Edwin was born in 1844 into a property-owning brewing family in Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire. It would perhaps be fair to describe the Hawkins family as from the ‘beerage‘4 — though it appears that none of them was in fact ennobled. The family’s financial base was the Newbury area of Berkshire, but many of them gradually drifted south. Although this was not a great distance, moving to Great Bedwyn, Appleshaw and finally St Mary Bourne involved crossing a county line twice, ending up in the beautiful (the writer is admittedly prejudiced) Bourne Valley.
The first of the clan to arrive was John Edward Hawkins, Edwin’s uncle. He moved into Diplands, St Mary Bourne, in the early 1870s and was probably host to Dr Joseph Stevens who describes attending a Mummers’ play there in 1874.
ThomAS eDWARD hAWKINS at spring hill
By 1891 Edwin’s brother, Thomas Edward Hawkins, who had been Mayor of Newbury in 1878, had arrived and was living at Spring Hill. He was presumably already ill, as a male nurse is included in the household and in September the following year he died at the age of 52.
Edwin Black Black-Hawkins at Bourne Court
Next came Edwin Black Black-Hawkins himself,who is described in Kelly’s 1899 Directory as one of the principal landowners of St Mary Bourne. He lived at Bourne Court, at the south-east end of the village (formerly Upper Link House). From here he seems to have taken an active role in county life, probably huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ with the smart set, though the family also maintained a flat in Oakwood Court, Kensington.
He won prizes at the Winchester Agricultural Show in 1900 for two horses which he had bred, and also on several other occasions.
The ultimate Victorian pater familias, he and his wife Eleanor had eleven children (and yes, they did call the tenth one Decimus). However, despite their wealth, they did not escape the prevailing mortality rates: by 1911 three of these had died in early adulthood.
Edwin’s wife, Eleanor, was a frequent writer to The Times, and clearly regarded it as her duty to take an active part in public life, an attitude possibly explained by her two great uncles, one of whom had been headmaster of Harrow, and the other of Eton. Here she has an idea about those sitting idly at home during the Boer War occupying themselves by composing scrapbooks which could be used to entertain wounded soldiers:
Possibly the most interesting – if most eccentric – member of the family was Edwin’s youngest daughter Marion, who never married. The following extracts from her writings on the delights of keeping spiders, snakes and wasps as pets may give some hint as to the reason for her failure to find a husband. Here, an account of her pets reaches the pages of the Luton Times and Advertiser. And here she is writing for the ‘National Review’ again:
It is almost irresistible to imagine the Black-Hawkins relations as real-life counterparts of the Gascoyne D’Ascoyne family as played by Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets:
Note on Sources
1. In general, this post is based on the census records, as well as the trade directories for the area.
2. The newspaper extracts were sourced via the British Newspaper Archive.
3. The Hampshire Records Office is the source for the legal and property dealings of the Hawkins and Black-Hawkins family. (I keep on my desktop a link to the HRO catalogue search page, which is in constant use).
4. The National Archives provided the link to the London and Metropolitan Archives
The Company was incorporated in 1897 as “Hawkins and Parfitt South Berkshire Brewery Company Limited” upon the amalgamation of Edward Parfitt, Atlas Brewery, Newbury, and Thomas Edward Hawkins and Company, West Mills Brewery, Newbury. They were based at the Atlas Brewery, Bartholomew Street, Newbury, Berks.The company acquired John Platt and Son, Manor Brewery, Hungerford, c 1900, and Westcombe and Sons, St Nicholas Brewery, Newbury, 1902. Acquired Blandy, Hawkins and Co, Castle Brewery, Bridge Street, Reading (possibly successors to Stephens’ Mill Lane Brewery, later Willats and Blandy’s Mill Lane Brewery), 1910. The name was changed to “South Berkshire Brewery Limited” in 1913; and was acquired by H and G Simonds in 1920. In voluntary liquidation 1936.
4. Details of the sale of ‘Bourne Court, formerly Upper Link House’ can be found in the Hampshire Record Office in 165A06/144 for 2008; 159M88/1692, 187A09/7/3, 46M84/F80/41 and 46M84/F80/42 for 22-26 July 1950. The papers for the sale of ‘Upper Link Farm’ in 1865 (65M74/Z3) may also apply.