Upstairs Downstairs

From Humble Beginnings to the American Dream

A Zoom presentation by Jackie Depelle Saturday 21 November

Notes from Susanne Young

Well, what a wonderful way to spend a gloomy November Saturday afternoon, listening to one of popular speaker Jackie Depelle’s case studies. Maureen Heseltine welcomed Jackie to our gathering of 40 plus Zoom attendees from near and far. Tracing the story of her husband’s great grandfather Richard Powley, Jackie’s presentation was filled with additional background information, illustrations and useful websites.

Richard was born in 1860 in Blofield, Norfolk, the son of agricultural labourer Joseph and wife Hannah. At the age of 20 Richard has left the family and is employed as a footman at Stanfield Hall, Norfolk. In 1884 he married Charlotte and in 1891 he is recorded as a butler employed by the Procter-Beauchamp family at Langley Park, Chedgrave. Sadly, his wife died in 1895 leaving Richard with 5 young daughters. Shortly afterwards Richard commences employment in the United States and can be found crossing the Atlantic from Liverpool to Boston in 1900 aged 40. Better employment opportunities and wages in the US meant that Richard could send home money for the care of his daughters who were now living with his sister.

Richard worked as butler to the immensely wealthy Clarence Hungerford Mackay at his grand residence Harbor Hill at Roslyn near New York. He was able to visit his family fairly frequently and in 1911 he is in the UK at a private nursing home being treated for cancer. He returned to the US in 1912 to the home of his eldest daughter who emigrated there. Richard died in 1916 and is buried at Chedgrave with his wife.

During his career Richard would have witnessed the grandeur of American society as well as intrigue – Mackay’s wife eloped with her husband’s physician and their daughter eloped with Irving Berlin. Mackay lost a good deal of his fortune in the 1929 Wall Street crash and Harbor Hill was subsequently demolished. Richard left a considerable sum of money to his family when he died proving the American dream for the son of an impoverished ag lab from Norfolk.

A warm thank you was given by Chairman Lynda Balmforth.