Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Vicar of Piddletrenthide and his Factotum

All Saints, Piddletrenthide
The Rev. Sir George Fetherston, 6th Bt., was 35 when he arrived to be the new vicar in Piddletrenthide, home to one of the finest churches in Dorset. The eccentric reverend-baronet became celebrated for his delight in candles - as many as 100 were lit for each service. He also took a great interest in the choir, particularly a chorister, Thomas Davies. Sir George took the 14-year old into his service to be trained as a valet. 

In a few years, Thomas claimed standing as the vicar's private secretary. Where the vicar went, "Mr. T.B. Davies" was likely to follow. There was some talk, of course. Alas, Thomas was a cheeky lad and prone to trouble. He was frequently summoned for "furious riding" or squabbles with tradesman. He ran up bills, claiming credit for being the Rev. Fetherston's "factotum." He whispered that he'd be coming into a nice fortune upon his majority. Suddenly, in 1893, Thomas got the sack. It was said the vicar was furious when he learned that his factotum was entertaining a young lady to carriage rides and tea in his absence. A line of creditors quickly circled the young man, now 20. Davies sued the Rev. Sir George claiming hundreds of pounds in back wages. The vicar was "too ill" to attend the trial but his lawyer said Davies had likely squandered £600. A local jury couldn't agree but it appears the two sides reached a settlement.  

The Rev. Fetherston quietly resigned and left Piddletrenthide. He lived for many more years, collecting china and stamps, and writing hymns. Other than some time as a chaplain in WW1, he saw little church duty. He never married and the baronetcy ended with his death in 1923. As for Thomas, a year or so after the scandal, he was back in court over some pawned jewelry that was a gift from a "gentlemen he would not name."

Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Vol. 1 is now available on E-book. $5.49 US or £3.86 UK. 
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