Campbell Hart 4

Getting to know the in-laws

Burton-On-Trent High Street Early 1900s Alamy Stock photo

I am sure that Campbell took great care to get to know and understand the family of his future in-laws. The following is what he probably discovered….

Madge was born into a small corner terraced house on Shobnall street in Burton-on-Trent in 1880 from where her father David  went to work as a commercial salesman for a wine and spirits firm.10 Seven years later her brother Walter was born and the family moved to the High Street in Burton, probably to a company house next door to the Worthington company headquarters, when David was made manager of the wine and spirits division.

By the time Campbell came to pay his respects to the Smith family in the late 1890s David had moved with his household, consisting of four family members, two servants and a lodger to a comfortable detached house in Burton’s leafy suburbs and described himself as a Wine and Spirit Merchant.11

David and Elizabeth Smith

Madge’s father, David Smith was born in Edinburgh in 1854. His father established himself in business as a Cheese Factor in Burton around 1860.12 David’s grandfather had been a Master Butcher in Edinburgh, running his own business where he employed four men.13  David was one of five siblings, three sisters and one brother. David’s brother, John, was a brewer in Burton and his eldest sister, Jessie was married to a ‘commercial agent’. His sister Agnes was married to a Canadian schoolteacher and they lived next door to his youngest sister, Isabella who was a schoolmistress and ran a private school from her house. They were evidently a close knit and supportive family with cousins of the same age as Madge.14

Madge’s mother, Elizabeth, was born in Nottingham 1859. Her father, Charles Evans, was from Lambeth in London and had been a travelling draper, before setting up as a self employed commercial traveller. Her mother Margaret was the daughter of William and Hannah Leys, a Scottish couple who had settled in Sneinton in Nottinghamshire around 1840. Elizabeth appears to have been an only child and although her mother Margaret came from a large family – she had 9 siblings – most of Elizabeth’s uncles and aunts had emigrated, either to New Zealand, Australia or to the USA.

William and Hannah Leys 

Madge’s Great Grandparents

Later in her life Madge goes to great lengths to trace her family tree along various maternal lines that lead back to Scottish nobility, possibly an attempt at identifying a more favourable heredity than that offered by her own immediate family or the antecedents of David Smith.  A later instalment will examine these lines which appear tenuous at best and spurious at worst, but in either case make for an entertaining romp through Scottish history, involving a cast of characters that includes such colourful names as the the Marquess of Tweedale, the Earls of Errol and the Barons of Blackadder.  However for now I have merely authenticated the family tree as far back as 1800 with Madge’s great grandparents William and Hannah Leys.

Madge’s grandmother Margaret was one of a large family of ten children. Her parents, William and Hannah, had come  from Scotland to live in Sneinton in Nottingham, where William describes himself on the census forms as a tea dealer although he is described elsewhere as a Supervisor of Inland Revenue.15 Devout Christians they became involved in a scheme to found a non-conformist settlement in New Zealand known as the Albertland Colonisation Movement.16  Its grand ambition was to establish a faith based community settlement that followed the successful examples of Anglical Christchurch and Presbyterian Dunedin – an agrarian New Jerusalem built far away from the ‘dark satanic mills’ of industrial England. 

Departure of 800 Nonconformists (Puritans) from London for the new colony of Albertland, New Zealand on board the Matilda Wattenbach ship.
The Illustrated London News, volume XL, June 7, 1862. 17

They embarked from the East India Docks in London in June of 1862, cheered off by 15,000 well wishers. Three months later after a stormy and hazardous voyage on the sailing ship Tyburnia the Leys, William, Hannah and 3 of their boys, Charles (15), Thomson (13) and William (11) were heady with anticipation for setting out to take up their allotment of 140 acres and to establish their “shining city” of religious tolerance and free thought.

Early settlers in Albertland

It was not long before profound disillusionment dampened their enthusiasm as they became aware of the serious shortcomings of the scheme and the more dubious ethics of its promoters, who were on a kick back from the Auckland government for each colonist who took up residence. The promised land, they discovered, lay in an inhospitable stretch of rugged, barren countryside in which there was no infrastructure and to which there was no road. To compound the difficulties it was surrounded by Maori tribes who, as a result of previous experience with colonists, were not exactly holding out the hand of welcome to the would be settlers.

The appropriation of land for colonists was proving very controversial and the indigenous Maoris were becoming extremely frustrated at the loss of their tribal territory as a result of a succession of dubious land deals. It appeared to some that the wording of the original Treaty of Waitangi, written in English, differed somewhat when rendered in the native tongue, to the disadvantage of the Maoris.18 The dispute arose over what the Maoris understood to be the British “stewardship” of the land against the British understanding of their  “sovereignty”. A series of uprisings against the colonial settlers and the British regime resulted in military intervention. 

To restore a sense of imperial order and British rule of law, if not justice, troops were sent in to quell the rebellious natives, resulting in the Anglo Maori wars. From 1863 until 1869 the army systematically cleared Maori lands, dispossessing the inhabitants and confiscating their property. This was then apportioned out to colonial farmers  – a justifiable land grab in the eyes of the British as the Maoris had, after all, broken the terms of the treaty to which they were signatories.19 But this unrest took place after the Leys had changed their minds about settling in Albertland and had instead opted to settle in the nascent colonial harbour of Aukland.

Aukland early 1900s

Their two daughters, Jane and Elizabeth, who had stayed in England, would join them later, leaving Margaret (Madge’s grandmother) back in Nottingham as she was already married and minding her 3 year old daughter Elizabeth, Madge’s mother. Two other sons who decided not to join them were Alexander who had enlisted in the British Army as a clerical sergeant and James, who had already embarked on his own search for the Promised Land among the 200 year old Pennsylvania Quaker community of Chester.

The Leys Dynasty

Enterprising and industrious William Leys made sure that his sons were well educated and then he had them apprenticed in the print trade.

Thomson Leys

Thomson Leys was apprenticed as a compositor on the Daily Southern Cross newspaper. A few years later he transferred to the reporting staff, and in 1870 was appointed sub-editor. In 1876 Thomson was promoted to editor and by 1900 was managing director of the Brett Printing and Publishing Company, which incorporated amongst other newspapers, the Auckland Star, which had the largest circulation of any newspaper in the country.20

Thomson had two sons, two daughters and two wives. His eldest son Cecil succeeded him in the business and was honoured for his services to journalism with a knighthood in 1946.

David Hart writes, “He (Cecil) visited Polly and me in our little flat when we were first married which was nice of him (and he gave me a gold watch which fell off my wrist into the Channel!)”21

William Leys, Thomson’s younger brother became an apprentice bookbinder, eventually setting up his own business in Auckland.

William Leys 1852 – 1899

He was philanthropic and community minded and put his social entrepeneurship to good effect  by providing an innovative educational solution to an evident social problem in his neighbourhood. He created the “Mechanics Institute” intended to provide “ rational recreation” to the working class of the area whom he frequently observed loitering around the Three Lamps area and tavern, later known as The Gluepot. Short of funds and in failing health he died of stomach cancer before he could realise his dream. His brother Thomson stepped in to both finance and complete The Leys Institute, a pair of historic buildings that incorporate a lecture hall, meeting room, gymnasium and a public library. The Leys Institute was gifted to Auckland Library in 1964 supported by trusts bequeathed by the family that maintain it to this day.22

The Leys Institute

James Leys appears to have emigrated to America in 1856 as an idealistic twenty year old. While James’ parents had emigrated as pioneer settlers to found their own non conformist community, James set out to discover how similarly idealistic communities had fared after 200 years in the New World. When William Penn had arrived in 1682 it was with the intention of establishing a “ holy experiment”, a colony    where settlers would have the freedom to establish their own society and worship God in accordance with their own passionately held religious beliefs.  Conformity of thought and uniformity of belief were considered essential for the management of civil society by both Catholic and Protestant absolutist monarchies and they were imposed through sectarian statutes23, pogroms and expulsions. Fleeing such persecution large numbers of colonists were drawn to these “plantations of religion”.

Arriving from Liverpool on the sailing ship Jacob A Westerveld24   into New York, James lost no time in seeking out the beating heart of the Quaker society in Pennsylvania. James settled in Chester, home to one of the original Quaker meeting houses established by the early settlers two hundred years previously, and where William Penn had been moved to speak.  During the 1860s Quakers were experiencing a decline in numbers, as Friends moved out west partly as a result of their being unable to compete commercially with their slave owning neighbours. Evidently motivated by his anti slavery convictions, James, in common with many like minded abolitionists25, and contrary to the common perception of Quakers as pacifists, enlisted in the Union army in 1863 and fought against the Confederate forces for three years.  

Friends Meeting House, Chester

After the civil war, which ended in 1865, he married Rachel P West on Christmas Eve in 1866 in the historic meeting house in Chester. Rachel was a school teacher and the daughter of a prosperous Quaker farmer.  Sadly James died on the 27th October 1867, just two months before the birth of their son whom Rachel named James.26

James (Jnr) evidently benefitted from a good education from his schoolmistress mother as he went on to study medicine, joined the navy and was rapidly promoted eventually becoming a Vice Admiral. During the First World War he supervised the US Navy medical facilities in Panama.

David Hart writes: In about 1924 he stayed with us briefly in Bushey, a nice man and the top ranking doctor in the navy. (I am ashamed to admit that when I realised it was only the US navy and not the British he slipped down a bit in my estimation – I was 8!) 20

Back in Burton 1900

Back in Burton life for the Smiths seemed to centre around the church, the theatre, the library, concerts in the town hall, sales of work, excursions of the Natural History Society and such like. Both avid readers, David and Elizabeth’s letters to Madge are both tender and teasing and are full of references to the books they have read or recommend, as well as the tittle tattle of local gossip. Quite content with his pipe and books, David writes to Madge, “ I don’t want to live in the South of France or any other where than Burton, where one can chortle to one’s heart’s content…26

By 1900 Madge’s younger brother Walter had taken up an apprenticeship as a mechanic in Burton’s burgeoning  automobile industry27

A 15hp 3 cylinder Ryknield Brougham
Built in Burton on Trent on Shobnall Sreet in 1905 28

Madge herself was blossoming into a striking young lady whom Campbell dearly wished to marry. How he would be able to support her on his modest wages as a shipping clerk must have been a question which exercised him greatly.

Solid, respectable and worthy the Smiths evidently were, but for young Campbell the prospects of a job in middle management, on a middle income, in a middle-class town in the heart of the English midlands may not have been what he had dreamed of. For one reared on the stories of his seafaring uncle, the legendary exploits of his father and his merchant adventurer grandfather, perhaps he considered his prospects a little stultifying.

A Call to Arms

It is not surprising then that when Campbell came across a notice posted on the Town Hall door imploring brave young men to join Lord Latham’s “Rough Riders”, a battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry to help the British defeat the Boers in South Africa that Campbell’s adventurous spirit was roused. A call to arms that for Campbell offered both a justifiable cause and possibly more importantly free passage to anywhere in the Empire at the close of hostilities. 29  With his mother and sisters still living in Singapore this was the opportunity Campbell needed to travel East and make his fortune.

This is a collage commemorative poster, but it conjures up the romance and promise of adventure that may have appealed to Campbell.

10. 1881 Census

11 1901 Census

12  1861 Census

13. Scotland Census 1851

14  Jessie, David’s his eldest sister was married to Edward Charlwood, a self employed “commercial agent”. They had six children who all maintained close contact with their cousin Madge. Their son, Edward Clive, was later to become a colleague of Campbell in Singapore, where he had a distinguished career both in business and in the State Legislature.

15 Thomson Leys Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993  

 16. Albertland New Zealand National Geographic

Albertland, the Last Organised British Settlement in New Zealand : Borrows Albertland and District Museum

17 The Illustrated London News, 19 May 1860. Courtesy of University of Missouri Libraries

18 Treaty of Waitangi

19 A 2013 Waitangi Tribunal report said the action of Crown forces on the East Coast from 1865 to 1869—the East Coast Wars and the start of Te Kooti’s War—resulted in the deaths of proportionately more Māori than in any other district during the New Zealand wars. It condemned the “illegal imprisonment” on the Chatham Islands of a quarter of the East Coast region’s adult male population and said the loss in war of an estimated 43 percent of the male population, many through acts of “lawless brutality”, was a stain on New Zealand’s history and character.

20 Thomson Leys Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993

21 RDCH to Stephen Clarke 28.10.98  “His daughter Gwenita – Gwen Davenport – stayed with us occasionally and became a great friend of Féo’s. She was very witty and full of fun and did us all a lot of good. She wrote a best seller (in USA) called “Sitting Pretty” and they made a film of it which was a success and very funny at the time – about 1945 I think”.

Gwen Davenport NYT Obituary

Sitting Pretty

Mr Belvedere – American sitcom ran for 118 episodes

Gwen’s family, the Wigleys, owned a plantation on the Caribbean island of St Kitts and Gwen’s cousins would come and sail with David on Majala. 


23 Charles II, 1662: An Act for preventing the Mischeifs and Dangers that may arise by certaine Persons called Quakers and others refusing to take lawfull Oaths.

24 James Leys: 

Passenger List “ Jacob A Westerveld”  Arrival New York 17.03.1856


Note from Stephen: As far as the Ellises are concerned…. I have come up with some stuff that you may not know. The first chunk comes from a biography of the film director David Lean, who was of Quaker stock.

“The outbreak of WWI was a terrible time for Quakers. One correspondent to the Friend in May 1915, Bernard Ellis, (Grandfather of Polly Hart) said it was the first duty of all to “overcome the criminal [Kaiser], bind and punish him” and meet force with force. He later added that Quakers should take service in the army and navy “to preserve the freedom of the country in which Quaker ideals may flourish during the ensuing peace”.

A friend told me some time ago that in Northern Ireland the Quakers split over participation in WWI, and after a while neither side would speak to the other! SC.

26 U.S. Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935

26 Letter from David Smith to “Madgie” 28.04.1910

27 Australia WW1 Service Records

The Ryknield Motor Company, Burton-On-Trent

28 RDCH to Stephen Clarke 28.10.98 Walter Smith, born about 1885 (1887 OH),  my mother’s younger brother, changed his name to Leysmith.

He emigrated fairly early in life, making a career for himself as a journalist in USA, Australia and New Zealand and we seldom saw him until he finally settled in London in the office of the New York Times, combing through the British newspapers. Nice chap and nice wife, but no children.

29 Colin reminded me that it was always our father’s understanding that volunteers for the Boer War were promised free passage to anywhere in the Empire afterwards.

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