Sarah Hibbert

Sarah Hibbert

daughter of F R Lee  R A

and her husband

 Colonel Hugh Hibbert

Broadgate House in the Hibberts time -
with thanks to the Henry Williamson
 Society for the photograph
Sarah Catherine Augusta Lee was F R Lee's daughter, and she was born in 1840.  She was brought up in Kent, which was the county that her mother came from. Her father, FR Lee had moved there following his marriage to Sarah's mother, Harriet Eves Lee.
In 1850, Sarah's mother died. Sarah would have been only ten at the time.
Seven years later, her father married again, in 1857, and in 1858 the family moved to Devon, where Lee had been born and brought up. Lee purchased Broadgate House with its estate. Sadly his second wife, Mary Jane, died within 18 months of their marriage.

Col Hibbert Hugh Robert Hibbert was born on the 19th December in 1828, at
Birtles Hall Over Alderley, in  Cheshire.
In 1847, he entered the Royal Fusiliers Regiment and went with them as a captain to the Crimea. An article in the Macclesfield Express in 2016 recounts the story of his heroism there, and is very much worth reading. He was severely wounded. On his return he was honoured by the town of Macclesfield, with a public holiday on the day in which he was presented with a magnificent sword. The article is based on research by historian Dorothy Bentley Smith.
Hugh Hibbert is also sometimes credited in Pub Quizzes as being the inventor of the grenade.  This link gives more detail, in his own words.

Click on the image to the left for more about his career in the Army, and a full size image.

In 1861 Hugh Robert Hibbert and Sarah Catherine Lee were married in London. How they met, we do not yet know, but both families were successful and wealthy, and as a war hero Hugh Hibbert would have made a dashing figure in English Society at that time.

According to the British Empire website Colonel Hibbert was Commanding Officer of the 7th Battallion from December 1863 until he retired in October 1871. This Battallion went to India during this time.  Whereas Saki's father, who worked for the Indian Imperial Police, was only able to come home once every 4 years, it appears that Colonel Hibbert made more frequent visits home, by the number of children that were born to the family, unless of course Sarah travelled to India as well on occasions - we have no evidence for this as yet. 

Although he had been greatly honoured in Macclesfield as a returning hero (see linked article above, earlier) once he had married Sarah it seems that, like his father in law, F R Lee, who moved to Kent when he married his first wife, Hugh Hibbert chose to make his wife's home his own. Sarah's father had a yacht, and spent many months at sea during the last years of his life, so the Hibberts rather than Lee were probably the main residents of Broadgate House in the mid to late 1860s and 1870s.

The Hibberts were to have seven children but the youngest, Hugh Frederick, born on the 2nd August 1862, only lived until the 20th of October of the same year.  The next child born was Hugh Thomas (5 Aug 1863) and then they had four daughters, Victoria Catherine  (baptised 13th May 1867, Pilton Church), Essex Mary,  Margaret Dora (baptised Pilton Church 1871) and Frances Caroline (baptised 11 February 1873, Pilton Church)  as well as another son George Frederick (baptised September 14th, 1875, Pilton Church.) 
Incidentally, Frances Caroline married George Chichester, brother of Sir Francis Chicester's father. After her death, George married her sister, Essex Mary.

The Hibberts and Manning's Pit

We have no concrete evidence as yet that they used Manning's Pit, but there are numerous reasons why it is likely. In Victorian times, sport generally meant hunting, shooting and fishing, and without evidence to the contrary we can pretty sure that Colonel Hibbert took part in these activities, and if so, he would surely have used the Bradiford Valley, and the Manning's Pit area. It is now, and was then, the perfect place for family picnics.

When the news that Manning's Pit was for sale first broke, one of the very first things that locals exclaimed was "Where will the children go to sledge if it is sold and built upon?" Manning's Pit, in the words of another local, is the "Cresta Run" of Pilton. The story mentioned elsewhere of the vicar sledging on an oil painting only shows how important this feature was to the neighbourhood.

Pilton Church
Pilton Church Porch

Top of the "Cresta Run"
When it snowed in late Victorian times, what are the odds that a Crimean War Hero took his own, (and perhaps his Munro neighbours as well) children out sledging in Manning's Pit?

When he left the Army, Hugh Hibbert became a Magistrate in Barnstaple. He was interested in Politics and we know he was one of those who nominated Sir Robert Carden as a candidate for the 1880 Barnstaple Election that the Munro family attended. In 1893 he became Mayor of Barnstaple, and in 1895 Colonel and Mrs Hibbert entertained Royalty at Broadgate House, in the person of the Duke of Cambridge.
In the same year, Hugh died, and he was buried in Pilton Churchyard - to be joined by his wife when she finally died in 1931.

Hibbert grave
The Hibberts and Saki

As mentioned on the Saki Page, the Munro and Lee/Hibbert families lived opposite one another, attended Pilton Church, and had much in common (connections to both India and Kent, plus politics for example.)
While biographies make much of Saki's isolated childhood, and his eccentric aunts, we have found no mention of any influence from the Hibbert aned Lee family. 
What could have been more exciting to a young boy like Hector Munro than living in close proximity to an actual war hero? Colonel Hibbert appears to have been a modest man, and his wife a very kindly woman, the chances of them showing friendship to these motherless children are high. Broadgate House was a treasure trove of  works of Art - we believe that there was also a Gainsborough in the house - it is easy to imagine how much a visit there could excite and influence a young boy who lived a rather drab life.

H H Munro
Did Colonel Hibbert ever show his sword to young Hector? We do not know, but one thing we do know for sure is that when Hector enlisted in 1914, he joined Colonel Hibbert's old Regiment


St Peter and Mary Magdalene Church Barnstaple
St. Peter's Church in Barnstaple, a photograph of the memorial window will be added (we hope.)

In around 1880, following the death of her father F R Lee in South Africa, Sarah Hibbert commissioned a Memorial window in St.Peter and St. Mary Magdalene's Church in Barnstaple. More details can be found on this forum, and we hope to learn more ourselves about this. This may indicate that while the Hibberts attended Pilton Church, the Lee family attended St.Peter's as their local Church, rather than Trinity Church, which is close to where F R Lee was born.  
There is a memorial to Lee's brother in St Anne's Chapel,
close by St Peter's as well, and there is more about this on the page about F R Lee.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 16 May
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette
May 16, 1918
Click for larger version.
Cuttings from British Newspaper Archive

In 1918 Sarah Hibbert was sadly forced to sell virtually everything to cover her son's debts.  There are many reports of the sale, in all the local papers, and as we perused them during our research for the Exhibition we were very excited to come across the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette of May 16, 1918 (on the left,) because it alone, out of all the reports, mentions a particular painting "A Burning Mill at Yeoford," by F R Lee, with the added information "touched in by J.M.W. Turner, RA."

We knew already that F R Lee collaborated with both Sir Edwin Landseer and Thomas Sidney Cooper, but have seen no mention anywhere before of any collaboration with Turner, despite their common family links to Barnstaple and Pilton.
Here at last seems to be concrete evidence that J M W Turner did collaborate (at least to this extent) with Lee, and therefore knew him.
F R Lee, portrait by Briggs RA
Poignantly, the sale also included the portrait of Sarah's father (see left) by Briggs RA. It was bought by Mr C E Roberts Chanter on behalf of the Athaneum, and it is now in the museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, where it was one of the most special exhibits in our Exhibition.  We can't help wondering how sad she must have been to see it sold. Click on the cutting from the North Devon Journal of May 16, 1918, below, to read more:

Lee's portrait sold

Cutting from British Newspaper Archive
There is no doubt that Sarah was exceptionally proud of her father, and in the late 1890s at an Exhibition in Barnstaple she allowed a number of his works to be displayed with great fanfare in the Local Press. At that time, his works were highly valued, but by the time that she was forced to sell them they appear to have slumped in price.

Henry Williamson and The Village Book

In 1925 Henry Williamson married Ida Loetitia Hibbert, Sarah and Hugh's grandaughter (her mother was Margaret Dora, who had married her cousin Charles Hibbert against the wishes of her family in around 1889.)
Williamson had met Charles Hibbert and his daughter while he was researching otter hunting for his book Tarka The Otter. Both Ida and Charles appear as characters in the book, and Ida's siblings were also later to appear as characters in some of his other books.

Henry Williamson and Ida Loetitia Hibbert

It appears that Sarah Hibbert (known as "Grannie" Hibbert was very kind to the young couple, and Willaimson was very fond of her. When he published The Village Book in 1930 he included a Dedication to her in the frontispiece.

You can read more about this on the Henry Williamson Society website, and we are grateful to the Henry Williamson Society for information that they have given us, about both the Hibbert family and Saki (H H Munro) as well as giving us permission to use the photograph of Henry and Ida Loetitia.

We will shortly be adding an extra page soon, with more information about Henry Williamson, otters, salmon, and their connections to Manning's Pit.

Henry Williamson

More to come as well about Sarah Hibbert, F R Lee and the Longstone - as well as F R Lee, and the six, or perhaps seven, Mills of the Bradiford Valley.

The photograph of the Longstone taken in 2016 shows the wall around Broadgate House. F R Lee extended the wall to encircle the Longstone. That wall was taken down when road improvements took place in the 1960s.
Note the banner on the wall, put up by modern day residents!

The Longstone

About our Exhibition and Manning's Pit

Benjamin Manning       FR Lee      Saki

Manning's Pit Timeline