The Rev. George Gayton Harvey & son – a history of Hailsham

“While there were fools and mavericks in the clerical ranks, the good parson was at the heart of his community, a spiritual and civic leader who set standards of devotion, energy and commitment. We should salute him.” Barry Turner – “The Victorian Parson”

Paul Endersby writes for The Wealden Eye magazine…

During the period from 1847 to 1922 there were just two vicars in Hailsham, namely father and son, Rev. George Gayton Harvey (1847-1872) and Rev Francis Clyde Harvey (1872-1922). In this edition will be looking at George Harvey and his son next time.

Rev George Gayton Harvey was born 1802 in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, the son of James Harvey (1750-1808) and Dorcas Catherine Harvey (nee Clyde, 1765-1813). In 1821 George Harvey entered St John’s College, Cambridge. Following his time at Cambridge he was ordained Deacon on 1 April 1827 at Lichfield from where he went on to serve as a priest in the Diocese of York initially as a curate in Doncaster where he remained until 1831. From then until 1840, he served as the vicar of Horton, Staffordshire. It was during his time in Horton, that he married Sarah Sheppard of Folkington Place, Polegate, the eldest daughter of Thomas and Sarah (nee Down) Sheppard. The marriage took place on 12 September 1832. However there seems to be some confusion as the venue. Some records state the marriage took place in Folkington Place, whilst others record it as Hampstead Parish Church. Given the apparent family connection with Hampstead (see below), it seems more likely they were married there in the Parish Church. Where or when they met is unknown. However what is known is that they eloped prior to getting married! Whilst at Horton their first son, Henry Offley Harvey, was born. The records show the birth took place in Horton Hall, a Jacobean manor house, built on the site of an earlier house dating back to the 12th Century. It was damaged in the English Civil War, and rebuilt by Timothy Edge from 1653.

From Horton, Mr Harvey moved to Winster in Derbyshire, a village in the Derbyshire Dales about 5 miles from Matlock and 6 miles from Bakewell. In Winster Mr Harvey served as Rector of the parish church of St John the Baptist. He remained in Winster until 1846, and it was in Winster that his son, Francis Clyde Harvey was born. From Winster George Harvey moved to Hailsham. The living at that time had a yearly value £356, with residence, and was the gift of Thomas Sheppard, JP, i.e. George Harvey’s father-in-law. Thomas Sheppard was a grandson of the wealthy clothier, William Sheppard (1709-1759). He was elected at the 1832 general election as the Member of Parliament for the newly enfranchised borough of Frome in Somerset, the town of his birth, standing as a Whig.

During his time as vicar of Hailsham Mr Harvey and his family lived in the Vicarage in Vicarage Lane. The house is now known as The Grange. It was in Hailsham that the last three of their ten children were born. The last and youngest child was Thomas Willoughby Harvey born in 1853. In keeping with the times Mr & Mrs Harvey employed a number of servants. The 1851 census recorded that they had a housemaid and an under housemaid, a nurse and an under nurse, (doubtless to care for their increasingly large family) and a cook. The 1861 census revealed a similar situation and that Mr & Mrs Harvey employed a Governess plus four servants. There was also a boarder in residence at the time. A similar situation pertained in 1871.

George Harvey was actively involved in promoting and encouraging children’s education. Prior to his arrival in Hailsham the main/only school was held in the church vestry with the churchyard being used as a playground. In 1827 a school was built on Hailsham Common and later a purpose built school was erected in 1846 following a grant made in trust in October of that year. The grant was made to Rev. George Harvey and Rev. G Curteis Luxford and comprised “20 rods of waste of the Manor of Otham, abutting to the turnpike road leading from Hailsham to the north, that the same and the building intended to be erected thereon may be used as a school for the instruction of poor children.” (Salzman)

It was during George Harvey’s time in Hailsham that the Vestry passed a resolution that the very old three decked panelled pulpit should be removed from the parish church and paid for by voluntary subscription and not from the church rate. The total expense was £2-4s-0d (£2.20).
During Mr Harvey’s tenure in Hailsham at least three of their children died. The first was Charles Fletcher Harvey who was born in 1835 and died in 1863 aged 28. The following year, 1864 Henry Offley Harvey died at the age of 29. Thomas Willoughby Harvey also died in Hailsham although the date is unclear. All three are buried in the churchyard at the east end of the church. Following their death the south chancel painted window was installed in memory of the three deceased sons. Referring to this window Thomas Geering wrote that it was, “the pious gift of the mother, Mrs Harvey.”

Mr Harvey remained the vicar of Hailsham until 1872 when he retired when and was succeeded by son, Francis Clyde Harvey. Following his retirement George Harvey moved from Hailsham and relocated to 7 Mansfield Villas Hampstead where he died on 29 April 1875 at the age of 73. Sadly his wife Sarah died in the same year. Following George Harvey’s death a window was installed in the east window of the Lady Chapel in the parish church with scenes of the life of Jacob, in memory of “George Gayton Harvey , Vicar of Hailsham 1846-1872, who died April 29, 1875.” This window, along with most of the other stained glass windows was blown out by the bouncing bomb which landed near the church in 1943.

The Wealden Eye Magazine | November/December 2020 Issue
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