Timeline of Events
What is Turner's relevance to Manning's Pit? His Uncle lived very close to North Field, which was the name of the field at that time. It is likely that Turner visited him. Turner himself almost certainly knew FR Lee (see below), and we have uncovered evidence that suggests that he - at least once - collaborated with Lee, as did the other important Victorian artists, Landseer and Cooper.
More to be added on this topic.
Here is a clip of a modern map taken from Google Maps, with the locations of Manning's Pit, Littabourne, where Turner's uncle was to live, Pilton Street, where Banjamin Manning had his home and shop, and Bellaire, where FR Lee, the Hibbert family and Sakit's family lived. It is only a two minute walk from Saki's house to Manning's Pit today, and it would not have taken very much more time to get there across the fields from Littabourne.
Turner the artist was the son of William Turner and Mary Turner (née Marshall). His grandfather, John worked at South Molton as a saddler and his father, William, was a barber and wig-maker in the town. The family are said to have lived for at time in a cottage in North Street (then known as Steppa Lane.) William Turner had four brothers and two sisters.
Joseph Turner's early life was spent at 21 Maiden Lane (Covent Garden) and his father encouraged him in his desire to be an artist, selling his son's drawings at his barber's shop.
More information here:
Rev Swete in his tour of North Devon observed pillar in right of Road (the Longstone) at the junction of Bellaire and Under Minnow Road. There will be more information added about the Longstone under Sarah Hibbert's details later, but this stone was to become a feature of the garden F R Lee created in 1859 after he moved to Broadgate House. The modern day photograph shows the Longstone as it is now, outside the walls of Broadgate House. This spot was said to have significance as a central point for many ancient routes, and it has been surrounded by Save Manning's Pit posters signs and banners in the last two years.
More information to come also about the ancient routes.
|The Death of Munrow
Poor Lieutenant Hector Munroe met a tragic and embarrassing death on the 2nd December 1972, that could have come straight out of one of Saki's stories..
He was attacked by a tiger while answering a call of nature in some bushes.In a world without television or much amusement, ceramic sculptures depicting his gruesome were all the rage for quite some time.
Whether or not he was related to the family of Hector Hugh Munro (Saki) his death must surely have had an influence on the boy Hector who grew up in Broadgate Villa.
Frederick Richard Lee
born, Barbican House.
Portrait of F R Lee as a youngish man.
Turner comes to Barnstaple, on his 1811 tour, perhaps partly to visit his uncle who lives in Barnstaple.
provides an image of Turner's sketch plus more information. This description gives Turner's Uncle as being called John, not William (see later and he was Master of the Poor House, which was thought to be the workhouse on the site that became the modern Barnstaple Library.
Benjamin Manning born, Tiverton
Here is a link to our page about Benjamin Manning
Turner paints Barnstaple Bridge – another visit to his Uncle?
Link to sketch
|FR Lee leaves Army
because of ill health and from this time
devoted his life to landscape painting
|Frederick Richard Lee
becomes a student at the Royal Academy.
J M W Turner was a Member and a Tutor of the Royal Academy, and the two of them are likely to have known one another, especially as they both had family in North Devon.
Thomas Lee Jnr drowned in accident at Mortehoe. He had been a successful architect like his father, and there is a plaque commemorating him at St Anne's Chapel. Among his works were the Wellington Monument and Arlington Court, and also the Barnstaple Guildhall - where Benjamin Manning was later on to attend Town Council Meetings - and the Town Council in 2017 voted unanimously against any development on Manning's Pit.
Pilton Parish Church Frederick Richard Manning baptised, Benjamin Manning's third child.
JMW Turner's uncle moves to Littabourne from central Barnstaple. Littabourne is only a quarter of a mile from Manning's Pit, and the about the same distance from Broadgate House where F R Lee was to live later. While Turner died before Lee bought Broadgate house, it is possible that Lee knew about Turner's uncle, or even had some contact with him in Littabourne while on family visits to Barnstaple..
FR Lee was elected a full member of Royal Academy in 1838, enjoying great success as a landscape painter, associating with Sir Edwin Landseer and Thomas Cooper. He is known to have collaborated with them in the 1840s and 50s, Frederick painting the landscapes while Landseer or Cooper added the animals. He settled at Penshurst in Kent with his wife Harriet and daughter Sarah Catherine,
Pilton Parish Church Harriet Manning baptised, Benjamin's fourth and last child.
Sarah Catherine Augusta Lee born in (London? Kent?) F R Lee's daughter.
page coming about Sarah Hibbert and he granddaughter, who married Henry Williamson's wife
1845Broadgate Villa for sale. This house was later to become the childhood home of H H Munro (Saki)
Hugh Hibbert enters Regiment Royal Fusiliers, went with them as a captain to the Crimea. He reached the rank of Brevet Major in 1855 without purchase due to exhibiting bravery and leadership on the battlefield.
More details of his army career ,and a photograph of Hugh Hibbert, can be found here:
Sale of Pilton Estate, including the field known as Northfield (or North Fields) part of which became known later as Manning's Pit. As the map makes clear, it was bounded by Northfield Lane, which has not changed its name.
Benjamin Manning writes to the North Devon Journal during his dispute with "Tenant Farmer" over pigs.
Here is a part of the letter:
"Indeed, I admit the impropriety of keeping pigs in places not adapted for that purpose; but the place in which I store mine is situated at the extremity of a garden 120 feet from the nearest dwelling house. This place is sheltered by a wall 10 feet in height; so that nothing, in the way of mischief, can reasonably be supposed to result from pigs being kept under such circumstances. But one word more – will Mr “Tenant Farmer” be so bold, and so manly, and so honest, as to give his proper name and address in answer to this, that our townspeople may have the opportunity of knowing to whom they must send their wash. I hope he will learn from this that pigs are not the only unclean animals; and that meanness and spleen, grounded on the most fallacious, ungenerous, and unjust principles, as they of necessity be, can never fail to merit the censure and disapprobation of very lover of truth."The Full Letter
Western Times - November 10 1849
Benjamin Manning stands in Municipal Elections for North Ward as "champion of pig-sties"
Harriet Eves Lee dies in Kent, and is buried there, where she and Frederick Richard Lee have been living.
Manning and Sons butchers shop in High Street, note the sign also says Auctioneers. This shop looks very much the same today. It is now a shop by the name of "Saltrock"
20 June North Devon Journal, notice of Public Meeting,
Pilton Parish Council. concerning sewers of parish,
Benjamin Manning one of overseers of Parish.
Benjamin Manning, butcher, grocer, auctioneer, living near 30 Pilton Street with wife Elizabeth and four children, plus wife's father and mother, John and Elizabeth Gribble. John is a Greenwich Pensioner. Also Manning nephew, John.
J M W Turner dies in December
More details from South Molton website:
Turner never married and in his Will he made provision for land for the building of almshouses for "decayed English artists (Landscape Painters only) and single men". In a codicil made in 1848, he left all his pictures to the nation, providing that an Art Gallery, to be known as "Turner's Gallery", was built and maintained at the nation's expense. If it was not built within ten years from the date of Turner's death then his heirs-at-law could claim the entire collection. When Turner died in December 1851, his next-of-kin contested Probate on the grounds that he had been of unsound mind.
North Devon Journal
Benjamin Manning (auctioneer) sells a house owned by a Mr William Turner (Mason) in Silver St.
Probably coincidence but see below, 1856.
Benjamin Manning “wields his auctioneer's hammer with his customary zeal” North Devon Journal
More details about J M W Turner's will, from South Molton Website:
On 19th March 1856 after long drawn out court hearings, the "charity" money was split between his five cousins or their descendants with the result that Turner's plans for his almshouses came to nothing.
According to a report in the Exeter Flying Post dated March 20th 1856 the agreement reached was that Turner's pictures were to be handed over to the National Gallery together with a sum of £200,000 to the Royal Academy for the encouragement of landscape painting. A large fortune, consisting of about £100,000 in funds and other property was to go to Mr. Turner's nearest relations; Mr. T. P. Turner and Mrs. Matthews of Exeter, Mrs. Tepper and Mrs. John Widgery of South Molton, and Mr. William Turner of Barnstaple. Mrs. John Widgery (Mary Ann Turner Tucker Widgery) was a first cousin to the artist and the daughter of his father's sister Mary.
1857Frederick R Lee remarried in 1857
The Royal Academy has a charming sketch of a "sunfish" painted by him in this year, caught by him while on a trip (presumably in his yacht) from Algiers to Gibraltar.
1858FR Lee returned to North Devon in 1858, when he moved into Broadgate House, Pilton, where his second wife, Mary, sadly died only eighteen months after their marriage. Having inherited his father’s fortune and being well-established as a major figure in the English landscape painting world, he traveled widely in this country and abroad
This is a photograph from 1858 of Broadgate Villa, which was across the road from Broadgate House.. You can see two trees on the right on a hill, and the slope of Manning's Pit is almost certainly just beyond them. The trees would border the field. This shows clearly how close both houses were to the fields now known as Manning's Pit.
Broadgate Villa was to become the home of the Munro family, and the young Saki a few years later.
There is a photograph of the Desborough family on the Pilton Story website, with more information about them.
Incidentally, on Thursday November 11, in 1858 Mr Manning was involved as auctioneer in a sale of furniture for a Mrs Davis, at Broadgate Villa. We do not know whether that means the Desborough's were there as well, but it certainly is possible that the F R Lee came to the auction, as it was just across the road from his own house.
1859FR Lee makes a new garden and inserts a wall around the Longstone, and from the 1860s spent his time between Broadgate House, his yacht in which he sailed the world, and South Africa, where he owned several farms. He died in South Africa and was buried there in 1879.
1861Catherine Sarah Lee marries Col Hugh Hibbert (1828-1895) at Birtles Cheshire – it would be interesting to find out more about how they met, especially as he was in India much of this time. They were to have five daughters and one son, so Colonel Hibbert must have returned to England regularly! It appears that they spent much of their married life in Broadgate house, well before Lee died, as (at least most of) their children were baptised in Pilton Church, and Col Hibbert was a magistrate in Barnstaple.
Benjamin Manning aged 49 and family plus mother in law and three servants now in Joy Street, he is a spirit merchant and auctioneer.
Henry Desborough of Broadgate Villa dies. Late of Pilton, formelry Secretary of the Atlas Assurance Company Cheapside to the City of London, left effects of under £2000/
1864Egham rail accident
Benjamin Manning in dispute over with SW Rail wants £500 after hitting head in accident in Egham
Court case over pig, Benjamin fined for abusive language.
1865On 20th March Hugh Hibbert writes from India to his father
"I am agreeably surprised with India, tho' it is not a place I should like to live in and shall not wish to stay a day longer than was absolutely necessary. "
1867Victoria Catherine Hibbert, daughter of Hugh and Sarah, baptised Pilton Church
Benjamin Manning's charwoman
details to be added
Letter to Exeter and Plymouth Gazette
Benjamin Manning threatens his milkman with a meat cleaver
Benjamin on Town Council (he served three five year terms)
Hector Hugh Munro born in Burma
Margaret Dora 4th child of Sarah and Col Hibbert born. She became the mother of Henry Williamson's wife.
There is a record of Northfield, the large field below Northfield Lane that leads down to Bradiford Water,
being leased by Manning from Sir Frederick Williams.
John Manning advert High street
Mary Frances Munro, Hector's mother, hit by cow and dies...
Captain Munro left his children in Pilton, in Broadgate Villa under the care of his two sisters when he had to return to work in Burma.
NDJ Thursday 20th- March
No date yet for when Mercer family acquired/leased Broadgate Villa, but it was around this time.
1873Post office records
Manning and Sons Spanish Wine Stores, 29 Joy Street,
Manning John and Son, butchers and cattle dealers, 74 High Street.
In November 1873 a letter from Frederick to his Barnstaple relatives was reported in the local paper which stated that, at the age of seventy, he had just completed a voyage around the world in his yacht ‘Linda’, and was then engaged on another trip to remote parts. The message concluded ‘we are all well and hearty, and have no fear for the future.’
"Wanted an active and intelligent lad"
Mannings advertises for help
An auction held in Manning and Sons Auction Rooms, above the Bodega.
1879FR Lee dies in S Africa
Sarah inherits Broadgate House and Estate.
Margaret Dora Hibbert marries cousin Charles Robert Hibbert against family wishes,
they live (impecuniously) in White house Abbotsham...
At Broadgate Villa, Pilton.
Lucy E Munro aged 73, widowed
Carlotte M Munro aged 50, "tom"
Augusta J Munro aged 39
Ethel M Munro aged 12
Hector Hugh Munro aged 10
Leah M Hepper servant aged 27 born Morchard.
Hector Hugh Munro attends the 1888 By Election
The above link takes you to a full report from the North Devon Journal of the exciting events that took place that day. As Ethel Munro, Hector's sister, related in "The Square Egg", the Munro family watched events from a room above what is now Youing's sweet shop. Benjamin Manning was ill around this time, but his son William nominated Lord Lymingotn, who won the Election. Col Hibbert was one of those who nominated his opponent, Sir Robert Carden.
1881Hector Hugh Munro as a boy.
1883Benjamin Manning dies age 72, obituary
Friday 11 May 1873, from the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette
"DEATH OF MR BENJAMIN MANNING -
"The death is recorded of Mr. Benjamin
Manning, of the Bodega, Joy Street, and chief of
the firm of Manning and Son, auctioneers. The
deceased, who died at the age of 72, has led an
active and a useful life, and at one time took a
prominent interest in local affairs, having been
elected for three terms of three years each to
the Town Council. He was Liberal in politics of
the old school, always expressing his opinions
fearlessly, but sometimes with an amount of
vehemence which made it rather unpleasant for an
opponent should he be close at hand.
In the Lumber Room with SakiA programe on Radio Four Extra by Shuan Ley
One hundred years after Hector Hugh Munro was killed by a sniper's bullet on the Somme battlefield, Shaun Ley, who also grew up in Devon, returns to Saki's childhood home to explore the environment that made the author.
During the three hour programme, well known actor Ben Daniels read one of Saki's most famous short stories, the story of Shredni Vashtar.
This, above, is the house (as it was when Shaun Ley visited it to make the programme)) where Hector lived as a boy.
In his day, the fields behind his house led down to Bradiford Water, perhaps 200 yards away. It was a short walk up the river bank to the little bridge that crossed the stream at Manning's Pit.
These words come close to the end of the famous story:
"The great polecat-ferret made its way down to a small brook at the foot of the garden, drank for a moment, then crossed a little plank bridge and was lost to sight in the bushes. Such was the passing of Sredni Vashtar."
Was Hector thinking of Manning's Pit bridge when he wrote those words? It seems very likely.