Captain George Mill Frederick Molesworth

The following information was supplied by Richard Fletcher

Captain-MolesworthSome time ago a lady in the Isle of Man sent me an old document belonging to a member of my family. It was an invoice dated 1st May 1893 from Robert Fletcher & Sons, “Joiners, Builders and Coffin Makers”, of Whitelees Road, Littleborough, to Mrs George Molesworth of “Townhouse Farm”, and it itemised building work carried out at Townhouse during March and April of that year.

I knew there was a John Molesworth living in Littleborough at around this time – he was a solicitor and county coroner, and founded the firm which still exists today as Molesworth, Bright and Clegg. But who were Mr and Mrs George Molesworth? My investigations uncovered the story of a remarkable Victorian entrepreneur.

George Mill Frederick Molesworth and John Molesworth were brothers and two of the sons of the vicar of Rochdale, the Rev John Edward Nassau Molesworth. Around 1850, they married two of the daughters of Laurence Newall of Townhouse, a prominent local businessman and mill owner. Sarah and Mary Newall were heiresses of their father’s considerable fortune, and after the marriages, John and Mary took ownership of Gale House, and George and Sarah Lower Townhouse.

John and Mary continued to live in Littleborough, but George and Sarah moved down to Portsmouth, as George was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. They didn’t stay there long – perhaps because of his newly acquired wealth, George decided in 1857 to retire and become a gentleman of leisure.

They went to live at Bideford in North Devon, to a house they had bought at the time of their marriage. In the intervening period, they had let to a number of tenants, including the celebrated author, Charles Kingsley. Kingsley was so captivated by the scenery on the peninsula to the north of Bideford that he wrote a swashbuckling novel based there called Westward Ho! The book was immensely popular and attracted a great many visitors to the area, so much so that a group of local businessmen decided to build a seaside resort from scratch and call it Westward Ho! after the novel. George decided to invest in the venture, and it wasn’t long before he was chairing the company and launching ambitious development programmes. (It was later reported that Kingsley was appalled at the way the beautiful coastline had been desecrated, and refused to speak to George ever again!)

As well as building hotels, houses and villas, George set up two colleges – the United Services College in 1874 and Kingsley Memorial College in 1882. The first provided an inexpensive education for the sons of military personnel and included amongst its earliest pupils the writer Rudyard Kipling. Kipling based his book Stalky & Co on his experiences there, and the character of Colonel Dabney was modelled on George. The second was a Church of England college, and as its name implies, was set up as a memorial to Charles Kingsley. There were also the Nassau Baths, a huge open-air swimming pool built in 1875 for the use of schoolboys in term time and tourists in the school holidays. As a bonus, it could be drained in the winter and used as an ice rink!

Despite all the building and investment, Westward Ho! never really succeeded as a seaside resort, the main reason being the absence of a rail link.

Early plans to establish one foundered for a variety of reasons, and it wasn’t until 1901 that the Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway was set up, and then it wasn’t connected to the rest of the rail network.

However, what put the town on the map nationally and internationally was the construction of a golf course. At this time, English golf was in its infancy, and the only club outside Scotland was at Blackheath in London. One day in 1863, so the story goes, a visitor from St Andrew’s in Scotland, Major General Moncrieff, was walking with the local vicar over a grassy area near the sea called The Burrows when he suddenly stopped and exclaimed (presumably with his tongue firmly in his cheek), “All this was manifestly designed by an all wise Providence for Golf!” The following year, the North Devon and West of England Golf Club was formed, and one of the first converts to the game was George Molesworth, or “Captain” Molesworth as he was usually known (his rank on leaving the Royal Navy was that of Commander, but he was mostly referred to as Captain, or sometimes, more affectionately, as “Old Mole”!). Under his enthusiastic leadership, the club became famous, and in 1867 received its Royal Charter from the Prince of Wales. It was reported that famous visitors during the early days included the Shah of Persia, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the exiled Dauphin of France and the Prince of Egypt, but later accounts suggest that these may have been who they hoped would attend, rather than who did.

But building a new seaside resort only filled part of the Captain’s time. He was also chairman of the directors of the Royal Aquarium and Winter Garden in Westminster, London, a large entertainment complex on the site of the current Methodist Central Hall. It was built in 1876 in order to provide a highly cultural programme of art exhibitions and classical music concerts, but when the audiences failed to materialise it turned to more popular entertainments such as hypnotists, strongman contests and circus acts. In fact, its licence was often under threat because of the sensational nature of some of the material together with the suspicion that young ladies were using the venue to importune male customers. It was financially rather shaky, and after a series of stormy general meetings and unwelcome court cases, it finally closed its doors in 1903.

Transport was another area of great interest to the Captain, and in the early 1880s he invented and patented a design of horse drawn omnibus suitable for narrow and crowded streets which was adopted by the London and District Omnibus Company. Then there was the Jordan Canal project – following the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, traffic between England and India had increased enormously and it was felt that’ a second route was necessary. The proposed Jordan Canal would start about 25 miles from Acre on the Mediterranean, proceed through the valley of the river Jordan and the Dead Sea and come out into the Gulf of Akabah. However, despite the enthusiastic support of various prominent people such as General Gordon, the project never got under way.

All these enterprises may have been in part a diversion from George’s personal life, which was far from happy. Two of his three sons died young – George in 1879 at the age of 22, and Reginald in 1895 at the age of 42. From the death of the first, George’s wife Mary lived away from Devon with their two daughters, Mary and Jessie – first in Brighton and then in Chislehurst, Kent, where she died in 1896. George continued to live in Westward Ho!, close to his remaining son, Arthur, and died in 1913 at the age of 88. It is not known if he ever returned to Littleborough to visit his relatives, but in 1948 his grandson, Gilbert Edmund Nassau Molesworth, became vicar of Rochdale, following in his great-grandfather’s footsteps, and the wheel came full circle.

GEORGE MILLS FREDERICK MOLESWORTH was the fourth son of the Lancashire Vicar John Nassau Edward Molesworth, the great grandson of the first Viscount Molesworth, an Irish Peer so honoured in 1719 for services to Prince William of Orange. George Molesworth entered the Navy as a midshipman and was promoted to Lieutenant in September 1848 at the age of twenty four. He served in H.M.S Wellesley under Captain Goldsmith for three and a half years on the American and West Station. He then transferred to the Sheerness Station on H.M.S Horatio under Captain the Hon.S T Carneigie for two and a half years before being appointed to H.M.S ictory, the Portsmouth Naval Headquarters under the Vice Admiral T.Cochrane . When he retired in 1857 at the age of thirty three he had served only nine years, and was given the honorary rank of Commander. He attained the rank of Captain probably given to him by his friends in golfing circles. He married Sarah Newall of Town House Littleborough a very wealthy cotton heiress from Manchester, and he had the foresight to buy up many of the shares of the company that was going to develop Westward Ho!.He became the main driving force in the development and was bedhind nearly every venture, and eventually gained control, by 1870 he had built the large gentleams Villa’s ROWENA and TORRIDGE HOUSE in Kinglsey Road.

George moved to Cliff House in Limers Lane Bideford where he ran the Lime Kilns and Brick making business. The ‘Wendy House’ in the garden of the ‘Riversford Hotel’ was his business office. Georges grandson the Rev Gilbert Molesworth said that his grandfather had suggested naming the development ‘WESTWARD HO! but when he asked his close friend Charles Kingsley his opinion to using the name they quarrelled and they never spoke to each other again.

Captain G F M Molesworth RN through his limited company built the Hotel,The Bathhouse and a large number of villas and houses.Westward Ho! not becoming immediately popular the company broke up and their property was purchased by Mr George Taylor , Capt Molesworth undaunted took upon his personal responsibility to build more houses started the United Services College erected Nassau Baths, carried out Gas works and built Kingsley College.

Kingsley Memorial College 1882-85
1880 Dec. 30th Mr Molesworth purchased Kingsley house and terrace, and was about to convert them into a College.

Weekly Gazette April 18 1882
The College started by Capt.Molesworth for civilians embodying the principles of the Church of England. Going since Xmas 1881,many boys coming from Ireland. The Kingsley Memorial College was officially opened on April 18 1882 by the Earl Portsmouth.(the Countess of Portsmouth was due to open the school but owing to the illness of her nephew was unable to be present) 1215 a full service performed by Dr.Wall and the Rev.W.H.Maddock one of the Masters, Viscount Molesworth reading the Lesson. 12.45 a General inspection of the College by Dr Wall, 1.15 the boys gave some gymnastics excercises in the gymnasium, 1.45 a drill and parade to the strains of the brass band and a luncheon was then taken.

The Nassau Baths in Kiplings time

When the United Services College was established in 1874 mainly through the effort of George Molesworth, that enterprising gentleman saw what advantages to the College and to himself lay in a provision of a swimming pool where the boys could learn to swim in term time and visitors could relax in the school holidays. Enterpreneurs blasted out a huge Patio-Pool(short distance from the Braddicks Elizabethan )which opened with a flourish on 10 July 1875 being built in less than six months 8ft deep filled at a rate of 700 gallons per minute by steam emgine from the sea it was 133ft long and 33 ft wide. It was tiled so could be drained and used as an ice rink.The pool finally closed a few years ago but at the time it was the ultimate swimming pool.During the 50’s and 60’s it was a very popular venue. At its inauguration in 1875 amidst a lot of other celebrities a Captain Webb showed off his swimming skills. 6 weeks later he became the first man to swim the English Channel.

The pool has since been demolished and is now luxury apartments and known as Nassau Court.

Molesworth, George Mill Frederick, Capt., JP
Born: 14 SEP 1825
Acceded: Northdown Hall, Bideford, Devon
Died: 11 NOV 1913
Father: Molesworth, John Edward Nassau, Rev., b. 5 FEB 1790
Mother: Mackinnon, Harriet
Molesworth, John Edward Nassau, Rev.
Born: 5 FEB 1790
Acceded: Rochdale
Died: 21 APR 1877
Father: Molesworth, John
Mother: Hill, Frances
Married 28 NOV 1815 to Mackinnon, Harriet
Child 1: Molesworth, William Nassau, Rev., b. 8 NOV 1816
Child 2: Molesworth, John, Coronor, b. 22 APR 1818
Child 3: Molesworth, Daniel, b. 3 JUN 1821
Child 4: Molesworth, George Mill Frederick, Capt., JP, b. 14 SEP 1825
Child 5: Molesworth, Rennell Francis Wynn, Rev., b. 17 JAN 1827
Child 6: Molesworth, Guilford Lindsey, Sir, b. 3 MAY 1828
Child 7: Molesworth, Harriet
Child 8: Molesworth, Emma Francis
Child 9: Molesworth, Louisa
Married 31 OCT 1854 to Affleck, Harriet Elizabeth
Molesworth, G.F.M. (1863) – Bideford Gazette: County Magistrates Meeting. – G.F.M. Molesworth, E.V. Vidal, A. Wren, Capt. Pyke. – Mentioned Northam Roads ‘getting a Little Better.’
Molesworth R. B., Mr None Cliff Cottage, Cleavehouses Northam 1890
Molesworth R. B., Mrs Private Residents Cleavehouses Cliff Cottage Northam 1896
Molesworth R. B., Mrs Private Residents Cliff Cottage, Cleave Houses Northam 1897
Molesworth R. B., Mrs Private Residents Cliff Cottage, Lower Cleave Houses Northam 1902
Molesworth Reginald Private Residents Cliff Cottage Northam 1889
George Mill Frederick Molesworth
* 1825
George Mill Frederick Molesworth, Born: 1825 Baptised:
Died: Buried:
Family: Molesworth
Ancestors[ Patrilineage | Matrilineage | Options ]1. George Mill Frederick Molesworth* 1825 2. Rev. John Edward Nassau Molesworth( Mackinnon, Affleck) 1790 – 1877 4. John Molesworth( Hill) c. 1751 – 1791
5. Frances Hill( Molesworth)
3. Harriet Mackinnon( Molesworth) + 1858 6. M/? Mackinnon

Siblings 1. Harriet Molesworth 2. Louisa Molesworth 3. Emma Frances Molesworth 4. William Nassau Molesworth* 1816 5. John Molesworth( Newall) 1818 – 1886 6. Daniel Molesworth* 1821 7. Reynell Francis Wynn Molesworth* 1827 8. Guilford Lindsey Molesworth* 1828

Spouses Capt. George Mill Frederick Molesworth JP 14
• Born: 14 Sep 1825
• Died: 11 Nov 1913 at age 88
George Mill Frederick MOLESWORTH (AFN: LDLV-G9) Pedigree
Sex: M Family

Event(s)
Birth: 14 Sep 1825
Of, North Down Hall, Bideford, Devon, Eng
Death:
Of Town House, Littleboro, Rochdale, Lancs, Eng
Parents
Father: John Edward Nassau MOLESWORTH (AFN: LDLT-0Q) Family
Mother: Harriet MACKINNON (AFN: LDLT-1W)

Marriage(s)
Spouse: Sarah NEWALL (AFN: LDLV-HG) Family
Marriage: Lancs, Eng
Husband’s Name
George Mill Frederick MOLESWORTH
Born: 14 Sep 1825 Place: Of, North Down Hall, Bideford, Devon, Eng
Died: Place: Of Town House, Littleboro, Rochdale, Lancs, Eng
Married: Place: , Lancs, Eng
Father: John Edward Nassau MOLESWORTH (AFN:LDLT-0Q) Family
Mother: Harriet MACKINNON (AFN:LDLT-1W)
Wife’s Name
Sarah NEWALL (AFN:LDLV-HG) Pedigree
Born: Abt. 1829 Place: Of Town House, Littleboro, Rochdale, Lancs, Eng
Married: Place: , Lancs, Eng
Father:
Mother:
Children
1. Sex Name
F Harriet MOLESWORTH (AFN:LDLV-M5) Pedigree
Born: Abt. 1859 Place: <, , Eng>
Died: Place: Infant
2. Sex Name
F Mary Capel MOLESWORTH (AFN:LDLV-NB) Pedigree
Born: Abt. 1861 Place: <, , Eng>
3. Sex Name
F Jessie Fitzgerald MOLESWORTH (AFN:LDLV-PH) Pedigree
Born: Abt. 1863 Place: , , Eng
4. Sex Name
M Arthur Hill MOLESWORTH (AFN:LDLV-L0) Pedigree
Born: 25 Oct 1857 Place: , , Eng
5. Sex Name
M George Nassau MOLESWORTH (AFN:LDLV-KS) Pedigree
Born: 4 Jun 1856 Place: , , Eng
Died: 13 Apr 1879 Place: , , Eng
6. Sex Name
M Reginald Balfour MOLESWORTH (AFN:LDLV-QN)

Zq 13: (Upright – Small Marble Cross On Larger Marble Support
In Form Of Rocks And Ivy, All On Pink Granite Base + Kerb)
George Nassau Molesworth
Northdown Bideford
Died Easter Sunday
1879 (All This Slanting Up From Left To Right)
Reginald Balfour Molesworth
Eldest Brother Of The Above
Who Died July 13th 1895
Katharine Sarah Newall
His Only Daughter
Died Jany 14th 1898, Aged 6 Years.
(On Pink Granite Base)
George Mill Frederick Molesworth
Captain R.N.
Died Nov. 11th 1913,
Aged 88 Years
Also Marian Molesworth Wife Of The Above
Reginald, Died Oct 8th 1921

MEMORANDUM

By a conveyance dated the seventh day of June 1940 between Evelyn Margaretta Barnes(the personal representative of the named George Mill Frederick Molesworth –Deceased) of the one part and Reginald Robert Prouse of the other part all that message of dwelling house called Rosegill Westward Ho! Devon together with the piece of land lying to the West of and immediately adjoining the said message, was conveyed unto the said Reginald Robert Prouse in fee simple and his right to the production and delivery of copies of the before written Probate was acknowledged.

Will registered at the following:

  • Grand Trunk Routing Co. of Canada. 30th March 1914
  • The Cordova Land Co Ltd April 1st 1914
  • For the Maikop Spies Company Ltd 3 April 1914
  • The Kerk River Oil Fields of California Ltd. 6 April 1914
  • Balican Oil Trust Ltd 4 April 1914
  • Petroleum Solid Fuel (Parent) Co Ltd 18 April 1914
  • Army and Navy Corporation Society td 25 Aug.1921
  • Lloyds Bank Ltd Bideford March 21 1914
  • Wills & Dorset Banking Co. Ltd. Bideford March 21 1914
  • Pacific Oilfields Ltd. April 7 1914
  • Consolidated Diesel Engine Manufacturers Ltd 14 PRIL 1914
  • British Austric Oil Investment Comp.Ltd April 10 1914
  • Kingsley Memorial College

1880 Dec. 30th Mr Molesworth purchased Kingsley house and terrace, and was about to convert them into a College. Weekly Gazette April 18 1882. The College started by Capt. Molesworth for civilians embodying the principles of the Church of England. Going since Xmas 1881, many boys coming from Ireland. The Kingsley Memorial College was officially opened on April 18 1882 by the Earl Portsmouth (the Countess of Portsmouth was due to open the school but owing to the illness of her nephew was unable to be present) 1215 a full service performed by Dr. Wall and the Rev. W.H. Maddock one of the Masters, Viscount Molesworth reading the Lesson. 12.45 a General inspection of the College by Dr Wall, 1.15 the boys gave some gymnastics excercises in the gymnasium, 1.45 a drill and parade to the strains of the brass band and a luncheon was then taken. The Nassau Baths in Kiplings time When the United Services College was established in 1874 mainly through the effort of George Molesworth, that enterprising gentleman saw what advantages to the College and to himself lay in a provision of a swimming pool where the boys could learn to swim in term time and visitors could relax in the school holidays.Enterpreneurs blasted out a huge Patio-Pool(short distance from the Braddicks Elizabethan )which opened with a flourish on 10 July 1875 being built in less than six months.8ft deep filled at a rate of 700 gallons per minute by steam emgine from the sea it was 133ft long and 33 ft wide. It was tiled so could be drained and used as an ice rink. The pool finally closed a few years ago but at the time it was the ultimate swimming pool. During the 50’s and 60’s it was a very popular venue At its inauguration in 1875 amidst a lot of other celebrities a Captain Webb showed off his swimming skills. 6 weeks later he became the first man to swim the English Channel. The pool has since been demolished and is now luxury apartments and known as Nassau Court.

Molesworth, George Mill Frederick, Capt., JP
Bom: 14 SEP 1825
Acceded: Northdown Hall, Bideford, Devon
Died: 11 NOV 1913
Father: Molesworth, John Edward Nassau, Rev., b. 5 FEB 1790
Mother: Mackinnon, Harriet
GENUKI/Devon: Northam Mis – tomb nos. Z2 S9 to Zzc 9 Page 1 of 1
Zq 13: (Upright – Small Marble Cross On Larger Marble Support
In Form Of Rocks And Ivy, All On Pink Granite Base + Kerb)
George Nassau Molesworth
Northdown Bideford
Died Easter Sunday
1879 (All This Slanting Up From Left To Right)

Reginald Balfour Molesworth
Eldest Brother Of The Above
Who Died July 13th 1895
Katharine Sarah Newall
His Only Daughter
Died Jany 14th 1898, Aged 6 Years.

(On Pink Granite Base)
George Mill Frederick Molesworth
Captain R.N.
Died Nov. 11th 1913,
Aged 88 Years
Also Marian Molesworth Wife Of The Above
Reginald, Died Oct 8th 1921

Cleveland Terrace

Captain Molesworth
Captain Molesworth
Captain Molesworth

TRAGIC DEATH NEAR BIDEFORD

The evidence given at the Coroner’s inquest is printed at length below, and it is therefore un­necessary to dwell upon the circumstances of the terrible accident at Highford Cross, two miles out of Hartland, which has robbed an esteemed neighbour of life, brought dire sorrow upon one household, and much suffering into another. Mr. Molesworth unfortunately was killed, but Mr. Tedrake, though severely hurt, is now, we are glad to say, on the road to convalescence. Profound regret was expressed on all sides when the nature of the accident was known in Bideford; it became intensified by a rumour abroad at midday on Friday that the patient had passed away. This was premature, for he lingered until the early hours of Saturday. Mrs. Molesworth, his wife, was allowed to drive out to Hierhford on Friday evening with her children, one aged 3 years, and the other a babe of 12 weeks, and she remained until the end, returning to Bideford on Saturday morning. The body was placed in its coffin on Saturday night, and removed from Highford Farm.

THE INQUEST

Mr. Coroner Bromham held an inquest into the death of Mr. Molesworth, at Highford Model Farm, Hartland, on Saturday afternoon. The Jury was empanelled as follows :—Messrs. James Wicketts (foreman), James Crews, Thomas Brand, John Cory, John Pillman, George Burrows, Gerald Griffits, John Wickett, Willam Cook, Thos. Cook, Barnard Littlejobns, James Yanstone, and John Bromall.

George Mill Frederick Molesworth, a retired captain B.N., living at Westward Ho ! identified the deceased as his son, Keginald Balfour Moles­worth, aged 42, a private gentleman, He left a widow and two young children. Witness saw him last, before the accident, on Wednesday. Witness first heard of the accident, from Br. Rouse at eleven o’clock on Friday morning. He came out to Hartland and found his son in bed and unconscious in which state he remained till his death, which occurred at about 3.30 on Saturday morning.

William Henry Friendship, sub-agent of the Unionist party at Bideford, said a meeting was to be held at Hartland in aid of the candidature of Sir Cameron Gull on Thursday night. Mrs Molesworth brought a note to him at the committee room on Thursday morning.