This article is based on material sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker, May 2020.
Major Humphrey Le Fleming Fairfax Harvey is mentioned in several articles in the Virtual Museum. In 1977 he generously left 30 acres of land to the Town and Manor in his Will - now known as "Harvey's Meadow".
So what do we know about Humphrey Le Fleming Fairfax Harvey (HLFFH)?
He was born in Wimborne, Dorset on the 19th January 1890. His father was Henry Fairfax Harvey and his mother was Beatrice Frances Pitman. His parents were married on 15 th September 1897 at St. Mary’s Church in Guildford, Surrey.
His father, Henry, who had been a solicitor in Wimborne, was born in Buckland, Hertfordshire in May 1850. He must have been quite a wealthy man. The census of 1891 described him as “living on his own means” and he employed three servants. Henry died on the 12th July 1918 in Weymouth leaving over £40,000 to his widow Beatrice Frances. In today’s money this would exceed 2 million pounds.
HLFFH had three siblings: Anstice F b.1888, Alan Fairfax b.1892 and Diana Elizabeth Fairfax b.1895. Anstice, an Empire Force nurse, died of influenza and pneumonia on 28th October 1918 whilst working at the Voluntary Aid Detachment unit based at the Portland Royal Naval Hospital.
His mother Beatrice died on 7th February 1947 aged 88. At that time, she was living in Kintbury Hall, Kintbury. In her will she left some money to HLFFH and to her niece by marriage, Anstice Love Fairfax Harvey. Anstice Love Fairfax Harvey emigrated to America in 1936.
Both his father and his grandfather (William Wigan Harvey) had been educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge but HLFFH was educated at Wolborough Hill School in Newton Abbot, Devon where he lived as a boarder. This private school was known for sports and its combined cadet force. This is where he developed an interest in military service.
- Major Fairfax Harvey, 1965 (kindly sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker).
HLFFH entered the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst around 1908 as a gentleman cadet and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant on 23rd July 1910, aged 20. He signed up for 21 years of service and thus became a career army officer. During his service he was assigned to the Royal Field Artillery with a service number of 22816.
In 1911, he was stationed at the Topsham Artillery Barracks in Heavitree, a suburb of Exeter, Devon, with the rank of 2nd lieutenant in the 56th battery of the Royal Field Artillery.
He was promoted to captain in 1915 and in the same year married Eleanor Love Slingsby Bethell on 27th December in the Brighton Parish Church. She was the daughter of the Hon. Slingsby Bethell, a barrister and Registrar of the Bankruptcy Court, Clerk of Committees of the House of Lords and was also the Deputy Lieutenant of Middlesex.
In his 1918 Birthday Honours, King George V awarded him the Military Cross. This was awarded to officers and other ranks for gallantry during active operations against the enemy.
He retired as a major on 1st November 1931 but was recalled during WW2, and in King George VI’s Birthday Honours of 1945, he was awarded an MBE for meritorious service to his country.
Life in Hungerford:
He moved to Hungerford after his retirement from the army and in 1932 bought the Three Swans Hotel at 117 High Street where he and his wife started to take an active part in the community. In 1937, his wife became Hungerford’s fifth Carnival Queen having sold the most carnival tickets (880) and in 1938 he was a Tuttiman. His wife Eleanor died in 1943.
Around 1944, he bought 13 Bridge Street for £3,000 although he continued to live at the Three Swans until 1947. He subsequently lived at Bridge Street until 1967.
In 1946, he married again, to Mary Webb in Newbury. Mary was a divorcee who had been the Three Swans’ housekeeper at the start of the war in 1939.
In 1950, HLFFH was elected to the office of Constable of the Town and Manor of Hungerford and remained there to 1955, making him the longest serving Constable.
In 1951, a building fund for a new Royal British Legion was started up, with HLFFH as president and in 1953 he served on the cricket club committee where he was not afraid of rolling up his sleeves in putting the sight screens up or down.
In 1955, his political career started when he was elected to the Hungerford parish council.
Interestingly, this was the first Hungerford parish council to have a woman councillor, Mrs. Agnes Huntley. In the same year, Jack Williams was also elected to the council and described HLFFH as a very wise man and a larger than life character.
Over the next couple of decades, he graduated from being a parish councillor, to a district councillor and finally served as a county councillor with responsibility for public health matters.
When he died in 1977, he was living at 19 Chelmer Terrace, Malden, Essex, leaving over £56,000 in his will.
The land he bequeathed to the people of Hungerford is now known as Harvey’s Meadow. Harvey's Meadow lies at the eastern end of Hungerford. The meadow is of international importance for its population of the rare Desmoulin's snail and is the largest surviving example of agriculturally unimproved pasture in the Kennet Valley with many rare plants.
The meadows are a mix of species, rich wet grassland with fen areas dominated by sedge and rush. The site is grazed with cattle over the summer months. This piece of land has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by English Nature in recognition of its the exceptional habitat and is now managed as a nature reserve.
It is also home to an active bird ringing group headed up by John Swallow. The group also operates at Freeman’s Marsh. Bird ringing at Freeman’s Marsh (as well as Hungerford Common) was originally started in 1968 by Rex Smith and Jimmy Whittaker.
The stream that runs off the River Kennet and passes through Harvey’s Meadow is now known as Harvey’s Stream. It rises about 800m south of the Kennet Bridge and ends north just past Eddington Mill.
The stream arises from Eddington Mill, runs beside the public footpath towards Eddington village, passes under the bridge by A4 Tool Hire, under the Shell petrol station,under the A338 road, then runs east adjacent to the A4 before turning undersouth under the A4 towards Harvey;s Meadow, eventually joing the River Kennet.
Harvey's Stream was badly affected by an incident in June 2017. More than 500 fish had to be rescued by the Environment Agency after the heatwave caused water levels to dramatically drop. The baking temperatures had led to oxygen depletion and slow flow rates which caused fish to suffocate. Fisheries officers from the Environment Agency accompanied by the river keeper of the Town and Manor of Hungerford mounted an operation to save the fish. The fish were stunned by using a mild electric current, before being scooped up in nets, and placed in buckets before being returned to the deeper water of the River Kennet.
If you continued walking past the metalled bridge (mentioned above), you will reach a small footbridge over Harvey’s Stream. Instead of turning right and following the public footpath, you can carry straight on by the side of the old redundant Eddington Mill and will see a lake ahead of you, originally excavated by Lord Roots. You will also see a couple of sluice gates the purpose of which was to control the flow of water into the mill stream, the lake and Harvey’s Stream. However, due to their age, they were no longer operational and this caused the low water levels in Harvey’s Stream. Under normal conditions, fish are able to migrate in and out of the side stream. It was hoped at the time that when the water levels returned to normal, fish would repopulate the stream and would be able to migrate in and out of the stream. And today in 2020, this certainly is the case…take a look and see.
Harveys memorial plaque:
In St. Lawrence’s Church, you will find several memorial brass plaques, dedicated to him and his two wives, reading as follows:
H le F F H 1890-1977
E L F H 1890-1943
M H 1895-1968
Origins of his name:
Where did this distinct name originate? As we know, children are often named after family members and this is indeed the case of HLFFH.
It seems that HLFFH, was named after his great grandfathers. His great grandfather on his father’s side was Fairfax Franklin who died in 1838 and his great grandfather on his father’s side was Sir Humphrey le Fleming Senhouse, a much-revered naval officer who died at sea in 1841 whilst serving in Hong Kong.