No Ordinary Man - Richard Bryant by Patricia Atkins

Richard BryantWhy did I become intrigued by my grandfather, Richard Bryant? The answer is simple. His family always remembered him even though he died when his eldest daughter was only nineteen. He was frequently mentioned, how he was a headmaster, how he made them all a dolls house complete with furniture. I was shown a little wooden deer he had carved and a cabinet he had made, intricately carved in unmistakably Victorian style. Books which had belonged to him were in our bookshelves: a set of Dickens, books about flowers and an encyclopaedia. He had even made the bookcase. I found out that he didn’t come from my native Norfolk but from Cornwall and that his father and grandfather had been in the Royal Navy. One of my aunts had a naval sword and a pistol that her grandfather had brought back from the Crimean War. She even had his sea chest. This was heady stuff.

When I was in my teens my Aunt Winnie showed me his obituary which had been in the local press at the time of his death in April 1909. I had never seen one like it. There was a photograph of him, a list of his accomplishments and the societies which he had joined and in which he had also held office. Representatives of all these societies were present. I even discovered that he voted Conservative! There were eighty-five mourners in the congregation together with a choir of sixty voices and many of his scholars. A total of fifty wreaths had been sent including two made by his boys that morning. The Freemasons threw sprigs of acacia into his grave. It was then that I realised that my grandfather was no ordinary man and the more I found out about him the more my pride in him increased. This is his story.

Setting The Scene

Cawsand beach

Most people travelling on the A 38 pass over the River Tamar and enter Cornwall intent on reaching their destination as quickly as possible, little realising what delights they are missing on the Rame Peninsula, which still retains its unspoilt charm. If you take a turn to the left after passing Saltash you leave the hectic pace of the main road and enter an area of great beauty, never far from the sea or Plymouth Sound. To the east is Cremyll, once the main ferry crossing before giving way to the car ferry at Torpoint. To the west is Whitsands Bay and to the south are the twin villages of Kingsand and Cawsand. It would be impossible to spot where one ended and the other began were it not for the marker on the wall of a house in Garrett Street. This shows not only the boundary between the villages but, until 1845, it was also the border separating the two counties of Devon and Cornwall. Devon had wanted to retain control of the Tamar Estuary and Plymouth Sound, not fully trusting her Celtic neighbours.

Today Kingsand and Cawsand are picturesque villages. Cottages with hanging baskets and pastel walls have been snapped up as second homes, putting them out of the range of local people. If we could be transported back in time to earlier centuries we would find the villages easily recognisable but with fewer cosmetic touches. The men in those days were largely dependent on the sea for their livelihood; most were fishermen, others were in allied trades such as boat building and rope making and, to add to their family income, smuggling. Some joined the Royal Navy and it was into such a family that Richard Bryant was born.

A Cornish Boyhood

On August 22nd 1862 at her home in Fore Street Kingsand, Ann Bryant gave birth to her son Richard William, a brother for her four year old daughter Rebecca. Her husband, Thomas, having set sail on December 22nd the previous year, would have left port not knowing for certain that his wife was pregnant. He was, in fact, sailing off the coast of Rio, on board H.M.S. Satellite, at the time of the baby’s arrival, just eight months into a four year voyage which would take him to South America visiting Montevideo, Espinella (Hispaniola?) Raza, Bahia, Rio and Stanley. Richard was three years old before he met his father and, as Thomas served in the Royal Navy for thirty-four years, theirs was not to be a typically large Victorian family. They had one more child, a daughter Emily.

Young Richard would have had plenty of companionship from his extended family. His mother’s parents lived nearby as did his father’s family so there were plenty of aunts, uncles, and cousins in the neighbourhood. You can imagine that he spent a lot of time on the beach playing with his friends, watching the fishermen mending their nets and preparing for the next fishing trip. He would also see the boats delivering goods to the two villages as everything from building materials and coal to vegetables and groceries was delivered by sea. He also spent a lot of time with his Grandfather Carne who was a big influence in his life.

Richard Carne was a mason and carpenter and so he was always about and many of the buildings in the area were built by him in partnership with his brother James. One in particular stands out for mention: the Earl of Edgecumbe, who owned nearly all the land on the peninsula, had been on a Grand Tour and wanted an Italianate lodge in which to entertain his shooting parties. His architect, Perkins, drew up the plans and the Carnes built it. The Earl was not impressed and demanded that it was taken down. Perkins drew up more plans, the Carnes built it and the same thing happened. On the third attempt, either because of a mix up in the plans or because they thought it would meet the same fate as the others, the Carnes omitted to put in a staircase. To the surprise of everyone he declared that it was still ‘bloody awful’ but it would have to do. An external staircase was hurriedly added.

His mother too would have had plenty of support from her family and while she would not have had a lot of money to spare she would have been able to manage in Thomas’s absence. Ann was a milliner and dressmaker and would also be able to collect a monthly allotment from the Royal Navy at Devonport. Collecting the allotment must have been quite a social occasion as there would have been several naval wives in the village walking to Cremyll in order to catch the ferry to Devonport. Sometimes they persuaded the skipper of the market boat to let them travel with him, once with disastrous consequences, when the said skipper having either had too much to drink or being so distracted by the wives on board that he ran aground. The ladies, who had been perching on beer barrels at the time, were thrown into the sea and, it is said, kept afloat by the air trapped in their bloomers! Fortunately it happened within easy reach of Kingsand so they were quickly rescued, wet but none the worse for wear.

From the start it was obvious to those who knew him that Richard was a bright boy. He attended the local school seemingly destined to follow in the steps of his father and grandfather, and join the Royal Navy. His family wanted him to go to Dartmouth and enter as an officer but they could not afford the fees and did not wish him to endure the hardships and privations of life below deck. The local Vicar had taken an interest in his career and it was suggested he become a pupil teacher in the local school. He enjoyed this and was such a success that, with the Vicar’s encouragement, he applied to Trinity College Carmarthen. These were days long before national examinations so, like most other students, he would have had limited educational qualifications but he was accepted.

College Days In Wales

Trinity College Carmarthen

Richard must have had mixed feelings when it came to leaving his home in Kingsand. It was an adventure and an opportunity to better himself but he would also be a long way from his family and, in his father’s absence, would have felt responsibility for his mother and sisters. The journey from Kingsand to Carmarthen would have been quite arduous. It was likely that he would have travelled to Plymouth by boat because of his luggage and from there, by rail, to Gloucester and on to Carmarthen. He had a long list of requirements from the college as shown below so it was fortunate that his mother was a needlewoman.

2 full suits of cloth clothes, 6 day shirts, 2 night shirts, 6 pairs of stockings,2 stocks of neck cloths, 4 pocket handkerchiefs, 3 pairs of shoes or boots , 1pair of slippers, 2 hats or caps, 1 hair brush, 1 large and one fine comb, 1 toothbrush 1 clothes brush, 1 coat or cloak, a box of drawing instruments and a book of Common Prayer.

When Richard arrived at Trinity College, it was already well established having been founded in 1848. As its name suggests it had a strong religious bias and was noted for its strict discipline. It had been built to improve standards of education in Wales but, unable to fill all the places locally, was accepting students from further afield. An essential requirement was membership of the Anglican Church and this may have accounted for the spare places as South Wales was staunchly Non-conformist. Students were also expected to be of good character, in good health and be able to take notes. When numbers fell too low the standards were lowered accordingly. One student was expelled for lunacy, presumably the numbers were very low that year, but he still gained employment!

The college, built in the style of the times, was in an enviable position with wonderful views but one suspects that the main reason for its position was to keep students well away from the town and the possibility of being tempted by worldly pleasures. It had a clerical, if not monastic, appearance and the interior was Spartan; students of the time described it as ‘cheerless’ which the photo of the dormitory serves to confirm. Each student had a small wooden ‘cell’ with thin partitions and minimal furniture.

What was everyday life like for Richard? One can be sure of one thing: it was no soft option. The fact that the college was built in clerical style was entirely appropriate as the students followed an almost monastic regime. Up at the crack of dawn, their day started with a cold bath. They were then fully occupied with varied activities until prayers at 9.30 p.m. after which they went to bed. The ‘activities’ were not all academic as the students were expected to pump the water from the well, feed the livestock, tend the garden and chop wood. They were also expected to keep the rooms in order and clean the blackboards. For economic reasons the college tried to be as self sufficient as possible but the Trustees also believed in encouraging the qualities of self-denial, submission and endurance, as they felt these qualities would be needed in the students professional life. Teachers were not highly regarded at that time.

Meals were not lavish, breakfast and tea consisting of bread and milk. Dinner, which was taken in the middle of the day, was more substantial consisting of meat with vegetables followed by a choice of pudding or fruit. The students were not always compliant, boldly requesting beer with their main meal, but it took two years of requesting before they were successful. They then had the audacity to object to their vegetables being served cold at dinner but the authorities took exception to this and the students had just soup and pudding for a few days as punishment. There was little time for socialising but, unlike modern students, they were less likely to leave with debts as long as they obeyed the rules. Any infringement resulted in a fine. For entering the dormitory without slippers the fine was 1d and other finable offences included being late for role call, talking in chapel or after ‘lights out’ and smoking. Apparently one place for indulging in the latter with little chance of discovery was the coal-hole.

In spite of, or because of, these severe conditions Richard flourished. Throughout his two years at the college he took advantage of every opportunity offered him and, as his college record shows, his progress and conduct were excellent. He could be described as a good all-rounder and won a rather splendid volume of Shakespeare for coming third in the high jump. One cannot but wonder what the first prize was! He belonged to the football and cricket clubs and was a member of the Volunteer Force which was one activity where the students joined together with the townsfolk of Carmarthen. At the end of two years Richard accepted an appointment in Terrington St. Clement near Kings Lynn to start in January 1885 with a salary of £90 per annum.

The log book announces his arrival:-

5th January. Mr. Richard William Bryant late student of Carmarthen Training College took the post of Headmaster.

So far no one has been able to offer an explanation as to why he chose to follow his career in Norfolk.

Courtship And Marriage

When Richard took up his post in Terrington he was faced with challenges. On the minus side he was a ‘foreigner’ and it can take many years to become accepted in Norfolk, but on the plus side he was tall, handsome and a bachelor with a regular income starting off at £90 per annum. His arrival in this marshland village on the edge of the Wash must have been akin to Bingley’s arrival in Netherfield. All the village matrons with eligible daughters must have been eager to make his acquaintance and offer him hospitality.

We do not know how the courtship started but the young lady who attracted Richard’s attention was Charlotte Elizabeth Jarvis. She was the only daughter of William and Martha Jarvis. Her father was a master baker with his own shop in Terrington and undoubtedly he thought Richard would be a suitable match for his dearly loved daughter. It quickly became obvious to one and all that this newly qualified teacher straight from Trinity College Carmarthen not only had charm but also a determination about him which led them to feel he would go far.

However the courtship started there is no doubt as to its outcome because on October 24th 1888 they married in the church at Terrington St. Clement. Although he was a long way from Cornwall his ties with his family remained close: his father visited him and his young cousin, Arabelle Carne Peain, was a witness at his wedding. Richard and Charlotte, who was always called Dorothy by her husband, spent their honeymoon in Kingsand and their first home was aptly named Plymouth Cottage.

Babies followed at regular intervals and Richard’s eldest sister, ‘Becco’, who was a nurse, travelled up to Norfolk to care for Charlotte during her confinements. Between 1888 and 1901 they had seven children, six daughters and one son, Lewis, the baby of the family. Only one little girl did not reach adulthood dying of acute tuberculosis in the same hour as Queen Victoria in January 1901. As their family increased they realised that Plymouth Cottage was becoming too small and moved to the larger Beacon House which was to be their family home until Charlotte died in 1932.

Terrington was a large and sociable village, as for most people it was both home and workplace. The Bryant children had their Jarvis relatives living close by: Uncle Will ran a bakery and grocery shop while Uncle Sam had a drapery business just round the corner. At Christmas Uncle Will cooked the dinner for all three families using his bread ovens and they sat down to have their meal in the bakehouse as it was the only place big enough to accommodate them. Wooden tops would be put on the flour bins, covered with tablecloths and the ‘tables’ would be set for all twenty-three of them. Richard was once again part of a large extended family. Charlotte had many relations in the village, many of whom were his pupils. This could have been difficult for a young schoolmaster but he had a simple rule: he was ‘Sir’ at school and ‘Uncle Dick’ at home and they respected this.

A Career In Teaching

In his professional capacity as teacher Richard was working extremely hard. When he became Headmaster of Terrington St. Clement Boys School in January 1885, at the age of twenty three, he had a daunting task ahead of him. Terrington was not an easy option. Marshland boys were like unbroken colts and it was to be his task to harness them into education. Attendance was abysmal. Many parents were unsupportive as their boys could be earning a few pence doing odd jobs for farmers and schooling was not free. Parents of labourers had to pay 3d per week for one child and 4d for two or more, while for the better off it was 6d per week. Remembering the size of Victorian families it could have been quite a struggle for some of them, though this entry in the log book in 1891 shows that it was not the root cause:

28th September: The school was reopened today as a free school under the new act of Parliament. The attendance was very low!

The new Headmaster, young though he was, was determined to give these children a chance in life even though they were reluctant learners. He had come full of ideas, eager to see them bear fruit and possessing the enthusiasm to carry them through. Many would not appreciate the efforts he made on their behalf until they were adults. An H.M.I. report in January 1896 states

The Master evidently works with much diligence and exercises a good influence over his pupils but the miserable attendance during several months of the year makes it well nigh impossible for his teaching to be really effective.’

and again in April the following year:

It is heartbreaking work for an earnest teacher like Mr Bryant to conduct a school in which attendance is so bad.’

The Master was not one to give up without a fight and he fought on all fronts in order to realise his ambition to give these children a reasonable start. His rallying call could indeed have been that used by a more recent leader: ‘Education! Education! Education!

Firstly he tackled absenteeism. The major problem was the farmers as they encouraged boys to miss school and work for them at times when extra hands were needed, such as harvest and fruit picking. Some of the guilty ones were his School Managers and a lesser man might not have confronted them but confront them he did. Evidence of this appears in the school log book of 1894 which reads as follows:-

9th July: The Rev. Marlborough Crosse, Chairman of the Managers, after consultation with other available managers gave orders for the school to be closed this afternoon, and on 10th July in order that the children might go fruit picking. The school was closed accordingly.

9th July: A Managers’ Meeting was held this evening at which the Master was present. After discussion it was resolved that the application of Mr Crampton in the closing of the school be not acceded to and that the school be reopened on Wednesday morning ( ie. 10th July )

Clearly he was furious that the decision to close the school had been taken without his opinion being sought but he followed the correct procedure and closed the school as instructed but insisted on a full Managers Meeting the same evening where he had the decision reversed for the next day. This shows that his opinion carried weight. He was not unsympathetic to the farmer’s needs but the needs of his pupils were paramount. Eventually the problem was partially solved by adapting school holidays to coincide with times when boys were most likely to be needed by the farmers.

He tried to improve attendance by developing a good relationship with parents and, with his undoubted charm and charisma, it worked in most cases but there are always exceptions. On one such occasion he wrote to a father concerning his son’s insubordination and received the reply that if his son had obeyed the Master he would have got a thrashing at home! The confrontation began on March 26th 1906 and after the intervention of the Vicar and the Chairman of the Managers, plus more insubordination on the part of the pupil, the matter was finally resolved on May 10th when the father was called to the school. After hearing evidence from both the Master and pupils he acknowledged that the Master was right. This shows Richard’s tenacity. The whole episode lasted six weeks but justice prevailed.

The Attendance Officer came in for criticism from the Master for not doing his job efficiently, particularly in the failure to pass on the list of absentees provided by him to the Wisbech Attendance Committee. He felt he was generally too lax in the matter of prosecuting and thought it neither fair nor effective to make examples of some while letting others get away with breaking the rules. His opinion of the Attendance Officer is obvious by his entry in the log book in 1891:

13th October The attendance is very low. The Master sent 4th year pupil teacher around the village during the morning to hunt up absentees.

As Master, Richard used every means at his disposal to encourage attendance. His top priority was to make school interesting. Lessons were always carefully planned. He introduced a library, a museum, a bank scheme and, most importantly, a football team. The team, resplendent in their football kit, is shown on the right. Little did the Master know that the player in the back row, second from right was to marry his daughter Florence!

The Managers were an integral part of school life and they probably found they had to work harder than was usual. He involved them in what he was doing, particularly in connection with absenteeism. Some were among the culprits and they did not get any favours as is shown by this entry in the school log in 1903:

8th May: The attendance keeps good although a few boys are employed by one of our school Managers in the flower fields. The Master sent a note to the Manager concerned with reference to the matter.

We notice in this entry that by 1903 his constant battle against absenteeism was winning ground which must have been heartening.

Richard favoured persuasion rather than punishment and, after one inspection, was recommended to try the Ticket System for perfect attendance in order to discourage the ‘irregulars’ as they were called. This was approved by the Managers and funded by the Terrington United Charities which awarded money prizes. Although sounding a bit like bribery, it was a great success and in 1904 this entry appears in the log book:

May 27th ‘The Master wrote to Correspondent and claimed a day’s holiday in accordance with the regulation of the N.C.C. , the school having made over 90% of attendances during the past two months.’

One imagines that the happiest person in Terrington that day was the Master!

Village Activities

Richard was a keen and conscientious headmaster, never losing sight of his ambitions for his school, but that is barely half the story as from the first he wanted to play a full part in village life. A keen churchman, he soon became the Vicar’s curate in all but name and regularly read the lessons. As he had a good baritone voice, he was soon enlisted to take charge of the choir, holding the position of choirmaster for nearly twenty-five years. At this time the church was in need of considerable repair and Richard was in the forefront of the project as secretary of the restoration fund.

His obvious love of music and his desire to encourage it in others led him to become conductor of the Archangel Band of the Ancient order of Oddfellows. He was a man who built bridges between disparate groups in the village and, in the early twentieth century, was conducting the music at services in both the church and the chapel when the Friendly Societies were attending. Richard was a broadminded man ahead of his time. He also helped the Oddfellows by drawing up plans for buildings they were constructing in the village.

The local farmers came to him at harvest time when their men were on piece-work, employing him to measure-up each man’s work and assess his pay. This was at a time when the horse drawn reaper had not yet made an appearance and combine harvesters were an un-thought of luxury so all the cereal crops had to be harvested with a scythe. Clearly he was trusted by both sides to be both accurate and fair. Considering his tussles with the farmers over their active encouragement of his pupils to miss school, in order to help with the harvest or pick fruit, it says something of his character that he managed to fight his corner and keep the respect of his opponents. It is also interesting to note that he was treasurer of the Marshland Agricultural Society.

Needless to say, education was also to the forefront of activities as he did not believe that learning should stop when one left school. He could see how adult education could enrich the lives of the villagers and possibly enrich their pockets too. In order to have classes in Terrington he became secretary of the local Technical Education Committee, a forerunner of the present Further Education. He organised classes in such diverse subjects as poultry keeping, drawing, horticulture and carpentry, some of which he took himself. His enthusiasm also extended to sport, realising how football and cricket teams could give a village a sense of purpose and identity as well as giving the team members personal pride in their sporting achievements. He organised matches and sports days and the teams flourished.

An active member of the N.U.T., he was secretary of the North West Norfolk division for several years. At one point he found himself in need of their services as the Managers threatened to close his school permanently through lack of funds. From the school log book we can gather that from 26th February 1903 until 31st March of that year there was real doubt as to whether the school would remain open.

31st March: Master received a letter from the clerk to the managers this morning stating that by a resolution passed at the Managers meeting..... The Master was requested to continue his duties under the Managers until 30th September. A Testimonial with reference to service during the past 18 years was at the same time received.

Interestingly he did not receive the salary due to him for the three months ending on 30th September, until 26th October when a cheque from the former Managers was delivered. One wonders how he and his assistant had managed. However, there must have been a rumpus in the village, the management of the school had been changed and the school remained open. The services of his union would have been vital and the fact that he insisted upon both himself and his assistant being given a testimonial indicates that he had sought their advice.

In 1894 there was a big change in village life when Vestry Meetings were replaced by Parish Councils. Once again Richard was involved and, in the election for Parish Councillors held in December 1894, he topped the poll. The Vicar who up to that time had been the main player in village affairs was not elected! Sadly the minutes of the first seventeen years have been lost. It is believed they were removed by a former councillor but it means there is no record of Richards contribution to this side of village life.

A poll was demanded.

Newspaper 22nd December 1894

A poll for the election of Parish Councillors was held on Monday in the boys schoolroom. A great deal of interest was shown in the proceedings and notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather large numbers of electors and others were congregated round the doors of the polling booth. Mr Robert Flatt acted as Deputy Returning Officer and was assisted by My Graham Lawson as Polling Clerk.

The polling was most brisk between 6 and 8 pm when a large number passed through. At the close counting was at once proceeded with and at about 10pm the result was announced as follows:

Elected: R. W. Bryant Schoolmaster 180
  W. Cave Farmer 173
  J. Empringham Farmer 167
  W. Johnson Farmer 165
  H. Kerkham Farmer 163
  J. Wright Blacksmith 156
  J. Coulson Labourer 145
  B. Creasey Labourer 142
  S. Lock Farmer 133
  G.Watson Coal Dealer 133
  M. Rush Labourer 132
  W. Bodger Labourer 131
  H. Harwin Labourer 131
  W. Bunting Labourer 120
  E. Ketherington Labourer 102
Not Elected: J. Armstrong Labourer 99
  Rev. M. Crosse Vicar 97
  A. Chandler Baker 80

Everything passed off in an orderly manner.

Among all his other interests Richard was a Freemason too, belonging to the Philanthropic Lodge 107. The fact that his grandfather, Richard Carne, was a mason by trade may have encouraged him to join this society which was to be of great importance to some members of his family in the future.

Experimental Horticulture

Richard preparing
a bulb for propagation

Whatever Richard Bryant undertook he did with enthusiasm but horticulture was to become his passion. In the late 1880s Richard read an article in a gardening magazine about the bulb industry in Holland. This fired his imagination, as it seemed to him that that there was great similarity between the land reclaimed from the Wash and the area around Haarlem. He decided that the logical thing to do would be to visit Holland himself and see first hand if the conditions were like those in Terrington and, most importantly, learn how they prepared their bulbs and ran their nurseries. At the time Holland led the world in this field and they alone knew the secret of growing outdoor hyacinths. It would have been quite simple for him to arrange a crossing as Kings Lynn was a busy port and only seven miles away. The trip was a success. The area was similar and Richard made sure that he learnt as much as he could of the techniques they used in the culture of bulbs. He returned home full of ideas realising the potential in the local area and this is where his father-in- law, William Jarvis would prove helpful, especially as Richard’s wife, Charlotte Elizabeth, was his only daughter.

A master baker by trade, William Jarvis first rented and then bought his baker’s shop in Terrington from Kezia Moore, the lady under whom he had served his apprenticeship. Now he was something of an entrepreneur and had some unlikely sidelines. For instance he owned a brick kiln in Terrington St. Clement which was near to the Roman Bank. This bank belonged to no one so when he had surplus bricks he built houses on it. In the end he owned a row of such houses which he rented out making a nice little income. When they were finally sold there was a problem because the prospective purchasers found there were no deeds! He also bought up parcels of land in the village as they became available. Some were used to graze the horses which pulled his baker’s carts and others were turned into allotments. It was the latter which were to provide the land for Richard’s horticultural experiments. Indeed on his death in January 1890, William Jarvis left his allotments and the houses on the Roman Bank to his daughter Charlotte.

Richard’s experimental plot of hyacinths.

Richard made good use of the information he had picked up in Holland and from the first his experimental plots of outdoor hyacinths were a success. His photograph at the start of the chapter shows him preparing a bulb for propagation. His nursery went from strength to strength but, typical of the man, he did not keep his knowledge a secret : lecturing in the local area and encouraging others to consider bulb growing. Many were also inspired to follow his example and anyone visiting the bulb fields today in springtime would have no doubt about the impact of his vision. The centre of the industry is now around Spalding. but after his death on 9th April 1909 an extract from an article in a local newspaper read:-

As a result of his enterprise the whole neighbourhood has become one magnificent flower garden, especially delightful to behold at this season of the year, and a profitable industry has sprung up tons upon tons of magnificent spring blooms being sent each season to London and the provincial markets.

In another newspaper article published around 1940 and found tucked away in my mother’s bureau after her death in 1983 were further references to his achievement, thirty years after he died.

Up to 1939 many Marshland acres were brightened in spring by hyacinths, daffodils, tulips and narcissi. ........One of the local pioneers was the late Mr R. W. Bryant.........A visit to Holland as a holiday trip half-a-century ago convinced him that conditions hereabouts were as suitable as those in Holland and various experiments convinced him he was right. ........... Mr Bryant solved the problem of outdoor hyacinth propagation - up to that time an achievement exclusively in the hands of the bulb growers of Holland. An experimental plot of Dutch hyacinths planted in 1899 was treated on the same principle as practised in Holland. The bulbs produced large numbers of bulbs from the parent stock and Mr. Bryant’s hyacinth nurseries were successfully launched.

Richard had improved education in Terrington beyond recognition and had now begun a potentially successful business in horticulture. He felt that he would soon have to make a decision as to whether he could continue with both careers or whether he would have to choose between them. He was a man who could not do things in half measures and it was obvious to all who knew him that a choice must be made and in his heart Richard recognised this too. As soon as the nurseries were established sufficiently to provide an income to support his family he would resign his role as Master. However, just as he was on the brink of success and able to consider resigning from the post of Master, fate dealt his plans a tragic blow. Richard became ill with nephritis. The Vicar tried in vain to persuade him to resign from his post as choirmaster. He replied, ‘It is a great source of happiness to me to continue to work for the church I love.’ He taught what would prove to be his last lesson on January 29th 1909 and, as his condition worsened, bulletins appeared in the local press until on April 23rd he died. He was only forty-six.

Richard’s Legacy

What of the man? I have always felt that I have known my grandfather as his family made sure that he was not forgotten. They were immensely proud of the man they called ‘Dada’. He was a loving husband and father and adjectives used to describe him included dignified, witty, intelligent, handsome, respected, wise, amusing and determined. These seem an apt description of his character. I have spoken to many people who knew him and one comment I particularly liked because it showed yet another side to his character was told me by an aunt from my father’s family. She said ‘When your Grandfather arrived the party got going!’, so he was also ‘fun’ a word not generally used to describe a Victorian headmaster.

Charlotte with her two
youngest children, Elsie
and Lewis in 19ll. She
never remarried.

What of his family? For them his early death was to have momentous consequences. Without his salary, Charlotte, found it difficult to make ends meet and having just the income from the nursery he had been developing, plus the income from her houses on the Roman Bank, his children were deprived of their comfortable lifestyle. She had been a wonderful support to her husband but was by nature a worrier and ill-equipped for early widowhood. Sadly she became in debt to her brothers who supplied her with groceries and this caused ill-feeling between the families after her death. Margery and Winnie, his two eldest daughters, had already started their careers when he died, Margery as a governess and Winnie as a pupil teacher. The Masons offered to send Lilian to art college, as she had considerable

talent, but she declined and, at the start of the Great War, joined the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps spending three years in their headquarters in Boulonge. While there she was awarded a Ribbon of Merit by the French for saving the camp from fire. Florence, my mother, who was to marry a member of her father’s football team, stayed at home to help her mother and work in the greenhouses. She had set her heart on becoming a nurse but was not to achieve her ambition. After the army returned at the end of the war she married her childhood sweetheart Jim Offley and her sister Lilian took her place at home. Elsie followed in Winnie’s footsteps and became a teacher and Lewis, who was deprived of a father when he was only eight years old, was educated at The Royal Masonic School and was then apprenticed to Perkins Engineering, a firm in Peterborough. In the 1930s he emigrated to South Africa with his wife Florence. At the start of the Second world war he joined the Transvaal Scottish 2nd S.A. Division and was taken prisoner in Italy. While there he became noted for his fairness seeing that all rations were shared equally. If Richard’s dream of giving up teaching and building up a business in horticulture had come true then maybe his son’s life would have been different. Lewis’s own dreams of success in South Africa did not materialise. He and Florence had one daughter, Jennifer.

What was his legacy? He went to the village as a newcomer and in the twenty-five years he was there he transformed it educationally, economically, and socially. He saw education in a wider setting, continuing into adulthood, and was instrumental in setting up classes. He encouraged sport which gave the village an identity and pride. He made his mark on the economy, introducing bulb growing to the marshland area which is still flourishing today. This for him was an unfinished story. If he had been born rich he would have been a philanthropist but he wasn’t. Instead he gave of himself and gave so much that it shortened his life, dying of nephritis when he was in his forty-seventh year. The tragedy is that we shall never know what he might have achieved hat he been granted his full three score years and ten. However, Terrington St. Clement is still a lively vibrant village and each year the marshland blooms as testimony to his life.

Bibliography, Documentation And Illustrations

R.W.B.- Richard William Bryant. T.C.A. Trinity College Archives.
T.St.C.H.G. Terrington St. Clement History Group.

R.W.B.’s obituary notice from the local press which was used throughout the biography.

Cornwall’s Forgotten Corner- Tony Carne.

As above. Relevant census returns.

A History of Trinity College Carmarthen 1848-1998.
Dr Russell Grigg, University of Wales Press.
College Record of R.W.B. T.C.A.
Drawing of College. Illustrated London News 4th November 1848.

Marriage certificate and census returns.

Log Books of Terrington St. Clement Boys School 1885-1909.
Terrington St. Clement- An Historical Account- T.St.C.H.G.
The Changing Face of Terrington St. Clement- T.St.C.H.G.
Terrington St. Clement- A Marshland Village in Photographs. T.St.C.H.G.
Photographs of the school. T.St.C.H.G.

Centenary of Terrington St.Clement Parish Council. T,St.C.H.G. plus their above publications and photograph of the Archangel Lodge Band.

Press cuttings. Will of William Jarvis. R.W.B.’s Death Certificate.

Human resources- his family.

NB. Any photos not mentioned are taken by me or in my possession.

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