William Maurice Wright
William Maurice Wright was the squire of Wold Newton from 1879 to 1956.
Upon the deposit of the Wright papers at the Lincoln Archive the archivist wrote the following report, in effect a rather entertaining biography.
"WRIGHT OF WOLD. NEWTON
The deposit by Mr. C. J. Ollard of the library and family papers
of the late William Maurice Wright of Wold Newton was very briefly
mentioned in the last Archivists’ Report (p. 43.) During the last year
work has proceeded on the collection: the library has been installed in
a special room in the administrative block of the archives building, put
in order, catalogued and indexed. For this work, as for help in many
fields, we are indebted to Mr. David Smith who undertook the cataloguing
and indexing of the books as light relief from his thesis on
Bishop Hugh of Welles.
The Wright library is particularly strong in ecclesiastical history,
art and architecture, liturgiology, ecclesiastical biography and in English
topography and local history. There are also a fair number of books
on European topography, especially on France, whose cathedrals and
churches, together with those of his own country, were the consuming
love of Mr. Wright’s life. An interest in field sports is also displayed
in a number of works, including a run, not quite complete, of the
Sporting Magazine from 1805 to 1823.
Work on the documents is not so far advanced as on the library,
largely because of the complete disorder in which they were found,
scattered through almost every room in Wold Newton Manor. They
consist mainly of the personal papers of William Maurice Wright and
other members of the family. Although a summary list of the collection
will have to wait till the next report when the remainder of the
deposit, which includes correspondence and weather records, has been
dealt with, enough work has been done to give a clear idea of the
contents of some of the main sections. It is on a preliminary examination
of these that what follows is mainly based.
The Wrights had been established at Wold Newton for many years
as tenants of the Brocklesby estate when William Wright bought Newton
from the Earl of Yarborough in 1870. He died in 1879, as the result
of a riding accident, leaving his widow to bring up four girls and three
boys. The eldest son was William Maurice, born in 1873. We can
follow his career in detail in the diaries which he kept from 1894 until
his death in 1956. Together with a parallel series, kept
by his brother Parsons, from 1903 to 1966 they give fascinating
pictures of life at Wold Newton, described by two contrasting characters.
After preparatory schools, Malvern College and a coach at Basing,
William Maurice went up to St. John’s College, Oxford, in October
1892. His first year or so at college, although he did not keep full
diaries, is covered by the cryptic comments written in the minute space
left for memoranda in calendars for 1891-4; remarks such as “Heard
Father Ignatius ” (Feb. 5th 1893) and, “ Shotover hill, no joke”
(Feb. 28th 1893).
His first extended diary (octave size, three days to a page) was
commenced in 1894 and he used the same form for the rest of his life,
normally filling in all the available space and rarely, if ever, missing
a day. At the beginning of the first diary, “ in case this book
may be read years after “, he gives a summary of his family background
and describes a normal day at Oxford: “ Lectures from I0--1.
Very rarely more than one lecture a day, usually I0-11 a.m.” At
some of the less interesting lectures he whiled away the time by drawing
caricatures, usually episcopal figures in copes and mitres, in his note
books or diaries. Apart from lectures, “ awful bosh ” in many cases,
his diaries bear witness to a recurrent struggle to rise in time for 8
o’clock Chapel, which he usually reached in an “ unwashed and halfdressed” state.
Outside the lectures, the essay writing, the reading, where his
wrestling with Stubbs’ Constitutional History were constantly interrupted
by the invasions of his friends, he seems to have sampled most
of the amusements which Oxford had to offer; the theatre, the river,
long walks in the surrounding countryside, a constant round of tea
parties and ‘I wines “. He attended debates in the Union, where
“ Belloc of Balliol speaks awfully good ” in December 1894,
also using the Union library to pursue his particular interest in genealogy
and family history when he should have been attending a lecture
on Aristotle. There is no evidence that he ever spoke himself in one
of the Union debates, but he did take part in those in St. John’s Junior
Common Room, supporting “ lady undergrads" in November 1894;
his maiden speech in a previous month had been in favour of religious
education in Board Schools.
Among a number of college clubs of which he was a member were
the Archery Club and the King Charles Club. The latter, for all its
Royalist and High Tory ethos, seems to have been a club for mild
social wining and dining and even milder gambling, where Wright
regularly lost about 2/- each week. His refusal to attend the club on
January 30th 1895, “ the anniversary of his martyrdom and so hardly
the time for a club called after him . . . to assemble to feast ” aroused
the indignation of some of the other members and further unspecified
“rows” later in that term prompted his resignation.
In view of his many extra-curricular activities it is not surprising
that William Maurice Wright should note in his diary that his tutor,
W. H. Hutton, "apparently thinks I am a pleasant pupil but not a hard worker"
(8th Dec. 1894). Hutton, himself a Lincolnshire
man, was to remain a lifelong friend until his death, as Dean of
Winchester, in 1930. Another tutor, Leighton Pullan, also remained
in close touch with Wright until the end of his life. It was probably
his churchmanship, most of all, which endeared him to them, for his
consuming interest in ecclesiastical history, architecture and liturgy
was in complete contrast to his apparently lukewarm affection for the
broader fields covered in the School of Modern History.
St. John’s’ College in the 1890s seems to have been notorious in
more Protestant circles as a hotbed of High Churchmen. Such subjects
as the use of incense and vestments in church services were a constant
source of interest to Wright and his friends. He censed his own room,
his friends’ rooms, the college library and “a hostile bible meeting“.
When in February 1895 the President of the college accepted a cross
for the altar in the college chapel for which William Maurice Wright
had collected much of the money, he wrote, “Thus achieved another
point, 3 cheers!”. Apart from the College chapel, services
at several Oxford churches, meetings of the English Church Union and
frequent visits to Mowbray’s shop, as “ the young Ritualist enthusiast ”
(25th Jan. 1895), took up a great deal of time.
These Oxford influences are reflected in his purchases of vestments,
ornaments and decorations for the church at Wold Newton and
in his efforts to encourage the cause of High Churchmanship in the
parish (arousing the local Methodists at one point to cries of ‘No
Popery’). Most of the rest of the family shared his interest
in the affairs of the parish church: visits were constantly exchanged
between the Manor and the Rectory, and the Succession of new curates
was observed with interest, pleasure or dismay:
1st Apr. 1894. New curate arrives and causes tremendous consternation.
Looks as though he had lately resigned his position as
pubkeeper. Mother feels sick when she sees him.
For some time William Maurice Wright himself had very serious
thoughts of entering the Church as a career. However, a miserable
fortnight in December 1897 at Ely Theological College, where he went
to see how he liked the life, discouraged him completely. For a landowner
and, by now, a Justice of the Peace, used to complete independence,
to be “ treated in so absurdly juvenile a way “, to be aroused
at 6.15 a.m. by “ that miserable school bell “, to suffer the discipline,
the cold, the fatigue, and, above all, the meals was too much.
He settled down to life at Wold Newton, busying himself with parish
affairs, his work as a J.P., Diocesan committees, his antiquarian
interests, gardening and estate business, interspersed with trips the
length and breadth of Britain and, most years, a holiday abroad to
study church architecture. Sometimes there is a separate journal
covering these holiday trips in greater detail than his main diary.
The most amusing journal is one relating to a holiday in France
in 1905 as the passenger in a motor cycle combination driven by his
friend Herbert Mather. William Maurice Wright travelled
in the “trailer”: a photograph shows it to have been a kind of
armchair on wheels which was pulled along behind the cycle.
After several !soakings his real troubles began I0 kilometres short of
Chartres in pouring rain and gathering gloom, when a trailer tyre burst
and could not be repaired: he walked the rest of the way pulling the
trailer, while his companion went on to find a hotel. After repairs
they went on towards the Loire at a “terrific and really alarming
pace some of the way“. The final blow fell between Blois and Chambord:
the tyre burst beyond hope of repair and Wright pulled the
trailer 17 miles, deserted once more by his friend. For the rest of the tour
they travelled by train. Apart from transport problems they narrowIy
avoided incineration in Chartres Cathedral, when a flare-up of offertory
candles nearly set the building on fire. There was a great rush of
worshippers to get out but, “ I remained in my seat with a few English
Throughout his expeditions at home and abroad he’ was an assiduous
collector of postcards: the deposit includes more than fifty
volumes of views collected between 1890 and the early 1950s. Many of
the cards are ones sent by Wright to his family or by friends to him,
but the majority have not been used for correspondence. While mainly
consisting of views of ecclesiastical buildings, they also include family
snapshots, views of Wold Newton, pictures of horses and cars. (Many
more family pictures are to be found in a separate series of photograph
albums, one of them consisting of photographs of his Oxford friends,
while many more loose postcards and photographs have yet to be
fully sorted). Interesting little groups of cards are those showing
Edward VII at Biarritz pictures of various ships which
plied in the Bournemouth area and cards celebrating the
opening of the Simplon Tunnel in 1905, showing the first train and
the machines used for tunnelling. Albums belonging to his
brother Edward Wright show examples of traction engines and farm
machinery at work as well as a few election scenes, probably at Alton,
Hants., where he lived.
Two volumes containing postcards received by Parsons Wright
between 1903 and 1914 are very entertaining. Their main
contents are photographs of actresses, seaside postcards in dubious
taste and, above all, motoring cartoons, for motoring and amateur
entertaining were his two great loves. His services as singer and
comedian were in demand at innumerable parish and private house
concerts in the neighbourhood of Wold Newton. Much of the time not
spent in rehearsing for these was passed in, around and often underneath
his succession of motor bikes, motor trikes and motor cars,
or “jawing in the garage” with like-minded acquaintances. The
splendours and miseries of the heroic age of motoring emerge vividly
from his pre-war diaries, as may be seen from the following few
extracts from the 1903 diary, with which we conclude:-
Feb. 5th. Fool about trying to improve trike compression but fail.
Apr. 16th. Dr. Stedman arrives and ‘talks in the garage like a
maniac about the various qualities of motor bike’ not on the market
. . . His trike needless to say has broken down.
May 5th. Wire comes after lunch to say [new] car has arrived
in London [from Paris].
May 21st. Busy all morning, afternoon and evening trying to get
my beastly car to start. All my attempts prove futile.
June 20th. Car goes wrong coming home. We take 4 hours to
do the 4 miles. Push the blooming affair the last 2 miles.
Sept. 14th. Slight bother with Mr. Chapman’s horse from Waltham
. . . The horse became frightened and took the fence, leaving the
covered cart with the shafts in the air. The man . . . was in the
midst of paraffin, parcels of sugar, Lipton’s tea, plum cake etc.,
but quite intact."