An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St. Helens, Lancashire

Part 12 (of 92 parts) - Rev. Henry Vallancey, First Vicar of Sutton Church

An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St.Helens
Part 12 (of 92) - Rev. Henry Vallancey - 1st Sutton Vicar
An Illustrated History of
Old Sutton in St.Helens
Rev. Henry Vallancey
Researched and Written by Stephen Wainwright ©MMXVII
This website’s religion pages describe how Henry Edward Francis Vallancey was an influential figure in Sutton during the second half of the nineteenth century. He was the first vicar of Sutton Parish Church and he ministered to the denizens of his parish for a remarkable thirty-nine years. Vallancey was also the driving force behind the creation of Sutton National Schools and he was responsible for many local children receiving an education. He was a respected man of the church who had sufficient clout to chide the great and the good when he felt they weren't coughing up enough cash for his community projects. This he did on 28th March, 1856 in a stern eleven page letter to chief Sutton landowner Ellen Hughes, the widow of Michael Hughes (I), which he prefaced with the words:
 You will pardon me for what I am going to say for I must speak out very plainly. 
Rev. HEFV Vallancey - first vicar of Sutton Church (St.Nicholas), St.Helens
Rev. Henry Vallancey as a younger man c.1860
He then demanded £100 a year for his new schools, pointing out that she had only given £5 so far, whilst the vicar himself had contributed £50 per year. Mrs. Hughes promptly obliged and received a further letter from Vallancey thanking her for her "liberal donation". However, the long-standing Sutton cleric concealed a secret throughout the four decades that he served his Sutton flock. I wonder what Mrs. Hughes would have made - or members of his congregation who had to listen to his stern sermons - of a revelation that the vicar was a father of twin, illegitimate sons?

Henry Edward Francis Vallancey (1807 - 1888) came from a remarkable military family, who are worthy of some exposition here. His grandfather General Charles Vallancey (1731 - 1812) was born in Westminster, London on April 6th, 1731. He was the son of Francis Vallancé and Mary Preston who had married at the Chapel of the Royal Hospital, Greenwich on September 21st, 1724. After the death of Francis, Mary's brother John Preston arranged a commission for Charles in the tenth regiment of Foot. After serving in Gibraltar for seven years, Charles was posted to Ireland and joined the Corps of Engineers. Vallancey became Chief Engineer and was responsible for engineering many of the old fortifications of Ireland.

The famed General Vallancey also acted as a military surveyor and was a founder of the Royal Irish Academy with a keen interest in antiquarian writings as well as Irish folklore. It has been claimed that the general was the first practitioner of ethnology in his adopted home of Ireland. Henry's father was
Colonel George Preston Vallancey (1747 - 1809) who fought in America during the American War of Independence with the rank of Lieutenant. He met General George Washington on November 12th, 1777 after the future first President granted him safe passage to Philadelphia. Despite an enemy status, his treatment by Washington is said to have been 'polite and noble'.

Left: Captain George Preston Vallancey; Right: Portraits of General Charles Vallancey military engineer and antiquary


Left: Captain George Preston Vallancey; Middle and Right: Portraits of General Charles Vallancey, a military engineer and antiquary


Left: George Preston Vallancey; Right: Portraits of General Charles Vallancey

After the death of his first wife, Colonel Vallancey married Isabella Humphrys (c.1772-1849) in 1792, and Henry, the future first vicar of Sutton, was his seventh and last child. By 1807, the year of Henry's birth, Colonel Vallancey had been made adjutant to the Staffordshire Militia at the Royal Barracks at Windsor. The militia acted as King George III's bodyguard and the colonel was on intimate terms with the monarch. It has been claimed that young Henry's first friends were the so-called 'mad' king's own children. Henry studied at Eton until 1827 and then at King's College, Cambridge up until February 27th, 1831 when he was ordained as a deacon at Buckendon by the Bishop of Lincoln. The Bishop of Chichester then ordained him as a priest in 1835 and Vallancey ministered in Norwich, Bricet and Wattisham in Suffolk and Rochford in Essex. From 1843 Henry Vallancey acted as chaplain to the first Bishop of Guiana (Guyana) and in 1849 arrived in Sutton to take up his post as the first vicar of Sutton parish, which he held until his death in 1888.

Although Henry turned his back on the army to serve God and Sutton, his brothers continued the family military tradition and served with distinction.
Captain Richard Vallancey (1787 - 1867) was with Wellington during the Peninsular Campaign and was twice at Paris with British troops. Captain George Preston Vallancey (1806 - 1878) spent much time in India where he became Assistant Government Superintendent for the Suppression of Thuggee.

Vallancey was given responsibility to clear the Indian network of secret fraternities who were callously murdering and robbing travellers. It has been claimed that up to two million people were disposed of by the 'thuggs' who often used the yellow Rumaal scarf to strangle their victims after first befriending them. As a result of their activities, the word 'thug' entered the English language.
Whilst in India, George married Harriett Garrett (1817 - 1858), a daughter of Sir George Garrett who was a member of a successful brewing family in Portsmouth. In 1796, Henry Garrett, Sir George's younger brother had married Mary Raikes, whose father was Sunday School Movement founder Robert Raikes (1736 – 1811).

Two photographs of Rev. Henry E. F. V. Vallancey, who was the first Vicar of Sutton Parish Church


Two photographs of Rev. H. E. F. V. Vallancey, the first Vicar of Sutton Church


Two photos of Rev. H.E.F.V. Vallancey

Rev. Vallancey was also a strong advocate of Sabbath school instruction and on March 5th 1856 at a meeting commemorating fifty years of Sunday schools in the St.Helens townships, Henry commented that they were "eminently calculated to promote the spread of Christianity and bring it home to the hearth of the poor". He made an appeal for the town to be canvassed to "induce the poor to send their children to the schools". Seven years later, on Christmas Day 1863, at the Sutton church of St.Nicholas, Rev. Vallancey baptised his nephew Aylmer D' Estampes Vallancey, a son from Captain George Preston Vallancey's second marriage.

Whether Captain George was aware that his bachelor brother who had officiated at the baptism was a parent himself - indeed grandparent by this time - will never be known. It seems to have been a closely guarded secret that in 1831 Henry Vallancey had become a father to twin boys by his then housekeeper. This was also the year of Henry's ordination and probably this fact and the couple's different social stations in life made marriage impossible.

A Deguerreotype photograph of Mary Roberts née Bradshaw (1836 - 1859) - Contributed by Frank Jones


A Deguerreotype photograph of Mary Roberts née Bradshaw (1836 - 1859)


Mary Roberts née Bradshaw (1836 - 59)

The housekeeper's name is unknown but her two sons were given the names James and Fredrick Thomas Roberts. On the 1851 census return, Fredrick is listed in Henry's household as one of four servants domiciled in Sutton. On the 1861 and 1871 censuses, only three servants in total are listed. Henry was probably helping out his son, who five years later (30/9/1856) married Mary Bradshaw (1836 - 1859) at St Mary's church in Liverpool. Mary was a local girl whose father had been killed in a pit accident at Eltonhead in December 1845. By the time of the marriage, Fredrick was resident at 216 Smithdown Lane in Liverpool and was a 'town waiter', a police officer who looked after magistrates.

Mary and Fredrick had two sons, Fredrick Henry and William Thomas and Henry Vallancey baptised both of them at his Sutton church (on 30/9/1857 & 31/12/1858 respectively). These must have been difficult experiences for him as he could not publicly reveal that they were his own grandchildren and William's baptism was conducted in the middle of the night.

Mary Roberts and child William's grave at St.Nicholas - her sister Ann and brother-in-law William Baxter are also buried there


Mary Roberts and child William's grave at St.Nicholas Church graveyard - her sister Ann and brother-in-law William Baxter are also buried there


Mary Roberts' grave at St.Nicholas

At this time the population of the St.Helens' townships was expanding at a remarkable rate. At the beginning of the century the population was recorded as 7,571. By 1851 St.Helens had 28,041 inhabitants, rising to 41,345 a decade later. This growth was in spite of the dreadful sanitary conditions that caused endemic disease and a high mortality rate. On November 3rd 1854 a letter in the Northern Times criticised the:
 …truly fearful state of cholera, typhus and inflammatory fevers which have, and continue to cause such havoc. 
The author claimed that there were 1100 dangerously ill victims in the St.Helens townships at that time. Mothers and new-born babies were particularly vulnerable to highly contagious disease and Mary Roberts and little William Thomas both contracted forms of tuberculosis (phthisis and tabes mesenterica, respectively). Mary died on March 8th 1859 when she was just 23 years old and four months after giving birth to William. Her baby then died two months later and mother and son are buried together in the graveyard at the front of St.Nicholas church.

Frank Jones is the grandson of Fredrick Henry (who in 1871 was living at 69 Robins Lane) and has told this website how his grandmother would refer to Rev. Vallancey as "the old devil". However, the longstanding Vicar of Sutton clearly had a soft spot for members of his family, even if he wasn't able to publicly acknowledge them. Mary's sickness and death seems to have hit him very hard as he used to wear an 'in memory' medallion with her picture within it. This is now in Frank's possession as well as a number of original Daguerreotype family photos.

Rev. H.E.F. Vallancey's grave at the front of St.Nicholas Church in Sutton which includes sister Isabella


Rev. H.E.F. Vallancey's grave at the front of St.Nicholas Church in Sutton


Rev. Vallancey's grave at St.Nicholas

Henry Vallancey's two sisters Margaret Baverstock (1783 - 1864) and Isabella Vallancey (1801 - 1879) both lived with their brother at Sutton. For much of the time this was at the Green End House vicarage although they moved to 'Millersdale', in Mill Lane, Sutton between 1872-3.

Millersdale in Mill Lane, the former home of Rev. Henry Vallancey - contributed by Frank Jones


Millersdale in Mill Lane, which was the former home of Rev. Henry Vallancey


Millersdale, Vallancey’s former home

Spinster Isabella's remains share a modest grave along with her brother at the front of St.Nicholas church in New Street, next to the much grander Pilkington family vault. Their half-sister and widow Margaret is buried in her own place of rest close by and all the Vallanceys are at peace just yards from the grave of Mary Roberts and her six-months-old child William. Just where Mary's husband and his twin brother are buried is not presently known.

Henry Vallancey died on September 19th 1888 aged 82 and thirty-nine years after first arriving in Sutton. He'd been in ill-health for some time and in 1883 the Bishop of Liverpool had appointed Rev. Gibson Rowning as curate-in-charge of the Sutton parish.

Henry Vallancey's will with gross estate valued at £2089 8s 5d, around £170,000 in today's money - contributed by Frank Jones


Vallancey's will with estate valued at £2089, around £170,000 in today's money


Rev. Henry Vallancey's will with gross estate valued at £2089 8s 5d.

In his will Henry Vallancey ordered that all his personal papers be destroyed upon his death, which was an unusual request from a man in his position. Of course historical documents often get pulped but people don't normally arrange for the destruction of their own papers upon their death, unless they have something that they don't want revealed. A sale of the Vicar's possessions took place at the Sutton Vicarage over two days on October 30th and 31st 1888. An advertisement for the auction in the Liverpool Mercury of October 26th, described Vallancey's goods for sale as the:
 ….appointments of five bedrooms, drawing room, dining room, library, and kitchens, including a large assortment of china and glass, eight hundred books, one-horse brougham, set of harness, and other miscellaneous effects. 
On April 9th 1889 the vicarage, stable, coachhouse, outbuildings and surrounding land - amounting to a total of 2496 square yards - were auctioned. Vallancey's legacies to the people of Sutton were the provision of education for all of its children and the creation of a strong foundation for the new parish. He was clearly a dedicated man and his youthful indiscretion probably caused him great sadness in his life and should in no way tarnish his notable achievements as the first vicar of Sutton parish.
Thanks to Vallancey / Roberts family descendants Frank Jones, Myles I. Earle and Barbara Shelton for their assistance with this page. Also see 'Indecent Behaviour In A Churchyard' in Sutton Crime Part 1.
Thanks to Vallancey / Roberts descendants Frank Jones, Myles I. Earle and Barbara Shelton for their help.
Next:  Part 13)  Education in Sutton
Stephen Wainwright
This website has been written and researched and many images photographed by myself, Stephen Wainwright, the Sutton Beauty & Heritage site owner. Individuals from all over the world have also kindly contributed their own photographs. If you wish to reuse any image, please contact me first as permission may be needed from the copyright owner. High resolution versions of many pictures can also be supplied at no charge. Please also contact me if you can provide any further information or photographs concerning Sutton, St.Helens. You might also consider contributing your recollections of Sutton for the series of Memories pages. Sutton Beauty & Heritage strives for factual accuracy at all times. Do also get in touch if you believe that there are any errors. I respond quickly to emails and if you haven't had a response within twelve hours, check your junk mail folder or resend your message. Thank you! SRW
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