The diaries of T.H.Usborne 1843-1867

Notes and transcriptions by Thomas Noel Hoblyn 1963 (edited by Edward John Hoblyn in 2008)
The first of these diaries was kept in 1843 when Thomas Henry Usborne was 33. He was the son of Thomas Usborne of Gillwell House, Great Amwell, in the hamlet of Sewardstone, Essex, near Waltham Abbey, who was then a widower of 73, and had himself been a widower for seven years. By his late wife Emma, daughter of Thomas Starling Benson, of North Cray Place, Kent, who died when she was only 23, he had three children, Emma Rebecca (Emmie) aged 11, Thomas Starling (Tom) aged 9, and Elizabeth Meux (Bessie) aged 7. He had two sisters, Emma, who married Blackwall Simonds, and Julia, who married Henry Breedon, Rector of Pangbourne. (The Breedons are frequently mentioned, but Emma is always “my sister Emma” and Simonds is only once mentioned as Blackwall). He appears to be on good terms with his Benson “in-laws”, whom he often talks about.


In 1843 he is living at Montague Place, London, and often visits his father at Gillwell, usually going down by carriage. The children are at school, the two little girls at a Boarding School at Ryde. It is not clear when Tom went to Eton, but he was there in 1845 (still only 11).

He was a member of the Parthenon Club. His income seems to have consisted of an allowance from his father of £100 a month and the marriage settlement money of £62.10s. p.a. from old T. S. Benson. His father must have paid the children’s bills.
He is friendly with Isobel Henderson. By February she is “Isabel darling”. They were engaged in April.
In January 1843 he was very ill; whether or not he had paratyphoid fever is not clear, but he refers to it as a “Paratype” attack, and says that he woke up the first day and found that he had “lost the use of his limbs”. The remedies sound worse than the disease. He was bled and had calomel every four hours and had “black draughts” (3/- a dose) and, one night, the doctor put fourteen leaches on his temples. He was in bed a month and had a nurse.  Various people came to see him during his illness including Florence, Richard and Starling Benson, Fred Bury and Henry and Emma Breedon (note this is Henry Breedon’s sister, not Emma Usborne). Mrs. Seymour who also came “made me very ill with talking". The children also visited him and his sister Emma (she lived at Woolverton). He had letters from Isobel and her father, Captain Henderson, and from Sarah Benson. He does not seem to have been too ill to write his diary, but he did not go out until the end of February and, on the last day of March, drove with the nurse down to Gillwell to recuperate.
A month later, he has recovered and records his engagement to Isobel: “23 Apr. Dear Isobel and I took a long walk after church with Capt. and Mrs. Henderson”. The next day he gave her a prayer book, a turquoise brooch, etc., and says (in French) that it has been the happiest day of his life for many years.
In June he introduced Isobel to Emmy who was “very miserable about it” and three days later on 27 June 1843 they were married by special licence (which Capt. Henderson had to fetch from Winchester) and went off to Pangbourne for a fortnight’s honeymoon. Isobel was only 19. I do not think Isobel and Emmy can have hit it off very well, but she got on very well with Bessie (who called her own daughter after her stepmother) and Tom. She is frequently referred to as “Mama” later in the diaries, so up to the time when ill health overtook her she probably fitted into the family very well. She must have had money of her own as he does not seem to allow her much.

The last part of the year was spent at Montague Place and in Jan.1844 we find them still there, taking lessons in German, visiting the Governor at Gillwell from time to time. During this time he was visited by his Aunt Sophia(?).

In April they went to stay at the Pier Hotel, Ryde, presumably to see the children, before they set off for a long holiday in Germany lasting from May till October, when they returned to Montague Place.
The places they visited are mentioned and what it cost, but the (German coinage (thalers or dollars = 3/- and groschen) is rather confusing. (Some time this year the brother-in-law Henry Breedon must have died).

In 1845, they are still at Montague Place — Tom is at Eton now and the two girls at Ryde. He visits Gillwell, but his father must be getting decrepit and he is helping him with his accounts. On one occasion he drives down to fetch some wine and the “Buntingford             papers”. On 31 May the old man died and was buried at Waltham Abbey on 7 June. T.H.U. was an executor, and there was evidently much to do at Gillwell, though he apparently had never any intentions of living there — probably could not afford to. In September he went to Gillwell in the carriage for the last time. Later in the year they are evidently thinking of going to Ryde to live as they went there several times staying at Yelf’s Hotel. During those visits to Ryde he took a bath daily which cost 2/- a time. In November he received £11,000 from his father’s executors.

In February 1846 they are again at Hyde, Isobel celebrating her 21st birthday there on 8 February. On 19 May they finally took up their quarters at Rosemount, Ryde (which they rented for £81p.a.). At the beginning of the year Emmy and Bessie were still at a Boarding School there run by Mrs. Butts (£68.13s. for a half year for the two of them), but later they must have gone daily. Tom was at the Rev. Hawtrey’s house at Eton (about £100 a year). In June Gillwell was put up for sale, but there was no bidder. They went for an expedition to Alum Bay in June.

During 1846 and part of 1847 he kept on the house at Montague Place, going backwards and forwards to Ryde and to Gillwell, feeding at “The Feathers” or at the Club when he was in London. During April their friends, Mr. and Mrs.Young were at Ryde with their yacht and took them for a sail round the Island. In June 1847 they took their farewell of Gillwell, which was disposed of at a two-day sale. In August he and Tom (now 13) went for a tour in Wales. It was not expensive; it cost £26.16s.6d. for the two of them for ten days.

During January 1848 they evidently had gay holidays with several children’s parties. His sister Julia gave both a children’s party and a ball (at Pangbourne?). In February he and Florence (Benson) went down to Blackheath to enquire about Woolwich for Tom, who was evidently marked out for an Army career.

This year the house in Montague Place disappears and he now rents Chambers in town from the Rev. Thomas Cardale at £20 a year. Although he was a “gentleman of leisure” he seems to have transacted most of the family business, investing money, etc., for his sisters, etc.; anyhow, this was his usual reason for going to town. He saw quite a lot of his sister Julia Breedon and her sister-in-law Emma was married at Newchurch by the Rev. Wade (husband of Emma Jane, Julia Breedon’s daughter) in September.
In June he went on a sailing trip (with the Youngs?) in “The Stranger” from Ryde to the Scillies, arriving at St. Mary’s after five days sailing, where they dined at Mumfords hotel (Perhaps this was Holgates, the owner’s mother was Mrs. Munford in the 1948).
His income that year was not large, but he is receiving money from his father’s residuary estate. Old T.S.Benson seems a little erratic with the marriage settlement money.
Emma, who is now 16, has left school, but Bessie is still at Mrs. Butts’ and Tom at Eton.

During 1849, they lived quietly at Rosemount; during the early part of the year he went hunting several times. The total housekeeping at Rosemount, including three ponies and a man, cost £870 for the year. Tom became more expensive though and cost him £233 that year. They gave a ball in January.
In September 1849 he and Tom went for a geological tour of the Island — he seems to have had a considerable interest in geology.  He gave a lecture at the Town Hall, Ryde, in December (I cannot decipher the subject). During October he and Isobel went on a visit to his sister Emma who lived at Hermits Tower, Manchester. In August Bessie went to a new school at Ryde run by Miss Poles or Poole (T.H.U. is never very hot on spelling names; they vary considerably as they may have done in those days, viz. Hobling was an alternative to Hoblyn and Osborne for Usborne).

The Christmas holidays at Ryde again seem to have been very jolly with a lot of parties in January 1850. The family seem even then to have been musical, there is an account for tuning the piano and harp.  Emma, who was 18 in November 1850, was now at a finishing school. In
the summer she and Isobel stayed at the Freshwater Bay Hotel and he and Tom used to ride over to see them on the ponies. The Bishops are first mentioned this year.

In February 1851 he read a paper on the coal formation to the Ryde Philosophic and Scientific Society. There is very little except accounts in the diaries for 1851 and 1852. From these, however, it is clear that Emma married William Bishop some time in the summer of 1852 and in that year Tom, who was then 18, went to the R.M.A. Woolwich. It is not stated when they moved from Ryde to London; but the new house, No. 30 Onslow Square, was paid for in November 1852. They do not seem to have moved though until 1854, when he also bought No. 34 Onslow Square. The two houses each cost £2,400, but had a ground rent as well. No. 34 was let to Baron Marochetti at a rent of £150 a year.

The main entry of interest in the 1853 diary is an extract from Hasted’s History of Kent (Vol. 3, p.59) giving the history of the Usborne’s of Loddenden, Staplehurst, obviously another branch of the family, who had lived there for three centuries. In 1790 it was lately the property of Edward Usborne and his widow lived there. Sixty years later, at the time of these diaries, yet another Mrs. Usborne lived there, who is often mentioned in the years that follow. It must have been from her that Tom ultimately inherited the house. In 1853 he is still at Woolwich.

At this time Cunliffe was the family solicitor (succeeding Mr. Bury). It is interesting that one hundred years later this firm of solicitors still acts for us in matters concerning the Rotherhythe Property, in which Harry Hoblyn had a half share with Mrs. Archer (Emma’s daughter by Willie Butts).

In 1854 they moved to London and T.H.U. gave up his Chambers. This year he bought a farm at Mardley Bury, near Royston, and also Staynden Farm, Staplehurst. (These were bought as part of his marriage settlement.  In this year Tom left the “Shop(RMA Woolwich) and was gazetted to the 7th Dragoon Guards; there seems to have been some discussion as to whether he should be transferred to a regiment for the Crimea, but this did not apparently happen. Tom joined the United Services Club and his father opened an account at Cox’s for him with £100.
In September T.H.U. and Capt. Henderson went shooting on the farm at Staplehurst (a poor day) and there is a note that he went to church with Mrs. Usborne of Loddenden. Bessie, now 18, left school and is living with them in London.
In November Henry (Roxby) Benson got his majority in the 17th Lancers and they saw him off for the Crimea, Tom going down to Gravesend to see him sail.

Very little is recorded about the year 1855. Tom was still in the Army, but does not seem to have stayed in long, for by May of the next year he is settled at Saynden Farm, Staplehurst. Isabel, some of the time accompanied by Bessie, spent a long time at Ben Rhidding (or Rhidden) in Wales and I think this may have been the start of her long recurrent illnesses, which kept her out of London a lot after this.

In January 1856 both Isobel. and Tom were unwell and this may have been the reason for his coming out of the Army, for it is after this that he goes to Staplehurst. At this time Bessie went for the first of many visits to Teddington. It seems that both their friends the Youngs and T.S. Benson lived there or at Twickenham.

In the spring Isabel again went off to Ben Rhidden and Bessie went to Ryde. T.H.U. went to stay at the Sun at Staplehurst for a short time in May. This month Tom got his dogcart smashed up. After, he went to Ben Rhidden and returned with Isobel in June. Later in the year they all visited Tom at Staplehurst several times, generally calling on Mrs. Usborne at Loddenden each time.
This year a few public events are noted, e.g. 29 May Queen’s birthday and illuminations for the Peace; 13 June Palmer (the poisoner) was executed.
It is amusing to note that on one occasion Capt. Henderson joined him for an oyster lunch at Scotts.

The beginning of 1857 finds them involved in the lawsuit Usborne v. Usborne, which went on for a long time and may have been something to do with his father’s will, for there are now no further payments from the residuary estate and his means seem restricted. 
Isobel is away unwell in January and he is alone at Onslow Square with Bessie, who already seems to be helping him with his business. By April Isobel was very ill and in May she went off to Belgium with Miss Pryce, whence she did not return for more than a year. Miss Pryce, who eventually became a Clewer sister, seems to have been Isobel’s inseparable companion for the next few years. She may have been a nurse or possibly a cousin (T.H.U.’s mother was Rebecca Price).
Bessie, who was 21 on 11 May, evidently looked after her father. She went frequently to see her Benson grandparents at Teddington and her friend Sophy Young was married there In July.
William Bishop died on 9 July and he notes “poor Emma’s birthday” on 18 November. She was only 25 and was left with two children Emmie and Willie.
T.H.U. went twice to Antwerp to see Isobel in July and December.

The family are all together, except Isobel, for the New Year.  Poor Isobel, still at Antwerp, is by no means well. T.L.U. seems very lonely without her, despite Bessie’s companionship and, perhaps in consequence, the diary is very full, even such events as the marriage of the Princess Royal with the Prince of Prussia (25 Jan.) and the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race (27 March) being noted. (He little knew what the former event would bring forth, for these were the parents of the future Kaiser William of Germany.)
T.H.U. is much involved in the Usborne V. Usborne case and goes to the City frequently, usually by the penny steamer from Chelsea to St. Paul’s wharf, sometimes returning by the omnibus. He is not very well himself and has frequent recourse to calomel; he always carefully records each dose. He seems to have kept a well stocked medicine chest. One day in January he dined at the fish ordinary at Simpson’s and met Dr. Nott who was a great writer and orator and had been Rector of Staplehurst with Nicholas Usborne (probably of Spillswell Court not Loddenden).
In April he records the death and funeral at Amwell of his uncle aged 88, but there is nothing to show who he was. Perhaps this uncle and Aunt Sophy (above) were Pryces.
In the same month Emma Bishop went to stay with Mrs. Weeding. (This may have been Elizabeth Newberry, the mother of Mary Weeding who became Mrs. Shackleton Hallett, or it may have been her mother-in-law who died in 1860). In May he and Bessie had a rather adventurous visit to Teddington where they called on the Youngs and saw Florence and Starling Benson and also Aunt Tiny (first mention).

1858 (continued)
Aunt Tiny must have been Mrs. Henry Benson. They had to walk home from Putney.
Later in the same month and again in September he and Bessie went to see Isobel in Belgium. During visits to Staplehurst that summer they visited various places in Kent, walking over to Marden to see some Usborne tombstones of the Marden Usbornes and once they dined at Loddenden at 3 p.m. Dinner seems to have been a movable feast in those times.
In October (6/10/58) old Starling Benson died and was buried at Twickenham on the 12th.
On 5 November “Wrote to Mr. Hoblyn to say I would be glad to see him it he was coming to town and allowed Bessie to write on the other side”. The same day Isabel and Miss Pryce returned from Belgium. On the evening of the 9th “Mr. Hoblyn smoked a cigar with me when we came to an explanation about Bessie”.

[A word of explanation here is necessary.  Tom Hoblyn (now 23) had met Bessie earlier, when he was stationed at Parkhurst. He was a Lieutenant in the 20th Regiment and had served in the Indian Mutiny, contracting some trouble, probably a form of dysentery, during the siege of Lucknow. His home was at White Barns, Nr. Buntingford, Herts., where his father (now 80) and mother (formerly Anne Sarah Hallam) were living. His mother’s people also lived in the neighbourhood at Brent Pelham Hall, and Mr. (G.W. Hallam must have helped his daughter with business matters, for it was with him and Mrs. Hoblyn that T.H.U. discussed Tom Hoblyn’s prospects and Bessie’s marriage settlement. His only son George, cousin Sophy’s brother, was killed two years earlier in the Mutiny. Tom Hoblyn was on sick leave and had come up to London partly for a Medical Board.]
During November, they all went down to White Barns to stay and Bessie and Tom’s engagement was satisfactorily arranged. The last entry of interest is Tom Hoblyn’s birthday on 6 December. T.H.U. seems to have got on well with Mrs. Hoblyn who gave him later some Cornish Dramas to read.

During January 1859 they were having a gay time in London. Tom Usborne was there and Tom Hoblyn was in and out frequently. One evening he called when Bessie was out - one can imagine the somewhat embarrassing situation that followed. He went to Cornwall for ten days at the end of the month. In April Mr. Hallam died (George Walsh). The following summer Isabel spent some time in Scotland and T.H.U.and Bessie went to Staplehurst by train via Pimlico. There are several notes that Tom Hoblyn was playing cricket — he seems to have been a great cricketer and in the following year played at Lords. In June Tom Hoblyn went down to Eton where he saw Willy Benson. It is not clear who Willy was, but he may have been Col. Henry Benson’s eldest son, Starling, called Willy to distinguish him from his uncle — the age is about right. Mrs. Benson (Elizabeth Meux) died in July and they all went to Teddington for the funeral.

Later that month they again went to stay at Staplehurst, where T.H.U. hired a horse, which they called the Beastie. It does not seem to have been very manageable. On the 25 July they dined early as they were to drink tea (evidently an unusual event) at Loddenden. But on the way home the Beastie fell and pitched someone (illegible) over his head and they had to walk home. In the end he smashed up the pony carriage down Staplehurst hill. The visit ended sadly for Isobel was ill again and had to be taken home in an invalid carriage.


There is a long blank after this and only the bare statement on 4 October “Bessie was married this day”. (She was married at Holy Trinity Church, Brompton). Not long after, Tom Hoblyn was evidently ill again and so was T.H.U.— he says it was bile. By 3 January 1860 they were
both better. Bessie and Tom came to stay in February after an adventurous journey; they were first involved in a railway accident and then nearly smashed up in a cab. Tom lost his portmanteau, but it turned up the next day.
In April Mrs.Weeding died; Isobel is ill again and so was T.H.U. with diarrhoea, etc. It is not at all clear what Isobel’s recurrent illnesses were due to (she was still only 35). She seems to have suffered from sickness and hysteria. It must have been some chronic illness, probably never diagnosed. It is highly probably that a lot of T.H.U.’s upsets were the result of eating and drinking too well.
In June T.H.U. went down to Patmore Heath to stay with Bessie and Tom, where Mr.and Mrs.Hoblyn called on them, and he went to White Barns. (Note: the young Hoblyn’s had a furnished house at Furneaux Pelham, near Patmore Heath). While he was there, Tom had another attack of dysentery, but was able to play cricket a few days later.
On 6 August old Mr. Hoblyn died, aged 82, and the next day “Bessie was brought to bed of a little girl at 5 o’clock p.m.”. This was, of course, Aunt Isobel. (Isobel Anne) and is the only one of his grandchildren whose birth he records.
On 13 August he and Tom Usborne went down to White Barns for the funeral and saw Bessie and her baby on the way back.
In September he and Isobel went to Antwerp for a month.
On their return they called on the Henry Benson’s at Eaton Place. A few days later Henry, Starling, Richard and Aunt Tiny came to see them to say goodbye, but where they were going is not stated.
At the end of October Miss Pryce became a nun at Clewer, Windsor.
Tom Hoblyn was evidently still in the army for early in November he had to go off to Ireland for his Adjutancy. A day or so later Bessie left them for her new residence. (Probably a house called Jopes on Rickling Green).
This month Tom Usborne did something which thoroughly upset his father. It had something to do with selling his Spanish three per cents; but evidently did not bear recording for it is all crossed out.
Isobel and he spent Christmas with Emma at Maldon and had dinner with the Beeeding’s (these must have been Mary Hallett’s parents). It was very cold.

In January 1861, they are in London again with the usual festivities. Emma (Bishop) and the children, Emmie and Willie, stayed with them. In February he is ill again and seems to live mainly on calomel and rhubarb. In April Bessie and Tom came up to stay with the Youngs at Twickenham. The next month there is a note that his sister Emma and Blackall (Simonds) left St. George’s Road for the Isle of Wight — this is the only mention of Emma’s husband.

The family are all keen members of the Royal Horticultural Society, whose gardens then occupied the ground behind the Royal Institution, now occupied by the Albert Hall, etc. (part of the garden walls are still to be seen in the Royal Institution, I believe). Each year they go to the R.H.S. Fete, though this year Isobel was too ill to go. The Fetes on 5 and 6 June must have corresponded to the Chelsea Show of today — with similar weather, thunder, lightening and a heavy hailstorm.
Later that month there were great fires at Kensington, Newington Causeway and at Southwark that went on burning for several days until it rained.
In September they stayed with the Hendersons at Dawlish. The next month Bessie, nurse and baby (Isobel) stayed with them prior to the move to the Views, Rickling Green, on 18 October. During this time Tom Hoblyn went to see his mother at Brighton en route for Cornwall. Later T.H.U. was summoned to sit on the Grand Jury at Clerkenwall Green, but was excused on a medical certificate.
The last entry that year is the death of Prince Albert (Victoria’s eldest) on 14 December.

There is very little recorded during the next two years. In January 1862 T.H.U. was ill again. On
26 February, Edward Hoblyn was born, but there is no record in the diary; however, in April, Bessie and Tom pay him a visit, the former bringing the baby with her. That month they dined with the Henry Bensons at 45 Wilton Crescent — in the autumn of that year Aunt Tiny was ill. In August they went to Southsea and paid a visit to Portsmouth dockyard where they saw the Warrior, Black Prince and “the new Iron Plater first rate, not finished yet”. After that they went to see Emma (his sister) at Ryde. At the end of August they went to Antwerp for a month, but the trip by the Dolphin started badly, as he fell down the cabin stairs and hurt his leg.
Bessie and little Edward stayed with them in October, while Tom went down to White Barns with Toby (his dog?). At the end of that month Tom Usborne brought his future wife Sisie Downing to see them.

In January 1863 Tom Hoblyn went off to Corfu, though whether this was in connection with military duties or not is not stated. Bessie and the children stayed a month with them in London. In April he mentions the grand procession to meet Princess Alexandria and the subsequent wedding to the Prince of Wales at Windsor. The rest of this diary is all accounts. The cost of living for a household consisting usually of two with three maids is of some interest. The following is the average cost of housekeeping per week.

                                    £            a.            d.
Butcher            2.            6.            5.

Cheesemonger               18.            7.
Grocer                           14.            7.

Greengrocer                     8.            2.
Baker                              8.            7.
Milk                                 6.            3.
Washing                          8.            7.
Mrs. Soman      1.            0.            0.
Housebooks      2.            1.            4.
               £8.          12.            6.

Mrs. Soman may have been the cook/housekeeper, though her wages were only £3.13s.a year. In addition to the above they bought their tea at Ridgways and spent £1O. 6s. a year on it. Wine, etc., cost £43.14s.for the year (what a lot they must have got for that!); 20 tons of coal cost £22. 4s. and the gas bill came to £15.1Os.

The main point of interest in 1864 is the appearance of Mr.William Pitt Butts, who called on them for the first time in June — all the relations coming round to inspect and enquire about Emma “et le futur”. Later that year Emma became Mrs.Butts, though the date is not recorded. (In April this year Henry George Hoblyn was born).

Isobel went to visit her parents at Dawlish and later in the summer they spent the whole of August In the Lake District. It cost him £130 for four of them.

Mrs. Henry Young and Admiral Henderson (Isobel’s father) died in 1865 and Isobel herself was very ill again in April. The only other entry (except for accounts) records that by November Emma Butts had produced a baby. (This must have been Beatrice - Auntie Bea , who later married Rev. G. Archer).

At the start 1866 they are an in town. Willie Butts and Tom Hoblyn seemed to have got on well and dined at the ‘Rag’ together. There is a note that Emmy and Willie (Bishop) went to stay at Rickling. 
Isabel was again ill in January, something wrong with her chest. In February Col.and Mrs. Henry Benson called to tell them that young Starling had been gazetted to the 17th Lancers. They are now living at 92 Eaton Place.
In June he went down to stay at The Views — they were haymaking. Mrs. Hallam and Sophy were staying there. (Note: this is Sophy, who later married Col. Watkin — she must have been 16 or 17. The next month Richard Hallam Hoblyn was born).
By August Tom Hoblyn is evidently seriously ill and comes up to London for a consultation with a specialist, Sir Ronald Marten(’?) Jones, and their own Dr. Baber, but they do not seem to have been able to do much for him. In the last photo I have of him he looks a very sick old man and one would never dream that he was only 31.
Isobel went to stay in Broadstairs in September, where T.H.U. joined her but, by the end of October, she was very ill indeed and died on 28 October. The account of her last illness is very harrowing. She was buried in Brompton Cemetery, Father Richard Benson (the youngest son) taking the service. (See postscript).
However, this was by no means the end of the troubles that year for on the 21 December Tom Hoblyn died, being followed a few days later by his old mother. What a Christmas for them all. Tom was buried in Quendon churchyard on 28 December and his mother on 4 January. The weather was very bitter, deep snow everywhere.

Isabel’s death quite broke up T.H.U. and the household in Onslow Square. Mrs. Soman left for Ryde to Emma Simonds (she was very violent at leaving) and T.H.U. rented a new small house in Percy Terrace. But though some of the furniture was moved there early in the New Year, he had not moved by the end of 1867. Indeed, the last entry for that year records that Willie Butts had met Payne, who was going to take Onslow Square, at the Club. His children visit him from time to time and Harriet Smith has taken over the housekeeping. He stayed a few days with Bessie at Rickling and again in September. But on the whole this last diary is the record of a very sad and lonely old man. Perhaps to ease his loneliness, he takes to religion and spends much time in church and seems to find some comfort there.

In August he stayed with Tom at Staplehurst. Mrs. Usborne is still ensconced at Loddenden and Miss Downing apparently lives with her.
Almost the last entry records that Butts had left to go to Tom’s wedding at Staplehurst to Miss Downing on 31 December 1867. This is the end of the diaries. Thomas Henry Usborne died at Percy Terrace fifteen months later on 22 April 1869 and was buried at Brompton Cemetery. Bessie was sole executrix.



The diaries give no indication of how T.H. Usborne filled his time. Apparently he had considerable literary interests. In 1851 he published “The Magician Priest of Avignon” or “Popery in the Thirteenth Century” in two volumes. In that book he is said to have been the author of “A New Guide to the Levant, Syria, etc.”; “Tales of the Braganza”; ‘Scenes and Sketches”, etc. These books must mostly have been written before these diaries start, during which period he evidently traveled extensively. He was a very staunch protestant and violently opposed to the Roman Catholic Church. The “Magician Priest” was not very well reviewed and there is a reprint of a long and involved letter that he wrote to the “spectator” in answer to the criticism. (I can hardly imagine the “Spectator” printing such a letter nowadays). There is no evidence that T.H.U. ever made any money out of his writings.

I fear that the picture that emerges of T. H. Usborne is not a very attractive one. He was an upright man and a good father. In his youth he traveled a lot and wrote accounts of what he saw. He dabbled in science in rather a half-hearted sort of way. He was keen on horticulture and farming but never did any himself. He seems to have conducted a good deal of the family business, but the family did not seem to have appreciated all he did for them. He was not a rich man, but had sufficient to enable him to live well and bring up his family in comfort. He evidently took considerable interest both in his creature comforts and in his ailments. He never seems to have earned a penny in his life.


Emma Jane Simonds lived the remainder of her life at Ryde, where she died a very old lady of 89 in February 1885.

Elizabeth Julia Breedon, widow of the Rector of Pangbourne, also lived to be a very old lady, dying in 1892. aged 93. E.J. and Henry Breedon had five children and no more (as the deed puts it). He died in 1844. The children were Thomas Henry of Ryde, Frederick William of Jersey, Julia of Ryde and Emma Jane who married the Rev. Arthur John Wade, Clerk, of Ryde. The fifth child died young.

Emma Rebecca Butts (Bishop) seems to have lived at Southsea. She died at Woking at the age of 56 In 1878. Her daughter Emmy Bishop when staying with her Uncle Torn at Loddenden met the Rev. Reyner, Rector of Staplehurst. They had one son, Basil. Later she married W.J. Shaw of the firm Smily and Shaw, “The Finsbury Press”; he was a bad lot and ran through most of his wife’s money. They lived, at any rate for a time, at Twickenham. The emerald necklace which we still have was hers; when she was particularly hard up she sold it to her Aunt Bessie. The last part of her life was spent near Portsmouth. She died some time in the 1930’s and I went to her funeral with Basil, I remember that she never would have a bath in a modern bathroom and always insisted on a hip bath; she was allergic to tea and never drank it. Emma Butts’ second daughter, Beatrice Butts (Auntie Bea), married the Rev. George Archer, Rector of Stilton. She was reputed to be very queer in the head, though I never remember seeing her. She had a “moiety” with Harry Hoblyn in the Rotherhythe Property, of which I am now trustee. They had one daughter, Faith, who married Jack Glyn and now lives in Cumberland.

Thomas Starling Usborne eventually inherited Loddenden, Staplehurst, where he lived as a typical country gentleman of his time. He had no children. His wife died in 1906, aged 65, and he must have died a year or so later. The picture of Charles II and family by Cossiers, which I still have, was left to my father (E.F.H.) by him and the Ashford Lodge dining table that Kathleen now has also came from Loddenden.

Elizabeth Meux Hoblyn (Bessie) was left with four children to bring up, though the youngest, Richard Hallam (Dardie, I have a photo of him) died when he was only 9 and was buried in Quendon churchyard with his father. In 1877 she married the Rev. James Marius Taylor and moved to Quendon Rectory. The second marriage was not popular with the family, particularly Edward (Ted) who seldom went home during his stepfather’s lifetime. It is related that when he first heard the news he was so angry that he sat in the fire! After the Rev. Taylor died in 1885, aged 57, they moved to the Grove House, Sible Hedingham, Essex. and it was here that Ted met his future bride, Alice Warburton, who was staying with her uncle at the Rectory. Towards the end of the century they moved again to Ashford Lodge, Halstead, Essex, and Mrs. Taylor lived there until she died. In her youth and middle age she was a very efficient person, a pillar of the church, a good business woman, housekeeper, mother and grandmother. She was always keen on gardening. She was no mean artist and painted many watercolours. She played the piano and the organ. Alas, her memory and mind went long before her body and for some ten years before she died she was a Ward in Chancery. She eventually died on 18 October 1922, aged 86, and was buried in Halstead cemetery. Ashford Lodge was burnt down a month later.

Edward Florence (Ted) Hoblyn, my father, was educated at Felstead and passed into the R.M.A. Woolwich, being commissioned in the Royal Garrison Artillery. He served at many places at home and abroad, including Malta, Gibraltar, Singapore, mainly on Coast Defence. It was his great sorrow that he never saw active service, except as C.R.A. Western Forts, Isle of Wight, in 1914-16. For a time he was instructor in range finding at Woolwich. He mounted Coast Defence guns at Gibraltar, Singapore and in the Isle of Wight. He married Alice Caroline Warburton at Dedham on 27 August 1891 and they had four children. He retired in 1916 and went to live at Ashford Lodge (which he rebuilt after the fire) after his mother died. His main interests outside his work were shooting and gardening (he always had a garden, wherever he was). He died very suddenly of a heart attack while out shooting on 31 October 1928 and is buried with his mother in Halstead cemetery.

Isobel Ann Hoblyn lived with her mother all her life and was her companion in many expeditions. She was very keen on hunting and other country pursuits; she also did a great deal of social work, being among other things president(?) of the Girls’ Friendly Society in Halstead. She contracted blood poisoning, probably due to mistreatment, and died in February 1904 aged only 43. There is a memorial window to her and her small brother Richard in St. Andrew’s Church, Halstead. I have a diary that she kept when she and her mother went for a tour in Canada and the United States, part of the time being spent with her brother Harry, who was then farming in the States.

Henry George Hoblyn is not mentioned in the diary, but was born in 1864. He also went to Felstead and later took up farming, for a time in Cornwall and later in the States, though without much success. Eventually he came home and, breaking his leg in a hunting accident, was lame for the rest of his life. He lived with his mother at Ashford Lodge until about 1912, when he set up house on his own at Orleans, West Mersea. During the time that his mother was a Ward in Chancery, he acted as “receiver”. The last years of his life were spent at Colchester, where he died In 1933. He is buried in Halstead cemetery. His house­keeper, Ida Drane, occupies the house 2 St. Clare Drive, Colchester, for her lifetime.

T. S. Benson
– of all his fifteen children, with the exception of Emma, our great grandmother, only one, General Henry Roxby Benson, had any offspring. His wife, Aunt Tiny, lived for many years at Fairy Hill, Reynoldston R.S.O., Glamorgan. They had four children.

Father Richard Meux Benson
, the youngest son of T. S. Benson, was the founder and for many years Superior of the Cowley Fathers or, more properly, the Society of St. John the Evangelist, a religions order for men in the Church of England. “He was a man of the extremest kindness, that was tempered with a large share of practical organising wisdom”. He died on 14 January 1915, aged 91.

Starling Benson, the eldest of Henry Benson’s children, became a Colonel in the 17th Lancers and probably late in life married Viscountess Gort, the mother of Lord Gort, V.C. They lived at Cowes Castle, Isle of Wight, where I once went to lunch in 1911-12.

Henry Benson became a Judge. I only knew him after he had retired, in 1917, when he lived with his daughter Gladys Benson in King William Street, Knightsbridge. I used to go there to Sunday lunch, always roast beef and apple tart with claret to wash it down, after which we played Bridge all the afternoon for 1/- a hundred, the Judge always used to “carry” me.

Madge Benson and her crippled brother Florence, my godfather, lived at Onslow Square. He died some years ago; she was still living and a very old lady in 1947 and may be still.

Sophie Hallam
is the only member of’ the Hallam family whom we know anything of. She married Col. Watkin, R.A., who was a well known inventor of instruments. I have a pocket barometer and a gunnery instrument of his. The Watkin Clinometer was still in regular use for gun -laying in 1918.  He must have died in the early 1900’s, as far as I remember the family were in mourning when Kathleen was bridesmaid and I was page at Cousin Edith’s wedding; this must have been about 1906. There were five children Harry, Frank, Elsie, Bertha and Edith, of whom only Bertha is now surviving in England, though Edith Collins, who lives in South Africa and has a family, may be still alive. Harry was married, but neither son had any children. Frank, who was a Captain in the Northumberland Fusiliers, was killed in action on 1 January 1915, aged 29. Elsie married Col. Allen and had two boys, Franklyn who is married and has a family (he was in the Navy) and Douglas, who spent most of his life in Hong Kong.

Sophie Watkin lived in a flat in Knightsbridge in the latter part of her life; she died in 1941 or 1942, during one of the worst raids on that part of London, aged 93. She was always very good to us and my mother was very fond of her.

Mr. and Mrs. Weeding are referred to once or twice. Elizabeth Weeding was the granddaughter of one of the Newberry family, a brother to T. S. Benson’s wife Hannah, and thus second cousin to Bessie Usborne. Her daughter Mary Weeding married Shackleton Hallett and was completely lost sight of until her death under rather tragic circumstances during the 1930’s. Apparently her mind had been deranged for some years and she had lived at the top of an old house at the mercy of rapacious servants and letting down a basket for food supplies. She left a lot of jewelry to my sisters.

The Usborne v. Usborne Case.
In his will old Thomas Usborne left a number of pecuniary legacies to his Usborne and Breedon grand­children. The residue of his Estate was to be divided half to his son T. H. Usborne and a quarter each to his two daughters Elizabeth Julia Breedon and Emma Jane Simonds. The trustees of the will, who were to realise his assets and carry out his wishes, were T. H. IJaborne and his son-in-law Henry Breedon. Unfortunately, Henry Breedon died before Thomas Usborne and no trustee was appointed to replace him.
In 1857 there was still a considerable amount of property unrealised and Elizabeth J. Breedon and her four grown up children issued a Bill of Complaint against T. H. Usborne, asking that he should be made to appoint another trustee and settle up the Estate. In the same year T. H. Usborne himself issued a Bill of Complaint against his son T.S Usborne asking to be allowed to appoint a trustee himself since It had been found impracticable to find a person to be a trustee who would be acceptable both to him and some of the persons interested in the Estate.
Just how T.S. Usborne comes into this I cannot understand, as, apparently his interest (unless as heir to his father) had been settled. However, he may have been awkward in some way. He and his father were not on very good terms at that time.
The Estate was finally placed in Chancery and wound up under its supervision. (Thomas Usborne’s Estate was estimated to be worth about £60,000. Gilwell was valued at £7,000).

The Benson Marriage Settlement.
Originally T. S. Benson settled £250 a year on his daughter on her marriage. In 1840 he appears to have been in low water and unable to pay the full amount.  Accordingly, a policy for £5,000 with the “Economic” was taken out and assigned to two trustees, Starling Benson and Henry Breedon, in full settlement of T.S. Benson’s liability, except for a sum of £62.1Os. which was to be annually paid by him to T. H. Usborne. T.S. Benson’s three children, Starling, Sarah Jane and Florence John Benson, agreed to pay three-fourths of the premium and Thomas Usborne (of Gilwell) one fourth. (There is a copy or the agreement dated 15.12.1840 in the Usborne tin box).

The Mardley Bury Farm, Royston.
In the Usborne-Benson marriage settlement old Thomas Usborne also settled a sum of money on his son and his grandchildren. This money came to T.H.U. on his father’s death and was invested in the Mardley Bury Farm, presumably on behalf of himself and his three children, in 1853. In the same year Saynden Farm, Staplehurst, was bought for Tom.

Torn seems to have been responsible for administering Mardley Bury, but not to have taken much interest. In 1867 there is a letter to the Agent from T.H.U. (copy) in which he says that the “Captain”, who is seldom in town, does not seem capable of looking after his own interests or those of any one else! I do not think Tom had any right at all to the title of Captain.