Special Relationships – Genealogy Jude


When you consider the most important relationships in your life, no doubt some of your closest friends come to mind, perhaps even a certain best friend. It’s ironic then that as family historians, we may know all about an ancestor’s cousins, (some of whom they perhaps never met, or didn’t get on with at all), but yet we know so little about their nearest and dearest friends. These friends might include workmates, near neighbours, friends from church, or childhood pals. Occasionally, one comes across a record that hints at a special relationship: perhaps an ancestor staying with a friend on the night of the census, or a spinster, leaving a generous bequest to a female friend in their will. However, more often than not, we have no idea of the identity of our ancestors’ closest relationships.

Nevertheless, in rare instances, a relationship was clearly so special that knowledge of it has been preserved over time. An example of this is the friendship between my husband’s great grandfather, Stanley Vernon Woodcock, and his great friend, Mr Hodges. Even today, their names are mentioned synonymously within the family. But who was Mr Hodges and how and why did he and Stanley become friends? To answer these questions it is necessary to firstly look at the life of Stanley Vernon Woodcock and then see how it intersected with that of his mysterious friend, Mr Hodges.

Stanley Vernon Woodcock was born in Limehouse, in the East End of London, in 1877, the son of a shipwright from the Scilly Isles. Growing up in this maritime environment, it is not surprising that he took advantage of the opportunity to travel. One gets the impression that he was an ambitious young man with a thirst for adventure. From his pocket notebook, (which still survives today), we know that he left school at the age of fourteen and found a job at Coubro and Scrutton, a ships’ chandler at 18 Billier Street in the City of London. However, just over a year later, he decided to try his luck elsewhere, and left England on October 26th 1892, departing from Southampton on the ship Atrato, accompanied by his friend, seventeen year old Robert London Leeder. It was a trip that was to change the destiny of Stanley’s life.

Royal Mail Atrato 1888-1912
© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

The Atrato was part of the Royal Mail West India Company fleet, which was comprised of fourteen ships that sailed twice a month to the British West Indies and Central and South America, dropping passengers at various ports on the way. Apart from carrying her Majesty’s mail, the Company aimed to be at the vanguard of British maritime supremacy, promoting commerce in the region. Though the Atrato was fitted with a steam engine and a screw propellor, the latest technology, steam ships consumed a great deal of coal, so it was still necessary for ships like the Atrato to be fitted with sails.

In the passenger list of the Atrato, the two boys are recorded as Mr R.L. Leeder and Master S.V. Woodcock. They were the only passengers getting off at Panama (then part of Colombia). Inexplicably, Stanley is indexed as “Woodcock Senior”, so I would not have found a record of his first voyage without the information supplied by his notebook. The Isthmus of Panama separated the Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific Ocean and linked North and South America. Although there had been attempts to build a canal to link the two oceans, it wasn’t until 1914 that a passage was completed. However, in 1855, the Americans built a 47 mile railroad that linked Colon on the Atlantic, to Panama City on the Pacific. This was because the Californian Gold Rush had caused a vast increase in passengers and freight. The boys would have disembarked at Colon to take the railroad to Panama City. From there, they could continue on their journey to the port of Tumaco, their ultimate destination, by another ship travelling southwards along the Pacific coast of Colombia. You can imagine what an incredible journey it must have been for these two young teenagers! Tumaco was, in fact, the birthplace of Robert London Leeder, although he had left the country as a baby and been brought up in England. His father, Edmund Cotts Leeder, had spent many years working in both Ecuador and Colombia as a trader, gold miner and engineer. No doubt it was him who had arranged the trip. Stanley records in his notebook that both boys were going to work for Thomas Clark, an English merchant who was based in Tumaco.

Colombia was not a country that attracted many British settlers at this time, despite it being accessible from both the Pacific and the Caribbean Oceans. Before the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, it was about as far away as one could imagine for seafaring Britons. The climate on the coast was also hot and inhospitable. Other countries in South America such as Argentina, Chile or Uruguay were much more attractive climatically, and many Britons came to these countries when railways were first constructed. In contrast, in Colombia, railway construction was limited. A short railway line was built in the 1880s from the trading port of Barranquilla to Puerto Colombia, a distance of about 15 kilometres, but in Colombia, it was the rivers that formed the highways into the interior. Some Britons did stay on in the country but usually not for long. Nevertheless, until the First World War, Britain was Colombia’s chief financial and trading partner, as a result of British maritime supremacy. American interests and influence in the area only increased with the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 and the weakening of the British economy after the First World War.

Tumaco was in the province of Narino and situated on the Pacific coast of south-western Colombia, close to the Ecuadorian border. Living here, the boys were going to have to embrace a completely new culture and country: it must have been an eye-opening experience for them both. For one thing, Stanley’s knowledge of Spanish would have been minimal: perhaps he packed an English/Spanish dictionary in his luggage! In contrast to cold, wet England, Tumaco had a hot, tropical climate and was surrounded by mangrove swamps. Natural resources from the surrounding rainforests were gathered by locals and then exported through Tumaco to destinations around the world. In Landscapes of Freedom (Arizona Press 2018), Claudia Leal writes “Although the port shipped other commodities such as gold, hats, rubber, cacao and hides, from the 1860s through to the 1930s, trade in vegetable ivory was by far the most important local economic activity”. Vegetable ivory was essentially the seeds of the tagua palm. A white resinous material, it was used for canes, buttons, pipes and umbrella handles. At the same time, the port supplied the local elite with imported luxury goods. With the Andean mountains cutting off communication with the rest of the country, the port was Tumaco’s lifeline. Even today, apart from the port, Tumaco’s only link with the outside world is a single highway to Pasto, the capital city of the province of Narino.

According to Leal, a group of twelve merchants dominated the export business in Tumaco, each owning a shop and at least one warehouse in the town. Thomas Clark and William Jarvis were the two English merchants in the city and Robert London Leeder and Stanley Vernon Woodcock were to join their ranks. A few merchants were from Colombian families, but most were Europeans from Italy, Germany and Spain, as well as England. Over time, some became local commercial dynasties. The business of each merchant was organised around local houses, each taking their name from the owner. Each house had a shop and and the merchant and his family lived on the second floor. The locals, mostly Afro-Colombians, transported the natural resources by canoe from the interior to Tumaco to sell to the merchants. The merchants had their own piers out into the water and their warehouses were located nearby. Although many merchants did well for themselves, fluctuating prices and natural disasters such as fire, or even war, meant that prosperity could be precarious.

On March 31st 1907, the wedding took place in Tumaco of Stanley Vernon Woodcock and Elena Ricaurte: clearly he was now well integrated within the local community. Robert Leeder, his friend, had already married Mercedes Dolores Castillo by this time so they probably feature in this photo of Stanley and Elena’s wedding. The Leeders returned to England permanently in 1919.

Photograph of the wedding of Stanley Vernon Woodcock and Elena Ricaurte
March 30 1907, Tumaco, Colombia

After a three month honeymoon in England, Stanley and Elena returned to Tumaco and started a family. Seven children were born to them in Tumaco between 1908 and 1915. Stanley’s business had thrived and by 1911, he had acquired two warehouses. However, hard times were coming. During the First World War, the Colombian economy faltered and the development of oil derivatives meant that natural rubber and vegetable ivory were being replaced with plastic. With the good times waning, Stanley decided to leave Tumaco and by 1919, he had moved to Pasto, the regional capital, high in the Andean mountains. There he set up the “Casa Inglesa” (English House), where he continued trading as a merchant, selling imported manufactured goods and products from England. Two more children were born to Stanley and Elena in Pasto.

Panoramic view of Pasto, Narino, Colombia
Jorgelrm, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stanley himself travelled back and forth to England a number of times over the years, as evidenced by passenger lists:

Name Age Occ. Arrival Ship Port of Departure Port of Arrival
Master S.V.
Woodcock
26 Oct
1892
Atrato Southampton,
England
Panama
S.V.
Woodcock
9 Feb
1898
Orinoco Southampton,
England
Tumaco,
Colombia
Stanley
Woodcock
36
[sic]
Gent. 30 Jun
1903
Trent Colon,
Colombia
Southampton,
England
Mr Stanley
Woodcock
30 Sep
1903
Atrato Southampton,
England
Tumaco,
Colombia
*Stanley
Woodcock
29
10m
Merchant 20 Jun
1907
Magdalena Colon,
Colombia
New York,
U.S.A.
S.V. Woodcock 29 29 Jun
1907
Philadelphia New York,
U.S.A.
Plymouth,
England
Mr Stanley
Woodcock
17 Oct
1907
Asian Liverpool,
England
Tumaco,
Colombia
Mr Stanley V.
Woodcock
37 22 Jun
1914
Orotava New York,
U.S.A.
Southampton,
England
Stanley Vernon
Woodcock
37 Merchant 7 Oct
1914
Tagus London,
England
Colon,
Panama
Stanley Vernon
Woodcock
46 Merchant 23 Aug
1924
Ortega Cristobal,
Colombia
Liverpool,
England
Stanley Vernon
Woodcock
47 Merchant 8 Nov
1924
Camito Bristol,
England
Cristolbal,
Panama
Voyages of Stanley Vernon Woodcock 1892-1924
Table based on information extracted from UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 Class: BT26;
UK Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 Class BT 27; National Archives (U.K.)
via https://www.ancestry.co.uk
*via Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation Inc – https://www.statueofliberty.org/statue-of-liberty/

Typically, Stanley would arrive in England in the summer and leave in the autumn to make the long trip back home to Colombia. According to his notebook, Stanley arrived back in England in late 1897 but I can find no surviving passenger record to document this trip. The amount of information recorded in passenger records can vary considerably. As you can see, in some lists, only first initials are recorded and an occupation is only sometimes given. Marital status, however, is usually recorded and of course, he was travelling with his wife, Elena, on their honeymoon trip in 1907. The passenger manifest filled in for American immigration for this trip recorded their last residence as Tumaco, and that they were in transit to Liverpool. They had nine days to enjoy the sights of New York before continuing on their journey.

Photograph of Stanley Vernon Woodcock and his wife, Elena, in their wedding clothes
Taken in 1907 on their honeymoon to England

In August 1924, Stanley travelled to England, accompanied by his four eldest children:

Passenger Manifest for Ortega, arrived August 23 1924, Liverpool
UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 Class BT 26; National Archives (U.K.) via https://www.ancesty.co.uk

Stanley had decided that the children needed to further their education in England. Rosing Brothers on King William Street, in London was given as their proposed address in England. Rosing Brothers were a firm of merchants in the City and one of London’s biggest coffee importers, owning many coffee plantations in South America. Stanley must have been an agent for them in Pasto. Once the children were settled, Stanley returned to Colombia in November 1924.

Two years later, in August 1926, (Aurelio) Alfonso, the eldest in the family, and recorded as a student, left England. He gave his last address as “The Manor House, Edgmond”. Similarly, his younger siblings, George and Alice, gave the address of “The Homestead, Edgmond” when they returned to Colombia in 1928. Who were they staying with and where had they been at school?

Passenger Manifest for Orbita departed August 2 1928 from Liverpool, England
UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960, National Archives (U.K.) via www.ancestry.co.uk

Their brother, Edward, had decided that he wanted to stay in England and promptly disappeared so his father could not send him home!

So who was Stanley’s mysterious friend, Mr Hodges? A search of Google Books revealed his identity. Lloyds Register of Shipping of 1917 records that an A.S. Hodges was the British Vice-Consul in Pasto. He was also listed in subsequent editions in 1921 and 1924. The Foreign Office List and Diplomatic and Consular Yearbook of 1928 also records that Mr Alfred Hodges had resigned his appointment as Vice-Consul at Pasto, Colombia on August 25 1925. Armed with this information, I was now able to identify Mr Hodges in passenger lists:

Name Age Occ. Arrival Ship Port of Departure Port of Arrival
*Alfred Hodges 32 Merchant 1889 Exeter City London,
England
New York,
U.S.A.
Alfred Hodge 30 Gent. 30 Sep
1892
Gallia Liverpool,
England
New York,
U.S.A.
*Alfred Hodge 40 Gent. 20 Sep
1893
Teutonic Liverpool,
England
New York,
U.S.A.
Alfred Hodge 40 Merchant Jul
1894
Lucania New York,
U.S.A.
Liverpool,
England
*Alfred Hodge 40 Merchant 15 Sep
1894
Campania Liverpool,
England
New York,
U.S.A.
Mr Alfred Hodge 41 Merchant 26 Jan
1895
Teutonic New York,
U.S.A.
Liverpool,
England
*Alfred Hodge 41 None 19 Sep
1895
Germanic Liverpool,
England
New York,
U.S.A.
Alfred Hodge 42 Merchant Jun
1896
Germanic New York,
U.S.A.
Liverpool,
England
Alfred Hodge 42 Merchant 28 Aug
1896
Saint Louis Southampton,
England
New York,
U.S.A.
*Alfred Hodges 16 Jun
1907
New York New York,
U.S.A.
Southampton,
England
*Alfred Stanhope
Hodges
58 6 May
1914
Trent Colon,
Puerto Rico
New York,
U.S.A.
Alfred S.
Hodges
56 Engineer 22 May
1914
Adriatic New York,
U.S.A.
Liverpool,
England
*Alfred S.
Hodges
59 Engineer 22 Jan
1915
Santa Marta Colon,
Puerto Rico
New York,
U.S.A.
Alfred S.
Hodges
60 Mining
Engineer
17 Jan
1917
Cavina Colon,
Puerto Rico
Bristol,
England
Alfred Stanhope
Hodges
65 British
Vice-Consul
8 Oct
1921
Camito Bristol,
England
Cristobal,
Canal Zone
Mr A.S. Hodges 65 29 Sep
1922
Ruapehu Cristobal,
Canal Zone
Southampton,
England
Alfred Stanhope
Hodges
70 None 10 Apr
1926
Ariguani Bristol,
England
Cristobal,
Canal Zone
Alfred S.
Hodges
71 Rtd
Vice-Consul
21 Feb
1927
Ariguani Cristobal,
Canal Zone
Bristol,
England
Alfred Stanhope
Hodges
76 Rtd.
Consular Service
24 May
1932
Cavina Cristobal,
Canal Zone
Bristol,
England
Alfred S.
Hodges
80 29 Mar
1936
Bairn Buenaventura,
Colombia
Liverpool,
England
Voyages of Alfred Stanhope Hodges 1889-1932
Table based on information extracted from UK, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 Class: BT26; & UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 Class BT 27; National Archives (U.K.)
via https://www.ancestry.co.uk
*via Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation Inc – https://www.statueofliberty.org/statue-of-liberty/

Although undoubtedly I haven’t been able to trace every trip he made, it is clear that Alfred Stanhope Hodges, (his full name recorded on later passenger lists), travelled extensively, even into his old age, first leaving England in 1889. He often made the transatlantic crossing to New York, so he could well have had business there. The passenger list of the Trent in 1914 revealed that his last address was Pasto, Colombia so I now know that he was resident there by this date

Further research revealed that Alfred Stanhope Hodges had been born in Ramsgate, Kent in 1857. Prior to his travels, he was a shipping agent in the town and also in nearby Deal, as was his father, Alfred Lewton Hodges. A shipping agent worked on behalf of a ship’s owners to ensure that the needs of the ship, its cargo and its crew, were all met. His family also held various diplomatic posts as vice-consuls. Vice-consuls were stationed in various English ports to represent British interests in specific countries. The position often ran in families and the role was both diplomatic and commercial. In 1884, Alfred was appointed the British Vice-Consul for Brazil. He was also described as a consul in the 1881 census, when he was living in Deal, Kent. His brother, Edward Lewton Hodges, was a consul for France and Liberia at a similarly tender age. Their father, Alfred Lewton Hodges, had been appointed the British Vice-Consul for Hamburg and in Thom’s Irish Almanac and Directory of 1873, he is listed in “Consuls for Great Britain and Ireland for Foreign States“, representing British interests in many countries.

Alfred Lewton Hodges senior, then a widower, died on Boxing Day 1883 and as his brother had died earlier in the year, Alfred Stanhope Hodges was the sole beneficiary of his father’s estate. Perhaps fortified by his inheritance and with no surviving immediate family, he decided to leave his shipping agency business in Deal and take advantage of the opportunities that existed for a man of his experience in trade, shipping and diplomacy. In the passenger lists, he is variously described as a merchant and a mining engineer so it is probable that he was involved in various commercial enterprises. Acting as the British Vice-Consul in Pasto was another feather to his bow. Although I have found no photograph of Alfred Stanhope Hodges, the passengers lists of 1914 and 1915, when he landed at Ellis Island, were rather informative and give a physical description of him. He was 6 foot tall and had a fair complexion with brown hair and eyes. Possibly this information was recorded because it was wartime.

The addresses recorded in the passenger lists in the 1920s were revealing. When Alfred arrived in England in September 1922, he gave his proposed address as The Manor House, Edgmond, in Salop (Shropshire). When he returned to Colombia in April 1926, Egmond was also his last address, so it looks as if he had been staying there for the last three and a half years. This, of course, was the same address given by the children of his friend, Stanley, when they returned to Colombia in 1926 and 1928. It therefore looks as if Alfred was their guardian and the children lived with him whilst they were in England.

A search of the 1911 census revealed that the Manor House was owned by the Hodges family. Alfred Nowell Hodges, a 42 year old solicitor and his sisters, Louisa, aged 40 and Laura aged 38, none of them married, were living there at the time. All of them had been born in Edgmond. Further research revealed that they were the children of Edward Hodges, a solicitor born in Dover so they were cousins of Alfred Stanhope Hodges. Alfred Nowell Hodges died in 1918 but Louisa, who remained unmarried, and another unmarried sister, Mabel, were living there in the 1920s. Their cousin, Alfred, obviously stayed in their home when he was in England, and as he was the guardian of the Woodcock children, this was also the children’s home during their time in the country.

A search of Google Maps shows the properties of The Homestead and The Manor House in Egmond today:

The Homestead, Edgmond (left), The Manor House, Edgmond (right)
Image courtesy of Google Maps April 2009

It had always been a mystery in the family where the children had gone to school in England but now that I knew where they were staying in England, it seemed likely that they had attended a school in the vicinity of Edgmond. Looking at a map of the area, I noted that the school of Haberdashers Adams was in the nearby town of Newport so I wrote to the school librarian. I was delighted when she was able to confirm that both Edward and George Woodcock had attended the school, though I have yet to the identify the girls’ school that Alice attended.

On March 29th 1936, Alfred Stanhope Hodges returned to England for the final time at the age of 80, dying less than a month later on April 23 1936 at Rhosyn, Granville Road in Newport. I discovered that he had left a will and obtained a copy. It contained some surprises! Alfred had made his will two years prior to his death on May 15th 1934. His executors and trustees were the Royal Canadian Trust Company and his solicitor, Arthur C. Haslehurt, of Woodside, Marden, Kent, who was to receive £25 for his services. He then left the following legacy:

Here was further evidence of the close friendship that had developed between Alfred and Stanley. (Stanley had taken on the position of British Vice-Consul after the resignation of his friend). Sadly, Stanley was never to receive the bequest, as he predeceased his friend by six months, dying on September 28th 1935. Alfred’s cousin, Mabel Hodges was to receive £400 and his gold watch and seal so they must have been particularly close. I discovered that Mabel was also an intrepid traveller for as well as spending several years in Mozambique, she had also visited her cousin in Pasto in 1919. She lived at Rhosyn, Granville Road in Newport after her cousin’s death. Another huge surprise was to follow. Alfred Stanthope Hodges requested that the rest of his estate was to be put into a trust for “my adopted son, Leopoldo Enrique Garcia, a native of Colombia permanently residing with me”. Leopoldo was to receive money in half yearly instalments when he reached the age of 27 on July 26 1937. This was to be paid out of the income on the trust, the minimum payment being £150. At first, I wondered whether Alfred was, in fact, Leopoldo’s father, but there were also instructions to the trustees that Leopoldo should be given an advance of £100 for his passage and expenses if he decided to visit his parents. If Leopoldo died before he reached the age of 27, or during the lifetime of Alfred Stanhope Hodges, his mother, Imperatriz Bucheli Garcia of Pasto, Colombia, was to receive £400, with the remainder held in trust for his cousins, Mabel, (who was to receive one half), and Laura and Louisa, who were to receive the other half.

In passenger lists, foreign nationals are often listed separately from British nationals, and names are organised alphabetically by surname of the passenger. I therefore had no idea that Leopoldo Enrique Garcia had been accompanying his adoptive father on his voyages for some time. In 1926, he had left England and was described as a 13 year old valet (though he was in fact, 15 years old). He had obviously come to England at an earlier date. He arrived back in England with his adoptive father in 1927, and again in 1932 and 1936. So what happened to Leopoldo after the death of his adoptive father and benefactor in April 1936? I was delighted to find a record of him in September 1936 which also included a photograph:

Photograph of Leopoldo Enrique Garcia
Great Britain, Royal Aero Club Aviators’ Certificates,
1910-1950, Royal Air Force Museum Hendon,
via http://www.ancestry.co.uk

After the death of his adoptive father, Leopoldohad trained to be an aviator at the Cinque Ports Flying Club, gaining his certificate on September 12th 1936. He had probably gone to stay with Arthur C. Haslehurst, his adoptive father’s friend and trustee. However, the following year, Leopoldo left England, departing from Southampton on September 25th 1937 bound for Cristobal on the Colombie. His last address was Layste, Stone Street, Lympne, Kent and he gave his occupation as an aviator. Presumably he was heading back to Pasto. Thereafter, Leopoldo’s life is a mystery.

Initially, I set out just to write about the relationship between Stanley Vernon Woodcock and Mr Hodges. To do so, I needed to discover the latter’s identity. My research has revealed that Alfred Stanhope Hodges was a prolific traveller and an astute businessman. With his background in shipping and diplomacy, he was ideally placed to make the most of the commercial opportunities that were available for those with a taste for adventure in far away places. He and Stanley must have become good friends in Pasto, where there would only have been a handful of English people. Clearly they supported each other, both on a personal level and in their business activities. It was wonderful to discover that Alfred had left his friend, Stanley, a generous bequest in his will. However, more than one special relationship has emerged. Stanley obviously trusted his friend, Alfred, to take care of his children. Alfred acted as their guardian in England and found a school for them, close to his cousins’ home. As a result, the children had a close relationship with him too. In addition, the discovery of the special relationship between Alfred Stanhope Hodges and his adoptive son, Leopoldo Enriques Garcia has been a complete surprise and given another insight into the man that was Mr Hodges. After a lifetime spent travelling the world, a young boy from a town in the Colombian mountains had captured his heart.

© Judith Batchelor 2021



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An open minded personality.. fun to be with, because of my positive vibes. God fearing, for without God I am nothing.. Moved with compassion when dealing with you, not selfish or self-centered...

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