By Paul Draper
Have you ever taken the time to walk around the old graveyard at St. Andrew’s? It is overgrown in places and very uneven, so you have to be very careful. However, it is well worth the visit as we have more than our fair share of celebrities and other important people. A majority of these people did not actually live in Fairlight so why are they buried at here you might ask? St. Andrew’s Church had been rebuilt in 1845/6 and with the arrival of the railways, it became fashionable for people from London to visit Hastings and St. Leonards to take in the fresh sea air and then visit the Firehills and the glens and walk up to visit our church. It seems that many of them liked the setting so much that they asked to be buried here.
The ’celebrities and worthies’ (people worthy of a mention) seem to have mostly appeared in the second half of the 19th century following the building of the new church and all under the stewardship of the Reverend Henry Stent. Henry Stent, Fairlight Rector from 1858 to 1903, despite his different surname, was the brother of William Drew Lucas-Shadwell (1817-1875) and uncle to William Peter Lucas-Shadwell (1852-1915). If you refer back to my earlier articles on the Lucas-Shadwells, published in Fairlight News between March 2016 and June 2017, you will understand the importance and influence of the family on our village.
Although the graveyard is uneven and somewhat overgrown in places it has been much worse. By 1994 certain parts were covered in brambles and weeds to a depth of five feet and more and hence nobody could fight their way through, particularly in the lower area to the east of the church. Frustrated by the worsening situation, a small group of volunteers set out to clear the area. After an organised few days of ‘slashing and burning’ they began to see the light. They then started to read some of the gravestones and tombs and realised that we had some important names buried here. As a result and after some research, a brochure was put together in 1995 and that has been available inside the church ever since.
Over the recent years, we have been continuing to read more gravestones and pages from the Fairlight registers and conduct more research. As a result we have discovered more interesting names and stories and, in 2018, decided to put together a simplified and modified short brochure to assist visitors. Below is an extract from the brochure:-
What connects President Franklin D Roosevelt,
Cecil Rhodes, T. S. Eliot, Richard d’Oyly Carte
and William the Conqueror?
Answer: The churchyard of St Andrew’s
in Fairlight, East Sussex!
The following are listed in an order that permits visitors to see each grave in order, in an approximate anti-clockwise direction:-
1 Richard d’Oyly Carte and his parents. Richard founded the eponymous d’Oyly Carte Opera Company and the Savoy Hotel.
2 The earliest legible gravestone dated 1740, in the name of John Gorham.
3 Thomas Farncomb & family. Thomas was Alderman of the City of London for many years and the Lord Mayor in 1849-1850. He assisted Prince Albert in his early preparations for the Great Exhibition of 1851. In August 2020, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery acquired the silver trowel with which Thomas, on 28th October 1850, inserted the closing bricks in two of the local tunnels of the Ashford, Rye and Hastings Railway.
4 Thomas Attwood Walmisley M.A., Mus.Doc. was a Professor of Music at Cambridge, a musical prodigy and master player of church organs. He composed church music and madrigals.
5 The Lucas-Shadwells of Fairlight Hall. They are remembered in the stained-glass windows’ in the Lych Gate and on many of the gravestones. Many other members of the family are to be found here plus three more in the Catholic section next door. William Lucas-Shadwell was MP for Hastings 1895-1902.
6 Sir Woodbine Parish KCH. British Diplomat. Best known for his work following the defeat of Napoleon and in Buenos Aires recognising Argentina as a state in the 1820s. He was buried at Fairlight in 1882 together with several members of his family.
7 Joanna Burdett third daughter of Sir Francis Burdett MP for Westminster for 30 years. Connected to the Coutts banking family.
8 General Sir Charles Menzies, aide-de camp to Queen Victoria and founder of Newcastle, NSW, Australia.
9 William, the 8th Earl Waldegrave, a direct descendant of William the Conqueror via Henrietta FitzJames, the illegitimate daughter of King James II. His widow, Lady Waldegrave, formerly Sarah Milward, gave the largest donation for building the current church (£I,000) and laid the foundation stone.
10 The parents and sister of Sir Cecil Rhodes, pioneer and statesman who gave his name to Rhodesia. Cecil Rhodes loved walking in Fairlight Glen. He did not marry. Cecil is buried at World’s View, Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe.
11 Frederick Ticehurst. JP and surgeon for 45 years in Hastings. He was Mayor of Hastings five times and surgeon to the 4th Cinque Ports volunteers. You might recognise the name as family member Richard Ticehurst has a ward named after him at the Conquest Hospital, Hastings.
12 The Sankey family. Percy gave land to the church in 1926 as a Rose Garden at the eastern end of the churchyard, now a graveyard extension. His son, Reverend John Sankey, founded the Old Hastings Preservation Society.
13 The Martineau family. A prominent family from Fairlight Lodge connected to the Whitbread brewers. The family includes the wife of Cyril Edgar Martineau, Muriel Delano Martineau, first cousin to US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Catherine Middleton, wife of Prince William, is a distant relation.
14 Sir James Roberts, Baronet JP, LLD. He made his fortune as owner of Saltaire, a model industrial community near Bradford. TS Eliot referred to ‘a silk hat on a millionaire’ in the poem, ‘The Waste Land’ after meeting him.
The above are the names in the present church information sheet. Further names will we added to this list and will include:-
-Members of the North family, who included a local MP and Marianne North, the botanist and artist after whom a gallery is named at Kew Gardens.
-James Scholefield, Professor of Greek at Cambridge Trinity.
-Admiral Cospatrick Baillie-Hamilton.
-Sir George Curzon Bisshopp, 11th Baronet of Parham.
-Mary Bonnet Capel Davies, daughter of James Capel of City Stockbrokers, James Capel & Company.
-Jack Frye, late husband of Lady Dashwood. Lady Dashwood, when previously known as Marla Landi, appeared in films including The Hound of the Baskervilles with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
-Graeme Sutherland, the 7th Laird of Graemeshall, Orkney Islands.
-Frederick Henry Hamilton Smith, of the Barons Colwyn.
-Henry Hemans, grandson of Felicia Hemans. Felicia, a poetess, was probably best known for “The boy stood on the burning deck……..”
-Sir Charles Taylor, 2nd Baronet Hollycombe.
-The Hon. Maurice Richard Wingfield, of the Viscount Powerscourt family.
No doubt more names can and will be added to this list.
Clearly, we have more than our fair share of ‘important’ people. If we compare our Parish to our neighbours in Pett, they seem to have very few. It can only be attributed to our location with our amazing views across Rye Bay and the Channel. Sadly those views have been mostly obscured by trees in the 20th and 21st centuries.
We, the Fairlight History Group, had planned to give an expanded presentation on the ‘The celebrities and worthies of Fairlight graveyard’ on 18th March at the Village Hall. Sadly this was postponed due to Covid 19 restrictions and we will have to find a suitable opportunity to put this on in the future.
As usual, if you know anything further about any of the above people, or want to know more, please contact us.
By Paul Draper (September 2020)