James Farish Danvers and Swithland

Houses with a name may sound easy to research. They can, however, cause problems, as in the case of James Farish Danvers’ devotion to the name of Swithland. He lived in four houses named Swithland, three of them in St Leonards. The name probably comes from Swithland Hall, Leicestershire, which was lived in by a Danvers family.

81 Pevensey Road

In the 1884 Pike’s directory J.F. Danvers Esq. was at 11 Pevensey Road West, also called Swithland. Pevensey Road West was incorporated into Pevensey Road in 1887 and it is now 81 Pevensey Road, a semi-detached house backing onto no. 83. I was greatly helped in researching this post by the street listings in Pike’s, which give the house between Belstone (a detached house, now 79) and Beachcroft (now 83).

Either Mr Danvers or Swithland turn up a few times in the Hastings Observer, such as on the 7 May 1887…

FOR SALE. A Bay Mare; 15 hands in height; strong, fast trotter, and in excellent condition; age, 11 years off; well suited for a light carriage; price, 35 guineas. Also a light Phaeton, price £20. Apply, by letter only, to J.F. Danvers, Esq., Swithland, St Leonards.

…and on the 14 March 1891, when he wrote a letter to the newspaper urging the necessity of cheap railway tickets to Hastings. His motive was to assist “hardworking young men” to visit their relatives in the area (the women apparently were of no consequence).

In April 1891 there was the census, which gives the following household, and numbers it as 81:

James F. Danvers, married, 53, retired civil servant, India Office, born London Savoy Precinct

Edith M. Danvers, wife, 53, born London St Pancras

Frederick J. Danvers, son, 25, none [occupation], born London Kensington

Harold Danvers, son, single, 17, none, born London Kensington

Henry A. Musor [?], visitor, single, 55, 2nd Chief Clerk, Trinity Hse, born London Paddington

Fanny Lyons, serv, married, 48, cook domestic servant, born Brighton

Danvers had been a Senior Clerk at the India Office. In the 1893 edition of Pike’s directory Danvers is listed there, but in 1894 T.H. Kirkman was the householder, who renamed the house Yealand. In 1896 he in turn was replaced by Philip Parry, who renamed the house St Benedict, a name it continues to hold. This quick change of house names is in my experience distinctly unusual.

44 Pevensey Road

The 1894-1900 editions shows Danvers at the detached house of Swithland, 44 Pevensey Road, just a stone’s throw away and across the road. In 1901 44 Pevensey Road was absent from the listings, and was just plain no. 44 with no house name in the 1902 edition.

8 Brittany Road

The 1901 census gives Danvers at another detached house, Swithland, 8 Brittany Road, on the corner of Charles Road. He was with his wife and a single servant, a 16-year-old parlourmaid. It was apparently a new house. In the 1909 edition the house is not listed for the street, while in 1910 there was a new occupant at what had been renamed The Knowle.

An advertisement in the Hastings Observer, 20 February 1909, listing furniture for sale by auction, mentioned that Danvers was “leaving the town”. This helps date his move to his fourth, and final, Swithland house, at Heathfield. His wife died there in 1912, and he died there in 1919, aged 81.

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