EDMUND DOUGLAS MERRITT
1927 – 1936

Fr-Merritt-Photo

Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Cuddesdon Theological College

Ordained deacon: 1902
Ordained priest: 1903

1902 – 1905 Curate, All Saints’ Notting Hill

1905 – 1908 Curate, Holy Trinity, Salcombe

1908 – 1914 Curate, SS Peter and Paul, Teddington

1914 – 1927 Vicar, All Souls, St Margaret’s-on-Thames

1927 – 1935 Vicar, S. Michael, Camden

1935             Rural Dean, S. Pancras

1935 – 1945      Prebendary, S. Paul’s Cathedral

1945 Prebendary Emeritus, S. Paul’s Cathedral

He was the grandson of Thomas Merritt (1817, Hoxton, Middlesex) and Mary Ann Bevis or Campion (1816, Marylebone), who married Thomas Merritt in the City of London in 1838 or Whitechapel in 1840. Thomas’ son Edmund senior (1850, Pimlico, St Peter’s Eaton Square, St George’s Hanover Square or Marylebone – 1932, Tonbridge, Kent) was baptised at St Michael’s Chester Square in Belgravia on 17th January 1851 and still living with his parents in 1851 and 1861 at asdsdasfafs and 10 Belmont Villas in Islington respectively. His father Thomas worked as a licensed victualler (1851) and “Proprietor of House” (1861). On census night in 1871 Edmund senior was working as a clerk and living in north Croydon as a visitor in the household of Henry Eastgate, the manager in a merchant’s office.

Edmund senior married in 1876 in Lee, north Kent. His wife was Ellen Emma Gray (1852, Charlton or Greenwich – 1932) and Edmund junior was born in Lee in 1879, the eldest of their three sons. His brothers were William Francis (1881, Lee, Kent – 1939, Surrey) and Walter (1884, Lee, Kent – 1931, Tonbridge district, Kent). One more child had been born alive to the couple before 1911 but had also died before 1911, though it is unclear when he or she was born. In 1881 and 1891 Edmund junior was living with his parents in Lee in south-east London, moving from 18 Brandram Road to 50 Lee Road between those two censuses. Edmund senior was working as a wine merchant in every census between 1881 and 1911.

Edmund junior attended Eastbourne School and at the time of the 1901 census he was boarding with an agricultural labourer and his wife and family at Fenny Bridges, Ottery St Mary, Honiton, Devon and giving his occupation as “Undergraduate”. He gained his BA at Emmanuel College Cambridge in 1901, the same year as he joined Cuddesdon College. His parents and brother William remained in south-east London, living at ‘Windermere’, 4 Blackheath Park in both 1901 and 1911. William was an articled clerk to a quantity surveyor in 1901 but by 1911 was working as his father’s clerk. Walter had instead become a solicitor, marrying Dora Winifred Pearsall (1882, Brockley, Kent) in Bromley district in 1908. In 1911 he was living with her at 19 Sherard Gardens in Eltham, though their son Bryan Aubrey Merritt (29th November 1909, Eltham, Kent – 27th January 1985, Wandsworth district) was instead living with his grandfather Edmund senior. Bryan went on to serve in army intelligence in Egypt, Greece, Austria, Malaya and Trieste during and after World War Two. He married Marjorie Joan Philpott (born 1915) at St Mark’s Church in Alexandria on 2nd February 1946.

Four children before 1911, of which one dead.

In 1926 he stated he was an old friend of Fr Keelan and Fr Kett, two of St Michael’s assistant priests, possibly from their all studying at Cambridge around the same time. He was made deacon by the Bishop of London in 1902 and priest the following year by the same bishop. His first curacy was at All Saint’s, Notting Hill (1902-1905). In 1905 he gained his Cambridge MA and on 29 August that year married Winifred Ethel Hartley (1884, Thirsk, Yorkshire – 1973, Thika, Kenya) in Methwold, Norfolk. She was the daughter of Reginald Hartley (1853-1928), a GP, and moved with her parents from Thirsk to Paddington between 1891 and 1901. Her parents divorced in 1893 on the grounds of her mother’s adultery with Rev William Teesdale Mackintosh, the married vicar of Thirsk.

Edmund’s next curacy was in Salcombe (1905-08), where he and his wife had their first two children, Edmund Philip (1907) and Ellen Mary (1908). He then moved to St Peter and St Paul, Upper Teddington (1908-14), where they had two more children, Charles Vincent (1909) and Alan John Vaughan (1911). He appears in the 1911 census at 37 Park Road, Teddington with his wife, four children, his wife’s younger sister and two servants.

Next he was Vicar of All Saints, St Margaret on Thames (1914-27), during which time he was elected one of the Proctors in Convocation (clergy representative) for London Diocese in 1925, a role he held until 1945. He then became vicar of St Michael’s (1927-35). The December 1926 parish magazine carried a letter from him announcing himself as Fr Osborn’s successor. He arrived and was instituted on 12th February 1927. His first annual letter in 1928 sounded a mixed tone:

“After the long reign of my revered predecessor it was natural that you should feel deeply the break with old traditions and old associations. Nevertheless the great majority of you have “stuck to the ship” right nobly and have helped me tremendously in the heavy task which I had to take to hand … While however I can thankfully record the faithfulness of the many, I cannot shut my eyes to the defection of the few. The annual statistics published in this issue of the Magazine show a decline in communicants which I intensely deplore and in other directions I cannot help noticing a certain falling off. I trust this is but temporary, and as we all settle down to the new regime all the ancient glories of St Michael’s will be restored, if not increased.”

Merritt was also a frequent guest preacher elsewhere, giving sermons at Westminster Abbey on 25 May 1930, St George the Martyr Queen Square on 8 July 1934 and St Paul’s Knightsbridge on 28 October 1934. In 1932 he became the chairman of the Federation of Catholic Priests and three years later a member of the council of the Church Union. The September 1935 recorded a Kenneth Merritt attending the St Michael’s summer camp as a leader but only being able to spend a week there as he had been called up for the RAF Reserve. He may have been a distant relation of Edmund’s and is probably to be identified with Kenneth Jesse Merritt (1920, Southwark district – 5th October 1944, India), fourth child and only son of the coachman and builder’s storekeeper Jesse Merritt (26th February 1883, Findon or Ashington, West Sussex) and his wife Elizabeth Ward (6th January 1878, Beccles, Suffolk), who had married in Wiston in 1904. They moved to Worthing in the same county, where in 1911 they were living at 1 Caledonian Place and at 113 Pavilion Road in 1939. Jesse was the son of Thomas (1855, Wiston), who was in turn the son of Peter (1807, Washington, West Sussex). Kenneth Jesse went on to die in India as a Flight Lieutenant (Navigator) and is buried at Maynamati War Cemetery in what is now Bangladesh.

The October 1935 issue carried Merritt’s resignation letter and a request for books back from anyone he’d loaned them to. He was then made Rural Dean of St Pancras (August 1935) and given Licence to Officiate by the Diocese of London (1935-45), as well as Prebendary of Wenlocksbarn, St Paul’s Cathedral (1939-45). In 1945 he retired, became Prebendary Emeritus and was given Licence to Officiate in Canterbury Diocese, having retired to the Queen’s Hotel in Deal, Kent, where he was recorded as living by Crockfords in 1955. He died there on 26 October 19561.

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