Miss Hankes

Re-posted from Looking at Filey 20 July 2012

Hilda Charlotte HANKES was eighty-six years old when she died in Scarborough in 1962. The available public records don’t give any clues to the reasons why she did not marry. They do, however, indicate that she was something of a catch. Age 24 at the 1901 Census, she was “living on [her] own means”.

The HANKES money was made in salt. Her father, William, was described as a Salt Dealer in 1861 and a Salt Merchant in 1871. In 1881, though, he was a “Retired Farmer” and only 44 years of age. He seems to have filled his days of early retirement by joining several Filey Societies and serving on a number of committees. At the Filey Horticultural and Horse Show in August 1881 he was a Steward in the Foals and Leapers Department with Messrs Robson, Scrivener, Haworth, Birch and Maley. In May 1882 he proposed the vote of thanks to Captain RIDDELL who had given a lecture on the Afghan War at the Spa Saloon, in aid of the Church Schools. In August that year he was Honorary Secretary of the local committee of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and in March 1883 was elected chairman for that year’s Filey Show. At the end of the year he was a prime mover in reviving cricket in Filey. The sport had been dormant for years “for want of a suitable field” but as Honorary Secretary of the new club William helped to secure land in one of the best parts of town, watched the creation of the pitch and must have looked forward to many a summer afternoon, playing the game perhaps or watching.  He may have enjoyed a match or two but died in September 1884, when he was just 48 and his only child eight years old.

Hilda’s mother, Caroline Mary nee FREUND, was well provided for but she also died relatively young, in 1898.  Hilda found herself an orphan at twenty-two. She seems, however, to have been a young woman of intellectual as well as material substance. In Edwardian Filey she features many times in the local newpapers. Her appearances in “theatrical entertainments” were often in partnership with a Mrs Horsfield, “two very clever exponents of the historic art” one newspaper report proclaimed. Occasionally these performances were given for good causes and in January 1909, “as a result of the recent theatricals at Filey”, Hilda gave £6 11s to the Rev A. N. COOPER “for the soup kitchen”. The following month she was in the company that performed “A Sensational Case” in aid of the Free Breakfast Fund. Towards the end of the year she was one of a group of people who procured for St John’s Church “a small, portable American organ” for use at daily services, classes and meetings held in the large vestry. It would appear that Hilda was settling in for a long but fulfilled spinsterhood. It was not all play acting, though. In October 1909 the Scarborough Mercury reported on the Quarterly Council Meeting in Cardiff of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, noting that H. C. Hankes was Hon Sec of the Filey W.S.S.

The Scarborough Evening News of 22nd July 1901 reported on another of Hilda’s interests.

Field Naturalists

Last Saturday afternoon [20th] some of the members of the Filey Field Naturalists Club made an excursion to the cliffs at Bempton. Their visit was well timed, as the cliff-climbers having ceased work the week before, the birds were very tame, and allowed the members to get quite near to them without betraying any alarm. The ledges and crevices of the cliffs were full of sea-birds; indeed, in many places it was quite impossible for even one more to find a resting-place, and the visitors spent a long time observing them from different points of vantage, and gained much information about the different kinds of birds and their habits, etc. The weather was brilliantly fine, and a most enjoyable afternoon was spent. The secretary is Miss Hilda Hankes, Upcliffe House, Filey, who will be glad to receive the names of those wishing to join. A programme of the excursions proposed for the next few weeks will soon be issued.

I don’t have the evidence but I suspect Hilda’s love of “the natural world” sustained her throughout her long and husband-less life. There may be people reading this who remember her.

A bit of an update

Hilda’s mother was one of the FREUNDs I wrote about last month. Caroline Mary is on FST (M9HG-NQY) but only tied to the record of her first marriage to Newman ELDERS. He died in 1869 and Caroline Mary married William HANKES two years later. Hilda had a half sister, Mary Freund ELDERS, born 1867 in Reighton. Neither girl appears to be represented on FST.

Yesterday I photographed the Celtic Cross that marks the grave of Hilda and her mother but I prefer the pictures I made five years ago. Here’s looking at the Cross from both sides then.

D8_HANKES celticCrossF&B_s

D8 Celtic cross


born December 27th 1840 died August 22nd 1898

HILDA CHARLOTTE HANKES daughter, born July 9th 1876, died Sept 10th 1962

Hilda went to live with her half-sister after their mother died. Mary Freund ELDERS married Robert William SMITH in 1892 and at the 1901 Census they were living at 7 Murray Street with their 6 year old daughter Mildred Mary, Hilda and two servants. The arrangement must have suited because ten years later Hilda was with them at 14 Southdene and still “living on her own means”. (Mildred was absent on that Census night, possibly away at school.) Over the next 25 years or so Hilda must have become restless – or perhaps her own means had run out – because at the Register taken at the start of the Second World War she was working as a librarian, 63 years old – and still living with Robert William, Mary and Mildred, at 21 Southdene. (The Public Library was situated at the other end of the street, a couple of minutes walk away.)

21 Southdene

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