Saturday, 22 December 2012

Chapter 16. Melancholy Intelligence: the death of James Barlow Hoy

Local life at this period is brought vividly to life in the Stokesley press.

The Stokesley News & Cleveland Reporter was launched by the young George Markham Tweddell in 1842.  It was critical of government and an ardent supporter of the Anti-Corn Law League in a time of deepening recession.  Tweddell's employer William Braithwaite had printed the first two issues for him until Tweddell refused to tone down the political content.  The Cleveland Repertory & Stokesley Advertiser was Braithwaite's response – politically conservative and carrying far fewer political items, it was also a more enlivening read [1]

In their pages we find accounts of local events:  births, deaths and marriages, the Cleveland Cattle Show, the Cleveland Agricultural Society, balls at the Crown in Osmotherley and the Fox and Hounds at Carlton, cricket matches, lectures in favour of teetotalism and against slavery, meetings of the local branches of the Oddfellows Society, visiting circuses, agricultural accidents, the Stokesley and Redcar races, police reports and local and national politics.

Mr Barlow can be spotted at the fifth anniversary meeting of the Cleveland District Committee of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, held in the Great Room of the Mill, the Earl of Zetland presiding [2], and also conducting the funeral service of Jeremiah Raney, landlord of the Wheatsheaf.  As Mr Raney was a member of the Oddfellows, this was extensively reported by George Markham Tweddell, himself an officer of the Cleveland Lodge, and was well attended by members "wearing the usual funeral regalia of the Order" [3]

By 1843 Mr Barlow was ready to undertake a new major project in his parish. 

It was the clergyman's responsibility to provide himself with a parsonage house, but to assist the less wealthy, grants were available from Queen Anne's Bounty.

The position altered somewhat when, in 1838, the Parsonages Act was passed, giving bishops the authority to demand that a parsonage house be built or an existing one repaired, if a living were worth more than £100 a year.  This obliged an absent incumbent to provide a home for his curate, but was a burden on resident clergy without private means.

However, it at least provided for incumbents to raise funds for building.  They were allowed to borrow four times the net value of their benefice, and by 1847 over one million pounds had been lent by Queen Anne's Bounty for this purpose, the loans averaging £666 for each house. [4]  The question of parsonage houses was very much in the air, and only a couple of years earlier one had been built in nearby Osmotherley. 

Robert Barlow decided to arrange an exchange of land between Rudby parish and Middleton chapelry, so he could build his parsonage house in Rudby.  The site was a two-acre close which had been bought on Belbrough Lane with money granted to Middleton, and it was now exchanged for six acres of less valuable land belonging to Rudby.  Confident in his own income and social position, and possibly over-confident from the success of his school project, Mr Barlow planned a gentleman's residence.

Before he could begin work, however, his family were shocked by unexpected news.

James Barlow Hoy had not stood for Parliament in the elections of 1841 and 1842, but it seems likely that he planned to return to public life eventually – in 1839, at the time of the anti-Corn Law agitation, he had published Manufacturers and Corn-Growers: A Letter to the Public, which went into three editions [5].

In the meantime, he seems to have been living pleasantly on his Hampshire estates with his young family.  His summer residence, the Medina Hermitage, was described at the time as
characterized by simplicity and neatness: and its greatest ornament is a large verandah, having a broad trellis roof, beautifully intertwined with the sweetest varieties of climbing plants.  From its very elevated situation, it commands a rich display of the country from Niton to Newport [6].  
In 1843, however, James decided to spend the summer months abroad on a tour of the Continent.  He and his wife – and presumably their daughters – set off in July for the Pyrenees.

They had been gone only a few weeks when a terrible accident occurred.  The following report appeared in the Hampshire Advertiser on Saturday 26 August 1843 [7]:
Affecting Death of James Barlow Hoy, Esq

A feeling of the most intense sorrow was communicated to the town on Wednesday last, by the awful announcement that James Barlow Hoy, esq (for many years M.P for Southampton, and a gentleman of large property in its neighbourhood,) had met with an untimely death by the "bursting" (as erroneously reported) of his gun while shooting. 

The melancholy intelligence of the lamented gentleman's death is, unhappily, too true, and we have taken down the following statement of the shocking occurrence from the dictation of a gentleman, a friend of Mr Barlow Hoy's, who was present at the calamitous accident:-

Mr Hoy had left England a short time since on a tour, for the benefit of his lady's health, to the Bagnieres de Luchon, in the Haute Garonne, and had been residing there about a month, when a shooting excursion was formed, the party consisting of Mr Barlow Hoy, Captain Meredith R.N and five French gentlemen: they had six Chasseurs and three guides also in their party.  It may be here stated that the shooting was arranged to be in the neighbourhood of the Hospice of Vielle [8] (in the Pyrenees, in the province of Catalonia). 

The first day's shooting was on the 9th inst.; on the 12th, being the fourth day, Mrs Hoy was at the Hospice, and the gentlemen had ascended as high as 4000ft above the level of the valley, in pursuit of their game, and on their return divided into two parties, that with Mr Hoy had perhaps descended about a 1000ft when in crossing a ridge of rocks Mr Hoy, in jumping from one to another, slipped his footing, and in grasping the rock to recover himself, his gun fell from his hand and at the same second went off; the muzzle as it were slid down his left arm, the contents unhappily passed through it, close to the elbow, lacerating the arm extensively and cutting the principal blood-vessels, but not breaking any bone.

Captain Meredith instantly applied a tourniquet.  The gallant officer having seen considerable service in the war, and having in duty in boats frequently applied such aids, could do this most effectively by the means of a knotted handkerchief twisted to the extremest tension round the arm with the knot upon the wound.

Chasseurs were sent at the same moment to the adjacent villages in search of surgical assistance, and one of the French gentlemen, the Count de Nicolay, having suggested that Mons: Rue, the most celebrated of the Parisian surgeons, was at that time at Louchon, from whence the party had started, Captain Meredith requested the Count, who was a personal friend of Mons: Rue, to proceed to the Hospice and despatch a messenger for him.

This was done and Mr Hoy conveyed, in the arms and on the shoulders of the guides and chasseurs, with every care and despatch, down the route to the Hospice, a considerable distance and 3000ft descent, under great difficulties from the troublesome nature of the ground.

When arrived on the level road Mr Hoy was sufficiently strong to ride three miles to the Hospice, where Mrs Hoy, who was there waiting, became acquainted with the dreadful accident that had occurred. 

The accident happened at about ten minutes after three, but in spite of every exertion made to obtain it, surgical assistance did not arrive from Vielle till nine o'clock on the following morning; Mon: Rue only reached Vielle when his assistance was too late.

The wound was dressed by ten o'clock and the surgeon, apparently a most expert practitioner, declared that there was no manner of danger.  He was told that there had been a great effusion of blood, but he declared that had not the discharge of so much blood occurred, he might have been compelled to take some from his patient.

Mr Hoy showed, during the time of the dressing great fortitude, strength of voice and collectedness of manner, and after it, laid down to rest.  The surgeon remained in the house, and was called about two hours afterwards by the friends watching, who told him of their apprehensions lest that the tourniquets having been removed on the wound being dressed, they feared that the blood might be again flowing.

An examination took place, when the surgeon again declared that there had been no flow of blood, and that everything was favorable.  Mr Hoy continued his sleep after this, but we regret to state that he only survived the first dressing between four and five hours, dying not so much from the nature of the wound, or the loss of blood, as from the shock the nervous system had received. 

We will not profane the solemnity of the occasion by attempting to describe the grief of Mrs Hoy – she never quitted the body for a second from the moment of Mr Hoy's arrival at the Hospice till on their return she was compelled to have it interred at Toulouse.

James Barlow Hoy, esq.  succeeded to the large property of his uncle [9] Michael Hoy, esq. about sixteen years ago.  His name was Barlow, and by the will of his uncle he took that of Hoy [10].  He was then a surgeon in the Navy [11].

He was a gentleman of great and universal acquirements, and having large estates in the vicinity of Southampton, he contested the town at several elections and represented it in two parliaments, and could have been returned in 1835 but for his absence in Italy, whither he was obliged to sojourn for the recovery of his lady's health.

Mr Hoy was the possessor of the estates of Midanbury, Thornhill, and of others in the Isle of Wight.  He married a daughter [12] of Lady Newbolt, but has left no family [13], except an adopted daughter. 
James had died on Sunday 13 August.  His widow and friends buried him in the Protestant cemetery at Toulouse [14], and returned to England bringing the sad news with them. 

James had made his Will on 18 May 1843, before setting out for the Continent.  He named as his executors his brother Robert, Henry Percy Gordon of Northcourt [15] in the Isle of Wight, esq, and Robert Burleigh Sewell of Newport, Isle of Wight, his solicitor.  The executors were left legacies of £200 each.

His wife was to choose one of his mansion houses – either Thornhill Park or the Hermitage in the Isle of Wight – in which to make her home.  She was to have a life interest in all his "furniture books pictures plate ornaments wines stores carriages horses and other goods and effects whatsoever".

His mother was to live on at Fir Grove for as long as she wished, without paying rent, and was to have an annuity of £130 a year.  His unmarried sisters and his brother Robert were each to have an annuity of £100 a year, and Nanny Vaughan an annuity of £20.

He made careful provision for his adopted daughter, Elencho.  She was to be brought up exactly as if she was his own child, as Louisa's sister, and on reaching twenty-one, or on her earlier marriage, the trustees of the Will were to raise a capital sum of £5,000.  If she remained unmarried, she was to receive the income of this sum for her life, and it was to fall back into the estate on her death.  If she married, the sum was hers.  The trustees could postpone raising the sum, but they were then to pay her an annuity of £200 a year. 

All the remainder of his estate was to be held on trust for his child, or children, but if she, or they, died before reaching the age of twenty-one or marrying, then Robert Barlow was to receive the much larger annuity of £2,000 a year, and the estate was to pass to his nephew Hector Barlow Vaughan.

Marian was to be the guardian of Louisa and Elencho.

He listed the properties that should be sold first, if his trustees found it necessary, and the list gives us a glimpse of this estate that had fallen so magically into the Barlows' lives.

It included houses and land: the Cliff house at Blackgang in the Isle of Wight; the estate at Midanbury; the farms called Kingater and Stockbridge, Isle of Wight; the tithes or payments in lieu of tithes arising from Walpan Farm in the parish of Walpan, Isle of Wight; and the house and lands at Milbrook in the parish of Carisbrook, Isle of Wight.  James had also bought stocks and shares in the Isle of Wight Steam Packet Company, the South of England Steam Vessel Company, the Southampton Gas Company, the Southampton Port Company, the Ryde Gas Company, the Newport Institution and the Drury Lane Theatre. 

The Will was proved in London on 11 December 1843 by Robert Barlow and Robert Burleigh Sewell; Henry Percy Gordon renounced probate.  The gross personalty of the estate amounted to £18,000.

The executor Robert Burleigh Sewell (1809-72) was the son of Thomas Sewell, close friend and advisor to Michael Hoy.  James in his turn had become a friend of the remarkable Sewell family.  Their way of life and High Church tendencies seem a world away from that of Robert Barlow; if James shared them, it explains something of the distance that seems to have developed between James and his family.

Thomas Sewell (1775-1842) was a prominent solicitor in Newport, Isle of Wight, holding several public offices – he was recorder of the borough, steward, deputy governor and twice mayor.   He and his wife had seven sons and five daughters; five of these children merit entries in the 2004 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Thomas Sewell had been a conspicuously successful man, but he lost over £3,000 in the failure of two local banks, and when he died in 1842 he was deeply in debt.  His children decided that, rather than declare insolvency, they would repay the creditors – a task that took them thirty years, and fell more heavily on those of them possessing some financial sense. 

The eldest son, Richard Clarke Sewell (1803-64), was a barrister and writer, reader in law at the university of Melbourne.

The second son William (1805-74) was a prominent Oxford academic and one of the ablest of the early Tractarians.  He was active in establishing St Columba's College at Rathfarnham, which aimed to promote High Church principles and encourage the conversion of Catholics through the use of Gaelic.  His lack of business skill was a significant factor in the college running up a debt of £25,000 within the first four years.  In 1847 he was a founder of St Peter's, Radley, and his ten years as warden left the school with a debt of £28,000.  He was forced to go abroad for a time to avoid his creditors, but the assistance of old friends enabled him to return to England in 1870.

The fourth son was Henry (1807-79), who worked for nearly twenty years in his father's firm.  The deaths of his father and his wife led to him leaving private practice, and eventually living for a time in New Zealand, where he was the country's first prime minister.

The seventh child was James Edwards Sewell (1810-1903), who went to New College as an undergraduate, and apart from his curacy, remained there for the rest of his life, becoming Warden at the age of fifty.

The third daughter was the author Elizabeth Missing Sewell (1815-1906), a High Church writer of children's stories and educational works, some written in collaboration with Charlotte Yonge.

Her sister Ellen (1813-1905) was a writer of hymns; she witnessed James Barlow Hoy's Will.

Robert Burleigh Sewell began work in his father's firm alongside his brother Henry.  After his father's death and Henry's departure, he left the law and between 1853 and 1861 he assisted his brother William in (mis)managing the affairs of Radley College. 

The solicitors of the Sewell family had managed the estates for Michael Hoy and then for James Barlow.  Robert will have drawn up James's Will.

Ann Barlow did not long survive her son.  She died aged 75 the following summer, on 25 June 1844, at Fir Grove.  Nanny, who was living with her, registered the death.  She gave her father's name as "John Barlow, Gentleman", and her mother's cause of death as "Decay of Nature". 

Robert Barlow cannot have expected any problems with his brother's estate.

James had left everything in order before he set off for France – the Will was made, the mansion houses were left in the care of servants.  Farm rents (not including those tied up in the marriage settlement) brought in an income of over £1,600 and the stocks and shares were worth over £11,000 [16]

Possibly the barrister Henry Percy Gordon had some inkling that all was not well, when he presciently declined to act as executor.

Robert being far off in the North Riding of Yorkshire, and the property having been in the management of Robert Burleigh Sewell for some time, it was Sewell who took on the "whole burden and responsibility" of the trusts and was "the acting Trustee and executor" of the estate [17].  This was less than a year after his father had died under a heavy burden of debt.  A third trustee was appointed in November 1843, as was generally considered advisable in such cases.  This was Captain Richard Meredith R.N., who had been with James at the time of his fatal accident. 

Robert Barlow had no reason to suspect anything might be amiss with his brother's estate.  His own position seemed to be unaffected.  It seems that he had always received an allowance from James, as had his sisters, and these were replaced by annuities under the Will.

He was free to carry on with his plans for the vicarage.  He may have hoped that Lord Falkland would pay a proportion of the cost; he may have proceeded on this assumption.  However, Lord Falkland must have been well aware that he was under no obligation to do so, and communication with him can only have been made more difficult by his absence in Nova Scotia.  If Mr Barlow assumed that in this project, as with the building of the school, impetuous changes of plan would be acceptable, he was mistaken.  Lord Falkland made a contribution of £50; this rankled with Mr Barlow for the rest of his life. 

The parsonage house was built outside the village on the road to East Rounton, standing on rising ground with a view across to the Cleveland Hills.  The cost was
£1100, £600 thereof was subscribed by different Societies and individuals and the remaining £500 was given by the Vicar Robert Joseph Barlow [18].  
This cost may have been slightly on the high side, especially given the nature of the village and the fact that building it on glebe land meant a loss of farming income.

At Thirsk, in comparison, a "neat brick building" [19] was erected in 1851 at a cost of £1,365, while in 1846 a "neat cut stone building" [20] was erected for £854 in Great Ayton on a site provided by the patron, George Marwood.

In the previous century, parsonages had been much more modest.  The Brontës' parsonage at Haworth, so often described as small and humble, was built in 1740 and was in fact typical of its time [21].  The style and scale of parsonage houses rose steadily with the rise in status of the clergy, and with it the desire for commodious and gentlemanly dwellings – buildings which, then and later, proved an expensive burden to clergy without a private income.

Robert Barlow's parsonage is typical of this: a large house suitable for his position in life, with a sizeable garden laid out in paths.  It was by far the biggest house in the neighbourhood – except of course for Leven Grove at Skutterskelfe.

Parsonage house, photo by Paul Smith 2006

Meanwhile in Hampshire, Captain Meredith and Mrs Marian Hoy had begun to grow concerned about the winding up of James Barlow Hoy's estate.

Their alarm increased, and eventually in March 1845 a Chancery action was begun in the name of Louisa Barlow Hoy [22].  The Southampton banker Martin Maddison, who had acted as executor to the child's grandmother Mrs Bird, was her "next friend" in the case, which was taken against the executors and the other beneficiaries of her father's estate.  It had become apparent that the estate was encumbered with heavy debts, and the intervention of the Court was needed to establish some balance between the claims of the various beneficiaries and to attempt to safeguard Louisa's position as residuary beneficiary.

This evidently came as a shock to Robert Barlow.

It was to embroil him in lengthy paperwork and a great deal of worry.  He must have found himself obliged to make journeys south, and presumably because of his absences and the burden of work he requested a curate.  Mr Laurence Lawson Brown B.A was instituted on 15 June 1845 [23] on Barlow's nomination at a stipend of £50.  From 20 February 1845 until 1 November 1846 the entries in the Hutton Rudby parish registers were made by other priests, all but a very few by Mr Brown. 

In his Answer to the Bill of Complaint made on Louisa's behalf, Robert Barlow admitted that the management of the estate
does involve many circumstances of difficulty and embarrassment
and that it would be greatly in the interest of the beneficiaries if it was administered by the Court.  He wished accounts to be taken of Robert Sewell's actions and "all improper charges and items disallowed".  But he still believed that his brother's estate was of "a very large Value" and that it would be sufficient in the end to pay all the debts.

Unfortunately, the executors had encountered great difficulty in selling off parts of the estate to pay the debts – Thornhill Park was put up for auction more than once, unsuccessfully – and whatever the suspicions of Sewell's management, disallowing any improper payments he might have made was not going to remedy the situation.

It emerged that although the personal estate of James Barlow Hoy – that is, the contents of the houses, the stocks and shares, money owed on bonds, the leaseholds etc – was valued for probate at £18,000 gross, there was in fact insufficient to pay the debts, and that there were mortgages on the properties amounting to over £58,500.  It was marked in the Death Duty Registers as "Insolvent". 

There would not even be enough money to pay any part of the legacy to Elencho.  Barlow and Sewell had already paid themselves their £200 legacies and the annuitants had received one instalment each when the order was given for the annuities "to stand over till widow's death", in the words of the notes made in the Death Duty Register. 

Robert and his sisters had lost their income from James.  They must have wondered how their brother had found himself under such a heavy burden of debt.

One factor must surely have been the expense of his parliamentary career.  Candidates could expect to spend thousands of pounds in electioneering expenses, and James fought five campaigns in as many years.

Perhaps Robert and his sisters did not even allow themselves to wonder whether James knew the true state of his own affairs.  The property James was free to dispose of by his Will was only part of the wealth he enjoyed.  He and Marian will also have drawn income from the property he settled on her before marriage and from her own inherited property.  A note in the Death Duty Register indicates her income after his death under the marriage settlement was to be £750 a year, which gives an idea of the amount of money involved.  So their joint income may well have been eminently satisfactory in spite of the heavy mortgages, and they probably trusted that the eventual end of the economic depression would bring about a rise in the value of their properties.  After James's death, Marian continued to receive income from the settlements, while her life interest in one of the mansions and its contents will have further tied up trust capital.  It was the other beneficiaries who would feel the loss more keenly.

The Barlows must also have wondered whether Robert Sewell was aware of the true state of affairs.  How had he come to draw up a Will in which the testator's brother was placed in such an unsuitable position?

Robert Barlow had his stipend and the profits from his glebe land together with any income from his wife, but his household evidently relied heavily on the income they received from James.  His position as trustee therefore went against the cardinal principles of the law of Equity – that a trustee must not be in a position where his interest conflicts with his duty, and that he must not profit from the trust.  To make matters worse, it was nearly impossible to treat the beneficiaries with equal fairness when the funds were lacking, and the distance between Yorkshire and Hampshire made it very hard for Robert to maintain the proper vigilant and active role expected of a trustee.

James's Will had included clauses intended to confine each trustee's liability to his own actions and limit his responsibility for the actions of agents and co-trustees, but the Court always took a very strict view of the trustee's duties and Robert's position as a distant trustee for a difficult estate was an uneasy one.  Much of his bitterness towards Marian Hoy must come from the difficult position in which Robert Barlow now found himself.

His bitterness extended to Captain Meredith.  This was increased by the fact that on 2 September 1844, just after the year's mourning was out, Marian Hoy had married Captain Meredith in the fashionable spa of Leamington Priors in Warwickshire [24]

Captain Meredith was an Anglo-Irishman like James Barlow Hoy, and was with him at the time of the fatal accident.  He was evidently an old friend, as he was godfather to the Hoys' daughter Louisa.

A Naval officer, he was born in 1799 and had been made captain in 1837 [25].  He was the great-grandson of William Macgregor, a Jacobite who left Scotland after 1715 and became a Church of England clergyman in New Jersey, using the name Skinner in place of the proscribed clan name Macgregor.  Skinner's son Cortlandt was Attorney-General for New Jersey and then Brigadier-General of the loyalist New Jersey Volunteers during the War of Independence.  Richard Meredith's mother was Cortlandt's daughter Gertrude, and his father a Captain Meredith whose family had property in County Kerry.  His relations consequently extended across England, Ireland and the Atlantic, and some of the family appear to have been Roman Catholic. 

In his novel, Robert Barlow portrayed Captain Meredith as a murderer – in league with James's wife, he attempts to kill his friend on their expedition in the mountains, shoving him sharply in the back as they stood together on one of the peaks.

Some of Robert's hostility may have derived from Meredith's part in precipitating the Chancery case; some may have been a sort of jealousy of his brother's friend.  As for Marian, she had found herself a widow in sudden and frightening circumstances.  She was not yet thirty years old, her parents were dead, she had two young children, her late husband's family were hostile to her – and her brother-in-law was one of her trustees.  She may well have sought refuge with her husband's old friend. 


[1]  The Stokesley News & Cleveland Reporter 1 Nov 1842 to 1 Sep 1844, and The Cleveland Repertory & Stokesley Advertiser 1 Apr 1843 to 1 Oct 1845; British Library microfilm at the Middlesbrough Reference Library

[2]  The Cleveland Repertory 1 Sep 1843

[3]  Stokesley News & Cleveland Reporter 1 Nov 1842

[4]  The English Parish Anthea Jones

[5]  see Thomson Gale website at

[6]  George Brannon's Picture of the Isle of Wight, pub 1843, available online from Project Gutenberg[And now in 2012 at google books.  An engraving of the Hermitage and the Pillar can now be found here]

[7]  supplied by Penny Rudkin of the Special Collections Library, Southampton Reference Library

[8]  in fact, the Hospice de Viella, also known as the hospice de Vielha, hospitau de Vielha or Espitau de Vielha, according to the language of the speaker. "Cet hospice, jadis tenu par des moines, servant de point de repos voyageurs passant entre Catalogne-Aragon (Vall de Barravés) et val d'Aran par le col de Rius …" []
The link is now (2012) to be found here.  There are plenty of photographs of the area to be found now on the internet.

[9]  according to Remarkable but still true, his father's cousin

[10]  apparently as a courtesy, but not required by the Will

[11]  Royal Artillery

[12]  niece

[13]  a daughter, Louisa Barlow Hoy

[14]  Memorial Inscriptions for West End, printed by the West End Local History Society

[15]  later 2nd Baronet, barrister, Deputy Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight, FRS 1830

[16]  Barlow's Answer to the Bill of Complaint in the Chancery case

[17]  ibid

[18]  note of exchange of bounties, 28 Sep 1857, Hutton Rudby terriers, NYCRO

[19]  Bulmers Directory 1891

[20]  Whellans Directory 1859

[21]  cf Irene Collins Jane Austen and the Clergy 1993, and her discussion of William Halfpenny’s Useful Architecture in Twenty-One New Designs for Country Parsonages, Farm Houses and Inns 1752 and Isaac Ware’s Complete Body of Architecture 1756

[22]  National Archives:  J90:  Hoy v Barlow, Wade v Barlow (1845 H.50)

[23]  Borthwick Institute

[24]  from and

[25]  Naval Biographical Dictionary 1849

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