Image of Charles Kennaway courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery (image ref NPG D36832)
In 1836, the people of Chipping Campden clubbed together to buy a silver tea-urn and matching inkstand, worth some 100 guineas. Their generosity was directed at a 36-year-old Devonian, Charles Kennaway, who had been the town’s vicar for just four years.
The gifts were inscribed as being for the vicar from:
“his affectionate parishioners and friends, as a token of their deep and grateful sense of his unwearied exertions to promote the everlasting happiness and temporal prosperity of the flock committed to his charge, and to commemorate the pecuniary aid and assistance afforded by him in the recent new-pewing of the parish church.”
Charles must have been a singularly nice man to receive such an effusive reaction from his parishioners. Perhaps his youth counted for him; still a bachelor at this point, he had the time and energy to devote to his “flock”, organising improvements to his church and certainly giving the impression of commitment and care towards his parishioners.
This commitment towards the town was no short-lived thing; Charles ended up serving as the town’s vicar for some forty years, finally retiring in 1872, three years before his death, at the age of 75. His long time as vicar also saw him get married – to Olivia Way in 1845, the couple marrying in London – and start a family (he had at least four children – Charles Lewis, Arthur Gerard Noel, Agnes Olivia and Mariona). He was also still vicar when his second son, Arthur, died at the young age of 18 in 1869.
This is not to say that the Kennaways spent the whole time at Chipping Campden. One of their children was born in London; another in Devon. Two of them were baptised at the Chapel Royal in Brighton. In 1861, the whole family, bar son Arthur, were staying in Hastings, where Charles was described in the census as vicar of Campden and proctor for the convocation of Gloucester and Bristol diocese – he was also canon of Gloucester Cathedral. In 1851, the family had taken their butler, governess and nurse with them to Sussex, showing their status within 19th century society.
After his retirement, Charles moved to Great Malvern, where he died on Bonfire Night, 1875, at his home – appropriately named Goodrest. His estate was valued at nearly £18,000.
But some 40 years earlier, he had been appreciated by one Cotswold town to the sum of 100 guineas – and that, to me, is more impressive than his own personal wealth.