Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Henry Philpott Bishop of Worcester 1860 to 1890

If you visit Worcester Cathedral you might see the fine sculpture by Sir Thomas Brock of Henry Philpott, who was Bishop of Worcester between 1860 and 1890. The statue was originally positioned in the south Transept. Today, many visitors may not realize why a statue was made in his honour, and paid for by the public. This would surprise our Victorian ancestors who knew him as a great mathematician, an able administrator, and a man deeply committed to charity.

Bishop Henry Philpott of Worcester. Photography by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Henry Philpott, born in Chichester, was from an early age a gifted mathematician and classicist. As an undergraduate he was awarded the position of Senior Wrangler at Cambridge University, and was Smith’s Prizeman. His exam answers were kept for many years by the University because of their quality. He became a Fellow of St. Catherine’s College, and later went on to be the Master of the College from 1845 to 1860, and was Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University on three occasions. He did this job so well that he impressed Prince Albert, who made him his Chaplain.

Autographed picture of Bishop Henry Philpott. Photograph by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)
Yet it was his actions as Bishop which made him beloved of his Diocese. He was a hard working man, who realised that debates are often pointless and that he could achieve far more in life by avoiding the House of Lords, meetings, congresses, Lambeth Conferences, and Convocations whenever possible. As a moderate Evangelical he devoted himself to his Diocese and to charitable work. He helped local churches in need of repair, offering sums of money from his own pocket. For example, he gave an acre of land to Lower Mitton when it needed an additional churchyard, and £1,250 to All Saints, Worcester. He also helped poor clergy. He had a substantial private income, and was frequently able to give away most of his official income to charities and charitable causes, both private and public. He also extended this charity to fellow Protestants in non-conformist churches in Worcester and Stourbridge. He founded scholarships, for example at Malvern Proprietary College in the 1860’s, and served as chairman of the Trustees at Bromsgrove school, where a stained glass window was erected in the school’s chapel in 1891. He was also interested in health matters and was a Governor of Worcester Infirmary, and was a patron of the Worcester Ophthalmic Hospital. He also attended meeting of Philanthropic societies in his Diocese.

Bishop Philpott was not a great public speaker. He only had three addresses for confirmation ceremonies. However, he was conscientious in replying to all correspondence and never relied upon a secretary. In 1881, he escaped being killed in his own library at Hartlebury Castle, when a large stone monument to Bishop Hurd above the door fell down only moments after he had been there.

In 1846 Philpott married Mary Jane, the daughter of the Marchese di Spineto. In 1878 the Bishop’s wife went blind. When he came home each evening Bishop Philpott would read to her. Despite her blindness she also enjoyed walks around the Castle’s gardens with her husband. The Bishop resigned the Bishopric in August 1890, and retired to his much-loved Cambridge, where he died. On his retirement money raised was put towards the gift of a silver ink stand, but the majority of the money established the ‘Philpott fund’ for the Pensions of the Clergy in the Diocese. This was because the poverty of the clergy at the time was an issue that Philpott was only too aware of. He is now buried at the Church of St. Mary at Bishop’s Wood in Hartlebury, which he built.

One volume of Dr. Samuel Johnson's works donated by Bishop Philpott to the Cathedral. Photograph by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Bishop Philpott generously donated many books from his own collection to the Cathedral Library. The cathedral’s archive also shows that the Bishop was involved in the administrative side of the Victorian restoration of the Cathedral, and provided the new Bishop’s throne. He died leaving a large sum of money, including generous legacies to the Church Pastoral Aid Society, and the Church Missionary Society.

The catalogue of books Henry Philpott gave to Worcester Cathedral. Photograph by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester (U.K.)

When visiting Worcestershire, why not also look at Hartlebury Castle and its excellent Hurd Library. Their link is as follows:

David Morrison, with thanks to Mr. David Everett for research.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Heritage and History of Wales - Part 2: South Wales

In a continuation of last month’s blog about Grose’s book of Welsh antiquary, with a focus upon North Wales, this month’s blog delves into the history and myth of the counties of South Wales, which Grose discovered on his travels in the late 18th Century.

A map of Wales 1696. By permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK).

            The county of Glamorganshire, located in the far south of Wales, encompassing Swansea and Cardiff, was notable in 1789 due to it being “fruitful, pleasant and populous”, to the extent that it was often called the “Garden of Wales”. Additionally, being home to over 25 castles and a number of abbeys and priories, demonstrates this county’s historical, strategic and religious significance. Of the multitude of sites, Cardiff Castle Tower probably can lay claim to the most intriguing story associated with it, as it was the building in which Robert Duke of Normandy, brother of William Rufus and Henry I, was confined to for over 26 years.  Following his escape and recapture during this period, he was blinded when his optic nerve was destroyed by a hot brass baton close to his face. Following a further incident with his brother, the Duke of Normandy refused nourishment and starved himself to death.

            The largest county in Wales at the time, Brecknockshire, situated to the north of Glamorganshire, was noted for its mountainous landscape. In terms of Brecknockshire’s historical buildings, the most significant is undoubtedly Brecknock Castle, built during the reign of William Rufus, by Barnard de Newmarsh, who had immense lands due to his marriage to the grand-daughter of Gryffyth ap Llewellyn Prince of Wales. In an act of revenge against her son for reproaching her behaviour, she declared him illegitimate, causing him to be disinherited. This resulted in the castle and estate passing to his sister and then through her female descendents to the Mortimer family.

An engraving of Brecknock Castle. By permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)
            The county of Radnorshire, north of Brecknockshire, is described as “the most barren county of all Wales and its air is “cold and piercing”. Despite this, the mineral water at Llandrindod was very popular and also the Offa’s Dyke Path, now a popular walking route, originally the boundary running from the mouth of the Wye to the mouth of the Dee, made by Offa, King of Mercia.

            At the time that the book was written, Cardiganshire, modern day Ceredigionshire, had a population of 35,380 inhabitants, and only had four market towns: Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Llanbadernvaur and Tregaron. A site of historical and archaeological importance to this day, the Abbey of Strata Florida, was built in 1164 for Cistercian monks and is thought to be the burial place of many welsh princes. Unfortunately, now nothing more than ruins remain of the abbey.

An engraving of Strata Florida. By permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK).
            The county of Carmarthenshire, described by Grose as “the most fruitful county in Wales”, was a big producer of wood, corn, cattle, game, sea and river fish, coal and lead. A particularly interesting statement made by the author is that near Carmarthen is a spring which ebbs and flows twice every 24 hours. Although this is now claimed to be myth, it is interesting to consider whether the author noted down a myth he had heard about the spring, or whether at the time he visited, it did in fact ebb and flow. Another interesting site within this county is Kidwelly Castle, built soon after the Norman conquest, and destroyed and rebuilt on a number of occasions, as it passed from the Normans to the Welsh and later from the Royalists to the Roundheads. Despite this, the present day castle still contains remains from 1200 and 1460.

A map of Carmarthenshire. By permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK).

            Pembrokeshire was and is notable for its multitude of stunning headlands, such as Strumble Head and Cape Stuncuin. This beautiful county however, is also home to a large array of mysterious and unusual sites and artefacts. Firstly, in the vicinity of Newport, there were said to be seven barrows, one of which when opened, contained five urns full of “burnt bones and ashes”, and whose presence was unexplained. Additionally, near St David’s was a stone “one hundred oxen could not move”, called The Rocking Stone, which was apparently rendered immovable by Cromwell’s soldiers. Finally, Buck’s Pool, near Stackpool, was described as a “pit of water that cannot be fathomed”. This dubious comment was probably due to the fact that it was fed from a redundant spring never known to stop in summer or winter.

These two blog posts explored only a small sample of the sites mentioned in Grose’s fascinating book. However, the book and others in the series are available to view by appointment.

Carys Aldous-Hughes

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Heritage and History of Wales - Part 1: North Wales

Within Worcester Cathedral Library is a captivating and highly intriguing tour of Wales. It can be found in volume VIII of Grose’s Antiquities of England and Wales, published in 1789. This is a contemporary history of a multitude of fascinating sites within the counties of North and South Wales.

The author, Francis Grose was born in 1731 in London. He was the eldest child of Francis Joseph Grose, a Swiss immigrant and jeweller, and his wife Anne Benet. Earlier in his career, Grose had success in the armed forces, but in 1757, he was elected as a member of the Society of Antiquaries. As a result, he travelled to many parts of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, in order to collect material for his volumes on antiquary. He died during his final expedition of this type to Ireland, and is buried in Dublin.

This blog focuses upon his discoveries in North Wales, which encompassed the grand castles of Anglesey, ancient druidical monuments of Denbighshire and enormous standing stones found in Montgomeryshire.

This is a map of Wales .By permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)

Being one of the smallest counties in Wales at the time, Anglesey’s population numbered only 12,000 inhabitants and despite being “stony and mountainous”, produce from the island included wheat, cattle, sheep and fish, in addition to copper, mill stones and red, yellow and blue ochre. Anglesey’s most impressive site was Beaumaris castle, built in 1295 by Edward I, which, during the English Civil War, was held for the King until 1649, when it was surrendered to General Mitton. It is possible, however, that all the riches were buried in preference to being surrendered to the Roundhead leader, as there have long been suspicions that large amounts of treasure were concealed both within the vault and the vicinity of the castle.

On the Welsh mainland, to the South East of Anglesey was the striking county of Caernarvonshire, surrounded on three sides by the sea, with “fruitful valleys” and perpetual snow covered mountains. It contains a multitude of features from Snowdon Hills to Orme’s Head and Dolwyddelan Castle to Caernarvon Castle. Of particular interest to Grose is Dolwyddelan, built in the year 500, on an ancient road through the mountains called Helen’s Way (aka Sarn Helen). The birthplace of Llewellyn the Great and residence of Gryffydd ap Tudor, the castle was later purchased by Meredydd ap Jevan during the reign of Henry VII. Despite being resided in by outlaws, Meredydd favoured the castle over his former family residence, as it was said that relations with his family were so poor, that it was said to be a case of either “kill or be killed”. At the castle, however, he established a successful garrison, which included “seven score of the tallest and ablest bows men”.
An engraving of Dolwyddelan. By permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)

Of significant Roman and Druid heritage, the county of Denbighshire, to the East of Caernarvonshire, has a variety of Druidical monuments and stones, along with the remnants of a Roman fortification said to be the camp of Caractacus and a tomb stone with Roman inscriptions at the Hill of Graves. Additionally, Denbighshire has a Cistercian abbey dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary called the Abbey of Valle Cruis, founded in 1200, and is now said to be one of the best preserved in Wales.

Despite being the smallest counties in Wales at the time, Flintshire contained many sites of historical and religious significance. Most notable is St Winifred’s Well, which is thought to be the oldest continually visited pilgrimage site in Great Britain, visited since the 7th Century. James II and his wife Mary were among the many visitors, prompted by Mary’s inability to conceive, and shortly after their pilgrimage Mary became pregnant with a son. More ominous however, is the locally named “Stone of Lamentation”, a sandstone monolith, thought to mark the site of ancient treasure, but apparently with the power to conjure lightning and storms to deter possible treasure hunters.

A map of Denbighshire. By permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)
The county of Merionethshire, situated on the Irish Sea, to the South of Denbighshire and Caernarvonshire is described by Grose as “mountainous and unwholesome” and subject to a “livid fire or vapour”, which caused destruction to land and livestock, prominently in the years 1542 and 1584. Of particular interest is Harlech Castle, which was of great military significance for both England and Wales. It was Owain Glydwr’s home and military base from 1404 to 1409, and later was held by the Lancastrian forces for seven years during the Wars of the Roses, before its siege by the Yorkist troops in 1468. It is now classed as a world heritage site and regarded as one of the finest examples of 13th and 14th Century military architecture in Europe.

Grose states that at the time, Montgomeryshire was the home to a very impressive collection of standing stones such as those found at Stonehenge in Wiltshire. They were said to be so large that it would be “hardly possible to move them with 50 yoke of oxen”. A particularly interesting and unusually site is Dolforwyn Castle, due to the legendary origins of its name. Dolforwyn (Meadow of the Maiden) is thought to allude to Sabra of Sabrina, the illegitimate daughter of Locrine (a king of ancient Britain). She was drowned in the River Severn by Gwendolen, Locrine’s wife, following his death, and she is said to be the inspiration for a poem, reproduced in Grose’s book, a sample of which is below:
“She guiltless damsel, flying the mad pursuit,
 Of her enraged stepdame Gwendolen
 Commended her fair innocence to the flood”

            To discover the mysteries of some of South Wales heritage, read next month’s blog. 

Carys Aldous-Hughes