Place: Brenchley, near Tunbridge Wells.
My first is yourself, gentle reader,
My second the name of a goat,
My third is a great Latin leader.
If without one dissentient vote
You agree in your answers all round,
My whole will be speedily found.
‘Conundrums’ - Anthology of verses and other miscellaneous writings, 1861. (The ‘Enigma’ answer which was resolved with the aid of handwritten notations in text is ‘Unanimous’).
Revd Francis Storr (1808-1888) senior was vicar of All Saints’ church Brenchley in Kent from c.1854 until his death in 1888, assisted by his son, Revd Charles Storr, from 1876. He married (1) Caroline Storr, née Holland, 1814-1856; (2) Cecilia Grantham Storr, 1816-1896 (widow of Storr’s predecessor as the incumbent of All Saint’s, Brenchley and remembered on her gravestone as ‘wife of Richard Davis’). He had 5 sons, 3 daughters, 3 step-sons and 1 step-daughter. Francis Storr (1839-1919) junior was an author, biographer and translator who married Rose Storr, née Lloyd, in 1872 (Their daughter was Erica Violet Lindsay, née Storr, 1877-1962). Francis Storr junior graduated from Cambridge in 1860/61 and became well-known for his translations of the classics and his articles for the Dictionary of National Biography and Encyclopaedia Britannica. Together father and son wrote anthologies of poetry.
Minnows from Brenchley Brook, published in 1861, includes a poem on ‘The Death of Horsa’ , which tells the story of the Battle of Aylesford, in 455CE, when Saxon invaders, led by brothers Hengest and Horsa, defeated ‘Great Vortigen’ on “Aylesford’s open plain’ and “Horsa’s death that bloody day, / A noble victory bought’.1 The nod to Kent’s early history is, however, just one of the charms of this eclectic and enthusiastic miscellany of writings, compiled for the entertainment of its writers and their readers. The tantalising use of authorial initials, rather than names, presents another riddle besides those printed in its pages.
The anthology begins with a poem addressed from ‘F.S., Jun.’ to ‘Mr. Editor’, asking him to ‘Please … excuse / For this number at least my appearance’ because the writer is suffering the after-effects of a ‘soirée’ attended the previous evening with ‘the élite / [o]f Brenchley’, at which ‘Youth, Harmony, Fashion, and Beauty’ prevailed, and the recollection of which might ‘make our fair hostess to blush’.
‘F.S.’, or Francis Storr senior, provides the next poem. Entitled ‘Address’, it is a salutary tale of a moth burnt by flying too close to a flame; a warning to ‘the youthful authors … / Intent on fame and glory’ to heed ‘[t]heir sober mentor sage’ lest, like the moth:
‘Your muse in manuscript may bask
On desk in album lying;
’Twill soon, if printed wings it ask,
Be found the flames supplying.’ (p3)
’Conundrums’, on page 24, asserts that its answers will be ‘in our next’, but it seems that no ‘next’ was ever produced. This indicates again a project pursued purely for amusement - like the sports ‘on the field in front of the Vicarage’, which ‘presented a very gay scene’ and provided ‘a great deal of harmless fun.’
‘A Lay of Modern Brenchley’, on pages 8-11, recounts the ‘battle’ of two football teams, one drawn from local men and one from incomers to the village. The latter team is led by no other than ‘Mr. Bigsby” - editor of the anthology - and his team includes: “Thomson, of the Borders’; “Francis Parker - / Now Taffy called was he’ (so, presumably, of Welsh descent); ‘Jerry Leycester - / Of Chester’; ‘Freddy Cross of Suffolk’; and ‘Rose of Buckingham’. In a game where handling the ball was complete-ly acceptable, the village team, under the leadership of ‘William Hayne of Brenchley’ and therefore known as ‘the Haynites’, is defeated but, as the ‘Lay’ concludes:
… oft as by the fire we sit
In days of wet and rain,
Or on the cheerless winter’s night,
In fancy’s eye we fiercely fight
Our battle o’er again!
A handwritten note inside the scanned volume indicates that the ‘little selection of unpublished poems’ was given to Rev. Francis John Stainforth, an Anglican clergyman who ‘owned the largest private library of Anglophone women’s writing collected during the mid-nineteenth century’ in thanks for “the great trouble [he had] been to’ regarding some tickets. The note is signed by J. Knight Jennings and sent from 36 Harrington Square, London on 11 June 1861.2
Gravestone Photographic Resource (GPR) International Directory of Grave, Tomb, War and other Death Memorials. Online: accessed 16/02/21.
Hoare, Edward et al, Memorials of Francis Storr, London, William Rice, 1888; ebook edition 2016; online: accessed 16/02/21.
Kelly’s Directory of Kent 1903 (extract). Online: accessed 18/02/2021 Stainforth Library of Women’s Writing, Santa Clara University, USA. Online: accessed 17/02/21.
Storr, Francis et al, Minnows from Brenchley Brook [Verses, etc., by Francis Storr the elder, Francis Storr the younger, and others. Edited by Bernard Bigsby.] MS.notes; British Library Historical Collection edition, nd.
Storr, Francis et al. Minnows of Brenchley Brook, London, Richard Barrett, 1861.
UK Census, 1861. Online: accessed 18/02/21
Wikitree Genealogy website. Online: accessed 16/02/21.
The anthology was edited by Bernard Bigsby - full name Bernard Edward Sulyard Drake Bigsby - who would later move to America, marry, publish a series of seminal texts on the English language and become an eminent philologist, journalist and author. In 1861, however, he was resident with the Storr family at the Vicarage in Brenchley, where the UK Census lists his occupation as Tutor. He was 26 years old, having been born in Derby in 1835, and an Oxford graduate. ↩
James Knight Jennings (1813-1892), Oxford graduate, clergyman and author of The Dialect of the West of England, particularly Somersetshire (1869) is listed at this address on both the 1851 and 1861 census returns. His note to Stainforth draws his attention to two poems in particular: “- one by Mrs Frances [sic] Storr the vicars [sic] wife - the other by her little daughter”. These poems are on pages 19-20 and 14-15 respectively. ↩