Major Herbert Hart 1849 - 1909
Unlike most of our gardeners, it is probable Herbert Hart rarely set foot in his two Waterfurlong plots, let alone dug them. Born into a middle class family and wealthythrough marriage, hard work and judicious networking, his life was devoted
predominantly to his civic and religious interests.
Herbert Hart is born on 27 October 1849 to parents John and Lydia Hart of Bath Row, Stamford. The youngest of six siblings, Herbert is the only one of their sons to survive to adulthood. He attends Stamford Grammar School and under the tutelage of Rev F E Gretton wins a scholarship to St John's College, Cambridge, but his father's declining health means Herbert has to forego his university place and join the family seed and wine merchants' business at 8 Broad Street. Seemingly undaunted by this disappointment, we find 22 year old Herbert chairing a public debate in Oakham in 1872 billed: 'Life, How to Make It a Success.' (1)
John Hart dies in 1875, but despite the business responsibilities now solely on his shoulders, Herbert finds time both to travel in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Hungary and to enter local politics.
An Advantageous Marriage
In 1877 at the age of 28, Herbert successfully stands for councillor in All Saints ward, and writes from Torquay to thank his supporters. It is the beginning of a long and diligent civic career.
If civic responsibility is one important thread in Herbert's life, his staunch religious faith is another and it is through the Wesleyan Methodist church that Herbert meets his future wife, Lucy Maude Pocock. Their marriage is to bring Herbert both personal happiness and financial security, as Lucy is the daughter of affluent London architect, William Wilmer Pocock. We learn more about the Pococks from Lucy's father's obituary many years later in 1899:
'BARN HILL SCHOOL-ROOM, STAMFORD. On Monday, Dec 18th, 1876 a LECTURE will given by Mr Herbert Hart, on "Notes of a Rhine Tour," illustrated by 50 magic lantern views of photographs taken on the spot. Chair to be taken at 7.30.
Collection for Sunday School Clothing Club.' (2)
'Mr Pocock came of an old Berkshire family, and was descended from Sir George Pocock, Bart, an Admiral of the Blue, and a notable sailor in Queen Anne's reign, who lies buried in Westminster Abbey, and over whose remains a handsome monument is erected in the north-east transept. To this family, though not ennobled, was granted by Royal favour the unique privilege of the right and use of a coronet with the crest.
Mr Pocock was an architect by profession, and was the oldest living member and Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Perhaps he was best known as the architect of Spurgeon's Tabernacle [The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Elephant & Castle]. When quite a young man he graduated BA in the University of London, being the 10th or 11th name on the register, and his proficiency was such as to attract the special notice of the authorities. The Bishop of London (Bishop Blomfield) offered him special preferment if he would take holy orders in the Established Church, but he chose to remain a loyal member of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, in which he had been brought up, and to which he was sincerely attached.
He twice contested Guildford in the Liberal interest, but after the Home Rule split he became Unionist in politics. He was a generous supporter of charitable and religious objects, and in connection with the erection of Trinity Wesleyan church, Stamford, he laid one of the memorial stones and contributed £100. Several books, which ran through more than one edition, were the product of his literary gifts, such as "Great Faith and Little Faith," "Darwinism a Fallacy," "A Layman's View of the Higher Criticism," besides many books of a lighter kind. ' Stamford Mercury (2)
Herbert and Lucy set up home in 'Fairview', 28 Tinwell Road. Eldest daughter Maude Evelyn (known as May) arrives in 1881, followed by Eva in 1883, twins Leonard and Muriel in 1885 and son Norman in 1895, Herbert being one of the first Stamfordians to adopt the new fashion of announcing his children's births in the paper.
Herbert and Lucy are busy people. Herbert grows the family firm of Hart & Son surely and steadily, mainly by acquiring the businesses of smaller, struggling competitors, such as local brewer and seed merchant, Francis Jelley. Herbert's seed store and shop remains in Broad Street, whilst his brewery is relocated to Ironmonger Street (how the latter sits with the Wesleyan commitment to the temperance movement is a little confusing).
With a thriving business and a wife to assist him in his civic duties, Herbert sets his sights on the office of mayor and campaigns assiduously over the next few years. No-one can criticise his energy and commitment, but his Conservative politics and religious affiliations earn Herbert his detractors, including the editor of the Mercury:
'Mr Herbert Hart has distributed coals to above 100 poor widows (many of whom have votes at the municipal elections) during the past week as a New Year’s gift. We are informed this timely “generosity” has been much appreciated.' Stamford Mercury 6 January 1882 (2)
The Great and the Good
Never one to let a good networking opportunity pass him by, Herbert's involvement in the 2nd Volunteer Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment was also standing him in good stead. He had been rising through the ranks to Captain, and managed to attract the patronage of Adelbert Brownlow-Cust, 3rd Earl Brownlow, either through Lord Exeter or through Lucy's father:
'The 68th birthday of the Queen was celebrated throughout the country on Tuesday with all the customary ceremonies and rejoicings. The Prince of Wales held a levee*, on behalf of the Queen, in St James's Palace, on Saturday. Amongst 630 presentations were Mr F B Grotrian, by Lord Aveland; Mr H C Geldart, Sheriff of Cambs and Hunts, by the Earl of Sandwich; Alderman Israel Hart, Mayor of Leicester, by the Home Secretary; Captain Herbert Hart, 2d Volunteer Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, by Earl Brownlow; Mr A H Harris, by the Right Hon E Stanhope; Mr A R Heath, MP, by his father, Admiral Sir L Heath, KCB; Viscount Oxenbridge, ADC, on being created a Viscount, by Earl Spencer, KG; Lieut, the Hon Gilbert Willoughby,by Lord Aveland; Mr H Wallis, curator of the Nottingham (Castle) Art Museum, by the Duke of Portland; Mr
With this royal feather in his cap, Herbert begins styling himself 'Captain' in everyday life. Add to the mixture his prominence in the Freemasons and an influential fellow Wesleyan councillor in the form of Henry T Betts, and the stage is finally set for Herbert to become mayor in November 1889. Herbert's mayoralty passes in a whirl of glad-handing, charitable works, trying miscreants brought before the Bench and attempts to improve the town's drains. Lucy works alongside the Marchioness of Exeter to raise funds for expansion of the High School for Girls and Herbert is asked to propose the toast at the annual dinner of the prestigious London Lincolnshire Society, presided over by Viscount Oxenbridge. These commitments can't have been easy on top of running a business, raising a growing family and welcoming the arrival of baby Norman, whose birth the Council honoured by presenting Herbert and Lucy with a silver cradle (presumably not full-sized).
Despite all the pressures, Herbert continues with his unflagging support of the Wesleyan church at both local and national level, and with the role of honorary life governor of the British and Foreign Bible Society - aim 'a bible for every human being.'
Welby by his father, Sir W Welby-Gregory.' Stamford Mercury 27 May 1887 (2)
*A public court assembly, held in the early afternoon, at which only men are received.
Herbert and Lucy remain generous benefactors of the local Wesleyan circuit, contributing £250 to the building of the Trinity chapel in Barn Hill and fund-raising tirelessly, both for the chapel and for the new organ. Lucy's family also gives large donations:
'New Wesleyan chapel, STAMFORD. The MEMORIAL STONES will be laid at 2.30 pm on Whit-Monday, June 14th, 1886, by Thomas Clarke, Esq, Sheriff of London and Middlesex. J C Lawrance, Esq, QC, MP. Sir W McArthur, KCMG. W W Pocock Esq, of London. H T Betts Esq, ex-Mayor Stamford. Captain H Hart, Stamford. Mrs H B Marshall, London. Mrs Iredale. Mrs Herbert Hart of Stamford. Luncheon at George Hotel One pm. Tea Meeting Corn-exchange at 4.30. For Railway arrangements and Cheap Fares see bills at the Stations. Offertories on behalf of the New Chapel.' Stamford Mercury 28 May 1886 (2)
In 1882 11 Barn Hill is purchased and demolished to make room for the new chapel. The total cost of the build is £3,000, including land and fees, but funds do not stretch to the planned Collyweston stone spire, the foundations of which can still be seen.
The Harts' efforts extend to other chapels in the Wesleyan circuit, such as Casterton and Easton, and Herbert himself is described as a 'forceful preacher'.
After his term as mayor expires Herbert remains highly active in local government - he was to be remembered in his obituary as a 'great committee man' and that scarcely does him justice. He is a member of the new South Kesteven County Committee and sits on the Stamford Higher Education Committee, the Pensions Committee and the Library Committee, through which he is instrumental in the creation of Stamford's public library. Add to this the roles of Governor of Browne's Hospital and Governor of Stamford Endowed Schools, Trustee of the Municipal Chantry, member of the Stamford & District Farmers' Benevolent Society and Arbitrator for the Stamford Building Society, and it's hard to imagine Herbert can ever be at home.
Home during the early 1890s is Clare Lodge in Wothorpe - perhaps the family feels the need for a little distance from the town during Herbert's term as mayor. It is at Clare Lodge, as the Mercury reports on 20 May 1892, that Lucy embarks on a venture of her own:
Mrs Hart, wife of Alderman Hart, JP of Stamford, has made her debut as authoress under the nom de plume of L Hartley. She has published a short story called 'Norah Grey', which is a very bright and amusing version of the old tale of the ugly duckling. The plot is good and the characters marked and well delineated. From first to last the interest is well sustained and the story, though simple, is eminently readable and ought to prove a decided success. The publishers are Messrs Digby and Long, 18, Bouverie-street. Fleet-street, London.'(2)
Sadly, neither 'Norah Grey' nor Lucy's 1907 serialised story 'The Ghost of Kelston Hall', which appears in The Family Reader under the pen name Lucille, seems to remain in existence.
Meanwhile, Herbert features among local dignitaries in the 1894 publication
'Lincolnshire Leaders - Social and Political' and the family is once again on the move - this time back to Stamford to take up residence in grand Barn Hill House, a stone's throw from their beloved Trinity Chapel.
A Slower Pace
It is this same year we find the first reference to Captain Hart's two quarter acre gardens off the Tinwell Road (one of which might have been a Torkington garden on Roman Bank). Given Barn Hill House's own generous gardens, it seems likely the Waterfurlong plots had either been taken on when the family
had limited space in its Broad Street residence, or were purely to provide produce for the house, with its numerous guests, visitors and servants. It is hard to imagine that Herbert and Lucy ever put spade to soil there themselves.
As political in-fighting increasingly dominates Council business, Herbert turns his seemingly inexhaustible attention first to entertainment, then to advancement of his military career. In September 1899 he becomes one of the patrons (who also include our gardener, Thomas Sandall among their number) of 'A Grand Musical Concert':
'The following well-known and eminent Artistes will appear at The Stamford Assembly Rooms:— MISS EDITH BEMA, Soprano. MADAME VAN DEH VEER-GREEN, One of the finest Contraltos of the day. Mr SIMS REEVES, The Eminent Tenor. Mr DOUGLAS POWELL, Baritone. MISS CLARA ASHER, Solo Pianist. Miss NADIA SYLVA, Violinist. Accompanist Mr Spencer Lorraine.'(2)
A special late train to Ketton, Luffenham, Morcott, Seaton and Uppingham is put on for concert-goers' convenience - almost impossible to comprehend today.
Three months later, at the outset of the Boer War, Herbert receives orders to join the Royal Irish Fusiliers 4th battalion for regular military service (he appears to have accepted a commission with the regiment a few years
earlier). Herbert does not see active service, instead being placed on garrison duty in the south of England. Nonetheless, this wins him the full army rank of Major.
Back to civilian life within a few months, Herbert resumes his councillor duties with gusto until tragedy strikes in
January 1902 when eldest daughter May collapses and dies suddenly in Spencer Park,
Wandsworth, whilst visiting relatives. From this point Herbert's civic life goes into decline and, although he remains a South Kesteven councillor, in 1904 he loses his seat on the Stamford town council for a time. With both sons away at The Leys Methodist Boarding School in Cambridge, and both surviving daughters at a private girls' school in Clapham, the formerly bustling Hart household must feel unbearably quiet.
In May 1905 Herbert makes the unusual gesture of placing a notice in the Mercury in celebration of his and Lucy's silver wedding anniversary and 1907 brings happier days, when daughter Eva marries Ernest E Blackstone, son of Edward C and Myra Blackstone of The Lawns, Thorpe Road, Peterborough, at Trinity Chapel, uniting two of the most prominent local families. The couple set up home in nearby Ryhall and the following year present Herbert and Lucy with their first grandchild, Stanley Ernest. They later move to Clare Lodge, the Hart's old Wothorpe home.
Perhaps Barn Hill House is full of memories of May's loss, or perhaps, family grown, Herbert and Lucy now find themselves rattling around in it, for in 1907 they move back to Broad Street, this time to The Grey House. Herbert seems to devote more time to family and
leisure pursuits, organising an exhibition of photographs of New Zealand by Sir J Benjamin Stone MP and introducing a lecture on esperanto at the new public library he has helped found by Rev A J Edmonds of Great Gransden.
The following May Herbert becomes unwell and on 24 June 1909 he dies at home at the age of 59 of the acute kidney disorder, Bright's disease. One can't help wondering whether workaholic Herbert drove himself into an early grave.
Lucy remains at The Grey House until her own death in 1924. The 1911 census shows three of her children there with her - twins Leonard and Muriel and younger son, Norman, who is an undergraduate at Cambridge. Lucy has also engaged a live-in
companion, 46 year old Nancy Page from Clacton-on-Sea. Daughter Eva has a new baby, Joan, and Eva's family is completed in 1913 by son Peter.
We catch a glimpse of life at The Grey House from an unattributed newspaper cutting kept in the journal of fellow gardener, Thomas Sandall(4). It is a description of a 'Garden Meeting of the Bible Society', hosted by Lucy and Muriel on 11 July 1917. 'Neath a fine old acacia tree in the pretty grounds of The Grey House, Stamford the annual meeting of the Stamford auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society was, by the kindness of Mrs Herbert Hart held on Wednesday afternoon – a typical July day. The weather was ideal, the sun shining gloriously, and a good number accepted Mrs Hart’s invitation to be present.' Tom Sandall chairs the event and expresses hope that interdenominational 'social work' will continue after the war. Muriel's report as Secretary and Treasurer is read by the Rev J D Day, headmaster of Stamford Grammar School before proceedings closed. 'The Rev W J Roberts proposed, and the Rev J Elliott seconded, a vote of thanks to Mr Sandall and Mr Cossar for their addresses, and to Mrs and Miss Hart for doing so much for the comfort of the company that afternoon. A collection taken on behalf of the funds realised £3 1s 7d, and a sale of eggs, butter, cakes, fruit &c, at a stall over which Mrs Hart presided brought in a further sum of money. The visitors then partook of light refreshments, afterwards enjoying a stroll round the grounds before taking leave of their hostesses.'
Both Leonard and Norman go on to attain high rank in the First World War and survive being injured in France. Leonard is commanding officer of the 'D' (Stamford) Company 4th Lincolnshire Regiment. He is mentioned in despatches three times and highly-decorated, being awarded the Distinguished Service Order with bar for conspicuous gallantry and the Belgian and French Croix de Guerre. Herbert would have been incredibly proud of his sons. Leonard is to live in the Grey House until his eventual death in 1950 and is still remembered by older Stamfordians as 'Colonel Hart'.
'For conspicuous gallantry and good leadership. Lt Col Hart planned and supervised all the preliminary details of an attack under great difficulties of darkness and the intricacies of a thick forest. He brought up his battalion to the exact position from which the advance was to be made, though at first he was led to the wrong spot. During the engagement that ensued he set a splendid example to all ranks by his coolness and composure under heavy fire' (2)
The seed business remains in the Hart family for many decades, eventually passing to Norman's son, Timothy, who expands it to sell pet food.
Local people remember the shop at 39 Broad Street, next door to the Corn Exchange and with Herbert's name carved in its stone facade, and still comment on the Harts having been decent and considerate employers.
SOURCES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
(1) Kind courtesy of the Lincolnshire Museums Service.
(2) The British Newspaper Archive © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. All Rights Reserved.
(3) Kind courtesy of Stamford Town Council.
(4) Thomas Sandall Diaries, The Phillips Collection, Stamford Town Hall.
Copyright © Karen Meadows 2019