St Leonard's Church, Bengeo

Jennifer Ayto

St Leonard's Church, Bengeo
Jennifer Ayto
St Leonard's
Jennifer Ayto
The Old Rectory
Jennifer Ayto

For a small church, St Leonard’s in Bengeo contains much of interest, from medieval wall paintings to 18th and 19th century memorials, including the funeral hatchments commemorating Admiral Thomas le Marchant Gosselin and his wife, Sarah, of Bengeo Hall.  The Gosselins were great supporters of the community.

The Gosselin sisters
His daughters, Mary and Charlotte, were involved in the Sunday school and managers of the national school which they visited at least once a week.  Both contributed to funds for the restoration of St Leonard’s.  It was their nephew, Gerard, who was instrumental in ensuring that repairs were carried out in the 1880s which secured the future of the building.

Mary and Charlotte died in February 1892 and they were buried in St Leonard’s churchyard but clearly remembered by the community.  [1]

On his election to the mayoralty of Hertford, Hellier Gosselin noted in his diary for 9 November 1897,

“Shortly before noon the members of the Corporation assembled in the ante-room….   Councillor A G Page then rose to propose that I should be selected to serve as mayor for the ensuing year.  He endowed me with all sorts of abilities which I do not possess, but what pleased me most in his speech was his kindly reference to the Aunts, who were so justly beloved by all in Bengeo”.[2]

The sisters have a memorial by the windows put in Holy Trinity church in 1893.  However, there is a small brass plate in St Leonard’s church which also remembers Charlotte and Mary which was made by Catherine Tuck.  Who was Catherine Tuck?  She was not a native of Hertfordshire but her story reveals dynasties of churchmen.

Catherine Tuck
Catherine  was born 1840 in Rotherhithe, Kent.  She was the daughter of Frances and the Reverend Jacob George Wrench, vicar of Salehurst, Sussex.  At some time Jacob had been Rector of Stowting, Kent, Chaplain to the Duke of Sussex, Chaplain to the Embassy at Constantinople,  Vicar of Blakeney, Gloucestershire and Vicar of Salehurst from 1827 – 1860.  He died there on 7 July 1860 aged 69.   (His son, another Jacob George, became Chaplain to the Mercers Company).

Catherine was married in 1862 to Richard Holmes Tuck.  He was the son of John Johnson Tuck of Norfolk and was ordained in1844 becoming a Curate in Suffolk, South Mimms, Ewhurst, Surrey and Vicar of Ringwood with Harbridge, Hants from 1862 to1868.  He died on 24 Oct 1868 at Ringwood.

(Again there was a strong family tradition of ordination.  He had two brothers in holy orders.  John Johnson Tuck was a curate at Ayot St Peter, St Ippolitts and Little Wymondley. He was recorded on the 1851 census as at Hertford Road, Welwyn, with his sons John, aged 4, Alfred, aged 2 and Horace aged 5 months. By 1890 he was at 12 North Road, Hertford.  He died on 7 April 1892.  Another brother, Thomas Ridout Tuck, became a Curate in Leicestershire and Epping).[3]

The census reveals that in 1881 Catherine Tuck was living in Kent with her family and 2 servants plus a nephew, Horace, son of her brother-in-law. Catherine was described as the Head of Household and “Widow of Rector”.  By 1891, the household had moved to St Leonard’s, Warren Terrace, Bengeo with Horace, a Bank Manager, enumerated as the Head of Household.  This was the old rectory and acquired by William R Best, a retired Master Mariner, in 1849.  It was sold to Miss Charlotte Gosselin in 1863.

By 1901, the family had moved to Wimborne, Dorset with Horace, by now a Retired Bank Manager, recorded as Head of Household.  Catherine and her daughters were enumerated as “Living off own means”.[4]   Catherine died in 1901.  Her burial has been recorded as 30 December 1901 at Wimborne Minster.

Undoubtedly, as a woman who was comfortably off and with a strong family tradition of service to the Church of England, Catherine would have moved in the same circles as the Gosselin sisters. The subscription list  for their memorial window recorded that Mr Horace J. Tuck gave £5, The Misses Tuck between them gave £1 and Mrs R. Holmes Tuck (Catherine) gave £3.  That she made the additional memorial in St Leonard’s may suggest a close friendship.  The Treasurer’s accounts for the restoration of St Leonard’s church (HALS DP/17/5/1) record the generosity of the Gosselin family.  Other benefactors included Catherine, Mrs Holmes Tuck, who donated 3 guineas in 1888 and a further £5.10s.0d. in 1892 for a “Brass desk for the Holy Table”.

Planning for the future at St Leonard’s
The Friends of St Leonard’s hope to open this church to more people.  In order to do this their Buy a Brick campaign is aimed at funding a facility with running water and toilets so that schools and community groups can be invited to explore its treasures.

[1] Further information on the family can be found in “The Gosselins of Bengeo Hall” by Gill Cordingley.  A reference copy is available at HALS, call number 929.2 GOS.
[2] HALS D/EX Z1 Borough of Hertford, Mayoralty of Hellier R H Gosselin.
[3] HALS holds copies of Crockford’s Clerical Directory from 1884.  Earlier ordinations can be found in Alumni Oxonienses and Alumni Cantbrigienses, also at HALS.
[4] Findmypast and Ancestry are free to search in Hertfordshire libraries.

This page was added on 07/10/2016.

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