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The Family

Cecil Milton Hepworth

b. 19 March 1874 London 17 Somerset Gardens, Lewisham
d. 9 February 1953 Greenford, Middlesex, England, UK

Parents and Family

The Hepworth Family Tree

I do not know who in Weybridge (now Elmbridge) Museum generated this document in 1985 - but am grateful for it!

Early Years

Cecil was born at 12 Beaufort Gardens, Lewisham (Kent) in 1874. His family initially called him Herbert Milton then changed it to Cecil. His father was then a hospital secretary and his mother's name was Sarah Margaret formerly Stevens.

The Hepworth Family in 1881

At the time of the 1881 Census the Hepworth family was living at 37 St Pauls Crescent, St. Pancras, London and they were:

  • Thomas C. Hepworth 36
  • Sarah M. Hepworth 39
  • Cecil M. Hepworth 7
  • Grace D. Hepworth 5
  • Effie M. Hepworth 4
  • Mary E. Smith 17  (a servant?)

 

 

The Hepworth Family in 1891

1891 Census entry shows the Hepworth family with Cecil Milton, aged 17, living at 43, St. Augustines Road, St. Pancras (Camden Town) with:

  • father Thomas Craddock Hepworth,
  • mother, Sarah Margaret (nee Stevens)
  • sister Grace Dora [Dorothy] (16),
  • sister Effie Mildred (14),
  • sister Margaret Evelyn (9),
  • brother Clive Craddock (6).

and two servants Elisa Humpreys (18) and Emily Grace Crimp (18). That's nine people in a pretty small house.

Thomas is shown as a Newspaper Proprietor and Public Lecturer. I wonder which newspaper that was?

This census entry show CMH as being born in Lewisham, Kent - it's well into London now!

Their neighbours were a piano tuner on one side, and a provisions merchant on the other.

A map of the location is to the left. It's just behind the now-restored St. Pancras Station, a magnificent Victorian building, but at the time Hepworth lived there it must have been filthy dirty, being sandwiched between the sooty station, smelly gasworks, and stinking canal, in some dense housing.

The BFI erected an plaque at 32 Cantelowes Road, Camden, where Hepworth spent time as a child. Records of his residence there are sought.

The Hepworth Family in 1901

The 1901 census shows the family was still living together but had moved to 10 Lysias Road, Streatham, South London.

The census shows

  • Father Thomas Hepworth age 56, son of a barmaid born in Co. Durham, occupation School Lecturer
  • Cecil Hepworth, cinematographer, age 27, (born in Lewisham)
  • Effie Hepworth age 24
  • Grace Hepworth age 25
  • Clive Cradock (16) occupation Commercial Clerk, born in Camden Town.
  • Jessie Saunders, Servant, completes the household.

The Family Tree above suggests that Margaret Evelyn was nicknamed Kitty. At this time, she would have been about 19 and might have by then married Stanley Bartlett and moved elsewhere - I wonder where? Some more detective work is needed to generate definitive proof.

Hepworth also lived at 17 Somerset Gardens, Streatham, South London and it has a "Maroon Plaque" commemorating Cecil's residence there - a nice touch.  More information is needed of his time there.

 
First Marriage and Children

Moving on a few years, Cecil married and had his own family.

I haven't find out much about them yet.
Can you help?

CMH's first wife was Margaret Hope McGuffie, the sister of a good friend, and they were married in March 1902 in Chapel En Le Frith, Derbyshire. According to age old tradition, the marriage took place in the spouse's parish.

Mrs.Hepworth acted in some of the films.

  • Daughter Elizabeth Barbara Hepworth (b.4/12/1904  d.July 1997) (star of Rescued by Rover in 1904, mentioned in “Came the Dawn”, and NOT the famous sculptress)
  • Daughter Blanche Margaret Hepworth (b. 1907 d.?)
  • Son Thomas Andrew Hepworth (b.1910 ish d.?) – As was traditional he was named after his grandfather.
  • Dog Blair (star of Rescued by Rover in 1904, mentioned in “Came the Dawn”)
  • Dog Paul (in picture with Blair and small child).

Although nothing is known about Margaret's birth and home life, and little about marriage to Cecil, but she died at the age of 43 in October 1917 (mentioned very briefly in "Came the Dawn") leaving Cecil, also 43, with a young family to care for. It is thought she may have died of breast cancer.  Cecil does not discuss the hardship he must have experienced associated with this sad event.

Elmbridge Borough records show the family living in "Coombe Moss", Sydney Road, Walton on Thames for several years - this is a short walk to the location of the studios in Hurst Grove. Why Coombe Moss? Can it be a coincidence that this is the name of a local beauty spot not far from Chapel en le Frith, where Mrs. Hepworth was brought up?

The studio area has been rebuilt several times but Hepworth Way commemorates the man and the film industry. There are few remaining signs of the studios apart from the Walton Playhouse, which has a great story to tell.

 Marriage and Death Certificate Details are Sought for Margaret Hope Hepworth

 

The Affair

Whilst specific evidence is of course hard to come by, a series of circumstantial evidence suggests that Hepworth had a long and passionate love affair with Alma Taylor.

Apparently, his first wife Margaret was not convinced that the trips to the country taken by Cecil and Alma were indeed seeking suitable filming locations, and that when Alma was in her teens and Cecil in his early forties! Remarkably, there is a family portrait of the Hepworth family in about 1916/7 with Alma in the background, so the relationship was clearly complex and long lasting. According to "Came the Dawn", Alma was one of the first to reach out to comfort him when he had taken his family away after Margaret died in 1917.

Hepworth travelled extensively with Taylor (including a trip to America, on a ship together with Charlie Chaplin whom they both got to know well). Several of his writings are blatantly over-effusive about Alma. At one point (maybe after Margaret died), his daughter Valerie reported, he was considering marrying Alma, but was put off by the family.

We do not know how it ended, but it did, and Alma went on to marry. More detective work is needed to unpick this fascinating episode in the life of Cecil and Alma.

 
Second Marriage and Children

Cecil married again on 30th April 1929 to Olive Elizabeth "Betty" Walter, a local Walton girl. She gave her age as 25 and he was 55. There is a report of the wedding in "The Times" (here) which is rather scandalous for the time!

At the time CMH gave his profession as "electrician" - following the collapse of the studios a few years before. There is a wonderful story of how they met - he was conducting "The Mikado", the first performance of the Walton and Weybridge Operatic Society (WWOS is still going strong today) and she was the leading lady. There is a photograph of this production in the archives of the WWOS. The production was at The Playhouse in Walton, where they both lived. Hepworth supported the Society for many years afterwards.

During this time he lived at "Combe Moss", a house in Sidney Road, Walton, and records show he had lived there for some time. Although local records have been searched, sadly it is not know whether this house exists today. A candidate for a Blue Plaque if ever there was one!

Hepworth's autobiography in 1951 implies he re-married – but he was a bit vague about it - read on to learn the reason why.

The couple went to live in Hampstead, and later may have moved to the Pinner area.

This marriage seems to have been rocky, since Betty left him for another man, leaving Cecil a single parent, quite unusual for the time. The reasons why are not clear. However, Betty returned some years later and Cecil took her back. In his autobiography, written in 1951, he was full of praise for his wife.

This marriage produced Valerie Williamson (b.1932, d. 8 October 2009), born when Cecil was 58 years old. Looking after her at that age whilst being a working single parent must have been tough for a while, but Valerie provided many fond memories of an extremely kind and affectionate father.

Despite being born after the studio closure, took an active interest in her father's films throughout her life. In the years before her death, Valerie attended a showing of several films at the Walton Playhouse, accompanied by music specially commissioned by Surrey Brass. Learn more here.

More of this epic later!

Cecil Hepworth died on 9 February 1953
at 211 Eastcote Road, Ruislip, Middlesex.
He was 78 years old.

 

 

Update October 2009: Valerie Williamson, the last of Cecil's four children, passed away on Thursday 8th October 2009.

Hepworth's son Tom Hepworth had children, and in August 2013 this site was contacted by one of them, Ross Hepworth, to correct an earlier assertion that the family line to Cecil Hepworth was severed is incorrect. We are delighted to set the record straight.

If you want to know more about the family, see www.census.pro.gov.uk/



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