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THE WILLIAMS FAMILY IN THE 18th AND 19th CENTURIES
by Nevil Harvey-Williams
MARY WILLIAMS AT SOUTHWELL
As noted in the previous chapter, in early 1813, Mary' with her daught'rs Lydia & Katherine removed to Southwell where they took a roomy house & began keeping a school, for which they had 10 day scholars at £10 a year each & 3 boarders, including the 2 Miss Grays, (daughters of my cousin Eliz. Gray) to begin with, soon after which my Sister's friends (particularly Mrs Evans, near Beeston) recomended some more boarders, & she was like to do very well.'
We do not know where this 'roomy house' was but an advertisement on Page 1 of the Nottingham Journal dated 27th June 1812 gives details of the forthcoming auction of 'a new-erected brick and slated building dwelling house in Easthorpe and particularly well calculated for a Ladies Boarding School, for which purpose it is now occupied by the proprietor [no name given]. Six rooms on the ground floor, six chambers and four attics .... and a large garden walled round .... ' Mary was certainly in no position to purchase such a property, nor John Marsh on her behalf, as evinced later, but was she, perhaps, able to lease it for a short period? However, unless further evidence comes to light, this has to remain as pure conjecture.
On the 3rd of June 1813, John Marsh and his wife went to Bognor for what was intended to be a six week stay. Towards the end of the month, he injured his leg quite badly, falling into a small trap door at his hairdressers which had been carelessly left open. Though he broke no bones, the shin & part of the calf of his leg was ' much cut, bruized & grazed' and he was in some discomfort and had to use crutches for a while. In consequence, they decided to cut short their stay and returned to Chichester on Thursday 1st July. Then, 'My Son Edward having in May 1809 (as before mentioned) acquainted me with his attachment to his cousin Lydia Williams, & having towards the beginning of this year hinted his intention of making her his wife at the beginning of the following long vacation, he accordingly at the commencement of Act Term mentioned his intentions at college & also his meaning at the same time to resign his college tutorship, tho' he was allowed a year of grace after his marriage to continue holding his fellowship. The business of the college therefore ending about the first of July, he on Monday the 5h. set off for my Sister's at Southwell, which he reached on the next day & on the morning after (the 7th) was there married to his cousin, in presence of my Sister & 2 brothers, who were staying there, & whom Henry acted as Father of the Bride. A few hours after the ceremony was performed Edward & Lydia, with her Sister Catherine, set off for Nuneham, which they reached on the (no date given) after & where they intended remaining till the end of the month. All this I was informed of by a letter I received on the Sunday after from my bro'r Henry, who went to Southwell upon the occasion whilst we were at Bognor, & who now mentioned his intention of imediately returning home, thro' Nuneham & London.'
The above account is almost unbelievable. Although Marsh had hurt his leg quite seriously, this was clearly not the reason why he and his wife were not present at the wedding. As he himself relates, they had gone to Bognor at the beginning of June intending to be there for six weeks. He almost gives the impression that he was unaware that the marriage was about to take place until he received the letter from his brother. It is possible that because of the increasingly severe attacks of gout that Mrs Marsh had been suffering from over the years, she was unable to face the journey to Southwell - but no explanation of any kind is given for missing such an important family event and it seems totally out of character for them to have done so.
On 4th February 1814, John Marsh 'had a visit from Mr Fellows of Nottingham, who gave a deplorable account of the management of my Sisters late affairs there, the effects not being, as he thought, likely to produce s2 in the lb (£) on which account he wished me to write to Sydney Williams to require an account of what had been paid into the hands of the assignees, who as he said, were neither of them men of any responsibility. As I thought my Son John wo'd wish to ask him some questions I desired him to call on him at his office, which he did. On the next day, Saturd'y the 5h. I had a letter from my bro'r Henry informing me of his having been promoted to the rank of Master & Comander, with an increase of half pay of 1/6 a day, which was a comfortable addition to his income, & wo'd partly make amends for the stoppage of the interest on what he had advanced my Sister etc. The same offer had been made to my bro'r Will'm but as he was required to give up his pension from Greenwich Hospital in exchange for it, (which wo'd have been a loss of above £20 a year to him) he preferred remaining a Lieutenant.'
In September, John Marsh's brother Henry 'sent me a letter he had received from my Sister, in which she mentioned a great difficulty she was in, in regard to a house for carrying on her school at Southwell, having had notice to quit her present house at the following Lady day, & that the only suitable one she co'd meet with was not to be let, but to be sold for £450. She therefore hinted that if I co'd advance this money the payment might be secured to me by a mortgage of the house. As however the purchase of a house required the opinion of persons much more competent than herself to judge of, as to the Title, state it was in etc. I co'd say nothing without full information upon these points, which my brother accordingly stated in his answer to her letter. On this day another letter from her was forwarded to me by my brother in which she mentioned that she had the opinion of 2 gent'n of Southwell, of sufficient judgement who had got a builder to examine the house, who said it was not worth repairing, but with the materials, he wo'd build a new house on the site, for £600 so that for £1050 (to say nothing of the additional expences of finishing, painting, papering, conveyances & mortgage) she wo'd after expending that sum have a house worth only 6 or 700£ & this, strange to say, she was advised to accede to by her Southwell friends, who observed that if she co'd not get money for the first purchase, the remaining £600 might be borrowed on the security of the house. As however according to this plan I co'd have no security for the £450 were I to advance it, & sho'd after all be probably called on for the remainder, I co'd not, after the sacrifice I had already made, especially as I had Sons & grandsons to consider, run any future risques, neither co'd I, putting all pecuniary considerations out of the question, possibly concur with my Sister's advisers in promoting so wild a scheme, circumstanced as my sister was. On the next morning therefore I drove my Son John to my brother Henry's to consult him on this new sceme, who in his answer to my Sister I desired him to state the objections that occurred to John & me, but fearing he might hold out any hopes to my sister that I might afterwards find it impossible to realise, I wrote by the next post myself & stated the objections as they appeared to me & mentioned my inability in justice to my Sons & grandsons, after the loss I had already sustained, to advance any further sum, except upon some adequate security.'
In January 1816, Marsh had a letter from his son Henry, disclosing that he had fathered an illegitimate daughter whilst he was quartered in the north of England several years before, who was now 11 years old. As Henry considered that her mother was not taking proper care of her, he sent for her and placed her in a school at Blackheath 'but wished that she might at a future time be removed to my Sister's at Southwell.' Later on Marsh names her as Harriet.
In June, he was in London and 'the next morning, ......
I walked over the new Strand Bridge, tho' in a very unfinished state & thence to the Elephant & Castle, where I entered one of the Greenwich stages, having appointed this day to call on my Son Henry's friend Mrs Enderby on Croom's hill respecting his little girl then at school at Blackheath, who was so good as to walk with me to see her. Mrs E. told me I was not to expect to see a handsome child, but she appeared gentle & pleasing in her manners & was then in her 12h. year.'
Henry Marsh was still paying visits to his sister in Southwell in order to help her with her affairs and at the beginning of July he went there accompanied by 'my Son Henry's little girl, where she was now to remain.' Unhappily, sad news was to follow. John Marsh learnt of the death of his son, Henry, in France where, returning from a cricket match on 4th July, his Gig overturned and he was rendered speechless and remained in a stupor until he died on the 12th. 'I now wrote letters to communicate this distressing event to my Son Edward & my bro'r Henry at Southwell where it was fortunate that the poor little girl was now settled, when she was bereft of her Father.'
In September 1817, John Marsh again visited his sister. 'Having promised to go & see my Sister at Southwell, before this summer was over, (whom I had not seen for nearly 8 years) .... I, on Tuesday the 9th set out on my journey.' Leaving his wife again at home, he travelled via London, Stamford and Newark where he once more played on the 'magnificent organ, put up some years ago in that large & fine church, by England on my recomendation.' After taking some dinner at the Inn he 'took a stroll thro' the town, in which I met with a Gig at one of the Inns, with a boot for luggage, which having hired, a lad afterwards drove me to Southwell (8 miles) in about an hour, where I arrived before 6. & found only my Sister at home, my nieces & the young ladies being all gone for a long walk. We therefore had some tea by ourselves, after which we went out & met them, & on our return found my brother Will'm who was come, as usual, to tea, & spend the evening with the family.
The next day (Sunday the 14.) I went twice to the Cathedral, or Minster, where the Singers were sadly overpowered by the organist, Mr Spofforth, an old deaf man, who, to make matters worse, used the Cornet besides the sesquialler in the full organ. In the morning a Sanctus & commandments of mine were put up by Mr Becher the vicar general & one of the residentiaries, who seeing me with my brother, thought I might be the composer of them.
After evening service I walked with my niece Rebecca & Miss Blackburn, then staying at my Sister's, towards Norwood house & into the grounds.
On the next morning I looked in at the cathedral & touched the Organ afterwards, & called with my brother on Mr Bristoe, the vicar, who, when my brother Henry was here, called on him, supposing it to be me. This being a wet morning, my sister kept the day girls & continued school till 2 o'clock & had no school after dinner. My brother & I therefore staid & took our wine with her, which he usually did at his own lodgings.' It seems that William had now moved to Southwell permanently, taking lodgings near to his sister. 'On the follow'g day however I began adjourning also with him immediately after dinner, the parlour being wanted as a school room.
Mr Becher, the vicar general, having called on me, I on the following morning returned his visit & also called with my brother & niece Rebecca upon Mrs & the Miss Plumptres, after which I walked up the East Thorpe hill, with my brother with whom my sister & I drank tea in the evening & met a Mr Heathcote, a young musician, the son of a clergyman there, who played to us upon a new piano-forte my brother had from Clementi's in a very fine style having been lately in London, under Novello. The reason my nieces were not also of this party was because Mr Heathcote had fallen in love lately with Rebecca & made her an offer, which they both being very young, & she not feeling a mutual attachment for him, she had rejected, notwithstanding which my Sister wished to shew him every kind of respect.
On the following morning we all went to see the House of correction that had been built under the superintendance of Mr Ian Becher son of the vicar general, who accompanied us there.' A House of Correction had, in fact, existed at Southwell since 1611, but by 1656 it was in a ruinous state and a new one was built. At the beginning of the nineteenth century it was again in an appalling condition and the Vicar-General, John Thomas Becher, a noted reformer of the living arrangements and regime of the inmates of such establishments, persuaded the local magistrates to agree to replace it. This was completed in 1808, which is the institution referred to here by John Marsh.
Marsh continues the account of his visit; 'Having mentioned to the latter that I had the score of a service of mine in D. which I co'd leave behind me, sho'd the choir feel inclined to have it on their books, he told me that if I wo'd let him have it, he wo'd himself copy it in 2 or 3 days time, which he accordingly did, both morning & evening service, but without the Creed, which they did not sing at Southwell. In the evening of the next day (Friday the 19h.) my brother & I drank tea at Mr Heathcote's who played to us on his grand piano-forte, & took the bass in 2 or 3 M.S.Trios of Haydn, for a violin, tenor & bass of which my brother took the first & I the second.
On the next morning I played my changeable double chants in E at church, & after morning service, played on the organ to my sister, nieces etc. & in the evening My Thompson one of the lay vicars, came to sing bass in some of the glees, with my nieces & me.
On Sunday the 21st ......
I walked with the family, by Mr Shepherds & up the East Thorpe hill, whence we had a fine view to & beyond Newark, Belvoir castle & towards Lincoln etc. etc. On the morning after I went up to the top of the tower of the church with my nieces & Miss Blackburn, whence we had a fine view, ......
On the succeeding morning I called, with my Sister & co. at her landlord's, Mr Hodgkisson, & saw her former House & garden in West Street.' West Street is, of course, Westgate, and Hodgkisson is almost certainly a mis-spelling for Hodgkinson. According to Mrs Betty Arundel, of The Southwell Civic Society, what was the Hodgkinsons' family home is now called Westby House, 50 Westgate. George Hodgkinson Sr. (1731-1814) had come to Southwell from Spalding. In 1754 he married Mary Marshall, the only daughter of Gervase Marshall, Sacristan or Receiver General (what would be known as the Treasurer today) at the Minster. The following year his career was further advanced when his father-in-law gave up the Minster post in George's favour. After their marriage, George and Mary raised a family of eight girls and one son, predictably named George (1761-1823; hereafter referred to as George Jr.). George Sr was ambitious. The Archbishop of York was the largest landowner in the district and in 1770 he appointed George Sr Steward of the Archbishop's courts in the Liberty of Southwell and Scrooby Laneham and Askham, upon the death of Mr Becher. In 1771 he was also appointed Registrar of the Minster Chapter and thereby chief officer of the Peculiar of Southwell, an ecclesiastical area, distinct from the Liberty. The office of Steward to the Archbishop was a lifetime appointment and George Jr., and his son, George the youngest (1796-1888), succeeded their respective fathers.
What is not certain is whether the house that Mary Williams rented for her school was, in fact, Westby House or, perhaps, another property owned by the Hodgkinson family in West Gate. What does seem likely, however, is that it was through her contacts with the Hodgkinson family that she was later able to obtain the tenancy of the Old Palace.
'On the following morning I walked with my Sister & family by the river side to the hop grounds to see the operation of picking ......
The next morning ......
I took a walk with my Sister & nieces etc. to Mr Shepherds grounds near the East Thorp, & in the afternoon went with them & my brother to a romantic spot called the Dumbles, about 2 miles from Southwell. This being my last day here, I at my Sister's request accomodated her with £100 principally on account of an unexpected demand of that sum beyond what she had expected to have been called upon towards the additional rooms made to the house she now lived in, which had thrown her much behindhand, & rendered her unable to discharge some of the bills that had been long owing by her.
The comments made here seem to suggest that Mary had not yet moved into the Old Palace after the lease of her first house had expired, but had rented another, perhaps Westby House, mentioned above.
On the next morning between 9 & 10 I left Southwell, where I had spent 12 very pleasant & happy days, & went by the coach to Nottingham where I arrived soon after 12. & quartered at the White Lion, where I was set down. Here I called at Mr Heath of Beeston's warehouse, wishing to speak with him respecting the giving up of the lease of the house my Sister had lived in at Beeston, of which there were still 5 years to come, but not being able to meet with him, I called, at my Sister's desire, on her friend Mr Alliott, Dissenting minister, who promised to endeavour to settle the matter with the Landlady, who demanded a sum for repairs, by way of premium for giving up the lease. I also called on & saw Mr Heath one of the assignees of my Sister, but co'd get no further intelligence as to there being any probability of receiving any other dividend than that of s3 (3 shillings) in the pound we had received, there being, as he said, only about £50 remaining in his hands, out of which 2 attornies bills were to be paid.'
Although John Marsh makes no direct reference to it, it seems likely that Mary's next move was to the Archbishop's Old Palace, situated close to the Minster on its south side. This was originally the residence of the Archbishops of York and the last one to reside there was Archbishop John Williams, (1582-1650). He was descended from the same ancient Welsh family that William Williams, when Bishop of Waiapu, in New Zealand, claimed as the ancestors for his father and grandfather, the elder branch of which is now represented by the Williams-Bulkeley family of Penrhyn, Caernarvonshire. William Williams was indulging in some wishful thinking in making this assertion, possibly attracted by the notion of an association with such a distinguished previous occupant of the house in which he was now living, but it has no foundation. The Palace was destroyed by Parliamentary troops in 1646, leaving only the Archbishop's state chamber habitable.
A description of the Old Palace is given in The History of Southwell (including a description of the Collegiate Church) by Richard Phillips Shilton, published in May 1818. It records that 'This magnificent pile of building, noble even in ruin, was situated about thirty yards from the south side of the Church. By the present remains a competent idea may be formed of its ancient extent and grandeur. The state rooms may easily be supposed to have been in the east; the lodging apartments to the south; the offices to the west; and the chapel and great hall to the north. This venerable edifice was erected by Kemp, Cardinal and Archbishop of York, in the reign of Henry VI. The great hall has long been converted into a dwelling-house, and is now occupied as a very respectable seminary for young ladies, under the direction of Mrs. Williams. In the remaining part, now called the court chamber, the Justices of the Soke of Southwell hold their sessions; it is lighted from the west by a large gothic window, an indispensable ornament in those days to places of worship and public resort'.
The Nottingham Journal dated 22nd July 1797 records that a French boarding school was to be set up in the Old Palace by Miss Hand and her sister, and there had been a school for young gentlemen in the same premises previously so one can suppose, perhaps, that the Steward to the Archbishop was quite happy to allow a similar venture to be carried on there, as suggested earlier.
A History of Southwell by Shilton, published in May 1818, records that "The great hall has long been converted into a dwelling-house, and is now occupied as a very respectable seminary for young ladies, under the direction of Mrs. Williams. In the remaining part, now called the court chamber, the Justices of the Soke of Southwell hold their sessions."
The Nottingham Journal dated 22nd July 1797 records that a French boarding school was to be set up in the Old Palace by Miss Hand and her sister, and there had been a school for young gentlemen in the same premises previously so one can suppose, perhaps, that the Steward to the Archbishop was quite happy to allow a similar venture to be carried on there, as suggested earlier.
A more detailed description is given in 'A Prospect of Southwell' by Norman Summers. According to this, the great chamber was partitioned into two parts and the court occupied the western end with access through an external door clumsily inserted in the fine west window. The house which occupied the eastern end was extended by building over the site of the original great hall and the stone wall of this extension, which overlooked the courtyard, was later incorporated in the modern Bishop's Manor, completed in 1907. The archbishops were careful not to grant leases for long periods which might commit their successors, and refused them for the usual term of three lives.
Mary Williams was an educated woman with accomplishments in drawing and music. An advertisement in the Nottingham Journal for 4th July 1818 described her school as follows:
MRS. WILLIAMS, assisted by her Daughters, educates a limited Number of Young Ladies, as a private Family
Board, including English, History, Geography, and the Use of the Globes, Forty Guineas per Annum.
Accomplishments on the usual Terms.
No Entrances are required, except for Dancing.
Young Ladies till the Age of ten Years, are received at Thirty Guineas per Annum.
One of Mary Williams's earliest assistants was Jane Nelson, who, in 1817, at the age of sixteen was engaged as a pupil teacher at the school. Jane's family, as we have seen, had known the Williams family for many years. F. W. Williams, in 'Through Ninety Years', describes how Jane arrived at 9 a.m. on a summer morning looking "cool and fresh" having walked over from Newark to Southwell (a distance of 20 miles) to take up her duties. This account is quite nonsensical as Newark is only about 7 miles from Southwell, her family lived in Nottingham and were well acquainted with the Williams family, as mentioned earlier.
In April 1818, John Marsh's son, Edward Garrard, received a letter from his uncle William, in Southwell, saying, 'My health has been for a considerable time very indifferent. My digestion is so bad, that I have been obliged to put myself under a strict regimen. I purpose visiting Cheltenham in the beginning of July, to try the benefit of the waters.' Edward replied, saying, 'I have been under the care of Mr Tuckwell, an eminent surgeon in Oxford, not for any bruises or wound, but for a succession of sores, which have spontaneously broken out in my right leg, and which he attributes to indigestion. He has therefore applied nothing but spermatic ointment upon lint to the sores, and left the cure of them to nature, assisted by rest and a regimen, which he has recommended. This regimen consists of a tonic medicine compounded of sarsaparilla and guaiacum, and of the following rules for diet. I am never to fast more than five hours, while I am awake, am always to rise from dinner with an appetite, to drink nothing with my dinner, but a draught of porter, and two glasses of wine after it, and to make tea my last meal in the day. Under this treatment I am now by God's blessing recovered, and have only a little caution requisite; to prevent the new and tender skin from breaking. May it not be well for you to come to Nuneham? If he does as much for you as he has done for me, we shall have double cause to thank him.'
Unhappily, this was not to be. In July, John Marsh received a letter from his sister at Southwell, forwarded by his brother Henry, 'giving a very bad account of our brother Will'm who was much emaciated, & co'd keep nothing upon his stomach, having for several weeks had no appetite, altho' in the letter I received from him on the 12h. he wrote in pretty good spirits, & seemed to have hopes from a new prescription of Dr Storer's, of Nottingham, he had then began upon. ......
On the next morning I received a letter from my Sister, informing me of our poor brother Willam's great danger, there being no hopes of his recovery, on which she had written by the same post to our brother Henry, requesting him to come to them immediately, though she hardly expected he wo'd find poor Will'm alive. In consideration of this he the same evening came to us, in order to go by the next day's coach to London, which he accordingly did, & hoped to be able to set out in one of the northern mails the same evening. After all, however it was to no purpose, that he thus hurried himself as on the following morning, Friday the 31st. I received another letter from my sister, informing me that our poor brother was no more, having gone off in his easy chair, without any struggle, on Tuesday evening the 28h. Poor William! when I took leave of him at Southwell on Sept. the 26. last I little thought that I had then seen the last of him.'
William was buried at the extreme south west corner of the Churchyard, just to the south of the main west gate, close by the wall of a house called West Lodge. The inscription on his gravestone reads:-
the most humble hope of
being removed from this World
to a better state of Existence.
Here lies the Body of
who departed this life
July the 28th 1818
Aged 61 years
Reader stop and reflect that
Thou too must descend into
the Grave. There is no other
way to Life Eternal.
Of whatever Rank or Station
Thou art let the motive of
all thy actions be pure in
the sight of God so shalt
thou have peace at the last.
John Marsh returned to Southwell in July 1819. 'My Sister having at the begining of the year invited me to visit them at Southwell I put it off till the summer, meaning to take the opportunity of going further north, even as far as Edinburgh, which I had long wished to see. On Tuesday the 13h. therefore I set out & went to London, ......
(and then Stamford and Newark) & at 8 set off in a coach for Southwell which I reached in time to have gone to church with my Sister & family had I had any change of raiment, of which the loss of my trunk had deprived me. (At Stamford, his trunk had been mistakenly put on the coach returning to London.) I however, with some borrowed linen, went in the afternoon, when I found a great improvement in the choir, from a Mr Heathcote (he had met him on his last visit!) having succeeded to the old deaf organist who had much annoyed me by his overpowering accompaniment when I was there in Sept'r 1817. On the following evening Mr Heathcote came & joined my nieces & me in some sacred music etc. of which he sung a part & played the accompaniments, which he frequently afterwards did whilst I staid, with sometimes the assistance of Mr Thompson, a very good bass singer, from the choir. On Tuesd'y morning the 20h. I was gratified with the sight of my trunk again, which had been franked to Newark, & on the Friday after I dined at Mr Becher's, & on Monday the 26. played the organ at church for Mr Heathcote & in the evening tried my morning service in D with him, my nieces & Mr Thompson, which Mr Becher intended now having put in rehearsal in the choir, now Mr Heathcote had got the boys into an improved style of singing.
On Wed'y 28. after calling upon Mr I. Becher with my Sister & nieces, touching his organ, & hearing Miss B. play & sing, we went with him to see the House of correction built under his superintendance, which had been enlarged since I saw it in 1817 ......
On Thursd'y 29. I left Southwell & went in a chaise to Newark' (and thence on his grand northern tour.)
In June 1820, John Marsh was in London with his son John. ' On the following morning John & I called on my sister & nieces, (who were en route to visiting him in Chichester) neither of whom he had seen since he was at Nottingham with his mother & me in 1796. We also called on my nephew J. Williams at the Bank, with whom we found his bro'r Will'm who came to town with his mother & sister Mary, & was going to Nuneham, ......
On Monday the 26. I expected my Sister, Nieces & grandaughter Harriett down by the coach, for whom I had taken places before I left town, & accordingly ordered dinner at 5. when I went to stop the coach at the fleece, but was surprized at finding it come in empty withinside, the coachman saying that nobody came either to the Belle Sauvage, Golden cross or Elephant & castle at which latter place he waited a long time. I now therefore returned & sat down to a solitary dinner that had been prepared for 5. Thinking they might possibly come by the Portsmouth night coach & arrive by the mail the next morning I went to meet it, when I found, not them but my bro'r Henry, who thinking they had arrived at the end of the preceeding week, was come to spend about 10 days with us. By this day's London coach they however arrived, 2 within, & 2 without, when it appeared they had not got ready in time, as just when they ought to have been at the Belle Sauvage, they were cording their boxes & sent J. Williams there to ask when it wo'd be ready to set out, who found it was just gone but wo'd stop at the Elephant & castle. As however they had much luggage & no coach was then to be had, it was impossible to get there in time. (There follows a detailed account of their stay with him, till Thursday 18th July, when they went to stay with Henry Marsh at West Bourne till Thursday 20th before they all returned home to Southwell)
Mary gives her own account of this visit in a letter dated Monday 1st July 1820 she wrote to her son William, who was staying with Robert Forster Esq., at Southwell. 'We found your Uncle Marsh quite well and in good spirits; but your poor uncle Henry I think a good deal altered. He no longer walks from West Bourne & indeed I thought seemed incapable of exertion of any kind; but when the weather became cooler I was pleased to see him much more alert. He left us on Friday Morning and we are to go to him tomorrow week and to Nuneham the Thursday Morning following. Your Uncles House is a very excellent one wishing nothing but a little paint, and as he cares less about appearances than any man I ever saw, it is likely I think to remain in the same state as long as he lives. There are three sitting rooms below stairs, and a breakfast room above, (in which we sit to read & work) all except one looking into the garden, which is not I think larger than ours, but very pretty, being turfed all over; with a gravel walk round and a border on each side. The grass is kept very short and is so level that it is used occasionally as a bowling green, and beautifully shaded by a few very fine old trees & to crown all there is a nice little Green House. The Music room in which we breakfast & dine opens with folding Glass doors into the Garden & the plants are placed immediately around. Not but there is within the house a profusion of the finest Geraniums I ever saw in the hall & other windows. On the Thursday Evening after our arrival we went with your uncle to St. Johns Chapel (which has lately been built) because, he had engaged to play the organ, the Organist of that chapel who is also organist of the Cathedral being in London, and as it happened that we very much liked the gentleman who preached it gave us great pleasure to find that your Uncle goes there regularly every Sunday Morning and Evening as we do to Mr Daniel Wilsons. We have therefore been to no other Church and think we shall relish less than ever your Southwell preacher. This church is of an Octagon form has three seats or pews in depth all round which leave a very considerable space in the middle filled with benches for the accommodation of the poor souls who have no pews.
We are more retired here than we should be at home. We see scarcely any thing of your Uncle from breakfast till dinner, but work & read by ourselves in the little breakfast room.'
In July 1821 John Marsh 'had a letter from my Son Edw'd who arrived at my Sister's with his family on the Friday before, & was then going himself to Nuneham to pack up & remove his things to Hampstead, in which he told me he had just received one from Lady Harcourt informing him that the Archbishop of York intended presenting him with a Prebend of Southwell then vacant by the recent death of Mr [William] Becher, which was accordingly fulfilled a few days after.' He was appointed one of the sixteen residentiary Canons, or Prebends, at Southwell, holding the Woodborough stall. Woodborough, or Udeburgh, is a village lying about six miles south-west of Southwell. It furnishes one of the Prebends which were endowed in the earliest times of the Church. The revenues of it arise from lands in the parish of Woodborough, demised to a lessee on lease for three lives.
The Prebends took it in turn by rota to be the Canon Residentiary for three months at a time, thus taking their turn once every four years, living in the Residence during their period in office. Shilton tells us that 'The Canon Residentiary is the director of matters of internal government. He presides over the deliberations of the Chapter, as head of the Church for the time being, executes the decrees of that body and manages the revenues. By the statutes of the Church all its members are required to pay him complete obedience, so far as is compatible with the laws of society and the kingdom.'
In 1689, according to Shilton, a petition was made by the Chapter of the Minster to Archbishop Lamlugh, to replace the hall of the college for the Vicars Choral, situated at the east end of the Minster, by a common house for the Residentiaries. In this new hall, commons were provided for the Canons, Vicars Choral and other members of the Church, much in the same manner as meals served up in halls of colleges in universities. 'At York, for instance, there yet remain many regulations by different Archbishops and Chapters for the mode and hours of the Vicars dining in the common-hall belonging to that body, in which there are many restrictions respecting the quantity of liquor to be drunk and the sex of the waiters to be admitted. As at certain times, their vows of chastity seem to have been in danger of infringement by the too powerful stimulus of female attendants.
And from a decree of Archbishop John in the year 1293, there is rather more than ground for suspicion that the Vicars of Southwell were not a whit more phlegmatic than their brethren at York, as they were forbidden to have any female waiters, excepting those whose ages exempted them from probability of amorous inclination.'
In September, John Marsh set off to see his sister again, eventually arriving at Newark, 'where having breakfasted in the hotel, a post chaise took me the remaining 8 miles to Southwell, where I found my Sister & family all well. 'In the evening young Heathcote, the organist, who was now paying his addresses to my niece Catherine, came in about 8. when we had some music, in which my nephew William sung the bass, in which way we spent the latter part of most of the evenings I spent there.' On the Sunday (22nd) Marsh went to the church service but was much put out by the way the bells played the tune 'God save great George' and offered to change it to that of the 104th psalm or else to take out the superfluous notes in the present tune, but Dr Wylde, the prebendary in residence, declined his proposal. Dr Wylde afterwards asked Mr Heathcote to meet him and listen to the chimes, 'of his own accord, as it sho'd seem, & not at my suggestion,' on which he then agreed to Mr Heathcote making the necessary changes.
'On Wednesday the 25. Mr Heathcote drank tea with us, & the young ladies, his pupils, each played a piece on the grand piano-forte, of whom my grandaughter (Harriet, the daughter of his late son, Henry) was the principal performer, who was now much improved. This it seemed was the practice on every other Wednesday evening; & on the follow'g even'g a Mrs Stenton, Miss Plumptre, Mrs Watson & Mr Heathcote drank tea with us, the latter of whom & his Sister also drank tea with us on the follow'g evening. The reason for these continued attendances of Mr Heathcote, was not merely on account of his musical abilities, but because of his now being a received admirer of my niece Catherine, to whom he had transferred the addresses he had once paid to her Sister Mary (Rebecca). They were not however to be united till he had laid by a competency to begin housekeeping with.
Whilst staying here I thought I perceived a flirtation going on between my nephew Will'm & Miss Nelson, my Sisters assistant, which on hinting to the latter, I found to be the case. It was in fact a renewal of a former attachment which had been put an end to by the lady declining to accompany my nephew in his intended mission to New Zealand, for which he was now preparing himself at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, but who had now made up her mind to prefer taking a voyage to the antipodes with a good husband, to remain in England as a spinster. It was rather unfortunate that neither of the 4 Sons of my Sister sho'd make a connexion with any female who had any thing to help out in the increased expences of the marriage state, tho' it was of the less consequence in the present case.'
There is a slightly different account of the affair in a letter Mary Williams wrote to her son Henry two years later, in January 1823, whilst he was on his way to New Zealand to become a missionary there. 'I think there is a little history to tell you respecting him (William) and I must go back to the long vacation, part of which he spent at Hampstead, and came down here about a fortnight before you sailed. My house was then tolerably full, for I had eight young ladies so that with him we were pretty thick upon the ground. He studied however very comfortably at the top of the house in the little room in which you at one time used to draw, & nothing disturbed him, except the Idea of having been rejected by two ladies and not having a third at hand on whom he could place his affections, one thing however he had determined, which was never to put it in Janes power to refuse him again.'
William returned to London and Mary suspected that he might have gone there to make his advances to a Miss Susan Faulkner 'and something may have come of it, if our friend Edward Heathcote had not let him into a little bit of a secret, that he had discovered during the various tete's a tete that he and Jane enjoy on a music day; namely, that her objection was not to himself, but she thought her mother would never consent to her going abroad. He might have kept this discovery to himself: I know he hesitated whether he should divulge it (or) not, for supposing it insurmountable, he thought it might be better for William not to know it, but his prudential motives were overruled and out it came. Perhaps it may admit of a dispute whether the lady had not relented a little before she suffered such a secret to escape her, for certain it is I had fancied she was less shy than usual. However this may be the discovery acted like magic & he very soon obtained permission to combat her mothers objections, & the business was soon settled. And so poor I (should I live) am likely to be left by myself, ...... .'
John Marsh concludes, 'On Friday the 4th I left the cheerful family at the palace (this is the first reference he makes to the fact that his sister had now moved to the Archbishop's Old Palace) & came by the coach to Nottingham .... ' (and thence home to Chichester.)
In May 1824, Marsh was staying in London and on Tuesday 18th, 'I went to Islington & dined at my nephew J. Williams's where my grandaughter Harriett was now staying whom my Sister had been obliged to dismiss from Southwell at the beginning of the year, on account of her having been detected in flirting with one of the Hutchinsons, Son of the Surgeon there, & meeting him at night in the garden. As she was by no means qualified for a governess's situation, we were now therefore looking out for some situation for her in the dressmaking, or child-bed linen line under the superintendance of a Mistress, in which Mrs Enderby was kind enough to assist, tho' as she said, after what happened, it wo'd not be proper to receive her at her house.' Nearly a year later, in April 1825, Harriett was apprenticed for three years to Mrs White, a dressmaker, of South Street in London.
In June 1824 John Marsh was in Bognor, and 'in the afternoon of the 21st, about 5. arrived my Sister & niece Catherine from London, without Mary, there having been some mistake about taking her up on the road. About 10 at night however she arrived, having gone by a Portsmouth coach to Petersfield, whence she was driven in gigs to Chichester & Bognor.' They stayed in Bognor for only two or three days, before returning all together to Chichester. There was of course much music whilst they were there, although 'my niece Mary wo'd only join in sacred music.' 'On Thursday the 8h. (July) my Sister & Catherine sat off at 8. in the coach for London & Hampstead, & my niece Mary remained with me till she had an answer to a letter she had written to a Mrs Deacon, she was then going to as governess to her 3 daughters.' The letter having duly arrived and, on Thursday 15th, 'about 11. my niece left me & set off in the coach for Brighton, in her way to Hastings.'
A year later, in July 1825, Mary Williams and her daughter Catherine went to Hamburg to see Sydney and on their return stayed with 'my nephew John's at Holloway, with a Miss Bohrer they had brought from Germany as a Missionary. They were now going to spend the next 2 days at my Sons (Edward Garrard) & were to set out on the following Monday on their return to Southwell, except the German lady who it did not appear how she was to be disposed of.'
In September, John Marsh set out for York, to attend the second grand music festival there. He returned via Southwell, where he arrived on Wednesday 21st, 'alighting to go to my Sister's, whose numerous family I found all in good health. Here Mr Heathcote, the Organist joined us in the even'g who had also been to York (tho' we had not met there) & had enjoyed the music as much as I had.' The next day, in the evening, 'my Sister had her monthly exhibition of her pupils, as to their proficiency in music, in which they seemed to come on very well, ......
On Tuesday the 27h. I left Southwell soon after 9. ......'
In July 1826, John Marsh was In London, after one of his trips to Kent to collect his rents, when he 'had a visit from my Sister, niece Mary & nephew John, at whose house my Sister had been staying since she left Ramsgate, to which she had gone with my Son Edw'd & family about 3 weeks before in the steam boat, which conveyed his numerous family of 13 (including 3 maids) with much ease. She was now going to return to Southwell where the opening of the school after the vacation was this day resumed by my niece Catherine.
The following year, in July 1827, John Marsh went to Bognor for a fortnight, 'for the sake of a little sea air before I went to Southwell, when my Son Edw'd was going soon to keep his residence for the months of August, Sept'r & Oct'r the first part of which I had agreed to spend with him. On Tuesday, 31st. ......
my Son Edw'd & family began moving northwards ......
and on the Thursday following (Aug't 2d.) I began bending my steps that way, taking with me Edmund (his servant) & his wife who was to be house maid at the residence during my Son's stay there.' Having spent some time in London, he eventually arrived at Southwell on Friday 10th.) 'when I found my Son looking out for me (who had expected me the day before) & had the satisfaction to find Lydia & the family & also my Sister & niece Catherine, who drank tea with us, all in good health.'
Most of his time was absorbed with musical affairs, including another argument about the bells at the Minster.
'On the next day (Saturday 8th - the last but one of my stay at Southwell) Edward, Lydia, Mr Peyton & I dined with my Sister & co. at the palace ......
On the follow'g morning my Sister came to breakfast & take leave, after which I also took my leave & went by the coach to Nottingham, ......'
Back in Chichester, in October, 'I received a letter from a Mrs C. Heathcote (late Cath'e Williams) of Southwell. She had changed her name she told me on Tuesday the 9th after which she & Mr H.---- had set off for Peterborough, whence she dated her letter, but not mentioning their address there, or how long they meant to stay there, I co'd not send my congratulations.'
In June 1828, 'This being the day (Friday 20th.) my Sister & the Heathcotes had appointed to come & stay a fortnight or 3 weeks with me, my Son (John) & Edmund went to look out for them when the coaches came in, in neither of which they were, so that about 5. my Son & I sat down to dinner without them. About half past 6. however they arrived in a postchaise, not having been able to get 3 places in either of the coaches.' He took a cottage in Bognor, where they could all spend a week together. 'On the follow'g morning (Wednesday 9th July) at 8. they all left me & went by the coach to London, whence they went to my nephew J. Williams's at Islington, where & at Mr Rivington's they were to spend a few days previous to their return to Southwell.'
John Marsh's health was failing and he died at his home in Chichester on 31st October.
A letter that Mary wrote to William and Jane Williams, in New Zealand, dated 28th April 1831, suggests that she had moved out of the Old Palace. The letter is headed 'Residence Home, Southwell. There is a house called 'The Residence', in Vicars Court, originally built to provide accommodation for the Prebendary 'in residence'. It is now the home of the Dean of Southwell Minster. In her letter, Mary relates 'Here am I, in the best bedchamber, surrounded by this dear family, who I am happy to say are all well, (some perhaps fast asleep). I am thankful to say we are all well also on the green, [this must be a reference to Elmfield House, on Burgage Green] namely, Kate, Edward (except that he is sometimes creeking) young Caroline from Hamburg, who is a very fine looking, quick, clever, girl, like her mother in many things, and I really think she cannot have a higher compliment paid her, for she has few equals, and dear little Lydia from Holloway, [her son John's daughter] who is our little pet, for she has lived with us now almost seven years, and is one of the most affectionate children in the world but I must leave off calling her little, for she is taller than me, and looks down upon aunt Kate. But she is quite a treasure to me and the kindest, most attentive nurse almost in the world.'
Further on she writes 'As Edward has consented to remain here six months his time will not be out till the end of July consequently I shall remain at home (at?) Midsummer (If I should live till that time)'; and later, in the same letter, 'We went yesterday, that is Lydia and I went with Sutton Barrow to pay a visit to the old Palace. You have heard that Mr George Hodgkinson turned us out that he might make a grand place of it and live there himself.' Mr Hodgkinson apparently made some substantial alterations including 'my poor little old fashioned bedroom after being considerably reduced is made into a water closet, which in these genteel days is considered indispensable. ...... they suffered the old schoolroom to remain as it was except as a servants hall and day Nursery, rather an odd combination we thought.' A lot of other alterations were made but 'Soon after they were finished but not paid for, he was obliged to decamp on account of his having made free with the property of sir Richard Sutton to whom he was steward. The Archbishop of York to whom he was agent in this place has not discharged (him), having no particular cause of quarrel with him but as he cannot remain here to do the business, the post falls to Mr George Barrow on condition of his allowing Mr H a part of the income which is all he has to live upon.'
The Sutton Barrow that Mary Williams refers to above was the daughter of Mary, eldest daughter of George Hodgkinson senior and his wife Mary. She was the oldest sister of George Hodgkinson junior, and she married Richard Barrow, the head of the Grammar School. The Barrows eventually took over the legal practice founded by George Hodgkinson senior. The George Hodgkinson that Mary Williams mentions in her letter was the son of George Hodgkinson junior. Whether the Suttons, who had had eighty years loyal service from the Hodgkinsons told him to leave is not known, but it is possible that this very wealthy family were loath to pursue the backslider for what to them would be a trifling sum.
It would seem probable, therefore, that when she wrote the letter she was staying with her daughter and son-in-law whilst E.G.Marsh was fulfilling his obligations as the Canon 'in residence' but, because of the alterations she describes at the Old Palace, she must have left there some time before. All her previous letters are headed, simply, 'Southwell', and she makes no reference to having moved, for example, to her daughter Catherine's home at Elmfield House.
According to Sybil Woods, 'Her school flourished and she bought a large residence, Elmfield House, at Burbage Green, Southwell, which soon became a fashionable boarding-school. She was ably assisted by her daughter Catherine .... and when Mary Williams died in 1832 [actually, 1831] Catherine took over the school, and remained head-mistress till he death in 1881.' However, no date is given for the purchase of Elmfield House and we know from John Marsh's account that she was still at the Palace in August 1827. The existence of the school at this period, and during the rest of its life, can only be gleaned from entries in the Nottinghamshire Directories of the time, published by Pigot and White. These appeared at irregular intervals of several years and may not always have been quite up-to-date at the time of publication; certainly there were some ambiguities around the time of Mary's death. Pigot's Directory for 1831 lists, under Academies, "Mary Williams (bdg & day) Burgage" and in 1835, "Mrs Edw. Heathcote Burgage Green" and "Mary Williams (brdng & day) Burgage". White's Directory for 1832 simply lists Mrs Heathcote at Burgage Green. However, as noted earlier, Mary Williams had vacated the Old Palace by early 1831 and her reference to Kate and Edward 'on the green' suggests that perhaps Mary had relinquished the reins by then, maybe following the marriage of Catherine to Edward Heathcote in October 1827. Her sojourn at 'The Residence' can only have been a temporary one, so there remains an unexplained gap in her story.
It is clear from this letter that she had become frail and was not in the best of health; indeed she appears to be anticipating that her life was nearing its end. Mary Williams died on 7th November 1831, and her death is noted in the Nottingham Journal for Saturday, 12th November 1831.
'At Southwell, on Monday the 7th instant, Mrs Williams, aged 75.'.
The burial register for Southwell records that she was buried there on 12th November; the vicar in attendance being Morgan Watkins. It would have taken several days for other members of the family to be informed and then to make arrangements to travel to Southwell. Catherine gave an account of the funeral in a letter to her brother William in New Zealand, dated 28th March 1832. 'Although it was contrary to Southwell customs for ladies to attend their near relations to their last earthly homes, I wished to deviate from these heartless and unnatural ways and determined to accompany my husband and any other of our family who wished to join us; Mary [Rebecca] arrived on the Wednesday and John on Friday morning. We are rather surprised Edw'd [Marsh] did not. Lydia wished very much to come but Edw'd did not like it, and I think her nerves would have been quite overcome. The funeral took place on Saturday morning, [19th November, perhaps?] and the grave is by the side of Uncle Williams's & C. Moore, in the corner of the Church yard by Miss Porter's house. Dear Marianne Brown came to remain part of the day with us, and staid with the children while we were absent. The children all behaved very well & were much affected. They had behaved as well as possible during the illness of our beloved mother & showed more feeling than I had given them credit for.'
She lies within fifty yards or so of her home and school. The inscription on her tombstone reads:-
She lies within fifty yards or so of her home and school. The inscription on her tombstone reads:-
CAPT'N HENRY MARSH R.N.
and Widow of
MR THOMAS WILLIAMS.
Died Nov 7th 1831
Aged 75 years
Mary Williams's Will is in the Nottinghamshire Register Office and she left everything to her two daughters, Mary Rebecca Williams and Catherine Williams.
THE CHILDREN OF THOMAS AND MARY WILLIAMS
The eldest son, Thomas Sydney had married, on 7th April 1814, Caroline Heath, youngest daughter of Mr John Heath, a hosiery manufacturer of Beeston, whom John Marsh had consulted in 1809 about his sister's affairs.
We learn a little more about Thomas Sydney and his third brother, Henry, from the diary of Edward Garrard Marsh. Writing at the end of December 1817, he recounts: 'Early in the year my brother in law, Henry Williams, settled at Cheltenham, as a teacher of drawing, and was soon followed by his brother, Thomas Sydney Williams, with his wife and children, who set up a linen-draper's shop in the same place. I had lent him during the spring and autumn of 1815 the sum of a hundred and eighty pounds, which instead of repaying me he subsequently embarked on his business, giving me a promissory note from himself and his partner, and a bond and judgement against himself, to be levied upon his private property. Being informed in the autumn of this year, that his circumstances were embarrassed, I put the bond in force only a few days before a bankruptcy was declared; and as the goods seized did not cover my debt, my journey to Cheltenham was with a view to vote in the choice of assignees at his request; which however I did not do, he not finding himself sufficiently supported to ensure success in the election. Sydney's failure was productive of another embarrassment. It prevented Henry's marriage. He had been for some time engaged to miss Coldham, the eldest daughter of an agent for a cotton manufactory at Nottingham, who died in the course of last year; and the lady came to Cheltenham on a visit to Sydney and his wife, where she was to have been married a few days only before the ruin. As Henry was in some measure involved in Sydney's failure in consequence of his having accepted bills for him to a great amount, he determined to defer his marriage till his affairs should be cleared up. In the interval he committed his intended bride and her sister, Emily, to our care; and they remain with us at present. [Marianne's next sister was in fact Sarah Eliza, ten years younger than Marianne. The only sister named Emily died young, so E.G.M. seems to have got this wrong.] As miss Coldham is an unitarian, I have had occasion to lay open to her during her residence among us the whole counsel of God. May God sanctify the humble endeavour to the profit of us both!'
In spite of this, Henry's marriage was not long delayed and on Tuesday 20th January 1818 Edward Marsh records: 'I walked with Lydia to church, and married Henry to miss Coldham. They afterwards departed with Emily in a chaise.'
His solicitude for Miss Coldham bore early fruit. On 6th February, 'I received a letter from Henry Williams, saying, "We commenced last evening our family devotions; and as my wife is equally anxious with myself for the observance, we again repeated them this morning." He replied, saying, 'It gives me great pleasure to hear of your commencement of family-prayer, which (I trust) will never meet with interruption.' This seems to mark Henry's formal conversion to anglicanism. Another letter from Henry followed on 11th March. 'Marianne appears much inclined to hear everything that can be stated. Last Sunday I sounded her upon original sin and am in hopes, that so far is established, and shall allow it to gain firm root, before I step further. My next will be the promise of a saviour and the necessity of atonement.'
A similar account appears in the short booklet, Brief Sketches of C.M.S. Workers, written by Emily Headland in 1897, which has been referred to earlier, in describing Thomas Williams' status in Nottingham. Referring to Henry Williams '(he) in 1817 married .... Marianne Coldham. She was a very clever woman, but had been educated as an Unitarian. Happily for herself, she paid, before her marriage, a long visit to Mr. and Mrs. Marsh; and they were able, with God's help, to give so clear a reason of the hope that was in them, that good seed was planted in Miss Coldham's heart. She had not been long married when a great change came over her mind, and also that of her husband. Both of them had previously been upright, honourable, true, and just; but they now yielded themselves to God, and to honour Him became the principal desire of their hearts.' The date of their marriage was, of course, 1818.
Thomas Sydney's conduct provoked a barrage of censure from Edward Marsh. On 7th February, 'I wrote to Lydia's mother, (Mary Williams), saying "There exists a difference of opinion on the question, whether Henry's debt has been covered, or no, though (I fear) that question will be too easily decided when you learn, that the assignees have come upon him for a hundred and sixty-six pounds, and that he has offered to pay it in two years; and when I add to this positive loss the inconvenience, the vexation, the risk, the interruption to professional pursuits, and the disappointment in regard to lodgers and pupils besides innumerable minuter particulars, which cannot be so well explained, though the aggregate of them is considerable, which Henry has sustained from an act of accommodation to his brother without any prospect of advantage to himself, I cannot but think he has acted a part, which entitles him to respect."
Then, to Sydney, he wrote 'I am convinced in my own judgement that until you see error in your past conduct, till you acknowledge it, till you repent of it with a sincere desire to repair the past as far as may be possible, and to act on other principles for the future, you are not in a state of peace with God. You are now to begin the world anew. How, I cannot see. But, if you will determine by God's grace rather to suffer any degree of want than to violate one principle of morality, I have no doubt God will open a way to you in answer to earnest prayer, and enable you to live, as becomes a Christian. May God almighty bless you and all your family! Among my wishes for you it will always be the chief that you may become what I have great reason to lament, that I am very far from being myself, a true, honest, devoted, self-denying Christian.'
Poor Sydney; he had everyone after him - the debt collectors, the Congregationalists and, finally, the Evangelicals! Even then, his troubles were not all behind him. When John Marsh died, in 1828, he left 'To my Nephews Thomas Sydney, John, Henry and William Williams, .... twenty five pounds each, .... the legacy of the said Thomas Sydney being to be paid to his Mother as in part of what he remains indebted to her for money formerly expended by her on his account, ....'
Thomas Sydney's son, Edmund Sydney, wrote an autobiography, in several stages, between 1867 and 1889. Like other memoirs, written many years after the events which they describe, in some cases episodes which they were too young to know of, or remember, directly, they cannot be regarded as wholly reliable in all aspects of the history they purport to narrate. He gives this account of the failure of the family business.
'When my grandfather died in 1804 my father was 18 and he had to take to the business with a partner and, having been very delicate in his youth, he never was a first rate man of business and the result was that one morning they found that the partner had bolted with every farthing he could lay hold of and had involved the business to such an extent that they were obliged to liquidate. All that was saved was the money belonging to my grandmother, which was settled on her. This happened in1816 or 1817 - after my sister Cary and I were born.'
This description is completely at variance with that given by John Marsh, noted earlier, and the discrepancy in the dates suggest, perhaps, that the debacle he refers to is the bankruptcy of the linen drapers business in Cheltenham in the autumn of 1817 rather than the collapse of the family business in Nottingham.
Edmund Sydney's account, states that the 'early years of my father's married life were spent in Beeston near my grandfather Heath's and there Cary and I were born.' He goes on to say; 'My grandfather had many intimate personal friends in the mercantile world and Mr. Thompson Hankey, an eminent city merchant and I believe a banker, offered my grandmother to take my father into their house, in the first instance as a corresponding clerk, if he could make up his mind to go to Germany for a time to make himself acquainted with the German language as well as French which he knew. With this in view he went to Hamburg (or rather, in the first instance, to Altona near Hamburg) in 1818, where he remained for forty years.' Edmund also says, later, that after his father had gone out to Hamburg, 'he wrote to my mother to come out to him. This she did with me, as a baby of 15 months, in the spring of 1818.' This seems to imply that Thomas Sydney must have gone straight from Cheltenham to Hamburg.
In 1858, Thomas and his wife Caroline returned to England and, initially, lived in Bayswater and then, for a time, in the Grove, Balham. When Caroline died on 31st December 1862, Thomas went to live with his married daughter, Mary Miall. He died on 12th February 1869, as recorded by Edmund Sydney, 'at Mary's, on Cathcart Hill, aged 83. He lived long enough to see all his 10 children that had grown up, married, and had seen or heard of grandchildren in every branch. He had no positive disease; it was simply the breaking up of old age after a life of much labour and anxiety, but he had enjoyed the quiet of the last 10 years, 6 with Mama. He was buried beside Mama and Kate (Edmund Sydney's first wife) in Norwood cemetery'. Not a bad age for someone who had been described by John Marsh in January 1791 as 'always a very delicate child' and by his son Edmund as 'having been very delicate in his youth.'
According to John Marsh, he was accompanied to Hamburg by his cousin, Edward Thomas Marsh, and some of Mary Williams's letters also refer to Edward Thomas there. Edmund Sydney tells us that Edward was first engaged to Ellen Leake, but when she died, he 'married Miss Leake (Mrs Dick's sister)'. Catherine Heathcote visited Hamburg in July 1839, from where she wrote a letter to her sister-in-law, Jane Williams. 'It is now nine years since I was here and I have yielded to the kind & repeated invitations of Sydney & Caroline, to visit them once more & I particularly wished to come now, because poor Edw'd Thomas [E.T.Marsh, their cousin] is in a very poor state of health, .... I found all Sydney's family quite well; but poor Edw'd's appearance shocked me greatly. He has a bad cough, has lost a great deal of flesh & he is very weak. Under these circumstances if he persists in giving lessons, which alone affords him an income, a few months will probably see his wife a widow and his children fatherless. His medical attendant, who is considered the cleverest man in Hamburg has ordered him to a bathing place on the Rhine for a month or so and we hope he will spend the winter with Catherine Leake, (now Mrs Dick) his wife's sister, at Frankfurt. Our summer is so fast passing away that no time should be lost & we happily succeeded in getting him off last night. He went in the Steamer to London, as the cheapest & best way. He will thus see John whom he has not seen for eighteen years & will then take another Steamer up the Rhine. His eldest girl, Ellen, is nearly ten years old & the next, Jane, the very image of her father, is between eight & nine. They go to a day school & seem affectionate & attentive children. The only boy living is Edw'd, about three years old; he is a handsome curly headed boy, but he requires more discipline than he has yet had. Another baby is almost daily expected. Poor Edw'd has not been well for the last four years & as he has appeared to become quite an old man people have not employed him much of late which of course is not convenient with an increasing family.
As mentioned earlier, the second son, John, was taken on as an apprentice by his father in 1803 and at the time of the dissolution of the family business in 1809 he was listed as one of the partners. However, he does not seem to have played an active part in the conduct of its affairs and does not feature in the account of its collapse. According to Edmund Sydney's account, 'My uncle John, at the time my father went to Germany, was offered either to follow him and also prepare himself for a post in a merchant's house, or to take a clerkship in the Bank of England.' He chose the latter, in which job he remained until his death; 'he was a good-tempered man but was not ambitious.'
John Marsh has a bit more to say about John later, whom he used to call on when he visited London. He recounts that on 27th April 1813 'On the follow'g morning I called at the Bank to inquire into the nature of & security required to be given for my nephew John Williams, who thro' the interest of my Sister's friend Mr Thompson, was appointed one of the clerks of the Bank, but co'd not begin to act till security for £1000 was given for his good behaviour, which I found might be divided between 3 or 4 in separate bonds on which I wrote to my sister & offered to join with 3 others, which considering how much I had lately smarted from giving security, on behalf of my Sister & family, was as much as co'd be expected for me to do. This however, as well as the same offers from my brothers, was afterwards rendered needless, by Mr Thompson himself signing a bond for the whole security required. Calling afterwards at Mr Rivington's, I found my nephew John, who told me that for want of being able to procure security, he was put at the bottom of a list of 50 clerks appointed at the same time with him.'
In April 1816 he notes, 'On this day I heard, by a letter from my cousin Charlotte, of the recent marriage of my nephew J. Williams to a young Lady of the neighbourhood of Nottingham.' The lady in question was Elizabeth Attenborough. In June, Marsh went to his Bank, where ' ....I called on my nephew J. Williams who asked me to drink tea with him & his wife at Kensington, which I agreed to do that even'g; ......' Dining elsewhere, Marsh was able to get away soon after 6 & returned to Andertons, 'where my nephew met me & walked with me to the farther part of Kensington, or begining of the common, where he had a very pleasant lodging, looking towards the fields. Here, besides his wife, a pretty & genteel young woman, & her Sister was his brother Henry the Lieuten't who, by way of filling of his time & turning his hobby horse to some account, had been taking lessons in drawing of which he had a very good notion.
In London again, in October, 'I called on my nephew J. Williams at the Bank, who, previous to his marriage in the spring, was accomodated by a friend at the Bank with £200 which was lent for 2 years, at the end of which time it was expected that his wife wo'd come into possession of some property settled on her & her brothers. The friend who had advanced this money, having since lost his father & become straightened in his circumstances, he had lately called in the £200 which my nephew not being able to raise, I was, as usual, applied to for the purpose. After having however already suffered so much on account of my losses to my Sister, I co'd not, as I replied, venture to advance anything more without the most substantial security, which I co'd not reckon the mere bond of a relation, which co'd not be enforced without distressing such relation. On this he applied to his Wife's brothers, who having agreed to join him in a Bond & judgement to me, I at length consented to advance the money on this security, which he now went to his attorney to draw up. ... On the next day my nephew's sollicitor called & shewed me the Bond & judgement which was immediately sent to Nottingham to be executed; ...'
In 1819, John was living in lodgings in Blackfriars Road and by May 1824 he had moved to Islington. He died in 1855.
Lydia's marriage to Edward Garrard Marsh has been recorded earlier. After his curacy at Nuneham he moved to Hampstead, where a proprietary chapel had become available, which the departing minister had put up for sale for about £3,000. Edward eventually bought it for £2,900. Later he became the vicar of Aylesford. As well as being appointed a Residentiary Canon of Southwell Minster he was an active member of the Church Missionary Society. It was his influence that persuaded his brother-in-law, Henry, first to convert to Evangelical Anglicanism and, later, to become a missionary in New Zealand to be followed three years afterwards by his younger brother William. He also became a Trustee of Holy Trinity Church, Southwell, when it was built in 1846.
Mary Williams's advertisement for her school says that she was assisted by her daughters. One was Catherine and as by this time Lydia was married to Edward Marsh, the other must have been Mary Rebecca. John Marsh mentions that Mary Rebecca was at Miss Black's school in Kensington in September 1812, 'where she had been for nearly a twelvemonth' but she was back at Southwell in 1819 when he came to visit, and Edward Heathcote was paying his unrequited attentions to her, as mentioned later, in the account of he sister Catherine. She may have been helping her mother at this stage but in October 1820 she is recorded by Marsh as being a governess to the children of a Mr Way at Stanstead, near Chichester, on a salary of £100 a year, but unhappily was dismissed from this post in August 1821 'in rather an unhandsome manner.' By October 1823 she 'was now in a very good situation, as governess in a Lady's family at, or near Fulham. ...' Then in July 1824 she moved to Hastings, for a post with a Mrs Deacon. However, in a letter dated 16th September 1825, to William, in New Zealand, Mary Williams describes her concerns over Mary (Rebecca), who had written to say that she was leaving her post with Mrs Deacon. 'Her first letter merely informed me of the circumstance without any reasons why, or whether it was by her own or Mrs D's desire. In fact I know nothing about her, as she thinks it too great a waste of time to inform me of any circumstance that gives her pleasure or pain, or of any particulars in the character of the persons she lives with by which her comfort is affected and I merely know that she removes in the middle of January.' Mary (Rebecca) goes on 'and as the sweet means of grace have been important to me under dear Mr Irons's ministry, of trying whether the Lord should be pleased to afford me more prosperity in every particular in Camberwell.' Her mother comments ' I think it her duty to put up with many things she may not like. At the last sentence of her letter I quite stared, for I have never heard of dear Mr Irons, or Camberwell before. .... I next enquired what was become of dear Mr Burrows. A little while ago she could not remove from Clapham, for she could benefit only from his preaching, now she can live no where but at Camberwell, for Mr Irons only & not Mr Burrows can speak peace to her mind.' Rebecca explained, 'To make a short story of it, when his Mr B's chapel was repairing in August, and my mind almost in a desolation to know what ministry I should find, at all to be compared in the setting forth of the truth with his, I was entirely providentially led to Camberwell, and the very first words and indeed every word Mr Irons uttered, proved to be so exactly suited to the search my mind had been making for years, and so according with my own feelings and sweetly calculated to promote the growth of spirituality in the soul, that I had a desire to settle under his ministry. The desire to be more immediately within reach of it, quickened by the trials which have been peculiar to me, and the infinite value of the truth there preached, made me desire to quit the situation I now hold.' Mary Williams's letter continues, Of course Mrs Deacon perceived this and spoke to her. On this she observes, "the first proposal for our separation coming from Mrs Deacon took from me the painful feeling of removing myself from a situation plainly appointed for me by providence." No one can doubt the sincerity of her wishes to do that which is her duty and no one can consider worldly advantage less. But it is very difficult exactly to find the path of duty. That she may be wisely directed, is my most earnest prayer, but at present I am not comfortable about her.'
However, the problems continued. In July 1826, Mary Williams took a holiday in Ramsgate, with Edward and Lydia Marsh. Before going to Ramsgate, she stayed a short while in London, with Edward and Lydia. 'Mary & John met me in London. The former is looking thin but is very active attacking every body she meets. You know or will know from Edward, that she has left her situation at Mrs Deacons because she can hear no preacher with profit now but Mr Irons a dissenting minister at Camberwell, and will not again conform to the rules and restraints of any family because she is determined to go to the house of God whenever she likes. She has therefore taken lodgings there and without knowing a single creature intends getting her living there as a day Governess. In the midst of her wild schemes God has not deserted her. Through the instrumentality of Marianne Rivington she has been introduced to the only person perhaps in Camberwell, who was at all likely to introduce & bring her into notice, a Miss Rolleston of the Nottinghamshire family. .... Miss R is .... a woman of rare attainment a great linguist and what is much more an active Christian. She does not hear Mr Irons & told me she did not know that she was benefitted when she did, but she has a great respect for him, and has done him many kind offices. M Rivington told me she hoped Miss R would do Mary good, for before she knew her Miss Rolleston told her she had heard, she was getting acquainted with persons in Mr I's congregation who are denominated high flyers, who differ as much from him as he does from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Miss R has taken Mary up and will do every thing she can for her, but the times are hard, & it has hitherto been a losing concern, & that to a great degree, she can only keep on till her money is all gone & then if pupils do not increase considerably she must think of something else but I know she has hopes of one in a fortnight that is likely to pay well. But she will do as she likes and nothing that we can say has the least influence. She has notwithstanding a great deal of good about her and if it is the will of God that she should prosper we shall have nothing to oppose.'
She did attend her mother's funeral in 1831, as Catherine Heathcote records in the letter to her brother William in New Zealand, referred to earlier. 'We were sorry Mary had not been before to pay us a visit, as she had not seen dear mother for two years and a half but she had not wanted for an invitation; she must have forgotten dear mother's increasing age, and diminishing strength: it was well however she did not withhold her presence at the last, and she behaved exceedingly well and though still very peculiar she is a good deal quieter than she was. You are no doubt aware of her having at length discontinued her constant attendance at Mr Iron's chapel; she has either ceased going entirely or goes only occasionally. She has had many trials & perhaps may have brought a good deal upon herself.'
Edmund Sydney's diary describes Mary Rebecca as a clever and talented girl but wild and whimsical. He goes on to say; "She went out as a governess and made plenty of money out of which she was always cheated by some pretended saint. She went to America and there was bitten by a desire to convert the Jews and to be in Palestine at the time of the 'Second coming of Christ', which she believed to be in 1860 or thereabouts, but she was again cheated out of all she had by a baptised Jew in whom she believed and died in Bethlehem I believe in great distress. She was no doubt a very good woman but a terrible bore - how glad we were to see the last of her." This has echoes of the comment made by John Marsh that she would only join in singing sacred music! Another family source says that she died of cholera in Jaffa, where she was helping missionaries and teaching children.
The two most famous sons were Henry (1792-1867) and William (1800-1878), who are both fully documented elsewhere. In 1806 Henry entered the Navy as a midshipman, aged 14. After a short but very active career in the Navy he retired on half pay, with the rank of lieutenant, on 30th August 1815. His move to Cheltenham in 1817, as a teacher of drawing, and his marriage to Marianne Coldham in 1818, have been referred to earlier. Her father, Wright Coldham, was born in Norwich, as was Marianne. Wright Coldham had been a Sheriff of Nottingham in 1798 and 1807, and Mayor in 1809. He was also an active member of the High Pavement Presbyterian Chapel. Encouraged by his brother-in-law, Edward Garrard Marsh, Henry entered the Church in 1822 and in the following year emigrated to New Zealand, under the auspices of the C.M.S.
A very frank portrayal of Henry's character is given by William Colenso, an Anglican catechist and printer, in his diary. "In many respects he was a peculiar man. He was the senior Clergyman of the Mission; Midshipman in the Royal Navy and present at the bombardment of Copenhagen, under Nelson. That seaman training he always retained and sometimes showed unpleasantly.
It was often said, no Missionary could live with him for long, on the same Station, save his brother. I believe that is true, though I managed to dwell with him, at Pahia, nearly eight years. But there were not a few serious squalls, during that period. Mr Williams, though of strict precision, would be bound by no rules, not even of his own making. He was very imperious and distant, almost of a repellent manner and yet, very kindhearted. However he was eminently fitted for the post, at that early time in this savage land."
William received his earliest education at a small private school kept by the mother of Henry Kirk White and afterwards attended Southwell Grammar School. At one time this was part of the old Chauntry Priest's House, on the left of the West Gate of the Cathedral, but 'in 1791 a very large and commodious house was erected on a piece of ground belonging to the Churchyard, at the south west corner', and within view of Mary's subsequent residence in the Old Palace. Following a fire in 1817 it was decided to re-develop the whole area around the Chauntry Priest's house and in 1820 a new Grammar School, designed by Richard Ingleman, was built in Church Street. It is now the Minster Centre. His first intention, on leaving school, was to pursue a medical career and he became apprenticed to Mr. Forster, a surgeon living in Southwell. Later, he changed his mind and decided to follow his brother. He was ordained in 1824 and joined Henry in New Zealand in 1826. He married Jane Nelson in 1825. In April 1859 he was consecrated as the first Bishop of Waiapu.
All the limelight has fallen on the two brothers, Henry and William, but their sister Catherine also emerges as a considerable personality. She maintained a constant correspondence with her brothers and their families in New Zealand and much of what is known about her comes from this source. In addition, she played an active and prominent part in Southwell affairs for more than fifty years but the records there are disappointingly sparse.
Catherine was not yet sixteen when the family moved to Southwell, and she helped her mother with the school. Edward Heathcote, the organist at Southwell Minster, had attracted the admiration of John Marsh, on his several visits to Southwell. In 1817, he fell in love with her older sister, Mary Rebecca, but they were both too young and she rejected his advances. Later, in 1822, Marsh noted that he was now the 'received admirer of my niece Catherine, to whom he had transferred the addresses he had once paid to her Sister Mary (Rebecca). They were not however to be united till he had laid by a competency to begin housekeeping with.' In due course this was happily achieved and Catherine married Edward Heathcote on 9th October 1827, in Southwell Minster, the officiating minister being her brother-in-law, Edward Garrard Marsh. The Heathcotes were a Derbyshire family who were connected with Southwell for three generations. Ralph Heathcote D.D. was appointed canon of Sacrista in the Minster in 1768. His son, the Rev. Godfrey Heathcote lived in Southwell but had no office in the Minster, and Godfreys son, Edward, was appointed Organist and Ruler of the Choir (Rector Chori) on 23rd July 1818.
A short biography of Edward in a book on the Grammar and Song Schools of Southwell, by W. A. James, notes that "When a widow, Catherine kept a school for girls on Burgage Green". Sadly, their life together lasted only a few years. In a letter written to her sister-in-law, Jane Williams, dated 20th January 1835, Catherine reports:
'I have hardly courage & strength of mind to write to you but as it is only childish to defer it I shall make an effort this morning. My present affliction is the early prospect of a separation from my beloved husband who is now on his deathbed. He is not now in a state of suffering & I am told he may yet linger some days, but there appears no hope of his recovery. He is now apparently unconscious of every thing but up to the last day or two his mind had been in so heavenly & submissive a frame that it would seem selfish to wish to detain him though we who love our husbands love their company so well that we do not wish to part with them. The great trial is over; the day after I wrote the above my beloved partner was called to the inheritance of the saints above & his dear spirit left its mortal remains without a sigh. But it is time for me to tell you how this happened. Last summer he had some heavy domestic afflictions which I shall decline entering upon but poor Edward's nerves I am persuaded received their death blow at that time. He did not seem ill and we hoped that in time he would recover from the shock he had received and Edward Garrard being in residence he did everything in his power to soothe him. At last however he sunk under it. He was intending to go to the Birmingham festival by way of a little change and was to pay a visit to Mr Gornelt at Lichfield on his way; every thing was ready but during the night previous to his departure a very bad cough came on with other unpleasant symptons which of course prevented his going. This was the beginning of October & the weather becoming very cold he could only occasionally go out. For some time he seemed to improve & then the least exertion or excitement would make him worse than before; this happened many times every attack being more violent than the preceding one so that at last his dear frame was exhausted. His complaint was considered nervous and ended in a nervous fever. He complained of tightness across the chest, with frequently a cough at night, extreme restlessness so that he scarcely ever slept, difficulty of breathing particularly upon the least exertion & a continual depression of spirits to a very painful degree. Till the end of the year his appetite was good, but when his last attack began that entirely failed & of course his strength rapidly diminished so that at last he was reduced to the greatest state of weakness & to nothing but skin & bone. But as the outer man decayed the inner man became more & more fitted for its great change. He felt persuaded from the first that he should not recover & was much more anxious to be made meet for the inheritance of the saints than as he expressed it to be shipwrecked into life again. He was continually praying particularly that his faith & patience might not fail, and repeating the Psalms, all of which I believe he knew by heart as well as other parts of the Bible and "fear not for I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine," was often on his lips. The greatest professor could not have shown a more pious submission or a more entire dependance on a Saviour than he. He was a person of very superior talent & great originality and as an upright character I think you could not find his equal in this place and of this I think the good people are aware for they seem all anxious to pay every respect to his memory. His poor mother feels his loss very acutely for he was the child to whom she looked for help in time of need, but though others may perhaps feel sorry I do not think any of them knew how to appreciate him when he could be among them. His abilities were certainly above the common order & his knowledge was surprising for he was seldom without a book & his memory was so good that he knew how to make use of the information he obtained. After he became delirious he talked a great deal of you, William, Henry, Marianne, & the mission, said he was going out as a missionary & gave notice of a Missionary meeting. Though he was at the time not himself it showed the bent of his mind even in delirium. He was a dear affectionate fellow & the best of his Father's family and I esteem it a great privilege to have had his society and it is a comfort to me that I have (been) able to administer to his necessities & smoothed his pillow to the last and I shall now hope to be enabled so to follow him that I may be united again with him & our dear mother in a better world.'
Edward died on 23rd January 1835, aged 38, and was buried alongside his mother-in-law, Mary Williams.
After her mother's death, Catherine continued the school started by her mother, moving to Elmfield House, and ran it with formidable ability for the next fifty years, until her death in 1881. Sybil Woods, (a descendant of Henry Williams), in her book Samuel Williams of Te Aute, records that, "Through her competent management of the school and its finances she was able to maintain a constant stream of supplies and monetary gifts to her missionary brothers, and later nephews, in New Zealand, and their families." In another reference to Catherine, she says, ".... hundreds of pounds found their way to New Zealand, either as gifts or in the form of loans to assist her brothers and their children in their missionary work. Much of the money came directly from her but she also interested other well-wishers in the expansion of educational work among the Maoris."
The sums she raised and contributed were, in fact, considerable. Frederick W. Williams records, in Through Ninety Years, that Bishop Williams wrote to her from New Zealand, in a letter dated July 27th 1869: "My mind is just now full of the subject which has been weighing upon me for the last four years, but upon which I have failed to obtain any light; you enclose a letter from Mr. Bowker in which he states 'on December 1st the C.M.S. Committee made a grant of £250 towards repairing the heavy losses of the Bishop of Waiapu. The idea of the Committee was that the Bishop should issue an appeal to the Christian public and head the list of contributions with the C.M.S. grant.'
"Now in order that you may clearly understand the case, I will go back to the beginning of my efforts to obtain assistance." - which he does at some length.
He concludes "In your letter of March 24th you proposed queries about our school which I answered in a letter of May 27th. I am not able to give more particulars of what our intentions are about the school. All depends upon the means which may be provided. At present we have no funds and consequently nothing is being done. ... I will now conclude this wearisome letter hoping that it may please God to put it into the hearts of His people to come forward to our help.
On receipt of Bishop Williams's letter, Mrs. Heathcote published the appeal, and worked with such prompt energy that in addition to earlier private gifts for which he thanked her, the Bishop wrote that on December 24th, 1869, the Secretary of the Church Missionary Society had advised that he had received from Mrs. Heathcote subscriptions amounting to £333 12s., so that including the Society's grant of £250 he could now draw for £583 12s. By the end of September, 1870, the Bishop received further remittances of £800. With the amount now in sight it was decided, after consultation with Archdeacon W.L. Williams and Rev. S. Williams, that a school house and dwelling for a resident master should be built at Te Aute for the Te Aute College, on the understanding that the money now advanced should be repaid by the Trustees of the Te Aute School Estate, which now under the skilful management of Rev. S. Williams, was producing a satisfactory income.
The Bishop thanked his sister on February 20th, 1871, for a further £200, and again on May 25th, 1872, for another £200, which brought the amount of her collections up to £1,533, and he wrote that the Church Missionary Society Committee had granted another £250 which made their share £500, and the full total to that date, £2,033. (Catherine's contribution of £1,533 equates to something over £100,000 at 2008 values.)
Frances Porter, in The Turanga Journals, also pays tribute to Catherine. She writes; 'An indefatigable worker in England for the Turanga mission was William's sister Kate Heathcote; money, clothing, 'useful articles' of every description continually arrived. One of her boxes from England contained a washing machine and another, a sausage making machine.'
Catherine's school maintained a high academic standard. Sybil Woods relates that her grandmother and mother were both educated there and the syllabus included French and German from the age of seven years, Latin and elementary Greek, geography, history, mathematics, botany, astronomy, architecture, drawing, painting, needlework and music. According to the census returns for 1841/51/61/71 & 81, the number of pupils varied between 18 and 23 and were drawn from all parts of the country. Sometime between 1861 and 1871 Catherine took on to her staff a Miss Sarah Gaster, a very talented woman whom she made her deputy. Later, Sarah's sisters Emma and Alice, who taught music, joined the school as well. The Gasters came from the Blackwall area of Middlesex. One intriguing entry in the 1841 census shows Lydia Williams, aged 20, as one of Catherine's assistants. This can only have been Lydia Anne Williams, the second child of her elder brother John, though her date of birth was actually 18th January 1819.
Along with the donations to her family overseas, it is likely that Catherine was instrumental in organising the gift of an organ by John Marsh to the New Zealand mission. Soon after his arrival there, in 1823, Henry Williams was planning to build a church in Paihia. According to his biographer, Hugh Carleton, 'All privations, save one, were borne as though they did not exist. This one thing lacking was a Church for congregational service; .... But Mr Williams aspired to more than a Church; he must needs have an organ within it; and prepared to endow the Church, when it should be built, with as good an instrument as his means would allow. He was saved this expense, by the gift of an organ from his maternal uncle, the father of the Rev. E.G.Marsh.' [Vol I; p.32-3]. Writing to his cousin and brother-in-law, Edward Garrard Marsh, he says 'Our intention is to have a building consecrated for the express purpose of worship; we have the frame prepared, and ready for going up. An organ I will have for it as soon as I can lay by the money.'
The first chapel at Paihia was completed and dedicated in September 1828. [Te Wiremu; p.77].
However, the organ had not been completed and despatched by the time of John Marsh's death in October 1828. In his Will, Marsh left one hundred pounds to Catherine, clearly the favourite amongst his nephews and nieces, but only twenty five pounds each to the others; the legacy to 'my said nephews Henry and William to be expended in a Barrel Organ for psalmody to be sent to them in New Zealand if approved by my Executors and they should be likely to remain there.'
Martin Renshaw, in his treatise on the organs associated with John Marsh, refers to a barrel organ built by Alexander Buckingham in 1829 for 'Mr Heathcote of New Zealand', which was directed to the Rev'd Henry Williams. As Edward Heathcote was the organist at Southwell Minster at that time, and had already supervised work by Buckingham, in 1821 and 1825, on the organ originally installed there, it seems probable that he was given the task of supervising the order for the organ destined for Paihia, and that Catherine then took over the responsibility of ensuring that it reached its intended destination. It is not known how much the organ cost but the price of similar instruments in the late 1840's was around £64, and an additional sum would have been required to ship it out to New Zealand. Richard Hird, of the British Institute of Organ Studies, hazards a guess of nearer £80/90 plus carriage. There can be little doubt that Catherine would have unhesitatingly borne any additional costs over the £50 bequeathed by John Marsh to Henry and William, out of her own bequest.
Some further information provided by Richard Hird tells us that; 'I find in "Buckingham's Travels", an article by L.S.Barnard, in The Organ Vol LIII, No.211  as follows:
.....The [previous] entry is dated 9 December 1828 and there is no entry for 1829 until 6th July when he gives details of a barrel organ he had made for a Mr.Heathcote of New Zealand. It had 28 notes, four stops (Open Diapason, Stopped Diapason, Principal and Fifteenth) and did not begin its long journey for four months: November 11th, 1829. Delivered on board of ship directed to the Revd. Henry Williams, New Zealand......
It would seem from Buckingham's own Notebook that he built this organ for New Zealand.
In a letter to his mother dated 27th August 1830, Henry Williams recounts; 'We were some time before we learned the particulars of the organ. It has come without the slightest injury, and the first evening all were delighted with its sound. It was packed with great judgment, and the directions so simple, that we were not at a loss though entirely ignorant of such things. We have placed it at the end of the chapel, which to us Europeans gives a strong indication of the place we are in.' Marianne Williams, writing shortly afterwards, on 7th September, tells how she learned from a letter written to Henry by his cousin Edward Garrard Marsh that 'the organ, the arrival of which had given such general satisfaction, was, not, as supposed, the subscription one, but from their uncle to Henry and William. This discovery was a most unexpected and gratifying one to us all, and greatly enhanced the value of the organ.' She went on to say, 'All the females as well as males met in the chapel to hear the new organ the first week it arrived, and I was glad the overpowering sensations which its full and melodious sounds produced and all the recollections it roused were a little moderated before the Sabbath.'
In 1850, Henry Williams left Paihia for Pakaraka. Hugh Carleton tells us; 'His first care was to build a church' [p.353]. Lawrence Rogers, in his biography of Henry Williams, Te Wiremu, relates 'His sons busied themselves building a church at Pakaraka. .... The church was dedicated by Henry Williams on 23rd April 1851, .... The organ from Paihia, which had been a personal gift from his brother-in-law's father, was installed in the new church' [p.286]. In 1867 the organ passed into the possession of Henry's eldest son, Edward Marsh Williams, and in 1898 it was given to Edward's son, the Reverend Alfred O. Williams, who was at that time visiting the Bay of Islands with Samuel H Drew, the founder of the Wanganui Museum. Together they brought the organ back to Wanganui.
By this time the organ had suffered severe damage. Drew obviously had great feeling for the organ as he set about to repair it. Once completed, on first playing it in the dead of night on Good Friday 1898, he wrote
"I felt strangely moved at that late hour, to hear the sweet sympathetic tones pour from the old box... the tunes seemed ghostlike and weird. It seemed as tho' the organ had died years ago and yet was speaking its music to me, and me alone..."
A label on the barrel of the organ records further renovations, when it was 'Restored in 1937 by Raynor White, organist, Collegiate School, assisted by Raynor White, organist.' and for five years a recital was held at the Museum each Good Friday. The barrel organ again fell into disrepair and in the mid-1990s a fund raising campaign was started, with a series of concerts, to raise $12,000 NZ to meet the cost. the cost of restoring it once more. A grant of $10,000 NZ was obtained from the Turanga Trust in Napier and the project took two years to complete. The organ arrived back at the museum and was played again for the first time on 1st July 1999. Regular recitals now form a part of the Museum's programme.
The barrel organ is a true pipe organ. A roller is inserted at the back and turned by a handle via a gear. Raised segments of copper on the roller, arranged to produce tunes, operate triggers which enable backfalls and trackers to admit air to the various pipes. Bellows are blown by a foot lever. The barrel organ possesses three rollers which each hold ten tunes.
Catherine also became involved in other ventures. When the family moved to Southwell, the Minster was the only church there and its services were wholly Choral. In the words of a leaflet circulated to all the inhabitants of Southwell on 3rd April 1839, it was admitted "That the Choral Service is not suited to the taste, nor to the understanding of the majority of the people, who are not qualified to appreciate its merits, and that even those who prefer it might be benefited by sometimes hearing the service read in the usual manner." The leaflet proposed that as the population of Southwell was increasing and that a large number were unprovided for in the means for Public Worship, the erection "of a Chapel in some central situation towards Westhorpe" should be considered. The project eventually went ahead and White's 'History Directory and Gazetteer of Nottingham' for 1853 records:-
"A new Church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was erected in Westhorpe, the first stone of which was laid October, 1844; .... at a cost of £2,500, including the site, containing one acre and a half of land, and £1,000 for the endowment; the whole of which was raised by voluntary subscription, towards which Mrs. Heathcote of Southwell gave £2,000, (equivalent to around £140,000 at 2008 values) and H. C. Stenton Esq., £500. .... The Church will accommodate 600 persons, one third of the sittings free and unappropriated, or instead thereof, to be let at such low rents, as the Bishop of the Diocese shall from time to time direct. This certainly is a very desirable improvement, the district having a population of 899 persons." A centenary booklet produced in 1946 gives biographical notes of the first four vicars but the only mention of Catherine Heathcote is the reference in the directory to her part in the fund raising. A more elaborate publication was produced in 1996 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the church's foundation but in the Introduction Catherine still only gets one line, being described as 'a lady of independent means.' She gets a slightly more generous mention later in the booklet but, as her letters to her family in New Zealand record, she was one of the prime movers in its creation. A letter she wrote to her sister-in-law, Jane Williams, in New Zealand, dated 4th December 1845 well illustrates her role in the fund-raising activities; 'But God has given us dear & excellent friends in the neighbourhood who have more than supplied the want of them in the town. Mrs Whelham is a steady friend, not one of those who make a display on a great occasion, but ever kind & ready for every good work. She has been unwearied in her exertions for us, both in contributing & obtaining contributions as well as in giving me every assistance & & countenance. On the 11th of last Aug'st we had a meeting of our Church friends in this house when she made a considerable effort to be present & Col Whelham also. The purpose of the meeting was to consider the state of our funds &c when these dear friends promised to give us £150 in addition to their previous donations making in all upwards of £300 which they have given besides all they have obtained. Mr Ivistern Plumptre also has obtained an immense sum of money for us, £200 since August, besides larger sums before, which is a certain proof of the esteem & respect of his friends or they w'd not have committed so much to him & yet the people here speak in a slighting manner of him: however the reason is that he serves a different master from them for certainly the offence of the Cross has not ceased. Col Whelham's son in law Capt Boddan has been our most stirring friend as one of the Building committee. He lived at Kirklington & will of course be the heir of that property. He cares not what trouble he takes for us & yet our neighbours will not stretch out their little fingers to help us, & would even be glad to hear if the church were tumbling down again. Mr Wylde is one most opposed to us, which we had never anticipated. He has said if he thought we sh'd have such a minister as Mr Plumptre he could not subscribe. We must therefore depend on the Lord who will in his mercy give us more Xtian [Christian] friends.'
Amongst the first Board of Trustees was Catherine's brother-in-law, the Rev. E. G. Marsh. The foreword to the updated history of the church, by the Bishop of Southwell, the Rt. Revd. Patrick Harris, refers to the Evangelical tradition on which it was founded; a theme repeated several times in the descriptions of the tenures of the successive incumbents. Catherine's obituary in the local paper says of her 'She was mainly instrumental in Holy Trinity Church being built, and has been its chief supporter ever since, from which place she will be greatly missed.' The personal imprint of the strongly evangelical convictions of both Catherine and her brother-in-law imbued in the spirit of faith of Holy Trinity could hardly be more marked. Some comments on this theme have been sent to the authors of the commemorative booklet - perhaps Catherine's hugely important role in the genesis of the church, not just its bricks and mortar but in its spirit and character, will receive more adequate recognition in future editions.
In the 1860's, Samuel Williams, (the third child of Henry Williams), and his uncle, Bishop William Williams, had begun to consider a plan for a Maori girls' boarding school in Napier, New Zealand, to match the boys' Te Aute College. When in 1870 Catherine Heathcote offered Samuel £700 raised by her as a gift to build Te Aute College he said: "I will take it (on loan) and I will give a moderate rate of interest on it; but there is another important thing to be taken in hand. That (is) the Hukarere School for the girls." By 1872 he had paid back the whole of this £700 and with Mrs Heathcote's consent the money was used to build Hukarere School on a site given by Bishop Williams not far from his own Napier home.
Catherine Heathcote died on 11th July 1881. She was buried in the same grave as her husband, alongside her mother. The inscription on their tombstone reads:-
SON OF THE
REVD GODFREY HEATHCOTE
AND ANNE HIS WIFE
ORGANIST OF THE COLLEGIATE
CHURCH OF SOUTHWELL
DIED JANUARY 23rd 1835
AGED 38 YEARS
WIDOW OF THE ABOVE
BORN JULY 28th 1797
DIED JULY 11th 1881.
Great peace have they who love thy law. Ps CXIX 16
Her death was noted in the Newark Advertiser dated 13th July 1881, as follows:-
DEATH OF A CHARITABLE LADY
The death of Mrs. Heathcote of Burgage Green took place at her residence early on Monday morning. The deceased lady was 84 years of age and had lived most of her life in Southwell where she was greatly beloved, and up to the last had maintained her faculties. But the extra exertion and excitement after a garden party gave a shock to the system which terminated fatally, in a week. Mrs. Heathcote had successfully conducted one of the largest high class schools in Nottinghamshire for a number of years; and leaves it now in able hands. As a charitable person there was not perhaps her equal. As an earnest and intelligent supporter of the missions cause, she has given hundreds through a course of years; not to this cause alone was she devoted, the Bible Society and other kindred institutions coming in for a large share of her help. She was mainly instrumental in Holy Trinity Church being built, and has been its chief supporter ever since, from which place she will be greatly missed. The poor of the town, especially of Trinity district, have lost a true friend, of whom they mourn the loss. The interment takes place today (Wednesday) at four O'clock at the Collegiate Church, in which her late husband, Mr. Geo. Heathcote, who was formerly organist was buried.
In her will, Catherine Heathcote directed that "I give to Sarah Gaster now residing with me and assisting in my school all my household furniture, plate and plated articles, linen .... china, books, pictures, prints and all other my household goods ...... I also give to the said Sarah Gaster the legacy of Three hundred pounds ...... In case the said Sarah Gaster shall determine to continue my school she shall be at liberty to occupy the said messuage and hereditaments ...... at a rent of sixty pounds a year so long as she shall think proper so to do, and shall keep a school on the premises." When Sarah Gaster finally gave up the school it was to revert to being a private residence, part of the estate of Catherine's late husband's nephew, Chappell Batchelor, of the town of Derby, Gentleman.
Sarah Gaster did, in fact, continue the school until she retired in 1905. Four years after the school closed the former pupils generously gave the stained glass window at the west end as a memorial to their school and as a reminder of the close connection between it and Holy Trinity. According to Canon Ernest Coghill, 'The school for the first 59 years of this Church's existence, was its backbone and its mainstay.' The window carries the inscription 'Old pupils of Elmfield House, Southwell 1846-1905.' The earlier date, 1846, was the date the church was consecrated. The silver alms dish was also a gift from former pupils of the school. In Kelly's Directory for 1908, Miss Gaster is shown as living at Westgate, Southwell, and Elmfield House had become the residence of Dr. Henry Handford M.D. There is another window in Holy Trinity to the memory of Emma and Sarah Gaster and when Emma died, on 12th August 1912, aged 73, she is described in the burial register as of Westgate, so it may be supposed, perhaps, that Sarah and Emma ran the school jointly and then lived together in retirement. Sarah Gaster died on 31st December 1914, aged 77 and is buried at Holy Trinity, though her grave is sadly neglected.
This is not quite the end of the story, however. Sarah Gaster was one of five sisters. Emma has already been mentioned. Another, Louise, married Rev. Arthur Charles Garbett, the second vicar of Holy Trinity. A third sister was Alice, who became a teacher at Elmfield in the 1870's. At the end of that decade, a grandson of Henry Williams, Alfred Owen Williams, came to Ridley Hall, Cambridge, to complete his theological training. He naturally came to Southwell to stay with his great-aunt Catherine Heathcote, met and fell in love with Alice Gaster and married her in Holy Trinity Church in 1881. They returned to New Zealand and had five children, (four sons and one daughter), all of whom were given the second name of Gaster.
Sarah's fourth sister, Agnes, married William Henry Chalk, who became crippled with arthritis at an early age. They had six daughters and one son and, to help her sister, Sarah took all the girls as boarders in her school from the age of five years. One of them, Helen, married the Rev. Ernest Arthur Coghill, the third vicar of Holy Trinity, where he held tenure for fifty one years, from 1890-1941. He lived in some style in the fine old Vicarage opposite the church, where he kept three gardeners, a cook and several housemaids, a governess, a nanny and under-nanny when his children were small, and a liveried coachman to drive his small fleet of carriages.
Holy Trinity Vicarage became a home from home for New Zealand members of the Williams family visiting England and one of these was Wilfred Gaster Williams, the eldest son of Alfred Owen, who, in 1906, also came to Ridley Hall to complete his theological training. He frequently came to stay at Southwell, where he met Madeline Chalk, (Henry and Agnes Chalk's third child), who often used to visit her elder sister, Helen. They fell in love and in 1910 were married in Holy Trinity Church, with a reception afterwards in the Vicarage garden. They returned to New Zealand but when Wilfred Gaster retired in 1950 he came back to England to be with his daughter and son-in-law, Sybil and Sam Woods, who were in this country for a period. (Archdeacon Samuel Woods was a son of the Bishop of Lichfield). Wilfred Gaster died in 1953 and because of the family connections with Holy Trinity, Southwell, it was decided that he should be buried there. His grave is in the plot across the stream running through the churchyard.
There were other visitors to Southwell. William Leonard Williams, the eldest son of William Williams, completed his studies at Magdalen Hall, now Hertford College, Oxford, while his father and mother were in England, and sat for his examinations in June, 1852. After taking his B.A. Degree with honours he offered himself to the Church Missionary Society for service in the New Zealand Mission, and was duly accepted. After taking a course of Theological training at the Church Missionary College at Islington he was admitted to Deacon's Orders by the Bishop of London on March 22nd, 1853.
When visiting his aunt, Catherine Heathcote, at Southwell, Leonard had met the daughters of Mr. J. B. Wanklyn of Halecat, Westmoreland. They had previously been pupils at Catherine Heathcote's School, and two of them at times afterwards used to visit Catherine Heathcote and assist in her work. This acquaintance led later to Leonard's marriage with Miss Sarah Wanklyn, which with the approval of both families was celebrated at Witherslack Church on June 6th, 1853. After the wedding a short honeymoon was spent in the English Lake District.
The school that Mary Williams founded and that was carried on by Catherine and Sarah Gaster, played an important part in the life of the Southwell community for nearly 90 years. There are still many who have recollections of people who were pupils there, and Elmfield House itself still stands. No records of the school and its pupils, (apart from census returns in 1841 and after,) no photographs or other tangible mementoes seem, however, to have survived. Perhaps somewhere, sometime, some will come to light. It deserves to be remembered.
© Nevil Harvey-Williams