The Rev. Paul Williams Wyatt 1856-1935
by Linda Ayres
The Rev. Paul Williams Wyatt was a man of many gifts and talents which throughout his long life were dedicated to the good of society. He was a popular figure in Bedford and liked everyone to call him by his Christian name. Paul’s father, James Wyatt, was the founder and editor of the Bedford Times in 1845. He also led the campaign to close the churchyards in the town. In his role as Borough Treasurer he had purchased Foster Hill Road Cemetery which opened on the 5th June 1855. (See Article How it all Began – James Wyatt)
Paul was born in 1856 at St. Peter’s Green, Bedford. His christening was held on the 20th November 1856 at St. Peter’s Church, Bedford. He was the third son of James Wyatt and his wife Augusta Sophia Lavinia, nee Coleman. Paul had three brothers, Otho Illesley Wyatt (1845-1855), Rev. Vitruvius Partridge Wyatt (1846-1899), and Arthur James Hervey Wyatt (1861-1938).
Paul’s early years
Paul went to the Bedford (Grammar) School and in 1874 was the Head Boy and then studied at Christ Church College Oxford. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1878 and a Master of Arts degree in 1881. He was ordained by the Bishop of Colchester in 1879, and held his first curacy at St. Mary at the Walls Church, Colchester. He subsequently became the curate of St. Bartholomew’s Church, Sydenham, South London and of St. Matthew’s Church, Sydenham Hill. In 1883, he was appointed Evening Preacher at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly. He was then for two years the Vicar of St. Philip’s Church, Regent Street. At the age of 27 he was one of the youngest incumbents ever appointed in the West End of London. His next appointment was as the Assistant Chaplain of the Queen’s Chapel in the Precinct of the Savoy. The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy, is the church dedicated to St. John the Baptist, which is next to the Savoy Hotel. In 1886, Paul became ill due to the stress of work, and resigned his post and returned to Bedford. He would sometimes take the services at the Savoy when the Chaplain was at Osborn House or Windsor Castle.
St. Leonard’s Parish and Church
After a few months his health had improved and he took on the appointment as the Rector of St. Mary’s Parish, Bedford. He split the parish into two to form a separate district. This new district became known as the parish of St. Leonard. At his own expense he set to work to build a temporary iron church, a cottage hospital, and a reading room. In 1894 he returned to the Chapel Royal as the Assistant Chaplain. He appointed his brother, Rev. Vitruvius Wyatt, as curate of St. Leonard’s Church, and as his Assistant Chaplain at the Chapel Royal. On the 28th June 1889 the dedication of St. Leonard’s Church took place. Every Sunday St Leonard’s Church was filled with worshippers and became a successful ministry for many years.
Paul also started a fund for the permanent church in Victoria Road. In September 1911 he laid the foundation stone. On the 26th September 1912, St. Leonard’s Church opened for public worship. The south transept contained the Wyatt Memorial Chapel, which commemorated Paul’s parents James and Augusta. In 1988 St. Leonard’s Church was damaged by fire and demolished in 1990.
His home at Austin Canons
For many years Paul had lived with his grandmother, Mary Williams, at 6 Harpur Place, during the times he was in Bedford. Mary died on the 9th January 1884 her burial took place in the Wyatt enclosure at Foster Hill Road Cemetery.
Section G9, Grave 44. In September 1885, Paul had a stained-glass window installed in the north aisle of St. Paul’s Church, Bedford, to the memory of Mary and her third husband William Williams. It has three panels that represent three of the seven virtues, Fortitude, Faith and Charity. Paul moved out of Harpur Place about 1891 when he had built his home on the banks of the Ouse, near the old Cauldwell Priory. He named the house after the early settlers, “Austin Canons.” He devoted much of his time there to gardening and botany.
Public Life and Politics
In 1891 he joined the County Council. When Samuel Whitbread the Liberal M.P. for Bedford retired in 1892 after forty years, Paul became the Radical and Socialist candidate for the Borough. There was an active Socialist movement at that time in the town, at the head of which was Mr. Steele, a Bedford School Master. On the advice of a friend Paul retired from the candidature, as in those days, a clergyman could not sit in the House of Commons, and he was unwilling to resign Holy Orders. He was elected alderman, and was also Justice of Peace for the County.
Paul was the President of the Local Ambulance Centre and a member of the Central Executive Committee of the St. John Ambulance Association. He was made an Hon. Associate and a Chaplain of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in England by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. In July 1893 he was the preacher on the occasion of the unveiling of St. John’s Gate Memorial to the late Duke of Clarence. The memorial was erected by the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in honour of the Duke of Clarence as its first Sub-Prior since the incorporation of the Order by the Royal Charter.
On the 9th September 1897 Paul had a narrow escape while travelling by train from St. Pancras to Bedford. When the train was near the Welsh Harp, a reservoir between Hendon and Wembley Park in London, a missile, suspected to be a bullet, passed through the carriage window on one side and out at the other, narrowly missing Paul’s head. Some of the glass from the broken window slightly grazed his face.
Another incident took place while he was director of Bedford gas works, when Paul woke up one night to find he could not breathe. It seems that at midnight on the 14th February 1908 the main tap at the gas works for some unexplained reason was turned off, with the result that the whole town was plunged into darkness. The resident engineer promptly turned the gas on again. This resulted in gas escaping into a large number of rooms, mainly bedrooms, where the gas had previously been burning all night. Paul managed to reach a window that he opened. As luck would have it there were no fatalities. Paul was appointed Chairman of the gas board in 1908.
Queen Victoria’s funeral
After the death of Queen Victoria on the 22nd January 1901 at Osborn House, on the Isle of Wight. Her body was conveyed by boat and train to Waterloo Station, then by gun carriage to Paddington Station and then by train to, St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, for the funeral service, which took place on the 2nd February. On the day of the Queens funeral Paul was in Italy. He was there by the orders of the British Consul at Naples. He took the memorial service at the English Church in Naples. He gave the address from “ Ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord,” as the dominate inspiration of Her Majesty’s life and work for her people. All the flags were flown at half-mast that day in Naples. The congregation numbered 800 and included the Italian authorities and the King’s Commissioner, the Consuls of 14 nations were present and in full uniform, and a large number of English, Danish and Americans.
The Marriage and engagement of Rev. Paul Williams Wyatt to the Dowager Countess De La Warr
On the 28th March 1902, Paul announced his engagement to Constance Mary Elizabeth, nee Cochrane-Wishart-Bailie, the Dowager Countess De La Warr. She was born on the 7th February 1846. She was the eldest daughter of Alexander Dundas Ross Cochrane-Wishart-Baillie, the 1st Baron Lamington. Constance was made the Countess De La Warr when in 1867 she married, Reginald Windsor Sackville, 7th Earl De La Warr, who died in 1896. He was Chaplain to Queen Victoria from 1846 to 1865. She was an aunt by marriage to the 10th Duke of Bedford and whose mother was Lady Elizabeth Sackville West, sister of the 7th Earl De La Warr, and sister-in-law of Constance.
Paul and Constance were married on the 12th July 1902 in the Savoy Chapel Royal. Her brother, Lord Lamington, gave her away. She wore a dress of silver-grey satin, and some beautiful jewellery, which included a diamond cross pendant on a pearl necklace and fixed to the laces of her dress, were diamond ornaments. There were no bridesmaids, but she had the support of her two daughters, Lady Mary and Lady Margaret Sackville, who were both dressed in pale blue, and made the striking contrast, Lady Mary being very tall with auburn hair, while Lady Margaret (the well-known poet and children’s author) was petite with dark hair. The best man was Viscount Doneral, and next to him stood the Hon. W. E. Goschen, Warden of the Savoy.
The Bishop of Southwark officiated, assisted by the Rev. Dr. Sheppard, Sub-dean of the Chapels Royal, and Rev. Vitruvius Wyatt, Vicar of St. Leonard’s Church, Bedford. The service was choral, and the music included the special Savoy Hymn, “To Thee, O loving Saviour,” and “O perfect love,” “The King of Love, my shepherd is” (Gounod), sung while the register was being signed, and Wagner’s “Kaiser” March, played as the bride and bridegroom made their way from the chapel.
A few friends attended the reception held at Lady De La Warr’s house in Chesham Street, Knightsbridge, London. They were the Belgian Minister, the Marchess de Vitelleschi, Lord and Lady Lamington, Earl De La Warr, Mrs Wyatt, the Rev. Vitruvius Wyatt, Lady Mary Sackville, Lady Margaret Sackville, Viscount and Viscountess Melville, Viscountess Cantelupe, Lady Victoria and Lady Elsie Manners. In the course of the afternoon, the couple left for Bexhill, the seat of Earl De La Warr.
After their marriage they spent much of their time at Constance’s homes in London, and Inchmery, on the shores of Southampton, also at 2 Magdala Place, Edinburgh. They spent little time at Austin Canons, Bedford. They enjoyed the social season, the balls, dinner parties and charity events.
The Tatler 5th April 1905, reported, “The Rev. Paul Wyatt was not exclusively churchy but is rather a man of the world and very fond of dining out. Both Lady De la Warr and Mr. Wyatt are excellent company. Lady De la Warr is, an exceptionally clever woman, very fond of music, and rather given to writing on social subjects.”
Paul resigns from the Chapel Royal
In 1908 Paul resigned his post as chaplain at the Chapel Royal. His reason for resigning was that he believed that 25 years is too long for a congregation to listen to a single voice, and be subject to the teaching of one man. He returned to Bedford and continued his public duties, and assisted in the church services. It appears that Constance did not return to Bedford with Paul.
On the 19th July 1929 Constance died aged 83, at Easter Dudingston, near Edinburgh. In 1905, she had converted to the Catholic faith. The funeral took place at St. John’s Catholic Church, Portobello, Lamington, Lanarkshire. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Edinburgh assisted by the Rev. A. E. Franklin, conducted the service. The mourners included Lady Margaret Sackville (daughter), Lord Lamington (brother), Viscountess Melville (sister), and tenants and friends from Lamington. Paul was unable to travel to Scotland for the funeral. For those who could not attend the funeral, a service was held at the same time as the burial at Lamington in the Church of Holy Child and St Joseph, Bedford.
George Orchard Paul’s valet and confidential agent
On the 7th February 1933, George Orchard died aged 77 years at Austin Canons. He had been unwell for fifteen years. He worked for fifty years for Paul as his valet and confidential agent, he had toured extensively with Paul and visited many of the continental capitals. He was born at Ashby -De-La-Zouch, Derbyshire, he was of a quiet, retiring character, and was unmarried. His burial took place inside the Wyatt enclosure. Section G5 Grave 75.
Paul’s final days and private funeral
In mid-December 1935 Paul had been in bed for about a week, but was not thought to be seriously ill. He had been upset when his faithful servant and friend John Sparkes, who had been with him for over forty years, had an operation the previous month and was recovering. He had been talking to his nurse minutes before he died aged 79 years on the 29th December 1935.
By the wish of his family the funeral was kept private, and thus there was none of the ceremony and none of the crowds that are customarily seen at the burial of prominent people. The funeral took place on the 1st January 1936. The procession of cars carrying the mourners entered the Cemetery gates, and on the front of the hearse was a large cross of red and white carnations from the Gas Company workers and other wreathes from societies and friends were hung about the coach. The procession drove up the slope to the Cemetery Chapel, where the first part of the service was conducted by Mr. Spratt. After that, the last journey continued – still upwards -to the north – easterly corner at the crest of the hill where lie his father and mother and other members of the family and household. And there, beneath the trees, the funeral rites were completed. Standing by were those who had been associated with Paul, the Church, the magistracy the police, and the business world. Section G5 Grave 64
John Sparkes friend and faithful servant
John Thomas Sparkes was born in Luton in 1869. He was one of the six children of agriculture labourer, Walter Sparkes and his wife Eliza. John was employed as Paul’s groom, coachman and later his valet. John died on the 25th November 1947 aged 78 years at his home, 133 Spring Road, Kempston. His burial took place inside the Wyatt enclosure. Section G5 Grave 85.
The final years of Austin Canons
After Paul died Austin Canons passed to his brother, Arthur James Hervey Wyatt until his death on the 9th July 1938.
In May 1944 the Corporation made a compulsory purchase order of Austin Canons. In June 1946, Arthur’s son, Raymond Wyatt, sold the contents of Austin Canons at auction. The house was later converted into flats. The house was demolished at the end of the 20th century.
The Bedfordshire Times and Independent, Saturday 18th July 1891
Shipping Gazette and Lloyd’s List, Thursday, 9th Sept 1897
The County Record 6TH July 1889
The Bedfordshire Times and Independent Friday February 8th 1901
Wedding Photograph The Tatler 16th July 1902
The Standard Monday 17TH February 1908
The Globe Saturday October 31st 1908
Bexhill-on –Sea Observer 27th July 1929
The Bedfordshire Times Friday 10th February 1933
Bedfordshire Times and Standard 28th November 1947
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