The Cheshire Armitsteads
by Kenrick Armitstead
revised and edited by Nigel Watts
Revd John Armitstead (1801-1865)
Vicar of Sandbach
Kenrick often used the first person in his writing. I have made no changes to these passages as I feel that personal reminiscences are an important part of family history. However, some
observations may now be out of date, and the reader may be a little disconcerted when what at times appears to be a personal narrative goes on to describe events subsequent to the narrator's death, including his own obituary.
I considered leaving Kenrick's narrative in an unedited state, but he had written fewer than half of the planned chapters of his book, and some of these were clearly not in a finished state. I also feel that he would have been
the first to agree that family history can never stand still.
Revd John Armitstead
Revd John Armitstead
The Revd John Armitstead, baptised 30 March 1764 at Tatham, Lancashire, was the eldest of the eight children of Laurence Armitstead, who was born at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Yorkshire, and descended from a long line of yeoman farmers who first occur in the Giggleswick poll tax returns of 1387. John was the officiating curate at Betley, Staffordshire, from 1784 to 1788. While there he married on 14 November 1787 Catherine Fenton, younger daughter and co-heiress of John Fenton of Betley Court. The elder daughter, Anne, who inherited Betley Court, was ancestress of the Fletcher-Twemlows of Betley and the Bougheys of Aqualate. In 1797 John matriculated his arms, which were also granted to the descendants of his grandfather, thus making him a third generation gentleman. No doubt this seemed more fitting for one who had married into a county family.
After his time at Betley, John was curate at Clitheroe, Hawarden, Bawtry and Middlewich, where his wife Catherine died on 20 February 1798, ten days after the birth of Maria, her seventh child. He inherited a considerable fortune from her, and purchased the advowson of Sandbach intending to become vicar there when the living became vacant. In 1809 he became curate of Goostrey, a living in the gift of the vicar of Sandbach, and not far from Cranage where, in 1814, shortly before his death, he purchased Cranage Hall, near property which had been left to him in the Newcastle-under-Lyme area. "The shire" said John Speed the cartographer in writing of his native Cheshire, "may well be said to be the seed plot of gentility", and it was certainly here that this branch of the Armitstead family made the transition from yeomen to gentlemen which has always been such a common occurrence in the fluid English system.
In 1799 he married Mary Simpson of Carlton, Yorkshire, and by her he seems to have had three more children. He died at the age of 50 in 1814, before Sandbach became vacant, but left the living to his son John. He was buried at Goostrey, and a paragraph in the Macclesfield Courier of 4 February 1815 reported that "On Sunday last Goostrey Church was robbed of a quantity of black broadcloth, of the value of £50 with which the church was hung on account of the death of the late Revd Mr Armitstead." Vandalism is by no means a modern phenomenon. Of his nine children, only six survived infancy.
John’s will, which was drawn up in 1811, sheds some light on his affairs at the time. He describes himself as being "of Bawtry", even though he was by then curate of Goostrey. Bawtry is on the Yorkshire side of the border with Nottinghamshire, to the south of Doncaster, and therefore some considerable distance from his Cheshire parish. This is perhaps because he owned substantial property there; he certainly owned a farm at Austerfield, a village adjacent to Bawtry, which he appears to have managed directly rather than tennanted, as he specifically bequeaths its stock and equipment to his son Lawrence. The will also refers to unspecified estates in Nottinghamshire, which could perhaps have been in the neighbourhood of Bawtry.
All the real estate, and the residue of the personal estate, was left to Lawrence, but he also made detailed arrangements for the support of his widow, daughters and son John. Although he no doubt employed a lawyer in its drafting, the impression gained from the will is of a man who knew how to manage his affairs and who wished to ensure fair and equitable treatment of his dependants.
The Children of Revd John Armitstead
2. Anastasia 1789-1835
3. Lawrence 1790-1874
4. Catherine born 1792
5. Alice 1793-1839?
6. Thomas Fenton 1795-1796
7. Maria 1798-1820
and by his second wife
John Fenton, Thomas Fenton and Frances all died in infancy, aged between four weeks and five months. Catherine, born 25 May 1792 at Hawarden, Alice, born 30 December 1793 at Middlewich, and Maria born 10 February 1798 at Middlewich, all died unmarried. These three sisters appear to have at moved to Sculcoates, just to the north of Hull, perhaps to be near their sister Anastasia and her family. Maria’s sisters were given legacies of £1,000 each, but of Maria their father’s will states "taking into consideration the unfortunate state of mind of my youngest daughter by my said late wife, I do think it more advisable to secure to her an annuity of one hundred pounds per ann. than to bequeath her a like legacy with her sisters." He appointed her step-mother and her sister Anastasia to be her guardians "in whom I place implicit confidence, not doubting but they will do every thing in their power for her comfort and happiness." Pehaps the difficult birth which resulted in her mother’s death also afflicted Maria. She died shortly before reaching her 22nd birthday, and was buried in Sculcoates on 20 January 1820. "Miss Catherine Armistead" is shown as living at Wellington Lodge, Beverley Road, Sculcoates in Hull directories for 1826 and 1835, and the death of Alice Armitstead was registered in Sculcoates in 1839.
John Armistead’s will of 1811 refers to his "youngest daughter Harriet", but I have as yet found no other reference to her.
Anastasia, born 2 November 1789 at Clitheroe, was married on 17 September 1812 at Bawtry, Yorkshire, to Marmaduke Thomas Prickett, a solicitor of Kingston-upon-Hull. They were living at 13 North Street in 1823 and 1835 and at 22 Dock Street in 1846. Anastasia was the only female in the Cheshire branch of the family to produce children until the present generation, over a hundred years later. There would appear to have been a tendency to infertility in the female line. She had six children:
ii. Anastasia 1815-1856
iii. Josiah John 1817-1849
iv. George 1820-1886
v. Thomas William 1822-1902
vi. Frances Harriet 1826-1912 married Revd J Bluck dsp
Anastasia (ii) was born 28 February 1815. She married in August 1839 Revd William Jepson Newman, Rector of Bradsworth, Yorkshire. She died 13 December 1856, leaving issue (still to be confirmed/identified).
George (iv), born 8 March 1820, educated at Rugby, married Anna Maria, daughter of Sir Charles Smith-Dodsworth of Thornton Hall, 3rd Bart. He was a JP and Lt Colonel in the West York Militia. He lived at Boreas Hill in the village of Paull on the river Humber downstream from Hull. White’s 1883 Directory of Hull lists him as one of the principal landowners of the parish and describes Boreas Hill as "an old brick residence, pleasantly situated on rising ground". The house survives today. Pevsner describes it in the following terms:
Early to mid C18, built for the Carvile family. A handsome brick and pantile house with double-span roof with tumbled gables. S front, two stories, five bays, with a stone coped parapet and good pedimented doorcase. Recessed single bay extension with ramped parapet.
George and Anna had no children. Josiah (iii) born 27 April 1817, educated at Rugby under Dr Arnold and Trinity College Cambridge, was vicar of Markington near Harrogate. He married on 14 August 1841 Eliza, daughter of John Cowham Parker of Hull, and died 27 February 1849 leaving three children:
2. Anastasia born 6 April 1844 married William Tetley on 11 September 1877 and dsp 4 January 1935 aged 91.
3. Lucy born 16 April 1849 died unmarried 24 September 1885.
Thomas William (v), FSA, FRGS, educated Kingston College, Hull and Trinity College Cambridge. On leaving Cambridge he spent 16 months making the Grand Tour, and was then ordained and served as a curate at Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, York from 1848 to 1851 before he was obliged to retire through bad sight. He married on 4 February 1863 Anna, daughter of Humphrey Sandwith, MD, of Hull. He subsequently moved to Cheltenham—he was living at 4 Sandford Place while his sons attended Cheltenham College as day boys—and then to Worthing, where he died on 26 November 1902 leaving two children:
2. Francis Fenton, educated Cheltenham, born on 14 August 1869 was living in 1952.
There are no living descendants of Anastasia Prickett.
Lawrence Armitstead was born at Stounton Hall (?), Clitheroe on 16 November 1790 and was baptised the next day, which would suggest that he was a sickly child, although he lived to be 84.
On the death of his father in 1814 he inherited the recently acquired Cranage Hall, in addition to other property. Judging from a local map of 1767, the hall was then a three-storied building of five bays in width, including a narrow, projecting central bay over the entrance. It was probably built in the seventeenth century, replacing or incorporating an earlier structure. No trace of this building survives, as in 1828 Lawrence had it demolished and rebuilt on a grander scale to designs of the architect Lewis Wyatt.
This hall survives today, though much altered inside having served from 1929 until recently as a psychiatric hospital. It is a long and relatively narrow building of two stories, of red brick with dark diapers and stone dressings. The sales brochure of 1929 described the rooms as:
Entrance Hall 26’x18’, Drawing Room 32’x18’ with a handsome fire place and inlaid oak mantle, Dining Room 28’6"x19’9" with oak floor, Library 26’x18’ with parquet floor, Smoke Room 27’3"x15’10" with light oak panelling. Two Sitting Rooms, Boot Rooms, Butlers Pantry, Servants Hall, well equipped Kitchens and Scullery, glassed roofed court off which are the larders, dairy etc., 14 bedrooms, 4 Dressing Rooms, Nursery, 2 Bathrooms, ample cellarage.
Lawrence lived at Cranage Hall until his death in 1874, and his daughter Agnes continued to live there until she died in 1877. For the next 43 years until its sale to the Carver family in 1920, the Hall was let to various people. The first known tennant was Harry Clagg, a solicitor and clerk to the Justice at Oldham. Other tennants included Robert Miller and Edward Horne of Blackburn, who installed an electric generator in 1899. The last tennant was William Oswald Carver of Marple, a cotton manufacturer. He bought a 21 year lease for £1,000 and £300 per year rent. On the expiry of the lease in 1920, John Hornby Armitstead, who had recently inherited the hall from his father, sold the hall to William Carver together with 694 acres of land, of which 111 acres were jointly owned by Sir Robert Boughey of Betley, for £33,655.
Lawrence was continually buying and selling land and extending his estates. In 1829 he purchased the estates of Thomas Bayley Hall which included the lordship of Cranage, the Hermitage, the Swan Inn (now Swan Farm), in all about 370 acres; about 93 acres of fir plantation on Rudheath; the lordship of Cotton with 334 acres including Cotton Hall; the lordship of Holmes Chapel containing about 370 acres with various houses and other buildings in the village of Holmes Chapel. This came to about 1,100 acres in all, for which he paid £55,000 with an additional £7,000 for the timber. The tithe map and schedule of 1841 for Cranage shows Lawrence’s estates extending to 1,131 acres of which 115 were jointly owned by others and 276 were occupied by himself. He also owned land outside the Cranage townships; in the Return of Owners of Land 1873 he is shown as owning a total 1,620 acres at an estimated rental of £3,807, a not inconsiderable income in those days.
In 1829 he was High Sheriff, and on 27 October of that year he married Harriet Vyse Massie, daughter of Revd Richard Massie of Coddington, at Holy Trinity Church Chester. She died on 17 July 1836 at the age of 25, and was buried at Holmes Chapel, where a memorial has a shield of arms displaying Armitstead quartering Fenton, impaling Massie of Coddington, over the inscription:
"Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord"
A funeral hatchment displayed at her funeral is now in the possession of Judge Curtis of Prestbury, Cheshire. Lawrence outlived his wife by 38 years, dying on 31 October 1874. He was buried at Goostrey, where a black marble slab on the north wall of the nave has a plain white cross over the inscription:
A three-quarter length portrait of him is in the possession of my cousin Lt Colonel Bobby Armitstead, the head of the family. When he had it cleaned recently a picture of Cranage Hall was revealed in the background.
Lawrence appears to have been an invalid for some years, as in 1853, 21 years before his death, Mary Royds, widow of Revd Edward Royds of Brereton, wrote to her son Tom in Australia "Old Mr Armitstead is now very infirm; his two daughters are going to stay with Frank and Cornelia at Parkgate to refresh them in their attentions on their Father". This refers to Francis Coulman Royds and his wife Cornelia née Blomfield who will be dealt with later. Lawrence had two children:
ii. Catherine Hester 1833-1873
Agnes (i), born 8 October 1831, died unmarried on 27 February 1877. As Lawrence had died intestate, and she was the only surviving daughter, she was his sole heiress. Only four days after her father’s death, she made her own will. Apart from a few small personal bequests, including £50 to her maid and £200 and a hair bracelet set in diamonds to her cousin Susan Armitstead, she devised all her property to her cousin John Richard, of whom later. Catherine (ii), born 26 February 1833, died unmarried at Teignmouth on 30 December 1873, in her father’s lifetime. Both daughters were buried at Goostrey. In 1854 Mary Royds wrote to her son Tom in Australia:
We have had the two Miss Armitsteads and Rose Blomfield staying with us for the Bachelors’ Ball. Everybody was in fancy dress and it was a beautiful sight. Rose went as the Morning Star, a diamond star on black velvet at the front of her head, veil and dress in white and silver, the two Armitsteads as sea nymphs in white, ornaments with seaweed, coral and Shells.
John Armitstead, born at Cranage on 24 February 1801, educated at Trinity College Oxford, became vicar of Holmes Chapel in 1825. Three years later he was presented to the living of Sandbach on the death of the incumbent, RL Salmon, by George Tollet of Betley Hall, Staffordshire, and James Caldwell of Lindley Wood Staffordshire, executors of his father’s will. Until 1832 he lived at Springfield in Bradwall, and then moved to The Hermitage. He remained there until his new vicarage at Sandbach (actually in Smallwood) was ready for occupation in 1843. The house, which is no longer a vicarage, has the Armitstead crest over the front door.
John was married on 27 May 1828 at Holy Trinity Church Chester to Susan Hester Massie, sister of Harriet who married his half-brother Lawrence. Described by John Minshull in his guide to St Mary’s Church Sandbach as a tireless mountain of a man, he was remembered for doing a large amount of good in his extensive parish, and was author of a tract entitled "Sabbath day cheese-making not a work of necessity, or, dialogues between a country clergyman and his parishioners" which was instrumental in putting to an end what had been hitherto the custom of the poor working a seven day week making cheeses for their employers. He also wrote a pamphlet "On the means possessed by the Church for the education of the people - a letter to the Lord Bishop of Chester." Education was his particular interest, and in a paper by Dr Nancy Ball "Practical Subjects in Mid-Victorian Elementary Schools" she writes:
At Sandbach, probably the best organised of all the schools teaching domestic economy, the girls learned to sew through making clothes for themselves. They chose their own material from a large stock held in the school; the older girls in addition to sewing their own worked the more difficult ones for the younger ones. Then the parents bought the clothes at cost price, paying by instalments . . . At Sandbach, where the education of the girls was the hobby of the vicar, John Armitstead even managed to get financial support from the poor rate. The girls in the fifteen months up to the end of 1856 cooked 1,209 meat dinners (mutton, beef fish and rabbit), 1,308 helpings of soup and a large number of puddings and gruels. In the following year they made 2,104 meat dinners and provided Christmas dinners for 26 aged persons. In the process they practised standard cookery techniques. As they did the ordering and the accounting and kept a delivery book, they learned about marketing and book-keeping, "and above all" said Armitstead "they learn the sympathise with the poor, to whose wants it is their privilege to minister". What other subject could provide such a combination of practical and moral advantages? Although the scale of Sandbach was unusual, there is plenty of evidence to show how attractive the idea was to mid-Victorian educationalists.
Provision for domestic economy took one of two forms, which may be exemplified by two of the best known schools of the 1850s. At Sandbach the master’s house, (which was large, because he boarded up to eight pupil teachers and monitors) was used for household work, but Armitstead built a specially constructed wash-house and kitchen, full of modern equipment. The wash-house, where the girls washed themselves, contained a cistern, piped water, three boilers, heated drying and airing closets and facilities for ironing. In the kitchen, where cookery was taught three times a week, there was a gas stove on which they managed to cook for twenty people, owing, said Armitstead, to the great efficiency of gas . . . On the grounds that there were no comparable areas of study appropriate for boys, Armitstead, a fanatical supporter of domestic economy, made no attempt or organise parallel activities in his boys’ schools. Instead he introduced practical mensuration, frequent bathing excursions and a drum and fife band.
A keen gardener, he often won prizes for his pansies. He was also a keen cricketer, and once postponed the celebration of Ascension day by a week because it clashed with an England cricket match. In September 1841 he wrote to Mary Royds, widow of the rector of Brereton, giving advice about her son Tom’s emigration to Australia. His son Henry was later to marry her grand-daughter Margaret (my grand-parents).
My dear Mrs Royds
I have delayed writing to you in the subject of Mr Royds’ letter until I had been to Chester and had an opportunity of talking the matter over with Charles Townshend. I was there yesterday and, to my surprise, find it had been determined upon that Watkin Massie should go out early in October. He has been in India twice, and on both occasions been compelled to return through want of health, and has now been induced to take the pension allowed by the Company and go out to New South Wales. He has been the more confirmed in this resolution by the kindness of an Aunt, who has made a present of £1,000 to him for an outfit, which together with his pension, we are led to believe, will enable him to do very well. He has seen a great deal of the world, without being the worse for it, and under these circumstances Charles Townshend would strongly advise you sending my friend out with him. They seem to hold our practical knowledge of farming very cheap. Any additional information he might require on this head being likely to be more than counter-balanced by the loss of time and opportunity in its acquirement. Charles Townshend says he will very willingly do anything he can in the way of advancing Tom’s interest by purchase of land or otherwise. The present he judges to be a most suitable time for making purchases of land, from the temporary distress of want of money that now prevails in the Colony, a state of things not likely to be in any wise bettered for a long time at least, from the accounts that must necessarily go out, of the state of things at home.
We are now staying at Wincham, but shall be home by the time your letter would probably reach the Hermitage. I trust you will believe me, that I am anxious for the welfare of my friend Tom, and think him taking a step which I should very surely have taken myself, had I been in his place at the time. I am rather fearful of incurring too great a responsibility in forwarding his views.
Susan joins me in kind remembrance, and with compliments to Mr Royds and his family, I beg you to believe me, my dear Mrs Royds
Very sincerely yours,
John died on 19 April 1865, to the great grief of his parishioners and his many friends in all parts of the county. There is a handsome monument to him in white marble in the north aisle of Sandbach church, with a three-quarter length bust of him in a surplice, designed by GF Watts RA and executed by George Nelson, the gift of his friend CH Rickards. The inscription beneath runs:
To the glory of God and in remembrance of JOHN ARMITSTEAD MA Vicar of the parish from AD 1828 to AD 1865. During his incumbency, and mainly through his efforts and influence, this, the mother church, was restored and enlarged, three district churches were erected and endowed at Wheelock, Elworth and Sandbach Heath, the Grammar School was rebuilt, and the National Schools were established, the Almshouses were erected with the noble object of giving help to the deserving poor and shelter to decent old age, and provision was made for the wise expenditure of the income of the Sandbach charity estate. A landowner in this parish caused this monument to be raised here as a memorial of long friendship and as a Record of public worth.
"Glorious is the fruit of good labours" Wisdom III xv.
John and his wife Susan were both buried at Sandbach Heath where a school in his memory was built by public subscription in 1865. It was enlarged for the centenary in 1965, when I had the honour of being invited to unveil a plaque recording the occasion. As St John’s Church of England primary school it is flourishing today.
"A prophet is not without honour except in his own country." My father used to talk most disparagingly of his grandfather, criticising him for spending his wealth on building three new churches instead of providing for the future of his children. In this he was probably quoting his own father Henry. John left his estate to his two older sons John Richard and William George. He had provided for his third son Henry by making him vicar of Sandbach Heath, one of his new parishes. Henry remained there all his working life, and had no real cause for complaint.
The Children of John and Susan Armitstead
ii. Susan Hester 18 -1865
iii. William George 1832-1907
iv. Sydney Henry 1837-1912
v. Robert 1840-1871
vi. Hamon 1840- twin with Robert
vii. Mary died 1855
viii. Jesse Barbara died 1918
Those who left no children will be dealt with first. Willy (ii) was born on 22 March 1833 and educated at Westminster (Queen’s scholar 1847, Captain of the School 1851.) In 1851 he won the Slade prize, a leather-bound edition of the works of the Greek dramatists, now in my possession. In 1852 he was the school’s head election to Christ Church Oxford, and he played cricket against Cambridge four years running. He was ordained in 1859, and served as curate in his father’s parish for three years before becoming vicar of Goostrey in 1862. He remained there for the rest of his life.
Willy and his brothers John and Henry were very keen cricketers, known as Big Jack, Middle Jack and Little Jack. With the families of Garnett and Bedford they founded the Free Foresters Cricket Club, and it was Willie who introduced the custom of umpires wearing a white coat. During a match between the United England eleven and a team of 15 Free Foresters at Manchester in 1861, he stopped the game, complaining that he could not see the ball against the drab figure of the umpire. The complaint was upheld, and in the words of the day "the umpire was vested in a nightshirt." Ever since, umpires have worn white. The Free Foresters won the match by four wickets, Goodrich, their underhand bowler, taking seven wickets in each innings. Bell, a Cambridge pro, invented a fancy stroke to Goodrich, running out and trying to lift the ball over the wicket, but he missed and the ball took his bails. In 1862 he married Mary Currie, daughter of Revd William Currie of Boughton Hall, who died three years later. He out-lived her by 42 years, and died without issue on 12 March 1907.
Robert (v) born 25 March 1840 was educated at Westminster from 1853-1857, and made a Queen’s scholar in 1855. He obtained a cadetship in the East India Company’s Service in Bombay and was commissioned in the 103rd regiment (1st Bombay European Volunteers) on 13 June 1857. He was promoted Lieutenant on 3 November 1859 and Captain on 1 July 1860. He served in the Indian Mutiny and gained a Mutiny Medal. He was retired on half pay on 8 February 1868, presumably on grounds of ill-health, and died three years later on 31 July 1871, aged 31.
Hamon (vi), Robert’s twin brother, remains a mystery. The only reference to him which I can find is in a letter of Mary Royds to Tom in Australia saying on & June 1854 "Hamon has quite outgrown his twin brother Robert and seems an obliging good boy." My father, his nephew, knew nothing about him. Mary (vi) was married to WF Currie, the brother of Will’s wife Mary, and died without issue. Susan Hester (ii) was married to Revd TM Dix, chaplain of the Macclesfield asylum. She died without issue in 1865 and was buried at Sandbach Heath.
Jessie (viii) was married to John Fletcher-Twemlow of The Hill, Sandbach, who died without issue three years later. They were married on 2 August 1871, and Jesse continued to live at The Hill for 19 years after her husband’s death, and then was married again, to Lt Colonel John Kennedy of Brookside, Arclid. In those days ladies did not often have careers, but they had hobbies, and Jessie’s was wood carving. Her outstanding piece of work is the reredos in Sandbach Heath church with its very realistic bulrushes, foxgloves and horse chestnuts. She was also a very keen gardener, and the shrubs and bulbs which she planted at The Hill (now a Leonard Cheshire Home) and Brookside still give pleasure every spring.
Jessie always wore a double locket round her neck, the contents of which caused much speculation in the family. It was thought to contain pictures of her two husbands. Older people still talk of her hospitality, and of the children’s party she always gave on Empire Day in particular. This continued for many years after her death as a parish function, and in 1961 I was invited to it as representative of the family at the centenary celebrations of the parish of which my grandfather was the first vicar. Jessie died on 5 September 1918, five years after her second husband.
John Richard (i) was born at Springfields, Bradwall, on 11 May 1829, and educated at Westminster, where he rowed bow against Eton in 1847. He was elected to Christ Church Oxford and after taking his degree he remained there for a few years as a don, or student to use a Christ Church term. In 1859, after serving as curate to his father at Sandbach, he became vicar of Goostrey, which he resigned to his brother Willy on becoming vicar of Wendlebury, Oxfordshire. On his father’s death he returned to Sandbach as vicar, and remainder there for the rest of his life. An honorary canon of Chester, he took a leading part in the life of the parish and county, and was an alderman of Cheshire County Council. He was a very keen member of the Cheshire Hunt, until an accident at a meet put an end to his riding and made him walk with a stick for the rest of his life.
A low churchman, he always wore a black gown for preaching, being robed in it before the sermon by his butler and his curate, whom he could frequently be heard scolding. In 1877 he inherited the Cranage estate on the death of his cousin, but never lived there, the property being let and subsequently sold to the Carver family, of whom a daughter-in-law married the future Field Marshal Montgomery.
John married on 9 May 1866 Frances Mary Hornby, daughter of William Henry Hornby of Poole Hall (which he rented form the Massies of Poole). He died on 16 September 1919 at the age of ninety, leaving seven children:
2. John Hornby 1868-1941
3. Lawrence 1870-1938
4. Edward 1872-1950
5. Cecil 1874-
6. Geoffrey 1875-1928
7. Margaret died 1949
Mary (1), known as May, was presumably the eldest child as my Aunt Agnes always referred to her as the head of the family. Records of that time are very coy about giving the age of female members of a family. I called on her during the war and was given an excellent tea and regaled with some of her amusing family reminiscences. Referred to by her father as m’daughter, she kept house for him after her mother’s death, and subsequently lived in a little house near Cranage where she kept up a regular correspondence with the various branches of the family. "God helps those who help themselves" she used to say, perhaps intentionally translating the Massie motto "Aide-toi, the ciel t’aidera". May died on 18 December 1952, the last Armitstead left living in Cheshire after the family’s arrival in the county over a century and a half before.
John Hornby (2), born 31 August 1868, went to Westminster, but was superannuated after two years. He went up to Christ Church, and was ordained in 1892. After being a curate to his father at Sandbach from 1892 to 1899, he became vicar of Holmes Chapel. In 1919 he succeeded his father as vicar of Sandbach, where he was the third and last Armitstead vicar. He was at once confronted with many problems. His father had stayed on as vicar until his death at the age of ninety, and had latterly become less capable. The fabric of the church was in a dilapidated condition, and needed a thorough overhaul. Money had to be raised, and quickly, and this required a business-like organisation and full cooperation from the parishioners. "It was in this respect" says John Minshull in his guide "that his active mind, remarkable energy and determination to succeed, prominent traits of the Armitsteads, were demonstrated. The right type of workers were gathered, resulting in remarkable achievements, including the raising of a large sum of money, in which a hundred and one improvements were carried out. While he cemented the good faith of everyone, including the non-conformists, he created a happy relationship throughout the Congleton Rural Deanery of which he was the Rural Dean." He was an honorary Canon of Chester, a member of the Cheshire Education Committee, and later Archdeacon of Macclesfield. In 1928 he presented the church with an electric light installation to mark the centenary of the tenure of the living by the family.
Bishop Lancelot Fleming spent a summer vacation in his parish gaining experience as an ordinand at Cambridge, and he described him to me as one of the best of the old squarsons, an autocrat who ran the village despite the mayor, but who was loved by his parishioners and worked selflessly on their behalf.
My cousin Dick Royds told me that he wrote to him before his own ordination asking for the regulation character reference. The day of his ordination approaching, and having received no reply, he called on him and asked whether he had received the letter.
"Did you send it in a business envelope?" asked John.
"Yes" said Dick.
"Oh well, my secretary is on holiday and I never open business letters myself. Is it in that pile over there?" And it was!
An old parishioner told me that the stream at the bottom of the vicarage garden was always available for them to bathe in during the summer. "It was our Lido" she said.
John never married, but was devoted to one of the Carver daughters who married Dick Sheppard, the famous vicar of St Martin’s in the Fields. After his death, she went to keep house for John. She was very possessive, and when my father went to John’s funeral after his death on 21 October 1941, which was attended by many members of the family, she refused, to their amazement and distress, to have them back to the vicarage. She is referred to in Andrew Harrow’s "The flesh is weak", a history of the Church of England clergy: "On October 21 1937 Revd Dick Sheppard died in unhappy circumstances, deserted by his wife and alone in a canon’s house nears St Paul’s Cathedral."
Edward (4), born 10 September 1872, was educated at Oswestry. As his elder brother John had been superannuated from Westminster School after two years his father in a fit of pique decided to send his other sons to Oswestry Grammar School, for which, my father said, they never forgave him. He went up to Magdalen College, Oxford, and then succeeded his uncle Willy as vicar of Goostrey in 1907, remaining there until 1923.
In 1918 he married Cecilia Mary, daughter and heiress of John Kirkland Glazebrook of Twemlow Hall, and they moved into Jodrell Hall, as the vicarage was considered too small for them! In 1923 he became vicar of Barthomley where he made a great impression. A keen sportsman, he retired in 1936 to Richards Castle. His wife died there without issue in 1938 and he died on 15 October 1950.
Margaret (7), known as Peggy, married in 1917 Revd Alfred George Edwards, who became bishop of St Asaph’s and who was referred to by her as the Bish. When the Church of Wales was disestablished he became the first archbishop of Wales, and thenceforward was known as the Arch. Although we did not know her well, she remembered most of her cousins in her will, saying that she likes to give people surprises. Peggy had difficulty in pronouncing her r’s, and it was a family joke that she used to talk of "a fewwy that wuns on a stwing". She died childless on 8 May 1949.
Cecil, Geoffrey and the Canadian Branch
Cecil (5), born 11 January 1874, emigrated to Canada in 1892 at the age of eighteen. He initially worked on a farm in Fort Saskatchewan, and for several years he freighted in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia. On 31 August 1898 he married Louise Jane, daugher of Thomas Taylor of Lac Ste Anne, Alberta. Thomas was an accomplished trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company in which capacity he acquired an unparalleled knowledge of local Indian languages and customs. Cecil and his wife were one of a small number of pioneering families to settle in Northern Alberta before the area was surveyed in 1899. The community where they established their homestead was subsequently named Onoway, and it remains the home of many of Cecil’s descendants. In the words of his daughter Doris:
Dad did mixed farming, and was a great lover of animals. As children, we always entered our pet colts, calves and sheep in the local fairs, and because of Dad’s able guidance, were able to win awards. At the time of his retirement, Dad had a notable herd of Hereford cattle. He was also an avid gardener and even in his last years helped us with our gardens.
My memories of Onoway are very fond. We never had much, but mother had a knack of making something out of nothing. She was also a tremendous cook, and our Christmas dinners, usually shared with many others, are a cherished memory.
To this day I still have a fear of forest fires. We really experienced some frightening fires as we were completely surrounded by heavy bush. Many times our few valuables had to be hung down a well, or carried to a well-ploughed area for protection. I distictly remember, one particular time, all the harnesses in the barn were dumped in one big pile, and it took quite a time for Dad to sort them out again.
Mother and Dad are both buried in the Onoway Anglican cemetery. It is very regrettable that they did not record some of their early experiences, so we might have a better insight into their early lives in Canada.
Cecil died in 1957 having had eight children of whom two, Freddie and Violet, died in infancy.
ii. Cecil Keith 1903-
iii. Reginald Clemence 1909-1973
iv. Russell 1912-
v. Doris 1916-
Cecil (ii), born 2 April 1903, bought a farm in the Onoway area in 1924 and started farming with no more than a team of horses and a plough. In 1937 he and one hired help built a new two storied, five bedroom house where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1939 he bought ten Aberdeen Angus cows from which he developed a large and well-known herd. He retired in 1972 and sold the herd to a rancher in Mississippi. His interest in cattle breeding did not stop, however, and he subsequently developed a herd of "blues" by crossing white shorthorns with black Angus. He married on 1 March 1929 Millicent Emily Walker. She was born in Leicestershire but emigrated to Canada in 1920 when her parents acquired a farm in the Onoway area. She died in 1975 and Cecil died in 1982. They had six children:
2. Marguerite (Fay) 1934-
3. Kenneth Cecil 1934-
4. Melanie Lou 1943-
5. Richard Lynne 1943-
6. Wendy 1945-
Joan (1) trained as a nurse in Vancouver, returning to Alberta to work in Edmonton. She married in 1954 Al Swanson of Theodore, Saskatchewan. They lived in Edmonton until 1962 before settling in Calgary. They have four children: Patricia, Laurel, Jill and Drew. In 1974 Patricia married Brian Brideau.
Marguerite (2) married Felix Westerlund in 1952 and they farmed north of Onoway. They have five children: Larry, Dawn, Lyle, Shawn and Danny. Dawn married Garry Armitstead in 1972 and have a daughter, Wanda.
Ken (3) followed in his father’s footsteps and became a well-known breeder of fine Angus cattle and bought his grandfather’s farm. He married in 1961 Ruby Tomlinson of Onoway and has three children: Lorne, Shelly and Murray.
Lou (4) graduated from a business course after high school and worked in Edmonton for several years. In 1964 she married Charlie Parker of Heatherdown and they lived in Edmonton until 1968 when they bought Charlie’s father’s farm in the Heatherdown district. They have two children: Penny and David.
Lynn (5), Lou’s twin, developed a liking and knowledge of cattle at an early age and built up a herd of Angus which were popular at shows and sales. In 1965 he married Joyce Waters of Rich valley. They farmed near Onoway for several years, then Lynn accepted a position as herdsman for an Angus breeder near Victoria in British Columbia. They lived there for three years before buying a farm near Hardisty in Alberta. They have three children: Christine, Dale and Ricky.
Wendy (6) graduated as a nurse’s aide in Edmonton in 1965 and worked there until her marriage to Milton Breitkreutz in 1967. They bought a farm near Onoway and also operate the Gulf Oil Bulk Agency in the town. They have two children: Rhonda and Robin.
Reginald (iii), born 20 August 1909 was educated in Onoway and Calgary.
Geoffrey (6), was born 15 November 1875. He married and had four children, Richard, Geoffrey, Milton and Frances who married a Mr Ohr.
Lawrence was born on 20 February 1870 and educated at Oswestry Grammar School and Magdelen College Oxford. He became rector of Malpas, Cheshire in 1894 and remained there until he retired in 1936. He was an honorary canon, and later emeritus canon, of Chester. He married Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Lt Colonel John Kennedy, who later married his Aunt Jessie. He died on 19 July 1938 as a result of a road accident, leaving two sons:
i. William John Lawrence 1909-1944
ii. Robert Charles Henry (Bobby) 1913-
William (i), born 1909 and educated at Malborough and Clare College Cambridge. He was the first Armitstead to go to Cambridge rather than Oxford. He was a Chartered Accountant and subsequently a stockbroker in Liverpool. In the second world war he was a major in the Shorpshire Yeomanry, and died of snakebite while on active service in India on 20 March 1944.
Bobby (ii), was born in 1913 and educated at Shrewsbury and Wadham College Oxford. He joined the KSLI and retired a Lieutenant Colonel. He was High Sheriff of South Salop (as it was then called) in 1976. He married on 15 June 1940 Kathleen Pamela Wilson of Montreal and has two children:
1. Helen Elizabeth, born 16 September 1943, married on 16 April 1966 Richard Nisbet Earle Raven, JP (Shropshire) who was educated at Shrewsbury, where he is now a housemaster, and Christ Church Oxford, and has two children.
2. Edward Bradley Lawrence, born 9 October 1946, was educated at Shrewsbury and RMA Sandhurst. Commissioned into the Coldstream Guards, where he is now Lieutenant Colonel, he married on 5 April 1973 Caroline Elizabeth Massie Birch, and has three children:
Henry was born at The Hermitage, Holmes Chapel, in 1837. He was educated at Charterhouse, still then in the City, having presumably failed to meet the entry requirements for Westminster, where his brothers went. He went up to Christ Church and then became the first vicar of Sandbach Heath, where he served from 1862 until his retirement in 1903. The church, sited where it could be seen from all parts of the parish, is now a lardmark for travellers on the northbound carriageway of the M6 motorway south of the Sandbach interchange, the motorway heading straight for it for a mile or so. The Latham family gave the site and in 1857 a Miss Sibson bequested the astonishing sum of £12,000, her own and her father’s savings, to build and endow a church there. Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the church was consecrated in 1861. Pevsner describes it as "a successful ensemble". The Faber Guide to Victorian Churches is more enthusiastic: "Everything is well detailed and beautifully proportioned. The interior, of brownish ashlar, has real grandeur despite its small scale, the well-lit crossing being especially impressive."
While at Oxford he had Lewis Carroll as a tutor, and thought him a very dull man. He lived first at Brick House, the oldest in the parish, until his vicarage, or parsonage as it was then called, had been completed. Today it is the Chimney House Hotel. A keen cricketer and fisherman, he hunted regularly with the Cheshire Hunt, and probably lived beyond his means as he was always trying out ways of adding to his stipend including training horses. He was a very successful country parson.
He married on 7 October 1875 Margaret Bourne Royds, daughter of Henry Royds of Wavertree and niece of Revd Edward Royds, rector of Brereton, the adjoining parish. On retirement he went to live at Glyn Garth, Anglesey, where he died on 29 January 1912. He was buried at Sandbach Heath. There were four children:
1. Agnes Jessie 1876-1946
Agnes (1), born on 24 May 1876 , was a very knowledgeable botanist. I have her Bentham and Hokker flora , in which she noted where and when she found the various species, which she then hand-coloured. It shows her to have travelled quite widely in her time, visiting Germany, Italy and Egypt as well as keeping house for her brother in India for a time. Latterly she looked after her widowed mother in Beaumaris, and moved after her mother’s death to a small house on the front which she named Trefanal after the house her father had at Glyn Garth. She was a keen member of the church choir, and died in the choir gallery during evensong on 2 May 1945.
Hester (4), the youngest child, was born on 12 April 1885 and educated at Bury St Edmunds and Dresden. A keen games player, she served with the VAD in Salonika in the first world war. She ran both the scouts and the guides in Beaumaris for many years, and was Assistant Scout Commissioner for the County. She was married on 11 January 1922 to Bennet Von der Heyde, descended from a family of Counts of the Rhine. He died in 1928, and during the war she took in his two unmarried sisters and looked after then until they died. This undoubtedly shortened her own life considerably, and she died in September 1956 in the parish church hall after giving a talk to the Mothers’ Union.
Henry, born 1877 and educated at Rossall and Owen’s College Manchester, was a railway engineer. He fought in the Boer War, and on 1 November 1911 he married Annie Selina Webber, a nurse, who died of dysentery eleven months later. Later he moved to India where he married on 2 April 1918 Gladys Evelyn Edge (Sheila). Henry died in tragic circumstances on 13 September 1931, when the following obituaries appeared in the press.
Carriage and wagon Superintendent RB and CI Railway May 1920 to September 1931
Sometimes a phrase or even a word throws a floodlight onto the character of a man, and shows in what esteem or otherwise he is held by his fellows. On that day, 13 September, when news came through to Ajmeer of the fatal accident on the line, one heard everywhere the same sad little phrase: "Our Henry is dead." Not Armitstead, or Mr Armitstead, but Our Henry, and it told a wealth of quiet affection which is not won by every man. He lived a quiet life among us, and in some ways, during his last few years, a lonely life, but he had no enemies and a host of friends.
His career was just like that of so many thousands of Englishmen who, through the centuries, by steady work well done, helped to make the Empire and keep it in being, and his being made an MBE during the Great War is just recognition of that fact.
Educated at Rossall, he served his apprenticeship to engineering and draughtsman- ship at the Crewe works under FW Webb, and from there he went to the Corton Foundry, Manchester, but, impatient with the narrowness of life and prospects in England, and eager for adventure, he sailed for South Africa in 1901 and during the latter part of the Boer War and the first months of peace he served as a trooper in the South African Constabulary and was marked out for promotion to a commission. Feeling however that such was not his real place in life, he resigned and joined in 1902 the Central South African Railways, remaining in that service until 1906. Later on, still keen on seeing as much of the world as possible, he came to India and the North-Western Railway, and in May 1920 he was made Carriage and Wagon Superintendent at Ajmeer on the BR and CI Railway. As is customary, he held a commission in the 2nd Battalion RB and CI Railway Regiment, and gained the Volunteer Decoration in 1925.
Such briefly was the outward life of Henry Armitstead, the work by which he earned his bread and butter, and within that round of useful activity the man grew ever more tolerant and kindly of heart as the years went by. Many were the drafts presented on his sympathy, and duly honoured. Yet very few were those that he himself presented. Shy and retiring, he yet attracted, as the magnet the needle, those in trouble and want, and some help was sure to be forthcoming, even when as some of us thought, the recipient was not worth helping. One such case is typical of our Henry. He had given a fairly large sum of money to a well-known "bad-hat" and, when expostulated with, his answer was: "Well, the poor fellow will be a damn sight worse off if he has nothing to eat."
It is easy then to understand why the cemetery was thronged by a crowd of more than 4,000 people at his funeral, on Thursday September 14th. It was at first intended that he should be buried at Almedabad, but we could not allow that. He had lived among us for so many years, he was ours, so his poor broken body was brought reverently back and laid in the beautiful cemetery amid the hushed sorrows of thousands.
Many were the spontaneous tributes paid to his memory by men of various creeds and castes. One man, a Hindu, spoke what may well be written as Henry’s epitaph: "He never harmed any man or any thing" and another, his own bearer, with tear-filled eyes, "I served him for many years, Sahib, I did everything for him, he was my child, I loved him."
And so, knowing him as we did, it was easy for some of us that morning, as we heard the wonderful long drawn-out triumphant note with which some Poet ended the Last Post to believe our Henry lives somewhere, and that someone with a smile on his face has said "Well done, Henry lad."
And meantime his memory lives on, deep-rooted in our hearts, and all our sympathy, if that could do any good, goes out to John and Peter, his two little lads at school in England, and to his wife.
Mr Armitstead, known throughout the length and breadth of the RB and CI Railway as Henry, died in tragic circumstances. He was on his way to Bombay by 10 Up Nathiwar Mail on the night of 13 September to attend the railway court of inquiry. He was travelling in a train service compartment and his servant who was in the servants’ compartment left him at Almedabad reading a book. It was not until the train had reached Radbad that the servant noticed the light still on. He looked into the compartment and found Mr Armitstead missing, and reported the matter to the guard. The driver of the 12 Up express which leaves Almedabad an hour after 10 Up while between Varva and Barajedi noticed someone on the track, and, stopping, picked up the body of Mr Armitstead who was unconscious and suffering from serious injuries. The driver took Mr Armitstead into Badiad where he was admitted to the American Mission Hospital and where he succumbed to his injuries without regaining consciousness on Wednesday morning 13 September. He was brought back to Ajmeer on Thursday morning by 4 Down in his own saloon and buried with full military honours the same evening. The saloon was drawn up on Jonesgang level crossing where the coffin was taken out and placed on the hearse by the officers and senior sergeants present. A very large crowd attended the funeral, and the floral tributes were many, among which were wreaths from Sir Ernest and Lady Jackson, the Officers of the Locomotive and Carriage Department, Mr AJN Jackson and Mr G Cooper-Walker. Mr Armitstead had been very popular in Ajmeer and took a very keen interest in all games, and if there was one game which he liked and encouraged above all others, it was cricket. Among his many public duties he was Chairman of the Railway Cooperative Association, Vice-President of the Railway Institute and Chairman of the Bowling Club. He will be greatly missed.
Henry was due to retire the following year. Although nothing was ever proved, it was suspected that his death was due to foul play. He was at the time on his way to give evidence for the prosecution at an inquiry into fraudulent behaviour. His mother, who had learned to write again saw his photograph and read the announcement of his death in The Daily Telegraph and suffered a second stroke from which she never fully recovered. Henry had two children by his second wife:
i. John Royds, born 19 January 1919
ii. Peter Henry, born 23 October 1921
Peter (ii), educated at Blundells, trained as an engineer and subsequently spent his life tea planting in India. John (i), educated at Blundells, trained and RAF College Cranwell, served in Coastal Command in the second world war (DFC), and retired a Group Captain. He married on 20 September 1941, at Llangefni, Iola Mary Withinshaw, and has two children:
1. Patricia Ann 1943-
Patricia (1), born 26 May 1943, served in the WRAF and married on 20 September 1969, at Haslington, David George Avrell, a computer engineer. They have two children.
Michael (2), born 14 December 1944, educated at Battisborough House and the City University, took a first class degree in Physics in 1966. After working for six months at the University of Nigeria he went to Sussex University where he gained a PhD in 1971. From then until 1974 he was a research physicist at the Atomic Warfare Establishment, Aldermaston, and then spent four years as Professor of Physics at the University of Zambia in Lusaka. He returned in 1978 to take up a post with Marconi Electronics. He married on 19 December 1971 at Brighton Marilyn Dewey, and has two children.
William Kenrick, third child of Sydney Henry of Sandbach Heath, born there 4 July 1878, was educated at Rossall, where he was Captain of the School, and Hertford College Oxford. On going down from Oxford he went to teach at Dunchurch Hall prep school from 1903 to 1908, and played hockey for Warwickshire. In 1908 he went to Felsted, where his career is well summed up in the following obituary notice which appeared in the school magazine, written by Michael Craze, the school’s historian:
William Kenrick Armitstead died at his Colchester home on 4th April (1961) in his eighty-third year. For nearly half his life he was at Felsted. All OFs over 30 and under 70 can therefore look back on their first hand experience of an outstanding public school master. He was born in a Cheshire vicarage and educated at Rossall. He went with a classical exhibition to Hertford College, Oxford, took seconds in classical mods and greats, and then joined the staff at Dunchurch, a prep school near Rugby. Frank Stephenson had taught him at Rossall and in the third year of his headmastership brought him to Felsted.
From the first he took was put to work with the best of the younger boys; he took the colts for hockey and cricket (he was an Occasional and a Free Forester) and he was the form master of the Classical Fifth (later Va) to whom he taught Latin, Greek, Divinity and English. To him school certificates were both a minimum and a matter of course. He took his boys well beyond that, but never harassed them and he would not have them harassed.
He belonged by an accident of history to the first generation of soldier-schoolmasters. In 1914 he joined the OTC, and the next year went on active service with the Cheshire Regiment. He was a company commander on the western front and was wounded; indeed he was nursed by his future wife.
Back at Felsted he resumed his housemastership of Stocks’, but gave it up on his marriage. For the next twenty years Garnetts was his home, and it was there that his four children were brought up. His two sons had all their schooling at Felsted, and his younger daughter married on OF. The Armitsteads were a happy and hospitable family whose contribution to the community was all the greater because Common Room was at first predominantly bachelor. In the village they took the lead - WKA was for years President of the Village Club and the Conservative Association. And when the school evacuated to Hertfordshire he was a lodger there, and came back to his family at the end of the term.
His jobs at the school were legion, but three need a special mention here. He commanded the corps for eight years, and built the armoury during his command. He was the first Careers Master when the ogre of unemployment in the thirties led some public schools to form an advisory service on careers, and he did his work with skill and enterprise until he retired. He kept the records of OFs throughout the 1939-45 war, and spent hours every week going through the London Gazette, hunting for the names of serving OFs, supplying lists to the OF number and card-indexing it for the new edition of the Alumni that Chittock completed in 1951.
Yet over and above the work he did there still remains, defying analysis, the perennial attractiveness of the man, whose figure we remember, on boundary or touchline, or indoors talking through tobacco smoke, and whose individual laugh would start affectionate smiles on every neighbouring face.
The following obituary appeared in The Times shortly after his death:
MR WK ARMITSTEAD
Mr Michael Berry writes:-
"Nec male vixit, qui natus moriensque fefellit." Horace’s opinion that he has not lived badly who in life and death escaped notice may well be sound, but I had hoped that someone better qualified than me would pay tribute to the sterling worth and character of the late WK Armitstead, who died on April 4. Faute de mieux, perhaps I may be allowed through you columns to salute, however imperfectly, the passing of one who served Felsted so long and so valiantly.
Armitstead was a conscientious and effective teacher of classics, evidently, at the time when this writer was his pupil, over twenty years ago, well content to tackle the somewhat thankless task of guiding boys through school certificate Latin, with what success is best illustrated by his feat of manoeuvring a whole form, over 20 in number, through the exam without a single failure. He enlivened the dreary prospect of Latin prose with an ingenious system of team and individual competitions for which he himself provided the prizes.
Though primarily a classical scholar, Armitstead also turned his hand to scripture and English with considerable effect. He had served in the 1914-18 war and after his return from it he commanded for several years the school contingent of the OTC, as it was then called. In his younger days he has been a games player on note, and was a Free Forester.
During the second world war, in which he saw service with the Home Guard, and even after his retirement, he render yeoman assistance by keeping the School’s records of old boys and their service, no mean task. He also emerged from retirement to help with teaching at a school in Colchester which was short of staff.
But what abides in the memory is his unobtrusive interest in, and concern for his pupils, which was well exemplified by his detailing from his form an old hand from each house to look after the form’s newcomers in that house.
"The world knows little of its greatest men", but there must be many who will feel privileged to have known the late WK Armitstead.
Two other interests of his were golf—I have several of his prizes—and amateur theatricals. Bishop George Reindorp told me how "when we were preparing a Shakespeare play for school certificate, we did not just read it; he made us act it." In July 1981 a classroom was named after him at a ceremony which I attended with my sister and her two OF children.
He married, on 7 April 1920 at Beaumaris, Maria Gezina Swinnerton (Mollie). Following his retirement from Felsted, he moved to Colchester in 194?, where he lived at 45 Lexden Road until his death on 4 April 1961. Mollie continued to live in the same part of the town until her death in 1977. The house being too big for her, and in need of repair, she moved to a smaller property nearby, and then into a flat built for her by her son-in-law, Tom. They left four children:
i. Sydney Kenrick 1921-1984
Kenrick (i), born 6 June 1921 was educated at Felsted and Hertford College, Oxford. After serving as a Major in the Royal Artillery in the Second World War (mentioned in despatches) , he became a teacher of modern languages and spent most of his career at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, where he was Head of Modern Languages and tutor to the Prince of Wales during his time there. Although he never married, he led a very active life and had many interests, particularly sailing and, latterly, family history. He was a co-founder, with Colonel Iain Swinnerton, of the Swinnerton Society, and was planning to work part-time as a professional genealogist after his retirement.
These plans were never realised, as he died of a heart attack on 24 August 1984, the year he was due to retire, while ashore in France in charge of one of the college’s yachts. The following obituary appeared in The Times a few days later:
MR S.K. ARMITSTEAD
Teacher ashore and afloat
A colleague writes:
Mr S.K. Armitstead, lately Head of Modern Languages Department at Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, died suddenly in Brest on August 24. He was at the time in charge of one of the college yachts, Martlet, with a crew of young officers under training.
To his many friends it will seem entirely appropriate that his death should occur in this way, in the company of the young for whom he had been, for the past 35 years, an excellent mentor and friend.
Sydney Kenrick Armitstead was born on June 6, 1921. After attending Felsted school he went up to Oxford in 1940 to read classics. But it was wartime and, having taken Honour Mods in 1941, he was commissioned in the Royal Artillery, serving with distinction in Tunis and Italy, and being mentioned in despatches.
It was primarily his time as a soldier in Italy which decided him, on his return to Oxford in 1946, to changes his studies to French and Italian.
He always wanted to teach, and although he retained a great affection for, and knowledge of, the classical languages he thought he would be better at teaching modern languages. In this he was absolutely right: he had a amazing gift both for learning and teaching any language. His main ones were French, Italian and German: he taught himself, and than taught others, Malay, Persian and Russian: modern Greek he took in his stride.
He left Oxford in 1948 and was offered a temporary modern languages post at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. It was here that he found and developed his other great love, sailing. Generations of naval officers owe their love of sailing to Ken's tireless and expert tuition. He had only recently been made an honorary life member of the Royal Naval Sailing Association and the Britannia Yacht Club, honours which touched him deeply.
The temporary job at Dartmouth ended in 1951 but, although he much enjoyed his subsequent teaching at Repton, when a permanent post at Dartmouth was offered him in 1956 he accepted it. He became Head of the Modern Languages Department in 1964 and, although he stepped down from that post on reaching the age of 60, he continued teaching at the college and was due to retire at Christmas.
He was a man of many interests, an ornithologist in his youth and, until recently, a regular producer of plays and operettas. He was by nature a giver: nobody ever asked him for help and went unaided.
The Royal Navy and the Britannia Royal Naval College owe an enormous debt of gratitude to this generous and scholarly teacher.
Zoe (ii), born 12 May 1923, was educated at Wadhurst and served in the WRNS in Ceylon during the war. After the war she worked for Sekers of Bruton Street. She married on 10 September 1955, at St Mary’s church, Colchester, Thomas Rowland Watts (Tom), a Chartered Accountant, and partner in Price Waterhouse. As an honorary adviser to the Department of Trade, Tom led the UK’s negotiations on European company law harmonisation following the country’s entry into the EEC, and for five years was chairman of the Accounting Standards Committee. He was appointed CBE in 1978, and in 19?? received the accountancy profession’s Founding Societies’ Centenary Award "for excellence any field of endeavour".
Zoe has taken a very active part in the local community. She has been governor of the Colchester Royal Grammar School, and of Lexden Springs, a school for children with learning disability, chairman of the Colchester Flower Club, an active fund-raiser for the NSPCC, and she continues to play an important part in the local Conservative Association. She has three children:
1. Felicity Zoe, born 2 November 1956
Felicity (1), educated at Felixstowe College and University College, London read biochemistry and subsequently gained a PhD in 1981. She held research posts at Imperial College and Leicester University before moving to the University of Sussex where she is now a Reader. She lives in Brighton.
Claudia (3) was educated at Felixstowe College and Felsted, and then read a combination of Agriculture, Russian, Chemistry, History of Art and Chinese Civilisation at Edinburgh University. After working as a nanny in the UK and in Beijing (where she learned to speak Mandarin), she took up teaching English as a foreign language, and has since worked in Yugoslavia, Greece, France, Indonesia and the Ukraine. She currently works for the British Council in Hong Kong. She is a keen member of the Hash House Harriers, the expatriate running club and, following Kenrick’s example, has researched the family history on her father’s side.
Nigel (2), educated at Felsted and Trinity College Cambridge is a Chartered Accountant and a liveryman of the Chartered Accountants’ Company. He married on 13 December 1993 at Finsbury Town Hall Tanuja Pandit, daughter of Dr Premnath Srikant Pandit and Dr Indu Vasudev Pandit (née Zadoo) of Bombay, but originally from Srinagar in Kashmir. Tanuja was born in Wilmslow while her father, a Chemical Engineer, was working for ICI, and was brought up in Bombay, but settled in England after taking her MBA at London Business School. Nigel and Tanuja live in Islington and have a son:
i. Rishabh William Pandit, born 11 May 1995
Harry (iii), educated Felsted, served with the Gurkha Rifles in India in the war, and afterwards joined British American Tobacco Company working in Jamaica, Ethiopia and Nigeria before returning to the London Office. He married, on 9 February 1958 in Addis Ababa, Gillian Louise Bartley, daughter of Sir Charles Bartley, an Indian High Court Judge. Gillian died in , and Harry married again, on , Elizabeth (Leafy). Harry died on 1 January 1996, leaving two children by his first marriage:
1. Claire Louise, born 2 December 1958
Claire (1), educated Bedales and St Hilda’s College Oxford, worked as a journalist on the South Wales Argus, the Hampstead and Highgate Express and the Financial Times, before joining The Guardian, where she is now Arts Editor. She married, on 17 September 1983 at New College Chapel, Oxford, John Yandall. John subsequently gave up his fellowship of New College to teach English to children in the East end of London, and is an active member of the National Union of Teachers. Claire and John live in Stoke Newington and have two children:
Julian (2), educated Bedales (Head of School 1979) and Girton College Cambridge, where he read classics before going to drama school in Cardiff. He then took a job as an English master at Aylesbury Grammar School before moving to a teaching job in Hong Kong. He married, on 11 August 1989 at the Nederlands Hervormde Kerke, Abcoude, Holland, Magreet Sterk, daughter of Professor ? Sterk of ? and has two children:
Margie (iv), educated Wadhurst, married in June 1951 Graham Brown (marriage dissolved by divorce). She was administrator of Trelissick Gardens for the National Trust. She died on 27 March 1988 while on holiday in Malta leaving three children:
1. Timothy Roger Graham, born 30 October 1954
Last Update: 16 October 1999
Web Author: Nigel Watts
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