‘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.

Five Generations of Soldiers and Seafarers

In St Leonard’s churchyard in Hythe are commemorated five generations of the same family, many of whom served their country on land or at sea.

Generation one

The dynasty started with James Nelson, who was born in Scotland in 1781 and who joined the British army as a young man. He served as a private, first with the 78th West Highlanders, a regiment set up specifically to fight the French, and later with the Royal Staff Corps, a short-lived set-up, founded in 1800 and disbanded in 1837. It was a combat engineer Corps during the Peninsular campaign, and James served with it at the battle of Corunna in January 1809.

It is likely that he travelled there from Hythe with Sir John Moore’s forces, who had been sent to Spain to assist in resistance to Napoleonic rule. The little town of Hythe, with a population of under two thousand, was swamped by the presence of ten thousand troops at the height of the Napoleonic wars. Weatherboard accommodation and a temporary military hospital were built at the western end of the town and William Cobbett wrote that ’the hills are covered in barracks’.   Moore himself was based at Shorncliffe barracks, just a couple of miles away. He did not return from Corunna with his men. He was buried wrapped in his military cloak in the town ramparts, dying after he heard that the French had lost the day. Hythe commemorates him with a road named for him, and another for the battle in which he died, and he has a memorial on the seafront at nearby Sandgate.

After the battle of Corunna, the returning troops were paraded at Hythe, but were in a sad state. Unceremoniously disembarked at Dover, they had been obliged to make their own way back to the town. The hospital was full of the dying and injured, and the presence of maimed soldiers in the town was a common sight.

Image result for battle of corunna

Sir John Moore is fatally wounded at the Battle of Corunna…

050-sir-john-moore-memorial-sandgate-edited

…and his memorial in Sandgate, where he lodged.

In 1813, James was back on the Iberian Peninsula, this time with the Duke of Wellington, who led the British forces there. On 21 June of that year, he fought in the battle of Vitoria, which finally ended the Napoleonic domination there.

Between the two battles, James had married Jane Hills, and their first son, James, was born the next year in Hythe.  Another son William was born in 1813, and then another, Henry, in France in 1817. Presumably Jane had accompanied her husband there. The birth is recorded in military records. A daughter, Jane, was born in Chatham in 1820, the year her father took James took his army pension of a shilling a week. Finally, another son, John, was born in 1825 in Hythe.

James had taken his family back to the town where he had been stationed,  and turned his hand to buying and selling. He worked as beerseller, dealer and chapman (trader or peddler) and grazier with land on the Innings between the town of Hythe and the coast. He lived with his family in Shoemakers Bridge Place, at what was to become in the next generation of the family, the Nelson’s Head Public House.

His wife, Jane Nelson nee Hills was baptized on 3 April 1785 at Chiddingstone, Kent, the  daughter of  John Hills and his wife Elisabeth. She married James Nelson on 13 August  1811 at Newington-next- Hythe.

Generation Two

The son born to James and Jane in France was Henry Nelson. As a young man, he first tried his hand as a slipper maker in London, but was perhaps unsuccessful and returned to Hythe where he worked as a labourer before he took over the licence of the Nelson’s Head public house in Bank Street from his brother John.  He married Mary Anne Back in Cheriton on 28 September 1836

20170214_095825

The building in Hythe, now a restaurant, which used to be The Nelson’s Head public house

 

Generation Three

Their eldest  son was Henry James Nelson.  He worked as an errand boy before joining the Land Transport corps, a very short-lived organisation founded in 1855 to deal with transport in the Crimea, where Britain was fighting Russia, and disbanded in 1856. It had been set up as a quasi-military organisation and recruited both civilians and regular army officers. Henry James died when the corps was involved in the siege of Sevastopol. The town was the home of the Russian tsar’s fleet, and a prime target for the British and their allies. It was besieged for a year from September 1854 to September 1855, and saw fierce fighting. It was presumably during the unsuccessful bombardment which started in April 1855 that young Henry died. He can only have been in the Crimea a matter of weeks.

The Siege of Sevastopol

The eldest daughter of Henry Nelson and Mary Anne Back was Jane Frances Nelson. She did not marry, but spent many years keeping house for her father’s brother, John Nelson. In her old age, she lived with her widowed younger sister Annie in Rosebery House, Parkfields, Hythe (now in Albert Road). Jemima Elizabeth Nelson was the sixth child of Henry and Mary Ann Nelson. She became a school teacher, and after a period teaching in Buckinghamshire, she returned to Hythe where she taught and lived with her parents until their deaths. In later life she lived in Corunna Cottage in Parkfields next door to her sisters Annie and Jane Frances. She did not marry.

Another sister, Alice Mary Nelson, who died as an infant is also buried in the churchyard.

The fourth child of Henry Nelson and Mary Ann was Charles Rice Nelson, born in Hythe in 1844 and baptised there on 1 December 1844.  He was apprenticed to a carpenter as a young man and carried on his trade after his marriage to Catherine Godfrey in on 12 November 1866. The couple lived in Theatre Street Hythe. For a few years, Charles also took on the licence of the Bell Inn in East Street, Hythe, but later returned to carpentry living in Nelson Villa in Albion Street.  After his retirement, he took employment as a collector for the gas company and secretary to a friendly society. Catherine died in 1915. The couple had ten children.

Image result for the bell inn hytheThe The Bell Inn, Hythe

Generation Four

John Henry Charles Nelson was the eldest child of Charles Rice Nelson and his wife Catherine. His first job was as an office errand boy, but he went on to become a builder and house decorator, and lived at 2 Bank Street Hythe.  He married Mildred Stoakes who was born in Stanford, not far from Hythe, the sixth child of John Stoakes, a master carpenter, and his wife Thomasina Dora. Before her marriage, she was in service with Dr Arthur Randall Davies in the High Street. She married John Henry Charles Nelson in 1893 in London, and they had six children.

The second son of Charles Rice Nelson and Catherine,   Edward James Nelson was baptised in Hythe on 13 September 1868 and died in London just after his eighteenth birthday.

The third son, Charles Rice Nelson jnr was baptised in Hythe on 14 June 1874.   As a young man he worked as a book stall assistant before joining the merchant navy as a general servant. He was among the 334 lost when his ship the ss Persia, on her way to India, was torpedoed seventy miles off Crete by a German submarine on 30 December 1915. SS Persia was attacked at 1.10 pm on a rising sea. She was struck on the port side and within five minutes the port side boiler exploded. She sank quickly. Passengers had collected their lifebelts and made their way to the lifeboats, but the incline of the ship hindered their launching and passengers slipped on the steeply canted deck and were washed overboard. It was reported two of the life boats floundered and went down. Four life boats made their way to safety and many of the remaining survivors were picked up by a trawler some 30 hours after the sinking, but Charles was not among them.

His name is recorded on the Tower Hill memorial in London

Image result for ss persia

The SS Persia

Henry Nelson was the fourth son of Charles Rice Nelson and Catherine. He started his working life as a servant with the Blyth family of Saltwood near Hythe, but very soon joined the Merchant Navy where he worked as a steward. His ship, the P&O -owned SS Kaisar-i-hind was launched in 1914 as luxury passenger ship sailing to India and Australia. She was requisitioned by the Royal Navy for transporting troops to the Middle East and India, and survived several attempts to torpedo her. Henry’s death, officially recorded as pleuro-pneumonia, appears to have been from natural causes, and may have stemmed from an infection or underlying condition.

Image result for kaiser i hind

The SS Kaiser-I-hind

His sister Flora, the second daughter of Charles Rice Nelson and Catherine, married Henry Beckwith, a merchant navy officer, and moved to Gravesend, where the marital home was called ‘Nelson Villa.’

Generation Five

Charles Edward Beckwith, the second son of Henry and Flora Beckwith, born on 26 October 1910, also went to sea, but chose the Royal Navy. He attended Dartmouth College, and saw action in both World War II and the Korean War. He later served in North Africa, Hong Kong, Malta and Gibraltar as Paymaster, and on leaving the navy took employment with the shipping line Niarchos. He then lived in Hampstead, but on retirement moved to Hythe, where he was a generous benefactor of St Leonard’s Church and an instigator and great supporter of musical performance there.

THE GRAVES

 

20170224_105027

Inscription In/loving memory/of/Edward James Nelson/the beloved son of/ Charles Rice and Catherine Nelson/who died 21st October 1886/aged 18 years

Also/Charles Rice Nelson/Late of P&O. SS Persia/who was drowned at sea/30th December 1915/aged 41 years

Also/Henry Nelson/late of P&O SS Kaisar I-Hind/who died of pneumonia 31st May 1918/in hospital at Alexandria/aged 41 years

And of/Charles Rice Nelson/who died 5th November 1925/aged 81 years

Commander/Charles Edward Beckwith/son of/Henry and Flora Beckwith/nee Nelson/died 27th July 2002/aged 91 years

20170224_104539

Inscription  In memory of/James Nelson/born 16th June illegible/died 16th Novr illegible

And he said unto me my illegible/ for the illegible/..this made perf.. illegible

Also of John Henry Charles/Nelson/died 23rd March 1942/aged 75 years

And of/Mildred Nelson/died 12th Novr 1943/aged 76 years

20170224_104909

Inscription Illegible/Henry Nelson/born 8th March 1817/died 26th August 1881

Illegible died 20th January 1898

And/Jane Frances/daughter of the above/born 2nd May 1842/died7th January 1922

Jemima Elizabeth Nelson/born 6th October 1849/died28th October 1926

 20170301_134145

Inscription In memory of/James Nelson, formerly of the 78th West Highlanders,/and the Royal Staff Corps who after/serving his King and Country in Holland, Spain and France from 1800/ to 1821  settled at Hythe and died/April 29th 1849 aged 68 years

Also of Jane his wife/died April 13th 1848 aged 65 years

Also of Henry Nelson/grandson of the above/Sub Superintendant Land Transport/Corps who died before Sebastapol/ June 4th 1855 at the early age of 17 years.

Enter not into judgement with Thy /servant O Lord

 

Inscription

Headstone: Illegible memory/Alice Mary/the beloved daughter of/Henry & Mary-Ann/Nelson/who departed this life/January 26th 1866/aged illegible years and 10 months

Remainder illegible

Footstone: A M N 1866

The Gardner-Waterman family

The family has three graves in St Leonard’s Churchyard. The first is for Jane Gardner-Waterman, her grandson Alan and Alan’s wife, Maud.

grave1

Inscription: To the glory of God/and in/loving memory of/Jane Clark Gardner-Waterman/who died on the 11th April 1891/aged 71 years

Also of her grandson/Lt. Col. Alan Gardner-Waterman/who died 12th October 1953 aged 71

Also of his wife Maud/at rest 17th January 1978

The second is for Jane’s daughter-in-law, Mary Gardner-Waterman  and her parents:

grave2

In/loving memory of/Henry Cobb Wildash/died 20th April 1890/aged 70 years

And of his wife/Rosa Neame Wildash/died 22nd Oct. 1898 aged76 years

Also of their daughter/Mary Elizabeth Gardner-Waterman/ died illegible 1947 aged 86 years

 The third, pictured next to Mary’s grave is for two others of Jane’s grandchildren who died as children:

Inscription In loving memory/Brian, aged 5 months, / died 24th October 1889/ Marjorie, aged 2 years, /died 3rd January 1890/children of William & Mary Gardner-Waterman

 Jane Clark Gardner-Waterman nee Waterman was born at Willesborough near Ashford in Kent and was baptised there on 17 August 1817. She was the daughter of John Waterman, a Royal Navy Commander, and his wife Jane. She married Sladden Gardner, ten years her junior, in 1851, but he died two years later, leaving her with two sons, one born posthumously. The first was named Waterman, the second William. Some years later she began to add her maiden name, to which she seems to have been very attached,  to her married name to produce ‘Gardner-Waterman.’ This conferred on her  elder son the name Waterman Gardner-Waterman. He went to Cambridge, then took holy orders and became the Rector of Bicknow with Hucking in the Romney Marsh and later Vicar of Loose. He and his wife had a daughter, Hilda.

William was articled to a solicitor and on qualifying married Mary Elizabeth, ‘May’  Wildash, daughter of a Hythe doctor on 2 June 1881 at St Leonard’s church, Hythe. She was the only child of Henry Cobb Wildash and Rosa Neame Wildash, and had been born in Hythe and baptised there on 20 September 1858.  The couple lived at Luton House in Hythe.

The year after her marriage May gave birth to her first child, Alan. He was followed by two more children, Marjorie, who was baptised on 24 February 1884 and died in January 1889, and Brian who was baptised on 18 June 1885 and died aged five months. William  died at Davos Platz, Switzerland on 22 June 1889.  It was a favoured destination for the sick and ailing and recommended by doctors to patients with lung disease, as its air was especially pure. It is likely that William suffered from TB.  He is commemorated in a mosaic vignette on the pulpit of St Leonard’s Church.  As a widow, May moved back into her parents’ house with Alan, and her mother-in-law also moved to Hythe, living at Bank House at what is now 93 High Street.  May is commemorated by a stained glass window in St Edmund’s Chapel in the Church.

William plaque

The mosaic vignette in memory of William Gardner-Waterman on the pulpit of St Leonard’s Church

?????
The window on the left is in memory of Mary Gardner-Waterman

William had left his family well provided for, to the tune of over £7000, and Alan  attended the  Sutherland House School in Folkestone as a boarder from the age of eight and was then educated at Uppingham School, from 1896-1899, and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. In 1900 he received a commission in the Royal Field Artillery. He served in India as subaltern and captain, and while there married Elsie Lue Dowling on 22 March 1915.She died in London in 1917. Alan served in France in the First World War, during which he was wounded twice. He volunteered to return to India for the Afghan War and remained there until 1925, being promoted to Major and Lieutenant-Colonel. During this time, probably about 1920, when their engagement was announced in Hythe,  he was married to Maud. He retired in 1933, but was appointed Regional Commander of the Local Defence Volunteers for the North Riding of Yorkshire, where he was living, in 1940.  . His Kashmiri Diaries are held by Cambridge University. He died at Fleet, in Hampshire.

Maud Gardner-Waterman nee Evangeline Maud Manderville was born on 13 July 1882, the daughter of Henry Ambrose Mandeville of Anner Castle Clonmel Ireland. and died in Hythe 1978

               

The Worthington Family, Coachmakers

 

Worthingtom William

This is the grave of William Worthington and his wife, Blanche. The inscription reads:

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

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

Because I live you shall live also John XIV 19

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

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

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

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

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

 

Worthington House

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

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

Worthington Hill left

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

This is their advertisement.

Worthington advert

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

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

Worthington grave2

The inscription on his grave reads:

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

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

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

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

Remainder illegible

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

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

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

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

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

 

Worthington Arthur

Robert was the next Worthington brother to pass away.

 

Worthington Grave 3

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

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

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

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

kildrummie

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

After Robert’s death, the business was run by the surviving brother, Fred, assisted by his nephew, William’s son Arthur.  Fred was very much the baby of the family, 19 years younger than his brother Robert. The firm  already had a good reputation for producing carts, carriages and even a coach for one of the royal house of Siam. They moved with the times, and invented a hybrid mode of transport called the Worthington cycle car in 1912, which seems to have been a sort of motor bike.

At the same time, they were developing a car,  the Worthington Runaraound. Only one was ever built. This is its specification:

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

It was intended to sell the car for £90,  but the company overstretched itself and got involved in the other latest transport craze, the aeroplane and in the end failed to produce either car or plane. I  don’t know when the company stopped trading, but Fred, who lived at Twiss Villas in Twiss Road, later worked as a ‘coach painter’. He didn’t die until 1948, aged 84, but was survived for some years by two daughters who lived in the town.

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

 

St Leonard’s Churchyard Hythe

St Leonard’s is a beautiful church in a beautiful place, standing high above the Cinque Port of Hythe. Built in the thirteenth century when the town was home to prosperous merchants and seamen, it still receives thousands of visitors a year, many coming to visit its extraordinary ossuary, one of only two in England.

For over nine hundred years it has been a place of pilgrimage and worship, and its graveyard has been in use for all that time, although it was closed for burials during the 1950 after being extended several times. While helping out in a small way with some tidying and clearing at the churchyard, I became interested in the gravestones: who were the people who rested here? Sadly, some gravestone inscriptions are already illegible and others showed wear and tear.

St Leonard's Churchyard.jpg

I decided to record all the inscriptions which were still legible, and, while I was at it, to research each of the names.  Later in the project I was joined by Kathryne and Christopher. There are 750 stones in total. What will follow are the stories of some of the people buried in this peaceful place.

 

Politics, Politicians and People – Part Three

The position of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports was pivotal in Kent local government. Elizabethan policy in the sixteenth century had removed much of the remaining power of the Brotherhood & Guestling and concentrated it instead in the hands of the Lord Warden, a royal appointee, giving the crown a stake in local decision making. His powers were considerable. He held the office of Constable of Dover Castle  and had Admiralty jurisdiction from Dungeness to the Naze.  As well as nominating candidates for parliament in each of the Cinque Ports, the Lord Warden was the mouthpiece for the crown, who communicated through him rather than through the county lieutenant of Kent or Sussex.

Each new Lord Warden had to swear to uphold the liberties of the Ports at a ceremony at the Court of Shepway and in return the ports made a gift of money. In 1629, when the Earl of Suffolk replaced the late Duke of Buckingham as Lord Warden, the ports clubbed together to provide a hundred pieces of gold and a purse, emblazoned with the Earl’s arms and the arms of the Cinque Ports. Hythe’s contribution was £11.5.0.

The ports were very clear that their rights and liberties meant that the county government held no sway over them, and that they would accept no writ or decree from the Crown unless it was delivered through the Lord Warden, and they managed to hang on to this position until the very end of the seventeenth century.  They even claimed exemption from Charles I’s fund-raising knighthood fines, and the government capitulated, though it did not let them off Ship Money.

Confederation with other Cinque Ports separated Hythe from the rest of the county, and helped give it a strong sense of civic identity. Every legal document produced during the seventeenth century, including wills, which mentions Hythe also adds the words ‘The ancient town and port’.

Politics apart, membership of the Confederation provided some golden opportunities for ceremonial and dressing up.  The installation of a new Lord Warden was one of these.

In 1615, it was announced that the new Lord Warden, Edward Zouche, would stop, briefly, at Hythe on his way to the Court of Shepway for his big ceremony. A flurry of activity followed. The notorious lane leading to the Mount was sluiced out.  Householders were ordered to clean the street in front of their property and to get rid of ‘manure, sullage (general filth), blocks, logs, stocks, barrels, tubs and anything else’.  People were ordered to keep their pigs off the street. The corporation erected a platform on which the Lord Warden could sit, to see and be seen. A stool, tables, cushions and carpets (mostly borrowed) were provided and the whole edifice was covered in decorated hangings. Two ash trees in the High Street were cut down as they would impede his view of the newly-immaculate town.

Edward Zouche, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, 1615-1624
Edward Zouche, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, 1615-1624

On the day itself, the great man arrived with an entourage, including his secretary, his coachman and the county muster-master. They were served with wine sweetened with sugar, trumpets were sounded, the party went on its way, and the platform was taken down again. The setting up and pulling down took eight days, and the materials, three wagon-loads full, were stored in St Leonard’s Church until 1629 when they were recycled for the Earl of Suffolk’s installation.  The bill that Hythe corporation presented to the Brotherhood and Guestling included gratuities for the secretary and coachman, hay and oats for their horses, and a sum paid to the muster-master so that he did not call a muster of the trained bands while he was in town, as was technically his right.

 

For the Love of God – Part Two

Puritans were not the only critics of the Church. Charles I believed that far from being attracted to the Puritans’ endless preaching, self-examination and warnings of damnation, people were being alienated from the Church. He and Buckingham, whom he had inherited from his father as royal favourite, supported and promoted the career of William Laud, an Arminian priest. He, like many English clergy, was a follower of Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian, who taught that salvation was not absolutely predestined and that God might be convinced by the penitent works of a sinner to allow them into Heaven. Therefore, the distinctions between the saved and the damned were not so hard and fast after all.

William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury
William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury

Laud and Charles saw the restoration of Catholic spectacle and mystery as a way of bringing people back to a proper engagement with the Church and with God.  Laud was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633 and set about restoring ceremonial and ritual and what he described as ‘the beauty of holiness’ in the Church.  Charles thought he was broadening the church. The godly Puritans thought Laud and his clergy were disguised papists whose real aim was to take England back to Rome.

Hythe is in the Diocese of Canterbury, so was fully exposed to Archbishop Laud’s reforming zeal, particularly as the Rector of Saltwood, William Kingsley, was one of Laud’s acolytes.  Hythe was not then a separate parish, and the magnificent church of St Leonard’s was designated as a ‘chapel’ under the control of Saltwood.  Kingsley was not only Rector of Saltwood, to which he was appointed in 1614; he added Great Chart (1615), Ickham (1617) and the Archdeaconry of Canterbury Cathedral (1619) to his portfolio of posts.  Kingsley was as ardent as his master in his desire to reform the Church.  As Archdeacon, he attempted to banish Puritan preachers from Canterbury and began to enforce kneeling at communion, a practice which had not been used since Catholic Queen Mary’s time. Communion tables were removed from the naves of churches, where they had been since the Reformation, and were railed about in the chancel, like an altar, which only the minister could approach.  Even though Kingsley’s presence in Hythe could only have been intermittent, given his commitments elsewhere, his curate Thomas Kingsmill no doubt followed orders. There was not much the Puritans of Hythe could do about the situation, but there was a noticeable increase in defaults on tithe payments after his appointment. Perhaps that was one way of showing disapproval.

By the early 1640s, Kingsley had been removed from office by Parliament, and Kingsmill was dead, replaced by the radical Puritan Scot, William Wallace. By that time, the world had been turned upside down.

For the Love of God – Part One

It is impossible to describe any of the momentous events of the English civil wars without discussing the religious struggles that underpinned them. Religion was central to the social order then in a way perhaps inconceivable to us today.  It played a crucial part in the way people were governed and the way in which they behaved. At the beginning of the seventeenth century Sunday attendance at an Anglican church was obligatory; all marriages took place in an Anglican church; all funerals and baptisms took place in an Anglican church. If you slandered your neighbour, you were tried in a Anglican church court and made your public penance in your local Anglican church.  Later in the century you could not hold any public office unless you had a certificate from your minister to confirm that you had received communion in an Anglican church within the last year. At most times during these years being openly Roman Catholic was dangerous, and non-conformity was regarded as subversive.

The Church of England at the beginning of the seventeenth century was the church of the Elizabethan settlement of over forty years before.  A triumph of compromise on Elizabeth’s part, the Act of Uniformity of 1559 had been designed to make the church acceptable to as many people, Catholic and Protestant, as possible, and to end the persecution and bonfires of the reign of Bloody Mary.  Processions associated with Catholic Church were banned, as were monuments to ‘fake’ miracles, including the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Presumably the miraculous crucifix associated with St Leonard’s Church in Hythe in the middle ages disappeared at this time.  Only clergymen with an MA could preach, with a licence from the diocese. These were not numerous, so ordinary clergy were restricted to reading from books of pastoral advice, which must have been deadly dull for the parishioners.

The theology of the Church was largely Calvinist, including the doctrines of election and predestination, that is, that the Almighty had predestined for salvation only a tiny handful, the elect, leaving the degenerate majority to everlasting damnation.  No amount of good works or praying to saints could get a soul to heaven if it was not on the list of the elect. This approach appeased the Puritans, but they disliked the remnants of Catholicism which remained in the church. As with any compromise, the settlement did not please everyone.

John Calvin who taught that all souls are predestined for either salvation or damnation

John Calvin who taught that all souls are predestined for either salvation or damnation

Who were the Puritans? They are often regarded as killjoys and pedants, and it is true that they believed that life was not for frivolity or pleasure but for the fulfilment of God’s commands.  They were strongly Calvinist and equally strongly anti-Catholic and abhorred everything in the church that had the taint of popery, such as the surplices worn by the clergy, or bowing at the name of Jesus. Preaching the word of God and the study of scripture always mattered more to them than sacramental rituals. They set themselves high standards, with an emphasis on self-examination to reassure themselves they were among the elect and that they were doing the Lord’s work. Their beliefs required a constant striving after salvation and a refusal to compromise with sin.

This suggests a joyless existence, but the knowledge of salvation, that he or she was among the elect, brought an inner satisfaction and a consciousness of communion with God.  It gave an individual the self-confidence to carry out God’s work, and Puritans were likely to gravitate naturally towards positions of authority in the local community. They sought to manage the behaviour of their weak and sinful brethren for the greater glory of God. It was their duty to stamp out the ungodly depravity that surrounded them: they were particularly exercised by violations of the sanctity of the Sabbath, and by pastimes such as drinking, dancing round the maypole or attending the theatre. Even bell-ringing could be regarded as sinful.

Hythe Puritans were fortunate in getting several curates in the first twenty years of the seventeenth century who had MAs, and could preach. Most of these only stayed a year or two, before moving on to parishes of their own, but in 1621 Thomas Kinsgsmill was appointed and stayed until his death in 1640. How often he managed to preach in Hythe, or even to lead services is open to question, as he was also, at various times during his curacy Vicar of Lympne and Rector of Stodmarsh.

There was very little Hythe Puritans could do about the quality of the men appointed to church offices, but there was plenty they could do in local government. In Hythe we can see their influence starting during the Elizabethan period. In 1582, Simon White was dismissed as a jurat because of adultery with ‘the maiden Alice Dell’. Undeterred, he moved to New Romney, became a freeman there, seduced another young woman and was once more ejected from the corporation. It was tough being a reprobate when Puritans ran the town.

By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Hythe jurats were condemning the ‘horrible sin of drinking and swearing which is greatly used within this town to the great offence of almighty God’.  Ten years later they had a veritable purge of ungodly pursuits. To coincide with the beginning of Lent, the maypole was dug up and the jurats insisted that the hole where it had stood be filled in, to erase all memory of the abomination.  The same year, they put in place strict limitations on performances by travelling players. Anyone caught allowing the players to use a private house for such entertainment would be fined.

Puritans can be identified in death as well as in life. Their Calvinism taught them Jesus had died to save them, and that this alone and no amount of prayer or penance or good works would change the will of the Almighty and gain a place in heaven for a soul not predestined for salvation. They expressed this faith in their wills. It was normal in the seventeenth century to start a will with the bequest of one’s soul to God. A non-Puritan might leave his soul to ‘Almighty God my creator’. The Puritan would leave it to ‘Almighty God and to His Son my Redeemer by whose death and passion I hope and expect to be saved and by none other means’.  Most Hythe wills of the seventeenth century use this format, or a variation of it.

The Middling Sort – Part Five

The middling sort was often able to give their sons, and occasionally their daughters, some sort of formal education.  A degree of prosperity was required to release a child from the necessity of working to put bread on the table as soon as he could and to send him to school instead.   Nationally, there had been a huge expansion of education after the 1550s. Religious and more secular concerns had both played a role in this. Protestantism encouraged the devout to read and learn from their bibles.  The concurrent expansion of internal trade meant that by the seventeenth century tradesmen needed basic literacy, the ability to read a bill and sign a contract, in order to benefit from the growth in trade in foodstuffs and other goods.  There was also an increase in job opportunities open to the literate, in the church, in medicine and particularly in the law – there had been a big expansion in litigation towards the end of the sixteenth century.

Schoolmasters in Kent were licensed by the Diocese of Canterbury and Hythe had a licensed schoolmaster throughout the period. Often it was the curate, who usually had a university degree. Sometimes a man who was judged to be literate enough was given the post, as were Edward Grawnte in 1602, John Crumpe in 1620, and Matthew Mantell in 1640. All were also jurats, and Mantell described himself as a gentleman, although that was wishful thinking on his part as his family’s fortunes had collapsed when his great-grandfather was executed for his part in Wyatt’s rebellion.

It is likely that teaching was carried out in the church, as it was in other towns, and St Leonard’s church had the perfect schoolroom in the Parvise, a commodious chamber over the south porch. Reading and writing were taught separately, reading first, and then, at about the age of seven or eight, writing. By that age, children were becoming useful in the workplace, and many would not have learnt to write beyond a signature or just an initial. Many of Hythe’s tradesmen could sign, however, more or less legibly, and produce written bills.

The signature of William Gately, Blacksmith (Canterbury Cathedral Archives)
The signature of William Gately, blacksmith (Canterbury Cathedral Archives)
?????
The bill of John Banbury, carpenter, for work done at the alms house barn (John Osbourne)

For the well-off there were grammar schools after elementary education. One of Hythe’s M.P.s, Norton Knatchbull, endowed a ‘free’ grammar school in Ashford, and there was another one in Canterbury. This latter cost twelve pounds a year, to which a parent would have to add the cost of the loss of a son’s labour. It was a big investment, and beyond the means of most.

Only very occasionally does anything more complex than bills and accounts survive as evidence of literacy, although James Pashley’s letters of 1658 are one example. This was because they were written to Henry Oxinden of Denton, a member of the minor gentry, to whom Pashley, a yeoman and Hythe jurat,  had become related through marriage, and who was a man who kept all his correspondence.  A grammar school education was a possibility for a yeoman’s son, and Pashley’s turn of phrase suggests an education beyond the elementary schoolroom:

‘Cousin, I hope there will be no doubt but you shall effect your desire, for I find Mr Lushington and Mr Arthur and all their party very constant for you, and my friends stand fast and do promise me to their utmost power; therefore I think you need not make any doubt’

Oxinden was standing for election as one of Hythe’s representatives in Parliament and his ‘cousin’ Pashley was canvassing for him. Oxinden lost, and the relationship rather fizzled out after that.

A Walk through Hythe in 1600 – Part Four

Leaving the market behind, you see the new curate, Isaac Plume, turning uphill towards his church.  He was only installed six weeks ago, and will not stay long: he is one of a series of curates for whom St Leonard’s church is a stepping-stone to greater and more lucrative things.  He will not be much missed by the congregation as he has only a Bachelor of Arts degree, and not the Master’s degree entitling him to preach.  A good sermon, in an age with few diversions, is much appreciated. His predecessor had an MA, but only stayed four months before he secured something better and became Vicar of Bapchild.

Why not follow Mr Plume?

He walks slowly up the hill. It is a very steep slope, known helpfully as ‘the Clymb’. You have seen the church in the distance on your journey here, but at close quarters it is breathtaking – and much too big. The original Norman church was enlarged and enhanced during the glory days of the Cinque Ports, when Hythe was a town and port to be taken seriously. Now it looks as though it could accommodate the entire population, and probably could, at a pinch.

You climb the steps of the impressive porch on the south side. Two men are there before you. They shake hands and money is passed between them.  This is no clandestine deal, but a perfectly normal way to seal a contract in Hythe. Indeed, it is written into some contracts that they will be renewed in this way and in this place each year.

Passing into the church, you are struck anew by its sheer scale.  The chancel has been raised to a higher level than the nave, and accommodates underneath a vaulted passageway. Both the chancel and the nave are high-vaulted and there is an imposing tower to the west.  To the north is the chapel of St Edmund where, on the second of February each year, the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady, the jurats choose a mayor, an election sermon is preached, the bells in the tower are rung and then the corporation retires to the ‘White Hart’ to celebrate.

The church you are seeing has changed fundamentally in the last sixty years or so. The rood loft with its great crucifix was torn down, the saints removed from their niches and the relics consigned to oblivion. The altar, although you must not call it that, now stands in the body of the church rather than in the chancel, and is called the communion table. The church cat is snoozing on it.

You see that Isaac Plume is waiting at the door. He is wearing his surplice, a leftover from earlier times which Puritans in the Anglican church think carries the taint of popery and should be abolished, along with a lot of other things. He greets a small party, arriving in their best clothes. It is Thomas Hutson, a fisherman like all his family, and his kinsfolk, come to baptise Thomas’s second child, Mary. The child’s mother is not among the group: she has not yet been ‘churched’ following the birth and must stay indoors, but she will be at the celebrations at the Hutsons’ house later.  The churchwarden Thomas Stroghill, taking a break from his alehouse, is there to record the event in the parish registers, which the bishop will want to see at the end of the year.

Little Mary Hutson, like so many, will not live to see her first birthday.

Leaving the church, you turn at first eastward to look at the vault under the chancel. It is dark inside, but in the gloom you can make out, to your alarm, that it is full of human bones, not entire skeletons, but skulls and long bones, piled one upon the other. You instinctively recoil from this unlikely sight in a quiet Kentish market town. You cannot make any sense at all of why the bones should be there. And so it is to this day.

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

You retrace your steps rather more quickly out of the church. In the road in front of the church you notice the stocks, which today are empty, and see, not far away, the prison. It is a foul place, a single cell with a barred window. It is not used as a place of punishment, as the stocks are, but as a holding room while the law takes its course and until sentence has been pronounced, or until a debtor has found the means to pay what he owes. The corporation takes no responsibility for the welfare of the prisoner: that is the duty of his family and friends, although they are allowed to use water from the nearby well to quench the prisoner’s thirst and sluice out the cell, which lacks even basic sanitation.

You walk down to the bottom of the Clymb. On the main street, a woman is repeatedly slapping a small boy round the head while angrily berating him. No-one stops to intervene, or seems even to notice. You see that he is one of the little lads who killed the rat at John Oldfield’s; she is his mother and she is angry because he has ripped his breeches and hose while squirming around on the ground. She has enough to do without mending his clothes and he doesn’t have another pair of breeches apart from his Sunday best. What is more, he should not have been at the brewery with his friends but helping his father, a tallow chandler, by delivering some candles. He will, she tells him, go to hell and burn for all eternity for his sins. And go to bed with no supper.