Hayes (Kent) History

Hayes (Kent) History

CECIL, Sackville Arthur
16 March 1848 – 29 January 1898
Railway Manager, Engineer, Parish Councillor

Sackville Arthur Cecil was the fourth son of the second Marquess of Salisbury and the eldest of his children by his second marriage with Mary Sackville-West. When he moved to Hayes most people called him Lord Sackville.  

His main interest, encouraged by his father, was engineering. He took a degree in Applied Science at Cambridge and subsequently served an apprenticeship at the Great Eastern and the Great Northern Railway workshops at Doncaster and Kings Cross. Then he  became chief electrician with the task of laying the submarine cable between Marseilles and Boma, at the mouth of the Congo.  An illness forced his return to England.

His mother, the widowed Lady Salisbury, left the family home at Hatfield after her marriage to Lord Derby in 1870 and moved to Holwood House, Keston, with five of her children. She and Lord Derby stayed for two years before moving to the family seat of the Derbys at Knowlsley but her son Lord Sackville Cecil preferred to remain in Kent.

Arrival in Hayes

At the age of 25 in 1873 he decided to build his own house on the edge of Hayes Common. The result was the Oast House. He employed Philip Webb as his architect but it was  Charles Vinall who finally carried out the design.

He spent two years as an Assistant Manager with the Great Eastern Company 1878 – 80 and five years in charge of the London Metropolitan Underground Company. In February 1880 Lord Derby recorded: ‘Hear that Sackville has accepted the traffic managership of the Metropolitan District line, £1500 a year’. He also became chairman of the Exchange Telegraph Company and had a great interest in conducting electrical and other experiments. 

Not surprisingly, in view of his interests, Lord Sackville Cecil was soon seeking permission from the Common Conservators to lay an underground telegraph from his house along the road to Dr Morris’s house at Baston Farm and then to the corner of the adjacent common. With his friend Herbert McLeod in 1877 he set up a telephone system and tested it by transmitting all kinds of sounds, including the sound of the flute played by a local schoolteacher. 

Contribution to Hayes Church

He was on extremely good terms with the rector, Revd G V Reed, and read the lessons during the later years of the rector’s life. It was remarked by Daniel Kettle that Lord Sackville was ‘at once an honorary curate and an adopted son’.  In 1878 he anonymously gave the money for the building of the south aisle of the church and south transept to house an organ chamber.  He was particularly keen on organ music. On the wall of the south aisle stands  the following inscription:
The transept for the organ with the vestry/adjoining were the gift of a parishioner.  And to increase/ the accommodation for the poor this aisle was built by/him upon condition that all the seats therein should be for ever free and unappropriated.
After the rector’s death he transferred his church work to Keston where he built St Audrey’s Private Chapel.
A later rector, Revd Percy Thompson, said that Lord Sackville Cecil was a handyman who kept a bag of tools in the church to put things right if anything went wrong with the bells or the organ.  He acted as parish clerk and was present at the Vestry meetings when many issues were considered for the local community.  He was very interested in the proposals to bring a railway to Hayes, an event which happened in 1882.

Recognition of the importance of local history
One of Lord Sackville Cecil’s greatest contribution to our knowledge of the history of Hayes was his arrangement in 1879  for a copy to be made of a handwritten account of  The History of Hayes in the County of Kent by a Native of the Village.  It was produced in 1833 by Charles Kadwell who had been born in Hayes in 1786. Lord Sackville Cecil put this copy with the Hayes Parish records ‘in the hope that the Rector of Hayes and other qualified persons will continue the history and insert in the blank spaces notes of duly authenticated information upon matters of local & Parochial interest’. In 1895 he also paid for copies of some illustrations and maps which had been collected by Charles Kadwell to be inserted in the book.

Hayes Parish Councillor

In 1894 the Hayes Parish Council was set up and the Hayes Vestry then became concerned only with ecclesiastical matters. Lord Sackville Cecil stood in the election for the first Parish Councillors and received the second highest number of votes. The early meetings covered many issues, such as the recent rise in freight rates and fares by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway (LC&DR) and SER companies. In May, the Parish Council refused permission for telegraph poles, insisting that cables should go underground but had no major objection to a proposed housing development at the north end of the parish (Hayes Road) on Norman land.  He remained a parish councillor until his death in 1898.


He and his mother, Mary Countess of Derby, were left Holwood, Keston for life after his stepfather’s death in 1893.  It was here that Lord Sackville Cecil died on 29 January 1898, at the early age of 49, of ‘gastroenteritis, pleurisy, pneumonia and cardio failure’. He was cremated at Woking Crematorium on 2nd February and his funeral, attended by Arthur Balfour (Prime Minister 1902-6) and Lord Eustace Salisbury, took place the next day in Hayes. His ashes were buried in a simple grave beside the church of which he had been such a great benefactor. Many local inhabitants admired him and Daniel Kettle of the White House wrote that he was ‘a nobleman in every sense of the word, of most unceasing activity and unselfish devotion’.

Hayes Church Records  Bromley Historic Collections  P180
Hayes Common Records, Bromley Historic Collections 298
Bromley Record February 1898