Monday, July 10, 2017

Burn This Letter

St. Marys, Hook-with-Warsash (
On Sunday morning, 12 October 1890, the Rev. Henry W. Bull left his vicarage at St. Mary's, Hook (with Warsash) to walk to the mission church on nearby Titchfield Common. On a pleasant day, the views over the fields to the Solent and the Isle of Wight beyond were splendid, but Mr. Bull was a deeply-troubled man. He was under orders from the Bishop of Winchester not to preach from his own pulpit while certain grave charges against him were investigated. 

The mission congregation was not large so the movements of one gentleman caught attention. He moved his seat on several occasions until he was directly in front of the Rev. Bull. In his sermon, the vicar could not but address the rumours so much talked about in the sprawling parish. Without details, he acknowledged that he had sinned and he would be very soon leaving the area. The man in front rose, demanding to speak. He was told to wait outside after the service. When Bull emerged a short while later, the man was waiting with a stick with which he "belaboured" the clergyman for some time until others intervened. The Rev. Bull said nothing but skulked home to his vicarage; within days, he sold up and was gone. 

Only a few weeks earlier, Walter Parrington, a coachman, had married Sarah Dimmick, who'd been a servant for the Rev. and Mrs. Bull and their family. They had moved to London. But when Parrington discovered that his new wife was pregnant, he threw her out of the house. A few days later, a letter came addressed for Sarah and Parrington opened it. It was from the Rev. Mr. Bull, and it contained £5 and instructions for them to meet. The vicar also insisted that Sarah must "burn this letter." Parrington had shown the letter around Hook and, all agreed, the clergyman's moral reputation had been ruined. 

With such a public confession, the Church moved quickly. The Bishop sent his own domestic chaplain to replace Mr. Bull. Even in such an out of the way parish, the scandal would make news. The relentless anti-clericalists at Reynolds' Newspaper charged that the departed Bull exemplified "the corrupt and immoral lives led by so many of the State Church clergy."

The Rev. Mr. Bull, just 43, left for America and his wife went with him. He would eventually resurface as an Anglican clergyman in Michigan. His full capacity was restored in 1907, when the Bishop of Winchester declared him "free from evil report, for error in religion or for viciousness of life, for the last three years." He served as rector of several churches in and around Detroit until his death in 1922, when "Father Bull" was remembered as "gentle, patient and faithful unto the end, a shepherd of souls."

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