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Biography of Reverend George Shaw Munn (1820 - 1906) Rector of Madresfield


Madresfield churchThe Reverend George Shaw Munn was the Rector of St Mary, Madresfield in Worcestershire for 49 years, from 1856 to 1905. Quoting from the guide to the church (ref 1):

During his time as Rector he witnessed the demolition of the second church and the foundation of the new building. He saw the deaths of three Earl Beauchamp and countless other members of their family, young and old, plus the deaths of his own dear (first) wife and a baby daughter.

He married twice and died at Cirencester in 1906.

Early Life

George Shaw Munn, the eldest son of Hop Merchant George Munn (senior) and Eleanor Linley was born on 5th March 1820 and baptised at St Saviour, Southwark on 3rd May 1820.

He was awarded BA at Trinity, Oxford in 1842, and MA in 1845.

George's first appointment seems to have been to the Parish of Leigh. The centenary history of St Matthias in Malvern Link (ref 2) records George was:

ordained Deacon 10th June 1843, Priest 3rd August 1844 and licensed to the Stipendary of the Parish church of Leigh and Chapel of Bransford, becoming assistant curate at St Matthias.

This was probably in 1846; the account further records:

Described on the cross outside the South porch of St Matthias as Curate of Church at the birth of this Parish.

George was aged 30 years when his father died in 1850. According to the 1851 census, when he was living with his mother Eleanor and brother Frederick near Worcester, George was then a curate at Eastnor in Herefordshire. At that time his mother, a widow, was living at Temple Laugherne House which some say had been built on a site once used by the Knights Templar in 1133.

Early in 1853, George  married Mary Ann Watson, and later that year their first child Marianne Ellen Munn was born, who was later known as Mary Ann Ellen.

In 1856 George was appointed Rector of Madresfield at a salary of £250 per annum plus the use of a large house now known as The Old Rectory, in Rectory Lane (ref 1).

Memorial to Mary Ann MunnVery sadly, in 1857, George's first wife Mary Ann died, aged 38 years, when their daughter was only three. At that time the nearest churchyard was at Newland, but a piece of glebe land sufficient for burials was given to the church and this was immediately consecrated by the bishop. On 10th March 1857 the burial of Mary Ann Munn was the first to take place in Madresfield churchyard (ref1).

More bad news came when it was found that the second church opened in 1853 had been built on inadequate foundations and would need to be demolished. A temporary building was erected on the site of the school, and the present larger church was opened in 1867. The timber lychgate of the church was dedicated to the memory of the Rector's first wife Mary Ann; about 1980 the children of Madresfield school undertook a 'sponsored spelling' to raise funds for the inscription to be renovated.

Following the death of his first wife, George Munn married second in 1859, Ellen Julia Walker (1837 - 1910) by whom he had six daughters and two sons. All lived to adulthood except their daughter Dorothy who died 15th October 1876 aged 1 year and 4 months.

George was obviously well off, as in the 1861 census, besides  two visitors, living in his household were Charles Drew a groom, three housemaids Maryann Graham, Emma Edwards and Sarah Hill, and James Tyler a 'page' aged 12 years. His wife also employed a nursemaid as the family grew. At some time we think George had the Rectory either rebuilt or greatley enlarged.

George's eldest daughter Marianne Ellen Munn, aged 7, was not at home in 1861 and we found she was a boarder at a large private school for girls, at Bognor in Sussex, called St Michael's College.

The headmistress of St Michaels College at that time was Lady Caroline Georgiana Eliot, 1799 - 1866, daughter of diplomat William Eliot 2nd Earl of St Germans. Coincidentally the headmistress was the sister of Lady Susan Caroline Eliot (1801 - 1835), the wife of George's patron General Henry Lygon, who had died in childbirth.


George's younger brother Frederick was born at Barbourne, Worcester in 1825 and died at Worcester in 1909. He married Emily Elizabeth Woodward (1834 - 1895) at St Mary Madresfield on 27th June 1867. She was the daughter of John Roberts Woodward (1802 - 1863), a surgeon of Sidbury Street, Worcester, and Mary Elizabeth Mackrell.

In 1851 and 1861 he was living with his mother at Temple Laugherne, in the parish of St John's, Worcester, and was described in the census as a farmer of 350 acres.

After his marriage he lived at Holt Castle and later Sinton Court at Grimley to the north of Worcester, they had no children and he seems to have given up farming, living off his investments.

First wife

We don't know anything about George's first wife, but possibly she was the daughter of John Watson and Ann Cash of Swinesherd Farm near Spetchley. In 1851 her brother Edwin seems to have taken over the farm of 263 acres, whilst her brother Thomas and retired parents were farming not far away at Shrawley.

Second wife

George married second at Honiton in 1859, Ellen Julia Walker, daughter of the Reverend Thomas Horatio Walker, late Vicar of Bickleigh in Devon, who died in 1841. Her brother Reverend Charles Henry Walker, another clergyman, became Vicar of Walkhampton.


Marianne Ellen Munn, George's daughter by his first wife, married in 1893 Charles William Hewett (1858 - 1942) who was a Captain in the Royal Indian Navy. They had one son William George Hewett born Malvern 1894 died 1978) who fought in the Great War.  He was awarded the Military Cross and Bar, Croix de Guerre, Captain and then Brevet Major. He received the CBE in 1919. He later achieved the rank of Brigadier in the Welch Regiment, and received the OBE in 1941. During WWII he was Commanding Officer of 137 and then 209 Infantry Brigade, based in the UK.

George Shaw Munn's eight children by his second wife, Ellen Julia, were Amy, Alice Georgiana, Edith Mary, Reginald George, Margaret, Hilda Frances, Dorothy, and Leonard.

In 1909, Hilda Frances married John George North-Bomford, educated Charterhouse, who became a Major in the Royal Fusiliers.

Reginald George Munn (1869 - 1947), educated at Haileybury College, became a Lt Col 36th Sikhs Indian Army and was awarded the CMG in 1919.

Youngest son Leonard Munn (1878 - 1935),  was also educated at Haileybury College; like most of his generation, he joined the military and became a Captain in the Royal Engineers. He was awarded the OBE and died and was buried at Hyderabad in India in 1935.

A newspaper article about the present poor state of the graveyard where he is buried reported the inscription on his tombstone:

Captain Leonard Munn OBE (Mil), Belgium Croix de Guerre, younger son of the Rev George Munn, Madresfield, Worcs. Born 31st May 1878, died at Lingsugur 21st Oct 1935. 1908 - 1919 Mining Engineer (with Municipal Survey) H.E.H. the Nizamís Government. January 1916 to November 1919 served during the Great War with the Royal Engineers in France. April 1928 to October 1935 Geological Survey and Special Officer, Well-Sinking Department, during which period he and his Staff sank or remodelled more than 1200 wells in the famine zone of this Raichur District, where his name is a household word.

Another source records that:

Leonard Munn, a member of the Hyderabad Geological Survey and his team also drew up maps for the then municipal limits of Hyderabad city following floods. The original maps are at a scale of 50 feet to 1 inch so building footprints, open spaces, gardens and street patterns are shown in great detail.

Leonard also seems to have been involved with some archeological surveys.


On appointment in 1856, the Reverend George Shaw Munn, would have met his 'patron' General Henry Lygon, 4th Earl Beauchamp of Madresfield Court, who had fought at the Battle of Waterloo.

The 4th Earl was succeeded by his son another Henry in 1863, who died prematurely of tuberculosis and was succeeded in turn by his brother Frederick, a high churchman in 1866. Frederick died in 1891 and was succeeded by his son William Lygon (1872 - 1938), 7th Earl Beauchamp.

Prior to his marriage, William served for a few months as Governor of New South Wales in 1899. Sadly his bother Edward Hugh Lygon, Grenadier Guards, born July 17th 1873, was killed on active service in South Africa March 23rd 1900, during the Boer War.

Life and Times

While a curate at Eastnor, the Reverend Munn would have read reports of the Crimean War in the newspapers and heard about the exploits of Florence Nightingale who later visited the 'Water Doctors' in Abbey Road to recuperate.

When the Reverend Munn arrived in Madresfield, his large house probably had no indoor toilet, gas, electricity or running water, and cooking and heating would have relied on wood and coal.

Local journies would either have been made on foot or by pony and trap.

Not many years after his arrival the railway arrived in Malvern so there was less dependance on the stagecoach for long distance travel.

In the 1890s George probably saw the modern safety bicycle become increasingly popular, and though Madresfield is flat, he himself was probably getting too old to ride one.

Infant mortality was high so he was fortunate that all but one of his nine children survived to adulthood.

He saw the construction of the Alms houses for Madresfield estate workers at Newland circa 1864, rebuilding of Madresfield Church in 1867, and the building of the present village school probably about the same time as the church.

(No one now knows the exact year the present Madresfield school building was opened but we think it was probably in the 1860s).

George would have witnessed the expansion of Great Malvern due to the water cure, the arrival of the Telegraph in Malvern in the late 1870s and the first telephone at Madresfield Court circa 1900. Click to view 1902 telephone directory.

All that said, life in Madresfield village probably did not change greatly during his 49 years tenure as Rector. He did not live to see the awful events of the Great War, the motor car, aviation, radio, TV, modern medicine and the Internet.


George Shaw Munn resigned as Rector of Madresfield in 1905 because, in his own words, he was incapacitated by permanent bodily infirmity and could not carry out his duties effectively. He died the following year at Cirencester on 13th January aged 85 years.

He is remembered by an inscription in Latin on the outside of the east wall of the church which translates as:

Pray for the soul of George S Munn Rector for 49 years, died in the Lord 13th January 1906 aged 85 Remember me O my God for good. Amen

You can read more about the church on our page Madresfield in Worcestershire.


  1. Weaver Cora, guide to The church of St Mary the Virgin Madresfield, revised 2013 with illustrations by Neil G Hulbert and Boris Mayfield.
  2. Bowles, Mildred and Hartley, Revd Harry, St Matthias at the Link, the story of a parish 1846 - 1946, The Priory Press, Malvern, 1946
  3. Census of England and Wales.
  4. Mulvagh Jane, Madresfield, the real Brideshead, 2008

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