The Hards family of Ewell

and their tragic involvement with the yacht Monarch
which foundered off Ilfracombe, Friday, 26 August 1887

On 18 May 1817, James Hards, bachelor, and Mary Ann Bushell, spinster were married at Christ Church, Southwark.

Christ Church, Southwark.
Christ Church, Southwark. 1817
Image source Wikipedia

They were both described as 'of this Parish' but the bride came from Ewell in Surrey, where she appears to have been baptised on 21 October 1792, as a daughter of Richard Bushel (sic) and Elizabeth. As a child, James Hards had been brought by John and Mary Hards for baptism at St Martin of Tours, Epsom, 20 May 1792. Evidently the Hards moved to the village of Mary Ann's birth because their first-born son, William, came to be baptised at St Mary's, 15 March 1818. His brother James Bushell Hards' christening there followed on 5 September 1819 and they were joined later by other siblings.

James Hards (1) had been described as a Carpenter but by the 1841 Census he had become a Builder resident in West Street, Ewell. He died, aged only 49, and was buried in St Mary's churchyard, 31 August 1841, with his younger brother Charles (born 1797 in Epsom) interred during 1823 [Exwood plot 327]. The widowed Mary Ann Hards supported herself as a Straw Bonnet Maker until, at the age of 60, she followed him for interment on 5 October 1852.

2nd Generation
The marriage of William Hards to Elizabeth Clark, born Hitchen, Herts, was registered at St Pancras for the March Quarter of 1842. In the 1851 Census they may be found living in the High Street, Ewell, with three children. William, by then aged 33, was established in trade as a Builder employing 9 men. Appointed a Surveyor of Highways and member of the Nuisances Committee, constituted in 1857, he became embroiled in the case of Regina v Gosse. By 1861, as a Carpenter and Builder on Green Man Street, Ewell, he appears as master of 18 men and 3 boys, and father of nine children [including James (3) baptised 29 June 1851]. Eleven cottages on Lower West Street [LINK] were acquired by William during 1874. Elected to represent Ewell on the Board of Guardians in 1878, he served in that capacity until his death.

His wife Elizabeth had died aged 55 to be buried at St Mary's on 8 November 1875. The widowed William, at 60, took as his second wife Eleanor Muddle nee Robinson, 46, in a ceremony in St Pancras Parish Church, 23 July 1878. Both Eleanor and William died in 1884 and were buried at Ewell on 3 May and 24 June respectively.

James (2) Bushell Hards, bachelor, married Susan Molyneux, spinster at Christ Church, Southwark, 13 March 1851, with his brother William as a witness. He was described as a grocer and both parties lived in George (now Dolben) Street.

For the 1861 Census he was enumerated conducting a grocery business on Green Man Street, Ewell, next door to his brother. Mrs Susan Hards, born Wigan, Lancs., had born him three children including James (4) [reg. Epsom 7/1859]. James (2) Bushell Hards died at Ewell on 20 November 1889, aged 70 - buried 25 November - leaving an estate worth £812. His relict, Susan, also attained the age of 70 before burial at Ewell, 10 November 1891.

The Headstone in St Mary's, Ewell churchyard for James Hards, James Bushell Hards and Susan Hards
The Headstone in St Mary's, Ewell churchyard for
James Hards, James Bushell Hards and Susan Hards
Image courtesy of Brian Bouchard © 2011

Advert for JB Hards Family Grocer, Ewell
Advert for JB Hards Family Grocer, Ewell

3rd Generation

James Hards (3), son of William, acquired six of the West Street, Ewell, terraced cottages, presumably as a bequest under his father's Will but, by 31 December 1884, had conveyed them to Charles Cooke, Master of Epsom Union Workhouse. Thereafter he disappears from the records.

His cousin, James Hards (4), son of James (2) Bushell Hards, gained employment as an insurance clerk before 1881.

Seaside Pleasures and Perils
"Seaside Pleasures and Perils" - The Penny Illustrated Paper, 3 September 1887
'The dainty little sketch by a skilful French artist recalls many a pleasant seaside
resort on the English and French coasts - many a delightful holiday spent with the
little ones who derive so much benefit from the sea air and sea bathing and from
revelling pretty well all day long with trusty nurse. [Sadly, however,] sojourners
by the sea are [reminded] of the danger of sailing in unstable boats...'

At the end of August 1887, James (4) Hards was on holiday at Ilfracombe in Devon and, by ill chance, boarded a pleasure yacht for a sailing trip from the harbour. Subsequent events are detailed in the following sequence of newspaper reports: -

The Times 29 Aug 1887 a
The Times 29 Aug 1887 b
The Times 29 Aug 1887 c
The Times 29 Aug 1887

The Graphic 10/9/1887
The Graphic 10/9/1887

The Times 14 Sep 1887
The Times 14 Sep 1887

The Times 15 Sep 1887
The Times 15 Sep 1887

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper 25 Sep 1887
Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper 25 Sep 1887

Other commentators added graphic details: -
When the 'puff of wind' hit the boat, it heeled over and shipped water at the stern. Because the passengers were all tumbled together in an open cockpit their weight became concentrated at one end to accelerate an intake of water. Although the disaster had been witnessed from the beach and local boats were quickly on the scene of this accident so that casualties could be brought ashore at the pier being 'taken up the steps on stretchers or on the shoulders of stalwart men'. Doctors on holiday in Ilfracombe aided resuscitation attempts - using 'a medical coil (for electrical stimulation) and injecting ether'. A reward of £3 for each of the nine missing bodies was offered and many local fishermen went 'out with lines grappling for bodies, and a long line with hooks on has been laid, in the hope of hitching the clothes of any bodies that may be washed along the bottom by the tides.' At the same time a subscription was opened for the widow and children of Charles Buckingham, the missing boatman, a former naval rating. Subscriptions for his family had reached the substantial sum of £382 by the time his body was found and identified by 'a blue jersey with the word Monarch in large letters on the breast'.
Mrs Buckingham survived until 1935, attaining the age of 96.

James Hards' body, the last to be recovered in a total of 14, was reported to have been observed on the rocks at the foot of Torrs Walks by a farmer named Darch searching for lost sheep on Saturday 17 September 1887. The police arranged for a party of boatmen to tow it into Ilfracombe harbour where, having been in the water for three weeks, it was found to be almost nude. Nevertheless he was said to have been identified from his clothing and the contents of the pockets, although £30 supposed to have been in the trousers was missing. [This seems unlikely claim in any event for a clerk whose annual salary might have been about £90 and would it have been in weighty gold coins or £5 notes?] Remarkably, at that time his remains could rapidly be returned to Ewell from Ilfracombe by rail for interment on 22 September 1887. The death had been registered at Barnstaple 9/1887.

A full Wreck Report may be accessed at (You may need to download the free Adobe Reader)

The disaster resulted in greater regulation and licensing of such vessels.

Brian Bouchard © 2011

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