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Biography of Rev William Walker 1838 - 1915 (Victorian schoolmaster)
We came across the name Rev William Walker while researching past Malvern schools. He was in turn vice principal of St Peter's School, Peterborough, headmaster of Hanley Castle Grammar School in Worcestershire, headmaster of Reading Grammar School in Berkshire, principal of Connellan College in Great Malvern, and headmaster of a boys' prep school at Thorp Arch Grange in Yorkshire.
Vestiges of the name 'Connellan' can still be found at the top of one of the gate pillars of Townshend House in College Road (see photo above).
William Walker was the eldest child of Grocer and Butter Factor William Walker, and Margaret Laverick of Kendal in Westmoreland. He was born in the small village of Long Marton in 1838, and had three sisters Margaret, Ann and Mary.
In the 1851 census the family was living at Highgate, Kendall when William senior was described as a Butter Factor.
William's mother died four years later, in 1855, when he was 17 years old.
How William from the north of England and lacking significant wealth could afford to obtain a university degree and become a clergyman we do not know, but it seems his main aim was to become a schoolmaster rather than minister to the poor. Possibly he was helped by the Church of England Sunday School movement.
Crockfords Clerical Directories of 1885 and 1908 jointly record:
Walker William, Rectory, Shelton, Newark - Trinity College Dublin BA (Resp) 1866, MA 1870, BD and DD 1882, FRGS. Deacon 1867, Priest 1868 by Bishop of Worcester; Headmaster Hanley Castle Grammar School 1867 - 1877; Headmaster Reading Grammar School 1877 - 1887; Headmaster Thorp Arch School 1890 - 1894; Curate of Newton-Kyme, Yorkshire 1891 - 94; Special Services Diocese of Southwark 1895 - 1906; Vicar of St Matthias, Sneinton 1900 - 1904.
From 1863 to 1867 William Walker was at St Peter's College, in the cathedral city of Peterborough, then in Northamptonshire, becoming Vice Principal. St Peter's was a male teacher training college then recently established by the diocese of Peterborough in 1859.
We wondered if the award of a degree by Trinity College Dublin was through a correspondence course and by interview, or some such arrangement, as he could not have been in Dublin and Peterborough at the same time.
On 28th December 1865 William married widow Bedelia Anna Watterton, the daughter of Peter Connellan of Sligo in Ireland, at the Cathedral Parish Church Manchester. The witnesses were his sister Margaret, and Thomas Watterton who was either her brother or father in law.
On the 17th August 1857 Bedelia had first married William Watterton at Calry, Sligo, Ireland. In 1861, the year he died aged 30 years, the census recorded William Watterton as a brewery clerk living in Nottingham, the city of his birth. The couple had one son, John Edwin.
Thomas Watterton, Bedelia's father in law was described in ther 1851 census as Chief Constable, goaler, and relieving officer for vagrants. In a later Trade directory he is described Chief Constable and Inspector for weights and measures at the Town Hall, Newark.
The 1871 census recorded Rev William Walker, aged 33 years, living at Church End, Hanley Castle, with his wife; stepson, John Edward Watterton, aged 12 years; daughter Bedelia Hannah, born at Peterborough; and daughter Margaret, born at Hanley Castle. Also in the household were 27 boys aged between 8 and 17 years, a teacher, a cook, housemaid and a nurse.
Hanley Castle 1885, by GP Yeats
Courtesy of Great Malvern library
By 1881 William had moved on and is recorded living at The Masters House, Reading School in Earley Road, which is in the parish of St Giles. He has three more children; William and Francis, born at Hanley Castle; and Cecelia, born at Reading. His stepson appears to have left home and we haven't found him in the later census.
Now aged 43 William is the headmaster of a much larger establishment and is possibly at the peak of his career.
In 1883, William's wife inherited a large sum from her cousin Hugh Connellan, who had run a china and earthenware business in Sligo. Perhaps it was this inheritance that decided William to branch out on his own account and move to Townshend House in College Road Great Malvern which was previously the home of water cure doctor Ralph Barnes Grindrod.
In Great Malvern he set up a small boys' prep school which the couple named 'Connellan College'.
The former Connellan College
The school opened its doors in 1888 and closed in 1890. The 1891 census next records Rev William Walker living at Thorp Arch Grange in Yorkshire. With him are his wife and children; Bedelia; Margaret; William, now described as a schoolmaster; Francis and Cecelia. Also in the household were two assistant schoolmasters, Alfred Lindor Marin and Frederic W Sudfield; a butler; housemaid; parlourmaid; and ten pupils aged between 10 and 17 years.
William is described as a Doctor of Divinity, Clerk in Holy Orders, Schoolmaster and employer, so one assumes he is running his own establishment, which probably took both boarders and day boys. We think William was at Thorp Arch Grange until 1894.
In 1896 the property was taken over by Thorp Arch Industrial School which was certified by the Home Office, on 4 January 1896, and was established by the Leeds School Board. It was situated near Boston Spa, north east of Leeds, and continued in operation till at least 1920. Later an approved school and a childrens' home occupied the building. There were rumours of sexual abuse there in modern times.
Following the death of his wife at Newark in 1899, William then became vicar of St Matthias Sneinton from 1900 - 1904; the 1901 census records him living in St Matthias Road, Nottingham with his daughter Margaret.
He was then given Shelton Rectory near Newark, and it appears that soon after, in 1904, as chairman of the school managers, he sacked the village schoolmistress, Charlotte Aspinall, resulting in a dispute of some kind which was reported in the Nottingham Evening Post.
The 1911 census recorded him, aged 73 years, living at Shelton Rectory Newark, with his unmarried sister, Margaret aged 71 years, and Lydia Swindell, a domestic servant. The Rectory is recorded as having 10 rooms.
We think his daughter Margaret, previously his companion, had died in 1907, the same year as her sister Bedelia.
Schoolmaster Rev William Walker, Doctor of Divinity, died at Shelton Rectory in Nottinghamshire, during the Great War, on 28th November 1915, aged 77 years.
More about family
Three of William's children also became school-teachers like their father, but we have found no information about his stepson John Edward or Edwin Watterton who was last recorded at home in 1871 aged 12 years.
Bedelia Hannah Walker 1867 - 1907, the eldest child, married in 1900, Frederick W Sudfeld a German citizen who in 1891 had been a teacher at her father's school in Thorp Arch, Yorkshire. The 1901 census records the couple at Claremont in Barbourne Road, Worcester where he is a schoolmaster; they have a young son Friedrich WH Sudfeld born at Nottingham in 1900. A daughter Winifred was born in 1903, but sadly Bedelia died at Nottingham in 1907, probably giving birth to her son Ottomar who also died. We have found no trace of Frederick or their children Friedrich and Winifred after that, so possibly he emigrated or returned to Germany.
Magaret Walker 1870 - 1907 seems to have lived with her parents and died at Nottingham in 1907 aged 30 years.
William Hugh Walker, born at Hanley Castle in 1870 became a school master, like his father, and emigrated from England to Jamaica in 1906. In 1891 aged only 19 years he had been a school-master at his father's school of Thorp Arch Grange. On 19th August 1896 at St John's Weston Super Mare near Bristol he married Bertha Maude Phipps the daughter of a commercial traveller; the officiating priest was his father Rev William Walker. We did not find William junior in the 1901 census and according to his obituary, see below, he may have gone off to the Boer war; Bertha is staying with her parents and has no children, and we wondered if the couple had split up.
The later life of schoolmaster William Hugh Walker is related by the website of historian Joy Lumsden in Jamaica. To quote:
Hugh Walker died in 1940 and his obituary gives the details of his life, especially after he came to Jamaica in 1906.
We suspect William Hugh Walker may have left his first wife Bertha behind in England and married second, at Jamaica, in 1914, Aline Muriel Craven Curtin.
It is interesting that the obituary suggests William junior was a descendant of Sir Walter Scott and grandson of Sir Peter Connellan Baronet; we have found no evidence of that and it's possible this was an invention.
Francis Peter Connellan Walker born at Hanley Castle in 1878 became a school-master like his father. In 1901 he was teaching at Leicester, and the next year he married farmer's daughter, Caroline Mary James, at Oxford. They had one daughter.
In 1911 he was an assistant teacher working for the Education Committe of the Borough Council in Liverpool.
School-master Francis Peter Connellan Walker died at Alresford in Hampshire in 1924 aged only 46 years. If we have it right, his wife Caroline lived to the age of 95 years.
Cecelia Geraldine Winifred Walker born at Reading in 1880 also became a teacher. The 1901 census records her working at a large private Ladies' School in Avenue Road Southend-on-Sea run by Helen Maude O' Mearer the daughter of an Irish clergyman. Helen O'Meara was still running the school in 1911 when it was named Southend College.
Cecilia had moved on by 1911 and the census records her as a teacher in a Secondary School working for the City Council in Nottingham, where she died in 1965.
The main legacy of Rev William Walker and his children is most probably the effect they had on the lives of their pupils, as there may be few descendants.
Do please let us know if you can add to this story, particularly if you have information about the Connellan family in Ireland, and William Hugh Walker's life in Jamaica.
Last updated 2nd November 2018