Vanbrugh Castle, Greenwich

Vanbrugh Castle, Greenwich, 1823-32


Hays lived in Vanbrugh Castle on Maze Hill, next to Greenwich Park, from early July 1823 to the autumn of 1832, during which time Robert Browne and his wife operated a school in the Castle. Upon her arrival, two of Hays's nieces, Marianna Dunkin Bennett and Elizabeth Dunkin Francis (she dies in 1825), were living nearby (one was next door) during some of this time; her brother, John Hays, had lived nearby in the Paragon between 1812 and 1819. According to the Rate Books for Upper Greenwich, the Francis and Bennett families both arrived at Maze Hill the same year John Hays departed the area, living only a few doors from each other and renting several acres of land in Vanbrugh Fields. The Francises had previously been living in Finsbury Square (they subscribed to Elizabeth Hays Lanfear's novel, Fatal Errors, that year from that address). The Brownes arrived in 1821 to establish their school in the Castle. In 1825, Elizabeth Francis died, leaving her husband with the care of numerous children. Shortly thereafter, the widower had new neighbors, his relations William and Emma Dunkin Hills and Williams's mother, Sarah Hays Hills (Mary Hays's only surviving sister at that time), with Sarah Hills occupying her own house according to the 1828 Rate Book just two doors down from the Francises. Sarah may have come to Greenwich not only to be near her sister and son but also to assist Henry Francis with his children, something most likely Mary Hays joined in with her usual alacrity, despite her age. In 1829, Bennett, Hills and Francis families were joined on Maze Hill by George and Sarah Dunkin Wedd (another niece of Mary Hays) and their large family, occupying a house with a coachhouse and stables. George Wedd would become a leader in the local Congregational Church there. By the 1832 Rate Book, the Brownes and the Wedds had departed (most likely the Bennetts as well, who do not appear in the Rate Books at that time), as had Mary Hays, most likely moving with the Wedds to their new home in Grove Street, Hackney, to assist Sarah Wedd during one of her many pregnancies. After the birth of Sarah's son, Mary Hays left for Camberwell late in 1832 to live the rest of the decade with her brother John. Sarah Hills died in 1836, but William Hills continued his residence on Maze HIll until 1844, and Henry Francis through his death in 1856.

As the pictures on this page reveal, the setting from Greenwich Park and Vanbrugh Castle (which sits high on a hill) offers spectacular views of London then and now. The Castle is still an exclusive private residence today, and many of the homes on Maze Hill from the 1820s remain intact (pictured below), and would be comparable to what the Bennetts, Hills, Francises, and Wedds lived in at that time.




The picture immediately to the right and the seven below of the Castle and homes on Maze Hill are courtesy of © Stephen170 /Pictures of England.com