Heritage: Meet the baronets of Havering

Herbert Raphael, who gave us Raphael Park in Romford, was made a baronet in 1913. Picture: Ken Mears

Herbert Raphael, who gave us Raphael Park in Romford, was made a baronet in 1913. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Prof Ged Martin looks at a curious hereditary honour – and its local links.

Receiving a knighthood – becoming “Sir”, or “Dame” if you’re female – is an honour. But 400 years ago, new knights were charged high fees, making knighthood a burden.

In 1611, to raise cash to send Protestant settlers to Ulster, James I invented an order of Super-Sirs called baronets. Joe Bloggs bought the right to become Sir Joseph Bloggs, Bart.

The one-off deal was hereditary. When Sir Joseph died, his son inherited the handle, and so on down the generations.

Scottish baronets were invented in 1625, to support a transatlantic colony called Nova Scotia. Edinburgh Castle was declared part of Nova Scotia, so nobody actually had to cross the ocean to accept (or buy) the honour.

The swank appealed to Sir William Ayloffe, of Bretons in Elm Park. Already knighted, he’d demanded the biggest pew in Hornchurch’s parish church, displacing six other families.

In 1612, he became Sir William Ayloffe, Bart. Philip Matthews lived at Gobions, which stood opposite Lodge Lane in Collier Row.

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Although his father had been Romford’s Roundhead boss, Philip switched to Charles II, becoming Sir Philip Matthews, Bart. in 1662.

He’s the only Collier Row resident ever granted a hereditary honour.

The baronetcy became extinct in 1708 when Sir Philip’s son, a soldier with no children, was killed in battle.

Sir Framlingham Gawdy, Bart. was churchwarden at Havering-atte-Bower between 1708 and 1711. The third holder of his family title, he had learning difficulties.

Havering villagers were fighting Romford to establish their local autonomy. They apparently used poor Sir Framlingham as a stooge.

Inheriting his grandfather’s baronetcy only underlined his personal problems. Gender was another limitation. Officially, Sir Joe’s wife was just Lady Bloggs.

But Ann Cheke deserved respect. Inheriting Pyrgo, north-west of Harold Hill, she married Sir Thomas Tipping, Bart.

Locally known as Dame Ann Tipping, in 1724 she left £10 a year for a school in Havering village. Three centuries later, the Dame Tipping School still flourishes. (Its annual budget is larger nowadays.)

By the eighteenth century, baronetcies glamorised money made in business.

A Rainham landowner, Sir Thomas Crosse, Bart., made his money as a brewer in Westminster.

John Smith became chairman of the East India Company, a trading outfit that looted India. He lived at the Bower House at Havering, and died Sir John Smith-Burges, Bart.

Havering’s most prominent baronets were the Neaves of Dagnams. The baronetcy was created in 1795 for Richard Neave, former governor of the Bank of England.

He also owned slaves in the Caribbean. Slave labour had paid to rebuild the Dagnams mansion in 1774.

The family lived there until 1948, when the sixth baronet, Sir Arundell Neave, sold up to make way for Harold Hill.

When the fourth baronet, also Sir Arundell, died in 1871, his son was just three years old. Before he’d even started school, the little boy became Sir Thomas Lewis Hughes Neave, Bart. – England’s youngest baronet!

Only one local baronetcy was created for services to the community.

In 1904, entrepreneur Herbert Raphael gave Romford its public park, named in his honour.

In 1910-11, he built the Gidea Park garden suburb, off Heath Drive. His reward was to become Sir Herbert Raphael, Bart. in 1913. As he had no children, the baronetcy died with him in 1924.

Australian politician Charles Nicholson received a baronetcy in 1859, and decided to bring his title and his family to England.

His son, an architect, inherited the handle.

Sir Charles Nicholson, Bart., designed Hornchurch’s war memorial which stands outside St Andrew’s church.

When Harold Wilson’s 1964 Labour government refused to create new baronetcies, this strange institution seemed doomed. But Mrs Thatcher (as usual!) defied her critics and made her husband Denis a baronet in 1990.

When he died in 2003, the title passed to their son, Sir Mark Thatcher, Bart. In the 21st century, some thought this bizarre.

There are still around 1,300 baronets. I doubt if many live in Havering.