Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Seduction in the Bluebells? A Vicar's Denial

The Rev. Jeremiah Woolsey of Norwich was just thirty when he was named the vicar of Brightwell, a small Suffolk village, midway between Ipswich and Woodbridge. The 14th century church, St. John the Baptist, although "little and rarely visited" was especially beautiful, having been painted by the great Constable himself in 1815. 

But soon after Woolsey had settled in to his parish of sixty souls, he was called to the Bishop's palace in Norwich. Bishop John Sheepshanks had received a troubling letter, stating, "One day last summer, the Rev. Jeremiah Woolsey took me for a cycle ride and, taking advantage of me, seduced me." Miss Evelyn Hoare of Shrubland Lodge, Eaton, had since had a child. "Inasmuch as Mr. Woolsey has declined to make any offer and to see me personally, I must beg your Lordship to institute inquiry into the truth of the allegations brought by me." 

In January 1899, the case of Woolsey v Hoare was heard at the Norwich Assizes. The clergyman (the plaintiff) admitted meeting Evelyn at a dance, and they had cycled and lunched together many times. He had thought she was "the one" but owing to some issues within the Hoare family, he stopped seeing her. He was astounded when he then learned of the accusation she had made. On the day in question, he had ridden with her but he had never misconducted himself. Under a searching cross-examination, Woolsey adhered to his denials.


Bluebell Marsh (Norfolk Wildlfe Trust)

Evelyn was 21 and a "smart-looking young woman." She was from a prominent family and her father was a local factory inspector. She told the court that on 7 July 1897, she met Mr. Woolsey in Norwich and they went cycling along the Yare. It was a bit late for the famous bluebells but they stopped at a place called Bluebell Hole near Eaton, where, in a copse, he seduced her. Under cross-examination, she admitted she was very angry when Woolsey stopped seeing her. She even wanted to "wring his neck," On the stand, Evelyn admitted also keeping company with a local constable, P.C. George Rollitt. She hadn't told her parents about George because he was below their station. He had given her gifts. She also admitted going to him first with news of her "condition." The manager of the Norwich Castle Museum testified that Evelyn and Rollitt had to be asked to leave one day because their "courtship" was offending the other guests. 


All of this led Mr. Woolsey's barrister to heights of eloquence with the all male jury: "She is not believable. She is a confessed, unchaste, impure woman. Do not condemn upon her uncorroborated and contradictory statements a man whose character had hitherto been beyond reproach." The jury very quickly found for the Rev. Woolsey and awarded him £500 in damages. 

The little congregation in Brightwell welcomed Woolsey back and he remained their vicar well into the 20th century. In 1900, he married the daughter of the rector of March (Cambridgeshire). 

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Saturday, July 21, 2018

A Basket Case in London

According to The Financial Times, the Church of England is testing a “tap and go” contactless payment system for donations. No more envelopes, folded currency or jingling coins will be required when the basket reaches your pew.


In 1897, the Rev. Frederick Hetling, longtime rector of Christ Church, Albany Street, on Regents Park, was sued in Bloomsbury County Court by a woman who claimed that - in a moment of aberration - she had dropped a sovereign in the collection basket. She wanted it back. Miss Elise Brown, a dressmaker, admitted making her gift during the 7:45 Communion services. The Rev. Hetling - in an exchange of letters - refused to hear her appeal. Collections were not under his authority; take it to the churchwardens. That correspondence had ended acrimoniously.

Miss Brown was not a regular churchgoer. She reconsidered her thoughtful gift that Sunday and had come to the opinion that she didn't want the Church to have her money. She admitted having been treated for her "aberrations." She tried to explain that she had the opposite of kleptomania, she had giftomania that made her give away her money. "Nonsense," barked the judge and sent her away. What was given to charity could not be recovered, If she had any case, it would be against the churchwardens.


The Church press was delighted, "What is given in a collection-plate in church is irrecoverable." This apparently happened quite a bit. In an oft-told story, a man put a florin into a collection bag by mistake for a penny, and afterwards demanded it back. The churchwardens refused. "Ah, well!” said the man, "I suppose I will get credit for the two shillings in heaven.” “I don’t think you will,” replied the other; "for as you only intended to give a penny. you will only get credit for that coin." Perhaps Miss Brown was more successful.

Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series Vol. 2 is available in book or Kindle form at amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. All sales go into my collection plate and are appreciated.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Woman in the Vicarage: A Wolverhampton Scandal


The magnificently spired church of St John, Wolverhampton, is justly proud of its Renatus Harris organ. But when the new vicar, the Rev. Henry Hampton, arrived in 1862, he found the music wanting. He sacked the organist-cum-choir director Francis Allen. The latter gentlemen did not take it well and went about the town with a story that the vicar was a “bad man” and “living in adultery with a person he represents as his daughter.” 

In March 1863, the Rev. Hampton sued Allen for £2000. The vicar had to begin by detailing the curious makeup of his household. Mrs. Hampton did not reside with him any longer; owing to drink she was cared for by her aged mother in Worcestershire. 40-year old Mrs. Harriett Troughton, a daughter from Mrs. Hampton’s first marriage, lived in the Wolverhampton vicarage in the role of something like the lady of the house. Rev. Hampton told the Birmingham jury that he had known Mrs. Troughton since she was a girl of nine. There has never been any familiarity between them. She had been “undeservedly calumniated.” She lived apart from her husband on no fault of hers; he was a beast. In the witness box, Hampton admitted that he may have let people think Mrs. Troughton was his “daughter” because he always thought of her as his child. There had been comments made about the nature of Mrs. Troughton’s presence both at Hampton's recent brief stop at a church in Liverpool and at St. Luke’s in London. He had resigned that parish but blamed it on a dispute over a building fund.

The defendant Allen denied ever suggesting that Mrs. Troughton was the vicar’s mistress. He merely wished to point out that “no one knows who or what she is!” The jury found quickly for the Rev. Mr. Hampton but awarded him the traditional nominal damages of a single farthing. 

Mr. Hampton remained at St. John’s until his death in 1880. Mrs. Troughton moved out at some point. The vicar is remembered as a “human dynamo” and there are two windows and a wall plaque in his honour.

Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series is available at amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. Comments, criticisms, and questions always welcome.

Illustrations
* Wolverhampton History & Heritage Center
* St. John's in the Square by Peter Hickman




Wednesday, June 13, 2018

An Intolerable Fear of Exposure

The Rev. Peter William Browne was the vicar of St. Katharine's Church in the small Lancashire coal-mining village of Blackrod. He came there in 1846, unmarried. In 1855, he went home to his native Dublin and returned with a bride, Jane Alicia, daughter of the Irish baronet Sir Ross Mahon. 

Within a year, however, the clergyman was summoned to a Liverpool police court to answer an "affiliation" action filed by 19 year old Deborah Stanley claiming Browne was the father of her 3 year old child. Miss Stanley was a coachman's daughter in Dublin. In 1852, she happened to meet the Rev. Browne while listening to some street music near Mountjoy Square. On that evening, he took her to "a house of an improper description" on Sackville Street. The result of that encounter was a child - the sex never revealed. She told the court that Browne had recently stopped giving her money for the child. He had been sending her 7s a week. In 1853, he paid her fare (£35) to America aboard the Annie Jane. But the ship was battered in a storm and turned back. She got off; when the ship put out again, it was lost off the Hebrides with 348 passengers and crew.

The Annie Jane (ArtUK)
It was an amazing tale but the sallow young woman was described by the papers as bearing an "appearance that is by no means good." She admitted to have subsequently had another child with another father. Opposite her in the court was the Rev. Browne, "a person of gentlemanly appearance, quiet and self-possessed in his manner." The vicar's counsel did not deny that there had been a "connexion." But given the profligacy of this young woman, there was no way to prove that he was the father of that child. What happened that night, the defense argued, was a one time incident that Mr. Browne had grievously regretted ever since. For that reason alone, he had given the woman money and attempted to assist her to go to America and make a new life but instead she had made "demand after demand upon his purse." In all, she had extorted £130. She began lurking about Blackrod. "The fear of exposure had been held over him until it had become perfectly intolerable.” 

Miss Stanley's complaint was dismissed. An appeal for the press to ignore the complaint and spare "further torture on this gentleman and his family" was to no avail. The Rev. Browne returned to Blackrod where he remained until his death five years later. A memorial plaque to the vicar can be found on the south wall of St. Katharine's Church.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

"Shocking Scandal; Remarkable Letters"

The Rev William Malam, vicar of St. John the Baptist, Buxton, began tutoring Miss Annie Rose in her Latin declensions in December 1883. An assistant schoolmistress, 24 year old Annie needed the Latin to advance. Malam was 58, quite well-respected and a rural dean in Derbyshire. There were at least ten tutoring sessions, mostly held in the vicar's home where he lived with his invalid wife. But for the one or two occasions when Malam called at Annie's little cottage set back from the road on College Place. That something took place during one of those visits was unquestioned. Rumors and anonymous letters soon swept Buxton. In August 1885, Rev. Malam filed a slander action against a young physician, Dr. Charles Bennett, seeking damages in the amount of £5000. Bennett had gone so far as to call the vicar “a beastly old fellow.” The doctor said he could prove that Malam had twice indecently assaulted Miss Rose.

The evidence consisted of a stack of Malam's letters to Annie, "My Dear Little Girl." He wrote, "From the first time I saw you, I liked you." But later, many of his letters were "abject" appeals for forgiveness. "Don't think so badly of me and forget a moment of weakness which, though reprehensible, is not to be classed with unforgiven offenses." He begged to see her again: "Believe me, you may trust in me. There will be no temptation in the same direction in the future." When she threatened to expose him, he wrote, "I implore you for my poor crippled wife's sake, to whom exposure would be death." The vicar had always told Annie to burn his letters; she did not.

The vicar's counsel insisted that Rev. Malam was "wholly unconscious" of having done anything wrong, other than a "playful" slap on one occasion. The act was "indiscreet" and nothing more. His letters were also imprudent but he was facing false and exaggerated claims. Dr. Bennett's motive? The physician and Miss Rose seem to have had a pre-existing "more or less intimate" relationship. 

No evidence was called and the counsel for Dr. Bennett said his client wished to unreservedly withdraw everything he ever said or wrote about Rev. Malam. He had been misled (by Annie?) and had acted from the purest motives unaffected by any animus towards the vicar.   

Mr. Justice Lopes was pleased that unseemly testimony had been avoided. But he added, "I cannot help saying" that Rev. Malam's letters to this young woman, for a man in his position and she in hers, "were certainly indiscreet." That clearly affected his Lordship's decision that Malam should receive damages in the rather paltry amount of 40 shillings. When Malam returned to Buxton from the trial in Liverpool, a band was waiting at the station to play "See the Conquering Hero Comes." He remained vicar in Buxton until his death in 1892.


Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series Volume Two is now available at amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Curious Conduct of a Coatham Curate

On 21 August 1865, the papers in Liverpool reported that the Rev Alfred Henry Ferries (or Ferris), was found lying near death at the foot of Great Orme's Head in Llandudno. "It is supposed that the reverend gentleman had been walking too near the edge of the cliff and fallen over." Luckily for him, the sea was going out at the time or he would been swept away. Nonetheless, it was feared that the internal injuries the young clergyman received would almost certainly prove fatal. Ferries was only 28 and had been visiting North Wales alone. 

The news was keenly felt in Coventry where Ferries had been a curate at St. Michael's church. He was also sought there for an explanation regarding an allegedly forged £40 bill of exchange, defrauding the Coventry and Warwickshire Banking Company. It certainly appeared that the clergyman had been unwilling to face the shame, jail time and end of his career and thrown himself to his death. 


In April 1868, in North Yorkshire, the banns of marriage were posted for one Rev. A.H. Ferries and a young lady from an "esteemed" family in Coatham, Redcar, where Ferries was listed as the unlicense curate of Christ Church. Within days of the banns, someone apparently sent a photograph of the curate to the police at Redcar who notified their colleagues in Coventry. Once again, Ferries disappeared but only to show up in Coventry and turn himself in. Apparently, the Llandudno fall was a complete ruse and he had spent a good deal of time in Canada. In Coventry, due to the lapse in time and the difficulty of gathering evidence as a result, the local magistrates agreed to abandon the prosecution. 

All the world loves a lover, perhaps, but Ferries' marriage plans seem to have been abandoned in Coatham. By 1870, he was a curate in  Cornwall and a year later, vicar of Charlestown where he married the daughter of a wealthy clay merchant. 

One is often struck at the ease in which anyone with a reason to "get away," could absquatulate on their wife, job or the police and simply move to another shire - or episcopal diocese - and start anew. With not even a name change.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Monkey Suit at St Peter's Walworth

The Rev John William Horsley had been rector of St Peter’s Walworth since 1894. He was a well beloved figure in the urban parish, ran a soup kitchen and for the “amusement & instruction” of the local children, he kept a small miniature zoo. He started with a few guinea pigs, added a hedgehog or two, some pigeons, an owl and found himself gifted with, if not a barrel, the odd monkey or two. Early in 1900, however, one of those monkeys escaped from its leash and bit a girl on the leg. 

The rector paid her bills and she was back at her schooldesk the next day. Her father had sought additional compensation and Horsley thought the man's tone was “bullying” and he resisted. Thus, he found himself in a Lambeth courtroom. Horsley insisted the monkey was quite tame and willing to shake hands with all. On that day, the creature had been startled by the sudden appearance of a cat. The monkey broke from the leash, the children screamed and, amid the general tumult, the monkey bit the unfortunate little girl. Mr. Emden, the presiding judge, thought greater care must be taken with a monkey which is a "wild animal" not a pet. The rector was ordered to pay 5s in damages. 

A Daily News reporter who cornered the rector in the church crypt, found Horsley unapologetic, asking why the law, unlike with dogs, denies the monkey the satisfaction of a first bite. Alas, the offending monkey was not available to be photographed, the poor simian had taken a London winter cold and died only days before. 


Horsley remained happily in Walworth for several more years, adding to his duties a role as Canon of Southwark Cathedral. At St. Peter's, Walworth, meanwhile, there is still a delightful "Monkey Garden." 




Photographs:
Horsley from Walworth Through Time (Lock, Baxter, 2012)
Monkey Park from Geograph.org.uk