Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Buckden & Henry Hervey Baber's Ordination 1798

Buckden Bishops Palace and Church, December 2016.

For many years I have known that my great x 3 grandfather Henry Hervey Baber had been ordained at Buckden in Huntingdonshire.  The village used to sit astride the Great North Road, from London north to Edinburgh, although it is now bypassed.  Recently, I had occasion to drive past the village, and unusually I had time to go into the village and explore it in more detail. It was a cold drizzling afternoon a couple of weeks before Christmas.

Returning home, I looked up Henry's diary, and was agreeably surprised to see that we had by chance visited Buckden almost to the day, 218 years after he had arrived.

Entries from Henry Hervey Baber's Memorandum for December 1798
(Please click on this image and the others for larger versions)

In the life of any clergyman, the day of his ordination is always going to be a particularly important day.  Fortunately for me, a record of the events surrounding Henry's ordination survive, and recently I was able to visit the locations where these events took place.


11  Set off from Oxford for London -- Set off

12 On the following day went to Mr H Cowpers - and received my Title for Orders
-- which was at Ibstock in Leicestershire.
-- the Rector - Mr Madan.

Henry Cowper (1758-1840) was the third son of General Spencer Cowper and Charlotte nee Baber, who was Henry's great aunt  Henry Cowper was a lawyer at the Inner Temple,  grandson of William Cowper, clerk of the parliaments 1739–40, and great-grandson of the judge Spencer Cowper.

Family connections were being used to the full here, as the Rev'd Spencer Madan who was Rector of Ibstock, in Leicestershire, as well as St. Philip's, Birmingham, and Canon Residentiary of Lichfield Cathedral, as well as being one of the King's Chaplains, was a close relative of the Cowper family.

In 1723 Judith Cowper (1702-1781), a skilful poet, had married Colonel Martin Madan, groom of the bedchamber to Frederick, Prince of Wales, and MP for Wootton Basset. He had died at Bath on 4 March 1756, aged 53. Their sons included Rev Martin Madan, author of Thelyphthora a defence of polygamy and the Right Rev. Spencer Madan bishop successively of Bristol and Peterborough.

Spencer Madan, Rector of Ibstock, was the son of the Bishop of Peterborough, and Lady Charlotte Cornwallis, sister of the first Marquis Cornwallis.  His uncle was Bishop of Lichfield. His father had been Chaplain in Ordinary to the King until 1787, when he resigned his post, which was then handed on to his son.

As a puralist, with so many posts to fill, Spencer Madan must have needed several curates to service his other livings.[1]

Henry's entries for December 13th to the 25th, 1798.

13 met ( Isham there - on Thursday set
off from the White Horse, Fetter Lane by the
York High Flier for Buckden 61 miles, 
took up my abode at the George Inn, where I met
the rest of the Candidates for H. Orders. -- on the 
14, 15 Friday and Saturday examined by Mr
16 Maltby - and on the Sunday ordained a Deacon
by the Bishop of Lincoln.  There were
18 Candidates - 2 of whom were pluck'd. --
returned to London on Sunday night
on the outside of the Glasgow Mail.--

The White Horse, Fetter Lane in Holborn, 
departure point on December 13, 1798 for Buckden.  
The inn had been refurbished in 1794 by Landlord John Roberts [2]

The journey must have been an anxious one for Henry as he would face a searching interview and examination on his arrival. The route to Buckden up the Great North Road through High Barnet, Baldock, Biggleswade and St Neots, was not totally unknown to Henry as he had previously travelled down from it from Stamford in 1782, when he had been aged 7. Now aged 23, he was to face the final hurdle into his chosen profession.

As he checked in to the George, he must have apprehensively viewed the other eighteen candidates.

The George Inn, Buckden in December 2016.

Over the following two days the candidates were all interviewed and examined by the Reverend Edward Maltby. [3]

Maltby was the Vicar at Buckden. In 1794, Maltby had also become domestic chaplain to George Pretyman, Bishop of Lincoln.  His career had become assumed when his cousin Elizabeth had married the Bishop in 1784, and they subsequently mentored Maltby's career.  He was made a Prebend at Lincoln Cathedral, and then he had received the parishes of Buckden, in Huntingdonshire, and Holbeach, in Lincolnshire.

Buckden had been one of a number of travelling palaces, that had belonged to the Bishops of Lincoln since Medieval times.

In those days, the Bishops of Lincoln had occupied some of the most important roles in government, and had control of a diocese that stretched from the Humber to the River Thames at Dorcester.  By the end of the 18th Century, most of the palaces had gone, and many new dioceses had been split out from the original Medieval one.

The palace complex, which is on the opposite side of the road, a short distance north of the George survives to this day. It has become a Catholic Conference Centre these days.

The entrance to Buckden Palace from the former Great North Road.

Henry does not make it clear from his diary, however, it is very probable that it was inside the Palace that the interview took place.

The Reverend Edward Maltby (1770-1859)

The Palace had been at its most opulent during the 16th Century, when it was used by the Tudor Royal families on a number of occasions, as well as the Bishops.  By 1798, it was becoming quite run down, and in the 1830's large sections were demolished.

The Bishops Palace at Buckden, and the parish church
 where Henry was ordained as a Deacon

The Rev'd Maltby, who ran a private school at Buckden, was known to be a fierce inquisitor.  He would later become Bishop of Chichester  from 1831 until 1836, and Bishop of Durham from 1836 until 1859.

In any event, Henry must have passed the examination, as on Sunday the 16th of December, he was ordained as a Deacon by the Bishop of Lincoln.

Sir George Petyman, Bishop of Lincoln.

Sir George Petyman came originally from Bury St Edmunds, and went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge. Following his graduation, he stayed at the College as a Fellow, and had the good fortune have been appointed tutor to William Pitt the Younger, who had arrived at Pembroke as a 14 year old.  In 1780, Pitt stood unsuccessfully for parliament for the Cambridge University seat, but in January 1781, Pitt was able to secure the backing of the Lowther family who controlled the Pocket Borough of Appleby.  By 1784, Pitt had become Prime Minister, after the Fox North government had fallen.

Petyman was made Pitts Private Secretary, and used his considerable mathematical skills to advise Pitt on suitable financial methods to fund the government, and which were to play a major role in enabling Pitt to successfully fund the Coalitions set up in Europe to wage war on Napoleon's France.

At first Pitt's government was not expected to survive more than a few weeks, but it eventually ran for seventeen years.  There was considerable criticism of Petyman for having taken on the role of Private Secretary to Pitt, whilst still a clergyman. [4]

However, it did his career no long term harm, as Pitt in his role as Prime Minister, was able to appoint Petyman first as Bishop of Peterborough, in 1787.  In 1820 Sir George became Bishop of Winchester.

Interior of Buckden Church.

Although Henry does not say as much, I believe that it is most likely that he was ordained inside Buckden Church.

From the Clergy of the Church of England Database [5] it has been possible to assemble a list of eleven of the eighteen candidates at Buckden on that December day in 1798.

Richard Barnett
John William Robert Boyer
William Cowley
Peregrine Curtois
John Dolignon
Thomas Cotton Fell
John Tottenham O'Keefe
Martin Sheath
William Tate
William Thistlethwaite.

All that remained for Henry to do, was to return to London. This he did on the outside of the Glasgow Mail.  He appears to have travelled through the night, and it must have been a long and very cold ride, perched on the roof seats, in the position of the man in the brown coat in the following image as he was.

London to Glasgow Coach.  
Although this painting dates from 1815-1830, the earlier coaches were little different in style. [6]

If you are aware of any other details of the events discussed above, I would be very pleased to hear from you. I can be contacted on 

[1] See The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 7, page 205 and 206 for Revd Spencer Madan's obituary. [2] The Cambridge Telegraph Coach at the White Horse Tavern and Family Hotel, Fetter Lane, London, by James Pollard (1792–1867) from National Trust, Arlington Court and National Trust Carriage Museum
[3] See for more details of Maltby's career.
[4] For more on Sir George Petyman see
[6] See for more on the Glasgow to London coach services

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