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Mary Cecil Hay

Mary Cecil Hay (1839-1886) was a novelist who grew up in Shropshire, England and spent the final years of her life in a small village on the Sussex coast called East Preston.  Her work was often serialised and appeared in periodicals and weeklies in the UK, America and Australia.

She was the daughter of Cecilia Carbin and clockmaker Thomas William Hay of Shrewsbury who had three sons and three daughters:  Arthur, their eldest son, was apprenticed to a bookseller and printer in Wolverhampton, and at the age of fifteen took his own life.  Thomas, the youngest son, followed his father into the clockmaking business whilst the middle son, Walter, became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music.  He was an organist, ran his own music school, conducted orchestras and was the Diocesan Inspector of Choirs for the Rural Deanery of Shrewsbury. One of his pupils was the composer Sir Edward German.

The three daughters, Francis, Mary and Susan, remained unmarried, and lived primarily in the family home, first in Shrewsbury, later moving to Chiswick with their mother.  The children were all baptised in the Shrewsbury, Swan Hill Chapel, an independent church based on Congregationalist principles whose worshipers were referred to as Nonconformists.  Mary was christened Mary Cecilia Hay but adopted the middle name of her brother Walter Cecil Hay

Mary’s father died in 1856 aged sixty-five; his wife Cecilia continued to run the business in Shrewsbury despite financial difficulties.  In 1867 her son Walter was one of two trustees appointed to manage her affairs due to bankruptcy.  In 1872 she passed the business to her son, Thomas, who became the third generation of clockmakers in the family.  He had also been declared bankrupt in 1867 with trustees appointed to manage his affairs.  A newspaper report indicated that he died in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1873.

Out of the five censuses that covered Mary’s life (1841 to 1881) only one shows her away from the family home, and this was in 1861 when she was governess at the Grade and Ruan Minor rectory in Cornwall.  This was the home of Rev. Frederick Christian Jackson, a talented and exhibited painter who sold his works to raise money for church repairs.  The story goes that he also persuaded actress Madame Modjeska, to put on an impromptu performance in the rectory grounds for the organ restoration fund.  It was said of Jackson that he welcomed “Nonconformists as well as Churchmen”. Mary’s novel, For Her Dear Sake, is part set near the Lizard in Cornwall, a short distance from the Grade and Ruan parishes.

Starting in the late 1860s Mary’s poetry and short stories were published in periodicals such a Family Herald, The Argosy and The Belgravia, initially under the pseudonyms of Mark Hardcastle, Markham Howard or Sidney Howard. The Arrandel Motto was her first full length novel published in about 1871 using the name Mark Hardcastle, later re-issued as The Arundel Motto (approx. 150,000 words).

In the early 1870s the pseudonyms were dropped and  work appeared under her own name of M. Cecil Hay and later Mary Cecil Hay. Her novels were sometimes published with a collection of her short stories, for example:

The first full length novel using her own name was Hidden Perils of about 117,000 words in three volumes, published in England in 1873 by Hurst & Blackett and in America by Harper & Brothers. These three volume versions were intended for subscription libraries, whereas the single volumes were for direct sale to the public.

Although the literary critics paid little regard to  Hay’s work she was a highly read author, published in countries outside the UK such as America and Australia.  One of her most acclaimed books was Old Myddelton’s Money, a long novel of over 130,000 words.  Old Myddelton of the title was a very wealthy unmarried man, murdered (supposedly) by his nephew Gabriel, who was tried and convicted of the murder, but escaped.  The murdered man’s fortune passes to Myddelton’s sister, Lady Lawrence, who is childless, and it is supposed that she will leave the money to various of her in-laws.  A stranger called Royston Keith arrives in town and takes interest in the affairs of the family, much to the concern of a villainous lawyer who hopes to be one of the beneficiaries.   The stranger and another potential beneficiary, Honor Craven, form an attraction, and it goes on from there.   One of the villains is called Bickerton Slimp and the middle name of a trustee in the 1867 Hay’s bankruptcy was Bickerton.  Perhaps no coincidence that she gave this unusual name to the most despised person in the book.

East Preston 

In the 1881 census Mary was living with her mother and two sisters in Woodstock Road, Chiswick and her occupation was given as “Author”.  In this same census, her sister Susan listed herself as “Artist” and mother listed her occupation as “Literary Pursuits”, possibly assisting Mary.  Not long after this the ladies moved to the house in East Preston on the Sussex Coast called Bay Trees.  The house is believed to be still in existence and located in The Street opposite the Sea Lane Junction (now a rest home), but due to there being a Bay Tree farm in the vicinity some years ago this name has several occurrences in the village.

On July 3, 1884, Mary was present at the death of her sister, Francis Ann Hay, in East Preston.  Two years later she herself  died on July 24, 1886 at Bay Trees after a long and painful illness.  Her personal estate was valued at £272 0s. 6d.; a rough estimate of this today is about £32,000.  The executor of her estate was her sister, Susan Elizabeth Hay, of Gloucester Road, Kew.

Mary’s mother died in 1888 and her death was registered in Kingston, Surrey, near to where she had been living with her daughter, Susan, in Kew.  Susan died in 1908 and her executor was her niece, Amy Isabel Dovaston (daughter of Mary’s brother Walter and his wife Emily (Henshaw) Hay).  Amy was mother to artist  Margaret Dovaston.

Listed below in alphabetical order are many of Mary Cecil Hay’s novels and short stories.  It is not comprehensive and some stories may have had alternative titles when published outside the UK.  A small number were published under her pseudonyms of Mark Hardcastle, although they may have been republished later in her life under her real name.

Mary also contributed reviews to The Art Journal for the exhibitions at the Royal Academy and the Grosvenor Gallery.


Write your own eulogy – before it’s too late.

Attending your first funeral is a daunting affair.  What is the protocol? What do you wear?  What do you say to the next of kin after the service?  With the passing of time you sadly attend more as friends, work colleagues and elders pass away.  These can be dour and solemn affairs, or a celebration of life, full of warmth and amusing memories.  The tone is reflected in the eulogy, read out before the internment by a clergyman, humanist, friend or relation. They can be serious and factual – providing a simple timeline of the deceased’s life – or anecdotal and amusing.

The person who writes and delivers the eulogy is often a stranger to the family, someone who is paid to orchestrate the event, and has taken information about the deceased from a relative.  Some cynics may wonder if the same eulogy is used time and again, with just a  few changes to the names and dates.

People do not like to think about their mortality, which is often the reason for not writing a will – the ostrich head in sand syndrome; and when you are young you expect to live forever anyway.  So are we bothered about the eulogy at our own funeral?  Obituaries for people of note and in the public eye are prepared by the media in advance so that they can be quickly retrieved and published when needed.  So why not prepare your own whilst you can still remember what has happened in your life?

Start off with key dates, locations, names, education and occupations.  Use diaries, social media and photographs for research.  Write about those you have loved, liked and hated.  Work on amusing stories and contrast with tragedies.  If you are inclined why not video your own eulogy, and leave instructions for it to be played at your funeral?  But perhaps this is a bit too macabre.

Anyone who has done genealogical research of their family would love to have access to the  biographies of their ancestors.  One day someone will want yours so why not leave one for them.




West Dean Estate – The James Family

West Dean House

The West Dean estate, situated near Chichester, West Sussex was purchased in 1891 by William Dodge James.  He bought the property from Frederick Bowers, a merchant who had owned West Dean since the death of its previous owner, Caroline Mary (Peachey) Vernon Harcourt (1785-1871).  She had inherited the estate when her brother, Henry John Peachey, 3rd Baron Selsey died in 1838.

William Dodge James’s wealth came from his father, American merchant Daniel James, who was a farmer’s son born in Truxton, New York State in 1801.  He moved to New York City to start a wholesale grocery business in the 1820s where he met and married Elizabeth Woodbridge Phelps.  She was the eldest daughter of a successful businessman, Anson Green Phelps, who exported cotton to England and in return imported manufactured goods.  He sold these in America using peddlers who travelled to inland settlements, selling or bartering their goods in exchange for furs.

The rapidly expanding population in America created an almost limitless market for both raw and manufactured goods from Britain. In about 1821, Phelps sent a partner to Liverpool, England, called Elisha Peck to act as the company’s agent.  Peck used his specialist knowledge of the metals market to lay the foundations for an organisation that would become the dominant importer of metal into America during the 19th century.

In 1832 Phelps and Peck attempted to set up their own metal manufacturing works in America by importing equipment such as rolling mills and skilled labour from Britain.  Peck left Liverpool to front this operation and was replaced in England by Daniel James who was made a partner in his father-in-law’s business.  He had limited knowledge of the metal trades and was new to the British business environment so relied heavily on his senior clerk, Welshman, Thomas Bank.  Due to a world recession the business failed in 1837, but James gradually paid off his creditors and by the early 1840s was again solvent.  He spent the rest of his life in Liverpool becoming one of the most respected American merchants in the country.  The exports to America that passed through his side of the operation during this period were in excess of $300 million.  In 1866 he also became a naturalized British citizen.

Naturalization application May 21, 1866


Daniel married three times.  There were five children from his first marriage to Elizabeth.  Their eldest son, Anson, was tragically killed in an accident in America while visiting his grandparents when a horse bolted and threw the boy from a carriage.  Their youngest son, Henry, born in 1839 died when just a few months old and their eldest daughter, Elizabeth was an invalid with a spinal problem.  Their surviving son, Daniel Willis James, moved to America when he was fifteen to work with his grandfather and his uncle, eventually becoming a senior partner in the business.  Their youngest daughter, Olivia, born in 1837 married Robert Hoe, who designed printing presses for the newspaper industry.

In 1847 Daniel’s first wife Elizabeth died; she had contracting small pox several years before and never fully recovered.  Two years later he married another American called Sofia Hall Hitchcock who was twenty seven.  They had three children, all boys – Frank Linsly born in 1851, John Arthur in 1853 and William Dodge in 1854.  They grew up and were educated in Britain, attending establishments such as Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge.  Sofia died in 1870, and the following year Daniel remarried to his children’s former governess, Ruth Lancaster Dickinson, who was 49.  They had five years together before Daniel died in 1876.

Daniel James (1801-1876) m. 1829 Elizabeth Woodbridge Phelps (1807-1847)  Children:

  • Anson Greene Phelps James (1830-1842)
  • Daniel Willis James(1832-1907) m.1854 Ellen Stebbins Curtiss (1833-1916)
  • Elizabeth Eggleston James (1833-1868)
  • Olivia James (1837-1935) m.1863 Robert Hoe III (1839-1909)
  • Henry James (1839-1839

Daniel James (1801-1876) m. 1849 Sophia Hall Hitchcock (1820-1870)  Children:

  • Frank Linsly James (1851-1890)
  • John Arthur James (1853-1917) m.1885 Mary Venetia Cavendish-Bentinck (1861-1948)
  • William Dodge James (1854-1912) m.1889 Evelyn Elizabeth Forbes (1867-1927)

Daniel James (1801-1876) m. 1871 Ruth Lancaster Dickinson (1824-1907)  No children from this union.

Daniel’s Will

At the time of his death, the Phelps Dodge/Phelps James company was owned and run by three families, all related by marriage.  Daniel James and his American based son, Daniel Willis James, had a 36% share of the business, the Dodge family had 34% and the Stokes 30%.  The business was capitalised at $4,500,000 made up of 100 shares each worth $45,000 apportioned as follows:

Partner Shares
Daniel James 18
Daniel Willis James 18
William Earl Dodge 10
William E. Dodge Jr. 18
Charles C. Dodge 6
James Stokes 9
Anson P. Stokes 16
Thomas Stokes 5

Daniel James made his will in 1870, adding two codicils at later dates.  Although not published, an estimate of his wealth at this time was $6 million.   He appointed executors in both Britain and America.  Those in the UK were his son Frank Linsly plus his business partner, Welshman, William Daniel Rees.  In America he appointed his younger brother, Henry, and his son Daniel Willis James.  The first codicil added in 1874 made provision for his wife, Ruth Dickinson.  She was allowed to live in the family home during her lifetime; she also received an immediate £1000 and the income for life from $300,000 invested on her behalf by the American trustees.  She died in 1907 leaving over £56,000.

Daniel left $100,000 to each of his four sons.  The eldest son, American based Daniel Willis James, received his legacy in cash.  The three boys living in England were given the interest only from these cash sums by trustees until the youngest of them reached the age of twenty five, at which time they all received the capital sums from this plus other investments and business interests.   In his will, Daniel James left instructions that his three sons in England were to be given the opportunity to take over his partnerships if they so wished.   For a period, John Arthur became a partner in Phelps Dodge/Phelps James, working with William Daniel Rees, but at the beginning of 1879  changes happened, with Rees being replaced and John Arthur leaving.  This date coincided with William Dodge James becoming twenty-five years of age, triggering the release of the capital from Daniel James estate to the three sons in England.

Daniel James had shares in large areas of lumber in America and a partnership with his brother Henry who marketed the processed timber for Phelps Dodge in Baltimore.  Daniel’s son in America, Daniel Willis  James and his cousin William Earl Dodge Jr. ran Phelps Dodge in partnership for the next 25+ years, changing it from a mercantile operation into one of the largest copper mining and copper production companies in the world.  Daniel Willis James had a son, Arthur Curtiss James, who joined the business and also invested in railroads, becoming one of the richest men in America before the depression reduced his wealth to $38 million.

In England, Daniel and Sophia’s three sons became English gentlemen, enjoying their inherited wealth, big game hunting and exploring.  Frank Linsly James died in 1890 during a hunting trip in Africa; he was unmarried and his wealth was left to his two brothers.  They married into British high society and became friends of Edward, Prince of Wales who later became Edward VII.  John Arthur James married Mary Venetia Cavendish-Bentinck and they bred race horses in Coton House near Rugby.  William Dodge James married Evelyn Elizabeth Forbes and they lived in West Dean House in West Sussex.

Charitable Legacies

Daniel James was a religious man, a Presbyterians from English puritan descent, as were his American partners.   They saw it as a duty to help those less fortunate and to spread the word of God.  In his will Daniel left the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions $10,000; the  London Missionary Society £2000; the Liverpool Town Missionary Society £1000; the governors of the Lancashire Congregational Union the sum of £500; the Liverpool Seamen’s Friend and Emigrant Society the sum of £500 and the British and Foreign Bible Society the sum of £500 pounds.  (£100 in 1876 is probably the equivalent of £10,400 today)

daniel-james-will-1Probate granted September 27, 1878

Final Resting Place

Daniel and Elizabeth James’s headstone is in the churchyard of St. Andrew behind West Dean House.  However they are not buried there.  Their remains are several hundred mile away in Liverpool in land that was once the Liverpool Necropolis.  This cemetery became hazardous due to the  large number of burial (80,000) and was closed.  It was landscaped with ornamental gardens and renamed the Grant Gardens.  The James’ headstones were moved to West Dean in the early part of the 20th century but the graves were not disturbed, and are now  unmarked.  The Liverpool Necropolis cemetery was used for the burial of nonconformists and this would have been in keeping with Daniel James’s Presbyterian beliefs.  This may also have been a consideration at the time for not exhuming the James family remains and moving them to the Episcopal church of St. Andrew in West Dean.  In contrast, the remains of Frank Linsly James, who was killed in Africa by a wounded elephant in 1890, were moved from Kensal Green Cemetery in 1917 and reburied in the James family plot in West Dean.

James Family Burial Plot
Tombstone of Elizabeth & Daniel James
Elizabeth Eccleston James and Sofia Hall (Hitchcock) James