Alexander Henry, the father of John Snowden Henry who was the next owner of East Dene, was a successful cotton merchant and one of a group of influential liberal reformers active in Manchester in the early years of the nineteenth century. His mother Elizabeth Brush, was the daughter of George \Brush of Willowbrook, Dromore, County Down.
Alexander was a self made man with strong religious, political and social beliefs. As a young boy he left the family farm in Loughbrickland, County Down to join his uncle in America who was a successful businessman in Philadelphia and a well known philanthropist with a special interest in education and the Christian missions in India. His skill was quickly recognised and he soon became the Manager of his uncle’s firm. He joined the Unitarian Church much to the regret of his staunch Presbyterian uncle and this continued throughout his life and may well have influenced his decision to establish himself in Manchester, a town with a strong Unitarian community. He went there in 1805 at the age of twenty one to set up his own business.
He arrived in Manchester with a letter of introduction to Ashworth Clegg, a wealthy cotton merchant and prominent member of the Unitarian Church in Cross Street. The congregation there had a strong tradition of public service and reform. Many of its members were involved in local and national politics and campaigned vigorously for Parliamentary reform and improvements in the education and living conditions of the working classes. He was immediately accepted and went on to be one of the most active members.
He kept his links with his family in America and set up his business in Palace Street importing raw cotton and exporting manufactured cotton prints. As the business expanded he moved to Spear street where he was joined by his brother Samuel and from then on the firm was known as A&S Henry. The business was highly successful and expanded rapidly establishing branches all over America. In Manchester it became known as America House.
“Messrs A&S Henry were the leaders....in the English trade with America and were for many years the chief exporters of manufactured goods to that country”(Taken from “Fortunes made in Business” by various writers in 1887).
They soon expanded into woollens, worsteds, linen and jute and established branch warehouses in Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds, Glasgow and Belfast. Each branch had separate and distinct interests, with the parent Company in Manchester retaining control. By the 1830s it was trading in Brazil, Australia and the South Sea Islands. In 1836 a large warehouse was opened in Portland Street which was to remain the Company Headquarters for the next one hundred and four years.
The Henry Company logo was a ship in full sail and over the years the brothers made several trips across the Atlantic. At the time the trip took on average 30 days and Alexander boasted he had made over 25 trips. On one occasion he was left behind in Plymouth when he stepped ashore to help an elderly gentleman he had met on the journey from London. However, Samuel died on one trip when the ship caught fire. Alexander continued as sole owner although he retained the Company name of A&S Henry. Despite being so busy he found time to play his part in public life and politics and was recognised as a generous supporter of the Anti Corn Law League and an important member of the Liberal Party in Manchester. He represented South Lancashire in Parliament from December 1847 to July 1852 at a time when Manchester Liberalism was synonymous with reform and for four years he was also President of the Lancashire Public Schools Association. One Manchester Newspaper described him as a “king among men. His patriotism and love of liberty could always be relied upon”. He and his family lived in a tall red bricked Georgian building overlooking the Green in Ardwick, which was then a Village on the Outskirts of Manchester. The lake in the centre of the Green was often frozen over in winter and used by skaters ; the Green was the centre of Village life and the place for many celebrations. There was a busy road direct to London right outside.
Alexander and his wife Elizabeth had nine children ; two died in infancy. John Snowden had a twin Franklyn and they too were not expected to live and were hurriedly baptised at the Presbyterian Church. However they both rallied and were re-christened at the Unitarian Church, Cross Street, twenty days later.
The Henry children had a privileged childhood and lifestyle in middle class industrial England. Regular visitors were Richard Cobden, John Bright and Henry Ashworth, all prominent members of the Anti Corn Law League. Conscious of their father’s success the children would also have been aware of his work and political ideals encouraging the lower classes to advance themselves through education and self discipline as he had done himself.
Alexander died on 4th October 1862 and left £700,000 in assets whereupon, both John and his older brother Mitchell inherited a vast fortune each. His oldest son Alexander had converted to the Catholic Church and become a Jesuit priest. He was left £500 a year for life. He left John’s twin Franklyn £1000 a year for life. He also left very generous bequests to his grand children and household staff. The residue was divided between his three remaining children John Snowden, Mitchell and their sister Agnes Woods Wildes; the sons were each to receive two fifths and Agnes one fifth. This was worth a quarter of a million but both sons wished to continue the business and became the major partners. Mitchell had trained to be a Doctor and Surgeon at Manchester University and the Manchester Royal School of Medicine and Surgery (Manchester Royal Infirmary) and proved to be a brilliant Surgeon, becoming Senior Consultant at Middlesex Hospital in London by the time he was 30. In his day anaesthetics had not been introduced and many of his big operations took place without them, including taking off a man’s leg at the thigh! In another case he removed an enormous gall stone, half of which is in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London and the other half in the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin . It is not known in either of these cases if the patient survived!
Mitchell had a practice at No 5, Harley Street, Cavendish Square. He rapidly gained a reputation for himself and was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1854.He wrote several important works and in 1856 he translated from the French, a treatise on The Diseases of the Breast and Mammary Region by A Velpeau. On the title page he was described as “A Fellow, by examination, of the Royal College of Surgeons, Assistant Surgeon and Lecturer on Morbid Anatomy at the Middlesex Hospital, and Surgeon to the North London infirmary for the Diseases of the Eye. In 1859 he gave an address which give an insight into his values and personality. In his opinion self discipline and perseverance were essential tools for a successful life along with earnestness of purpose and a genuine love of truth. Earnestness of purpose would even overcome defects of early education and a love of truth was amidst the rarest of human endowments, yet without it no man can be truly great, aye, even respectable. He cautioned his audience against failure to recognise the dignity of labour. Without an adequate concept of such dignity neither wealth or station nor an amply endowed intellect, could save them from self contempt, or rescue your memories from deserved oblivion. Earnestness was the talisman key that opened all locks, the passport to success in all things.
“If then you are engaged in study, study with earnestness ; if attending a lecture, bring not your body only but your mind also; and even if engaged in recreation, do it with your whole attention: above all never fall into that dreamy state of almost imbecilic fatuity, that state of half work, half play.... Now is your day, perform your task here with diligence and earnestness and show you are men.”
On the death of Alexander, Mitchell abandoned medicine and entered politics and commerce. He was the founder of the Manchester Evening News and followed in his father’s footsteps as an MP. He also engaged a passion for building fine houses including Kylemore Lodge in Connemara, an area he had visited regularly as a sportsman and fisherman and had come to love dearly. John Snowden bought East Dene.
It was John Snowden Henry and his wife Annie Elizabeth, who made East Dene the splendid building it is today. They are said to have spent £90,000 on the house and grounds. They were responsible for most of the decoration, the panelling in the lounges and dining room, the ornate ceilings, the stained and painted glass and such features as the 17th Century Florentine sideboard in the main dining room and the bas relief of the “Massacre of the Innocents” in the entrance hall. They also planted many of the fine trees around the grounds notably the Gingko near the entrance and the Jasmine by the porch. The gingko has a unique fan shaped leaf and is still a comparative rarity. They also built the Turret as a coach house and stables with an open cobbled yard accessed from the outside. It was built in a medieval style with walls quarried from local stone of immense thickness and strength. It is quite amusing to see how frequently the family used their coat of arms, monograms and also the family motto “Vincit Veritas” in the decoration of the house. They seem to have been most anxious that later inhabitants would remember that they had been here! However, they were also extremely generous with both money and compassion, values John clearly inherited from his father. Both he and his wife’s funeral accounts bear witness to the great respect in which they were held.
JOHN and ELIZABETH SNOWDEN-HENRY
John Snowden-Henry of East Dene,
Bonchurch, Isle of Wight :
A Magistrate for the County of Southampton,
and a Deputy Lieutenant for the Isle of Wight,
MP for South-East Lancashire from 1868-1874.
Married Annie, daughter of Thomas Wood of
Neasham and Bishopswearmouth, Co. Durham.
Died 30th October 1896
leaving issue, two daughters :
Elizabeth Anna m. John Edward Gordon
and has issue
Constance Emma m. Ashley Maude,
son of Sir George Maude KCB.
Died 1889 leaving five daughters
East Dene sale particulars 1861
LONDON FRIDAY 9th JULY 1861
ISLE OF WIGHT (Bonchurch)- to be sold by private contract, the valuable freehold property known as East Dene; consisting of a large residence and about 100 acres of land.
The house contains hall, library opening into a drawing room which is separated from the conservatory by a screen of plate glass and carved oak, together with a 95 ft long dining room 27 ft long, study, with bathroom etc; breakfast room with spare room opening from it; seven best bedrooms, two dressing rooms, four servants bed rooms, large nursery, housekeeper’s room, pantry, servants hall, kitchen, scullery etc.
The house is well furbished and is fitted with old carved oak, part of which belonged to the Queen’s library in Buckingham house etc. The cellarage is extensive and dry.
The out offices consist of dairy, coal-house, with store room above, larders, knife and shoe houses etc. the house is supplied with water on each floor from a spring at a high level and with clear soft water from a capacious underground tank.
It is approached from the village of Bonchurch by a picturesque carriage drive, with a substantial handsome lodge and gate, and stands on a beautiful lawn sloping towards the sea and studded with large trees; the pleasure grounds are extensive and command views of great beauty; the gardens are fully stocked and very productive, with vinery, excellent gardener’s house adjoining, fruit room etc.
The estate reaches from Bonchurch to Luccombe and includes the Landslip celebrated for its rocky and wooded scenery, overhanging the sea. There are about 80 acres of arable and pasture land. The farm buildings are conveniently situate and near the beach is a labourer’s cottage with a private bathing machine etc. The house with pleasure grounds and gardens may be had separately. The Landslip and farm afford abundant and beautiful sites for building.
For particulars and cards to view, apply to Ranken and Co. 4 South Square, Gray’s Inn, Mr Johnathan Joliffe, Bonchurch; or Mr Wm Westwood, Ventnor.
Letters written from East Dene,
held in the IOW Records Office, available online
Letter from Florence Oglander, East Dene, Bonchurch, I.W., to her husband, John H. Oglander
(102/552A) Date:[25 October 1896]
"I was rather longing to write last evening, but I was a bit tired and I knew I should want to write today too and both letters would arrive on Monday! Did you have a bad rush for the train yesterday? I was so sorry for you. It was so tiresome having to rush like that. I wonder how your hand is and if you are having a pleasant visit? I had a good little journey, but the train was very late and while waiting at Brading, I talked to Mrs. Martin White in re. needlework Guild and then to Latimer and Major Le Marchant who both praised the Windsor [Hotel] so I hope you are writing there today. I need not describe the kindness of the Henrys! They both though seemed sadly aged and she so fragile. A rather nice silent girl, a Miss Baird (and a young brother) arrived when I did, but she was not allowed to go to her room, till I had chosen mine. I have a very nice room and Goodwins room opens out of it, which is very nice, so I did not feel lonely last night, tho' it was fearfully stormy. I am taking great care not to do too much. Edith would have been amused at the pretty little bill of fare, which the Chef sent [sic] up for me to choose my breakfast. I chose a humble little dish of fish. I have written to Mrs. Millet and have engaged her for a month's trial telling her that I hope she will suit us and will like the situation. Mrs. Gaupins letter is not so cordial as the other and if I could tell how to express it nicely in writing I would mention the extravagence, but I think when I see her I will speak of it and we may as well try her. I hope, darling, I have done right. Please return me the letters for I ought to keep them. Joannie went off very happy and I think will have a wholesome day, dear pet. It is very stormy here - occasional gleams of sun and then hail or rain. I must go down to luncheon now, dearie. Mrs. Henry has just been in on her way from church and said I was not to hurry, but it would be civil to go down now. I wish I knew about tipping a man.' The Housemaid is very nice. My love to Edith and Bertram. Your loving little wife with a very blotty pen! I hope you slept this morning. I believe I stay till Wednesday, but have not discussed [it with] Mrs. Henry yet. Mr. Henry is in bed today with a chill which is bad for him." This record is held by Isle of Wight Record Office
Held by:Isle of Wight Record Office
Letter from Florence Oglander, East Dene, Bonchurch, to her husband, John H. G. Oglander, Hill House, Steeple Aston, Oxon
Date:27 October 1896
"Another beautiful morning and warmer, they tell me - I hope the day will last. Yesterday was gloomy (ready for the wet night) in the afternoon, but Mrs. Henry and I had a drive after the luncheon party. Poor Mrs. Henry looked so anxious last night for Mr. Henry was restless and rather feverish. I heard he had some sleep so I hope the Doctor will be satisfied, when he comes presently and no complication had developed at 6.30 last night. I am so sorry for her; she looks so anxious and tired towards evening and quite patheticly asking ones opinion. Miss Baird is very nice and seems fond of her. I am getting on all right but, dearie, I do feel sure the plan of the London house would not have been best this winter. It is about 9.30 now and I must lie down now, but I thought I must scribble to you after my bath, but I shall not sent it till I get your letter by 2nd post. There it is and I am so glad you have made a good "byking" for I am sure it will do you good. You were very wise to take those precautions with your hand, but I am so glad the bycicle and no sling did it no harm. How dear of you to hurry on to get my letter. I want to send mine off by general post, because I like to get yours first. Mr. Henry is a little better and Mrs. Henry is certainly less anxious and I hope tonight will make a great difference. I am going home tomorrow afternoon and shall, I hope, get over my goodbyes at Westbrooke! on Thursday. Frankie writes he would like to come on Sunday. P.S. I am so glad I was right about Millets. The enclosed came crossing one from em to Maud [Strickland]. I suppose we cannot get there on 5th. The 6th would do, for I fancy they [the Stricklands] might be glad of longer time for the new housemaid but we shall see."
This record is held by Isle of Wight Record Office
Letter from Florence Oglander, East Dene, Bonchurch, I.W., to her husband, John H. G. Oglander, Hill House, Steeple Aston, Oxon
Date:26 October 1896
"I was so glad to find you could ride your bicycle from the station and you seem to have had on the whole a pleasant journey, in spite of the storms. It is lovely here today. Mr. Henry was rather bad last night and the poor old Lady looked so anxious. The Doctor was here at 9.30 and is coming again at 6. I asked if I could not go today but they will not hear of it, so I shall stay till Wednesday unless I telegraph. It is just a bad chill, but as you know that with diabetis is no trifle. He was in less pain last night, so I hope he may be better this evening. Miss Baird is very nice. Joan writes very happily from the Forsythes. She goes home this morning and ought to have a lively ride this afternoon as it is a beautiful day. I got away about 6 yesterday to my room to rest which you know I like. Today I daresay we sha drive. There are people at luncheon. Your letter just come. I did rather long to hear of you darling before this morning, but I know I must not fidget you. I wished afterwards I had sent you a card to get by first post this morning, but it was such an absurd little journey to write about. Your travelling companion seems to have been very pleasant. I am glad you told me to come to Nunwell. It did not matter a bit about the Greiger (!) Flask, as long as you bring it to London. I hope the Windsor [Hotel] can have us, as I rather fancy trying it. I must go down now Love to E.B. I hope you were having a good "byke" today." Held by:Isle of Wight Record Office
Letter from Joan Oglander, Leavington House, [St. John's Park, Ryde], to her mother, Florence Oglander, c/o Mrs. Snowden Henry, East Dene, Bonchurch, I.W
Date:25 October 1896
"I hoped you arrived at Ventnor safely yesterday. I am very happy here and we have just come home from Trinity [Church]. There is a children's service. It is very nice. Miss Phillips asked me to thank you very much for the kind note you sent her. Last night we had such a storm, it woke Miss Phillips, Mary, me and Tuts. It did rain hard. Yesterday we went out in the afternoon and then we acted charades and made toffee with almonds. Oh it is so good I am sure you would like it, dearest Mother. I hope you are having a nice time. Have your heard from Father yet? I expect so. I am going to leave here at 1015 tomorrow morning, worst luck. Write to me soon, dear Mother. I do so want to know what you are doing. I hope your throat is not bad. Mary is writing to her mother now. She came up to my room this morning at 6.30. We nearly went to sleep. I am sleeping in Duddy's room. With heaps of love, Darling Mother." Florence Oglander went to stay with the Snowden Henry's, at, East Dene, Bonchurch, near Ventnor on Saturday 24th October, whilst her daughter, Joan, went on the same day to Commander and Mrs. Douglas M. Forsythe at Leavington House, St. John's Park, Ryde. Joan returned to Nunwell on Monday and her mother on Wednesday 28th. John Oglander went to Bertram and Edith Ogle at Steeple Aston on 24th October and met his wife in London where they stayed at the Windsor Hotel on 2 Nov., Joan being left at Nunwell with her nanny rather to her distress. They returned to Nunwell and Joan on 19 Nov Held by:Isle of Wight Records Office
The Obituary J. Snowden Henry, Died 30th October 1896
“THE LATE J. SNOWDEN HENRY, ESQ., J.P., D.L., OF BONCHURCH"
Only sad regrets were heard on Saturday morning as news was told the one to the other, that Mr Snowden Henry had passed away. It is indeed, difficult of realisation, that a name so long and universally respected, has ceased, except as a grateful remembrance. It is thirty four years since Mr Henry purchased the lovely residence at Bonchurch and directly after the purchase whatever good taste and wealth could provide were lavished on the property, so that under the guidance of Mr and Mrs Snowden Henry has been developed this lovely spot, for the House, the Garden, the elegant stabling, may be reckoned as parts of the whole, while the interior of the dwelling is unique in its perfection and artistic order! Meanwhile a great charm attaches to every remembrance of the pleasant home, when the willing generosity of Mr and Mrs Henry is remembered- scarcely, if ever, was an application refused for the use of the grounds in the interests of any local society or charity, and visitors, who on these occasions have carried away the record to distant places, have had to tell of the kindness upon which they have remarked while in its enjoyment. But the generous and ready kindness of Mr and Mrs Henry was never limited by such considerations, for the bedside of sick neighbours, especially when these were within the cottages of the poor, could tell of many sympathetic visits and much personal help- for a tale of distress always found a kind response.
Then of local institutions, Mr Henry was a regular supporter, alike in purse and person-The Horticultural Society, The Rowing Club, the Conservative Club, had him for their President- and few local societies that missed him from their roll of subscribers. The marriage of both daughters did much to break up the pleasant home of Bonchurch. Other places and new interests limited the time spent at East Dene, and afterwards the death of one daughter, Mrs Maud, was a grief from which Mr and Mrs Henry never appeared to quite rally, and succeeding this period, somewhat failing health, has by degrees led to less outward activity than had been, although the kindness we have hinted at has never ceased.
The Funeral took place on Thursday afternoon, under the very capable management of Mr Day. During the days past it has been said that very many would be gathered on the occasion, but few we feel sure, anticipated such a complete evidence of regard for the deceased gentleman, as was witnessed last Thursday. Quite by two o’clock, and the burial was not until three, along the streets of Ventnor were seen parties attired in mourning, wending their way to Bonchurch, and by half past two the Bonchurch roadway presented quite a continuous steam of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, all in absolute mourning, indeed we never remember seeing such universal evidence of respect, and from everybody expressions of regret were mingled with those of sympathy for Mrs Henry in her great loss, and as to the customary evidence of respect scarcely a shop or a dwelling house through the main streets of the town had not shutters up, or blinds drawn, while in Bonchurch it is needless to say there was not a failure in such mark of respect.
The Funeral cortege was fixed to leave East Dene at 3pm and punctually at that hour the elegant coffin completely enveloped in wreaths of the choicest and most beautiful flowers was carried by bearers, preceded by the members of the Bonchurch Rowing Club, the members wearing rosettes, red on white ground (the Club Colours) and sad regrets were heard on every hand as the remains of one so many years so energetic in the promotion of whatever good he discovered might be done by him, was borne silently along the well known approach and through the handsome gates into the high road. To mere onlookers, thoughts almost of sadness were aroused.
The chief mourners were : Mitchell Henry Esq.(Brother), Captain JSV Henry (Nephew), Ashley Maud Esq.(Son-in Law), the Misses Maud (grand-daughters, five), Captain Stotherd (Nephew), the Misses Stotherd (Nieces), Lionel Wynch (Nephew), - Darbishire Esq. (Family Solicitor). Some of whom were driven to the Church in anticipation of the procession, meeting it at the gates.Those immediately following the coffin were the household servants and outdoor servants, men and women- next the County Magistrates amongst whom we noted Colonel Brown, Arthur Atherley Esq., Dr Whitehead, Hastings Lees Esq., (Chief Constable), Dr Sinclair Coghill, Dr Lowther, H Sewell Esq., Temple Kirkpatrick Esq., also WM Judd Esq., Mr WB Judd, Mr Fletcher Moor, F Lloyd Esq., Hamilton Urry Esq., Innes Vine Esq., Rev JA Alloway, Mr J Knight, Mr Wetherick, Cap AE Joliffe and the Drill Inspector representing the Volunteers, and others to the number of more than sixty- then came the members of the Forester’s Court, wearing their funeral sashes. Next the members of the Horticultural Society ; also in the procession were 40 members of the Bonchurch Schools. The road was lined the whole way, and the Church and Churchyard itself were quite full. The scene was altogether most impressive and despite the immense gathering the orderly quiet was very marked.
Within the church the most perfect order was preserved by the Church Warden, Mr Edwards and the Verger, Mr Diffey. By these all that might be admitted, were conducted to seats, and looking over the quite full church, on a congregation in deep mourning, the effect was very solemn. Meanwhile the passing bell tolled, and in anticipation, the organist played a suitable theme, which, as the procession entered the church, was modulated into the appropriate air “I know that my Redeemer liveth”. Soon the coffin had been placed in the Chancel and was surrounded by the full surpliced choir. The Rev Canon Phillips also sat in the Chancel, and the Rector the Rev H C Rowland entered the Reading Desk. The mourners having taken their seats, among these the five grand-daughters, children of the late Mrs Maude. The Rector at once gave out Hymn 499 (A&M) which was sung, next the xc. Psalm was chanted- then Canon Phillips read the appointed lesson, after which the body was borne to the grave, which is cut in, and through, solid rock, and was thickly lined with moss and the choicest white flowers. Those who know this most beautiful resting place will remember the grave of the late Capt Huish, near to which now rests his neighbour and friend, Mr Snowden Henry. Around the grave a large platform had been constructed, and this was reached by a sloping way made of planks from the Church path, and this and the platform were covered with scarlet cloth. The mourners standing around and as many as could of those who had followed, the Rector concluded the service and preceding the Benediction, and led by the Sunday School children, the hymn “Now the labourer’s task is o’er”, and after many regretful looks the mourners and the vast crowd slowly withdrew.
Of the wreaths, we are afraid to attempt a list of the senders- there must have been quite a hundred, and represented a perfect wealth of rare flowers, as well as much sincere sympathy. Of those from the family and most immediate friends, we may say, that the very handsome cross from Mrs Snowden Henry- the wreath from the Grand daughters- the very elegant memento of violets from Mrs Whitehead; that from the Conservative and that from the Horticultural Society, were very special.”