Morris Fuller; The man behind the Scandal Part 3

Part 3

Hannah Fuller and Morris's schooldays

 

Knowing what we know now about the circumstances surrounding Morris Fuller’s

father, it appears even more remarkable that the shadowy figure of Hannah Fuller

maintained a stability for the family throughout many turbulent years. Was any

pride in Thomas’s rise to High Constable  sufficient recompense for the shame

of the preceding bankruptcy let alone the ensuing disastrous insolvency and its

inevitable consequences?  Is it possible that the independant course she took

as an educationalist (from at least 1833 and very likely earlier) meant that her

income was not lost to Thomas’s creditors?

To find out how she might have been able to survive, we must first look at her

father, Joseph Morris and his last will and testament:  

Joseph Morris (1752-1826) was a well respected Butcher and businessman in

Lewes, Sussex  and Hannah was the 4th of the 12 children born to Joseph and

Ann Shoosmith (1762-1833) They were a Dissenter family having first worshipped

at the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connection Old Chapel at Cliffe, Lewis  moving

with the breakaway Independent Calvinist preacher Jenkin Jenkins when he took

many of the congegation to start afresh at the Jireh Chapel that he had built in

Lewes in 1805. He was also one of the founding trustees of the new chapel.

Both Joseph’s own children and his grandchildren born to Thomas and Hannah

Fuller were baptised at the Old Chapel and the new Jireh Chapel, including our

very own Morris Joseph who seems to have been baptised Joseph Morris after

his grandfather.

Joseph made quite an elaborate will and went to great lengths to ensure

comfortable provision for his widow Ann, and a described a tortuous calculation

to ensure the fair distribution of his residual estate between “any child children

or issue of my body”

 

“Now in order to equalize the portions of all my children I do direct that on the

division of the residue of my personal Estate the share of my son Joseph Morris

or of his issue shall be less by one thousand and two hundred pounds

the share of my son Benjamin Morris or of his issue shall be less by eight hundred

pounds the share of my son Ebenezer Morris or of his issue shall be less by one

thousand pounds and the respective shares of my daughters Elizabeth Verrall

Sarah Martin Mary Hooper & Martha Hooper and Hannah Fuller or of their

respective issue shall be less by five hundred pounds each than the shares of my

other children And I declare that if at the time of my decease any of my children

or any of my sons in law shall be indebted to me in or any sum or sums of money

for which I shall have any security or securities in reciting from him her or them

respectively it shall be lawful for my Executors and Administrators for the time

being to deduct from the legacy or share or respective legacies or shares to which

any such debtor or debtors or the wives or issue of any such debtor or debtors

will be intitled under this my will all such sum or sums of money as shall be so

due to me from such debtor or debtors provided always”

Without knowing the value of the Estate, it is not possible to calculate just what

Hannah’s inheritance would have been. Given the sums of money illustrated it is

probably safe to assume that Hannah was entitled to a not insignificant bequest.

There is however no evidence that Thomas Fuller had borrowed from or owed

money to Joseph on his death, but whatever everything would have become

Thomas’s upon their marriage.

Before the Married Women’s Property Act of  1870 any money made by a woman

either through wages, investments, gifts or inheritance became the property of

her husband once she was married. One exception to this would have been if a

dowry or marriage settlement had been drawn up and provided by a bride's father

for his daughter's financial support throughout her married life and into her

widowhood. 

To speculate,  if this was the case, had a marriage settlement put Hannah in a

position to fund and manage her Establishment for Young Ladies independently

of Thomas and his bankruptcy? And, does the inherited share less £500 which

was common to all the daughters  indicate that Joseph had settled them each

equally with a dowry on their marriage to their respective partners? This needs

to be further investigated, but whatever the facts she was able to keep her school

going until she died. Did this stability allow Hannah to pay the cost of educating

her sons? Unless a marriage settlement or other trustee document survives, the

truth of the matter will never be known. Thomas as husband is always able to

cite the fashionable addresses of the “Establisment” until after 1845 when she

appears to have kept Thomas at a distance at least for the later years of their

marriage. 

 

Apart from the census, the earliest opportunity to verify facts regarding Morris

Fuller is his attendance as a scholar at Brighton College noted in Census of1851.

I had also noted, as an aside, that a Mr Fuller played cricket for Brighton College

in June 1850. Batting at No 10, he was out, bowled l.b.w. for 0 in the first innings.

The College had won before he had the chance to bat again. This of course of

itself means nothing as there was also an Andrew Fuller who was a scholar at

the College at the same time.

Brighton College opened for business in January 1847 and so Morris must have

been amongst the very first of the pupils enrolled. The school was a long time in

the planning and started off on a modest scale in the pre-existing buildings of

Lion House. Details were presented to the public in January 1846

 

 

 

The Illustrated London News from Oct 13 1849 has a brief acount of the College

upon its taking up residence in the new buildings:

 

 

 

After contacting the Brighton College Archivist, Mr James Harrison, his first

searches found no trace of Morris Fuller as a student in the Register.

Initially, he was  only able to find an Andrew Fuller, the son of a retired

solicitor from Chichester. He went up to St John’s in Cambridge in 1852

the year after Morris; and like Morris was ordained as priest but was

ordained a year before Morris. However, James’ persistence paid off

and he found in the Register the folowing information:

 

 

NAME                                                             Morris Joseph Fuller

 

AGE                                                                                          171/2

 

DATE OF ADMISSION                                               26 Jany. 1848

 

DEPARTMENT                                                                       Upper

 

CLASS                                                                                        4th.

 

ON WHOSE NOMINATION                                           Mr Cornford

                                                                                   Mr Thos Fuller

 

WHERE BOARDED                                                              At home

 

GUARDIAN 

NAME                                                                        Mr. Thos. Fuller

RELATION 

RESIDENCE                                         75 Montpelier Road Brighton

 

DATE OF REMOVAL                                                   Michmas 1851

 

CAUSE OF REMOVAL          Queens College Cambridge University

 

REMARKS                                        Scholarship awarded Oct 1851

 

 

At last, it was good to have first hand contemporary evidence of this part of

Morris’s career. Up to this point, much of it came from C.V.s collated over a

number of years and after the events. Immediately following Morris’ death the

most comprehensive version of this period in his life appeared in the Brighton

Gazette on August 1st 1901 as part of the funeral report. The information must

have been suppled by the family and it would come as no surprise to know that

 the gist of it had been prepared in advance by Morris.

 

 

 

 

There is however one discrepancy found between this glowing account of the

precocious youth and the entry in the Register at Brighton College. This is

regarding the date of his admission to the College which clearly says 26th Jan

1848 and not January1847 when the School first opened and which is implied

in the press cutting. 

At this point, more importantly, was the fact that Morris’s father’s name had

been crossed through and a Mr Cornford was given as the nominator of this

student. As a bankrupt, Thomas probably no longer had the wherewithall to

be a proprietor (shareholder) of the College, and with it the right to nominate or

present a pupil. It was fortunate that Mr. Edward Cornford Esq., solicitor of

Dorset Gardens, was able to fulfil this important role. This was the first time

that I was able to  connect this name with Morris, even though it was quite in

evidence in hindsight!  So, who was he and what was his role in Morris’s sojurn

at Brighton College. The answer came again from the Brighton Gazette which

published  several notices in 1846 as we have seen above, leading up to the

opening of the College the following year where he is seen to hold the office of

Hon. Secretary of Brighton College

 

 

Whether or not it is right to hypothesise, it seems to be in Morris’s character to

hold steadfastly to a belief regardless of what other’s may find to be not strictly

accurate. With this thought in mind, I was most intrigued to find in the Brighton

Gazette for a few brief weeks between August and November 1847 a flurry of

poetry and charades (riddles) penned by A YOUNG COLLEGIAN

In late October he produced a long poem by which time he had become

The Young Collegian!

 

Arthur J. Macleane was a keen supporter of the Society for the Propagation of

the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Morris in due course became similarly active. One

of the Society's concerns was in counteracting the influence of Dissenters in the

far flung parts of the globe that were opened up in the course of the 18th and

19th Centuries.

 

It must be left to two final press clippings to show the end of the journalistic career

of this particular young man: 

 

 

 

As yet I have been unable to find any strong links between Thomas Fuller and

Edward Cornford, with the exception that they were both Committee Members

of the Brighton Conservative Association in 1840. 

Cornford had not been solicitor to the Fullers' Fiat in Bankruptcy in the 1830’s,

 that role was carried out by the firm of Kell and Son, another Conservative

Association contact.  There must nevertheless have been circumstances that

led to him presenting Morris to the College at the start of its 2nd year. 

To speculate further, it is not without the bounds of possibility that he might have

acted for Joeph Morris in the matter of a marriage settlement for Hannah Fuller,

or perhaps he just saw Morris’s potential in need of encouragement given the

family circumstances. Nevertheless £75 for 3 years' fees still had to be found to

keep him at the College until he reached Cambridge. 

When the College opened in1847 ”Occasional Scholars” were able to attend 

lectures, such as those advertised in the press, given by Classical Master,

George Long. Was Morris “networking” in being a regular attendee at these

lectures,was it him trying to ingratiate himself in press and trying to show he

was worthy of being in fact, of Brighton College. 

Whatever the case, Brighton College was his route to the future clergyman we

know as the Reverend Morris Fuller. Still eluding my researches is finding at what

point the influence of the Oxford Movement took over from the Calvinistic

Methodism of the previous generation. I may find more in his own writings……

but there are very many of those and whatever he may have thought of his

literary style, I find it very hard going!

 

*************

 

Without the British Newspaper Archive much of this research would have been

difficult, if not impossible. It is also thanks to the kindness, persistence and 

enthusiam of James Harrison, Archivist at Brighton College,  that we have

found our man in his formative years.

 

 

 

Click Here for Part 4

 


Page last updated: 18th March 2021 8:42 PM