Mrs Mackenzie of Beachlands
The house and estate of Beachlands, Dover Street, Ryde have been well documented, especially in relation to the family of General Sir James Caldwell and later members Sir John and Lady Lees, who owned it for many years before its demolition in 1902. Less well known is the fact that there was a previous house on the Beachlands site.
The end of the 1820s and beginning of 1830s saw the development of a huge project to lay out a Ryde Esplanade and included the building of large residential properties such as ‘The Castle,’ where previously there had been sand dunes, the area known as ‘The Duver.’ Griffiths Valuation of 1833 includes a sketch of this area and refers to the 1831 agreement on land purchase with Mrs. Mackenzie (widow) named on one portion and also refers to her three nieces, Misses Eliza, Sophia and Matilda Hawes.
In 1834 Mrs. Mackenzie is recorded as resident there. In 1835 and 1836 she still resides there and the property is called Dashwood Castle. In 1836 the property is first named Beachlands on a map. Mrs. Sophia Mackenzie died in May 1837 and there is a memorial marble tablet to her on the east wall of the north aisle inside St. Thomas’s Church, Ryde. (more about Mrs. Mackenzie here)
From 1838 until 1844 Miss Hawes is recorded as resident at Beachlands. General Sir James Caldwell purchased Beachlands in 1844 and embarked on expensive reorganising and redecorating (if not practically rebuilding) the house to a more modern fashionable style.
Jack Wheeler’s survey of St. Thomas’ Churchyard in 1975 recorded a fenced grave with a footstone engraved S. M. and the date 1837. Photographs from the 1970s show it to be a large overgrown plot. A Lucy Fowler was buried in the adjacent plot in 1845 and Jack Wheeler recorded the inscription which included “Many years faithful servant of Mrs Mackenzie of Beachlands, Ryde .” (more about Lucy Fowler here)
In the summer of 2017 the RSHG transcribing team uncovered the S.M. footstone which had been severed and placed in a concrete base. Various broken stone slabs and some post hole remains were found behind the footstone where the ground had been uprooted and disturbed by surrounding trees & shrubs. Broken fragments of Lucy Fowler’s headstone were also discovered within the crazy paving pathways.
Sources: Copy of document with sketch, Griffiths Valuation Ryde 25 May 1833; summary from handwritten research notes by Roy Brinton. RSHG Roy Brinton Archive