Manning's Pit Petition -
||F R Lee
Broadgate House in the Hibberts time -
with thanks to the Henry Williamson
Society for the photograph
Click on the image above
for more about his career
in the Army, and a full size
In 1861 Hugh Robert Hibbert and Sarah Catherine Lee were married in London. How they met, we do not yet know, but both families were successful and wealthy, and as a war hero Hugh Hibbert would have made a dashing figure in English Society at that time.
According to the
British Empire website Colonel Hibbert was
Commanding Officer of the 7th Battallion from December 1863 until he
retired in October 1871. This Battallion went
to India during this time. Whereas Saki's
father, who worked for the Indian Imperial Police, was
only able to come home once every 4 years, it appears
that Colonel Hibbert made more frequent visits home,
by the number of children that were born to the
family, unless of course Sarah travelled to India as
well on occasions - we have just (2019) received
the information that one of their daughters, Essex
Mary, was born in India, so there is some evidence
that she did.
| The Hibberts
were to have seven children but the youngest, Hugh
Frederick, born on the 2nd August 1862, only lived until
the 20th of October of the same year. The next
child born was Hugh Thomas (5 Aug 1863) and then they
had four daughters, Victoria Catherine (baptised
13th May 1867, Pilton Church), Essex Mary, (born
on 28 August in Saugor, Bengal, India)
Margaret Dora (baptised Pilton Church 1871) and Frances
Caroline (baptised 11 February 1873, Pilton
Church) as well as another son George Frederick
(baptised September 14th, 1875, Pilton Church.)
Incidentally, Frances Caroline married George Chichester, brother of Sir Francis Chichester's father. After her death, George married her sister, Essex Mary.
The Hibberts and Manning's Pit
We have no concrete evidence as yet that they used Manning's Pit, but there are numerous reasons why it is likely. In Victorian times, sport generally meant hunting, shooting and fishing, and without evidence to the contrary we can be pretty sure that Colonel Hibbert took part in these activities, and if so, he would surely have used the Bradiford Valley, and the Manning's Pit area. It is now, and was then, the perfect place for family picnics.
When the news that Manning's Pit was for sale first broke, one of the very first things that locals exclaimed was "Where will the children go to sledge if it is sold and built upon?" Manning's Pit, in the words of another local, is the "Cresta Run" of Pilton. The story mentioned elsewhere of the vicar sledging on an oil painting only shows how important this feature was to the neighbourhood.
Pilton Church Porch
|When he left the Army, Hugh
Hibbert became a Magistrate in Barnstaple. He was
interested in Politics and we know he was one of those
who nominated Sir Robert Carden as a candidate for the
1880 Barnstaple Election that the Munro family attended
(Ethel Munro described this.) In 1893 he became Mayor of
Barnstaple, and in 1895 Colonel and Mrs Hibbert
entertained Royalty at Broadgate House, in the person of
the Duke of Cambridge.
In the same year, Hugh died, and he was buried in Pilton Churchyard - to be joined by his wife when she finally died in 1931.
|The Hibberts and Saki
As mentioned on the Saki Page, the Munro and Lee/Hibbert families lived opposite one another, attended Pilton Church, and had much in common (connections to both India and Kent, plus politics for example.)
While biographies make much of Saki's isolated childhood, and his eccentric aunts, we have found no mention - so far - of any influence from the Hibbert and Lee family. The importance of the interesting neighbours across the road from the Munro family seems to have been somewhat forgotten, but what could have been more exciting to a young boy like Hector Munro than living in close proximity to an actual war hero?
Colonel Hibbert appears to have been a modest man, and his wife a very kindly woman, the chances of them showing friendship to these motherless children are high. Broadgate House was a treasure trove of works of Art - we believe that there was also a Gainsborough in the house - it is easy to imagine how much a visit there could excite and influence a young boy who lived a rather drab life.
St. Peter's Church in Barnstaple, a photograph of the memorial window is on the right.
This window is directly opposite St. Anne's Chapel, which has a plaque on its outside wall in memory of F R Lee's brother, the architect Thomas Lee, who was drowned at Mortehoe.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette
May 16, 1918
Click for larger version.
Cuttings from British Newspaper Archive
Cutting from British Newspaper Archive
There is no doubt that Sarah Catherine was exceptionally proud of her father, and in the late 1890s at an Exhibition in Barnstaple she allowed a number of his works to be displayed with great fanfare in the Local Press. At that time, his works were highly valued, but by the time that she was forced to sell them they appear to have slumped in price.
|Henry Williamson and his
links to Manning's Pit
In 1925 Henry Williamson married Ida Loetitia Hibbert, Sarah and Hugh's grandaughter (her mother was Margaret Dora, who had married her cousin Charles Hibbert against the wishes of her family in around 1889.)
Williamson had met Charles Hibbert and his daughter while he was researching otter hunting for his book Tarka The Otter. Both Ida and Charles appear as characters in the book, and Ida's siblings were also later to appear as characters in some of his other books.
Sarah Catherine Hibbert (known as "Grannie" Hibbert) was very kind to the young couple, and Williamson was very fond of her. When he published The Village Book in 1930 he included a Dedication to her in the frontispiece.
You can read more about this on our link above, and on the Henry Williamson Society website. We are grateful to the Henry Williamson Society for information that they have given us, about both the Hibbert family and Saki (H H Munro) as well as giving us permission to use the photograph of Henry and Ida Loetitia.
After the sale of Broadgate House, except for an initial brief interlude, Mrs Hibbert was to spend the rest of her life living in No 2 Bellaire Cottages, just across the road from her former home. The Williamson family have confirmed that Henry and Ida Loetitia (known as "Gypsy") did visit her there, while he was researching Tarka The Otter. You can read more on our page about Henry Williamson.
Manning's Pit, with its river and otters, was only a couple of minutes walk away - you just had to go round the bend in the road to the right of the cottages, into Northfield Lane, and there was the footpath into Manning's Pit.
|More to come as well about
Sarah Catherine Hibbert, F R Lee and the Longstone - as
well as F R Lee, and the six, or perhaps seven, mills of
the Bradiford Valley.
The photograph of the Longstone taken in 2016 shows the wall around Broadgate House. F R Lee extended the wall to encircle the Longstone. That wall was taken down when road improvements took place in the 1960s.
Note the banner on the wall, put up by modern day residents!