Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Life of B. R. V. Mills, Part 1

Details, details, details…

Sometimes one tiny item sets off a string of revelations. In doing a search on Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay, I stumbled on yet another detail that was quite interesting regarding Rev. Barton Reginald Vaughan Mills, father of George Mills. I thought about writing about it immediately, but took a quick look at what a long and winding road the path of the Rev. Barton's life had become, and I was shocked. Those details all begin to add up!

To put the life of George Mills into perspective, I think we first need to examine the foundation upon which George's life was constructed: We need to look at his family of origin, and especially—given the glaring lack of information about George's mother and sisters—at the life of George's father.

He's the man who truly sets the metaphorical stage for George's adult life. And Barton Mills' life is one that had indeed taken some unexpected twists and turns that I've put off writing about for too long. In fact, it's probably far too much for a single post here, so let's just get it started right now…

Barton R. V. Mills was born on 29 October 1857. His father, Arthur Mills of Bude Haven, Cornwall, was the new Tory M.P. from Taunton at the time. He was named after a member of the Acland family and relative of Barton's mother Lady Agnes Acland. He was also named in honour of Rev. Charles John Vaughan, apparently a friend of Arthur Mills and later the scandalous Head Master of Harrow School.

Barton attended Harrow School in 1870 and 1871, years after his namesake's departure. In 1873, his father became the M.P. from Exeter, but the Mills family was also maintaining a London residence at 34 Hyde Park Gardens, W., at the time as well as their home in Cornwall. Barton later attended Christ Church, Oxford, beginning in 1876.

In 1880, Barton earned a B.A. degree in History from Oxford, and receives his M.A in 1883. Arthur Mills had spent much of Barton's lifetime traveling the world and becoming an expert on colonial economies, and may have been en route from New Zealand when the advanced degree was conferred.

In 1884, we find "Rev. B. R. V. Mills," now a clergyman, sitting on the Battersea Committee as an active member, according to a 15 December report by The Council of the Society for Organising Charitable Relief and Repressing Mendicity. The committee, chaired by the Vicar of Battersea for relief of the poor, may be where Mills met his longtime friend, Rev. Watkin W. Williams, who also served as an active member.

In that same year, Barton Mills published a pamphlet entitled The Early Sieges of Exeter and their connexion with the General History of England that was based on a lecture he had given earlier. In 1895, the journal The Western Antiquary, concluded: "We must commend this paper as one of value and interest."

Even more interestingly in 1885, Barton R. V. Mills is surprisingly mentioned in the book, Converts to Rome: A list of about four thousand protestants who have recently become Roman Catholics by W. Gordon Gorman [W. Swan Sonnenschein: London, 1885]. The listing within a section headed "CHRIST CHURCH" reads: "B. R. V. Mills, son of Arthur C. Mills, M.P. for Exeter." No date is given for Barton's conversion, nor why Arthur had gained an unexpected middle initial.

Although Barton Mills had already become a clergyman by the year 1885, in this text he isn't titled as a 'Reverend,' or even a listed as a B.A.—at least not at that point in his conversion to Roman Catholicism. He is simply recorded among the recent converts from Christ Church.

As we know, according to Oxford University, Mills "matriculated from Christ Church on 13 October 1876, aged 18" and "the degree of BA was conferred in 1880 [by Oxford]." So, the conversion of Mills likely occurred while he was still a student at Christ Church, sometime between 1877 and 1879.

Now things started happening relatively quickly: In the Summer of 1886, Barton R. V. Mills married Lady Catherine Mary Valentia Hobart-Hampden at St. George, Hanover Square, London, on 10 July. She is granted the rank of an Earl's daughter at the wedding.

That same year, Barton and Lady Catherine left England and family behind as Mills became "Chaplain at San Remo" in 1886. Where, exactly, in San Remo he was appointed chaplain is still under investigation. There is as of yet no record found showing him to have been chaplain at either All Saints or St. John's Churches at that time. No real matter: He wouldn't be there very long.

On Ash Wednesday morning, 23 February 1886, with many churchgoers already attending services, a deadly 6.5-level earthquake devastated San Remo, Italy, as well as many nearby towns and villages. Lady Catherine Mills was probably just over 4 months pregnant with their first child and, unless the newlyweds were quickly parted, probably in San Remo at the time of that disaster.

The very next day, a Cornish newspaper announced: "Bude - The Living of Poughill - The Rev. Barton V. Mills, eldest son of Mr. Arthur Mills, Bude, has accepted the living of Poughill, near Bude. Poughill contains 1,700 acres, with a population of 399. Probable gross value of the living about £125 per annum. The Rev. T.S. Carnsew, who is promoted to the living of Constantine, near Falmouth, has been vicar of Poughill for 30 years."

Word travels quickly, apparently just as quickly as thirty-year vicars could when it was deemed necessary.

Just months later, Arthur Frederick Hobart Mills, the brother of George Mills, was born on 12 July 1887 in Cornwall. It's unknown at this point if Arthur was full term, or if Lady Catherine had suffered any injury in San Remo, any discomfort on her return from Italy, or any difficulties during the birth itself.

Sadly, Lady Catherine passed away just two years later, on 25 September 1889, the same year Barton Mills left the vicarage at Poughill. Did he leave because of her death? Was it sudden? Had he taken leave of his duties earlier to care for her? It's unclear if he left before or after that exact date, 25 September, and I am waiting for word from Poughill that may provide a clue.

It's now well into Autumn, 1889, in our story and winter's fast approaching. We've left the widowed vicar, Barton Reginald Vaughan Mills, and his young son, Arthur, in the care of 73-year-old Arthur Mills, Esq., M.P., in a house cared for by 10 servants at 128 Efford Down in Bude, Cornwall [left].

Barton will still be living there as a resident during the census in the Spring of 1891, along with young Arthur, then three years old. But Barton, 33 himself, in that document will state his occupation as that of being the new "Vicar Of Budehaven."

And that won't be the only change made as Barton returns to the Anglican Church and starts a new family—one that will include a young chap by the name of George Mills—as we'll see in Part 2!
[Read Part 2 or Part 3.]

No comments:

Post a Comment