Samuel Duke (1814-1889)

From Historical Hastings


THE LATE MR. SAMUEL DUKE. AN INTERESTING CAREER. SOME REMINISCENCES OF.

Mr. Samuel Duke, whose death from syncope, brought on by an old standing affection of the lungs, took place on Tuesday, was born at Eastbourne on the 28th January, 1814, and came to Hastings with his parents when only three years old.

He could well remember when the Old Town (then the only town) extended but to George Street, and the only Parade was that stretching from the Old Battery (near the Lifeboat House) to the spot on which now stands Beach Cottages, but where, at that time, existed what was called the Black Hole, in which any of the smugglers' boats which were captured by the Preventive men were placed, and ultimately sawn in halves.

He often remarked how he used to cross the old Priory Bridge over the stream where the Memorial now stands, to get to what was then called the American Grounds, where Robertson Street now is, and which was then covered with lot of little huts, occupied by a very rough class of people. The deceased gentleman could also recall the time when the rock stood out at White Rock Place, with the form of a head and bust, which was then called King George's Head.

Then there was a pathway up to the top of the hill, for at that time the sea used to wash against the base of the rock when was high water, and there was no St. Leonards in those days. It was not even thought of, said Mr. Duke. Again, where Cambridge Gardens and Cornwallis Gardens now stand was a field called Step Meadow, leading across to the old Priory Farm. Where Warrior Square and Wellington Square now stand were lime kilns, and the site of Messrs. Metcalf and Son's fine suite of shops was a ship builder's yard.

Mr. Duke also remembered well the finding of the St Clements Caves, which were discovered by someone having an arbour cut out of the sandstone. All these, and many more things, Mr. Duke used to remark upon, and also the fun and excitement of a trip to London in one of the old coaches, starting either from the Crown Yard in All Saints Street, or the Swan Hotel, High Street.

He was married in 1837 to Mary Ann Chaillé (a decendant of the Chaillé family), whose estate, named Chaillévoit, was situated near Paris, but in 1703 the family had to flee their native country owing to the persecution which followed the revocation of the Edicts of Nantes, and settled in England that year.

Shortly after his marriage Mr. Duke left Hastings for Northampton, where he remained in business several years, but in 1854 he decided to go to Australia, where he resided for thirteen years. He often talked of his trip in the first train that ever ran in Queensland, over a railway for which Lord Brassey's father was the contractor. The firm held their offices in Mr. Duke's house at Ipswich, under the title of Peto, Brassey and Bates.

He had many adventures in Australia, too numerous to mention here. He unfortunately lost his wife there on the 7th October, 1866, after which he returned to England in 1867, and was shortly afterwards appointed to the Secretaryship of the Hastings and St. Leonards Trade Protection Society. His energy and perseverance in that office are well known. Mr. Duke's death came at last very suddenly. He had been ailing for about fortnight, but neither the doctor nor any of the family anticipated anything serious, and when he died he seemed merely to go off into a sleep.

Recently his second wife (he had married again) died, and since that time he has had his daughter, Mrs. Larcombe who had lately come to Hastings from Swansea, in South Wales residing with him. He leaves only one son behind him in Hastings, viz., Mr. John H. Duke, of the firm of Duke and Larcombe, who has also succeeded his father as secretary of the Trade Protection Society, his other sons being abroad.

One is Second Commander in the Argentine Navy, and another a schoolmaster in Australia. His mother only died as recently as 1883, at the advanced age of 94. Mr. Samuel Duke was the last of the old generation of the Dukes who so long lived and carried on business in High Street. It will be remembered that his brother, Mr. Charles Duke, of Wellington Place, died about twelve months ago, and was buried at the Cemetery.

Source: Hastings and St Leonards Observer - Saturday 23 November 1889 pg.7

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