Monday, April 17, 2017

Two Bastards under his Roof

The Rev. James Stewart Gordon Cranmer D.D. never tired of mentioning his direct descent from Henry VIII's formidable Archbishop. But Dr. Cranmer's clerical career fell far short of his ancestor. 

A widower, nearly 70, Cranmer was a curate in Wroxham, Norfolk, when he married 28-year old Sarah Honey, a pretty widow with two children (at least.) Within a year of the wedding, however, Rev. Cranmer found himself in a Southwark police court sued by a "nurse" in South London claiming she had not been paid for the care and feeding of two infants (sadly, one had died) believed to be the illegitimate children of the new Mrs. Cranmer. The clergyman's wife denied they were her children. She admitted visiting the toddlers and sending Mrs. Donne money for their care but only out of "benevolence." Mrs. Cranmer testified that she'd been assisting the real mother - a former servant named "Miss Hammond." When the Rev. Cranmer learned of the arrangement, there was a row and he instructed her to stop making the payments. But a witness swore that she had known "Miss Hammond" and she very much resembled Mrs. Cranmer. Worse was to come. "Does the Rev. Dr. Cranmer know that you have brought two bastards under his roof?" She was ashamed to admit that there had been no legal first marriage; she had been duped and found herself, some years later, abandoned (not widowed) with a girl of six and a boy five. The magistrate declared himself shocked at Mrs. Cranmer's "gross and willful perjury." 

The Rev. Dr. Cranmer was ordered to pay the "nurse" £4 7s 6d. For such a paltry sum, it would have certainly been wiser if he had just paid the wretched woman rather than have such squalid "family secrets" gifted to the newspapers avid for such clerical dirty laundry. Of course, it was more than likely that the Cranmers had paid and paid again already. 

For several years, Dr. Cranmer was without church employment. In 1875, he was given a curacy in Brewham, Somerset where he died in 1881, leaving his wife and two "adopted" children. 

Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Vol. 1 is a book length collection of five of the leading "sensations" of the day. It is an Ebook and apps are free for your phone or tablet. Thank you. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A "Fiddling Clergyman" in the New Forest

Illustration at
The death of a clergyman who held a pleasant benefice (church) would give rise to the "usual flutter of excitement" in clerical circles. All eyes would look to the patron of the parish, usually a local grandee, who held the right to present to the Bishop his choice to fill the living. Patrons were often criticised for caring more about their new pastor's social standing than his spiritual strengths. 

In 1874, the Rev. John Falls, the vicar of Brockenhurst, passed away. The Morants of Brockenhurst Park (and Park Lane, London), enriched by a Jamaican sugar estate, had been squires in the New Forest for more than a century. Early in 1875, an advertisement appeared in The Guardian: "Wanted for a small living in South Hants, an Incumbent in Priest's Orders; must be young and musical, violoncello preferred." The offering was placed through a clerical agency and did not name the parish but John Morant was well known for his devotion to fine music. He had founded a Philharmonic Society in Lymington. Perhaps there was also a vacant chair in the orchestra? The work of some clubland poetaster made the rounds: 

Hey, diddle-diddle, a priest who can fiddle,
Is wanted at Brockenhurt, Hants.
You clerical Fellows,
with good violoncellos,
Please call in at Johnny Morant's.”

The “Fiddling Clergyman” sensation produced more serious objections. It conjured the image of a clergyman who had to play for his supper and "what he can earn by his violin-playing for strolling dramatic companies and other wandering bodies, circuses probably, and menageries." In the event, howver, Morant presented the living to Rev. George Octavious Wray, a man with apparently no musical talents. He had entered the clerical life after a career as a lawyer out in India. In Brockenhurst, where he kept bees, Rev. Wray was better known for his aviary than his violoncello.

Volume Two of Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series is nearing publication. Have you read Volume One? The quite affordable Ebook version is still available.