By Susan Guinn-Chipman
Francis John Stainforth (1797-1866) was a British Anglican clergyman who served as a curate in London-area parishes. Stainforth also left his mark as a consummate collector of stamps, shells, and books. He was an early and influential philatelist who helped to establish the Royal Philatelic Society. He also collected what was then perhaps the largest private library of books by women writers. Stainforth’s pursuits were not entirely unusual for a nineteenth-century churchman.  His interest in stamps and shells reflects the broader antiquarian interest in history and natural history. His devotion to the preservation of women’s literary remains – so apparent in both the creation of his library and in his catalogue of women’s writing – reveals the inclinations of an archivist.
Early Life and Family
Francis Stainforth was baptized 14 December 1797 at St. Peter Le Poor, London, and was raised in Middlesex by his father, Richard B. Stainforth (d. 1824) and his mother, Maria Baring Stainforth (d. 1835). Francis’ father was born in the same parish 26 December 1759. He partnered with Mark Giberne in the wine trade for the Old South Sea London House, 21 Broadstreet, until his retirement in 1822. Their association was rooted in earlier generations; the Stainforth and Giberne families appear together as wine merchants as early as 1759. Richard Stainforth was also a purveyor of wine to the household of George III in 1798 and 1799. In a position that may have afforded him greater connections in the world of finance and trade, Richard Stainforth served as a director of the London Assurance Company, one of two great marine insurance houses of the eighteenth century.
Francis’ mother, Maria, was the second of five daughters of Sir Francis Baring (1740-1810) and Harriet Herring (1750–1804). Francis’ older brother, George (1796-1820) of Trinity College, Cambridge, died at the age of 24. His younger siblings included Marian, the wife of John Whitmore the Younger, Esquire; Harriet, the wife of Reverend William Dealtry (d. 1845); and Richard, who acted as guardian to the youngest sisters Georgiana (1801-1870) and Emillia (1811-1884) both of whom had yet to reach their majority by the writing of their mother Maria’s will in 1832.
It is possible that Francis Stainforth was named after his grandfather Baring, a powerful and successful London merchant banker and founder of the John and Francis Baring Company. At the apex of his career, Baring acted as advisor to cabinet ministers on domestic and foreign matters relating to trade and commerce, including those concerning the American War of Independence. Through such involvement, he became part of the inner circle of the political life of the realm. He made part of his fortune as one of the first bankers to offer Britain’s allies foreign bonds as well as subsidies. Baring was also director of the East India Company from 1779 until his death in 1810. The marriages of several of the ten Baring children—Francis Stainforth’s mother, Maria, and her siblings—were politically and financially advantageous allegiances. Two of Baring’s sons married the daughters of American Senator William Bingham, a wealthy landowner, and Baring’s third daughter, Dorothy, married Pierre César Labouchère of Hope & Co., the most powerful merchant bank in Amsterdam. Baring’s oldest daughter Harriet (1768–1838) married Charles Wall (d. 1815), a partner in Baring’s bank. With commercial and familial connections to both the Continent and to North America, Francis Baring forged a far-reaching transatlantic network of political and commercial influence.
Less is known of the Stainforth family’s ties to the Barings and the degree to which Baring wealth might have provided a financial foundation for the Stainforth offspring. Upon Francis Baring’s death in 1810, his will provided £10,000 for Maria to be vested in the trustees of her marriage settlement as well as an additional £10,000, principal and interest, to enjoy for her “separate use free from the debts engagements or contract … of her present or any future husband … notwithstanding any coverture.” Further, land transactions and leases in the London borough of Lewisham and in Hampshire suggest that the two families continued to share economic interests. The families also shared more charitable concerns. In 1803, Francis Baring, one of his sons, and Richard Stainforth appeared together in “An Association for the Improving Situation of Infant Chimney Sweepers,” a venture planned to promote an inexpensive machine that would clean chimneys in order to “supercede the need of employing these unfortunate infants” and to, by subscription, provide for their education and clothing.
Worth £606,000 at his death, with an additional £70,000 in company holdings, it is not surprising that Francis Baring was concerned about his financial legacy and the ability of his offspring to see to its future. Writing in 1803, he related that
Money or Fortune derive no security from the magnitude or amount, as it cannot be expected that the next in succession will possess equal prudence with the person who acquired … A man is considered as mean who does not spend his income; and although there are instances of young misers, they are very rare, and the imputation of meanness is so insupportable to a young man, that they never fail to plunge into the opposite extreme. It is for this reason that families founded on the acquirements of an individual do not last above sixty years on with another: families which are founded on the success of public Service continue longer, because the Children and Grandchildren of the founder are generally inclined to pursue the same line of Service: but the posterity of a merchant, Banker etc., particularly when they are young, abandon the pursuits of their predecessor as beneath them … 
As the second son of a second Baring daughter, Francis Stainforth would not have been first among the Baring children and grandchildren expected to fulfill Baring’s dynastic hopes and expectations. The Baring inheritance provided for his mother, Maria, and that inherited from his father, Richard Stainforth, would, however, have ensured Francis and his siblings a comfortable life with disposable income. His father’s will provided for £10,000 to be divided among the Stainforth children, excepting the two eldest daughters, whose financial settlements had been made upon their marriages. Further, the sum of £13,500 of South Sea Stock, purchased with funds arising from the sale of Richard Stainforth’s estate at Woodhall in Hertfordshire was willed to his wife, Maria, and to their children following her eventual death.
Francis Stainforth Family
Francis John Stainforth’s young family grew during his service in India. Lieutenant, then later Captain of the 1st Light Cavalry in the Bengal Army, Francis Stainforth married Elizabeth Fraser, daughter of Doctor Fraser of London, 23 January 1823, in Benares, India. Their union produced four children. The eldest son, Francis George Stainforth (George) was born 17 November 1824 (baptized 20 December 1824) in Benares, India. Three daughters followed. Emily Stainforth was born the following year, 2 December 1825, in Bangulpone, India, and Julia Stainforth was born in Benares, India, in 1827. Nearly three years after the family’s return to London from India in September of 1827, Louisa Stainforth was born 23 May 1830 and baptized 23 June at Holy Trinity, Clapham, by Reverend William Dealtry, brother-in-law of Francis Stainforth. In November of 1838, seven years after the death of his first wife, Elizabeth (then 27), Stainforth married Elizabeth Ruthven, daughter of E.C. Ruthven, M.P. for the city of Dublin, at Nobber Church, Ireland. Their union produced two sons both, like their older brother, named Francis. Francis Edward Stainforth (Frank) was born 23 December 1839 and baptized, 24 May 1840. Francis Ruthven Stainforth was born 5 March 1845 and baptized 2 August 1845 at Marbledon Place, Camden, St. Pancras, Middlesex. The youngest of Stainforth’s offspring, Francis Ruthven, died at a young age in 1857.
Stainforth’s children’s lives and careers echoed their father’s interests. With the exception of Julia Stainforth, little is known of the lives of the curate’s daughters. The 1861 census records Julia, who was then 34, residing with her father Francis, her stepmother Elizabeth Ruthven Stainforth, her half-brother Francis Edward, then 21, a cook, and two maids, in the rectory of All Hallows Staining at 9 Mark Lane, London. Julia was in all probability the daughter noted by Stainforth who assisted with the duties of his parish by visiting the poor and distributing money to support their needs. Stainforth’s two eldest sons, Francis George and Francis Edward, left fuller records. Francis George pursued a notable military career; Francis Edward followed his father’s love of literature.
Francis George received both a Classical and a Mathematical education at Christ’s Hospital, London. He followed his father’s early career path into the military, serving his entire career in India. He was appointed a cadet in the infantry of the Bengal Army in the service of the East India Company, in October of 1841. Proficient in Hindustani, Francis George Stainforth was appointed to serve as regimental Interpreter and Quarter Master in 1848. He was granted leave to study civil engineering at Roorkee College in 1853. As Francis John Stainforth’s health was declining in 1866, Francis George, then Major of the Bengal Army Staff Corps, was granted a twenty-month leave to Europe to attend to his father’s failing health and to his family’s needs. In 1874, then Lieutenant Colonel Francis George Stainforth, second in command and wing officer of the Bengal Army Native Infantry, was granted a second furlough to return to Europe to settle private affairs. Having served in India for over thirty years, then Brevet Major General Francis George Stainforth died in Warwickshire, 23 December 1878, leaving a personal estate of less than £1000. He left his wife, Ellen Frederica Obbard Stainforth, and a number of children, including Francis Robert Whitmore Stainforth who, like his father and grandfather, served in India. In 1892, the younger Francis became a naturalized citizen of Canada and, by the recording of the 1901 Canadian census, earned his living as a farmer in New Westminster, British Columbia.
By contrast, Francis Edward embarked upon a literary career just two years after his father’s death. ‘Frank’ Stainforth was the author of plays, verses, essays, and novels, many aimed at young readers. He was also an editor for publisher Chatto and Windus and for the Aldine Publishing Company. A shake-up at Aldine, in which new management made a “clean sweep of the old hands,” together with Frank Stainforth’s ill health, triggered by bouts of asthma, brought an end to his literary career. In March of 1898, Frank Stainforth requested financial support from the Royal Literary Fund. Despite supporting letters built on twenty-five years of association from Andrew Chatto, of Chatto and Windus, and from Charles Perry Brown, formerly of Aldine, Frank Stainforth’s application was denied. A handwritten note: “9 March 1898, Literary Claim Insufficient” headed the rejected application. Frank Stainforth died the following year.
Education and Career
Francis John Stainforth’s education matched his family’s status but he appears to have been more intellectually and spiritually driven than motivated by success in politics or business. He was admitted as a pensioner to St. John’s College in Cambridge University in 1816. He left Cambridge in 1817 for India, where he spent the next decade in the Bengal Cavalry. He was promoted to the rank of Comet in 1818 and Lieutenant in 1819. Francis Stainforth resigned from the Army in 1827, with the rank of Captain. He sailed from India aboard the Lady Macnaghten, captained by William Faith, accompanied by his wife Elizabeth Fraser Stainforth; his eldest son, Francis George; his daughters Emily and Julia, and members of his wife’s family.
Upon Stainforth’s return from India, he was admitted at Queens’ College, Cambridge, 23 May 1828. He earned his B.A. in 1830, the same year he was ordained as a deacon in Lincoln. While working on his B.A., he served as curate at Longstow, a village west of Cambridge, where he remained until December of 1830. He completed his M.A. from St. John’s in 1833 and was ordained a priest 16 February 1834. In 1841, Reverend Stainforth became the curate of Camden Chapel in Surrey, where he remained until 1846, at which time he transferred to St Pancras in London. In 1852 he left St. Pancras to become Perpetual Curate of All Hallows Staining, located in southeastern London on the Thames, a position he held until his death in 1866. During his curacy at All Hallows Staining, Stainforth also occasionally preached at the Temple Church, London.
The degree to which Francis Stainforth’s religious convictions fell firmly within established Anglican Church doctrine is difficult to determine. Family connections – both Baring and Stainforth – immersed him within the cross currents of shifting religious and social thought characteristic of early nineteenth-century Christianity in Britain. In 1815, when Francis was eighteen years old, members of the Baring family embarked upon a spiritual path sometimes termed the “Western Schism.” Though the movement was part of a broader Evangelical Revival, it was viewed with suspicion by more moderate evangelicals. It deviated from Anglican doctrine – particularly in regard to the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Prayer Book – on a number of key points and featured “high predestinarianism, itinerant preaching, and determined separatism.” The movement produced a secession in the West Country centered on a Baring network of friends and family. The “Baring party” included most prominently the siblings of Francis’ mother, Maria Baring Stainforth: Harriet Baring Wall, Sir Thomas Baring, and Reverend George Baring. Harriet Wall organized and sometimes led scripture readings and prayers for as many as one hundred and fifty friends and family in her home, first at Albury, Surrey, then following the death of her husband in 1815, at her home near her brother, Sir Thomas Baring, in Everton, Hampshire. Influenced by his sister, Harriet, George Baring soon became the leader of the movement, initiating a complete break from the Church of England. Not all of the family concurred with their religious turn. Henry Baring considered his brother George’s behavior to be “weak and inconsistent” and feared that he would disgrace the family.
Members of the Stainforth family, too, moved away from the traditional Church in their embrace of an evangelical movement that later became known as the “Clapham Sect.” They took as their focus social reform including the abolition of the slave trade. Reverend William Dealtry, who married Harriet, one of Francis Stainforth’s sisters, had spent a year as a tutor at Clapham and, in 1813, was appointed to the living of that parish. Francis Stainforth’s family seems to have remained close to Clapham. Francis’ brother, George, was a close childhood friend of Christian Missionary Society founder, Reverend Henry Venn, son of Clapham rector John Venn (d. 1815) and, in 1832, co-executor with Francis and his brother, Richard Stainforth, of Maria Stainforth’s will. Further, it was at Clapham that Francis Stainforth’s youngest daughter, Louisa, was baptized by William Dealtry in 1830 and where Maria Stainforth’s will of 1832 stipulated that upon her decease, she should be buried.
Francis Stainforth’s religious philosophy seems to have mirrored more closely the moderation of his brother-in-law William Dealtry than the more radical separatist views of several of the Baring faction. Despite Dealtry’s personal evangelical leanings and his curacy in a parish known for advancing social justice, he supported the English Church, evidenced in his Argument for a Church Establishment (1833). Like the religious career of his brother-in-law, William Dealtry, there is little in Stainforth’s spiritual path that would argue for his having advocated separation from the Anglican Church.
In a clear departure from both Anglican canon and British civil law, however, Francis Stainforth seems to have planned to travel to Hamburg, Germany in order to solemnize the marriage between a gentleman and the man’s deceased wife’s sister, a marriage that had been “expressly forbidden” by the church due to degrees of affinity. Writing to Francis Stainforth, 5 March 1852, Bishop of London, Charles Blomfield, states that “it would be as inconsistent with your duty as a clergyman to solemnize in Hamburga [sic] as it would be in England; the only difference being that in the latter case you would subject yourself to legal penalties from which you may possibly be exempt in the former.” Given the date of the bishop’s letter, it is probable that he referred to the impending marriage between Stainforth kin: Emily Dealtry, daughter of William and Harriet Stainforth Dealtry (Francis’ sister) and Henry Sykes Thornton, the widower of the deceased elder daughter Harriet Dealtry Thornton, all of Clapham. In 1850, ten years after the death of his first wife, Harriet, Henry Sykes Thornton, banker and M.P., worked for the repeal of the 1835 statute prohibiting such marriages. E.M. Forster, biographer of his great aunt Marianne Thornton, sister of Henry Sykes Thornton, recounts the episode that tore the family apart, pitting the Whitmore and Dealtry families (represented almost certainly by Stainforth sisters, the elder Mrs. Marian Whitmore and Mrs. Harriet Dealtry) against a number of the Thorntons, who rejected the marriage. This case and the broader push to repeal the Marriage Act of 1835 also set clergy against bishops and Commons against Lords. The Act was not repealed until 1907. According to Forster’s sources, the couple, together with his daughters and Emily’s mother, Harriet Stainforth Dealtry, sailed to the Continent for the marriage, departing Dover for Calais, 12 March 1852, just five days after the strongly worded letter from the bishop to Stainforth warning him against travelling to the Continent in order to solemnize such a marriage.
All Hallows Staining
Later the same year, 1852, Francis Stainforth succeeded Reverend Lancelot Sharpe as perpetual curate at All Hallows Staining, a small parish situated not far from the Tower of London. It was this church that, according to popular accounts, housed William Wallace for a brief period prior to his execution in 1305 and to which a young Elizabeth, not yet queen, resorted in 1554 to give thanks following her imprisonment in the tower under her sister Mary Tudor. John Stowe’s Survey of London records that the church was “repaired in many parts of it, and very nearly and decently beautified, at the cost of the Parishioners, in the yeere of our Lord 1630.” Though the early fourteenth-century church survived the Great Fire of London of 1666, the church building fell just five years later in 1671, leaving only the tower that stands today.
By 1833, Lancelot Sharpe reported to the bishop that the seventeenth-century church that replaced that damaged in 1671 included pews and a gallery, which together held 328 parishioners for a parish of 577 inhabitants. One pew was held by the Ironmongers’ Company for four shillings; six additional pews belonged by right to the incumbent (then Sharpe), though he offered their use to parish families for no charge. The church underwent substantial repairs in 1824 for just over £1228. In addition to the rectory or parsonage at 9 Mark Lane, All Hallows also held two small tenements, located at 6 and 7 Mark Lane, the income of which was available for church repairs and other needs. For most of his incumbency, Sharpe elected to reside, not in the rectory, but at St. Savior’s School in Southwark, where he was headmaster. He leased the rectory, which he described as “3 rooms on a floor besides a room on the ground floor, used as a Counting House, in good condition, commodious, and fit for occupation,” to William Aston for £70 per annum.
By the 1850s and 60s, All Hallows Staining was part of a busy commercial district at Mark Lane and Fenchurch Street made up of madeira merchants, bread and biscuit makers, printers, continental agents, and even guano merchants. The parish church itself ministered to victuallers, clerks, bootmakers, tobacconists, tailors, messengers, cork cutters, shipmen, jewelers, housekeepers, and carpenters. These and occasionally others of more illustrious social backgrounds from beyond the bounds of the parish – including a gentleman from Albion Street, Hyde Park and his own son, then Captain Francis George Stainforth, visiting from the East Indies for the birth and baptism of his daughter, Kate Beatrice by her grandfather – resorted to All Hallows for baptisms and marriages.
The population of the parish of All Hallows Staining, however, had declined from Sharpe’s estimate of 577 made in 1834 to Stainforth’s rough estimate of 300 made in 1862. Stainforth noted that church attendance was low, a state he argued had been exacerbated by non-resident clergy, including his predecessor and other churchmen throughout the diocese. He suggested that “if clergy were residents the strength of the church would be more than doubled.” He reported an average of approximately 40 parishioners in the congregation on Sundays and weekdays and suggested that many resort to the country for fresh air; still others enjoyed more music that what he was able to provide, absent an organ. Though, by 1862, his estimate of the size of the congregation had risen to 50, the numbers still fell far short of a “fair proportion” of the population of the parish.
It is at All Hallows Staining that we see evidence of the beliefs and ideals of the Clapham Sect in the work of Francis Stainforth. Social justice at a parish level appears in his responses to diocesan inquiries for the years 1858 and 1862 for All Hallows Staining, where the majority of the parishioners were of the working class. By 1862, Stainforth records that there were six parishioners in the workhouse and sixteen who receive “out-door relief.” His notes to the Bishop of London describe church pews as freely available to persons of any class, occupied only by custom and at no charge, a departure from the centuries-old practices that persisted into the nineteenth century through which social stratification was often mirrored in parish church seating arrangements, with prime seating let for a fee. He further informed the bishop that he had abolished fees for baptism at All Hallows Staining, believing such charges to be illegal. Stainforth raised concern with the bishop, too, over the expenses his parishioners had been forced to incur following the passing of the Metropolitan Burial Act of 1852. The Act closed all London churchyards to burial, necessitating subsequent interments in the city cemetery at Ilford, which had opened several years before, in 1856. By 1862, at the age of sixty-five and perhaps in declining health, Stainforth recorded that he distributed money to those “in want chiefly through the hands of [his] daughter.”
Like Lancelot Sharpe and the late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century perpetual curates of All Hallows Staining before him, Francis Stainforth benefited from Dame Margaret Slaney’s Trust, established in 1607. The wife of Sir Stephen Slaney (1524–1608), merchant of London and lord mayor, Margaret Slaney bequeathed £2,000 to the Grocer’s Company for the purchase of benefices. By 1663, this included the perpetual curacy of All Hallows Staining. By the mid-nineteenth century, with the decline of population in the older boroughs of London and accelerated growth in the newer suburbs, the decision was made to consolidate a number of parishes. In 1871, five years after the death of Francis Stainforth, Alfred Povah, rector of nearby St. Olave’s Hart Street, records the changes generated by the Union of Benefices Act (1860) and the Lady Slaney’s Trust Estate Act (1869). The former unified a number of contiguous London parishes. It allowed for the demolition of the parish church of All Hallows Staining, leaving only the early fourteenth-century tower and three grave stones – among them those of Lancelot Sharpe and his wife – and stipulated the transfer of the monuments within to the church to St. Olave’s. The latter authorized the Grocers to consent to the union of benefices of the two churches.
Whether Francis Stainforth was aware of the plan to close the church when he first arrived at the parish in 1852 is unclear. A plan to unify the parishes and to demolish the church of All Hallows Staining was known publicly at least as early as 1854 – just two years after his appointment to the perpetual curacy of the parish – when The Leader published notice that the Bishop of London had approved such a plan in “Proposed Removal of Thirty City Churches.” Stainforth nevertheless continued to oversee improvements in church fabric: in 1862, the addition of windows to the roof added much needed light “to the great improvement of the church”; and, in 1864-65, repair of the wheel of bells was undertaken by “Hall,” who was paid just under £2.
The implementation of the Unification of Benefices Act and the Lady Slaney Trust Act took place over the course of three decades. The church was brought down in 1870, just four years after Stainforth’s death. The Company of the Clothworkers purchased the site of All Hallows Staining for roughly £13,000 under the agreement that they maintain the tower and refrain from building on the land that once held the church, the churchyard, and the rectory. A narrow portion of land along Mark Lane was exempted. The proceeds of the sale of the property that held the church and rectory went toward the construction of All Hallows, Bromley-le-Bow (consecrated in 1874), at £10,000. The pulpit, font, stained glass, cushions and six bells were to be appropriated by any of the three churches specified in the Lady Slaney’s Trust Estate Act of 1869. As late as 1891, the Ecclesiastical Commission and the Grocer’s Company continued to debate the fate of the church furnishings. The Grocers stressed that the sixth bell was reported to be the “earliest dated one in London and therefore of historical value,” which would be destroyed by the recasting that had been suggested for the group; they requested that they be permitted to retain it in its current state, replacing it with another new bell in its stead.
It was against this backdrop of nineteenth-century demographic and economic change within the diocese of London and attention to his own clerical duties that Francis Stainforth continued to build the shells, stamps, and women’s poetry into the collections for which he has become known. His library at All Hallows Staining probably rested within the walls of the rectory, situated just to the south, adjacent to the nave of the church. Stainforth’s predecessor Lancelot Sharpe died 26 October 1852 and, although Stainforth had been critical of Sharpe’s non-residence, it seems that the former perpetual curate had indeed passed his final six years in the rectory of All Hallows, following his retirement from St. Savior’s Grammar School. There Sharpe, classicist and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries London was reported to have enjoyed his “scholar’s odium cum dignitate in a well-stored library.” That Stainforth might have benefitted from Sharpe’s vacated library, utilizing it to house his own library of women’s writing, reflected in his catalogue of cherished acquisitions and hoped for finds, seems fitting. Stainforth continued the long tradition of antiquarianism practiced among the Anglican clergy, albeit with a modern, even proto-feminist, twist, apparent in his notable recovery and preservation of fifteenth- through nineteenth-century women’s poetry.
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