Frederick Thomas Hopkinson (1863-1947)
Owner of Garbrand Hall 1919-1925

Garbrand Hall in c1895
Garbrand Hall c1895, Photographer C J Hopkins, Ewell
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Frederick Thomas Hopkinson (1863-1947) was a civil engineer and had since 1889, while living at Milford Haven South Wales, been a member of The Institution of Civil Engineers (M.I.C.E). His earlier career was documented in his application to the Institute as follows:
  • January 1879 - November 1882: Assistant in the drawing office and on the work of the Lewis and East Grinstead Railway for Mr. Joseph Firbank Contractor and J. Wolfe Esq. Engineer. Value of works about £500,000.
  • November 1882 - April 1884: In same position on the Deptford Storm Overflow Sewer for Messrs S. Pearson and Son, J. Grant Esq. Engineer. Value of works about £35,000.
  • May 1885 - September 1886: In charge of the maintenance of 90 miles of the Aliural North Extension Cape Government Railway for Firbank & Pauling Contractors.
  • October 1886 - April 1887: Survey of 25 miles of railway La Libertad to San Salvador Central America for S. Pearson and Son Contractors.
  • May to October 1887: Contractor Engineer Milford Docks for S. Pearson and Son Contractors, Sir Alexander Rendel Engineer.
  • October 1887 - May 1888: Part survey for railway from Pontevedra to Carvel North Spain for Edward Woods Esq.
  • May 1888 - 1889: In charge of the Milford Docks completion for S. Pearson and Son. Frederick later became a Director of the company.
Frederick married Lilian Martha Thomas (1864-1932) in 1891 in the Haverfordwest registration district and was living at 20 Weston Road, Ermington, Devon before the birth of their eldest son Hugh in 1892. Their second son Cecil was born on 3 July 1898 in Glamorgan, Wales and by 31 March 1901 the family appeared in the Irish census as living at 28 St. John Street, New Ross Urban, Wexford, Ireland. They employed a cook and a nurse/domestic servant.

Frederick and his family were living at Ivy Mount, Sutton on Hull, Yorkshire when the 1911 census was taken. Frederick employed a cook and housemaid to help run his large home, which had 12 rooms including a kitchen but excluding the scullery, landing, lobby, closet and bathroom. Frederick and his son Hugh were both working as civil engineers for Dock & Railway Construction. His wife Lilian was away visiting the Warlow family in Kingswood, Cotham Park, Bristol, but it was noted by Mr. Warlow that Lilian had been married for 20 years and had had 2 children. Their youngest son Cecil was a boarder pupil at The Berrystead, North Street, Oundle, Northants.

On 29 August 1914 Hugh James Pearson Hopkinson was gazetted as a temporary Second Lieutenant of the 67th Field Coy, Royal Engineers, while his father served the Ministry of Munitions and Air Board. Hugh was aged 23 when he died of wounds on 6 November 1915.

Frederick and Lilian, appeared on the 1918 Electoral Register as living at 68 Whitehall Court, Westminster, but when Frederick applied for his son Hugh's 1915 Star, British War medal and Victory medal on 30 December 1918, he asked for them to be sent to 10 Victoria Street, Westminster.

Frederick and Lilian and their younger son Cecil, who was in the 60th Rifles, moved to Garbrand Hall in Ewell after buying it from David Willis on 18 February 1919. After moving in they commissioned a bench to be made from oak, in honour of the men of Ewell who had sacrificed their lives in the Great War. On it they also placed a plaque in honour of their son Hugh.

Ewell Bench in Museum
Ewell Bench in Bourne Hall Museum
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert ©2014

Hopkinson bench plaque
Hopkinson bench plaque
Image courtesy of Hazel Ballan ©2014

In July 1919 the engagement between Cecil Hopkinson of Garbrand Hall and Esme Leila Bruce Laing was announced in the newspapers. Esme Leila had been born on 8 December 1894.

Ewell village folklore claims that before the Hopkinson family purchased Garbrand Hall from the Willis family in 1919, that a cow's horn from Cracknell's butchers shop was used to replace the model dog's tail on top of the Dog Gate entrance to Garbrand Hall. A year before his death on 28 April 1977, Cecil, reminiscing about his time living at Garbrand Hall before his marriage, wrote a letter in which he mentioned that the family chauffeur was one Frank Porter and that Frank's sister Alice, was their parlour maid. Regarding the story of the dog's tail he wrote this retriever dog carried no tail and so Frank Porter mounted a ladder and stuck a short length of lead-piping up the posterior of the animal to form a tail!

There are 3 photographs from c1952, which show the model dog again without a tail and it was surmised that this was due to vandalism following the closure of Bourne Hall School. A more recent report revealed that the dog itself was made from concrete and when in 1997, during painting work, when a hole was drilled in the tail it was found that it had been replaced with one made from solid plaster.

The dog without a tail
The dog without a tail c.1950
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Cecil and Esme Leila were married at midday on Thursday 17 June 1920 at Holy Trinity church in Brompton. Cecil was aged 21 and was working, like his father and late brother, as a civil engineer. His bride was aged 25 and was the only child of merchant J. Robert Laing. As her father had died, her mother gave her away. Their reception was held at the bride's home 53 Campden House Court, Kensington. Frederick and Lilian's address was given in the newspapers as 3 Whitehall Court, Westminster. Cecil and Esme Leila's eldest son, Geoffrey Frederic Laing Hopkinson, was born in 1922.

That same year Frederick was sent by S. Pearson and Son as a trouble-shooter to report on the construction of the Sennar Dam, on the Blue Nile, more than 200 miles south of Khartoum, Sudan. Construction had been started before the Great War but ceased for the duration. Frederick found rampant mismanagement, overstaffing, inefficiency and official estimates that bore no relation to the actual cost of the scheme. He commented that cranes stood idle while human labour was used to move tons of stone; 25,000 men had been hired when 7,000 would in his opinion have been enough.

Damming the Blue Nile
"Damming the Blue Nile"
The Northern Advocate, Tuesday September 1924

On 1 May 1925 Frederick sold Garbrand Hall to surveyor Herbert Moates Ellis of Carey Street, London. During this same month Frederick was knighted and his name was included in the King's Birthday Honours List published in the London Gazette on 3 June 1925:
Knight Commander of the Civil Division, Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. In connection with the Nile Dam, Sudan.
He was entitled to be known as 'Sir' and add K.B.E. after his name, while his wife became Dame Lilian. The following year, on 14 August 1926, his youngest grandson David Hugh Laing Hopkinson was born.

Frederick and Lilian had been living at By Caesars Camp, Wimbledon when Lilian died on 1 January 1932. Probate of her effects, valued at £50,939 13s. 5d., was granted to her husband. A month after her death, Frederick and his daughter-in-law Esme Leila left Southampton dock aboard Atlantis for a month round cruise via the West Indies. They arrived back on 21 March 1932.

Four years after the death of his wife, Frederick married again at the age of 72. His second wife, Nora M. Booth, was aged 49 and had also been widowed. On 18 December 1937, travelling as Sir Frederick Thomas Hopkinson K.B.E. and Lady Hopkinson, they embarked on the steam ship Orient to Australia and visited New Zealand while they were there.

On 8 July 1943 Frederick's eldest grandson, Flying Officer Geoffrey Frederick Laing Hopkinson R.A.F.V.R was killed in North Africa while on active service during WWII.

Frederick had been living at Flat 10, 4 Grand Avenue, Hove, Sussex when he died on 19 September 1947; his effects were valued at £68,199 12s. 6d. of which he left £1000 to the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund. When his second wife Nora died in 1960 her effects were valued at just over £224,598.

Hazel Ballan ©2014