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WHO WAS WHO IN PLYMOUTH HISTORY

CECIL EDWARD BEWES (1816-1913)

Updated:  19 May 2012 

The Bewes family were originally from Launceston in Cornwall, where they were successful merchants.  Over the years they had purchased land in east Cornwall and at some point added the manor of Sutton Vautort or Valletort, in Plymouth, to their estates.

 
By 1736 Mr John Bewes had a house in Hoegate Street and in 1755 and again in 1764 he was Mayor of Plymouth.  His grandson, Harry, married a daughter of Mr Peter Tonkin, who had the naval Victualling Office contract to transport supplies out to ships in the Sound. Their son, Thomas, and his second wife, formerly Mrs Elizabeth Penrose, had five sons: Thomas Archer Bewes, 1803-1889; Cecil Edward Bewes, 1816-1903; Charles Theodore Bewes, 1818-1894; Wyndham Edmund Bewes, 1822-1884; and Frederick Duffy Bewes, 1825-1883.  The second son, who was born in London, became a very prominent citizen of both Plymouth and Plympton.

Mr Cecil Edward Bewes married Miss Frances Elizabeth Soltau in 1847 at Plympton Saint Mary parish church.  The groom's older brother, the Reverend Thomas Archer Bewes, officiated.  Frances was daughter of Mr G W Soltau, of Little Efford, in the parish of Eggbuckland.  They had two daughters, of which Miss Georgiana Elizabeth Bewes died in 1885 at the very young age of 34. The family at first settled in the village of Yealmpton, Devon, but when Mr Bewes acquired some land in Plympton Saint Mary he moved to a property called Hillside, in that parish.  They also had a town house at number 3, The Esplanade, The Hoe, Plymouth, but apparently spent little time there.

In his younger days Mr Bewes joined the 69th Regiment, in which he rose to the rank of Captain.

Thomas Archer Bewes and his brothers, 1885.

The Bewes brothers, pictured in 1885.
Seated: Colonel C E Bewes; Reverend T A Bewes; Mr C T Bewes.
Standing: Captain F D Bewes and Colonel W E Bewes.
(Reproduced courtesy of Mr Colin Bewes)

Mr and Mrs Bewes brought education to the borough of Plympton.  In 1874 they set up the Plympton Public School in the Workman's Hall with just thirty pupils.  Within a year the number wishing to attend had grown so much that larger premises were required.  These Mr Bewes had erected on part of his own estate, at Geason's.

Mrs Frances Elizabeth Bewes died in 1888 at the age of 63.

When his older brother, the Reverend Thomas Archer Bewes, died in 1889, he inherited the family estates.  This included Beaumont House, and land at Houndiscombe, Cattedown and Crownhill, in the Plymouth area (the latter including the polo ground that became Plymouth's airport) along with extensive property in the parishes of Duloe, Saint Neot and Launceston, in Cornwall, and a large part of the parish of Marldon, near Paignton, Devon, including Compton Castle.  Te trustees of the estate sold off Beaumont House and its surrounding park to Plymouth Corporation for 27,500 and it became the Town's first public park and first municipal museum.

In 1893 Mr Cecil Edward Bewes married his second wife, Miss Altha Smythe, daughter of the late Mr John James Barlow Smythe, the wedding taking place at Saint John's Church, Notting Hill, Kensington.

Mr Cecil Edward Bewes died of heart disease at his home, Hillside, Plympton, in 1903.  He was 86 years of age.  The funeral service was conducted by the Doctor Henry Soltau, of the Plymouth Brethren, at the Plympton Wesleyan Chapel.  All the shops in the Ridgeway were closed and Superintendent Hacon, from the Devon County Constabulary's Stonehouse Division drafted in extra police officers to keep the large crowd under control.  Sergeant Newberry and a body of officers headed the funeral procession, the polished oak coffin being carried in a glass hearse.  He was buried in the Plympton Cemetery.

During his lifetime Mr Bewes had been chairman of the Devonport Water Company; chairman of the Plympton and District Gas Company; a governor of Plympton Grammar School; a member of the Plympton Board of Guardians from 1861 to 1896, and of which he was chairman between 1878 and 1896; chairman of the Plympton and Ermington bench of magistrates; and a manager of the Plymouth Public Free School.  In 1887, with his wife and one of his daughters, he had founded the Young Men's Institute at Plympton.  He had taken a keen interest in the work of the Plymouth Bethel among the sailors and fishermen on the Barbican and it was thanks to his generous purchase and donation of property that they were able to open new and larger premises.

He was also fond of travelling and had visited Egypt, the Mediterranean, and, at the age of 80, the United States of America.  But the main hobby of this 'kindly, genial and unassuming of men' was that of sailing his yacht, the "Mayfly", out of Plymouth Sound.  He was a member of both the Royal Western and Royal South Western Yacht Clubs.

Mr Bewes was survived by his widow and one daughter, Mrs Frances Elizabeth Franck, the wife of Mr Charles Edward Franck, of Madras.  The family estate passed to Mr Charles Bewes, of Cross Park, Higher Compton.


Sources recorded.  Compiled with the kind assistance of Mr Colin Bewes, of Hastings, Kent, the Great Great Grandson of Mr Cecil Edward Bewes, who also gave permission to reproduce the excellent family photographs.

 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

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