2019 - The Bleecks of Huish Rectory [1830 to 1873]

William Bleeck was born in 1801 the third son of John Bleeck a gentleman and Sarah nee Slade at Warminster. He was educated at Magdalen Hall College Oxford where he gained a B.A. in 1825.

He married Charlotte Goodman the daughter of John Goodman of Oare House on the 26th June 1828 at Wilcot, for a short time they lived at Westbury where apart from his religious duties William took in fee-paying pupils to teach them a Classical Education. Their first child Arthur Henry was born at Westbury on the 9th April 1829 and the following year on the 16th March 1830 his patrons the Froxfield Hospital Trustees appointed the Reverend William Bleeck to the living at Huish.

His second son christened William Goodman Bleeck was born on the 25th November 1830, on the 8th December his wife Charlotte passed away possibly due to child- bed fever aged just 38 years.  Her obituary in the paper describes her as an affectionate wife and in the daily practice of every Christian value.   William was now a widower having been married just over two years with two children under 5 years of age.

Little is known of his life for the next few years but he was elected to the post of Chaplaincy of the Pewsey Union Workhouse on Lady Day 1837 whilst still continuing his calling at Huish.  At a meeting of the Board of Guardians during 1838 Mr. Bleeck expressed his desire to resign his post as chaplain to the workhouse, a vote of thanks was given to him by the Guardians for the satisfactory manner in which he had carried out his duties, and the kindness and attention he had shown to the inmates.    Although the position was advertised the post was unfilled and William again became the chaplain.

Floor plan of the Pewsey Poorhouse.

BELL v BLEECK –

During the summer of 1839 William appeared in court, the defendant a Mr. Bell was seeking compensation for defamation of character and the destruction of a license.  It was alleged that Mr. Bell a licensed minister of the Primitive Methodists whose circuit took him to preach in Huish was on two occasions addressing the crowd and was confronted by Mr. Bleeck a clergyman of the Church of England and others, who then proceeded to insult Mr. Bell, on the latter occasion fireworks were thrown among the crowd. Mr. Bell also stated that at one of his meetings Mr. Bleeck had demanded to see his license, having read it instead of then handing it back he had torn it in two and thrown it on the ground.

As the trial progressed it was halted so a conference could take place between counsel and the parties involved after which Mr. Bell’s counsel stated the meeting had produced a satisfactory result.

Mr. Bleeck had agreed that Mr. Bell would leave court without any stain on his character, whilst he still denied ever having used the language attributed to him.  All counts against him concerning improper language were dropped, he submitted to a verdict against him on the count relating to the destroying of the license; but even there he said he was prepared to prove that the tearing of the license was purely accidental.

The following year, 1840 saw the start of a dispute that lasted for the next two years.

On the 27 March 1840 William sent an anonymous letter to The Times newspaper concerning the cleanliness and comfort of the inmates of the Pewsey Union Workhouse.  He alleged in his letter that the inmates of the workhouse had not had a clean pair of stockings or socks for over three months, and the flannels they wore next to their skins had not been washed and changed longer than that. He also said he could provide prove if called upon to do so.

After contacting the Poor Law Commissioners stating that he was the author of the anonymous letter they agreed to send an Assistant Commissioner to interview the witnesses he had spoken to at the workhouse.

Pewsey Hospital or Poor House

After claim and counter claim between Mr. Bleeck, the Board of Guardians of the Workhouse and the Poor Law Commissioners played out in the local press; the final outcome was that no case was proved that there had been abuses of cleanliness.  Mr. Bleeck resigned/ was dismissed from his post of chaplain at the workhouse and the Master and Matron remained in post.

Then in July 1841 another court case occurred.

WRIGHT v BLEECK– An action to recover compensation in damages for a series of libels, contained in letters to the Chairman of the Pewsey Board of Guardians.

The plaintiff Mr. Wright had for the last two years held the situation of master of the Pewsey Union Workhouse and his wife had been matron. The defendant Mr. Bleeck was a clergyman of the Church of England and Rector of Huish and had been chaplain of the workhouse.

Mr. Bleeck had written to the Chairman of the Board of Guardians Col Wroughton, calling his attention to the grossly immoral fact that there was at present a female pauper in the workhouse far advanced in pregnancy – the result of an adulterous connection with the Master of the establishment.  Other reports of an unpleasant nature are in circulation but I confine myself at present to the forgoing fact, and trust you will see the necessity of instituting an immediate and searching enquiry into the matter.

Col Wroughton replied to the letter saying he would put the matter before the Board.

The second libel occurred in the next letter that Mr. Bleeck sent to Col Wroughton four days later in which he stated that Mr. Wright was evasive, deceitful and not a fit person to be in charge of the religious and moral training of the inmates. A meeting of the Board of Guardians was arranged where it was thought that Mr. Bleeck would produce his evidence, but before that occurred a letter was sent containing a third libel. Mr. Bleeck alleged that has the matter had not been followed up immediately the two parties concerned had had time to come to an agreement, that it all depended on the testimony of Elizabeth West who was domestic servant to the master and heavily pregnant.  Because of his previous experience of dealing with a tribunal he did not wish to offer any testimony personally, he felt it was up to the Board of Guardians to take the matter further, he had done his public duty bringing the matter before them.  The following month he accused the Master of having two families supported by the union claiming that a girl Harriet who acted has companion and helper to the matron was an illegitimate child of the master.

In Court Mr. Bleek was asked to provide prove of his accusations, which he could not do but he refused to withdraw them or produce his witnesses.  A full investigation had taken place by the Assistant Poor Law Commissioner and the charges were proved to be completely false.  All Mr. Wright wanted was an admission from Mr. Bleeck that there were no grounds for them and he would have been content with a nominal verdict but Mr. Bleeck had refused to make the slightest reparation or the smallest redress.  He therefore felt because of Mr. Bleecks calling and his standing in the community that the libel was much worse than it would have been and he sought damages that reflected that. A letter was then read out in court that Mr. Bleeck had sent to the clerk of the union in reply to a letter requesting his attendance at the Board.

He stated that he would not attend the Assistant Commissioners enquiry because his presence in the boardroom would not be agreeable to a majority of the Guardians.  The evidence that he would have offered could be obtained by close examination of the female paupers in the house with whom the woman Elizabeth West had spoken to about her pregnancy.  He further suggested her mother should be questioned for further prove.

The investigation had taken place and all the witnesses, Elizabeth West, her mother and Harriet Smith were questioned and the board came to the decision there was no grounds for the charge against the master and he was still in his post. Mr. Bleeck had ceased to be chaplain on the 12th May 1840.  The verdict was found for the plaintiff Mr. Wright and damages of £200 were awarded.

On the 31st May 1842 at Huish Mr. Bleek married Martha Young the youngest daughter of George Young, Farmer, (Martha brought with her a substantial marriage settlement) he was 40 and she just 21 years old.  Their first child a daughter called Charlotte Emily was born on the 8th September 1843, followed on the 19 Oct 1844 by another daughter Ada.  On the 26th August 1846 their third daughter Ellen Fanny was born, later that same year Williams father John Bleeck died of influenza, in his will he gave and forgave all the sums of money plus the interest that William owed to him also leaving houses, land and real estate to his three sons including William. Their fourth child another daughter was born on the 28th January 1848 named Emma Kate.  Their first daughter Charlotte died in 1850 aged 6, so by the 1851 census Martha had three children 6yrs and under, the children by his first wife had now grown up and left home.

On the 5th May 1854 William Goodman Bleeck the youngest son of William and Charlotte his first wife died in London aged 24 yrs old.

On the 21st March 1858 Martha gave birth to yet another daughter Alice Rose but she died 8 months later on the 3rd of Dec 1858.   On the 20th November 1859 Martha gave birth to her only son and final child who died during the birth.

On the 1861 census William was still the rector at Huish living with Martha and his three girls, Ada, Ellen Fanny and Emma Kate at the rectory.  In 1863 at the age of 15yrs Emma (known as Katie) painted a picture of Huish farmhouse, the home of her Uncle William.Young. The farmhouse, pictured to the right, was in such poor repair it was subsequently demolished to make way for the new farmhouse in built in 1864. Ten years later in 1871 they were all still living at the rectory, none of the girls having married, Williams grandson William G Bleeck was paying them a visit.

William died on the 27th December 1873 and was buried at Huish having been rector of the parish for over 40 years; he left the bulk of his estate to his wife Martha and his brother Charles James Bleeck. Martha and the girls then left the village and moved to Froxfield.

They continued to live at The Old Rectory Froxfield for the next 30 years, Ellen Fanny Bleeck died there and was buried on the 23rd December 1875 aged 29. Martha was buried at Huish on the 22nd September 1904. Ada and her sister Emma Kate continued to live independently at Froxfield.

Ada died on 3rd April 1917 aged 72 at Hungerford she left £3027 19s 11d in her will and Emma Kate Bleeck died on the 2nd January 1943 at Devizes leaving £7586 3s 8d to her cousins John W and George A Young.

The grave stones of the Bleecks at Huish.

This article was researched and written by E Wilson for this project 2018.