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. 


  1. The girl aged 6 was my great grandmother. Interesting story and very true. My g grandmother’s father was a leading London solicitor who also had a ‘legitimate’ family in Hertfordshire. Interestingly an Ancestry DNA test has verified my link to the solicitor’s family giving credence to the story.

  2. David, thank you so much for leaving this comment. I am delighted you found my blog, may I ask how? This a fascinating story and I urge you to pursue it, as I believe you have done some already.

  3. Thanks Tom. I found your excellent blog from using Google for my own research on this story. The confusion here continued up to the death of my G Grandmother in 1946. The fact that this was heard in the Police Court in 1869 was not known to me before. Thanks again


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