Morris Fuller; The man behind the Scandal Part 3

Part 3

Hannah Fuller and Morris's schooldays

 

Knowing what we know now about the circumstances surrounding Morris

Fuller’s father, it appears even more remarkable that the shadowy figure

of Hannah Fuller maintained a stability for the family throughout many

turbulent years. Was any pride in Thomas’s rise to High Constable 

sufficient recompense for the shame of the preceding bankruptcy let

alone the ensuing disastrous insolvency and its inevitable consequences? 

Is it possible that the independant course she took as an educationalist

(from at least 1833 and very likely earlier) meant that her income was not

lost to Thomas’s creditors?To find out how she might have been able to

survive, we must first look at her father, Joseph Morris and his last will

and testament:  

Joseph Morris (1752-1826) was a well respected Butcher and

businessman in Lewes, Sussex  and Hannah was the 4th of the

12 children born to Joseph and Ann Shoosmith (1762-1833) They

were a Dissenter family having first worshipped at the Countess of

Huntingdon’s Connection Old Chapel at Cliffe, Lewis  moving with

the breakaway Independent Calvinist preacher Jenkin Jenkins when

he took many of the congegation to start afresh at the Jireh Chapel

that he had built in Lewes in 1805. He was also one of the founding

trustees of the new chapel. Both Joseph’s own children and his

grandchildren born to Thomas and Hannah Fuller were baptised

at the Old Chapel and the new Jireh Chapel, including our very own

Morris Joseph who seems to have been baptised Joseph Morris after

his grandfather.

Joseph made quite an elaborate will and went to great lengths to ensure

comfortable provision for his widow Ann, and described a tortuous calculation

to ensure the fair distribution of his residual estate between “any child children

or issue of my body”

 

“Now in order to equalize the portions of all my children I do direct that on the

division of the residue of my personal Estate the share of my son Joseph Morris

or of his issue shall be less by one thousand and two hundred pounds

the share of my son Benjamin Morris or of his issue shall be less by eight

hundred pounds the share of my son Ebenezer Morris or of his issue

shall be less by one thousand pounds and the respective shares of my

daughters Elizabeth Verrall Sarah Martin Mary Hooper & Martha Hooper

and Hannah Fuller or of their respective issue shall be less by five

hundred pounds each than the shares of my other children And I

declare that if at the time of my decease any of my children or any

of my sons in law shall be indebted to me in or any sum or sums of

money for which I shall have any security or securities in reciting

from him her or them respectively it shall be lawful for my Executors

and Administrators for the time being to deduct from the legacy or

share or respective legacies or shares to which any such debtor or

debtors or the wives or issue of any such debtor or debtors will be

intitled under this my will all such sum or sums of money as shall be

so due to me from such debtor or debtors provided always”

 

Without knowing the value of the Estate, it is not possible to calculate

just what Hannah’s inheritance would have been. Given the sums of

money illustrated it is probably safe to assume that Hannah was

entitled to a not insignificant bequest. There is however no evidence

that Thomas Fuller had borrowed from or owed money to Joseph on

his death, but whatever, everything would have become Thomas’s

upon their marriage.

Before the Married Women’s Property Act of  1870 any money made

by a woman either through wages, investments, gifts or inheritance

became the property of her husband once she was married. One

exception to this would have been if a dowry or marriage settlement

had been drawn up and provided by a bride's father for his

daughter's financial support throughout her married life and into her

widowhood. 

To speculate,  if this was the case, had a marriage settlement put

Hannah in a position to fund and manage her Establishment for

Young Ladies independently of Thomas and his bankruptcy?

And, does the inherited share less £500 which was common to

all the daughters  indicate that Joseph had settled them each

equally with a dowry on their marriage to their respective

partners? This needs somehow to be further investigated, but

whatever the facts she was able to keep her school going until

she died. Did this stability allow Hannah to pay the cost of

educating her sons? Unless a marriage settlement or other

trustee document survives, the truth of the matter will never

be known. Thomas as husband is always able tocite the

fashionable addresses of the “Establisment” until after 1845

when she appears to have kept Thomas at a distance at

least for the later years of their marriage. 

 

Apart from the census, the earliest opportunity to verify facts

regarding Morris Fuller is his attendance as a scholar at Brighton

College noted in Census of1851. I had also noted, as an aside,

that a Mr Fuller played cricket for Brighton College in June 1850.

Batting at No 10, he was out, bowled l.b.w. for 0 in the first innings.

The College had won before he had the chance to bat again. This of

course of itself means nothing as there was also an Andrew Fuller

who was a scholar at the College at the same time.

Brighton College opened for business in January 1847 and so

Morris must have been amongst the very first of the pupils enrolled.

The school was a long time in the planning and started off on a

modest scale in the pre-existing buildings of Lion House. Details

were presented to the public in January 1846

 

 

 

The Illustrated London News from Oct 13 1849 has a brief acount of the

College upon its taking up residence in the new buildings:

 

 

 

After contacting the Brighton College Archivist, Mr James Harrison, his first

searches found no trace of Morris Fuller as a student in the Register.

Initially, he was  only able to find an Andrew Fuller, the son of a retired

solicitor from Chichester. He went up to St John’s in Cambridge in 1852

the year after Morris; and like Morris was ordained as priest but was

ordained a year before Morris. However, James’ persistence paid off

and he found in the Register the folowing information:

 

 

NAME                                                             Morris Joseph Fuller

 

AGE                                                                                          171/2

 

DATE OF ADMISSION                                               26 Jany. 1848

 

DEPARTMENT                                                                       Upper

 

CLASS                                                                                        4th.

 

ON WHOSE NOMINATION                                           Mr Cornford

                                                                                   Mr Thos Fuller

 

WHERE BOARDED                                                              At home

 

GUARDIAN 

NAME                                                                        Mr. Thos. Fuller

RELATION 

RESIDENCE                                         75 Montpelier Road Brighton

 

DATE OF REMOVAL                                                   Michmas 1851

 

CAUSE OF REMOVAL          Queens College Cambridge University

 

REMARKS                                        Scholarship awarded Oct 1851

 

 

At last, it was good to have first hand contemporary evidence of this part of

Morris’s career. Up to this point, much of it came from C.V.s collated over a

number of years and after the events. Immediately following Morris’ death the

most comprehensive version of this period in his life appeared in the Brighton

Gazette on August 1st 1901 as part of the funeral report. The information must

have been suppled by the family and it would come as no surprise to know that

 the gist of it had been prepared in advance by Morris.

 

 

 

 

There is however one discrepancy found between this glowing account of the

precocious youth and the entry in the Register at Brighton College. This is

regarding the date of his admission to the College which clearly says 26th Jan

1848 and not January1847 when the School first opened and which is implied

in the press cutting. 

At this point, more importantly, was the fact that Morris’s father’s name had

been crossed through and a Mr Cornford was given as the nominator of this

student. As a bankrupt, Thomas probably no longer had the wherewithall to

be a proprietor (shareholder) of the College, and with it the right to nominate

or present a pupil. It was fortunate that Mr. Edward Cornford Esq., solicitor 

of Dorset Gardens, was able to fulfil this important role. This was the first

time that I was able to  connect this name with Morris, even though it was

quite in evidence in hindsight!  So, who was he and what was his role in

Morris’s sojurn at Brighton College. The answer came again from the

Brighton Gazette which published  several notices in 1846 as we have

seen above, leading up to the opening of the College the following year

where he is seen to hold the office of Hon. Secretary of Brighton College

 

 

 

Whether or not it is right to hypothesise, it seems to be in Morris’s character to

hold steadfastly to a belief regardless of what other’s may find to be not strictly

accurate.  With this thought in mind, I was most intrigued to find in the

Brighton Gazette for a few brief weeks between August and November

1847 a flurry of poetry and charades (riddles) penned by A YOUNG

COLLEGIAN In late October he produced a long poem by which time

he had become The Young Collegian!

 

 

 

Arthur J. Macleane was a keen supporter of the Society for the

Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Morris in due course

became similarly active. One of the Society's concerns was in

counteracting the influence of Dissenters in the far flung parts

of the globe that were opened up in the course of the 18th

and 19th Centuries.

 

It must be left to two final press clippings to show the end of the

journalistic career of this particular young man: 

 

 

 

As yet I have been unable to find any strong links between Thomas Fuller

and Edward Cornford, with the exception that they were both Committee

Members of the Brighton Conservative Association in 1840. 

Cornford had not been solicitor to the Fullers' Fiat in Bankruptcy in the

1830’s, that role was carried out by the firm of Kell and Son, another

Conservative Association contact.  There must nevertheless have

been circumstances that led to him presenting Morris to the College

at the start of its 2nd year. 

To speculate further, it is not without the bounds of possibility that he

might have acted for Joeph Morris in the matter of a marriage

settlement for Hannah Fuller, or perhaps he just saw Morris’s

potential in need of encouragement given the family circumstances.

Nevertheless £75 for 3 years' fees still had to be found to

keep him at the College until he reached Cambridge. 

When the College opened in1847 ”Occasional Scholars” were able

to attend  lectures, such as those advertised in the press, given by

Classical Master, George Long. Was Morris “networking” in being

a regular attendee at these lectures,was it him trying to ingratiate

himself in press and trying to show he was worthy of being in fact,

of Brighton College. 

Whatever the case, Brighton College was his route to the future

clergyman we know as the Reverend Morris Fuller. Still eluding 

my researches is finding at whatpoint the influence of the Oxford

Movement took over from the Calvinistic Methodism of the

previous generation. I may find more in his own writings……

but there are very many of those and whatever he may have

thought of his literary style, I find it very hard going!

 

*************

 

Without the British Newspaper Archive much of this research would have been

difficult, if not impossible. It is also thanks to the kindness, persistence and 

enthusiam of James Harrison, Archivist at Brighton College,  that we have

found our man in his formative years.

 

 

 

Click Here for Part 4

 


Page last updated: 14th August 2021 4:20 PM