Fox Hunt

Dr. George Sheeran (Bradford University) appealed to the readers of the Dorset Echo last November for information about the FOX-HAWES sisters who had been the main beneficiaries of Elinor Clarke’s will in 1905. I’m sure he hoped that a photograph of Elinor might be flushed from cover. I doubt anyone in Filey today knows what the wealthiest resident at the turn of the last but one century looked like.

I’d hardly begun my online search when I picked up the scent – and received a major surprise. Not that her sister Eliza had borne six children but that she had married William Fox HAWES at St Oswald’s Filey – and the Reverend William ALDERSON had officiated.

(All of William and Eliza’s children were given Fox as a middle name but most of the official records I found today gave their last name as HAWES – so I have decided not to add the hyphen.)

Circumstantial evidence suggests that William was introduced to Eliza by her brother Robert Dennison CLARKE. Robert was called to the Bar by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in 1865. William had been called by Lincoln’s Inn three years earlier. They both took their first degrees at Cambridge and William stayed on to take an M.A., which he received in October 1866. One of his ways of celebrating was to go up to Filey a short time later and, on the 1st of November, marry Eliza.

Eliza gave birth to four sons – William, Robert, Edward and John. Caroline was first born and Elinor fourth to arrive. Eliza died in 1878 aged 39  when John was just a year old. William Senior married Margaret Annie SIMPSON in 1884. She was in her mid- twenties but there are no signs in the Census or GRO of her having any children. Twenty years William’s junior she outlived him by 26; she died aged 78 in 1936 and William in 1910 at 72.

What of the fortunate nieces? Caroline, who does have a the FOX-HAWES name in her marriage registration, was wife to Raoul Hyppolite C. ROBICHON for only nine years. He died aged 43 in Croydon in 1908. I looked for children but didn’t find any. (The information that I was given some years ago that the couple had married in 1865 isn’t correct.) Elinor died a FOX-HAWES aged 82 in 1956 in Bournemouth (Poole Registration District).

The Terence Edward mentioned in the Dorset Echo is a plain HAWES in his birth registration, mother’s maiden surname DRISCOLL.

I wonder if Northcliffe family photographs of Elinor, Eliza and Robert Dennison Junior. The fourth Clarke child, Mary Anne, did not survive infancy. There is a Chorlton death registration for a 3-year-old in March 1844 which fits reasonably well with a June Quarter birth in 1841 in the same place. The wee mite didn’t make it to Strawberry Cottage in 1851.


The Elinor Clarke memorial window in St Oswald’s, Filey; photo courtesy Ray Kilsby

Update 19 August

Elinor’s window, all of it, snapped this morning.


Lady Elinor

Elinor Clarke was not a titled Lady but she had the largest house in Filey designed for her by Walter Henry Brierley and was considered to be the richest woman in the town. She never married though local gossip has it that the building of Northcliffe House was a come hither to the Reverend Arthur Neville COOPER, vicar of Filey for 55 years. He married someone else and Elinor died a spinster in January 1905.

Her wealth was considerable and it was speculated that it derived from cotton, and more specifically cotton thread but research by Dr. George Sheeran at Bradford University has established that a wallpaper manufacturing business established in Manchester by her father filled the Clarke coffers. At the 1841 Census, Robert Dennison CLARKE was described as a “Paper Stainer”  and he died just three years later so it is something of a mystery how he amassed a fortune in such a short time. His only son, also Robert Dennison, became a lawyer and died in 1889, seemingly unmarried and surviving two other sisters, Eliza and Mary Ann, leaving Elinor as the last Clarke standing, inheriting everything.

FamilySearch has the Manchester Clarkes, fragmented as I’ve come to expect but a little work will pull them together. Elinor’s life journey isn’t easy to follow but today I happened upon a Eureka census that answered an old question – what was her relationship to her elderly companion Elizabeth ALDERSON?

The two ladies sleep side by side in St Oswald’s churchyard in Graves G605/ 6 in the Crimlisk/Siddle Survey and 737/8 in Part One of the East Yorkshire Family History Society MIs. In 1871 Elizabeth was living in Rutland Terrace. Ten years later she was visiting Harriet HARKER in Beverley with sister Anne and Elinor. In 1891 Elinor was boarding with Elizabeth in Rutland Terrace. Forty years separated the women but they were clearly very close.

As noted earlier, Elinor’s father died when she was two years old. I have been unable to find her mother’s death but in 1851 three orphan Clarke children were living at Strawberry Cottage in Matlock, Derbyshire. Head of the household was clergyman’s daughter Elizabeth ALDERSON, 27 (yes, 27), sheltering Eliza, Elina, and Robert D Clarke. Anne Alderson, also younger than she ought to have been, was described as a lodger. I really can’t explain why Elizabeth and Anne should knock twenty years off their age. Their baptism records are clear enough in 1803 and 1805 at Holme on Spalding Moor. (In the ’51 Census they give their birthplace as “Home, Yorkshire”.) Their father was William, the rector at Everingham near Pocklington for many years. Their Monumental Inscription runs –

Here rests ANNE ALDERSON died January 3rd 1885 daughter of

the Rev. WILLIAM ALDERSON formerly Rector of Everingham,

and ELIZABETH his wife

‘Rev. 14: 12.’

Also ELIZABETH eldest daughter of the Rev. WILLIAM ALDERSON

died March 7th 1895

More surprising than this age conundrum is the source of the Alderson sisters’ wealth. They never married and lived all their adult lives, it seems, “on their own means”.

Another question – did Elinor ever do a day’s work? It appears she did or at least set out on a career. Eight years old at Strawberry Cottage she was, at age 18, a schoolmistress, boarding with Eliza Day at 1, East Beach, Lytham, Lancashire.

I wrote several posts about Elinor on Looking at Filey. You can see how she led me a merry dance in Eligible Spinster, Top Gear…, and Northcliffe Again.

Find the Manchester Clarkes on FST. Elinor is on Filey Genealogy & Connections but totally isolated, eight years too old and born in Scarborough. The fibs she told census enumerators…

Also on FST – Elizabeth ALDERSON and Walter Henry BRIERLEY


undated postcard, courtesy Suzanne Pollard

See The Scullery Maid’s Tale