Friday, 27 November 2020

Makins family honoured

A PLAQUE honouring the contribution of the Makins family to Henley was unveiled by its last

A PLAQUE honouring the contribution of the Makins family to Henley was unveiled by its last male descendant.

Dwight Makins joined the Mayor Julian Brookes, town councillors, those who had worked on the project and members of the public on Saturday morning for the opening.

The plaque, which sits at the entrance to the Makins recreation ground on Greys Road, gives a brief history of three generations of the family dating back to 1840.

It took about 100 hours of research by Viv Greenwood, who tracked down Mr Makins, and was made by designer Mark Baker of Seven Design Associates.

Mr Makins, 65, said: “I’m the last surviving male Makins and therefore I’m really pleased to be here opening this plaque.

“It will be the last memory to my family apart from people who are students of gravestones, so I’m really happy about this.

“I’m very honoured that my family name endures in a way that shows how good some members of my family have been.

“I think history is very important because it shows the way to the future. Doing good things for the place you live in is a way in which communities grow.”

He said the site would now be “unbelievably valuable” real estate.

In 1920 Sir Paul Makins donated Makins playing fields, as they were formerly known, to the town in memory of his first wife Gladys who lived from 1879 to 1919.

The plaque begins with the story of Sir William Makins, who lived from 1840 to 1906.

Sir William was a wealthy London barrister, Conservative politician, director of the Gas Light and Coke Company and the Great Eastern Railway.

He purchased Rotherfield Court, later a grammar school and now part of The Henley College, in 1872. Sir Paul Makins, who was born in 1871, succeeded his father and moved to Rotherfield Court after Sir William’s death.

He was a major in the Remount Service and saw action in Madras, Alexandria and Europe.

In 1921, Sir Paul relinquished Rotherfield Court to be used as a convalescent hospital for officers suffering from shell shock.

He served as a magistrate for Henley until 1938 and died in London in 1939.

Roger Makins, nephew to Sir William, was a diplomat who became British Ambassador to the United States. He was chancellor of Reading University from 1969 to 1992 and died in 1996.

Town councillor David Eggleton said: “We’re showing gratitude and respect. It’s nice the fact that people before us have done things for the people of Henley.

“If the schools use these plaques as information boards and it promotes these people, then we have achieved something. It’s showing a part of history which might have been forgotten.”

The Mayor added: “I think it’s important to understand our history and why it is Makins. How can we manage and preserve this area? We have got to have these green spaces in the town. It’s a very important part of Henley’s heritage and we look forward to the skatepark opening.”

He presented Mr Makins with a book by Simon Townley called Henley on Thames: Town, Trade and River.

Mrs Greenwood tracked down Mr Makins by writing to his private members’ club — Boodles — in London. She said: “It was hard. I knew some of the information through the Henley Archaeological and Historical Society.”

She thanked him for coming to the ceremony, from his home outside Basingstoke, adding: “His family gave so much to our town. We’re now squaring the circle.”

The plaque was funded by Gainsborough Residents’ Association, Henley in Bloom, the archaeological and historical society, Henley in Transition and Soha Housing.

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