REV. CHARLES MOSSOP

OF HELPSTON & ETTON

 

CHARLES            1793-1883

Charles was the second surviving son and third surviving child of Rev. John Mossop and his wife Ann.

He was educated at Uppingham School, Rutland, where he was an Archdeacon Johnson Exhibitioner, and St. John's College, Oxford.   He was ordained a Deacon in 1816 and a Priest on 23 March 1817 at Lincoln.

That year, at the early age of 24, he became Vicar of St. Botolph's, Helpston, Northants under the patronage of Hon. George Fitzwilliam, member of a local landowning family.   He remained at Helpston until 1853. 

Rev. Charles was a benefactor of John Clare, the Northamptonshire Peasant Poet, who lived at Helpston during his incumbency.     Only four months Charles' junior, John married in 1820 and struggled to bring up his family on an agricultural wage.    His poetic efforts, which brought him into contact with aristocracy and men of letters, removed him mentally from others of his class as he struggled with poverty, torn between his two different lives.

ST. BOTOLPH'S, HELPSTON - ABOVE AND RIGHT

 

A display in the church about the poet shows a parish register extract when one of his children was baptised by Charles who presumably performed a similar and frequent office on the others as well as burying those who died in infancy.   

From John Clare's own writing it appears that Rev. Mossop was at first sceptical and discouraging about his ability and likelihood of success but later became a strong convert and benefactor.   Speaking after a visit to Lord Milton, a Fitzwilliam of nearby Milton Hall, Clare wrote "He told me he had heard of my poems by Parson Mossop who I have since heard took hold of every opportunity to speak against my success or poetical abilities before the book was published, and then, when it came out and others praised it, instantly turned round to my side."

Another source tells us that "As an officially patronised "peasant poet", the young John Clare had much of his income tied into trusts, managed on his behalf by two trustees, his London publisher, John Taylor, and his local clergyman, the Reverend Mr Mossop."

Despite this small stipend, his finances were in dire straits as ill health often prevented his working whilst he still had a family of ten to clothe and feed.   "When everything was at the worst, kind friends came to the rescue. The Rev. Mr. Mossop, vicar of Helpston, and his kind-hearted sister, who had often before assisted Clare and his family, gave once more active aid and succour; and from Milton Park, too, there came valuable presents of food and medicine."

I think this "kind-hearted sister" was probably Jane who was living at Helpston Vicarage on the 1841 census a few years later.    By this time Clare's mental as well as physical health had given way and he was confined to asylums, first in Essex, then in Northampton until his death in 1864.    In these he was treated well, encouraged to write and allowed to wander around the neighbourhoods though he necessarily found them confining.    However, his family just could not cope any longer with his moods, delusions and behaviour.

By the time John Clare died in 1864 and was brought back to Helpston for burial, Rev. Charles had moved to the nearby parish of Etton.

 

 

Children of the local John Clare Primary School still bring their midsummer cushions to decorate his grave today.

Photo courtesy of www.girlhenge.com whom I trust do not mind me using it here.

 

Of course Rev. Charles had many other parishioners, both richer and poorer, to minister to in the parish and it may well be that in these early years he was assisted by his sister Jane.    Charles did not marry until 1836 when he was 43 years old.    His slightly older bride was Lucy Burrough Booth, daughter of Rev. E. Partridge and widow of Rev. Edward Booth.   She already had two children Winifred and Lucy Burrough Booth.  

As has been seen, Charles' sister Jane was still at the Vicarage, or maybe visiting, when in early June 1841 Lucy was living at the Vicarage with several servants.    Charles at this time was staying at Tarbert on Loch Lomond with his stepdaughter Lucy in company with his sister Catherine and her husband Thomas Woolfield.

 

In 1853 Charles became Rector of St. Stephen's in nearby Etton.

Members of the Berridge family recalled happy times spent at Etton Rectory with Charles and Lucy.   Elizabeth Berridge born 1826, youngest daughter of Benjamin, thought after visits there that the life of a country parson's wife might suit her.   Life had a very different fate in store for her however when she married Thomas Spencer and emigrated with him to New Zealand.    They returned several years later for a visit to their relations during which some of their observations have been recorded.

Lucy died in 1874 aged 82 after nearly 38 years of marriage to Charles.

In December 1876, at the age of 83, Charles made a very strange marriage to Mary Jane Lewis Harvey aged 25.    As you will see from the "Family" page, she was the daughter of Charles Harvey, Solicitor of Spalding and his wife Sarah Mossop, Charles' niece.  Mary Jane was therefore Charles' great-niece.    There is nothing specific in the Table of Kindred and Affinity in the Book of Common Prayer which prohibits such a marriage although marriage of a man to his niece is forbidden.

One wonders if this marriage was through affection of more than a familial nature or of practicality/ convenience for one or both.

CHARLES died at Etton on 4 April 1883 at the age of 90.  

He left a comprehensive will of which I have only a precis so do not know the exact disposition of his estate.   Mary Jane was the Sole Executor.    He mentions his then only surviving sister CATHERINE WOOLFIELD and brother BENJAMIN ADDENBROKE MOSSOP.    Apart from Benjamin only JOHN, ANN and ROBERT left children some of whom are mentioned, presumably those surviving at Charles' death.    He mentions the remaining children of CHARLES HARVEY and SARAH MOSSOP as his wife's brothers and sisters rather than as his great-nephews and great-nieces so presumably the marital relationship took priority.

MARY JANE remarried in the third quarter of 1884 to HAROLD STANLEY MAPLES, a Solicitor.   They lived in Spalding, Lincs where they had two daughters and a son to add to the descendants of the Lincolnshire Mossops.

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