Crimes of the Clergy: The Rev. Septimus Hodson

On Christmas Day 1808, Miss Fanny Chapman wrote in her diary the following entry:

Mrs Porcher in a letter to Cooper tells him it is reported in London that Mrs Fenwick is going to be married to Mr Hodgson, the infamous seducer of many of the girls at the Asylum some years ago!!!

This somewhat vague but tantalizing comment needed further investigation to establish more about this ‘infamous seducer’ but the chances of finding him seemed like a mammoth task and possibly not one worth pursuing until now. George and Amanda (custodians of Fanny Chapman’s diaries) recently began looking at a will that provided some clues as to his identity and to cut a long story short, they have tracked him down, so it seems only right to correct Fanny’s spelling of his name (it was Hodson) and then to ‘name and shame’ him. So here we go with a grizzly, if not unfamiliar story.

Rev Septimus Hodson. © British Museum
Rev Septimus Hodson. © British Museum

Septimus Hodson was born 17th February 1763, the son of Rev. Robert Hodson and his wife Mary in Huntingdonshire. He was educated at Caius College, Cambridge after which he was ordained into the priesthood.

Having found his parents and education we began to look for any potential marriages for him. The first marriage we came across took place when he would have been under the age of 21! The Marriage Act, 1753 did allow couples under 21 to marry by Banns, as in this case, either with parents consent or if the parents did not forbid it. Septimus married Ann Bell on 9 June 1783.


This was to be a very short marriage as Ann Hodson née Bell was buried at St Mary with St Benedict Church, Huntingdon on the 14th May 1784.

St Mary with St Benedict Church, Huntingdon
St Mary with St Benedict Church, Huntingdon
© Robert Edwards via Wikimedia

A little under two years later on the 15th March 1786 Septimus married Miss Charlotte Affleck, the daughter of Rev W. Affleck, who conducted the ceremony at All Saints Church in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

Hay Harvest at Stamford, Lincolnshire Nathan Fielding (1747–c.1814)
Hay Harvest at Stamford, Lincolnshire Nathan Fielding; Peterborough Museums


On the 7th March 1788 he became a preacher at Tavistock Chapel, Broad Court near Drury Lane, amongst his duties he was appointed Chaplain-in-ordinary to George, Prince of Wales.

Septimus and Charlotte produced 5 children during this time, Charlotte (1790), William (1791), Charles Phillip (1793), Robert Eyres (1795) and finally Gilbert (1796).

This extract from The Aldine Magazine of Biography, Bibliography, Criticisms and the Arts of 1838 provides quite a picture of contented domesticity and to a certain extent ignores what was to follow apart from a reference to Septimus being accused of plagiarism!

Never shall I forget calling on the above mentioned gentleman, upwards of forty years since, on behalf of a poor country curate who was anxious to come to London on literary pursuits, and to fill the situation of assistant reader, then vacant at the Asylum. I was introduced to the Rev. Mr. Hodson, in his peculiarly neat and handsome apartments, where his accomplished and beautiful wife, and I think the finest family of children I ever saw, were partaking of a dessert. He politely asked me to partake, and pressed me to take wine, which I did; and from his easy and graceful manner, his handsome form and figure, and animated countenance, added to those of his smiling cherubs of children, on whom my eyes were fixed, I thought I never witnessed so much conjugal happiness and domestic felicity in my life.

By 1789 he had been given the living of Thrapston in Northamptonshire. He had also been appointed chaplain to the Orphan Asylum, Westminster Road, in the parish of Lambeth. This is the point at which the horrors of his actions became clear  and, if true, what follows is quite distressing.

V0013797 The female orphan asylum, Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images The female orphan asylum, Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth. Coloured engraving by A. McClatchy after T. H. Shepherd, 1828. 1828 By: Thomas Hosmer Shepherdafter: A. McClatchy and Leonard Wild LloydPublished: 7 June 1828 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0
The female orphan asylum, Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.


Child violator, formerly Chaplain to the Orphan Asylum, Westminster Road.

“Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.”

The Asylum of which Mr. Hodson was an unworthy Chaplain, educates and provides for numerous female Orphans, who otherwise would be consigned to lives of infamy and ruin.

Mr. Hodson was celebrated as a preacher, and noted for the uncommon sanctity of his manners; he had a fine person, and always assumed such a sincerity of heart in delivering his exhortations from the pulpit, that the chapel was crowded to an overflow whenever he preached; but alas! he was fair without and foul within. The Monk of Lewis’s novel was not more infamous, and whilst outwardly attending to the salvation of the helpless Orphan’s souls he was inwardly meditating the ruin of both body and soul.

From his situation, he had access to the Orphans, at all hours, and a little child, named Fox, about thirteen years of age, was selected by him for the object of depraved debauchery.

In fact he violated the hapless Orphan’s person; to call it by the name of seduction would be untruth: for surely a child at her time of life could only be a passive instrument in the hands of one, whom she had been taught to look up to with fearful obedience.

The pregnancy of Fox, as a natural consequence of illicit intercourse, ensued, and she, most probably tutored by the artful and lustful priest, delivered herself in a certain office in the chapel yard; and there left the infant, which she imagined would never be heard of.

Suspicions, however, were immediately awakened, and the infant was found, and as a natural effect of contrition and fear, Fox pointed out the father of her offspring. The Governors and Committee were horror struck at the Reverend Divine’s hypocrisy and depravity; but they had no power to punish him beyond dismissing him from his office, and striking his name from the list of Chaplains, which was instantly done, in as marked a manner as possible.

The Reverend Violator, incredible as it may appear, was suffered to retain his gown; and we cannot help reflecting that the good Bishop Porteus, then in charge of the Metropolitan see, must have been very strangely misinformed respecting this hideous transaction, or he would never have permitted the criminal to escape with impunity.

Mr. Hodson now resides on his living at Thrapston in Northamptonshire; we are sorry for it, he merits the severest punishment; penitence, it is true, can atone for any crime, but few repent in affluence and prosperity; it is poverty and obscurity, disgrace and obloquy, that wring the sinner’s soul, and make him sensible of all he has lost upon earth, and the little he has to hope for in heaven.

Such corrupt pillars only for a time uphold a fabric by deceitful support that it may fall unexpectedly with more tremendous ruin: and they should be at once levelled with the ground, never more, to rise in a conspicuous situation.

If we hear anything more of this fortunate sinner, it shall be recorded; such a person cannot remain long in obscurity; success will throw him off his guard at last, and the punishment so long delayed come with tenfold vengeance on his head, when the stings of a guilty conscience are made additionally severe by the bodily pangs of old age.

The Ipswich Journal, 14th October 1797, reported that ‘The Prince of Wales has commanded that the name of a certain Rev. Seducer be erased from the list of His Royal Highnesses Chaplains’ and that he has been ‘suffered to resign, in consideration of the services he has rendered to the charity’.

The Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 12th October 1797 confirms the story.

A Clergyman, Preacher to the Asylum, has lately seduced a young woman, retained as a singer in the Chapel of that Charity. By which act, the man has ruined himself and family, disgraced the Charity and his profession, brought shame on the unfortunate object of his passion, and set a most unpardonable example for a man of his character to the world.

A Reverend Seducer, who lately turned a wolf against the very flock he had been appointed the shepherd to protect, is highly indignant at the liberty we have taken in reprobating the enormity of his offence. How ungrateful, he says, is the public to whom he has rendered so many pious services in permitting the remembrance of his numerous virtues to be thus concealed by his merely indulging in a single weakness – for it ought not to be forgotten that,

A godly man that has served out his time

In holiness, may set up any crime;

As scholars, who have taken up their degrees,

May set up any Faculty they please.

(Morning Chronicle, 27 October 1797 who described him as ‘The Clerical Seducer’.

 We did, of course, wonder what happened to Miss Fox; did she survive this horrific experience and what became of her?

The answer appeared in The Morning Post and Gazetteer of 26th January 1801:

The girl that was seduced by Septimus Hodson at the Asylum is now married to a gentleman of about seven thousand a year, and now goes regularly to the asylum, every Sunday in her own carriage.

This report was not quite accurate and later revision was published in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 2nd February 1801.

The statement in the Papers respecting the Asylum Girl of the name of Fox, who was so basely seduced by a late Chaplain of that Charity, is erroneous. She is neither married to a Gentleman of 7000l. per annum, nor attends the Asylum every Sunday in her own carriage, because she has succeeded no more to the one than the other:- but, from her exemplary conduct, she has wedded a widower near Barnet, who is possessed of about 500l. per annum, with whom, and his amiable family by a former wife, she now partakes of a domestic felicity, not very frequently enjoyed.

The Monthly Visitor and Entertaining Pocket Companion, Volume 12 described Miss Fox as ‘the asylum warbler’ but so far we haven’t managed to track down her marriage. She was noted as a beauty and had received offers of marriage from several gentlemen before the Reverend Hodson debauched her (which does suggest that she was older than thirteen years). She was retained as a singer in the Chapel, and contemporary newspaper reports give the information that the child was not born alive but Miss Fox suffered a miscarriage. It was during this traumatic event and whilst she feared that she was dying that she gave the information which proved the Reverend’s guilt (no-one had suspected she was pregnant until she lost the child).

The girl is an orphan, bred up from infancy in the charity, and afterwards articled to it as a singing girl. She is very pretty, and rather of a gay than grave appearance; and has had several offers of marriage. A gentleman of property has solicited her hand.

(Ipswich Journal, 14th October, 1797)

On the other hand, we find that by the 14th March 1809 Septimus had been widowed and had married again, his next wife being Frances Fenwick, the widowed daughter of G. Burden. The service was performed in Doncaster, Yorkshire again by his father-in-law, Rev Affleck. Frances was the one referred to in Fanny’s Diary.

This marriage proved to be a financially lucrative one for Septimus as his wife had inherited the Bywell estate in Northumberland from her late husband and upon her death, it transferred to Septimus, who then sold it for £145,000.

Then finally, at All Saints South Kirkby, near Wakefield, Yorkshire on the 16th October 1826 he married once more, and his final spouse was Margaret Holford, author; her most successful work was a historical verse romance entitled Wallace, or, The Fight of Falkirk. She was also a good friend of Robert Southey and another close associate of hers was Joanna Baillie, a Scottish poet and dramatist.

Joanna Baillie 1762-1851, Dramatist by Mary Ann Knight.
Joanna Baillie 1762-1851, Dramatist by Mary Ann Knight.

Hodson was to die on the 12th December 1833 in his seventy-first year. The inscription of his grave at St John the Evangelist, Sharow, near Ripon, Yorkshire reads:

Sacred to the memory of the Revd.Septimus Hodson late Rector of Thrapston in the county of Northampton And Perpetual Curate of Little Raveley In Huntingdonshire. He died on the 12th day of December AD 1833 In the seventy first year of his age. His widow offers this poor brief tribute To his beloved memory ‘I shall go to him, but he will not return to me’.

He left £1500 in his will (about £75,000 in today’s money) to his wife, so despite this shocking incident in his life he appears to have married well, produced several children and lived an enjoyable life, we can only hope the same was true for Miss Fox. Was it all true about Miss Fox, we really don’t know so we will leave it for you to draw your own conclusion.


The Clergy Database

The Crimes of the Clergy; Or, The Pillars of Priestcraft Shaken, issues 1-13

The Gentleman’s Magazine, volume 87, 1800

Literary Memoirs of Living Authors of Great Britain, 1798

Find a Grave

The Monthly Visitor, and Entertaining Pocket Companion, volume 12, 1801

An historical, topographical, and descriptive view of the county of Northumberland, and of those parts of the county of Durham situated north of the river Tyne, with Berwick Upon Tweed, and brief notices of celebrated places on the Scottish border. 1825

An ‘Irregular’ marriage – Arthur Annesley Powell, did he go willingly?

Today we are supplying a little extra information on one of the people mentioned on our ‘sister’ blog, The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman. Arthur Annesley Powell was the husband of Fanny Chapman’s aunt, Jemima Neate.

The Elopement, or Lovers Stratagem Defeated. Courtesy of the British Museum.
The Elopement, or Lovers Stratagem Defeated.
Courtesy of the British Museum.

Annesley Arthur Roberts was born on the 15th April 1767, son of Elizabeth née Powell and William Roberts and was baptized at St George, Hanover Square, London.


In 1774 at the tender age of just 7 Arthur, as he was known, was sent to be educated at Harrow and according to the archivist, Joanna Badrock, this was the earliest case of a child starting at Harrow that she had come across.


In 1784, at just 17 he was admitted to Wadham College, Oxford, so we can only assume that he was quite an intelligent and well educated young man, an important assumption in light of later events!


In May 1783 his uncle, John Powell , owner of Quex House, died, so leaving no wife or children left the major part of his estate for the use of his eldest nephew, Arthur, son of his sister Elizabeth Roberts, on the condition that he change his surname to Powell.

The name change had to be ratified by Act of Parliament and this act confirmed that ‘the fruit of Powell’s body would also be entitled to continue to inherit the estate from him’. This legal change of surname however, didn’t take place until 1789, but he was commonly known as Powell straight after his uncles death.

So those are the facts. We have an intelligent and wealthy young man presumably with a bright future ahead of him, so what happened next?

Well, he was to meet a woman, some 10 years older than himself, Miss Jemima Neate and this is where we begin the story of his ‘irregular’ or clandestine marriage.

We discovered through the archives that on the 15th February 1788 a court action to nullify the marriage was taken by his father who was acting on his sons’ behalf as he was still regarded as a minor as he was still just under 21 at the time. The purpose of the Marriage Act of 1753 which came into effect March 1754, was to abolish clandestine marriages and to introduce the veto by parents on marriages of their under 21 year old children. Both aims were defeated for many reasons, but the main way of avoiding the new law was by marrying in Scotland.

There were four types of matrimonial suits open to litigants in ecclesiastical courts. The first were nullity suits, which challenged the legal validity of the marriage itself. Among those which were void in themselves were unions which involved incest, which usually meant marriage with a deceased wife’s sister, or with a niece or nephew; or an incapacitating state of mind or body—such as lunacy or male impotence (and, very rarely, female frigidity, or physical deformation of the vagina)—which prevented the essential purpose of marriage, namely sexual intercourse.

The allegation being, that whilst at Wadham College, Oxford in 1786, Fanny Chapman’s aunt, Jemima who was aged 28 and conversant in ‘the arts and management of crafty’ (don’t you just love that phrase), preyed on this soon to be exceptionally wealthy young man, described by his father as being ‘a youth of very weak faculties’ , in a nutshell Arthur’s father stated that Jemima was, what we would call today a ‘cougar’ and was after his billions!

The document reports that a plot or scheme was hatched by Jemima and her sister Christiana Chapman née Neate and other members of the family by ‘exercising an undue and improper influence over the great weakness of his understanding to entrap him into the Celebration of Marriage with Jemima, secretly and clandestinely without the consent of his father’.

It was alleged that about 6am on the 8th July 1786 at the house of Jemimas’ father William Chapman, Jemima and her sister Christiana gave him some tea for his breakfast and unknown to him, contrived to mix some drug or unknown medicine with a soporific nature in it. As to what Arthur was doing at their house apart from simply paying them a visit we have no idea and this was never questioned.

Apparently, he drank the tea, became drowsy and was bundled into a post chaise with members of the family who promptly headed off towards Scotland, so that a marriage could take place. It was alleged that he had further drugs administered during the journey, presumably to keep him sedated. When they arrived at Durham or Newcastle upon Tyne, it is alleged that they purchased some porter at an inn which they put into a glass bottle containing more drugs and gave that to him to drink too. So he was comatose throughout the journey!

Coldstream Bridge, linking Coldstream, Scottish Borders with Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland, is an 18th-century Grade II listed bridge between England and Scotland, across the River Tweed.

They travelled onward to Cornhill in County Durham where they arrived about midnight on the 10th of July, Cornhill being about a mile and a half from Coldstream where they alighted at an inn known as The Bee Hive. The women then sent a messenger to procure a parson. A person calling himself Richard Powley and describing himself as the Episcopal Minister of Kelso in North Britain arrived, agreed his fees with Christiana.

Jemima, Christiana, Richard Powley and Arthur, all four in the same chaise proceeded across the Tweed to Coldstream, Arthur being under their control the whole time, although still slightly affected by the drugs he put up no resistance.

Marriage and Toll House at Coldstream Bridge

They arrived at an inn at Coldstream run by a George Weatherhead, about one o’clock on the 11th July 1786 where the marriage took place in the presence of Richard Powley, who was later described as not being a minister and that he was pretending. This fact was not checked out during the case, as if it were it would have possible to establish that he was actually a minister. They swiftly returned to London after the marriage had taken place.

Both the Public Advertiser and General Advertiser of the 15th July carried an announcement of their marriage, but sadly provided no further evidence of exactly where or when it took place. It also remains a mystery as to who notified the newspapers of this event if it weren’t true and why make such a public announcement of a clandestine marriage?

There is no judgement in this case but we know that Jemima not only retained the Powell surname but received £500 a year from Powell (about £30,000 in today’s money), we also know that a lawyer wrote to Mrs Powell only a month after the marriage, so clearly there was an assumption at that stage that the marriage was legal and everyone knew about it, so, putting all the evidence together the most likely reason for the nullity petition seems to be that Arthurs’ father was trying to protect his sons inheritance.

To a certain extent it did work as the couple only remained married for less than 3 years when they went their separate ways, but Arthur did not marry again, so arguably it did not work out at all well for him!

Arthur pursued a career in the military. The next time we hear anything of Arthur was when he shot Lord Falkland. The newspapers of the day providing us with all the details. Seemingly he managed to avoid prison or death at this time. He lived on until 1813 when he died as a result of a fall from his horse. We know far more about Jemimas life through her niece Miss Fanny Chapman whose diaries are available to read on our ‘sister’ site.

Annesley - MI

Although we don’t have any portraits of Arthur we have managed to find one for his younger brother John, who, as Arthur had no children, inherited Quex Park in Kent.


So, we are still left with the question of who to believe,

Did Jemima entrap the ‘very weak of faculties’ Arthur or did he go willingly and then regret it on his return?

Did they live together as husband and wife on their return?

Why did his father wait two years before pursuing a court case to have the marriage nullified, what happened during those two years?

Sadly, we have more questions than answers. Certainly Jemima’s family felt that she had been wronged but, given that she managed to receive £500 a year, it does look as if she wasn’t going to disappear quietly!

Sources Used

Deed Poll Office

Stone, L,  1990 –  Road to Divorce England 1530 – 1987, Oxford University

Crosby’s Complete Pocket Gazetteer of England and Wales

The Monthly Magazine, 1820

Fragmenta Genealogica

The Waterloo Tower


Fanny Chapman’s Diaries Continued 1837 – 1841


1st Sept 1840

Well, our summer break is over and our blog posts resume. We hope that for those of you who have had a break that you’re back feeling refreshed and invigorated.

We have been busy working with George and Amanda Rosenberg to finish putting together  Fanny Chapman’s later diaries so with fanfares and trumpets we can announce that the later diaries for the years 1837 – 1841 are now accessible by following this link to Fanny Chapman’s Diaries.

As well as having taken an extremely long break from writing her diary, the period moves to the Victorian Era and you will notice that the style of her diaries has initially changed in parts,  she simply provides us with people she has called upon that day and then people who have called upon her. Perhaps being older this  type of record keeping had become important to her, we will never really know.

As with the earlier ones we have added some beautiful illustrations that we hope will make it even more fascinating to read including pictures of Fanny and her sister Emma as older women.

Fashion plate for February 1839 from Ladies’ Pocket Magazine (LA Public Library; Casey Fashion Plates)

George and Amanda, owners of the diaries are busily working on an index for each year which, given the number of people Fanny knew, is no mean feat. As soon as that is complete we will  include it on the site. We are discovering new information almost daily about both about Fanny and her family, so it remains a ‘work in progress’, but we hope you will enjoy it.

Miss Fanny Chapman
Miss Fanny Chapman

We would love to hear from anyone who recognizes or knows anything about anyone named in her diaries. We can be contacted either via the blog or on Twitter – @sarahmurden, @joannemajor3 or @chapmandiary.


The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman

We are delighted to announce a ‘sister’ site to All Things Georgian, and would like to introduce to you ‘The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman’ which can be accessed by clicking here.

Some time ago we were approached by George and Amanda Rosenberg who had enjoyed our blog posts on this site, and thought we might like to host the diaries that they had painstakingly transcribed which were written by Fanny during the Regency, late Georgian and Victorian eras (George descends from Fanny Chapman’s family).

We were both thrilled and somewhat overwhelmed when he sent us the diaries and associated information, and quickly decided that they deserved a site of their own, for they are quite wonderful to read, and we hope that others will find them as fascinating as we have done. They are still a ‘work in progress’ as George and Amanda have far more information than we have managed to pull together as yet, so please keep checking back for further developments.

Miss Christiana Fanny Chapman
Miss Christiana Fanny Chapman

Christiana Fanny Chapman was born in 1775 to Henry Chapman and his wife Christiana (Kitty) nee Neate. Her diaries were kept in the form of notebooks and a number of loose pages and cover the years 1807 to 1812 when she lived in and around Bath and in Somerset with her aunts Jemima Powell and Mary Neate (Mary was also Fanny’s godmother), very much dependent upon them. The diaries describe their everyday life, their circle of friends and the social routine of the minor gentry of the time.

Batheaston Villa c.1825
Batheaston Villa near Bath, c.1825, Fanny’s home up to 1809.

A constant presence in the diaries is Fanny’s uncle by marriage, Colonel John Hutton Cooper. He had been the second husband of Fanny’s aunt Phillis, who had been left a wealthy widow upon the death of her first husband, Charles Meniconi. When Phillis died she left everything to Cooper, including the villa in which they all lived, probably upon the understanding that he would continue to provide for her sisters and nieces (Fanny had a sister, Emma). Cooper reneged on that agreement, but George believes, and (after reading the diaries) we agree, that Fanny was more than a little in love with her widowed uncle, at least initially. Emma later described Cooper as a ‘reprobate and a fortune hunter’.

John Hutton Cooper
John Hutton Cooper

Fanny’s diary ends in 1812, and then recommences in 1837, just weeks after the young Queen Victoria had ascended the throne. With her two aunts dead, Fanny is living in Bath with her sister, finally her own mistress. Her aunts both left Fanny the main beneficiary of their wills.

Milsom Street, Bath, where Fanny lived during her later years.
Milsom Street, Bath, where Fanny lived during her later years.

Whilst the diaries which cover the years 1807 to 1812 are all fully available, the ones covering the Victorian years will be added to the site shortly.

This painting depicts the moment in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday 20th June 1837 when Princess Victoria hears of her accession to the throne. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015
This painting depicts the moment in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday 20th June 1837 when Princess Victoria hears of her accession to the throne.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015

The diaries end in 1841, but Fanny lived many more years, not dying until 1871 at the grand old age of ninety-five years.

Please feel free to share this with anyone whom you may feel will be interested in these diaries. You may also wish to follow @ChapmanDiary on twitter.

Miss Fanny Chapman
Miss Christiana Fanny Chapman