William was born on 12th September 1823. His baptism and the registration of his birth was witnessed by William Buchanan, who was a member of the Glasgow Educational Society GES); and by James Playfair who, in addition to being a member of GES was also a member of the Glasgow Infant School Society (GISS).1He nearly died in infancy through ‘active inflammation of the lungs’,2causing his parents great emotional and spiritual distress. ‘We have been visited’, Stow wrote, ‘with a fatherly correction in the near prospect of the loss of our dear and only child, William’.3
‘In the family (William) was kind and affectionate – to his parents very strongly attached. As a boy at school, he displayed much energy and activity both of body and of mind. He had great facility in his studies, and variety did not perplex him. In his hours of relaxation, he engaged in games and amusements with all his heart; and on such occasions his ardent and conciliating spirit generally secured for him the place of leader among his companions. His principle of action was to do nothing ‘by halves’.4
He was a student at Glasgow University from 1837-41:5his name, along with those of his two brothers, is recorded in the Matriculation Albums of the University 1728-1858. In the Census of 18416he was living at home in Sauchyhall (sic) Street with his parents: his age is given as 18 with a date of birth in 1823. It is not clear what he studied at Glasgow but on December 14th 1841, he was enrolled as a Pensioner in Peterhouse College, Cambridge, with the intention of studying for the bar, becoming a scholar in 1842. Wagner states that he was at the top of the list in his first examination and might have distinguished himself in law had he felt not felt it right to devote his energy to studies which bore more directly on the work of the ministry. In 1846, at the age of 23, he graduated from Cambridge University with a Bachelor of Arts to which he added, in 1851, a Master of Arts.7
He was ordained in December 1846, and in January, aged 47, was appointed to the first of two curateships at Sherborne, Dorset, by the Rev John Parsons, vicar of the parish.
‘His field of labour consisted of 2600 souls, being half of the whole population. He had generally three services on Sunday, there being three churches to serve; and he added two cottage lectures during the week. He also gave religious instruction to the factory young women; and had a class for preparing the Sunday School teachers to conduct Bible lessons, on the natural and efficient principle developed by his father in ‘The Training System;’ thus leaving only one evening in the week disengaged. At the same time, systematic visiting from house to house made him intimately acquainted with all his parishioners. He continued these abundant labours two years and a quarter, and on his leaving Sherborne, was presented with several public and private testimonials; one from the inhabitants of Sherborne and Castleton, another from the factory girls, who had attended his weekly class, a third from the use of the public Grammar School, and a fourth from the Sunday school teachers, who had attended his ‘Bible training’ class; to which may be added, one to his daughter by the children of the National School.
He became Parish Curate of Dilton Marsh, Wiltshire from 1848-50.
‘The Manor of Daleton, or Dylton, was formerly a place of note for the manufacture of Broad and Woollen cloths; but is now reduced to a small village. It is situated in the Hundred and Parish of Westbury. Many who read the History of the Church will be in doubt as to the reason why it was built in such a thinly populated district. But when we find that Dilton was formerly, with so many more houses, as well as the large Cloth or Woollen Mills, and a Grist Mill, in full employ, it seems to have been a much more populous place than it now is; and remembering, too, that Dilton Marsh Church was not built till a comparatively recent date, we shall better understand why this church was built; the villagers of Marsh being in the habit of attending the old Church until the erection of the new one in their own village. ‘In connection with Dilton Church there was a well attended Sunday School for the children of Dilton and the district round.’8
Wagner wrote ‘In March, 1849, (William) entered upon the incumbency of Dilton’s Marsh, Wiltshire, a widely-extended and neglected parish, to which he had been presented by Bishop of Salisbury. In the morning of the day, on which he entered on his public duties, 15 persons only attended Divine worship; at the evening service 40 were present; and, in the course of two or three months, the church, which holds 700, became well filled. Here, also, he added a third service, re-established the Sunday schools on an improved basis, and organised two day schools at great expense and labour, on the ‘Moral Training System,’ which he in general visited daily; and gave two evening lectures during the week, one in the church, and one in a small hamlet, 3 miles distant from his house. His cottage and Sunday evening lectures were generally delivered from notes. The morning sermons were uniformly written and read, except on one occasion, which may be deemed worthy of notice’.9
William introduced the Training System into the local school at Dilton’s Marsh which received good evaluations in two Reports. Rev E. D. Tinling writes:
‘Dilton’s marsh, Mixed. A mixed (juvenile) school under a master aided by two pupil teachers. Discipline was very good, the Glasgow Training System being tried. The master was trained at Glasgow. He has not yet been long enough in the school to bring his system into full operation. The Rev. W. Stow has lately reorganised his school and introduced the Glasgow training system. No expense or trouble is spared to give the system a fair trial.’10
Rev H. Mosely, inspecting the schools in the counties of Wiltshire and Berkshire, refers to a school at Dilton’s Marsh which was taught by a master from Glasgow and where Stow’s son, William, was incumbent of the parish:
‘It is impossible not to be favourably impressed with the moral aspect of schools conducted on this plan. Children placed under influences so calm, and so humanising as these, for six hours a day, of three or four years of the most impressionable period of their lives, cannot become the same men and women as they would have been under other and less favourable circumstances.’11
Stow’s pride in his son is reflected in a letter to Kay-Shuttleworth, dated Glasgow, December 26th, 1843, where he discusses the idea of ‘my son’s writing or inspecting schools under the Church of England or Government’ (as a way of filling in time until he was old enough to obtain a curacy).
‘As to the idea of my son’s visiting or inspecting Schools under the Church of England or Government, it is chiefly to get employment in a way suited to his task. The fact is he cannot occupy the office of Curate in a parish for two years being only 21 years of age & he wishes to be employed not so much for support for he has some property of his own & I am willing to assist farther, but I think his being actively employed professionally might be of service to himself and to the public. Although young he is very mature in judgment, prudence & management as much so as most young men of 26 or 27 years of age. Even a year ago when at home during his University vacation & I ill at home he took my place as Superintendent in the Normal Seminary & while he pleased & maintained a good feeling with the Masters he kept all in order conducting the Strangers & explaining the System.’12
William eventually succeeded to the vicarage of Avebury with Winterbourne-Monkton in September 1851, through the offices of the Marquis of Lansdowne, a friend of his father. 13 A Fire Insurance policy of 1783 shows that there was a Charity School in Avebury at that time.14 A School Inspection Report 15of April 27th, 1877, states that the National School was built in 1844-49. It was a Church of England School attached to a school house but without internal communications. It was also used as a Sunday School but without any alteration of the desks or other furniture. The teacher was Henrietta Higgins, born January 19th, 1843. She was appointed to the school on September 30th, 1876. She was previously a pupil-teacher at the Girls’ School, Penkridge, Staffordshire. The original teacher at the Wesleyan School at Penkridge was trained at the Glasgow Normal Seminary. The report of the 6th August, 1877 states that ‘The Certificate awarded to Mrs Higgins under Article 59 will shortly be issued.’
The common interest in education shared by father and son must have deepened the sorrow caused by William’s illness and then death on April 23rd, 1852 at the age of twenty-eight. Wagner writes: ‘In February, 1850, he was seized with pleurisy whilst conducting the morning service, and was confined to his bed several weeks. He has weakened frame required a long rest, and he therefore secured the services of a curate the 12 months, and retired to Scotland. In the following winter another illness ensued, which led him to Brighton. In September, 1851, he left Brighton, and entered upon his duties as vicar (of Avebury) early in December last, and was only permitted to preach twice in each church, and to call upon some of his parishioners, when it please God completely and finally to lay him aside by congestion of the lungs. In March, 1851, he resigned his incumbency, and took leave of his parishioners in an earnest and affectionate printed address’16
Stow wrote to his son from Glasgow on March 11th, 1852, the day of the baptism of ‘dear little Charles George’, referring to Charles’ brother and sister. His final letters to his son, written daily, and recorded verbatim by Fraser, are deeply religious in emotion and Biblical detail.
A few hours before his departure, William calmly delivered at Bible to each of his three children, making a pencil mark by way of distinction, and requesting his father to write their names in them, as a ‘gift from a dying father with his blessing’.
William died at 13, Hans Place Chelsea, on 22nd April, 1852 at the age of 28.17 He is buried in Avebury Churchyard.18 The gravestone is to the left of the church door and reads:
Rev William Stow
Vicar of Avebury
Died 22nd April 1852
In his 29th year.
The remainder of the inscription is indecipherable but appears to mention that he was the husband of Catherine, his children, and that he was the son of David Stow. A text, including the words ‘who believe that’ is at the bottom of the stone.
William married Catherine Bannister19 and had three children: William David, Charles George (as above) and Marion. (Stow’s first wife was ‘Marion’.) A ‘Catherine Stow’ was staying with the Bannister family on the night of the 1851 Census.20
William and Catherine had three children:
- Marion Catherine Stow (1846-1876)
- David William Stow ((1850 – 1880)
- Charles George Stow (1852-1852)
Marion and David received £4,000 between them from Stow’s will plus £1,000 already paid to William and Catherine, plus the share of the property from Elizabeth MacArthur. The interest from this was payable as required for their education and clothing.
Marion Catherine Stow married James Chancellor (1830-1889), a clergyman, and they had one child, Wilfred George Chancellor who was born in 1876 and died in 1935. He married Jessie Elizabeth (b. 1878) in 1909 and they had a son, Alexander Chancellor in 1909. On 22nd September 1924, Alexander sailed to Southampton from Buenos Aires, Argentina. On 15th May 1951 he arrived at Liverpool from Bombay, India. No other information has been traced.
William Stow officiated at the weddings of:
- his brother David George Stow and Jessie Smith, 25th June, 1850
- his cousin John Wilson Wilson (sic) and Mary Wilson Boyce on 4th September 1849 in St Peter’s Church, Dublin
As a footnote, after William’s death, Catherine remarried a William Burnley and settled in Edinburgh. He was thirteen years older than Catherine, and a West India Merchant. A ‘Marion Stow’, his stepdaughter, and William D. Stow, his stepson, are with them in the Scottish Census for 1861. Emily and Georgina Bannister are also shown as Sisters-in-Law. Catherine died of peritonitis in Dunoon on 23rd October 1866 aged 42. Since William Burnley lived to 1903 it is tempting to suppose that Stow offered her his Lodge in Dunoon when she became ill.