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For my Nephews and Nieces in New Zealand and my dear little Roussel in England I am writing this paper to tell them all I know of the family from which they are descended.
In the autumn of 1919, soon after I had retired from active work [as Matron of The Lambeth Infirmary], my sister Mayna and I spent a holiday at Whitfield with our Aunt Emma [Davison]. During the time we were there she celebrated her eightieth birthday. Her memory carried her back so many years that she could remember her grandmother (your great-great-grandmother), Esther Copley, née Beuzeville, and she was delighted to tell us about her and relate all the family stories which she had heard from her and from her mother.
She showed us some great treasures. One was a copybook written by our Huguenot ancestor, Elizabeth Roussel, in 1721, and the other a book of French sermons written by Samuel Beuzeville, who was a French Protestant pastor in Bethnal Green. Both these books were in perfect preservation; only the paper very yellow, and the ink very brown with age. The little Elizabeth had written her copies very carefully in a legible hand. The first pages are simply copies of some moral or improving maxim. Towards the end of the book there are more ambitious paragraphs evidently copies from books. Here is one extract which amused us by its rather cynical truth:
When I had a servant I had one then: When two, I had but half a one; When I had three servants I had none at all. Thus was I served by one, two, three and all.
Mayna translated some of the sermons, which are simple little homilies setting forth the Calvinistic doctrines held by Protestants of that day.
As I have been familiar with family stories from my childhood and had spent my early years at Henley-on-Thames, where lived the two sisters who were to be your great-great-grandmothers, I, too, had little tales to tell. Mayna used to listen intently, with her beautiful eyes sparkling with interest, and one day when we had walked to the little village of Eythorne, where Mrs Copley is buried, she exclaimed: “Mary, you must write a little history of the family. When you and Aunt Emma have gone, there will be no one to remember those old tales.” We were sitting on a bench in the grave-yard and she got up, taking an envelope and pencil from her pocket, went to Mrs Copley’s grave, copied the inscription on the stone and handed it to me, saying: “There! That is the first note for your history.” This is the inscription:
In Memory of
BORN MAY 10TH 1786 DIED JULY 17TH 1851. ___________
A DESCENDANT OF PIOUS AND ENLIGHT- ENED ANCESTORS WHO FOUND REFUGE IN ENGLAND FROM THE PERSECUTIONS ATTENDANT ON THE REVOCATION OF THE EDICT OF NANTES IN THE YEAR 1685.
BEING ENDOWED WITH A TALENT, SHE FAITHFULLY USED IT TO THE HONOUR OF GOD AND THE GOOD OF HER FELLOW MEN ABLY ADVOCATING THE CLAIMS OF RELIGION AND PHILANTHROPY IN HER NUMEROUS WRITINGS WHICH MANIFEST SPECIAL CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF THE YOUNG AND THE POOR.
I think it is not only a just appreciation of Mrs. Copley, but also an indication of the character of our forebears, of which we should be proud and thankful. They had a sturdy independence and honesty of purpose, which led them to sacrifice much for liberty of conscience, and with it a strong humanitarian spirit.
I have made this history as accurate as I can, but many of the stories are traditional, and in telling them I have had to rely mainly on the memory of what I was told when I was a girl.
E. M. BYLES Beuzeville Horsham May 1926
A lady I once knew very well told me of an experience she once had. She and her brother were on a walking tour and arrived in Canterbury late one evening. For some reason they had a little difficulty in finding a suitable lodging, but finally lighted on an old-fashioned house where they were able to get two rooms. My friend was very tired and quickly fell asleep, but awoke in the night with a strange sense of oppression and with the sound of many footsteps passing the outer wall of her room, some seeming to pause close to her room and others passing onwards. Many feet, weary feet, helpless, stumbling feet, went to make that sound and to give that impression of tragic suffering.
In the morning my friend asked the landlady if there had been any disturbance in the night, as she had heard so many people passing close by. The landlady looked very queer (she afterwards acknowledged that some other people sleeping in that room had heard the same sound), but said that nothing unusual had happened. My friend and her brother investigated the outside of the house, which abutted on to a passage, at the end of which was a staircase leading to a loft, and found that there was the mark on the outer wall of the bedroom where a doorway had been bricked in. They also found out that a party of Huguenots had arrived in Canterbury late one night and had found sanctuary, some in the loft to which the staircase led, and others in the very room in which my friend had slept.
Now I have no belief in ghosts, but I am sure that human beings make some lasting impression on the places they inhabit, and especially places where some great drama of their lives has been enacted, or some strong emotion experienced, and I can quite understand that such a collective, poignant agony as that of the band of refugees could leave a ‘something’ able to impress itself, even after the passage of centuries, on a sympathetic mind, ready like a sensitive plate to receive it. I suppose some ancestral cells awoke in me when I heard that story, for it has always haunted me and given a slight, instinctive knowledge of what some of these refugees must have suffered.
The Roussels were Protestants as early as the sixteenth century, and one of them (as a colleague of the great Reformer Farel) was a tutor to Marguerite d’Angoulême, the young Queen of Navarre. (See Appendix 1)
Until Henry IV of France issued the Edict of Nantes in 1598 the Protestants in France were subject to terrible persecution. That Edict gave them civil and religious rights and for years they enjoyed peace; and France had no more loyal and useful citizens than were those of the reformed faith. In October 1685 this Edict was revoked by Louis XIV. He was a Catholic; he was an old man; he was in fear for his soul, as well he might be.
The effect of this act of Louis’ was to drive thousands of his most sober, industrious and law-abiding subjects out of France, to the impoverishment of that country and the enrichment of the countries of their adoption – chiefly England, Germany and Switzerland. The persecution endured by these poor souls was terrible. Many left their homes and hid in the forests, living for a time on nuts and berries, some eventually dying of exposure and starvation. No physician would attend a Huguenot.1 Their houses were burnt, their goods looted, their women ravished and many brutally murdered. Those who were able escaped, with great difficulty and with terrible consequences if they were detected.
Laurens Roussel, who heads the genealogy and who was the son of a Peter Roussel, was born in 1599, just after the Edict was signed, at a time when Protestants could look forward thankfully to a time of peace and prosperity. His birthplace was Ponteaudemer, a little town on the river between Rouen and Caen.
He became a surgeon, married in 1627, and in the following year a son was born to him, who was named Laurens after his father. This Laurens also qualified in medicine, was married in 1665 and had five children:
1. Marie 1666
2. Isaac 1668
3. Laurens 1670
4. Etienne (Stephen) 1676
5. Francis 1680
So you see Francis was only five years old when the terrible persecution began.
We are told in the archives of the Roussels that:
Aug. 1st. 1691, died Laurens Roussel father of the above children aged 62 years and 9 months after a long and lingering sickness of two or three years, and he was interred the day following in his own garden in the suburbs (of Ponteaudemer) just by the Church of St. Germains – incognito – God preserve from sickness them that are living here above.
N.B. Laurens just named was several years imprisoned on account of religion, and died not actually in prison, but under restraint, which prevented his joining his family who had come over to England, who had come over in the manner following:
Isaac and Laurens were brought over in the beginning of the troubles by their cousin Montres. Marie brought her two brothers, Stephen and Francis, concealed in panniers on a donkey, to Calais, where they met their mother and embarked for England.
The story I used to hear of that journey of Marie’s was very thrilling and was, I think, culled from a story in one of Mrs Copley’s books, Historical Tales for Young Protestants. It is probably a quite correct version, as Mrs Copley would have the story direct from her father and mother, the former being the son, and the latter the niece, of Elizabeth Roussel, who was the daughter of Francis, the little boy who was the hero of the piece.
It was arranged for the family to travel to the coast in detachments. The two elder boys (as we have seen) were sent on before in the care of a cousin. Probably Madame Roussel lingered in France as long as she could, to be near her dying husband, or possibly till after his hurried funeral. I can imagine how at last he begged her to go for the sake of the children and finally overcame her reluctance. At last the plans were perfected. Marie, then in the early twenties, was disguised as a peasant girl, and her two little brothers were placed in the panniers, one on each side of the donkey. The little boys were implored, whatever happened, not to move or make a sound, or the cruel soldiers would surely kill them. Then they were covered with a thickly piled-up layer of fresh vegetables and before dawn Marie started off leading the donkey with its precious load. A trustworthy serving-man followed at a distance, ready to give aid if required, but until then pretending to have no connection with the market girl and her donkey.
The journey to Calais was safely accomplished, but had one terrifying incident. As Marie was entering a wood a party of soldiers who had been ‘Huguenot hunting’ rode out of it. Probably because Marie was an attractive girl, rather than because he really suspected her, the Captain drew up and began to question her as to where she was going and what she had in her baskets. She concealed her terror and said she was on her way to the market at the next town and had nothing in her baskets but vegetables, as he might see for himself. “We’ll soon prove that,” said the man and, unsheathing his sword, plunged it right down into the pannier where the tiny Francis was curled up, and then rode off laughing. Not a sound or a movement came from the pannier, and for a sickening moment Marie felt sure her little brother had been killed. As soon as the soldiers were out of sight Marie hastened into the shelter of the wood and tore the vegetables off the basket, to find Francis bleeding profusely from a wound on his arm. “I didn’t cry,” said the brave child. Had he been killed there would have been no Elizabeth Roussel, and we should have had a different family history.
Meanwhile Madame Roussel, carrying what valuables she could secrete, had arrived in another disguise in Calais, and at the appointed place mother and children met once more. A boat had been hired to take them across the Channel – an open boat – for which they paid thirty guineas. Imagine that crossing, not a few hours, but days, in an open boat, cold, wet, probably seasick, with a wounded child who would be feverish and fretful, with the agonising thought of what they had left behind and with the future all unknown in a strange land among strangers, of whose language, even, they were ignorant! They had one star to cheer them, the thought of meeting ‘Cousin Moise’ and the two elder boys.
The family was re-united in London, but another terrible trial awaited them. The old record which I have quoted before goes on to say:
Before Laurens had acquired the English language, when on his way to school, he was kidnapped and sent to America and remained there many years. On his return with difficulty found out his family.
I used to be told an entrancing story of this incident. It was that Isaac and Laurens used to go daily to a school in London to learn English. One day, as they were walking along together, they noticed a crowd and, stopping to see what was the matter, saw a pretty little girl standing on a doorstep and weeping sadly because her pet bird (a parrot) had escaped and would not return to its cage, but sat preening itself well out of her reach. The polite, French Isaac, catching sight of the bird, and his quick French wit connecting it with the little girl’s woe, succeeded in catching it and returning it to its owner. When he went back to join his brother Laurens, he had gone and was nowhere to be found and for years nothing was heard of him.
His family had quite given him up for lost, when one day he turned up again. He had been shipped to America and forced to work on a sugar plantation and to endure great hardships, apart from the misery of separation from his family. After despairing years had passed, a French gentleman and lady visited the plantation and somehow he managed to get speech with them and tell them his sad tale. With their aid he got back to London, but found much difficulty in tracing his relations. At last, to the joy of all, he did. And now comes a bit of romance which may not be true, and that is that he met and married the girl who had lost the parrot and who had thus, indirectly, been the cause of all his troubles. At any rate he did marry a Miss Bridget Crawford, who was the sister-in-law of Alderman Grugnon, a goldsmith and watchmaker, to whom his elder brother, Isaac, had been apprenticed.
Laurens had one child called Bridget, after her mother, and she married Isaac, the son of Francis, her first cousin. We do not know the name of Isaac’s wife, and there is no record that either Marie or Stephen married, or of the dates of their deaths.2
Francis, the hero of the panniers, married in 1696. His wife was a French refugee who had been born in Quillebœuf, and her name was Esther Heussé. This couple had a large family:
born: died: married:
1. Marie 1698 1755
2. Anne 1700 1711
3. Isaac 1702  [Bridget Roussel]
4. Magdalene 1705 
5. Etienne 1708 1708
6. Elizabeth 1709  Peter Beuzeville
7. Moyse [Moses] 1711 
8. Marie Anne 1715 [c.1795] Thomas Meredith
Marie Anne became the mother of the Mary Meredith who married Peter, the son of Elizabeth Roussel and Pierre Beuzeville. Thus we are doubly connected with Francis Roussel.
When the Roussels left France there was one great treasure which they brought with them and that was a miniature of the husband and father they had left behind. A copy of it (for I should hardly think the original would have been given to a younger daughter of the youngest son) came down through Elizabeth Roussel to her son Peter, and from him to his daughter Esther, and from Esther to her daughter Emma (my grandmother Sargent). Mrs Sargent’s eldest son [Daniel] died of a lingering illness and was kindly and freely visited by Dr Samuel Byles, who was then practising in London, and who several times took the journey into Kent to see the boy. Mrs Sargent was full of gratitude, and after her son’s death wanted to make some acknowledgement to her Cousin Samuel. The most precious thing she could think of for a gift was that miniature of Laurens Roussel. Before she sent it she had a photograph of it taken, and copies are in the hands of various members of the family. I have a little sepia copy of the photograph hanging in my room, which was done for me by my cousin Grace Beuzeville Foyster. At first sight it looks all wig and lace cravat. But under the large, curled wig is an interesting face, well arched eyebrows, eyes that were meant to be vivacious but look a little tired and strained, a mobile mouth and a nose that has had a habit of recurring in successive generations. Perhaps if Laurens could see my picture, he would not know it for himself! It is only the copy of a photograph, which was taken from what was probably only the copy of a miniature. At any rate he could not disown the wig and cravat – nor the nose.
Elizabeth Roussel was born March 1709, died 1758. The little Elizabeth of the copy-book married one Peter Beuzeville, who was a silk weaver in Spitalfields. Beyond the fact that the Beuzevilles were also French refugees I do not know anything of the family before this Peter. He had several brothers and one, Samuel, was a French Protestant Pastor.
When I was quite a little child, two old Misses Beuzeville came to stay in Henley and took me for a drive with them and were particularly kind and nice. Their home was in Essex (Braintree, I think). They were descendants of James Beuzeville, the brother of Peter; and I was told, or heard my elders discussing the fact, that when they were dead there would be no Beuzevilles left. They had a brother who emigrated to the colonies, but he had not been heard of for so many years that it seemed certain he must be dead. Strangely enough, our cousins, Cyril Byles and his wife, have come across a Mr Beuzeville in Sydney, Australia, and have formed a friendship with him and his family. He must be descended from that long lost brother of the old ladies. I saw a letter from Cyril Byles to his mother, in which he said that Mr Beuzeville is an enthusiastic genealogist and has worked hard to trace the descent of the Beuzevilles. He has discovered that they came from a place in France called Beuzeville, and that they were of good family and entitled to use the ‘de’. (See Appendix 2)
A story is told of the Peter Beuzeville who married our Elizabeth, which I will relate here. He was once sitting late over his accounts when he heard an eerie, gurgling sound, just outside the window, which startled him considerably. Hearing it again he summoned up his courage and went to investigate. He found a poor little boy hanging by a rope from the branch of a tree, quite black in the face and nearly suffocated, and at the foot of the tree other little boys trying to release him from the branch which had swung up beyond their reach. Peter soon cut him down and he recovered. These little boys were accustomed to watch public executions and to find in them the most exciting drama which came their way, and were playing at a hanging in a realistic and nearly fatal way.
These Beuzevilles had a faculty for rescuing life. Once, years afterwards, Peter’s son Peter (your great-great-great-grandfather) was walking in London and, when passing the Church of St Benet, heard a little cry and saw a little bundle lying on the church steps. He found that the cry proceeded from a deserted baby, and picked it up and carried it to the Foundling Hospital. The child was named Peter, after its rescuer, and Benetfink, after the church by which he was found. That child grew up to be the founder of the house of Benetfink, the clock-makers. There is still a shop under that name in Cheapside. It is fascinating to speculate whether Peter watched the growth and career of his protégé and whether, perchance, he learnt his trade from the watchmaking Roussel.
As far as I know there is no portrait of any of the old Beuzevilles, except a water-colour sketch of Samuel, which is in the possession of one of my aunts. I have a copy of this. It represents a man with strong features and grave, yet humorous eyes. He is depicted in his black Geneva gown and white bands, and wears a Johnsonian wig. I think his brother must have been much like him, as that face has been reproduced in later generations. Our cousin, Dr John Beuzeville Byles, greatly resembles him. Once a lady who knew our cousin Jack came to see me and at once noticed that picture, and exclaimed: “Miss Byles! Who is that old gentleman? Dr Byles is just like him.”
I hope Elizabeth was happy with her Peter. I think he was able to give her the comforts of life and at any rate one servant, so that she had time to keep up her accomplishments. She painted well. Grandmamma Sargent had some exquisite little water-colours done by her. They are now in the possession of my uncle, the Rev S G H Sargent. I have in my possession a fan which belonged to her. Practically nothing but the sticks are left, but they are beautifully carved in a design which appears to be Chinese. I dream that it had been a present from her lover and that he, being in the silk trade, had dealings with eastern merchants and thus procured it for his bride.
Elizabeth was only forty-nine when she died, and her husband made a second marriage. She had two sons, Peter, our ancestor, and Moses, who died as a youth.
Peter received his religious instruction from his Uncle Samuel, who gave him the following certificate:
I certify to have instructed Pierre Beuzeville who has studied assiduously, and has made considerable progress in the knowledge and truth of our Holy Religion.
I certify also that he has publicly received the Communion of the Church on the fourth of this month. So we exhort the same to persevere in faith and piety. I recommend him with good heart to the Grace of God and to the good offices of all our brothers in Jesus Christ.
SAMUEL BEUZEVILLE Minister of the Church of St John, [St Jean, Spitalfields] London. 16 May 1760.
Peter followed his father’s occupation as a silk weaver. He learnt his trade with his uncles in the family manufactory, and then set up his looms at Twyford, near Henley. He was guilty of the reprehensible family habit of marrying his cousin. He took for his wife Mary Meredith (b.1744), the daughter of his mother’s sister, Marie Anne, who had married a Mr Meredith. They were married by Samuel Beuzeville at St Martin’s-in-the-Fields on January 16, 1768.
I have just been reading a book of Mrs Copley’s called Tales of my Mother and there is one most charming and true story which gives a character sketch of Peter Beuzeville and Mary Meredith as young people. Peter loved Mary when she was quite a little girl and waited twelve years to make her his wife. These two often met at the house of an aunt in London. Mary apparently paid very long visits, as she was sent to school to a French lady who had a little school in the neighbourhood. She was a warm-hearted child and noticed with sorrow that her governess was looking ill and tired and worried, and she persuaded her aunt to go and see her, with the result that the old French lady (who turned out to be of very noble family) told Mrs Roussel the story of the terrible persecutions she and her family had endured in France, of their hairbreadth escape to England and of their present poverty and distress. Peter was waiting with his cousin to hear the result of the visit. I will quote Mrs Copley’s words. They are worth quoting, for I think Peter had a counterpart in Mr William Byles of Bradford, and acted just as he would have done. He took careful notes about the sad case of the Countess and her family, and then left his aunt and cousin, telling them they should hear from him in three days.
Extract from ‘Tales of my Mother’ by Mrs Copley:
Pierre waited not for thanks, but hastened to the prosecution of his benevolent scheme. Young as he was, Peter’s talents for business had already disclosed themselves. He was placed with an uncle, the head of one of the largest silk-manufactories in Spitalfields, and by his thoughtfulness, promptitude and punctuality, had rendered himself so valuable that he was already trusted with bookkeeping, and conducting the correspondence of the establishment as a confidential clerk.
Not only did the mercantile concerns of the establishment pass under his inspection, but also the accounts of a number of benevolent societies, chiefly those for the assistance of French refugees and their descendants, of which his uncle was treasurer. To Pierre was assigned the duty of keeping these accounts, of corresponding with other gentlemen of the committee, and of receiving and registering petitions for assistance. A meeting was to be held in three days for the distribution of a Royal Fund.
The day on which this happened was a holiday; not a public holiday, but one confined to the manufactory, and Pierre on his return found that his uncle had gone to spend the day in the country and was not expected to return to town till the following day.
It was the last day on which petitions could be admitted. Nothing discouraged, Pierre sat down and drew up three petitions, of the Count, the Countess and their maid, stating in simple and forcible language the circumstances of each. This done, the indefatigable youth trudged off to Walthamstow (his uncle’s country residence) and obtained his sanction and signature to the reception of the petition, as well as a donation of five guineas for the present relief of the parties.
He was urged to stay and sleep there; but no, he must hasten back as he had something to attend to early in the morning. Next morning when the warehouse was opened he was ready to take his seat at the desk; but he had already been round to several members of the committee and interested them in the cause. All promised their support to the zealous young petitioner; and most of them gave a private donation with reference also to other influential French gentlemen likely to favour the cause.
No sooner was the warehouse closed than he again went forth on his benevolent errand with a book in which he had inserted the particulars of the case and the subscriptions already received. So successful were his exertions, and such was the interest excited, that on the evening of the day on which the committee met he had the pleasure of communicating to his little cousin the amount of the contribution as exceeding 100 pounds, and that Monsieur and Madame and Marguerite were placed on the highest scale of pensions.
This incident was always remembered by Peter and Mary as one of the happiest in their lives.
Peter and Mary Beuzeville had fifteen children, only five living for more than a few days after birth:
1. Bridget (your great-great-grandmother Byles)
2. Marianne who never married and who died in middle age of cancer
3. Esther (your great-great-grandmother Hewlett)
5. Charlotte who died as young children
They lived at Henley-on-Thames in a house quite close to the white-washed Meeting House which they attended. The house was often pointed out to me when I was a child, and I then thought of it as a noble mansion. It really was a modest house enough, but it stood back from the road and was surrounded by a wall of mellow brick which enclosed a good garden with some fine trees. Alas! It was pulled down years ago to make way for an ugly building – the general post office of the little town.
The old white-washed chapel has also gone and is replaced by a more pretentious red brick edifice which stands back further from the road. A part of the old graveyard has been taken to widen the road and noisy motorcars rush hooting above the dust of our forefathers. Their tombstones have been moved and are placed within the present enclosure.
Well I remember the first time I ever entered the old chapel! I could not have been more than four years old, and my mother was taking me for a walk. As we passed the chapel the door was open and she took me in and showed me the pew where she sat, and told me that if I was a good girl I should go with her some day and stand on the seat while the hymns were being sung; and she put me on the seat then and there and held me in her arm. As I write today I can feel the mystery and thrill of that moment, standing aloft on a red cushioned seat, gazing on the empty pews, the high pulpit and the memorial tablets on the walls, and sniffing up the peculiar ‘odour of sanctity’ which churches and chapels which are shut up all the week always seem to acquire.
After that I fancy there was no peace in the house till I was taken to chapel with my parents on Sunday. Sunday after Sunday I stood on that seat with my mother’s arm round me and holding a book I could not read before my eyes, and when the minister prayed knelt on a hassock with my eyes towards the seat. As my elders always leant forwards with their faces on the bookshelf, I had a fine time picking out the dust from the buttons of the cushions and playing games of my own. During the sermon the tediousness was relieved by kind ‘Uncle Maynard’, who leant over from the pew in front of us and fed me with rose lozenges. I think he partook of some himself. The sermons must have been long in those days, for even my Grandmother Byles – most devout and placid of old ladies – required a stimulant to help her through and always came provided with ginger lozenges.
In that same old Meeting House, perhaps even in the same pew, Bridget and Esther Beuzeville used to sit on Sundays. Perhaps they stood up on the seat to sing hymns, and knelt on hassocks during the prayers, and played their own little games and dreamed their own little dreams. I do not think, however, that in those Spartan days there was any good Samaritan to solace them with rose lozenges during the sermon.
I do not suppose the Beuzevilles were rich, but they must have been people of substance and good taste. They must have given their children what for those days was a good education, and their home must have been supplied with good and tasteful furniture, silver and china. Their goods have been divided and re-divided among their ever-increasing descendants; but if in a family home a particularly nice bit of Sheraton or Chippendale is seen, or some old-fashioned silver or good china, it is pretty sure to have come from the Beuzevilles. I have two silver salt cellars (two of a set of four) which came from that home. They are so big that I use them for sugar basins. I have also a French book which belonged to Bridget when she was a girl.
Amongst the many papers of interest lent to me by my aunt, Mrs Foyster, is the probate of the will of Stephen Beuzeville, proved in 1776 at 20,000 pounds. This Stephen was a silk weaver and lived in a country house at Walthamstow. I think it must have been to his house and for his signature that Peter went, when he so tirelessly exerted himself for the poor French refugees. Stephen made his will only a few months before he died, in December 1775, and he was very insistent on detail. Among the relatives who came in for legacies was Peter Beuzeville, to whom he left 2,000 pounds. The London Hospital, the French Hospital, a French Charity School, and the French Church (l’église de St Jean), of which his brother Samuel was Pastor, were all remembered. His old gardener and other dependants had small legacies.
One clause reads as follows:
To my maid servant Mary Bayly I give and bequeath the sum of one thousand pounds sterling legacy. I will and order my executors hereafter named to pay to Mary Bayly my maid servant the sum of sixty-three pounds sterling above the sum of one thousand pounds as above willed it being a fair and just debt . . . having paid her no wages ever since she came to live with me.
I further give and bequeath to the same Mary Bayly my servant maid the furniture of her room . . . forbidding my executors, heirs or relations to pry into or challenge the right of the said Mary Bayly to whatever will be in her room at my decease. . .
I give all my wearing apparel without exception and all my Linnen (three or four of the best table-cloths excepted) to my poor relations or to any sober poor who may apply for some forbidding any part thereof to be sold or any wise made money of.
To his nephew James he left the furniture of his house at Walthamstow, “forbidding him to sell any article or to make money of any part of the said household furniture but what he will not deem fit for his use to be given to Poor Relatives or any other sober and honest poor who may apply for same”. His horses and post chaise and “all the furniture thereof” were to be sold and the produce added to capital. His nephew, James Beuzeville, his residuary legatee, came in for about 3,500 pounds and also some freehold houses.
Bridget Beuzeville (1770-1829) and John Curtis Byles (1773-1833) The Beuzeville sisters grew up somewhat unlike each other. From all I have heard about Bridget, I picture her as a dear little dumpling of a woman, very domesticated and with a merry laugh. She had a habit of curling herself up in bed like a dormouse, and slept with her knees nearly touching her chin. There was one occasion on which her knees were tucked up to her chin without her own volition.
It was long after both she and her sister were married and her niece, Emma, Esther’s daughter, was staying with her at Henley. The whole family was going out on some jaunt and waited, all ready, for the mistress of the house to join them. She was so long in coming that they grew impatient and one of them went to look for her. She was found in her bedroom imprisoned in a chair, the seat of which had tipped up and let her down to the ground doubled up in a most undignified attitude. She was powerless to move and so shaken with laugher that she was also powerless to call for help.
One of her domestic tragedies is also recorded. She had an infallible recipe for bottling fruit, the crowning triumph of which was to bury the bottles underground to prevent the air reaching it. One summer a noble supply of bottled fruit was solemnly interred in the garden; but when winter came and the fruit was needed for use, Bridget had forgotten the place of sepulture! It was never found. Probably someone who knew of the caché had stolen it, or possibly some later tenants of the old house found a strange treasure trove in the garden. I can picture the little housewife’s dismay at the loss of the dainty prepared for her husband’s delectation. I think he was a bit of an epicure, as many of the Byleses are.
But I have not yet introduced you to him. Living in Henley and attending the same Meeting House as the Beuzevilles was a Mr John Byles, a silk mercer by trade. His native place was Ipswich and he was one of a very large family. He had married a Miss Margaret Hodge, the daughter of a sea captain of Scotch descent, and by this time had a large family of his own. His eldest son, John Curtis Byles, paid his addresses to Bridget Beuzeville and married her on October 25, 1796.6 She was twenty-six when she married, a great age for a bride in those days, and moreover three years older than her husband; so I am sure his choice was deliberate and judicious and the courtship most sedate and decorous. His business was that of warehouseman. At that time transport was almost entirely done by way of the river, and he had a wharf where barges could moor to discharge their freight and a warehouse where it could be stowed. So we have a nice little merry-go-round of businessmen: the weaver who manufactured goods, the mercer who sold them and the warehouseman who arranged for transport and storage.
Of the descent of the Byleses before the couple who produced such a large and thriving family at Ipswich I know nothing, but at any rate they had brains and industry. They produced a Judge of repute, whose name is still seen on a ponderous tome entitled Byles on Bills [Sir John Barnard Byles 1801-1884], a civil engineer, and a lady who was considered attractive by the poet Coventry Patmore and who became his second wife [Marianne Caroline Byles 1822-1880].
John Curtis and Bridget lived in a pleasant house (when I was a child it was still called ‘The Wharf House’) near the river, and there a large family was born to them.
Born: 1. Samuel Jan. 1, 1799 the doctor to whom the Roussel miniature was presented
2. Ann Margaret Dec. 31, 1799 died as a baby
3. John Beuzeville Dec. 1801 My grandfather, and your great-grandfather
4. Marianne 1803 died 1810
5. Margaret 1804 died Dec. 1877
6. James Hodge 1806 became a Pharmaceutical Chemist
7. William 1807 died 1891. The journalist and the founder of the ‘Bradford Observer’
8. Elizabeth 1809 died as a baby
9. Henry Beuzeville 1810 a bookseller. His only child, John, was the father of Cyril Beuzeville Byles who discovered the Beuzevilles in Sydney
10 Peter Beuzeville 1812 died 1814
So, out of Bridget’s ten children, only five sons and one daughter lived to grow up. Infant mortality was truly awful in those days, and Bridget had plenty of sorrows which might have quenched her love of laughter. She did not live to be an old woman, but died in 1829. In looking up the old records, it seems to me that in her generation the span of life was very short: if they lived to grow up at all, the average age to which people attained was about fifty.
I remember a silhouette hanging up in the parlour of my grandmother’s house in Henley, which I was told was of my great-grandfather, John Curtis. I remember neat features, neat hair tied with a neat bow, and a frilled shirt front. I fancy he was rather precise and a bit of a domestic tyrant. One of his little fads has come down to us. He liked his cup of tea, but it had to be very carefully prepared, and woe betide the sinner who put any milk in the cup! The cup must be passed to him together with the cream jug, into which he would just dip his spoon before stirring the tea. He may have been a little severe with his sons. At any rate I know of one severe whipping administered to the little Henry – perhaps not altogether undeserved.
Henry was playing in an upper room and, wishing to rid himself of some messy rubbish he had collected, he wrapped it in paper and threw it out of the window. A milkman happened to be passing, with two pails of milk slung on a yoke. Into one of the pails splashed the parcel, the paper gave way, and the rubbish mingled with the milk. The milkman looked up at the window, then promptly sought Henry’s father. Curtain!
This Henry was a freakish boy. When he was about four his father and mother arranged to drive to Oxford to visit the Hewletts. Henry asked to go with them, but his request was refused. However, he had made up his little mind that he would; so while the gig was standing at the door, he hurried out before his parents and, mounting, hid himself under the seat. After some miles had been covered his mother felt something moving under the seat and thought the family dog must be there. A search was made and a dirty, hot and dishevelled child was discovered! It was too late to take him back, so he had his wish and went to Oxford, only to find his cousins out and no one to play with. He was sent into the garden to play by himself. The garden sloped down to the river, and at the river’s edge was a boat. He completed his day of disaster by getting into the boat, falling out of it and, but for the timely arrival of the gardener would have been drowned. When a little older he once dressed up as a beggar boy, and acted the part with such spirit that his own father gave him sixpence without suspecting his identity. When older still he made a wager that he would walk down Cheapside in pattens and he won his wager! I fancy his family considered these pranks to be a sign of original sin. I have seen letters from his sister which read rather as if she regarded him in the light of a brand to be plucked from the burning.
The uncles were all good-looking and good. Uncle William, whom I had reason to know well, had a heart of gold. I think the family humanitarianism found a congenial home in his breast, and his unassuming generosity was such as I have never met with in anyone else: and with it all he held fast to the command: “Let not your left hand know what your right hand doeth”.
Great-aunt Margaret was the only sister among those five brothers and they adored her: indeed she grew up to be canonised as the family saint. She had had an abortive love affair in her youth (with a cousin, of course), but never married, and was at the beck and call of all who needed her help. She was a little woman, probably rather like her mother, and always dressed in very plain black clothes. I suppose the tradition of her saintliness rather scared me; for I never felt at ease in her company, and only remember one really human incident in connection with her. She had taken me for a prim walk and we encountered an evil smell. Under her instructions I turned my face towards the gutter and we stood solemnly side by side, spitting for all we were worth – and just outside the Rectory too! Great-aunt Margaret must have realised how greatly the family admired her, for her Will begins with the clause that “it was her misfortune always to be thought of as much better than she deserved”.
Esther Beuzeville (1786-1851) and the Hewletts
Esther was endowed with a strong character and unusual intellectual gifts. She was passionately devoted to babies, loved to attend to the sick and bestow her patronage on the poor. It is said that, when she was a girl of seventeen, she went to visit a protégée of hers and found her in labour, and alone, as her husband had gone to fetch the doctor. When the doctor arrived, he found the woman comfortably settled in a clean bed, and the young lady calmly sitting on a stool by the fire, washing the baby. If this story is not apocryphal, the ladies of her acquaintance must indeed have considered her an ‘indelicate female’. This devotion to babies and to attending on sick people lasted throughout her life; indeed her death was occasioned by a chill contracted through leaving her warm bed and going out into the cold, night air at the call of a sick woman. Though always at the service of the poor and ready to perform the most disagreeable services for them, she was always the grande dame and would not permit the slightest familiarity and indeed exacted from them a most respectful attitude.
Love and marriage came to Esther in a somewhat less hum-drum way than to Bridget. A first cousin of the sisters (a grand-daughter of Mary Anne Meredith) had married a Mr William Hewlett of Oxford and Esther used to stay with her. There she met a younger brother of Mr Hewlett, a clergyman, James Philip Hewlett. (See Appendix 3) He fell in love with the clever, strong-minded Esther. She, too, was attracted to the young clergyman with the beautiful voice (he had been a chorister at New College Chapel) and the cultured Oxford manner. Did her father and mother approve the match? We do not know; but we may be pretty sure that if Esther had made up her mind it was no use to object. Yes! She would marry him; but give up her nonconformity and worship at the Established Church? No! No! Never! He did not know his Esther if he could think it possible.
They were married in 1809 and in course of time Mr Hewlett was appointed Chaplain of Magdalen and New Colleges and curate of St Aldate’s, Oxford. The young couple settled in Oxford, and we can imagine how Esther revelled in the intellectual society of the university town and still more in the little babies that came to her.
In spite of the church influences of her surroundings, she was staunch to her Puritan upbringing; and on Sundays when she set forth with her husband she parted with him at the door of the church where he officiated and walked on alone to the little chapel which she had chosen to attend. Thus she publicly demonstrated her principles and (may it be said) her love of her own way. Her attitude must have been somewhat of a stumbling-block to her husband in his profession and, had he lived, there might have grown up a bitterness between them, especially in the training of the children. But he died quite young, leaving Esther with five children and a negligible income.
There is one interesting revival of Great-grandfather Hewlett that I must relate. Some years ago – twenty, perhaps – the choir stalls in New College Chapel were being cleaned and renovated, and one of the workmen found closely wedged into the wing of a carved angel a wad of paper, very dusty and yellow with age. Fortunately he had the curiosity to unfold it, and saw that it was signed “James Philip Hewlett”. The result was that it was sent to the Rev. Howe Hewlett, a grandson of the writer. He had it photographed. In the photograph, of course, one sees not only the boy’s handwriting, but the creases where the paper had been folded, which were quite worn and ragged. I can only give the words:
Choristers of New College April 26, 1796 When this you find Recall me in your mind James Philip Hewlett, Subwardens Chorister. Hewlett) Walker Bailey ) Subwardens Chor Smith Slatter ) in the Rowl Holland Evins Shute King Deans Choris Turrell Haldon Burs Chor Cecile Maltby Liddle Yeates Copeland Yeates just gone out of Chapel making as if he was Ill, to go to Botleigh with Miss Watson …. All the Boys at Prayer’s this Evening. Mr Pricket Reads Prayers. Mr Lardner is now reading the Second Lesson. Mr Jenks read the First. Slatter sham’s a bad Eye because he did not know the English of the Theme and could not do it. Mr Slatter Master of the School. a whole Holiday yesterday being St Mark Only the Subwarden of the Seniors at Prayers.
So the idle scribbling of a little chorister one Tuesday evening came to his descendants more than a hundred years afterwards, and told them the names of the long dead clergyman who took the service and choristers who sang the chants in New College Chapel on April 26, 1796.
When her husband died we may be sure Esther did not sit down idly to bewail her misfortune. She began to wield her busy pen and produced a miscellaneous collection of books. I believe I am right in saying that she wrote a commentary on some of the books of the Bible. At any rate she poured forth religious and moral tales for young people (Arnold Bennett mentions one of these in his novel Hilda Lessways), historical tales (with a strong Protestant bias), books on domestic economy, the care of infants and even a manual on knitting. It seems to me that there was nothing this remarkable woman could not do. She was a brilliant conversationalist and could hold her own with the clever men who visited her house; she could write; she could cook; she could sew; she was such an adept at knitting that in these days when knitted garments are so fashionable she could have kept her daughters stylishly dressed by the work of her clever fingers. That she had a genius for nursing I have already said, and that she succeeded remarkably well in educating her children is shown by their subsequent careers.
Of course she brought them up strictly in the tenets of her faith; but, strangely enough, two of her sons reverted to their father’s creed and took orders in the Anglican Church.
1. The eldest, James Philip, held the living of Purton, Wiltshire. Two of his sons became clergymen. One of them was a missionary and died in Madagascar. Sarah Secunda was a medical missionary in India.
2. Ebenezer was faithful to his mother’s religious teaching.7
3. Emma married George Eliel Sargent and became our grandmother.
4. Theophilus Peter Norris took Anglican orders and migrated with his family to New Zealand. Before his ordination he had a school at Eythorne, Kent, where little boys of the family were sent to have an elementary education thrashed into them. From what I have heard, he certainly was not one to “spare the rod and spoil the child”. My father and some of his brothers and cousins were at that school. One of their school mates was the artist, Henry Stacey Marks, R.A. [1829-1898].
5. Esther, the youngest, married [Ebenezer] a brother of Grandfather Sargent, a handsome, clever and eccentric man, and had a large family. Sylvana, who married my father’s brother John, was one of them. Esther was a little woman with the strong Beuzeville features and a lovely complexion; she was said to resemble her Aunt Bridget.
I remember all of these with the exception of Theophilus, who must have left England before I was born.
A few words must be said about Esther’s second marriage to Mr Copley. He was the Pastor of the church she attended [New Road Baptist, Oxford], and was a very determined suitor. I have heard that she refused him several times, till at last he threatened to drown himself and rushed off towards the river, as if he intended to carry out his threat then and there. Of course Esther was frightened into relenting. She told her daughters afterwards that her chief object in marrying again was her yearning desire to hold another little baby of her own in her arms.
Mr Copley did not give her any babies; but he gave her a great deal of trouble. He developed a weakness for strong drink; and poor Esther had a hard time, bolstering up her little man and shielding him from the consequences of his indulgence. She wrote his sermons for him, roused him on Sunday mornings, and took him off, clean and tidy, to the chapel where he ministered. He left Oxford and became the pastor of the little chapel at Eythorne; and that is why there was an exodus of the family to that place. Eventually an amicable separation was arranged. Mr Copley received a ‘call’ to a church near his native place in the Midlands, and went there alone, leaving his wife in peace at Eythorne. They never lived together again.
I have two portraits of Esther. One is a photograph of a very bad oil painting, which was done soon after her first marriage. She wears a cap indeed, as befitted a married lady in those days, but it is a saucy cap adorned with bows and allows some little curls of hair to be seen. The waist of her dress is under her armpits, and her arms and neck are even more bare than those of the modern flapper. The other is a photograph taken not very long before she died in 1851, and shows a face full of intelligence and placid self-confidence, with eyes looking out bright and alert on the world. She wears a cap rather like a hood and a large, lace fichu [a small lace cape]. This fichu Aunt Emma kept among her treasures.
John Beuzeville Byles
John Beuzeville Byles, the second son of John Curtis Byles and Bridget Beuzeville, lived in Henley all his life and did not go far afield to find a wife. One of his father’s sisters had married Mr William Mattingley Soundy, a farmer at Culham, near Henley, and it was their daughter Martha (his first cousin) to whom he was married at Wargrave Church on July 31, 1827. I have never heard any particulars of that wedding. They were sensible folk, and I don’t suppose there was much show or any very fine dresses; but I have no doubt there was a big muster of the family and a substantial wedding breakfast.
I do know that if Martha Soundy did not go in for fine dresses, she had an enormous stock of house linen and underlinen of the very best, quite after the style of Mrs Tulliver and her sisters. How often have I slept between those soft, slippery, lavender-scented, linen sheets of hers! I believe I am right in saying that she wore night dresses which belonged to her wedding outfit to the day of her death more than sixty years later. At any rate those she wore were of the finest sheer linen, finer and better than the best surplice linen to be obtained nowadays, and always spotlessly white and lavender-scented. I associate cleanliness and purity with grandmamma; and as I think of her, I can see the little daintinesses of her toilet arrangements and the whiteness of her bedroom, and can smell the combined odours of lavender and Brown Windsor soap which pervaded it. She was not a woman of strong character, and I fancy she was always a little bullied – first by her husband and then by her daughters. She was not intellectual; but she was wise in domestic lore and one of the most beautiful needlewomen I have ever known. She had an innocent and gentle heart; little children instinctively loved and trusted her and ran to her to share their joys and sorrows. Her religious faith was unquestioning and sincere. Although she had been brought up in and subscribed to the dark Calvinistic creed of her day, I am perfectly certain her gentle heart never considered the remote possibility of anyone she had ever met or known perishing in Hell fire. “The heathen in their blindness”, and far from her ken, were another matter, and she was an ardent supporter of missionaries. I am certain I never saw her cross or angry, and never heard hasty or unkind word pass her lips. She survived her husband many years and died in 1888 at the age of eighty.
Beuzeville (he ‘answered’ to his second name) was of a very different calibre. He was not as good-looking as his brothers, but had rugged features and a very determined mouth. I believe he was very much master in his own house, and that his wife regarded him with trembling awe. By those who knew him well and realised his honesty of purpose and sterling goodness, he was loved and respected. By those with whom his determined will came in conflict he was cordially disliked; and I have heard that by his enemies in the little town he was nicknamed ‘Beelzebub Byles’.
To his business of brewer and maltster he added that of coal merchant, and his father’s barges brought supplies of coal down the river and discharged them at his father’s old wharf. When there was a scheme to bring the Great Western railway through Henley, he opposed it tooth and nail, and the promoters of the scheme thought that self-interest dictated his opposition. It may have done; but I am sure he honestly thought that a dirty, new-fangled railway would spoil the little town. So hard did he and others work that they prevented the railway coming through the town, and it became a terminus on a branch line.
I was his first grandchild, and the only one who can remember him, for he died in 1870 when I was about five years old. I can recall his face, which was always gentle when he looked at me, and I have several tender and vivid memories connected with him; one is of sitting on his knee and sipping from his glass of toast and water and at the same time being instructed as to which was my right hand and which my left. Another is of his coming to our house and sitting down wearily in a chair, and beginning to discuss something very earnestly with my father. I ran to him and, in the midst of his preoccupation, he smiled at me and stroked my hair, finally lifted me on to his knee and held me close till he went away. The last, and perhaps the most vivid, is of being taken to see him when he was dying. His breathing was much affected and he lay propped up with pillows; tied up to the foot of the bed was a crimson sash of netted silk which lay over the spotless white coverlid from his foot to his hand, that he might grasp it to raise himself up in bed. I was lifted up to kiss him: he laid his hand on my head and blessed me, afterwards saying: “Suffer the little children to come unto Me – do you know who said that?”
The first time I read Vanity Fair and came to the description of Amelia in her white dress trailing about the room with George’s military scarf “held against her bosom, from which the heavy net of crimson dropped like a large stain of blood”, the vision of the farewell visit to Grandpapa Byles leapt to my memory with extraordinary clarity; and it always returns when I re-read that passage. I wonder what has become of that sash! The last time I saw it was when ‘Aunt Pattie’ was dying and was putting it to the same use that her father had done. It was then that I was told that it had belonged to my great-uncle George Soundy, when he was an officer in the Yeomanry.
After their marriage, your great-grandparents, Beuzeville and Martha Byles, settled in an old house in Friday Street, next to the brewery, and there all their children were born and Beuzeville died. His widow remained there for some years, but moved in 1876, when the house was enlarged and my father brought his family to live in it.
It was a small house, and I cannot think how their big family ever fitted into it. There were two smallish sitting rooms, with two bedrooms over them, and, above these, two attics. There was a big and horrific cellar (often flooded in winter), which – when the door leading to it was open – emitted a weird smell of river damp and ancient casks. There was a long passage leading to a cavernous kitchen, which seemed miles away from the living rooms. Beyond the kitchen was a back door opening on to a long, brick-paved path bordered with sweet-smelling musk; and this led to the garden where the only sanitary arrangements were situated! Our forefathers were sturdier and less fastidious than we are!
When I first remember that garden it seemed an enormous place beset with lurking terrors. One of my aunts had a tame jackdaw, which lived in the garden and had an unpleasant habit of pecking visitors’ shoes. The shining, patent leather, strap shoes of little girls were especially attractive to it. The same aunt (Aunt Dibbie) had another pet, a huge sandy cat, which used to leap out from unexpected corners and seemed to me a dangerous wild beast. The only uncle then living at home (Uncle Edward) kept a pig in one corner, and used to lift me up to admire the great, black grunter. At any rate that was confined in a sty; and however evil its design, it could not get at a defenceless little girl. There were no houses then where ‘River Terrace’ now stands, and no great hotel at the back of the garden. When they were built, the pig had to go.
Pleasanter memories of the garden are of dear Grandmamma stooping over the flowers she loved, or picking fruit from the wall trees which flourished on the warm, brick wall of the malt house which bounded one side of the garden. A confused and delightful memory comes to me as I write: a drowsy, summer Sunday evening; ripe fruit; scent of mignonette; buzzing of wasps and bees; sound of mellow church bells floating over the river; a tiny child clinging to the hand of a loved and all-powerful Papa, who could give her all the joys and protect her from all the terrors of ‘Grandmamma’s Garden’.
Ten children were born to your great-grandparents at that old house, and nine lived to grow up. The first (a little girl) died at birth, 1828. Then came: (born: died:)
2. Martha (Aunt Pattie) 1830 1877
3. Pierre Beuzeville (your grandfather) 1830-1881
4. John 1833 1916
5. Margaret (Aunt Meggie) 1835 1897
6. William Soundy 1837 date unknown
7. Nathaniel (Uncle Nat) 1839 1905
8. Edward 1841 1879
9. Elizabeth (Aunt Dibbie) 1844 1908
10. George Henry 1847
In appearance all this family ran to the red-haired, freckled type. I should imagine this an inheritance from the grandmother of both their parents – Margaret Hodge, the Scotchwoman.
Your grandfather, Pierre, was a fine, well set-up man, with good features, the most prominent being a replica of the Roussel nose. His hair was dark; but it certainly had a reddish tinge, although his cousin, Ruth Sargent (afterwards your grandmother) when on a visit to Henley in 1862, wrote to her great friend, Maria Hills: “I think Pierre is a very nice sort of fellow and his hair is not red, though his sisters say that is only because he oils it so much”.
John married his second cousin, Sylvana Sargent, and emigrated to New Zealand.
Poor William Soundy went to the ‘demnition bow-wows’. My Grandmother Sargent was always very fond of him and said he was a nervous, shrinking, timid, little boy; that it was fear which first made him disingenuous, and that the fact that his faults were not quite understood and were very severely corrected was ruination to his character. Anyhow, he was a source of trouble and finally faded from the knowledge of his family. He must have died many years ago, but where, when, or how, is unknown.
Nathaniel also married a second cousin. When I first knew him, he was distinctly good-looking, with very red hair and intensely blue eyes. He had a dashing and debonair manner, and was a great sportsman. In rowing, swimming and driving he was an adept. He would have made a good model for one of ‘Ouida’s’ guardsmen.
Edward married his first cousin, the daughter of James Hodge Byles and, after her death, my mother’s friend, Maria Hills. In that same old letter of June, 1862, my mother had written to her of Edward: “Edward is a very nice boy, only like all the rest of the family he thinks too much of himself”.
George Henry had the originality to marry someone who did not belong to the family circle.
None of the daughters married. Martha (Aunt Pattie) was nearly always away from home in some situation where she cared for other people’s houses and children most capably. Once she adventured to Tasmania! Aunts Meggie and Dibbie were so woven into the pattern of my life that I find it hard to write of them. With the help of a tiny, daily girl whom they trained for domestic service, they did all the work of my grandmother’s modest house, but always elegantly, without fuss or muddle, just as the modest, unpretentious home was always elegant, with its few pieces of really good furniture and its china and silver all kept so daintily clean and orderly. Aunt Dibbie was the cook, generally in charge of the commissariat department, and she loved to produce and enjoy good things. Dear, unselfish Aunt Meggie was the business man of the family and held the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer. She often had to restrain her sister’s prodigality, and there were sometimes sisterly tiffs on the subject.
Their means were very small, but they always found a way to help others. I should think there was not a poor person in the district that they did not know of and give help to in personal service, as well as in such gifts as their means would allow. Wonderful, ‘give away’ soups that were made of small oddments; little garments that were fashioned out of remnants of material; the kindly visits paid to homes where they were always welcome!
Emma Hewlett and the Sargents
Emma Hewlett (your great-grandmother Sargent) was a very clever and attractive girl. She had several suitors; among them her cousin, Henry Byles (he of the milkpail fame). I lately saw an old, old letter addressed to Henry Byles by his elder brother William, in which he was advised to try his luck once more “with his old flame, Emma Hewlett, as her match with Mr ……………. did not seem likely to come off”. Perhaps Henry had already transferred his affection, perhaps he knew his cause was hopeless; for he did not again propose, and she married George Eliel Sargent in 1837.
Mr Sargent had come to a business post in Oxford and had an introduction to the chapel which the Hewletts attended. He was a very handsome man, and there must have been a flutter among the young ladies of the congregation when he first made his appearance. He fell in love with Emma Hewlett and carried her off her feet, or caught her on the rebound, and they were married after a rather short acquaintance. The handsome bridegroom was attired in a mulberry coloured, swallow-tail coat and a long, satin waistcoat brocaded with pink rosebuds. History does not relate the pattern of his nether garments; but they must have been of the long, very tight cut, fastened over the boots with straps. The bride wore a dress of maize coloured silk with a small raised pattern, and a large coal-scuttle bonnet covered with white satin. There could have been no kissing in the vestry at that wedding. No one could have possibly got at the bride’s face under that bonnet. I have had it on my head, so I know!
The young couple lived in Oxford for the first few years of their married life, and two children (Daniel and Emma) were born there. Mr Sargent then gave up business, which he detested, to devote himself to literature, and they moved to Eythorne, where Mrs Copley was already settled.
Grandpapa Sargent was a Sussex man, born at Battle and educated at Rye and at Hunter’s Academy, Brunswick Square, London. Aunt Mary Foyster has a printed programme of a prize-giving and speech day at Hunter’s Academy on June 17, 1822. Grandpapa, then about twelve years of age, received two prizes; one, a copy of Hervey’s Meditations Among the Tombs ! – the other, a silver pen. He had to produce for exhibition specimens of his drawing and writing, and also to take part with other boys in reciting a Parliamentary debate which had taken place in 1817 on Mr Lyttelton’s Resolutions Concerning the Lotteries. He was one of a large family, all handsome, and all clever in different ways. One of his brothers was very musical; another drew and painted and also dabbled in astrology; another was a preacher; and yet another, [Ebenezer], a lawyer.
Grandpapa found that his talent was for writing, and he began to scribble and finally wrote industriously and prolifically. Most of his books were published by the Religious Tract Society and are therefore of a very definitely religious and moral character. The best known is The Story of a Pocket Bible which, I believe, is still in print. I am sure his books would not be read nowadays; but I remember when I was small I loved his stories for children, especially those called Little Peepy and Hush-a-Bye. Later on, I read with pleasure his Tales of Old England, Vivian and his Friends, which was a tale of the Great Plague of London, and An Old Sailor’s Story which dealt with smuggling on the Sussex coast, and many others. I do not, however, feel any desire to renew my acquaintance with them, as I am quite sure I should find them so dull that all my illusions would be destroyed.
Grandpapa was a deeply religious man, holding much the same Calvinistic views that are set forth in old Samuel Beuzeville’s sermons. I believe, whatever had been offered to him for purely secular and amusing books, he would have stuck to his propagandist writing. In his (spare) time he would hold services in the surrounding villages, and I can imagine his preaching was most impressive and terrifying. As a child I heard him hold forth on topics that he felt deeply about; and his eyes would flash, and his eyebrows jut out, and his words of reprobation were very strong and to the point. Although I didn’t understand what it was all about, I always felt a strong desire to escape to the safety of the kitchen.
In spite of his untiring industry, for many years he made but a scanty income by his pen; and his family increased out of proportion to his means. His wife had a hard struggle to manage her household, bring up her large family and keep them from disturbing her husband who, although kind and affectionate, was naturally irascible and made more so by the exigencies of his work and his financial worries. It was not for nothing that the blood of Roussels and Beuzevilles ran in her veins. She tackled her task with heroism; and she and her God alone knew how she managed to bear and rear her large family, keeping them happy and normal in spite of the meticulous care that had to be taken not to disturb Papa, feeding, clothing and educating them, and at the same time never losing her intellectual and cultural interests. Even as an old lady she kept in touch with modern political, religious and literary thought; and the men who came to the house loved to talk to her, and listened deferentially to her conversation. Had her life been one of ease and leisure and opportunity, she would have been brilliantly clever; perhaps it was the subconsciousness of missed opportunities that gave a flavour of rather bitter sarcasm to some of her utterances.
She saw her efforts for her family crowned with success. Seven of her fine children lived and grew up handsome, cultured men and women; her three daughters all married and her sons satisfactorily settled in life. Her two eldest children were born in Oxford, six at Eythorne, and the youngest, after the family removed to Whitfield, a village not far from Eythorne.
It was at Whitfield Church that my mother was married; and it was at Whitfield, when I was four years old, that I first woke to a knowledge of grandparents. Although I was so young, the remembrance of the visit I paid there is very vivid, and I can recall numerous incidents with great distinctness.
Soon after that time my grandfather was offered an editorial post at the Religious Tract Society, and the family removed to London, where I constantly visited them. He took a house at Dalston, then a pleasant suburb. The house stood back from the road, with a screen of chestnuts in front. The garden at the back had a gate which opened into a lane where wild roses grew, and a field where cows grazed. With the coming of the railroad that was soon altered, and the neighbourhood is now a dismal slum.
As a child my love for these grandparents was tempered with great awe. Grandmamma was very sweet and kind, but did not seem very approachable. Nevertheless, it was she who gave me and used the only pet name I ever had. I was known by the hideous name of ‘Emma Mary’ and she softened it to ‘Nemmie’. I do not think she was naturally very fond of children, and I expect the wear and tear she had experienced with her own family had exhausted her.
Grandpapa was god-like when he condescended to children, and had fascinating arts. He had a way of screwing a penny to his eye like a monocle, and letting it fall for small people to scramble for. He brought in penny toys from pavement vendors in the city, and made gifts of his empty fusee boxes – lovely boxes such as you do not see nowadays, with pictures of pretty ladies on a lid which was held by a piece of elastic so that it closed with a thrilling snap. Moreover, he smoked long, clay, churchwarden pipes, which could be used for blowing bubbles; and he always had such a large supply that one more or less broken was of no consequence. I well remember that on the occasion that Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, went to St Paul’s to give thanks for his recovery from typhoid, Grandpapa brought me one of the medals which were struck to commemorate the occasion. Though my admiration for the fascinating grandfather was very great, I always knew that Jove’s thunders lurked behind that god-like demeanor; and directly I saw a cloud gathering upon his brow, I was most anxious to make my escape from the ‘august’ Presence.
The kitchen was always a delightful refuge, and so was the ‘study’ at the top of the high, old-fashioned house. I can see that study now, with its book-lined walls and piles of dusty magazines and papers on floor and table; and I can smell its mingled odours of dust and old leather and much tobacco. I can recall the comfortable, old grandfather’s chair, on which I used to curl up and browse on very miscellaneous literature. That chair had come from the old Beuzeville home in Henley, and had been specially made to the order of Mrs Beuzeville before her daughter Esther (Mrs Copley) was born. I expect that, having had so many disappointments with her babies, she and her husband decided that this time she must have very extra care and comfort before this baby’s birth. In those days people did not ‘loll’, and easy chairs were not so common.
It was the uncles and aunts who made the visits to London such a joy, and their goodness and love was, and always has been, beyond words. Dear Aunt Emma, who loved her bed and hated to be disturbed early, was always ready to be pummelled out of her sleep to tell entrancing stories to the little niece who came to snuggle beside her directly she was awake. Aunt Mary was always at hand to understand her little wants, and undertake any and every service for her. The young uncles, Sidney and Fred, were not above playing with her. I well remember Uncle Sidney vaccinating a doll I had, his lancet being a carving fork, and his lymph a little red paint. Unfortunately the wound did not ‘heal’, and the doll was scarred till the day of her breakage.
As he grew old, Grandpapa became subject to bronchitis and asthma and died in 1883. After his death his eldest daughter wrote to her mother and, after commenting on his irritability, went on to say: “But what a good man he was, so honourable in every respect. Never once, as child or woman, have I found him out in the shadow of an untruth.”
Grandmamma’s stoical fortitude was maintained till her death in 1890. For years she had suffered tortures from a cancer in the breast, and she bore them heroically. Not even the husband who slept beside her, nor the daughters who came to her with their own troubles, knew of her disease until it was revealed by a sudden hemorrhage.
Both Grandpapa and Grandmamma are laid to rest in the graveyard at Eythorne, near Mrs Copley and the children that they had lost. Their children were: (born: married: died:)
1. Daniel George 1838 1853
2. Emma 1840 Thomas Davison 1926
3. Ruth (your grandmother) 1842 Pierre Beuzeville Byles 1881
4. George Hewlett 1844 Bessie Dodd 1914 (in Tasmania)
5. Edward George 1845 Emily Grose 
6. Mary Esther 1849 George Foyster
7. Sidney George 1851 died in infancy
8. Sidney George Hewlett 1852 Beatrice Templar 8
9. Frederick George 1855 Florence Crundall 1915
Pierre Beuzeville Byles and Ruth Sargent
At the time Ruth Sargent paid that visit to her Henley cousins she was not quite twenty; rather tall, slender, with brown hair and glorious eyes, an unassuming manner and a sweet voice and, moreover, so happy, so heartily enjoying the pleasures of her holiday – the water picnics, the drives and the excitement of the Henley Regatta. No wonder that, when she returned home, she carried a man’s heart with her. Pierre, who was just thirty, and who had not got red hair, had fallen in love with her; and very soon he paid a return visit to Whitfield to tell her so. She accepted him, and they were married at Whitfield Church on September 24, 1863. Over a modest crinoline the bride wore a greyish silk dress patterned with brown, and a long, white, Llama cloak which, I believe, was called a ‘burnous’. Her bonnet was what was known as a ‘cottage’ shape, and was of white straw trimmed with white ribbon, and with a little ‘cap’ of quilted net in which were some sprays of orange blossom. From the bonnet depended a white lace veil. That veil was placed over her face when she lay dead, by her life-long friend, Maria Hills – then Maria Byles – and was buried with her.
The honeymoon was spent in Wales, in a cottage lent by a cousin, Mr T.F.A.G. Byles. In the delirium of her last illness my mother fancied herself there again. After her death my father talked to me of that time, and told me how she had revelled in that glorious scenery, and how agile and untiring she had been, climbing mountains, jumping gaily over little streams, and never shrinking from the slippery stepping-stones which bridged the wider mountain torrents.
An old lady I knew in Henley once told me that the first time my mother went to chapel after her home-coming (dressed in her wedding clothes, minus her orange blossom) there was quite a little flutter in the congregation; and that when the gossips met outside to discuss the bride, the general verdict was that a prettier or more attractive one could not have been. To describe my dear mother I must use the words of Jean Ingelow (a writer she was fond of): “A sweeter woman ne’er drew breath”. She was made to be loved and protected and in her turn to love and protect all children who came near her. Like her Grandmother Copley, she absolutely adored little babies, but all children were dear to her: and I am sure not only her own children, but all the nephews and nieces who knew her, will remember the mothering way in which she gathered them under her wing and made them feel they were precious in her sight. Twice I remember seeing her weep bitterly. Once was when she heard that Uncle Edward Byles’ first baby had died at birth; the other time was when she heard of the death of her own brother Edward’s little boy, Egerton. The thought of the bereavement of those mothers wrung her tender heart. When her own ‘Little Willie’ died, her grief was beyond tears. I don’t think she was very clever; but she had a quick intelligence and a fine sense of humour. She was a great reader, and it is to her influence that I owe the greatest recreation and solace of my life – a love of books and a sufficiently discriminating taste to know what are worth reading.
My father was fond of reading, too, and he read aloud well. I remember that Trollope was one of his favourite novelists. He was fastidious about the bindings of books, and those that he gave to my mother (poetry chiefly) were specially bound in red morocco. So, also, were his hymn books and his special Bible. One of my earliest recollections is of sitting on his knee while he read stories of my choice from that Bible. Later, I remember evening prayers, when he would read a few verses from the Bible and conclude with a simple, short and reverent prayer. Though he regularly attended the church of his fathers, he never became a member of their community. He had a deep reverence for religion and an abiding faith in the Fatherhood of God. He was the most absolutely clean-minded man I have ever known. Any impropriety of conduct, a vulgar jest, or a risqué story, pained and distressed him acutely. From his own lips no word ever fell that was not perfectly pure and sincere. He loved innocent fun: I well remember how he used to chuckle over the jokes in Punch and with what glee he used to read aloud humorous passages from Dickens, Mark Twain or Bret Harte. He had a great number of private family jokes, (shared by my mother’s sisters and Maria Hills) which were a perennial source of merriment.
Like all his brothers, my father was a fine oarsman and accustomed to horses. Many are the delightful drives I remember, and water picnics to Modmenham Abbey, or Marlow Woods, or Magpie Ait. There was generally quite a large party of relatives with us on these picnic occasions. My early life is a dream of relatives – uncles and aunts, great-uncles and great-aunts, cousins old and cousins young, first cousins and second cousins, and cousins so distant that in no other family would they have been considered cousins at all.
There was one drive that nearly ended in fatal consequences. I will let my father’s own words describe it, as written in a letter to Grandmamma Sargent, dated October 1, 1872:
I am writing to tell you of what might have been an awful accident, but mercifully I can say that all who were in it are much less injured than we feared . . . Yesterday afternoon I took Ruth, Mabel, Frank, Aunt Dibbie and little Etheldred9 for a drive to Stonor. Coming back I had to call at the ‘Traveller’s Rest’. I left the chaise standing at the door, when the horse went on and by some means was turned on the path, falling down, and recovering himself broke off the hind wheel of the chaise.
Elizabeth, Frankie and Etheldred were immediately thrown out and the horse galloped on with broken chaise tipped up on one side and Mabel and Ruth in it. After going about 200 yards first Mabel, and then her Mama were thrown out. Ruth is most hurt, being bruised on her side and bottom back, and cut and bruised about her head. Her foot is in great pain from the wheel going over it. Mabel is sadly scratched about the head and face, little Etheldred’s head is cut, and Elizabeth bruised and scratched a little. Frankie came off scatheless.
What might have been a terrible boating fatality I also remember. Great Uncle William was staying in Henley, and I was one of a water party at which he was the chief guest. In going under an old wooden bridge, he thought to help by grasping at the wooden structure and giving a push. The boat slid rapidly on, and left him hanging to the wooden bridge just above deep water with a strong current. I shall never forget the difficulty of getting the boat exactly under him and preventing it from again drifting away before he was safely in it, nor the sight of my father’s white, strained face when it was done.
Ours was a happy home. Harshness and misunderstanding were unknown. The love between our parents was as true and perfect as human love can be, and the understanding tenderness lavished on their children was more than falls to the lot of most. We may have been spoilt – I think we were – but I, for one, am very thankful to have had the memory of that spoiling. Our faults did not go unpunished. I well remember a whipping I once had. I bore no malice, for I knew it was deserved; and when it was over, it was to the arms of the executioner I turned for comfort and support.
The children of Pierre and Ruth Byles were: (born: died:)
1. Emma Mary July 25, 1865 
2. Frank Roussel Aug. 27, 1867
3. Alice Margaret Jan. 1, 1870 May 10, 1891
4. Mabel Ruth Apr. 18, 1872
5. William Beuzeville June 27, 1874 Mar. 9, 1876
6. Sidney Beuzeville July 15, 1877
7. Ellen Marion Ruth (Mayna) Dec. 28, 1880 Dec. 24, 1920
My father was a brewer, in business with his father; and the first home my parents had was a flat built over a part of the brewery and reached by a very steep flight of stairs. It was quite close to the grandparents’ house; and I think that at first the young wife rather resented the well-meaning help and advice of her capable and domesticated sisters-in-law. However, their daily intimacy settled down into a wonderfully happy relationship, composed of mutual interests and helpfulness, and of very real affection and respect.
The first four children were born at ‘The Brewery Rooms’, and then (probably from want of space) a move was made to an old house in New Street, where the fifth child (‘Little Willie’) was born and died. It was while we were living there that my father met with an accident which left him permanently slightly lame. In the autumn of 1876 we moved into the old Friday Street house, which had been altered and added to, and there Sidney was born in the following summer. Soon after this, business troubles came to my father.
It was then that my father’s Uncle William generously took me into his home and for two years (until my mother’s death) sent me to school with his daughters. In the troubles that followed, I remember him as a veritable rock of defence, with his calm efficiency and active benevolence.
In those days women were not supposed to know much about business, and certainly business affairs were not discussed before young people. I never knew whether my father had the Brewery premises on a lease which expired, or whether he was only a salaried manager for the owner. At any rate, the Brewery, with the old house and the old garden, were sold, and my father had to turn out and make a fresh start when he was nearing fifty years of age. After a weary time of many disappointments, suitable premises were found in the Market Place – a queer old house with an old garden in the rear, and a jumble of outhouses which were converted into a brewery, and the necessary plant installed. This was done with borrowed capital.
It was in the autumn of 1880 that we moved into the Market Place house, and that my father started his new venture. In December of that year little Mayna was born, and three weeks later my dear mother died. Nine months after that, Father died quite suddenly (on September 7, 1881). Those nine months of anguished loneliness, of anxious solicitude for his motherless children, after a long period of heavy, business anxieties, had killed him. Had he lived, I believe he would have built up a fine business; the returns were already showing a steady increase. As it was, we were penniless.
Think of it! Six penniless orphans, the eldest just sixteen and the youngest nine months old; and within a week of their tragic loss homes were offered for all – indeed more homes were offered than were needed. No orphan asylums or charity schools for children fortunate enough to belong to our family! But homes freely and lovingly offered by different members of the family, where they were taken into the hearts of those who adopted them, and never made to feel that they were eating the cold bread of charity!
I went to live with my mother’s parents; and her two youngest brothers supported me till I received my training as a nurse and could earn my own living. Your Aunts Daisy (Alice) and Mabel went to the home of our generous great-uncle William at Bradford. Little Sidney (your father, Roussel!) was adopted by his mother’s brother, Edward, and his wife. The little baby Mayna passed into the loving care of Dr and Mrs Henry Byles and never felt the lack of a mother.
It was Frank (your father, New Zealand nephews and nieces) who had to face life early and under adverse circumstances. He was sent to New Zealand (probably financed by Uncle William) to try his luck in a new land. That he made good as he has done is a tribute to his character and to the grit inherited from his forefathers; also, I think to the family kindness shown him by Mrs Snell, a daughter of our great-uncle, Theophilus Hewlett, who had settled in New Zealand years before we were born. In one of his letters to your Aunt Daisy he wrote in February 1891:
I am staying at Cousin Edith Snell’s, or to speak as I feel, I am at home for a while now. I wish you could know the folk here; they are in my opinion perfect. Fred (Mr Snell) is one of the very few real Christians. It is a reproach to myself, but a wonderful tribute to the Family, when I say that I was so accustomed to the love and protection of all my relatives and so took them for granted, that for years I never fully realised the marvellous generosity of those who befriended us, or the long self-sacrifice it must have cost never to falter in their task, nor show the least shadow of regret or diminution of their kindness and affection to their charges.
Gérard Roussel The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge. Vol. X.
Roussel, Gérard. French Roman Catholic, born at Vaquerie (village near Amiens) about 1500, died at Mauléon (25 miles South West of Pau) in early part of 1550.
At the age of 20 he went to Pau where he attended lectures of Jacobus Faber Stapulensis, but his teacher was suspected of heresy by the Sorbonne, and Roussel accordingly followed him to Meaux where they found refuge with Bishop Guillaume Briçonnet. Under this prelate’s patronage Roussel was appointed vicar of St Santain, later becoming canon and treasurer of the cathedral of Meaux, where for some months he preached without interference. Though he held that the time had not yet come to break with the Roman Catholic Church, nevertheless on December 13th, 1524, Bishop Briçonnet, alarmed by the warning that he might be summoned before Parliament, suspended Roussel, who at the instigation of Farel, endeavoured to set up a printing office at Meaux for the publication of Protestant tracts, but was forced to take refuge in Strasbourg, where the new teachings had become supreme.
At the invitation of Francis I, he went in 1535 to Paris, where he delivered sermons of a Protestant character at the Louvre, but was forbidden by the Sorbonne to continue.
Nevertheless he enjoyed the patronage of Margaret of Navarre, and in 1536 was consecrated Bishop of Oléron [or Oloron?].
Roussel’s dream was the reformation of the Church without breaking with it. He preached three or four times daily, administered the Eucharist of both kinds, and his clergy were required to recite each Sunday in the vernacular the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed. His two main doctrines were that God can be known only through the study of the Bible, and that salvation is won only through grace. The dialogue in which he set forth these views, the Familière exposition du symbole, de la loi et de l’oraison dominicale, was, however condemned by the Sorbonne and was never published though it is preserved in manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale, together with its continuation, the Forme de visites de diocese. Before this action on the part of the Sorbonne had become known to him, the bishop died from injuries received while preaching at Mauléon, where a fanatic had hacked away the pulpit with an axe. The only works of Roussel besides those just noted were editions of the Arithmetica de Boethius, (Paris 1521) and of the ‘Moralia Magna’ de Aristotle (1522). G. Bonet Maury.
Bibliography for this notice:
Consult C. Schmidt. Gérard Roussel, Prédicateur de la reine Marguerite de Navarre, mémoire servant à l’ histoire des premières faites pour introduire la réformation en France. Published at Strasbourg 1845, in Bibliothèque du Protestantisme Français. No. 10683.
The Beuzevilles By W.A. de Beuzeville The name of Beuzeville is frequently met with in ancient Norman Chronicles. A family document in existence commences thus: Guillaume de Beuzeville Guillemus de Beuseville avant le règne de Guillaume le Conquérant était Abbé du Monastère de Bec en Normandie.
Much further on it is noted: Guillaume de Beuzeville, Médècin du roi François Ier, ancêtre directe de Beuzeville de Henley.
All traces of the immediate ancestors of the refugees have been lost. The earliest record (authentic) is that of Jaques Beuzeville and his wife Marie Anne Guillemard. Family tradition states that Jaques together with his wife and infant son barely escaped from France with their lives, abandoning all their possessions, and eventually reaching England, probably about 1709 or 1710.
Their second son Pierre was born in London 1711 or 1712. Some time after this they returned to France, for their third son Stephen was born in the parish of Millemare Caux, and the fourth Samuel at Bolbec in 1717.
The birthplace of Jean Baptiste, the youngest, is not known. They returned to London before 1728, for the témoignage of Threadneedle Street Church gives the names of Jaques Beuzeville 1727, and Pierre Beuzeville 1728.
The refugee apparently established a silk weaving business at 24 Steward Street, Spitalfields. He died in 1745, and his wife shortly after. A tablet to their memory in Stepney Church stated that they were “pour cause de religion morts”. The business was carried on by the eldest son James. Stephen established himself as a silk manufacturer in Edinburgh. Returning to London he was elected a member of les Providences in 1774 and died in 1775. Samuel entered the Church and was minister at St Jean, Spitalfields. He died 1782. Jean Baptiste was the first collegiate French minister of Edinburgh.
Silk-weaving was carried on for a hundred years – to the fourth generation – in Spitalfields, and then the firm failed. Stephen, the then head of the family, entered the firm Courtauld & Co., of Braintree. James, son of Stephen emigrated to Australia.
ARMS OF THE FAMILY (Burke’s General Armory) ARMS: Argent a fesse sable between three cinquefoils vert. CREST: A Lion’s head proper These are practically the same as those of the Norman family.
James Philip Hewlett [From Christian’s Pocket Magazine, Vol. VIII, No. 9, March 1823] Native of Oxford; born in 1780; 13th child; chorister of New College; afterwards held clerkship at All Souls; obtained B.A.; clerk of Magdalen where in 1803 took M.A.
Musical talents considerable; ordained curate of St. Aldates Dec. 1804; 1809 married Esther, youngest daughter of Peter Beuzeville Esq. then of Henley-on-Thames, but for many years known in the metropolis as the active patron of every benevolent institution.
1812 Chaplain of New College; (having been Chaplain of the city prison); 1814 Chaplain of Magdalen; 1817 Chaplain of the House of Industry.