by Peter Paul Marshall (Scottish, 1830-1900). Oil on panel (Copyright unknown)
In Scenes of Clerical Life (1858) the author George Eliot asks the reader how the uncharismatic Amos Barton, a curate living in 1820 in the fictional village of Shepperton on an income of £80 a year, could be expected to support a wife and 6 children and live decently in the way expected of a clergyman. Whilst clerical incomes had improved greatly across the previous century, in the 19th century there was still great disparity and they were still regarded as deficient in comparison to middle-class income generally. A typical lower middle-class income range was anywhere from £60 to £200, however many thought that an income of closer to £400 was more suitable as it would situate the clergyman in the ranks of the upper-middle-class professionals. In reality incomes for clergy were as varied as the clergy themselves and depended on parish resources. A “living” (a post for a rector or vicar) would in theory support a wife but a curate without a “living” would find this more challenging and could wait many years before a “living” became available. It was common for members of the clergy to supplement their parish incomes by taking on additional employments associated with the church such as teaching. Inheriting a private income or marrying well, although more common in fiction than reality, could of course be extremely helpful. One of the second generation clergymen in the Victorian Professions Project’s database did just that!
Robert Addison Watson (b.1847. Scarborough) was the son of a Wesleyan Minister, John Watson (b.1801. Hull) and his wife Anne (b.1812. Hickling, Nottinghamshire). Residing in Scarborough and Leeds initially, he was sent away to school in Chalcombe in Somerset. In the 1881 census he is recorded as a curate of St. Mary’s at Taunton, Somerset. He is married to Gertrude Oakes Hardstaff (b. 1858. Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset) – a young woman elevated by her father Henry’s significant change in fortune.
Methodist Henry Hardstaff was a man whose story could have been drawn from the pages of a Victorian novel. Born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire in around 1802, only his mother’s name (Mary Hardstaff) was given on the record of his christening. Henry worked his way up the ranks of domestic servants to become the butler at Hatch Court, a substantial residence in Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset, where he served his master, William Oakes (b.1787. Kirton, Nottinghamshire) for many years.
Photograph of Hatch Court, taken c. 2000
William Oakes owned Hatch Court from 1838 until his death in 1855, aged 68. Hatch Court is a Bath-stone Palladian house built in 1750 by Thomas Prowse. Today it is Grade 1 listed and was valued at £3million back in 2000.* In his will he left his lands, tenements and estates to his much younger second wife Sarah (b.1820. Plymouth), unless that is she remarried. If she married again she would instead have £350 a year and the estate was to be given to Henry Hardstaff, his butler. Clearly widowhood didn’t suit her. Just three years later the Royal Cornwall Gazette (3 Sep 1858) reported that Sarah Oakes (now aged 41) had become Sarah Luscombe, wife of William Luscombe (b.1811. Plymouth), his Netherland’s Majesty’s Vice Consul. In 1861 they can be found living very well in Compton Hall, Plympton, Devon, accompanied by their housekeeper, lady’s maid, two servants and a footman. In addition to her £350 per annum, Sarah did get to keep the deer, horses, carriages, plate, jewels and furniture but these too were to pass to Henry Hardstaff on her death. The executor to the will of William Oakes – the person responsible for making sure this all happened – was Henry Hardstaff himself. When he died in 1872 his probate calendar entry indicates significant wealth with effects ‘under £45,000’i.e. around this figure.
Section of the will of William Oakes
From the perspective of the Victorian Professions team, what happens next is very important. How socially mobile are this family? Do the Hardstaff daughters now marry well and what do the son’s do? Of the elder children, Mary (b.1833. Shirland, Derbyshire) and Catherine Hardstaff (b.1835. Shirland, Derbyshire) were already of full age at 25 and 23 years of age when their father became a landed proprietor. Perhaps their path had already been set? Mary’s fortunes were certainly very different to the rest of her siblings. She had already married grocer and draper, Joseph Pym Turton (b.1824. Ripley, Derbyshire) in 1856 – after William Oakes’ death but before her father inherited the estate. By 1871, the census reveals, Mary and Joseph had 7 children and Joseph was employing 1 man and 1 boy in the shop. By 1891, perhaps in semi-retirement (aged 67), Joseph had become an assistant tea dealer. Their daughters by this time have been sent out to work and are a dressmaker, a small-ware dealer, hosiery runner (x 2) and a milliner’s apprentice respectively. Their remaining son is a surgical appliance maker. The eldest child, Joseph Pym jnr, had already moved on and would eventually emigrate to the US in 1881. He is found in New York in 1910 working as a contractor and in 1925 as a janitor.
In contrast, Mary’s sister Catherine married William Taunton Plowman in 1859. The 1861 census records his occupation as M.D. and General Practitioner (St. Andrews 1854; L.S.A. London 1858). He was the son of Henry Plowman, surgeon (b.1781. Dorset, England). Unfortunately he died at sea in 1865, with his death recorded in Brisbane, Australia. A couple of years earlier, The Courier (Brisbane) reported on a Supreme Court wounding case in which he gave evidence as the surgeon on board the vessel the Young Australian. According to family history sources, returning from a second voyage to Australia in 1865, he left Moreton Bay, Queensland on April 1st onboard the Fieray Star. On the 20th April he abandoned the ship in one of the boats due to a fire and was never seen again! What of William and Catherine’s children? Catherine’s daughter Frances from her first marriage was a lifelong spinster. Her son William died as a baby but she did go on to have other sons with her second husband. Her second husband was a solicitor, James A Rouse (b.1817. St. Breock, Cornwall), and together they lived a little more affluently than her elder sister’s family, with 2-3 servants to assist them. When James died in 1888, he left her an estate of almost £10,000. Their sons Randolphus (b.1872. North Curry, Somerset) and Claud Rufus Algernon (b.1876. North Curry, Somerset) then seem to have lived largely on their own means, themselves leaving healthy estates of over £9000 and £6000 respectively.
Turning to the younger Hardstaff children: Jane was 12 at the time of the inheritance and when she was twenty she married into a professional family, as her sister Catherine had done before her. She became a surgeon’s wife in 1866, marrying Richard Augustus Rouse (b.1833. Great Torrington, Devon). Richard himself was the son of a surgeon and apothecary, Richard B Rouse (b.1801. Great Torrington, Devon). Jane and Richard appear to have lived comfortably with four servants and a groom. After Richard’s death, Jane and her youngest children eventually moved back to live with her brothers at Hatch Court. Her eldest son Richard Henry became a branch bank manager but her younger children, Mary and Augustus William, lived on their own means. [Although it seems likely, it is not clear whether James and Richard Rouse were related.]
Henry Hardstaff’s fourth daughter, Martha Elizabeth (b.1857. Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset) was born around the time of the inheritance and married the up and coming Goodbarne Wilson (b.1855, Taunton, Somerset). Goodbarne was a bank clerk on his way to county bank manager. He was the son of a retired farmer, Rowland Francis Wilson (b.1803. Alford, Lincolnshire.) Martha and Goodbarne’s son Ralph (b.1884. St. Decumans, somerset) himself became a farmer at a young age, rather than following in his father’s footsteps. However it is possible that he inherited the farm and what he did after the 1911 census when he was only in his early twenties is unknown.
Gertrude, who we have already met earlier in this blog post, was the youngest daughter and married into a family of clergymen picked up in the Victorian Professions Project database, with whom we began this story. Robert Addison Watson was a graduate of Queens College, Oxford (M.A.) and his career in the established church brought him to Gertrude’s parish, St. Mary’s in Taunton, as the curate. A gushing description of their June wedding was given over a third of a column in the Taunton Courier in 1881. The ceremony was held at the Hardstaff family home, Hatch Court, where triumphal arches were erected. Her father already having passed away, Gertrude was given away by her brother-in-law, solicitor James Rouse. She wore a dress of ‘cream satin de merveilleux, trimmed with lace and flowers’, with a tulle veil with wreaths of orange blossoms. The presents were ‘numerous and valuable’ and included a bound volume of Tennyson’s poems, hand painted desert dishes and a handsome silver tea service. That evening the event was commemorated by a tea party provided for by the bridegroom for 160 of the poorer parishioners and chorister boys. The couple took a honeymoon in the Channel Islands, after a driving tour of Devon and Cornwall. On his return Robert continued his career, taking up a “living” as the Rector at Slaugham in Sussex. Looking at the census and their probate records, Gertrude and Robert do not appear to have had children.
Calendar of Probate entry for Gertrude Oakes Watson
It would seem that all the Hardstaff daughters married into the professions, ranging from the very well established to the newly professionalized bankers. Holding considerable assets and with an estate to manage but no need to earn a living, The Hardstaff sons could afford to live as gentlemen. It is curious that neither married. Each left a substantial estate on their death: Richard Henry (b.1856. Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset) left £11,201 4s. 2d. in 1891 and William Charles (b.1848. Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset) left £19391 13s. 3d. in 1898. Both estates were proved by their brother-in-law, Goodbarne Wilson, who himself left a tidy fortune.
Calendar of Probate entry for Goodbarne Wilson
Gertrude, the youngest daughter and the clergyman’s wife, seems to have inherited the heart of the Hardstaff estate. When she died in Newton Abbot in 1942, aged 84, she left £42,003 0s. 8d. to her sister Martha’s daughter, Gertrude Victoria Rouse, wife of bank manager Herbert Forster Whitley (b.1874. Bath, Somerset), whose own name pops up frequently in the families probate bequests. Henry Hardstaff’s eldest daughter, Mary, who became the draper’s wife, isn’t found in the probate records and neither is her husband. Perhaps she had little of note to leave.
* Hatch Court is a Bath-stone Palladian house built in 1750 by Thomas Prowse and is now a Grade 1 listed property. Advertised for sale in 2000*, it was priced at £3million and described as having 9 bedrooms, numerous bathrooms, dressing rooms and an orangery, along with 33 acres. Its TV credits include the BBC’s Sense and Sensibility. Hatch Court was sold by the Hardstaff family in 1899. A full description of can be found on the Images of England website: http://www.imagesofengland.org.uk/Details/Default.aspx?id=270804 [Last accessed on 8/1/2015].
* http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/4809479/Good-sense-and-sensibility.html [Last accessed on 8/1/2015].
TNA link to the will of William Oakes: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D42629 [Last accessed on 8/1/2015).
William Taunton Plowman:
The Courier (Brisbane), Wednesday 19 August, 1863. (Last accessed via Trove Digitised Newspapers on 8/1/2015).
Fire on the Fieray Star: http://forums.compuserve.com/n/docs/docDownload.aspx?webtag=ws-genealogy&guid=d0a9640a-c7f1-4b6e-acdf-fb1571465ef6 (Last accessed on 8/1/2015)
Wedding of Gertrude Hardstaff and Robert Addison Watson in the Taunton Courier: ‘Fashionable Marriage at Hatch Beauchamp’ , Taunton Courier, 29 June, 1881, p.6). (Last accessed via www.findmypast.co.uk, 8/1/2015).