Three lions in a church, Easttys’ brass plaque’s still gleaming

MARVELS OF THE MINSTER: Tours and talks are resuming next month. Here, DAVID MORGAN sheds some light on church windows that celebrate the lives of one of Croydon’s most prominent Victorian families

Daniel’s den: the stained glass window in Croydon Minster carries much history

Three Lions might not have been heard so much in the past couple of weeks, now that the European football championship is over. But there remains a thriving pride inside Croydon Minster.

The three lions of the Minster are part of the stained glass window behind the large memorial tomb of Gilbert Sheldon.

The lions can be found on the right-hand panel of that window. They look like cartoon lions, with their human-like faces.

The King of Beasts are painted beside Daniel, the Old Testament character, who has been flung into their midst. Far from being ferocious animals ready to tear their prey limb from limb, they look contented, subdued and ready to protect Daniel rather than harm him.

King Darius, who was forced to send Daniel into lion’s den, was relieved. I expect Daniel was too!

This particular Bible scene is one of several that have been included in this Clayton and Bell window, constructed in 1873 as a memorial to Rev Joseph Henry Eastty. Other Bible scenes in these panels include the stoning of Stephen and the Sermon on the Mount.

A brass plaque, the writing in Latin, has been placed beside the window explaining that it was donated by Eastty’s father. This was one of several stained glass memorials constructed in the Victorian era, shortly after the church was rebuilt following the fire of 1867. It would have been a grief-filled day as the Eastty family gathered in church for the dedication and unveiling.

Minster memories: the Eastty family was one of the leading donors for the rebuilding of Croydon Parish Church 150 years ago

The story behind the Eastty family tells us much about both the church and the civic life of Croydon at the time. It contains elements of social mobility, the place of the Anglican church in society and role this church played in the lives of Croydon folk.

The first recorded connection that Rev Joseph Eastty had with our church is his wedding,  on September 13, 1866, when he married Louisa Mary Burrows there.

He died, tragically young when just 28, six years later, on Decmeber 16 1872.

He was interred in the Church of England cemetery, in Queens Road. The parish church had had to close its own churchyard to further burials in 1861 because it was full. In 1872, Rev Eastty was one of the 536 interments in the newer cemetery.

Croydon Parish Church had a large staff but Joseph wasn’t one of them. At the time of his death, he was Assistant Curate of St Cross, Holywell, Oxford, a church now closed and currently used as the archive centre for Balliol College.

He and his wife had one daughter, Elizabeth Mary Alice.

The Eastty family were a prominent family in Croydon. Joseph’s parents were Joseph Mortleman Eastty and Elizabeth (née Sharpe ). Joseph senior was born four years after the Battleof Waterloo, in Ipswich on September 7 1819. With his first wife, Elizabeth, whom he married in June 1841 in St Nicholas Church, Rochester, he had four children: Joseph, Elizabeth, Mary Ann and Alfred.

Wellesley House (as painted in 1942 by Barbara Jones): the Easttys’ grand family home was sited somewhere close to where Lunar House is today

We do not know when they moved to Croydon but their grand residence, Wellesley House, is evidence of their wealth and standing in the community. The family money came from trading. An entry in the London Gazette dated January 1871 states that he was one of three people in an Oil and Seed Merchant business.

As well as being a prominent businessman, Joseph Snr was also a magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey. Clips from newspapers of the day show that Mr Eastty was “on the bench” on many occasions.

He died in 1878 aged 58. Streane, the Victorian historian who listed all the known burials in our churchyard, added a note beside Eastty’s burial record saying that he was a “liberal, humane and cheerful” fellow who almost always wore “a pretty buttonhole”, as he was “nicely dressed”.

He was, he went on, “an ideal gentleman who enjoyed society”. Here was a man who rose from humble nonconformist roots, was very successful in business and who embraced the Anglican church. It is interesting to ponder on the fact that his eldest son did not follow him into his trading world but instead trained to become a priest.

One of the neighbours when Joseph Snr and his family lived in Wellesley House was the Edridge family, who lived across the way in The Elms. The link between the two families is significant. The cutting from the London Gazette reveals that Eastty and Frederick Thomas Edridge were co-partners in the Oil and Seed Merchant business which had a trading address as 19 Old Broad Street in the City of London. This particular company partnership was dissolved on January 6, 1871.

Many of the magistrate hearings in Croydon mention that Eastty was on the bench, often with Edridge as the chair. And the two families were joined through matrimony when in 1867 Thomas Edridge married Elizabeth Sara, the elder daughter of Joseph Mortleman Eastty, the Rev Joseph’s younger sister.

Sir Frederick Edridge and his wife would go on to become pillars of Croydon society. He served as Mayor of Croydon four times. He was a churchwarden of the Parish Church for 30 years. He donated great sums of money to help the church, the hospital, Whitgift School and is remembered in the Minster today with a stained glass memorial window on the opposite wall to Rev Joseph Eastty’s. The two families had social, business, legal, religious and matrimonial links. How close could you get to one another?

After the Parish Church fire in 1867, Eastty and Edridge figured prominently on the list of donors who gave money to enable the church to rise so quickly from the ashes. They contributed £250 each  (about £4,500 in today’s money), an amount surpassed by only eight other people, one of whom was the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Brassed: The plaque for the Eastty window is inscribed in Latin

The final entry of an Eastty in the Parish Records concern’s Rev Joseph’s daughter, Elizabeth Mary Alice. Born in 1867, her baptism was at All Saints Benhilton, Sutton, on June 30. The records show she married in Croydon Parish Church on April 30, 1890, to Dr Prideaux George Selby OBE, MRCS, LRCP, of Teynham in Kent, which was where she lived into her 80s, and was buried in 1950 at St Mary’s.

Further information which helps us know more about the Eastty family comes from the details from the will of Joseph Snr. After his death on January 5, 1878, the will (dated December 16 1872) was proved on January 29. The surviving executors were Alfred, his younger son, John, his brother, and two of his business partners, Sir Frederick Edridge and Job Ashton.

The personal estate was “sworn under £120,000”.

Eastty bequeathed to his wife Susan £300 and “upon her trust for life £10,000 and a few other legacies”. The rest of his property was left in trust to his four children, “who may be living at the time of his decease, and the children of such of them who may be dead”.

This will had exactly the same date on it as the day on which his son Joseph Henry died – December 16, 1872.

It also shows that his first wife, Elizabeth, had died and that he had remarried. Elizabeth’s grave was in the new cemetery, with her tombstone revealing she died on March 13 1864, aged 43. Eastty Snr remarried in 1866. His new wife Susan outlived him by many years, passing away in Peckham in 1907.

Rev Joseph’s brother Alfred could be found living in Croydon in the 1891 census, where his occupation was listed as a Lloyd’s underwriter.

I like to think this is a “Dare to be a Daniel” story.

Joseph Snr dared to think he could better himself through business and trade. This success led him to dare that he could become a pillar of Victorian society. Rev Joseph dared to become a priest, hearing God’s call above the buzz of a busy Victorian life. Was the Old Testament story a favourite of the father, or the son, or both?

  • The story behind this stained glass window will be part of a talk to be given by David Morgan in Croydon Minster on Sunday September 5, as part of the Open House weekend, at 12.30pm and again at 2.30pm. Places are limited. Ring the Minster Office on 020 8688 8104 to book yours

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