The Friends of St. Peter's Berkhamsted

Friends of St Peter's, Great Berkhamsted

Reginald Hugh Hughes, (1839-1904)

Grave Number 399

Reginald Hugh Hughes, 1839-1904,
The Eldest Son of Hugh and Ellen Sophia Hughes

Researched and compiled by their granddaughter Helen Mary Kaznowski (nee Hughes 1925-2015), daughter of Cyril Henry Hughes, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Reginald’s father was Hugh Hughes, a solicitor of Aberystwyth, sixth son of a local farmer. Hugh was partner in a firm started by his older brother, John. Reginald’s mother was Ellen Sophia Maggs whose father, Paul Maggs, was a tobacco merchant in Bristol. Mrs Maggs and her family lived in Aberystwyth and were listed among the ‘gentry’.

Reginald Hugh Hughes was born on 25th November, 1839 at 22 Pratt St, Camden Town, the home of Henry and Rebecca Reffell. He grew up with foster parents in Camden Town for reasons that are not fully known, while his parents and brothers and a sister lived in Aberystwyth.

When he was about 10 Reginald moved to his parents’ home in Aberystwyth, where he already had a sister, Claudia and a baby brother, Theo. To a child brought up in Camden Town, then a little town in the country just outside London, the intensely Welsh little sea-port, Aberystwyth, must have seemed an alarming, foreign place where everything and everyone was strange. On the other hand, it may have been a wonderful escape from Camden Town and a relief to leave his foster family. He was thrilled to have moved to Wales as, throughout his later life, he loved Wales and everything Welsh, especially the language.

Hughes family graveReginald must have had good schooling because, later on in life, he rose to a very good position through accountancy and management. He certainly learned Welsh and he loved the language. In fact, in later life, he was keen to be known as a Welshman. To his grandchildren, later on, he and his wife were always called ‘Mamgu’ and Tadgu’. Reginald lived with his family in 22 North Parade and the family continued to grow. A boy, Trevor Tysilio, had been born in 1846 but died in 1849. In the census return there is no mention of Claudia, born in 1841, list but she was probably away at school. Reginald has not been sent away to school as some of his younger brothers were, later on. Another boy, Hugh, was born but little Marsia Ellen died. Two more brothers were born, Edwin and Jack (John), but they and Hugh were so much younger than Reginald that they could not be his companions.

Sometime between 1855 and 1857 the family moved to one of John Hughes’ properties, 24 Pier Street, where they lived in some style. The younger children had a governess and there were three servants. At no. 10 lived Dr Gilbertson, son of William Cobb Gilbertson – and his wife, Ellen who was Ellen Sophia’s cousin. Dr Gilbertson himself had three slightly older cousins on his mother’s side, who were leading figures in the Oxford Movement, Rev. Isaac Williams, the hymn writer, Rev Lewis Evans a noted Anglo-Catholic, Vicar of Llanfihangel y Creuddan and Rev James William Williams, Bishop of Quebec. It appears that Reginald was drawn into the atmosphere of intense devotion and theological discussions and, in his teens, determined to enter the Ministry.

Huughes Grave as it looks todayReginald’s father was planning on Reginald being articled to the family firm and this would have been at any time after about seventeen years of age, i.e. about 1856/7. He was possibly looking forward to this with pride and satisfaction, after working so hard for many years to build the firm. He was able to offer his son, Reginald the prospect of an excellent career. However, Reginald rejected his father’s plan and asked, instead, to be allowed to become ordained into the Church. There was a terrible quarrel which ended with his father disinheriting him, disowning him and throwing him out. He maintained this implacable attitude until he was on his death bed. This is the story told by Cyril Henry Hughes, Reginald’s eldest son and related in turn to his granddaughter, Helen Mary Hughes, the author of this account.

Reginald left home and travelled to Australia, probably on one of the sailing vessels which called in at Aberystwyth. He worked his passage as an ordinary seaman – he was a strong young man, used to seeing the shipping and to meeting seamen. An obituary of his brother, Arthur, written in 1919, states that Reginald was in Australia for many years. There is no information concerning what he did during his time in Australia. In 1872 when he was 32. He settled in West Bromwich, where his brother, Theo, had set up as a solicitor. Reginald became an accountant and, later, manager of a building firm.

Reginald’s marriage

Hugh Hughes and Ellen SophiaReginald fell in love with Esther Maria Pennington, aged 23, the only child of William Henry Pennington, deceased schoolmaster, also of Dudley Rd. West Bromwich.

William Pennington came from a family of well-known china-painters of Worcester. He had been schoolmaster in the large, scattered village of Martley, about eight miles from Worcester. He had gone blind and had to retire when he was about 45. Esther’s mother was born Elizabeth Merrick whose father had been parish clerk of Martley, a post held by several generations of Merricks. He was a saddler and also kept the village shop, opposite the school.
After losing his position as schoolmaster and his home, the schoolhouse, William Pennington had moved to West Bromwich. His wife had a brother living in nearby Dudley. William Henry Pennington died in 1870.

Reginald and Esther (known as ‘Eta’) were married in February, 1872 in West Bromwich and Reginald’s younger brother, Arthur, witnessed the wedding. A succession of children arrived rapidly as the years went by, until, in all, thirteen had been born. The family’s first home was in Lodge Terrace, High St., West Bromwich, where they stayed for five years, and where Ellen, Hugh, Cyril and Ethel were born. Hugh died in 1876, aged only 14 months. It was said that he drowned in a garden pool when they were visiting friends. In 1878, the family moved to 11 Jesson St. and there followed three tragic years. Eta had a son, Edmund, born in September 1878, who lived only 33 hrs, according to the family bible record. Then Eta’s mother, Elizabeth Pennington, died in April 1879. A daughter, Emeline was born in December 1879, but died, aged 8 months, in August 1880, just a month before the birth and death, (aged 30 hrs.) of another baby, Edith. The grief of the family at those five deaths in only four years must have been harrowing for all the family and the anxiety which must have accompanied the birth, on Christmas Day, 1881, of Mary Esther can easily be imagined.

Children of Reginald and Esther Maria Hughes

Ellen Elizabeth b. 2nd Nov. 1873 d. 1940
Hugh Merrick b. 7th Mar. 1875 d. 26th. April 1876
Cyril Henry b. 8th Mar. 1876 d. 1956
Ethel Marsia b.16th Aug. 1877 d. 1945
Edmund b.13th Sept.1878 d. 15th. Sept. 1878
Emmeline Mary b.13th Dec. 1879 d. 17th. Aug.  1880
Edith b.18th Sept.1880 d. 19th. Sept. 1880
Mary Esther b.25th Dec. 1881, d. 1960
Margaret Mary b. 8th July 1883, d. 1955
Reginald Trevor b. 5th Jan. 1885 d. 1961
Dorothy Mary b.14th Sept.1886, d. 1959
Kathleen Lucy b.14th Sept.1890, d. 11th Nov. 1974, Whangarei, NZ.
Oswald Pennington b. 6th July 1891, d. 8th Jun.1971, New Zealand

Reginald gave a great deal of his time to the parish of St. Mary Magdalen and the parishioners presented him with a marble clock when he left, in 1882. In an address, the Vicar said that Reginald had been “the very heart and soul of the work” (of the parish ‘mission’) for “the past nine years.” While in Staffordshire, Reginald had other interests also: for example, he was a keen party worker for the Liberals and was also a Freemason, which he reconciled somehow with his religious beliefs.

In 1882 Reginald and Eta moved with Nelly, aged about 8, Cyril aged 6 Ethel, 5 and baby Mary, to Kilburn, North London, then a new and prosperous suburb. He became general manager for John Knowles of 38, King’s Rd., St. Pancras, builder’s merchant. It was a big firm and he ran it for the next 23 years. It was a boom time for such firms as London was both expanding very fast and also making huge changes to the centre. The family home, where they stayed for eight years, was 37 Chichester Rd., a large house where four more children were born, Margaret, Reginald, Dorothy and Kathleen.

The next few years are chronicled partly by the family bible record of the births of five children. In 1883, Margaret Mary was born, in 1885, Reginald Trevor, followed by Dorothy Mary in 1886.  In 1887, Reginald’s brother, Theo, died suddenly in West Bromwich, followed, a month later, by their mother, Ellen Sophia. Reginald went down to her funeral and wrote a letter to his wife, describing how he had been one of the sons carrying the coffin, as his mother had desired. In the autumn, Reginald’s father (Hugh Hughes) died after a brief illness. Reginald and Eta went down to the funeral, staying at their ancestral family home of Glynpadarn, near Aberystwyth, Wales.

Kathleen Lucy was born in 1890 and there is a picture of Eta in the garden, holding her, with Reginald and Cyril there also. Nellie confided to Cyril, later, that she had vowed never to marry, because, though she loved children, she had spent all her own childhood looking after her younger brothers and sisters and could not face having a family of her own, only to start all over again with the endless work and worry. Apart from the Bible record and the photographs there is information from sets of letters written by Reginald every time he had to be away from home, and carefully preserved by Eta. He was obviously deeply in love with her and the letters show great tenderness of feeling and gentle concern. There is no trace, in his letters, of the “Victorian Father” figure, and he seems to have been a very kind and loving father, enchanted with his “little pets” and miserable when forced to be away from them all. The letters are quite unsophisticated, full of almost boyish enthusiasms, warmth and affection.

In 1891 the family moved to 44 Cambridge Ave. Kilburn, where the last child, Oswald, was born. There is a letter written to Eta dated 1893, who was obviously convalescing after an illness. The letter is full of concern for her health, and advice not to spare expense in having anything that would help her to regain her strength. In the letter Reginald thanks God that he has “such a happy home, and good children and (the) servants no trouble whatsoever.”

This letter is also full of parish news. It cannot have been by chance that the family had chosen that part of Kilburn. Both Chichester Rd., and Cambridge Ave., to which they moved,-were very close to a large, leading Anglo-Catholic church, the majestic 19th.c. Gothic St. Augustine’s, Kilburn. Reginald was a very keen helper in all kinds of church activities and his sons were servers there, while Ethel was a Sunday School teacher. The English Church Union was another of his interests and he was a member of its National Council. In the parish Reginald ran a mission for the poor, a working men’s club, a temperance society, and was superintendent of the Sunday School. His whole family used to go to church together, the youngest being taken regularly from a couple of weeks old.

In addition to his church work, Reginald had continued with his support of the Liberal cause, and was a party worker in Kilburn. There was a great deal of music in Reginald’s home and Eta seems to have been very keen. Certainly his eldest son Cyril could have had a musical career and his daughter, Ethel, was at the Royal Academy sometime between 1895 and 1900 where she won one of the piano prizes.

Reginald Hughes moved from London with his family to Great Berkhamsted in 1894. The house in Berkhamsted had been built for them and they called it “Martley”, reflecting his wife’s (Esther’s) fond memories of her childhood’s home. It was no. 4 Charles St., and was a very pleasant, three storied house with gardens and a conservatory. By 1936, it had become a doctor’s house and it had been extended, although it was already large. There is a family photograph, with Reginald, Esther and all their children taken in the garden, soon after the move. The family loved Berkhamsted.

Hughes family photograph from about 1896 taken in their house “Martley”, in Berkhamsted. Back row Nellie, Mary, Margaret, Ethel, Reginald. In front row Reginald with Kathleen, Dorothy, Oswald and Cyril with Esther Maria behind him

drawing of the original plans for All Saints ChurchFebruary 2nd.1898 was the silver wedding anniversary of Reginald and Eta and they had photographs done for the occasion. Eta looks vigorous and youthful at 49, but her husband looks old for 59. The family loved Berkhamsted and took a full part in parish life. Reginald worked hard for the building of a new church, All Saint’s, Kittsbury, and Eta was particularly interested in the Mothers’ Union. Reginald also continued his work for the Liberal Party, and was elected Vice-President of the local association some time before the turn of the century.

From the evidence of a postcard written to their youngest son Oswald, then a little boy just writing his first letters, it is clear that both Reginald and Eta went to Scotland together in about 1897 and Reginald underwent a course of the waters at Strathpeffer. The last set of letters from Reginald to Eta were written from Glynpadarn, wales in June 1903. He seems to have travelled down to Wales with his great friend, Tom Morgan, known, as “Taffy”. He was delighted to see that Glynpadarn gardens had been greatly improved and that it was looking charming. He had taken prayer books as presents for the two girls, daughters of Hugh and Mary Ann. Reginald was thrilled with the exquisite bird song in the early mornings and the beauty of the surroundings, as he always was, when he returned to Wales. He said that his brother Hugh and wife Mary Ann were very kind to him. Mary was “very stout” and the daughters were “very nice, a little Welsh and rough, but nice girls really.

All Saints Church todayReginald did some painting while in Wales, one of Devil’s Bridge, one of a boat at sea and one of Llanbadarn church. Reginald’s last letter is concerned with arrangements for hanging his pictures at home. Evidently there were other pictures that he had painted there already. He was still delighted, by the end of his visit, with the kindness shown him by Hugh and Mary.

Death of Reginald 1904

There is one last photograph of Reginald, wearing glasses and looking a gentle, loveable old man. On 3rd. June, 1904, Reginald died at home after a short illness connected with his heart, he was 64. His health had been failing and he had retired from work, but only recently. The newspaper obituaries are purely factual accounts of his life and work. In All Saints’ Church, Kittsbury, Great Berkhamsted, there is a Calvary on the rood screen in memory of Reginald, and his grave is in the churchyard on Rectory Lane.

Cyril, aged 28, took responsibility for his mother and the rest of the family, vowing not to marry until all his brothers and sisters were safely launched into adult life. When their father died the youngest child, Oswald, was only twelve, Reginald Trevor was eighteen and there were six unmarried girls. Following Reginald’s death the whole family moved to Shepherd’s Bush, London, where Cyril took a curacy. Cyril did not marry, in fact, until 1919 when he was 44 and Oswald was twenty eight.
Eta lived to the age of 87, clear in her mind and cared for by her daughter Nellie, who had a nursing home in Christchurch, near Bournemouth. She died on 19th. October 1936, and was buried with Reginald in Berkhamsted.


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