Hayes (Kent) History

Hayes (Kent) History

Mabel Winifred Knowles (May Wynne) 1925 (Bromley Historic Collections)

I Jan 1875 - 29 Nov 1949
Author & Church Missionary

Mabel Knowles was born in Streatham, the second daughter of Emma Letitia and William Knowles, a London Merchant banker. The family move to Hast Hill, a large Victorian mansion situated on the edge of Hayes Common, in 1895 when she was 20 years old. Her first book was published shortly after their arrival in Hayes and she continued to write popular, moralistic and instructive novel for both children and adults. Under the names of May Wynne, Mark Winchester, Lester Lurgan or Michael Kaye she wrote over 200 books and short stories. She used the proceeds to finance her missionary work in the East End.

After her mother’s death in 1924, Hast Hill  was sold. She moved to Maplin Road in the parish of St Luke’s, Victoria Docks, to continue her work amongst the poor.  She continued to be supported in her efforts by members of the Hayes Parish Church who provided funds, opened up their homes and gardens for visits of groups from the Mission and provided relief parcels, particularly during the Blitz.

In 1992 several of the children she had helped in the 1930s recalled their memories of this remarkable lady, a tall austere figure with long serge skirt and battered felt hat with her basket from which she would give out butter, cheese and eggs as required.

She died from a heart attack on 29 November 1949 on her way to conduct a Mission Service and was buried in the family grave in Hayes Churchyard.   She had made a lasting impact on so many lives and was known as ‘the Angel of Custom House’.

Further information:

  • Mabel Winifred Knowles 1875 -1949 The Angel of Custom House: Jean Wilson, Bromleage August 1993,
    (bblhs.org.uk)
  • Who Was Who
    Oxford Dictionary of National Biography