New Accession: The Reverend Meade’s Scrapbook
Alongside our council, ecclesiastical and business archives, the History Centre also houses many collections created by individual people. These may be the holders of public office within their locale, or notable for achievements in their chosen field. We recently acquired one such personal archive, a single volume heavy leather-bound scrapbook compiled by the Reverend Sidney Meade (born Oct 1839, died Mar 1917). The scrapbook covers the years 1856 to 1914, and contains documents relating to both local and national events. The scrapbook has been given the archival reference number 1405A.
Sidney trained for the church and took his first curacy at St Mary’s Church, Reading. Between 1869 and 1882 he served as Curate for the parish of St Mary the Virgin in Wylye, and subsequently moved to the curacy of Christ Church, Bradford-on-Avon. Documents in the scrapbook tell us that Sidney was also a Canon of Salisbury Cathedral and a Justice of the Peace.
Sidney Meade was born into the nobility. He was the third and youngest son of Richard Meade, the third Earl of Clanwilliam, a prominent diplomat who became Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the Earl of Liverpool’s government. Sidney’s mother was Lady Elizabeth Herbert, daughter of the 11th Earl of Pembroke. His brother Richard (who inherited his father’s title in 1879) was by 1880 commander of the naval Flying Squadron, with his flag in the frigate HMS Inconstant. A cutting of this date gives us details of the ship’s construction and a list of the names of officers and men serving under him. Sidney also obtained a document from the Admiralty which details the Proposed Route of the Detached Squadron under Richard’s command, with the estimated speed and days at sea for each leg of the journey. A banquet seating plan of 1891 names Richard as Admiral of the Fleet, sat at the head of the high table alongside the future George V. Similarly, we can chart the career of Sidney’s brother Robert, who served as Head of the Colonial Office between 1892 and 1897, and at the time of his death the following year was the Permanent Under-Secretary for the Colonies.
Perhaps as a result of his family’s achievements, Sidney had a keen interest in national and international politics, which is reflected in his choice of documents in this volume. On one page, we find a vivid newspaper account of a Conservative Party fete held at Hedsor Park, near Maidenhead, and nearby, cartoons lampooning William Gladstone and Randolph Churchill. There is also a detailed diary of the war in South Africa printed in a newspaper from 1900, plus a copy of a newspaper letter Sidney himself wrote to the Salisbury and Winchester Journal in 1877 to campaign for the Russian Sick and Wounded Fund. One of our favourite documents is the poster notice of a forthcoming Peace Festival to mark the end of the Crimean War in 1856. The list of rural games which took place at Green Croft, Salisbury seem bizarre to modern audiences – climbing a greasy pole for a new hat and a leg of mutton, or the odd-sounding “jingling for a prize”.
Sidney’s family also often appeared in the society pages, which in themselves are rich with contextual detail. A newspaper account of the marriage of Sidney’s daughter Constance to Lieutenant-Colonel Sitwell of the Fifth Fusiliers regiment in 1902 includes a full list of the wedding gifts. These items vary from a diamond and ruby ring and ostrich feather and tortoiseshell fan from the groom, to a Chippendale looking-glass and a carved ivory Japanese umbrella handle from friends. This list gives us a wealth of detail of the family’s social circle and fashions in ornamental gifts at this time, and includes the intriguing information that the gifts of the Earl and Countess of Clanwilliam included a diamond spray of flowers which originally belonged to Queen Anne.
The scrapbook is also rich in detail concerning Sidney’s work within the parish, such as details of celebrations and services for Lent and harvest festivals. An 1876 Table of Fees at Wylye itemises the costs of such activities as publishing marriage banns, performing burial services and the cost of gravestone inscriptions. Links to local schools can also be explored through documents such as the printed accounts of the Wylye Church of England School for 1876-1878, plus an 1879 Order of Merit for pupils, which itemises the names of pupils, their marks in various subjects and the prizes awarded.
The scrapbook will be of interest to researchers of the Wylve area as a rich source of social history. An 1879 printed notice of the street lighting account for Wylye village details the costs of lighting and cleaning lamps, the use of oil and the sale of empty casks. A notice of the same year announces a forthcoming sale of the belongings of the outgoing Reverend J Stephens of Savernake Parsonage. Among the items for auction are a rare Spanish cabinet, Stephen’s collection of Turkish and Persian carpets and a jewelled medallion portrait of Isabella I of Castille.
Sidney also included notices of community events, such as the 1872 Amateur Concert in Aid of the Funds for Rebuilding the Organ at Wylye, and a programme for performances of scenes from As You Like It by the Woodland Players (1890). Various civic events are also covered, such as the opening of the Bradford Church Lad’s Brigade Drill Hall by the Bishop of Salisbury (1914) and illustrations of an event to mark the opening of the Bradford Water Works in 1883.
There is further interest for local and social historians through documents such as an 1880 newspaper account of a railway accident near Wilton, when platelayers were killed by an oncoming Salisbury train. Nearby is a newspaper account of the annual dinner of the Salisbury Constitutional Union and Working Men’s Association in 1879. Sidney also collected notices and ephemera relating to local elections, including a satirical account of the political death of the Liberal candidate John Freeman Norris following his defeat to the Conservative Sidney Herbert in the 1877 Wilton by-election. Ephemera relating to the 1886 West Wiltshire Election includes opinion pieces on the big issues of the day – the Irish Land Bill and the rights of agricultural labourers.
As befits Sidney’s work the scrapbook is also filled with interest for the ecclesiastical scholar. We have details of the printed prayers issued by the Church of England to be used at all churches and chapels on national or royal occasions. These include the Official Form of Prayer issued to pray for the recovery of the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) from typhoid, to be used on or after Sunday 10th Dec 1871. Also, a copy of the printed prayer used at the Golden Jubilee Thanksgiving Service for Queen Victoria in 1887. Other aspects of ecclesiastical policy are also in evidence, such as an 1869 notice of the decision by the Bishop of Oxford not to allow unauthorised bibles to be used in churches, plus an 1873 newspaper article on a meeting at Warminster in Defence of the Athanasian Creed, an event which Sidney took part in.
It is obviously impossible to outline all the delights of such an extensive and diverse volume. The juxtaposition of the personal and political, the local with the international makes this a pleasurably wide-ranging read. The volume complements our collections of parish records relating to the churches of St Mary the Virgin, Wylye and Christ Church, Bradford-on-Avon, as well as various social history collections pertaining to the two towns. We are grateful for the efforts of Ivor Slocombe (Wiltshire Record Society) in obtaining this fascinating volume for the History Centre.
David Plant, Archivist
This article was first published in the newsletter for the Wiltshire Record Society