The Tyas family (sometimes known as ‘Tice’) were survivors. They survived the workhouse, eviction and living in a slum, and while they were undeniably truculent and liked a drink or two, they flourished and multiplied against all the odds.
This story starts in December 1842 when their landlord, Michael Edwin of Dover, evicted them from their home in Hythe. He did not need to give a reason and did not do so (1). They moved to Dental Street in the town, but in February 1844, Richard, the pater familias, allegedly deserted his wife Harriet and their eight children: Edward, Richard, William, Esther, Filmer, John, Mary and Priscilla, who were all placed in the Elham Union Workhouse at Ethchinghill (2). He appeared before the local magistrates charged with this offence but was discharged, and the family were reunited a week later (3). They were back again for another short stay in April that year, but thereafter managed to survive outside. They moved to Windmill Row, and another three children were born: George, James and Fanny.
Windmill Row was, to put it bluntly, filthy. In Hythe, it was commonly known as ‘Buggy Row’. Its sixteen houses had been built to accommodate temporarily the men of the Royal Waggon Train who dug the Royal Military Canal over forty years before. There were no internal stairs, and the tenants reached their upstairs rooms by means of ladders. In the living space, a huge chimney took up a quarter of the room. There were just four outside taps for all sixteen dwellings, none of which had a sink, and six outside water-closets. The local Sanitary Inspectors wrote to Hythe’s mayor in 1849 to complain about the state of the place, to no avail. But the census shows that most of the people living there were not paupers, they were in work: there was just no other accommodation to be found at an affordable rent. The landlord knew that and was not motivated to make improvements.
Buggy Row may have looked like these Bethnal Green houses, pictured by Walter Steggles
Richard earned his living as a labourer and Harriet went out to work as a charwoman. By 1851, their two eldest sons had left home. Edward, at eighteen, had married his pregnant girlfriend, ten years older than him and already the mother of an illegitimate child. He had found work as a hotel porter.
Richard junior had joined the Merchant Navy as an apprentice in 1850, but left the next year, returning to marry Emily Moseley in St Leonard’s Church, Hythe. He, too, was just eighteen and Emily was pregnant. They went to live in London, where Richard worked as a groom, but a couple of years later were back in Kent. In 1854, he ‘borrowed’ a horse and cart from a Folkestone baker and drove it to Hastings to deliver some herring. However, having sold the fish, he spent the next few days drinking the proceeds. His remorse at the magistrates court enabled him to escape trial and he went to live in Ramsgate where he became a fly-master, hiring out horse-drawn transport.
William was the next to leave, but his first attempts at independent living were not successful and he had another stay in the workhouse in 1852. The first Tyas daughter, Esther, also went to London, and married there in 1858.
In 1854 Richard senior was charged with fighting with two of his own sons in Tontine Street in Folkestone and with striking one of his daughters in the melee. He was drunk at the time. When a constable came to break up the fight, he also resisted arrest. In court, he was very contrite and swore that if let off, he would take the pledge. The magistrate told him that if he intended to become a teetotaller the best place to start would be Dover gaol and sentenced him to fourteen days.
Tontine Street in Folkestone, where Richard Tyas brawled with his family…
…and Dover Gaol, in the Maison Dieu, where he served his sentence
The fourth Tyas son, Filmer, was evidently a chip off the old block. In 1857 he was sentenced to twelve months in prison for assaulting a police constable, a term he served in Canterbury gaol. In 1861 he appeared in court charged with disorderly conduct at the Coopers’ Arms public house on the Bayle in Folkestone. Most of the family now lived in the town. Filmer ensured that drink was always available to him by lodging at another public house, the Princess Royal in the town, and later at the Engineer beerhouse in what is now Guildhall Street. Perhaps his behaviour was trying: the landlord told him to leave in 1868, but he refused and became violent. A constable was called and inevitably, Filmer assaulted him, too. He was taken to Folkestone police station, where his mother turned up and created such a disturbance that she, too, was arrested. At the subsequent court hearing, Filmer was charged seven shillings and sixpence, and Harriet was discharged.
The Princess Royal public house near the harbour in Folkestone
At the time of this last event, Filmer was a married man, but living separately from his wife. He had married Ann Tidmarsh at the church of St Mary and St Eanswythe on 6 April 1862, but thereafter she disappears from the public record. Filmer signed his name on his marriage certificate, so had a degree, at least, of literacy.
Filmer last appears in public records when he is in court again, this time charged with illegal prize fighting at a farm near Dover in 1874. The case collapsed because the witnesses were too frightened to testify. Filmer died aged only forty-four, and was buried on 8 January 1881.
His father, Richard, meanwhile had died in 1868, and Harriet moved in with her daughter Mary. Mary had married Thomas Fisher, a publican who kept the Eagle Inn in Guildhall Street. Her brother George, the youngest of the Tyas sons married and worked early in his life as a boatman, before taking over the licence of the Bradstone Arms in Folkestone in the late 1870s. Like Filmer, he died in early 1881. After his death, his widow Alice kept on the licence.
Priscilla, the third Tyas daughter, broke with family tradition and as far as is known had no connection with the licensed trade. On 17 August 1862, at the age of seventeen, she married Edward Bush Johnson in Folkestone parish church. Edward was a corporal in the Royal Artillery. Priscilla, like her younger brother George who witnessed the ceremony, could not write.
The youngest Tyas child, Fanny, married a mariner, Robert Weatherhead in 1866. They had at least seven children, but Fanny managed to combine her domestic duties with running a public house in Seagate Street in Folkestone.
Buggy Row in Hythe was, disgracefully, not demolished until the 20th century. In 1888 Hythe’s Medical Officer of Health described it as ‘in a most dilapidated condition, the foundations and grounds impregnated with filth’, but the landlord ignored him. Three years later, the Ratepayers Association demanded that the dwellings be taken down as ‘the ground, back and front, is a vast cesspool, growing more dangerous to health every day.’ Again, they were ignored. The town council finally took action and condemned them in 1904, sixty years after the Tyas family had lived there.
- Kent Archives H1431
- Kent Archives G/El/AM
- Kent Archives Hy/JP1