St Michael’s 1877-1882

Archer George Hunter in the early 1900s, from Surrey: Historical Biographical and Pictorial

He was born in the parish of St George’s, Bloomsbury, London on 12 November 1850 as the second son and fourth child of Richard Hunter (born 1806, City of London) and his wife Caroline Ruck (born 1819, City of London), a wine merchant’s daughter. They had married in Lewisham district in 1843 and had their first child in 1846. Richard worked as a solicitor in his family firm at Lincoln’s Inn – that firm was founded in 1715 and is still in operation. On 30 March 1851 Archer was recorded as aged only five months and as living with his parents at 29 Brunswick Square. The house was at the square’s corner with Hunter Street, near the Foundling Hospital and on a site now occupied by the UCL School of Pharmacy.

29 Brunswick Square in 1939.

By 1861 Archer and his three elder siblings had been joined by four younger ones. Richard’s younger sister Amelia (born 1811, St Dunstan in the East parish) had also moved into their household, which had moved out to Springfield Villa, Cottenham Park, Copse Hill, just over a mile from Wimbledon train station. Archer was still living with his parents on census night in 1861 and 1871. In 1864, halfway through his time at Marlborough College, he injured his leg on holiday in Folkestone on the south-east coast of England. However, as recounted in his 1935 autobiography Incidents in My Life and Ministry, the injury led to a meeting which shaped the rest of his life:

I injured my leg so severely … that I was not able to return to school for a time. My father, anxious that I should waste no time, looked out for a tutor for me. He had noticed a young man who was very regular, with his mother and sister, at Christ Church, Wimbledon, where we lived. This was Edward, Mrs. and Miss Penfold, and my father went to see Edward, then an undergraduate at Worcester College, Oxford, and asked him if he could spare the time, and if so if he would be willing to coach me until his return to Oxford. This he kindly consented to do and it was the beginning of a friendship lasting until his death in 1907. Yes, he was far, far more to me than a tutor, he was a true friend, taking an interest in all my doings and keeping up a correspondence with me through all the years.

They also took holidays together, such as in September 1870 when they took a stormy crossing from Bristol to Cork to visit southern Ireland – it took twice as long as usual and the same bad weather also sank the experimental warship HMS Captain off western Spain. Hunter studied at Trinity College Cambridge before moving to Cuddesdon College near Oxford to train for the priesthood under its principal Edward King (1829-1910). He was ordained deacon in 1874 by Harold Browne, Bishop of Winchester and also priested by him a year later. He served his first curacy at St Mary’s, Beddington (1874-77), two miles west of what is now Croydon town centre. He was given some leave from it to join the Manchester Mission, where he gained a taste for urban mission work. On asking his father for advice, he was told to go see his friend Penfold, who had just been appointed to St Michael’s. He later wrote of the trip:

I did not go, let me say, with any idea at the moment of working with him, although earlier in the year I had been to see him and to hear all about his new and interesting work at Camden Town. Well, it may appear strange, but it is true he told me almost at the beginning of our talk that he had just heard from Archdeacon [Henry] Matthew of Lahore, who had been a fellow curate of his in Christ Church, Albany Street, and who I had met when spending a pleasant week-end in the Christ Church Clergy House1, and in the letter Matthew, after speaking of his interest in Penfold’s new work, expressed a hope that he would hear that Hunter was working with him! This seemed almost providential and made me think how splendid it would be if I could indeed do so. My friend could offer no stipend, so it must depend upon my father whether I could go or not. I went next day to see my father and he made no doubt about it, that this, St. Michael’s, Camden Town, under Edward Penfold, for whom he had always had the greatest respect, was just the parish where I could get the experience I wanted.

Though when Hunter joined Penfold in Camden in mid-June 1877 there was as yet “no house, no church, no school, no building of any kind!”, he still referred to it as “quite the most important period of my life”, adding “if I enlarge upon it, as I must, it is because my whole future hangs upon it”. Of his early days there, he wrote:

I fear I was a little Beddington-sick to begin with, and certainly did look forward to returning to see my friends once a month, it was a joy and refreshment. However, I soon settled down to the new work and began by going to see the people from house to house in that half of the parish which the Vicar had assigned to me. It was not long before I got to know and love them, indeed they were very lovable and very welcoming.

In 1880 he was busy with parish work when a hospital patient decided to play matchmaker:

In the course of my parochial visits I was constantly hearing from the people of a Miss Bray, who was reported as one of great worth, whether as a friend or as a teacher in the [neighbouring parish of] St. Mark’s [Regent’s Park] Sunday Schools. Naturally I hoped that sooner or later I should meet Miss Marianne Bray, and in all truth I can say that when I did I found that the half had not been told me! One day I had arranged for a Clinical Communion and the patient asked me if she might ask Miss Bray to come to it, so it came to pass that it was at the bedside of the sick and in the Lord’s own service that I first met this gracious lady. After this I got to know her family and some two years later I asked her to become my wife. One year later still [ie in 1881] we were married in St. Mark’s, Regent’s Park, and spent fifty happy years together.

Marianne (sometimes also recorded as Mary Ann;1846 – 17th March 1931) was one of eleven children born to Frederick Richard Bray (1813, King’s Langley, Hertfordshire – 14 March 1880, St Pancras district) and his wife Frances Mary Spackman (born 1820, St James Piccadilly), an heiress, who he had married in 1836. Frederick was the eldest legitimate son of Thomas Bray (1765-1829) and Hannah Sarah Rosey – Thomas was from a wealthy silk-weaving family (his aunt was Mary Sophia Bray, second wife of Viscount Bridport and sister-in-law to the famous Admiral Hood) but Hannah was a hat-maker’s daughter and maid. She and Thomas only married a week before their second child’s birth2. Frederick Richard began his professional life as an apothecary but later went on to live off the rents from a property empire. He and Frances lived at 28 Queen’s Road (now 14 Regents Park Road) and she remained there after his death in 1880, explaining why Marianne came into the orbit of St Michael’s and Hunter.

Archer and Marianne moved into 65 Gloucester Crescent and were there on 3 April for that year’s census. A year after the wedding he was visited by George Willes, first vicar of Christ Church, Epsom after it became a parish in its own right in 18763. Willes was intending to leave the parish and invited Hunter to come see it, with a view to being his successor. After seeking advice from his father, Penfold, King and Browne, Hunter accepted and he, Marianne and their five-week-old daughter Dorothy moved into the vicarage there in mid-March 1882. There they remained until his retirement from parochial ministry in 1911. He was also appointed an honorary Canon of Winchester Cathedral (1897-1939 – Epsom then still fell in the Diocese of Winchester) and Rural Dean of Leatherhead (1906-1925). Even after his departure, he retained an interest in St Michael’s Camden Town – in 1887 he paid for a window of St Pancras and St Paul in its north aisle (shown below) in memory of his parents.

A Surrey biographical dictionary of the time recorded his leisure pursuits whilst at Epsom as “cycling and foreign travel” and stated he was a member of the Epsom Board of Guardians4. He also established St Barnabas Church as a chapel of ease and later a parish in its own right to meet urban expansion in north Epsom, as well as placing the 1880s Mission Church on Woodlands Road under Christ Church’s aegis in 1908, renaming it St Michael’s. He and his wife moved to The Larch Wood in Ashtead, 2.5 miles from Epsom, though he returned to Christ Church to assist after its fourth vicar Neville Stiff’s early death from a severe asthma attack in 1923.

Archer and Marianne had three more children: Archer Richard (1884, Epsom – 1965, Wokingham district), Phyllis Marianne (born 1885, Epsom) and Leonard (1887, Epsom – 1891, Epsom). Archer George took the marriages of both Archer Richard and Phyllis, but Leonard died aged only four and was buried in plot A1.70.A. in Epsom Cemetery. Archer Richard married Daphne Irene Emma Thompson (1882-1977) at St Mary’s in Fetcham, Surrey on 29th April 1909, with the Rev Lawrence John Chamberlen (1847-1928) assisting Archer George. Chamberlen’s wife Evelyn Maria Thompson (1864-1944) was sister to Daphne’s father William James Thompson junior (1843-1931). Evelyn and William James’ father William James Thompson senior (1817-1904) was the senior partner in W J and H Thompson of 38 Mincing Lane in the City, putting him in the same legal circles as Archer George’s father. He was also a justice of the peace and the owner of the Kippington estate near Sevenoaks.

Phyllis’ wedding took place at Christ Church Epsom on 2nd April 1910. The groom was Gerald Baxter Groom (1884-1966), second son of the Rev Arthur John Groom, Rector of Ashwicken, Norfolk. In 1902 Gerald had become a Second Lieutenant in the 3rd (Militia) Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment. He switched to the 1st West India Regiment on his promotion to Lieutenant in 1906. He was still in that unit at the time of his marriage, but was seconded from it in November 1911 as Temporary Captain and Adjutant to the 5th (Cyclist) Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment. He went on to serve on the staff and win the Military Cross during the First World War before returning to Jamaica, where he was recorded as a full Captain in the South Lancashire Regiment in 1925. He was a Major in the same regiment by the time of the 1943 New Year’s Honours, in which he was made an Additional Member of the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire.

Daphne and Archer Richard’s first child, Archer Richard Paul, was born in 1911 but died aged only two months and was buried beside Leonard. The same plot later also received Archer George Hunter and his wife, whose inscriptions read “Marianne. For over 50 years the very dear wife of Archer George Hunter” and “To the dear memory of Archer George Hunter, for 30 years Vicar of Christ Church Epsom… “A Faithful Minister of Christ”.”.5

The Hunter family grave in Epsom Cemetery.

In the meantime Archer Richard and his wife had had two daughters, Diana M T (19th September 1915, 2 Strathmore Gardens, Campden Hill, Kensington) and Pamela Elizabeth Daphne (1919-2001). Archer Richard had also served in the First World War – he was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant in the Army Service Corps on 16th August 1915. In 1937 Pamela married Sir Henry Edmund Castleman Lushington (1909–1988), who succeeded his father as 7th Baronet Lushington in 1968 – they had a son and two daughters. By 1961 her parents had moved to The White Cottage, Rectory Road, Wokingham, Berkshire – he was then working as a chartered accountant.