noted in the register that he was born on 1 January 1813. He was by the age of eighteen a lieutenant in the  Royal Engineers and quickly became an explosives expert, especially skilled at creating simultaneous explosions. His talents were called upon when in 1842, the South Eastern Railway was obliged to blow up the Round Hill cliff between Folkestone and Dover in order to run the railway between the two towns and connect the port of Dover to the rest of the country.

On the morning of 26 January 1843, a small group of dignitaries and a huge crowd of Dover citizens  (probably including George’s father) gathered to watch the event.  A small tunnel had been pierced through the cliff. From this three shafts had been sunk from which galleries had been excavated. At the end of each gallery was gunpowder, brought from the Faversham Gunpowder Works.  George checked all was correct and then the galleries were sealed with tightly rammed chalk and sand.  At 2.15pm a dull, muffled boom could just be heard by the audience and at the same time there was a heavy jolting movement of the earth. The bottom of the cliff, according to one bystander, ‘seemed to dissolve.’ Then the face of the cliff slowly sank giving way to clouds of chalk.  The directors of the SER gave George a handsome piece of silver plate in gratitude.

The demolition of Round Hill cliff

In 1845 George married Margaret Ellen Bevan, the daughter of  William Hibbs Beavan in Crickhowell. She accompanied him to his posting in Gibraltar where their children were born and where George was promoted Captain.  Returning to the UK, he was sent to Anglesey for more explosives work and on 25 February1851 died there ‘from hurts received while supervising blasting of a rock’.

The youngest Hutchinson offspring, Charles Scrope, born on 8 August 1826 in Hythe, followed George into the Royal Engineers after an education at University College School. He rose from Gentleman Cadet in 1843 to Colonel in 1876. He, too, was posted to Gibraltar and married there Christina, daughter of William Ross on 6 January 1852 . Four daughters and two sons followed.

On their return to England, Charles was posted to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, where he taught, eventually being appointed Professor of Fortifications. In 1867, however, he was seconded to be  an Inspector of Railways, a post he held until 1897, combining it for the first eight years with his military obligations. He was responsible, among other things, for holding enquiries into railways accidents and inspecting works. During his career he held over a thousand enquiries  and made six thousand five hundred inspections, including over seven years, quarterly inspections of the building of the Forth Bridge.


The opening of the Forth Bridge in 1890

Unfortunately, he also inspected, and recommended for opening, the newly-built Tay Bridge in 1878.  The next year, during a violent storm, it collapsed, killing an estimated seventy five people. At the subsequent enquiry, it was found that the cross bracing of the piers and its fastenings were too weak to resist heavy gales. The designer, Sir Robert Bouch, was blamed, but Charles escaped the mob fury that Bouch suffered.

The Tay Bridge after its partial collapse

He retired from the army in 1877 with the honorary rank of major-general and was created a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1890. A colleague wrote of him:

‘He never spared himself and often after a comfortless night journey in cross-country trains, he would snatch a hurried breakfast at some dreary railway buffet and begin a long day’s work of inspection at 8 o’clock in the morning, much to the surprise and not always to the joy of the railway officers, who wondered how in the world he got there.'(1)

Charles died at Blackheath on 29 February 1912 and a memorial plaque was erected in St James’ Church, Kidbrooke.

To be continued…

  1. Stanley Hall, ‘Railway Detectives: 150 Years of the Railway Inspectorate’, London: Ian Allen Ltd, 1990, p.30

Details of the demolition of the Round Hill Cliff are taken from

With thanks to Brin Hughes


Globetrotters: The Tiffen Family of Hythe

A grave in St Leonard’s churchyard, Hythe:

In memory of/William Tiffen/died Oct 15th 1855 aged 71.

Also Charlotte/wife of the above/died May 8th 1876 aged 84.

Also Charlotte Davenport, eldest daughter of the above/died Septr 21st 1862 aged 47,

And Theodore Alfred Davenport, her husband/died Jany 28th 1868 aged 63.

And George Ernest Augustus,/their infant son died 1862 aged 4

It is almost impossible, when researching Hythe history, to find any early nineteenth century printed document, directory  or advertising poster that was not printed by William Tiffen. He was born in Bocking, Essex, on 10 January 1785, the son of a miller. At the age of twelve, he was apprenticed to a printer, John Shearcroft in his home town but had moved to Kent by 1809 when he married Sarah Stevenson in Folkestone. He then set up shop as a printer in Hythe catering mostly for the military, but as they started to leave the area he moved to new premises in 1813 and diversified. In a shop with living accommodation on the corner of Mount Street and the High Street ‘nearly facing the Guildhall’ (it was later gutted by fire and demolished) he became ‘bookseller, stationer, printer and bookbinder’  Then he set up a lending library and a Reading Society, of which he was president, a smart business move.

He and Sarah had a son, William Stevenson Tiffen, but Sarah died while he was a infant. William then married Charlotte, the Hythe-born daughter of Henry and Mary Stokes, on 19 December 1813. Together, they had eight children.  William had probably been born into a non-conformist family. His son by Sarah was baptised in a non-conformist chapel, but when his eldest son by his new wife was baptised in St Leonard’s church, William took the opportunity to be baptised into the Church of England himself, on the same day. Thus officially an Anglican, he became an overseer of the poor and churchwarden.

All seemed to be going well, though there was sadness when, in 1837, his eldest son, William Stevenson Tiffen died and was buried in Folkestone. William continued to expand his business and in 1845 opened a library and reading room overlooking Folkestone Harbour. This was another smart business move as the railway had reached the town which was now easily accessible to cross-channel travellers and holiday-makers.

Then William himself died in 1855 and it became apparent that he had overstretched himself. He had certainly taken out a mortgage on his Hythe premises and there must have been other debts. The house and shop were cleared and everything sold – printing machinery, stock in trade, carpets, pictures, ornaments, bedsteads and bedsheets. The premises were sold and Charlotte moved into two rented rooms in Folkestone and was later taken to court for failing to pay her rent. The children left the town and, most of them, the country.

In fact, the eldest had already gone. Charlotte (born in Hythe on 5 January 1815) married Theodore Alfred Davenport on 17 March 1843, and moved with him to Boulogne, where he taught. She and her husband had six daughters and two sons, though the younger died aged four. Charlotte and Theodore both died in Boulogne, she in 1862, he in 1869.

The next was Henry Stokes Tiffin, born on 12 July 1816. As a young man he qualified as a surveyor and moved to Sussex to work, lodging in Hastings with the White family, who had two daughters. On 27 September 1841, he signed a contract with the New Zealand Company to work as an assistant surveyor; three days later he married the younger White daughter, sixteen-year-old Caroline and three days after that the newly-weds sailed on board the Brougham to New Zealand. They arrived in February 1842. Caroline had become pregnant during the voyage and died in October that year, giving birth to a stillborn son. Her brother William heard the news when he arrived in New Zealand in November.

Eventually four more of William’s siblings and assorted other family members would make the same journey half way round the world.

Henry was set to work surveying the Wairarapa, on the North Island.

The Wairarapa as it is today

An early NZ surveyor’s bivouac

Liking what he saw, he rented eight thousand acres at a cost of twelve pounds a year and now needed sheep to graze there. He acquired several hundred and drove them from Wellington with the assistance of his sixteen-year-old brother who had also arrived in the country. Frederick John Tiffen had been born in Hythe on 27 July  1828 but would never return.  He managed Henry’s flocks until 1852, when he went to Australia but found that he disliked the climate and worked his passage back to New Zealand after six months.   From then on, for a few years they were sheep farmers, but in 1855, Henry left the station in Frederick’s hands and returned to England. There he married the older White sister, Louisa Anne, now twenty-eight.  On their return to New Zealand the next year, they were accompanied by another Tiffen brother, the youngest, Louis Ansell (but known just as Ansell), born in 1829 in Hythe and now in his mid-twenties, together with his older sister, Mary Elizabeth, born in 1824.

Henry returned to surveying and found time to take an active part in local politics and to continue acquiring land, but his private passion was horticulture and his garden in Hawke’s Bay was renowned.

Henry Tiffen’s house & gardens

Now a wealthy man, and childless, he planned to travel to seek out European plants which might thrive there, but Louisa’s death in 1875 meant he would travel alone.  He was away for a year. Then in 1880 he travelled to Japan where he was much taken by the persimmon plants, several of which he brought home.

Henry then acquired a new travelling companion, his niece Amelia Mary, the daughter of his late sister Charlotte.  A multi-lingual and cultured woman, she had married Joseph Randall who died in Ghana in 1869 and left her destitute until Henry invited her to become his housekeeper in 1876.  In 1881, they travelled to California where he was much impressed by the vineyards and oranges but thought that the wool was ‘rubbish’.

Henry Stokes Tiffen in his fifties

Back home, he tried growing tea and tobacco in his garden and planted his own vineyard of twenty-seven acres, the largest in New Zealand and produced his own wine. That same year he sailed again to England for surgery to remove cataracts.

Henry died on 21 February 1896 and is buried in Old Napier cemetery.

Henry’s grave marker…

…and the grave of his two wives, sisters Louisa & Caroline

Henry’s brother Frederick John had married, in 1859, Lucy Eleanor Monteith and they went on to have six children. After his marriage he acquired his own land for grazing and a house, Elmshill.

Frederick John Tiffen as a young man

He also acted as a government inspector of sheep and as returning officer in local elections. If Henry was the enterprising brother, Frederick was the diligent one. He kept records of every business and financial record and a daily journal recording his travels (which were extensive) and those of his family and their arrivals and departures. He died in 1911.

Frederick John Tiffen in later life.

The other brother, Ansell, worked as Henry’s manager for many years, dying unmarried in 1916. In 1881 he visited England, returning home with his brother-in-law Edmund Wiginton (see below) and niece, Milly.

Amelia Mary Randall, Henry’s niece and housekeeper, inherited half of his estate, making her wealthy in her own right. She moved from Henry’s house in Napier to another in the middle of his (now her) fruit farm, which produced  apricots, apples, peaches, persimmons, figs, plums and pears. Her younger sister Henrietta Charlotte Davenport, who had worked as a governess, sailed from England to join her. They continued to develop the farm, called Greenmeadows, until it was the largest on the North Island.  Amelia died on 17 October 1930, leaving £50,000, all left to various charities and to the Baptist church.  Henrietta had died in 1918. Henry’s beloved garden in Napier eventually became Tiffen Park.

Henry’s sister Mary Elizabeth, who sailed to New Zealand in 1856 with Louis Ansell, married on arrival the captain of the ship which had carried her there, the Westminster. She and John Westgarth were  wed on 3 May 1856 at St Paul’s church in Wellington and honeymooned in Taitai. They then sailed on the Westminster to Shanghai, where Mary Elizabeth died on 14 September 1856 and where she is buried in Shantung Road cemetery.

And there was another Tiffen offspring in New Zealand, too – Belinda. The youngest child of William and Charlotte Tiffen, she was born Belinda Alice Ansell Tiffen  in Hythe on  30 September 1831. She married in Folkestone 1860 Charles John Allen Haselden and they emigrated that year. Charles became under-secretary of the NZ Department of Justice and the couple had six children.  Belinda died in Auckland on 28 October 1923.

Belinda’s gravestone

Her brother, Charles Hart Tiffen, born in Hythe in1826, did not get as far as New Zealand, but spent much of his adult life on the continent. His wife, Esther Carmelina, was  born in Italy; their three daughters and a son,  came into the world in Nice.  Charles operated for a time as a wine merchant in Brighton, where one daughter died, but the family were in Folkestone from about 1889, where they lived in Guildhall Street.  One daughter, Esther (or Mlle. Esther Tiffen as she advertised herself), gave lessons in French and Italian; the other, Helen, taught violin, viola, organ and pianoforte. At their father’s funeral, they were joined by their brother, William Henry Tiffen, who had also been born in France but decided to stay there. He ran a successful removals company in Paris  in partnership with James Arthur, a company which still exists today.


William Henry Tiffen & his business partner John Arthur

Charles Hart Tiffen died in 1899, leaving only £158 and some real estate in New Zealand.

The emigration of seven of the Tiffen children left only one in England – Amelia, born in Hythe in 1818. She married Edmund Wiginton, another stationer and book-seller, on 17 June 1859. Amelia had taken over her father’s library in Folkestone and her new husband joined her in the business. They extended the range of goods they offered to include glassware, costume jewellery and scent bottles which they bought in Paris (perhaps when visiting their Tiffen relatives).  Their first child, a daughter, was stillborn in 1860, but another, Amelia (again! but known as Milly) born in 1862, survived. There would be no more children.  Some time in the 1870s, the family moved to Cornwall. Amelia’s mother, Charlotte died in 1876 and it may be that freed from this responsibility, she and Edmund felt able to spread their wings, too. However, Amelia died in 1880. Edmund and Milly then perhaps surprisingly, emigrated to New Zealand, travelling in 1881 with Henry and Ansell Tiffen who had been home on a visit. It was not a permanent move, however. By 1889 they were back  in Saltash. Edmund remarried that year and Milly embarked on a nursing career which eventually saw her appointed matron of the Johnson Hospital in Spalding.

Much of the detail of the life of Henry Stokes Tiffen is taken from his biography by Ian St George and with thanks to Laurie Tiffen for additional information



What’s in a name? Quite a lot…


As a result of new research findings and contact from a family member, this is an updated version of a post first published in 2017.

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

Two men, both soldiers, who died fourteen years apart, in two different countries with seemingly nothing to connect them, not even a name. And, as it turns out, neither man started life with the name on the gravestone and as for the military ranks – well, read on..

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.  This is because he was at birth called Frank Calisher, the second son of Henry Calisher, a diamond merchant and his wife Marion. He was though, born in Cheshunt.

Frank had an older brother and two younger sisters and was educated at a private school in Northfleet. At about the time he left school, he started to use the name ‘Murray Campbell’ as his father already did for business purposes.

His new wife Julia 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.


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. The battalion saw service during the Boer War, but there is no evidence that Frank was with them and he did not use his military rank in private life.

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 on 25 October 1858 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’.(1)

Frank died at Rina’s home, of a massive facial abscess due to a failed dental implant. One or more gaps in his dentition had been replaced by the teeth of a dead person. In the days before antibiotics, this was a risky procedure and in his case it failed catastrophically. Death must have been ultimately from organ failure due to sepsis and he would have been in agony in his final days.(2)

Attempts at dental implants were not new and had been made with some success by the Etruscans, using oxen teeth and in first millennium South American using stone or Spondylus shells – and sometimes this was successful. From about 1600 attempts were made to use human teeth, but the results were usually at least unpleasant and at worst fatal.

Frank was attended during his last illness by his sister, Violet Rachel Curtis. 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. He left in his will £360 and named as his executor his widow, Rina Kelton, though there is no record of a marriage. It is to be hoped that some of this was returned to Julia and his children, whom he had left destitute.

The other man commemorated on the gravestone, 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’. (2)

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. (3)

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 his permanent residence was 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 stated 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 had moved to Folkestone by 1939, but died in 1944 in Wokingham, aged eighty-five.

  1. Hythe Civic Society Archives
  2. Details of Frank’s death and dental implants : Dr B.J.Williams MA, MRCS
  3. WO 339/16864  National Archive
  4. ibid.

Religion, Ramsgate and Revolution – the Piety family

My interest in the Piety family was sparked when an American descendant of Austen Piety contacted St Leonard’s church in Hythe seeking some information. I was able to give him the details he wanted, but the research piqued my interest. I wanted to know more about this family, but the usual first port of call, the genealogy websites, threw up a miscellany of information, little of it referenced to any verifiable source.

There were various, sometimes conflicting, dates of birth and of death; mention of a burial in Wye in a non-existent graveyard; a mysterious and now-vanished document in a Hythe church; suggestions that Austen Piety deserted his wife and claims that he was an army chaplain. There is even a photo of Austen, though he died in 1815, thirty-odd years before commercial photography became a possibility.

What follows is what I have been able to piece together from the records.

Austen’s father, Thomas, was born in about 1706, though where is unknown. Some internet sources state that it was in Lancashire and name his parents as Winfield Piety and Maryana Grover, but in fact he was the son of Richard Piety and Elizabeth Austen. Thomas himself, in his will, names his mother as Elizabeth Austen and states that she is buried with her husband in St Leonard’s churchyard in Hythe and that her family are interred nearby.(1)  Marriage records show that Elizabeth Austen married Richard Piety in Canterbury on 21 September 1699 and that he was ‘of Newington neare Hythe’ (2).

It is not easy to trace Thomas’s family as he was a Baptist. Baptists did not christen infants, preferring the adult baptism of believers. Fortunately (for us, anyway), marriages and funerals could still only be performed in the Church of England, so records of these are extant.

Thomas married three times. The first marriage was on 6 August 1733 to Alice White, a widow. (3) At that time, they were both living in Stelling. This refers to the  village Stelling Minnis situated between Hythe and Canterbury and about five miles from Hythe. Alice became the mother of  Thomas junior (c. 1737) Austen (c.1738)  They seem to have lived in Hythe, as in 1745, Thomas wrote to the Duke of Newcastle from the town about local smuggling (4).  Newcastle, the brother of the Prime Minister, was a powerful man, but the news of smuggling can hardly have come as a surprise to him, since it had been rife in the area for many years. In what capacity Thomas was writing is unknown and until the National Archives at Kew re-open, will remain so.

Thomas also kept himself occupied with Baptist church affairs. By 1749, he was attending meetings of the General Assembly of the Baptist Church in Southwark, representing the Hythe congregation and later became a ‘Messenger’, a co-ordinator of evangelists (5).  There were, too, difficulties to be dealt with when a congregation of Particular Baptists was established in the town (6). Thomas was a member of the General Baptists. The difference was theological: Particular Baptists believed that Jesus died only for the elect; General Baptists that He died for all mankind. Each group saw the other as a threat to the Truth.

In 1758, however, he was appointed as minister for the General Baptist church in Ramsgate. Ramsgate is about thirty-five miles from Hythe, but Thomas was wealthy enough to afford a carriage and could drive there. In fact, he seems to have lived there for a while and now represented Ramsgate at the Baptist Assembly (6). He had an incentive to move as on 1 January 1860, now a widower, he married again to a local woman, Ann Chilton(8).  She was the widow of Richard Chilton, ‘gentleman’, who had been prominent in the Ramsgate Baptist church until he married Ann, who was not then a Baptist herself. ‘Marrying out’ was forbidden, but the law was often broken. Richard Chilton had been the subject of an enquiry but was ultimately forgiven (9).  He died in 1758, leaving his wife, as his sole heir, very comfortably off (9).  She must have been received into the church at some point after their marriage.

Ramsgate at about the time Thomas was there

The Ramsgate congregation was struggling and Thomas went to the Kent Association of Baptist Churches to seek help. He said he had only one deacon, who was aged and lived outside the town. Although they could not help, Thomas’s connections in the church ensured that he received the assistance he needed from Barfestone, Eythorne and Wingham congregations (11).  His was not a large congregation and did not have its own baptistry, necessary for total immersion. Adult believers were instead baptised in the sea at Sandwich, having first formally accepted the Six Principles of the General Baptists: Repentance, Faith, Baptism, Laying on of Hands, Resurrection of the Dead and Final Judgment.

Eythorne Baptist church, the oldest in the country

Eventually, though, Thomas and Ann moved back to Hythe, but left an endowment of three hundred pounds with the Ramsgate church to support a ministry there (12).  Later, they diverted the money to serve as a mortgage to a group of four London churches which wanted to build a meeting house in White Horse Alley in St Sepulchre, Shoreditch. (13).  The building later became the venue for meetings of the General Assembly, of which Thomas became a Moderator in 1770 (14).

White Horse Alley in Shoreditch

Ann Piety died in Hythe in June 1776 and was buried there (15).  Just before her death, she had obtained permission from Thomas to donate the interest on the three hundred pounds mortgage to the General Baptist Church in Thanet (16).

Twenty months later, on 23 February 1778, Thomas married for a third time and his choice of bride must have raised a few eyebrows and warranted a paragraph in the Kentish Gazette:

On Monday last was married at Hythe by the Rev. Mr Potts, Mr Thomas Piety in the seventy second year of his age, to Miss Green, of Saltwood, aged twenty two.(17)

St Leonard’s Church, Hythe, where Thomas married Elizabeth Green and where he is buried

Almost exactly three years later, Thomas died and was buried in the churchyard of St Leonard, near to his parents, as he had requested in his will (18). He had drawn this up a few weeks after his marriage, seven pages of densely written instructions. His wife, Elizabeth, got a water mill and its land in the neighbouring parish of Newington together with a coach and stable yard in Hythe, half the silver plate and all the furniture from their house. Austin, the younger son by the long-departed Alice, got all the rest of the real estate and his  brother Thomas an annuity of fifty pounds.  There were a few smaller requests, including to Baptist churches and to his first wife’s family in Stelling. Then, toward the end of the document is a rather extraordinary direction. Thomas says that if Elizabeth takes any legal action or

any other Matter or Thing to Obstruct or hinder the disposition of my real and personal estate according to my Mind and Will herein before declared then and in such case I do solemnly and expressly declare my Mind and Will to be that my said wife Elizabeth shall forfeit the Gifts and Bequests herein before made to her my said wife and shall not receive any Benefit or Advantage whatsoever from this my Will or from any of the devises or bequests to her herby made and provided.(19)

He had been married for fourteen weeks when he wrote this. Did he perhaps suspect that Elizabeth had married him for his money? Or was he, by then an old man, persuaded into this by his sons who thought that their new stepmother might have ulterior motives?

Elizabeth remained a widow for four years and married again in 1785 (20). Thomas junior did not long outlive his father, dying in Whitechapel in 1787. He had married and had a daughter, Elizabeth Austen Piety, named for her grandmother, who lived less than two years. The child was baptised in St Mary Matfelon church in Whitechapel , which might suggest that Thomas junior, though he had earlier in life attended the General Assembly, did not remain a Baptist. However, he lived in Mill Yard in Whitechapel, the site of a Baptist Church and was interred in the Baptist Burial Ground there (21).

Mill Yard Baptist Church & burial ground in the 19th century

His brother, Austen, meanwhile, had taken a different route and gone to America. The genealogy websites all quote from a memoir written by a family member of Austen’s first wife in 1886, a hundred and twenty years after the events (22). Over that time span stories can become distorted, deliberately or not. It claims that Austen was an officer in the British Army , based at Fort Pitt (now in Pittsburgh). Fort Pitt was built in 1759 to 1760 by the British 60th Regiment of Foot during the Seven Years war, when the British in America fought the French and some of the Indian Nations. The 60th remained there to garrison the fort throughout the 1760s when Austen is alleged to have been there. Their  Regimental Chronicle lists all the officers of this time, from Lt. Col. to ensign and includes surgeons and chaplains. Austen’s name is not among them (23).

Fort Pitt as it was when Austen was there

This is because for most of his career he was a Conductor of Artillery, an office which did not carry a Commission but, in army protocol, ranked him alongside junior officers.  In 1761, he is mentioned as serving in Carlisle in Pennsylvania with the 60th Regimen of foot aka the Royal American Regiment, under Brigadier John Forbes. He was still in Pennsyvania two years later when an Indian uprising, led by Chief Pontiac threatened Fort Pitt. From 1764 he was stationed at Fort Pitt.

When the 18th Regiment of Foot, the Royal Irish, took over the Fort, Austen stayed on and at some point – there are no reliable sources –  married Sarah Polk (or Polke or Pollock),  He was ordered to Fort Kaskaskia, a French stronghold which they ceded to the British in the same year. Sarah accompanied him on this journey. The couple had four children – Elizabeth, Sarah, Nancy and Thomas.

In 1768 and 1769 Austen was part of a detachment sent to Fort de Chartres on the Mississippi, which the French had surrendered. In 1772, as an economy measure, the regiment was ordered to leave both Fort Pitt and Fort de Chartres. Austen went with some of the regiment to Boston, where he spent the next four years as a Conductor. It seems that Sarah and the children did not accompany him on this six hundred mile journey through thickly forested terrain.

The regiment abandoned Boston in 1776, when the colony declared itself independent. A prolonged and bloody war ensued.

Austen is next heard of in 1777 as the Conductor of Artillery for Lieutenant-Colonel Barry St Leger of the British Army in Canada,  though he was acting as a ‘gentleman volunteer’ (24).

Austen’s Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. St Leger

He had joined the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, established in Montreal by Sir John Johnson of New York state in spring 1776.   In March 1777, Austen applied to the War Office in London for preferment and this was granted in August when he was made an ensign in Captain Richard Duncan’s company of the same regiment (25).   The next year he was promoted lieutenant (26).

A re-enactment group in the uniform of the ‘King’s Royal Yorkers’

The company, otherwise known as the King’s Royal Yorkers’ or Johnson’s Greens  saw a fair amount of action during the war. Some historians have suggested that while the regiment was greatly feared by the enemy, that it was often inhumane towards them in defeat. It took part in many actions and raids on the New York frontier and helped defeat twelve hundred rebels at Johnstown in October 1781. Before that engagement, Austen made his will in Montreal, where the city records note it as ‘The Last Will and Testament of Lieut. Austen Piety, Royal New York Regt.’  After their final confrontation, at Fort Oswego, the regiment was disbanded in September 1783 and Austen resigned his commission As a loyalist soldier, Austen would have been offered land to settle in Canada, but instead chose to go back to  Hythe.

It was, in fact, not the first time he had returned to England. Following his father’s death in 1781, he obtained leave of absence to go home for ‘private affairs’, urn to England for private affairs’, returning to duty in 1782.

This time, he formed a new relationship, with Sarah Judd. Their first child, Elizabeth, was born in 1786 and they were married in 1788. The marriage was technically bigamous, since Sarah Polk was still alive and did not die until 1835, but Austen swore an affidavit that ‘many years ago he married Sarah Pollock and about 14 years ago by reason of the troubles in America they were obliged to separate and he believed her dead’. He was declared to be a widower(27).  It is possible that when the war was over, Austen tried to make contact with his family, but they were long gone from Fort Pitt. According to her descendant, Sarah with her  children and three of her many brothers had settled in Kentucky in 1780 (28). That is about five hundred miles away. It seems that Austen’s first wife had given up hope, if she ever entertained any, of a reunion.

Austen and Sarah Judd went on to have five more children, including twin boys, but only their first, Elizabeth , and last, Richard (both named for their Piety grandparents), survived to adulthood. All were baptised as infants at St Leonard’s church. This does not necessarily mean that Austen had abandoned the Baptist church. The Test Act of 1678, still in force, ruled that anyone wanting to take a public post, including in the armed services, had to have a certificate stating that they were a communicant member of the Church of England. In order to take communion, one had first to have been baptised in an Anglican church.  Austen described himself as ‘a gentleman’. He might expect his sons to be gentlemen, too and it was expected of gentlemen that they would, in however humble a capacity, take on some public duties.

Austen and his family stayed in Hythe until at least 1798, but by 1801, when Richard was born, they were in Ashford, Kent and later moved to Canterbury, where Austen died (aged seventy-seven, according to his burial record)  in July 1815. His body was taken back to Hythe where it could be interred near the graves of his father and infant children (29).

His will, a brief document, was signed by him on 12 July and probate was granted on 26 July (30). He left everything to Sarah and made her and their daughter Elizabeth joint guardians of Richard, who was still a minor and joint executrixes.

The family stayed in Canterbury. Sarah died in 1837 and Elizabeth, unmarried, in 1847. Perhaps Austen, by the end of his life had not been well off. His son Richard had to work for a living and became a clerk in a bonded warehouse storing imported leaf tea. He did, however, inherit the water mill which his grandfather Thomas had originally bequeathed to his third wife and which he leased out (31), and owned other property in Hythe, too. (32). Both his daughters were born in the town, though the family’s main residence was in Camberwell. His daughter Sarah married; the other, Mary Ann did not.

The Piety’s watermill, now restored

Austen Piety’s English descendants are few, if any, but on the other side of the Atlantic, his children by Sarah Polk produced prodigious numbers of offspring and his descendants there today must run into the thousands.

With thanks to Mike de la Mare for information about the watermill

Information about the King’s Royal New York Regiment is taken from ‘American Loyalist Troops 1775-84’ by Rene Chartran (New York: , Bloomsbury Publishing, 2008). 

Information about Austen Piety’s career with the British Army in America has kindly been provided John G. Kester, author of “The Other Polks,” a genealogy of the American Polk and Piety families (information at

  1. Kent Archdeaconry Marriages, Canterbury St Alphege , 1699
  2. National Archives PROB 11/1076/113
  3. Kent Archdeaconry Marriages, Canterbury St Alphege , 1733
  4. National Archives SP 36/77/2/134
  5. William Thomas Whitley, Baptists in East Kent  in The Baptist Quarterly 2:2 April 1924
  6. Ibid. 
  7. Ibid.
  8. Kent Archdeaconry Marriages, St Lawrence in Thanet, 1760
  9. Whitley
  10. National Archives PROB 11/836/132
  11. Whitley
  12. Ibid.
  13. London Metropolitan Archives ACC/2570/1
  14. Minutes of the General Assembly of the General Baptist Church in England
  15. Burial Records, Hythe St Leonard
  16. Kentish Gazette 05 June 1776
  17. Kentish Gazette 28 February 1778 and Kent Archdeaconry Banns, Hythe St Leonard
  18. Burial Records, Hythe St Leonard
  19. National Archives PROB 11/1076/113
  20. England Marriages 1538-1973,
  21. London, Docklands And East End Baptisms, Docklands Ancestors & England Deaths & Burials 1538-1991,
  22. Indiana Magazine of History Vol. 10, No. 1 (March1914), pp. 83-109
  23. Nesbit Willoughby Wallace, Regimental Chronicle and List of Officers of the 60th or King’s Royal Rifle Corps (London: Harrison, 1879)
  24. The King’s Royal Yorkers, Capt. Duncan’s Coy,
  25. National Archives WO 28/9/49
  26. The King’s Royal Yorkers
  27. Canterbury Marriage Licences 1781-1809
  28. Indiana Magazine of History Vol. 10, No. 1 (March1914), pp. 83-109
  29. National Archives PROB 11/1571/144
  30. East Kent Burial Index,
  31. Newington Tithe Map and Apportionment Schedule 1840
  32. Canterbury Cathedral Archives U101/II/M/12 

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 - - 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.