Filleuls past and present
Samuel Edward Valpy Filleul
At the request of my children I have undertaken the task of writing, as far as I am able, the ancient history of our family, and of recording what memoirs I can of our relatives of the last two or three generations.
The short account of the Filleul family given in Payne’s Armorial of Jersey is fairly correct, and the pedigree which he has worked out is also nearly correct. This has been proved and is recorded at the Heralds’ office.
The genealogies of old Jersey families who had any position and owned any property in the Island is easy to prove. When Sir Walter Raleigh was Governor of Jersey in 1602, he established a system for the registration of wills and deeds relating to the sale and purchase of land. Among these are many concerning our ancestors for 300 years past. Besides these public records I have a parcel of parchment deeds and wills relating to transactions concerning the family for about 50 years earlier than the above mentioned date.
They are interesting apart from genealogical considerations, because they are enriched with the autograph signatures and seals of almost all the best known Jerseymen of the past, who were officials or Jurats employed at different times. The de Carterets, Dumaresqs, Le Geyts, Lemprieres, Bandinels, Hamptouns, Godfrays etc, are names frequently endorsing the deeds.
With some of these families the Filleuls intermarried; in fact, in such a little country, almost everybody was related to everybody else. We seem to have arrived in Jersey from the mainland about the year 1435. The earliest known deed relating to the family states that Thomas Le Filleul, the first settler, sold his share of the little family property at Pirou, near Coutances, to his brother John, and he evidently invested the proceeds of the sale in Jersey.
It is very likely that this Thomas first came to Jersey as a soldier in one of the French invasions in Henry VI’s reign. He settled in the parish of St Clement, and from thence the family never moved until Philip Filleul, my great grandfather, sold the ancestral property in the year 1822. Thomas was succeeded by his son Philippot, John followed him, and John his son married Jeanette Averty.
It is from this pair that our genealogy commences seriously, and from this point and on is completely recorded. They flourished in the first half of the 16th Century.
Family visit to Normandy
In July 1902, the year after my father’s death, I took my mother for a little tour in Normandy, with the hope of picking up some information to enrich our family history. We visited Pirou, a village close to the seashore at the back of the sand dunes. We discovered a most romantic old château, surrounded with a moat. It had evidently been a local fortress of some importance years ago. It furnished a knight who took part in the conquest of England, and this hero was rewarded with the gift of Stoke Pero, near Porlock in Somerset.
Among his retainers was probably a Filleul. We found near the castle two ancient little homesteads occupied by Filleuls. One of the proprietors we were fortunate enough to find at home – Pierre le Filleul – and we had a long talk with him. We asked him if he knew how long the Filleuls had been living in Pirou – he replied “we have always been here”. He was a tall handsome and courteous man, quite a creditable person to reckon amongst one’s kindred.
Payne says in his Armorial that the family of Filleul is an offshoot from the Seigneurs of Frèneuse in Normandy. – It is possible but this cannot be proved. In consequence of this legend my grandfather adopted the arms of the Filleuls of Frèneuse, - argent, on a bend gules 3 excallops or.
Among the Cotton manuscript in the British Museum are “Les Armories des gentilhommes de France”. The arms of Vincent Filleul, sieur de grimont Val et de Fresneiye, are there stated to be “D’argent bende de guelles coquilles d’or”. In later times several other families of Filleul in France bore other arms. But ours are the earliest known. This coat of arms has been registered to us at the Heralds’ office, with the difference of “argent and or” instead of “argent” only.
My mother and I then set out to find Frèneuse, and we established ourselves at Rouen for a few days in order to make enquiries. After some disappointments we discovered Frèneuse at last. It lies a few miles out of Rouen, close to the railway station of Tourville, almost adjoining the town racecourse.
Very little of the original building of the old château remains, and it is now transformed into a large farmhouse. We found that in early times one of the Filleuls had risen to the very highest distinction. I believe his name was Nicholas. He devoted himself to a life of usefulness and gave the city a water supply, which is in use to this day. The spring itself bears the name “Fontaine St Filleul”. We found it at the top of St Filleul Street, and close to it is a tiny chapel which he is said to have built.
In consequence of his public spirit and piety he was canonised, and to have a real Saint bearing our name must always be esteemed as a peculiar honour. In the “Story of Rouen” by T A Cook, we learn that afterwards the stream was brought into the Marché aux Veaux, or “Place de la Pucelle” and a new fountain built as a memorial of Jeanne d’Arc, who was burnt on that spot on the 30 May 1431.
We gathered some interesting information from the librarian of the public library. He told us that St Filleul was buried in the great Church of St Maclou, to which is attached one of the most interesting cemeteries in Europe. I think he told us that a Mass was said for his soul there once a year.
The chief burial place of the Seigneurs was at the Abbey of St Trinité du Mont, and there many monuments formerly existed bearing the arms of Filleul. Most of the ancient tombs were long ago broken up and the ground desecrated. But one tomb of the Filleuls is preserved in the museum.
He supplied us with the names of Durant Filleul, Mayor of Rouen in 1268; Jean Filleul in 1289; Vincent Filleul in 1296; Enguerrant Filleul in another year; Raoul Filleul in 1309; Jean Filleul in 1332 and 1341; Amauri Filleul in 1353; Jacques Filleul in 1364; and Jean Filleul in 1404. No portraits of these city fathers are known to exist.
Amauri Filleul was sent to England with John Mustel as a hostage for John King of France, who had been captured by the English at the battle of Poitiers. They died in exile. Amauri and Jean, his brother, were both distinguished for their piety and good works. They were founders of a religious house, the Priory of the Filles-Dieu, and in the chapel which they endowed, masses were to be said for their souls twice a year by the priest of St Eloi.
The Seigneurie of Frèneuse was held by Jaques Filleul in 1406. He was grandson of Amauri and also of John Mustel on his mother’s side. The last record that I could find of the Seigneurs was of Louis Filleul, Sieur de Frèneuse, who in 1570 exercised the right that he inherited of presentation to the chapelry of the Abbey of the Filles Dieu. The family has had no connection with Frèneuse for a long while, though the name is till to be found in Rouen, and in other parts of Normandy.
A friend in searching the Calendar of the Norman Rolls in one of the Government offices, told me that there were many records of Filleuls to be found there, and sent me as examples
- 26 May 1420, grant to Robert Filleul and Joan d’Estramont his wife of the lands they held before 1 August 1417, also livery to the same of the lands of Ricardine de Prestreval mother of the said Robert.
- 1 January 1420, Rouen – presentation of Reginald Filleul to the Vicarage in the collegiate Church of St Mary of Nantes, vice Guillerin Gooselin, deceased.
- 4 October 1421, Melun – grant to John Filleul, of Rouen, of the lands he held before 1 August 1417. *10 May 1422, Caen - presentation of Thomas Filleul to the Church of St Lawrence de Cheynéduit de grays in the diocese of Lisieux, vice John Samdry.
- 26 January 1422, Rouen – Safe conduct for James Filleul coming to the King.
- 11 May, Vernon Castle – License to Robert Filleul and Joan D’Estramont, wards of the King to marry.
There have been always some of the name before the public eye. In Four Fascinating French Women by L Beurne, 1910, the life tale is told of Adelaide Filleul, Comtesse de Flahout Marquise de Souza. In another book recently published - Women painters - the art of Madame Filleul is described. There is also a sculptor of the name; an instance of his work is the statue of Pierre Belon at Le Mans. In addition to the honour of there being a Saint in our name there has also been a martyr – John Filleul – who suffered as a Protestant and was burnt to death at Nevers in the year 1554.
Now I should like to recall how these Norman worthies ever came to Rouen, and to account for the name we bear – Filleul or Le Filleul, “the godson”.
There can be little doubt that their ancestors were among the Norwegian Viking warriors who accompanied the great Rollo (Raoul, Rou or Rolph) on his piratical excursions from the East. This prince was worthy of respect, being so tall that his feet touched the ground on either side of the horse that he rode. He was ambitious of making a home somewhere in the fertile lands which he periodically ravaged.
The legend preserved in our family is that a King or Duke stood as sponsor for the first to bear the name. It is possible that Rollo himself rewarded the bold act of his follower by standing as his godfather.
Filleuls in England
A large section of the history deals with the Filleul family in England, but we have omitted it because the writer did not establish a link to the Jersey family.
Filleuls in Jersey
I will now leave the subject of the early history of the Filleuls, and chronicle the few facts that I have been able to gather relating to our known ancestors and kindred in Jersey. The genealogy in Payne’s Armorial of Jersey begins with Jean Filleul. who married Jenette, daughter, not of John, but of Hugh Averty. This Jean Filleul must have died circa 1583, and his wife Jenette circa 1589.
Jean is described in one of our early deeds as fils Jean, fils Philippot. Philippot was the son of Thomas, the first settler of our name in Jersey. In the early deed alluded to at the beginning, the brother of Thomas who remained at Pirou is called Jean Le Filleul jnr. This establishes the fact that their father’s name was Jean, and so we are able to supply the Christian name of a forefather who was born at Pirou in Normandy about 1375 or a little earlier.
The eldest son of Jean and Jenette was Thomas, the ancestor probably of the Grouville Filleuls, the second son was Magdolain, and the third Francis. We are descended from Francois, and in consequence we have given the name of Francis to our fourth boy; our fourth girl takes her name from Jenette, the earliest mother known by name in our family.
Francois Filleul married Mathie, daughter of Macye Canyvet. Macy, or Macye, is the Norman French for Matthew, and Mathie is the feminine form of Macye, equivalent to Martha. This branch of our family took firm root in the parish of St Clement. By the number of old deeds in which Francis was concerned, I should think that he must have been successful in business, and he must have laid the foundations of the house in which my forefathers lived for over three centuries. No doubt they steadily increased their property and enlarged their borders until they were possessors of quite a considerable estate as Jersey estates go.
I remember as a child seeing the old family house in its original form. It was a long low two-storey house built of granite, with farm buildings attached to the farther end and at the rear. The principal entrance was at the back of the house, leading into the farmyard. The gate was swung between two granite built piers with a large stone ball on the top of each.
Part of the property was enclosed by solid walls, and they are quite a feature of the place. There is a stone built into the wall close to the house, vertically inserted, which bears the date 1680. This may mark the age of the walls, but not of the house, part of it is probably considerably older than this.
These walls rather point to the practical character of the early Filleuls, for I have read in a Jersey history that it was estimated that about a third of the land was taken up with hedgerows. No doubt the constant subdivision of estates was the cause of a great multiplication of fences, and such a waste of ground was not tolerated on the Filleul farm.
The old house was altered slightly and a new roof put on somewhere between 1880 and 1890, but my mother did a sketch of the original house, which will always be an interesting memorial of the old family wigwam, vacated by my great grandfather in 1822. The property was a part of the fief Crapedoit in the vingtaine of Samarès.
The house was sometimes known by the name of Maupertuis; the Chemin de Maupertuis runs past the house. Other Filleuls lived at la Maison du Haguais, the chief house in the village of that name near by. Maupertuis is about a quarter of a mile south of the Samares Railway Station, and is now called “Le Vallon”, a modern name given to it by a Mr Mutton, retired butcher, who is the present owner. A Mr Charles Coutanche was the purchaser at the sale in 1822, I believe.
The large collection of old deeds to which I have before referred record various purchases and inheritances from 1573 and onward. Value was not always estimated in cash, but often in kind, and charges of this nature, called rentes, frequently changed hands. They were similar to ground rents.
My brother and I own at the present time a small residue of the Jersey property inherited from our father in this form, which was left unrealised, as being too small I suppose to deal with. Occasionally we get a few pounds when the lawyer has been successful in collecting these rentes. Some pay us annually the equivalent of a pair of fowls, the price being commuted to current value of the day I think; another pays the value of so many cabots of wheat or barley, and so on.
In all the value of some ten or twelve charges of this kind amounts to under £2 a year. They are difficult to collect, and when the debtors refuse to pay it is not worth the expense of going to law, so they are likely to lapse. We have tried to get an offer for the lot in vain, and the expense of transfer would almost eat up the whole of the small capital value. In 1917, we managed to sell this interesting property and received £16 18s 4d as the proceeds, and now we no longer possess stick or stone in Jersey.
Francis and Mathie Filleul had four children; Clement, Jean, Collette and Marie. Clement was the eldest son. This is a fact established in the Court Rolls, and corrects the pedigree in Payne’s Armorial. We are descended from Jean, the second son, who married Marie le Baillif. He was Diacre, or Deacon of St Clement , a lay officer of the church whose duty was to collect alms for the poor at the church door after divine service. It was an office created at the time of the Reformation, but it ceased when the Canons of James 1 were adopted in 1623.
So Jean Filleul must have been one of the last who bore the title of Diacre. He was a Royalist, and must have been the Jean Filleul appointed with others of the ‘well affected’ by the Royal Commissioners “to discover all goods and chattels and real estate belonging to Henry Dumaresq, Michel Lempriere, and others”, who were convicted of treason. He would therefore have been among those who supported the Declaration of Charles II as King of Jersey in 1645, at the time when this loyal Duchy was the only part of his kingdom that Charles possessed.
Jean and Marie’s eldest son was Philippe, and ever since there has been an unbroken line of eldest sons bearing the name of Philippe. My elder brother’s firstborn is the ninth in succession. It is worthy of note that previous to my father the Philippes were only sons for two or three generations. Therefore other Filleuls that sprang originally from the same stock, such as the Grouville Filleuls, must be very distantly related to us indeed. Our cousins in new Zealand are our only real relations bearing the same name.
Several of our forefathers were officers in the Royal Jersey Militia. I have eight of their commissions held under George I, II and III, among the family papers, and several of them were Constables of St Clement, that is, they represented the parish in the States or Jersey parliament.
Capt Philip Filleul took part in the events of that glorious day for Jersey in January 1781, when they successfully resisted a French invasion led by Baron de Rullecourt. As the landing of the French army was effected on the shore within a mile or two of my great great grandfather’s house, he was no doubt engaged in that part of the field and did not take part in the fight in the square of St Helier.
The large line engraving which hangs in my room entitled “The Death of Major Peirson”, commonly known as “The Battle of Jersey”, is after the great picture in the National Gallery by Copley. The sword which hangs over it is not the one borne by Capt Philippe Filleul, but was used by another officer fighting that day, and was given me by a friend in Jersey who had no particular interest in it.
I have Philippe Filleul’s Commission to Captaincy of the 3rd or East Regiment, dated 2 December 1770. One of our connections had the honour of manning the little vessel that bore the good news of the victory over to England. In the report of the Committee of Defence, the payment of 13 Guineas is ordered to Thomas Filleul and the five men with him for this service. The last survivor of these brave defenders of the Island was Elie Jean Filleul, “the Jersey Patriarch”, who died in December 1851, aged 102. An account of him with his portrait appeared in the Illustrated London News just after his death.
If it were not for the fact of his having played so creditable a part in the war in his early years I should hardly have liked to claim him as a connection, for he is said to have been of a “social and jovial turn” and scouted the notion that “teetotalism is conducive to long life”’ His portrait can be seen in my Illustrated Book of Jersey. One Mary Filleul of ours was married to Philip Hardy or Le Hardy, and became the mother of Admiral Sir Charles Hardy, one of the Lords of the Admiralty who died in 1744, and was grandmother of another Admiral Sir Charles Hardy, Commander of the Channel Fleet in 1779. He had been Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Newfoundland, and in 1755, held the appointment of Governor of New York. He died in 1760.
My great grandfather, Philippe Filleul, broke up the old family home and sold it in 1822. I believe that his love of brandy, a weakness very common among Jerseymen, brought him to ruin. He retired to a little house in Trinity, died at the age of 72, and was buried there on 15 July 1836. He was Lieutenant in the Militia, and held the appointment of Chief of Batteries.
The only local information that I have been able to get about him was that he died with a wonderful set of teeth of his own in his head, all perfect. He had a good wife Ann Mourant, and left an only son my grandfather, and three daughters, two of whom married.
My grandfather, of course, I remember well. Though not handsome, he was a fine upright man, 5 ft 10 in in height and dignified in appearance. He could talk and preach in French as easily as in English. He was Rector of several Churches in the Island, beginning at St Brelade , and ending with St Helier, where he was Rector, Vice Dean for 25 years and acting Dean for ten years.
I remember the stately morning service in that church when the Governor and his suite used to attend in uniform. I think the services then were all in French. Some years later the morning service was conducted in English and the evening service in French. I have heard my father read prayers in French, but he never preached in that language.
According to custom the Deanery should have gone to the Rector of St Helier, but when my grandfather was appointed, the office of Dean was given to the Rev William Corbet Le Breton, Rector of St Saviour; he was father of Mrs Langtry, actress, the “Jersey Lily”. My aunt, Anne Penelope, was rather fond of this young lady when she was a girl in Jersey. I have a short memoir of my grandfather in my father’s handwriting which is worth reproducing:
- “Born in Jersey in the St Clement home in 1793 he took a scholarship at Pembroke College, Oxford, and passed out with an honorary class in Classics. His first curacy was that of Le Foret in Guernsey (under, I believe, an uncle on his mother’s side, the Rev Edward Mourant). Then he returned to Jersey and became curate of St John. His earnestness and power as a preacher very soon attracted attention, so much so that in the year 1818 he was summoned to preach before HRH the Duke of Sussex, who was on a visit to the Island, by the Lieut-Governor. He was appointed to the Rectory of St Brelade in 1818, and was married there in 1823: (My father once showed me the house in which he, himself, was born, facing St Aubin’s quay; called Bulwark House, it is not the present Rectory) In 1829, he went to St Peter, and to St Saviour in 1848, and on the death of Dean Hemery, to St Helier in 1850. His appointment to the town parish was one of the last acts of the Governor, Field Marshall Lord Beresford, who expected him also to be made Dean. But the appointment to this office rested with the English Government, and it yielded to the pressure of the inveterate hostility of the Island non-conformists, which had been aroused by a course of sermons he had preached against their views, published in 1848, and by a tract that he had circulated entitled Christ est il divise. So, to placate them, the Deanery was not given to him, and for 26 years the Rectory and the Deanery were separated for the first time and probably for the last time in history. The new Dean, the Rev William Corbet Le Breton, reunited the two offices on succeeding to the Rectory in 1875. Mr Filleul’s efforts had led to the closing of one chapel, and the non-conformists never forgave him for his exposition of their errors. His work when Rector of St Helier of procuring the subdivision of his huge parish, not entirely appreciated by the local politicians of the time, is well-known. The separate districts of St Simon’s and St Andrew’s are a monument to his labours. He followed the policy of a predecessor, Dean Jeune (afterwards Bishop of Peterborough), who had carved out the separate parish of St Luke.”
On leaving St Peter after 19 years work, two pieces of Church plate were dedicated, and I believe inscribed to his memory, and are still in use. Two or three volumes of sermons by him were printed. One I have seen was on the subject of Justification by Faith, and another on Schism. They appear to be rather heavy and long, and I have never ventured an attempt to read them. This would have been the verdict of my juvenile judgment upon sermons of his that I didn’t listen to in St Helier’s Church.
New Zealand sheep project
He took a large part in the affairs of the country, as one of the 12 Rectors he had a seat in the States, and I have heard exercised great influence there. One of the great schemes of my grandfather’s life was the enrichment of his family and friends, and the better endowment of the Jersey churches through New Zealand sheep farming. My two uncles, his younger sons, William and Richard, together with other friends and Valpy cousins, started a most successful enterprise in the neighbourhood of Oamaru, Otago province.
They rented a vast tract of land, the best in the country, from Government, with the option of purchase at a certain price, on a fixed date. The sheep multiplied prodigiously, and at first when the price of wool was high, a fortune was in sight. My brother and I were given a ewe lamb each as a share in the venture, and I remember our elation at the news that our flocks had grown to 70 to 80 head each, in one of the last despatches that came.
My grandfather invited his friends to put their money into his hands, and arranged for a share of the profits to be devoted to the endowment of the churches. For a while all went well, and my grandfather was the most popular man in the island. But disasters came, the price of wool fell, floods destroyed large numbers of sheep, and bad debts were incurred: then the inflated dividends ceased, and my poor grandfather was overwhelmed with abuse and unkindness. So mean was the conduct of his former friends that they incited the boys to shout “Baa” at him when he appeared in the streets of St Helier. After great anxiety, and with care and good management, a little was saved out of the wreck, and before he died he was able to pay off every creditor in full with five per cent interest at a cost of £15,230.
A little was left for the family, and a small fund was established amounting to over £1,000, the interest of which goes to the Jersey churches. This fund is called “The Filleul Church-Endowment Fund in Jersey”.
Through incredible carelessness my uncles and their friends lost their splendid run. Though the money was ready for the purchase, the matter was neglected, the fateful day passed and they lost their golden opportunity. The run was known as Papakaio, it was close the Waitaki River, and embraced I believe the whole of the ground on which Oamaru is built.
I visited New Zealand in 1890, when my uncle William was living in Oamaru. He had given up business life, for which he was not altogether fitted, and had entered the Civil Service and was Town Clerk of Oamaru. I remember him taking me outside the town and pointing to a pleasant looking bungalow on a hillside far away. He said: “That is where we used to live, my old shepherd owns it now.” It was rather pathetic.
The portion of my grandfather’s property which my father inherited was well managed by my uncle William as long as he lived. Then a scatter-brained lawyer took charge of things, and involved all badly with his own affairs, which were rashly speculative. Finally all was sold, and before my mother’s death, after years of worry which chiefly fell upon me, the whole matter was settled up.
The Filleuls have left a permanent mark upon New Zealand, apart from their pioneer work in sheep farming; visitors to Dunedin in the South Island will find that part of the main street of the town is called Filleul Street. I think that my grandfather owned at one time a number of sections of building land there.
I must say something about my Jersey grandmother’s family. She was a daughter of Dr Richard Valpy, the son of a Jerseyman, Richard Valpy and Catherine Chevallier. He made a name for himself as a great schoolmaster. An account of his life can be read in the Dictionary of National Biography. His genealogy is in Payne’s Armorial.
He was a successful teacher, and besides being a scholar, was a great disciplinarian, holding the reputation of having been a hard flogger. He taught a large number of leading men of the day at Reading School and kept up friendships with many of them. He published several well-known school books, as did also his brother Edward, who assisted him at Reading. He gave up work in 1830 after 50 years there. He was succeeded by his youngest son Francis Edward, who was a good scholar, but no schoolmaster, and in a short while the numbers of the school fell from 200 to 30 boys.
It is said that he twice refused a bishopric. He must have collected a valuable library of books, for I picked up a catalogue of his sale with the prices marked, it took several days and realised a large sum of money, though nothing approaching what it would have fetched today. I have heard that he was nearly blind at last, and this led to his selling his library in his lifetime. He died at the age of eighty-two.
He married first one of the Guernsey Careys and she left one daughter. Then he married Mary Benwell, and by her had six sons and four daughters. She was daughter of Mr Benwell of Caversham, close to Reading, and sister of William Benwell, one of her husband’s most distinguished pupils. His poems spoken on public occasions at Reading School are preserved in a volume published in 1804.
He must have made a considerable fortune by his school, as he left large legacies to his children, my grandmother I think had £20,000. My father told me that he had £50,000 of bad debts among his pupils at Reading.
The only personal reminiscence of him that I can give is that my father remembers being taken to pay a visit to him, when he was a very small boy; the Doctor said to him: “and now Master Philip let me hear if you can conjugate”. When my father did this correctly, his grandfather gave him a sovereign.
Philip Valpy Mourant Filleul
My father was born at St Brelade on 26 August 1824, when my grandfather was Rector of the parish. The only incident of his early life at home in Jersey that I remember hearing was that he used to be sent sometimes to the farms in the parish to see how many little pigs the old sow had got, and what number of chickens there were in the yard, with a view to obtaining the tithe pig or fowl, and that he detested the job.
He was sent to school, first to Christ’s Hospital in London at the age of twelve, in 1836, and wore the long blue coat and yellow stockings which was their uniform. The following year he was among the group of boys that stood on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral for the Coronation of Queen Victoria, and in consequence he was able to preach a very interesting sermon in All Saints’ Church, which was printed, on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen in 1897, recalling his memories of the day.
There were some wealthy families of Valpy and Shuter cousins living in London then who were kind to him, but it was an awful banishment. They had holidays once a year, and the journey by coach and sailing boat was long and uncertain. He used to tell us of the hardships of the rough school life of those days, and of the miseries of the travelling. Once he was very hungry, and as they stopped to change horses he went into the inn, and following the example of others, he asked for beer, and put down six pence. He was served with a huge pot of beer which he bravely tackled. But drink as deep as he could he failed to empty it, and finally staggered back to his seat on the coach not feeling much better for this kind of refreshment. He used to say that it was the only time he was drunk in his life. I am sure he will be forgiven for it.
After a year or two he went on to Reading School. Old Dr Valpy was no longer the headmaster; his son Francis Edward carried it on with poor success. However, my father got a fair education there, and went on to Wadham College, Oxford.
His first and only curacy was under Dr Ogilvy at Ross-on-Wye, and he held it for five and a half years. He made a great many friends there, among the best were the Bernards, who lived at Over-Ross, about a mile out of the town. It was at their house that he met my mother, and he became engaged to her while curate there.
In 1853 my father accepted the offer of the wardenship of Christ’s College, Tasmania, then called Van Dieman’s land. Miss Girdlestone, my mother, determined to cast in her lot with him, though she was the only child and her mother a widow. They were married from a cousin’s house (Dr Mountain) at Blunham in Bedfordshire on 27 August, and three weeks later set sail from Plymouth in the “Anglesea”. I never saw my Girdlestone grandmother, Amelia; she died while my mother was in Tasmania.
They had a fair voyage, arriving at their destination by the middle of December, and soon settled down to their work at Christ’s College. It was in the country, at Bishopsbourne, some 15 miles south of Launceston. The college was closed when my father resigned in 1857, and was re-established some years later at Hobart. This institution had been founded for the education of the sons of settlers in 1846.
It was in very low waters financially, and though my father toiled with sometimes good and sometimes inefficient helpers to pull it round, he failed to do so. He made £250 one year by the sale of apples alone, and covered the deficit of that year by the sale of fruit from the garden and orchard. It fetched a high price for export to the Ballarat goldfields.
My parents made many devoted friends among the settlers. I remember the names of the Hentys and Tooseys and Crears especially. My elder brother was born unexpectedly at Clynevale, the Crears’ station; I was born at the college. My mother hated the dreariness of that outlandish country and the banishment from home. My father would have enjoyed it if there had been any hope of success.
He made a first rate colonist, gardening and farming, doctoring and building, filled up his spare time to the full. They had none but convict servants at first, many of them were excellent. My father was always neat in his dress, and he told me that when they arrived in Tasmania and met the trustees or officials of the college, one of them patted him on the back and said: “My dear fellow, your coat will save the college.”
This reminds me that he always wore a top hat in the early years of my recollection, not only on Sundays, but on weekdays, not only at weddings and funerals, but also when gardening or attending to his bees. He used to boast that he had travelled round the world in a top hat, and that while everyone else had lost their caps or hats on board ship – he had never lost his.
Our party of four sailed home by way of Cape Horn in the Avon and arrived in England without any mishaps in the early days of 1858.
We were welcomed to the house of my mother’s eldest and most attached half brother, Charles Girdlestone, who had retired from his parish of Kingswinford in Staffordshire to Weston-super-mare. Her half sister, my Aunt Charlotte, lived close by. The little parish of Biddisham, about ten miles away, had just lost its Rector, and the patron, the Bishop of London, offered it to my father. He accepted it and there worked for 38 years.