MAY, George (A98)
Just to your left when entering the Churchyard is a small, beautifully carved gravestone. This modest gravestone marks the resting place for the last residents of Raglan Castle. They weren't royalty or gentry - just plain folk...
In 1849, George and Harriet May, a young married couple with an infant child, were invited by the Duke of Beaufort to live at Raglan Castle and paint landscapes, along with looking after the early tourist trade. The Castle had remained vacant for 200 years since it was surrendered to the Roundheads, thus ending the English Civil War. The May family were the last residents of Raglan Castle.
While living at the Castle, they had 2 more children (both girls) and gave the last two daughters the name 'Castle' (Fanny Castle May and Rose Castle May).
The funeral of Harriet May was attended by almost the entire population of the village. Sadly, George died a year later. After the death of their parents the May children were dispersed - the eldest son went to boarding school, while the three girls were sent to an orphanage. One of their descendants was Henry Hemsley, a famous child voice impersonator in the 1930s. Another descendant, May, born in NZ became the first elected woman to be on council in Victoria and possibly Australia.
In memory of HARRIET MAY who died Feb 1856, Aged 35 years and GEORGE MAY who died June 8, 1857 aged 48 years
George Henry May. b. 1813, was a landscape artist. He was born and raised in Tidenham, Gloucestershire until he was 25 years old. Sometime after 1841 he married Harriet (b. 1823) from Chepstow, Wales and the newly weds settled in Bristol where they had their first child, George Henry, in 1847.
Their second child, Blanch, was born at Raglan Castle in 1849. Blanch was followed by Rose Castle, born about July 1850 and then Fannie Harriet Castle, born in 1851.
On Christmas morning of 1853, the family escaped from disaster. Their story was published in the Hereford Times, pg 5 on 07/01/1854
Raglan,-- The family of Mr. May, keeper of Raglan Castle, had early on Christmas morning a most providential escape from a fearful calamity. On the previous night Mr. and Mrs. May, with the two youngest children, retired to rest in one of the gate-towers, leaving the two eldest children to sleep on a bureau bedstead in the parlour in the chapel tower, in charge of a nurse maid. About four o'clock Mr. and Mrs. May were aroused by the screams of the attendant, saying the parlour was on fire. It appears she had risen at three o'clock, mistaking it for seven, and lit the fire -- having gone into a chapel, in which were several dresses, which her candle must have ignited -- the smoke had nearly filled the parlour before she perceived the danger. Luckily, the children sustained no injury, and we trust they will not from exposure on such a night. Nothing was consumed but the dresses, but the density of the smoke entirely spoiled several of Mr. May's paintings, lately finished -- the labour of several months .....
Harriet died February 1856, aged 35 years. Her burial was recorded in the Hereford Times on 23/02/1856: "DIED: Feb. 5, at Raglan, after a long illness, leaving a young family, the wife of Mr. May, keeper of the castle. The funeral was attended by almost the entire population of the village. The three little girls, daughters of he deceased, so lately born within the old castle, followed in the procession and caused much attention"
George looked after the young children until he passed away in June 1857. Both Harriet and George are buried in St Cadoc's Churchyard, in Raglan Village and the four orphans: George Junior, aged 10 years old, Blanch, 8 years, Rose, 7 years and Fanny 6 years were left to fend for themselves.
The May family legend states that Harriet May had noble blood. She was 'born on the other side of the blanket'. Nothing is known of George's ancestors
After their parents died, the eldest child, George H (jr) was sent to St Augustine boarding school in Bristol while the 3 girls were sent to an orphanage in Ham, Surrey. George Jr. later married Clara May of Clerkenwell, Middlesex, and they settled in Lambeth, St Matthew, London, where George worked first as a clerk and later as an actor. In 1871, George and Clara had at least one son, Frederick, born about 1881, and were living at 27 Lonsdale Square in Islington.
Blanch, the eldest daughter, also moved to London after her stay at the orphanage and took up service as a domestic servant in 3 Mount Avenue, Ealing, West London. She worked for William and Mary Ann Browne and their 3 young children. William Browne was a wine merchant born in Maidstone, Kent. His wife Mary was born in Pimlico, Middlesex.
Rose Castle left the orphanage sometime after 1861. According to her family, at some time, she emigrated to New Zealand where she probably met her husband, Stephen Stamp Hutchison. Stephen left his young family to strike up a relationship with Rose. They moved to Beaumaris (a beach-side suburb 20 miles south of Melbourne, Australia). Their first child, May, was born in NZ and became the first elected woman to be on council in Victoria and possibly Australia. their second child George was conceived in NZ and there is no record of his birth, their third child was Etienne (Darkin). She also had a daughter, Denise Rose (ref. Rod Primrose, grandson of Etienne, 2013)
The youngest child, Fanny Harriett Castle May married William T Hemsley, a scenic artist and they had 6 children: William G, b. 1875, Battersea, Surrey; George K. b. 1877, Swindon, Wilts, Harry M. b. 1878, Swindon, Wilts,
By 1881, Fanny H.C. Hemsley (Harriett Castle May), aged 28, was married to William T. Hemsley, aged 30, and living at 2 Alma Place, Margate, St John Baptist, Kent, England. William was an artist born in Gateshead, Durham. They had six children: William G, b. Battersea, Surrey; George Robert, born Swindon, Wilts; Harry M, age 3. born Swindon, Wilts.; Arthur C, born 1882, Margate, Kent; Ivy M M, born, 1885, London; and Grace F H, born, 1888, London. Their son Harry was famous on the music hall circuit and footage of him is available on Pathe. Harry called his only child Norman Castle (apparently as a pun). In March 1923, Fanny died in Wandsworth Greater London, age 70.
Fanny Harriet Castle May (1852 Monmouth - 1923 Wandsworth). After her mother died Fanny ended up in the orphan house in Ham, Surrey with her two older sisters Blanche (1849)and Rose (1851).
In April 1873 she married William Thompson Hemsley at St George's in Hanover Square, London. They went on to have 6 children.
In 1881 William and Fanny were living at 2 Alma Place in Margate. William was listed as an artist. They had 3 children, William George (1875 Battersea), George R (1877 Swindon) and Harry May (1878 Swindon). In 1891 she and William were living at 1 Comyn Road in Battersea. At home were George Robert, Harry May, Arthur C (1882 Margate), Ivy Mary M (1885 London) and Grace Fanny Harriett (1887 London). They had one domestic servant. William was a scenic artist.
1901 they were living at 189 Lambeth Road with their children George, Harry, Ivy and Grace. William was still described as a scenic artist, as was his son George who worked for him. They, again, had a servant.
In the 1911 census Fannyand William were visiting in Northumberland. They were staying at 11 Simonside Terrace, Heaton, New Castle On Tyne. William was still a scenic artist.
Also in 1911 Fanny and William's children were at various locations in London. Harry was married to Florence Rose Kingwell and living at 82 Northside, Wandsworth Common. Harry was an 'artist and entertainer' quite well known in the music hall circuit. If you 'google' Harry Hemsley you will find Pathe News footage of him. They had a servant.
William was unmarried and living at 10 Faunce Street, Kennington. He was a scientific sculptor. Ivy and Grace were living on their own at 34 The Chase, Clapham. There are no records for George or Arthur.
Harry and Florence Hemsley only had one child, born in 1913, but they named him Norman Castle Hemsley. Family rumour has it that it was done intentionally as a pun, Norman Castle!! (they probably had no knowledge of the link to Raglan Castle)
William George married Isabella Josephine Hoare in 1895 in St Pauls on Westminster Bridge Road. They had 3 children, William, Dorothy and Violet.
Grace married Charles Green in 1915 at Clapham Holy Trinity Church. They do not appear to have had any children. Ivy married Mr Etienne J Hutchinson in 1917 in Wandsworth. They do not appear to have had any children.
Fanny had 6 children and 4 grandchildren. Harry and Florence's son Norman had three children, Madeline, Nicholas and Elizabeth. Nicholas married Carey and they had one daughter together, Isabelle Florence. Sadly, Nicholas died a few years ago.
In 1861 they were altogether in the orphanage and by 1871 Blanche was working as a servant in Ealing. She died in 1878 in Preston in Dorset, aged just 29 years. All I can find for Rose is that she was born Rose Castle May in 1850 and died in 1895 in Preston, Dorset.
At least one member of the May family emigrated to New Zealand. In 1990, George May's great-grandson, Mr. Robinson, visited Raglan and signed the guest book at St Cadoc's Church.
Family Tree: George MAY
sources: 1841 England Census, George Henry May, age 25, unmarried, landscape artist, b. 1813, Tidenham, Glos, Eng. Gloucestershire, Tidenham, district 5.
1851 Wales Census, George Henry May, Landscape artist and keeper of the castle and family living at Raglan Castle. George Henry May, age 38, Harriet, wife, born 1823, Chepstow, George H (Jr), born 1847, Bristol, Blanch, b. 1849 in Raglan, and Rose Castle May, born about July, 1850, Raglan.
1852 FreeBMD Birth Indes, 1837-1915. Fanny Harriett Castle May Date of Registration: Oct-Nov-Dec 1852 Registration district: Monmouth Inferred County: Monmouthshire Volume: 11a Page: 41
St Cadoc's Church burial records: George and wife Harriet both died between 1852-1857. buried in St Cadoc's Churchyard.
1861 England Census (Bristol St Augustine), George May age 14, b. abt 1847. Scholar, Colston Hospital, St Augustine Headmaster: Richard TC ROWLATT, age 52 of Hythe, Kent.
1861 Girls: England census (Surrey, Ham) Blanche, age 12, b. 1850 Rose age 10 b. 1851 and Fanny aged 7 b. 1854 respectively and all born in Raglan. living in a large Orphan House in Surrey > Ham > District 15 > 10 Governors: Charlotte Wood, age 20. b. Berks M.R and Emma Thompson, Governor age 25 b. Middlesex, London
1871, George H May, age 24. born, Bristol, occupation: clerk. married to Clara May, of Clerkenwell, Middlesex. They were living in Lambeth, St Matthew, London, England (London > Lambeth > Kennington Second > District 25 > 37)
1871 England Census, Blanche. was a domestic servant in 3 Mount Avenue, Ealing, West London. She was working for William and Mary Ann Browne and their 3 young children. William Browne was a wine merchant born in Maidstone, Kent. His wife Mary was born in Pimlico Middlesex. The census lists Blanch as born in 1849, Monmouthshire, Wales.
1881 England Census: George H. May, age 33. occup, actor. living at 27 Lonsdale Sq, Islington, London, with wife Clara May and son Frederick, b. approx 1881
1881 England Census: Fanny H.C. Hemsley ( Harriett Castle May), age 28 was married to William T. Hemsley, age 30 and living at 2 Alma Place, Margate, St John Baptist, Kent, England. William was an artist born in Gateshead, Durham. They had three children: William G. HEMSLEY, age 6, b. Battersea, Surrey; George K. HEMSLEY, age 4 born Swindon, Wilts, and Harry M. HEMSLEY, age 3. born Swindon, Wilts.
1891, England Census: Fanny HC Hemsley (nee May), age 39 was living at no 1 Comyn Road, Battersea, London, England. She and William T Hemsley had 5 children living with them. William is listed as a Sculpter and Scenic Artist : George Robt, 14, Harry M, age 13, Arthur C, age 9, born in Margate, Ivy MM, age 6, born in London, Grace F H, age 3 born in London and a servant: Jemima Haynes, 18 from Wiltshire London > Battersea > West Battersea > District 44 > 10
1901, England Census: Fanny May, aged 48, was living at Lambeth, London, England with husband, William S Scenic Sculp Artist along with two sons: George and Harry: George R, 24, Harry, age 28, Ivy MM, age 16, Grace F.H. 13 and servant Annie Cantellow, 20 b. London.London > Lambeth > Lambeth Church First > District 2 > 61
1933, British Pathe, photo of Henry Hemsley, child impersonation. http://www.britishpathe.com/video/harry-hemsley-6/query/harry+hemsley
1991, 'The May's great-grandson, Mr Robinson (or Robertson), of New Zealand, visited Raglan. (ref: Nina Haines, Raglan Church and its Graveyard, Horatia Durrant winning essay, 1991, Raglan VC Primary School). nb. In 2013, Rod Primrose, said that Frank Robertson, died in 2010, aged 102. He was the grandson of Rose or Blanch May.
2012, Many thanks to Sarah Woolnough, godparent of Florence's great-grandaughter, Isabelle Florence for sharing information of the May family. Details are available on the Nicholas Hemsley family tree at Ancestry.com 29 June 2012
2013, We were delighted to meet Rod Primrose of Melbourne, Australia on 16 July 2013. He filled in some missing pieces of the story and brought us up to date on the May's family 'down under'. Rod told us that his sister Noni visited Raglan Castle with their parents in the 70's and learned of Harriet's 'family secret'.
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