Revd Charles Myers of Flintham
Revd Charles Myers was a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and author of an "Elementary Treatise on the Differential Calculus" which was for a long time a text book in the university. He took his BA degree in 1823 when he was a fifth wrangler, the year in which Professor Airy, the Astronomer Royal, was senior wrangler. MA 1826. Fellow 1825-29.
He was appointed in 1829 to the college living of Flintham, near Newark, worth £350 a year and in 1832 succeeded his father's cousin (John Myers d 1831) as Rector of the first mediety of Ruskington worth £300 a year and also inherited the Dunningwell estate. He died in 1870.
"PATERFAMILIAS"The Reverend Charles John Myers, Vicar of Flintham from 1829 to 1870
An article by Penny Gallon about the curmudgeonly Vicar with excerpts from his letters. Reproduced with her permission.
By 1834 prospects must have looked bright for the Reverend Charles John Myers. A former Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge, he had been appointed to the living of Flintham five years previously, and had already completed the first in a series of lavish improvements to the Vicarage, including the erection of four new rooms ten feet high, with two chimney pieces of marble and two of Mansfield stone. The greater part of the cost had been borne by the College who held the advowson of the living of Flintham.Charles Myers himself held the advowson of Ruskington in Lincolnshire, which he farmed out, paying a modest stipend (often rather behind schedule). He was teaching the sons of Mr. Hildyard at the adjoining Flintham Hall and noted that they were "now much more manageable without their older brother".
He had recently met his future wife, Mary Caroline Ward, and, although he was unaware of it at the time, her father had just received from Cambridge a testimonial that "all agreed in speaking in the highest terms of Mr. Myers in point of character." In October, sending a hare, and a brace each of pheasants and partridges, all freshly-killed, Charles Myers assured his future father-in-law that he had "enquired more particularly into the case". Under the terms of a family will, he had just acquired an annual income of £1,387 10s. deriving from rental of farmland and houses in Cumberland, three farms and two cottages in Lincolnshire together with a lucrative stone quarry. However in an aggrieved tone he adds, "Great Uncle (Revd. John Myers 1739-1821) seems to have made a mistake of some kind and left the estate chargeable with an Annuity of eight hundred pounds a year to his daughter (Anne Mason) who was also to have the use of the House and Garden and sufficient land to keep two cows during her life". The widow of John Myers' son, Maria, and her sister, Jemima Cheney, also had life interests. They were elderly however and Charles Myers probably felt optimistic.
Despite these flies in the ointment, Mr. Ward must have found him acceptable. On 3rd February 1835 Charles wrote to his Intended that he was bringing with him on the 2 o’clock from Newark their Marriage Settlement. This would be signed by all parties on the Tuesday, and on Wednesday he counted on "being enabled to address as my wife her who has excited in my breast feeling which I have never experienced towards any other of her sex".
They embarked immediately upon the production of a large family, and their first daughter was born that November.
By 1840 a further extension of the Vicarage was necessary. Trinity College this time contributed half of the seven hundred pounds expended upon a new Drawing-room, hall, kitchen, storeroom, two extra bedrooms, a dressing room, attics, and a water closet – although they appear to have had second thoughts about this novel method of sanitation: a subsequent note rescinds it, making a saving of thirty pounds. The architects were Messrs. Patterson & Hine. It is probable that this was Mr. T. C. Hine’s first view of the adjoining Flintham Hall, later to become one of his most renowned commissions.
Their burgeoning family made travel arrangements increasingly complex. Charles Myers wrote to his mother that on 21st August 1849 he took his wife Mary, plus Ellen, Charley, Gertrude, Jemima and Arthur in their new carriage to Grantham, but "Mrs. Myers said that she was quite disappointed that we had not brought more of the children and that I must go back and fetch another lot. Accordingly I went by coach to Bennington, walked thence to Flintham and returned in the afternoon with Lily, Louisa, Fanny, Margaret and Eliza". They must have excited a great deal of Victorian admiration, for the children received money and other presents.
The girls required a governess, and Revd. Myers was irritated when the apparently satisfactory Miss Humphreys announced her intention of leaving. He attempted, but failed, to make her work four months’ notice. Much of January 1849 was spent in corresponding with potential replacements. She had to be "a decided Churchwoman" and be prepared to mend the children’s clothes "though we keep two nurses and Mrs. Myers puts out all the making". Mrs. Myers also helped with the mending, although Mr. Myers hastened to point out that she did this "not from lack of ability of inclination to fill up her time with more refined and intellectual occupations, for having received a first-rate education, finished at Bath she is fully accomplished, among other things in singing".
At Nottingham he interviewed a Miss Earl, paying half her train fare from Coventry and instructing that he would enquire for her at the Ladies’ Waiting Room once he had put his horse up at a nearby inn. He obviously had a disappointing journey for they took on a Miss Gore.
However by February not only had Mrs. Myers had their eleventh baby but the new governess had been revealed as "not at all the sort of person we want… much at fault in French and History".
Enquiries were made at the Evangelists’ Home in London. One resulting applicant was rejected as being "too much a Londoner" and Charles Myers began to stipulate that they be prepared to live in "a retired Village". He was forced to resort to an advertisement in the Times. References were required. The terms were to be "moderate". He offered one woman 34 guineas, and tried to lure a Miss Chatfield with confirmation that they had "a nice cottage piano in the schoolroom and a Grand by Collard for the children’s and Mrs. Myers’ use downstairs," but she decided on another position.
He also had an application from a Mrs. Pearson. Presumably she was a widow in reduced circumstances but with a superior background and education, as Revd. Myers writes to her with uncharacteristic candour and humility that he cannot "offer sufficient inducement for a lady of your accomplishments" and that the Vicarage was "rather closely packed… we are obliged to use a large attic as a schoolroom of the governess and two of the children. And our establishment is not very large, comprising cook, housemaid and two nursemaids together with a lad out of the house." Summing up, he added that they "required a governess who would not object (to use a homely but expressive phrase) occasionally to rough it". Mrs. Pearson can’t have cared to – despite Revd. Myers offering 45 guineas and making no mention of the usual deductions for laundry.
Two successors suffered ill health, one leaving without paying her doctors bill, the other having been run over by a cab on the very day of her appointment! Anyway, the two eldest daughters, aged fourteen and twelve, were at an age to go away to school. Writing that on account of low agricultural prices he felt himself "bound to study economy", Revd. Myers dangled the bait of eight prospective pupils, and negotiated a reduced fee of 100 guineas. Lily and Louisa were packed off to Worcester.
Just as the family was reaching its greatest proportions, with the birth of their twelfth baby, finances and space seemed their tightest. In January 1852 he approached Trinity College to finance a third extension. Evidently this met with an exasperated response, for Revd Myers replies "I assure you that I am quite serious in imagining that the College can assist in adding to my Vicarage as I took the living with the full intention of marrying." Modern mothers would envy his assertion that even a family of a mere four children required "a day nursery, a night nursery, and afterwards a schoolroom and a governess’ room…" and that "the house as it is at present is really incomplete. There is not even a housemaid’s closet, not to mention a china closet, larder, lumber room and other conveniences which any married lady will tell you were indispensable". He points out that "you yourself recollect noticing the smallness and closeness of the servant’s bedroom" and invited him to come on "a washing or brewing day as you would at once admit the necessity of an outdoor washhouse." There has evidently been an additional charge of ostentation and extravagance which Revd Myers indignantly (although not exactly convincingly) refutes with, "I have not two omnibuses but a second carriage, a phaeton and an additional pair of ponies."
Seemingly thwarted by the longevity of his female relatives, Charles Myers tried to augment his income in a variety of ways; earning 5 guineas for being an examiner at Newark School, arguing with his tax assessments, and submitting (excruciatingly bad) jokes to Punch. Signing himself "Paterfamilias", he high-handedly points out to Punch’s Editor, "I am no draughtsman but of course you have plenty in your employment." He also published a mathematical treatise, but had some difficulty in extracting from the bookseller payment for the forty copies sold.
On the death of Maria Myers they inherited a variety of household articles, and Charles Myers gave detailed instructions on their disposal. To no avail. He wrote subsequently to his brother-in-law, "had I attended the sale myself I should not have let them go at the price you stated .. the meat saw, cleaver and other kitchen utensils may be packed either in the turbot pan or in the cradle."
On the 7 May 1852 he wrote to his mother, "You will be sorry to hear that Lily is not very well. She has had a cough for some weeks." Within the space of eighteen months the two eldest daughters and the baby boy died. Subsequently a fit of coughing uttered by Jemima during the sermon was noted with great concern.
The family threw their energy into renovating and furnishing the Cumberland property, which had at last become free of Revd Myers’ aged female relatives. It was to become their summer residence. Going to view it for the first time he was forced to travel in the rain on the outside of the coach crossing the treacherous sands at Ulverston. Later he allowed the railway company to purchase land on the edge of his estate providing "the Company would consent to take up and set down myself, family and friends" at a point closest to the house. It was not however to become a station for the general public.
Revd. Myers invested widely in railway shares. The railways were also a frequent target of his complaints, whether about the scale of the fares "which I believe in many cases illegal", or his fellow passengers; "Another grievance is the practice, not confined to the Great Northern, of putting labourers employed on the line into the second class carriages … even, when there were third class carriages attached to the train with plenty of vacant seats. I am not particularly squeamish but I do not relish the company of ‘the great unwashed’ in a closed carriage."
He also took up cudgels about his children’s travel problems. Jemima was short-changed buying a ticket from Worcester to Bristol, whilst Fanny and her aunt had a terrible experience upon descending from their first class carriage at King’s Cross. A porter having called a cab, they set off for Porchester Terrace but soon noticed that they were being taken along "some very queer-looking streets". The driver twice forgot where he was supposed to be taking them, and when the cab ground to a halt they discovered the driver was "quite drunk". However "at the suggestion of a respectable-looking man who was passing, they refused to get into the cab again, and an empty cab fortunately coming by, they got into it." The driver was so intoxicated that, in transferring their luggage he "broke his whip and a window of the cab." Poor delicate Fanny was "so alarmed that she had a headache for the rest of the day."
After this, we can only speculate how Fanny was to cope when, after her marriage in 1865 to Sir Harry Burnett Lumsden, a Colonel in the Bengal Army, she accompanied him back to India. He had already had a close encounter with a "mortally wounded leopard", saving his arm only by wedging his rifle butt into its jaws, and was soon off tiger-hunting! Fanny obviously had more steel than the docility and gentleness of her countenance suggests, for she survived until the age of seventy-nine.
Charles Myers seemed to be partial to long, sometimes quite vituperative, letters of complaint. No affront seemed too trivial to merit one; a lengthy letter about "as gross a case of imposition as I ever heard" was a response to simply being overcharged for some lettuce seed! He pursued a long term battle with his incumbent at Ruskington, disputing everything from handling of the surplice fees to the low attendance of the flock. The Bishop of Lincoln had to mediate.
In 1859 he made a public attack on a fellow cleric when he wrote to the Notts. Guardian about "an account given of the induction of a Reverend Something Brooks to a PREBEND with a queer-looking name in the Cathedral Church of Lincoln." He instructed the Editor to "have the goodness to inform him and his friends that the holder of a Prebend is a Prebendary, and has no more right to the title of Canon than a Deacon has to be called a Dean." On 10 March Mr Brooks had his revenge, pointing out that he had been installed as a Canon AS WELL AS a Prebendary. Nevertheless, Charles Myers was far from apologetic, riposting that he was "surprised that Mr Brooks should have been annoyed" and that he was "scarcely prepared for the lamentable exhibition of angry and uncharitable feeling afforded by his letter." He states that he "has no personal feeling in the matter" yet, curiously, then proceeds –"Mr Brooks is an entire stranger to me; until I saw him in a shop a few months since, I did not even know him by sight." Revd Myers rants on for three pages, entirely unrepentant.
Perhaps the truth was that he was a little jealous? It must have be questioned why, despite his education and social background, he never gained preferment. Yet such newspaper attacks on his fellow clergy cannot have impressed his supporters. Even more unfavourable publicity, and a taste of his own medicine were to follow.
Taking up the Newark Advertiser on 1 June 1859, Revd. Myers was horrified to discover that he featured prominently in an account of the Venerable Archdeacon Wilkin’s Spring Visitation to Newark:
"In calling over the names, the archdeacon … on coming to the name of Revd. Charles Myers … received no answer, upon which he called upon the churchwarden of that parish and asked him what had been done with the sacrament money of late. The churchwarden replied that it had been accumulating for the last nine years, and now amounted to about twenty pounds. The archdeacon read a portion from the prayer book which points out what should be done with the sacrament money, and expressed himself strongly against this accumulation, instructing the churchwarden to inform the vicar that the case had been brought before him and it would be his duty to represent it to the bishop of the diocese."
Immediately Revd. Myers wrote to the Archdeacon that he was "surprised that you so far forgot yourself as to attack me publicly in this insulting manner behind my back," accusing him of doing so "for the sake of a little cheap publicity."
That same day, he received a letter from the Bishop, and was required to forward full details of the sacrament money for the previous ten years. This money was supposed to relieve deserving cases of want in the parish. Revd. Myers claimed that he "carefully discussed" the merits of each individual case, and that until Mr Hildyard the squire went abroad, there had not been much call upon it. (Mr Hildyard seems to have created employment for many hard-pressed villagers on the estate). In fact, Revd Myers had been considering re-directing it into the purchase of some silver for the church. In further letters he has to explain why he had not attended the visitation. The truth was that he and his brother had recently taken over their aged mother’s financial affairs, and just sold one of her houses. From 23 - 28 May, Charles Myers had been in London, whither he had instructed his half-share of the sale proceeds to be sent. His case with the Bishop might have gone better had he been able to resist mentioning that he "had engaged the best bedroom at the Clerical Home, Euston Square for Mrs Myers and myself."
In lieu, Charles Myers hoped for temporal power. On 18 Feb 1858 he wrote to the Duke of Newcastle that "it has been suggested to me by one of my parishioners that I might be useful as a Magistrate" adding "I may as well mention that my income exceeds two thousand pounds a year (about three-fourths from land and real property) and will be increased to three thousand if I survive a lady upwards of eighty years."
If public office too eluded him, he now had a very comfortable income to console him, when in 1860 his mother finally died. Nevertheless, Revd. Myers immediately began acrimonious correspondence over the amount of the doctor’s bill. Wisely her doctor put the matter into the hands of his solicitors, and somewhat ungraciously Revd. Myers sent his cheque for £16 14s 6d, explaining that he is only doing so because "he finds that from particular circumstances it might be difficult to produce LEGAL proof that any of Mr Morgan’s visits were unnecessary and the charges exorbitant."
In fact his assiduous "study of economy" amassed a considerable fortune. On his death in 1870, Charles John Myers’ railway shares alone were valued for Probate at twenty thousand pounds. His eldest son got the properties in Cumberland and Lincolnshire, and married the step-daughter of George Storer of Thoroton Hall. His second son became Vicar of Ruskington. Fanny had become Lady Lumsden of Belhelvie Lodge. Gertrude’s son became a professor. It is due to Ellen’s son, Charles Newbald, that we are able to read Revd. Myers’ letters. As a solicitor he preserved many papers relating to the family trust.
How would Revd. Myers have felt about this renewed and public appraisal? One cannot help feeling that he would have echoed his remarks on the 1851 Religious Census. Questioned about the endowment of his church and attendance figures for his congregation, he wrote; "I decline to answer questions … because I consider them impertinent at any rate in the original sense of the word: and I do not know to what use the required information might be put to by an unscrupulous Ministry."
Copy letterbooks and correspondence of the Revd. C.J. Myers (Newark Appletongate Museum, Ref D. 13.72/3/1)
Building Accounts, Flintham Vicarage –Nottinghamshire Archives Office DD.TN 5/11 and 5/12
"The Newark Advertiser" June 1859
"Lumsden of the Guides" by General Sir Peter Lumsden GCB, CSI and George R. Elsmie CSI (John Murray 1899)
"Religion in Victorian Nottinghamshire: The Religious Census of 1851" edited by Michael Watts (University of Nottingham 1988)
After Revd Charles Myers' death, the Vicarage, household furniture, livestock and other effects were sold by auction on 13 and 14 April 1871. From the sale catalogue:
The contents of the back kitchen, larder, pantry, No 1 attic bedroom, No 2 attic bedroom, morning room (about 13ft x 15ft), dining-room, china-closet, entrance hall, study, Mrs Myers' room, nursery, store room, wash-house, yard. The contents of the best kitchen, female servants' room, small bed and dressing room, staircase and landing, No 1 bedroom, No 2 bedroom and dressing room, drawing room (21ft 6in x 15ft 3in), No 3 bedroom, carriage house, saddle room, garden, cow hovel, and out offices.
Beasts; roan cow in milk, red heifer in milk, roan heifer 2½ years old, roan steer, bull calf, heifer calf, in calved cow, 3-year old heifers, two 2½ year old heifers.
Carriages; four-wheeled carriage with moveable head, basket carriage, four wheeled ditto.
Horses; Brown carriage horse, bay mare pony, also a pony nine years old and a quantity of manure.