Henry Charles Stephens

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Henry Charles "Inky" Stephens (February 1841 – July 1918)[1] was an English businessman and Conservative Party[2] politician. He sat in the House of Commons from 1887 to 1900 as the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Hornsey division of Middlesex.[3]

Stephens was born at 71 York Road, Lambeth, London on 2 February 1841, the son of Dr Henry Stephens and his second wife Anne, of Redbourn, Hertfordshire. Dr Henry Stephens (1796–1864) was the inventor in 1832 of an indelible "blue-black writing fluid" which was to become famous as Stephens' Ink and to form the foundation of a successful worldwide company for over 150 years.

The family moved to Finchley, north London, in 1844 where Dr Stephens bought and renovated a large residence named Grove House, in Ballards Lane. The outbuildings of Grove House were used by the inventor as a laboratory for research and manufacture of ink and wood stains; thus Henry Charles grew up among his father's work and learnt the business from a young age.

After an early education in France, the boy returned to England to attend University College School. He left school at the age of 16 but continued with chemistry and science studies while also involved in the family business. At the age of 23, in 1864, he took over the management of the company upon the sudden death of his father, who collapsed and died at Farringdon station.

The year before (1863), he had married Margaret Agnes Mackereth, the daughter of an old medical-student friend of his father. They lived for a while in Grove House with Stephens' widowed mother, then in 1874 purchased nearby Avenue House in East End Road and ten acres of adjacent land, on a site formerly known as Temple Croft Field.

Stephens enlarged and improved the house and in the 1870s sought advice about having the grounds developed, and employed landscape gardener Robert Marnock (1800–1889). Marnock's plans included lawns, ponds, mounds, paths and steps, and a walled kitchen garden and park-keeper's dwelling known as The Bothy (1882). Stephens added a water tower with adjacent building, a lodge, coach house and stable block and arranged for a number of rare trees to be planted throughout the grounds.

In 1872 the ink factory and offices were moved from Aldersgate Street to 275 Holloway Road, Holloway; in 1892 the factory moved again to nearby Gillespie Road, close to Arsenal station. In January 1888 Stephens was admitted to the Freedom and Livery of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers. The Stephens' Ink company was innovative and profitable and Henry Stephens was a very wealthy man.

Stephens was popular in Finchley as a businessman, lecturer and philanthropist and was known as "Inky" Stephens, the "uncrowned king of Finchley", as a result.[4][5]

He was elected as MP for the Hornsey constituency, which included Finchley, at a by-election in 1887 (defeating the later-to-be-disgraced Horatio Bottomley) after the sitting Conservative MP was elevated to the peerage.[6] He was re-elected in 1892,[7] returned unopposed in 1895,[7] and stood down from Parliament on a point of principle at the 1900 general election.[7]

Aside from the family business and politics, he was a chemist, a local benefactor and philanthropist, and had an interest in agriculture and water management.[3] He owned an estate in Cholderton where he set up the Cholderton and District Water Company in 1904.[8]

He still owned Avenue House and its gardens in Finchley, which he left to Finchley UDC, as long they were kept open for public use and enjoyment (subject to reasonable regulation) in his will when he died in 1918. In 1887 he proposed, and later partially financed, the establishment of a park in Finchley to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, and this was finally opened in 1902 as Victoria Park, Finchley's first public park.

Over ten years the Finchley Society led by Barbara Warren raised funds - the Spike Milligan Statue Fund - to commission a statue of former local resident Spike Milligan cast in bronze by local sculptor John Somerville and erected by the stables block in the grounds of Avenue House. The statue of Spike sitting on a bench was unveiled on 4 September 2014 at a ceremony attended by a number of local dignitaries and showbusiness celebrities including Roy Hudd, Michael Parkinson, Maureen Lipman, Terry Gilliam, Kathy Lette, Denis Norden and Lynsey de Paul.

The Stephens Collection[edit]

A small museum – The Stephens Collection – in Finchley, north London, features the history of the Stephens family and the eponymous ink company, with a section on the development of writing materials. The museum is open three afternoons a week and occasional weekends, and is located in Avenue House, the home of Henry "Inky" Stephens from 1874 until his death. In his will he bequeathed Avenue House and its ten acres of gardens to Finchley Urban District Council, subject to the condition that they be 'open for the use and enjoyment always of the people, subject to reasonable regulation'; the house and grounds are now run by a local charitable trust for public benefit and as a memorial to Dr Stephens and his son.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "H" (part 4)[self-published source][better source needed]
  2. ^ Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, Sunday, 3 July 1887 "Election Intelligence"
  3. ^ a b Cholderton Estate: History Family History
  4. ^ BBC Radio 4 Making History Henry 'Inky' Stephens
  5. ^ The Stephens Collection
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 25723. p. 4002. 2 July 1887. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
  7. ^ a b c Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1974]. British parliamentary election results 1885–1918 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 348. ISBN 0-900178-27-2. 
  8. ^ Cholderton Village Profile of the Parish
  9. ^ "http://www.stephenshouseandgardens.com"

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James McGarel-Hogg
Member of Parliament for Hornsey
18871900
Succeeded by
Charles Barrington Balfour