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.”

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