Friday, 14 December 2012

Chapter 8. The Living of Rudby-in-Cleveland

The patronage of the living of Rudby-in-Cleveland went with the ownership of the manor of Rudby, but for a time in the early 19th century the advowson of Rudby was in other hands.

Lady Amherst had sold the rectorial rights of the parish to three gentlemen, Edward Wolley or Woolley of York, William Drinkrow of Great Driffield and Thomas Kendall of Gate Fulford [1].

Edward Wolley was an influential York solicitor, Undersheriff of York and Grand Master of the York Grand Lodge of Freemasons.  On coming into a family inheritance, he later changed his name to Copley.  By 1808 he had purchased the manor of Potto, which adjoins Hutton, and also the advowson for Rudby and East Rounton.  He predeceased Lady Amherst by some years, dying before 1819 [2] leaving a young son to inherit his property.

However, it appears that his estate had become the subject of a Chancery case [3], which delayed the grant of Probate for a considerable time.  By 1830 his son Edward Thomas Copley [4] was twenty-eight years old, and may by then have taken charge of his inheritance. 

The Revd Richard Shepherd had come to Hutton Rudby as curate to Mr Grice, and had evidently decided that he would like to stay.  A relation or friend would then have approached the owners of the advowson to buy the next presentation for him.

His sudden illness ten years later at the age of forty-two must have put young Mr Copley and his advisors in a delicate position, because to advertise the failing health of an incumbent was to invite an accusation of simony.

Whilst other landowners would have written off the next sale of the presentation, the Copley estate seems to have acted swiftly to find a purchaser.  Whether this was achieved by an advertisement, the use of clerical agents, or almost fortuitously by news of the possible vacancy passing by word of mouth through friends or advisors, we do not know.

Mr Shepherd made his last entry in the parish registers when he took a baptism on 15 June 1830 and was buried on 18 November, the service being taken by the Stokesley curate.  Some time during the intervening months, and presumably earlier rather than later, James Barlow Hoy bought the next presentation to the living for his brother Robert.

This haste may be part of the explanation for the choice of Rudby.

Whilst the absence of a resident landowner could have been an attraction (for the independently minded) or a deterrent (for those seeking social opportunities or the company of other educated gentlemen), Rudby's position in an out-of-the-way corner of the north, with its main township an industrial and Methodist village with no resident gentry, must have tended to decrease its appeal and consequently its value.  The likelihood of early possession would increase its price – although the current state of the vicar's health was something best left unmentioned. 

The exact monetary value of the living of Rudby in the 19th century is in fact something of a mystery.

The vicar's income came from the stipend paid by the owner of the Rudby estate in lieu of tithes (£40 for Rudby and £3 for Middleton each year), and from the income produced by the land purchased since 1808 with grants made by Queen Anne's Bounty and Parliament – these grants had been established to supplement the value of poor parishes.

In 1808 the incumbent of Rudby, Middleton and East Rounton received an income of approximately £115 [5], which with the later grants seems to have come to about £200 [6], possibly slightly more.

In addition, the incumbent was entitled to surplice fees (for example, 1s 6d per burial, but three shillings for the burial of a Catholic) and the small tithes from Middleton, which were calculated on a scale running from fourpence for each house to one penny for each swarm of bees in the chapelry.  These tithes were hard to extract, and even in Mr Grice's time often went unpaid, sometimes for two years or more.  It was usually possible to come to an agreement with the farmers, but already by 1820 the servants of Middleton were refusing to pay the amount due from them, threepence from each pound of their wages [7].  The vicar of Rudby would be well advised to have a private income of his own. 

It was generally estimated at this time that a yearly income of £150 was the bare minimum for middle-class life, and that a family needed £300 to live respectably in a town, where expenses were higher.  A good urban artisan's wage in 1835 was about a pound a week.  An income of £1,000 put a man at the top end of the middle class.

Clergy incomes varied widely.  A few livings were worth over £1,000 a year, while rather under a third of English benefices brought an income of under £150 [8].  Most clergymen had a private income in addition to their stipends; poor clergymen found themselves not only socially at a disadvantage but also handicapped in their work by their inability to carry out charitable projects.

However, perhaps Robert Barlow was not fully aware of the position in Rudby.  He may have made an impulsive decision to take this living, impelled to hurry by the urgency of the vendors, for whom speed was of the essence.

This rather unseemly haste may have reduced the extent of his enquiries before purchase, and there is indeed an indication in a pamphlet Mr Barlow wrote in 1856 that he and his friends did not look very carefully into the living before buying [9].

Certainly as far as advancement was concerned, there would be no-one useful to impress in Hutton Rudby; a living in a place frequented by the wealthy and influential was necessary to attract favourable attention.  The previous two incumbents had died in post, whilst the Revd Francis Blackburn, vicar from 1774 to 1781, who was the son of the Archdeacon of Cleveland, had moved only to become vicar of Brignall, near Barnard Castle.

Perhaps the main attraction of Rudby for Robert Barlow was the idea of being a rural parson, after spending his youth in Dublin and his curacy in Belfast.  In Rudby he would be able to try his hand at farming, which would give him plenty of opportunities for the sort of practical projects he enjoyed. 

What kind of man was Robert Barlow?  He describes himself in his novel.  As a boy:
Full of life and daring, he was leader of the play amongst a hundred boys; impatient of control, he would admit of no superior; ambitious of distinction and learning, he was content with nothing if anything loftier stood forth for competition …
For nine years, during his days at school and college, he used to get up each morning at five o'clock to read without interruption.  Although combative and determined, he never became involved in fights with the other boys at school.

He took his entry into holy orders with great seriousness:
although devoted to all kinds of sport, yet, from the time of his ordination, he made a resolution, which he afterwards strictly kept, neither to hunt or shoot, not because he condemned these manly sports, but because he was of opinion that it was more becoming in a clergyman to employ his time more usefully and quietly; gardening might suit the taste of some, but the bench of magistrates he greatly objected to as out of character, whilst he strongly recommended to them useful study and plenty of it, as a thing most likely to enlighten their minds …
Not all clergymen agreed with him.

His views may later have put him at odds with his neighbour and rival the Revd Charles Cator, who became Rector of Stokesley in 1835.  It was said of Cator that
he could ride a horse, handle a gun or preach a sermon with any man in England. [10]


[1]  see recitals in deed of 4 Feb 1831, North Riding Deeds Registry FT547.  A Chancery case seems to have arisen, in this or a related manner:  National Archives PROCAT C/13/26/19, in 1803, between William Drinkrow and another v. Sir George Russell, William Danby, Christopher Wyville, Mary Russell, John Russell Greenhill, Edward Wolley and Dowager Lady Amherst

[2]  reference in Yarburgh Muniments, Borthwick Institute

[3]  Will dated 23 Jan 1811, Probate dated 25 Jan 1826, and Chancery case (National Archives PROCAT C/13/540/25) William Farmer v. Ana Copley (widow) and others being the executors and beneficiaries of Copley's Will

[4]  later of Halnaby Hall, Croft-on-Tees

[5]  according to the Rev Graves' history

[6]  Whellan's Directory 1859 puts the value at "about £200". In his history, Canon Atkinson notes (accurately) that Ord stated its value was £185, the York Diocesan Calendar put it at £180, and that in Kelly’s Directory, the "report of its value is very different" at £270. Kelly's value in 1889 of £270 contrasts markedly with the Bulmer Directory's value in 1891 of £180, even given the falling agricultural prices.

[7]  the 'Middleton Book' [Mic 1204] PR/MIL 2-6, NYCRO

[8]  findings of the Ecclesiastical Revenues Commissioners c1830, quoted in The Victorian Clergy by Haig

[9]  "patrons are found actually to sell livings, the incomes of which are almost solely derived from Queen Anne's Bounty": The Queen the Head of the Church 1856

[10]  recollectionsof Mr Tom Tweddell, as recorded in the Northern Echo 29 August 1934, quoted in Stokesley in the 1860s by the Stokesley & District Local History Study Group 1994

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