Friday, 4 January 2013

Chapter 23. "The old vicar of Rudby has gone to his well-earned rest"

Life in the vicarage must have grown more lonely for Mr Barlow in the years following Nanny's death. 

His sister Mary Sophia was suffering from dementia and died aged 78 of "Senile Decay" on 17 September 1873.  She was followed six months later on 7 March 1874 by her sister Isabella, whose cause of death was registered as "General Debility" at the age of 74. 

As before, it was not Mr Barlow who registered their deaths.  Mary's was registered by Christopher Garbutt, the joiner and publican of the King's Head, and Isabella's by the joiner Alvey Kay – they had presumably supplied the coffins and were acting as undertakers. 

The sisters were buried in the family vault and a memorial tablet was placed on the church wall near the door.  Hector Vaughan possibly contributed to the cost of this, which gives full details of his father – it can be seen that Mr Barlow employed the Latin version of the degree of Master of Arts.  The lettering was apparently in gold, although no trace of this remains: 


Now Robert was alone in the vicarage.  He had his friends and regular consultations with his curate George Sanger, and he was still active, as his notebook shows. 

Under "Paid out by me for Church 1874-75" he includes:
Nails and cord            1 – 2
Cover for harmonium  3 – 6
Washing surplice         3 – 0
large staple                 0 – 2
altering Cushions
In 1875 he gave two shillings from the Sacrament money to a "Lame Girl", and even as late as February 1876 he was walking across Belle Vue Farm to reach his glebe land on Parsons Back Lane:
Crossed Rickatson farm to mine by the old style in October 1875 and again on the 1st of February 1876 each time pulling up thorns that were put in the old style
R J Barlow  Feby 4 – 76
No accounts survive of church life in Hutton Rudby at the time.

The Stokesley, Whorlton & Ingleby Parish Magazine of 1876 shows that in Stokesley there were now a full range of services – on Sundays and Saints' Days, with Daily Prayer twice a week, and a weekly service at the Workhouse.  There were Bible Classes, Mothers' Meetings, "working parties at the Rectory" and catechising at church on Sunday afternoons. 

Mr Barlow would not have approved of their High Church tendencies, but perhaps he might have come round to the idea of Harvest Festivals.

Thirty years had passed since their reinvention by the eccentric High Church clergyman Robert Stephen Hawker of Morwenstow, and their popularity had spread steadily throughout the church – by the 1890s the congregation of Hutton Rudby certainly much enjoyed them.  At the Stokesley Harvest Festival in 1876,
the church had been most tastefully decorated by ladies' hands, and never looked so well before, 
while at Whorlton the Harvest Thanksgiving with "special psalms and hymns" was "well sung by the choir".  At Ingleby Greenhow,
parishioners were most liberal in their offerings of flowers and corn, and the decorations were pronounced quite equal to those of previous years.  The psalms were well chanted by the choir.  
In the evening they held a concert. 

Parish activities were growing locally.  As the vestry lost its powers to central government, it seems people increasingly joined in voluntary organisations to improve their communities.

At Whorlton, the children of the Sunday School had a Summer Treat, while Ingleby had a new Parish Library with "nearly 300 well selected volumes" at a subscription of one shilling a year, as well as a Clothing Club.

At Swainby, a Reading Room had been opened.  There were two rooms, one for games of draughts, chess, dominoes and so forth, and the other for reading.  For a subscription of twopence a week, or two shillings a quarter, readers were provided with daily and weekly papers, and monthly magazines.

Hutton Rudby was to have its own Mechanics Institute, with Reading Room and Library, in North End.

However, Mr Barlow's days of innovation and expansion in Hutton Rudby were well past, and in 1876 he suffered a stroke on his way home from taking Sunday service at Rudby [1].  It left him mentally unaffected, but physically he was no longer able to carry out his duties.  George Sanger will have taken on a greater amount of work, and must have spent more time with the old man, listening to his stories. 

Not long afterwards, George Sanger conceived a remarkable project of his own, perhaps inspired by Mr Barlow's tales and the example of his work on the church, school and parsonage house.

Mr Sanger's idea was even more ambitious – he would rebuild the church.

The old church at Carlton had been described in 1846 by Ord [2] as having a Norman-style tower with a thatched nave and chancel, in all "little better than a shepherd’s hut" – and, oddly, by White’s Directory in 1840 as a "neat modern structure".

Mr Sanger took the old church down and began to replace it with one of his own design, acting as "his own contractor, clerk of works, master mason, and foreman carver" [3].  Money was raised by subscriptions from the public, with many local notables contributing, and from fund-raising locally – Mr Sanger himself raised £30 towards the cost by binding books. 

By 1878 Mr Barlow was very frail and on Sunday 23 June 1878 he died.

At his deathbed was his "cousin" James Stanger, now farming at Kirby Sigston Lodge.  Perhaps he was there by chance – or perhaps someone had sent for him.  Three days later he registered the death with Joseph Mease, the registrar – it had been certified by young Dr Dale as due to "disease of liver / chronic congestion of lungs".  They buried the old clergyman on the Thursday.

Mr Barlow had made his Will.

He had drawn it up himself in April 1875, using as a model the other Wills he had to hand – perhaps an old one of his own, and certainly those of his brothers – and he had taken it with him to the school where the teachers William Heaviside and Elizabeth Fowler witnessed his signature.  Hector Vaughan, by then a Major in the 1st Battalion 20th Foot, was the sole executor and beneficiary.  The Will has many of its author's characteristic flourishes. 

Old grievances still rankled, perhaps even more with the passage of time.

Lord Falkland, now living in France with his second wife, seems to have been a particular object of resentment, although not named in the Will.  Major Vaughan was to claim "whatever tithes rents or stipends" remained due and was to
receive whatever compensation I shall be entitled to for the vast improvement I have made in the farms and lands belonging to me during my life as Vicar of Rudby and Curate of Middleton and East Rounton which improvement will partly appear by my Leases to have been made at my own expense. 
No compensation would be payable, as improvements by an incumbent were assumed to be made to increase his own income.

Similarly the instruction to
apply for compensation for £500 given by me towards the erection of Rudby Vicarage £50 (fifty) only having been subscribed by the Patron of the Benefice, the residue to the amount of £1,100 the entire cost of the house having been obtained from my friends and the Governors of Queen Anne’s Bounty
would be fruitless, as Lord Falkland had no obligations in the matter.

There only remained the balance of Mr Barlow's account at the National Provincial Bank in Stokesley, from which Major Vaughan would have to pay the funeral expenses and any outstanding debts.  Mr Barlow's declaration regarding his debts that
of which latter as shop or tradesmen's bills there will be scarcely any, as I never run bills
leads inevitably to the suspicion that Major Vaughan would indeed find several forgotten bills.
The reason for his uneasiness, his bluster and his instructions to claim compensation lies in a matter that clearly weighed on his mind:
and after the payment of such small debts as may be due, then to apply the remainder to reimburse himself for trust money applied by me to the use of my family under circumstances of dire and great difficulty, which trust money altho' aware that he had a legal right to demand it of me my Nephew never asked me for, because he knew how much it was against my Will that I applied it to the use of my family [4]
The reference to "trust money" was briefly to attract the attention of the Estate Duty Office.

There are two probable sources for this "trust money" – an inheritance from Hector's father's family or money under his mother's marriage settlement.

It seems highly likely that income continued to come in for a time for Nanny Vaughan after her death, and that this was kept by Robert Barlow for the household at Hutton Rudby when he should have sent it on to his nephew.  The use of the term "trust money" tends to suggest that he was himself a trustee, and so subject to the heavy burden of duties and responsibilities that lay on trustees.  He had no business keeping the money, and a less loving and forebearing nephew might have made considerable difficulties over this.

Mr Barlow declares that Hector never asked him to repay it, but one cannot help but wonder whether Mr Barlow was deaf to hints.  After all, he had found the money to have his book printed in London. 

Hector Vaughan, now a Lieutenant Colonel [5], must have come north to clear the vicarage of his family's possessions and order an addition to the tablet on the church wall:


He proved the Will in London on 30th January 1879.  There seems to have been little beyond the value of the personal belongings and what remained in the bank account.  The gross value of the personalty was under the £100 threshold; Mr Barlow had no leaseholds, no freehold property in Yorkshire, and is unlikely to have had any property left in Ireland.

The Saturday following Mr Barlow's death, a long unsigned obituary appeared in the Stockton Examiner [6].

It was evidently written by a man who was not native to the district, was gifted with a fluent and vivid pen, and was prone to tactlessness.  Indeed, the obituary must have annoyed a variety of readers. 

The writer opened by describing Mr Barlow inaccurately as "the youngest son of a well-known Lancashire gentleman", presumably because this gave a more respectable impression.

Neighbouring towns and villages must have enjoyed his description of Hutton Rudby, but the villagers must have been considerably annoyed – not least because the writer does not mention the linen trade at all:
Hutton Rudby at the time of the Vicar’s advent was a Parish noted for its neglected condition.  Nominally, its population was agricultural, virtually its principal industry was smuggling, and the reputation of the female residents was such that no one would engage them as servants; gradually this state of things somewhat improved.
It contrasts sadly with Mr Barlow's own expression of support of his parishioners in his letter to the press at the time of the cholera.

Descendants of previous churchwardens will not have welcomed the description of the church:
He found the fine old church in a state of great dilapidation neglect, damp, unwholesome, and unsightly, within and without.  These short comings he set himself to work to replan by having the edifice restored, well warmed, cleaned and adorned with some pretention to taste.
The families of those who had died in the cholera nearly fifty years earlier cannot have appreciated the suggestion in the following dramatic passage that they abandoned their sick:
The authorities were paralized; doctors died at their posts; and many fled from their stricken charges, the attendants from the sick, and bearers from the corpses.  In this emergency the Vicar of Rudby was not found wanting; he combatted the fears of the fearful, watched by the bedsides of the dying, ministered to their wants, and with his own hands helped to bear deserted coffins to the grave.
This phrase, quoted in Eddowes, possibly contributed to the later story that Mr Barlow had assisted digging the graves and certainly added to the confusion of the cholera with the plague.  As entire families seem to have been taken ill, they must often have been unable to walk down the hill to the churchyard – moreover, the government required that bodies "be carried to the grave by the fewest possible number of persons".

The writer moved on to a description of Mr Barlow's parish duties and income, which will have simultaneously irritated the church hierarchy and the many clergymen on lower incomes in more difficult parishes.  Mr Barlow's duties are described as
onerous, comprising one service each Sunday at Rudby, another at one of the two Chapels-of-Ease, Rounton and Middleton, five and four miles distant respectively.  A task for a young man provided with a conveyance, a formidable task for one past middle age possessing none.  But the vicar was not daunted.  He volunteered a third or evening service at the Parish Church, and for ten years performed the three, walking each Sunday from eight to ten miles between the services, at all seasons and in all weathers.
This passage shows a certain amount of ignorance on the part of the writer.  The practice of taking two services on a Sunday had been lost in the later 18th century and was reinstated during the first part of the 19th century.  This took a little time, but by 1843 about half the churches in the city of York held a second service, and by 1865 most of the churches did [7].  The trend seems to have spread much more slowly in the countryside, but could be seen elsewhere in the diocese; in Boroughbridge, for example, the congregation expected to attend twice on a Sunday in the early 1850s [8], and in Great Ayton the Revd Ibbetson took a morning and an evening service in 1851.

This insistence on the hardship of the rural ministry may be the writer's response to the growing preference of young clergy for the challenges of the urban ministry over what they felt to be an easy life in rural "stagnation".  The distances covered by Mr Barlow were quite usual for countrymen, then and for many decades to come.

The writer then launched into a bold indictment of the church, which cannot have failed to annoy many:
It may seem incredible to the readers of the foregoing brief record that its hero still remained the holder of the poor benefice of £200 a year in the wealthy diocese of York.  The reply to all questions on the subject is obvious.  The Vicar’s benefice was in lay patronages.  His removal to a richer one would have created no sacerdotal patronage.  He served under three Archbishops; one was ignorant that there was such a living at Hutton Rudby.  It was not in his gift.  Another was indifferent probably for the same reason; the third expressed much sympathy, and after saying that his was the worst case in the diocese, passed him over again and again. 
There are inaccuracies here – Hutton Rudby was better endowed than many parishes in the diocese, some sources putting its value at £270, and Mr Barlow served under four, not three, Archbishops – but the interested reader must have been struck most of all by the suggestion that Mr Barlow was entitled to promotion out of the living that he had bought, and that he was denied this by the venal attitude of successive Archbishops.

The claim that his was "the worst case in the diocese" is inexplicable.  The "third" Archbishop must be taken as Thomson rather than Longley, who had remained at York for only two years.  When Archbishop Thomson came to the diocese, Mr Barlow was a fit 58-year-old widower with no children in a reasonable country parish, and had published a pamphlet highly critical of the church hierarchy only eight years earlier.

It seems that the writer had apparently taken as gospel the bitter complaints of an ailing old man, which he had reproduced for the public in a way that Mr Barlow's friends cannot have found edifying.  There must also have been many members of the Church of England reading this in their Saturday newspaper who felt that it was quite unnecessary for the writer to give such gratification to Nonconformist readers.

At the same time, the writer was clearly truly fond of the old clergyman, and genuinely appreciative of his achievements.  Mr Barlow's loss of his income had
hampered his benevolence, but could not exhaust his indomitable exertions in behalf of the Church. 
After the cholera, the
heroic Vicar reaped some reward for his labours in the admiration and respect of his flock; but his career of usefulness was not at an end. 
His improvements to the church building are described: 
He had rendered it comfortable and handsome; it remained to him to make it attractive ...  Meanwhile many alterations were made in the Church designed by himself, he being a good mechanic and architect, and at his work he laboured unremittingly.
The writer finished resoundingly:
The old Vicar of Rudby has gone to his well-earned rest.  He has gained the love of many, and the respect of all.  The Church has lost a devoted servant; the world a sound historian, a man of taste in the fine arts, and an accomplished classical scholar.
The following week, a considerably shorter and far more dignified and seemly obituary appeared in the South Durham & Cleveland Mercury, describing the "respected" vicar as:
one of the last few surviving members of a generation of inhabitants of which he has been for 48 years the social and spiritual centre.  In church politics he was an evangelical.  In his ministry he was a diligent worker; when he entered upon it he found a dilapidated church, and a small congregation, with very rough material for increasing it.  He leaves to his successor one of the best conditioned of the olden churches of Cleveland, and well filled at every service.

The work, however, which will be his noblest memorial, is the story of his courageous action during the terrible visitation of the cholera, shortly after he came to his parish.  When almost all were awe-stricken, he walked fearlessly through the midst, visiting and assisting the poor in their calamity, himself happily escaping contagion.

He also added the evening service to his duties at a time when one service each Sabbath was the extent of the pulpit duties of many of the country churches.

He had a cultured taste for the fine arts, and contributed to belles lettres a novel entitled Remarkable, but still True, framed on the eventful career of his own parents and family.

He was born and educated in Dublin, and had attained his 76th year.  The living, which comprises the Church of Rudby, with the Chapelries of Middleton-on-Leven and East Rounton, belongs to Viscount Falkland’s Skutterskelfe estate.
Neither obituary is signed.

The author of the first was probably the Revd George Sanger.  He was not a local man and he wrote with an attractive and fluent style.  Its content reflects matters which concerned him closely – lack of money, the value of practical work, advancement in the church – and he was in a position to spend time with the old clergyman, to listen to his stories.  Above all, it reflects his disastrous want of tact.

The writer of the second obituary knows a great deal more about the village, and it seems most likely that he was the Revd James Alder Wilson.

He was the son of George Wilson, the owner of the Hutton Rudby Mill, and had recently become rector of Crathorne – his family had purchased the next presentation of the living for him.  His family had known Mr Barlow for many years and he above all was in a position to feel that Mr Barlow's death was the end of an era.  His appreciative account of the vicar is perhaps also a response to the first unseemly obituary, giving what he felt to be a true reflection of Mr Barlow's life and work in his parish.  He contrived to avoid all mention of the vicar's wilder claims, but by referring to the novel gave a little reminder of the old gentleman's interesting background to those who had known him.

It is interesting to note that the writer of the second obituary describes Mr Barlow as an Evangelical.  It seems rather that, untroubled by religious doubt and uninterested in theological debate, he remained a typical Low Churchman of the Church of Ireland throughout his life.

In his novel he had described himself as
of sound religious opinions, but free from enthusiasm, and free also from those subsequent innovations that troubled the Church.  
The soul-searching of the Tractarians and the quest for personal spiritual truth of the Mormon converts of Faceby struck no chord with him.  He sincerely believed that if those "snug rectors" who had starved "their flock with one cold, lifeless sermon of a Sunday" had done as he did, and provided their congregation with a good sermon on a Sunday, a warm and welcoming church, care for the poor and sick, and a school for the children, then Dissent would never have arisen. 

Practical and plain-speaking, prone to exaggeration, Mr Barlow was a man of vivid emotions who acted impetuously, and whose later life was sadly darkened by bitterness.

His hatred of his sisters-in-law and his resentment over his lost opportunities may have seemed excessive to some, but it is easy to underestimate the terrible effects of disappointment.

His parish chose to remember him in his youth – the energetic and tireless worker of the time of the cholera. 

[1]  Stockton Examiner obituary, see below
[2]  in his History
[3]  according to the newspaper account reproduced by Fairfax-Blakeborough in his account. Fairfax-Blakeborough also notes that there was some "diversity of opinion regarding [the church’s merits], and the author is told that the foundation and many other points woefully pointed to the lack of an experienced architect".
[4]  punctuation added, to make the sense more readily apparent
[5]  promoted on 1 Oct 1877
[6]  Saturday 29 June 1878
[7]  Victoria County History
[8]  family diaries in the possession of the writer

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