Morris Fuller: The Man behind the Scandal Part 4

 

Part 4

The Devon Years 

 

 

In researching the life of Morris Fuller, as a first port of call, the surviving C.V.s

published by Crockford’s Clerical Directories  and Venn’s Cambridge Alumni were

duly consulted. However as further research has shown these are not always

entirely accurate. Sometimes attributable to mere typograhical error, there are

one or two instances that point, with hindsight, to a more blatent obfuscation,

particularly in regard to his pedigree, both real and imagined. 

 

On December 21st. 1856  Morris Fuller was ordained Deacon by the Bishop of

Bath and Wells on the testimony of the elderly Bishop of Exeter who ordained

him priest on May 30th. 1858. On graduating B.A, in 1855 he held a post of

Assistant Master at Brighton College for a year.

His first Curacy was of Buckland-Monachorum and Horrabridge1857-9, and

from there to St Mary Tavy 1859-62 when he was also 2nd Master at Tavistock

grammar school, and adding the Curacy of N. Huish 1861-2. At this point the

Cambridge Alumni entry credits him with being Chaplain at Princetown 1862-1879.

It would seem he first became perpetual curate and incumbent of the newly

consecrated church of St Michael and All Angels in Princetown and then adding,

by presentation of the Prince of Wales, the Rectory of Lydford in 1867-1879 after

which time he moved to East Molesey.

These bare facts account for how he made his living by his tenure of

“ [geographically] one of the largest parishes in England”  

I had thought at one point on seeing the words “Chaplain at Princetown”, the

village in which Dartmoor Prison is situated, that he had been moved by the

plight of his imprisoned father to do his Christian best for the convicts as Prison

Chaplain. However, such a position would have given him precious little

opportunity for any other pastoral activity at a time when the penal Systems of

Separation and of Silence would have required his daily full time attendance at

the Prison for services and prisoner visiting. He would have also been in charge

of prisoner education via the schoolmasters appointed to the prison.The position,

Prison Chaplain, is not to be confused with what the 1882 edition of Crockford

describes as Government Chap. at Princetown 1862-1879 which is a reference

to the church as a Government Chapel, since they provided the stipend.

 

Having achieved an indisputably respectable situation in life he then married

Helen Natali Edgington in Battersea  on the 29th December 1859 and they

returned to Tavistock to live. According to  the 1861 Census they were living in

Devonshire Terrace,  wife  Helen and 4 month old son, Morris Natali. He confirms

that he is ”Curate of St Mary Tavy - 2nd Master of the Grammar School Tavistock,

Bachelor of Arts Cambridge”  an entry only matched in length by an MD and JP

occupant of the street further up the page!

 

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

 

In June 1860 we find notice, possibly for the first time, of a published sermon

from the pen of Morris Fuller: 

 

 

 

 

As ever, recourse to the British Newspaper Archive on my part adds hugely to

this scant information, and though he is not much in evidence in the newspapers

in this early period,  what does surface shows unquestionably that he started

his ministry in the same forthright way he maintained to the end of his life in

Marylebone. His position required that he would be represented on a raft of

committees and boards very often as chairman and in addition to evangelising

the Gospel both home and abroad, he was keen to promote the developement

of the railway network in the county. To begin at the beginning however, we find

this clipping from his Tavistock days shows a pulpit style and a mission that was

to be one of the hallmarks of his life's work:

 

 

and continues:

 

 

 

The truth of the statement in the press clipping below from 1864 that he had been

curate of Princetown since 1858 is questionable but he was certainly perpetual

curate  by 1862 and Morris J. Fuller M.A. in 1863. The consecration of St Michaels

took place on October 28th and a sermon preached ther within the octave of that date

entitled "The teaching of the Christian Altar"  was published soon after.

 

 

 

The complaints made in this report were more than adequately corroborated in

the following letter to the paper:

 

 

THE CHURCH  AT PRINCETOWN

 

To the Editor of the Western Daily Mercury

 

SIR - It may perhaps answer some good purpose to make known the effects

produced by the late outrages committed by the curate of Princetown chapel

on the people generally , on this wild moor, by turning their quiet place of worship

upside down, so as to disgust every sense of propriety. We should have

rejoiced in our little sanctuary being consecrated. We would have met Mr Fuller

in every way constituent with the simple worship procured by our forefathers,

who believed that He who should be worshippe, “dwelleth not in the temples made

with hands” but with the humble and contrite spirit, and has promised to meet such

in His house, not because of its beautiful architecture, or the bowings and turnings

about and the mountebank actions of the acting minister, but because they come

to worship in spirit and in truth. The curate should seek to win sould to Christ,

instead of insulting their good sense, and violating their rights, as he has done by

taking away their seats, and introducing his gew-gaws, without consulting their

taste or seeking for any co-operation? No; he has not had any meeting with his

parishioners nor has he respected their rights enough to tell them what he was

going to do. The result is that many who regularly attended for years with their

families, and loved their little sanctuary, now fel that they cannot countenance

such ultra decoration, nor listen to the praise of the saints, nor feel interested in

the disquisition on the use and meaning of the candle-sticks on the so-called altar.

We want Christ and His gospel set before us - not ritualism and Popish ornaments -

to incite us to believe on Him who has promised that “ where two or three are met

together in His name He will be with them”

We do hope that some effort will be made to restore our little church to its former

simple state. We cannot believe that the Government would have allowed the

prisoners to work for weeks at the church, and suppy material to a large extent,

had it been known the use their services were applied to, and the misappropriation

of Government property; nor contribute £150 a year to the minister’s stipen, to

drive their officials to absent themselves , and wander about on the Lord’s-day,

having no place where they refresh their sould, and gan strength for the coming

week. One thing we assuredly will do: we will memorialise the Bishop for the

removal of the objectionable ornaments in our church; and we also hear that the

officers of the Prisons will apply to Colonel Henderson for convenience to be

made for them to attend the services in the Prison Chapel, where they will be

sure to hear the Gospel Truth from the excellent chaplain there. 

Yours truly, 

A DARTMOOR MAN.

Prince-Town, [3] November 1864    

 

By 1865 he is into publishing mode with such showstoppers as: 

 

which is undoubtedly a distillation of "an extemporary address" (or perhaps

blatent networking?)as reported in the Western Morning News, given at the

Norwich Church Congress in October 1865,

 "in which he reviewed the history of the Court of Appeal; shewed that the

jurisdiction of the present courts in questions of doctrine was, upon its founder's

(Lord Brougham's) own confession, accidental; and gave seventeen reasons

why the court was unsatisfactory to Churchmen, one of the chief being that,

Convocation having scarcely any power, there was not in the Church, as there

is in the State, a legislative body existing by the side of the executive to avert

any errors into which the latter might fall.


The uncertain income from occasional publishing and the modest stipend of the

perpetual curacy of Princetown was not quite suffiicient to support a wife and four

children. He didn’t hesitate to advertise his every accomplishment when 

advertising for pupils to coach in the Western Morning News on 7th August 1865:

 

PRIVATE TUITION. - THE REV. MORRIS J. FULLER.M..A., Incumbent of

Prince Town, Dartmoor late Foundation Scholar, Exhibitioner, Classical Prizeman,

Latin Essayist, Clark’s Scholar and Librarian of Queens College, Cambridge and

formerly Assistant Master in Brighton College, and Clasical Master in Tavistock

Grammar School, has vacancies for TWO PUPILS, Boys prepared for the Public

Schools, Universities, Middle Class and Civil Service Examinations. Climate

bracing.- For terms and further particulars, address Rev Morris Fuller, Parsonage,

Prince Town, Dartmoor.

 

In April and May, 1867 through a multitude of press announcements we learn

the following:

 

 

The entry in the 1870 edition of Crockford's Clerical Directory supplies the reality

of this appointment,  showing that the post of Rector of Lydford held with it the

patronage of the Princetown perpetual curacy. This gave him the right to appoint

curates to help  him in his parish work. 

 

We read in the preface of  The Life, Times and Writings of Thomas Fuller

published in 1886, that whilst in Devon,”much time had to be devoted to building

and working school-chapels restoring churches, and rebuilding a rectory house”

and in this respect he was undoubtedly extremely industrious

 

Having put Princetown Church on the map he began his outreach work to

provide Mission School-Chapels in the outlying parts of his remote parish:

 

Western Morning News May 3rd 1867 

 

 

 

We have already seen the effects on his parishioners of his first restoration

attempts at Princetown, but this initiative seems to have met both a need and

the approval of the inhabitants

 

 

I came across the following photographs on a blog from John Stickland, a kind man

who was very happy to share these images of of the Dartmeet Mission Chapel, now 

known as St Raphael's Church Huccaby. The images speak for themselves.

Thank you John:

 

 

 

As we see in the report above, the foundation of a further Mission School Chapel

was underway at Postbridge as reported on 8th May 1868.  

 

 

 A more informative piece appeared in the Royal Cornwall Gazette on

7th May 1868

 

 

 

Sadly, within 4 years of the Princetown consecration, we find reported on

13th. March 1868 in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette below, and reported

elswhere, St Michael and All Angels as being “greatly injured” in a

Sunday morning fire:

 

 

Oxford Chronicle & Reading Gazette 14th March 1868

 

 

Morris was now able to have two curates to help him with the parish and with

responsibilites for the two School Chapels, and the churches of Princetown , 

St Michael and All Angels and Lydford. St Petroc’s. I have been fortunate

through newspaper searches to find the names of some of his curates, some of

whom didn't stay for very long: 

 

 

1868-1869 This man was in fact the Revd. Wladislaw Somerville Lach-Szyrma

who was possiblty recruited via the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in

Foreign Parts for whom Morris Fuller was a great champion. He is  believed to

have been living at Tor Royal whilst he was in post.  This was the substantial

house built by Thomas Tyrwhitt, the man who was instrumental in the building

of Dartmoor Prison and opening up the Moor at the beginning of the century

 

1868-70 Revd. George Crawford Caffin who went on to be Rector of Ripple in Kent

 

1869-1871 Revd.Richard William Glascodine who then returned as Curate to

Reynoldston in his native Swansea. His youngest child Edward was baptised

 

at Terrington St. Cement in 1877 and he died in 1878 in Funtingdon in Sussex

Identifiable photographs from this time are hard to come by but thanks to

Ancestry member Trudy Tucker we have been able to make use of these

3 images of Richard William Glascodine 

 

 

 

 

Whilst the Parsonage house at Princetown was probably adequate for Morris

and his family, the climate was not. We read that he had to take lodgings

31 Torrington Place in Plymouth for the sake of his family’s health. Two of his

children were born in Plymouth and the reasons for his residence out of his

parish is robustly defended in the press by both Morris and fellow clergyman

and friend from his Tavistock days, the  Revd.James Bliss in response to

anonymous criticism aimed at the aged Bishop of Exeter and the organisation

of his Diocese. 

 

 

 

 

Morris’ next next building project was the construction of a new rectory house

at Lydford.

Western Morning News 8th April 1870 :

 

 

Whether or not Richard Glascodine  had any expectations of living there, he

had left for Swansea before it was completed and an advertisement notifying

the vacent curacy of Lydford (Stipend £100) appeared in the Western Morning

News on 21st. November 1870.

 

1871 -73  Revd. Duncan Campbell Mackenzie was the next man to fill one of

the positions of curate

It seems that Morris and his family may have briefly taken up residence there

as seen in this extract from the Morning Post on 21st October 1872.

 

Nevertheless, by 1873 there are two different clergymen recruited as curates

and the Fullers are living in the neighbouring Bridstowe Rectory. 1873 was

without doubt Morris's most difficult time in Devon, so much so that his

Annus Horribilis requires a page all of its own, HERE. 

When the dust settled the Revd. William Frederick Adye  1874-1876 was

appointed to the curacy of Lydford along with the

Revd William Kyle Westwood Chafy-Chafy 1874-1876.

Chafy-Chafy occupies the Rectory and  whether or not he ever moved in,

Morris and family were probably back at Princetown by then and certainly

were back there by 1875. 

William Chafy-Chafy was one of the few who contributed kind and positive

memorials to the press many years after when Morris died in 1901:

 

 

Rous Lench Court Worcestershire

 

Back at Princetown in 1875 a resolution was made to put the restoration of St

Michael's in hand and in October Morris writes from Princetown parsonage

appealing for funds:

 

PRINCETOWN CHURCH RESTORATION.

SIR,- Will you kindly permit me to make an appeal through your columns on

behalf of the restoration of Princetown Church, which is now being proceeded

with as it is a very exceptional case?

1. It is one out of four churches for which I am soley responsible as rector of

the parish.

2. We have no endowment, church rate or pew rents.

3. Nor have we a resident gentry or landed proprietary who might be expected

to take an interest in their parish church

4. I am held personally responsible, and have been so held for the last thirteen

years for the sustentation of the fabric (In a very severe climate), as well as the

current expenditure of the church (which latter item is not even covered by the

offertory), and this on half the stipend of my predecessor, which was not weighted

by such conditions.

5. That from circumstances into which I need not here enter, privileges of

Government assistance, granted to me by the Home Secretary many years

since and not officially cancelled, have been by recent action practically

escinded, although the church is mainly used by the officals of the Government.

In point of fact, the church is now being restored by free labour.

6. I have already built two mission chapels, a rectory house, and restored this

church before in 1863. Next year we intend restoring the parish church of Lidford.

7. This parish is the largest in the Diocese if not in England, but the income is

in an inverse ratio to its size.

8. It is a church much frequented in the season by an increasing number of tourists

and visitors who find here a daily service and weekly eucharist.

9. There is an interest attached to the fabric, as being raised by captive hands,

in the land of their exile.

Under these exceptional circumstances, I feel there is good reason for making

this appeal to the Christian public to help me in restoring worthily one of

"the Houses of God in the Land"-

Yours obediently, MORRIS FULLER, Incumbent. 

The Parsonage, Princetown, Dartmoor, October 9th 1875 

 

Reports of its near completion appear in May 1876:

 

 

 

As we see above there is another new curate in post, who must have replaced  

Revd. W.F. Adye who had moved on to St Teath in Cornwall. 

Revd. Albert Sidney Labouchere Sparling, who later in the year married a

Vice-Admiral's daughter Mary Glasse at Plymstock Church moved on the

following year.

1875 also saw the decision of the Lydford School Board (Chairman, Morris Fuller)

to build a new school which was completed in 1878. The Cornish & Devon Post  

for Jan 5th that year gave an update on both the school and Morris's Devonian

literary productions:

 

 

 

1st February 1879 saw the following notice in the Cornish and Devon Post

 

 

and with that he was gone, but of course not quite!

Unfortunately, though almost inevitably, and beginning with a letter to the

Church Times, controversy surrounded his departure from Devon.  This time,

and almost uniquely, Morris seems to have left it for others to speak in his defence:

 

 

Five years before his departure there had been not a little controversy within

the parish. This seems to have been "smoothed over" by some means but as 

it was of some significance amongst his flock, the years 1873-4 have been

more closely examined in Part 5. 

 

 

 

 

Click here for Part 5.


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