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Tuesday
Apr262011

Uncle Thomas: Legend of Happisburgh (in more ways than one)

For this, my second blog installment of the week denoting memorable ancestors, I turn to an uncle by marriage, Rev Thomas Lloyd. 

Those that have heard of Happisburgh (pronounced 'Hayes-brough') often first think about homes at the top of cliffs and coastal erosion. However, there is of course far more to the village. A couple of years ago, a simple search engine request threw up Thomas Lloyd as a central figure in the parish history and sent me on a path of discovery. Supposedly, I found, he is remembered for baptising an awful lot of children at once, and for holding a party for the occasion. 

The church at Happisburgh has one of the highest towers of any in Norfolk, and the graveyard overlooks the sea.

 The village sign, not far from the church, is pictured below.


At the top, a vicar is depicted, baptising a child. This vicar is Rev. Thomas Lloyd. While I was fairly sure there was some truth behind the legend of his throwing a party and baptising as many children as possible on Whit Sunday, 1793, I wanted to find out for sure. I consulted the original register and found the following - 

“Memorandum – Observing a great reluctance in the poorer inhabitants of the Parish of Happisburgh to give their children full baptism, most chiefly owing to their inability to afford their friends such little entertainment as they imagined to be suitable and necessary upon such occasions and being seriously convinced that to general a neglect of that ancient Rite, was become very detrimental to the principles and morals of the times; I invited all such as would bring their children and friends to receive full baptism on whitsonday 1793 to an entertainment; and baptised on that day one hundred and seventy persons. Thos Lloyd.”

So, if your ancestor was resident in Happisburgh in the late 1700s and you have no specific baptism record for them, maybe they were at the party! 

I know little about Thomas’ early life so far. He married my 5xGreat Grandfather’s sister Susannah Walne in Redenhall in 1782, shortly after he became vicar at Happisburgh and eleven years before the village’s memorable shindig – perhaps she helped with the catering! 

Rev Lloyd was similarly efficient with his own offspring who were both baptised within 24 hours. The couple had two sons, Thomas Henry, who followed his father into the clergy, and Randall Walne (yes, that’s two surnames as Christian names – his grandmother’s maiden name Randall, who hailed from a gentry family in the Hempnall area, and Walne for his mother) who became an Officer in the East India Army. 

Their baptisms appear in the North Walsham register, and it’s great to note the extras that you can’t get from transcriptions - if Susannah had given birth only a few days earlier they could have saved a few pence: 

“The New Stamp Duty began on the 1st Day of October 1783 for Births and Christenings, Burials and Marriages, at 3d Each- 

October 4th 1783 - Thomas Henry Lloyd, son of Thomas Lloyd Cl and Susannah his wife late Walne of N Walsham; paid 3d”

and

“Randall Walne son of Thos Lloyd Clk and Susannah his wife (late Susannah Walne) was born March 13th 1789, baptised privately March 13th 1789 and received into the church August 1792.”

The Stamp Duty Act 1783 imposed a charge on all baptisms, marriages and burials of 3d in order to pay for the American War of Independence. Because paupers were exempt, you may find a larger than usual amount of paupers in the registers between 1783 and 1794. 

Both also appear, together, in the register at Happisburgh out of order with the rest of the entries:

“Thomas Henry Lloyd (son of the Revd Thomas Lloyd, Vicar of this parish and Susannah his wife (daughter of Daniel Walne of Harleston in this County, Gent) was born Oct 3rd and baptised Oct 4th 1783. He was born at North Walsham. 

Randall Walne (son of the said Thomas and Susannah Lloyd) was born and baptised March 13th 1789. He was born at North Walsham.” 

A history of the family included a passage, written in Thomas’ hand, as follows:

“Susannah, the fourth child, married the Rev. Thomas Lloyd, Rector of Westwick and Vicar of Happisburgh in Norfolk, by whom she has two sons, Thomas Henry Lloyd of King’s College, Cambridge, and Randall Walne Lloyd, who completes his 15th year this 13th day of March 1804 and is far advanced in his classical studies under my own tuition.”

Sadly to my knowledge (to date) neither son went on to marry or have children as both died young. In fact mother, father and sons all died within five years, and Thomas and his wife died 'within hours' of each other.

A large tablet in North Walsham Church reads as follows:  

“Near this place were interred the remains of the Rev’d. Thomas Lloyd, LL.B., Vicar of Happisburgh and Rector of Westwick, and an active intelligent magistrate for this County who departed this life November 26th, 1813; for Susanna his wife, who died a few hours before him, aged 62; for their eldest son, Rev. Thomas Henry Lloyd, A.B., Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge, bom October 3rd, 1783, died June 6th, 1808 ; also for Randall Walne Lloyd, their only other child, bom March 13th, 1789; died in the East Indies, May 23rd, 1808.” 

My next plans are to find out more about Randall Walne’s time in the East Indies (thank you to FIBIS who were very helpful at this year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live) and also to follow up the rest of the Lloyd family. 

It seems Rev. Lloyd not only provided a legend, but potentially was a legend. As ever, if there are any family links reading this article, please feel free to contact me. I’d also love to hear about any other events like that at Happisburgh!

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