The Penrose Fitzgeralds

Henrietta Elizabeth Lilias Penrose Fitzgerald nee Hewson

Henrietta Elizabeth Lilias Hewson was born in 1855 in Kildare, Ireland to Rev Francis and Mary Hewson.

On 29 November 1882 she met and married Charles Cooper Penrose Fitzgerald at Rathdrum in Ireland.

Charles was born in Cork, Ireland in 1841 and had joined the Royal Navy at the age of 13 years when he had been posted to Nelsons famous HMS Victory at Portsmouth Harbour. Appointment as Midshipman started him on the Naval ladder and by 1880 he was commanding the Frigate HMS Inconstant and later the Battleship HMS Collingwood. Charles was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1895 and then Admiral in 1905 shortly after which he retired from service.

 Charles and Henrietta were to have two sons – Robert and John and two daughters Mary Elizabeth and Laura.


The family spent most of their time at Folkestone, Kent.

Robert and John followed their father into the Royal Navy while both daughters went into nursing.

During the Great War Henrietta, Mary and Laura all worked at Manor House VAD Hospital with Henrietta taking responsibility for Belgian Refugees and all were active on the Primrose League. After the war Henrietta received a Belgian honour for her work.

Charles died in 1921 and two years later in 1923, Henrietta moved to Morris House , 8 Belvedere Road Burnham on Crouch and the following year was followed by her son John who moved in with her and her daughter  Mary was moved into 9 Belvedere Road the next door house.

Henrietta Died on 27 September 1942 and was buried on 29 September 1942 at St Mary’s Church, Burnham on Crouch.

Mary Elizabeth Penrose Fitzgerald Born  Died 22 February 1938

 During the Great War Mary joined the Red Cross VAD and became Quartermaster of Manor House St John Ambulance VAD  Hospital a task that she performed so well as to be mentioned in dispatched in 1919 for her work.

Mary continued her connection with the Red Cross by becoming Commandant of the Red Cross VAD unit at Burnham on Crouch. She was a keen sailor who belonged to the Royal Corinthian Yacht Cub and regularly sailed in events in her 18 foot yacht, Paddy.

Mary never married and has no children.

Mary Died on 22 February 1938 and her funeral was held three days later at St Mary’s Church, Burnham on Crouch.

John Uniacke Penrose Fitzgerald CB  Born 27 July 1888 Died 11 December 1940

Naval career

John was born at Wicklow,Ireland on 27 July 1988 and was educated at Summerfields, Oxford. He joined the Royal Navy in 1903 and was posted to HMS Britannia. He developed an expertise for torpedoes and moved through the ranks serving on several ships including the battleship HMS Collingwood where he was First

 Lieutenant during the Battle of Jutland. From 1924 to 1927 he was senior naval officer in West River, China during the troubles in the Canton and Pearl River. He was promoted to Captain and served as the Naval Attaché in Parish for from 1931 to 1934 after which he commanded the Cruiser HMAS Sydney

In 1938 he became Director of torpedoes and mining at the Admiralty where he was made a Rear Admiral just before he retired from the Royal Navy in January 1940.

In his role as a RNVR Officer he led a group of Naval experts in an expeditionary force for mining  in France from January to March 1940

I July 1940 the honours list recorded the award of a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) for this service in France.

On 11 November 1941 he was on board the SS Rotorua which was transporting refrigerated food from Lyttleton, New Zealand to Avonmouth when she was attacked and sunk by German submarine U96. 21 lives were lost including John. His body was never recovered so he has no grave but he is commemorated on the naval memorial at Liverpool.

Personal Life

John Married Cecil Mary Goldie-Scot at Dunfries in 1919 but sadly the marriage didn’t last long as his wife Cecil died at Port Edgar, Queensferry  on 15 August 1920 just two days after giving birth to their daughter also name Cecil.

In 1924 John moved to Burnham on Crouch to live with his mother although he spent most of his time at sea in the navy.

In 1925 he moved to Debden Green when he remarried to Eugenie ( aka  Jane)  Allport with whom he would have a son and three daughters. Eugenie would herself remarry after John’s death.

Laura Penrose Fitzgerald Born 1 September 1885 Died 17 August 1977

Laura was born at Greenwich on 1 September 1885. After working at the VAD Hospital, Folkestone she continued in nursing spending time at different Hospitals.

Laura was a regular visitor to Burnham on Crouch and at times lived with Mary at 9 Belvedere Road appearing in several electoral rolls.

Laura retired to Rickmansworth eventually moving to Eastbourne where died on 17 August 1977.

 Robert Francis Uniacke Penrose Fitzgerald

Robert never followed the family to Burnham on Crouch although he was a frequent visitor to take part in sailing

  Burnham on Crouch Cemetery

Burnham Cemetery is the resting place for Henrietta and Mary.