Georgian home and gardens
Fir Hill, Droxford, Hampshire, UK
1850 – 1899
Rev Samuel King, the man
In 1879, the house was bought by the Rev Samuel King (1824–1899), born in Sculcoates, Hull, Yorkshire. On 30 July 1891, he bought two large fields to the north of the house. There were no buildings there at the time; Uplands Hotel was built only in the 1950s.
Samuel King was the second of the six children of the Rev John and Ann King, whose family home was in Sculcoates, a district of Hull, Yorkshire.
Sculcoates at the time was a prosperous place and the Rev John King, who himself came from Hull, became the first incumbent of Christ Church, a newly constructed church built to serve the fast growing population. This substantial church could hold 1,300 worshippers and cost £7,000 to construct in 1822. Parishioners were asked to contribute £100 per person towards the construction costs, with 500 places being offered for free to people who could not afford the subscription. There was a significant shortfall in meeting the construction costs and the Rev John King, who must have had substantial private means, paid for this. Sadly the church was badly damaged by bombs in World War 2 and was pulled down in 1962.
The Rev John King served as the incumbent of Christ Church, Sculcoates from 1822 until his retirement in 1855. He paid for several religious texts to be published during his career, including a collection of his sermons in 1833 and a well received book on Conscience in 1838. His wife Ann appears to have died young since she does not appear in the 1841 census of Sculcoates, where we find the Rev John King living in Pryme Street with five children (the youngest child having apparently died in infancy) and three female house servants, together with the elderly mother of one of the servants.
By the time of the 1851 census, Samuel King, as the eldest son, had followed his father into the church and had left home and was living near Bournmouth as rector of Holdenhurst. He seems to have been living there fairly modestly with two female servants and the infant daughter of one of them.
Rev Samuel King married Constance Rooper (1831-1870) in 1852 when she was 21. They married in Abbotts Ripton, Huntingdonshire, where she was born and where the Roopers were a well-known and affluent local family.
By the time of the 1861 census, nine years after his marriage, Samuel King was living in Cantley, Yorkshire, and working as Vicar of Cantley. Constance his wife is living with him, as are four children: John Rooper King (b. 1853), Henry B King (b. 1856), Constance Emily King (1858-1952), and Arthur B King (b. 1861).
He seems to have gone up in the world: at The Vicarage, he has a staff of seven: a butler, a cook, two nurses, a housemaid, a nursemaid and a kitchenmaid. The nurses and nursemaids can be accounted for by having four children aged eight or under, but even so maintaining this number of staff would be a stretch on a vicar’s salary. His wife seems to have brought money into the marriage and been used to a lot of domestic help, hence her hiring three women to help her with the children.
Constance, his wife, died on 6 February 1870, a few months after the birth of her fifth child, George, at Thorpe Abbots, Norfolk. She left £9,000 (£707,000/£6,810,000/£13,700,000), which she had recently inherited from her brother, to Samuel King together with a life interest in roughly £15,000 (£1,180,000/£11,400,000/ £22,900,000) that had been settled on her on her marriage to him. At the 2.5% bank rate return of 1870, that would have produced £375 p.a. (£29,400/ £284,000/£572,000). Nine years later, Samuel King bought Fir Hill for £1,500 (£118,000/£1,140,000/£2,290,000).
By the time of the 1871 census, he, daughter Constance, and sons Arthur and George are living in Thorpe Abbots near Diss in Norfolk. There is no mention of his eldest two sons so presumably, at 18 and 15, they were away studying or beginning a career.
The 1881 Census describes Samuel King as ‘Clergyman without charge of souls’ and the 1891 Census as ‘Clerk in Holy Orders’. One can only surmise that he had come into money: enough to enable him to stop work as a clergyman, to buy Fir Hill and to spend significant sums of money on modernising it.
Living at Fir Hill in 1881 were the Rev King, his daughter and four domestic servants: Mary Abbott, Sarah E Browning, Emma M Freemantle and Catherine A Stagg.
By the time of the 1891 census, in addition to Rev King and Constance Emily, there were a different four servants whose roles were clearly set out by the census: Annie Wellshead, a cook/domestic servant, Annie Serivence and Anna Berry, housemaids and Amy Cox, a kitchen maid.
One small, but perhaps telling, detail known about the Rev Samuel King is that at Fir Hill he operated one of the 2,700 officially recognised private rain gauge stations across the British Isles. These sent daily rainfall reports to the Royal Meteorological Society in London, which then used them to compile the national statistics and published an agonisingly detailed annual report. British Rainfall, 1888 published by G J Symons, FRS on behalf of the Society.
Apparently Hampshire had a particularly cold and wet summer in 1888 (July was one of the wettest on record), followed by a fine autumn and a mild winter. The Rev King measured a total annual rainfall of 29.57 inches at Fir Hill, which was 15% below the annual average.
Rev Samuel King, 1869.
Source: Norfolk Record Office with thanks to Mrs Jane Hendry, Rev Samuel King's great great granddaughter.
Probate for the will of Constance Smith
Left and above: extracts from British Rainfall, 1888 by G J Symons FRS. Source: Met Office