Portrait of George Truefitt

Name: George Truefitt

Burial Number: 0391

Gender: Male

Occupation: Architect

Distinction: Architect

Born: 14/02/1824

Died: 11/08/1902

Buried: 14/08/1902

Story

Heene Hallmark

George Truefitt 1824 -1902

Architect

George was the son of Francis, who died in 1839, and Louisa Truefitt, née Parnell. He was a well-respected architect. At the age of fifteen he became a pupil of Lewis Nockalls Cottingham and was influenced by his teacher’s enthusiasm for Gothic Revival architecture. When he was 16 George exhibited a cardboard model of Salisbury Cathedral at the Royal Academy and for the next 60 years attended every opening day of the Royal Academy. His apprenticeship with Cottingham lasted from 1839 until 1844 and very early in his career he attracted patrons who included Sir William Cunliffe-Brookes MP.
George was a hard-working man designing buildings from cottages to mansions, banks to schools and many religious buildings. St George’s in Worthing was designed by him in 1867 and was consecrated by the Bishop of Chichester on 10 July 1868. He drew all his designs himself and sketching in ink and painting in water colour were his favourite leisure activities. Moreover, throughout his life he never needed glasses.
On 23 September 1852 he married Mary Haywood of a Worcestershire family. They were married for 44 years and had two sons and a daughter.
George became a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1860 and lived mainly in London, but, though he bought estates in Scotland, when he retired he moved to the ‘Old House’ in Heene. Apparently, the house was filled with curiosities that he had collected from a very young age.
Mary died on 16 September 1896 and exactly 3 months later George, aged 72, re-married. This probably raised a few eyebrows not least because his bride, Constance Lever, was only 26 years old. They had a daughter named Connie Georgie but known as ‘G’.
Generally, George was considered to be a typical Victorian gentleman with high principles and strict with his wife and servants. For instance, he refused to buy a carriage, to the irritation of his young wife, because he thought that would be pretentious.
After a six month’s period of illness George died on 11 August 1902 and was buried at Heene Cemetery. Although ‘G’ was only 5 at the time, she recalled in her eighties that her father had “intense eyes with large pupils” and that he was very short and had his shoes built up to compensate.

Researcher: Angela Levy

The Grave

Photograph of headstone for George Truefitt

Location in Cemetery

Area: NWS Row: 1 Plot: 16

Exact Location (what3words): filled.marble.suffice

Ashes or Urn: Unknown

Headstone

Description:

Taking up headstone & removing from cemetery to yard, cutting off a dowelling same and refixing, cutting out & removing concrete & cleaning kerb. Providing new piece of Rubbed Portland Stone dowelling and fixing same. Cutting and blacking inscription of 9 doz. letters to the late George Truefitt £5.7s.6d.

Inscription:

Erected to the memory of Mary wife of George Truefitt ...ered. Sep 16 1896 aged 73. "To the people of God" also to the memory of George Truefitt ?.D. R.I.B.A. born on St Valentines Day 1824 and died on August 11 1902

Further Information

Birth

Name: George Truefitt

Gender: Male

Born: 14/02/1824

Town: Unknown

County: London

Country: England

Marriage

Maiden Name: Not applicable

Marriage Date: 23/9/1852

Spouse First Name: Mary

Spouse Last Name: Haywood

Town of Marriage: Unknown

County of Marriage: Unknown

Country of Marriage: England

Marriage Date: /12/1896

Spouse First Name: Constance

Spouse Last Name: Lever

Town of Marriage: Worthing

County of Marriage: Sussex

Country of Marriage: England

Information at Death

Date of Death: 11/08/1902

Cause of death: Unknown

Town: Unknown

County: Unknown

Country: England

Obituary

No obituary has been entered.

Personal Effects

Money left to others: No value recorded

Current value of effects: Not calculated

Census Information

No census information is available for this burial record.

Miscellaneous Information

Sepia photograph of the Old House, Heene

The name George Truefitt is unlikely to ring any bells (pun intended) with the residents of Heene these days. This short, quiet and unassuming man would hardly raise an inquisitive eyebrow as he strolled along the promenade with his granddaughter on his arm. But there was a lot more to George than met the eye, and it wasn’t just his discretely built up heels, or the fact that the young woman was really his wife.
George Truefitt was born in London on Valentines Day 1824. As an intelligent young man with an eye for design he undertook an architectural apprenticeship from 1839 to 1844 under Lewis Cottingham, who pioneered the study of Medieval Gothic architecture, a trend that can still be seen reflected in Truefitt’s own work.
During this time he befriended fellow apprentice Calvert Vaux – who was to later become the co-designer of New York’s Central Park. The two of them set off on a walking tour through France and Germany making between 400 to 500 sketches along the way.
On George’s return he entered a competition to design the Army & Navy Club in Pall Mall. His drawings impressed Sir William Cunliffe-Brooks M.P. for whom George would end up working. In spite of his obvious talent he didn’t allow himself to be commissioned but preferred instead to enter by competition, a not uncommon practice at the time. In his working life George designed 170 houses and mansions, 44 cottages and lodge houses, 8 rectories, 7 schools, 13 banks, 7 large halls and church rooms.
George Truefitt’s structural legacies still stand today spread about the country. Thankfully Worthing has one example of his work, St George’s parish church in East Worthing. Built in 1868 at a cost of around £5,000. It was designed with a gothic style in mind. Unusually for a church it has a north-south alignment. It is also noted that the roof resembles an upturned boat. Perhaps George had a whimsical moment, we will never know.
George retired to Worthing and purchased Shelley Lodge just off the seafront on the corner of Western Place and Western Road. This however wasn’t to last, for a man who spent his life designing buildings, it was probably inevitable that he was keeping his eye open for something more challenging.
This would turn out to be the ‘Old House’ in Heene. George claimed that the ruinous buildings that occupied the land originally were monastic in nature and featured a ‘Fives Court’. This is a ball game not dissimilar from today’s game of squash but using hands instead of racquets. It was commonly played between the buttresses of a church, which formed the playing area.
George went on to design a house on that land ensuring all the main rooms favoured a southern aspect. This resulted in the front door being on the north side, an unusual but practical move. He and his family took up residence in July 1893. Sadly the Old House is no more and despite further research its exact location still remains unknown other than one pictorial clue, it had a northerly view of Skinners farm on the corner of Cowper Road.
George Truefitt was by all accounts a typical Victorian in character, strict with high principles, so when he married a young 26 year old Brighton woman it would have come as a shock to the local community, especially as he was 71. His first wife Mary died in September 1896. They had three children, the youngest of which was already ten years older than his second wife!
We are fortunate that George left a legacy of detailed sketches and watercolours of Worthing which included Heene, Tarring and the sea front. George died on the 11th of August 1902 aged 78. He and Mary are buried in Heene Churchyard.

James Henry. Author and local amateur historian.

George Truefitt

Letter from Lanhydrock House, Cornwall

Thank you for your letter enquiring about George Truefitt and his watercolours that he produced for his architectural plans produced at  Lanhydrock. I believe that George Truefitt did produce some watercolours for plans for the formal gardens here. I believe the final designs and implementation were done by Richard Coad. I am not aware of a watercolour in its original form on display here at Lanhydrock. I have done a quick check on the National Trust Collections website and there are three references to George Truefitt but no images. I have also checked the National Trust image site and have been able to get an image result of a plan. All of our archive materials are held at Kresen Kernow. I have tried a search here but sadly got no results. You may find that reaching out to one of the archivists here, may get a result. I hope this helps with your research.

Business Services lead, Lanhydrock House, Bodmin, Cornwall.