FIR HILL

1899 – 1929

Capt Frederick Mackenzie-Grieve

Family, work and leisure

 

Captain Frederick John Mackenzie-Grieve (1849–1929) and his wife, Charlotte Jane, lived at Fir Hill from 1899 for 30 years. He was another career Royal Navy officer, serving from 1861 to 1894. One highlight of his career was to have taken part in the 1885 Nile expedition to relieve General Gordon at Khartoum in the Sudan, tragically arriving too late to save Gordon who had been killed two days earlier by followers of Muhammad Ahmad, a Muslim reformer and self-proclaimed Mahdi.

 

There were four children: three sons, Eric, Kenneth and Alan, and a daughter, Louisa.

 

The Hambledon Hunt hounds were kennelled at Fir Hill in 1926 when Major E.F. Talbot Ponsonby was the MFH. There is no mention of the Mackenzie-Grieves having been keen followers of the hunt though Captain Mackenzie-Grieve’s obituary mentions that he was a keen golfer and spent a lot of his time playing at the Corhampton golf links, which are still there just under a mile and a half from Fir Hill.

Early 20th century Fir Hill

 

The 1901 Census shows Capt Frederick John Mackenzie-Grieve, aged 55 and a retired captain, and his wife, Charlotte Jane, aged 47, living there together with Louisa Helen, a daughter, aged 22. Also Emily Pople, aged 29, a cook/domestic, Louise Stanbury, aged 32, a parlourmaid/domestic, and Alice Congress, aged 21, a housemaid/domestic. The 1911 census was far less detailed, showing only Capt Mackenzie-Grieve and four unnamed women as resident.

 

The National Registration Act 1915 shows only the four women servants living at Fir Hill: Beatrice White, Dorothy Parker, Florence January and Lillian Fry. The Act was designed to provide statistics of available labour and to allow the military to see who might be called up and who might be in a reserved occupation. Capt and Mrs Mackenzie-Grieve, being over 65 at this date, were not required to register.

 

Further changes were made to Fir Hill at the beginning of the 20th century by the Mackenzie-Grieves.

 

Two lean-to outhouses by the back door, with red brick walls and slate roofs, probably date from this period as by the 1920s these contained an outdoor WC and pump house, and a coal store.

 

On the north side of the house in what is now an external WC , Capt Mackenzie-Grieve installed 1 ½ horsepower Crossley gas engine. To do this, he bricked up the more easterly bathroom window and ceated a void for the pumping machinery behind a newly constructed internal wall. The Crossley would have provided a home-made supply of gas along a line of pipes to gas lamps in the downstairs corridors and reception rooms. A lot of this pipework was still in place in 2004 and given that pure gas was being pumped through it would have been highly dangerous.

 

A two sty piggery was built in the same style as the outhouses in front of the stables, but this collapsed some time between the 1950s and 2004.

 

An oil engine pump, perhaps kept in the outside pump house, was installed to pump water from the well under the garden terrace into the house. Water had previously been pumped up by hand and carried into the house in buckets, it being the job of the most junior house maid to provide 60 buckets of water a day. The 1929 Particulars of Sale also mention that the large drawing room on the first floor was then being used as a billiard room.

 

The Mackenzie-Grieves had plenty of staff to help run the property. A photo of 1905 shows the groom, Mr Albert Payne, standing proudly – or perhaps just trying to keep perfectly still - in front of the house with his pony and trap. The forms filed under the National Registration Act 1915 give the names of four female staff living at the house, presumably a housekeeper, a cook and two house maids. There would also have been four or more full-time gardeners. 

Cartoon of Charles Gordon greeting reinforcements at Khartoum in 1885. Published before Gordon's death was known. Source: Wikipedia

Crossley gas engine and machinery.

Source: Crossleys are Great blog

Albert Payne, groom, outside Fir Hill, 1905.

Source: Droxford in the Meon Valley, a Hampshire Village Album by Kenneth Ward, 1984. Note the large porch, now removed.

Fir Hill c. 1915

Photograph taken by Louisa Martin née Mackenzie-Grieve

Fir Hill c. 1915

Photograph taken by Louisa Martin née Mackenzie-Grieve

Dodge Brothers convertible car in 1924 outside Fir Hill coach house.

Photograph taken by Louisa Martin née Mackenzie-Grieve

Research, words and web design by Matthew & Georgy.

 

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