Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Twelfth Night Ball in Lowestoft

All Saints & St. Margaret's, Pakefield
The Twelfth Night was the traditional end to the Christmas Season, to be marked with dinners and festivities in Victorian England. In 1888, it was a most eventful observance in Lowestoft. In late December, the Mayor - a local surgeon named William Chubbe - announced there would be a "Mayor's Ball" on the evening of Friday, January 6. It would be by invitation only so the gentry waited with excitement for the coveted card. But not all. Humbug! The announcement brought forth a furious denunciation of such frivolities from the venerable rector of Pakefield. 

A small village on the North Sea, Pakefield was two miles from Lowestoft. The Rev Lewis Price had been rector there since 1871. Nearly 70, he'd had an eventful clerical career. As a younger man, he had been one of the clergy associated with the infamous Agapemone commune in Somerset. He married one of the celebrated Nottidge sisters, although he had to go court to force her to live with him. She died in 1886.

When Price learned of the Lowestoft ball, he sent a letter to the Eastern Daily Press calling upon the mayor to cancel it. "Moses or the Prophets or Christ or his Apostles never gave a ball ... Balls are offensive to all true Christians ... they inflame the worst passions of the streets, promote the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life ... we will pray to deliver you and your people from this cursed ball." The secular press, of course, mocked Price's letter, calling it "balderdash of the most outrageous and unchristian character" and an "outrageous attempt to revive the worst traits of Puritanism."

The rector's appeal went unheard but, two nights before the ball, a noisy procession, said to number 3000 people, marched from Lowestoft to Pakefield rectory. A brass band serenaded the rector while the torchlit crowd burned him in effigy. It was noted that most of those in the crowd were not likely to have received a ticket to the ball but, still, it was an evening not to be missed. Even if, as reported, the Rev. Price was not at home. 

"Too Early?" by Tissot 1873 (Guildhall Gallery)
The Twelfth Night ball was a great success. Lowestoft's Public Hall in the London Road had been elaborately decorated and the adjoining Masonic Hall was set up for "refreshments." Mayor and Mrs. Chubbe led the dancers on to the floor. It was a high-toned evening, of course. "If we took a census of all the English girls who go to balls and of all the English girls who do not, the balance of virtue, modesty and innocence would certainly largely be on the side of the dancers," observed the Ipswich Journal.

The Rev Price remained at Pakefield until he resigned in 1901 at the age of 81. He had not lose his fire. In 1897, he was back in the national papers for calling village football matches "devices of the devil." He died in 1906 and is buried at Pakefield. There is a memorial window in the church that was put in while the Rev. Price was still alive which, according to the church history, is "quite unique."


Merry Christmas from the blog team & Happy New Year.
Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series, Vol. 2 is available here,

Monday, December 10, 2018

Tittle Tattle or the Truth? A Northumberland Tragedy

Seaton Lodge* on the magnificent coast of Northumberland, is "one of the most picturesque houses in the North of England." In 1893, 18 year old Polly Lynn, a miner's daughter, was in service for the Scotts who had taken the lodge. One day in early 1894, Polly was walking with a friend when the Rev. Alfred Pallister, the young curate of Deleval, cordially bid her good day. Polly did not reply and walked on. Sarah Chrisp, her companion, thought it had been very rude of her but Polly had her reasons. She confided that, while she was at Seaton Lodge, Mr. Pallister was a regular visitor. One night, she believed the curate had crept down the hall, into her room and into her bed. She resisted and he left. 

Such a story would inevitably get out and it would reach the ears of the Rev. George W Jackson, vicar of the parish that took in the villages surrounding the splendid estate at Seaton Deleval. The Rev Mr Jackson did not approach his curate for an explanation; rather, he first sought out Polly, who had since found new employment in the home of the Tweddles in Whitley. Polly was alone when the vicar interrogated her. She held to her story - she shared the large bed with another female servant but Polly was certain that she felt a man in her bed. “I did not say it was Mr. Pallister just that I thought it was.” Rev. Jackson got all her details but, as he left, he told her to be very careful, because she could go to prison for making false claims. The vicar thought Polly was in good spirits when he left but, two days later, Mrs. Tweddle found Polly bleeding to death, having cut her throat.

A large and mostly hostile crowd awaited the Rev. Jackson when he appeared at the ensuing inquest held at the Rockcliffe Arms in Whitley Bay. He denied urging "the deceased" to recant her story or threatening her with prison. It was never his wish to hush anything up. The vicar said his sole intent from the first was to get to the truth, deal with it quickly, and spare the Church another great public scandal. Of course, he didn't think young Pallister would do anything like that, unless he was drunk. The curate had been in Deleval for a year and Jackson admitted there had been prior gossip about him but “it had nothing to do with girls.”

C.H. Scott had taken Seaton Lodge for some little time. He testified that Mr. Pallister was a friend and regular guest. The lodge was a rambling, thatched roof home, with many halls. The curate's bedroom was  three doors from where the servant girls slept and it was possible that the curate could have made his way there without the rest of the household knowing. But he couldn't believe Pallister would do such thing. According to Scott, when he first heard the reports, he thought it was a joke. "Rather a serious joke for a clergyman of the Church of England," the coroner observed and with good reason.

Mr. Pallister, of course, denied all. He could not fathom why Polly had made such a charge. The coroner's jury also took evidence that there had been insanity on the mother's side in Polly's family. Perhaps it was just a lurid fantasy, after all. The verdict was that Miss Polly Lynn had taken her life in a moment of temporary insanity.

The Hall at Seaton Deleval (NT)
The single death of a simple girl in a remote mining corner of England did not make all the papers. Nevertheless, the Bishop of Newcastle ordered the Rev. Mr. Pallister to find ecclesiastical duties elsewhere. Before leaving, however, he was feted by many parishioners in the grand setting of Seaton Deleval Hall. He gave a speech. "Scores of people have said to me, 'How do you stand it?' It had simply emanated from a little bit of tittle-tattle and gossip, but unfortunately ended in suicide. I do not wish to pursue the matter further. As Wordsworth said, there are times and crises in the lives of men when they have thoughts in their hearts which lie too deep for tears. It is such a time I experience now." 

After a brief time in Staffordshire, the Cambridge-educated Pallister went out to do church work in Africa, where he died from malarial fever, on New Year's Day, 1898, while Colonial Chaplain at Accra, (Ghana). He was 33.

Five full length accounts of Victorian Clerical Scandals can be found in Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series, Vol II. Click here for details. Thank you for reading this blog. Comments, additions, corrections are always welcome.

For more about Seaton Lodge see

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Parson and the Actress

The Rev. Edward Hutton Bell had won notice for his indefatigability as the young curate-in-charge at St. Mark's in Wimbledon. Beyond the pulpit, he worked long hours in the community: he served in the local Temperance society, the Working Men's Union, the Y.M.C.A. and, in 1887, he was president of the Wimbledon, Merton & Putney chapter of the RSPCA. 

But Mr. Bell abruptly resigned the latter office in a dispute over monies raised for the chapter at a "theatrical entertainment" headlined by the celebrated actress and local resident, Kate Vaughan. On October 5, Miss Vaughan gave an entertainment at the Drill Hall to benefit the local RSPCA, The hall was "crammed from floor to ceiling" and the benefit raised more than  £100. But the Rev. Mr. Bell declared that he would rather resign than accept the gift. Apparently, "he did not approve of augmenting the society's funds by the aid of actresses."

Kate Vaughan was quite a famous lady.  Her stage dancing made her "the it girl" of London in the late 1870's. Then, in 1879, she eloped with Colonel the Hon Frederick Arthur Wellesley, a rising diplomatic star and one of the Queen's favourites. "Freddy" Wellesley had walked out on a wife and two young children and his social ruin was complete. The Wellesleys were not divorced until 1882 while Kate and her lover lived openly in London. In 1883, Kate and the erstwhile Colonel were married but she kept her stage name. They resided at the Abbey Gate House in Merton. By 1887, her career had been revived, less dancer and more comedic actress. The Era hailed her benefit show as a "brilliant success." 

The Rev. Bell wasn't alone in his feelings; the secretary, Col. Lardner, stood with him. But, "others took a more lenient view." There was a testy chapter meeting and when the majority voted to accept the money, Bell and his supporters resigned. In some quarters, their protest was denounced as “Extraordinary Bigotry.” The society weekly Truth, for instance: "What contemptible beings this Colonel and this Reverend gentleman are! Why should the money not have been accepted? If they had had a spark of good feeling, they would, at least, have offered to give an identical amount themselves, if Miss Vaughan's cheque were refused. But this, of course, did not occur to them." 

The Rev. Bell remained at St. Mark's for several more years, still busy if not with the RSPCA. He left for Camberwell in 1892, the same year Kate Vaughan left her husband. 

Thank you for reading the blog. A wonderful holiday book for the church-crawler on your list is Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series, Volume 2.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Curate Left Lydd But Not Alone

The Church of All Saints, sometimes called "The Cathedral of Romney Marsh," is far larger than the "primitive little village" of Lydd would seem to require. In fact, the vicar opted not to reside in such a dreary and isolated place, separated from the English Channel by nearly two miles of stony shingle. The parish duties were left to a curate. Thus, the Rev. William Gillison Bell arrived in Lydd in 1869.  

In January 1873, one of the great tragedies of the Victorian sea took place off nearby Dungeness Point. The Northfleet, bound for Tasmania with 379 aboard, was at anchor during bad weather, when she was rammed by a mystery ship. The Northfleet was lost; nearly 300 people drowned in what was a nautical hit and run (Months later, a Spanish steamer, the Murillo was blamed for the disaster.)
The Northfleet*

Many of the bodies recovered were carried across that shingle to the church at Lydd for burial. But a replacement curate had to be summoned to conduct the services. The aforementioned Rev. Mr. Bell had recently decamped, under disgraceful circumstances, having run off with the wife of a local sheep farmer and parishioner.

Early in 1872, the young curate's wife passed away. The village, of course, was plunged into grief and the congregation offered its support and solace. But by summer time, Robert Green, a local magistrate, found reason to fault his wife, Jane, for spending too much time at the vicarage. Green owned more than 800 acres of grazing land for sheep and lived at The Paddock in Lydd. The Greens had been married for over ten years; according to news reports, he had met her while she was a barmaid at the famous George Inn in Southwark. They were married at St. Saviour's in London.

Within days of her husband's remonstrances for her vicarage visits, Jane Green left Lydd. The Rev. Mr. Bell had also gone missing, leaving behind all he owned to settle his local debts. Detectives were employed and the couple was found living at The Star and Garter on Richmond Hill, a hostelry frequently featured in the workings of the Divorce Court. Mr. Green's divorce petition was unopposed; his lawyer presented convincing evidence of his wife's adultery "on divers occasions" at The Star and Garter and the vicarage in Lydd.

The Rev. Bell, who was from a good family in Lancashire, left for Canada where he died in Montreal in 1881. Jane Green cannot be traced.

*The illustration is taken from a book about the disaster entitled, "Father, Put Me in the Boat."

A wonderful holiday book idea for your favorite church-crawler is Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series, Vol 2. Click here for details.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

"Poor old Jimmy's been nabbed at last!" A Whitehaven Scandal.

The Third Earl of Lonsdale left his wife, chased an actress across the American stage, and generally behaved in a manner that finally forced Queen Victoria to beseech him to leave the country for a while. Nevertheless, the "Sporting Earl" controlled the appointments to perhaps as many as 42 church livings. This, according to many members of the more thoughtful classes, was an absurdity. The Rev. James Anderson was one of those grateful Lonsdale clergymen, having been for some thirty years the vicar of Holy Trinity church in Whitehaven. The Lowther family (the Earls of Lonsdale) built the town and the port on the Irish Sea; profiting from "the presence of the valuable beds of coal beneath the surface." 

Holy Trinity Church was (it was pulled down in the 1940's) very near to Whitehaven Castle, one of several Lonsdale boltholes in the Northwest. The Rev. Mr. Anderson, though certainly no match for his profligate patron, had a reputation of his own. He lived apart from his wife and had been previously cautioned by his Bishop.  

However, by early 1902, after new complaints reached the Bishop's palace in Carlisle, Anderson was the subject of a formal inquiry under the Clergy Discipline Act. He was accused of being drunk, occasionally during services. But the more serious allegations were of a sexual nature.

On a summer's day in 1899, in White Park, the Lonsdale woodlands, John Cowan, one of the foresters employed by the Earl, claimed to have seen the Rev. Mr. Anderson sitting on a bench with a young woman, "handling her indecently." Cowan watched for an hour; he described how - whenever anyone approached - Anderson got up, walked away some distance, and then, when the coast was clear, returned to the bench. The woman in question was very well-known in Whitehaven: her name was Isabella Hetherington, she was about 30 years old and very nearly blind.  

In a second incident, a year later, in the Granary Yard near Whitehaven Castle, James Barnfather, a local cabinet-maker and one of the churchwardens, said he walked in on Rev. Anderson and Miss Hetherington in "the act of fornication.: She was standing against a wall and the clergyman was in front of her with his frock coat loosened and open. Barnfather said he immediately denounced Anderson as a scoundrel and a villain. When these charges reached the Bishop and the inquiry was ordered, the word around Whitehaven was, "Poor old Jimmy's been nabbed at last!"

During the inquiry, the Rev. Anderson insisted he had never misconducted himself in any way with Miss Hetherington, a woman he had known since she was five years old. Her character was irreproachable. She had been active in the music and choir at Holy Trinity and all his attentions toward her over the years had been entirely pastoral in nature. He swore before God that he had never committed fornication or any indecent conduct with this woman. Isabella, also, was closely questioned and denied that she had willingly or unwillingly been subjected to any indecent behaviour on the vicar's part.

The five church assessors delivered their verdict. The evidence of Anderson's drinking was strong and conclusive. The most serious charge of fornication was not proven. However, he was found guilty of indecent conduct on that bench in White Park. Some weeks later, in the Cathedral at Carlisle, Bishop Bardsley pronounced the greatest punishment, depriving Anderson of all his preferments.

Anderson disappears from the various clerical lists. But, as for Miss Hetherington, it appears she left scandal behind and emigrated to Australia where she dedicated the rest of her long life to missionary work among the Aborigines. "Kindly and cheerful, Miss Hetherington evinces genuine and unfailing affection for her dark skinned charges, among whom she has laboured unswervingly."  

The Rev. John Seton Karr owed his living to the notorious Berkeleys. That celebrated scandal is one of those told in Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series, Vol. 2.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Caterham Asylum Scandal

Twas not for all young clergymen to find a cozy rectory in a pleasant village, dining a time or two each year with the cheerful squire up at the Great Hall. This is the story of the Rev. Thomas Closs who served his God and his Church as chaplain of the massive Caterham Imbeciles Asylum, south of London. Mr. Closs was a Welshman, 40 years old, married with a small family, when he first came to Caterham in 1891. The institution was built in 1867, designed to house 1500 inmates. In the chapel, which seated more than 500, Closs said morning and evening prayers and held full choral Sunday services. One visitor thought the singing by "the idiots ... might serve as an admirable example to many of the congregations in our fashionable London churches."

But in 1893, Alice Sarah Hockley, not a patient but an employee in the asylum laundry, accused Closs of being the father of her baby girl. In Croydon Police Court, she claimed that Closs had taken her up to London a few times before he first seduced her in the vestry. "The intimacy was frequently renewed," usually right after the Sabbath service. Once, when interrupted by the Asylum director, the chaplain hid her among the robes in his vestments closet. Alice was unmarried and when she got pregnant, she was sacked. 

The chapel stood alone, left of the main building
In court, the Rev. Closs denied everything. There was much evidence that Alice had “walked out” with other men and frequented pubs. The mayor of Croydon, presiding, declared that there was "not the faintest scintilla of corroboration" of this woman's charges and Rev. Closs was free to go. But as the clergyman left the building, Alice - in "an infuriated manner" - rushed at him to begin striking him about the head with her fists. She took his silk hat, crushed it and threw it into the street, before the police hauled her away.

The Rev. Closs returned to his duties at the asylum but left the following year, having been accused of giving unwanted kisses to several female servants. He found a curate's billet in Malmesbury for several years and ended his days as the vicar of Wickham Skeith in Suffolk.

The Caterham Imbeciles Asylum - renamed St. Lawrence's Hospital - closed some years ago and was recently torn down for a residential development. For an excellent website on the history of Caterham see

Five fascinating full length accounts of Victorian clerical scandals can be found in Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Vol. 2.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

A Deserter in the Vicarage

When the (Second) Boer War began in 1899, the troopships bound for Cape Town were quickly filled with newly enlisted soldiers. But, as the fighting continued on in to the new century, dissent at home increased. Broadly speaking, support for the war remained much greater in the Church of England than among non-conformists. Thus, "a bedroom in a country vicarage would seem to be the last place in the world in which to find an army deserter, yet that has just happened." 

The Rev. George Bolney Browne had been the vicar of St. Saviour, Aston, Stone, Staffs, since 1881. His commodious vicarage was nicely situated, just steps from the church beside the River Trent. 

One evening, in February 1901, a local policeman arrived with a warrant to search the vicarage, having heard "whispers" in the village that a soldier who'd deserted the Army was being harboured there. The Rev. Browne was "considerably surprised" to hear this. It couldn't be true, he insisted, but, of course, he permitted the constable to have a look about. The two men went room to room and, in the attic chamber of one of the maids, they found him "crouching under the bed." 

21-year old Private Elie Robert Lewis Colquhoun of the Royal Army Medical Corps had gone missing the previous July. Whilst on the run, he came to Aston where he met a young woman, who was the lady's maid to the vicar's wife. The servant - never identified - admitted she had hidden the man in her bedroom for six months, feeding him with leftovers and takings from the larder, doing his laundry, etc. He remained in her room every day; occasionally they would sneak out at night. It was, the newspapers reported, "an extraordinary tale of desertion and female devotion." But, it's hardly believable.

The Rev. Browne was an active churchman, involved in many good causes, including supporting the African missionaries. Still, he insisted that he had no idea Private Colquhoun had been creeping about his vicarage for six months.
As for the deserter, he was returned to his unit and sent out to South Africa, not returning until 1904. The Rev. Brown remained at St. Saviour's until he retired in 1922, having served the parish throughout the Great War to end all wars. 

If you have any additional information about this story, please leave a comment below. Thank you.

Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 2 is on sale now at and

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Inquiry. The Vicar and the Trainer's Wife.

Coverham Church (Holy Trinity)
In 1880, fresh from Cambridge, the young Rev. Frederick Wade Dalton returned to his native North Yorkshire to be the vicar of the small parishes of Coverham and Horsehouses. The latter Coverdale village was aptly named. This "curious and beautiful" place was near famous Middleham, home to a number of outstanding racing stables, drawn by the breezy grounds and exhilarating air. Coverham churchyard was "the last resting place of so many of those who were associated with the past history of the Turf." 

Only a short canter from the church was Tupgill Park, home of the celebrated trainer Fred Bates, a former jockey whose horses had become a fixture at Ascot and the other great courses of England.
Newcastle Shops Museum
Bates was married to Jane, daughter of the late Tom Dawson, another legendary trainer. They had four children. 

In 1884, "no little interested was excited in sporting circles" by the news that Mr. and Mrs. Bates had counter-sued each other for divorce. According to the husband's petition, his wife had been guilty of adultery with the young and unmarried Rev. Mr. Dalton of Coverham. The suits were combined and heard in London where - due to the “nature of the evidence” - the matter was heard in private, a request not often granted. 

According to Mr. Bates, his wife and the vicar had committed adultery at Tupgill Park and divers other places over several months, especially around the new year, 1883. Both Rev. Dalton and Mrs. Bates denied the charge. For her part, Mrs. Bates claimed that her husband had slept with the governess, and probably a few more of the female servants at Tupgill. In her petition, Mrs. Bates stated her husband was frequently drunk and often abusive to her, at one time, "seizing her by the hair of her private parts." The President of the Divorce Court, Lord Hannen, considered the evidence for some time. He granted Mrs. Bates a judicial separation and custody of the children. He also declared there was “no foundation whatever” for the allegations involving the Rev. Dalton.

Bates remained at Tupgill Park; employed by several prominent patrons but never won the Derby. The Rev. Mr. Dalton left Coverham, eventually spending forty years as rector of Hauxwell, near Richmond, where his family was lord of the manor.

Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 2 contains full-length accounts of five sensational stories involving clergyman in Nineteenth Century England. For U.S. readers, see.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Seduction in the Bluebells? A Vicar's Denial

The Rev. Jeremiah Woolsey of Norwich was just thirty when he was named the vicar of Brightwell, a small Suffolk village, midway between Ipswich and Woodbridge. The 14th century church, St. John the Baptist, although "little and rarely visited" was especially beautiful, having been painted by the great Constable himself in 1815. 

But soon after Woolsey had settled in to his parish of sixty souls, he was called to the Bishop's palace in Norwich. Bishop John Sheepshanks had received a troubling letter, stating, "One day last summer, the Rev. Jeremiah Woolsey took me for a cycle ride and, taking advantage of me, seduced me." Miss Evelyn Hoare of Shrubland Lodge, Eaton, had since had a child. "Inasmuch as Mr. Woolsey has declined to make any offer and to see me personally, I must beg your Lordship to institute inquiry into the truth of the allegations brought by me." 

In January 1899, the case of Woolsey v Hoare was heard at the Norwich Assizes. The clergyman (the plaintiff) admitted meeting Evelyn at a dance, and they had cycled and lunched together many times. He had thought she was "the one" but owing to some issues within the Hoare family, he stopped seeing her. He was astounded when he then learned of the accusation she had made. On the day in question, he had ridden with her but he had never misconducted himself. Under a searching cross-examination, Woolsey adhered to his denials.

Bluebell Marsh (Norfolk Wildlfe Trust)

Evelyn was 21 and a "smart-looking young woman." She was from a prominent family and her father was a local factory inspector. She told the court that on 7 July 1897, she met Mr. Woolsey in Norwich and they went cycling along the Yare. It was a bit late for the famous bluebells but they stopped at a place called Bluebell Hole near Eaton, where, in a copse, he seduced her. Under cross-examination, she admitted she was very angry when Woolsey stopped seeing her. She even wanted to "wring his neck," On the stand, Evelyn admitted also keeping company with a local constable, P.C. George Rollitt. She hadn't told her parents about George because he was below their station. He had given her gifts. She also admitted going to him first with news of her "condition." The manager of the Norwich Castle Museum testified that Evelyn and Rollitt had to be asked to leave one day because their "courtship" was offending the other guests. 

All of this led Mr. Woolsey's barrister to heights of eloquence with the all male jury: "She is not believable. She is a confessed, unchaste, impure woman. Do not condemn upon her uncorroborated and contradictory statements a man whose character had hitherto been beyond reproach." The jury very quickly found for the Rev. Woolsey and awarded him £500 in damages. 

The little congregation in Brightwell welcomed Woolsey back and he remained their vicar well into the 20th century. In 1900, he married the daughter of the rector of March (Cambridgeshire). 

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Saturday, July 21, 2018

A Basket Case in London

According to The Financial Times, the Church of England is testing a “tap and go” contactless payment system for donations. No more envelopes, folded currency or jingling coins will be required when the basket reaches your pew.

In 1897, the Rev. Frederick Hetling, longtime rector of Christ Church, Albany Street, on Regents Park, was sued in Bloomsbury County Court by a woman who claimed that - in a moment of aberration - she had dropped a sovereign in the collection basket. She wanted it back. Miss Elise Brown, a dressmaker, admitted making her gift during the 7:45 Communion services. The Rev. Hetling - in an exchange of letters - refused to hear her appeal. Collections were not under his authority; take it to the churchwardens. That correspondence had ended acrimoniously.

Miss Brown was not a regular churchgoer. She reconsidered her thoughtful gift that Sunday and had come to the opinion that she didn't want the Church to have her money. She admitted having been treated for her "aberrations." She tried to explain that she had the opposite of kleptomania, she had giftomania that made her give away her money. "Nonsense," barked the judge and sent her away. What was given to charity could not be recovered, If she had any case, it would be against the churchwardens.

The Church press was delighted, "What is given in a collection-plate in church is irrecoverable." This apparently happened quite a bit. In an oft-told story, a man put a florin into a collection bag by mistake for a penny, and afterwards demanded it back. The churchwardens refused. "Ah, well!” said the man, "I suppose I will get credit for the two shillings in heaven.” “I don’t think you will,” replied the other; "for as you only intended to give a penny. you will only get credit for that coin." Perhaps Miss Brown was more successful.

Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series Vol. 2 is available in book or Kindle form at and All sales go into my collection plate and are appreciated.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Woman in the Vicarage: A Wolverhampton Scandal

The magnificently spired church of St John, Wolverhampton, is justly proud of its Renatus Harris organ. But when the new vicar, the Rev. Henry Hampton, arrived in 1862, he found the music wanting. He sacked the organist-cum-choir director Francis Allen. The latter gentlemen did not take it well and went about the town with a story that the vicar was a “bad man” and “living in adultery with a person he represents as his daughter.” 

In March 1863, the Rev. Hampton sued Allen for £2000. The vicar had to begin by detailing the curious makeup of his household. Mrs. Hampton did not reside with him any longer; owing to drink she was cared for by her aged mother in Worcestershire. 40-year old Mrs. Harriett Troughton, a daughter from Mrs. Hampton’s first marriage, lived in the Wolverhampton vicarage in the role of something like the lady of the house. Rev. Hampton told the Birmingham jury that he had known Mrs. Troughton since she was a girl of nine. There has never been any familiarity between them. She had been “undeservedly calumniated.” She lived apart from her husband on no fault of hers; he was a beast. In the witness box, Hampton admitted that he may have let people think Mrs. Troughton was his “daughter” because he always thought of her as his child. There had been comments made about the nature of Mrs. Troughton’s presence both at Hampton's recent brief stop at a church in Liverpool and at St. Luke’s in London. He had resigned that parish but blamed it on a dispute over a building fund.

The defendant Allen denied ever suggesting that Mrs. Troughton was the vicar’s mistress. He merely wished to point out that “no one knows who or what she is!” The jury found quickly for the Rev. Mr. Hampton but awarded him the traditional nominal damages of a single farthing. 

Mr. Hampton remained at St. John’s until his death in 1880. Mrs. Troughton moved out at some point. The vicar is remembered as a “human dynamo” and there are two windows and a wall plaque in his honour.

Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series is available at and Comments, criticisms, and questions always welcome.

* Wolverhampton History & Heritage Center
* St. John's in the Square by Peter Hickman

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

An Intolerable Fear of Exposure

The Rev. Peter William Browne was the vicar of St. Katharine's Church in the small Lancashire coal-mining village of Blackrod. He came there in 1846, unmarried. In 1855, he went home to his native Dublin and returned with a bride, Jane Alicia, daughter of the Irish baronet Sir Ross Mahon. 

Within a year, however, the clergyman was summoned to a Liverpool police court to answer an "affiliation" action filed by 19 year old Deborah Stanley claiming Browne was the father of her 3 year old child. Miss Stanley was a coachman's daughter in Dublin. In 1852, she happened to meet the Rev. Browne while listening to some street music near Mountjoy Square. On that evening, he took her to "a house of an improper description" on Sackville Street. The result of that encounter was a child - the sex never revealed. She told the court that Browne had recently stopped giving her money for the child. He had been sending her 7s a week. In 1853, he paid her fare (£35) to America aboard the Annie Jane. But the ship was battered in a storm and turned back. She got off; when the ship put out again, it was lost off the Hebrides with 348 passengers and crew.

The Annie Jane (ArtUK)
It was an amazing tale but the sallow young woman was described by the papers as bearing an "appearance that is by no means good." She admitted to have subsequently had another child with another father. Opposite her in the court was the Rev. Browne, "a person of gentlemanly appearance, quiet and self-possessed in his manner." The vicar's counsel did not deny that there had been a "connexion." But given the profligacy of this young woman, there was no way to prove that he was the father of that child. What happened that night, the defense argued, was a one time incident that Mr. Browne had grievously regretted ever since. For that reason alone, he had given the woman money and attempted to assist her to go to America and make a new life but instead she had made "demand after demand upon his purse." In all, she had extorted £130. She began lurking about Blackrod. "The fear of exposure had been held over him until it had become perfectly intolerable.” 

Miss Stanley's complaint was dismissed. An appeal for the press to ignore the complaint and spare "further torture on this gentleman and his family" was to no avail. The Rev. Browne returned to Blackrod where he remained until his death five years later. A memorial plaque to the vicar can be found on the south wall of St. Katharine's Church.

For interesting full length stories of clerical scandals, please see Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series at or

Monday, May 21, 2018

"Shocking Scandal; Remarkable Letters"

The Rev William Malam, vicar of St. John the Baptist, Buxton, began tutoring Miss Annie Rose in her Latin declensions in December 1883. An assistant schoolmistress, 24 year old Annie needed the Latin to advance. Malam was 58, quite well-respected and a rural dean in Derbyshire. There were at least ten tutoring sessions, mostly held in the vicar's home where he lived with his invalid wife. But for the one or two occasions when Malam called at Annie's little cottage set back from the road on College Place. That something took place during one of those visits was unquestioned. Rumors and anonymous letters soon swept Buxton. In August 1885, Rev. Malam filed a slander action against a young physician, Dr. Charles Bennett, seeking damages in the amount of £5000. Bennett had gone so far as to call the vicar “a beastly old fellow.” The doctor said he could prove that Malam had twice indecently assaulted Miss Rose.

The evidence consisted of a stack of Malam's letters to Annie, "My Dear Little Girl." He wrote, "From the first time I saw you, I liked you." But later, many of his letters were "abject" appeals for forgiveness. "Don't think so badly of me and forget a moment of weakness which, though reprehensible, is not to be classed with unforgiven offenses." He begged to see her again: "Believe me, you may trust in me. There will be no temptation in the same direction in the future." When she threatened to expose him, he wrote, "I implore you for my poor crippled wife's sake, to whom exposure would be death." The vicar had always told Annie to burn his letters; she did not.

The vicar's counsel insisted that Rev. Malam was "wholly unconscious" of having done anything wrong, other than a "playful" slap on one occasion. The act was "indiscreet" and nothing more. His letters were also imprudent but he was facing false and exaggerated claims. Dr. Bennett's motive? The physician and Miss Rose seem to have had a pre-existing "more or less intimate" relationship. 

No evidence was called and the counsel for Dr. Bennett said his client wished to unreservedly withdraw everything he ever said or wrote about Rev. Malam. He had been misled (by Annie?) and had acted from the purest motives unaffected by any animus towards the vicar.   

Mr. Justice Lopes was pleased that unseemly testimony had been avoided. But he added, "I cannot help saying" that Rev. Malam's letters to this young woman, for a man in his position and she in hers, "were certainly indiscreet." That clearly affected his Lordship's decision that Malam should receive damages in the rather paltry amount of 40 shillings. When Malam returned to Buxton from the trial in Liverpool, a band was waiting at the station to play "See the Conquering Hero Comes." He remained vicar in Buxton until his death in 1892.

Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series Volume Two is now available at and

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Curious Conduct of a Coatham Curate

On 21 August 1865, the papers in Liverpool reported that the Rev Alfred Henry Ferries (or Ferris), was found lying near death at the foot of Great Orme's Head in Llandudno. "It is supposed that the reverend gentleman had been walking too near the edge of the cliff and fallen over." Luckily for him, the sea was going out at the time or he would been swept away. Nonetheless, it was feared that the internal injuries the young clergyman received would almost certainly prove fatal. Ferries was only 28 and had been visiting North Wales alone. 

The news was keenly felt in Coventry where Ferries had been a curate at St. Michael's church. He was also sought there for an explanation regarding an allegedly forged £40 bill of exchange, defrauding the Coventry and Warwickshire Banking Company. It certainly appeared that the clergyman had been unwilling to face the shame, jail time and end of his career and thrown himself to his death. 

In April 1868, in North Yorkshire, the banns of marriage were posted for one Rev. A.H. Ferries and a young lady from an "esteemed" family in Coatham, Redcar, where Ferries was listed as the unlicense curate of Christ Church. Within days of the banns, someone apparently sent a photograph of the curate to the police at Redcar who notified their colleagues in Coventry. Once again, Ferries disappeared but only to show up in Coventry and turn himself in. Apparently, the Llandudno fall was a complete ruse and he had spent a good deal of time in Canada. In Coventry, due to the lapse in time and the difficulty of gathering evidence as a result, the local magistrates agreed to abandon the prosecution. 

All the world loves a lover, perhaps, but Ferries' marriage plans seem to have been abandoned in Coatham. By 1870, he was a curate in  Cornwall and a year later, vicar of Charlestown where he married the daughter of a wealthy clay merchant. 

One is often struck at the ease in which anyone with a reason to "get away," could absquatulate on their wife, job or the police and simply move to another shire - or episcopal diocese - and start anew. With not even a name change.

May I mention anew that Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume Two remains available from and Please follow the links to see more. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Monkey Suit at St Peter's Walworth

The Rev John William Horsley had been rector of St Peter’s Walworth since 1894. He was a well beloved figure in the urban parish, ran a soup kitchen and for the “amusement & instruction” of the local children, he kept a small miniature zoo. He started with a few guinea pigs, added a hedgehog or two, some pigeons, an owl and found himself gifted with, if not a barrel, the odd monkey or two. Early in 1900, however, one of those monkeys escaped from its leash and bit a girl on the leg. 

The rector paid her bills and she was back at her schooldesk the next day. Her father had sought additional compensation and Horsley thought the man's tone was “bullying” and he resisted. Thus, he found himself in a Lambeth courtroom. Horsley insisted the monkey was quite tame and willing to shake hands with all. On that day, the creature had been startled by the sudden appearance of a cat. The monkey broke from the leash, the children screamed and, amid the general tumult, the monkey bit the unfortunate little girl. Mr. Emden, the presiding judge, thought greater care must be taken with a monkey which is a "wild animal" not a pet. The rector was ordered to pay 5s in damages. 

A Daily News reporter who cornered the rector in the church crypt, found Horsley unapologetic, asking why the law, unlike with dogs, denies the monkey the satisfaction of a first bite. Alas, the offending monkey was not available to be photographed, the poor simian had taken a London winter cold and died only days before. 

Horsley remained happily in Walworth for several more years, adding to his duties a role as Canon of Southwark Cathedral. At St. Peter's, Walworth, meanwhile, there is still a delightful "Monkey Garden." 

Horsley from Walworth Through Time (Lock, Baxter, 2012)
Monkey Park from

Friday, March 30, 2018

"You Should be Found Out": The Rev. Oswald Reichel of Sparsholt

The Rev. Oswald Reichel arrived in the Berkshire village of Sparsholt in 1869. He was the new vicar of the Church of the Holy Cross. A Yorkshireman by birth, Reichel had achieved high honours at Oxford. He envisioned Sparsholt, a village “slumbering in the Vale of the White Horse,” as a place where his clerical duties would not interfere with his studies and writing. Reichel began work on what was to be his magnum opus, “A Complete Manual of Canon Law.” Ironically, canon law could not help him in 1886.

Mr. Reichel’s scholarly idyll began unraveling in 1885 when he received the first of a pair of letters from Mrs. Elizabeth Niblett, who kept a temperance hotel at 8 Ashton Place, Clifton, Bristol. 
I mean to take proceedings against you. You came here and called yourself Mr. Rice, a commercial traveler, well knowing you are a minister of the Church of England, and gave my house a nice name. Remember it is my living which I have always got respectably until your companion Miss King came to it. I think you should be found out
[A second letter followed]: 
You came to my house and stayed with the common thing you called Mrs. Rice who is none other than your old housemaid who has had two children by you. I will expose you if I have to do it whilst you are in the pulpit.
Reichel tried to scare the bothersome woman, writing to remind her that by her threats to extort money, "she has rendered herself liable to proceedings which may result in fine and imprisonment."

But on an August Sunday in 1885, Mrs. Niblett showed up in Sparsholt where she waylaid the vicar after services. The excitement in the village was understandable and word soon reached the Bishop of Oxford who presented Reichel with a choice: if true, he must resign; if false, he must take an action for libel.

Reichel v. Niblett was heard at the Reading Assizes in May 1886 before Justice Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, a “most acute and unbending” judge. While Mrs. Niblett was the party accused of libel and extortion, everyone knew the real defendant was the vicar of Sparsholt. 

It did not go well for the Rev. Mr. Reichel who faced a “searching cross-examination” by Mr. Jelf QC, the lady's counsel. He admitted registering as “Mr. Rice,” but said he stayed the night only because it became too late to go home. "Mrs. Rice,” he admitted, was Caroline King, his former Sparsholt housekeeper. He denied ever seducing her. He took her once to Stratford but they did nothing more romantic than visit the Bard's grave. Reichel was forced to admit that he continued to see her “from time to time” and paid for her lodgings in Westbourne Park, London. None of this, of course, reflected well on Mr. Reichel. The best his QC could do was remind the court that the clergyman was a single man who held the highest affection for Miss King. In fact, he had proposed marriage but had been spurned more than once.  

As ever, the legal cliche has been “truth is a defense for libel.” However, “Lord Campbell’s Act of 1840,” required that the information be revealed only "with good motives and for justifiable ends.” Mrs. Niblett - the Reichel forces argued - was guilty of extortion. Why else did she write "I have no doubt that I shall be paid well for what I can tell." The landlady - in the witness box - insisted she contacted Reichel simply to warn him not to return to her establishment - and to settle the unpaid bill of 27s for that memorable night in Bristol. 

Obviously, the truth of Mrs. Niblett's charges had been admitted. The Berkshire jury had only to consider the question of extortion and they took very little time to acquit her on both counts. The Rev. Reichel left with his reputation ruined. He pleaded with Bishop Mackarness to be allowed to leave Sparsholt for another living “where the Bristol scandal is not notorious.” That was a non-starter. A lengthy, expensive and embarrassing legal wrangle followed. Reichel refused to leave his vicarage; rejecting his replacement as an "usurper." Eventually, the case reached the House of Lords where the Chancellor, Lord Halsbury called Reichel’s repeated appeals “a scandal to the administration of justice.”

Reichel’s fall had a surprisingly soft landing. He had come into ownership of A la Ronde, a famous sixteen-sided Gothic folly with spectacular views along the Devon coast at Lympstone. In 1887, he married Julia Ashenden, a milliner’s daughter from Chelsea. The groom was 47; the bride was 23. He died in 1923, survived by his wife. A La Ronde was deeded to The National Trust in 1991.

In his later years, Reichel revised his Manual of Canon Law. Therein, on page 276, he wrote: "To avoid scandal, women are not allowed to dwell under the roof of the unmarried clergy, except a mother, a sister, an aunt, or some other person above suspicion." Teacher, teach thyself.

Volume Two of Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series is a collection of five full-length accounts of clergyman enmeshed in personal scandals and sensations. It's a book any Anglophile will enjoy. Volume two is available in Kindle and paper exclusively through &

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Sudden Death in a Questionable Setting

All Saints, Eyke, Suffolk*
The 12th century church of All Saints, Eyke, is slightly set back from the A1152. The church may once have had a tower but has none today, giving it what Simon Knott described as a “somewhat barnlike” appearance. Still, he believes it to be one of the more interesting churches in Suffolk*. 

The early Victorian rector, W.A, Norton chose to reside at Alderton and left the souls of Eyke to a curate. In 1842, the Rev John Pyemont had been in Eyke for three years. He lodged with Philip Braham, a local wheelwright. On a Saturday in January, he told his landlord that he would be riding into Ipswich to dine “with a few gentlemen.” Pyemont was 36 and single. He was well known in Ipswich having spent some years as under master of the Grammar School. Pyemont said he would be home late and would Mrs. Braham be kind enough to light an early fire as he needed to finish his planned sermon for the Sabbath. The curate trotted away in the direction of Woodbridge and Ipswich beyond another ten miles. Alas, he never returned to Eyke. He died in Ipswich that night suddenly and under questionable circumstances.

The inquest was held on Monday morning and the late Mr. Pyemont’s movements on that Saturday were recreated. It had been a journey of over two hours from Eyke and he’d left his weary mount at the Horse & Groom on Upper Brook Street. He walked to the Silent Street home of Charles Pretyman, a solicitor. He’d arrived at five, Pretyman recalled. Four gentleman sat down to dinner. “We were all very temperate,” the evening’s good host insisted. After the meal, one or two rubbers of whist were played with nothing stronger than tea to be served. According to Pretyman, the curate left about ten, “perfectly sober and in good spirits.” He presumed the curate intended to retrieve his horse and return to Eyke. He was aghast to hear the news. 

Sophia Dallenger, a single woman, lived in Globe Lane, St. Margaret’s parish in Ipswich. She told the inquest that she had known the deceased for about five years. When he arrived at her door about eleven, she knew immediately that he had been drinking and was “the worse for it.” He said “You and I will have some wine together.” She let him in but told him there’d be no more wine that evening. She placed him in a small room and instructed one of the “servants” to light the fire. “Three minutes after I left, I heard a scream. I found him lying on the floor. I rolled him over and his face was blackened. I said, ‘Do not be frightened.’ I loosened his cloth and collar and put water to his temples. I sent for the doctor.” Miss Dallenger, whose name had appeared in previous police reports, steadfastly denied that any gentlemen used her premises for an immoral purpose. 

Miss Elizabeth O’Brien, who resided with Miss Dallenger, insisted she did nothing for the gentleman but light the fire in the room to make him more comfortable on the winter night. She was alone with him for no more than a few minutes when he suddenly “gave a loud groan, fell down and died.” 

The clergyman was “quite dead” by the time Dr. G. G. Sampson arrived. There were no signs of any violence, according to the doctor. As Miss Dallenger had sworn, Mr. Pyemont was still in his cloth and collar when found, that is, dressed. That is, if she was to be believed. Sampson said he had no hesitation in concluding that the cause of death was apoplexy. The jury was so instructed and issued their verdict accordingly. 

In Eyke, meanwhile, Mr. Braham couldn’t account for the tragedy. He said his lodger’s conduct had always been “such as it should be.” He boxed up the clergyman’s effects for sale. 

In the early 1840’s, before the arrival of the more “public” prints, there was much less interest in raking up muck over clerical scandals. The case of the Rev. Pyemont was widely reported but his “awful death” went without censorious comment. 

If censorious comment is what you seek, please consider Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series, Volume 2, on sale now exclusively through and
Photo: Adrian Cable,

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Sermon-Monger Trade

A Lithographed Sermon
In Shaw's great play, Mrs. Warren's Profession, the Rev. Samuel Gardner has been visiting with his son Frank, an "entirely good-for-nothing young fellow." Also present in the scene is Frank's chum, Praed. Rev. Gardner eventually excused himself saying, "I must take the opportunity to write my sermon." The reverend having left the room, Praed said to Frank, "Curious thing it must be writing a sermon every week." Frank, who knew his father well, laughed and confided: "Ever so curious, if he did it. He buys 'em."

The trade in sermons in the Victorian church was a lucrative one. Purchasers were promised exclusivity in their county. There were sermons for all occasions: drought, great anniversaries, or local tragedies. The sermons were even lithographed in faux penmanship so that anyone close enough to see the manuscript from their pew would think for all the world that it had been handwritten by their beloved pastor. Once in the clutches of the "sermon-monger," the clergyman paid and paid, lest the matter be brought to law and his secret exposed. According to The Oxford Handbook of the British Sermon, the "cool impudence of the vendors [was] exceeded only by the transparent folly of the clerical customers." 

All Saints, Cople, Beds.
In 1861, the Rev. Henry East Havergal, Vicar of All Saints, Cople, Bedfordshire was taken to court for twenty sermons, at the cost of two shillings, sixpence apiece. The sermons had been written by the Rev Henry Rogers, a retired clergyman with offices at 7 Little Tower Street, London. Interestingly, no such clergyman appeared on the Church list but "Rev. Rogers" was well known in the trade. Rev. Havergal had been in Cople since 1847. A singer and musician, he had actually built the church organ. He sang. He rang the bells. But, he found himself "totally unable to write three sermons a week." Behind in his payments to "Rev." Rogers, Havergal decided to face him down “for the sake of warning his brethren and exposing a wolf in sheep's clothing.” 

"Rogers" did not actually appear in the Sheriff's Court in London but was represented by his literary agent. Mr. Marchmont insisted that it was a purely business transaction; the sermons were provided as requested and payment was due. These were simple "stock sermons," well suited to the needs of a country vicar and the charges were very reasonable; a sermon for a Bishop - and Marchmont knew of one - would cost as much as £5! The "extraordinary disclosures" produced as much laughter as anything else and in the end, poor, brave Rev. Havergal was ordered to pay the full amount due plus the court costs. His parishioners found no fault with his cribbed sermons; he remained there until his death in 1875.

The revelations of such sermon manufactories were troubling, to some. A writer in The Saturday Review called it a matter of trust between shepherd and flock, joking, "We have hitherto slept in dreamy but entire confidence in the integrity and authenticity of our spiritual adviser."

Another "sermon-mongering" clergyman, the Rev. Richard Marsh Watson, was involved in a much more outrageous scandal in 1877. His story is told in Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series, Vol 2, now available exclusively thru and

Thursday, February 8, 2018

"Unpleasant Rumours" in Cornwall

Constantine is a "picturesquely situated and usually quiet Cornish village." The church of St. Constantine enjoys a commanding position with excellent views. The Rev Francis Robert Hole had arrived in 1875 and, for a decade, his "exertions" were credited for the restoration of the church tower and the enlargement of the surrounding churchyard. The vicar and his wife were justly proud of the vicarage garden offering "shady walks, quiet nooks for study, talking, and whispering lovers." The garden wound through a secluded ravine, amid rocks, ferns and a small pond. On Sunday morning, 24 January 1886, the Rev. Mr. Hole made a determined effort to drown himself in that pond.

For the previous three weeks, there had been "unpleasant rumours" in Constantine linking the vicar with a local schoolgirl as young as twelve years of age. The Rev. Mr. Hole insisted the charges of misconduct were false and requested the Bishop of Truro to hold a formal inquiry, which was pending. But that Sunday morning, when the vicar personally rang the bell at eight for the Communion service, no one came to church. The obvious rebuff left the vicar "greatly agitated," said his wife. But she had not seen him leave the vicarage later that morning. Near noon, a manservant, checking on the livestock, heard splashing from the pond. The weather was quite cold and the pond was partially iced over. A human hand could be seen above the water. The servant was able to drag a gasping and weak Rev. Hole from the pond and then ran for help. The rescuer was horrified on his return to see the vicar once again in the pond. Again, the clergyman was pulled from the water and, this time, carried home where Dr. Haswell had arrived from Helston. “I did it in consequence of the rumors about me,” the vicar told him.

The Rev. Hole would recover. A report that he had also swallowed vermin poison was contradicted. The terrible drama of that Sunday morning was "the chief and almost the sole topic of conversation" across Cornwall. It was a crime to attempt suicide and the vicar of Constantine, still appearing pale and unwell, appeared before the Falmouth magistrates on 5 February. Rev. Hole made no statement and the magistrates dismissed the charge. The Cornish papers denounced the "sensational statements" carried elsewhere and reported that "expressions of sympathy are to be heard from all sides" for Hole and his family in "their hour of trouble." By 18 February, the Cornish Telegraph reported that "the rumours which caused the vicar of Constantine to attempt suicide are false."

The parishioners began to return to St. Constantine. A fund was started to help defray the vicar's medical and legal expenses. But in March, the Rev. Mr. Hole resigned. He sold up all his furniture. A devoted bee-keeper, he also auctioned "his fine stock of hives." A curate was assigned to Constantine but soon the unoccupied vicarage was the "very picture of desolation."

A new vicar arrived in 1887. By that time, the Rev and Mrs. Hole had found their new home in distant Manitoba, a prairie province in western Canada. He served there for many years as a "pioneer priest."

The rate of suicide among the Victorian clergy was a
great cause for concern. The story of the Rev. Joseph Weedow of Yorkshire is told in the first volume of Clerical Errors, A Victorian Series. NB: Volume 1 is available for Kindle readers only. Volumes 1 and 2 are sold exclusively through and