Last week, strictly as a stress-reducing measure, I did what anyone else would do and researched the life of a nineteenth-century pastor.
100% to blame for all the time I wasted, and the time you are currently wasting, is Adele Curness, who tweeted an image of a graffito from the choir stalls of Brasenose College Chapel. E.S. Radcliffe, who had expended such loving care inscribing his name there, was easy enough to find once I opted for Edmund over Edward: he turned out to be Edmund Stringfellow Radcliffe, who was born on February 23 1775 and died on January 20 1826. A Lancastrian from a prosperous background, he was typical of the intake to Brasenose College at this period in its history.
Entering the church, like many of his student contemporaries, Radcliffe lived a comfortable and uneventful life, to all appearances. He secured the living of Walton-le-Dale near Preston in 1803, and adding a Perpetual Curacy of Burnley in 1817. This was pluralism, the holding of multiple offices, but a comparatively benign example if Radcliffe was also able (unlike many of his clerical contemporaries) to serve the parish of Burnley, around 25 miles away. In 1810 he married Frances Ford (born 1789, seemingly of a similarly well-to-do family), and between then and Edmund’s death they had a large family, nine children (by my count) in total. It was these that I found myself, in an entirely unsystematic fashion, chasing through the census records this week.
Here they are:
1. Edmund Ford, born 1811, dies as an infant in January 1812;
2. Edmund Ford, born 1812;
3. Frances Emily, born 1813;
4. Sarah Ann, born 1815;
5. Dulcibella, born 1817;
6. Robert Parker, born 1819;
7. Charles Wilbraham, born 1821;
8. John Randle, born 1823;
9. George Travis, born 1825.
After Edmund Stringfellow Radcliffe’s death in 1826, his widow Frances moved from Lancashire to Rugby, where all her sons went to school. Rugby School was enjoying its heyday under the direction of Thomas Arnold, headmaster from 1828, and by settling in Rugby Frances was ensuring that her sons enjoyed the free education available to local boys or “foundationers”. A few years earlier the mother of William Webb Ellis, left all but destitute after her husband’s death in the Peninsular War, had moved to the town and secured the same for her son: the rest is very dubious history. Of Florence’s children I’ve spent most time this week reading about Charles Wilbraham Radcliffe (no. 7) and his violent fate, but the other children also illustrate in their way nineteeth-century English not-so-genteel lives.
Frances’ first surviving child, Edmund Ford Radcliffe, who had been given exactly the same name (memorialising his father and mother) as his dead brother, subsequently entered the the Civil Service in Bengal, and became a judge: at the time of the 1851 census three of his daughters, all born in the “East Indies”, are staying with grandmother at Elm Cottage, Church Walk, in Rugby: this house, now listed, I think. He died in 1864, his place of death given as Rugby, presumably in his mother’s house.
Frances Emily Radcliffe (No. 3) married the heir to the tea firm Richard Twining III at the family’s local church in Rugby in 1831, at the age of 17. She lived a very privileged life in the Twining family house on the Strand (she, her husband and three children are all there in the 1841 census), but she died in childbirth in 1847.
Neither Sarah Ann nor Dulcibella (nos. 4 and 5, the latter, I think, a family name on her mother’s side: a couple of her nieces certainly share it) marry. When Frances their mother dies in 1872 (she was 83), they live on at Elm Cottage, describing themselves in the 1881 census as “annuitants”. Sarah Ann dies in 1895, Dulcibella in 1901. Meanwhile Robert Parker Radcliffe (no. 6), whom we find visiting his mother in Rugby in the 1861 census, was an officer in the Royal Artillery: he lived until 1907. Leaving no. 7 (Charles Wilbraham Radcliffe) aside for a moment, John Randle Radcliffe (no. 8) followed his father into the church, the only one of Edmund’s children to do so. He is staying with his mother and sisters (and nieces) in Rugby in the 1851 and 1871 censuses, “Studying for the Church” in 1851, holding various curacies in the vicinity of Rugby before becoming vicar of Snitterfield, close to Stratford-upon-Avon and thus not far either from Rugby, in 1877. He served the parish until his death in 1898, never marrying.
The youngest of the siblings, George Travis Radcliffe (d. 1904), is another India hand, rising to command the 7th (later called the 3rd) Madras Light Cavalry. As an officer in the Indian Army he was following in the footsteps of his older brother Charles Wilbraham Radcliffe, to whom I turn. Charles has left the fullest record out of all his siblings, for the worst reasons.
At the time of the so-called “Indian Mutiny”, the uprising against British rule in 1857, Capt. C. W. Radcliffe found himself in Lucknow, serving with a regiment of Bengal cavalry. When elements of it started to desert and the regiment was disbanded, Radcliffe took command of a unit of Volunteer Cavalry in actions against rebels near Lucknow, and then joined the rest of the British combatants and non-combatants (including his wife Emily and three children) as they took refuge in the Lucknow Residency, starting a siege that lasted from June until November 1857.
Many of the survivors of the siege, rapidly converted into a classic imperial story of triumph snatched from disaster, subsequently published diaries or memoirs, and we hear a lot both of Capt. Radcliffe and his wife and family. A prominent figure in the defence of the Residency, he was killed the night before the “first relief” (really a reinforcement) on September 25, 1857, when a British force fought its way through to the Residency, but were too depleted to attempt evacuating it. The siege would not be broken for another 61 days.
In the diaries of Lady Inglis (wife of the commanding officer for the first 87 days before the “first relief”, not published until 1892), we hear that Radcliffe was severely wounded, and needed his arm amputated. A Lady’s Diary of the Siege of Lucknow, Written for the Perusal of Friends at Home by Mrs. James P. Harris, published in 1858 by John Murray (who had cornered the market with the Afghan War diaries of Lady Sale and Vincent Eyre a few years before), confirms that the injury was fatal:
September 25, Friday
The enemy made two attacks during the night. Captain Ratcliffe of the 7th Cavalry was mortally wounded at the Cawnpore battery by a round shot. He will be a terrible loss to his wife and a very large family.
Continued firing in the city all day.
Kaye in his History of the Sepoy War III.542 talks of “one of the very best of our officers … ever foremost in attack and defence, whose cheerfulness, under all depressing circumstances, had set a gallant example.” The conditions within the Residency during the siege were appalling, food in short supply and disease running rife, over and above the constant threat of snipers, artillery and mines. One of Radcliffe’s children, Ada Maud, had died of cholera during the first part of the siege.
We could hardly be further away from Edmund Radcliffe patiently carving his name during chapel services in Brasenose. But a much more recent Brasenose student, J. G. Farrell, based his Booker-winning novel The Siege of Krishnapur on the Siege of the Lucknow Residency. In it he shows the trappings of “civilisation” progressively falling away from the British defenders as the appalling siege drags on, and I couldn’t help thinking of that as a couple of internet searches took me from an Oxford college chapel to the unspeakable brutality (on both sides) of the “Indian Mutiny”. A church in rural Lancashire, a public school, the desperate privations of a beleaguered British outpost, some tea, is not an outrageous summation of the Victorian scene. I remain deeply intrigued by the contradictions of “the peculiar lives led by the British officer class in nineteenth-century India, privileged, violent and above all precarious.”
A couple of grandchildren to remind us that life goes on. Eva Mary Radcliffe, daughter of Charles, was born after her father’s death in 1858: her daughter Eva Mabel Radclife Freeth lived until 1960. William Scott Warley Radcliffe, son of Robert Parker Radcliffe (no. 6), like his father an army officer, died in 1954. Another Dulcibella, Dulcibella Eden Radcliffe, daughter of George (no. 9), married Charles Owen Hore in 1889, and died in 1946, longterm resident of a grace-and-favour apartment (formerly occupied by Lady Sale) within Hampton Court: take a look at this fascinating document, pp. 21 and 44.
Fascinating little story. Any family is a bit like a set of Russian dolls, one generation inside another, but dolls are identical and the Radcliffes are intriguing because of differences nesting within the identity. Obviously they gain extra patina from their roles in a nation’s story, one of the advantages of empire, I suppose. What big stories do we inhabit today, when nation states are fading into larger economic communities? The story of Microsoft and Apple and Soni and BP, I suppose. Financially comfortable, not so heroic. It gets me to thinking maybe the Church is the only big story left, where an ordinary person’s life story can take on extraordinary colours simply by doing one’s duty. Or maybe the police force?
One point of contact with today that struck me, particularly in the story of the Lucknow Siege, was the desperate effort people made to get noticed. You are constantly seeing soldiers and civilians taking daft risks so as to be the guy the general sees and rewards with preferment: the only way to escape the crowd. That hasn’t changed, though the methods are different.
I think during the siege of Lucknow in particular there was a sense of bravado because many believed they had nothing to lose. Most of the besieged didn’t actually believe they were going to come out alive and so they may as well make the best of it while they could.
Captain Radcliffe is buried within the grounds of St Mary’s at the Lucknow Residency, the following is taken from this blog: http://reflectionsonthelucknowresidency.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/church-and-graveyard.html
“The first burials in the churchyard took place in May 1857 – up to this point in time there had been no graveyard in the compound. Siege burials were hasty and took place at night, with darkness providing some cover from the firing. The bodies were placed in mass graves, piled either on top of one another or side by side and covered over with a thin layer of dirt as quickly and as quietly as possible. It was a thoroughly dreadful place.”
“The smell there became so horrible, owing to the shallowness of the graves and the want of work people to make proper arrangements that the medical men pronounced it positively dangerous for the living to go there (A Lady’s Diary of the Siege of Lucknow).”
Particularly enjoy your postings on India. Our family has an odd, rather obscure connection to the East India Company. My mother’s ancestors arrived in Connecticut in about 1667. The “immigrant” John Randall appears to have been a rather unlikable chap, quarreling with both his neighbors over religion and the Pequots over land (he was such a cheat over land price that the Pequots actually got the better of him in court. In any case, my late cousin had an old family cookery notebook (not in my possession) which contained some scraps of recipes rumored to have been from EIC origin. As we had several whalers/traders in family I was dubious. However, the immigrant’s father was a vicar in Cornwall for a short time under Cromwell and though unpopular with his flock, married a local girl, Margaret or Mary Trevisa. Recently discovered her brother, Jonathon Trevisa, spent time with the EIC. Not sure if he died out there but his Will referred to her as a widow at the time of writing it so perhaps not. He may be lost to history but it seems possible we may all these years have been following his directions for making chutney. My grandmother’s housekeeper also made a stew from that collection (very similar to modern mulligatawny) which called for “mutton near past eating) which as a child I always found amusing. Thanks again for your delightful and often very moving postings, Mary Molitierno (corneliagracchi on the Twittery)
That is a fantastic family story, Mary! I can just see a snippet of H. D. Love, Vestiges of Old Madras, p. 187 on Google Books: “Jonathan Trevisa arrived at Madras in 1658, after his double shipwreck, but he did not reach Bengal until a year later”!
This is an interesting blog. Edmund Stringfellow Radcliffe was my great-great-great-grandfather and I have been researching the Radcliffe family and their Radclyffe predecessors for several years. I just had to visit Brasenose Chapel today and there was Stringfellow’s autograph inscribed discreetly on a stall. (With several others.) For me it was a tangible contact with a long-gone ancestor whom I’d only touched through paper records hitherto. It was quite moving sitting in Stringfellow’s stall 220 years after he did.
But here is a Mystery. Stringfellow’s son, Edmund Ford Radcliffe, my great-great-grandfather, had eight children, seven born in India, one in England. Yet, in “The Book of the Radclyffes” by Charles Hampson (1940), an eminent Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, which goes back in much detail through the Radcliffes and before them the Radclyffes to William the Conqueror and beyond, Edmund Ford, alone of Stringfellow’s fecund children, is described as d.s.p., ie without issue. “Why should this be?”, you ask. A very good question.
A Mystery! I have a thought…..
What a wonderful connection! I’m so glad you saw his name, and I can’t imagine how it felt! The records I very rapidly looked at betrayed some confusion between the two Edmund Ford Radcliffe’s, the first son who died in infancy, and your ancestor. I wonder if that reuse of the name caused Hampson’s error, too.
I don’t suppose you took a photo of yourself in the chapel? I’d add it to the blog if so!
Thankyou, Llewelyn. Yes, it’s possible in principle that there was confusion between the two William Ford Radcliffe brothers but could such a glaring error have been made by the ancient Radcliffe family which, “The Book of the Radclyffes” shows, took its thousand-year heritage very seriously, and by author Hampson, whose extensive and detailed knowledge of the family is clear? Stranger things have happened, I suppose.
Alas, I didn’t take a photo of me in the Chapel.
I am the writer of reflectionsonthelucknowresidency.blogspot.ch and I am happy you found my site interesting. I would like to put a link your site on mine if you have no objections. I am always looking for ways to give the dead a voice as I have tried to do in my blog.
Yes, please do! Thank you.
A fascinating story, which I found quite by chance whilst researching the Radcliffe family. Edmund Stringfellow Radcliffe was my 4 x great grandfather via his son Edmund Ford Radcliffe. Incidentally, my dad was also at Brasenose, although the Radcliffes are on my maternal side.
I enjoyed reading this article. There is a painting of Charles Wilbraham Radcliffe on the Pine-Coffin myheritage web site. He is a x Great Grandfather on my Grandmother’s side of the family. Unfortunately we do not have one of his father Edmund