by Nevil Harvey-Williams

Many of the letters Mary Williams wrote to her two sons, Henry and William, have survived, as have also other family letters, notably from her daughter, Catherine Heathcote, to her brothers and their wives, in New Zealand. They are preserved in the archives of the Auckland War Memorial Museum Library, New Zealand, in the Algar Williams Collection of Williams Family Papers, under MS 91/75.

The abstracts given below have been chosen to augment the story of Mary and Catherine's lives in Southwell, in the account of 'The Williams Family in the 18th and 19th Centuries' (see home page). A letter from Thomas Sydney Williams has also been included.

Item 809. From Mary Williams, staying with her brother John at Chichester, to her son, William, at Robert Forsters Esq, Southwell. Monday July 1st 1820:

  '... We found your Uncle Marsh quite well and in good spirits; but your poor uncle Henry I think a good deal altered. He no longer walks from West Bourne & indeed I thought seemed incapable of exertion of any kind; but when the weather became cooler I was pleased to see him much more alert. He left us on Friday Morning and we are to go to him tomorrow week and to Nuneham the Thursday Morning following. Your Uncles House is a very excellent one wishing nothing but a little paint, and as he cares less about appearances than any man I ever saw, it is likely I think to remain in the same state as long as he lives. There are three sitting rooms below stairs, and a breakfast room above, (in which we sit to read & work) all except one looking into the garden, which is not I think larger than ours, but very pretty, being turfed all over; with a gravel walk round and a border on each side. The grass is kept very short and is so level that it is used occasionally as a bowling green, and beautifully shaded by a few very fine old trees & to crown all there is a nice little Green House. The Music room in which we breakfast & dine opens with folding Glass doors into the Garden & the plants are placed immediately around. Not but there is within the house a profusion of the finest Geraniums I ever saw in the hall & other windows. On the Thursday Evening after our arrival we went with your uncle to St. Johns Chapel (which has lately been built) because, he had engaged to play the organ, the Organist of that chapel who is also organist of the Cathedral being in London, and as it happened that we very much liked the gentleman who preached it gave us great pleasure to find that your Uncle goes there regularly every Sunday Morning and Evening as we do to Mr Daniel Wilsons. We have therefore been to no other Church and think we shall relish less than ever your Southwell preacher. This church is of an Octagon form has three seats or pews in depth all round which leave a very considerable space in the middle filled with benches for the accommodation of the poor souls who have no pews.
  We are more retired here than we should be at home. We see scarcely any thing of your Uncle from breakfast till dinner, but work & read by ourselves in the little breakfast room. ...'

Item 815. From Mary Williams to William. 12th October 1822:

  '... I hope you got safe to the end of your journey & am very sorry I did not desire you to write to tell me so.'
She then asks him to pass on a message to his brother-in-law, Edward Marsh and continues, ..... 'Now don't forget to tell him this as you forgot to go to Beeston on Tuesday; I really had a better opinion of you than to think you would have behaved so shabbily. And Jane, (an assistant at her school, and later to marry William) a sly puss, has only slipped it out this minute. If she had told me before I would have written to Mrs Heath last night by the courier to have made some kind of an apology, but I can offer no excuse but the true reason; the weather was nothing as you had no business to have staid at Epperstone [where Jane's mother lived] so late & if you had been met when you got to Beeston you would have been taken good care of there, & it will appear so strange to Mrs Heath that I did not write to account for your not coming. ...'

Item 816. From Mary Williams to William. 9th December 1823:

  '... As I wish to hear what is become of you, and have lost the channel through which I have been accustomed to receive information, [the 'channel' was Jane Nelson, who was by now engaged to William, although they did not get married until 1825. It is possible that she had left to stay with her mother at Epperstone.] I think I must (partly out of regard to you, and partly out of regard to myself) fulfil my practice of writing to you, and pray let me have a letter of decent length in return. But what can I find to tell you? In the first place, that we are still enjoying the blessing of health, and much pleased to hear such good accounts from dear Jane, who has taken a snug opportunity of seeing the world. And her brother John pleases himself with the idea of shewing her sights as soon as she can be spared. You may, or you may not know, that there is a little boy come to Holloway town, who though very small is likely I hope with his mother to do well. Poor Johnny! may it please the Almighty in some way to enlarge his income in proportion to his necessities. In his letter to me he talked of taking Jane to Hampstead last Sunday if she could go, but you know I dare [not?] say more about these things than I do. Mr & Mrs Heath you know are returned to England, but not that I have heard to Beeston. I have a letter from Sydney, and Kate, one from Caroline. The former complains heavily and well he may of your not answering the letter he sent you so long ago. He sends me a very pressing invitation to visit him as early as possible next summer; and proposes that you should pay them such a visit as you may be able, before you take your long voyage, and bring me back with you. He again laments that he has no way of getting acquainted with you but by letter, and that you will not write. ....... It is a sad misfortune to me that all my news is forestalled. You know as well as I can tell you, that I slept two nights at Epperstone, that I found Mamma Nelson tolerably well, and that we were very snug and comfortable ...'

Mary Williams corresponded regularly with all her family, but she had frequent cause to upbraid William for his failures to write to her. On a previous occasion, (12th March 1822), she writes indignantly:

  '... Am I wrong in supposing it might be considered a duty, to give up as much time as would compose a side of a letter every week, to an old mother who can hope for very few opportunities of conversing with you (even should her life be spared) any other way than by letters. I have lately written to all my children & it is come to your turn last.'

In another letter, written on 16th May 1827, after William had emigrated to New Zealand, she writes:

  '... I must now thank my dear William for his very delightful letter which I prize very highly for many reasons, in the first place I have received very few letters from him in his whole life. As a school boy he wrote as seldom as possible, while he lived in Southwell of course it was out of the question, and when he left it, he had no time for more than one correspondent. But he made a sort of promise that when he got to New Zealand it should be made up to me. I prize the letter also because I know how valuable his time is, and although I enjoy and most gratefully receive a well filled sheet, yet I am disposed to be thankful for what I can get, and I by no means wish him to think he must write such a number of lines whether he has time and inclination or not. ...'

Item 817. From Mary Williams to Henry Williams, in New Zealand. 22nd December 1822 - January 1823. Her distress is repeated:

'My very dear children

  Although I was thoroughly prepared for your departure, & expecting every day to receive a last letter; I was a great deal shocked to find you were actually gone without one word. I did not think however think you in the least unkind for I was well aware how much you must have been hurried. That we no longer inhabit the same quarter of the globe, that you are getting every day further from me, that we are never likely to meet again in this world, are painful reflections; ....... When I consider that our race must be nearly run, it appears of little consequence whether you dwell in or out of this Kingdom. When you settled in a distant part of this country, my opportunities of seeing you were probably then very few; let me therefore be thankful that I was permitted to look forward to a blessed eternity where I may hope to enjoy your society without the fear of separation. ...'

  Later, in the same letter to Henry, she refers to William's return to Oxford. '... I think there is a little history to tell you respecting him and I must go back to the long vacation, part of which he spent at Hampstead, and came down here about a fortnight before you sailed. My house was then tolerably full, for I had eight young ladies so that with him we were pretty thick upon the ground. He studied however very comfortably at the top of the house in the little room in which you at one time used to draw, & nothing disturbed him, except the Idea of having been rejected by two ladies and not having a third at hand on whom he could place his affections, one thing however he had determined, which was never to put it in Janes power to refuse him again. ...'

  William returned to London and Mary suspected that he might have gone there to make his advances to a Miss Susan Faulkner. '... and something may have come of it, if our friend Edward Heathcote had not let him into a little bit of a secret, that he had discovered during the various tete's a tete that he and Jane enjoy on a music day; namely, that her objection was not to himself, but she thought her mother would never consent to her going abroad. He might have kept this discovery to himself: I know he hesitated whether he should divulge it (or) not, for supposing it insurmountable, he thought it might be better for William not to know it, but his prudential motives were overruled and out it came. Perhaps it may admit of a dispute whether the lady had not relented a little before she suffered such a secret to escape her, for certain it is I had fancied she was less shy than usual. However this may be the discovery acted like magic & he very soon obtained permission to combat her mothers objections, & the business was soon settled. And so poor I (should I live) am likely to be left by myself, for I believe it will be one of my last endeavours to keep a house of my own over my head; for I should not like to be an encumbrance to any of my children, & am not likely ever to possess enough to remunerate them for taking care of me. Another reason is, I should like to have a house for Mary in case of sickness. If she would content herself to come home when Kate marries the school might go on as well as ever but I fear she does not consider it any part of duty to punish herself in order to support her old mother, but time will shew; and as Kate has no thoughts of being married at present it may not be necessary. ...'

Item 821. From Mary Williams to William and Jane Williams, in New Zealand. 16th September 1825. She describes her concerns over her daughter Mary [Rebecca], who had written to say that she was leaving her post with a Mrs Deacon:

  '... Her first letter merely informed me of the circumstance without any reasons why, or whether it was by her own or Mrs D's desire. In fact I know nothing about her, as she thinks it too great a waste of time to inform me of any circumstance that gives her pleasure or pain, or of any particulars in the character of the persons she lives with by which her comfort is affected and I merely know that she removes in the middle of January.' ...... Mary [Rebecca] goes on 'and as the sweet means of grace have been important to me under dear Mr Irons's ministry, of trying whether the Lord should be pleased to afford me more prosperity in every particular in Camberwell.' Her mother comments ' I think it her duty to put up with many things she may not like. At the last sentence of her letter I quite stared, for I have never heard of dear Mr Irons, or Camberwell before. ....... I next enquired what was become of dear Mr Burrows. A little while ago she could not remove from Clapham, for she could benefit only from his preaching, now she can live no where but at Camberwell, for Mr Irons only & not Mr Burrows can speak peace to her mind.' Rebecca explained, 'To make a short story of it, when his Mr B's chapel was repairing in August, and my mind almost in a desolation to know what ministry I should find, at all to be compared in the setting forth of the truth with his, I was entirely providentially led to Camberwell, and the very first words and indeed every word Mr Irons uttered, proved to be so exactly suited to the search my mind had been making for years, and so according with my own feelings and sweetly calculated to promote the growth of spirituality in the soul, that I had a desire to settle under his ministry. The desire to be more immediately within reach of it, quickened by the trials which have been peculiar to me, and the infinite value of the truth there preached, made me desire to quit the situation I now hold. ' Mary Williams's letter continues, Of course Mrs Deacon perceived this and spoke to her. On this she observes, "the first proposal for our separation coming from Mrs Deacon took from me the painful feeling of removing myself from a situation plainly appointed for me by providence." No one can doubt the sincerity of her wishes to do that which is her duty and no one can consider worldly advantage less. But it is very difficult exactly to find the path of duty. That she may be wisely directed, is my most earnest prayer, but at present I am not comfortable about her. ...'

Item 822. From Mary Williams, on holiday at Ramsgate with Edward and Lydia Marsh, to William Williams. 20th July 1826.
Before going to Ramsgate, Mary stayed a short while in London, with Edward and Lydia.:

  '... Mary [Rebecca] & John met me in London. The former is looking thin but is very active attacking every body she meets. You know or will know from Edward, that she has left her situation at Mrs Deacons because she can hear no preacher with profit now but Mr Irons a dissenting minister at Camberwell, and will not again conform to the rules and restraints of any family because she is determined to go to the house of God whenever she likes. She has therefore taken lodgings there and without knowing a single creature intends getting her living there as a day Governess. In the midst of her wild schemes God has not deserted her. Through the instrumentality of Marianne Rivington she has been introduced to the only person perhaps in Camberwell, who was at all likely to introduce & bring her into notice, a Miss Rolleston of the Nottinghamshire family. ....... Miss R is ....... a woman of rare attainment a great linguist and what is much more an active Christian. She does not hear Mr Irons & told me she did not know that she was benefitted when she did, but she has a great respect for him, and has done him many kind offices. M Rivington told me she hoped Miss R would do Mary good, for before she knew her Miss Rolleston told her she had heard, she was getting acquainted with persons in Mr I's congregation who are denominated high flyers, who differ as much from him as he does from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Miss R has taken Mary up and will do every thing she can for her, but the times are hard, & it has hitherto been a losing concern, & that to a great degree, she can only keep on till her money is all gone & then if pupils do not increase considerably she must think of something else but I know she has hopes of one in a fortnight that is likely to pay well. But she will do as she likes and nothing that we can say has the least influence. She has notwithstanding a great deal of good about her and if it is the will of God that she should prosper we shall have nothing to oppose. ...'

In his autobiography, Edmund Sydney Williams refers to 'old Mr and Mrs Rivington, old friends (she at least) of my father and grandmother. Old Mr Rivington was a very fine specimen of the old generation, upright and generous, a high churchman, but of the old school, no Pusyism. Mrs R. was his senior and a sweet old lady, who was very kind to me for my father's sake.' As they had only one child, John, Marianne must have been the old lady.

From Henry Williams in New Zealand to Mary Williams. 27th August 1830:

  '... We were some time before we learned the particulars of the organ. It has come without the slightest injury, and the first evening all were delighted with its sound. It was packed with great judgment, and the directions so simple, that we were not at a loss though entirely ignorant of such things. We have placed it at the end of the chapel, which to us Europeans gives a strong indication of the place we are in. ...'

From Marianne Williams in New Zealand to Mary Williams. 7th September 1830:

  '... The Saturday night following William and Mr Chapman returned from Kerikeri and brought in the boat a box from Hampstead, one from Southwell, and one from my sister Sarah.

  On Sunday afternoon I gave Edward his uncle's sermons to employ him, and out of the books tumbled two of his letters. Henry was out amongst the natives. Therefore I opened the one for him, and ran to Jane with the discovery that the organ, the arrival of which had given such general satisfaction, was, not, as supposed, the subscription one, but from their uncle to Henry and William. This discovery was a most unexpected and gratifying one to us all, and greatly enhanced the value of the organ. ...

  All the females as well as males met in the chapel to hear the new organ the first week it arrived, and I was glad the overpowering sensations which its full and melodious sounds produced and all the recollections it roused were a little moderated before the Sabbath. ...'

Item 829. From Mary Williams to William and Jane Williams, in New Zealand. Sometime in 1830, (her previous letter was dated 4th October 1830).:

  '... We are at the present time under great anxiety on account of our colony at Hamburg. Though you live on the other side of the globe you are no stranger to the regularly progressive march of the Cholera (that dreadful scourge) from India through Persia into Russia and from thence it now promises to visit all Europe. We are not without our fears that it will come here. But there was no reason to think it would spare Hamburg. We do not know by the bye that it has yet got there, but Sydney and Edwards [her son and nephew] last letters, were of a very melancholy cast. He, the former, tells us their city was thrown into a dreadful consternation on Thursday the 1st of September by the intelligence that the cholera had broken out at Charlottenberg a small town about five English miles on this side of Berlin and orders were immediately given to cut off all communication with Prussia. The daily coaches were stopped and no person allowed to enter Mecklenberg from Prussia until he had performed twenty one days of Quarantine & most earnestly do they & we pray that the blessing of God may attend their endeavours to avert so dreadful a calamity but nevertheless so undeviating has been the progress of the disease in its course westward that but faint hopes are entertained of its course being interrupted. It appears to be communicated by vessels along the different rivers and one of the infected rivers the Havel communicates with the Elbe about 120 miles above Hamburg. The government at Hamburg are as active as possible making every possible preparation for it. Four large hospitals were nearly finished to receive the poorer class of patients and a very large burying ground was preparing for the bodies of those who may become its victims. But the disorder is not all they have to dread. Every kind of business will be at a stand. All schools will be shut, all lessons will cease, and nothing will be done so that the two families as well as many others will have not one farthing coming in at a time when so many extraordinary necessities are to be expected. These anticipation(s) of course make them very anxious as there is reason to fear their inactivity would continue at least a quarter of a year should they be mercifully preserved from the effects of the disorder on themselves and families. The bodies of the dead are to be burned and a man will go before the hearse who is to ring a bell and cry Cholera Cholera to warn every one to get out of the way and the houses of all those who have the disease will be marked by a large board with the word Cholera that no one may enter it. In every family Sydney says, they are laying in provisions and medicines as if the place was going to be bombarded. And nothing else is thought or spoken of from morning till night. It would be natural to suppose that this state of things would make every one serious but it is by no means the case with some few exceptions places of amusement are as much frequented as ever. The town is divided into districts, and to every district Physicians and nurses are appointed and ready to attend the moment they are called. They endeavour to keep constant in their minds that they are in the hands of an all wise Being that not a sparrow falls to the ground without his knowledge and design; and under his protecting care they shall be as safe then as now. But it is an awful situation! and that of Europe in general is not less so. Asia also is very bad. Indeed if I were young enough to think of running away from the evil to come I should make choice of New Zealand - there everything is improving - here everything is daily growing worse and worse. ...'

Item 830. From Mary Williams to William and Jane Williams in New Zealand. 28th April 1831. The letter is headed 'Residence Home, Southwell.':

  '... Here am I, in the best bedchamber, surrounded by this dear family, who I am happy to say are all well, (some perhaps fast asleep). I am thankful to say we are all well also on the green, [this must be a reference to Elmfield House, on Burgage Green] namely, Kate, Edward (except that he is sometimes creeking) young Caroline from Hamburg, who is a very fine looking, quick, clever, girl, like her mother in many things, and I really think she cannot have a higher compliment paid her, for she has few equals, and dear little Lydia from Holloway, [her son John's daughter] who is our little pet, for she has lived with us now almost seven years, and is one of the most affectionate children in the world but I must leave off calling her little, for she is taller than me, and looks down upon aunt Kate. But she is quite a treasure to me and the kindest, most attentive nurse almost in the world. To add to our happiness we hope John will join our party next week for he has obtained leave of absence for three weeks, and is now gone to visit his new friend Aunt Voke, who has become very fond of him, and at her desire his baby is named Rebecca Isgar. I hope John has told you all about it, for it is a very pretty entertaining story, and I could hardly refrain, but thought it would be unfair to take it from him. I fear he will find it difficult to keep in her good graces for she seems to have fallen out with every body, and told John she intended to leave the greatest part of her money to charitable uses. We don't know of one relation she is on good terms with, except John. As Edward has consented to remain here six months his time will not be out till the end of July consequently I shall remain at home (at?) Midsummer (If I should live till that time), instead of going to London to see my dear children; for by far the greater part of them will be down here. This I had vanity enough to think might be one of John's principal reasons for coming at this time; for they cannot expect that I should remain much longer among them. Edward expressed some surprise yesterday that I expected him [John?] at my house; he thought he [John?] was coming to visit him [Edward?]. But I reminded him that I was his own mother, and that his own daughter was under my roof; when he no longer disputed my claim. ...' [Out of this rather muddled sentence, do we assume that the second Edward is Edward Heathcote, who was expecting her son John to visit him?]
  '...We went yesterday, that is Lydia and I went with Sutton Barrow to pay a visit to the old Palace. You have heard that Mr George Hodgkinson turned us out that he might make a grand place of it and live there himself.' Mr Hodgkinson apparently made some substantial alterations including 'my poor little old fashioned bedroom after being considerably reduced is made into a water closet, which in these genteel days is considered indispensable. ....... they suffered the old schoolroom to remain as it was except as a servants hall and day Nursery, rather an odd combination we thought.' A lot of other alterations were made but 'Soon after they were finished but not paid for, he was obliged to decamp on account of his having made free with the property of sir Richard Sutton to whom he was steward. The Archbishop of York to whom he was agent in this place has not discharged (him), having no particular cause of quarrel with him but as he cannot remain here to do the business, the post falls to Mr George Barrow on condition of his allowing Mr H a part of the income which is all he has to live upon. ...'

It seems clear from this letter that she had become frail, and was not in the best of health; indeed she appears to be anticipating that her life was nearing its end. Mary Williams died on 7th November 1831 and is buried in the churchyard of Southwell Minster.

Item 211. From Catherine Heathcote to William Williams. 28th March 1832:

  '...I do indeed feel for you on the arrival of this long expected vessel, when you will have been watching her entrance to the harbour and your hearts have yearned for the letters brought by her & when you know the intelligence which has been long awaiting you. [Their mother's death in November 1831] To you it may appear hardly a loss, but an additional reason for longing to be released from this evil world, but for us who were daily enjoying her, her departure has been a greater trial than I had ever anticipated. The more I think of her & see of others, the more I see her superiority, but I feel that I have been highly favoured in being allowed to attend upon her while she required earthly aid & I shall be happy indeed if thro' the merits & death of that Saviour whom she loved, I can join her & the rest of our dear family in our heavenly Father's Kingdom. Although it was contrary to Southwell customs for ladies to attend their near relations to their last earthly homes, I wished to deviate from these heartless and unnatural ways and determined to accompany my husband and any other of our family who wished to join us; Mary [Rebecca] arrived on the Wednesday and John on Friday morning. We are rather surprised Edw'd did not. Lydia wished very much to come but Edw'd did not like it, and I think her nerves would have been quite overcome. The funeral took place on Saturday morning, and the grave is by the side of Uncle Williams's & C. Moore, in the corner of the Church yard by Miss Porter's house. Dear Marianne Brown came to remain part of the day with us, and staid with the children while we were absent. The children all behaved very well & were much affected. They had behaved as well as possible during the illness of our beloved mother & showed more feeling than I had given them credit for. Poor John having left his children ill with the scarlet fever was in a great hurry to return and by dint of much persuasion remained only till Wednesday morning & Mary was determined to accompany him. We were very sorry to lose them so soon & as there was a good deal of business to settle it would have much pleasanter if they could have staid a few days, but our persuasions were unavailing. We were sorry Mary had not been before to pay us a visit, as she had not seen dear mother for two years and a half but she had not wanted for an invitation; she must have forgotten dear mother's increasing age, and diminishing strength: it was well however she did not withhold her presence at the last, and she behaved exceedingly well and though still very peculiar she is a good deal quieter than she was. You are no doubt aware of her having at length discontinued her constant attendance at Mr Iron's chapel; she has either ceased going entirely or goes only occasionally. She has had many trials & perhaps may have brought a good deal upon herself. ...'

Item 219. From Catherine Heathcote to Jane Williams. 20th January 1835:

  '...I have hardly courage & strength of mind to write to you but as it is only childish to defer it I shall make an effort this morning. My present affliction is the early prospect of a separation from my beloved husband who is now on his deathbed. He is not now in a state of suffering & I am told he may yet linger some days, but there appears no hope of his recovery. He is now apparently unconscious of every thing but up to the last day or two his mind had been in so heavenly & submissive a frame that it would seem selfish to wish to detain him though we who love our husbands love their company so well that we do not wish to part with them. The great trial is over; the day after I wrote the above my beloved partner was called to the inheritance of the saints above & his dear spirit left its mortal remains without a sigh. But it is time for me to tell you how this happened. Last summer he had some heavy domestic afflictions which I shall decline entering upon but poor Edward's nerves I am persuaded received their death blow at that time. He did not seem ill and we hoped that in time he would recover from the shock he had received and Edward Garrard being in residence he did everything in his power to soothe him. At last however he sunk under it. He was intending to go to the Birmingham festival by way of a little change and was to pay a visit to Mr Gornelt at Lichfield on his way; every thing was ready but during the night previous to his departure a very bad cough came on with other unpleasant symptoms which of course prevented his going. This was the beginning of October & the weather becoming very cold he could only occasionally go out. For some time he seemed to improve & then the least exertion or excitement would make him worse than before; this happened many times every attack being more violent than the preceding one so that at last his dear frame was exhausted. His complaint was considered nervous and ended in a nervous fever. He complained of tightness across the chest, with frequently a cough at night, extreme restlessness so that he scarcely ever slept, difficulty of breathing particularly upon the least exertion & a continual depression of spirits to a very painful degree. Till the end of the year his appetite was good, but when his last attack began that entirely failed & of course his strength rapidly diminished so that at last he was reduced to the greatest state of weakness & to nothing but skin & bone. But as the outer man decayed the inner man became more & more fitted for its great change. He felt persuaded from the first that he should not recover & was much more anxious to be made meet for the inheritance of the saints than as he expressed it to be shipwrecked into life again. He was continually praying particularly that his faith & patience might not fail, and repeating the Psalms, all of which I believe he knew by heart as well as other parts of the Bible and "fear not for I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine," was often on his lips. The greatest professor could not have shown a more pious submission or a more entire dependance on a Saviour than he. He was a person of very superior talent & great originality and as an upright character I think you could not find his equal in this place and of this I think the good people are aware for they seem all anxious to pay every respect to his memory. His poor mother feels his loss very acutely for he was the child to whom she looked for help in time of need, but though others may perhaps feel sorry I do not think any of them knew how to appreciate him when he could be among them. His abilities were certainly above the common order & his knowledge was surprising for he was seldom without a book & his memory was so good that he knew how to make use of the information he obtained. After he became delirious he talked a great deal of you, William, Henry, Marianne, & the mission, said he was going out as a missionary & gave notice of a Missionary meeting. Though he was at the time not himself it showed the bent of his mind even in delirium. He was a dear affectionate fellow & the best of his Father's family and I esteem it a great privilege to have had his society and it is a comfort to me that I have (been) able to administer to his necessities & smoothed his pillow to the last and I shall now hope to be enabled so to follow him that I may be united again with him & our dear mother in a better world. ...'

Item 713. From Jane Williams to Catherine Heathcote. 29th May 1835.:

  '... What is become of poor Mary? Have you heard anything more of her since her voyage? We were more grieved than surprised to hear of the steps she had taken, but I fear she will have reason to repent of it. ...'

Item 714. From Jane Williams to Catherine Heathcote. 30th October 1835.:

  '...Jane writes to send Catherine her 'warmest sympathies' on hearing, [possibly from John and Betty Williams], of the death of her husband Edward Heathcote, on 23rd January 1835. Later, 'And now, dearest Kate; that it has pleased our Heavenly Father to dissolve your nearest and dearest ties, can you not make up your mind to come over and help us: do take it into your serious consideration, your services would be invaluable in the English school and would set Marianne at liberty for further usefulness among the natives who require so much of her attention.'...'

Catherine replied to this invitation in a letter dated 19th October 1836; Item 223.:

  '... I have however written to you a short time ago, to tell you that I have not known how at present to accept your invitations to your distant land. I hope I have not done wrong, but I could not see my way clear without violating my duties to my other relatives ...'

and she refers to her brother John and a Mrs Batchelor, who needs her help.

Appended to this letter is one from William, dated 31st October, following very much on the same themes, but also enquiring:

  '... We are anxious to hear further tidings from Mary. The last accounts from herself were at the time of her departure and that is now a long time ago. I certainly did not see the wisdom or the propriety of her movements, ...'

Item 715. From Jane Williams to Catherine Heathcote. 2nd December 1835:

  '... We feel much grieved at poor Mary's imprudence and fear she is reaping the fruits of it. Do not fail to let us know what you hear about her. ...'

Item 222. From Catherine Heathcote to Jane Williams. 2nd January 1836.

  '... I find they are doing at Newark, as we ought to do here, building a new church which one of the rightminded ministers is to fill. ...'

Item 225. From Catherine Heathcote to William. 23rd April 1838.

  '... You have given me a very pressing invitation to your part of the world & I wish I felt quite at liberty to follow the course you have set before me. But I do not think it right to turn my family connections here adrift, for other members of the family. Lydia is now beginning as a regular teacher but is not yet nineteen, & therefore too young to act except in a subordinate office but if she should become well established here she may be able to educate her sisters and materially assist her family. In short there are several of the family who may in a few years be very thankful to find a refuge in this house and occupation. ...'

Item 226. From Catherine Heathcote to Jane Williams. 11th April 1839.

  '... We have just a glimmering of hope of a new church in this place; perhaps another week will decide our fate. No one has had courage to come forward to provide accommodation for the increasing population for we now number nearly four thousand & still we have one only church. The dissenters have therefore stirred themselves and have purchased the old workhouse in Moor Lane which they are converting as fast as possible into a baptist chapel. In consequence of this our present residentiary Mr Percival has put forth a circular proposing to the inhabitants to assist the Chapter in building a church upon the supposition that the Chapter shall have the majority in the committee for building & appointing the minister. This has caused great discussions among the ladies and gentlemen & they have agreed to wait till the Chapter is over as that will be next week & I earnestly trust something will be done & that it will not this time fall to the ground. Mr Wm Barrow is now considered one of the most influential persons in the place: for he has talent wealth & good principles and it is hoped that if no plan is agreed upon with the Chapter that he will forward one independent of the Chapter & he has promised to give two hundred pounds for the erection. I feel very anxious about it indeed, & I am astonished that Edw'd Marsh (her brother-in-law and a Canon of the Minster) is not coming to the Chapter & I think it very naughty of him when he is so capable of giving valuable assistance. ...

  ... You would be delighted if you heard people here, I mean some of the lower orders, inquire after W'm. An old man near us asked me some time ago if I ever heard anything of Master Williams as was with Mister Forster, he was a nice young fellow, he was, & Fuim?, whom I met with at the Silk Mill last summer, the first time I had visited it since you both left Southwell, enquired very particularly after him but made me angry by saying 'how is William' with no Mister. As to Mr Forster he is quite extraordinary in his appearance; he allows his hair which is now pretty grey to grow quite long so he looks like a wild man of the woods and he rides & walks in his wife's plaid cloak. She has just presented him with her third child, a daughter. She is a woman I cannot endure. She ridicules every one for her amusement & to make herself agreeable to her select friends who share her jokes. Besides the impropriety of such a habit only think of the evil consequences of such an example upon her older children. ...'

Item 227. From Catherine Heathcote, visiting her brother Thomas Sydney in Hamburg, to Jane Williams. 24th July 1839:

  '... Whilst I am enjoying the society of one part of our dispersed family, I must not forget another tho' so distant as your dear selves. It is now nine years since I was here and I have yielded to the kind & repeated invitations of Sydney & Caroline, to visit them once more & I particularly wished to come now, because poor Edw'd Thomas (E.T.Marsh, their cousin) is in a very poor state of health, and also Syd's daughter Mary is coming to school. ....... I found all Sydney's family quite well; but poor Edw'd's appearance shocked me greatly. He has a bad cough, has lost a great deal of flesh & he is very weak. Under these circumstances if he persists in giving lessons, which alone affords him an income, a few months will probably see his wife a widow and his children fatherless. His medical attendant, who is considered the cleverest man in Hamburg has ordered him to a bathing place on the Rhine for a month or so and we hope he will spend the winter with Catherine Leake, (now Mrs Dick) his wife's sister, at Frankfurt. Our summer is so fast passing away that no time should be lost & we happily succeeded in getting him off last night. He went in the Steamer to London, as the cheapest & best way. He will thus see John whom he has not seen for eighteen years & will then take another Steamer up the Rhine. His eldest girl, Ellen, is nearly ten years old & the next, Jane, the very image of her father, is between eight & nine. They go to a day school & seem affectionate & attentive children. The only boy living is Edw'd, about three years old; he is a handsome curly headed boy, but he requires more discipline than he has yet had. Another baby is almost daily expected. Poor Edw'd has not been well for the last four years & as he has appeared to become quite an old man people have not employed him much of late which of course is not convenient with an increasing family. As to Sydney, he looks much younger than John and has still the blessing of excellent health. ....... Caroline looks wonderfully well considering all things & is as active both in body & mind as ever. She has been busy lately in translating from the German [a history of Queen Elizabeth] which she hopes to dispose of. ...'

Item 228. From Catherine Heathcote to her niece Marianne Williams. 26th December 1840.:

  '... You may from this print have some idea of our habitation for several years, and during most of our residence amidst these pretty ruins your aunt Jane was living with us, and uncle William used to come across the church yard every night for an hour or so to see us, when he could leave his physic. ...'

Enclosed with her letter was a copy of a print entitled 'The Collegiate Church, and Ruins of the Archbishop's Palace Southwell. This is now on CD.

Item 231. From Catherine Heathcote to Jane Williams. 17th September 1841.:

  '... Our hopes of a new church have all fled and tho' we still want a regular evangelical ministry yet there is an improvement I hope in the love of Christ. Since you were here there is far less cardplaying and I think more consideration. Our new parish vicar, Murray Wilkins, Dr Wilkins' son will not much improve us until he improves. Some think him very well intentioned but he is too giddy & trifling to gain the respect of the so well (or So'Well?) minded. Still he is an improvement upon old Mr Houson. He goes a good deal to the school both on week days & Sundays & visits the sick & is generally active & kind hearted. ...'

Item 237. From Catherine Heathcote to Jane Williams. 26th July 1843.:

  '... I think I told you that with Mr Hales' help we have been making another effort towards the erection of a new church, which he showed us we could easily accomplish in consequence of the passing of recent acts of parliament & by appointing Trustees who would nominate the minister we should hope humanly speaking to secure a clergyman of different sentiments from those we have so long had. [In a previous letter, dated 19th October 1842, Catherine says; 'One of my high pleasures was hearing Mr Hales preach at Kirklington a truly gospel sermon.' and she makes further references to him in her next letter dated 26th July 1843] But it has not pleased God to grant us our desire as we wished it. The act states that notice is to be served on the incumbent & patron of the intentions of the parties proposing to build and if they do not give you a promise within two months that they will have a church ready in two years, you may build, but if they choose to build themselves, the preference must be given to the incumbent & patron. We thought it necessary to secure our ground before this notice was served, which the incumbent & patron Dr Wilkins & his son hearing of, & a chapter being held just at that time, the members of the chapter came to a determination to frustrate our attempts, by building a church themselves & have determined to give the patronage into the hands of the Bishop of Lincoln. This has been some mortification to me, because I quite hoped the chapter in their expiring state, would not have troubled themselves with the matter & then we might reasonably hope for an evangelical ministry to be established here. Certainly it will be in the power of the Bp to appoint as good a man as our Trustees & we must pray that his heart & mind may be rightly guided when the time comes. This subject was first mentioned by the Chapter on the 21st of June, but was fully determined on at the general Chapter on the 20th July, last Thursday. Edward Marsh being equally anxious about it with ourselves came down here from Aylesford on purpose. They settled to build a brick church in Westhorpe intending to make that a separate district, which will contain about 1000 persons, certainly quite enough for one man to attend to. We are afraid the chapter will recommend one of their own friends, however we must trust the Great Head of the Church to provide for us. It is therefore likely that Dr Wilkins will leave Nottingham & he may come & live here for there is a very good living belonging to this Chapter which is now vacant & St. Mary's at Nottingham is in so delapidated a state that Dr Wilkins will be very glad, it is thought, to give it up, if he can provide better for himself. The good people at Nottingham will be much pleased to be rid of him, if they can obtain a more faithful shepherd to take charge of that immense parish. This must all be settled in October, so those interested will be anxious for the result. It is thought that Dr Wilkins has brought this trouble on himself by making alterations within St. Mary's and has thereby so shaken the foundations of the great tower that it began to fall and they have had great expence in propping it up so as to make it safe for divine service. A rate was necessary to defray the expences, but the parishioners are determined not to pay church rates & so the church cannot be thoroughly repaired. Under these circumstances Nottingham is no very pleasant residence for Dr Wilkins and I think he is very likely to leave it, but we do not want him here to take charge of the new little church. We like very much the new curate at Hockerton Mr Bowles. He was in the army till the last few years and has been two years and a half in the church. ....... It is truly a blessing to have got so different a minister. He has set the church to rights & is now building a school & trying to make the people think of their eternal interests. ...

  ... In a former letter I have told you that Caroline Williams came over [from Hamburg] at Christmas to be a helper to me in the school as she wished to take a situation in this country & I wanted an assistant I proposed her coming & I found her every thing I could wish. But she was so very pleasing in her appearance and manners that I could not but fear that I might be soon called upon to part with her again & so the event has proved. She has been staying with Mrs Rivington and Mr John Rivington has gained her affections & is now in a great hurry to make her his wife, which is very provoking to me for I shall not easily find anyone to replace her. Mrs Rivington is quite as much pleased as her son. She is becoming very feeble now & is anxious to see John married before she dies & she feels that Caroline will make her a very attentive daughter-in-law. ...

  ... It is a very long time since I heard from sister Mary. Lydia Marsh was the last who heard from her and that letter was written in the same high flown style as before, but she seems not only happy & satisfied to remain where she is but what is better, I believe, she is mainly intent upon seeking her own salvation & that of others.. If she had been more conformable to the opinions of others she might have come to keep school with me or instead of me here, but she does better in following her own devices. ...'

From Jane Williams to Catherine Heathcote; Turanga 1st March 1844.:

  '... We rejoice to find you are prospering in your efforts to promote the good cause in poor Southwell. Times are certainly changing and it is a token for you if a prebendary ventures to lift up his voice on behalf of C.M.S. in that pulpit, and tho' but few of the rich and learned countenance you, yet you seem to have the support of all the really good in the neighbourhood. May God continue to bless your exertions, and may personal religion increase among the various members of your two Societies in proportion for their zeal for the heathen. ...'

Item 238. From Catherine Heathcote to Jane Williams. 4th December 1845.:

  '... I wish you could look in upon our beloved church in this town which is now pretty nearly completed. It was to have been consecrated on the 13th of last month but we were not quite ready for so great an event & it may be deferred now until next March. I hope you have ere this received a lithographic sketch of it which is a very faithful representation of it. The building of this church has seemed to me a wonderful interposition of God for we have the powers of man to contend against as far as Southwell is concerned from the beginning to the end. But God has given us dear & excellent friends in the neighbourhood who have more than supplied the want of them in the town. Mrs Whelham is a steady friend, not one of those who make a display on a great occasion, but ever kind & ready for every good work. She has been unwearied in her exertions for us, both in contributing & obtaining contributions as well as in giving me every assistance & countenance. On the 11th of last Aug'st we had a meeting of our Church friends in this house when she made a considerable effort to be present & Col Whelham also. The purpose of the meeting was to consider the state of our funds &c when these dear friends promised to give us 150 in addition to their previous donations making in all upwards of 300 which they have given besides all they have obtained. Mr Western Plumptre also has obtained an immense sum of money for us, 200 since August, besides larger sums before, which is a certain proof of the esteem & respect of his friends or they w'd not have committed so much to him & yet the people here speak in a slighting manner of him: however the reason is that he serves a different master from them for certainly the offence of the Cross has not ceased. Col Whelham's son in law Capt Boddan has been our most stirring as one of the Building committee. He lived at Kirklington & will of course be the heir of that property. He cares not what trouble he takes for us & yet our neighbours will not stretch out their little fingers to help us, & would even be glad to hear if the church were tumbling down again. Mr Wylde is one most opposed to us, which we had never anticipated. He has said if he thought we sh'd have such a minister as Mr Plumptre he could not subscribe. We must therefore depend on the Lord who will in his mercy give us more Xtian (Christain) friends. Nevertheless I do not despair of seeing even Mr Wylde & many others becoming humble listeners & learners too, I hope, in our dear church where I trust it will please God to send us one of his own faithful shepherds. We have no one yet appointed but we hope to have one who will be a zealous friend to the Bible & Miss'ary Societies, especially the former which has been found of late more of a touchstone even than the latter. I am happy that the committee deputed Mr Plumptre to make enquiry after a clergyman for us & we have perfect confidence in him because we believe him to be a man of prayer. He has been most diligent in his search, but nothing is yet settled because we have no parsonage house & the only house vacant in the town is Miss Watson's, which is a little beyond the Church & which she is anxious to let. We hope eventually to build a house near the Church but we have no money at present. One excellent man has just declined coming because Miss Watson's house is not large enough for his large family & there is no other house to be had. ...

  ... Dec 10th 1845. Having a few minutes to spare I will employ them in filling my envelope in your service. We are now corresponding with the Rev. John Conington, curate of Navenby near Lincoln whom we have asked to become our Pastor, & he seems quite inclined to come amongst us. He has been a long & steady friend to the C.M.S. & will be a valuable man here. The nearer we draw to the settlement of this important question, the more anxious I become. But I desire to trust in the Lord who has already done so much for us, and knows far better than we who will be best suited to this place. ...'

Un-numbered, but also from the Algar Williams Collection of Williams Family Papers. Thomas Sydney Williams, writing from Balham, in 1862, at the time of the death of Rev. E.G.Marsh, to his brother William in New Zealand.:

  '... Edward's daughters will not live in the house their father bought for them at Chichester ....... as well as being most inconvenient, they know not a soul in the place. They intend living, as long as Jane lives, at Hastings, as sea air is recommended.

  Annie Abbott has now sold off all her late husband's property, which netted her about 5000, so, with her father's legacy, will be better off than her maiden sisters ....... Jessie, our youngest, is on a visit to her sister Emma von Losecke, who married a Hanoverian Captain, ten or twelve years ago.

  We are very desirous to hear about Henry and Marianne. Is he quite laid aside? And how is Marianne now that all her children are married?

  We are very glad to hear that since Mr. Francis Hart's death, she [presumably, his wife] has left the Unitarian Chapel and now attends regularly at St. Peter's Church in Nottingham, and that Ann, who I believe married a Unitarian minister, has, with her husband totally changed her former views and has embraced the Gospel in simplicity and truth. May I entreat your prayers for us and our children, some of whom have not yet embraced the truth. What a pity that the Church of England has no power to turn out these infidel renegades; amongst the dissenters they make short work of it - as they excommunicate them, and the supplies being consequently stopped they are left to find their own supporters - and this very rarely occurs, as infidels never spend money to support infidel preaching - the mischief is so bad only when they get hold of a living or an endowed office - the law won't turn them out. But as we dissenters refuse to have any endowments - we have no instance of any renegade among the Evangelical Dissenters. Dr Davidson, a few years ago, published some infidel strictures on the Old Testament, and was forthwith deprived of his offices as President of the Lancashire Independent College, and has got no other situation since. He supports himself by his writings. But no Congregation of any kind acknowledges him. So it should be. I presume you have no controversies in New Zealand, except with Roman Catholics. ...' [I imagine that this tirade is against the Unitarians. N.T.H.W.]

Nevil Harvey-Williams.

July 2005

© Nevil Harvey-Williams