In January 1873, one of the great tragedies of the Victorian sea took place off nearby Dungeness Point. The Northfleet, bound for Tasmania with 379 aboard, was at anchor during bad weather, when she was rammed by a mystery ship. The Northfleet was lost; nearly 300 people drowned in what was a nautical hit and run (Months later, a Spanish steamer, the Murillo was blamed for the disaster.)
Many of the bodies recovered were carried across that shingle to the church at Lydd for burial. But a replacement curate had to be summoned to conduct the services. The aforementioned Rev. Mr. Bell had recently decamped, under disgraceful circumstances, having run off with the wife of a local sheep farmer and parishioner.
Early in 1872, the young curate's wife passed away. The village, of course, was plunged into grief and the congregation offered its support and solace. But by summer time, Robert Green, a local magistrate, found reason to fault his wife, Jane, for spending too much time at the vicarage. Green owned more than 800 acres of grazing land for sheep and lived at The Paddock in Lydd. The Greens had been married for over ten years; according to news reports, he had met her while she was a barmaid at the famous George Inn in Southwark. They were married at St. Saviour's in London.
Within days of her husband's remonstrances for her vicarage visits, Jane Green left Lydd. The Rev. Mr. Bell had also gone missing, leaving behind all he owned to settle his local debts. Detectives were employed and the couple was found living at The Star and Garter on Richmond Hill, a hostelry frequently featured in the workings of the Divorce Court. Mr. Green's divorce petition was unopposed; his lawyer presented convincing evidence of his wife's adultery "on divers occasions" at The Star and Garter and the vicarage in Lydd.
The Rev. Bell, who was from a good family in Lancashire, left for Canada where he died in Montreal in 1881. Jane Green cannot be traced.
*The illustration is taken from a book about the disaster entitled, "Father, Put Me in the Boat."
A wonderful holiday book idea for your favorite church-crawler is Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series, Vol 2. Click here for details.