On the High Street in Bourton on the Water, set back from the busy road, is a striking Regency house. You have to peer to see its full grandeur, hidden as it is behind a high wall. A simple name place on one its gateposts reads The Glebe House.
It was not always known by this name, though; for most of its 200 year history, the house was simply The Rectory, and housed the rector of next door St Edward’s Church.
For much of the first half of the 19th century, the rectory was inhabited by the family of Robert Waller. Waller was Gloucestershire born and bred, being born in Farmington around 1810. He became rector of Bourton in 1836, aged only 25, and married Louisa Dupuis in her home county of Oxfordshire a year later.
Robert and Louisa soon established a typically large Victorian family in the Rectory; sons Robert, Hugh, Walter, Laurence and Raymond joined by a little sister, Mary. Apart from a family holiday in St Peter Port, Guernsey, in 1861, the Wallers were resident in Bourton until Robert’s death on 25th November 1871, aged only 61.
On Robert’s death, a very different rector was appointed. The advowson, or patronage, of Bourton Rectory was owned by by Wadham College, one of the Oxford University colleagues, and the next incumbent was one of Wadham’s former students – Samuel Joseph Hulme. Born in London in 1824, the son of a merchant, Samuel had received both his BA and MA from Wadham, and continued to live there for many years, as a fellow, tutor and chaplain, before becoming rector of St Martin’s Carfax in oxford. He stayed there for eight years before moving to Bourton.
Unlike his predecessor, Samuel does not seem to have lived at Bourton permanently. He seems to have regarded his home as Oxford, and at the time of his death, on 12th December 1886, his place of residence was listed as 38 St Giles Street, Oxford – although he is said to have held the position of Bourton rector until his death.
Samuel certainly seems to have moved around more than Robert; after tutoring at Wadham College for a year after receiving his MA, he moved on to a living at Leamington in Warwickshire in 1851. That same year he had married fellow Londoner Jane Tanner at St George’s church in Bloomsbury, where he was described as a clerk in orders, living in Leamington. His older children, Elizabeth and Walter, were born in Leamington in 1854 and 1856.
Around 1860, the family returned to Oxford, and three more children were born whilst Samuel was working variously as a tutor and chaplain at Wadham, the latter job being carried out whilst he was also rector of St Martin’s.
After Samuel’s death, most of his family continued to live at Oxford. Youngest child Herbert died there in 1889, aged just 21; Samuel’s other son, Walter, followed his father into religious life.
But perhaps the biggest difference in the backgrounds of the two Bourton rectors can be seen in the estates they left to their wives when they died. Robert Waller’s personal estate in 1872 was valued at £600 (around £27,000 in today’s money); Samuel’s, 14 years later, at just under £4,500 – over £250,000 today.
Census information for the rectory shows how its inhabitants were drawn from both near and far – and lived quite different lifestyles. The one thing that has stayed constant, though, is the rectory itself… apart from its name.