Saturday, 22 August 2015

Places Of Biddsham - The Old Rectory and Revd. PVM Filleul

The Old Rectory, built as the Parsonage, was constructed in 1858 under the orders of the Revd. Philip Valpy Mourant Filleul. Around this time the School House was built too.

Sue and John Hayes very kindly shared these original architects plans and all the information you find here.

Above is a map of the plot for the Old Rectory on Biddisham Lane in 1958. You can see to the right that there was a village pound and waste areas on the roadside.

The Revd. P V M Filleul in his youth. Born 1824 - Died 1901

From writings by PVM's son.

"My father was born at St Brelade on 26th August 1924, when my grandfather was a rector of the parish. The only incident in his early life at home in Jersey that I remember hearing was that he used to be sent to the farms in the parish to count how many little pigs the sow had got, and what number of chickens there were in the yard, with a view to obtaining the tithe pig or fowl. He detested the job!

He was sent to school, first to Christ's hospital in London at the age of twelve in 1836, and wore a long blue coat and yellow stocking as his uniform. The following year he was among the group of boys that stood on the steps of St Pauls Cathedral for the coronation of Queen Victoria. In consequence he was able to preach a very interesting sermon in All Saints Church which was printed in 1897 to celebrate the Queen's diamond jubilee.

There were some wealthy Valpy and Shuter cousins living in London who were kind to him whilst he studied at school but he found it an awful banishment being on London. They had holidays once a year and the journey by coach (pulled by horses) and sailing boat to Jersey was long and uncertain.

He used to tell us of the hardships of rough school life and of the miseries of travelling. He once was very hungry and as they stopped to change horses he went into the inn, and following the example of others asked for a beer and put down a sixpence. He was served a huge pot of beer which he bravely tackled but failed to empty it. Finally he staggered back to his coach seat not feeling any better for his refreshment. He used to say it was the only time we was drunk in his life.

After a year or two he went on to Reading School. Old Dr Valpy was no longer the headmaster: his son Francis Edward carried it on with poor success. However my father got a fair education there and went on to Wadham College, Oxford.

His first and only curacy was under Dr Ogilvy at Ross-on-Wye and he held it for over five years. He made a great many friends there, among them were the Bernard's who lived at Over-Ross. It was at their house that he met my mother and became engaged to her.

In 1853 my father accepted the offer of the warden ship of Christ's College, Tasmania.
Then called Van Dieman's land.
Miss Marianne Girdlestone, my mother determined to cast her lot with him despite being an only child and leaving her widow mother. They were married in Blunham, Bedfordshire on the 27th August and three weeks later set sail from Plymouth in the Anglesea. I never saw my Girdlestone grandmother, she died while my mother was in Tasmania.

They had a fair voyage arriving in December and soon settled down to their work at Christ's College. It was in the country at Bishopsbourne, some 15 miles south of Launceston. The college was closed when my father resigned in 1857 and was re-established some years later at Hobart. This institution had been founded for the education of settlers in 1846.

It was in very low waters financially and though my father toiled with sometimes and good and sometimes inefficient helpers to pull it round, he failed to do so. He made £250 one year by the sale of apples alone and covered the deficit of that year by the sale of fruit from the garden and orchard. It fetched a high price for export the Ballarat goldfields. 

My parents made many devoted friends among settlers. I remember the names of the Henty's and Tooseys and Crears especially. My elder brother was born unexpectedly at Clynevale, the Crears station. I was born at the college. My mother hated the dreariness of the outlandish country and the banishment from home. My father would have enjoyed it there had there been any hope of success.

He made a first rate colonist, gardening and farming, doctoring and building filling up his time. They had none by convict servants at first, many of them excellent. My father was always neat in his dress and he told me when they first arrived in Tasmania one of the trustees from the college patted him on the back and said "My Dear Fellow, your coat will save the college"

This reminds me that he always wore a top hat in the early years of my recollection, not only on Sundays but on weekdays. Not only at weddings and funerals but also when gardening and attending to his bees. He used to boast that he travelled round the world in a top hat, and that while everyone else had lost their caps or hats on board ship, he never lost his.

Our party sailed home by way of Cape Horn in the Avon and arrived in England without any mishaps in the early days of 1858. 

We were welcomed to the house of my mothers half brother Charles Girdlestone whom had retired from his parish at Kingswinford, Staffs to Weston-Super-Mare. My Aunt Charlotte also lived close by.
The little parish of Biddisham about ten miles away, had just lost its Rector and the patron, the Bishop pf London, offered it to my father. He accepted it and there worked for 38 years. "

His Wife, Formerly Miss Marianne Girdlestone

 The Revd. Filluel outside the Rectory in the late 1800s. All of the photos below are part of an album that came with the Old Rectory. 

"Biddisham - A little to the east of the south porch of the church, and shaded by a fine old yew-tree, stands the old churchyard Cross; a good specimen of late Fourteenth Century type.
The socket, which has an octagonally chambered upper bed, is square in plan, with broaches of bold convex outline; it rests on two square steps of great solidity. Formed of blocks of stone, without any drip, the shaft is a tapering octagonal monolith, and is mortised with lead" From the book, Stone Crosses of Somerset

 View of St John the Baptist Church from the Old Rectory. 

Inside St John the Baptist church in the Victorian era.
The only difference to today is the banner above the arch. 

The grounds of the Old Rectory feature many specimen trees planted by the Revd. Filluel including a giant redwood.  

The Old Rectory today. Thank you again to Sue and John Hayes for sharing all this wonderful information. 

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