Katherine Stewart Forbes was born in Bombay, India in 1808, the daughter of Sir Charles Forbes, Baronet. Her father was educated at Aberdeen University, in later life becoming its Rector. Shortly after leaving university he journeyed to India, and became the head of the first mercantile house there, Forbes & Co. of Bombay. His name ranked high in the commercial world for ability, foresight, and rectitude of character. On returning to England, he was elected to parliament for the borough of Beverley, and represented that place from 1812 to 1818. As a member of the House of Commons he enjoyed the respect of all parties, for his love of justice, kindly feeling, and plain, straightforward honesty.
In 1881 Katherine was recorded as living at Chester House, unmarried and ‘living on dividends.’ Chester House – or No. 3, West Side Common, Wimbledon – was described as being of immaculate Georgian proportions, with two storeys plus roof dormers. The ornate soffit moulding was repeated in the pediment to the projecting northern entrance wing, and a lower two storey five bay wing at the northern end concealed a higher extension at the rear. It was thought to be one of the finest looking buildings in Wimbledon
Chester House was substantially remodelled in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and in 1938 it was threatened with demolition. However, it was saved by the outbreak of the Second World War and instead was later converted into the head office of Barclays Bank.
The cross and candlesticks on our Marian Altar were given in 1892 in Katherine’s memory and are some of the oldest items in the church.
Katherine died in 1891 and is buried at East Meon along with her brother:- The Inscription reads:- James Stewart Forbes b. 16th January 1813 d. 7th May 1871 4th Son of Sir Charles Forbes, BT of Newe & Edinglassie, also Katharine Stewart Forbes, d. Dec 28th 1891 aged 84, dau. of Sir Charles Forbes, BT.
As a footnote, there was a ship named the Katherine Stewart Forbes that was built in Kent in 1818. She is recorded to have conveyed convicts to Australia in 1830 and 1832, and early settlers to South Australia in 1837, and New Zealand in 1841 and 1851, and mapped part of the coast of Borneo.