The Vestry And The New Church
The Survey of Battersea tells us that in December 1769, the Vestry asked one of the churchwardens, Joseph Dixon, to appoint two ‘proper persons’ to join two vestry members in inspecting and reporting on the state of the tower. Being a mason Dixon, a parish overseer in 1767 and churchwarden in 1768–73, took a leading role in developing the rebuilding strategy. He and his carpenter brother Richard had won the contract for Blackfriars Bridge. The collapse of the bridge they were building at Exeter during construction in 1775 and the rising price of Portland stone led to his bankruptcy in 1778, and his Battersea house was sold. He died in 1787.
The Vestry decided in December 1771 to re-build the Church rather than repair and enlarge it, because it was in a very dilapidated state. As Lord of the Manor Earl Spencer agreed in 1772 to give it a piece of ground to enlarge the church yard. The new church cost £4,950 13s. 9.d. The money was raised by the sale of pews for 99 years, some estates or docks belonging to the Parish, and by granting annuities on lives.
The new church was opened on 17 November 1777. The ground given by the Earl Spencer for the enlargement of the church yard was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Oxford on 15 April 1778.
Six of the old bells were re-cast, and two more added. On special occasions they had a special peel to which was a verse beginning:
Ring out the old year's evil,
The world, the flesh , the devil ;
Let them go ! let them go !
And ring in the Prince of Peace,
Messiah's gentle reign.
Churchwardens: Mark Bell, John Camden, Mr. Dixon and Philip Worlidge
Overseers: Messrs Bremmer, Thomas Bond, Isaac Akerman, Thomas Misluor, Christopher Baldwin, and Philip Milloway.
In 1778/79 there was a request from the parishioners and approval to install an organ.
By the time the Church was opened the Vicar was Revd. John Gardenor. He was one of the signatories on the indentures selling the pews, along with the Vestry Clerk, Allyn Simmons Smith, John Camden and Thomas Rhodes, and the surgeon John Lumsden as five of the Trustees appointed under the Act of Parliament. Pew No. 62 was sold to William Dent for £31. 10s. and his Executrs, Administrators and Assigns for 99 years, and an annual rent of 2s. 6d.
Although on the east bank of the Thames the new Church seems to have been a popular church for the London elite, who would have had to come across on small boats from Chelsea opposite, including those operated by ferrymen, or by horse or coach over until Battersea Bridge, and have their marriages and burials here.
Horizontal Air Mill
Eleven years after the Church was built a Horizontal AirMill was built next to it on the site of Bolingbroke’s Manor House. By 1808 it was grinding malt for a nearby distillery and the grains were used to fatten bullocks, with 650 being accommodated in sheds. They were brought up the road through the village in September from Kingston and the West country. After fattening them up they would be sold for slaughter. The Mill seems to have been pulled down between 1844 and 1849.
The artist and visionary William Blake and Catherine Boucher, the daughter of a Battersea Huguenot market gardener, married in August 1782. Later they lived in North Lambeth.
William Wilberforce, the anti-slavery activist attended Sarah Clarke his sister's wedding in the Church in 1800 to James Stephens. Stephens was a leading abolition campaigner. Until 1808 Wilberforce lived at Broomfield House off Battersea Rise, which was owned by his friend Henry Thornton until1808. The Clapham Church was nearer to where he lived than St. Mary’s, which meant he and other members of what became called the Clapham Sect used the Clapham Church.
Curtis was a leading botanist was buried here in 1799. Born in 1746 he at first became an apothecary. At the age of 25 he produced Instructions for collecting and preserving insects; particularly moths and butterflies.
He demonstrated plants at the Chelsea Physic Garden between 1771 to 1777, established his own London Botanic Garden at Lambeth in 1779, moving to Brompton in 1789. He had published his six volume Flora Londinensis between 1777 and 1798.He established The Botanical Magazine in 1787.
He is commemorated in a stained glass window as he had collected many samples in the churchyard there. The Friends of the Church published D. T. Moore’s William Curtis (1746-1799) botanist and St. Mary's Battersea in 2004.
Benedict Arnold, the American revolutionary who switched sides to support the English is buried under the crypt with his wife and daughter, and there is a modern stained glass window to him.
With the defeat of the British by the Americans, loyalists like Arnold came to England, he and his family arriving in London in 1782 to a mixed reception. In 1785 he and his son Richard moved to Saint John, New Brunswick, in what is now Canada. They speculated in land and traded with the West Indies. He returned to London in 1786 bringing the rest of his family to Saint John in 1787. As a result of involvement in a series of bad business deals and petty lawsuits, the townspeople burned him in effigy in front of his house. The family returned to London in December 1791. With the outbreak of the French Revolution he outfitted a privateer, while continuing to do business in the West Indies. He was imprisoned by French authorities on Guadeloupe amid accusations of spying for the British. He escaped and helped organise militia forces on British-held islands. His reward was a land grant of 15,000 acres in Upper Canada. He returned to England and after a period of bad health aggravated by long standing gout he died in June 1801. His funeral procession is said to have boasted ‘seven mourning coaches and four state carriages’. He left a small estate, reduced in size by his debts, which his wife Margaret undertook to clear. It appears that as a result of a clerical error in the parish records, his remains were removed to an unmarked mass grave during church renovations a century later.
You can find out more about his role in the American Revolution and his involvements in Canada in Volume 5 of The Dictionary of Canadian Biography on the internet.
Richard Rothwell and John Camden
Margaret’s father Richard Rothwell of Battersea died in July 1821, aged 60. His memorial says that he had been an Alderman and High Sheriff of the City of London and County of Middlesex. British History OnLine lists him as a fishmonger elected in March 1818 and Sheriff of a year from 1819-20. However the Gentleman's and Citizen's Almanack of 1815 records him as being elected in December, presumably 1814.
John Camden died in 1780, and his eldest daughter Elizabeth Neild in 1791.A letter published in Notes & Queries in January 1901 tells us that Camden had two daughters. Elizabeth married in 1788 James Neild, High Sheriff of Bucks in 1804, a philanthropist and prison reformer of the day. He had become very rich as a London goldsmith buying estates the counties of Buckingham, Middlesex, Kent, and Surrey. He set a society for the relief of Persons imprisoned for small debts. He died in 1814, and was buried at Chelsea.
John Camden Neild, was born in 1780, and became a lawer, inheriting his father's property, estimated at £250,000. He lived on the other side of the Thames in Cheyne Walk. He was very miserly and eccentric.
Robert Banks Hodgkinson
Hodgkinson and his wife Bridget who both died in November
and Jim Hopper’s family history website tells us that he was born in 1722 r in Derbyshire. His father was MP Peterborough in 1690. He married Bridget Williams in October 1757.
Because he had family land interests in
Edwinsford in Carmarthen he was the
High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1784. He was (M.P.) for Wareham, Dorset. He was the uncle of Sir Joseph Banks who lived at Turret House next to
the Chelsea Physic Garden from 1763 with his widowed mother. Can we presume
that the two Banks visited each other across the river?
The American Loyalists
As well as Benjamin Arnold several other loyalists in exile in England are buried at the Church. Samuel Fitch, William Vassall and Nathaniel Middleton.
Samuel Fitch died in 1799, and his wife Elizabeth the next year. Fitch had been a lawyer and was one of many loyalists whose land and property were forfeited under the Massachusetts Conspiracy Act of 1779.
William Vassall died in 1800, his wife Margaret having died in 1791. The Survey of Battersea tells us that from 1775 leased a house and estate from Thomas Bond, a Lambeth timber merchant. Vassall owned property in the West Indies, which was left to his. Another Vassall Florentius had been born in Jamaica where he lived most of his life but died in London in1778. The Vassall story is told by James Henry Stark in his 1972 book The Loyalists of Massachusetts And the Other Side of the American Revolution.
Nathaniel Middleton died in 1807. He had lost his daughters Sophia in 1790 and Augusta in 1802.His wife Frances lived until 1823. Middleton did not live in Battersea but in Harley St.
Manners was a General in the Army and Colonel of the 26th Regiment of Light Dragoons who died in 1800, his daughter Mrs Mary Sneyd in 1839, and his son, Russell Manners, in 1840. Manners had served in the Royal Foresters and been Lieutenant Colonel of the 22nd Light Dragoons in 1762.He was Major General of the 19th Light Dragoons a short lived unit fighting in the American War of Independence from 1779 and disbanded in 1783. He commanded the 26th Light Dragoon from1795 which appears to have fought in the West Indies. Although he lived in Southend he died in on his way to London to seek medical advice. Why he is buried in Battersea is not known.
Born about 1776 and dieing in 1803 Thomas Astle was keeper of the records in the Tower of London who wrote The Origin and Progress of Writing. He left a valuable collection of manuscripts which were deposited at Stow, with his patron the Marquis of Buckingham. The Survey of Battersea tells us that he lived in a property on the Chatto estate on West Side Clapham Common.
Living in the Battersea Rise district William Francis died in 1805. He was a Governor of the Asylum of House of Refuge for Friendless and Deserted Orphaned Girls based in Lambeth established in 1785. The 1794 report lists Mary and Thomas Ponton of Battersea and William Watson of Nine Elms. The 1816 Annual Report lists Battersea subscribers as Joseph Benwell, Revd. Joseph Hughes and Henry Weymouth who each who subscribed £10.10s, while Wilberforce now living in Kensington contributed £5. 5s.
There is a memorial to Mary Sophia Vardon who died in 1808, and her husband Thomas who died the next year. The New Lady's Magazine, Or, Polite and Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex of 1791 tells us that the Vardons were living at St John’s Place, Battersea Rise, when their eldest daughter married. The Survey of Battersea tells us this was may now be Plough Terrace. Vardon had been a wholesale City ironmonger and supplier of anchors to the Navy. He had purchased land and built Spencer Lodge. His will is in the National Archives.The website of the village Ayot St Peter in Hertfordshire tells us that Vardon was married to Elizabeth Tarbutt
And that he had a large shareholding in Crowley Millington & Co., the iron and steel manufacturer based at Winlaton in County Durham, and Greenwich. The Crowley enterprise made hoes and shackles for the West Indies plantations. Its founder founder Ambrose was involved in setting up the South Sea Company just before his death. He and and his wife are buried in Mitcham Church. Vardon had three sons and two daughters. Either the website is wrong about Vardon’s wife or Elizabeth was his first wife.
There are several monuments to the Chalie family. Marianne died in 1793, Mary Anne 1796, John 1800, Matthew 1816, Catherine Sarah (Hoper) 1828, and Elizabeth (Hoper) 1852. Ancestry tells us that Matthew who died in 1816 was born in the parish in July 1794 to Matthew Chalie and Mary Hoper. He died at West Common, Battersea.
Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History tells us that John and Matthew Chalie were wine and spirit merchants. John had started in partnership with James Chalie in 1700, changing to Chalie & Dolignon; and then John & Matthew Chalie based at Mincing Lane. John’s widow donated £50 to the Lying in Charity for delivering unmarried women in their homes listed in its Annual Report of 1817. Both she and Matthew Chilie of Mincing Lane are listed as Governors. Battersea based Governors were Mrs Champion of Battersea Rise, James Browne and William Dent of Battersea Fields, and John Hodgson.
The Gentlemen’s Magazine of 1846 tells us that the body of the lawyer R. V. Richards was interred in the Chalie vault because his wife was Jane was Matthew’s heiress
Notes and Queries of August 1916 tells us that the William Hollingsworth and his wife his sister lived in Nine Elms for 50 years. His brother John had lived in the area but in August 1776 and his wife in August 1775. Phoebe in April 1824 and William died in July 1825.
The Survey of Battersea tells us that William was a wealthy merchant and brewer, and went into partnership with Marc Brunel and his sawmills. The London Gazette of 1823 tells us that William’s partnership with Michael Pass the elder of Nine Elms as lime burners was dissolved in 1823.
When Thomas Ashness died in 1827 he left £100 for the benefit of the poor a charity which is now part of Battersea United Charities. He had been a Governor of the Asylum for the Support and Education of the deaf and dumb children of the poor listed in 1817. Others were Joseph Benwell and Miss Mary Lane, James Langdale and William Savill of Bathersea Rise.
The Ashness memorial is also to his wife Abigail who died in 1823, and his nephew George
Ashness, who died in 1853, his
wife Mary (1840), and another nephew, Joseph
Whitaker Ashness (1845).
The Survey of
Battersea tells us that Ashness House on
West Side which had been built by 1780
had been owned by Thomas from c.1786 till his death in 1827, followed by
various members of his family. Lindore and Almeric Roads now stand on its site.
Revd. John Inglis
Revd. John Inglis was Bishop of Nova Scotia when he died in 1850. The Dictionary of Canadian Biography that he was born in December After the British evacuation of New York in 1783, he accompanied his father Revd. Charles and two sisters to England. He returned to North America in 1787, on Charles appointment as the first bishop of Nova Scotia. He visited England in 1806–7, 1812–13, and 1816 on behalf of the colonial church. He became Rector of Stthe Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to establish scholarships there for the sons of missionaries. The Society was still owner of the Codrington Slave Plantation on Barbados. Inglis opposed the British and Foreign Bible Society as a competitor of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. He opposed the legal incorporation of dissenting and Catholic congregations. He was consecrated as Bishop in 1825. The diocese included Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Bermuda. He visited England in 1831 and between 1837 and 1840.
He is buried in the vault of Sir Rupert George, decided to be buried in the church yard as a result of a visit to Lord Cremorne, at Cremorne House, on the opposite side of the Thames. He came over to Battersea and was so impressed with the beauty of the view across the river that he purchased the vault Several of his sons and daughters are interred there, He and Inglis were friends and linked through marriage.
A poet he died in 1860 in Battersea but is buried in Brompton. He was born at in Northumberland 1795,the son of an agricultural labourer. He became a gardener. By 1820 he was running school in North Yorkshire. Many parents withdrew their children he opposed parliamentary reform.
In 1834 supported the Conservative Party in his The Isles are Awake. In 1843, Sir Robert Peel’s Conservative government offered a small post to him in the Audit Office, so he moved to London. In 1845 he published Songs and Lyrical Poems and in 1852 a medieval romance Guthrum the Dane. Algnernon Percy, the Duke of Northumberland became his patron in 1857. In 1859 he read his poem on Robert Burns at that poet’s centenary celebrations. When he died he lived in Battersea.
Although most of the gravestones in the churchyard are unreadable because of erosion we know something about some of the people they were erected for even if they were not buried here, like Robert Story.
Ordinary parishioners were also buried in the church yard and include:
Goody Harleton, aged 108 years, buried 1703; William Abbot, 101, 1733; Wiat, 100, 1790; and William Douse, 100, 1803.
Rebecca, wife of Richard Harding, who died in labour of their fourth child, which was still-born , was buried in February 1730,and her three infant children, Mary, Sarah, and Rebecca were buried in March.
On the right-hand- side of the pathway leading towards the porch of the Church is a grave stone at the bottom of which is the following inscription:
‘Mrs. Sarah Eleanor McFarlane, who fell by the hand of an assassin the 29th of April, 1844, aged 46 years.’ This poor widow resided in Bridge Road, and obtained a subsistence by keeping a Day and Sunday School. The name of the murderer who deprived the life of his victim by cutting her throat on Old Battersea Bridge, was Augustus Dalmas, a Frenchman. This horrid crime was committed late at night. The woman who had charge of the toll seeing the helpless condition of Mrs. McFarlane conveyed her to the " Swan and Magpie” Tavern at the foot of the Bridge, where she expired exclaiming " Dalmas did it ! " Dalmas was transported to Australia in 1845.
Others buried in the churchyard are:
Arthur Collins, author of The Peerage and Baronetage of England . His grandson, David Collins, was Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales, and author of a history of the English Settlement there.
The Countess de Morella, who lived in one of the five mansions which gave its old name of Five House Lane to Bolingbroke Grove, placed a coped stone with a over the old grave of her aunt Miss Elizabeth Hofer, in the church yard and had the tablets of her family at the west end of the north gallery cleaned.
Charles Williams of London was an actor at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. His funeral was attended by the whole body of Comedians.
Vicar from 1570 Owen Ridley was in constant dispute with his parishioners. 43 of them submitted a petition against hijmin1593 stating their grievances which they suffered from their Vicar during the space of eighteen years and accusing him of conversing with a witch. A second petition signed by 17 people to Lord Burleigh, the Lord High Treasurer of England defended him as ‘zealous in the gospell, honest in life, painefull to teache us and to catechise our youth; charitable and liberall to the poore and needy accordinge to his ability, he never sued any of all his parisheoners for tythes, althoughe he hath hadd cawse gyven by some so to doe.’ It stated that he hated witches.
Born in 1799 Robert Eden was Vicar from 1835 to 1847. He moved in the high Whig circles around the Spencers. His promotion to Battersea was supported by his friend Lord Melbourne and other grandees. Eden readily intermingled politics with his duties. As a local church-builder Eden has just one foundation to his credit, Christ Church, started in 1847.
In 1838 he considered that there was a stark class division in Battersea. He told the diarist Greville that the parish population had 'no middle-class of tradesmen in good circumstances; they are divided between the extremes of wealth and poverty; masters and operatives'. The operatives had 'a considerable amount of knowledge, though their minds be ill-regulated and their principles perverted.' When he had first taken up post 'the place abounded in the disciples of Carlile, pure athesists, and when Carlile was in prison he was supported by their contributions.'
Eden went on: 'Some were reclaimed and went to church, but the greater part, who required some powerful excitement, sought it in politics, and became deeply imbued with the most pernicious principles of hatred against all institutions, against the higher orders, and against property.’
He and others established evening lectures on various subjects to counteract. His views may not come as too much of a surprise given that Eden was a member of the aristocracy, third son of William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland. He was Royal Chaplin to William IV and Queen Victoria. He was a leading force behind the creation of Battersea Park partly motivated by his dislike of fun activities taking place in the Battersea fields, especially at the Red He became the 3rd Baron of Auckland in 1849.
J. S. Jenkinson
J. S. Jenkinson was Vicar from1847 to 1871. He moved towards subdividing his exploding parish into further districts. With St John’s already in the offing, he anticipated including St Mark’s, Battersea Rise.
The Survey of Battersea tells us that significant alterations took place in 1823–4, when £3,608 19s 6d was spent on repairs and improvements to enlarge and improve access to the galleries. The seating was rearranged, and a portico added to house new staircases. The organ installed there in 1791 was replaced by a superior.
John Erskine Clark
Revd. Clarke was Vicar of St Mary's and an amazing man. He was born in 1827 in Calcutta where his father served in the East India Company. When he became a Vicar in 1856 he started the first Parish magazine and then in 1863 a children’s paper The Prize. This was followed by Chatterbox in 1866 which he edited until 1902, a paper that survived until the 1950s. In 1871 he started Church Bells magazine editing it until 1906. He became Vicar here at St Mary's in 1872, and a Trustee of Sir Walter St John Trust until 1916. From 1885 he was Hon. Chaplain to Queen Victoria, then Edward VII, then George V. He organised the division of the St Mary's parish into new parishes to reflect the population growth and the building of new Anglican churches such as St Luke's, reorganised the People's Dispensary at the other end of the High St, supported the Penny Bank, and set up the school for girls in the Shrubbery off Clapham Common Northside. He had a severe strike in 1916 and died in 1920.
He was not afraid to appoint curates with new views about the meaning and role of Christianity, including Canon Escreet, who was active in the St Mary's Guild in the early 1880s, one of the precursors of the Christian socialist movement. Later that decade saw Rev Dennis Hird preaching socialism in the pulpit while John Burns organised unemployed demonstrations outside the Church. Hird went on to be the Principal of Ruskin College Oxford, which provided higher education to workers sponsored by their trade unions. It was the attempt of the authorities later on to dismiss him that led to the strike by the students there, and the formation of the socialist Plebs education organisation.
I end this talk with Revd. John Morris who many of us knew and admired. When he was vicar the spire was strengthened with a new steel base in 1977. It was in his period of office that the stained glass windows designed by John Hayward were installed: Benedict Arnold in 1976; William Blake and J. M. W. Turner in 1979 presented by Morgan Crucible, and Curtis. When he left in 1988 he noted a ‘dramatic change’ in the locality over the previous decade, ‘with the balance swinging to the private sector and the arrival of more affluent residents’.