John Kenwood, builder and upholsterer

I recently came across John Kenwood when I found an advertisement for numerous houses being sold from his estate. The newspapers give much detail on his activities, though it is possible that many of the named properties were not built by him, as I cannot find specific details of which houses he actually built.

He was baptised in 1823 in Broadclyst, a village close to Exeter, Devon. His father, a cooper, died in 1825, age 30, and his mother in 1834, and in the 1841 census he was living with Boutcher relatives in Broadclyst, a journeyman, presumably to the carpenter head of household.

On the 25 April 1850 he married at St Clement’s, Hastings. The Exeter Flying Post states that his bride Isabelle was daughter of Capt. J. Holmes, R.M., of Hastings. In the 1851 census they were at 5 Wellington Terrace, Hastings, lodgers to an “artiste in shells”, he 27, carpenter, born Devon, she 26, born Godmanchester, with three-month-old James Charles, born Hastings.

In 1856 John tendered for a general drainage scheme in Hastings. DH/B/118/66 at The Keep, Falmer, is the specification for the scheme and eight tenders for the work, only two of which were by locals. As of London Road he applied together with George Bridgeland of Lower Croft, Hastings. The other local tender was by John Howell of 40 Eversfield Place; in due course Howell was an executor of John’s will. It is not stated in the catalogue entry which tender was successful.

The 1858 Melville’s Directory for Sussex gives John Kenwood, builder, at 28 London Road and Western Road. Western Road was very much an area for stables and workshops, parallel, and close to, London Road.

On the 18 and 25 April 1860 an advert appeared in the Exeter Flying Post asking for 20 plasterers for local builders. John had presumably suggested they advertise there (it also appeared in the Bridgewater Mercury).

Exeter Flying Post, 18 April 1860, advertising for plasterers for Hastings

This is a transcript:

TO PLASTERERS. WANTED, IMMEDIATELY, TWENTY PLASTERERS, In Hastings. Wages, 6d per Hour. Four Months’ insured. Travelling expenses paid. Apply, by letter (prepaid), to Messrs. HUGHES and HUNTER, Mr JOHN HOWELL, Mr JOHN KENWOOD, and Mr EDWARD HARMAN, Builders; or to Mr DAVID PARKS, plasterer, Hastings. 

So who were these men ? Hughes and Hunter were a partnership which dissolved in 1861. In the 1861 census Henry Hughes was at 5 Mercatoria, while William Hunter was at 5 East Ascent. In the same census, John Howell was perhaps the carpenter employing 19 men at 21 White Rock. Harman I don’t know.

In the 1861 census John was at Bellehill, Bexhill, age 37, born Broadclist, Devon, a builder and brickmaker employing 90 men and 4 boys, married to Isabel, 36, born Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, with six children. He was doing incredibly well, clearly.

In 1862-63 The Keep’s AMS6417/6/12-14 concern five first class houses on Marina, using plans approved by Decimus Burton. William Hunter appears to have sold the plots or houses on to John Kenwood and 104 and 105 Marina, at least, were then sold to the Rev. John Alton Hatchard (there is more detail in the catalogue entries).

John was a trustee in three bankruptcies, including one cited in the London Gazette, 21 June 1864. As of St Leonards, builder, he was one of three named trustees of William Mumford Palmer of St Leonards, builder and innkeeper. Another trustee was Stephen Putland of St Leonards, coal and timber merchant. Palmer died later that year as innkeeper and builder, of the Norman Hotel, now called the Piper’s pub, Norman Road.

The Sussex Advertiser, 9 August 1864, reports on the sale by auction of premises in Mercatoria, following the death of John Carey. It begins:

THE VALUABLE FREEHOLD WORKSHOPS, WAREHOUSE, and FURNITURE SALE ROOM located at MERCATORIA, St Leonards-on-Sea, and held by Mr John Kenwood, for the residue of a term of fourteen years, from Christmas, 1861, at the rent of £50 a year, the tenant doing inside repairs. 

Also the Leasehold Workshop, Warehouse, and Yard, in the Mercatoria, St Leonards-on-Sea (adjoining the National School). The ground floor and yard are let to Mr Henry Hughes, jun… and the upper floor is let to Mr John Kenwood, for fourteen years from Christmas, 1861, at £20 a year, the tenant doing inside repairs. 

This property is held for 500 years, from Lady-day, 1859, at the rent of £2 a year. 

Carey had therefore purchased a 500-year lease (probably from the Burtons) and was sub-leasing it. Despite the “also” in the second paragraph, suggesting a second location, it’s probably all one, as Hughes was paying £30 and Kenwood £20, hence the total of £50. The yard still exists, although some of the buildings around it no longer exist, to the north of what is now the Hastings mosque, with an archway under a two-story building leading from the road into it. Unfortunately it’s not clear who had the workshops, as a builder like Hughes could have them, but the furniture sale room was almost certainly John Kenwood’s. John Carey had died 19 April 1863, of St Leonards, a cabinet maker (he was of 8 East Ascent in the 1861 census). George Potten, innkeeper of the Horse and Groom pub, also on Mercatoria, was an executor.

The Sussex Advertiser has another mention in its 16 June 1866 issue. It was a case in the Hastings County Court, Charles West v Henry Sydney Cook. John was claiming £33 in goods taken by the plaintiff. Mr H.S. Cook, of Catherine Villa [on West Hill Road, probably], had hired furniture etc. for £20 per annum from Kenwood, which, the newspaper says, was a common practice in watering places. John was described as an upholsterer of 5 East Ascent (the same address as William Hunter, from the plasterer’s advert, in the 1861 census).

Also in 1866, he was listed in newspapers as a shareholder in the English Stock-Bank, Limited, as of St Leonards on Sea, builder.

In the 1868 electoral register for East Sussex John Kenwood was of 5 East Ascent, but holding a freehold house to qualify for a vote at 22 Warrior Square.

We are very lucky in that a portrait of John Kenwood is on a family tree on the priced Ancestry database. There is also a portrait of a rather severe looking Mrs Kenwood. By kind permission, here they are.

Portrait of John Kenwood, builder
Isabel nee Holmes, wife of John Kenwood

John Kenwood died on the 22 November 1868. The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 27 November 1868, has this notice:

KENWOOD — Nov. 22, at his residence, The Clives, Wadhurst, Sussex, John Kenwood, builder, &c., of St Leonards-on-Sea, aged 44, eldest son of the late Charles Kenwood, Broad Clyst, Devon.

Two other Exeter papers also had a notice, but there were none in Sussex newspapers. He left a sizeable estate of £25000, and the probate record says he was of St Leonards on Sea and Wadhurst, builder. There were three executors: his widow; John Howell of Hastings, builder; and William Burgess of St Leonards, baker.

In the 1871 census his widow was living at 12 St Margaret’s Place, St Leonards, and described herself as a builder’s widow, born in the county of Huntingdon. There were also three daughters and a son (three born in St Leonards, one in Bexhill), a sister, an eighteen-year-old builder as a boarder, and two servants. She died in 1875 in Exeter.

The business seems to have been carried on by the eldest son, James Charles, who was only 18 at his father’s death. In the 1871 census he was a lodging as a builder in Westminster. He was baptised at St Mary Magdalen, St Leonards, on the 23 October 1873, as of 12 St Margaret’s Place, born 21 Jan 1850. Getting baptised as an adult often meant that the candidate wished to get married in church. He did marry, but only on the 7 July 1875, at Broadclyst parish church, as a builder from St Leonards on Sea. Clearly the ties to Devon stayed strong. In the 1881 census he was a builder and contractor at 11 Springfield Road, St Leonards, employing 28 men. He died at the same address in 1929.

From the newspapers, at least, the first evidence that some sort of family business was being carried on was in the Hastings & St Leonards Observer, 30 October 1869, as shown here.

Advert for the J. Kenwood business, 1869

The Sussex Advertiser, 19 April 1870, announced a sale at the “yard near the Bopeep Railway Station” of itemised building machinery and materials, by Mr Gausden, under instructions by the executors of John Kenwood.

Sale of furniture etc. in the Kenwood business, 1870

A further sale was announced in the Hastings & St Leonards Observer, 27 August 1870. The lease to Mercatoria had been sold on to Messrs. Womersley, and the cabinetry business was no more. The implication was that the furniture was Kenwood’s. See the image to the left. The sale was to be at the premises, said the following week’s issue.

The Hastings & St Leonards Observer, 11 July 1874, announced the sale by auction at the Warrior’s Gate inn, Norman Road, by Veness, of a “newly erected and well-built freehold three-story warehouse”, with a 49-foot frontage on nearby South Street. It included stalls for four horses, an office and workshops as well as warehouse space. It was occupied by J. Kenwood & Co., builders. The sale was under instructions from the mortgagee, the company or person who had lent the money to the Kenwoods.

The Hastings & St Leonards Observer, 24 October 1874, has an account of the maltreatment of a horse belonging to the firm of J. Kenwood & Co. A police constable had noticed wounds on its hide. Edward Birch Wingfield, a “member of the firm”, gave evidence and basically blamed the head carter. Unfortunately we are not told where the business’ premises were. A fine of 10s and costs was imposed.

Wingfield was more than just a member of the firm. The Hastings & St Leonards Observer, 19 August 1876, announced that the partnership between James Charles Kenwood and Edward Burchatt [sic] Wingfield, as builders, brickmakers, and carriers, as J. Kenwood & Co., was to be dissolved. Walter Neve, solicitor, of 30 Norman Road, was to deal with debts etc. It appears that James now confined himself to being a builder, and Wingfield to the carrier business.

Wingfield appears to have been based at the same 5 East Ascent address where John was in the 1868 electoral register. He was there as a 25-year-old brickmaker in the 1871 census, and as a contractor in the 1881 census.

The remaining assets of the John Kenwood estate were (almost) sold off in 1875 and 1878 on the instructions of the executors.

The 30 March 1875 issue of the Sussex Advertiser has an important auction, reproduced here. By my count 28 houses. Including 8 on Markwick Terrace, 4 on Upper Maze Hill, 3 on West Hill Road, 2 on Dane Road, and 2 on Springfield Road. Also the same 12 St Margaret’s Place where the Kenwood family was in the 1871 census. Unfortunately my source is fuzzy, hence the poor image. Below is a transcript.

Sale of properties of John Kenwood, 30 March 1875, Sussex Advertiser

HASTINGS AND ST LEONARDS-ON-SEA. EXTENSIVE SALE OF VALUABLE FREEHOLD AND LEASEHOLD RESIDENCES, situated in the most Favourite Localities. Mr Gausden has been favoured with instructions from the Trustees of the late Mr JOHN KENWOOD to sell by auction, at the Castle Hotel, Hastings, in the Second or Third week in APRIL, the following PROPERTIES: — FOUR DETACHED VILLAS, KNOWN AS “DEVONSHIRE HOUSE”, UPPER MAZE HILL; “ST ALBAN’S VILLA”, UPPER MAZE HILL; “HAMILTON HOUSE”, DANE ROAD, UPPER MAZE HILL, AND “SOUTH SHEEN”, DANE ROAD, UPPER MAZE HILL. Also, SEVERAL SEMI-DETACHED VILLAS, being “MOUNTFIELD”, UPPER MAZE HILL; “FRIEDENFELS”, UPPER MAZE HILL; Nos. 1 and 2, BELTON VILLAS, WEST HILL; “EDEN COTTAGE”, WEST HILL; “FRANCISCO VILLA,” SPRINGFIELD ROAD; and No. 16, SPRINGFIELD ROAD. TWO VALUABLE MARINE MANSIONS, KNOWN AS NO. 39 WARRIOR SQUARE and NO. 102 MARINA, both being Freehold, and conveniently arranged, and in the most esteemed positions. Also, FOURTEEN ELIGIBLE RESIDENCES, being as follows: — No.12, ST MARGARET’S PLACE; Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 13 and 14 MARKWICK TERRACE, UPPER MAZE HILL, AND Nos. 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22, MAGDALEN ROAD. Also, FOUR LEASEHOLD HOUSES, known as Nos. 4 and 5, GENSING STATION ROAD; No. 15, WESTERN ROAD; and No. 16, STATION ROAD. Also a DWELLING HOUSE, known as “THE WOODEN COTTAGE,” Situated in the neighbourhood of Bopeep, at St Leonards-on-Sea. Nearly the whole of the above properties are at present in the occupation of good tenants upon terms which will be fully explained in the particulars of sale. They are also substantially built, and desirably situated, and being fitted with every convenience cannot fail to attract the favourable attention of both investors and those seeking residences for occupation. 

A couple of comments. Markwick Terrace is a big terrace block which was built in about 1860, so if it was built by John, it must have been one of his first big projects. Gensing Station Road is now Kings Road.

The Hastings & St Leonards Observer, 1 May 1875, announced an auction by Gausden of the itemised furniture, room by room, at 39 Warrior Square, the freehold having already been disposed of.

The Hastings & St Leonards Observer, 11 September 1875, lists itemised furniture, room by room to be sold at 10 Springfield Terrace by Carleton J. Lewns, under the instructions of John’s legatees. What is remarkable is that the advert concludes:

N.B. The Auctioneer begs to call special attention to the above Furniture, the whole having been manufactured by the late Mr Kenwood, of Mercatoria, St Leonards, and is of the very best quality. 

The Hastings & St Leonards Observer, 8 June 1878, gave details of the sale in 12 lots by Gausden of property and Hastings Gas Company shares by the trustees of the late J. Kenwood, as given at the bottom of this (long) post. The gas shares are new, otherwise it seems to be property not sold in the 1875 sale.

The Hastings & St Leonards Observer, 29 June 1878, unusually, gave the results of the Gausden sale, with the purchasers and the amounts realised given. As a few houses did not sell, there must have been even later sales. Interestingly, “J. Kenwood” (presumably James) purchased four houses from his own father’s estate. These were the leasehold of 4 Markwick Terrace for £990; the leasehold of 13 Markwick Terrace for £900; the freehold of South Sheen, Dane Road, for £2550; and the freehold of Devonshire House, Upper Maze Hill, for £2300. I’ll admit I haven’t ordered a copy of John’s will to see what exactly was going on !

All this detail is both useful and frustrating, as we are missing much of what was going on (as well as motivations). It shows how newspapers can be a valuable source, and also that sales of the property of wealthy individuals could occur a decade or so after death.

Sale details of the J. Kenwood estate, 8 June 1878


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Discover more from The Burtons’ St Leonards Society

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading