|St Mary's Church, Southampton|
None of my grandparents - all born in England - nor their parents and grandparents in the 19th century appeared particularly religious. They were certainly protestant and generally used the Church of England for their hatch, match and despatch customs. However, this was common practice because during most of the Victorian era and earlier the Church of England parishes throughout England carried out these functions in the absence of civil registration, certainly prior to 1837.
Parishes were also responsible for many other functions now carried out by the UK government. These included welfare subsidies for the poor and tithes instead of taxation to pay for road maintenance and other public functions.
My favourite ancestor is my 3 x great grandfather John Rose 1804-1884 of Southampton. Through researching various family trees,
I made contact with a fourth cousin Moira, who I later met in Dorchester in 2012.In 1836 England introduced the Tithe Commutation Act which replaced the ancient system of payment of tithes in kind (for example, produce) with monetary payments. So the issue of the fairness or otherwise of tithes was a significant issue in 1839 when this incident took place.
The rector, Francis North was the formal rector of a number of churches in Hampshire and was in the habit of giving an annual sermon once a year, where he collected the tithes due to him. For the rest of the year, the church was left in the hands of a curate who was paid a pittance.
On the appointed day, John Rose approached the rector with his tenth son in his arms, handed him to the Earl and suggested he take the child as John Rose's tithe. The Earl had been fussing over the babe, but upon hearing John Rose's request, promptly handed him back.John Rose later wrote a poem, which he sold very successfully as a pamphlet. Here it is:
I’m certain your Lordship would hardly suppose
You’d receive an Epistle in verse from JOHN ROSE
Well-known in Southampton, while courting the muse,
As Father of Children and Vendor of News.
Ah, hinc illoe Lachrymoe! One thing is sure.
Though in young ones I’m rich, in the pocket I’m poor.
Sad drawback it is on connubial joys
Ten bantlings to rear – and the whole of them boys,
Everyone of them hearty, my Lord, and no question
With appetites keen and unfailing digestion;
And who, as to eating, though not over-nice,
Would make a sirloin disappear in a trice.
Your feelings, my Lord, I had no wish to shock
When I offered you lately a TITHE OF MY FLOCK –
A fine chubby lad which, as flower of the crew.
Guildford North I have christened him, in honour of you.
And I fervently hope, though the last of the race,
That – much honoured name he will never disgrace.
Now, My Lord, it would make my paternal heart glad
If you’d kindly consent to provide for the lad,
And to the rich bower, where your lordship reposes,
Would transplant this fair sample, the Flower of the ROSES.
But your Lordship may say: “Now my feelings you touch,
And truly John Rose, you are asking too much.
Were I to provide for each brat that is born,
Every ROSE in the lot would be turned to a thorn,
And the whole of the wealth of the County of Hants,
Would be quite insufficient to cover their wants.
The doggerel and covering story were provided to the Southern Daily Echo by Mrs Frederick (Amy) Walbridge, a daughter of Guil(d)ford North Rose 1838-1900 in the 1930s. She well remembered her grandfather John Rose and her father having a chuckle about this story, especially when a discussion of tithes arose.
When my Southampton friend and distant cousin Ange took me to visit the church in 2012, we were astonished that this church was not completely destroyed in the 1940 blitz of Southampton. It is surrounded by buildings dating from the 1960s, a sure sign of the extensive bombing in that area. In fact, the church was badly damaged and restored.
John Rose's father Simon Rose who died in the Southampton Workhouse was buried in the churchyard in 1820, but no graves could be found.