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Dacres Dixon: 1630 – 2024

Marjorie Dacres Dixon, 1939.

Following a family famous for the Mason-Dixie line, who made their mark as astronomers, canal engineers and wildlife artists, with cameos by intrepid emerald hunters in Colombia and Venezuela, plus the Red Lion Inn in Henley-on-Thames and links to the families of Bevan, Hare (Earl of Listowel), Pelham (Earl of Yarborough) and Rathdonnell (McClintock Bunbury). This story was initially compiled in 2003 as a gift to celebrate the birthday of Philippa Dacres Dixon.

 

Introduction: The Ballyhooly Circle

 

On 5 October 2002, Emily Dacres Dixon was married to the Hon. William Leopold McClintock Bunbury in the pretty Church of Ireland in Ballyhooly, County Cork. The sun beamed blue skies across the River Blackwater flowing through, the congregation sang their hearts out and the subsequent knees up lent the occasion a golden hue that will shine bright in the memories of all who were in attendance.

Among the spirits watching from the heavens was Emily’s grandmother, Marjorie Dacres Dixon, a granddaughter of the 2nd Earl of Yarborough and his wife, Lady Victoria Hare. Marjorie’s great-uncle, William Hare – Victoria’s brother – was the 3rd Earl of Listowel who once owned a splendid mansion just outside Ballyhooly called Convamore. As a child, Marjorie regularly joined her family on hunting and fishing trips to Convamore. In 1919, she was married at St. Paul’s, Knightsbridge, to Lieutenant Henry George Dacres Dixon, a 32-year-old veteran of the Great War, known as Harry. This story is about his family.

For the sake of clarity, Lt. HGDD is henceforth referred to as Harry Dacres Dixon.

 

A family tree of the Dixons by Patricia Scott and Chris Peglar (2018). The link shows how the Robert Dixon who married Deborah Murray was a son of the James Dixon born 1710 in Langley.

 

 

Robertus Dixon, Prebendary of Rochester

 

Robertus Dixon (1647-1733)

Robertus Dixon, an early member of the family, was Prebendary of Rochester during the time of Charles II and died in 1688. He lies buried in the chancel of Tunstall church, under an handsome monument. He was ‘a man of outspoken opinion and most conscious of  verbal injury from his fellow prebendaries. He had been ejected from his living of Tunstall in 1647 by the Commonwealth and for the rest of his life imagined many a personal insult that was never intended.

Ever to the forefront in any discussion on prebendal privileges, he many times clashed with the then Dean, Dr John Castillion; his reputation on this account was made worse by his sons Robert Dixon, vicar of Stockbury, and James Dixon the under-steward, whose careers he wished to further and who were in temperament so like their parent.’ Prebendary Dixon was married to Sarah Mabb. They had another son George who died young. [1]

The print of Robert Dixon the Prebendary has been handed down through many generations to Helen Dixon (née Carroll, wife of the late Anthony Dixon) whose sister-in-law Evelyn Dixon is mother to Chris Peglar who helped me with this article. Helen and Evelyn are great-granddaughters of George Griffith Dixon, brother of the Dr Henry Dixon mentioned below. It is believed that the portrait on the right, still in private ownership by the family, is also of Prebendary Dixon.

In 2018, Chris Pegler found the missing link connecting the Kent Dixons to the Oxford Dixons. He concluded that Robert Dixon, born 1753, was the son of James Dixon, born 1710 and his wife Eleanor.

Right: Three unidentified members of the Dixon family painted between the late 17th and early 19th century. The portraits came down from the Rev James Murray Dixon of Swithland to his nephew Francis Dixon of Greenfield, near Watlington, Oxfordshire c.1920s. Painted in the late 17th century, the gentleman on the left may be a son of Prebendary Dixon, possibly Robert or James (father of Sarah, the poet). All three portraits, as well as that assumed to be Robertus Dixon, above, are still in the family today.

 

Sarah Dixon, Poet (c. 1671-1765)

 

The poet Sarah Dixon was a granddaughter of Prebendary Robertus Dixon (d. 1688). She was one of at least three children, along with Robert and James (Jr.) Dixon, born to the Prebendary’s second son James, a barrister at the Middle Temple. (James was married twice). In 1740, she published a book of poetry entitled ‘Poems on Several Occasions,’ which includes a number of pastoral poems, pieces about being a female poet, religious poems, etc. [2] The list of subscribers to the book includes Alexander Pope and Elizabeth Carter. Sarah wrote a number of religious poems in her book which demonstrate her High-Church Tory sympathies. She also includes a poem on the death of Charles I, called “On the 30th of January”. Her poetry is discussed in Deborah Kennedy’s book on 18th-century women poets.

Sarah died in 1765 and was buried at Hackington, St. Stephen’s, Kent. She never married. She was particularly close to her father’s sister, Elizabeth (née Dixon) who married, firstly, Meyrick Head (died 1686) and, secondly, a Mr. Tysoe. [3]

The Dixon Coat of Arms

Arms : Gules, on a bend or three torteans between six plates, a chief erminois.

Crest : A cubit arm erminois, cuffed argent, hand proper, holding a roundle of the first.

In 2004, the late Michael Dacres Dixon recalled a visit to the office of the Richmond Herald in London where he was shown “the contemporary, cow-hide covered Herald’s register, dated 1631 or 2 … [with] … the drawing of our crest and coat of arms. James I granted these to the family when he set forth from Scotland to take up the crown of England. The Herald told me that in those days and for many years later, the Heralds had employees who rode around the country checking to see if people with Arms were sticking to what they had been granted and not embellishing them! If they were caught doing so they got a hefty fine. The book I was holding had been carried around County Durham 300 years before in the saddle bag of one of these people!”

 

George Dixon and the Revolt of the Northern Earls

 

Another tradition suggests the coat of arms was conferred on one George Dixon of Ramshaw Hall near Evenwood in the parish of St. Helen, Auckland, Durham, during a visitation of 1616 by Richard St. George, the Norroy King-of-Arms. George’s father, Myles Dixon was buried at Hawkshead, Lancaster, in 1571. George was the long-standing money collector for the Barony of Evenwood (1577-1606) on behalf of the Bishops of Durham.

His term in office commenced just eight years after the Revolt of the Northern Earls of 1569, the last – and unsuccessful – attempt by the great Catholic aristocratic families of Northern England to reassert their regional independence against the growing centralization of power under Elizabeth I’s Protestant administration. The rebellion was spearheaded by three great noble families – the Percys (Earls of Northumberland), the Nevilles (Earls of Westmoreland) and, curiously, the Dacres. The rebels took Durham and celebrated Mass in the cathedral on 14 November 1569 but the revolt did not spread as anticipated and, by December, it was crushed. More than 600 people, including Northumberland and Leonard Dacre, were subsequently executed.

 

Jeremiah Dixon (1733-1779), Astronomer & Surveyor

 

A map of 1861 showing the Mason-Dixon line.

If the Durham connection is correct, this would put the Dacres Dixon family in close genetic proximity to the great Jeremiah Dixon, the surveyor-astronomer who inadvertently gave his name to Dixieland in America. Jeremiah was born near Raby Castle in Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham, on 27 July 1733, the fifth of seven children of George Dixon, a well-to-do Quaker coal-mine owner, and his wife Mary Hunter of Newcastle. Jeremiah’s great-grandfather George Dixon or Dickson (1636-1707) was amongst the first people to join the Quakers, for which he was imprisoned in 1662 and several times fined. His great-uncle, George Dixon (1671-1752) was House Steward to the 2nd Baron Barnard of Barnard Castle.

Among Jeremiah Dixon’s close acquaintances as a young man were the mathematician William Emerson, the natural philosopher Thomas Wright and the instrument-maker John Bird. It was the latter who, in 1760, recommended that Jeremiah be dispatched by the Royal Society of London to accompany Charles Mason (1728-1786) on his mission to Sumatra. Mason’s mission was to plot the 1761 Transit of Venus, an event predicted by Edmund Halley, which, it was hoped, would solve the vexatious question of the solar parallax once and for all. The two men successfully observed the transit of the Planet and managed to dodge a troublesome French warship on their way home.

Upon their return to England they were approached by Thomas Penn (grandson of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania) and Frederick Calvert, 7th Baron Baltimore. The Americans, hereditary proprietors of the provinces of Pennsylvania and Maryland, commissioned Mason and Dixon to travel to North America and survey the now legendary Mason-Dixie Line which separated the slave states of Maryland and Virginia from the free Quaker state of Pennsylvania. After further adventures in St Helena, the Cape of Good Hope and Norway, Jeremiah Dixon returned to Durham and resumed his work as a surveyor. He died unmarried in Cockfield, Co. Durham, on 22nd January 1779.[4]

 

George Dixon (1731-1785) of Cockfield, Canal Engineer

 

Jeremiah’s brother George Dixon (1731-1785) of Cockfield was one of the architects of the 1767 canal scheme, an ambitious plan to connect the coalfields of Durham to the sea at Cleveland. George was something of a genius. A self-taught chemist, mathematician, engraver, geologist, colliery engineer and china-painter, he pioneered the use of gas in heating and lighting in a series of experiments, one of which resulted in the accidental destruction of his own home.

George rented a colliery at Cockfield Fell from Sir Henry Vane, 2nd Earl of Darlington. His predicament was that Cockfield was an inland mine; it was thus a complicated and time-consuming business to transport his coal over 40 miles to the nearest port. Up until the 1760s, coal was generally hoofed over the hills in carts or panniers slung over the back of packhorses. A horse could reasonably expect to drag one ton of coal about 10 miles a day.

Edward Pearse, with whom George Dixon worked on the ill-fated Darlington Canal project.

In 1767, the same year that his brother Jeremiah returned from America, George built a small stretch of canal on Cockfield Fell that ran towards Darlington’s home at Raby Castle. Realizing that he might have discovered a break-through in coal transport, he galloped to nearby Darlington, whistled up a group of like-minded entrepreneurs at the Post Office and proposed a commercial enterprise. The group included Edward Pearse, whose grandson of the same name would come to be called “the Father of the Railways” and James Backhouse, later founder of the Backhouse Bank that bankrolled the railway.

An idea was hatched. James Brindley, Britain’s foremost canal engineer, was summoned to survey the landscape. In due course, a scheme was devised for a canal 33 miles and four fathoms long. Everybody hurrahed. Then Brindley gave his quote: £63,722 (about £4M in today’s money). The canal sponsors shook their heads solemnly. Foiled again, George Dixon returned home to find some fresh hay for his pack-horses. It seems highly probable that George was also involved in the proposal for a canal and waggon way for Sir Thomas Gascoigne of Parlington Hall, Yorkshire, in 1774.

George’s wife Sarah Raylton was daughter of an innkeeper from Bowes in Yorkshire.

 

John Dixon (d. 1865), Railway Engineer

 

John Dixon (1796-1865) of Belle Vue Darlington, taken by Brown (?) Saltburne (?) shortly before his death in 1865. A contemporary described him as “one of the most humorous men I ever met. It was commonly quoted what John Dixon had last said.’

George Stephenson, pioneer of the railways, with whom John Dixon served in the 1820s.

The opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway Line.

Sixty years later, George’s grandson would have considerably more success. John Dixon is regarded as the unsung hero of the pioneering Stockton & Darlington Railway Line.

Born at Cockfield in 1796, John Dixon started work as a clerk in the Darlington bank of Jonathan Backhouse, a relation by marriage who actually bought the Dixon family colliery of Cockfield Fell shortly after John’s birth.

As a young man, George was transferred to the S&D Railway as its first clerk before securing a post as resident assistant engineer to George Stephenson when the great Northumbrian locomotive engineer came to survey the line in 1822.

On 12 June 1818, his nephew Waynman wrote:

Uncle John Dixon was a born engineer & one of the most humorous men I ever met. It was commonly quoted what John Dixon had last said.

The note on the back of John Dixon’s photo from 1865.

An early locomotion.

He remained Stephenson’s second in command until 1845, serving on the Canterbury, Whitestable and Liverpool & Manchester Railways. His invaluable assistance is recalled in the name of Dixon Street, Darlington. John Dixon died of bronchitis at his home, Belle Vue, Darlington, on 10 October 1865.

It is not known exactly how the Dacres Dixon family are connected to this Durham line. However, their fascination with all things geological and surveyable seems to have been genetic. It certainly passed down at least through to George Gough Dixon, who was involved in land surveying British Guyana, Colombia and Liberia during the 1890s.

 

The Dixons of Henley: Frothy Pints in The Red Lion

 

The Red Lion Hôtel, Hart Street, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, seen from the south, 2010.

Recent information suggest that the only verifiable Dixon line is that of Robert Dixon (c. 1752-1810), great-great-grandfather of Henry George Dacres Dixon. I have no records as to who his father or mother might have been but it is believed he was a direct descendant of Robert Dixon, Prebendary of Rochester, sometime Vicar of Hoo who was a ‘great sufferer in the Royal cause’ and died in 1688. (* See paintings above)

The younger Robert was landlord of a traveller’s inn called The Red Lion on Hart Street in Henley-on-Thames at least from 1799 until his death in February 1810. That Sarah Raylton, the wife of George Dixon (of the 1767 Cockfield Canal), was daughter of an innkeeper from Bowes in Yorkshire named John Raylton (1706 – 1784) suggests that becoming an innkeeper was not a socially frowned upon profession for the Dixons of this time. The actual ownership of the pub seems to have belonged to somebody else, perhaps Barrett March, until at least 1808. [5]

The Red Lion, which still exists today under the ownership of the Miller family, lies at the foot of the Chiltern Hills on the banks of the Thames in Oxfordshire, close to the towns of Reading, Maidenhead and Oxford. The pub claims to have been serving travellers – including three Kings of England – since the 15th century.

George III, having friends in the neighbourhood, was a frequent visitor and was familiar with the inn from his boyhood days. He took breakfast at the Red Lion on 12 July 1788, accompanied by Queen Charlotte, Queen Wilhelmina and Princesses Augusta and Elizabeth.

The Red Lion in time’s past.

During Robert Dixon’s day, Henley was a small hamlet, often frequented by those traveling between London and Oxford. The town was granted a Charter by Henry VIII in 1526, a year in which Oxford graduate Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was at the peak of his career. The charter was subsequently confirmed by Queen Elizabeth in 1571 and George I in 1722. A stone bridge erected across the Thames at Henley in 1786 must have boosted Dixon’s sales profits. They may also have derived some benefit from the opening of the Kenton Theatre in Henley in November 1805 by two stage actors named Penley and Jones. However, the theatre rapidly declined in popularity and was converted into a non-conformist chapel by 1813.

The Prince Regent, who later became George IV, is not only said to have visited the Red Lion but also apparently ate no fewer than fourteen of Mrs Dixon’s chops, for which she became somewhat famous. The brick facade of the Red Lion was added in Georgian times.

The Henley Royal Regatta did not commence until 1839 but the Dixons must have derived further income from this elitist event prior to the double tragedy that befell the family in 1849.

 

The Murray Connection

Robert Dixon married Deborah Murray (c. 1766 – May 1832), daughter of George Murray of Great Marlowe in Oxfordshire. She gave him four sons and six daughters, few of whom lived to adulthood. Robert died at the age of 58 and was buried at St. Mary’s in Henley on 12 February 1810. His widow took over the running of The Red Lion.

 

Princes in the Pub

At the time of Robert’s death, Britain was still heavily embroiled in the Napoleonic Wars. Over the next three years, the Duke of Wellington managed to drive the French army out of both Spain and Portugal and, on 11 April 1814, Emperor Napoleon abdicated and was sent to live in Elba. The following February, Napoleon escaped from Elba, landed near Cannes and advanced on Paris without firing a single shot. From 20 March to 22 June 1815 he again ruled as Emperor from Paris in an episode known as the “Hundred Days,” which ended at Waterloo. He was subsequently exiled to the island of St. Helena, which Jeremiah Dixon had visited more than fifty years earlier.

The following account from Anne Cottingham’s book relates a colourful anecdote about The Red Lion in Mrs. Dixon’s day. The event took place while Napoleon was still at Elba and the Allied Princes were in the misguided belief that the war was over.

George III, whose parents had lived in Park Place … knew the Red Lion … the Prince Regent was another habitue. His friend, the Earl of Barrymore, lived at Wargrave and the Prince was often at Henley. It is said that at one sitting he ate 14 mutton chops. The visits of royalty continued, culminating in the visit to Henley on 15th June 1814 of the Allied Princes on their way to Oxford to receive academic honours. Among them were Alexander of Russia, the King of Prussia with his nephews, one of whom became William I of Germany, and lastly General Blucher”. [In other words, Emily’s great-great-great grandfather arguably served up pints to the Tsar of Russia] The procession passed in front The Red Lion but did not stop [alas!] except for General Blucher who was brought back to drink wine with Lady Malmesbury, who had been watching from a window of the Red Lion”.

 

James Dixon (1785-1849) of The Bell Inn

At this time, The Red Lion was under the management of Robert Dixon’s widow, Deborah, which she ran until her own death aged 66 in May 1832. She may even have secured a second inn for the family, variously known as The Bell Inn and The Bell Tap. It seems likely that her eldest son, James, was at her side during these years.

Born in 1785, James Dixon, great grandfather of Harry Dacres Dixon, was the second of ten children. [6] Variously described as a vintner, victualler and innkeeper, James was landlord of The Bell Inn at Northfield End, Henley, from at least 1823 although, in 1826, the Brakspear Inventory described The Bell as being “in occupation of Mrs. Dixon“, presumably meaning his mother. (Breakspear’s Beer remains the defining Henley beer to this day.) At this time, the coach service to London, known as “Dixon’s Coach“, went from The Bell, calling at The Red Lion, every morning at nine.

James Dixon married a lady named Mary Anne and his firstborn son, (the Rev.) James Murray Dixon was born on 20 March 1816. Following his mothers’ death aged 66 in 1832, James and his younger brother George Dixon co-ran both The Red Lion and The Bell Inn and Posting House. [7] By 1847 the P.O. Directory had him down as Alderman and landlord of The Red Lion and the Bell Tap on Bell Street.

 

Death of James & George Dixon

Tragedy struck in early September 1849 when both James, aged 64, and George, aged 62, died of a mysterious ailment. As Ann Cottingham observed, “their death at the same time suggests some disease, possibly cholera, though rumour insisted that they were poisoned“.

Cholera was certainly rife in England during these Dickensian times, a situation not helped by the vast influx of refugees from Ireland which was then in the midst of the Great Potato Famine. The brothers were buried on 11 September 1849.

The Reading Mercury of 15 September 1849 ran this account:

HENLEY. The melancholy occurrences at the Red Lion Inn, in this town, have given a general shock to the inhabitants; the deaths of the Messrs. Dixon, are, we believe, attributable to the too prevalent disease. Mr. James Dixon was first attacked, and sunk on Sunday morning; his brother was also seized afterwards, and expired on Monday morning. Mr. James Dixon was, in all respects an admirable person. His gentle disposition, the amenity of his manners, the excellence of his judgment in matters of business, and his truly christian behaviour, commended him to everyone in the neighbourhood, and everyone esteemed him. He held, in his turn, the municipal offices of the place; and throughout each year he weekly took his seat at the Board of Guardians of the Union, as its Vice-Chairman, with great credit to himself, and great usefulness to the community. The several members of the Corporation, and all the clergy of the neighbourhood, with very many others, joined in paying respect tohis memory, assisting in the last offices of interring his remains, and the service on the occasion was conducted in a peculiarly solemn manner. It is stated that both these gentlemen, and the cook of the Inn, who is also dead, had partaken of venison, on the Friday, in a state of decomposition: great carefulness in diet this period is thus awfully enforced.’

 

The End of the Red Lion

After their death, The Red Lion was closed. James’s youngest son Robert Murray Dixon took over the tenancy of The Bell until the lease expired at the end of 1853 and then it too closed. By 1853 Henley’s Grammar School had taken over the larger part of the premises and the Bell Tap had been relegated to the northern side. The Red Lion was closed and advertised for sale in 1855; the advertisement stated that, since Mr. Dixon’s death, business had been “suspended“.

 

The Nine Children of James Dixon

 

Before his sudden death in 1849, James Dixon fathered nine children. His firstborn son, the Rev. James Murray Dixon, MA, matriculated at Oxford, joined the clergy and was serving as Rector of the Holy Trinity in Bath by 1881.

The second son, Robert Dixon, born 15 July 1817, married a Londoner named Caroline and took over the tenancy of The Bell Tap from 1849 until the lease expired in Christmas 1853. In 1881 he was described as a coal merchant and Railway agent, living in New Street with his wife, nephew George Gough Dixon and a servant.

The third brother George Griffiths Dixon was born 23 January 1819 and became a land agent, settling at Swyncombe, near Watlington. In 1881 he was living at Swyncombe with his wife Anne, his younger sister Elizabeth, his son Maurice and two servants. No more is known of Maurice who was born circa 1860 but George was great-grandfather to Helen and Evelyn Dixon; the latter is mother to Chris Peglar who assisted with this article.

To the fourth son, Dr Henry Dixon, I will return below.

A fifth son William Murray Dixon born in December 1821 and died aged 20 in March 1842.

A sixth Edward Francis Dixon was born in 1824, emigrated to Australia, settled in Melbourne and married London-born Jane Margaret Smart, who came out of Henley. They had eight children. Edward worked as a Market Gardener in the Caulfield area. Jane died aged just 46 on 23 January 1880 from Consumption of the Larynx. He died of Bronchocel Anaemia on 19 May 1884, aged 60. Both Edward and Jane are buried in the Brighton Cemetery, a suburb of Melbourne, alongside two of their children – Sarah Helen Dixon (who died 22nd Dec 1883 aged 17), and George Henry Dixon (who died 1st Jan 1870, aged 4 months). Edward and Jane’s son Edward Murray Dixon had ten children,  including Arthur Dixon who married Ellen Margaret Osborne, mother of Linda Mary Eddy (nee Osborne) who helped me write this tale. Another of his sons was Charles James Dixon, known as Charlie, whose great-granddaughter Tania King has also been in touch, as has Janet Hudson, a great-granddaughter of Charlie and Edward Murray’s sister Katherine Rose Dixon.

Little is recorded of the three Dixon sisters – Marianne, Deborah and Elizabeth except that the latter, born in 1827, lived with her brother George at Swyncombe.

 

The Dixon Shrubb Family Tree by Patricia Scott.

 

Dr Henry Dixon of Greenfield Manor

 

James and Mary Anne Dixon’s fourth son was Dr Henry Dixon (1821-1891), MRCS (1843), LSA (1844), the grandfather of Harry Dacres Dixon. He was born on 23 February 1821 at Henley-on-Thames where his father was helping his widowed grandmother, Mrs Deborah Dixon, run both the The Bell and The Red Lion. Henry took a career in medicine and, by 1847, was a practicing surgeon in Oxford.

On 24 June 1847, he married 24-year-old (Helen) Frances Shrubbs. Born at Benson, Oxfordshire on 3 January 1823 (and baptized at St. Helen’s that July), she was a daughter of Edward Shrubb, a farmer from Benson; his parents, James and Sarah Shrubb, and grandparents, John and Mary Shrubb, also lived at Benson.

Henry and Frances’s wedding took place at St. Helen’s, Benson, and was presided over by his elder brother, the Rev. James Dixon. Two years later, his father and his uncle George died unexpectedly and both The Bell and The Red Lion entered their twilight.

Henry later became Coroner for South Oxfordshire and settled in Watlington with his wife, seven sons and five daughters. He continued to operate as coroner for South Oxfordshire through until his death in 1891.

In the Census returns for 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891, his family were living in Shirburn Street, Watlington. In 1881 they were described as living at East End House; they later lived at a farm at Greenfield Manor, Watlington. A memorial window was erected to Dr Dixon’s memory in 1908 at Christmas Common chapel in Watlington parish.

Dr and Mrs. Dixon had twelve children as per the family tree above.

 

Dr. Henry Dixon (b. 1849)

The eldest, Henry Dixon, born 1849, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a GP. A bachelor, he lived in The Square, Abingdon, along with his unmarried sisters Elfrida (b. 1850) and Mary (born 1854), youngest brother Christopher (born in 1868, he later went mining in Colombia with his brother George) and a servant. By 1891 Elfrida had moved back to live with her parents and her younger sisters, Kitty and Amy. Michael Dacres Dixon recalls going to see “the old Aunts during the [Second World] War … they died in the 1940s aged 102 and 104“.

 

Rev. James Murray-Dixon (b. 1852)

Dr and Mrs. Dixon’s second son, the Rev. James Murray-Dixon was born in 1852 at Watlington, Oxfordshire, and joined the Church. In August 1882, he married Ethelreda Trevelyan, youngest daughter of the Rev. Otto Trevelyan of Somerset. The Trevelyans had houses at Nettlecombe, Somerset, and at Wallington in Northumberland. Ethelreda’s grandfather, George Trevelyan, was the third son of Sir John Tevelyan, 4th Bt, Archdeacon of Taunton. Her uncle, Sir Charles Trevelyan (1807-1886), 1st Baronet of Wallington, Northumberland, KCB, was the controversial Secretary to the Treasury during the Irish Potato Famine and was later in high office in India.

At the time of his wedding, James was a curate lodging at Church Lane, Lapworth, Warwickshire. From 1884 to 1925 the couple lived at Aston Hill in Aylesbury where he stood as Rector of Swithland, near Loughborough, in Leicester. He was also Land Agent to the 6th Earl of Lanesborough of Swithland Hall.(27) In 1886, he presided at the marriage of his younger brother George. Many decades later, he conducted the wedding of his nephew Harry Dacres Dixon (1919) and the funeral of his younger brother Charles Dixon (1923).
The Rev. James Murray Dixon was the man who inherited the 17th and 18th century family portraits that appear on this webpage. In the 1920s, these passed to Francis Dixon of Greenfield, near Watlington, Oxfordshire c.1920s who lived near JMD’s father.

Ethelreda Dixon died in 1943.

Otto Murray Dixon (1885-1917), Wildlife Artist

 

James and Ethelreda’s eldest son Henry Edward Otto Murray Dixon (1885-1917), known in the family as ‘Harry’, and known to the art world as Otto Murray Dixon, was a keen naturalist, wildlife artist and pupil of Archibald Thorburn who became one of the best-known bird painters in Britain before his death on the Western Front on 1917. He was born at Swithland Rectory in Leicestershire where his father, the Rev J Murray Dixon, had his living at the time. As a boy, Otto studied at the Slade School of Art but his natural talent lay in ornithology. Nearly all his work is water-colour and, had he lived, he become one of the greatest painters of birds and wild life of his generation.

On the outbreak of war, he joined the United Arts Corps and subsequently was given a commission as 2nd Lieutenant with the 1st / 4th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders. After training he went to the front on 5 January 1917, but died of wounds received on 9 April at Vimy Ridge, whilst mounting an attack alongside the Canadians. He was buried at Aubigny Communal Cemetery.

Half a dozen of Otto’s pictures were published in the Sporting and Dramatic Illustrated, in 1917, before and after his death. He was also published by the Illustrated London News. He modelled his work closely on that of Thorburn, both in style and even down to the curved signature, but his colours were generally richer. He was one of four artists who contributed plates to JG Millais’s British Diving Ducks 1913 with 74 plates. [8]

James and Ethelreda’s younger son Gerald Murray-Dixon was living in Canada in 1981. Their daughter Rosamund Murray Dixon married Hans Partick Hamilton (who died c. 1967), settled in Suffolk and died aged 99 in the 1980’s. The Hamiltons had issue Peter (born 1913, still alive in October 2009), Arthur (died in 1990s), John (see below), Cynthia (now deceased) and Patrick (died 2008, father of Christopher).

John Hamilton, the third son, was awarded the MC during World War Two. A marine artist, he has a series of naval paintings on permanent display in HMS Belfast, moored on the Thames near Tower Bridge, and another series commissioned by the US Navy. He died in the 1990s.


Theobald Dixon (b. 1857)

Dr and Mrs. Dixon’s third son, Theobald Dixon, born 1857, never married but was managing a cotton mill in Wigan in 1881. He may be the TH Dixon who attended the funeral of his brother Charles in 1923.

 

George Gough Dixon

Dr and Mrs. Dixon’s fourth son was George Gough Dixon, of whom we treat anon.

 

Charles Harvey Dixon (1862-1923), MP for Boston

Dr and Mrs. Dixon’s fifth son, Charles Harvey Dixon, MP (1862-1923) of Gunthorpe, Leicestershire, was a politician. Born at Watlington in 1862, he transferred from Warminster Grammar School to Abingdon School in September 1878. He initially followed in his father’s footsteps, receiving his diploma from the Royal College of Surgeons in November 1887. [9]

He unsuccessfully contested the Harborough Parliamentary Division of Leicestershire in 1900, 1904 (by-election) and 1906. When nominated in 1904, he had expressed himself as a man favourable towards an increase in the number of small holdings. ‘He also informed a deputation from friendly societies that he was favour of aged poor, who had become entitled to small pensions from their societies, receiving relief from the rates, while retaining their pensions‘. [10]

Elected the Conservative member for Boston, Lincolnshire, in January 1910, he retained his seat through the war and retired from Parliament in November 1918. He was again elected Conservative member for the Rutland and Stamford Division of Lincolnshire in November 1922, sitting until his early death in September 1923. His main Parliamentary interests were agriculture and finance.

In 1922, he was registered as a Director of the London County Westminster & Parr’s Bank Ltd.

It seems he was married in 1896 to Kate Alice Robinson at Kingston, England.[11] His funeral took place at Christmas Common. Among the mourners were his widow, his son Sretton Dixon and his four daughters (Miss Nina Dixon, Mrs Whaley, Miss Dorothy Dixon and Miss Kate Geraldine Dixon (who did not marry). Also mentioned were FH Dixon and TM Dixon, as well as his nephew Mr Dacres Dixon, and Major Whaley. The service was conducted by Rev. J Murray Dixon, Vicar of Swithland, Leicester, and Rev A.E. Snow, vicar of Watlington.

Frank & Christopher Dixon

Dr and Mrs. Dixon’s younger sons Frank Dixon and Christopher Dixon will arise again when they joined their elder brother George in Colombia during his adventures in South America at the close of the 19th century. Frank may be the FH Dixon mentioned as present at Charles’s funeral in 1923.

 

The Dixon Daughters

 

Dr and Mrs. Dixon’s daughters included Helen Norma Dixon who married Lewis Haslam, MP, with whom she had two daughters, one of whom married a Lentaigne.

 

George Gough Dixon: Guyana to Liberia

 

So that’s a look at the siblings of George Gough Dixon, father of Henry George Dacres Dixon. And what of himself? The seventh of Dr Henry and Helen Dixon’s twelve children, George was born on 15 June 1861 at Watlington in Oxfordshire where his father, Dr Dixon, was Coroner. I’ve not yet established why he had the middle name of Gough. A nod to the Crimean War heroes?

When he was 20, he went to live with his uncle Robert Dixon, a coal merchant who had formerly run the families’ pub, The Bell Tap, in Henley. George was his uncle’s clerk for several years, during which time his elder brother James married into the well-to-do House of Trevelyan in Northumberland.

On 8 June 1886, George himself was married to Mary (sometimes Margaret) Catherine Bevan, daughter of Captain George Dacres Bevan, RN. Nothing is recorded about her mother’s family. Her grandfather was the Rev. Thomas Bevan and her grandmother was Mary Catherine Moore. The Reverend Bevan’s father was Lieutenant Colonel Charles Bevan (died 1811), and his mother was Mary Dacres, daughter of Admiral James Richard Dacres, RN.

George’s marriage to Miss Bevan took place at Shirehampton in Gloucestershire and was presided over by his brother, the Rev. James Murray Dixon. His sister Helen and brother Theobald stood as witnesses.

 

Mining Engineer

 

McGill University, Montreal.

George Dixon was a mining and civil engineer and worked variously in Colombia (where his son Harry was born in 1887), British Guyana, Ceylon and Liberia. I have no accurate dates as to when he was in which particular country although, according to Emily’s aunts’ notes, “he and his younger brothers Frank (then 41) and Christopher Dixon (then aged 38) were in Colombia at the time of their parents Diamond Wedding in 1907“. His late grandson, Mike Dacres Dixon write to me and stated his belief that the brothers studied at Marlborough before going on to the great geology school of McGill University in Canada.

After graduation they spent the next two years slowly moving south down the West Coast of America, working at whatever they could find until they reached Colombia where my grandfather [George] learned his father had died, leaving him a farm in Oxfordshire to which he returned”. 

This was presumably sometime in the 1880s. Mike went on to say that the younger brothers, who were working in an emerald mine at the time, “decided to stay on and became famous emerald experts … one married a Colombian girl who had endless children“.

 

The Colombian Adventure

Emerald.

The Dixon brothers were most probably working on the famous Muzo Emerald Mines in Colombia at this time. These are situated in the western foothills of the eastern branch of the Colombian Andes, about 60 miles northwest of Bogotá. When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in South America during the 16th century, they were quickly impressed by the legend of El Dorado, “the golden one“.

This story arose from a ritual of the Indians in the Muzo region who annually adorned their king with gold and emeralds by coating his body in sticky resin and covering him entirely with gold and emerald dust. Spanish eyes grew wide with greed. A brutal war was initiated against the Muzo Indians; the noble ladies and Christian Bishops of Europe were soon sporting emeralds to dinner. As technology improved, so the worlds’ obsession with Colombia’s emeralds started drawing gem-hunters from across the world.

In 1819, Simon Bolivar secured independence for Colombia, but it was an unhappy independence. Internal conflict was protracted and bitter; civil war became a regular feature of Colombian life.

In 1886, a year before Harry’s birth, an anti-federalist revolution had culminated in the formation of the Republic of Colombia. The new Government, lacking the organization necessary for running the mines, quickly contracted them out for private exploitation. Among these contractors was the Colombian Emerald Mining Company, an English company controlled by South African diamond interests. Toward the close of the 19th century, companies like the CEMC began recruiting geological and engineering consultants to improve their profits. I suggest that the Dixon brothers were part of this new arrangement. It can’t have been an easy time. Joseph Pogue, who visited the Muzo mines in July 1915, describes it as a wild hinterland, accessible only by 2 ½ days mule ride down a virtually impassable trail.

The region is intensely tropical, characterized by excessive heat and high humidity, with a rank jungle growth that quickly obscures abandoned workings and makes exploration peculiarly difficult and costly. The region round about is sparsely inhabited by Indians who live in squalor and poverty – modified descendants of warlike aborigines, docile and peaceable, even servile, speaking a Spanish patois. The region in general is unhealthful; the natives suffer from tropical anaemia, malaria, dysentery, and other complaints incidental to the latitude. Work in the mines, however, is reasonably safe owing to the excellent location of the workmen’s quarters and the medical attention and sanitation enjoyed under recent management.”

Just how long George Dixon remained in Colombia is unclear. Would he have fled before the outbreak, in 1899, of a civil war of unprecedented violence that raged for the next three years leaving as many as 100,000 people dead? In 1909, the Colombian Government terminated the contract with the CEMC and began exploiting the mines of their own accord. 20th century Colombia history was one of continued daily uprisings, civil wars, assassination, guerrilla warfare and the emergence of the drug cartels as the greatest power. In 2024, Colombia remains by far the world’s biggest producer of emeralds.

The Dixons may also have been involved in the controversial construction of the Panama Canal which, in 1903, led to the creation of the US-backed Republic of Panama.

 

The Venezuela Adventure, 1890s

Juan Vicente Gómez was dictator of Venezuela from 1908 until 1935. He is reputed to have been the wealthiest man in South America.

Further clues as to George Dixon’s South American activities lie in two publications attributed to him. The first is a Compass-Survey of the River Barima from the Eclipse Falls to the Source, by George Gough Dixon, published in 1895.[12] The second featured in The Geographical Journal of 1896 under the title “The British Guiana and Venezuelan Boundary Frontier” and concerned the frontier then in dispute between Great Britain and Venezuela. [13] Formerly part of the Spanish colony of New Granada, Venezuela had become an independent republic under Jose Paez in 1830.

The ongoing frontier dispute with Britain became a major international crisis in 1895 when US President Grover Cleveland surprised everyone by declaring his support for the Venezuelans. International arbitrators were rapidly summoned in to calm the situation down and no doubt George’s map was studied with the greatest care.

A treaty was signed in 1897 with Britain backing down. However, the refusal of Venezuelan authorities to compensate foreign nationals injured in the country’s miscellaneous rebellions led to a series of naval blockades by the British, Germans and Italians in 1902 and by the Dutch in 1908.

In 1909 the country fell to the military dictator Juan Gomez whose 26-year rule saw Venezuela become the largest exporter of oil in the world.

 

Death in Liberia, 1911

In 2007, I met Janet Hudson, a lovely Australian lady who has done enormous amounts of research on the Dixon family. While talking about George, she said I had missed out on a fact about him.

‘He was at Eton’, she said.

At least, that’s what I thought she said.

However, after a few moments, I worked out that she had actually said, ‘He was eaten’. This tallied with what his grandson Michael Dacres Dixon told me, namely that George went “mapping, exploring and prospecting” in Liberia and “just disappeared in the bush”.

The idea that poor George was eaten remained the accepted story until June 2014 when Janet emailed me from afar with fresh information that George died from blackwater fever on 11 February 1911 on his way to the White Plains while heading, eventually, to Monrovia, Liberia, Africa. He was buried in Monrovia two days later. So, it appears he was neither eaten nor lost in the interior.

It is worth a quick look at Liberian history. Situated on the southern shores of West Africa, this 43,000 square mile territory was founded in 1822, remarkably enough, by a Quaker led group in Washington called The American Colonization Society. The idea was that it could become a new home for the freeborn blacks and former slaves of America’s Plantation System. The capital city Monrovia is named for James Monroe, the American President at the time. In 1847 – the year George’s parents married – Liberia, meaning “land of freedom“, declared its independence and the Virginia-born black Joseph J. Roberts became its first President. Alas, tensions between the Americanized settlers and the indigenous coastal peoples combined with economic impossibilities to bring the fledgling African democracy to its knees within a few decades. The European powers were quick to seize on Liberia’s misfortune, laying claim to vast tracts of its borderland.

I imagine George was commissioned by the British Government to survey some of these disputed borderlands. Exactly which area he was surveying is a mystery, but it may be relevant that in 1900 Liberian President Garreston W. Gibson granted rights to the Union Mining Operations to investigate the hinterland for minerals including gold. He may also have been involved in a joint commission between Great Britain and Liberia to survey the Northern Boundary initiated by Gibson.

 

Chris Dixon – ‘Chivor’ Diamond Hunter

Chris Dixon was one of the foremost emerald experts in Colombia and played a key role in the discovery of a lost Colombian emerald mine called Chivor in eastern Boyacá. In 2009, I commenced email correspondence with the author Cinda MacKinnon and her sister, Carolin Crabbe. They recalled meeting Chris Dixon in Colombia in the late 1950s, when they were little girls.

Cinda described him as ‘quite old – almost 90! and yet still quite handsome and charming‘. He was an active member of the Anglican Episcopal Church in Bogota and became a close friend of the Crabbe family, with whom he often enjoyed Sunday lunch after dinner.

Carolin remembered him as an ‘extremely kind’ man who ‘went out of his way to pay attention to little children and we were charmed’. Carolin says he was a tall man ‘with beautiful white hair and sparkling blue eyes’. As she says, ‘most little children do not find elder people good-looking, so he must have been out of the ordinary in this regard’. He may have been a widower at this stage, with one son, possibly living in England.

My father and he got along famously’, wrote Carolin. ‘My father loved the out-of-doors, hunted big game, was a pilot in WW II and was shot down several times in the jungle and survived. I suspect they got along so well because they were both adventuresome and had survived incredible hardships and dangers’.

He was good friends with Peter Ranier, author of the book “GreenFire” (pub. circa 1945), which became MGM’s 1954 Stewart Granger / Grace Kelly movie “GreenFire“. Cinda, who became a geologist herself, wondered this story might be based upon Chris or his brother George.[14]

 

Chris Dixon & The Patia Meat-Packing Plant

In June 2012, I was contacted by Shawn Van Ausdal who was researching the history of cattle ranching in Colombia. He kindly supplied the following information about Chris:

‘I ran across the archival trail of Christopher Dixon around the years 1916-1917, when he was trying to interest English investors to build a meat packing plant on the Caribbean coast. He was originally working with an E. Lloyd Owen, apparently a mining engineer who worked with the Patia Syndicate, which had gold mining concessions along the Patia and Telembi rivers in western Colombia. Lloyd Owen contacted Sir Robert W. Perks to see if he could drum up support. At the time, the Colombian government was starting to promote the construction of a packing plant in the country, and various meat packing interests were checking out the possibilities. The English government, in fact, sent Robert B. Cunninghame Graham on a confidential mission to assess the situation. Dixon made an initial proposal to the Colombian government in 1916, but he asked for concessions the government was unwilling to give (including a guaranteed return on capital), and the proposal was rejected. The following year, he represented a group led by Perks (the real investors were Powles and Brewster, a meat importing company connected to Smithfield market that had worked on the construction of a packing plant in Venezuela), which competed for the packing plant concession against a group of wealthy Colombians from the interior (with ties to Swiss capital, although the US government feared it may have been a front for German interests), and a joint venture between a US firm (the International Products Company, with cattle and forest lands in Paraguay) and four large ranchers from the Dpt. of Bolívar. The British were fairly confident of winning, given the lingering anti-American sentiment from the separation of Panama. But the contract was awarded to the US-Colombian concern. The British, it seems, were too cautious in promising to be able to build the plant within the required two years, given the wartime restrictions on capital exports. The US partners ran into similar problems, which delayed the construction of the plant for some time. In the end, however, Dixon was probably lucky because the packing plant turned out to be a fiasco. By the time it was built, the company couldn’t find anyone willing to buy their meat for a price that would allow them to make a profit, and the plant never operated.’

The UK National Archives holds some of the proposals made by Lloyd Owen, as well as a memo written by Dixon on the cattle resources of Colombia. In it, Lloyd Owen mentions that Dixon managed a large ranch in the interior of the country, which Shawn Van Ausdal believes was most likely in Magdalena River Valley.

 

Mary Dixon

 

George’s wife, Mary (née Bevan) died at Nettlebed in Henley-on-Thames (The Hill) on 26 August 1911. She must have been a courageous and enterprising lady to have joined her husband during his exploits in South America. A year after her June 1886 marriage in Gloucestershire, she gave birth to her first son, Henry George Dacres Dixon, in Tolima, Colombia. It is not known how long she remained in Colombia but I am inclined to think she stayed until George himself left.

 

The House of Bevan

 

Portalegre where Colonel Bevan’s number was called.

Mary’s family background is of interest. Her great-grandfather was Lieutenant Colonel Charles Bevan (1779-1811) of the 4th King’s Regiment. In 1808, the British Government decided to send an army to the Iberian Peninsula in order to encourage Portuguese and Spanish resistance to Napoleon’s occupying forces. The operation was headed up by Sir Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington).

In May 1811, Wellesley was blockading the French at Almeida when his army was attacked at Fuentes de Onoro on the Spanish border; the French were beaten and retreated to safety into Spain. Wellesley then ordered the 4th and 2nd Regiments to prevent the garrison at Almeida escaping. However, in a manner reminiscent of the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade forty years later, Sir William Erskine failed to pass this vital message to Colonel Bevan. As such both regiments were late reaching the Barba del Puerco and the French escaped into Spain. Wellesley is said to have reprimanded the unfortunate Colonel Bevan in front of his men saying, “The 4th are always late!” These words preyed so much on the Colonel’s exhausted mind that, on 8 July 1811, he shot himself at Portalegre. He was buried at Portalegre two days later. The crucial order was subsequently discovered in Sir William’s pocket. The eccentric Erskine eventually committed suicide by jumping out of a window in Lisbon in 1813. Found dying on the ground, he memorably asked bystanders, “Why on earth did I do that?”

Colonel Bevan was married to Mary Dacres. Her sister Eleanor married Colonel Patterson, another officer in the 2nd King’s Regiment, who was killed in action in the Peninsula War shortly after Colonel Bevan’s suicide. Mary’s three younger sisters, Jemima, Matilda and Lucy Dacres lived in Yorkshire and do not appear to have been married.

 

The Dacres Link

 

The Battle of Plattsburgh, also known as the Battle of Lake Champlain, ended the final British invasion of the northern states of the United States during the War of 1812

It is from Mary Bevan, née Dacres, that the family name “Dacres Dixon” originates. Her father, Admiral James Richard Dacres, was born in 1749 and joined the Royal Navy in 1762 at the age of 13. During the American War of Independence, he commanded the British ship “Carleton” at the battle of Lake Champlain in 1776. As Captain of the Barfleur, he was in the Commodore Ford at the capture of Port-au-Prince, in action in June 1795 and on 14 February1797. He held command at Plymouth from 1804 to 1808, an important time with the Napoleonic Wars still in full flow.

Mary’s brothers were also naval men. The eldest Captain Barrington Dacres served in the Mediterranean as Captain of the Hercules under Nelson but ultimately succumbed to the West Indian climate. The second brother was (like Mary’s father) called Admiral James Richard Dacres (1788-1853) and performed many dashing deeds during the latter stages of the Napoleonic Wars and the Anglo-American War of 1812-1814, including the capture of two Spanish privateers and the recapture of an English merchant brig. [15]

Mary Bevan (née Dacres) gave her husband three sons and a daughter. [16] The second son Thomas Bevan, sometime Vicar of Twickenham Green, married Mary, daughter of George Moore, and had four sons and five daughters, before his death at the age of 44. His eldest son was Captain George Dacres Bevan, RN, father of the Mary Bevan who married George Gough Dixon. This latter Mary may well have inherited her sense of adventure from her father who, true to family tradition, joined the Royal Navy at an early age. During the 1st Chinese War he commanded the “Kestrel” in an action on the Peiho River in 1859. His brother Charles won the “Sword of Honour” at Woolwich and, securing his commission as Captain with the Royal Artillery in 1854, saw action in the Crimea at the close of the war. A third brother Edward was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy while the youngest brother, James, served a Captain with the 31st Regiment.

 

Harry Dacres Dixon (1887-1947), A.R.S.M., A.I.M.M., F.G.S.

 

George and Mary Dixon left three sons – Harry (Henry George Dares Dixon), Francis (Thomas Archibald Francis Dixon) and George – and one daughter, Mary.

The eldest son Harry Dacres Dixon was born at Guyaval, Tolima in Colombia on 9 June 1887, a year and a day after his parent’s marriage. His birth was registered in 1891 with the British Consulate General in Bogota.

According to his son Michael, Harry spent some of his youth with “an Aunt who lived at 100 Park Lane and which became his home until he married my mother“. Michael also mentioned a pet leopard that George brought home from abroad, which his great-uncle Otto Murray Dixon painted. [17] Michael added:

“… strangely enough, my Father followed almost exactly the same course as his father … Marlborough, McGill and then a couple of years wandering around America until the first war started and he came back to join up“.

 

Francis Dixon (1889-c1981)

 

Francis Dixon, Harry’s younger brother, was born in Bogota in 1889. Family lore holds that he was taken as a baby down Colombia’s mighty Magdalena River to the sea by his intrepid parents to catch a ship back to England. The paddles that propelled the boat that carried them down stream subsequently hung above his grandson’s garden door. When Francis was married, it prompted “a moment of abandon” from Harry, who presented him with the old farmhouse at Greenfield, near Watlington, in Oxford.

Francis was educated at Marlborough and Imperial College, became a distinguished civil engineer, director of the Behira Company in Egypt between the wars, and seconded to the army in Egypt 1939-45. He became involved with the construction of the second Aswan Dam, for which he was awarded the Order of the Nile by King Farouk, and the OBE by George VI. His papers from his period in Egypt are held at the library of the Middle East Centre at St Anthony’s College, Oxford.

He married Sylvia Dyne Haddan and had three children Diana, Robert (deceased, no issue) and Susan (deceased, one son, Christopher, b. 1949 or 50). His daughter Diana Dixon married her second cousin Patrick Hamilton in 1945, with whom she had two sons Simon Patrick (b. 1946) and James Haddan (b. 1948). (Patrick was the fifth child of Hans Patrick Hamilton and Rosamund Murray Dixon, James Murray Dixon’s daughter). Francis died in the arms of his grandson James Hamilton at Watlington Hospital. He was the man who inherited the family portraits from his uncle, the Rev. James Murray Dixon.

 

The Pelham Marriage

 

On 28 April 1919, Harry married 24-year-old Marjorie Edith Pelham (1897-1995). Born at Kensington Court on 23 May 1897, she was the daughter of Henry Cornwallis Anderson-Pelham (1868-1924) and his wife Edith Katherine Jemma Roberts.[18] Henry was the third son of the 3rd Earl of Yarborough and his wife, Lady Victoria Hare, daughter of the Earl of Listowel.

By the time Marjorie, their second child, was born on 23 May 1897, Henry described himself as a “Stock Jobber”. The family were living on 8 Stanford Road in Kensington Court at this time but, by the time their only son, Henry, was born in May 1905, they had moved to 6 Campden Hill Court.

At the time of the 1919 marriage of his daughter Marjorie to Henry George Dacres Dixon, Henry was described as “Captain, The Hon. Remounts”. He died on 5 December 1924.

My sister-in-law Emily recalls Marjorie in her latter days as looking very like the late Queen Mother. She died in 1995 aged 98.

 

The Roberts Link

 

Edith Katherine Jemma Dacres Dixon (née Roberts) belonged to an offshoot of the great military dynasty of Roberts. She was the eldest of three children. Her father Colonel Ben Roberts was born in 1842 and joined the Royal Artillery in 1857. He stayed with the army until 1889 when he retired with the rank of Colonel, joined the Metropolitan Police and became Chief Constable shortly before his death, aged 64, on 7 May 1906. I have no records for whom he married or who Edith’s mother might have been.

Edith’s uncle, Colonel Charles Fyshe Roberts, CMG, RA, graduated from Carshalton Military School and RMA Woolwich in time to serve in the Crimean War as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Royal Artillery. Wounded at the siege of Sebastapol, he had recovered sufficiently by 1859 to command the artillery team of the Sikkim Field Force in Dacca, India. In 1863 he was promoted Major and set out for Australia with the Royal Artillery. In 1866, he married an Australian girl from the Snowy Mountains named Alice Bradley, daughter of William Bradley of Lansdowne, Goulburn & Bibbenluke in Monaro. He later served as aide de camp to Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V.

Edith’s brother Charles Roberts was serving with the Egyptian Army when killed in a polo accident in Cairo in 1902 at the age of 34. Her younger brother Arthur Roberts (1870-1917) served in the Boer War and World War One, during which he won the DSO and CMG. He was badly injured while commanding the 80th Brigade of the Salonika Forces and died in a London nursing home on 17 May 1917 after an operation.

 

Marjorie Dixon, née Pelham (1897-1995)

 

Marjorie Dixon was one of three children born to Henry and Edith Anderson-Pelham. She was born at 8 Stanford Road, Kensington Court, on 23 May 1897. On 12 August 1914, two weeks before the outbreak of World War One, the 17-year old attended the wedding of her elder sister Esme (born 9 June 1893) to William Laidlaw of Kippilaw, St. Boswells, Scotland only son of John Laidlaw of Peebles and Glasgow. [19] The wedding took place at St. Paul’s, Knightsbridge, and was presided over by Harry’s uncle, the Reverend James Murray Dixon, who had also presided over the service for Harry’s parents in 1886. The wedding took place two weeks after the second anniversary of the death of the artist Otto Murray Dixon, the Reverend James Dixon’s eldest son, at Vimy Ridge.

4th Earl of Yarborough

Marjorie’s uncle, the 4th Earl of Yarborough, was present at the wedding, as was her grandmother, Victoria, Countess of Yarborough.[20] So too was Marjorie’s younger brother, Henry Pelham, then a 14-year-old schoolboy at Eton. Born on 27 May 1905, Henry served as a Flight Lieutenant with the Royal Air Force in World War Two and was living at Mendlesham, Stowmarket, Suffolk in 1980.

The newly-weds soon settled into a house at 7 Vicarage Gardens, Kensington.[21]

In 1923, Harry attended the funeral of his uncle Charles Dixon.

Harry Dacres Dixon died on 23 January 1947. At the time of his death, he was in charge of mining operations under Mianrai Teo at Lisdoonvarna and Avoca. This was a state sponsored and funded mineral exploration and development company. It was effectively wound-up in 1956, soon after Canadians arrived to mine for copper at Avoca. An obituary was written by Douglas Wallace Bishopp, Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland 1940-50, who said Harry’s death deprived ‘the very small group of mining engineers and geologists in Ireland of an experienced and able colleague’. [22] He described Harry as having had ‘a wide range of professional practice in many countries’ and that he was ‘formerly was responsible for operations at Silvermines Co. Tipperary, for the British Non-Ferrous Metals Company’.

Harry and Marjorie had four children – Elizabeth, Michael, Anthony and Robin. The boys were at Durnford Preparatory School with Robert [who?]; another Durnford pupil in those times was the James Bond creator, Ian Fleming. Elizabeth – or Betty – was born on 24 July 1920, but tragically contracted MS shortly after her marriage in 1939 to Edward Butler-Henderson.

 

Michael Dacres Dixon (1922-2018)

 

Michael (George) Dacres Dixon served in World War II with the KRRC. By his wife Evie (née Evelyn Nancy Bell) he had a son, Harry, and daughter, Annabell. I was lucky enough to meet Michael when he was living at Sotogrande in Spain with his third wife. He only had one arm but managed to drive me up those winding mountain roads with immense precision.

 

Anthony Dacres Dixon (1924-1989) and his first wife, Juliet Carmichael.

 

Anthony Dacres Dixon (1924-1989)

 

The second son Anthony Dacres Dixon (1924-1989) served with the 17th/21st Lancers at the horrific battle of Monte Cassino in the Second World War. During the battle, his hand was badly wounded when a tank hatch lid fell on it. Two. He was married twice, firstly from 1950 to 1964, to Juliet Carmichael and then to Philippa Spicer,

Philippa Daces Dixon

Billy, Emily & Roseanna Bunbury, 2005.

Philippa Daces Dixon

In 1950, he married Juliet Carmichael, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Graham Carmichael, of Stinchcombe Manor, Dursley, Glos, at St. James’s, Dursley.[23] On 8 February 1951, he was promoted from lieutenant to captain. In 1956, he replaced Gordon Hedley on the regimental polo team.

He parted from Juliet in 1964, and then married Philippa Spicer, daughter of Captain S. R. F. Spicer, 12th Lancers, of Carnew Castle, Co. Wicklow.  Anthony later became a bloodstock owner, living at Punchesgrange, Rathangan, Co. Kildare. He passed away in 1989, leaving two daughters, Emily and Charlotte.

Three years after his untimely death, Philippa took up residence at The Old Rectory in Ballyhooly. Hence the spectacular setting for Emily and William’s wedding. Perhaps better known as the artist Philippa Dixon, she has been based at Ballyvolane in County Cork for a decade.

The Dacres Dixon sisters in their element at the Hidden Hearth Festival, Lisnavagh, 2023.

Emily formerly ran the upmarket corporate entertainment company Tailormade Ireland. Since her marriage, she has run Lisnavagh House in Co. Carlow, Ireland, with all that entails. She is married to William Leopold McClintock Bunbury, first son of the 5th Lord Rathdonnell, elder brother to this writer and founder of The Lisnavagh Timber Project and Bunbury Boards. They have two daughters, Roseanna Jane McClintock Bunbury (born 8 September 2004) and Alice McClintock Bunbury (born 13 May 2007), and a son Thomas Anthony McCintock Bunbury (born April 2012).

Emily’s sister Charlotte Dacres Dixon lives near Bath in England and has three sons, Michael Anthony Charles Holliday (born 29 March 1995), Tobias William George Holliday (born 22 June 1998) and Thomas Peter Mark Holliday (born 7 July 2000). Charlotte was formerly married to Patrick M. Holliday, youngest son of Wing Commander and Mrs Mike Holliday, of 15 Marchmom Road, Richmond, Surrey.

 

Front row, left to right: Jeffery Walker, ‘Stonk’ Stiebel, Teddy St Maur, Tony Dacres Dixon, Dick Tamplin, Pat Webb, Peter Shaw, and Keith Kellett. See also here.

Robin Dacres Dixon

 

Harry and Marjorie’s youngest son Robin Dacres Dixon was born on 7 August 1926 and educated at Marlborough. Like Michael, he served with the Kings Royal Regimental Corps in World War Two. In 1956 he married 23-year-old Sally Manners Bacon who gave him twin girls, Sophie and Anna, the following August and a son, Charles, in 1960.

 

Acknowledgments

 

With thanks to Mrs. Philippa Dacres Dixon, Janet Hudson, Linda Eddy, Chris Peglar, the late Michael Dacres Dixon, Charlotte Holliday, Gérard Martayan, John Gouthro, Cinda McKinnon, Colm Wilson, Carolin Crabbe, Brian Hull, Margaret Bonakdar, James Hamilton, Chris Hamilton, Lauren Catipon, Dr. Deborah Kennedy, Patricia Scott, Shawn Van Ausdal, Jenny Dempsey (Bantry House) and Emily Bunbury.

 

End-Notes

 

[1] The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 6. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798, Volume 6 (1798), pp. 80-98.

[2] Poems on Several Occasions’ (Canterbury : J. Abree, 1740.

[3] Aunt Elizabeth and Meyrick Head had a daughter Elizabeth (Head) (Sarah Dixon’s cousin) who married Theophilus De L’Angle, and they had three sons, Theophilus Jr. (1695-1763), Merrick and William De L’Angle, and twin daughters Elizabeth & Sara (who interred next to her father at Leybourne Church in Kent). The third son William married an Elizabeth, and after William died, this Elizabeth married as her second husband in 1765 Rev. John Bunce, vicar of Hackington , Kent . It is this Bunce family who are noted on ms. copies of papers attached to Sarah Dixon’s Poems in the McMaster University Library in Hamilton, Ontario , Canada ; and in the British Library. [“Elizabeth Bunce” is referred to as Sarah Dixon’s niece, and it is unclear whether she was someone in the Dixon family who married William De L’Angle and then Bunce; or if the term “niece” is simply being used for a distant female cousin-in-law.]

[4] As the Oxford University Press National Dictionary of Biography points out, he should not be confused with his contemporary Jeremiah Dixon, FRS (1726 – 1782) of Gledhow, near Leeds.

[5]It appears that Robert Dixon was landlord in 1799, since it was he who was accused by the Court Leet of making an encroachment by taking a piece of land of 38 square yards in a triangular line on the east front of the Red Lion. Barrett March was still the owner and it was he who was taken before the Court Leet in 1808 for another encroachment“. (Ann Cottingam).

[6] James’s elder sister Mary Murray Dixon (1783 – Nov 1832) lived at Henley and married John Dickisnon of Henley on 10th August 1811. James’s younger brother George, (born 1787), was a bachelor who helped manage the family business after their mothers death; he died in 1849 under the same strange circumstances as James. Another son Henry was born in 1800 and died a bachelor at Henley in 1842. A third son Robert was born in May 1806 but died five months later. Little is known of James’s other five sisters although they were all born, baptized and almost certainly buried at Henley. Sarah (b. 1791) died in October 1812 aged 21. Ellen died aged 2 in September 1803. Frances was born in 1803 but no more is recorded. Helen was born on 27th December 1804 but died aged 14 in July 1818. The youngest sister Ann, born on 27th April 1808, fared somewhat better and lived to marry (1827) James Gardiner of Sonning. Her mother, Deborah Dixon, and brother, James Dixon, stood as witnesses at the service in Henley.

[7] In Pigot‘s 1830 and 1839 Directories James Dixon is described as landlord of the Bell Inn & Posting House, Northfield End.

[8] In November 2009, Leicester Museum had 144 of Otto’s pictures on loan from the family. His great nephew, Christopher Hamilton, is presently cataloguing his work and would be most grateful for any details of works in private collections, diaries, correspondence or any other material relating to his work, life and death. Tel: 00 44 789 145 8776.

[9] The Times.

[10] The Times, June 14th 1904.

[11] Sept Qtr 1896 Volume 2a Page 619 Kingston, England.

[12] Compass-Survey of the River Barima from the Eclipse Falls to the Source. GG Dixon, Darbishire, B.V. 1:250 000 13 x 42cm col. GJ V.5 p.408 (1895).

[13]  “The accompanying map will give an idea of the position of the three boundary-lines which are now in dispute between Great Britain and Venezuela. The eastern portion crossed by open lines is not in dispute. The lightly shaded portion indicates Venezuela’s extreme claims to territorial right. The cross-shaded portion indicates the extreme claims of Great Britain, which include the while of the drainage area of the Essequibo river, with its tributaries, the Mazarina and Kuyuni rivers, also the Barama and Barima rivers, with their tributaries, and the land up to the right bank of the Amakuru river. Great Britain claims this as having received the territory in cession from the Dutch, who had farms and plantations on their banks. The line laid down by Sir R. Schomburgk commences at the mouth of Amakuru river, which it follows to its source, continuing round the head of the Barima and Barama rivers, to the source of the Akaribisi creek, which it follows to its junction with the Kuyuni river, then continuing up the Kuyuni to its source in Roraima mountain. The British Government are willing to go to arbitration on the territory west of the Schomburgk line, but do not recognize that Venezuela has any claim to any land east of the line. It was at the junction of the Yuruan river with the Kuyuni river that the Yuruan incident took place. The British Yuruan frontier station is situated immediately opposite the junction of the rivers, on the right bank of the Kuyuni“. Quoted from “The British Guiana and Venezuelan Boundary Frontier“, The Geographical Journal. Vol. VII, pps. 99-100. Jan – June 1896.

[14] Thanks also to Gérard Martayan who wrote an article on Chivor for ‘Gems & Gemology’, a major gemological journal published by the Gemological Institute of America, 2018.

[15] Admiral James Richard Dacres commanded the “Elk” aged 19. In 1805 he defeated a flotilla of 11 gunboats off Cartagena, having engaged them for 3 hours. In 1806 he captured the Fort of Coro del Mare [?] and in the same year the boats of the ship cut out, under heavy fire from Santa Marta, two Spanish Felucca privateers and recaptured an English merchant brig. In 1807 he commanded the “Bacchante” with the “Mediator” under his orders, attacked Sancann [?], San Domingo, and after a heavy cannonade for more than two hours, landed and stormed the fort in the harbour, captured two privateers together with an American and an English ship taken by the “Dauphin” (which ship they had taken a few days earlier). For this he was given the [Lloyd’s?] Patriotic [Fund?] Medal and Sword. He was subsequently wounded in the action in which the Guerriere (on which ship he had a commission at the time) was taken by the Americans and placed as a prisoner on parole with an American family with whom he was “all his life on the friendliest terms“. He held the command of the Cape Station from 1846 – 1849. He married a girl named Dalrymple, a niece of Lord Stair, by whom he had a large family including Mrs. Kirwan of Guildford, Surrey, and Miss. Louisa Dacres of Shamley Green in Surrey. The death of his only son from yellow fever was a grief from which he never recovered.

[16] The eldest, Charles Dacres Bevan served as a County Court Judge in Cornwall and died unmarried at the age of 60. The youngest son, Edward Bevan, a messmate of Sir Henry Keppel, entered the Royal Navy and served as a lieutenant on board the “Pantaloon“. Alas he was paralyzed at an early age by a bout of yellow fever he contracted in the West Indies. The daughter Eleanor Bevan, born after her fathers’ suicide in 1811, married the Rev. Charles Stuart of Wragby Vicarage in Yorkshire.

[17] It may be irrelevant but there is an article by an FF Dixon entitled “Leopard Hunt in Ceylon” in Outing; the Gentleman’s Magazine of Sport, Travel and Outdoor Life (subtitle varies) 23 (1893-94):449. I found this reference on www.google.com; on a keyboard “FF” could easily have been intended as “GG”.

[18] Henry Cornwallis Anderson-Pelham (1868-1924)was born on 31 August 1868. He and Edith Katherine Jemma Roberts were married on 16 July 1892 in Kensington, London.

[19] The Laidlaws descend from the family of the poet William Laidlaw (1780 – 1845), private secretary to Sir Walter Scott. Esme’s husband, William Laidlaw, died on 7th February 1959. William and Esme had two children, Anne and John. Dr. John Laidlaw lives (or lived) at Cortburn House, Coldingham, Berwickshire, Scotland. Anne married a Doull who may have been a representative to the Queen on her visits to Canada and they live (or lived) in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

[20] Other witnesses included G Pelham and HC Pelham.

[21] On the marriage license, Harry was described as a Lieutenant with the Royal Engineers, residing at 8 Wilton Crescent, SW, while Marjorie’s residence is given as 7 Vicarage Gardens, Kensington.

[22] Geological Society London, Quarterly Record No.25 (1st January – 31st March 1947), Douglas Wallace Bishopp.

[23] The Tatler – Wednesday 04 October 1950, here.