Rt. Rev. Walter Farrar, DD
Note: All the photographs (except those of the located graves) are very kindly provided for inclusion on this website by Helen Nedham, Richard Farrar and Tim Smellie but they are included on the basis that they must not be reproduced under any circumstances.
Initial Enquiry about a former bishop of West Indies
Visitors to St. Wilfrid’s Church who have seen the wooden plaque recording the line of Perpetual Curates and Vicars of the Parish of Bognor, may have been intrigued to note that the list includes a former Bishop – Walter Farrar., DD. The name of Farrar is a very important one in ecclesiastical circles as the Very Rev. Frederic William Farrar, DD, (1831–1903) was a dean of Canterbury and a novelist who became famous for the book ‘Eric, or Little by Little’ published in 1858, which in its time was as popular as ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’. The Who’s Who entry for the Rev. Walter Farrar states that his father was indeed the famous dean, but this family connection seemed unlikely because we knew that Walter was actually born in British Guiana, educated there before going to Oxford to take a degree, and married the Administrator of Guiana’s daughter. The Guiana jigsaw pieces and the pieces to do with the famous dean just didn’t fit together – and after a great deal of research we now know that this connection is indeed wrong.
The trigger to all this research was a www.wilfrid.com website enquiry in September 2006 from Michael Grace, TSSF who is writing a book on the Diocese of West Indies and had noted Walter’s association with St. Wilfrid’s church. We were able to help Michael with the location of where Walter is buried (plot 1975) in Hawthorn Rd. Cemetery, Bognor Regis in a family grave with his youngest daughter Alice Irene (plot 1976).
The family plot was completely overgrown with ivy and partially vandalised but with the much appreciated assistance of Ron Iden at the West Sussex County Record Office, John was able to identify the exact plots from a map of the graves - otherwise it would have been impossible to trace them. After clearing all the weeds and placing the broken crosses in a more fitting position, the photographs below were taken. At the end of this article it will be noted that the adjoining plot revealed further amazing links with the West Indies!
Links with Thomas Austin Descendents in Barbados
An exchange of research data followed and a vital start to our research into Walter’s life was a link to the website created by R.B Austin on the descendents of Thomas Austin of Barbados (1727-1806).
Walter was born to Thomas Farrar and Melicent Ann Austin in ‘Eliza and Mary’, at Springlands, Corentyne, Berbice on the 20th April 1865 and that Melicent Ann Austin was a descendent of Thomas Austin who is believed to have been born on the Island of Barbados in about 1727. His ancestors had most likely emigrated from England, possibly via the then American Colonies, during the previous century. Thomas married three times and had sixteen children, all born in Barbados. Some remained on the Island, others emigrated to Guiana. The children and their descendants rose to prominent positions in society, some taking Holy Orders and others holding senior posts in government and in the British Armed Forces. The source of their wealth was sugar.
Melicent married the
Ven.Archdeacon Thomas Farrar B.D. son of James Farrar and Harriett Armitage on
13 Aug 1857 in St Philip's, Charlestown, Georgetown. Thomas was born on 21 Dec
1830 in Holbeck, Leeds. He was christened on 22 Dec 1830 and died on 21 Aug 1893
Thomas and Melicent had 14 children –
After publication of the initial website entry, we have received a great deal of valuable assistance from Helen Nedham, Richard Farrar and Tim Smellie who have extensively researched the Thomas Farrar family and we would like to record our appreciation for all their support.. Helen and Richard have published a book 'The Farrar Family': A Partial Account of the Life of the Venerable Archdeacon Thomas Farrar, B.D. and of His Descendents (Richard John Piercy Farrar & Helen Joan Howard Nedham - ISBN 0954667700) and have very kindly allowed us to include the details about Walter Farrar from their book shown below:
Walter Farrar Section in Richard Farrar and Helen Nedham's Book
Walter was curate of St. Margaret’s, Skeldon, with St. Mary’s, Plantation Mary’s Hope, (Leeds Village) 1 and Superintendent of the aboriginal and Chinese missions in the Upper Courantyne River, Berbice, 1888–90; Chaplain of H.M. Penal Settlement, Mazaruni, 1890–94 (a post which his father had held before him, and which was considered at the time a high compliment and a reward for his high scholarly attainments as a young clergyman).
He was examining chaplain to the Bishop of Guiana, 1893–93; priest-in-charge of Beterverwagting, East Coast, Demerara, and superintendent of the training college for catechists, 1894–96; and rector of Holy Trinity, Anna Regina, Essequibo, 1896–97. In 1897, Walter went to England where he became, firstly, curate of the Parish of Winsley cum Limpley Stoke, 2 Bath, Wiltshire; and then rector of Hawkchurch, Axminster, Dorset now (2003), in Devonshire) 1898–1905. The following is an extract of the Sources for Clergy in the diocesan archives at the Wiltshire and Swindon record office in Trowbridge, Wiltshire.
John [Sarum] by Divine Permission, Bishop of Salisbury. To our beloved in CHRIST Walter Farrar, B.D., Clerk. Greeting. We do by these Presents give and grant unto you, in whose Fidelity, Morals, Learning, sound Doctrine, and Diligence, We do fully confide, our Licence and Authority to perform the Office of Assistant Stipendiary Curate in the Parish of Winsley cum Limpley Stoke 3 in the County of Wilts. within our Diocese and Jurisdiction, in the place of Charles Standen, Clerk, late licensed Curate at thereof, in reading the Common Prayer, preaching the Word of God, administering the Holy Sacraments and in performing all other ecclesiastical duties belonging to the said Office, according to the Form prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer, and of the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, made and published by authority of Parliament, and the Canons and Constitutions in that behalf lawfully established and, promulged, and none other, except [inserted here, in very small handwriting, is a sentence which cannot be deciphered] so far as shall be ordered by lawful authority. And WE do by these Presents assign unto you the yearly Stipend of One Hundred Pounds to be paid quarterly for serving the said Cure. And we do direct you to reside at Limpley Stoke.
IN WITNESS whereof, We have caused our Seal, which we use in this case to be hereto affixed. Dated the Fifteenth day of December in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety seven and in the thirteenth year of our Consecration.
Walter’s book, ‘Notes on Cultus of the Sacred Heart’, was published in 1900. He was commissary, in England, to the Bishop of Guiana, 1901–5, 4 and acting warden of the Theological College, Up Park Camp, Jamaica, 1904. On May 7th, 1905, he was consecrated Bishop of Antigua in St. Michael’s Cathedral, Barbados, by the Archbishop of the West Indies (Nuttall), assisted by the Bishops of Guiana (Edward Archibald Parry), Trinidad (Welsh) and Barbados (William Proctor Swaby 5). On 5th August, 1905 Walter was granted an honorary Doctor in Divinity degree from Keble College. By strange coincidence, his future son-in-law, William Wallace Cathcart Dunlop (see below) received his B.A. at the same convocation. Five years after his consecration, Walter was obliged to resign the See due to ill health.
It was as Bishop of Antigua that Walter went to Barbados in 1908 to become principal of Codrington College for a short period. In this regard, his son-in-law, William Wallace Cathcart Dunlop (1877–1938), for several years professor of classics at the College, contributed an article about Walter for the Lent Term, 1917, College magazine, in which he wrote:
.... It was as Bishop of Antigua that he came in 1908 to act as Principal of Codrington College. His period of service was short, yet in it he was enabled to effect certain much needed changes in the administration of the College. The grateful appreciation of those who had the advantage of his guidance and instruction during those few months is still a living thing. 6
Walter left Barbados in 1909 for England where he held several posts, including: commissary to the Archbishop of York and assistant bishop in the Diocese of York, 1910, principal of Bishop’s College, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, and assistant bishop in the West Indies. In 1910, Walter went to Canada for two years as assistant bishop of Quebec, to assist in the administration of that diocese and later as Archdeacon of St. Francis. In 1912, at the age of forty-seven, after his health had improved, Walter went to British Honduras —firstly as commissary for, and then as Bishop of British Honduras and Central America, a post that he held from 1912–1915. 7 In 1915, Walter returned to England and was appointed to the vicarage of St. John the Baptist Church, 8 Bognor, Sussex.
On January 24th, 1889, Walter was married by Bishop William Piercy Austin to Alice Bridges (1868–1950), eldest daughter of William Francis (‘Francis’) Bridges and Adele Bridges (née Sherlock). They were married in All Saints’ Church, New Amsterdam, Berbice.
Alice was born on March 21st 1868.9 Wm Francis Bridges, J.P., became Administrator General of British Guiana. He owned a mercantile company in New Amsterdam named Bridges & Co. and in 1882 was Manager of Plantation Goldstone Hall in Berbice. Francis was born in New Amsterdam, Berbice and his wife Adele was born in England. The dates of their births and deaths are not precisely known.
Bishop Walter Farrar died on December 6th, 1916 at the comparatively young age of 51, and was buried three days later in Hawthorn Road Cemetery, Bognor Regis, (grave no. 1975). 10
The 1910 edition of Who’s Who records that: ‘Riding is his favourite amusement and as much of his life as a bishop must be spent in a boat, it is well perhaps that he can swim.’ Bishop Walter Farrar, M.A., D.D., was certainly blessed with a sense of humour, but his gentleness concealed a firmness, which he showed on every necessary occasion during his term in high office. He has been described as unaffected, tactful, courteous and dignified. Walter made friends easily, and those who differed with him did so only in opinion. He was a man of scholarly parts and distinguished eloquence, and was a delightful raconteur. The following is an extract from an ‘appreciation’ written a week after his death. 11
The death of Bishop Farrar, at the early age of 51, has evoked widespread sympathy in and beyond the parish of Bognor. He had only been with us for a year, yet so lovable was his character that his passing leaves a deep sense of personal loss to many. He was a great man, trusted by those in authority, and possessed just that breadth of outlook, which is so needed by the Vicar for an important parish. His rank and influence, great as they were, would not have been sufficient to have called forth such regret when he departed this life.
“Walter Farrar, Bishop,” was essentially human. He could be very stern, and nothing moved him to deeper anger than oppression or cruelty. Yet, when he had said his say, no one was more ready than he to forgive and forget. He was passionately fond of children and many a Bognor boy or girl will remember his kindly words and gifts.
It was a joy to be with the late Bishop. His gaiety of manner was infectious, and those who have heard his hearty laugh will never forget it. He had a real sense of humour, and keenly enjoyed a joke. He was no killjoy. He frequently attended “the pictures,” often accompanied by his staff.
He was essentially just, though he always tempered justice with mercy. In affairs, he was painstaking and conscientious. He was accessible at all times, and invariably courteous. A story is told of a man who went to the Vicarage to ventilate some grievance. His Lordship met him with, “How are you, my friend? I’m glad to see you,” and shewed him to the most comfortable chair in the room. They had a most interesting conversation, and the man left without saying what he intended.
He was loyal to all with whom he was associated, and frequently allowed himself to be blamed for the faults of others. He was very quick to see an essential point, and his tact never failed. Tact was not synonymous with cowardice to him, for he held firmly to his principles, yet he ever considered the principles of others.
Of his work as a Bishop, little seems to be known here. In the difficult diocese of Honduras, he gallantly stuck to his post until compelled to leave under doctor’s orders. He placed the finances of both Honduras and Antigua on a sound basis. The following story illustrates his wisdom. The whole of the diocese of British Honduras is not under British jurisdiction, and many of the congregation are of mixed nationality. It was customary therefore to pray for various European Sovereigns. One congregation, after the outbreak of war, wanted to pray for the Kaiser. His Lordship solved the delicate problem by ruling that they might pray for “our enemy the Kaiser.”
Those that knew him best were attracted to him by his deep spirituality and earnestness. He always prepared carefully not only his sermons, but every word of the service and lessons. Every detail came under his personal notice and supervision, and nothing was done without his sanction. He firmly believed in, and strongly upheld the Catholic and Evangelical character of the Church of England. His last blessed act was to receive the Blessed Sacrament.
A great man has left us, but his life and influence will remain with us. He died on the Feast of St. Nicholas, Bishop, the Patron Saint of Children. We in Bognor must try to be worthy of one who was indeed a Father in God to us.
H.C.H. [Rev. H. Crawford Hunter]
Unfortunately, little survives about the life of his wife Alice. However, one can rightly assume that she was a truly Christian lady with great inner strength who stood by her husband throughout his distinguished career and lengthy illness. She died in Hastings, Sussex, in September 1950 at the age of 82.
Walter and Alice had four children and both their sons were awarded the Military Cross for their services in WW1.
Possible Family Connections to Frederic Farrar, Dean of Canterbury
This brings us to the interesting question whether Walter Farrar is in any way related to the Very Rev. Frederic William Farrar, DD, (1831–1903) dean of Canterbury.
Although the 1916 Who’s Who claims that Walter is a son of the dean of Canterbury, in Kelly's Handbook of the same year states that Walter is the son of archdeacon Thomas Farrar.
Via the Oxford and Cambridge Alumni we have discovered 4 of the sons of Frederic William Farrar
The fifth son was a mystery until Richard Farrar, who with Helen Nedham and Tim Smellie have helped immeasurably with the research on this web page, found the missing name for us (Cyril Lytton Farrar) and confirmed the names of the Dean's ten children in order of birth:
So the remaining question was whether Walter’s father the Ven. Archdeacon Thomas Farrar B.D. son of James Farrar (from Leeds) was in any way connected to the Very Rev. Frederic William Farrar, DD, dean of Canterbury and son of Charles Pinhorn Farrar?
Charles Pinhorn Farrar was baptised on 12th Feb. 1799 at All Saints, Wakefield, and his father was John Farrar. So far no direct (blood line) link has been identified between the families of James (Leeds) and John (Wakefield).
However, Helen Nedham has very kindly identified a connection involving Walter's sister in law Edith Celia Packard, wife of his younger brother Alfred Farrar, whose grandfather Walton Turner had a sister Caroline Turner, mother of Frederick William Farrar, the famous Dean! If this is all a little complicated the family connection is shown below with Walter and the Dean highlighted in red (click picture for a clearer pdf):
Research into possible direct blood-links between the two Farrar families will no doubt continue! For the time being Richard Farrar and Helen Nedham have recorded the following statement in the latest update of their book:
If anyone has any information that could link the two Farrar families please let us know.
Further Links with Guiana
One surprise discovery when we cleared all the weeds around Walter’s grave plot was that the grave adjoining the Alice Beatie (daughter of the bishop) grave, and looking at the graves the grave to the left, was that of Emma Louisa Piercy Stevenson who died on April 19th 1932 aged 71 years. She was the daughter of Francis James Wyatt, Archdeacon of Demerara and wife of Philip Arthur Stevenson, Canon of St. George’s Cathedral, British Guiana.
A copy of an obituary for Emma Stevenson dated 25th April, 1932 has been kindly provided by Richard Farrar:
The 1913 Crockford’s Clerical Directory shows that Philip Arthur Stevenson was rector of St. Paul’s, Demerara from 1884-1908 and it will be noted that the 6 youngest children of Walter’s parents starting with his brother Piercy (b 1873) through to his youngest sister Edith (b 1882) were all born at the same St. Paul’s rectory, Sparendaam (Plaisance), on the Demerara coast (approximately 5 miles east of Georgetown - see the map below ).
St. Paul's Church, Plaisance, East Coast, Demerara
Mr. Richard Farrar has advised us that according to Archdeacon Thomas Farrar’s book Notes on the History of the Church in Guiana, Rev Philip Arthur Stevenson (later Canon) was Rector of St. Paul’s, in 1884 and succeeded Thomas Farrar in that position after Thomas was appointed one of the first Canons of St George’s Cathedral.
It would seem therefore that the two families would have known each other very well. This might explain how Philip's wife (just 4 years older than Walter) being buried alongside the Farrar graves in Bognor Regis 16 years after Walter’s death came about and possibly the result of action by Walter's widow Alice.
Mr Tim Smellie has also been able
to clarify that though not actually related, it seems that the Wyatt and Austin
families knew each other well. Charles Guy Austin Wyatt, doubtless a son of Ven.
Francis Wyatt, was given Austin as a forename. Also Francis’ daughter, Emma had
a forename of Piercy, the surname of Bishop Austin’s mother.
Clearly St. George's Cathedral features prominently in this remarkable story emanating from Guiana and the new St. George's Cathedral that was opened in 1892 to replace the pro-Cathedral has a most surprising link with Bognor besides the association of both places with Walter Farrar - St. John's Church that Walter was vicar of and the new St. George's Cathedral were designed by the same celebrated architect Sir. Arthur William Blomfield (1829-1899) - just six years after St. John's church was consecrated (1886).
Tim Smellie kindly provided an article about the new cathedral which included a section about the architect:
Sir Arthur Blomfield's designs were just two years after St. John's was consecrated but the article above confirms that he never actually visited British Guiana (the reference to rain problems with the roof suggests that he should!) and as he died in 1899, sixteen years before Walter Farrar moved to Bognor, it seems improbable that Walter was aware of the Cathedral architect's earlier project at the church where he ended his days as vicar.
Why the Parish of Bognor?
So why did Walter Farrar resign his bishopric of Bishop of British Hondurus and Central America in 1915 and come to England to end his much travelled and illustrious ecclesiastical career as vicar of the Parish of Bognor ? It may be that by 1915 he was very aware of his failing health and if there was a vacancy at Bognor this would have been attractive as the seaside town was known for its therapeutic sea-air qualities - a quality that led in 1928 to king George V's convalescence at Craigweil House, Aldwick, Bognor and which resulted in the Regis title on the king's successful recovery.
After spending a great deal of his life in the West Indies it would not have been unusual in those days for him to have contracted a tropical disease but his death certificate records that he died of liver cancer and exhaustion.
Of one thing we can be fairly sure, it is very unlikely that the Parish will ever again have to record a vicar with such an interesting and travelled career and it is a great pity that his tenure was so short. As the Rev. H. Crawford Hunter recorded at his passing -
'A great man has left us, but his life and influence will remain with us. He died on the Feast of St. Nicholas, Bishop, the Patron Saint of Children. We in Bognor must try to be worthy of one who was indeed a Father in God to us'
John Hawkins and Peter Green