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It is not many Parish Churches who can claim to have had as a curate a member of the aristocracy but from 1859 until 1861 the Hon and Rev George Damer Parnell MA was such a curate whose sister Caroline Sophia Parnell married Charles Thomas Longley MA, DD then Headmaster of Harrow School on the 15th December 1831. But who was the Hon Rev G.D. Parnell who maintained at Ash Rectory, a cook, a footman, a gardener and a lady's maid?
George Damer Parnell was born on 5th November 1810 the youngest son of Sir Henry Brooke Parnell 4th Baronet and the first Baron Congleton (a creation of 1841), his mother being Lady Caroline Elizabeth Dawson the eldest daughter of John, first Earl of Porterlington. He graduated from Downing College, Cambridge, taking his Bachelors degree in 1839 and proceeding to his Masters degree in 1843.
From 1857 to 1859 he held the incumbency of St Thomas's, Elson near Gosport. He next held for a short time the curacy of Ash-next-Sandwich - according to "The Times" obituary, but on this occasion "The Thunderer" was wrong! And in 1861 shortly after the census of that year he was nominated Vicar of Long Cross near Chertsey, Surrey, which living he resigned in 1875. Mr. Parnell married in 1833, Catherine, the youngest daughter of Sir John St Aubyn, she died 17th March 1899 whilst her husband died at his home in Ecclestone Square, London on 17th December 1882 from an attack of congestion of the lungs. There were no children of the marriage. His brother-in-law was Charles Thomas Longley, Headmaster of Harrow School 1829-1836, consecrated the first Bishop of Ripon at York on 6th November 1836 by Archbishop Harcourt of York, Hugh of Carlisle and John Bird of Chester, translated to Durham 1856-1860, Archbishop of York 1860-1862 and Canterbury 1862-1868.
Nearly fifty years ago I was given a letter written by the Curate of SS Peter and Paul, Ash, brother-in-law whilst he was Bishop of Ripon and which was addressed to the Vicar of Halifax and Archdeacon of Craven the Ven Charles Musgrave DD who held the vicarage of Halifax from 1827 to 1875 and it might be of interest to reproduce the letter in full; it is undated but circa 1840.
"My dear Archdeacon
I lose not a moment in saying that I fully understood from you that you fully wished the Consecration of Stainland Church to be postponed in consequence of the lamentable accident that had occurred. I am happy to say, however, that my mistake may easily be rectified, let Stainland be for the Monday, Sowerby for the Tuesday and Mirfield for the Wednesday. Will you be so good as to request Mr. Norris to arrange accordingly and as Austwick is already licensed and there are two churches in the neighbourhood which will soon require consecration I will leave them all for the same opportunity.
You will perhaps be so good as to let Mr. Norris know of my wishes on this head. I will not fail to write to Mr. Jelf.
Mr. Baron was an old schoolfellow and fellow collegion of mine. We had never seen or heard of each other for five and twenty years, till we found ourselves in Bradford last autumn, he coming to take possession of a large inheritance which had just fallen to him, and I to the exercise of my Episcopal Duties.
Believe me, my dear Archdeacon,
Very faithfully yours C.T. Ripon
PS. If Mr. Norris has already made arrangements for Austwick let them stand, otherwise I had rather the Consecration were postponed."
It is indeed 'Stranger than fiction' as Ripley used to comment that for nearly half-a-century this letter has been in my possession and that I now have an unusual association with the parish where Charles Thomas Longley's brother-in-law ministered.
The Times - 21 December 1882
Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum - Rt. Rev. W. Stubbs, Bishop of Oxford 1897
The Norrises of Halifax, R. Bretton, Halifax Antiquarian Society Transactions 1962 A Downland Parish Ash-cum-Ridley W.F. Proudfoot.