A Family Story and the Royal Esplanade Hotel
Joy McPherson from Australia contributed her research into her great-grandfather, his brother and their families who were all resident in Ryde from around 1891 to 1923.
My great-grandfather was Arthur Knott born in Thornbury, Gloucestershire in 1844 – son of a policeman and one of eight children. As a young man he set off for the goldmines of the Transvaal, South Africa, as so many did, to make his fortune. Perhaps re-inventing himself as a gentleman of means he changed his name to Arthur Stanley. No doubt after a lot of hard work he was able to purchase a hotel in Barberton, Transvaal and also was one of the founding directors of the first Stock Exchange. He married a young woman Martha Tasker, a Dutch Boer, when he was in his forties and she about 20 years. Their first child Marion was born in Barberton around 1890. They returned to England with their daughter in 1892. Martha gave birth to their second child Arthur Stanley on 26th April, 1892 in Paddington, London ten days after their ship the Pembroke Castle docked in England. A close call I would think. One year later and on the same date, their third child was born in the Esplanade Hotel, Ryde, Isle of Wight – Alfred Stanley, my grandfather. They proceeded to have two more children, Evaline and Marguerite, also born in the hotel. The children must all have gone to school in Ryde before the boys were sent to Lewisham School, Weston Super Mare. I believe the boys both undertook apprenticeships in Cowes. Alfred with J Samuel White, the shipbuilding company and Arthur with the railway.
I believe Arthur senior must have been quite a social, friendly man being the proprietor of such a distinguished, grand hotel. I was very lucky to visit Ryde last year and stay at the hotel but unfortunately time restrictions meant I was only there for 24 hours. I actually live in Australia, was born in Scotland and was on my way back there for two weeks holiday, However it was quite a thrill to actually be on the island and it is hard to explain the overwhelming feeling of sailing over the Solent and seeing the hotel come into view. Some time after the 1901 census the family moved to 59 Argyle Street and interestingly enough the street parallel to Argyle Street is Arthur Street. ? Just a coincidence. I also noticed walking up Union Street that on the left hand side is Stanley’s Bar and I have been wondering if there was a connection as well to that pub and am kicking myself that I didn’t make a few local enquiries regarding the history of this establishment. The hotel must have been sold some time between 1911 and 1914 I believe as the family then relocated to Emsworth Hampshire where Arthur, Martha and Evaline are buried. Their youngest daughter Marguerite became a children’s nanny. She was known to John & Dorothy Eddy of Ryde. (John Eddy’s father became the Australian Railway Commissioner in the early 1900’s). John & Dorothy’s daughter had married into the Pettit family and was living in Buenos Aires at the time with small children and needed a nanny. Dorothy Eddy recommended Marguerite and accompanied her on the sea voyage. She remained in this position for thirteen years. Arthur Stanley junior died of heat stroke on his first sea voyage as a ship’s engineer with a British Oil Tanker and is buried in Galveston, Texas. Marion moved to London and married a Major Harold Douglas Barnes of the War Office and died in Hastings. Her sister Evaline suffered paralysis at birth and lived until she was 19. My grandfather Alfred was employed by Harland & Wolff as a ship’s draftsman, moved to Glasgow and married my grandmother before moving on to Belfast where my Dad and his sister were born. Sadly Alf contracted TB and died in Glasgow at the age of 40.
Arthur Stanley Snr had an older brother Alfred George Knott who also became very wealthy working in the Dutch plantation colony of Suriname, South America. He married his cousin Sarah Edwards from Essex and they also had five children, four born in Suriname and one in Essex. Alfred George retired to the Isle of Wight some time in the 1890’s and bought “Mountfield” High Park Road, St Helens. His children also would have been educated in Ryde. Lizzie Blanche was born in 1881 but tragically died in Laverstock Asylum in Salisbury at the age of 21 – she had been resident for only three weeks. I wonder if she had picked up some exotic illness in South America which had remained dormant for many years.. Ethel Maude Mary was born in Essex in 1882 but must have left the IOW in the 1920s after her parents died. She never married but lived until the age of 89 years. Frank Garnham Knott attended Lewisham School, moved to London, married but had no children and died in Surrey in 1963. His brother Alfred Charles Edwards immigrated to British Canada in 1926, he had married his cousin but they had no children and died in Canada. The youngest child was Richard Stanley Knott born in 1889. He joined the Shanghai Volunteers in 1910 before enlisting in 1915. He died on the Somme on 1st July, 1916 and his name appears on the War Memorial in Ryde.I also have a copy of the County Press with details of his death. All these children spent their young years in Ryde and no doubt their parents were well known in the local area. Sarah, Alfred’s wife died at home in 1920 and Alfred George in 1923. Sarah, Alfred and daughter Lizzie B are all buried in St John’s cemetery in Ryde. I visited the cemetery last year, having found their names listed on the IOW family history website but was disappointed to find the cemetery very neglected and the gravestones completely overgrown with brambles and nettles. It was impossible to find the headstone. I did walk the length of High Park Road but of course there are many beautiful homes there any one of which could have been “Mountfield”. From two brothers there were ten children and I find it very strange that only one had any descendants – my Dad’s father Alf. It is very sad that he also died young in 1933 so it has been left to me to research this wonderful story and I have found this extremely satisfying to uncover what I have from the other side of the world – thanks to the internet of course.
I would be very happy to hear at any time from anyone with knowledge of any of the family. It has been difficult to research without any descendants to pass on memories of these enterprising and ambitious relatives. I do hope to visit the Isle of Wight again in the next couple of years as I felt very much “at home” on your beautiful island.
The photograph is of the Stanley family but unfortunately Arthur senior was not present. From the ages of the children I would think it was taken around 1901. Photo shows Martha with Evaline in her arms, older sister Marion, Marguerite seated on the chair, Alfred behind his mother and brother Arthur on his mother’s left.
Joy McPherson (Stanley)