Two Richard Haywards

Extract from a book on the Hayward Family, by John Hayward, concerning the two Richard Haywards of Chitterne House, Chitterne:

Richard Hayward senior, born c.1795, died 1884, fifth son of Benjamin Hayward of West Lavington
Richard Hayward junior, born c.1837, died 1913, son of Richard senior

"The Haywards of Chitterne were of the most unique pattern, and remarkable even among the curiosities of that remote countryside. They were really sixteenth century in their habits and outlook.

Somewhere about 1830 this old great-uncle, probably after his father's death, bought Chitterne House in that village, about the most isolated spot on Salisbury Plain. He bought it from the Mitchell family, lock, stock and barrel, an old and decayed country family which owned the greater part of the land around this part of the Plain. The property included all their family portraits, and a library of valuable old books (among which I can remember an ancient copy of "Domesday") as well as the old house and considerable farm lands. The house was plain and ugly, but remarkable within, especially for one room with a gallery, which when I knew it was used as a lumber room, and contained the old books, boxes, scraps of machinery, and odds and ends of all sorts. There was a winding staircase leading to the dark and gloomy bedrooms, in which hung the portraits of the Mithcells, gallants with powdered wigs, judges, cavaliers, and ladies all of the same type, with low evening dresses, patches on their cheeks and expressionless faces. Attics with doors on rusty hinges, mysterious cupboards, and the musty smell of unused, unventilated rooms, made up a never-to-be-forgotten picture. There was something ghostly, uncanny, frightening, about the whole place; one expected to stumble on a skeleton, or see a shadowy form on the stairs, or find something horrible under the bed. The bedrooms all had large four-poster bedsteads, with deep feather beds, all the furniture was very old and worn, and the tapestries faded, the carpets threadbare. As I remember it, nothing can have been renewed or bought to embellish the place since its original purchase in 1830 from the Mitchell family.

The family consisted of old uncle Richard, his old wife, and their son, "Cousin Richard", the most remarkable of the three.

The old man had in reality become a miser. I suppose that having bought the property, and living in such an isolated spot, eighteen miles from Salisbury, twelve from Devizes, eight from Warminster, and not having to work for his living, he simply settled down to do nothing. He married beneath him, a rustic woman named Coleman of a petty farmer family, who nevertheless brought him a considerable dowry, and his chief concern in life then became the safeguarding of what he had got. He rarely left the house or grounds, entertained nobody, and did not appear to welcome visits from members of his own name, viewing them apparently with suspicion on account of their dislike of his marriage. Their table was not much better than that of a labourer, and as a little boy I can remember this miserly old man declaring that he would be ruined. He had an unconscious habit of groaning aloud all the time, and continually clearing his throat. He probably drove into Devizes or Warminster once or twice a year, otherwise he hardly left his grounds, except to go to church on Sundays, where he occupied the Squire's pew in the choir.

No one really cared to go near him, so unwelcoming was his hospitality, so horrid his groans and complaints. And yet withal he had his parts. He had an original turn of mind for mechanics and, about the same time as Stephenson, he invented a most remarkable steam engine, an extraordinarily ingenious piece of mechanism which he built entirely himself. It was set up in an old shed in the grounds, and was used for turning a lathe, or pumping. It is greatly to be regretted that this old machine has not been preserved, but it fell into disuse after his death. The only other thing that interested him was collecting and recording rainfall from an old raingauge which stood on the lawn. The garden, except for vegetables, was allowed to run wild, and a cow was generally tethered on the fine stretch of turf in front of the house which once must have been a lawn. Close by the iron entrance gate was an ancient building, evidently ecclesiastical in character, reputed to be part of an old monastery. This was used for stabling!

(NB The steam engine was bought with Chitterne House by Admiral Napier who was greatly interested in it and I understood from him that he might present it to the Devizes Museum if it could be accommodated.)

Their firstborn, Benny, had died in early childhood,and when Richard, the second child, was born, his mother vowed he should never leave her maternal care.

Of Richard I could write volumes. He was the most extraordinary specimen of a man I have ever encountered. Born about 1835, he was kept and treated like an infant by his parents till their death, when he was over fifty..... He never in the whole of his life slept away from the house at Chitterne, and he had never been to any town except Salisbury or Warminster or Devizes, and had never entered a train. His only reading was the local weekly paper from Warminster or Devizes, the Bible, Domesday Book and possibly a few of the old volumes in the library. He was as much shut up as if he had been in prison without the amenities of gaol life. Human intercourse for him was limited to his aged parents, the domestics, and perhaps a few of the villagers. So here we have a specimen of what a man living to nearly eighty may be like, shut off from practically all human interests or intercourse. He was certainly not weak-minded, but his mind was entirely fallow.

When his parents died he was left alone in this solitary, gloomy house, except for the domestics, for twenty-five years, and it was far too late, nor had he the wish or initiative to make any change. He probably inherited thirty or forty thousand pounds, but he had no idea of living in any other way than did his miserly parents, and his expenditure could not have exceeded three or four hundred a year.

Such was Cousin Dick as I remember him in my boyhood and later. Of course he was laughed at, and not treated seriously by his relatives. My mother alone, I think, realised how pitiably it all was, and once or twice a year she would go up to Chitterne and spend a day or two with him to go over the linen, and domestic affairs, and set things straight; and we children would occasionally venture there for the fun of the thing. The house itself, with its dark and gloomy rooms, and the general ghostlike feeling it engendered, was a distinct attraction; we used to pay hide-and-seek under the beds, and in the cupboards, and once or twice we slept in the huge beds, and felt the sensation after blowing out the tallow candle that the ghosts of some of the Mitchells were creeping about the passages and rooms, while the hoot of an owl or the rattle of a window in a gust of wind, would send us under the bedclothes. I believe Cousin Dick rather liked our comings, though he always seemed suspicious that we were making fun of him.

....He carried on as his parents had done - everything was kept under lock and key - writing paper, household stores, even the soap: this latter he would cut up and give out as required. The tea, sugar, flour, was given out daily. The food was better than in his parents' time, and there was plenty of beer, and latterly far too much whiskey for Dick's health. And then that great event - Prayers. It must be understood that by his intercourse almost entirely with domestics and village people, he had acquired a broad country manner of speech; also from solitude and a measure of deafness, he had no idea of moderating his voice, which was also naturally harsh and gruff. The result was a kind of hoarse shout, now high, now low in the depths. At Prayers this was exaggerated in a very extraordinary manner. The servants came, and placed before him a Book of Family Prayers. Silence all around for a minute, Dick sitting at one end of the table. Then he began...

After we left Conock and Wiltshire in the early nineties (1890s), practically nobody went to see him. There is no doubt he missed my mother very much, though my sister Gertrude occasionally paid him a visit to look after his household affairs. Unfortunately his cook-housekeeper became a drinker, and I am certain she encouraged him to drink as well, with the usual excuse that "he wanted a little to keep him up". The ultimate result was disastrous: his health failed, and he gradually lost the use of his legs from a form of creeping paralysis (peripheral neuritis). I went down at the request of his doctor to see him, and the only remedy would have been the dismissal of the housekeeper; but by this time he had become dependent on her and it was out of the question.

In the last fifteen years of his life, he hardly saw anyone outside the house except his doctor, and one can only imagine the life of this household, with a drunken woman in charge, and a helpless master. He died about 1913 and was buried at Chitterne."

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