Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Night at the Inn: The Rev. T.W. Morris of Ashton-under-Lyne

St. Peter's, Ashton-under-Lyne
Past midnight in January 1861, a chambermaid crept up the stairs at the Crown, a village inn at Hallow near Worcester. She was followed by the landlord and a young gentleman. The maid knocked at one door and told the occupants within that the landlady thought she'd left her shoes in the room. When the door opened, the entire party barged in. The young man declaimed: "How do you do, Miss Lee?" And, turning to the landlord, the man continued, "May I introduce the Rev Mr Morris, of St. Peter's, Ashton-under-Lyne, a married man." The lovers were ordered to get dressed and leave the pub immediately. 
The intruder was a solicitor's clerk from Ashton sent by Mrs. Morris who had learned of her husband's affair with Bertha Lee, a schoolmaster's daughter. The Morris' quickly separated, and given her husband's "heartless" conduct, Mrs. Morris retained custody of their two children. Further, in December 1861, the Rev. Thomas Whittaker Morris was suspended three years by his Bishop for adultery and bringing scandal upon the church. 
Three years was clearly not enough for Morris' former parishioners at St. Peter's. When the clergyman returned to Ashton in February 1865, intending to reclaim his church, he was hooted by an angry, ribald mob and police had to escort him back to the rail station for his safe exit. The "living" was declared vacant and a new clergyman assigned. When Morris sued, a local defence fund was started to oppose his return. The Rev. Morris, despite freshly sworn testimonials to his reformed conduct, never returned to the pulpit at St. Peter's. 

The Rev. Mr. Howes of Bracknell was hooted and driven from his church as well. The story is told in Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Vol. 1 
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Illustration: Geograph (Creative Commons)

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