Morris Fuller: The Man behind the Scandal Part 7

Part 7.

Life in a rural Norfolk. 1884-1885



Throughout his life, Morris Fuller was nothing if not endlessly industrious. Up until his

appointment to St Andrew’s Great Ryburgh, his published literary efforts were mostly

confined to sermons and the exposition of arcane historical viewpoints in support of the

Anglican Church as he saw it. Titles such as “Our established Church”  "The Court of Final

Appeal”  "The Apellate Jurisdiction of the Crown in Ecclesiatical Cases” flowed from his pen


Although he can never, (inspite of his criticisms of others who inflict the “Charybdis of prolixity”

on a reader)  use one word when twenty-one will do, I include a brief section of his Preface to

his most celebrated writings,  ”The Life, Times and Writings of Thomas Fuller, D.D…….”  Vol 1.

Vol 2 . Published in 1884, it ran to several further editions, and in it he does reveal just a very

little of himself, pointing to what motivated him throughout his life:



His move to East Molesey was what gave him the access to the British Museum and his move

to Ryburgh gave him the time to get the book into print. In 1883, prior to leaving Molesey he had

published 20 Sermons in the form of 500 pages of argument entitled “The Lord’s Day or Christian


Again a short extract from the Preface tells us why:



His move to Ryburgh seems to have put him into prime publishing mode, both in book form

such as  “A Voice in the Wildeness", 26 sermons from his Devon days following the course of

the Christian year. and finally his his magnum opus, (the biography and so much more) of, as it

turns out, not his worthy ancestor Thomas Fuller.



His first appearance in St Andrew’s was on Whit Sunday June 6th 1884 and not surprisingly,

a good turn out for the occasion was reported. The concept of competitive sermonising does

seem rather curious to the 21st century ear!




Induction to the Little Ryburgh vicarage was however officially carried out in August with a certain

amount of Inter-Deanery political correctness that perhaps reflects the state of independence

manifest between the Ryburghs, (even then!).


Lynn Advertiser August 16th 1884





During this first year he certainly must have spent time and money promoting his increasing

number of publicatons  and by July we find quite large advertisements in the local press for

his wares to that effect:



This one from Lynn Advertiser October 18th 1884




By the end of the year we find  a short paragraph in the pages of the Shoreditch Observer

for December 13 1884 that provides some interesting corroboration for some of the tittle-tattle

of the “Scandal”:






Everything seems rosy on his first acquaintance in Ryburgh and no doubt the wedding of his

daughter Florence in February 1885, reported as something of an unaccustomed spectacle

in the village, didn’t upset too many people either and everyone loves a good wedding!









On Saturday May 23rd 1885 Morris Fuller attended the Annual Meeting of the Norwich Diocesan

Church Defence Asscociation where they were to give and discuss their annual report. To quote

at some length some of the reported proceedings is very useful for us in the 21st Century to

appreciate, from the Church’s point of view, just how threatened Society felt by the succession

of social and economic reform that moved through the 19th Century. Morris was born at the time

of the first Reform Act,  Chartistism and the Corn Laws and by the time of this meeting, some

rural agricultural labourers had become enfranchised and were eager to flex their newly acquired

muscle. Morris had inadvertantly jumped straight into the constituency of North West Norfolk

that was to return the first “ag lab”, Mr Joseph Arch, to parliament for the Liberals.

To quote from the Church Defence Association meeting:


“The committee……feel they cannot begin their report….better than by drawing the attention

of its members to the following resolutions passed by the Executive Committee of the

Liberation Society Jan 1st 1883:


1”Having regard to the fact that the bill for the extension of the Parliamentary franchise in the

counties has become law……..the committee are of the opinion that then time has arrived

when the question of disestablishment may be resolutely pressed upon Parliament…..


2 They are further of the opinion that, as early in 1885 the enfranchised classes and the new

and altered constituencies will be called upon to exercise their electoral rights, energetic

measures should be immediately adopted by the advocates of religious equality for securing,

in every case in which it may be practicable, the choice and the return of candidates

favourable to their aims.


3. The committee with themselves forthwith take steps for givingeffect to the foregoing

resolution, by action both in Parliament and in the constituencies, and they urge their

supporters throughout the kingdom to consider without delay how they may best advance

the movement in several localities.














Even before this May meeting, Morris was on the case having got himself elected to the

Annual Conference as reported in the Norfolk Chronicle on 21st. March:





He then engaged in a tranche of letter writing to the Norfolk News, Norfolk Chronicle

and the Fakenham and Dereham Times. These he almost immediately published as

Letters on the “Disestablishment” Question, writing the preface from the safe haven of

the Beaconsfield Club in Pall Mall at the beginning of August.


The outreach of his letterwriting was not just limited to Norfolk as this reposte in from Wales shows:



The Herald of Wales 5th. September 1885




Just to show he was still attending to his flock at least in anancilliary capacity, this report of the

Harvest Festival in October is definitely the lull before the storm of the November electioneering:



Lynn Advertiser 3rd October 1885




The extension of the franchise into the rural areas brought a fresh topic to the local village reports

in the local papers. The fact that Joseph Arch, “one of them”, even though not from Norfolk,  was to

be a candidate for whom they could cast their first ever votes was a cause of much interest. The

appearance of Mr Arch in the 1897 book "Notables of Britain" might possibly have evinced a shaking

of the head from Morris had he been looking through the volume in the clergy section to find he

wasn't there.



18th July 1885:




October in Ryburgh is when we say in the modern parlance "it all kicked off".

One comes to the inevitable conclusion when reading the “substance” of two semons delivered

to the poor churchgoers of Ryburgh, that his zealous and patronising haranguing from the pulpit

was bound to deter the “common man” from attending services at St Andrew’s. The more so

when it was justifiably seen as being delivered as part of the Church Defence Association’s 

masterplan for defeating the Liberals, or was it Liberationists, at the forthcoming general electon?

These sermons entitled The Alleged Tripartite  Division of Tithes in England  AND THE POOR...

preached on National Church Sunday October 25th 1885 were even advertised in advance  and

sparked off another spate of letters in the local papers beginning on November 4th 1885 in the


Norwich Mercury




To which Morris responds:


Norwich Mercury November 14th 1885



In the same issue of the Norwich Mercury November 14th 1885 a real political meeting is held

under the heading  Little Ryburgh? Surely this must be Great Ryburgh if it was at the schoolroom:



On November 19th, Morris wrote a wordy Eulogy promoting  Lord Henry Bentinck in the 

Lynn Advertiser on November 28th 1885




Sauce for the goose was however not good enough for the Liberal gander:


Lynn Advertiser  November 21st 1885



Joseph Arch's agent penned a swift reply in the same day's Eastern Evenimg News



Page last updated: 23rd March 2021 9:12 PM