Monday, May 29, 2017

"How the Vicar Came and Went"

All Saints Church, West Haddon
The ancient church of All Saints, West Haddon, in Northants, boasts a "massive embattled tower." On Sunday morning, 6 March 1892, the vicar failed to appear. Days later, a notice of his resignation, as required, was nailed to the church door. Everyone knew the reason; for some time West Haddon had been in a "state of ferment." 

The Rev Edwin Arthur Barraclough had been vicar at All Saints for five years. The 34 year old clergyman had been married less than a year to Lucy Eagland, a doctor's daughter from Yorkshire. Alas, as someone once famously said, "there were three people in this marriage." At the village flower show, Mrs. Barraclough was innocently introduced by the vicar to Mrs. Amy Underwood. This woman of some charm was known locally as a "grass widow," an unflattering term for a woman living apart from her husband. The absent Mr. Underwood, a farmer, had gone out to South Africa. The vicar's apparently pre-existing and longstanding attentions to this woman drew his new wife's ire and there were furious rows. She finally left him. In her divorce petition, Lucy Barracough claimed her husband drunkenly threatened her with a gun, beat her and even tried to burn down the vicarage.  

In the Divorce Court, Mrs. Barraclough presented evidence of her husband's adultery in West Haddon, Putney and Stockbridge in Hampshire. There were allegations of a child born in Putney. Mrs. Underwood actually appeared during the trial to deny any adultery with Rev. Barraclough. Justice Barnes called the whole case "extremely distressing," especially in "a marriage so recently celebrated." The decree was granted.

Within a few weeks, the forgotten husband (Mr. Underwood) popped back to Blighty to file his own petition. He enlivened the second round of proceedings with a spicy claim that, whilst in West Haddon, the Rev. Mr. Barraclough used to carry a ladder from the churchyard to climb up into Mrs. Underwood's first floor boudoir. On one evening, "his visits being watched, some person removed the ladder." The clergyman was forced to skulk out via the scullery door. "How the Vicar came and went" made the usual headlines, of course. Mrs. Underwood counter-claimed her AWOL husband's abandonment and condonation, but the divorce was granted. 

The sum of these shocking allegations left Rev. Barraclough with little chance of church employment in England but few men went so far as he - to Napoleon's old haunt, St. Helena, in the South Atlantic. He rose to be a canon of the island's cathedral until his past caught up with him and he was sacked for "having represented himself as a single man (i.e. not divorced)." The local Bishop rankled at the island being a dumping ground for clergymen seeking a new start in "some remote corner of the earth." Barraclough returned to England, remained a clergymen, and died in Clevedon in 1934. 

For those who have inquired, Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 2 will be published within weeks. In addition to e-Book, it will also be published in an Amazon paperback. Watch here for further details. Thank you.

Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1 is still available, of course. For U.K. readers, click here.

Photo at 

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Tormarton Rectory Menagerie

Tormarton Rectory 
The old stone church of St. Mary Magdalene, Tormarton, boasts one of the tallest Norman towers in the area, giving the Gloucestershire village its name. A line of yew trees leads to the old limestone rectory (now a Grade II listed home in private hands). In 1875, the recently widowed Rev. Edward John Everard was in poor health and in need of some continental sunshine. He had arranged for the church to be left under the spiritual care of a locum tenens, a rather curious clergyman with the magnificent name of the Rev. Holled Darrell Cave Smith Horlock DD. Horlock was nearly 70 and just retired after long years as the vicar of Box, in Wiltshire. Dr. Horlock’s only proviso was that he be allowed to live in the rectory and to bring his animals along with him. Rev. Everard expressed no objection, telling his clerical friend, “Go ahead and bring them, monkey and all.” In fact, Dr. Horlock kept an assortment of creatures, including a monkey.* Horlock promised, “Any damage I do, I will settle for.”  

Rev. Everard returned to Tormarton after six months. He discovered that his rectory had become a “perfect pest-house” and was now uninhabitable. This led to understandable ill-feelings and a dispute arose over the damages. In August of 1876, the “extraordinary action of Everard v. Horlock” was heard by Baron Amphlett and a special jury in Bristol.

Dr. Everard's counsel delighted the courtroom by giving a detailed census of the Horlock menagerie: 
Five large dogs – Don, Grouse, Lady, Mongo and Monk.
Three pugs – Blubber, Buzz and Tootie.
A Skye terrier named Bibi.
Three cats – Baby Mama, Snowdrop and Tail.
27 white mice – unnamed, of course, and wary of the cats, to be sure.
One squirrel.
Nine small birds of undeclared type.
Three pigeons.
One Dove.
A Hawk.
Five horses.
And, of course, the (unnamed) monkey. 

It was another of Dr. Horlock’s cranks that he would have no servants near him. The rectory was left untended and from the "droppings" evidence, the birds had been allowed to fly everywhere. The squirrel and the wretched monkey had raced up and down the drapes and other furnishings. All the carpets had to be pulled up and the bedrooms and other living areas almost completely redone. Rev. Everard admitted to allowing Horlock to bring his animals but he would have reasonably expected the wilder creatures to be housed in the barn, stables or other outbuildings. Instead, they roamed and swooped amok in the rectory. The cost of this zoological vandalism was estimated at £75.

Dr. Horlock was a man “possessed of considerable property,” but he offered a scant £10 in compensation. He claimed that Rev. Everard had been previously ordered by his Bishop to repair "certain rectory dilapidations.” Thus, Horlock argued, the rector was hoping to have those needed repairs done at the expense of his former friend. 

From the bench, Baron Amphlett intervened. Rector Everard was clearly deserving of more for the damage to his home. Two such respectable gentlemen should settle this between themselves. A surveyor was employed to determine the damages but the final settlement never revealed. Mr. Everard remained at the refurbished rectory until his death in 1880.

The "Tormarton Menagerie" story made amusing reading in papers across Britain. The Birmingham Daily Post commented, “The love of dumb animals is a graceful and amiable trait of character, especially becoming in a clergyman; but, like other excellent things, it may be carried to excess.”

Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 2 is nearing publication, both in paperback and E-book. Volume 1, a delightful collection, is available for Ebook readers at and

*Remember, no less a clergyman than Sir Thomas More kept a monkey. According to The Handbook of Our Domestic Pets (1862), keeping monkeys in the home was out of fashion. But the great Victorian naturalist Frank Buckland kept several, “Although my monkeys do considerable mischief, yet I let them do it. I am amply rewarded by their funny and affectionate ways.”

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

"A Miserable Business"

West Huntspill Church (1870)*
The Rev William Arundell was 25 and fresh from Oxford when he arrived to be a curate in the "picturesque and widely scattered village” of Huntspill in Somerset. The rector, the Rev. Mr. Lake, thought the locals were "tolerably moral people." 

 Young Mr. Arundell lived in a room at Plymor Hill farm. In the summer of 1868, Arundell told the farmer, William Hawkings, that he had heard "rumours unfavourable to their character" about two of the girls who worked for him. Supposedly, Jane Meaker, a 19-year old dairymaid, and the housemaid, 15 year old Elizabeth Cridge, had been seen cavorting with local men. Mrs. Cridge, Elizabeth's mother, blamed the older girl for her daughter's fall. Hawkings, who learned of these claims on a Saturday, told the girls they couldn't go to church the following day and, if he found these stories to be true, he would sack them both. 

The girls insisted on their innocence but on Sunday, they disappeared. Their absence was first noted when they were no-shows at Mr. Arundell's evening prayers. Midday Tuesday, Elizabeth and Jane were found drowned in a remote cattle pond, near the sea wall at Bridgwater Bay. They were "found tightly in each other's arms." Certainly this was “one of the more shocking tragedies that has ever taken place in this neighbourhood.” 

The Western Times, called it a "miserable business" and reported that the two wretched girls had been frightened into death. However, at the inquest held at Crossways Inn, the local magistrate declared that the Rev. Arundell and the farmer had done “quite right.” The death of these "fine, good-looking country girls" became a national scandal. An inquest, held with "indecent hurry," had resulted in a cruel verdict (double suicide) that prevented the girls from having a Christian burial. 400 people, many sobbing, some angry, stood in the darkness when the bodies were interred in the St. Peter's graveyard before midnight. The rector defended his curate, urging everyone to “take the most merciful view of the case, which I had always believed to be the true one.” But, the London Standard denounced the "barbarity of the vengeance wreaked in the name of the law." 

Mr. Arundell remained in Huntspill for another year or so. In 1873, he left to be the rector in Cheriton Fitzpaine.

Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Vol. 1 is a collection of full-length accounts of similar "national scandals." For American readers, click here. Kindle or other Ebook apps are FREE and easy to use on your phone or tablet. Volume 2 is now in preparation. 

Illustration: British History Online (