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A Paper Chase

While searching the digital newspapers, looking for information about John de Fraine, several entries for a certain G.H. de Fraine kept popping up in the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle. As he was probably a distant relative I thought that I would follow them through to see what I could find out about him, and so I began a systematic, chronological search.

The first mention of G.H. de Fraine is in 1866, in two reports of cricket matches at Southsea played by the Southsea Diocesan School pupils, in which he batted first and then bowled out most of the opposing side. I assumed that he must have been a boarder, as many of the de Fraines were sent away to school, but thought I should check the census returns to find out his age. On these I found a George Henry who had been born in 1836 in Berkhamsted, the seventh child of William, a hairdresser/perfumer, and his wife Ann. He was still there in 1851, but next appears in 1871 in Portsea, Hampshire, at the Southsea School. This must have been the same person, although at the time of the cricket matches he would have been thirty and probably a teacher rather than a pupil.  Having confirmed his identity, I concentrated on what I could glean from the newspaper reports.

No more sports reports appear with his name, but he begins to be listed as giving readings as one of the participants in entertainments for charity. The paper’s readers are not often told what he read or recited but once his audience enjoyed Lord Macaulay’s ‘The Lay of Virginia’.

In October 1868, the first advert for the Southsea Diocesan Grammar School, Southsea House, appeared in which George Henry is given as ‘Principal and Headmaster’, and which says he was “sometime lecturer in the English Language and Literature at the Universities of Leyden and Utrecht”. The advert adds that he “is assisted by Staff of Certificated Masters” and that “THE SCHOOL is under the inspection of the Winchester Diocesan Board of Education, and in union with the Royal College of Preceptors, London”.

The link with the College of Preceptors may help explain the letters after his name. LLB usually stood for Batchelor of Laws and in the nineteenth century this meant a broadly classical education rather than the strictly legal one students take today. Occasionally he has ‘London’ after it and it is quite possible he was an undergraduate at college in London and took the London University exams. MRCP then and now usually stands for Member of the Royal College of Physicians, but as George Henry does not seem to have been any kind of medical practitioner, it is possible the letters stood for Member of the (Royal) College of Preceptors, which is now the College of Teachers, as the advert mentions it, although the history of the college gives a different nomenclature for their members then and now. In 1869 there is a report of the school’s sports day at which he presented a cup.

Also in 1869, he is one of the founder members of the Portsea Island Society for the Culture of Science and Literature. This society was formed to have monthly meetings at which members would give an address on a topic of interest and initiate a debate. George Henry gave one of the monthly talks on “Education, its means and great end”, which was reported very fully in the paper.

It is a rather rambling argument in which he gave an account of the history of education and suggests that there should be some empirical analysis of exactly what education is and what is to be achieved by educating the young, and gave some examples from the continent.  He says the end of education “is the full perfection of our being in another world, through faithful discharge of our duty here – those means, for the full development of our double nature, for the ultimate accomplishment of that end. Such I believe to be the great purpose of all human existence, the great object to which all human existence should unceasingly be devoted”.

He continues by describing what he sees as the faults in modern education, that the children should be educated to their later station in life, that they need to be taught how to memorise facts and then apply them, “add knowledge afterwards, which will lead to the doing better of each particular work”. In passing he comments that, “The ten Commandments are as obligatory as ever”. The talk gave rise to some debate. A clergyman hoped he did not mean that anything other than faith in Christ was all that was necessary for eternal life. He advocated learning Latin to train the memory but added that all the repetition in the world would not make a scholar. George Henry responded by saying that in Germany, “they could scarcely find a single artisan who could not play an instrument, write his name, and read his mother tongue, he could not see why it should not be so in England”.

At the registration court held in September 1869 to determine who could vote in the election for Parliament, when people had to be property owners, or to have been lodgers of property of a certain value, or tenants for at least a year, he is noted as renting his house. There was some dispute over how long he had lived there, but he was allowed his vote. Soon he is reported as sitting on the committees that arranged the charitable entertainments with the Mayor of Portsmouth and with an admiral in the chair, George Henry was beginning to be known in influential social circles.

There is a record of his marriage to Sarah Ann Harris in Berkhamsted in 1862, and she is reported in the paper as giving birth to a daughter at Thornbury Hall, Southsea, on 22nd July 1867, a son at Southsea House, Southsea, on 9th March 1869, and another daughter at the Diocesan Grammar School, on 26th July 1870.  The addresses are interesting. During 1869 two Diocesan Grammar Schools were advertising themselves. One was given as at Thornbury Hall, the other at Southsea House.  One might conclude that George Henry had been a teacher at the Thornbury School and then set himself up at Southsea House, and that the adverts for the school at Thornbury Hall had been paid for in advance and continued even though the school itself had moved and changed hands.  The census gives the children’s names as Augusta, Ernest Edward, and Marian (she had another son, Reginald Harris, in 1875, but this was not reported in the paper).

In 1871, George Henry stood for election to the Portsmouth School Board, but was not successful. The School Boards ran the local education under government guidelines, the near equivalent of today’s LEAs, so it was quite a prestigious and powerful body. The same year he is listed as subscribing ten shillings and sixpence (half a guinea) towards the presentation of a silver cradle on the birth of a son to the mayor. In July he served on a jury at the quarter sessions and in September was present at a complimentary dinner. Meanwhile, reports of his readings and committee work for the charitable entertainments continued and he is also reported as being on the committee for subscribers to the Portsmouth School of Science and Art, which provided day and evening classes in subjects such as naval architecture, geometry and machine construction and drawing, building construction, mathematics, animal physiology, and geography for young men.

In August 1874 he attended a grand ball on board the Duke of Wellington, the Admirals’ flagship, at which some one thousand “of the elite of the neighbourhood and several from great distances were received on board”. He was certainly moving up in society and on this occasion he was accompanied by his wife. She was probably present in the audience for the readings and entertainments, but she is not mentioned in those reports.

In October 1875 he was advertising for “A steady LAD, to make himself generally useful. Apply to Mr De Fraine, Grammar School, Southsea”. In 1876 he was assisting at a public spelling bee and in January 1877 he stood for election to the School Board again.

School Board Election For Portsmouth 1877

Ladies and Gentlemen

At the request of many influential residents in the borough, I have consented to OFFER MYSELF as a CANDIDATE at the forthcoming elections.
I have been engaged in the practical work of education for more than twenty years and venture to suggest that the benefit of my experience might be of service to the Burgesses. I have no hesitation is saying that Education not coupled with the Bible is worthless.
It cannot be denied that the Voluntary Schools have done and are still doing, great service, and believing that the Elementary Education Act was never intended to Supersede but to Supplement them, I should at all times look favourably on them, if kept in a state of efficiency, as their continuance will materially save the pockets of the ratepayers.
Respectfully soliciting the favour of your confidence and support,
 I am, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Yours obediently, G.H. De Fraine

This time his cleverly balanced appeal to the ratepayers’ religious beliefs, as well as their pockets, won him the seat and his letter of thanks appeared on 20th January.

School Board Election 1877

Ladies and Gentlemen

I take the earliest opportunity of tendering my best thanks for the great honour conferred on me by placing me in so good a position among the list of successful candidates. I also beg to assure you that nothing shall be wanting on my part to merit the continuance of that support which has been so generously given me.
I am, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Yours very truly,
G.H. De Fraine

At the March meeting George Henry initiated a debate on standards and argued for an amendment which was carried after a fierce debate. At the other meetings he was again pressing his point of view on various topics. He was clearly not prepared to be a ‘yes’ man. In April 1877 he was elected as the ‘People’s Warden’ at St Jude’s Church in Southsea, and was making suggestions at the annual vestry meeting for improving the seating and perhaps acquiring a new bell. At the same time adverts for the school appeared regularly.

Southsea House, Castle Road, Southsea.

Principal Geo. H. de Fraine LL.B. MRCP

In the above school the Sons of Gentlemen are received and thoroughly taught. More than two hundred Pupils educated in this School have successfully passed the entry examinations for the Royal Navy, Law, and Medicine, as well as for the Universities and Public Schools. In the Mathematical Tripos (January, 1876) an old Pupil took the position of Tenth Wrangler.
A JUNIOR DEPARTMENT (in a separate, large and well ventilated Room) will be opened next Term for boys from seven years of age.
DUTIES will be resumed on Wednesday January 24th.

In March 1878 he attended an enquiry into the condition of the Southsea roads, and the same month appears as Brother De Fraine at a Freemasonry meeting, proposing the toast to, “The Past Masters of the Portsmouth Lodge”, and has the letters P.P.G.S.D after his name, which imply that he has held office in the Lodge.

He was re-elected as People’s Warden at St Jude’s in 1878 with a comment on, “the indefatigable manner in which Mr De Fraine has carried out the duties of his office”. In early January 1880 he was re-elected to the Portsmouth School Board, with 4956 votes, of a total of 6553 voters. He seems to have been attending the monthly meetings assiduously, as well as being involved in those other committees with which he was connected.

Suddenly, in the report of a meeting of the Southsea Hospital for the Sick, in late January 1880, he is listed as Rev G. H. De Fraine, which might have been a simple misprint, except that it happens again in the report for the March annual meeting of the Portsmouth and Portsea Free Ragged Schools, and at the celebration of the centenary of Sunday Schools in Portsmouth, the Rev G.H. De Fraine gave a special sermon at St Jude’s for the children. The Rev. G.H. De Fraine examined pupils in geography, history, arithmetic and English.

An advertisement in January 1881 by the High School for Girls at Gosport says that the Rev G.H. De Fraine examined pupils in geography, history, arithmetic and English, and in the same edition he is listed as being present at a ball given by the mayor for and at the lunatic asylum. The distinguished guests, which included their Serene Highnesses Prince and Princess Edward of Saxe-Weimar, danced with some 159 of the inmates to the band of the Royal Marine Light Infantry. Later in the year he is judging an “Elocutionary competition”, which is so popular that it is repeated the following February.

George Henry now designates himself ‘Reverend’ in the school adverts too, and at the vestry meeting in April 1881 he is no longer the People’s Warden, but is addressed as Reverend. This is all confirmed in the census for 1881 where he is still at the school address but now gives his occupation as ‘Curate of St Jude’s,  Southsea’. However, nowhere in the newspapers is there any report of his actual ordination. To discover when and how that took place would need some investigation into Anglican Clergy records and is outside the scope of this piece.

In June 1882 he is reported as being in the clergy procession at the consecration of a new church, St Michael and All Angels at Landport, and in September was preaching the sermon for the Harvest Festival in Newton on the Isle of Wight.

Adverts for the school continue to appear with his name, but the next report on George Henry himself is when he attended the annual meeting of the Royal Portsmouth Hospital in January 1884. The following month there is a report of a presentation to him of “silver salts, pepper box and spoons in a morocco and velvet case, bearing the following inscription – A gift to the Rev G.H. De Fraine from the children of St Jude’s, Southsea, February 1884”.

In September at the Guild of All Saints at Landport, there was a ‘special service’, although it does not report what for, at which George Henry read the prayers. In October he was at a meeting at All Saints Church, Landport, and agreeing to hold an exhibition and sale of work to raise money to clear the debt on the church.

It was reported in February 1885 that there was a “Fashionable Wedding at Southsea between Mr Edwin John Harvey junior and Miss Madoleine De Fraine […] the eldest daughter of the Rev. G.H. De Fraine of Langside, Victoria Road, Southsea (now assistant minister of All Saints’ parish Landport and Chaplain of the Royal Portsmouth, Portsea and Gosport Hospital, formerly curate at St Jude’s and principal of the Southsea Diocesan School)”. This brings us up to date with George Henry, but the odd thing is that Madoleine is named as his eldest daughter and Augusta and Marion are given as two of her bridesmaids, who were “led by Master Reginald De Fraine the youngest brother of the bride”.  Suddenly we find that George Henry had five children including a daughter and a son, whose births were not reported in the newspapers. The census should tell us more about them, but that is for another time. Here we are following George Henry’s career. The list of wedding presents gives “satin pincushions and dressing case from domestics at Langside”. There were thirty or forty guests at the wedding breakfast “at the Rev G.H. De Fraine’s residence“, and in the evening “the bride’s parents entertained upwards of fifty guests at a ball”. All of which implies that George Henry could afford to have more than one servant and had a large house.

In May 1885 he was conducting the funeral of the vicar’s wife at All Saints, in June was speaking as chaplain of the Hospital as to the good character of a prisoner at the Police Court, who he had visited in hospital, and in November performed a marriage at All Saints. Also in November, he was present at a large meeting held to discuss disestablishment of the church, but is not mentioned as speaking at it.

He still belonged to the Masons and in January 1886 was present as one of the chaplains at an installation of a Worshipful Master. In February he was at the annual meeting of the Royal Portsmouth Hospital.

Then in June it was reported that he had been presented with the living at Stoke St Michael, Somerset, and adds that he “for sometime filled a curacy at St Jude’s Southsea, and has latterly been curate at All Souls Landport and the Chaplain of the Royal Portsmouth Hospital. The rev gentleman was instituted by the Bishop and was inducted at the close of last week […]the cordial way in which he has been received shows there is every prospect of a good congregation being secured and mutual happiness reigning. Mr De Fraine, who will permanently commence his duties at the end of the present month, will leave Portsmouth amid the regret of many of his friends”. 

The last mention of George Henry in Southsea is on 1st June 1886 when he officiated as the Rev. G.H. De Fraine, Vicar of Stoke St Michael, Somerset, at the second marriage of the vicar of All Saints, Portsea, whose first wife he had buried the previous year when he was the curate at All Saints. In The Times archives for June 1886 the Rev G.H. De Fraine LL.B, is listed in the ecclesiastical appointments put out by Lambeth Palace as “Vicar of Stoke Lane, Somerset”, and The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post for 10th June lists him by his full name as having preferment to the vicarage of Stoke Lane. He does not appear in the papers so frequently in Somerset, but in 1888, The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post reports his presence at the reopening of a local church at Lamyatt in October. Again in The Times in June 1890, the Rev G.H. De Fraine, Vicar of Stoke St Michael, Bath, is reported as assisting at a marriage at St Barnabas Church, Kensington, London. He is next found in The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post for 12th March 1894 giving evidence of the presence of oil in the water in Somerset, including contamination of his own well water at Stoke St Michael vicarage, in a report about oil springs at Shepton Mallet. The paper reports his presiding at his annual parish meeting in 1896.

Two years later in December 1898 the paper reports from Stoke St Michael,

The Rev G.H. De Fraine, vicar of this parish, who died on Friday week from apoplexy, was buried on Tuesday afternoon. A large number of people were present to pay their last tokens of respect, and many neighbouring clergy and gentlemen attended.

The paper does not mention who of his family were present.

George Henry had come a long way in sixty two years. To give a complete picture of his life one would need to go to other records to find out how and where he had been educated and when he was at the Dutch Universities, when he was actually ordained, where and when he met his wife, and where his eldest daughter was born.  But this has been concerned with what information about one man can be gleaned from newspapers, with a little help from the census. Luckily of course this man had a very distinctive name, led a very public life and his activities were often reported. Nevertheless he does show it is possible to draw quite a detailed picture of someone’s career in this way, given a lot of patient on-line ferreting.

And yes he was a distant relation, another of my great grandfather’s second cousins (the de Fraines of Aylesbury had quite large families.)

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