Six Degrees of Separation

The theory of Six Degrees of Separation was first set out by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929.  Here in New Zealand there is a joke that there are no more than two degrees of separation.  Sometimes it’s true.  Other times you get back to 6.  This post is about how my paternal and maternal branches have overlapped at times, but didn’t hook up until my parents.  It’s one that may expand over time!

[And if this doesn’t interest you, you can click over to the Oracle of Bacon which calculates the degrees of separation of anyone on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) from actor Kevin Bacon.]

Akaroa

Akaroa is a lovely town on the Banks Peninsula, 75 km from Christchurch.  It’s noted for its French influence due to it being New Zealand’s only French settlement.  But my connections here are more English/Irish!

From around 1877 when she arrived in New Zealand with her husband’s brother Alfred, until 1907 when she and Alfred retired to Christchurch, my paternal gg-grandmother Rose Anne Maria Mrs James E Nicholls lived in Akaroa.  It’s where my g-grandfather Alfred James Nicholls grew up (and won school prizes – see the Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser on Papers Past for details!).  Alfred snr was Headmaster at Akaroa School during this time.

It was also the home to my maternal gg-grandfather Robert William Black’s brother Greacen Joseph Black (1850-1932) for a number of years before he sold up and moved to Gisborne.  Amongst other things, he is likely to have run into Rose, Alfred and family at his store – Criterion House where following family tradition he sold drapery.  His entry in the 1903 Cyclopedia of New Zealand gives you some idea of his activities.

Alfred snr and Greacen were also members of the Akaroa Mutual Improvement Association.  It seems to be a variation on Toastmasters where they practised public speaking!  There is also a Richard Black who attended these meeting – likely to be Greacen and Robert William’s since lost brother.

They both were pillars of the community being also members of:

  • the Akaroa Regatta Committee in 1877
  • the Presbyterian Church
  • won prizes at the Horticultural and Industrial Exhibition in 1878

And Greacen’s oldest son Robert won a prize in the infants class of the school in 1887, awarded by Headmaster Alfred.

Kilmore Street, Christchurch

My maternal 3x g-grandfather Robert Black built a house at what now is about 214 Kilmore Street, not far from the intersection with Barbados Street.  This is the house referred to in the 1949 book Old Christchurch in Picture and Story by Johannes C. Andersen (which lead to my The Old Lady in the Garden post).

Amongst my Grandad’s papers there are copies of the title deeds for this block of land.   It originally started out as blocks 511 and 513 on Kilmore Street and blocks 512 and 514 on Chester Street.  After Robert’s death, it was inherited by his son and my gg-grandfather Robert William Black.

Robert William sold part off in 1895 to Arthur Chigley and the rest in 1896 to Cornelius Cliff.  Deeds show that in 1899 Arthur Chigley owned all of blocks 511 and 513 and a smidgen of 512.  In 1905, Chigley sells an L-shaped part of 511, all of 513 and smidgens of 512 and 514 to James Haswell Wood (snr).

And this is where the connection comes in – James’ son James Haswell Wood (jnr) married May O’Callaghan in 1917.  May was the daughter of my paternal gg-grandparents Jasper Pyne O’Callaghan (the Spanish Grandee) and Winifred Alice Baker and sister of my g-grandmother Greta.

The land in Kilmore Street passed from James H Wood snr to his two spinster daughters Kate Selina Wood and Elsie Haswell Wood who passed away in 1961 and 1969 respectively.  It then passed to Beryl Haswell Wood (1913-2002) until it was taken by the council under the Public Works Amendment Act 1948.

Grandad wrote that the house his g-grandfather built there was still standing in 1981 when he visited:

In 1981 this house (renumbered 214 Kilmore St) still existed and the writer has been in it.

It is a single storey timber framed weatherboard house with a slate roof. As there is no slate in NZ, the slate would have been imported from Britain. [Deleted: With increasing availability of other materials, this practice had ceased before the end of the century, so slate roofed houses are now rare.] There is a roofed verandah across the whole front with cast iron filigree ornamentation between the posts.

It is quite a large house, about 200m2, but the interior shows signs of considerable past alterations, so how it was laid out originally remains doubtful. In 1970 the property was compulsorily acquired by the Ministry of Works, apparently with eventual intent to erect a public building on the site. Meanwhile it remains in use as a tenanted dwelling, but it is very dilapidated and really fit only for its prospective demolition.

Nearly, but not quite

In my post Death in Print there is an item on the Black Beattie & Co Accident which took place in my maternal gg-grandfather’s shop in High Street, Christchurch.  The unfortunately victim of this accident was Margaret Pyne.  My paternal gg-grandfather Jasper Pyne O’Callaghan’s mother was Sarah Pyne of Ballyvolane, Ireland.  However, it would appear that Mrs Pyne’s husband Henry was from England.  While the Irish Pyne’s are likely related to the English ones, the connection is currently unknown.

Near neighbours

This is the one that got me thinking about this post first.  But it’s also the one I have no evidence for.

Te Kuiti is the “shearing capital of the world” located in the King Country, part of the Waikato region.  About 18kms away is Waitomo, famous for its glow-worm caves and caves in general.

In the 1910s, Te Kuiti was home to my paternal grandfather Walter and his first family – he lived there when he commenced his WWI service.  Up the road in Waitomo, my maternal Grandad was a small child growing up on a farm his father Harold was hacking out of the bush.  Did they ever cross paths?  Who knows?

Te Kuiti is the seat for the Waitomo District Council.  And Walter was a mechanic so he may have fixed something of Harold’s.  Unfortunately, there is no one left to ask.

But fortunately, my grandfathers went on to have my parents who did meet.

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Myths & Legends: Viscounts Lifford

Updated: 6 November 2013

The Myth

Our Hewitt family is descended from the Viscounts Lifford, whose family name is Hewitt.

This one has been doing the rounds for more than a hundred years.  As I detailed in ‘The Elusive John Hewitt‘, my Field cousin Henry Claylands Field wrote to William Hughes Field in 1897 that his grandmother Sophia Ann Hughes had married:

John Hewitt, a son or grandson of the Earl of Lifford who was also Dean of Cloyne. He was an officer in the army, I think the Guards; but retired on his marriage, which was probably considered a mere alliance by his people.

And pretty consistently when I make contact with members of the extended Hewitt family they are fascinated by this story and spent quality time trying to find out if it’s true.

The Truth

IT IS NOT TRUE!

Being Viscounts, the Lifford Hewitts are very well documented.  The first Viscount Lifford was James Hewitt who was born in 1712 so could have been the father of our John Hewitt.  He did, in fact, have a son called John.  John was born in 1756, spent time as Dean of Cloyne in Ireland and died in 1804.

So our John Hewitt was not the son or grandson of a Viscount Lifford.  He was born around 1747 and so could not have been one of the Viscount’s legitimate offspring.

But I am related to them – through my grandmother and a couple of marriages.  My family tree programme says that James is the “paternal grandfather of husband of 2nd great grand niece of wife of 7th great grand uncle” of me.  Which in English means that a 7th great-uncle’s sister-in-law married a Lifford descendent.

My personal view is that our John was trying to impress his rich in-laws – he was, after all, significantly older than his wife.  But then William Hughes was too rich to be that stupid (?) and probably checked out things before letting his daughter and heir Sophia marry.

So…

There is the possibility that our John Hewitt was a cousin of the Viscount.  So what do we know of the Lifford Hewitts before James First Viscount?

James’ father was William Hewitt, a draper and Mayor of Coventry in 1744.  So far I’ve ascertained that William and his wife Hannah Lewis had three sons:

– James, 1st Viscount (1712-1789)

– William (1719-1781) – lived in the West Indies – had no children

– Joseph (1725-1813) – had no children

So our John wasn’t a nephew of James.

Which brings us to Cumberland. William Snr was born in Rockliffe, Cumberland in 1683.

The Hewitt Papers

Amongst the Hewitt Papers held at the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa) is the ‘Notes and Memoranda, Genealogical, Historical and Personal of the family of Hewitt’ were written in 1891 by Rev. James Alexander Hewitt of the ‘Cape of Good Hope’.  Their catalog lists it as (my emphasis):

A2  A genealogical, historical and personal record of the Cumberland Hewitts. Known as “Statesmen” the highest form of regard in the North. There are no less than 13 lines from which descendants may exist. Scattered during the Civil Wars in reign of Charles I.

This implies that there are LOTS of Hewitts out there from Cumberland.  Too many to go chasing willy-nilly.

And thanks to the lovely Zofia at the University of the Witwatersrand I now have a copy of this part of the Hewitt papers.  I shall start out saying that our John is not mentioned in the papers.  However, there are mentioned many potential avenues of inquiry.

From a family bible the Rev James traces his Hewitt family back to a Henry Hewitt born in Blackrigg near Rockcliffe, Cumberland.

His interest was in working out which Henry Hewitt was his.  From this seems to have spread an interest in the various Hewitt families that sprang from Cumberland.  He noted that there were also Hewitt families in Bedfordshire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Lancashire which he thought came from ‘the time of the Conqueror at Manor Hewits – near Ashford in Kent’.  He also mentions a branch in Warwickshire!  The possibilities seem to be getting bigger rather than smaller!

The Cumberland Hewitts

The Hewitt family of Cumberland which would ultimately produce the Viscounts Lifford line began in Rockcliffe which is a few miles outside of Carlisle.  The parish registers there started in 1679.  The Rev James notes that at that time there were 6 heads of families called Hewitt:

  1. Robert Hewitt whose son William was baptised in September 1679
  2. James Hewitt who married Mary Urwin in November 1679 (grandparents of the 1st Viscount Lifford)
  3. Allen Hewitt whose son Thomas was baptised in July 1680
  4. Peter Hewitt whose daughter June was baptised in July 1680
  5. George Hewitt of Castletown whose daughter Sarah was baptised in March 1681
  6. William Hewitt of Churchtown whose son Henry was baptised in 1686

These Hewitt heads could be the g-grandfather or grandfather of our John Hewitt?  Although I continue to be dubious.  Why?  Because none of these names appear in our Hewitt branch.

The Piccadilly Hewitts

The first Viscount Lifford’s brother William Jnr spent time in the West Indies.  Papers that survive from then refer to relatives based in London.  A cousin has sent details through of plaques that commemorate some Hewitts in St James Piccadilly.  One is dedicated to John Hewitt by his brother Edward:

of a respectable Family in the County of CUMBERLAND, a near Relation, Friend, and many Years private Secretary to JAMES Viscount Lifford. Lord High Chancellor of IRELAND.  He died 1st March 1783 Aged 46.

This isn’t our John either but is a contemporary.  Also at St James Piccadilly is a plaque to his brother Edward who died in 1794.

The Hewitt papers provide further details of that branch.  Edward left an estate of £18,000 (a huge fortune!) to his nieces, daughters of his brother James.  This James Hewitt was a wine merchant in Carlisle.  From the will we find two daughters and a son Francis.  There were also bequests to various Hewitts still living in Rockcliffe further confirming the family connection.  It’s still not clear if these Hewitts were first or second cousins of the Viscounts Lifford.  And there is no documented connection to our family either.

Conclusion

I’m going to reiterate here that as I currently have no idea where our John Hewitt was born, there is no known connection to any of the Hewitts discussed above.  But we keep looking.  DNA may provide some hints – once I get around to it!

Hewitt Family Photos

My new found cousin Olivia has kindly provided some photos of the Hewitt branch of the family to share with everyone.  There are three generations centering on my gg-grandfather Walter Augustus Hewitt:

  • his parents, uncle and mother-in-law
  • one of his brothers, a sister-in-law, Walter’s wife and her sisters’ families
  • his children

Unfortunately, there are no pictures of Walter.  To help put them in context (as well as I can) here is a Hewitt family tree which shows how most of the people here relate to each other (click on it to see it bigger, use ctrl + to make it readable):

Hewitt Family Tree

First Generation

Frederick Hewitt (1793-1883)

The beard growing continues to this day! There are allegedly also some portraits of Frederick, his wife Elizabeth (below) and Frederick’s maternal grandfather William Hughes.  Frederick left these to his son Arthur Turner Hewitt, but I’m not currently in contact with any of his descendents to see if they still exist.

Photo of Frederick Hewitt

Elizabeth Turner Mrs F Hewitt (c1800-1874)

Photo of Elizabeth Turner Mrs Hewitt

Susanna Birch Mrs Jonathan Muckleston Key (1807-1872)

Mother of Mary Sophia Key, Walter’s wife.

Photo of Susanna Birch Mrs Key

William Hughes Hughes (1792-1874)

Walter’s uncle William took his maternal grandfather’s surname as a condition of William Hughes’ will.  He was a Member of Parliament. Photo of William Hughes Hughes

Second Generation

Albert Spencer Hewitt (1837-1921)

The elder of Walter’s two younger brothers.

Photo of Albert Spencer Hewitt Photo of Albert Spencer Hewitt

Louisa Whitmore Mrs Stanley Hughes Hewitt (c1850-aft 1913)

Wife of Walter’s youngest brother, Louisa was the mother of Frederick Whitmore Hewitt, an army chaplain killed in 1915. See Ben Makin’s comment and link below about a visit by her grandfather to Louisa, Frederick’s wife and daughter in 1913.

Photo of Louisa Whitmore Mrs Hughes Hewitt

Mary Sophia Key Mrs WA Hewitt

Walter’s wife and my gg-grandmother, daughter of Jonathan Muckleston Key and Susanna Birch (see above).

Photo of Mary Sophia Key Mrs Hewitt Photo of Mary Sophia Key Mrs Hewitt

Susanna Key Mrs Charles Harvey (1834-?)

One of Mary Sophia Key’s younger sisters – you can tell. Photo of Susannah Key Mrs Harvey

The Harvey Family

Susanna’s husband Charles Harvey and their children Amy Susanna Harvey Mrs Arnold Pittis (1862-1959) and Ralph Key Harvey (1866-1948). charles harveyamy harvey mrs pittisPhoto of Ralph Key Harvey

Susanna’s sister Mary Alice Key married Edward Harvey (Charles’ brother?) and had a son Edward Key Harvey (1867-1921):

Photo of Edward Key Harvey

Third Generation – Walter Augustus and Mary Sophia’s children

Thomas Hughes Hewitt (1864-1946)

My g-grandfather – a younger and older view.

Photo of Thomas Hughes Hewitt Photo of Thomas Hughes Hewitt

Reginald Key Hewitt (1868-1945)

After the premature death of his first wife, Reginald moved to South Africa.  He had two children with his first wife Alice:  Doris Kathleen and Reginald Charles and a second daughter Marion Mrs Martin with his second wife. Photo of Reginald Key Hewitt

Elsie Maud Hewitt (1870-?)

Married to John Carpenter Turner in 1892 – a late Victorian wedding. Photo of Elsie Maud Hewitt Mrs Turner Photo of Elsie Maud Hewitt Mrs Turner

Sophia Beatrice Hewitt (1872-1960)

Sophia never married.

Photo of Sophie Beatrice Hewitt Photo of Sophie Beatrice Hewitt

Constance Ada Hewitt (1874-1952)

Constance married John F Newton in 1913 (aged around 39).  I’m unsure if they had any children.

Photo of Constance Ada Hewitt Photo of Constance Ada Hewitt

Kathleen Emily Hewitt (1875-1956)

Kathleen moved to South Africa and there married Francis Ernest Tonks in 1915 (aged around 40).  They had no children.

Photo of Kathleen Emily Hewitt Photo of Kathleen Emily Hewitt

Where’d the money go?

Updated: 10 January 2013

A large number of my recent ancestors were peasants, but many were upper-middle class/lower-upper class.  I think we’ve come out nicely in the middle – middle class.  So while the peasants have gone up in the world, we’ve obviously slipped on the rich side of the family!

I’ve been brought up to believe that talking about money is vulgar, but everyone who finds a rich ancestor must wonder – where’d the money go?  So here’s my attempt to explain using the example of my 3x g-grandfather Jonathan Muckleston Key (brother of the other John Key).

JMK died in 1888 worth £86,891 13s 5d:

Which is not too shabby an amount now!  But using the conversions found at Measuring Worth.com it comes out as:

£   7,550,000.00 using the retail price index
£   9,460,000.00 using the GDP deflator
£ 36,600,000.00 using the average earnings
£ 56,400,000.00 using the per capita GDP
£ 95,100,000.00 using the share of GDP

(See the website to see what each one means)

Where did all this money come from?  Inheritance for the most part.  Having a rich godfather as well always helps.  In the 1871 census under occupation it notes that he had income from “houses, dividends and interest of money”.  JMK also had a job – Commissioner of the Lieutenant of London.  This was an honorary position which probably came from having money rather than to make some!

So where did the money go?

I recently acquired a copy of JMK’s will.  It’s TEN pages of closely written spider sprawl.  Needless to say I tuned out pretty quickly.  However, the gist of the will is that his 5 children alive when he died – all daughters – inherited a fifth each, in trust.  This is confirmed in his daughter Mary Sophia’s will as she inherited one fifth of her father’s “residuary estate” (ie after all debts, taxes and administrative expenses have been paid) – in trust.  So around £17,000 (still millions in today’s terms).

JMK’s daughter Mary Sophia Key married Walter Augustus Hewitt in 1861.  There was a large marriage settlement which under the law of the day would have been the property of Walter with various legal provisions on the death of either party.  However, JMK died after the enactment of the Married Women’s Property Act 1882 so any inheritance would not have automatically gone to Mary Sophia’s husband.  As Walter predeceased his father-in-law by eight months, his wife had control of both her marriage settlement and her inheritance.

Mary Sophia Mrs Hewitt died only 3 years after her father.  Her estate was valued at £2,601 15s 10d – significantly less than her father’s!

This equates to:

£    221,000.00 using the retail price index
£    280,000.00 using the GDP deflator
£ 1,020,000.00 using the average earnings
£ 1,660,000.00 using the per capita GDP
£ 2,700,000.00 using the share of GDP

How much can a widow spend in three years??? Well, reading through the legalese of her will, you get the impression that her estate does not include two valuable items – the Indenture settlement made on her marriage and the trust containing her inheritance from her father.  But that’s still a lot of silver and linen!

Mary Sophia had 8 children – 4 of each.  Her will leaves everything pretty evenly split between them although the girls got to split all the plate, linen and other personal effects between them – provided they reached 21 (the youngest was 16 at her death).

In an 1891 codicil, Mary Sophia says she has recently advanced her son Thomas Hughes Hewitt (my g-grandfather) £400 and if he doesn’t present her with whatever is owing from that amount at her death he doesn’t get any of his grandfather’s JMK’s estate.  Which was worth considerably more!  A good incentive?

My g-grandfather Thomas Hughes Hewitt (from the documentation I’ve found so far) had a pretty normal life for someone of his position in society.  He went to school and then worked as an insurance underwriter.  He got married aged 22 to Florence Marion Venn and had three sons.  But when he died in 1946, his estate was worth £492 18s 9d (between £16k and £72k).  Given he inherited around £5k from his father and probably at least a matching amount from his mother and grandfather (assuming he paid her back), where did it all go????

A hint comes from the Edinburgh Gazette of February 21, 1908:

Bankrupts
From the London Gazette

Receiving Orders

Thomas Hughes Hewitt, lately residing at Audley, Woodridings Avenue, Pinner, Middlesex, but whose present residence the petitioner is unable to ascertain.

Bankrupt and possibly absconding?!  This might explain why in the 1901 Census THH’s wife and children are living in Ratby, Leics (???) and he’s nowhere to be found!

How did he go bankrupt?  Perhaps he didn’t pay his mother back…

His granddaughter Elizabeth had this to say, “My Father was a very gentle man, he came from wealthy, well-educated parents, but his father (THH) was foolish.  He was in Lloyd’s, and instead of putting back profits to cover insurance claims, he withdrew his money and eventually retired from Lloyd’s.”

Lloyd’s of London is “the world’s specialist insurance market” made up of syndicates of people who insure pretty much anything (not far off gambling IMO).  But not having enough money available to pay insurance claims is a sure way to go bankrupt.  And in 1906 there was an earthquake in San Francisco where Lloyd’s members were ordered to “pay all of our policy holders in full irrespective of the terms of their policies” (there are probably a few people in Christchurch who wish their insurers were as generous!!).

On his death, THH left the princely sum of £50 to his middle son (my grandfather), his hanging wardrobe to his sister Beatrice and, apart from some other bequests, the rest to be split between his two other sons.  He obviously didn’t approve of my grandfather’s decision to immigrate to New Zealand!

On the up side, my Dad says that the £50 was enough for my grandparents to buy out my Gran’s brother and sister’s share of their parents house.  Given that the £50 has a current worth of between £1,620 and £7,320, houses have gone up a lot since then!  So future estates will be worth more than some previous ones!

So in summary, to end up as rich as your rich ancestor you need to be the following:

  • the descendent of lots of only children
  • nice to your mother
  • not a gambler
  • nice to your father
  • know that property can be a good investment over time

Famous Namesakes

This page is a bit like my post “houses my family doesn’t own anymore” – this is “famous people that could be my ancestors but aren’t”.  It could also be subtitled “What you can find in ten minutes on Google.”  Or “the people that always turn up first on Google when you’re searching for your family”.  More will follow later.

Frederick Hewitt

My ggg-grandfather’s namesake, Frederick William Hewitt (1857-1916) was an anesthesiologist who looked after the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, helping remove his appendics in 1902.  He got a knighthood for his troubles and a ward is named after him at St George’s Hospital (now in Tooting, London).  According to an article on the Life & Health Library, he “later designed the first oral airways, probably as a result of taking care of the king, an overweight, bearded man”.  Whatever that means.  He also “designed an early anesthesia machine to administer variable portions of nitrous oxide and oxygen, a combination used widely for dental procedures and short surgeries from the late nineteenth century until today” (Modern Anesthesia Is Developed).

The Royal College of Surgeons also have an annual Frederick Hewitt Lecture.

His family came from Badbury in Wiltshire so is, so far, not related.

Jasper Pyne

My gg-grandfather was Jasper Pyne O’Callaghan, named for his uncle Jasper Richard Masters Pyne (1797-1860) (along with 4 other O’Callaghan’s).  Uncle Jasper also inspired another sibling to name a son after him – Jasper Douglas Masters Pyne (1848-1888).

JDMP (for short) sounds like a very entertaining personality.  He was also an MP who (like other family MP’s) got into a bit of trouble and when a warrent was issued for his arrest went into hiding.  From the Old Waterford Society newsletter Spring 1990:

A furious District Inspector Wynne of Cappoquin denied that there was a single word of truth in the Freeman’s account. ‘Mr. Pyne has not returned to Lisfinny Castle‘, he explained, ‘ for the simple reason that he has never left it. He merely pretended to do so. He had hidden himself in his room, but had been overheard talking and joking by the night patrols. Pyne’s accent and laugh were such, Wynne assured his superiors, that they could not possibly be mistaken.

On 2 January 1888 District Inspector Bourchier of the Special Branch confirmed that Pyne was safely within the castle and a police patrol properly posted without.  There was no possibility of escape, except by means of an underground passage, but, he added hastily, none such existed.  District Inspector Barry corroborated his colleague’s report that Pyne was hemned in on every side and that all avenues of escape were sealed off.

The police, however, had underestimated Irish nationalist ingenuity. On the evening of Friday, 13 January, some 200 cattle were stampeded in the vicinity of the castle. While the 20 constables on duty contended with this bovine diversion Pyne scampered down the exterior wall and made his way to a waiting car that set off immediately for Cork.   The telegraph wires at Tallow had been cut and when the police eventually realised that they had been duped they were unable to raise the alarm.  The fugitive boarded a cargo ship bound for Plymouth whence he proceeded to London on the afternoon on 16 January.

The Star newspaper of Canterbury, New Zealand (perhaps knowing of all of his cousins here in NZ?) reports as follows on 18 January 1888 (page 4):

The Escape of Mr Jasper Pyne.

LONDON, Jan. 17. It has transpired that Mr Jasper Pyne has effected his escape to England. Mr Pyne, who is the member for West Waterford, was charged with inciting resistance to the Sheriff, and in order to prevent his being arrested he fortified his residence, Lisfarny Castle, and after holding out for  some time succeeded in escaping.

You could just imagine the scene in a movie!

JDMP was arrested entering the House of Commons and served six weeks in prison.  He later was declared dead after disappearing off the Holyhead to Dublin ferry in mysterious circumstances.

And nowdays there’s even a racing horse named called Jasper Pyne.

The Elusive John Hewitt

Updated: 9 January 2014

My family seems to have a general policy of “why let the truth get in the way of a good story”.  I don’t think we’re the only ones as many episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?” are based on debunking family myths.

My 4x g-grandfather John Hewitt is a point in question.  There are some great stories about him.  Finding the evidence to back up the stories is not so easy.

The Known Facts

John Hewitt married Sophia Ann Hughes on 20 Oct 1791 in St Anne Soho, Westminster, London, England.   They were married by Licence and Sophia’s sister Ann and father/brother William were witnesses.  There is no sign of his family.  At the time of their marriage, John was living in the parish of St Anne Soho and Sophia was living in Clapham.

Sophia was the daughter of William Hughes (c1737 – 1825) of Froxfield, Wiltshire and Anne Jenkins (1740 – 1798) of London.  She was born on 19 Jan 1771 in the parish of St Nicholas Acons, London.  William was a successful property speculator and landlord.

John and Sophia had the following children:

  1. WILLIAM HUGHES HEWITT HUGHES (MP)was born on 02 Sep 1792 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London. He died on 10 Oct 1874 in Ilkley Wells House, Yorkshire, England.  He married MARIA FIELD on 23 Aug 1813 in St Saviour, Southwark, London, daughter of Richard Valentine Field and Sarah Ellerton.
  2. FREDERICK HEWITT was born on 19 Aug 1793 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London. He died on 13 Sep 1883 in Wandsworth, Surrey. He married ELIZABETH TURNER (c 1800 – 1874) on 22 Mar 1821 in Holy Trinity Church, Clapham, Surrey.
  3. SOPHIA ANNE HUGHES HEWITT was born on 24 Aug 1795 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London.  She died in 1873.  She married HENRY FIELD (1793 – 1838) on 11 Aug 1824 in Holy Trinity Church, Clapham, Surrey, son of Richard Valentine Field and Sarah Ellerton (and brother to her brother’s wife).
  4. AUGUSTUS HEWITT was born on 08 Sep 1797 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London, England.  He died about Dec 1885 in Bath, England.  He married (1) CHARLOTTE KEY (1808 – ?) on 03 Sep 1830 in St Matthew-Brixton, Surrey, England, daughter of John Key and Charlotte Green.  He married (2) HARRIET ELIZABETH WHATTON (1826 – 1901) about Jun 1876 in Marylebone, Middlesex, England, daughter of William Robert Whatton and Harriet Sophia Seddon.
  5. CAROLINE HEWITT was born on 09 Nov 1801 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London.  She married NATHANIAL DANDO (1789 – 1867) on 28 Nov 1822 in Holy Trinity Church, Clapham, Surrey.
  6. THOMAS HEWITT was born on 17 Jan 1804 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London.  He died in 1884. He married PHILADELPHIA EDWARDS (c.1816 – 1892).
  7. CONSTANTIA HEWITT was born on 09 Sep 1805 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London.  She died between Jan-Mar 1891 in Brighton.
  8. SABINA HEWITT was born on 09 Aug 1808 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London.  She died between Jan-Mar 1896 in Barton Regis, Gloucestershire, England.
  9. EMMA HEWITT was born on 21 Apr 1810 in Holy Trinity, Clapham, Surrey.  She died after 1891. She married JAMES WEBBER (c.1801 – bef 1891) on 11 Dec 1830 in Holy Trinity Church, Clapham, Surrey.

John was buried on 12 December 1820 at the Holy Trinity Church in Clapham.  His age is listed as 73 (born around 1747), so there was only 24 years difference between him and his wife!  But I have no idea exactly when or where he was born.

Sophia Anne was buried on 2 June 1821, also at the Holy Trinity Church in Clapham.

The Myths

The best summation of what’s known about John Hewitt comes in a letter between some of my Field cousins in 1897:

Henry Claylands Field to William Hughes Field, 28th Feb 1897

Ann (my Grandmother) became the wife of a wealthy stockbroker and money lender, in either Greek St. or Frith St.., Soho Square London. I am uncertain now as to the name of the street, but it lead out of Soho Square, towards Seven Dials, on the east of Crosse and Blackwell’s pickling and preserving works, and the house was a ______ one, on the right hand side after passing the first cross street. I could point it out now if it still exists, and I was on the spot, as it was my mother’s birthplace. I do not recollect the money lenders name, if indeed I ever knew it, but fancy it may have been Isaacs, as a Mr Harrison Isaacs who had a large booksellers and stationers shop, in another street leading out of Soho Square, was somehow connected with us. He was burnt out, when I was about ten years old, through the preparation which he was melting to make tracing paper boiling over and setting fire to the premises. My Grandmother had no family by the money-lender, who soon died leaving her all his property; and then she married John Hewitt, a son or grandson of the Earl of Lifford who was also Dean of Cloyne. He was an officer in the army, I think the Guards; but retired on his marriage, which was probably considered a mere alliance by his people, and he carried on the money lending business for many years, living first in the old house, where my mother and the elder members of the family were born, and afterwards at Clapham, in Surrey, about 5 miles south of London. It was he and not Wm Hughes Hughes who built __ many houses at Clapham and in my early days they all belonged to my mother’s brothers.

Henry Claylands Field was born after his grandparents died, so he never heard their stories firsthand.  He was in his early 70s when he wrote this letter.

Sophia’s first marriage

Have yet to find anything about this.  Harrison Isaacs is quite well documented, but I haven’t found any marriages that might link them.  She was only 20 when she married John, so any first marriage must have been very young and very brief.  Her marriage to John doesn’t give her marital status, but it does list her as Sophia Hughes implying she wasn’t a widow.

Son/Grandson of Viscount Lifford

While their surname is Hewitt, their tree is quite well documented.  The first Viscount Lifford James Hewitt was born in 1712 and didn’t marry until 1749. He did have a son called John who was Dean of Cloyne and born in 1756, but this John married someone else and died in 1804.

Unless our John was an undocumented “wrong side of the blanket”, it’s impossible that he was a son or grandson.  He possibly could have been the son or grandson of one of James’ uncles or brothers, but I have yet to find one documented that fits the details we have.  And there are no James Hewitt’s in our branch – you’d think it might be a name that turns up?

My research into the Viscount Lifford connection is found on Myths & Legends: Viscounts Lifford.

Officer in the Army/Guards

Not sure which Guards – anyone out there who can enlighten me?  Still looking for that one in the National Archives Online.  Have downloaded the Army Officer Lists for a number of years, but have yet to find a John Hewitt.  Found a Christopher Hewitt who was Provost Marshall of Havana – that would be an interesting ancestor to have!

Money Lender, Soho

This one appears to be true.  The first record I found was in the Fire Insurance Policy Register for 1786.  There is a John Hewitt, Pawnbroker in Greek Street, which is one of the streets Henry was trying to remember in his letter.  Greek Street is also in the parish of St Anne Soho where John was living when he married.  There are records on London Lives which indicate John Hewitt, the pawnbroker, was paying rates in Greek Street during at least the period 1786-1802. There is also an 1786 fire insurance policy for another John Hewitt in Denmark Street – I believe them to be the same person.

An 1822 declaration by John’s second son Frederick regarding the assets (or lack thereof) of his estate confirms that this John Hewitt is our John Hewitt:

“John Hewitt formerly of Greek Street in the parish of St Ann Westminster in the County of Middlesex but late of Clapham in the County of Surry”.

Given that John and Sophia married in 1891, it seems unlikely that he took over the business on his marriage to her.

There is an interesting article on Pawnbroker signs and some of the history of pawnbrokers in London in the 1902 Volume of the The Archaeological Journal produced by the Royal Archaeological Institute.  John doesn’t rate a mention but there is reference to pawnbrokers advertising in newspapers – so somewhere new to look!

The Houses

I think there were ultimately quite a few houses built in Clapham by the Hewitt family.  John’s second son Frederick (one of Henry’s uncles) had 9 when he died, leaving two to each of his four sons and a third to his eldest.  Unfortunately, none of them made it down to me.

The value of his estate implies that he owned none of them when he died.  However, if he was a savvy businessman he may have “sold” them to his sons to reduce the amount of death duties he would have to pay.  Another area to research!

My Theories

I have a couple of theories on this story:

  • John Hewitt was a lying toerag of an Irishman (the Viscount Liffords being an Irish title) who lied about his connections and service record to impress his potential in-laws.  After all, if his birth date is correct, he was significantly older than his wife.  Proving it will be difficult because I currently have no records as to where or when specifically he was born.
  • And/or, there is some confusion over who married who.  Perhaps John was married to a Miss Isaacs, not Sophia – he was certainly old enough to have had another wife.  Research into this will continue.

The declaration made by John’s son Frederick in 1822 regarding the value of his father’s estate does nothing to improve my image of John.  Frederick states that value of his father’s assets is not the “under £800” declared under the administration of his estate but rather around £20.  It turns out that the “Household Goods Furniture Plate Linen and China” that comprised the nearly £800 were actually the property of the landlord and not John’s.  His only assets were his clothes “which on account of his having for a considerable length of time previous to his decease been confined by severe illness to his Chamber and principally to his Bed were much under the value of twenty pounds”.  Frederick then noted that he had applied for and received a refund of death duties paid.

It does make you think that his wife had all the money.  However, back then, women couldn’t really own anything and Sophia predeceased her father so had no inheritance.  So what were they living on?  And what sort of man was he?

A Late Victorian Wedding

This post is a newspaper report of my gg-aunt Elsie Maud Hewitt to Rev. John Carpenter Turner on September 13, 1892, which was sent to me by a family member.  I’m posting it for a few reasons:

– it’s an easy copy and paste!

– my grandfather was a pageboy, aged 4, and it sounds really cute

– it’s a splendid insight into an upper-middle class Victorian wedding including clothes and gifts (see here for an Edwardian Wedding in New Zealand)

– there’s a perception that Tabloid newspapers are a relatively modern phenomenon when they aren’t

I’ve added notes in italics of who people were, relative to the bride.  If you know any of the others, please let me know.  I’ve also added some paragraphs for easier reading!

Isle of Wight Observer (Ryde, England), Saturday, September 24, 1892; pg. 5; Issue 2091

MARRIAGE OF THE REV. J. CARPENTER TURNER AND MISS. HEWITT AT SURBITON .

On Tuesday, Christ Church, Surbiton-hill, was crowded to witness the marriage of Elsie Maud Hewitt, eldest daughter of the late Mr Walter A. Hewitt of Surbiton, with the Rev John Carpenter Turner, of Ryde. The Rev C.H. M. Spurrier accompanied the bridegroom as best man. The ceremony was performed by the Rev Canon Singleton, vicar of Melbourne, Derby, cousin of the bridegroom, assisted by Rev Augustus Field, cousin of the bride.

Shortly after 2 o’clock the bride appeared accompanied by her eldest brother, Mr Charles A. Hewitt. She looked charming in a gown of rich ivory satin trimmed with Brussels lace, and was attended by her two little nephews, Master Eustace Hewitt and Master Hubert Hewitt as pages. The bridesmaids were three in number, Miss Beatrice Hewitt, Miss Kathleen Hewitt, sisters of the bride and Miss Bessie Turner, sister of the bridegroom. They wore very pretty dresses of French grey crépon, trimmed with biscuit lace, black hats trimmed with grey tips and velvet to match, and wore gold brooches, the gift of the bridegroom.

The service was choral, and on the bride reaching the steps Bickersteth’s lovely hymn, “Rest in the Lord,” was sung. Before the exhortation “O perfect love” was sung, and at the end of the service “Now thank we all our God.”

Among the relations and guests at the wedding and subsequent reception at  “Aderholt” were: Miss Ada Hewitt (poss Constance Ada – sister), Mr W.E. Hewitt (Walter Ernest – brother), Mr R.K Hewitt (Reginald Key – brother), Mr and Mrs W. Carpenter Turner (new in-laws), Miss Turner, Miss C. Turner, Miss F. Turner, Miss M. Turner, Miss Hewitt (Clapham), Mr and Mrs A.S. Hewitt (poss Albert Spencer – uncle), Mr and Mrs T.H Hewitt (Thomas Hughes – brother), Mr Lifford Hewitt (Arthur Lifford – 1st cousin), Mr and Mrs Gros, Miss Gros, Miss E. Gros (brother Walter Ernest married Rosalie Louise Gros in 1892 so family friends/the next in-laws), Mrs Singleton, Miss Case, Mr H. Case, Miss Field (poss second cousin Maud), Miss M. Field (poss second cousin Mabel), Mr W Hughes Hughes (first cousin, once removed?), Mrs A.M. Walters, Mr and Mrs S. Wheeler, Mrs Corfield, Mr A. B. Corfield, Mrs Osborne Dawson, Mrs John Dawson, Miss Butler, Miss M. Butler, Mrs Strachan, Miss Maddock, Miss Unwin, Mr and Miss Walker, Rev W. H. Ranken, Miss Gilpin, Rev R Hosgood, Miss Clark, Mrs Thorpe, Mr Harold Beard, Mrs Curtiss, Mrs Carvell, Mrs Young, Mrs Hodgson, Miss Young, Mr E. Young, Miss Irene Hodgson, Mrs Wimble, Mr C. K. Reuss, Dr and Mrs Wray and Miss Bruce. The holiday season caused the absence of several relations and friends.

Great interest was taken in the wedding in the parish, as the bride had lived there all her life, and is well known and beloved. The bouquets and floral decorations were distributed between the Surbiton Cottage Hospital and the Great Ormand Street Hospital for Children.

The weather, which was a little doubtful in the morning, turned out lovely, and by the time the bride left the church the sun was shining brightly. The happy pair left soon after 4 o’clock amidst showers of rice and slippers ad libitum. The honeymoon will be spent at the English Lakes. The bride’s traveling dress was of soft grey cloth trimmed with black lace; grey jacket, black hat trimmed with feathers and velvet to match.

The presents, numbering nearly 200, were both beautiful and useful, and amongst them were a handsome old fashioned French drawing room clock, given by Mr Charles Hewitt: a pair of candlesticks by Mr and Mrs T. H. Hewitt; a picture, the two little nephews; a Dresden tea set, Mr Reginald Hewitt; and old fashioned Chippendale armchair, Miss Bee Hewitt; tea-pot, Miss Ada Hewitt; picture “Eventide,”  Mr W. E. Hewitt; silver mustard pot, Miss Kathleen Hewitt. The plate was given by the father and mother of the bridegroom, including a handsome spirit stand and a case of desert knives and forks. A very handsome wrought iron standard lamp was presented by Miss Turner; fish knives and forks by Misses C. F. B. and M. Turner; tea caddy by Miss Constance Turner. The teacher of the Christ Church Girl’s Sunday School presented the bride with a beautiful little traveling clock. The bridegroom was presented with a black marble dining room clock by the Guild of All Saints, Ryde; a beautiful inkstand by the choir of All Saints, and a biscuit box by the boys of his Bible class.

The bride and groom will reside at Ryde, where they have taken Anglesea Lodge.