Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Diabolical Slander

Photograph by Dicky King
In 1872, the Rev John Goodwin had been five years the vicar of St. Mary's in Moston. It was a new church built to serve a growing working-class suburb out the Oldham Road, northeast of Manchester. The bishop was then pleased to offer Goodwin the vicarage in Denton, a larger parish nearby with a higher salary. But Goodwin hesitated, finally explaining that he could not in conscience accept the appointment owing to scandalous allegations made against him by a married woman in Moston. Although he insisted the charges were totally false, he lost the Denton opportunity. Goodwin was told that he had take legal action to clear his name or face a church enquiry.

The Rev Goodwin was 37 and married, He and his wife Ellen were originally from Leek. In St. Mary's parish, there lived a glass-cutter named Henry Standishstreet, with his wife Mary-Ellen and their four children. Henry, to rise in his trade, needed to improve his numbers and the Rev. Mr. Goodwin had been working with him and, as a result, he spent a lot of time in the Standishstreet home. The clergyman was greatly troubled when a friend came to him to report that Mrs. Standishstreet had been spreading the tale that she and the Rev. Goodwin were carrying on something like a torrid love affair.

Confronted, Henry Standishstreet was profusely apologetic; he simply could not control his wife's tongue. He would publish an apology in the Manchester papers. But no advertisement ever appeared and the Standishstreet family abruptly left Moston. In their absence, the Rev. Goodwin was left to file a slander suit against Mary Ellen Standishstreet.

The case was heard before a special jury at the Liverpool Assizes. Several Moston residents, men and women, related the stories they had been told by Mrs. Standishstreet. She had claimed that first, upon a chance meeting in a country lane, Mr. Goodwin took indecent liberties with her. He begged to be allowed to come to her. The very next day, under the cover of his "tutoring," when her husband was at work and the children were playing below, he called and they went up to the bedroom and committed adultery. A neighbour, John Sykes, a clerk, told the court that Mrs. Standsishtreet began keeping an almanack marked with "ticks" on each day she'd supposedly made love with Mr. Goodwin and, the witness admitted, the markings were numerous. Why would she be saying all this if it wasn't true? Sykes testified that Mrs. Standishtreet had developed an intense dislike of Mrs. Goodwin and her supposed "airs." The vicar's wife was a "proud, stuck up woman" who needed to be brought down and she would be the one to do it.

The Rev. Goodwin took the stand to deny, of course, all the claims made by his absent accuser. He acknowledged that Mrs. Standishtreet had been "spitefully disposed" to his wife for reasons he never quite understood. Because of her false charges, however, he had lost the opportunity for advancement in his clerical career. Mr. Justice Lush denounced the missing defendant, describing the case as among the "most damaging and diabolical slanders" that ever came before him. Though there was no chance that Goodwin would ever see a single farthing, the jury awarded him the hefty sum of £1000 in damages. 

Mr. Goodwin's career survived the scandal. The following year, the Bishop of Manchester presented him with the rectory and parish church of All Souls, Manchester. As for the Standishstreets, they can be traced to America, where he found employment in the glass business - with or without any better handle on his sums - in Cambridge near Boston, Massachusetts. 

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Thank you.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Twelfth Night Ball in Lowestoft

All Saints & St. Margaret's, Pakefield
The Twelfth Night was the traditional end to the Christmas Season, to be marked with dinners and festivities in Victorian England. In 1888, it was a most eventful observance in Lowestoft. In late December, the Mayor - a local surgeon named William Chubbe - announced there would be a "Mayor's Ball" on the evening of Friday, January 6. It would be by invitation only so the gentry waited with excitement for the coveted card. But not all. Humbug! The announcement brought forth a furious denunciation of such frivolities from the venerable rector of Pakefield. 

A small village on the North Sea, Pakefield was two miles from Lowestoft. The Rev Lewis Price had been rector there since 1871. Nearly 70, he'd had an eventful clerical career. As a younger man, he had been one of the clergy associated with the infamous Agapemone commune in Somerset. He married one of the celebrated Nottidge sisters, although he had to go court to force her to live with him. She died in 1886.

When Price learned of the Lowestoft ball, he sent a letter to the Eastern Daily Press calling upon the mayor to cancel it. "Moses or the Prophets or Christ or his Apostles never gave a ball ... Balls are offensive to all true Christians ... they inflame the worst passions of the streets, promote the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life ... we will pray to deliver you and your people from this cursed ball." The secular press, of course, mocked Price's letter, calling it "balderdash of the most outrageous and unchristian character" and an "outrageous attempt to revive the worst traits of Puritanism."

The rector's appeal went unheard but, two nights before the ball, a noisy procession, said to number 3000 people, marched from Lowestoft to Pakefield rectory. A brass band serenaded the rector while the torchlit crowd burned him in effigy. It was noted that most of those in the crowd were not likely to have received a ticket to the ball but, still, it was an evening not to be missed. Even if, as reported, the Rev. Price was not at home. 

"Too Early?" by Tissot 1873 (Guildhall Gallery)
The Twelfth Night ball was a great success. Lowestoft's Public Hall in the London Road had been elaborately decorated and the adjoining Masonic Hall was set up for "refreshments." Mayor and Mrs. Chubbe led the dancers on to the floor. It was a high-toned evening, of course. "If we took a census of all the English girls who go to balls and of all the English girls who do not, the balance of virtue, modesty and innocence would certainly largely be on the side of the dancers," observed the Ipswich Journal.

The Rev Price remained at Pakefield until he resigned in 1901 at the age of 81. He had not lose his fire. In 1897, he was back in the national papers for calling village football matches "devices of the devil." He died in 1906 and is buried at Pakefield. There is a memorial window in the church that was put in while the Rev. Price was still alive which, according to the church history, is "quite unique."

see: pakefieldchurch.com/about-all-saints/church-history/

Merry Christmas from the blog team & Happy New Year.
Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series, Vol. 2 is available here,

Monday, December 10, 2018

Tittle Tattle or the Truth? A Northumberland Tragedy

Seaton Lodge* on the magnificent coast of Northumberland, is "one of the most picturesque houses in the North of England." In 1893, 18 year old Polly Lynn, a miner's daughter, was in service for the Scotts who had taken the lodge. One day in early 1894, Polly was walking with a friend when the Rev. Alfred Pallister, the young curate of Deleval, cordially bid her good day. Polly did not reply and walked on. Sarah Chrisp, her companion, thought it had been very rude of her but Polly had her reasons. She confided that, while she was at Seaton Lodge, Mr. Pallister was a regular visitor. One night, she believed the curate had crept down the hall, into her room and into her bed. She resisted and he left. 

Such a story would inevitably get out and it would reach the ears of the Rev. George W Jackson, vicar of the parish that took in the villages surrounding the splendid estate at Seaton Deleval. The Rev Mr Jackson did not approach his curate for an explanation; rather, he first sought out Polly, who had since found new employment in the home of the Tweddles in Whitley. Polly was alone when the vicar interrogated her. She held to her story - she shared the large bed with another female servant but Polly was certain that she felt a man in her bed. “I did not say it was Mr. Pallister just that I thought it was.” Rev. Jackson got all her details but, as he left, he told her to be very careful, because she could go to prison for making false claims. The vicar thought Polly was in good spirits when he left but, two days later, Mrs. Tweddle found Polly bleeding to death, having cut her throat.

A large and mostly hostile crowd awaited the Rev. Jackson when he appeared at the ensuing inquest held at the Rockcliffe Arms in Whitley Bay. He denied urging "the deceased" to recant her story or threatening her with prison. It was never his wish to hush anything up. The vicar said his sole intent from the first was to get to the truth, deal with it quickly, and spare the Church another great public scandal. Of course, he didn't think young Pallister would do anything like that, unless he was drunk. The curate had been in Deleval for a year and Jackson admitted there had been prior gossip about him but “it had nothing to do with girls.”

C.H. Scott had taken Seaton Lodge for some little time. He testified that Mr. Pallister was a friend and regular guest. The lodge was a rambling, thatched roof home, with many halls. The curate's bedroom was  three doors from where the servant girls slept and it was possible that the curate could have made his way there without the rest of the household knowing. But he couldn't believe Pallister would do such thing. According to Scott, when he first heard the reports, he thought it was a joke. "Rather a serious joke for a clergyman of the Church of England," the coroner observed and with good reason.

Mr. Pallister, of course, denied all. He could not fathom why Polly had made such a charge. The coroner's jury also took evidence that there had been insanity on the mother's side in Polly's family. Perhaps it was just a lurid fantasy, after all. The verdict was that Miss Polly Lynn had taken her life in a moment of temporary insanity.

The Hall at Seaton Deleval (NT)
The single death of a simple girl in a remote mining corner of England did not make all the papers. Nevertheless, the Bishop of Newcastle ordered the Rev. Mr. Pallister to find ecclesiastical duties elsewhere. Before leaving, however, he was feted by many parishioners in the grand setting of Seaton Deleval Hall. He gave a speech. "Scores of people have said to me, 'How do you stand it?' It had simply emanated from a little bit of tittle-tattle and gossip, but unfortunately ended in suicide. I do not wish to pursue the matter further. As Wordsworth said, there are times and crises in the lives of men when they have thoughts in their hearts which lie too deep for tears. It is such a time I experience now." 

After a brief time in Staffordshire, the Cambridge-educated Pallister went out to do church work in Africa, where he died from malarial fever, on New Year's Day, 1898, while Colonial Chaplain at Accra, (Ghana). He was 33.

Five full length accounts of Victorian Clerical Scandals can be found in Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series, Vol II. Click here for details. Thank you for reading this blog. Comments, additions, corrections are always welcome.

For more about Seaton Lodge see https://co-curate.ncl.ac.uk/historical-account-of-seaton-lodge-1894/

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Parson and the Actress

The Rev. Edward Hutton Bell had won notice for his indefatigability as the young curate-in-charge at St. Mark's in Wimbledon. Beyond the pulpit, he worked long hours in the community: he served in the local Temperance society, the Working Men's Union, the Y.M.C.A. and, in 1887, he was president of the Wimbledon, Merton & Putney chapter of the RSPCA. 

But Mr. Bell abruptly resigned the latter office in a dispute over monies raised for the chapter at a "theatrical entertainment" headlined by the celebrated actress and local resident, Kate Vaughan. On October 5, Miss Vaughan gave an entertainment at the Drill Hall to benefit the local RSPCA, The hall was "crammed from floor to ceiling" and the benefit raised more than  £100. But the Rev. Mr. Bell declared that he would rather resign than accept the gift. Apparently, "he did not approve of augmenting the society's funds by the aid of actresses."

Kate Vaughan was quite a famous lady.  Her stage dancing made her "the it girl" of London in the late 1870's. Then, in 1879, she eloped with Colonel the Hon Frederick Arthur Wellesley, a rising diplomatic star and one of the Queen's favourites. "Freddy" Wellesley had walked out on a wife and two young children and his social ruin was complete. The Wellesleys were not divorced until 1882 while Kate and her lover lived openly in London. In 1883, Kate and the erstwhile Colonel were married but she kept her stage name. They resided at the Abbey Gate House in Merton. By 1887, her career had been revived, less dancer and more comedic actress. The Era hailed her benefit show as a "brilliant success." 

The Rev. Bell wasn't alone in his feelings; the secretary, Col. Lardner, stood with him. But, "others took a more lenient view." There was a testy chapter meeting and when the majority voted to accept the money, Bell and his supporters resigned. In some quarters, their protest was denounced as “Extraordinary Bigotry.” The society weekly Truth, for instance: "What contemptible beings this Colonel and this Reverend gentleman are! Why should the money not have been accepted? If they had had a spark of good feeling, they would, at least, have offered to give an identical amount themselves, if Miss Vaughan's cheque were refused. But this, of course, did not occur to them." 

The Rev. Bell remained at St. Mark's for several more years, still busy if not with the RSPCA. He left for Camberwell in 1892, the same year Kate Vaughan left her husband. 

Thank you for reading the blog. A wonderful holiday book for the church-crawler on your list is Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series, Volume 2.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Curate Left Lydd But Not Alone

The Church of All Saints, sometimes called "The Cathedral of Romney Marsh," is far larger than the "primitive little village" of Lydd would seem to require. In fact, the vicar opted not to reside in such a dreary and isolated place, separated from the English Channel by nearly two miles of stony shingle. The parish duties were left to a curate. Thus, the Rev. William Gillison Bell arrived in Lydd in 1869.  

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.)
The Northfleet*

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.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

"Poor old Jimmy's been nabbed at last!" A Whitehaven Scandal.

The Third Earl of Lonsdale left his wife, chased an actress across the American stage, and generally behaved in a manner that finally forced Queen Victoria to beseech him to leave the country for a while. Nevertheless, the "Sporting Earl" controlled the appointments to perhaps as many as 42 church livings. This, according to many members of the more thoughtful classes, was an absurdity. The Rev. James Anderson was one of those grateful Lonsdale clergymen, having been for some thirty years the vicar of Holy Trinity church in Whitehaven. The Lowther family (the Earls of Lonsdale) built the town and the port on the Irish Sea; profiting from "the presence of the valuable beds of coal beneath the surface." 

Holy Trinity Church was (it was pulled down in the 1940's) very near to Whitehaven Castle, one of several Lonsdale boltholes in the Northwest. The Rev. Mr. Anderson, though certainly no match for his profligate patron, had a reputation of his own. He lived apart from his wife and had been previously cautioned by his Bishop.  

However, by early 1902, after new complaints reached the Bishop's palace in Carlisle, Anderson was the subject of a formal inquiry under the Clergy Discipline Act. He was accused of being drunk, occasionally during services. But the more serious allegations were of a sexual nature.

On a summer's day in 1899, in White Park, the Lonsdale woodlands, John Cowan, one of the foresters employed by the Earl, claimed to have seen the Rev. Mr. Anderson sitting on a bench with a young woman, "handling her indecently." Cowan watched for an hour; he described how - whenever anyone approached - Anderson got up, walked away some distance, and then, when the coast was clear, returned to the bench. The woman in question was very well-known in Whitehaven: her name was Isabella Hetherington, she was about 30 years old and very nearly blind.  

In a second incident, a year later, in the Granary Yard near Whitehaven Castle, James Barnfather, a local cabinet-maker and one of the churchwardens, said he walked in on Rev. Anderson and Miss Hetherington in "the act of fornication.: She was standing against a wall and the clergyman was in front of her with his frock coat loosened and open. Barnfather said he immediately denounced Anderson as a scoundrel and a villain. When these charges reached the Bishop and the inquiry was ordered, the word around Whitehaven was, "Poor old Jimmy's been nabbed at last!"

During the inquiry, the Rev. Anderson insisted he had never misconducted himself in any way with Miss Hetherington, a woman he had known since she was five years old. Her character was irreproachable. She had been active in the music and choir at Holy Trinity and all his attentions toward her over the years had been entirely pastoral in nature. He swore before God that he had never committed fornication or any indecent conduct with this woman. Isabella, also, was closely questioned and denied that she had willingly or unwillingly been subjected to any indecent behaviour on the vicar's part.

The five church assessors delivered their verdict. The evidence of Anderson's drinking was strong and conclusive. The most serious charge of fornication was not proven. However, he was found guilty of indecent conduct on that bench in White Park. Some weeks later, in the Cathedral at Carlisle, Bishop Bardsley pronounced the greatest punishment, depriving Anderson of all his preferments.

Anderson disappears from the various clerical lists. But, as for Miss Hetherington, it appears she left scandal behind and emigrated to Australia where she dedicated the rest of her long life to missionary work among the Aborigines. "Kindly and cheerful, Miss Hetherington evinces genuine and unfailing affection for her dark skinned charges, among whom she has laboured unswervingly."  

The Rev. John Seton Karr owed his living to the notorious Berkeleys. That celebrated scandal is one of those told in Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series, Vol. 2.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Caterham Asylum Scandal

Twas not for all young clergymen to find a cozy rectory in a pleasant village, dining a time or two each year with the cheerful squire up at the Great Hall. This is the story of the Rev. Thomas Closs who served his God and his Church as chaplain of the massive Caterham Imbeciles Asylum, south of London. Mr. Closs was a Welshman, 40 years old, married with a small family, when he first came to Caterham in 1891. The institution was built in 1867, designed to house 1500 inmates. In the chapel, which seated more than 500, Closs said morning and evening prayers and held full choral Sunday services. One visitor thought the singing by "the idiots ... might serve as an admirable example to many of the congregations in our fashionable London churches."

But in 1893, Alice Sarah Hockley, not a patient but an employee in the asylum laundry, accused Closs of being the father of her baby girl. In Croydon Police Court, she claimed that Closs had taken her up to London a few times before he first seduced her in the vestry. "The intimacy was frequently renewed," usually right after the Sabbath service. Once, when interrupted by the Asylum director, the chaplain hid her among the robes in his vestments closet. Alice was unmarried and when she got pregnant, she was sacked. 

The chapel stood alone, left of the main building
In court, the Rev. Closs denied everything. There was much evidence that Alice had “walked out” with other men and frequented pubs. The mayor of Croydon, presiding, declared that there was "not the faintest scintilla of corroboration" of this woman's charges and Rev. Closs was free to go. But as the clergyman left the building, Alice - in "an infuriated manner" - rushed at him to begin striking him about the head with her fists. She took his silk hat, crushed it and threw it into the street, before the police hauled her away.

The Rev. Closs returned to his duties at the asylum but left the following year, having been accused of giving unwanted kisses to several female servants. He found a curate's billet in Malmesbury for several years and ended his days as the vicar of Wickham Skeith in Suffolk.

The Caterham Imbeciles Asylum - renamed St. Lawrence's Hospital - closed some years ago and was recently torn down for a residential development. For an excellent website on the history of Caterham see http://www.workhouses.org.uk/MAB-Caterham/

Five fascinating full length accounts of Victorian clerical scandals can be found in Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Vol. 2.