Rev Francis Clyde Harvey – a history of Hailsham

Francis Clyde Harvey was born in Winster, Derbyshire on July 29, 1844 where his father, Rev George Gayton Harvey was the vicar. He moved to Hailsham in 1847 when his father became the town’s vicar. He attended Marlborough Public School where he was an active sportsman. Following university he was ordained at Lincoln in 1868 after which he served as curate in Radford, Nottinghamshire.

Paul Endersby writes for The Wealden Eye magazine…

Following his father’s retirement in 1872, Clyde Harvey too became vicar of Hailsham a position he held for the next fifty years. On 9 June 1880 he married Ellen Frances Heinemann, eldest daughter of Emil Heinemann and Emily Matilda (nee Dabney). Emil Heinemann, a wealthy banker, was German born on 2 March, 1832. Emily Dabney was born on Rhode Island, America on 9 January 1833, the daughter of Charles Henry Dabney and Ellen Maria Jones. Emil Heinemann lived in New York and Rhode Island from 1854 to 1874 and later became a banker in London. The family lived in Eastbourne from 1874 to 1881 where they rented Ratton House.

Mr & Mrs Harvey went on to have 10 children including two sets of twins. As vicar, Mr Harvey became a prominent member of the community. He chaired countless organisations/committees which included serving as Chairman of the Parish Council from 1898 -1921. He was active in Hailsham Board School (now HCC), where he was the first chairman of the Board. He was even more active in the life of the village school in the High Street (now Prezzo). The school then called Hailsham National Infants School and later Hailsham Infants Church of England School and was largely run by the church. As such the Mr Harvey was a regular visitor where he took classes in religious education. He and other teachers were obviously very successful as reflected in an inspection report entitled, “Report of religious instruction – Infants Department,” dated December 1906. The Diocesan Inspector wrote, “I was much pleased with the work of the school which was throughout most satisfactory. The children answered well and readily and it was evident that they were taught with great care and kindness so that they take a great interest in their work.” The report concludes by congratulating the head mistress and her staff on, “the good work they are doing.”

In 1893, with some hesitation and reservation, Mr Harvey founded the Parish magazine. It flourished and has proved a valuable source of information particularly to those interested in studying the history of the town. In an addition to covering church matters the magazine reported on a variety of other topics from the sixpenny tax on beer, to the need for a waiting room at Hailsham station. Mr Harvey was also something of an amateur meteorologist and commented regularly on the weather in the magazine including the amount of rainfall each month.

Mr Harvey was vicar during the period when Hailsham was transitioning from a village to a town. One of his achievements was to oversee a considerable programme of improvements and alterations to the building. However the writers of The Stringtown comment that in many instances these “improvements” were “typical of late Victorian destruction.” Richard Marks made a similar point in (Sussex Churches and Chapels, 1989) when he referred to “Sussex churches which suffered from the heavy hand of the Victorian restorers.” Either way the changes in Hailsham were extensive and doubtless were a considerable drain on his time in addition to his regular responsibilities for services, vestry meetings, Band of Hope, Sunday school, Madrigal Society and Young Crusaders.

Mr Harvey continued his sporting interests during his years as Vicar. He was an active supporter of the town’s cricket and football teams and frequently commented on their fortunes in the parish magazine. He was a competent boxer, something he used to good effect with Gully, a local chimney sweep who Mr Harvey once challenged in regard to his non-attendance at church. Gully’s response was that they should have fight and if he won then Mr Harvey would have to buy him a pint. If he lost, he would come to church. He lost and duly attended church on a regular basis after that!

Clyde Harvey was an outspoken supporter of the (First World) war effort and he used his monthly Parish Letter to express an unerring patriotism and the rightness of the Allied cause, speaking out forthrightly to any who failed to “do their bit.” However these were not idle words for he and his wife lost two sons during the war. The first was Captain Richard Harvey, aged 24 who died from wounds received between 25 & 27 September 1915. He was Adjutant the 9th Battalion, The Black Watch. Prior to the commencement of the war he was working in the Colonial Civil Service which followed his time as a student at Exeter College, Oxford. At the time of his death Richard Harvey had been at the front for just three months.

Another son, Rollo Harvey, a Lieutenant (Acting Captain), in The Royal Sussex Regiment was killed in action on 9 September 1916. Rollo Harvey was training for the Anglican ministry and gave up his studies soon after the war started to join the Royal Sussex. Rollo Harvey’s twin brother, Clyde was a private in the in the RAMC and was in hospital at the time of his brother’s death having been wounded previously.

Mr & Mrs Harvey’s two other sons, both served in the army during the war. Capt. Charles Harvey in Egypt and Lt. G Burke Harvey in India. In addition to the army service of the five brothers, their daughter Marjorie Harvey served as a nurse with the Red Cross in Cairo. Another daughter Emily died in Hailsham in February 1914 whilst training to be a nurse.

Notwithstanding the tragic deaths of his two sons from the outset Mr Harvey continued his support of the war in the Magazine throughout the war years. In the parish letter for August 1914 he referred to the war and saw it as an answer to prayer. Those prayers had been for peace in Ireland and the prevention of a civil war. The outbreak of war in France and Belgium meant that differences were set aside as opposing views combined against a common enemy. “Today there is only one subject talked about from Palace to cottage, the War. England’s destiny.”

Clyde Harvey died at Hailsham Vicarage on 18 September 1922, aged 78. Warm tributes were paid to him in the following Parish magazine. Phrases such as “we loved him” and “we mourn his loss and Hailsham is poorer, infinitely poorer for his passing.” were typical of the responses from the local community.

Image: Rev & Mrs Harvey and their family

The Wealden Eye Magazine | November/December 2020 Issue
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