It will take more than this article to do justice to the unique contribution the Hastings family made to the village, but suffice it to say now that this included the family providing the Rectors of Martley for an astonishing 163 years between 1795 and 1958.
Suprisingly, there were only five family Rectors giving an average innings of 33 years, but the two James had particularly long stays. The Rev. James Hastings, the first of the family Rectors and who died aged 100, was Rector for 61 years between 1795 -1856, (whereas the Rev. James Francis Hastings spent 53 years in the parish – 16 as curate and 37 as Rector between 1907-1944).
James and Elizabeth both came from established Cotswold families with Chipping Norton the common link, James’s father, also James, was born there, baptised in the parish church in 1726 and was buried there when he died in 1788. He went into the wine trade and spent much of his time at his house in Hanover Square, London, where the Rev. James, his two brothers, William and John, and his sister Ann were born. Nothing is known of William and John but Ann married under age (with the consent of her father) and with her husband emigrated to America.
The Rev. James was born in 1755 and baptised James Henry Hastings on 13th January 1756 at St. George’s, Hanover Square. His mother died when James was 33. James matriculated at Wadham College, Oxford, and in 1779, aged 23, was ordained by the Bishop of Oxford.
James was 25 and a curate at Heythorp when, on 22nd February 1781, in St. Mary’s, the parish church of Chipping Norton, he married the 18 year old Elizabeth Paget. They spent their honeymoon at Bole Hall, Tamworth, her brothers estate.
Elizabeth was one of the fifth generations of Pagets to have lived in Chipping Norton. She was baptised on 29th December 1762 in the church in which she was to marry. She had just the one brother, Thomas Bradley Paget, who was two years older and who would follow his father as a partner in the Paget family bank.
Their father had died young, when Elizabeth was 11, but he had left her and her brother extremely well off. Further, each stood to benefit more when their mother died, which she did 3 years after Elizabeth married James.
With his wife’s money behind him, James thus started his married life as a very wealthy assistant curate at Sutton Coldfield. Four years and four children later, he moved to Whichford, Warwickshire, where he was to stay for six years and sire four more children.
In October 1791, Elizabeth’s brother, the banker Thomas Paget, purchased the advowson (which gave the owner the right to the income and to nominate the Rector) of Martley, from Martin Dunne Esq., on the condition that vacant possession would only arise when the Rev. Thomas Dunne, who had been the Rector of Martley since 1770, either died or resigned. Thomas therefore also purchased the advowson at Bitterley, near Ludlow, to give a living to James pro tem and it was while at Bitterley that Dr. Sir Charles and Admiral Francis Decimus were born.
The Rev. Thomas Dunne died on 4th July 1795 and, as the patron, Thomas Paget nominated the Rev. James Hastings, then 39, and he was inducted as the Rector of Martley on 26th August 1795. The Bitterley advowson was then sold.
Writing about Martley in 1780, the famous Worcestershire historian Dr. Nash says: “The rectory is one of the most valuable in the county, especially in a good year of hops when the profits may amount to a thousand pounds” (£61,960). Other sources give the annual income from the substantial Glebe rents and areas of tithed corn, fruit and hops, as £600 (£37,176). Even so, this made Martley a rich living at a time when many parishes could not afford a resident priest or, if they could, the Rector would have been as poor as the proverbial church mouse. Further, the advowson of Martley carried with it the patronage of Areley Kings, 7 miles away.
The advowson of Martley which, with his wife’s money, James had purchased from his brother-in-law in 1799, was well suited to James and Elizabeth. The Rectory with over 30 rooms was perfect for such a large family, especially as a further 5 children were to be born after James became Rector in 1795. With the Rectory came some 80 acres. It was next door to the ancient church and close to the village with its shops and where indoor and outdoor servants could be employed. It was not far from either Chipping Norton or Worcester.
Unlike our present Rector, who is responsible for five parishes, James was the Rector for Martley in 1801 when it only had a population of 1050. Even so, James employed a curate and at one time two, which left him plenty of time also to lead the life of a prosperous country gentleman.
This ideal existence lasted 11 years but came to an abrupt halt one afternoon in 1806, when the Rector’s horse returned to the Rectory without its rider. An extensive search was undertaken by Elizabeth, her children and servants until James was eventually found, wet and confused, lying by the River Teme. He was brought back to the Rectory but he never recovered. He lived for another 50 years but he was incapable of taking any responsibility. Legal documents were to refer to him as “a lunatic” and he is supposed to have communicated only by making animal noises. For the first four years, his eldest surviving son, the Rev. John Paget Hastings, took charge of the parish but in 1810, when he decided to become a Chaplain with the East India Company, Elizabeth, then 47 and in effect a sole parent, had no choice but to leave the Rectory with 9 of her children, aged 6 – 28, for rented accommodation at 29, The Tything, Worcester. Once she had settled, the Rev. James joined her and stayed there until he died on 10th July 1856, in his 101st year and in his 60th year as rector.
Elizabeth’s remaining 34 years must have been tough. Her invalid husband outlived her; five of her children and at least one grandchild died, as did her brother in 1817, and her fortune had been whittled away by the cost of the Martley advowson, by bringing up so many children and by her husband’s extravagant lifestyle. Further, as Rector of Martley and Patron of Areley Kings, James was, through his trustees, responsible for the fabric of the two Rectories and for the salaries or fees of those priests who ensured the smooth running of the two parishes. The Martley parish registers give the names of 40 clergymen over this period, some of whom would have been local priests helping out at services.
However, a succession of priests, called `curates-in-charge’ as the Rev. James was the Rector, lived in the Rectory with their families. One such, from 1831 – 38, was the Rev. Henry Blayds, who changed his name to Calverley on inheriting land. His son, Charles Stewart, was born in the Rectory in 1832 and became “the greatest of all classical parodists”, the reason Martley is mentioned in the Dictionary of National Biography.
In 1820, Henry James, the youngest Hastings son, having graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, was ordained. On the death of his father he became Rector of Martley, where he was born, and remained so for 19 years. Thereafter, the Hastings family provided the Rectors of Martley up until 1958, a span of 163 years in all.
So what became of the 7 daughters and 8 sons? None of the girls married. Joanna, the eldest of the 15, died at 104 and Margaret at 82. The other five died before they were 29.
Of the 8 sons, one died aged 3 months, just after the family moved to Martley, and another at 13. The Rev. John Paget died in India aged 38; Dr. Sir Charles at 72; Admiral Sir Thomas at 80; Warren, a solicitor, at 64 (in the same year as his father); Admiral Francis Decimus at 74 and Henry, the only Rector of Martley as a sole parish to have been a Canon at Worcester Cathedral, at 77. The stoic Elizabeth Hastings died aged 82, at The Tything, on 22nd June 1844, 12 years before her husband, with whom she was buried to the right of the altar in Martley Church. Her memorial window, to the left of the Church door, sadly lists the names of the 8 of her children who died before she did.
However, the most famous of Martley’s Hastings was not a clergyman but a doctor – Sir Charles Hastings, who is credited with uniting doctors into a profession and who founded the world famous British Medical Association.
Charles was born on the llth January 1794. He was the 9th of the 15 children of the Rev. James Hastings who had already purchased the advowson of Martley but had not yet become Rector. In 1794, James was Rector of Bitterley and his wife Elizabeth moved to nearby Ludlow to give birth to Charles as their house was undergoing repairs. The family moved to Martley the following year to live in the ancient Rectory.
Charles went to the local grammar school but preferred to spend his time playing rural sports, or wandering through the woods and meadows studying natural history.
In 1810, 4 years after his father’s incapacitating accident, the family had to move to Paradise Row in Worcester. Charles, then 16, was apprenticed to Jukes and Watson, apothecaries of Stourport.
At 18, without qualifications and after only a few months study in London, Charles was appointed house surgeon at the Worcester Royal Infirmary albeit on a majority vote of one – the opposition being because of his youth. Three years later, in 1815, Charles enrolled at Edinburgh University where he graduated M.D. in 1818, the year after he had been elected President of the Edinburgh Royal Medical Society.
On 8th October 1818, when still only 24, Charles was appointed a physician of the Worcester Royal Infirmary where he was to stay for 43 years. In 1819, he was elected President of the Worcestershire Medical and Surgical Society.
It was on 19th July 1832, in the Infirmary’s Board Room and with over 50 doctors present, that Charles Hastings took his most far reaching initiative by launching The Provincial Medical and Surgical Association. Membership grew rapidly. 200 members attended the first anniversary meeting in Bristol, and seven years later the membership had grown to 1,180. Branches of the Association were formed across the country and although a Lancet editorial in 1833 had suggested `Provincial’ be replaced by `British’, it was not until 1856 that members changed the name to The British Medical Association. And it was not until 1955 that the BMA’s crest and motto -“With head and heart and hand” – was approved by the college of Arms.
To appreciate the importance of Charles Hastings’ initiative, one has to look at the state of medicine in the U.K. prior to the 1850s. The medical profession was divided into three separate bodies which made no attempt to swap information or research: namely, surgeons, physicians and apothecaries. Doctors in London had no contact with those in the provinces. There were 21 ways of becoming medically qualified, and a qualification obtained in one part of the country was not recognised in another. Indeed, Charles Hastings’ Edinburgh M.D. was not recognised in Worcester. Most worrying of all was that anyone could practice medicine without any qualifications, and there were probably more unqualified than qualified practitioners.
For 26 years the Association, led by Charles Hastings, petitioned governments to reform the medical profession by introducing proper qualifications to be recognised throughout the U.K., and by forming a medical governing body. Most of the Association’s aims were granted in the Medical Act of 1858, with Charles Hastings becoming one of the first members of the General Medical Council.
It was for his outstanding services to the nation’s medical profession that Charles Hastings was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1850.
As a doctor in Worcester, Charles Hastings was involved in fighting epidemics of cholera and typhus and fought vigorously to improve the living standards of the poor amongst whom these outbreaks so often occurred. He was also noted for his efforts to improve town sanitation.
He played an active part in local politics. In 1830 he presided at an anti-slavery meeting at the Guildhall, and in 1835 he was elected a Councillor for St. Nicholas Ward as a member of the Reform Party. He declined to be Mayor of Worcester but in 1860 he became a Deputy Lieutenant of Worcestershire. Sir Charles had still more interests. He was founder member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and he was a distinguished geologist and natural historian. He founded a Natural History Museum in Worcester. In 1834 he wrote the then famous “Illustration of the Natural History of Worcestershire”, which gave him the degree of D.C.L. for this work.
His interest in plants, which started while a schoolboy was no doubt linked to the herbal medicine on which, as a doctor, he would have relied. For example; Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove) for heart disease; Tussilago farfara (Coltsfoot) for coughs and as a poultice for ulcers and sores; Papaver somniferum (Opium poppy) as a pain killer, and Chamaemelum nobile (Chamomiles) as a sedative.
Charles married Hannah, the eldest daughter of Dr. George Woodyatt with whom Charles worked at the Infirmary, at St. Nicholas Church on 20th May, 1823. The service was conducted by the Dean of Worcester. Charles and Hannah had two daughters, and a son who was to become the M.P. for East Worcestershire between 1880-92.
Dr. Woodyatt died the next year, 1824, and Charles took over most of his practice and moved into his house, as a tenant, at 43 Foregate Street – opposite the City Library and now called Hastings House. His consulting room is occupied by a shop selling artists’ paints. By 1828, when only 34, Charles was the leading doctor of his day in the Midlands and enjoyed a large income.
He retired on 4th January 1862 and moved to Barnards Green House near Malvern which he had rented on and off since 1830. It was here on 30th July 1866, that he died of cancer three months after his wife had died in Worcester. He was 72. Sir Charles and Lady Hastings are buried together in Astwood Cemetery.
On the day of his funeral, 6th August, the City of Worcester fell silent with shops shut and blinds drawn. Everyone wanted to show respect and affection for this gentle and popular man whose work had benefited all.
Then in 1932, the centenary of the foundation of the BMA, a memorial window to Sir Charles Hastings was dedicated in Worcester Cathedral by the BMA president.
Amazingly, Charles was neither the only nor the first of Rector James’s sons to be knighted. Admiral Sir Thomas Hastings was knighted in 1839, eleven
years before Charles. He was awarded the C.B. the K.C.B. and in 1866 became Admiral of the Fleet. The 7th child (1790 – 1870), Thomas had a distinguished naval career and held many important posts including Captain Superintendent of the Royal Naval College. He was the first officer to take a scientific approach to gunnery. He became a magistrate and a Deputy Lieutenant of Herefordshire. As a reward for his bravery in the Napoleonic wars he was given the honour, as a 24 years old First Lieutenant, of escorting Napoleon Bonaparte on his sea journey into exile in Elba in 1814.
James’s tenth child, Francis, also became an Admiral, and a Justice of the Peace.
The Parish Council has therefore aptly named the new houses Hastings Close, as we in Martley can still rightly bask in the reflected glory not only of an internationally famous doctor, but of a Rector of a small village who produced two Admirals and two Knights, and whose family served the village so well and for so long as its priests.
Jeremy Campbell Grant acknowledges with thanks the help given him by the BMA, the late Canon Leatherbarrow’s research into the living of Martley & others. “The Life and Times of Sir Charles Hastings” by William McMenemey, although out of print, can be borrowed from the City Library.