Survey of London Monograph 10, Morden College, Blackheath. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1916.
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IV.—HISTORY OF THE COLLEGE.
IN his will and in his code of rules, both of which are given in extenso on pp. 52–63, Sir John Morden made careful provision for the government of the College after his death. He appointed the first trustees or "visitors," among whom was Lady Morden, and thereafter directed that vacancies were to be filled by members of the Turkey Company. Failing them, the duty fell upon the East India Company, and after them upon the Court of Aldermen of the City of London. As events turned out, it happened that each of these bodies were required to discharge the trust, and the history of the College may thus be conveniently divided into the following periods:—
3. Under the East India Company, 1825–1884. (fn. 1)
Sir John Morden died on 6th September 1708, and in the certificate of burial preserved in the College of Arms is the statement that he was interred in the "College erected by him . . . anno 1700." Building operations, however, must have begun some years before this, and in the list of Sir Christopher Wren's works, (compiled by his son and authenticated by Wren's signature,) preserved in the British Museum, Morden College appears under the date 1695–1702. (fn. 2) This list, which is dated 1720, is transcribed by James Elmes in "Sir Christopher Wren and his Times" (London, 1852), and the same writer states that the building was soundly and scientifically constructed by Wren's able and honest master mason, Edward Strong. (fn. 3)
John Strype, in his edition of Stow's "Survey of London" (1720), makes much of the resemblance between Morden College and the College built by Dr. Warner, Bishop of Rochester, at Bromley, Kent. Reference has already been made (fn. 4) to Sir John Morden's connection with Bromley College, to which he was appointed trustee in 1693 and treasurer in 1695. It seems likely that he accepted these duties in order to obtain a working knowledge of the administration of an institution similar to the one he was about to found, and there are many points, particularly in the architectural arrangement, in which the two Colleges agree. Sir John must have given infinite thought and pains to the launching of his project, for he was to consecrate practically the whole of his fortune to its endowment. Defoe, in his "Tour through Great Britain" (1724), records a conversation which he had with him concerning the College, "the year before he began to build," probably in 1694.
Sir John, in a petition to the Crown dated May 1699, states that "having built" a college for 40 decayed merchants which had cost him £10,000, and being about to settle £1,000 per annum thereon, he had been advised that a part of his estate, namely, the Manor of Old Court, Greenwich, (the 77 years lease of which had been purchased from Lady Boreman in June 1698,) and Sedgwick Park, Sussex, being intended for the poor of the said College for ever, could not be so settled unless he had the inheritance thereof. He therefore prayed His Majesty King William the Third to grant him the property in fee farm, which was in due course done, the grant being dated 1st November 1699.
The first pensioners were admitted on 24th June 1700, so that the buildings were, if not quite complete, at least substantially so by that date. The chapel was consecrated by Thomas Sprat, Bishop of Rochester and Dean of Westminster. The service and the dinner afterwards (the latter costing upwards of £50) are described by Strype, (fn. 5) whom Treasurer Smith (fn. 6) follows in assigning the ceremony to the year 1700.
Dr. Lansdell (fn. 7) has, however, brought to light the act of consecration from the archives of the Registrar of the diocese of Rochester, a copy of which is endorsed 29th September 1701. This contains Sir John's petition for the consecration of the chapel, and also of the burial ground, and gives the service used. In the petition are the words "promising and obliging himself his executors and administrators continually to keep the same in repair," etc., obviously anticipating his will, which was not signed until 15th October 1702. It is curious that this will directs that "the chapel be consecrated," but being a lengthy detailed document it must have been drawn up some time prior to its signature and prior to the actual consecration in 1701. It may be noted that the first chaplain, Robert Warren, was appointed early in 1702.
From the foregoing we are, I think, entitled to adopt 1695 as the year of the commencement of the building, and, whatever be the actual date of completion, the finishing touches were evidently given from 1700 to 1702.
On the 24th June the first five pensioners were admitted, their names being:—Thomas Evans, Jonathan Prickman, Edward Bradbourne, John Shorter and Livewell Sherwood. In all, Sir John Morden received fourteen pensionersduring his lifetime, of whom five died in the same period, leaving a roll of eight at his own death. Sir John was his own treasurer, but appointed the four first chaplains, who will be noticed on a later page. The servants of the College included John Thompson and his wife Catherine. Thompson, who had been "Yeoman of the Mouth" to Charles II., James II., and William III., ended his days as cook to the College, and was buried in the burial ground, where he is commemorated in a long inscription. (fn. 8)
The second period of the administration of Morden College, which followed Sir John Morden's death in 1708, began with the trusteeship of Lady Morden, Sir Pelatiah Barnardiston, Sir Edmund Harrison and Daniel Morse. There is no record of the last-named having taken any part in the work, but both Barnardiston and Harrison carried out their duties until the former's death in 1712. He was a nephew of Sir Samuel Barnardiston, who married Thomasin, Lady Morden's sister.
One trustee only being now left beside Lady Morden, five new members were appointed to bring the number up to seven as provided in Sir John Morden's will. Morden had indeed named the first five, but only one of these, namely William Fawkener, was available, and the others were chosen from the Turkey Company.
Lady Morden admitted six pensioners between 1711 and 1718. Lysons (fn. 9) has a statement that she was obliged to reduce the number of inmates to five on account of insufficient income, but the absence of any record of burials between 1715 and 1737 gives us no means of testing the accuracy of this. (fn. 10) Lady Morden died on 26th June 1721, at the age of 83. She made several bequests to the College, besides the sum of "ten shillings apiece to ten poor widdows of the parish of St. Dunstan's in the East, London, wherein I was born." Among her gifts was the sum of £100 " for a perpetual augmentation of the sallary of the chaplain," £10 to Mr. Plymley the chaplain, a " silver bason built for christening children," several pictures, including the portraits of herself, Sir John Morden, and Queen Anne, which now hang in the dining hall, and £200 to be laid out in buying a velvet pall for the use of the said College and for setting up Sir John Morden's and my own effigies in the stone over the entering door into the College in case the same shall not be done during my lifetime." (fn. 11)
The bequest for the increase in the chaplain's salary was at first invested, but in 1724 it was laid out in the purchase of a plot of land called Hilly Field. This did not for many years prove remarkably profitable. In 1766 the land was leased for 61 years to a Mr. Grote at a rental of £13, who built houses, known as Grote's Buildings, thereon. When, however, his lease terminated in 1827 the chaplain found himself in possession of an annual augmentation of between £600 and £700.
Lady Morden's executors were Nathaniel Brand, her nephew, and Sir Charles Peers, who had married her niece Sarah Bauds. To them fell the duty of disposing of Wricklemarsh, Sir John Morden's estate, in which his wife had only a life interest. In 1723 the property was sold for £9,000 to Sir Gregory Page, Bart., who pulled down the old houses and built a magnificent Georgian mansion, (fn. 12) which is shown with its gardens and avenues on Rocque's map of London. Immediately on receipt of the increase in the College funds the trustees added considerably to the number of pensioners, and Defoe (fn. 13) records that in 1724 the inmates numbered 35.
Nathaniel Brand, in his joint capacity of Lady Morden's executor and treasurer of the College, incurred the suspicion of the trustees in regard to his handling of the numerous financial transactions involved, and he resigned in 1729. He was succeeded in 1730 by Joseph Brand, another nephew of Lady Morden, the son of her eldest brother, Sir Joseph. In 1743–4 three members proceeded against the trustees, to compel them to divide among the pensioners a supposed surplus of funds and to remove certain grievances. Dr. Lansdell (fn. 14) records that on 5th July 1734 an Information was filed in Chancery in the name of Sir D. Ryder, the Attorney-General, against the trustees. The case, however, fell to the ground, and the petitioning members were dismissed from the College.
A lawsuit of greater magnitude was threatened in 1750, when the steward of the Royal Manor of Greenwich disputed the right of the College to grant certain leases on Maidenstone Hill. The Manor of Old Court, (fn. 15) Greenwich, had been purchased from the Crown for the endowment of the College, and the question in dispute related to the proper inclusion or exclusion of the leased land in the original purchase. The matter dragged on until 1770, when an agreement (fn. 16) was reached by which the trustees admitted the contention of the Crown and accepted a 50 years' lease of Maidenstone Hill at a yearly rental of £7 17s. 5d. The arrangement was confirmed by Act of Parliament, (fn. 17) and in it was inserted a clause by which the trustees were empowered to increase the allowances to the pensioners of the College up to a maximum of £40 a year. In 1823 the trustees purchased the Crown's interest in Maidenstone Hill for £5,053 5s. 5d. (fn. 18)
In 1729 the gallery in the chapel was altered so as to allow of its being approached as at present by a staircase from the vestibule, in place of the original internal stair. It may be remarked here that the chapel was the scene in the first half of the 18th century of an extraordinary number of marriages, people coming from all parts of the county for this purpose. During the chaplaincy of Mr. Plymley (1714–1759) no fewer than 437 marriages were solemnized and the Register is therefore of much interest. In 1752 and 1753 there were 42 and 41 marriages respectively, but in the following year the trustees made a grant of an extra £6 to the chapel clerk " to make up for loss of fees arising from clandestine marriages, now stopped by Act of Parliament." (fn. 19)
No events of particular importance to the Foundation occurred during the latter part of the 18th century. The financial resources steadily increased. Lysons gives the annual income in 1796 as £1,600, and ten years before this the trustees had been able to purchase the fee-farm rent of the Manor of Old Court, Greenwich, thus making it their absolute freehold.
Important changes occurred in the next century, during the long treasurership of Henry William Smith (1819 to 1872), to whose researches all writers on Morden College must acknowledge a consider able debt.
In the first place, in 1825 the Turkey or Levant Company surrendered its charter and ceased to exist. A vacancy occurring in this year in the Board of Trustees, it was filled, according to Sir John Morden's will, by the election of a member of the East India Company, the first of 18 trustees from this source.
|At the foundation of the College, per year||£20|
|Reduced by codicil to Sir John Morden's will||15|
The petition was not acceded to, with the result that a few years later a Chancery suit was instituted against the trustees. The pensioners ultimately got their desire, but not until the proceedings had dragged on for 12 years, some £5,000 of the Charity's money had been sunk in expenses, and the last of the petitioners had died! It is little wonder that in 1843 the pensioners besought the trustees to close "the long and vexatious and expensive suit, as a means of promoting a kind good feeling between those who are the dispensers of and those who are the grateful recipients of the bounty of Sir John Morden." (fn. 20)
On the 30th June 1837 was published the report on the College by the Charity Commissioners, in pursuance of the various Acts of Parliament that owed their existence to the zeal of Lord Brougham. It may be noted that the income of the Charity is herein stated to be £5,264 7s. 1d. A further report, presented in 1864, by Thomas Hare, Inspector of Charities, was printed as a House of Commons paper, (fn. 21) and in 1871 a scheme for the administration of the Foundation was prepared by the Board of Charity Commissioners. It was not put in force until 1881, when certain clauses were added, the most revolutionary of which was the absorption of the property devised by Lady Morden for the chaplain's use into the general funds of the College.
In 1874 the East India Company was formally dissolved by Act of Parliament, and it was forthwith incumbent upon the trustees of the College to fill future vacancies in their number from the Court of Aldermen of the City of London, if they were to follow the Founder's directions.
In the Scheme of 1871, however, the Charity Commissioners had left the question of the election of trustees open, and the trustees proceeded to elect new members, one in 1875 and two in 1878, without consulting the aldermen. This led first to the matter being raised in Parliament (1878) by Sir Andrew Lusk, and ultimately to an action in the Chancery Division (1879) against the trustees. The Court of Aldermen established their right without difficulty, and in 1884 the first alderman, Robert Nicholas Fowler, Lord Mayor, was elected to a position on the Board. So to the present day the Founder's wishes are fulfilled, and his College for decayed merchants is administered by the representatives of the greatest mercantile city in the world.
As a final note it may be interesting to record the great increase in the prosperity of the Foundation during its direction by members of the East India Company, and to compare the figures with the present day.
|No. of members||28||40||40|
The following is a list of chaplains, treasurers and trustees of the College, with short biographical notes (fn. 22):—
Sir John Morden's letter to the Bishop of Rochester desiring a licence for Robert Warren to officiate in his chapel is dated 26th January 1701–2, and the licence itself is dated 29th January following ("Register of the Diocese of Rochester" quoted by Dr. Lansdell.) (fn. 23) Mr. Warren commenced the Chapel Register at the College. He left in the same year and became Rector of Charlton, and afterwards of Hampstead.
The date of admission in the College Register is 25th October 1702. The Bishop of Rochester's licence is dated 11th December in the same year. Mr. Davies left in 1705 to become master of Colfe's Grammar School. His election thereto and the subsequent dinner at the Bowling Green House are described in the "Proceedings of the Governors" of the school, and are quoted by L.L. Duncan in his "History of Colfe's Grammar School."
The last chaplain appointed by the Founder. He had the misfortune to incur the enmity of the trustees, whose religious convictions were of a Puritanic complexion. When, therefore, a dispute arose between the chaplain and Thomas Smith, the butler and chapel clerk, following the funeral of Sir John, the trustees supported the clerk, although they did not prevent his summary dismissal. Smith started proceedings (fn. 24) against Mr. Asplin, which, although they did not come to a trial, resulted in the chaplain's resignation. Mr. Asplin preached a farewell sermon on 29th April 1711, which was printed at the request of many friends who supported him. It treated of "The Divine Origin and Office of the Christian Priesthood" and contained a vindication of his own position.
Nominated by Lady Morden, he took up his duties on 24th June 1714. He was not, however, admitted to priest's orders until 1719, and was then licensed to officiate in the College chapel by the Bishop of Southwark. It was during Mr. Plymley's chaplaincy that the chapel became a popular resort for effecting clandestine marriages, a circumstance already referred to as a source of revenue to chaplain and chapel clerk. He was relieved of office on account of ill-health in January 1759, and died the following February. His tombstone in the College burial ground records, beside his virtues, that he was Prebendary of the collegiate church of Wolverhampton.
According to the "Dictionary of National Biography," Moses Browne, a pen cutter by trade, was born in 1704. He entered Holy Orders and became curate in 1753 to James Henry, author of "Meditations among the Tombs." In the same year he was presented with the living of Olney by the Earl of Dartmouth.
In 1763, whilst retaining his vicarage, he accepted the chaplaincy of Morden College, leaving Olney in the charge of his curate, John Newton, the intimate friend of Cowper. Moses Browne, beside being the chief poetical contributor to the Gentleman's Magazine, produced several literary works, including "Angling Sports in Nine Piscatory Eclogues." He was a zealous chaplain, so much so that the pensioners rebelled against some of his ministrations, and the trustees were induced to put a mild check on his enthusiasm.
He was father of a numerous family, and Dr. Lansdell (fn. 25) notes the baptism of four-and-twenty grandchildren between 1764 and 1787. His wife Anne died in 1783, and his own death occurred in 1787. Their vault lies in the burial ground under the walk of arched fruit trees planted by Dr. Lansdell about 15 feet south of the headstone described on page 23.
A friend of the late chaplain, who had occasionally officiated at the College chapel, George Patrick was elected to succeed Moses Browne on 10th October 1787. His name has also found a place in the "Dictionary of National Biography," but at Morden College he was "without honour." His missionary zeal, together with his extempore sermons and prayers, called down upon him the complaints of the members and the rebuke of the trustees. He earned the title of "Methodist" chaplain, and in 1790 he was dismissed in circumstances not greatly to the credit of the authorities concerned. His later experiences were more fortunate, and after taking a curacy at Carshalton he became evening lecturer, first at St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, and afterwards at St. Bride's, Fleet Street, where he drew large audiences. He joined the Eclectic Society the year before its members inaugurated the Church Missionary Society, and died in 1800 at Madeley, where he lies buried. Portraits of him now hang in the library and the vestry of the College which formerly rejected him.
Although it is clearly stated in Sir John Morden's will that the offices of chaplain and treasurer were to be filled whenever possible by relatives of his own family, the rule had not been observed in the election of former candidates for the chaplaincy. In 1819, however, the trustees, foreseeing that this office would become a very valuable one when the lease of the houses built on the chaplain's field would be surrendered, (fn. 26) took counsel's opinion on the terms of the will, and eventually advertised for candidates of the Founder's kin. As a result, William Marsh, of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and curate of Calstone, Wilts, who proved his relationship with Lady Morden's family, was elected in May 1819. He brought up a large family, many of whom settled in the neighbourhood, and at his death in 1842 was succeeded by his eldest son.
A kinsman of Sir John Morden's family, William Collett came from the parish of St. Mary's, Thetford, Norfolk, to become chaplain. His Founder's Day sermon, delivered on 24th June 1863, was printed at the cost of the trustees.
According to Dr. Lansdell, (fn. 27) "Mr. Harbord was descended from John Morden of Exning, Suffolk, (the great-great-grandfather of Sir John Morden,) through Sir William Morden, first baronet, who inherited estates of his maternal uncle, and assumed in 1742 the name of Harbord." He was rector of Hanworth (Norfolk) before coming to Morden College.
Author of "Princess Ælfrida's Charity," "Russian Central Asia," "Chinese Central Asia," "Through Siberia," "Through Central Asia," and several books on tithe. The first is a work of great historical value on the College and the antecedent history of the properties with which it is endowed.
Nephew of Lady Morden (the elder son of her brother Thomas). Nathaniel Brand was appointed treasurer by a document entitled "The Deed Roll of the Founder," which no longer exists. He took office upon Sir John Morden's death, and his intimate relationship with Lady Morden no doubt facilitated the direction of affairs according to her wishes. At her death, however, he was not so successful in carrying out the joint duties of her executor and treasurer of the College. He was accused of fraud by the trustees and was forced to resign on the 9th of May 1729. Mr. Brand was a solicitor practising in Thavies Inn and was sometime Master of the Inn.
Grandson of Lady Morden's youngest sister Anne, who married Sir John Bennett, Serjeant-at-Law and Judge of the Marshalsea Court. He died on a journey to Bath in 1782, and was brought to Blackheath and interred in the Founder's vault beneath the chapel. He was a barrister and member of Lincoln's Inn.
During the long period of his treasurership Mr. Smith did much valuable work for the College, and left important records for the later historian. He claimed descent, on his mother's side, from Thomas Brand, brother of Lady Morden. One of his first duties was the collection and revision of the College rules which had fallen into disuse, and one of his last important achievements was the compilation of the "General Register of the College." This latter is a folio MS. volume in which are inscribed a large number of historical details and records relating to the College, lists of officers, trustees and members, and a biographical sketch, entitled "Rough Notes towards a Memoir of Sir John Morden." The memoir was ultimately printed, and issued in three editions in 1853, 1867 and 1892.
Mr. Smith was associated with the promoters and founders of King's College School, and he served as its secretary until about 1843. This entailed attendance at the school, and it was not until 1845, when his salary as treasurer was raised from some £70 to £400, that he was able to give his whole time to Morden College. Several relatives of the treasurer are buried in the College burial ground, including his younger son, and the parents of his second wife. His first wife was interred in the Founder's vault, and on his death in 1872, at the age of 85, his body was laid in the same resting place.
Trustees from the Turkey Company.
Trustee appointed by Sir John Morden. He is mentioned by Prinsep, in his "Record of Services of the Hon. East India Company's Civil Servants in the Madras Presidency," as a director of an English Company.
Trustee appointed by Sir John Morden. He was a nephew of the Founder's brother-in-law, Sir Samuel Barnardiston, Bt., and ultimately succeeded to his title and estate. He was a member of the Turkey Company.
Dr. Lansdell (fn. 28) refers to a Nicholas Morse, Governor of Fort St. George, Madras, at the time of its capture (1746) by La Bourdonais, and suggests that he may have been a son of the trustee.
He was a director of the Bank of England, and a notice of his death occurs in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1752 (p. 385). He left legacies to the chaplain, treasurer and members of the College. It is traditionally asserted that he was buried, at his own wish, without a coffin, near one of the College gates. Dr. Lansdell believes that the interment took place in the burial ground. A contemporary account of the funeral is given in the Gentleman's Magazine, and another reference occurs in Dr. Robinson's "History and Antiquities of Stoke Newington" (p. 101).
Originally Richard Muilman, changed his name to Trench Chiswell on succeeding to the Debden Hall estate. He was the son of a Dutch merchant and entered Parliament as member for Aldborough. An antiquary, he collected notes on the history of Essex. He committed suicide in 1797.
Trustees from the East India Company.
(fn. 29) Hon. Ronald Ruthven Leslie-Melville, afterwards Earl of Leven and Melville (1875–1895).
(fn. 29)Henry Burnley Heath (1878–1895).
(fn. 29)James Stewart Hodgson (1878–1895).