Magdalene College Cambridge Notes: The Steeple Ashton Connection

For more than three centuries, Magdalene College Cambridge has had a connection with the Wiltshire village of Steeple Ashton. This note outlines the background, and attempts to say something about the clergy whom the College appointed to serve the parish. I am sure that a more detailed account of the relationship could be written from local sources at both ends. It would be a useful addition to English social history.

Steeple Ashton

The village of Steeple Ashton is located three miles east of Trowbridge in Wiltshire.[1] It was a large parish, divided into 'tithings', of which the Steeple Ashton section covered 2800 acres – just over four square miles – with a population in 1851 of 802. A subordinate medieval chapel at Semingford, two miles to the north, served another 465 people. During the nineteenth century, two further churches were built in outlying areas. The parish of Steeple Ashton was rural in character, but this does not mean that it was a pastoral paradise. The strength of Nonconformity was one manifestation of social tensions, and these were probably exacerbated by the enclosure of extensive common land in 1813. Proximity to Trowbridge, a traditional textile town whose workers faced the threat of mechanisation, also contributed disruptive influences. These challenges manifested themselves during the time of Samuel Hey (1787-1828) and Richard Crawley (1828-69). One vicar, E.P. Knubley (1897-1931) took an interest in local history, and published an article seeking to understand why so large a village failed to develop into a market and manufacturing town.  Clear and splendid evidence of the prosperity of the area in the Middle Ages may be seen in the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, hailed as one of the finest in England. Happily, the church survived a Victorian "restoration" paid for by Magdalene in 1853, which remodelled the chancel to create a more harmonious exterior view. In only one slight respect does the church disappoint. The steeple, which gives the village its distinctive name, was destroyed by lightning strikes in 1670, and never rebuilt.[2]

Drue Drury's Bequest

Steeple Ashton's connection with Magdalene College Cambridge dates from a gift by the Reverend Drue Drury in 1697.[3] Drury, a student at Magdalene during the Cromwellian years, 1654-8, bequeathed the advowson (right of nomination) of the vicarage of Steeple Ashton, along with the impropriate parsonage. What this meant in practice was that the incumbent and the College each received a slice of the tithe income. Tithe obligations were commuted from payment in kind to a cash rental in 1841. The tithe income of the joint parish of Steeple Ashton-cum-Semingford was notionally worth £920 a year to the vicar, and £363 ten shillings to Magdalene. In practice, the vicar's income was considerably reduced, for instance by an annual payment of £100 to the curate at Semington, while from 1846 the Reverend Richard Crawley diverted a further £100 in support of a clergyman serving the new church at West Ashton. Crawley also paid school fees for a handful of children, although it seems that the local squires, the Long family, took the lead in the provision of education before the 1870 Act.[4] Cash income from tithes varied according to a sliding scale of grain prices over the previous seven years, so net income must have fallen during the late nineteenth-century agricultural depression. Even so, the vicar's income was given in a newspaper report of 1887 as £852, and the Reverend A.O. Hartley had recently undertaken a voyage to Australia for his health. Eamon Duffy has suggested that the vicar's income in the eighteenth-century did not make Steeple Ashton a particularly attractive prize.[5] However, by Victorian times, it ranked as an ecclesiastical plum job. Magdalene, always a poor College, was hard hit by the agricultural depression, and in 1901 Fellows' stipends fell to a low point of £115. Ironically, by that time, few academics aspired to the life of a country clergyman. Drury's will provided that each vacancy should be offered to the three longest serving Fellows in turn, in order of seniority. The bequest included one other eccentric provision. Until 1882, Fellows of Cambridge and Oxford colleges were not permitted to marry, and many clerical-academic engagements dragged on, unconsummated, for years. For Oxbridge colleges generally, advowsons provided an exit route by which Fellows could retreat into rural domesticity. But Drury enjoined that Magdalene's nominees to Steeple Ashton should remain unmarried, a restriction that was only lifted in the time of A.O. Hartley (1870-87). By then, the abolition of academic celibacy rendered the change of little value to the Fellows of Magdalene.

The Norfolk Travelling Fellowship

Drue Drury wished to found a Travelling Fellowship, 'for a gentleman's son from Norfolk'. The award was tenable for nine years, much of it to be spent 'in travelling and visiting foreign Parts'. The nomination was in the sole hands of the Master of Magdalene, although the successful candidate could come from any college in Cambridge: sons of Norfolk gentlemen affected by wanderlust were evidently assumed to be a scarce species. Although the restriction now seems objectionably quaint, the Norfolk Travelling Fellowship (as it became titled) may perhaps be seen as an early form of postgraduate studentship.

            Unfortunately, little is known about its recipients. The life interest of another of Drury's legatees meant that Magdalene did not control the resources until 1725, a year after another delayed benefaction, the library of Samuel Pepys, reached the College. The first election to what became the Norfolk Travelling Fellowship went to John Bacon, also the son of a Norfolk baronet, who was imported from Caius. His early death in 1732 was perhaps a warning against investing so many financial eggs in one basket. Magdalene's perennial poverty forced the College to leave the Norfolk Travelling Fellowship vacant at various periods during the eighteenth century, diverting its income to maintenance of buildings – including such doubtful priorities as the plastering of First Court with stucco in 1759.  Drury's eccentrically specific definition of eligibility could also cause problems, if a candidate could establish qualification by class and county, but appeared to the Master to lack any other merit. In 1785, Magdalene had to face down an aggressive applicant, lobbying on behalf of his son, a confrontation that threatened to involve expensive legal action.

In 1847, the Norfolk Travelling Fellowship was worth £366 gross, £268 net.[6] The logic of withholding £98 a year is not immediately apparent, since a peripatetic Fellow presumably cost Magdalene little in accommodation and meals. The gross figure, £366, was slightly more than the College's annual income from tithes, as determined in 1841, but Magdalene also owned two acres of glebe in Steeple Ashton, and rental income probably explains the small rounding up. A net income of £268 does not sound especially lavish for overseas travel, but it may compare with a bequest of £50 a year (which, alas, did not full materialise) by local man John Togwell in 1815 to educate fifty Steeple Ashton children.[7]

From the overall silence regarding the Norfolk Travelling Fellowship in the annals of eighteenth-century Magdalene, it seems fair to assume that its recipients did little to advance the frontiers of knowledge. One complication is that the University had its own, equally eccentric travel award, bequeathed by William Worts in 1709, to which colleges took turns to nominate candidates.[8] This provided for two young graduates to travel abroad, writing a monthly letter (in Latin) to the Vice-Chancellor about the culture and institutions of the countries they visited. Thomas Kerrich was a 'travelling Bachelor' between 1771 and 1775. Magdalene sources attribute his journeying to Drury's bequest, but the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography calls him a Worts Travelling Bachelor. Since Kerrich was from Dersingham in Norfolk, it is likely that he benefited from Drury's generosity, although – given the norms of the eighteenth century – it is not impossible that he held both. He used his time on the continent to lay the foundations of a personal art collection, was himself a noted painter and became Cambridge University Librarian. F.C. Penrose, who graduated in 1842, was a Worts Travelling Bachelor, who used his studies of the Parthenon as the basis for a successful career as an architect, designing the Duke of Wellington's tomb in St Paul's Cathedral. His restoration work at his old College in 1873 can still be seen in the Magdalene Street and River Court frontages. As he was a native of Lincolnshire, Penrose would not have been eligible for the Norfolk Travelling Fellowship. Drury's pet project was abolished as part of revision of Statutes in 1860, the income from Steeple Ashton absorbed into general College revenue, with Drury's name attached to one of the remodelled Fellowships as titular recognition. The following year, the University converted the Worts bequest into a more general travel fund, which still supports student exploration.

In its last incarnation, the Norfolk Travelling Fellowship did contribute notably to the shaping of scientific knowledge. Alfred Newton had come to Magdalene in 1848. He was the son of an East Anglian landowner, which undoubtedly marked him out as a gentleman. Unfortunately, the family estate, Elveden Hall, was inconveniently located in the adjoining county of Suffolk, although right alongside the county boundary. 'If the boundary between the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk had not taken a sudden bend to the south near Thetford, so as almost to include the parish of Elveden,' commented Newton's biographer in cumbersome prose, 'it is probable that the life of Alfred Newton, though it would undoubtedly have been the life of a man of distinction, would not have been the life of a naturalist.' From childhood, he was fascinated by birds, and especially sought out those that faced extinction: his great but unfortunately unwritten book would have been called The Bustard in Britain. Although he had only taken a Pass degree, Newton was keen to have the Norfolk Travelling Fellowship, and the Master of Magdalene, George Neville-Grenville, sought to find a device by which he could be declared eligible. Happily, a way was found. The Elveden Hall estate extended across the county boundary, and Newton's father had been appointed a Justice of the Peace for Norfolk. This clearly made him a Norfolk gentleman, and hence his son a legitimate beneficiary of Drury's foundation.

Newton was elected in 1853, unluckily at a time when revenues from the Fellowship had been once again diverted, this time to the restoration of Steeple Ashton church, and he was unable to travel for two years. In compensation, Magdalene extended his seven-year tenure until 1863, even though the Fellowship itself had been removed from the Statutes in 1860. Newton travelled in Lapland, and on to Iceland, where he searched for traces of the Great Auk. He also visited the West Indies, the United States and Madeira. His travels were all the more remarkable since a childhood accident had left him mildly disabled. In 1866, he was elected Cambridge's first Professor of Zoology. Much of Newton's scholarly work was essentially editorial, and he was a notoriously bad lecturer. Yet he has a strong claim – for instance, through his four-volume Dictionary of British Birds – to be regarded as one of the founders of modern ornithology. Although Conservative in politics and devoted to the unchanging rituals of bachelor life, Newton was one of the first zoologists to embrace the theory of evolution, after the 1859 publication of Origin of Species. 'I am developed into pure and unmitigated Darwinism,' he told a fellow scientist in 1860, only to be assured in reply that 'Hanwell [a prominent mental hospital] is the only fit place for a Darwinian.' His adherence to evolution perhaps contributed to his decision, in 1862, not to become a clergyman, although he remained a lifelong stalwart of the College chapel. As it was the custom for Norfolk Travelling Fellows to proceed to ordination, Newton offered to resign. However, it was ruled not to be a strict condition of the bequest, he was permitted to serve out his time, until the appointment expired on Lady Day, 25 March, 1863. As Newton himself remarked on that final day, 'henceforth Norfolk Fellows are as clean gone as Norfolk Bustards.'[9] It seems an appropriate elegy.

It is important to stress that tithes were a form of property: their payment was a legal obligation. Hence it would be a false antithesis to imply that there was some choice between the eccentric extravagance of the Norfolk Travelling Fellowship, and more money in the pockets of Steeple Ashton farmers or more food in the bellies of its labourers. If Magdalene had not owned the tithes, the payments would still have been made, to some other beneficiary. Yet it is appropriate to note that Steeple Ashton paid, at 1841 prices, over £40,000 – the equivalent of several millions today – in the 135 years from 1725 to 1860. That tithe income went, not to subsidise education or help poor scholars, but to enable privileged young men from a distant part of England to undertake a cut-price Grand Tour of Europe.

The Vicars of Steeple Ashton:

Robert Foulkes (1752-1771) and Laurence Eliot (1771-1787)

The Martyn family, from whom Drury purchased the Steeple Ashton tithes in 1697, reserved at least one further presentation to the vicarage for their own use. It was not until 1752 that Magdalene College Cambridge was called upon to make its first selection. The choice fell upon Robert Foulkes, the son of a grocer from Denbigh in north Wales, who had come to Magdalene in 1713, and held a Fellowship since 1719. Foulkes had risen to the office of President, in effect the Vice-Master, in charge of the internal running of the College. He played an active part in the succession to the Mastership in 1746, when the Fellows attempted to block the appointment of an unpopular and doubtfully qualified candidate, and may have hoped for the office himself when it fell vacant again fourteen years later.[10] I have suggested elsewhere that Foulkes may have been the original of 'Dr Clouse', a reclusive don, disappointed both in love and the search for ecclesiastic preferment, lampooned by Francis Coventry in his 1751 satire, Pompey the Little, but this identification is not certain.[11] Foulkes was about 57 when he was appointed to Steeple Ashton, certainly not a young man by eighteenth-century standards and probably unenthusiastic about tackling the slow, uncomfortable and expensive travel between Cambridge and Wiltshire. In an age of rampant pluralism, he had at least resigned two other appointments that he held. A spreadsheet tabulation of banns (announcements of forthcoming marriages) read at Semington chapel from 1754 indicates that he did visit the parish, sometimes for Christmas and Easter, with more extended appearances in the summer of 1755, and again in 1756.[12] It was appropriate that the incumbent should be in his parish for the two great Church festivals. A charity of unknown origin which paid the vicar an annual sum of £1 to deliver a sermon at Semington on Good Friday was hardly a sufficient draw in itself to bring Foulkes the 175 miles from Cambridge.[13] Very little happened during the University's extended Long Vacation, and Magdalene's location next to the open sewer of the river Cam no doubt made rural Wiltshire an inviting prospect during the summer months, In addition, Foulkes would probably have wished to be on the spot around harvest time, to ensure the efficient collection of his (and the College's) tithes.[14] His last recorded visit was in April 1769, when he was 74. Foulkes died in 1771.[15]

            Magdalene's second nominee to Steeple Ashton was Lawrence Eliot. He had come to Cambridge in 1743, graduated four years later and was elected to a Fellowship in 1749. Having held two University offices, he had paid his dues to the system. (Colleges were required to fill certain offices in rotation, and Magdalene, as a small society, did not have an abundance of suitable candidates.)  He does not appear to have held any clerical post prior to his appointment to Steeple Ashton in October 1771. In 1783, he was reported to be living in Surrey because of ill health, which may suggest that he had been resident previously: his younger brother, Edward, held two Surrey livings. A curate took Sunday morning and afternoon services at Steeple Ashton, and a 1.30 service at Semington, with additional services on saints' days. There were four Communion services a year, with around fifty people receiving the Sacrament. Since the population of the Steeple Ashton and Semington tithings was 883 in 1801, it would seem that only a small minority of the adult population – perhaps as few as one in ten – actively supported the parish church. Eliot died in September 1784, but the post of vicar apparently remained vacant for three years.

Samuel Hey (1787-1828)      

The Victorian agnostic Leslie Stephen once poked fun at the path from academic excellence to parish pulpit that characterised the training of the average Cambridge clerical Fellow: the appointee to a country living was challenged 'to try how far his knowledge of the Greek drama or the planetary theory would qualify him to edify the agricultural labourer.'[16] He might have been thinking of Magdalene's third appointment to Steeple Ashton, Samuel Hey. In many ways the most notable vicar of the series, Hey was a classic example of a square peg in a rounded aperture. He had come to Magdalene from Pudsey in Yorkshire at the age of 21 in 1776. He had probably attended school at Leeds, like his brother Richard, who had arrived two years earlier and would also have a glittering examination career. Samuel Hey was 9th Wrangler (i.e. ranked ninth in the Mathematical Tripos) in 1771 and became a Fellow of Magdalene soon after. He quickly became President, and also served as Senior Proctor (the University's most senior disciplinary officer) in 1782. Magdalene at that time was one of the strongholds of the Evangelicals in Cambridge, and Hey was a prominent member the movement. Within Magdalene, he challenged loose eighteenth-century practices, 'enforcing a proper degree of attention to study, regularity in attendance on [sic] lectures, chapel, etc.'[17] He signalled his ecclesiastical affiliation in one small but noteworthy gesture. Eighteenth-century Magdalene generally used the spelling that its Oxford namesake retains to this day, without a final 'e'. After 1800, the influence of the Evangelicals in the College was on the wane. In 1813, the Visitor, Lord Braybrooke, appointed his son, George Neville Grenville (Alfred Newton's patron) to the Mastership, bringing a more aristocratic and much less serious tone to the student body. It was at about this time that the spelling was changed, to emphasise the final 'e' as used today. Hey's memorial plaque in Steeple Ashton church, erected after his death in 1828, defiantly retained the old, Evangelical-era, orthography, describing him as 'Late Fellow and Tutor of Magdalen Coll: Cambridge'.[18]

            The three-year interval between Eliot's death and Hey's appointment may be connected, if obscurely, to the latter's association with a Scottish nobleman. In 1775, David Kennedy had succeeded his brother as the tenth Earl of Cassilis in the Scottish peerage. The following year, he was elected as a representative peer for Scotland, giving him a seat in the House of Lords. Cassilis evidently decided to operate on a grand scale, with rapid and disastrous effects on his finances. In 1776, Robert Adam was brought in to remodel the family seat, Culzean Castle on the Ayrshire coast.[19] The Clergy Database indicates that Hey was serving as his domestic chaplain in 1776. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography does not specify whether Kennedy was, like many Scottish aristocrats, an Episcopalian: since he had studied at Glasgow University and had been a candidate for a Chair at Edinburgh, it seems more likely that his upbringing was Presbyterian. If he was launching himself into politics on the London stage, he might well have found an Anglican Evangelical a useful intermediary, as well as a spiritual counsellor whose theological outlook would have been close to his own. Possibly Hey's assignment to Cassilis was only intended as a short-term association, and this may explain why he did not arrive at Steeple Ashton until late in 1787. He would remain there until his death, at the age of 88, on 31 January 1828.[20]

            The key point about Samuel Hey is that he resided, that he was 'the constantly resident vicar', as his memorial in the church insists, for forty years.[21] The plaque, erected by his parishioners (or some of them) as 'a tribute of affection and respect', includes what may have been a conventional allusion to his 'unwearying zeal', but adds some details that were no doubt specific to Hey himself. 'Cheerfulness[,] simplicity and deep humility were his great characteristics'. A description of him published soon after his death offered a slightly different perspective: although Hey was 'father to his parish', he was noted for 'the peculiarity of his dress and the simplicity of his manners', and nicknamed 'the hermit'.[22] It may be revealing that, when locals rallied to save the vicarage from fire in 1821, Hey issued a statement thanking them.[23] 'Warmth and sincerity distinguished his piety,' his memorial continued, 'whilst his extensive charities testified that his was the faith that worketh by love.' The plaque highlights another quality that doubtless endeared Hey to the farming community: 'by moderation in the demand of his just rights he endeared himself to his people.' On his appointment, Magdalene had undertaken a detailed survey of its entitlement to tithe income, including 'a particular account of the crops' grown across the parish in 1787.[24] However, it seems that Samuel Hey knew when to back off in enforcing the collection of his tithes. Methodists were active in the parish throughout Hey's incumbency, although it does not appear that their numbers were large.[25] It was almost certainly Hey who erected a minatory sign above the door of the south porch: 'Fear thou the LORD and the KING: and meddle not with them that are given to CHANGE.'[26]  Nowadays it forms one of the more quaint features of Steeple Ashton church. In the age of the guillotine, it must have sounded far more confrontational.

            Samuel Hey made one other enduring contribution to Steeple Ashton. Previous vicars had left books for the use of their successors. Hey had built an additional room on his vicarage about 1816 to house his personal library, and he would leave around 175 titles 'for the use of vicars in succession'. Inscriptions indicated that most of Hey's books had been purchased in Cambridge between 1765 and 1780, and that some of some came from the library of David Hughes, a former Fellow of Queens' College and Cambridgeshire clergyman, who died in 1777. By the twentieth century, the collection had grown to over one thousand books.  Many were sold or disposed of for salvage during the Second World War, with a handful being gifted to Magdalene. In 1968, downsizing to a smaller vicarage required the removal of the books, which became the Samuel Hey Library in St Mary's church.[27] Around 1810, Hey also planted a row of ash trees in the vicarage garden, a gesture that his successors assumed referred to the name of the village.[28]

Richard Crawley (1828-1869)

Hey's successor, Richard Crawley, came from a very different background. One of ten children of a clergyman, the rector of Rotherfield in Sussex, he had been born in 1791, and was the product of a leading public school, Westminster. Crawley had entered Trinity College Cambridge in 1810, and had graduated four years later, just missing First Class Honours in Mathematics. He had then transferred to Magdalene, where he was a Fellow from 1814 to 1829. Although he had been ordained in 1815, a usual step for a Cambridge don in those days, Crawley had not held any previous benefice before his appointment to Steeple Ashton.[29] He arrived in Wiltshire just before one of the greatest social convulsions in English history, the Captain Swing riots, a campaign by desperate labourers of arson and machine-breaking. Devizes and Trowbridge were at the heart of the disturbances.[30] Like Hey, Crawley found it prudent to make concessions over the collection of tithes. 'The Rev. Mr. Crawley, of Steeple Ashton, Wilts, has reduced his tithes 10 percent,' reported The Times in December 1831, adding that nine-tenths of clergy in the county 'have evinced a similar spirit of liberality.'[31] At the end of the decade, the area experienced a new wave of turbulence, with Steeple Ashton specifically targeted by Chartist agitators from Trowbridge.[32] Even in far away Australia, a newspaper reported that the village was 'infected ... and no person with a decent coat on his back can be seen without being hooted and insulted.'[33] Local radicals had the Church in their sights: Trowbridge parish church was attacked during a service. At about this time, Crawley became a Justice of the Peace.[34] Local newspapers report him sitting as a magistrate at the Steeple Ashton petty sessions, dealing with the minor peccadilloes appropriate to a court of that name. Clerical magistrates were not unusual in the mid-nineteenth century, but it is reasonable to conclude that Richard Crawley had decided to prioritise social control over pastoral care.

Not surprisingly, some of his parishioners sought other forms of religious life. There was something of a bricks-and-mortar turf war with the Nonconformists. The Long family, the local squires, built a new Anglican church at the satellite hamlet of West Ashton in 1846, with Crawley diverting part of his tithe income to support its parson.[35] This effectively eliminated the Methodist presence in West Ashton, but in another outlying settlement, Hinton, two chapels could seat 160 people, roughly the local population. The parish church was restored in 1853; the Methodists built a chapel, seating 130 people in Steeple Ashton in 1854. Most striking of all was the existence of a congregation of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), estimated in 1851 to include fifty people, meeting in Steeple Ashton village itself. A century later, the house where they gathered was still derisively known as God's Corner. The existence of a Mormon congregation was surely a direct repudiation of the Established Church and its message.

The requirement that the incumbent of Steeple Ashton should not be married meant that Crawley lacked one vital auxiliary, that formidable figure in Anglican folklore, the vicar's wife. Whether this handicapped him in his ministry may be open to doubt. Clerical spouses probably became crucial to parish activities much later in the nineteenth century, along with the general emergence of women into the public sphere. But Crawley did not lack for female company. The 1841 census reveals that two of his younger sisters, Harriet, who was 40, and Sarah, aged 35, were living at the vicarage. Both took pains to have recorded that they were of independent means ('Fundholders', as the 1851 census noted). Harriet died in October 1851, but Sarah was still in residence ten years later. Whether she undertook the formal role of hostess is not known. Other visitors probably came and went. In 1851, the vicar's younger brother, Captain Henry Owen Crawley of the Royal Engineers, was there, along with his wife and daughter. In 1861, Crawley was providing apparently temporary accommodation for Miss Hannah Peters, the 24 year-old mistress at the local National (Anglican primary) school. In 1851, the vicar was living on a relatively grand scale. The household comprised a ladies' maid, cook, housemaid and kitchen maid, plus a footman and a groom: the vicar was wealthy enough to keep a carriage.[36] No doubt other jobs were created within the village – perhaps a stable lad and gardeners.

            Richard Crawley died at the vicarage in December 1869, aged 78.  He had probably put his affairs in order, since his estate was wound up within two months (Christmas included), and estimated at £16,000 – the equivalent of twenty years of tithe income. His nephew and namesake, a minor poet, mourned him in verse:

Goodness, Friendship, Wit, and Mirth,

All lie buried in this earth.

Sussex bore him, Cambridge bred,

Steeple Ashton holds him dead.[37]

One other intriguingly oblique footnote to his life story merits brief speculation. In his 1860 novel, Framley Parsonage, Anthony Trollope introduced a new character to his Barset landscape, the Reverend Josiah Crawley. The fictional Crawley would reach his apotheosis in The Last Chronicle of Barset six years later, when he was arrested for allegedly stealing a cheque, an imbroglio from which he was rescued by an ingenious series of accidents. Richard and Josiah Crawley were very definitely two different personalities. Josiah struggled to raise a large family on an inadequate stipend; Richard was a bachelor with an indecently comfortable income. Josiah was stern and unyielding, the antithesis of the man celebrated in his nephew's poetic tribute. But could Trollope have taken the surname from the vicar of Steeple Ashton? After all, it was during a stroll around the cathedral close in Salisbury in 1852 that he had first conceived the idea of writing a clerical novel.[38] Thanks to his activity on the Bench, Richard Crawley was mentioned in the local press, and Trollope had what might be politely called an adhesive memory for names. If nothing else, perhaps the struggles of his miserable alter ego contributed something to the wit and mirth of Richard Crawley's final years.

Alfred Octavius Hartley (1870-1887) and John Bond (1889-1897)

Crawley's successor, Alfred Octavius Hartley (1870-87), represented a change of gear in the Magdalene-Steeple Ashton relationship. He was the first married vicar of the sequence, and the first who did not come direct from the College. Alfred Hartley had entered Cambridge at the age of 19 in 1845. He was the son of a clergyman from Staveley, in North Yorkshire (the Hartley family owned the advowson), and a pupil of Leeds School, which enjoyed access to reserved scholarships at Magdalene.  In 1822, Cambridge had established a second Honours degree, in Classics, alongside its prestigious Mathematical Tripos. But for the next thirty years, a hierarchy of study was enforced by requiring candidates for the Classics degree to achieve Honours in Mathematics first. In 1849, Hartley surmounted the hurdle by becoming 29th Junior Optime – in other words, like most of us, he was not a natural mathematician. (109 students were ahead of him, 21 brought up the rear.) Hartley then proceeded to what was obviously his first love, managing to win top place in the Second Class. (Hartley just edged out Latimer Neville, son of the Lord Braybrooke, Visitor of Magdalene, who would become – thanks to his father's nomination – Master of the College in 1853, at the age of 23 – a connection that perhaps helped him secure Steeple Ashton in 1870.)  Presumably just a few marks or maybe the absence of a happy Latin epigram cost Hartley the coveted rank of a First. However, Magdalene elected him to a Fellowship – thereby rendering him eligible for Steeple Ashton – but it was probably on the understanding that it was to be a launch pad and not a lifetime investment.

Hartley did not devote himself solely to learning and religion. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Magdalene Boat Club often found it difficult to persuade eight oarsman plus a cox to take to the river for the twice-yearly races. As a young graduate, Hartley rowed for the College in 1850 and 1851, probably the only ordained clergyman ever to do so. In the Lent Term of 1851, he was stroke, which suggests a beefy physical fitness.[39] Perhaps his sportsmanship was recalled two decades later, when Magdalene had to discharge its duty to Steeple Ashton.

After two years as a curate in the Suffolk town of Bungay, in 1853 Hartley was appointed headmaster of the grammar school in nearby Beccles. Founded by Henry Fauconberg in 1712, the school was mandated 'to capacitate youth fitting for the university', which meant that the headmaster must be 'well learnt and experienced in the Latin and Greek tongues'.[40] Appointed at the age of 27, Hartley would come to Steeple Ashton seventeen years later not as a don, but as an experienced schoolmaster. It would be unfair to say that Magdalene was now scraping the barrel to fulfil its obligations, but it does seem clear that its academics no longer saw a country vicarage as the acme of career aspirations.

            In 1856, Hartley married Lorina Dashwood, the nineteen year-old daughter of a Beccles surgeon. Within three years, there were three children.  But 1859 would fatal to two of them, a girl and a boy, while Lorina Hartley herself died in November, aged just 23. There is no indication in local press reports of any epidemic in Beccles.  The local round of balls and meetings continued as usual: Alfred Hartley himself took the chair at a lecture on 'The life of plants' at the Church of England Young Men's Society, just five days before his wife's death. The chronology, plus the absence of alternative evidence suggests that Lorina died not long after losing her second child, giving birth to a little boy who did not survive. Whatever the cause, Alfred Hartley found himself a widower, and charged with rearing a two year-old son.[41]

            Eight months almost to the day, he married again. Ann Knubley was a widow with five children, so no doubt it made sense to combine their two households. But Hartley's new bride came from Cumberland. Her husband, the Reverend Miles Knubley, had been curate-in-charge of a country parish on the northern fringe of the Lake District, where he had died in 1858. How had the couple met? The answer seems to involve a Magdalene connection, for Alfred Hartley and Miles Knubley had been contemporaries in the College in the late eighteen-forties, at a time when twenty-one freshmen constituted a bumper enrolment. They had presumably become friends, and maintained contact after graduation. Alfred and Ann Hartley would go on to have a second family, suggesting that their alliance was more than a mere marriage of convenience. However, for the Steeple Ashton story, the crucial point was that remarriage brought Alfred Hartley a stepson, ten year-old Edward Ponsonby Knubley, Ann's eldest child by her first marriage. In due course, young Edward would follow a path through Magdalene and ordination and eventually return to Steeple Ashton as its vicar.

            The 1871 census shows that the household of Steeple Ashton's first married clergyman was crowded. There were four children at home, their ages ranging from 3 to 17, and two more boys were away at school. The Hartleys had also taken in Ann's niece, although whether she was an orphan or a short-term visitor is not indicated. One endearing feature of the 1871 domestic profile is that the Hartleys had brought with them all their servants from Beccles (although this loyal gesture may not have been so warmly received in Steeple Ashton, especially by former employees of Richard Crawley). Like his predecessor, Hartley needed a coachman. A cook, housemaid and under housemaid helped Ann Hartley run her home. A nurse and an under nurse – aged 64 and 17, they might well have formed a colourful partnership – looked after the children. All six had been born in Norfolk or Suffolk, and none of them was married.

Ten years later, the vicarage was a quieter place on census night. Edward Knubley was at Magdalene, Henry and Charles Hartley away at public school (Marlborough). More puzzling is the absence of thirteen year-old Lorina Hartley, Ann's daughter, named in memory of Alfred's first wife. However, a two year-old great niece from Suffolk was living with them, and the fact that the household included a 22 year-old domestic nurse suggests that the little girl had been taken in as extended family. The domestic staff had been slimmed down, and local Wiltshire-born staff had replaced the East Anglian imports. There remained a cook, a parlour maid and a housemaid (the two latter designations presumably indicating some kind of servant hierarchy). If Hartley was still using his own carriage, its maintenance staff lived off the premises.[42]

In 1875, Hartley had become Rural Dean of the Potterne division of the Salisbury diocese. The post was a cross between a clerical shop steward and a local problem-solver, and his appointment suggests that he was popular with his fellow ecclesiastics. Around 1887, his health gave way, and he took a voyage to Australia for convalescence. His elder son, Henry, now a clergyman, was imported to look after the parish as curate. Perhaps Alfred dreamed of Henry succeeding him at Steeple Ashton. Unfortunately, the cruise did not rstore his health. On returning to Wiltshire, Hartley was 'struck with paralysis', and died in November 1888, aged 62. A local newspaper called him 'generally beloved and respected for his genial qualities'.[43] Hartley left an estate of £7,123, evidence of commendable financial management in a man who had to run a sizeable household and educate boys at public school and Cambridge.[44]

To replace Hartley, Magdalene reverted to an appointee in the mould of Samuel Hey. Born about 1840, John Bond had come from a small school at Heversham in Westmorland, which had access to reserved scholarships at Magdalene. He was a brilliant student, coming second in the Mathematics Tripos in 1861, and also collecting one of the University's two Smith's Prizes, a prestigious award for mathematical ability. He was briefly a Fellow of Magdalene and an assistant master at Rugby, before seeking ordination, as deacon in 1864 and priest in 1865. In the latter year, he was appointed rector of Anderby-with-Cumberworth, a Lincolnshire parish that was Magdalene's second-ranking slice of ecclesiastical patronage. After twenty-four years, he traded up to Steeple Ashton. Although John Bond contributed to diocesan life, for instance serving as rural dean of Bradford-on-Avon, it seems that he did not strike deep roots in Wiltshire. In 1897, he returned to Lincoln, holding two city parishes, working as chaplain to Lincoln prison, and apparently involving himself in the life of the cathedral, where he was precentor (in charge of the choir). In 1902, he was appointed Archdeacon of Stow, a major sub-division of the diocese. He died in 1912. 'Was there ever a simpler life than his, richer in good works, or in humility and tenderness of heart?', asked one tribute to him from Lincoln. 'No one will ever know how much the better organisation of the Diocese ... owes to his mild wisdom.'[45] Perhaps Bond's organisational skills found inadequate outlets in a country vicarage. Or perhaps he simply never settled in the south of England.[46]

Edward Ponsonby Knubley (1897-1931)

Bond's successor at Steeple Ashton, Edward Ponsonby Knubley, had already benefited from one piece of ecclesiastical patronage: the Hartley family owned the advowson of Staveley in Yorkshire, and his step-father had appointed him rector in 1877. Knubley had been a pupil at Rugby and, although he was only there for two years,[47] it was an experience that was likely to leave a mark on a serious boy. (In 1929, he recalled an incident from his schooldays, the sight of an offender confined to the local stocks, one of the last examples of this humiliating punishment.[48]) Rugby School had been turned around by the desperately serious Thomas Arnold, who had died in 1842. One of his pupils, Thomas Hughes, had celebrated Arnold's Christian educational leadership by creating the pure and healthy schoolboy hero, Tom Brown, in a wildly popular novel of 1857, published a decade before Knubley joined the school. His own headmaster was the equally formidable Frederick Temple, who would later become Archbishop of Canterbury. Hovering over all this religiosity was also the spirit of William Webb Ellis, a former pupil who had allegedly broken the stalemate in a primitive game of football by picking up the ball and running with it. True or (more probably) not, the school had its own distinctive football code, which it would give to the world. Rugby was one of the focal points of the phenomenon known as 'muscular Christianity'.   It is hardly surprising that a boy who was the son of a clergyman, step-son of a clergyman and product of such an academy would find himself on the track to Holy Orders.[49] 

Knubley does not seem to have particularly bookish. If the Rugby School Register is accurate, he was taken away from school two years before he entered Magdalene, which suggests a need for private tutoring. He graduated with a Pass degree, although this was not unusual in Victorian times. It may simply have been that the narrow Cambridge curriculum did not capture his interests. He was remembered at Magdalene as 'a "birdy" man', an enthusiast for ornithology who participated in Alfred Newton's informal Sunday night seminars, held in the Professor's rooms in Magdalene's Old Lodge – thus interweaving another thread in the multiple pattern of the Steeple Ashton story.[50]

Knubley's selection for Steeple Ashton was renewed evidence of the divergence between academic achievement and pastoral care. The Fellowship of Magdalene itself provided no candidates. Financial stringency had reduced its size: when A.S. Ramsey was joined them in 1897, his was the first election in seventeen years, and he was recruited because the Statutes required there to be four full fellows. None of the four was in Holy Orders. Indeed, a sign of a changing academic world even at Magdalene, Ramsey was a Nonconformist, although he would also become the father of a distinguished Archbishop of Canterbury. As the Master of Trinity College sorrowfully noted in 1897, 'the University seems to drift more and more away from the Church, and from Church ways of thinking, feeling, acting.'[51] Magdalene was hardly in the vanguard of change: indeed, until the late nineteen-thirties, attendance at chapel was technically compulsory and certainly informally enforced as the norm – an unusual hangover among Cambridge colleges – but that attitude reflected a schoolmasterly notion that decent chaps should be practising Anglicans, rather than any continuing belief in a holistic unity of Church and College, don and cleric.[52]

Of course, there were other Magdalene clergymen, including some in less glittering College livings, such as George Botham at Anderby and Alfred Peskett at Longstanton St Michael. The latter, brother of Arthur Peskett, Magdalene's brilliant but taciturn President, had fewer than one hundred parishioners, a comfortable billet that would surely have made Steeple Ashton seem like hard work.[53] For Magdalene's aristocratic Master, the Honourable and Reverend Latimer Neville, several factors would have favoured Knubley. Where Botham was a product of Wisbech School, and Peskett a former pupil of Fauconberg at Beccles, Knubley was a public school man. Edward's father, Miles Knubley, had been a contemporary of the Master as an undergraduate. Edward Knubley was also an appropriate tenant of a large vicarage, since he and his wife had produced children on a tribal scale. All in all, it would have seemed appropriate to send him back to Steeple Ashton.[54]

In 1877, Edward Ponsonby Knubley had made a romantic marriage and, since his father-in-law almost certainly bank-rolled the couple's lifestyle and remarkable fecundity, his bride merits some discussion. Josephine Antoinette Leavitt was just nineteen when she married Knubley, then a 27 year-old curate of a fashionable church in London's Battersea.[55]  Her father was a New York businessman, who had formed a partnership in 1852 with Joseph A. Rohe, a German immigrant craftsman who made musical instruments. Their Manhattan business was such a success that Leavitt was able to retire in his mid-thirties, withdrawing from the partnership in 1863, although he retained a financial interest in its successor.[56] His wife, Eliza Winslow, had been born in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the daughter of American missionary parents. Although her genealogy cannot be traced back beyond the late seventeenth century, it is likely that she was descended from Edward Winslow, the leader of the Pilgrim Fathers. Eliza died in 1860, leaving three daughters, of whom three year-old Josephine was the eldest. Henry Leavitt brought them to England, and in 1871 he lived at Torquay, with his sister, five servants and a German governess for the girls. At the time of his death in 1886, Henry Leavitt had a house in De Vere Gardens, Kensington,[57] and perhaps it was from there that Josephine had met the young curate. Josephine was entered on the 1891 census as 'Naturalized British Subject', but there is no evidence from the London Gazette that the family ever formally acquired British nationality. Perhaps it was assumed that marriage to an Englishman automatically made her one of the Queen's subjects. Since, until 1918, she was barred from exercising the most basic function of citizenship, the right to vote, it probably did not matter much anyway.

The Knubleys needed Henry Leavitt's cash and Alfred Hartley's ecclesiastical patronage. Within fourteen years of their marriage, they produced eleven children. Two boys died in infancy. Then, in a nine-month period of 1902-3, the Knubleys suffered the double blow of the deaths of two daughters on the verge of adult life: eighteen year-old Hilda in September 1902, twenty-one year-old Mary the following June.[58] The local newspaper reported widespread sympathy in the village for the family.[59] The fact that both deaths occurred at the vicarage suggests that the cause was not the scourge of tuberculosis: sufferers were generally exiled to sanitoria, and the Knubleys would have had enough money to seek a warmer clime in the hope of aiding recovery. Edward Knubley himself blamed a delay in holding a local prize-giving in April 1903 on ill-health, and it may be that the vicarage drains were giving trouble.[60]

Only two of the brood were still at the vicarage in 1911, and both were earning their own living; son Miles was a land surveyor, working for the Inland Revenue,[61] daughter Lorina – that mellifluous name appearing in another generation – was a teacher. Resident domestic staff comprised just one combined servant and cook – there had been two maids, a cook and a governess ten years earlier – and there is no indication that the vicar maintained his own carriage. (It is noteworthy that none of the boys attended a major public school.) Indeed, the presence of a fifteen year-old boarder in the household suggests that Knubley was taking pupils, coaching boys for university entrance, a classic sign of a clergyman in need of extra cash.[62] The sons scattered. Edward, the eldest, had followed his father to Magdalene, where he graduated in 1900 with a Pass degree. The Boer War was in full swing, and he served in its final stages as a sergeant, a crucial link to his later career as a schoolmaster in South Africa.[63] Miles, the second surviving son, trained as a surveyor at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester.[64] Robert graduated from Magdalene in 1908, and became a planter in the West Indies. His Pass degree in Modern Languages did not qualify him to grow bananas, but it probably helps explain why he headed for the tiny island of Dominica, where the labouring population spoke Creole, a patois derived from French.[65] Next in order, Charles was despatched to Magdalene and may have been destined for the Church. Third Class Honours in Theology perhaps indicated a need for some other calling, and he too spread his wings, and went off to grow apples in Tasmania.[66] For Alban, the youngest boy, a more adventurous career beckoned. He was not quite thirteen when he passed the entrance examination in 1904 to become a cadet at the Royal Naval College, at Osborne on the Isle of Wight. By January 1912, he was a sub-lieutenant.[67]

Robert Knubley happened to be home on leave from the Caribbean when war broke out in 1914. He was promptly commissioned in the Wiltshire Regiment, and was sent to the Front early in 1915. On 16 July, he was severely wounded in fighting around Ypres: The Times made the ghastly blunder of publishing an unconfirmed report of his death. But, as a later tribute put it, Robert '"carried on"', received the Military Cross and promotion. He spent most of the next year recovering from his injuries and engaged in officer training. He rejoined his battalion in France at the end of June 1916, just in time for the Somme offensive. The Wiltshires were not in the first attacking waves on July the first, but took part in follow-up operations from the 6th. By then, the Germans were fully prepared for them, and the regiment incurred heavy casualties. Robert Leavitt Knubley was wounded on July 7th, and died two days later.[68] He is commemorated on war memorials at Steeple Ashton, in Magdalene College chapel, and in Roseau, Dominica's tiny capital.

Charles Knubley also joined up, serving in the Australian Army Medical Corps. He was assigned to a "MASH"-style unit, the 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station, which had been raised at Hobart, close to Knubley's farm. This was no soft posting: his unit operated on the beach at Anzac Cove throughout the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.[69] When the Australians were withdrawn from the Dardanelles and sent to Britain, by great good fortune many of their units were posted to Salisbury Plain, not far from Steeple Ashton. One of Knubley's comrades was another Englishman, with the splendidly redoubtable name of Mawer Douglas Cowtan. Cowtan had been decorated from bravery at Anzac Cove, and no doubt Knubley introduced him to the vicarage. In August 1917, a notice in The Times announced the marriage between Cowtan and Lorina Knubley 'will take place very quietly at Steeple Ashton Church in Sept (leave permitting)'. It took a certain style to apply for compassionate leave through the columns of a national newspaper, but the wedding came off on September 12th.[70] Wartime, of course, was not conducive to lavish ceremony, and the romance followed too close upon Robert's death to permit open celebration. Miles Knubley also served in the Wiltshire Regiment in 1917-18. Alban Knubley survived the war at sea, and by 1918 was in command of destroyer.

Charles returned to Australia after the war, Edward remained in Natal and Alban continued his naval career, serving for some years out of the British base at Queenstown on the south coast of Ireland. Perhaps he led a playboy lifestyle: in 1924, he was the subject of insolvency proceedings, but managed to avoid full-scale bankruptcy by paying off his debts at the last minute.[71] One wonders whether a parental bailout saved the day – for it would have been inconvenient for any clergyman to preach the values of integrity and trustworthiness, when his own offspring had defrauded creditors. When Alban was transferred to a posting in Portsmouth harbour in 1928, a probably-inspired paragraph in The Times was anxious to make the point that he was still a seagoing officer and had not been posted to a shore station, one of the notorious 'stone frigates' that invariably marked the decline of a naval career.[72] He retired in 1934 with the rank of Commodore.[73]

Edward Knubley's own ministry at Steeple Ashton appears to have followed the humdrum patterns of parochial life. His love for the village prompted him to publish a paper on its history in 1902.[74] The Wiltshire and Swindon Archives holds notes that he made in 1924 on a memorial brass in the church, plus a file on parish events and traditions.[75] Knubley was also noted for his continuing enthusiasm for ornithology.[76] Oddly enough, although Steeple Ashton may have seemed a rural backwater, in one unexpected respect its vicar perhaps felt close to the centre of national events. For centuries the Long family had been the dominant landowners in the parish, and an entente between squire and parson made sense. Throughout Knubley's incumbency, the family was headed by Walter Long, a Unionist (Conservative) politician who slowly worked his way through and up the party ranks. In 1911, Long was the preferred candidate of the country gentlemen for the party leadership, but he withdrew in favour of Andrew Bonar Law, who seemed better placed to unite its quarrelsome factions. He went on to serve in wartime cabinets before retreating to the House of Lords on grounds of health.[77] Long was an irascible man, whose judgement was widely distrusted. Knubley conducted his funeral in 1924, but that is not to say that the two men were especially close. However, the death of Long's son in 1917 may have underlined some form of bond between them.[78]

Edward and Josephine Knubley celebrated their Golden Wedding in 1927, amid local goodwill.[79] He became president of the Magdalene College Association (the alumni organisation) and a Canon of Salisbury Cathedral. His bishop described him as 'a fine example of an English country parson, loved and valued by us all.'[80] He remained vicar of Steeple Ashton until the end of his life, and an active one too, for instance presiding over the opening ceremony of the Wiltshire Agricultural Show when it came to Trowbridge in March 1930, and taking part in Steeple Ashton's annual village fête three months before his death.[81] Yet it seems that he and Josephine were working towards a phased retirement, for they moved to a house in Seend, a village about three miles away. It was there that Edward Knubley died in November 1931, at the age of 81, leaving an estate of £4,337.[82] 

Some Reflections

Knubley was succeeded as vicar of Steeple Ashton by another Magdalene man, Oswald Rochfort Yerburgh, who moved to Studland in Dorset in 1959, and died in 1966. However, Knubley's death seems an appropriate point to close this survey of the college-village relationship. In 1936, parliament finally resolved a century of acrid controversy over tithes, with legislation based on Irish land purchase acts. Tithe-holders were allocated government bonds equal to the capitalised value of their incomes. Tithe-payers were required to meet interest and redemption of the bonds over a sixty-year period, so that the ancient obligation would finally be liquidated in 1996. Many farmers bought out their commitment to be done with the issue.[83] Essentially, however, it was neither contingent abolition nor optional commutation that neutralised the burden, but the inexorable process of inflation. A tithe income that had enabled a gentleman to travel abroad in the eighteenth century represented little more than a balancing item in college accounts by the twentieth.

Oxbridge Governing Bodies increasingly included academics of many faiths and none at all. Some of these were likely to ask why institutions dedicated to learning and research should concern themselves with the personnel recruitment of a sect. Those who did accept the historic responsibility of providing clergy for country parishes were less likely to think in terms of patronage – the posts themselves were hardly well remunerated anyway – and more of meeting the needs of local communities, an aim best achieved by consultation with diocesan authorities. I have no doubt that Magdalene College Cambridge came to view its duty to Steeple Ashton in that light, but it is for those involved at either end of the relationship to assess how it has worked within living memory.[84]

Seven clergymen spanning 179 years – and yet, Cambridge background aside, surprisingly few generalisations seem possible. From at least the time of Samuel Hey, the vicars of Steeple Ashton were resident, something that did not become universal practice across the Church of England until the second half of the nineteenth century. Drue Drury's intention that the vicarage should provide an exit strategy for a Fellow of Magdalene gradually ceased to apply. Hartley was technically qualified, but had only held a junior Fellowship for a brief period, and came to Steeple Ashton as a veteran schoolmaster. Knubley was an enthusiastic ornithologist and antiquarian, but – according to the admittedly narrow Cambridge curriculum – he was no scholar, and neither he nor his successor O.R. Yerburgh had held Fellowships. Equally notable is the absence of intellectual activity among the incumbents, at least as measured by published output. No doubt the vicars of Steeple Ashton preached to their flock, but if any of the seven ever published a sermon, the text has not found a permanent place in any Cambridge library. That minatory warning, probably from Samuel Hey, to 'meddle not with them that are given to CHANGE' may be the only enduring written message from the seven Magdalene vicars. On the other hand, if the incumbents were not fixated on theology, they do at least seem to have been commendably free from Anglican factionalism. Knubley's decision to call his youngest son 'Alban' may faintly suggest some High Church leaning, for Anglo-Catholics tended to venerate Britain's first Christian martyr (who gave his name to St Albans). But Cambridge products were generally immune to the temptations of what was, after all, the Oxford Movement.

 One tailpiece seems appropriate. Notwithstanding the long connection between Magdalene and Steeple Ashton, the only students from the parish to enter the College – up the conclusion of Venn's survey in 1900 – were the sons of its clergy – and the vicars of Steeple Ashton were bachelors, and presumably celibate, until 1870.[85] This lacuna represented not so much a policy of social exclusion as one of rigid adherence to the intentions of benefactors. Magdalene did benefit from endowed scholarships, and these were generally honoured, favouring specific schools in the north of England, and towns such as Wisbech. The College's Steeple Ashton bequest was for a Fellowship, not to support students.[86] It is probably also the case that poor boys from Wiltshire were more likely to head for Oxford, which was much more accessible. Regionally specific admissions policies have long since been eliminated from Cambridge. But perhaps other ways might be found to re-invigorate the connection between Steeple Ashton and Magdalene College Cambridge. Most certainly, this note offers little more than an outline and some glimpses. A full and fascinating history remains to be written.


I am grateful to Gail Wood for census and genealogical information, and to Michael Moore for information about St Mary's Church, Steeple Ashton.


[1] For Steeple Ashton, Victoria County History of Wiltshire, vol. 8, 198-218, consulted as [cited as VCHW8]; Post Office Directory of Wiltshire, 1859, 380, consulted as All on-line sources were consulted during October 2016.

[3] E.K. Purnell, Magdalene College (London, 1904), 203-4 describes Drury's bequest, which is also referred to on 17, 193.  Purnell's book is available for consultation via

E.K. Purnell was interested in the Steeple Ashton connection, and a file of his correspondence is held by the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives.

The comprehensive modern history of Magdalene is P. Cunich, et al., A History of Magdalene College Cambridge, 1428-1988 (Cambridge, 1994), with references to Drury's bequest at 166, 178, 188, 193. For biographical information and examination results, Venn's Alumni Cantabrigienses (consulted as and J.R. Tanner, The Historical Register of the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, 1917), consulted as

[4] Of a parish school for 40 girls, an inspector wrote in 1851: 'I regret not to be able to record a favourable impression of this school.' House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, 1851, 1357, 28.

[5] Eamon Duffy, in Cunich, et al., A History of Magdalene College Cambridge, 166.

[6]Purnell, Magdalene College, 204. The Reverend E. Warter, giving evidence to the Royal Commission on Oxford and Cambridge in 1851, put the net value at between £270 and £290 a year.  House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, 1852-3, 1559, 406. In the 18th century, it had been worth £88 a year. Cunich, et al., A History of Magdalene College Cambridge,166.

[7] VCHW8, 'Schools'.

[8] Tanner, Historical Register, 262.

[9] David E. Evans, 'Newton, Alfred', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography;  A.F.W. Wollaston, Life of Alfred Newton (London, 1921), 1, 12, 75, consulted as

Warter (see note 6) had regarded an intention to proceed to ordination as one of the requirements of the Norfolk Travelling Fellowship.

[10] Cunich, ed., History of Magdalene College Cambridge, 170 (account by Eamon Duffy); Purnell, Magdalene College, 167.

[13] VCHW8, 'Charities'.

[14] Most Wiltshire tithes were collected in kind during the 18th century, rather than through cash payments of estimated equivalents. E.J. Evans, The Contentious Tithe ... (London, 1976), 22.

[16] Ged Martin, The Cambridge Union and Ireland (Edinburgh,2000), 24.

[17] A recollection of 1795, quoted N.K. Macintosh, Richard Johnson... (North Sydney, 1978), 19, from J.D. Walsh, 'The Magdalene Evangelicals', Church Quarterly Review (1958), which I have been unable to consult.

[18] Photograph kindly supplied by Michael Moore, churchwarden of St Mary's Steeple Ashton.

[19] Michael S. Moss, 'Kennedy, David, tenth earl of Cassilis', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[20] Date on Hey's memorial plaque. The date on the Clergy Database, 12 June 1828, is that of the appointment of his successor. Hey's executor was his brother Richard, who compiled a detailed inventory of his property. On 7 March 1828, Richard's wife Martha died at Steeple Ashton vicarage, Annual Register, 1828, 225, consulted as:

[21]Photograph kindly sent to me by Michael Moore. It was still far from usual for Wiltshire clergy to reside in their parishes, as William Cobbett noted when he rode close to Steeple Ashton in 1826. 'A journeyman parson comes in and works three or four churches of a Sunday; but the master parson is not there. He generally carries off the produce to spend it in London, or Bath, or somewhere else, to show off his daughters'.  W. Cobbett (ed. G. Woodcock), Rural Rides (Harmondsworth, 1967 ed.), 333.

[22] Quoted, VCHW8, 'Church'.

[23] Held in the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives.

[24] Copy in the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives.

[25] VCHW8, 'Nonconformity'.

[26] Photographs from Michael Moore. In August 1902, Edward Knubley conducted a coronation service at Steeple Ashton, complete with singing of Zadok the Priest. Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser, 16 August 1902.

[27] N. Ker, M. Perkin, eds, A Directory of the Parochial Libraries... (rev. ed., London, 2004), 357-8, consulted as:

The Wiltshire and Swindon Archives holds a collection of letters by Samuel Hey, dealing with his finances and family matters. His Will, dated 16 April 1828, is in the National Archives.

[28] E. Knubley, 'The Rise and Fall of Steeple Ashton as a Market Town', The Wiltshire Magazine, xxxii (1902), 180-1 (see note 74).

[29] The Wiltshire and Swindon Archives holds a file of Crawley's correspondence with Richard Hey, his predecessor's executor, dealing with the transition.

[30] E.J. Hobsbawm and G. Rudé, Captain Swing (Harmondsworth, 1973 ed.), 94-8.

[31] The Times, 29 December 1831. A year earlier, Crawley's father, rector of Rotherfield in Sussex, had been forced by a mob to sign a paper giving up half his tithes. The Times, 22 November 1830.

[32] R.B. Pugh, 'Chartism in Somerset and Wiltshire', in A. Briggs, ed., Chartist Studies (London, 1959), 184.

[33] Colonial Times (Hobart), 17 September 1839,

[34] House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, 1840, 484, 34.

[35] VCHW8, 'Church', 'Nonconformity'.

[36] I am grateful to Gail Wood for census and probate information; Wiltshire Independent, 23 October 1851

[38] N.J. Hall, Trollope: A Biography (Oxford, 1993), 131.

[39] The Magdalene College Boat Club 1828-1928 (Cambridge, 1930),  58.

[41] Family and census information from Gail Wood, who helpfully suggested the possibilityof an epidemic. For Hartley's public appearance, Norfolk Chronicle, 3 December 1859.  The surviving child of the first marriage, Alfred Dashwood Hartley, died in 1875, aged 18.

[42] Information from Gail Wood. 2 year-old Katherine Conningham has not been subsequently traced. Internet genealogy sources state that Lorina Hartley married, and lived until 1942.

[43] Western Gazette, 30 November 1888. Hartley died on 27 November, The Times, 29 November 1888.

[44] Even superficially attractive Church posts now carried considerable overheads. In 1894, the rector of nearby Trowbridge published an abstract of his accounts, showing a net income of just under £60 from a living nominally worth £704. Urban Trowbridge may have been an unusually bad bargain, since the rector was burdened with contributions to the support of daughter churches and curates (as well as a quaint annual payment of four shillings to the vicar of Steeple Ashton). The report, from Henry Labouchere's magazine Truth, was picked up by the Hamilton Spectator in Victoria, 20 September 1894:|||dateTo|||notWords|||anyWords|||dateFrom|||requestHandler|||sortby=dateAsc.

[45] G.R. Evans, Edward Lee Hicks... (Oxford, 2014),  155-6.

[46] The Wiltshire and Swindon Archives holds a copy of a printed address to Bond on the occasion of his appointment to Lincolnshire in 1897. Curiously, he cannot be traced in Steeple Ashton at the time of 1891 census. A non-resident appointment was unthinkable at the time, suggesting that he was temporarily absent, perhaps on holiday.

[47] A.T. Mitchell, Rugby School Register ..., iii (Rugby, 1902), 248, consulted as:

[48] The Times, 31 January 1929.

[49] Knubley rowed for Magdalene from 1870 to 1872, rising to become stroke and captain of the Boat Club. Magdalene College Boat Club, 64-5.

[50] Wollaston, Alfred Newton, 269-70.

[51] J.R.M. Butler, Henry Montagu Butler... (London, 1925), 93.

[52] Cunich, ed., History of Magdalene College Cambridge, 236-7.

[53] In 1897, Peskett held monthly communion services at Longstanton St Michael. There were 18 communicants, in a congregation of around 55, out of a population that had been 73 in 1881. Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire, vol. 9, 231-6, consulted as:

[54] Knubley's appointmen t was announced in The Times, 15 July 1897.

[55] Census and genealogical information mainly from Gail Wood. The couple were married on 3 July 1877 by the Rev. A.O. Hartley at Steeple Ashton, The Times, 9 July 1877.

[56] New York Times, 3 January 1852, 3 July 1863. Rohe and Leavitt passed into the hands of John A. Foote. Leavitt retained a $30,000 investment. He evidently trusted Foote, whom he appointed as his executor. American law allowed executors to agree to the retention by an estate of any investment whose sale would have negative consequences. Foote decided that returning Leavitt's $30,000 would be disruptive to his business, and so agreed with himself to retain the money, on which he paid a generous 6 percent interest. Although they had initially agreed to this as a transitional measure, Josephine Knubley and her sister took legal action to dismiss Foote from the executorship in 1892. A New York court ruled that he should give a bond for eventual discharge of the debt. Josephine's share of the interest would have been less than £200 a year. It is unlikely that she would have joined in legal action without her husband's approval.  J. Power, Reports of Case ... Surrogate Court ... New York (Albany, NY, 1901), 74-6, consulted as:

[57] The Times, 29 September 1886. Leavitt died at Spa in Belgium, where he had probably gone for his health. He was 58.

[58] The Times, 23 September 1902; Observer, 7 June 1903; Bath Chronicle, 25 September 1902, 11 June 1903.

[59] Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser, 27 September 1902, 13 June 1903.

[60] Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser, 18 April 1903.

[61] Miles Knubley became District Valuer for Trowbridge. He retired in 1954, and set up in private practice. Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser, 8 May 1954.

[62] Information from Gail Wood. The boarder was Edward George Watson-Taylor, from a family of Jamaica planters, who were absentee owners of an estate at Erlestoke, near Devizes.

[63] Purnell, Magdalene College, 211.

[64] The Times, 13 April 1905.

[65] The Times, 18 June 1908, 15 July 1916.

[66] The Times, 20 June 1910.

[67] The Times, 19 April 1904, 16 February 1912; London Gazette, 16 February 1912, 1173.

[68] The Times, 10 July 1915, 15 July 1916.  The official despatch describing the attack by the Wiltshires was reprinted as a centenary gesture in This account praises the courage and determination of the attack, disguising the fact that it failed to achieve its main objective. See also: G.V. Carey, The War List of the University of Cambridge, 1914-1918 (Cambridge, 1921), 226.

[70] The Times, 9 August, 15 September 1917.

[71] London Gazette, 8 January 1924, 343; 11 March 1924, 2223.

[72] The Times, 10 January 1928.

[73] London Gazette, 16 October 1934, 6552. Retirement was 'at his own request'.

[74] E. Knubley, 'The Rise and Fall of Steeple Ashton as a Market Town', The Wiltshire Magazine,  xxxii (1902), 180-5, consulted as The paper was originally read at a meeting of the Wiltshire Archaeological Society in June 1901. Modern scholarship throws doubt on Knubley's theory that a disastrous fire in the 16th century ended Steeple Ashton's urban pretensions.

[76] He delivered a public lecture on the subject in 1924: Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser, 8 November 1924.

[77] A. Jackson, 'Long, Walter', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; The Times, 2 October 1924.

[78] Although apparently rigid in many aspects of his Conservatism, Long's sometimes voiced radical ideas. His proposals at Steeple Ashton in 1918 for the revival of self-sufficient village life have an oddly Bolshevik quality about them. The Times, 18 November 1918. The Western Gazette, 22 November 1918 reported that Long spoke 'at his country seat', and Knubley is not mentioned.

[79] Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser, 7 January 1928.

[81] Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser, 15 March 1930; 8 August 1931.

[83] Evans, Contentious Tithe, 166-7.

[84] Several of the incumbents almost certainly inherited money, but it noteworthy that their estates declined in value over six decades:  Crawley (1869), £16,000; Hartley (1888), £7,123; Knubley (1931), £4,337. The value of money had of course been ravaged by inflation over that time. Crawley employed a coachman; Knubley could not afford Eton or Harrow for his boys, but sent them to less glamorous academies like Fauconberg at Beccles and King's School, Taunton.

[85] Two sons of Hartley, one son of Bond, one son of Knubley before 1900 and two more in the Edwardian period. Edward Knubley himself had entered Magdalene before his step-father's move to Wiltshire. No Magdalene student before 1900 came from Trowbridge.

[86] From an interest in Essex local history, I can say that New College Oxford harnessed far more extensive resources from Hornchurch over five and a quarter centuries from 1391, but recruited barely a handful of students from the parish.