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Henry Alexander BROWN CONSTABLE (1854-1916)

Known As
Uncle Harry
Biographical Details

Henry Alexander Brown Constable (1854-1916), known as Harry, was the uncle of Mela Brown Constable (the fiancée of Cyril Sladden).

Harry was born in Scotland in 1854, the eldest of 12 children of Charles Brown Constable by his second wife, Mary Christina (née Mackenzie).  Harry’s father had recently retired from the Indian army and had, in 1852, inherited the Wallace Craigie estate near Dundee.  Charles’ three older brothers had all died before him without issue, thus Charles inherited the estate which had originally been left to his father, Laurence Brown (Harry’s grandfather), by Laurence’s uncle, George Constable (Harry’s great-great-uncle).  By virtue of a deed of entail executed on the 23d February 1796, Laurence had been required to add the name of Constable to his patronymic on inheriting.

Not long after Harry’s birth, the family settled in Cheltenham, where 11 more siblings followed.  They lived in a large house at 1 Lansdown Place.  As well as the children from the second marriage, the household also comprised three of Harry’s half-brothers, all of whom had been born in India, and two aunts, Emilia Brown Constable and Frances Pitt Curtis.

According to a brief obituary in Cheltenham Looker-On in 1916, Harry was a day boy at Cheltenham College from April 1869 to December 1870.  He had left home by 1871.  Like his younger brother, Frederick, he became a tea planter in India.  Passenger lists reveal that Harry made the return journey to England on a number of occasions:  23rd April 1896, London to Cape Town, South Africa; 9th October 1902, London to Calcutta; 25th February 1905, London to Calcutta; 16th September 1910, London to Bombay.

In a letter of 27th May 1915, it was revealed that Harry was briefly engaged to Julia Lethbridge in the 1880s, but she broke off the engagement and instead married Robert Shapland George Julian Carew in 1888 and became Lady Carew.

On retirement, Harry settled at Beverley, Frant Road, Tunbridge Wells.

As the eldest member of the Brown Constable family, it was “Uncle Harry” whom Mela often turned to for guidance and who helped to support his nieces and nephews, for example paying Cecil’s expenses once he had gone to the front.  He also felt responsibility for his younger brother, Albert (Mela’s father), who suffered from a number of maladies.

Mela went to stay with Harry in Tunbridge Wells for nine days in May 1915.  It was then that he revealed that he had got tuberculosis.  The doctors felt he had contracted it from getting very run down in a climate of great contrast to India.  An outside shelter was built for him in the garden.  Mela remarked:  “He seems a little better – you’d hardly believe it but since his illness he reads novels, ordinary everyday novels and likes them!”  She felt it was sad how people shunned him since he had become ill – relatives more than friends.  During her stay, Mela got to know her uncle better:  “It is as Cecil says, you’ve got to be with Uncle H a long time before you understand him and then you get very fond of him.”  A few months later, when Harry heard that Mela’s fiancée had been wounded, he wrote to her every day:  “He is a dear old thing.”

Harry died at Beverley, Tunbridge Wells, on 16th August 1916, appointing his younger brother, Frederick Lyon Brown Constable, as executor.  In 1912, Harry had inherited the Wallace Craigie estate (what was left of it) after the death of his nephew, Charles William Nelson Brown Constable, in 1912, who had no sons.  There was controversy after he died concerning his will.  Mela heard from her father that Harry had disentailed the property because of a promise he made 40 years ago to his father, ie that if ever he came into the property he would disentail it.  Mela’s mother felt that her brother-in-law, Frederick (who was younger than her husband, Albert), was being favoured before her children whom she felt had a more rightful claim. A letter written by Mela 25 years later gives an explanation for the disentailment.

Letters mentioning this person: