This photograph at the centre of this story shows of a couple in a carriage outside an elegant house was passed to us by the Dennes family. They were not sure who was in the picture, although the photo had belonged to the family for many years. So who is in the picture, and where was it taken? The photograph is shown below.
In the nineteenth century the Dennes family lived in South Street and Albert Street, most of the men working as coachmen and grooms, so presumably the coachman in the photograph is one of them – probably George Dennes, who would have been 41 when it was taken.
The photograph is signed ‘H R Langrishe May 9th 1887’, and it seems likely that the man in the carriage is Hercules Robert Langrishe, the 5th Baronet Langrishe of Knocktopher in County Kilkenny, who would have been twenty-eight when the photo was taken. He was apparently something of a dashing figure in his time. An early motoring enthusiast, he was a Captain in the Army Motor Reserve and he drove Viscount Northcliffe’s Daimler in a 1900 RAC road trial (Northcliffe, founder of the Daily Mail, was another enthusiastic early motorist who used his newspaper to extol the virtues of motor cars). Hercules Langrishe had connections to the Isle of Wight – there is a memorial to him in Holy Trinity Church, Cowes, recording his 54 years as a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron – and he may well have visited Ventnor, as many wealthy people did in those days, but sadly there is no clue to the name of the house behind the carriage.
However, although George Dennes was born in Ventnor, and lived in South Street, working as a groom and later a coachman, he moved with his wife and two children to Love House, near Eton in Buckinghamshire in the early 1870s, where he worked as a coachman to a wealthy paper merchant, Mr Chater. (In 1871 Mr Chater had been staying at the Bonchurch Hotel with his wife; perhaps he came across George at that time, and was impressed with him, and persuaded him to come and work for him at Love House.) George and his family worked for Mr Chater for several years , and although they had moved back to Ventnor by 1891, we don’t know when they returned, so it is possible that the photograph was not taken in Ventnor or Bonchurch at all, but when Hercules Langrishe was visiting Mr Chater in Buckinghamshire – sadly, Love House seems no longer to exist, so we can’t check what it looked like.
I started out trying to identify a house, and became intrigued by the man in the carriage, whose life is well documented, and by the coachman standing at the horse’s head, whose story is just as fascinating, but harder to puzzle out. But if anyone thinks they can identify the house, please let me know. [The house has now been identified as Winterbourne in Bonchurch, thanks to our members.]
Lesley Telford, Ventnor & District Local History Society. With thanks to the Dennes family who donated this photograph to the Society.