elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Queer Places: Church of St Mary, Charlcombe

Address: The Parish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin
Bath and North East Somerset,

In 1748 Sarah Scott (sister of Elizabeth Montagu, a British social reformer, patron of arts, salonist, literary critic, and writer who helped organize and lead the Bluestocking Circle) met Lady Barbara Montagu, with whom she maintained an intimate relationship until Lady Barbara’s death. They pooled their finances and took house together in Bath. In June 1751, Sarah Scott married George Lewis Scott, tutor to the Prince of Wales, but was an unhappy marriage. They remained together one year until she was “taken from her house and husband by her father and brothers” in mysterious circumstances. Lady Barbara Montagu, (“Lady Bab”), had accompanied the Scotts on honeymoon (a contemporary custom) and lived with them during their year together. After that, Lady Bab, who went to Bath because she was suffering from an incurable illness, set up home with Sarah Scott in a Bath suburb.

Lady Barbara died in August 1765. “Charlcombe is one mile and half northeast of Bath, and is a village of only nine houses and a church, small, but very ancient, and well worth an antiquary’s notice. The situation of this diminutive parish is under Lansdown: its views are not extensive, but very pretty. It is almost surrounded with hills adorned with woods and coppices. Visiting the church, our minds were forcibly struck on reading an inscription, pointing out the place of internment of the right honourable lady Barbara Montagu, daughter of George earl of Halifax. The idea of title, when connected with such a spot as this, would be an incongruity, did it not lead us to contemplate that equality to which all return, when we find those, whom birth and fortune buoy up above the common level of mankind, seeking their last repose in the obscurity of Charlcombe”. (An excerpt from A Picturesque Guide to Bath, Bristol Hot-Wells, the River Avon, and the Adjacent Country: Illustrated with a set of views, taken in the summer of 1792; by Mess. Ibbetson, Laporte and J. Hassell; and engraved in Aquatinta. London: Printed for Hookham and Carpenter, Bond-Street, 1793.)

Currently Charlcombe is a civil parish and small village just north of Bath in the Bath and North East Somerset unitary authority, Somerset, England. The parish has a population of 422 and includes the villages of Woolley and Langridge. The valley is currently the centre of attention for the Save Woolley Valley Campaign led by the SWVAG (chaired by Robert Craven).

1844 St Mary’s Charlcombe, Bath
1844 St Mary’s Charlcombe, Bath

The Anglican Church of St Mary in Charlcombe within the English county of Somerset was built in the 12th century. It is a Grade II* listed building. On the Chancel there is the monument to Lady Barbara Montagu, died 1765, by Ford of Bath, marble, a woman in robes rests on a plinth, aedicular surround with open pediment and arms.

It underwent Victorian restoration between 1857 and 1861. The work was probably carried out by James Wilson from plans drawn up by George Gilbert Scott. There is believed to be a holy well in the grounds. Charlcombe was formerly the mother church of Bath. In acknowledgment of this Bath Abbey sent a pound of pepper on an annual basis. On November 28, 1734, Henry Fielding got married to Charlotte Craddock in the church. Above the nave is a small bell turret. Inside the church is a font which is as old as the church itself. The parish is part of the benefice of Charlcombe with St Stephen's Church, Bath within the Diocese of Bath and Wells.

Around 1751, Sarah Fielding moved to Bath. Ralph Allen (b. 1693, d. 29 June 1764, was an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and was notable for his reforms to the British postal system.) probably lent her the Widcombe Cottage (Widcombe Lodge, Church St, Bath, Bath and North East Somerset BA2 6AZ, UK is still visible today and there is a plague to her above the gateway) and eventually left her an annual legacy.

Henry Fielding's House, Widcombe Lodge, Bath, c.1920s

When Jane Collier died (summer 1755), Sarah Fielding coped with the loss of her loved ones (her brother Henry dead as well) by devoting herself to writing. Fielding is often seen as a reclusive figure, but Fielding was a significant influence in a community of like-minded women at Bath. These women included friends of the Duchess of Portland, who entertained many erudite women at her nearby home, “Bulstrode”. Among them were Elizabeth Elstob (1683-1756), “the Saxon Scholar”, who acted as governess to the Duchess’s children, Sarah Scott (née Robinson) (September 12, 1720 – November 3, 1795), Lady Barbara Montagu (sister to the second earl of Halifax, and no direct relation to Scott’s sister, Mrs Elizabeth Montagu), Elizabeth Cutts, Mrs Arnold, Mrs Adams, Margaret Riggs, Margaret Mary Rivaud, Miss Chudleigh, Mrs Anne Robinson Knight and possibly the poet, Esther Lewis.

Elizabeth Cutts was probably the sister of Mordecai Cutts Esq., of Thorne, Yorkshire. After the death of Lady Barbara Montagu, Cutts sometime was (as was Miss Arnold), Scott’s companion in an egalitarian sense. Miss Arnold is connected to a Mr Arnold of Wells, probably Christopher Arnold, Esq.

At some point in 1766, Sarah Fielding moved in with Sarah Scott near Walcot. In November 1767 Elizabeth Montagu wrote to Carter, “Poor Mrs. Fielding is declining very fast”. Fielding was living with Scott during the spring of 1768, when the Bath community of women opened an all-female establishment at a house in Hitcham owned by Elizabeth Montagu’s relative. Hitcham was a L-shaped early 17th century house with two stories, an attic, and a good garden (I suppose they refer to Hitcham Manor, 'Parishes: Hitcham', in A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 3, ed. William Page (London, 1925), pp. 231-235 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/bucks/vol3/pp231-235 [accessed 2 January 2016]). Sarah Scott was joined by Elizabeth Cutts, Miss Arnold and Grace Freind. Montagu sent livestock and offered to pay Fielding’s travelling expenses to join them, but Scott’s letter to her sister reveals Fielding’s reticence to travel.

Sarah Fielding died at the age of 57 on April 9, 1768; she, like Lady Barbara Montagu, was buried on 14 April 1768 in St. Mary’s, Charlcombe, Bath, near the entrance to the chancel, close to the Rector's seat (Biography of Henry Fielding by Austin Dobson). Supposedly on a mural tablet, you should read “Esteemed and loved, near this place lies Mrs. Sarah Fielding. She died April 9, 1768, aged 60. How worthy of a nobler monument! But her name will be written in the Book of Life.” (Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century: Comprizing Biographical Memoirs of William Bowyer, Printer, F.S.A. and many of his learned friends; An incidental view of the progress and advancement of literature in this kingdom during the last century; and Biographical Anecdotes of a considerable number of Eminent Writers and Ingenious Artists. By John Nichols, F.S.A., Volume IX. London: Printed for the Author, by Nichols, Son, and Bentley, at Cicero’s Head, Red-Lion-Passage, Fleet-Street. 1815) But there is no grand memorial, no elaborate grave. Not even a simple marker to be seen.

There is a monument to her in the west porch of Bath Abbey, erected by her friend John Hoadly, poet and dramatist. “In this City lived and died Sarah, second daughter of General Henry Fielding; by his first wife, daughter of Judge Gould. Whose writings will be known, an incentives to virtue, and honour to her sex, when this marble shall be dust. She was born MDCCXIV, and died April MDCCLXVIII. Her unaffected manners, candid mind, her heart benevolent, and soul resign’d, were more her praise than all she knew or thought, though Athens’ wisdom to her sex she taught. The Rev. Dr. John Hoadly, her Friend, for the honour of the Dead and emulation of the Living, inscribes this deficient Memorial of her virtues and accomplishments.”

1910 Vintage Postcard - West Front - Bath Abbey - Bath England UK

The real life Hitcham “female utopia” was to fail by December 1768.

Montagu Genealogy

1. Sir Edward Montagu (ca. 1485 – 10 February 1557) was the son of Thomas Montagu of Hemington, Northamptonshire and Agnes Dudley, daughter of William Dudley of Clopton, Northamptonshire, and Christiana Darrel.
1.1 Sir Edward Montagu (c 1530 - 26 January 1602) was the eldest surviving son of Sir Edward Montagu of Boughton House, near Kettering and his third wife Helen Roper, daughter of John Roper.
1.1.1 Henry Montagu, 1st Earl of Manchester (ca. 1563 – 7 November 1642) was the son of Edward Montagu of Boughton. Edward Montagu was the son of Henry Montagu, 1st Earl of Manchester George Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax PC (c. 1684 – 9 May 1739) was the son of Edward Montagu and Elizabeth Pelham. He married Ricarda Posthuma Saltonstale (~1689–1711), their daughter Lucy married Francis North and her son was prime minister from 1770 to 1782. He then married Lady Mary Lumley (1690–1726), daughter of Richard Lumley, 1st Earl of Scarborough and they were to have at least another seven children. LADY BARBARA MONTAGU was the daughter of George Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax. She was the life companion of Sarah Scott, sister of Elizabeth Montagu
1.1.2 Sir Sidney Montagu (died 25 February 1644) was the son of the judge Sir Edward Montagu, of Boughton, Northamptonshire. Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, KG, FRS (27 July 1625 – 28 May 1672) was an English Infantry officer who later became a naval officer and a politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1645 and 1660. Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Sandwich (3 January 1647/48 – 29 November 1688) was the son of Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich and Jemima Crew. Edward Montagu, 3rd Earl of Sandwich (10 April 1670 – 20 October 1729) was the son of Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Sandwich and Lady Ann Boyle. Edward Richard Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbrooke (7 July 1692 – 3 October 1722) was the eldest son of Edward Montagu, 3rd Earl of Sandwich and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl of Rochester. John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, PC, FRS (13 November 1718 – 30 April 1792) was the son of Edward Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbrooke. John Montagu, 5th Earl of Sandwich, PC (26 January 1744 – 6 June 1814), styled Viscount Hinchingbrooke until 1792, was the eldest son of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, by the Honourable Dorothy Fane, third surviving daughter of Charles Fane, 1st Viscount Fane. George Montagu, 6th Earl of Sandwich (4 February 1773 – 21 May 1818), was the son of John Montagu, 5th Earl of Sandwich and Lady Mary Henrietta Powlett. LADY HARRIET MARY MONTAGU was the eldest daughter of George Montagu, 6th Earl of Sandwich She married to Bingham Baring, 2nd Baron Ashburton. Hon. Charles Montagu, MP, was the son of Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich. Edward Montagu (1692–1776) was the son of Hon. Charles Montagu, MP, and Sarah Rogers. He married Elizabeth Robinson (2 October 1718 – 25 August 1800), a British social reformer, patron of the arts, salonist, literary critic, and writer who helped organize and lead the Blue Stockings Society. She was the sister of SARAH SCOTT.


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Tags: queer places

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