Above, top: Miranda Hart and her co-stars in her eponymous TV sitcom, Miranda; Miranda as Chummy in Call The Midwife. Below: Miranda and her younger sister, Alice, with their parents; Miranda with her mother, Diana.
She’s over six feet tall, very funny and falls flat on her face a lot in her TV sitcom. It’s the brilliant Miranda Hart, who else? But perhaps what is not so well known is that the statuesque star of Miranda and also the 1950s drama series Call The Midwife is rather posh – as posh, in fact as her on-screen persona.
She’s denied this on chat shows but it would be no surprise if her favourite bedtime reading was Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, since her family history occupies several pages in the bible of the aristocracy and upper classes. Miranda descends from the Hart Dyke baronetcy which goes back to 1677 and, through female lines, she’s a direct descendant of William the Conqueror, though that isn’t a particularly exclusive club as millions of people belong to it.
Her ancestry is liberally sprinkled with those bastions of the upper classes, high-ranking army and navy officers and Anglican vicars. Indeed, her family background suggests she would fit comfortably into the Downton Abbey series! Miranda went to Downe House School, near Newbury, Berkshire, an independent girls’ boarding school where she was a contemporary and friend of the TV presenter Clare Balding.
An uncle and aunt currently live at Lullingstone Castle, Eynsford, Kent, which has been the Hart Dyke family seat for many generations and dates back to 1497. Miranda’s first cousin, Tom Hart Dyke, the noted horticulturist and plant hunter who was kidnapped by Central American guerillas in 2000, founded the famous World Garden of Plants at Lullingstone (Below right: Lullingstone Castle, Tom Hart Dyke and Miranda’s uncle and aunt, Guy and Sarah Hart Dyke).
She was born Miranda Katharine Hart Dyke in the seaside resort of Torquay, Devon, on 14 December 1972, the daughter of David Hart Dyke CBE and Diana Margaret Luce, who were married in 1967 at Salisbury, Wiltshire, registration district.
Her father, a retired naval officer born on 3 October 1938 at Gosport, Hampshire, commanded HMS Coventry, a Royal Navy destroyer sunk in 1982 by Argentinian warplanes in the Falklands War. He later became an aide-de-camp to the Queen. He had a twin brother, Robert, who died in a car crash in 1963. Miranda’s mother, born in 1939, is the daughter of Sir William Henry Tucker Luce (1907-1977), an admiral’s son who was governor of Aden from 1956 to 1960.
Miranda’s paternal grandfather, the Rev. Eric Hart Dyke (1906-1971) was born in India on 28 July 1906 and married Mary Alexander, who descended from a Scottish baronetcy, in 1935 at Okehampton, Devon. Before becoming a clergyman in 1952, the Rev. Hart Dyke was a Royal Navy commander in World War II, being twice mentioned in despatches. From 1953 to 1963 he was Rector of Cowden, Kent.
Eric Hart Dyke was born in India because his father, Miranda Hart’s great grandfather, Colonel Percyvall Hart Dyke (1872-1952), served in the Indian Army for many years, fought in numerous campaigns before, during and after WWI and was a much-decorated soldier. He married Louisa Catherine Cave, an admiral’s daughter, at Kensington, London, in 1900 but they are not found in the censuses of 1901 and 1911, presumably because they were in India.
However, Miranda’s maternal grandfather, Sir William Henry Tucker Luce, does appear in the 1911 census as a boy of three, living with his mother Mary Dorothea , three brothers and four servants at Anglesey Road, Alverstoke, Hampshire. I couldn’t find Mary Dorothea’s husband John Luce, Miranda’s maternal great grandfather, in 1911, but he was then a Royal Navy captain in command of the battleship Hibernia and almost certainly at sea. He remained a commander throughout World War I and became an admiral in 1921, dying in 1932, aged 62.
Miranda Hart’s maternal great grandmother, Mary Dorothea Tucker, who married John Luce at Weymouth, Dorset, in 1902, was the daughter of a woollen manufacturer from Somerset – perhaps an example of what the Victorians and Edwardians called a girl from ‘trade’ marrying into the upper classes?
Returning to the direct Hart Dyke line, I found Percyvall Hart Dyke (the unusual spelling of his first name is found several times in the family) in the census of 1891. He was then 18, described as a ‘Gentleman cadet Sandhurst’, living with his father Thomas Hart Dyke, an estate steward, three elder sisters, a single woman described as ‘Companion to daughters’ and four female servants at Ashton Lodge, Long Ashton, Somerset. Thomas, son Percyvall and his sisters were also at Ashton Lodge in the census of 1881 too, with a governess and four other female servants.
Great great grandparents
Thomas Hart Dyke (1834-1906), Miranda Hart’s great great grandfather, was married in 1863 at Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, to Georgina Isabella Russell Fullerton who was only 18. In the census of 1871, Thomas and Georgina were living in Clifton, Bristol, at 10, Gloucester Row, Clifton Down. Thomas was aged 37, an estate agent and civil engineer, born at St Mary Cray, Kent, while his wife Georgina was 26, born at Bishop Wearmouth, Durham. With them were three small daughters, aged from three to three weeks, all born in different places. Also in the household were an aunt of Thomas’s, a nurse and three other servants.
But where was Georgina, Thomas’s wife, in the censuses of 1881 and 1891? Initially, I thought she was missing from those censuses, though her husband and children appear in both. However, after I had posted some of these details at the Findmypast website, another eagle-eyed researcher believed she had found Georgina and a somewhat possibly tragic story ensued.
A candidate, who I am virtually certain was Georgina, was found as a patient in a private asylum at Ticehurst, Sussex, in the 1881 census. She was shown only under the initials G.I.R.D., aged 35, married, born at Sunderland, Durham, and in the handicap column, along with many other patients, she was listed as a ‘lunatic’. Ticehurst House Hospital was a private madhouse for mostly wealthy patients and operated from 1792 to 1917. Over the years, many members of the aristocracy and the upper classes were confined and treated at the asylum. It will be seen that on the same page on which ‘G.I.R.D.’ appears in the 1881 census were three clergymen and a physician.
In the census of 1891 Georgina was eventually found living with her mother, Eliza R. Fullerton, at 7 St Philips Road, Kingston, Surrey. Eliza was 69, living on her own means, born in Durham, while Georgina’s age was given as 41, also living on her own means, born at Sunderland. A sister, Constance, also 41, was also in the household, along with two female domestic servants. I had initially missed finding Georgina in 1891 because her age was incorrect – she was actually born in 1845 and not 1850.
Possibly, Georgina had been released from the asylum into her mother’s care. My researches revealed a possible reason for her stay in the hospital: she had had six children in the first 10 years of her marriage and the census of 1911 showed that three of them had died. Maybe it was a case of what today we would call severe post-natal depression that caused her temporarily to lose her sanity?
Thomas died at Bristol in 1906, but Georgina outlived him by many years. She is found in the 1911 census as a widow of 66, of independent means, at 9 York Crescent Road, Clifton, Bristol. Her eldest daughter Ethel, 43 and still single, was with her in the census, along with a cook and a parlour maid. Georgina Isabella Russell Dyke, Miranda Hart’s great great grandmother, born at Sunderland, Co Durham, in 1845, had a long life and died at Bristol in 1933, aged 87.
Great great great grandparents
A further generation back, Miranda’s great great great grandparents were the Rev. Thomas Hart Dyke (1801-1866) and Elizabeth Fairfax – she was probably a descendant of the Yorkshire Fairfaxes who played a prominent part in the Civil War on the Parliamentary side against Charles I – who married in 1833 at Newton Kyme, near Tadcaster, Yorkshire. Thomas was firstly the Rector of Lullingstone, Kent, the Hart Dykes’ home parish, and later of Long Newton, County Durham. He was a son of Sir Percival Hart Dyke (1767-1846), who became the fifth Baronet Dyke of Horeham (the original spelling) in 1831, and his wife, Anne Jenner. In fact, Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage appears to have made a rare error in attributing the baronetcy to ‘of Horsham’.
Great great great great grandparents
So Miranda Hart descends directly from the fifth baronet, Sir Percival, and his wife Ann who were her 4-times great grandparents. Beyond Sir Percival, the baronetcy passed to other male members of the family. The current holder of the title, the 10th Baronet, lives in Canada.
In the 1841 census three generations of the Hart Dykes are found at the family seat, Lullingstone Castle, Kent. The household comprised a dozen members of the Hart Dyke family and no fewer than 21 servants. Sir Percival and Lady Dyke headed the schedule, followed by the Rev. Thomas and his wife Elizabeth and their four children, plus four presumed siblings of Thomas (relationships were not given in 1841).
By the census of 1851 the Rev Thomas had moved north to become the Rector of Long Newton, Co Durham, and he and his wife are found there with eight servants. Two of their sons, Thomas, 16, and Percival, 15, were pupils at the famous public school, Rugby. In 1861 the Rev. Thomas and Elizabeth were still at the Rectory, Long Newton, with one son, Francis, and seven servants. However, I couldn’t find Thomas jr in that census – possibly he was abroad somewhere.
The Rev. Thomas Hart Dyke died in 1866, aged 64, but his wife Elizabeth outlived him by many years. She was still alive in the 1891 census, aged 89, living at Hill House, Acomb, near York. She was described as ‘Living on own means’ and had three female servants with her, plus a 37-year-old single Irishwoman called Margaret Moneypenny – shades of James Bond! – who was a nursing sister described as Elizabeth’s companion. Elizabeth Dyke died just over two years later in 1893 at the age of 91, possibly the longest lived of all the Hart Dykes.
Limited space forces me to truncate the illustrious pedigree of Miranda Hart beyond her direct ancestor, Sir Percival Hart Dyke, the 5th Baronet Dyke of Horeham, as chronicled above. However, Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage takes it back three more generations to the first Baronet, Sir Thomas Dyke, who was MP for Sussex and then East Grinstead in the late 17th century and Commissioner of the Public Accounts.
7th great grandparents
Sir Thomas was created a baronet in 1677, married the interestingly named Philadelphia Nutt in 1695 and died in 1706. Sir Thomas and Philadelphia Dyke were the 7-times great grandparents of Miranda Hart. The name Hart appears to have come into the Hart Dyke family through the second baronet, also Sir Thomas Dyke, who married in 1728 Anne, the daughter and heir of Percyvall Hart of Lullingstone Castle.
Before Lullingstone Castle, the family estate was at Horeham Manor, near Heathfield, Sussex, which is known today as Horam Manor Farm because originally there were two different buildings. An illustration of the larger house in the 18th century is in the British Museum (below).
Miranda Hart’s ancestry is taken back by Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage still two further generations to one Thomas Dyke of Cranbrook, Kent, who died in 1632. It was his grandson, Sir Thomas, who became the first baronet.
So the next time you chortle at Miranda’s gawky and clumsy antics on telly, you might reflect that her family history is not something to be laughed at.
Sources of research include:
FreeBMD (http://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/search.pl) which has many millions of birth, marriage and death records from the General Register Office for England and Wales.
Findmypast (http://www.findmypast.co.uk/) a major genealogical website which carries all the census records and images from 1841 to 1911, also the US censuses.
FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/), the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage: (http://www.burkespeerage.com/)
The Lullingstone Castle website: (http://www.lullingstonecastle.co.uk/)
The Wellcome Library: (http://wellcomelibrary.org/), who kindly allowed me to incorporate the illustration of Ticehurst House Hospital.
The Horam Manor Farm website: (http://www.horammanorfarm.co.uk/)