Saturday, May 28, 2016

"Men in Black"- A Curate's Lesson

1871 Advertisement (Google Books)
In 1877, a newly ordained curate, 24 year old Rev. Samuel Francis Barber, arrived in the village of Lower Mitton on the Severn in Worcestershire. By all accounts, he was well-liked by his parishioners and his superior. Or he was, until the following year, when he had the temerity to go about in a pair of coloured trousers. For men of the cloth, black was the default colour. When his vicar, the Rev. Mr. Gibbons remonstrated with him, Barber simply resigned his position. It was true that any flashiness or colored vestments were sensitive issues in the Victorian church as many thought them "Romish." But Mr. Barber's daring trousers were said to be "of an ordinary mundane color & pattern." With sympathy in the face of such "vicarial tyranny," some villagers passed round a (presumably black) hat to collect a going-away token. For Mr. Barber, getting a reputation for being, well, "too big for his britches" might be a career-wrecker for a young curate but he survived.

As for more difficult questions about a clergyman's trousers, the vicar of Bracknell was asked in a London court whether his trousers were "disarranged" when he was found in a remote copse with a young lady not his wife. The story of the Rev. Mr. Howes can be found in Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1 now available for Kindle.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Rev. Canon James Fleming, the Queen's Chaplain (Plagiarist?)

Rev. Canon James Fleming (Vanity Fair)
Teachers and professors worldwide must now be ever watchful for the student who tries to slip a "cut and paste" job by as original work. It's plagiarism, is what it is. And, it's not new. In 1887, the chaplain to Queen Victoria, Canon James Fleming published a volume of sermons to celebrate HRH's Jubilee. Some attentive readers, however, noted the "most extraordinary resemblance" in one sermon to the work of the American evangelist T. Dewitt Talmage of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. More than 200 lines were identical save for Dr. Talmage's American idioms being replaced with English ones. An embarrassing pamphlet made the rounds: "The Stolen Sermon, or Canon Fleming's Theft." Finally, Fleming confessed that he had read Talmage's sermon some years before and it made a great impression upon him. He, then, unconsciously refashioned the sermon as his own. Critics called the explanation worse than the crime. A New York paper said the matter raises "an uncomfortable doubt as to the English canon's moral condition." Fleming survived the kerfuffle, for he was "altogether a good fellow" and a royal favorite. But, the scandal was recalled at his death in 1908. "He will not be comfortable when he sees Talmage coming his way across the Elysian fields."

Canon Fleming's biographer was the Rev. Arthur Finlayson whose much greater scandal is discussed in "The Foxy Finlayson," in the new E-Book Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1
Canon Fleming's caricature in Vanity Fair (1899)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Rev. H.G. Wakefield of Montana by way of Shropshire

Granite, Montana (wikipedia)
Granite County, Montana, is full of ghost towns. Once home to the largest silver mine in the world, the area boomed in the 1880's. The silver bubble burst in the 1890's and most everybody left. In Philipsburg, the county seat, the Rev. Herbert Wakefield, saw his congregation dwindle at St. Andrew's Episcopal church. What was a man from the English Midlands, with an Oxford degree, doing in frontier Montana? A few years before, Wakefield was living in Shropshire, chaplain of the county gaol and active in the Shrewsbury Vigilance Committee for the Suppression of Criminal Vice & Public Immorality. That fall, several young women received "the most revoltingly obscene letters that it has ever been our misfortune to peruse," according to the Wellington Journal. The newspaper accused Rev. Wakefield of writing those letters. He denied it and his supporters included the Bishop of Lichfield who called him “one of the most deservedly respected men in the district.” Wakefield sued the newspaper for libel. In 1888, the clergyman left for the trial in London but never arrived; instead, he sent a wire admitting that the "horrible & diabolical” letters were his. The amazement in Shrewsbury can be imagined. Wakefield and his wife emigrated, first, to Canada, but he closed his clerical career among the ghost pews of Montana. He died there in 1916.

A similar charge, involving a "vile and depraved" letter, was made against another clergyman a few years later. The case of the Rev. C.W.A. Brooke is told in full - with the letter - in Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1.
This new E-Book is available on Kindle; or you can download the Kindle app for tablets and smart-phones.
Comments, corrections, additions, recommendations can be left below. Thank you.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Rev. Lambert Foster of Norfolk - A "Driveling Libertine."

Norwich Cathedral
One late winter day in 1852, the Rev. Lambert Blackwell Foster paid a visit to Norwich Cathedral. The Fosters were a prominent family in the county but the 57-year old clergyman no longer held any church employment. He was estranged from his family, living alone in the nearby village of Brundall. He may have come to the Cathedral for prayer but he left in the company of 17-year old Emma Baxter, a "lady of the town." Plainly, the Rev. Foster was besotted with Miss Baxter; soon he took rooms in London's fashionable Belgravia for "Mr. and Mrs. Foster." But the old clergyman worried that pretty young Emma found the West End too tempting so he removed her to a rambling pile, Fritton Old Hall, (now) in Suffolk. He gave Emma carte blanche to furnish the place, where he died in March 1863. Of course, he left no will. Foster's son arrived upon the scene and ejected "Mrs. Foster," who then sued for the contents of the manor - namely furniture, plate and jewelry. The issue came down to her tarnished word: as the Fosters reminded the jury, it was the word of an avowed prostitute and mistress. The jurymen were charmed enough to meet her partway - she got to keep the jewelry and some of the furniture but the family china had to stay. The "painful revelations" in the case were shocking. Had a prostitute actually been picked up in one of the world's great Cathedrals? The Rev. L.B. Foster was declared to have been "a driveling libertine."

Alas, such clerical scandals were not uncommon in Victorian Britain. For more, see the new E-book, Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1.

For the complete story of the Foster scandal, I refer you to Blame it on the Norfolk Vicar.

As always, comments, corrections, questions, additions are welcome, indeed, sought. Please use the comments form. And thank you for your visit. Share with friends.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Rev. Hamilton Young of Alne, Yorkshire

St. Mary, Alne, Yorks.
The pretty village of Alne, near York, and its ancient church of St. Mary's, is an unlikely setting for one of the longest lasting and costliest Victorian clerical scandals. The Rev. Hamilton Young and his wife, Sarah, came to Alne in 1895. The living had been purchased by Richard Kershaw, Mrs. Young's industrialist father. But things did not go well. Soon, the vicar accused his wife of having an affair with Thomas Mintoft, a churchwarden. Mr. Young was opposed to divorce so he and his wife lived separately. Then came village rumors linking the vicar to Miss Cissie Burton, the Sunday School teacher. The gossip was traced back to Kershaw. The vicar sued his father-in-law, winning heavy damages. By 1900, the Rev. Young had triumphed over his religious scruples and he went into civil court to divorce his wife, citing her continuing affair with Mintoft. Mrs. Young counter-sued accusing Miss Burton of having had the vicar's child in Brussels. A slew of sleuths employed by either side combed the village for all the tawdry details. The trial lasted three weeks, the judge took a whole day to sum up but the jury needed half-an-hour to find Mrs Young guilty of adultery with Mintoft but finding the vicar innocent of both cruelty to his wife and adultery with Miss Burton. An estimated £10,000 was spent by the Youngs (more than £1,000,000 in today's money.)

Gossip about a clergyman and his Sunday school teacher was an occupational hazard of sorts. Read the story of the Rev. Howes and Miss Beechey in Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1.
If you do not have a Kindle reader - keep calm and carry on - then download the free app for your smartphone or tablet.

Picture: alnevillage.co.uk
My thanks to Dr. Robert Brech. chairman of the Alne Parish Council.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Rev. Henry Luxmore of Barnstaple

The Long Engagement by Arthur Hughes
On one of his regular calls upon the sick, the Rev. Henry Luxmore, vicar of Barnstaple, met a young lady named Elizabeth Irwin. A sometime schoolteacher, Elizabeth lived on the sunny North Devon coast with her sisters, orphans all, and with but a small fortune. Her friendship with the vicar blossomed and in 1826, they were engaged. Mr. Luxmore insisted they must wait at least two years for him to acquire the wherewithal to support a wife. Two years became a dozen years. The vicar continued to escort Miss Irwin to various fetes and civic affairs. He fended off at least one rival suitor for her hand. But in 1838, Miss Irwin was aghast to read in her Barnstaple paper that a marriage had been arranged between the Rev. Luxmore and Mary Jane Noble, a daughter of one of the late Lord Nelson's admirals. In her breach-of-promise suit, Miss Irwin was portrayed as the ever-faithful lover who found her self chucked over at the late age of 40 for a much younger woman of superior connections and fortune. Mr. Luxmore, casting no aspersions whatever on his erstwhile companion, insisted that their relationship was never more than a "warm attachment." A jury found otherwise, awarding Miss Irwin £400, a sum greater than the vicar's annual salary. But the verdict was widely accepted as fair compensation for “one of the greatest insults which it is in the power of a man to offer the other sex.” Long engagements were commonplace in Victorian fact and fiction but the Barnstaple case gave credence to the expression: “Happy’s the wooing that’s not long a-doing!”

For a celebrated late Victorian breach of promise case - also involving a clergyman - see the story of the Rev. A.G. Fryer in Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Vol. 1.

For a full account of the Luxmore case, see my book Blame it on the Devon Vicar (2008, Halsgrove)
Painting copyright Birmingham Art Gallery.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Excellent Reviews are Always Appreciated

If I might, I want to post a link here to the respected Victorian blog http://vichist.blogspot.com
Dr. Bruce Rosen, an Australian scholar, has kindly reviewed my new e-book Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1
I can't thank him enough for the kind words. Please visit his blog or read the review here:

"As readers of this blog will have gathered, I enjoy a bit of historical gossip and what could possibly be more fun than stories about clerics and their alleged sexual peccadilloes? If you share this rather wayward inquisitiveness, you should really have a look at Tom Hughes new book, Clerical Errors. Hughes is an expert in just such scandals.  The stories he tells are carefully documented, often using sources that have been either inaccessible or largely untapped.  Among the strengths of his book is his careful analyses of the procedural issues surrounding cases.  He not only lets us in on what was done, but on what he believes was not done.  It presents us with a view of Victorian legal values and practices which were, at times, “slip-shod” if not biased. In addition, since the cases inevitably involve power relationships, Hughes’ book paints an interesting picture of both the formal and informal structures of both Victorian class and gender. In this kind of writing, it would be easy to slip into the error of confusing fact and opinion.  While Hughes offers his opinion, he is clear in presenting it as just that. This is Hughes' third book dealing with what were cases of alleged misconduct on that part of clergy and is the first in a planned three volume series. If there is anyone who knows about British clerical scandals, it is Tom Hughes. He has spent more than two decades building a database and writing about clerical errors. All of his books are available through Amazon and the Kindle edition ofClerical Errors is available for the very reasonable price of US$5.49."

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Rev. John Woodcock, Vicar of Littlebourne, Kent.

St. Vincent's, Littlebourne
The village of Littlebourne in Kent has the only English church (or, at least, one of the very few) dedicated to St. Vincent of Saragossa, the patron saint of winemakers (and Lisbon). From 1824, the Rev. John Woodcock was the vicar of St. Vincent's. Alas, for three decades, “his conduct was so objectionable that very few of the parishioners would attend" his services. As a young cleric, he had been a minor canon at the nearby cathedral in Canterbury but he was given the sack by the Archbishop. Yet, Woodcock remained in his vicarage. It was not a happy home. He drove his daughter out of the house and onto the dole. In early 1859, new charges were raised, apparently having to do with a servant who left the vicarage enceinte. The new "imputations" were sent to the Bishop and an inquiry was demanded. The Rev. Mr. Woodcock went into his upstairs bedroom and shot himself in the head. A servant heard the shot and arrived to find Mrs. Woodcock cradling her dead husband's body. The vicar was so disliked that many villagers concluded that his wife had shot him and they quite understood why. But a coroner's jury concluded that the vicar of Littlebourne had died "while in a state of mental derangement caused by the shame and vexation of the state of things.”

For another clerical tragedy, see the case of the Rev. Joseph Weedow in the new Kindle collection, Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series, Vol 1.
Download a FREE Kindle app for your smartphone or tablet.
Photo geograph.org, copyright N Chadwick and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

An Elopement in High Life

One February morning in 1852, the London society papers reported "with much regret" that the youngest daughter of the Marquis of Londonderry, had eloped from her London home and been privately married to the family's domestic chaplain. The Rev. Frederick Henry Law was newly ordained, a Cambridge graduate, and 24. Lady Adelaide Vane-Tempest was 22. The Londonderry's great fortune was in the coal mines to the north. In London, their splendid seat was Holderness House in Park Lane. Lady Adelaide gave her maid the slip and she and the young clergyman dashed for the registry office in Hanover Square. The elopement in High Life generated unparalleled excitement; the Marchioness was reportedly "humbled to the dust" by her daughter's rashness. The young Rev. Mr. Law was merely a schoolmaster's son, thought to be plain looking and "uppish" in his manner. While the marriage was a done thing, the couple could not remain in London. The Marquis found a series of places for his unsought son-in-law to minister to the miners on the distant family estates. The Laws were married thirty years; Adelaide died in Genoa in 1882, “cast off by her family & excluded from aristocratic society.”* The Rev. Law finished his days at a parish in Lewisham, near London.
For more romances of the Victorian clergy, see Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series, Vol 1.

*K.D. Reynolds, Aristocratic Women and Political Society in Victorian Britain
Photo of Londonderry House (aka Holderness House) from Pinterest

Friday, May 6, 2016

A Victorian Clergyman Accused of Writing Obscene Letter

"My dear Nellie," the letter innocently began. What followed was a graphic description of a past sexual event, including fond memories of "milkings" and the like, and then some plans for their next encounter, with the curious instruction: "Never pee before coming to see me." Was it possible that the writer of this "depraved and obscene letter" was a clergyman of the Victorian Church of England? In 1898, the Rev. Charles William Alfred Brooke, curate of Camden Town, was accused of sending that very letter to Mrs. Nellie Heard, a woman in local service. Brooke had actually been trying to reunite Nellie with her estranged husband. The curate was something of a local gadfly, into this and that, and insisted one of his many un-named enemies had forged the letter to ruin him. The letter - of course - was the centerpiece of the trial of Rev. Brooke, held at St. Paul's Cathedral. The shocking contents of the letter (definitely NSFW) were never made public, the lone copy of the letter retained in the files at Lambeth Palace, seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Until now. The letter in full is included in Rev. Brooke's story to be found in the new Kindle book Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1.
www.amazon.com/dp/B01CRD2D8O or www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01CRD2D8O A free Kindle app is available for downloading to your smartphone and/or tablet.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Are Church Bells a Nuisance?

St. Peter, Norbiton, Surrey
Update: I am informed that the current Vicar of Norbiton has set the bells to sound only on the hour.


Up the steep mountains, down the green dells, 
Flows the glad music—Happy church bells!*

In May 1866, 150 years ago this month, the Rev Robert Holberton of St Peter’s Norbiton, Surrey, set to working a handsome new clock in the church tower. The bells chimed the hour - and the halves and quarters as well - round-the-clock. Norbiton Hall, just over the London Road, was occupied by (later Sir) William Hardman, a barrister primarily engaged in literary pursuits, and married to a lady of "a nervous and somewhat delicate constitution." Poor Mrs. Hardman could get no sleep, day or night. The new bells were indeed of a formidable size and, at least to Mr. Hardman's ears, they rang louder than the ordinary. He offered to make a donation of fifty guineas in exchange for an end to the bells from 10 pm to dawn. The vicar and vestrymen met and palavered. Various schemes to muffle the bells were considered but - in the end - Rev. Holberton informed the complainant that the sounding clock plainly "gives general pleasure to the people of Norbiton." It must be remembered that few people could afford to keep a watch or a clock in their homes. Hardman took the case to court but lost in a ruling still considered something of a precedent in "nuisance cases." In the eyes of the law, "however harsh it may seem, the sick or the dying cannot be protected by the court from the torments of ordinary sounds.”

* Church Bells (1900) by Peter Burn, Lake District poet. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Victorian Romance: Lamb v. Fryer, clerk in holy orders.

The Rev. Arthur Girdlestone Fryer arrived in Andover, Hampshire, in 1877. Fresh from Cambridge, he came to be a curate at St. Mary's, the parish church.

Ruddily handsome, the young cleric quickly became a favourite. But two years later, he had to leave for a new assignment in Royal Leamington Spa. Before the move, he became engaged to Miss Kate Lamb. The Lambs were a prominent family in Andover; Kate's brother Thomas was a solicitor and held many influential positions in the town. Kate was much older than Arthur; but the curate joked, "I see the parish register, I know how old all the ladies are in Andover." Arthur's new church was a hundred miles from Andover but he and Kate exchanged daily letters - 900 in a space of a year and a half! It was those letters - "amorous gush," the papers called them - that were hung around the curate's neck when Kate sued him for breach-of-promise to marry in 1881. The celebrated case of Lamb v. Fryer delighted the reading public. A London courtroom rocked with laughter as dozens of Arthur and Kate's letters were read out for the jury. Kate's lawyer charged that the young curate had behaved "as a cur." But the case came down to whether Arthur had made a conditional promise to marry - i.e. that he would never marry as a lowly curate, but only after attaining his own vicarage. The story is told in delightful detail, including excerpts from many of the letters. In addition, the author follows up on the eventual romantic fates of the luckless couple.


The story of the Rev. Mr. Fryer is one of five included in the new Ebook - Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1. (www.amazon.com/dp/B01CRD2D8O) ($5.49)
(www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01CRD2D8O(£3.86)

For more information, please contact the author at victorianga@aol.com.