Reading about how the Cathedral clergy donated funds to support widows and orphans of soldiers and sailors in the Napoleonic era, I decided to learn a little more about the Dean at the time who encouraged this. Arthur Onslow was born in 1752. He gained his Master’s degree from All Souls College Oxford, before going to Christchurch Oxford to gain his doctorate in Divinity. He was appointed the Dean of Worcester Cathedral in 1795. Onslow came from an important family. His uncle was the Speaker of the House of Commons and his brother was an admiral in the Royal Navy.
Onslow’s brother, Admiral Sir Richard Onslow was one of the two admirals who commanded the victorious Royal Navy fleet that defeated its Dutch counterpart in 1797 at the Battle of Camperdown. On receiving the news, the Dean and Chapter agreed to donate twenty guineas for the widows and orphans of the sailors who had lost their lives in the battle[i]. A year later, when Lord Nelson won another naval victory, the Chapter decided to give another twenty pounds to the widows and orphans fund set up after this victory of 1798[ii]. This would have been the Battle of the Nile (Battle of Aboukir Bay). The following year the Dean and Chapter contributed money to the fund for widows and orphans of soldiers killed in a joint Anglo-Russian expedition to Holland.
The fears of an invasion by Napoleon’s army swept Britain at this time. Victorian researchers noted how the Cathedral’s clergy therefore supported Worcestershire’s bid to equip local volunteers as militia with uniforms by giving money to both the city and county in their efforts, and by paying for a drummer for the volunteers and a sergeant to give the volunteers in the Cathedral college precincts some training[iii].
As the Napoleonic wars progressed, the Cathedral clergy often paid the Cathedral bellingers to celebrate the announcement of victories and to alert the local citizens. In 1808, for example, they paid the bellringers 10s to celebrate the British Army’s victory at the Battle of Vimiero. This was recorded in the Cathedral accounts.
Unfortunately, the Cathedral archive does not hold any of Onslow’s personal papers and during lockdown it was not possible to find out more of his personal thoughts or interests. However, it is known that he somehow acquired multiple posts at the same time. Thus, while he was the Dean of the Cathedral, he managed to get himself appointed vicar of Kidderminster on 12th October 1795, vicar of Wolverley just under a month later, vicar of Lindridge from 1st April 1811, and held other positions within the church including being Archdeacon of Salisbury Cathedral until his death, no doubt collecting multiple incomes[iv]. He might politely be described as an astute gentleman when it came to his personal finances.
The Dean’s coat of arms was Argent, a fesse gules between six Cornish choughs proper[v]. Sidney Grazebrook noted that his crest was an eagle sable preying upon a partridge or[vi]. Onslow’s heraldic motto was ‘Festina Lente’ or hasten slowly.
Arthur Onslow died on 15th October 1817[vii]. He was the first and indeed one of the few people to be buried in the crypt. Later his wife Frances and his two daughters Anna Maria and Charlotte were buried in the crypt beside him[viii]. His memorial can still be seen as visitors leave the crypt exit, fixed to the wall near the old organ. When you next visit the Cathedral and are leaving the crypt keep a look out for it.
Worcester Cathedral Muniments.
S. Grazebrook, The Heraldry of Worcestershire,
F. E. Hutchinson, Monuments of Worcester Cathedral, self-published, Oxford 1944
John Noake, The Monastery and Cathedral of Worcester, Longman & Co., London 1866
I. Gregory Smith and Phipps Onslow, Diocesan Histories – Worcester, SPCK, London 1883.
The Church of England Clergy Database accessed 17/11/2020
[i] WCM A80
[ii] WCM A80
[iii] I.G. Smith and Phipps Onslow, Diocesan Histories- Worcester, SPCK London 1883, p.342.
[iv] John Noake, The Monastery and Cathedral of Worcester, Longman & Co., London 1866, p. 612; https://theclergydatabase.org.uk/jsp/search/index.
[v] Grazebrook, The Heraldry of Worcestershire, p.416
[vi] Grazebrook, p.416
[vii] Grazebrook, p.416
[viii] Hutchinson, p.144
One thought on “Dean Arthur Onslow: A Dean in the Napoleonic Era”