Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mary Crawley (not of Downton) and the Newdigate Rectory Scandal

St. Peter's Church, Newdigate, Surrey
A clergyman must set an example. "The Clergyman and his house is as it were a light placed in the parish, to which all eyes are turned for example and guidance." Thus the outrage in September 1854 at the events alleged to have occurred at a rectory in Surrey. 

The Rev. Arthur Sugden, son of the Lord Chancellor, was rector of Newdigate. He was accused of allowing rampant immorality under his roof. 16 year old Mary Crawley, a new housemaid, went to the police claiming that on a Sunday night (!), she had been sitting up smoking and drinking with the groom (Elphick) and the cook (Maria). They were joined by 15-year old George Elton, the younger brother of Mrs. Sugden. Mary and Maria went to the bed they shared; Mary claimed she locked the door, but then heard Elphick telling George, "You get in on Crawley's side." What followed was an unprintable story of "appalling profligacy." Mary couldn't scream because the cook placed her hand over her mouth. Mary's story of "violation" was news across England. There were rumors that "Master George" was being packed off to Germany. The Society for the Protection of Women intervened to prosecute George, a "genteel-looking" lad, as well as Elphick and Maria. Mary Crawley made a poor witness. She admitted Elphick had been in her bed before. She had never called George her "little husband" but she had kissed him. She had also been sacked by the Sugdens when they learned she was Catholic. The jury was instructed to consider well "the conduct of the woman" making the charge. All three were acquitted and the judge (Baron Platt) declared that there was "not the slightest ground" for any criticism of life at the Sugdens (thanks, in part, to all new faces "below stairs.")

A Yorkshire vicarage scandal is one of five tales told in the new E-book Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1.
A new Kindle has just been released - or download the free app for phones/tablets. Thank you.
Comments: victorianga@aol.com
Illustration: Geograph (Creative Commons) 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Vicar Fights a Duel

Victorian dueling pistols, from Purdey's of Mayfair
The last clerical duelist in England was the Rev. Edwin Crane, vicar of Crowle. He had been challenged by a neighbour, Capt. William Candler, master of the Worcester Foxhounds. Candler believed, with some justification, that his wife Louisa - a lady of "gay and free manners" - had been unfaithful with the young clergyman. The two men, with their seconds, met in a field near Malvern. Candler fired two errant shots; Rev. Crane discharged his pistol into the air. Everyone walked away. 

Prior to 1857, divorce in Britain required an act of Parliament. But Candler brought a suit for "criminal conversation," seeking £5000 in damages from the vicar of Crowle. The trial was held in 1837 and brought people from throughout the sporting countryside to Gloucester. Witnesses described seeing Rev. Crane and Mrs. Candler on the floor of her drawing room in Malvern Link. They were observed together in a nearby wood. Compromising letters were introduced. But Mr. Crane's attorney said his client was the seduced, not the seducer.  "His only fault had been that he had yielded to the solicitations of a beautiful woman, which very few men in any situation in life would be able to resist." Candler was shown to have been a neglectful husband. Also, the vicar had agreed to meet the chap on the dueling field - for Candler to bring this second action was dashed ungentlemanly. The jury agreed; they found Crane guilty but the damages were reduced to a mere £100.

Rev. Crane was suspended by his Bishop for three years, restored when it was shown that he had "demeaned and conducted himself with the utmost regularity and decorum."

May I call attention to the newly released E-Book Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1. A free app for tablets and mobile phones is available. Comments are eagerly sought either below or at www.victorianga.aol.com

Illustration: www.katetattersall.com

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Bishop's Daughter

J.P. Lee, Bishop of Manchester
On the morning of 11 July 1857, 26 year old Sophia Katherine Lee slipped out of her parent's home to marry the Rev. John Booker, a bookish curate from Prestwich. They were married at St. James' Church in the village of Heaton Mersey. It was the church where her family worshiped but they did not attend the wedding. Now, this caused comment for Sophie's father was no less than the Bishop of Manchester. A decade earlier, the Rev. James Prince Lee was chosen by the Queen to lead the first ever episcopal see in the Industrial Midlands. His biographers concede the Bishop was a bit of a despot. He was married and had two daughters. The Rev. Booker had stayed with the Lee family whilst researching one of his antiquarian interests in the neighborhood. A romance with Sophie blossomed but the Bishop could not feel that a wine merchant's son from Yorkshire, a mere curate, was suitable for his daughter and he let that be known. If they went ahead, he would never forgive them. They did and he didn't. When the Bishop died in 1869, his will declared, "To my elder daughter, I give nothing. I deprive her of all interest in my property. This I do not do in anger but because I hold it my duty not to let such conduct as hers and the person she married prove successful." The will was published for all to read and caused a new sensation. It was as if "the person" his daughter had married was a "dissolute valet" and not a respected clergyman who now had his own church in Surrey. A clerical friend wrote to the newspapers defending Sophie's conduct. The Rev. Booker had proven in every respect a worthy husband. "In short, she had loved. She had ultimately to make her election. She disobeyed - she was but a woman." 

Many a curate's romance did not run smoothly. There was Mr. Fryer of Leamington or Mr. Finlayson of Alderley Edge, for example. Their stories and more can be found in Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1.
E-book? E-Z-P-Z. Download the free Kindle app. Thank you.
Illustration: Wikipedia.
Comments welcome below or at victorianga@aol.com

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Mysterious Death of a Clergyman's Wife

Golcar and the spire of St. John's Church
On Christmas Day 1862, the Rev J.E. Downing, longtime vicar of Golcar, near Huddersfield, was thrown from his carriage and killed. His son (who was also his curate) was in the following carriage with his fiancee. The tragedy notwithstanding, the Rev. Henry Downing married Hannah Briggs a month later. The newlyweds lived at Westwood House, purchased for them by the bride's wealthy uncle. The recently widowed Mrs. Downing came with them. Village rumours were soon shared that the elder Mrs. Downing clashed repeatedly with her daughter-in-law. Hannah Downing was rarely seen in public and then, reportedly, with a black eye. Rev. Downing took his mother down to London for some time. On 18 October 1863, they returned to Golcar. The next morning, the clergyman found his wife unconscious in her dressing room, with several head wounds and a broken tooth. She died two days later. She was 32. The excitement was intense; the public demanded an inquest. The coroner presided at the Rose & Crown. Miss Dykes, a servant at Westwood House, insisted all was harmonious within. But villagers claimed Dykes had spread the earlier story of the black eye. The coroner refused to accept hearsay. An independent surgeon did a complete autopsy. He found the deceased had a flabby heart, was susceptible to fits, and "habituated to intoxication." Her injuries were consistent with a fall during a fit. The coroner quashed juror objections and declared Mrs. Downing "died by the visitation of God in a natural way." The respected Downing family, he pronounced, should be acquitted of all the unfounded rumours. Rev. Downing soon left Golcar to be Rector of Wells-next-the-Sea, in Norfolk. There, he married a local woman. His mother came too.

Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1 contains the detailed accounts of five sensational scandals involving clergyman of the Church of England. The affordable E-book ($5.49 US/ 3.86 UK) can be accessed with a free app for your phone or tablet.

Comments are always welcome at victorianga@aol.com

Illustration: AChurchnearyou.co.uk

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Somerset Clerical Scandal

St. James the Less, Halse, Somerset
In 1889, a pretty Somerset village was the setting for a "strange clerical scandal which has disturbed the equanimity of the county.” The rector of Halse, near Taunton, Rev. Samuel Burgess, married and with a family, was summoned before his Bishop to explain a letter he had written to a female parishioner. In the letter to a Miss Bond, Burgess made "statements expressive of the regard and affection he felt for her," supposedly confessing an earnest desire to hold and kiss her. Burgess insisted that the wrong construction had been placed upon his innocent words. The rector was saved, however, by a curious loophole. He had written the letter while in Salisbury to Miss Bond who was then in London. According one reading of ecclesiastical law, a letter written in one diocese, and received in a second diocese, could not be regarded as evidence in a third diocese (i.e. before the Bishop of Bath & Wells). Thus, there was no cause to answer and Mr. Burgess returned to his rectory. "Is not this a public scandal?” asked the society journal, Truth. As for Miss Bond, a "spinster" near 40, it was said that her "mind was affected" by the scandal.

The rector's letter does not survive but a much more outrageous one written by a London curate does. Read about the "depraved and obscene" letter linked to the Rev. C.W.A. Brooke in Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1.

Photo: westcountrychurches.co.uk

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Vicar Charged with Assault

The Old Vicarage, Cramlington
The pits are now closed, replaced by bedroom estates and leisure centers but Cramlington was a coal mining village in Northumberland. One chilly October night in 1874, the Rev. Joseph Smithard-Hind crept into a servant's bedroom - and poured a jug of cold water on her sleeping head. A late-arriving guest from London needed a fire lit in one of the vicarage bedrooms. The vicar had sent his son to waken Mary Ann Mulholland but he couldn't raise her. Mary Ann was none too pleased with her liquid wake-up call and gave notice in the morning. Mr. Smithard-Hind settled up her wages and - as he recalled - gave her 10 shillings by way of an apology. But egged on, no doubt, by her friends, the young woman went to the magistrates and the vicar of St. Nicholas Church was summoned for assault. The clergyman attended as called and explained the lodging crisis that unfolded that fall evening. He had employed no more than a "little cold water" to get his reluctant servant in motion. Miss Mulholland denied that she had gotten anything more than her due wages from the vicar but it was his word against hers. When Mary Ann took the extra ten shillings, she had - in effect - condoned the vicar's conduct. Case dismissed although Mr. Smithard-Hind was cautioned against such "violent and improper" conduct in the future.

"The Servant Problem" in a clergyman's home was a frequent cause for scandal in the Victorian church. The tragic story of the Rev. Joseph Weedow and his cook is told in Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1. (only $5.49 US; £3.86 UK) 

Photo: rightmove.co.uk.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Modern Curate

Published in 1881, "The Modern Curate," was a collection of unsigned articles that had previously appeared in The Graphic, a London weekly. The anonymous author advised would be clerics on many subjects, including marriage. His advice: put it off.
"Young women are, unfortunately, only too ready to take penniless young priests* "for better or worse," without any misgiving that it may be "for worse " only. They indulge in roseate dreams of rectories, lifelong comfort and good social position. They forget that preferment is never certain, that there can be no comfort with a family in a poverty stricken house, and that good society is rather inclined to give "the cold shoulder" to paupers. The women do not think of these things; the men who marry them, should."
One young curate, who apparently did think of such things, was the Rev. Arthur Fryer. In 1881, the year the book was published, he balked at keeping his promise to marry Miss Kate Lamb, daughter of a prominent Hampshire family. The result was a sensational trial for "breach-of-promise to marry." All England debated whether the curate was properly cautious or a cruel jilter. The story of Lamb v Fryer is told in the new Kindle EBook collection - Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1. ($5.49 US; £3.86 UK) 
Kindle apps are FREE for your phones or tablet.

* By the Victorian period, the term "priest" had taken on its modern meaning, referring to a Catholic clergyman. However, clergy in the Church of England were still ordained as "priests."
Illustration: Google Books.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Read All About It

A writer in the Churchman's Family Magazine, in the Year of Our Lord 1863, decried the eagerness with which the newspapers reveled in recounting the misconduct of miscreant clergymen. "A really good clerical scandal, well spiced and judiciously prolonged ... is worth fifty pounds a week to The Times. Travelers by railway eagerly buy it when they expect a racy article of this nature. It is talked over with avidity by the gentlemen after dinner, when the partridges have been exhausted, and it serves admirably to amuse the ladies." The 1860's saw an explosive growth in newspapers. The newsboys hawking the Times no longer had a monopoly. The new profession of "journalism" seemed to delight in annoying the establishment and, of course, that would include the Church of England. "The development of journalism is fraught with danger to all our institutions; and in a pre-eminent degree the Church of England is exposed to insidious attacks. So it behooves her friends to watch." In the meantime, would the clergy please behave because, fair or not, they must keep in mind "the somewhat familiar axiom that when clergymen break the laws of morality, we almost always do hear of it, and that when laymen break them we do not." 

Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1 is a collection, as described, of five "well spiced," even "racy," clerical scandals. The book is available for Kindle, or a Kindle app on your smartphone or tablet. To contact the author: victorianga@aol.com

Illustration: yooniqimages.com