28 December 2022

Calverton Limes and one
family’s links with the Irish
Famine and social reform

Calverton Limes on London Road, Stony Stratford, was designed by the local architect Edward Swinfen Harris (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Calverton Limes is one of the many major houses in Stony Stratford designed by the local architect Edward Swinfen Harris. Until recently, this landmark building at 18 and 20 London Road was known to many as the Working Men’s Social Club, but it also has interesting links with the Trevelyan family, who lived for a time in the house.

The story of the Trevelyan family has links with the Irish Famine, colonialism in India, and social and educational reforms in Stony Stratford and Wolverton.

Calverton Limes is dated 1870, and was designed in an ornate and mannered Victorian ‘vernacular’ style. It was built in two and three storeys in three irregular blocks, faced in cobbled, herringbone and upright-laid limestones divided by rubble lacing courses.

The brick dressings and quoins are offset by a low plinth, there are scallop tiles laid in horizontal colour bands, and a crested ridge, with a ridged chimney on No 18.

The left-hand block, No 20, has a gable end to the street. The architectural features include a bargeboard, a bay window with sash windows.

The recessed central block has raised top-lighting. There are two high windows with terracotta shafts and slightly pointed heads. The ground floor projects with a lean-to roof. The central ornamental entrance has a pointed arch, roof shafts, buttresses and raised gable, and there are panelled double doors.

No 18, the right hand block, breaks forward again. This part of the building is of two storeys, with two attic windows with pointed relieving arches.

There are light sashes on the first floor, with a brick mullion on the left. The ground floor has a five-light rectangular bay to the right. There are three light sashes in the attic with half-timbered gables.

The return on the north-west side has much decorative brick work and a half-timbered gable with a moulded wood bargeboard.

The Revd William Pitt Trevelyan (1812-1905) lived for a time at Calverton Limes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Calverton Limes was built for William Cole Daniell, a local surgeon. Later, the Revd William Pitt Trevelyan (1812-1905) lived there. Subsequently, it became the home of Colonel LC Hawkins, a local magistrate. In more recent decades, this was the Working Men’s Club. It has since been converted into apartments.

But Calverton Limes also provides an introduction to the interesting story of the Revd William Pitt Trevelyan, who was the Rector of both Old Wolverton and Calverton.

William Pitt Trevelyan was born on 31 March 1812, the youngest of nine children of the Ven George Trevelyan (1764-1827), Archdeacon of Taunton, and Harriet (née Neave). Four of those sons were priests in the Church of England, although the most famous son was undoubtedly Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan (1807-1886), a prominent civil servant and colonial administrator who was instrumental in reforming the Civil Service in the 1850s.

However, Charles Trevelyan’s reforming legacy is largely overshadowed by his controversial role in the government response to the potato blight in Ireland and the subsequent Great Famine in the 1840s, when he expressed anti-Irish racist sentiments while administrating Famine relief.

Trevelyan, who was Assistant Secretary to the Treasury (1840-1859), was slow to disburse direct government food and monetary aid because of his strong belief in laissez-faire economics and the free hand of the market. He wrote highly disparagingly about Irish people, claiming ‘the judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson.’

He is named in the song ‘The Fields of Athenry’ written in 1979 by Pete St John, a popular anthem for all Irish sports fans. The lyrics say the convict’s crime was that he ‘stole Trevelyan’s corn.’

The Revd William Pitt Trevelyan (1812-1905) of Stony Stratford was the Vicar of Wolverton (1856-1872) and of Calverton (1859-1881)

Charles Trevelyan’s youngest brother, the Revd William Pitt Trevelyan (1812-1905) of Stony Stratford, had very different social and economic values. He was born in Nettlecombe, Somerset, where his father was rector, and was educated at Eton and Worcester College, Oxford (BA 1855, MA 1857). He was the perpetual curate or vicar of Broomfield, Somerset (1853-1856), before becoming the Vicar of Wolverton (1856-1872) and of Calverton (1859-1881), both in Buckinghamshire and in the Diocese of Oxford.

Before coming to Stony Stratford, Trevelyan married Maria Pleydell-Bouverie, daughter of the Hon Philip Pleydell-Bouverie and Maria à Court, in 1852. She was closely related to one of the leading figures in the Oxford Movement, the Revd Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882): her grandfather was his first cousin.

When Trevelyan came to Calverton, it covered the west side of Stony Stratford and was known as one of the first Tractarian parishes in this part of Buckinghamshire. Many of the Tracts for the Times were planned in the old vicarage, where the regular visitors included Cardinal Henry Manning; both Newman and Pusey preached from the pulpit and Pusey celebrated at the altar in All Saints’ Church.

The neighbouring Parish of Wolverton covered much of the east and south sides of Stony Stratford, and in 1868 the parish established Saint Mary the Virgin on London Road as a daughter church. The church was designed by the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, and a vicarage, two curate’s houses, now known as Jesuan House, and a Parish Hall were built also.

Saint Mary’s became a parish in its own right, and its priests were supporters of the Tractarian and Anglo-Catholic movements in the Church of England. Some of the priests were persecuted for what were regarded as ‘ritual offences’ and one was deprived of his living for these practices.

Wolverton Saint Mary Church on London Road, Stony Stratford … now the Greek Orthodox Parish Church of Saint Ambrosios and Saint Stylianos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

In Stony Stratford, Trevelyan began to develop the lower end of London Road, part of the new parish of Wolverton Saint Mary, and contributed to building Saint Mary’s Church and the church schools. With Lady Mary Russell and the Radcliffe Trust, he was one of the principal benefactors in building Saint Mary’s Church on London Road in 1864.

Trevelyan was instrumental, alongside John Worley and others, in inaugurating the Stony Stratford Dispensary and the Cottage Hospital, although the cottage hospital later closed and was replaced by a hospital fund.

Maria (Pleydell-Bouverie) Trevelyan died on 9 October 1903; William Pitt Trevelyan was 93 when he died on 22 December 1905 in Potterspury, Northamptonshire. Three of their four children were priests in the Church of England.

Calverton Limes was built in 1870 and designed by Edward Swinfen Harris (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Trevelyan’s eldest son, the Revd William Bouverie Trevelyan (1853-1929), was born in Calverton. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge (BA 1876, MA 1879), and was ordained deacon in 1877 and priest in 1878. He was his father’s curate in Calverton and then Vice-Principal of Ely Theological College, before becoming Vicar of Saint Matthew’s, Westminster, for 23 years (1884-1907).

His incumbency marked a period of much development at Saint Matthew’s and he built on the foundations laid by his two predecessors. CB Mortlock in Famous London Churches (1934) says it was Trevelyan ‘who was to make Saint Matthew’s famous.’

Trevelyan’s curate there from 1896 to 1898 was Frank Weston, who would become Bishop of Zanzibar and one of the foremost leaders of the Anglo-Catholic movement and an inspirational figure in the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA), now part of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Weston’s combination of incarnational and sacramental theology with radical social concerns formed the keynote of his address to the Anglo-Catholic Congress in 1923. He believed that the sacramental focus gave a reality to Christ’s presence and power that nothing else could.

A Bishop of London said: ‘Trevelyan was a true saint, if ever there was one, I always felt even to look at him did one good.’ He was an Anglo-Catholic, but he was tolerant of other views in the Church, and once said: ‘I have always recognised that the Prayer Book is capable of two interpretations and if I am allowed scope for mine, I cheerfully allow other people to have theirs.’

After leaving Saint Matthew’s, Westminster, Trevelyan was Warden of Liddon House and warden of the retreat house at Beaconsfield, Kidlington, Oxford (1914-1927). He died in 1929.

Saint Matthew’s Church, Westminster, and the Clergy House … an integral part of inner-city mission for 170 years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford,)

William Pitt Trevelyan’s second son, the Revd John Charles Trevelyan (1857-1944), was born in Old Wolverton and was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was curate of Saint Philip and Saint James, Oxford (1889-1891), curate of Christ Church, Luton, Bedfordshire (1891-1893), Vicar of Saint Saviour’s, Luton (1893-1915), Rector of Yaxham, Norfolk (1915-1927), and Vicar of Saint Veep’s, Kennington, Berkshire (1929-1937).

Throughout their lives, John Charles Trevelyan and his brothers were in correspondence with their cousin the historian George Macaulay Trevelyan (1876-1962), Regius Professor of History at Cambridge (1927-1943), Master of Trinity College, Cambridge (1940-1951), and Chancellor of Durham University. Their correspondence is archived in Trinity College, Cambridge.

William Pitt Trevelyan’s third son, the Revd George Philipp Trevelyan (1858-1937), was born in Wolverton. He was also Vicar of Wolverton Saint Mary’s in Stony Stratford from 1885. Later, he was Vicar of Saint Alban’s, Hindhead, in Surrey, and Saint Stephen’s, an Anglo-Catholic parish in the centre of Bournemouth (1911-1928).

His son, Humphrey Trevelyan (1905-1985), Baron Trevelyan, was a leading colonial administrator, diplomat and writer. He began his career in India, and moved to the Diplomatic Service at Indian independence in 1947, and had a distinguished career during which he was ambassador in Beijing after the Revolution, Egypt during the Suez crisis, Iraq during the attempt to annex Kuwait in 1961, and the Soviet Union, and the last high commissioner of Aden.

The members of the Trevelyan family in the 19th and 20th centuries provided interesting links between church life in Stony Stratford, Calverton and Wolverton not only with ‘Trevelyan’s Corn’ and the Irish Famine, but also with political, social and economic life across the globe.

Calverton Limes and the Trevelyan family offer interesting links between church life in Stony Stratford and global changes over the last two cwenturies (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying at Christmas through poems
and with USPG: 28 December 2022

‘The Killing of the Holy Innocents, by Giotto (ca 1304-1306), in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua’ … 28 December is marked in the Church Calendar as the feast day of the Holy Innocents (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Christmas is not a season of 12 days, despite the popular Christmas song. Christmas is a 40-day season that lasts from Christmas Day (25 December) to Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation (2 February).

Today, 28 December, is marked in the Church Calendar as the feast day of the Holy Innocents, sometimes described as the first martyrs for Christ.

Throughout the 40 days of this Christmas Season, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Reflecting on a seasonal or appropriate poem;

2, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

Appropriately, the Christmas poem I have chosen for today is ‘The Holy Innocents’ by Laurence Housman (1865-1959).

Today’s commemoration first appears in the calendar of the Western Church in the Leonine Sacramentary around the year 485, and this day was sometimes known as Childermas.

This day recalls the story of the children who were murdered because of Herod’s rage against Christ (Matthew 2: 16-17). In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, after the visit of the Magi, Herod, in rage and jealousy, slaughtered all the baby boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding countryside in an attempt to destroy his perceived rival, the infant Messiah.

Christian art, poetry and popular piety have treated their memory with tenderness and sympathy, sentiments that have also been accompanied by feelings of indignation against the violence with which they were killed.

On this day it also seems to be appropriate to remember the children who are innocent victims of exploitation, abuse and war throughout the world, and those who suffer violence that threatens their lives, their dignity and their rights.

The poem ‘Holy Innocents’ by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was written ca 1877. Like so many of her poems, including ‘In the bleak mid-winter,’ which I discussed on Christmas Eve, and her poems about Saint John which I discussed yesterday, her poem ‘Holy Innocents’ was not published until ten years after her death, when it was included in 1904 in The Poetical Works of Christina Georgina Rossetti:

They scarcely waked before they slept,
They scarcely wept before they laughed;
They drank indeed death’s bitter draught,
But all its bitterest dregs were kept
And drained by Mothers while they wept.

From Heaven the speechless Infants speak:
Weep not (they say), our Mothers dear,
For swords nor sorrows come not here.
Now we are strong who were so weak,
And all is ours we could not seek.

We bloom among the blooming flowers,
We sing among the singing birds;
Wisdom we have who wanted words:
here morning knows not evening hours,
All’s rainbow here without the showers.

And softer than our Mother’s breast,
And closer than our Mother’s arm,
Is here the Love that keeps us warm
And broods above our happy next.
Dear Mothers, come: for Heaven is best.

A second, later poem, but also called ‘Holy Innocents,’ was written before 1893, and was published in the same collection in 1904:

Unspotted lambs to follow the one Lamb,
Unspotted doves to wait on the one Dove;
To whom Love saith, ‘Be with Me where I am,’
And lo their answer unto Love is love.

For tho’ I know not any note they know,
Nor know one word of all their song above,
I know Love speaks to them, and even so
I know the answer unto Love is love.

A third poem, also called ‘Holy Innocents’ but dated 1 July 1853, was published in the same volume, but appears to be about the early death of a child rather about the Holy Innocents commemorated on this day:

Sleep, little baby, sleep;
The holy Angels love thee,
And guard thy bed, and keep
A blessed watch above thee.

No spirit can come near
Nor evil beast to harm thee:
Sleep, Sweet, devoid of fear
Where nothing need alarm thee.

The Love which doth not sleep,
The eternal Arms surround thee:
The Shepherd of the sheep
In perfect love hath found thee.

Sleep through the holy night,
Christ-kept from snare and sorrow,
Until thou wake to light
And love and warmth to-morrow.

John Hutton’s ‘Screen of Saints and Angels’ at the entrance to Coventry Cathedral ... the Coventry Carol, dating from the 16th century, recalls the story of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Much earlier than these Victorian poems is ‘The Coventry Carol,’ which tells the story of the slaughter of the Innocents. This carol dates from the 16th century, and is all that survives from a mystery play:

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Also dating from the 16th century, or perhaps even earlier from the late 14th century, is the hymn ‘Unto us is born a son.’ It has been translated by both George R Woodward and Percy Dearmer. I have heard the Woodward version of this hymn at carol services in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, including the third stanza:

This did Herod sore affray,
And grievously bewilder;
So he gave the word to slay,
And slew the little childer.

However, the Christmas poem I have chosen for today is ‘The Holy Innocents’ by Laurence Housman. He was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, a younger brother of the poet AE Housman (1859-1936), who is best known for A Shropshire Lad, including the ‘Six Songs’ and the poem ‘Wenlock Edge,’ set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Laurence Housman first worked as a book illustrator in London, and the first authors he illustrated included the poet Christina Rossetti. At the same time, he also wrote and published several volumes of poetry and a number of hymns and carols.

His first literary successes came with the novel An Englishwoman’s Love-Letters (1900), and the drama Bethlehem (1902). Some of his plays caused scandals because of his depiction of biblical characters and living members of the royal family, and in 1937 the Lord Chamberlain ruled that no British sovereign could be portrayed on the stage until 100 years after the beginning of his or her reign.

Housman also wrote socialist and pacifist pamphlets and edited his brother’s poems which were published posthumously. For the last three or four decades of his life he lived in Street, Somerset.

In 1945, he opened Housman’s Bookshop in Shaftesbury Avenue, London, founded in his honour by the Peace Pledge Union, of which he was a sponsor. The Peace Pledge Union, one of the earliest pacifist organisations in England, was founded in 1934 by Housman’s close friend, Canon Dick Sheppard (1880-1937) of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, a former Vicar of Saint Martin-in–the-Fields (1914-1926) and former Dean of Canterbury (1929-1931) who had been radicalised by his experiences as a slum priest in the East End of London.

In 1959, shortly after his death, the shop moved to 5 Caledonian Road, London, a two-minute walk from all the King’s Cross and Saint Pancras stations. In 1974, an IRA bomb blew up the pillar box directly outside the shop – the building once housed the local King’s Cross Post Office, from the late 19th century until the 1930s. The explosion destroyed the first issue of the newsletter of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, which had just been posted.

Harry Mister in Housman’s Bookshop before his death

I was first introduced to Housman’s Bookshop two years later in 1976 by its co-founder and its manager until that year, Harry Mister, after meeting him with Bruce Kent at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire, that year. Harry died on my birthday in 1996, less than a fortnight after his own 92nd birthday; Bruce Kent died earlier this year (8 June 2022). Housman’s Bookshop remains a prime source of literature on pacifism and other radical values, and passing the shopfront on the morning of Bruce Kent's funeral evoked many nostalgic memories.

The Peace Pledge Union has ‘consistently condemned the violence, oppression and weapons of all belligerents.’ It has opposed the Vietnam War and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, it has promoted the ideals of pacifists such as Tolstoy, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, it played an active role in the first Aldermaston marches, and its members were active in the formation of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

And so, given Housman’s association, even long after his death, with campaigns against war, it is appropriate to select his poem, ‘The Holy Innocents,’ on this day.

The Holy Innocents by Laurence Housman

When Christ was born in Bethlehem,
Fair peace on earth to bring,
In lowly state of love He came
To be the children’s King.

And round Him, then, a holy band
Of children blest was born,
Fair guardians of His throne to stand
Attendant night and morn.

And unto them this grace was giv’n
A Saviour’s name to own,
And die for Him Who out of Heav’n
Had found on earth a throne.

O blessèd babes of Bethlehem,
Who died to save our King,
Ye share the martyrs’ diadem,
And in their anthem sing!

Your lips, on earth that never spake,
Now sound th’eternal word;
And in the courts of love ye make
Your children’s voices heard.

Lord Jesus Christ, eternal Child,
Make Thou our childhood Thine;
That we with Thee the meek and mild
May share the love divine.

A detail from The Killing of the Holy Innocents, by Giotto (ca 1304-1306), in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is the USPG Christmas Appeal: Journey to Freedom. The Journey to Freedom campaign supports the anti-human trafficking programme of the Diocese of Durgapur in North India.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Let us pray for children who are trafficked and exploited. May we be enraged by injustice and seek to protect the vulnerable.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Slaughter of the Innocents by Domenico Ghirlandaio: the fresco is part of a series of panels in the Cappella Tornabuoni in the Church of Santa Maria Novella, dating from 1486-1490