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Biography of James MacKenzie (a civil engineer and Victorian gentleman)

We came across the family of James MacKenzie while researching past residents of houses in Priory Road Great Malvern. In the latter part of his life James lived at Daresbury, a house of great character, constructed of stone on the corner of Woodshears Road.


Daresbury, now 27 Priory Road



James MacKenzie

Wife and parents

Siblings of James MacKenzie

> Brother in law, Angus McLeod

More about the children of James MacKenzie

> Keith Bethune MacKenzie

> Eric James Bethune MacKenzie

Alice, grand-daughter of James MacKenzie



The first record of James MacKenzie at Daresbury is in the 1901 census (ref 1), when he is living there with his wife Jane Bethune MacKenzie, aged 45, born Canada; daughter Annabella K B, born China; and daughter Alice S B, born China. Also in the household on Census night were his mother in law Annabella Catherine Bethune, born Scotland; 2 servants, and 2 visitors.

In the 1911 census James MacKenzie described himself as aged 69, a gentleman of no occupation and private means, born Stornaway Scotland, married 33 years, having 4 children of whom 3 were still living.

We thought to discover more about James - such as how he came to afford an expensive house in Great Malvern, why he came to the town, and more about the family's connections with Canada and China.

Here we have set out what we have discovered so far; but please do let us know if you can fill in some of the gaps.

James MacKenzie

According to the census James MacKenzie was born about 1842 at Stornaway, a remote fishing town on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Aged 35, he married minister's daughter Jane Bethune at Stornaway, on 14th January 1878, where she had been living with her widowed mother (ref 2).


The marriage certificate records James as a civil engineer, aged 35 years, living at 19 Keith Street, the son of William MacKenzie, shipmaster, merchant service (deceased) and Catherine MacKenzie.

Jane Bethune is described as a spinster aged 23 years, living at Cromwell Street, the daughter of Rev Neil Bethune, free church minister (deceased) and Annabella Catherine Bethune, maiden surname Jones.

The marriage ceremony was performed by Rev Donald John Martin (1850- 1913), according to the form of the Free Church of Scotland, at 24 South Beach Street Stornaway, overlooking the harbour.

The web site of the Stornaway Free church contains an account of the history of the church and its people, but does not mention occupation of 24 South Beach Street which is currently an Indian Restaurant known as the Stornaway Balti House. We wondered if the congregation met at a house there prior to the consecration of the Martins Memorial church in October 1878 which was named after the above minister.

Further investigation revealed that 24 South Beach Street Stornaway was then the home of respected Doctor Roderick Millar and his two daughters Johanna Eliza and Janetta MacDonald. Dr Roderick Millar is recorded in the 1871 and 1881 Scottish census as a Surgeon and Medical Practitioner and you can read more about him in an article The Early Medical Men of Lewis 1700-1918 by the Stornaway Historical Society. In 1901 Johanna and Janetta, who never married, were visitors at Daresbury, so we imagine they were very close friends of James and Jane MacKenzie.

As a sea captain, James' father William must have been away from home a lot and he is not mentioned in the Scottish 1841, 1851 and 1861 census; click to read about the Siblings of James MacKenzie.

What James did between the ages of 8 years when he was in Stornaway with his mother, and 35 years when he married we do not know. He was not at home at the time of the 1861 census when he was aged 18, and we wonder if he may have trained as a civil engineer before finding employment. His mother died at Stornaway in 1864 aged only 54 years.

James and Jane had four children, who were all born in China:

Keith Bethune MacKenzie, born Shanghai on 1st December 1879

Annabella Katherine Bethune MacKenzie, born about 1880

Eric James Bethune MacKenzie, born about 1884

Alice Sheena Bethune MacKenzie, born about 1890.

This suggested to us that James would have spent at least ten years in China and indeed the Malvern Gazette reporting on his funeral said James had in fact spent 30 years in Shanghai. Perhaps he had dealings with Jardine Matheson which was one of the major mercantile firms of that time; there was also in existence a smaller firm of MacKenzie and Co, but we do not know if that had any connection with James.

Trade with China was problematic. In 1860 - 1862 for example there had been the Second Opium War and looting of the Qing Imperial Palace in Beijing, while in 1898 - 1901 there was an anti-foreigner uprising, and the Boxer Rebellion; that together with his increasing age may have caused James MacKenzie to retire to the UK. In those days Great Malvern seems to have been a popular town for expatriates to retire to.

The National Probate Calendar (ref 3) records that James MacKenzie died at his second home Woodham House, Woking, Surrey on 4th February 1916. His executors were his widow Jane, his elder daughter Annabella and then surviving son Eric, a captain in HM Army.

Very sadly both his sons were casualties of the Great War and you will find their names recorded on the Priory War Memorial.

James MacKenzie's body was returned to Great Malvern to be buried, near his youngest daughter Alice, in Great Malvern Cemetery on 8th February 1916 (ref 12).


James MacKenzie's funeral was reported in the Malvern Gazette on 12th February 1916 (ref 13). A transcription reads:

Mr Jas Mackenzie

The death took place on Friday last at Woodham House, Woking, Surrey, of Mr James Mackenzie, of Daresbury, Malvern, aged 73. The deceased had been in failing health for nearly a year, his condition for about five months previous to his demise being serious.

Mr Mackenzie, who was a Scotsman, resided in Shanghai for nearly thirty years, and on his retirement came to Malvern where he lived until a few years ago.

The remains were brought to Malvern on Monday evening, the coffin being placed in the Cemetery Chapel during the night. The interment took place on Tuesday afternoon, the Burial Service being conducted by the Vicar of Malvern (Rev A Linzee Giles).

The mourners were Mrs Mackenzie (widow), Miss Mackenzie (daughter), Mrs Eric Mackenzie (daughter-in-law), and the Misses Millar (Edinburgh). There were also present Mr and Mrs EB Scallon. Capt Eric Mackenzie RFA (son) was unable to be present being now at the Front.

The following is the list of wreaths:-

From his widow and daughter

From Mrs Bethune (mother-in-law)

In loving memory of my dear master, from Sarah

To dear Mr Mackenzie, with love and deepest sympathy, from Evelyn AL Foster

In affectionate remembrance, from Mrs Grundy and family, and Miss Grundy.

A loving goodbye, from Eric, Ethel and baby.

In affectionate memory and deepest sympathy, from Mr and Mrs WJ Stephenson-Peach, and Miss Mary Stephenson-Peach.

With sincerest sympathy, from Miss AM Stephenson-Peach.

From Mrs Fred Hill, Pitfield Cottage, Upper Welland. 'Gone but not forgotten'

Mr and Mrs EB Scallon were the parents of Ernest Scallon, educated Malvern College, who had been killed at Festubert the previous year, aged 24 years; Ernest's father was a master at Malvern College.

William John Stephenson-Peach (1852 - 1919) whose family sent wreaths is also buried in Great Malvern cemetery and his memorial can be found on the findagrave.com website. A book about the Morgan Motor Company relates that W Stephenson-Peach, who had been Engineering Master at Malvern College, was a direct descendant of railway pioneer George Stephenson who designed his first locomotive, for hauling coal, in 1814; William was friendly with HFS Morgan who founded the Morgan Motor Company, and assisted Morgan with the design of early vehicles.

James MacKenzie's funeral arrangements were carried out by Messrs Gwynn and Sons of Malvern whose premises in Church street are now occupied by Gordon Smith (Malvern) Ltd.

It is interesting to note that funerals nowadays seem to be typically two to four weeks after the death, compared to three or four days in earlier times.

Wife and her parents

James' wife, Jane, was the daughter of church minister Rev Neil Bethune and grocer's daughter Annabella Catherine Jones, who were married at Stornaway on 26th January 1854.

Jane was born soon after on the 14th November 1854 at the fishing village of Murray Harbour, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Reference 4 mentions that Rev Neil Bethune served at Thamesford, Ontario, and we wondered if he was distantly related in some way to Bishop Alexander Neil Bethune.

Very sadly Jane's father, Rev Neil Bethune, died of smallpox the year after his induction as the first minister of a new church at Thamesford, Ontario (refs 4, 5) and his wife, Annabella, returned to Stornaway where Jane's brother, Neil James Bethune, was born in 1856.

Forms of vaccination against smallpox began to be introduced from about 1800 but compulsory vaccination of infants was not introduced in England, for example, until the 1853 vaccination act.

The Scottish 1861 census next records Jane, aged 6, living with her younger brother Neil and widowed mother Annabella, who was only 27, at 2 Francis Street Stornaway.

In 1871 her brother Neil was recorded living with an uncle and aunt in Stornaway; in 1881 he may have been manager for a wine merchant near Rochdale and we think he may have emigrated about 1893 on the ship Ruapehu from the UK  to New Zealand, where he died in 1939.

The Ruapehu was a steel screw passenger/cargo steamer built by John Elder and Co Govan in 1881 for the New Zealand Shipping Co Ltd.

The Scottish 1871 census records Jane and her mother living at 47 Ardeg Road, Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute, across the water from Glasgow, but they were back in Stornaway in 1878 for Jane's marriage to James MacKenzie.

Immediately after her daughter's marriage and voyage to China, Annabella continued to live in Stornaway, lodging with Elizabeth Hunter at 40 Cromwell Street. We have not found her in either the 1891 or 1911 censuses, but in 1901 she was living with her daughter and grand-daughters at Daresbury. She died at Malvern, aged 90 years, and was buried near her grand-daughter Alice in Great Malvern Cemetery on 10th July 1925 (ref 12).

The National Probate Calendar records that Jane herself died at Daresbury in 1930.

MacKenzie Jane Bethune of Daresbury Malvern Worcestershire widow died 27th February 1930. Probate London to Sebastian Henry Petre esquire and Edwin Thomas Watson gentleman. Effects 17,850. Resealed Hongkong 11 September 1931.

Jane Bethune MacKenzie (widow), aged 71 years, of Daresbury, was buried in Great Malvern Cemetery on 3rd March 1930 near her mother, husband and youngest daughter Alice (ref 12).

We wondered how Jane came to meet solicitor Sebastian Henry Petre as he lived in a different part of the country. His sons were very interested in the development of aviation in those early days when biplanes were held together with wood, canvas and 'string'.

Henry Aloysius Petre, DSO, MC (12 June 1884  24 April 1962) who was a solicitor, like his father, became one of Australia's first military aviators and a founding member of the Australian Flying Corps, the predecessor of the Royal Australian Air Force. He survived the Great War and a biography can be found on Wikipedia. He is also recorded in the Australian Dictionary of National Biography.

His brother John Joseph Petre became a Squadron Commander in the Royal Naval Air Service during the Great War. Awarded the Croix de Guerre (France) he died on 13th April 1917 aged 23 years, when his aircraft broke up in flight during a training exercise. In 1914 he had won the solo Public Schools motor cycle race at Brooklands.

Their brother Edward had been killed in a flying accident in 1912.

Siblings of James MacKenzie

The Scottish census suggests James was one of seven children born to William and Catherine at Stornaway circa:

Mary 1834

John 1838

Murdo MacAulay 1841

James 1843

William Allan 1845

Catherine Ann 1847

Jessie 1849

Following their mothers's death in 1864, and their father either dead or away at sea, life must have become difficult for the children.

We think Mary the eldest child may have married John McLeod in 1866. The 1871 Scottish census records Mary at 19 Keith Street, Stornaway, with her husband John, decribed as a draper, her brother John, sister Jessie (surname spelt McKenzie) and her eldest sons, William, Thomas and Colin McLeod.

Mary's brother William could have died in childhood as he is not listed after the 1851 census; we have been unable to trace what happened to Mary's brother Murdo and sister Catherine, partly because MacKenzie is such a common surname in Scotland.

Brother in law Angus McLeod

Jessie MacKenzie,  born 12th October 1849 at Stornaway, married Angus McLeod at 19 Keith Street, Stornaway on 27th March 1877 some 10 months before her brother James married. We don't think Angus was the brother of Mary's husband John.

Angus McLeod, who was born at Stornaway in 1849, was the son of fisherman and crofter Roderick McLeod and Ann MacMillan. Surprisingly, Jessie and Angus's marriage certificate gave Angus's usual place of residence as Providence, Rhode Island, United States.

The explanation can be found in Angus McLeod's biography, a copy of which which can be found on the Electric Scotland website section about Scots and Scots' Descendants in America which is taken from a book of the same name edited by Donald John McDougall which was published in 1917 (ref 11); this relates that about 1873 Angus had gone out to the USA as an employee of the department store Callender, McAuslan & Troup Company of Providence, Rhode Island. In 1877 Angus and another clerk named Peter King formed a partnership setting up the The King-McLeod Company, and opening The Boston Department Store at 153-157 Thames Street, Newport Rhode Island. Peter King was another Scottish emigrant born Kilsyth about 1852.

So while James travelled east to China, his sister Jessie travelled west accompanying her new husband going back to Newport, Rhode Island, USA, where Angus McLeod became very successful in business.

Jessie died in 1907 and her husband Angus McLeod in 1914 in the United States.

We don't know what happened to Mary and her children after 1881, but wondered if they too emigrated from Scotland to the USA.


More about the children of James MacKenzie

Keith Bethune Mackenzie

Keith Bethune MackenzieThe Scottish 1891 census recorded Keith and his mother in Edinburgh not far from where both sons attended Tain Academy.

Keith went on to attend Malvern College as a day boy 1892 - 1896, and then joined the army serving in South Africa during the Boer War. The 1901 census recorded him as an officer at St George's Barracks, Ardersier near Inverness.

Photo opposite: Keith Bethune MacKenzie, courtesy of Malvern College (ref10).

Sadly, professional soldier Captain Keith Bethune Mackenzie, 2nd Bn, The Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany's) attached to 1st Bn The Gordon Highlanders, 8th Brigade, 3rd Division, BEF was killed near Ypres on 12th November 1914 in the early days of the Great War.

You will find him listed in De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour. Here is our transcription:

MacKenzie, Keith Bethune, Capt, 2nd attached to 1st Battn Seaforth Highlanders, attached to 1st Gordon Highlanders, elder son of the late James MacKenzie of Daresbury Malvern Worcestershire by his wife, Jane (Woodham House, Woking) only daughter of the Rev Neil Bethune of Thamesford Ontario; born Shanghai China 1 Dec 1879; educated Malvern College; gazetted 2nd Lieut from the Militia 5 Jan 1901, and promoted Lieut 5 April 1904, and Capt 3 June 1911; served in the South African War 1900-1902 taking part in operations in the Cape Colony Aug 1900 - Jan 1902; Orange Free State, Jan-Mar 1902; and in the Transvaal, March-May 1902 (Queen's medal with five clasps); and with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders 14 Oct 1914 -  12 Nov 1914, and was killed in action at Hooge near Ypres 12 Nov 1914. He was buried at Hooge. He was a Knight of the Saxe Ernestine Family Order. He married at St Giles Edinburgh 22 Jan 1912, Louise daughter of the late James Scott of Craigholme, Edinburgh.

Annabella Katherine Bethune MacKenzie

We did not find Annabella in either the Scottish or England and Wales census before 1901 so probably she spent her early years in China with her father.

She first appears in the 1901 England census in Malvern at Daresbury. In 1911 she was at Preston with her mother visiting her brother Eric, his wife Ethel and their newborn daughter Alice.

Annabella, otherwise known as Anna, continued to live at Daresbury, mostly as a companion to her widowed mother, Jane, following her father's death in 1916.

The 1939 register of England and Wales, taken just after the outbreak of war, records Anna still at Daresbury, together with elderly housekeeper Margaret Macaskill and a young parlourmaid whose name is very difficult to read but we transcribe as possibly Kirsten Saltvold.

In 1940, at the age of 60, Annabella married elderly widower Rev Henry Douglas Noel Paterson. Their marriage was announced in the Times on 10th September. A transcript reads:

Paterson: MacKenzie - on Sep 7, 1940 at the Priory Church Malvern by the Rev HHM Bartleet, Vicar; assisted by Rev HKL Matthews, Vicar of Bosbury, and the Rev Canon Petit; Henry Douglas Noel Paterson to Annabella Katherine Bethune MacKenzie.

Four years later Henry's death was announced in the Times on 11th Feb 1944. Here is a transcript:

Paterson - on Feb 9, 1944, Henry Douglas Noel Paterson of Daresbury Malvern, Honorary Canon of Worcester Cathedral, late Rector of Hartlebury, aged 75. Funeral at Malvern Priory tomorrow (Saturday) at 3 pm.

Annabella Katherine Bethune Paterson herself died at Worcester Royal Infirmary in 1956.

Canon  HD Noel Paterson had first married in 1896, Amy Constance Hall daughter of  Robert Constable Hall who held the office of High Sheriff of County Cork in 1879.


Eric James Bethune MacKenzie

Eric James Bethune MacKenzieThe earliest record we have discovered is of Eric's marriage to Ethel Frances Clissold at London in 1909. The marriage certificate describes him as a Lieutenant Royal Field Artillery of The Barracks, Cahir, Ireland, while she is the daughter of Rev Henry Bayley Clissold who had died in 1879.

The 1911 census records Eric living at Glenhurst, Fulwood, Preston, with his wife, Ethel Frances, born Brighton, Sussex; a daughter Alice Frances Fleming MacKenzie, aged one month; a maternity nurse, a cook and a housemaid. He described himself as a Lieutenant, Royal Field Artillery, probably based at Fulwood Barracks.

The records of Malvern College show he briefly attended as a day boy 1895 - 1896.

Photo opposite: Eric James Bethune MacKenzie, courtesy of Malvern College (ref 10).

Major Eric James Bethune Mackenzie, aged 32, 29th Battery, 42nd Brigade, 3rd Divisional Artillery, Royal Field Artillery, BEF  was killed in France on Saturday 8th July 1916, two years after his elder brother. His father had died 5 months earlier so thankfully did not know of his younger son's death.

On 8th July 1921 the following sad notice appeared in the 'In Memoriam' column of the Times:

MacKenzie - In ever loving memory of my younger son Eric James Bethune MacKenzie, Major RFA, who was killed at the first battle of the Somme on 8th July 1916.


Alice Sheena Bethune MacKenzie

At present we know nothing of James and Jane's youngest daughter, Alice, who sadly died at Malvern in 1911 aged only 21 years, before the census.

Alice was the first of James MacKenzie's family to be buried in Great Malvern Cemetery on 21st February 1911; her grave number is 2471 (ref 12).


Alice, grand-daughter of James MacKenzie

Eric who is mentioned above was survived by his wife Ethel Frances of Daresbury and his young daughter Alice.

In 1936 this Alice (Frances Fleming MacKenzie), born 1911, married Charles Allarton Milward (1903 - 1963) - son of Lawrence Sidney Milward who had been a mathematics teacher at Malvern College.

Lawrence Sidney Milward (1865 - 1961) is buried in the churchyard of St Mary Guarlford. His memorial records that one of his sons, David, a casualty of WWII, 'Died in action 27-4-1944'.

The National Probate Calendar records that David Henry Milward, Alice's brother in law, died at Ronkswood Emergency Hospital in Worcester. The history of Worcester Royal Infirmary records that:

Ronkswood Emergency Hospital was built on part of the original Tolladine Golf Course at the beginning of World War II under the Emergency Medical Services, as a temporary hutted hospital. It had a complement of 600 beds in 14 wards, some wards having as many as 40 beds. It was opened in 1941 with its own staff (Medical, Surgical and Nursing) and during the war treated service casualties, and civilian casualties from Birmingham air raids.

There are several Milward graves in Guarlford churchyard and amongst these is a small memorial beneath a tree in memory of Charles and Alice's little son Allarton Henry Milward, who was of course the great grandson of James MacKenzie.

Grave of AH Milward

The inscription reads:

Allarton Henry

10-12-36 to 10-04-40

Very dear child of

CA and AFF Milward.

Passenger lists record Allerton, aged 1 year, and his mother arriving in London from Port Sudan on the Rawalpindi on 3rd June 1938. Shortly after Allerton is recorded returning to Sudan with both his parents on the Strathnaver; his father's occupation is listed 'Sudan Civil Service'. In fact Charles had been promoted to Harbour Master at Port Sudan on the NE coast of Africa.

Sudan seems to have chiefly come under the influence of the British Empire from roughly 1900, continuing until Independance on 1st January 1956.

 Click to read about British Colonialism in Sudan.

When Charles retired he deposited documents and photographs of his time there with the University of Durham who record that Charles Allarton Milward was:

1934-1936 Assistant to Port Superintendent, Traffic Department, Port Sudan

1936-1937 Assistant to Port Manager, Traffic Department, Port Sudan

1937 Assistant Harbour Master, Traffic Department, Port Sudan

1938-1945 Harbour Master, Traffic Department, Port Sudan

1946-1951 Port Manager, Traffic Department, Port Sudan (retired 1951)

During WWII Sudan was on the front line and it must have been an 'interesting' time for the Milwards.

In 1920 Alice's husband Charles Allarton Milward had been recorded as a Midshipman, Royal Naval Reserve. He continued to be recorded in UK Royal Navy lists until 1939 when he was described as a retired Lieutenant Commander Royal Naval Reserve.


Sketch of Daresbury

Sketch of Daresbury

So there we have it, a glimpse of the history of a family born at Stornaway on the Isle of Lewis in the outer Hebrides. A period when the British Empire was expanding and fortunes could be made by the industrious. A period when Scots people travelled the globe in search of work and a period when families were depleted by war.

Despite having four children, we believe James MacKenzie has no surviving descendants, though just possibly there may be descendants of his sisters Mary and Jessie in the United States today.

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  1. England and Wales Census
  2. Scottish statutory registers and census records which can be found on The ScotlandsPeople website
  3. National Probate Calendar
  4. McIntosh WD, One hundred years in the Zorra church, published abt 1930
  5. De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour
  6. The Times Digital Archive
  7. Malvern Remembers website
  8. Great Malvern Priory War Memorial
  9. Guarlford churchyard survey
  10. Communication from Malvern College, January 2018
  11. McDougall, Donald John, editor, Scots and Scots' Descendants in America, Caledonian Publishing Company, New York,1917
  12. Great Malvern Cemetery burial register, courtesy of V Foy and Malvern family History Society, February 2018.
  13. Report of the funeral of James Mackenzie, Malvern Gazette, 12th February 1916