John Vallency

John Vallency

The Irreverent Reverend


The following stories are to be found in the Derby Mercury and others.  At the turn of the 20th Century in such a small village was a scandal to be found.  Unusually this scandal was caused not by a rowdy inhabitant but by the vicar himself.

The story starts on the 2nd of February 1892 when a 17 year old Catherine Holden was brought before Lewis Barber and H.G. Nadin Esquires at the Swadlincote petty sessions.  She had been summoned there by John Vallency, the vicar of Rosliston for disturbing the vicar during divine service in the parish church on the 10th January 1892.  Mr Musson of Ashby prosecuted and Mr G. Bright defended.

Vallency told the court that he had been inducted as the vicar of the parish in the previous August (1891) and during that time he had visited the defendant during an illness she had suffered. he felt he had been very kind to her and he felt her ingratitude. The case was then laid out to the court.  The particulars being that on Sunday 10th January 1892 whilst he was conducting the service the defendant had annoyed him by her constant laughing and talking.  she was also trying to get the attention of some boys on the other side of the church.  As he read the second reading Elizabeth Holden stood up and left the church.  he went on to say her actions had disturbed him very much and that he could not conduct service properly due to the behaviour of some of the congregation.

During cross examination he was asked a number of questions which he answered in the negative including one where he was asked if he had ever complained about the parishioners.  He was also asked if he was sensitive in the pulpit and when he answered by saying "Certainly not, they could throw a cat at me and not disturb me."  The defence then asked "Then if throwing a cat at you would not disturb you it is strange that a girl getting up and leaving the church would."

A number of witnesses for the defence were called who all said that Catherine Holden had left the church in an orderly  manner due to ill health.  The magistrates duly dismissed the case stating "It ought never to have been brought to court."

The Derby Mercury (Derby, England), Wednesday, February 3, 1892; Issue 9238

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This wasn't the only time Vallency summoned people to appear at the assizes.

21st July 1894 The Star of St Peter Port, England reported the following.

The Rev John Vallency, perpetual curate of Rosliston, near Burton on Wednesday brought an action for trespass before Judge Digby, at the local county court, and claimed eighteen pence as damages against a parishioner, Miss Maria Wright, daughter of a farmer.  The lady visited the churchyard weekly for the purpose of placing flowers on her sisters grave, and a short time ago the plaintiff warned her and her father to abstain from entering the place.  On meeting Miss Wright as she was adorning the grave the plaintiff after sarcastic observation, swept the tributes away, and then claimed damages for the trespass stating that the grass had been injured to the extent of 1s 6d through the lady trampling on it.  The judge said he would be sorry to believe that it was the law of the land that the clergyman could prevent parishioners placing flowers on the graves of their relatives, and he gave judgement for the lady with costs on the higher scale, and characterised the case as "extraordinary and painful".

John Vallency wrote a letter to the editor of the Standard (London) in response to a similar piece above being printed there.  In this letter he denied all the charges laid against him in particular that he had been sarcastic to Mary Wright.  He finished the letter with the following line which I quote "I have given permission to several to make graves neat and tidy, but I will not yield to any who insist on having the right to do as they wish.

The Star (Saint Peter Port, England), Saturday, July 21, 1894; pg. [1]; Issue 87. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II

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31st January 1896 saw John Vallency back at the county court claiming damages.  However this time it was against a churchwarden.

This case was brought against Thomas Fletcher, farmer and churchwarden.  In the autumn Fletcher cut the grass and herbage within the church yard and upon which Vallency made a claim for 5 damages.  Fletcher in his defence stated that he was justified to carry out this work due to the inattention the church yard presented a disreputable appearance.  Carrying out his duty as churchwarden he mowed the grass because its length interfered with the comfort and convenience of the parishioners.  His honour believing that Fletcher had carried out his duties as church warden found in his favour and begged the two parties to remember that the spiritual advancement of the parishioners was more important than arguing of herbage.  Leave was granted to appeal.

The Morning Post (London, England), Friday, January 31, 1896; pg. 2; Issue 38579

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16th May 1896 Berrows Worcester Journal

Vallency appealed against the decision noted above and the high court in London found in his favour.  The lord chief justice stated "that on the finding of the judge that the plaintiff was entitled to the freehold, which was a finding of fact, the court had come to the conclusion the appeal must succeed.  The order of the court, therefore, would be that the judgement be entered for the plaintiff for 1s damage.  No costs were to be awarded"

Berrow's Worcester Journal (Worcester, England), Saturday, May 16, 1896; pg. 8; Issue 10569. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II

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22nd Aug 1896 Leicester Chronicle et al

On the 18th Aug 1896 before the Swadlincote petty sessions before Sir Mylles Cave and other magistrates appeared the Rev John Vallency curate of Rosliston and Thomas Woolett a servant in his employ were charged on the word of John Fletcher Churchwarden of Rosliston church with indecent and violent behaviour in the church yard on June 13th.

This case seems to be a continuation of that dated 21st July 1894.  The grave of the Wright relative had a mound over it.  Woolett had been asked by Vallency to level the mound and during this work a member of the Wright family saw what was occurring and went to remonstrate with Woolett.  An altercation ensued and Woolett tried to hustle the Wright woman out of the church yard.  Her mother then came up and started to remonstrate with Woolett who said " I will hack up every ------bone.  Shortly after this one of the Wright sons appeared and remonstrated with the vicar.  The vicar produced a revolver and was heard to say " I will shoot you! I will shoot you!"  Wright the struck him with a stick in self defence.  The bench thought that the reverend was guilty of the charges and fined him 20s in each case and costs, or in the alternative 14 days imprisonment for each charge.  Woolett was fined 10s 6d and costs or 14 days.  A charge of assault brought by the vicar against Wright on the same day was then withdrawn.

Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury (Leicester, England), Saturday, August 22, 1896; pg. 6; Issue 4463. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II

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This case was appealed and on the 19th January 1897 The Morning Post (London) reported that the appeal had been dismissed with costs.

The Standard (London) reported more of this appeal wherein it is stated that the grave involved was that of Mary Veal (a picture of which is on my picture pages)  The first Wright female into the churchyard was Maria Wright, the mother was Mary and the brother was Joseph.  The appeal was lodged on the grounds that a criminal court could not try a vicar and only a church court could.

The Standard (London, England), Tuesday, January 19, 1897; pg. 2; Issue 22638. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II

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7th April 1897 Derby Mercury et al reported that a consistory court had been held and after examination of the Rev john Vallency a report would be made to the Bishop who would make a decision as to what if any punishment Vallency should receive.

The Derby Mercury (Derby, England), Wednesday, April 7, 1897; Issue 9509

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5th May 1897 The Derby Mercury reported the decision of the Consistory court.  Vallency was suspended for 18 months and could not come within 20 miles of the vicarage.  The suspension was to take effect immediately.  When asked  by Vallency's legal team if he could have time to find suitable accommodation Vallency stated "It doesn't matter my family and I will sleep on the roadside."  He was given time to find somewhere to live.  Once the suspension was over he would have to prove to the consistory court of his good behaviour during the time of his suspension before he could resume the duties of the benefice.

The Derby Mercury (Derby, England), Wednesday, May 5, 1897; Issue 9513

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