Rev. Henry McDonald Maugham – Obituary

Rev. Henry McDonald Maugham.
Vicar of Whitstable from 1871 to 1897.

Henry Maugham.

Henry Maugham was the much respected vicar of Whitstable during its growth in the latter part of the 19th century.

He was the son of Robert Maugham and the younger brother of Robert Ormond Maugham. Whereas Henry’s vocation was in the church, Robert became a solicitor for the British Embassy in Paris. He died in Paris in June 1884 and Henry brought his 10 year old son, William Somerset Maugham, back to Whitstable where he continued his life at the vicarage. Young William carried on his education at Kings School, Canterbury and eventually became the highest paid author in the world (1930) in his shortened name of Somerset Maugham.

The life and experiences of the young William in Whitstable under the guidance of his Uncle Henry were often referred to in his books, hence some of the culture of the town was spread around the literary world.

To get a true insight into the life of the Rev. Henry Maugham we feel we can do no better that to look at the local paper of the day in their reporting of his death and funeral.

Whitstable Times. 25th September 1897. Issue 1,760.


The news that spread through our town on Saturday evening last, that the Rev. H. M. Maugham had passed away at about six o’clock, came to most of the inhabitants as a shock, for, although it was generally known that he had been in failing health for some time past, and that for the last three weeks he had been confined to his bed, the serious nature of his illness was not realised by the majority of parishioners.

Mr. Maugham entered his 70th year while on his sick bed. He came to Whitstable in the year 1871, on the resignation of the living by the Rev. Hugh W. Bateman, who was presented to the vicarage of S. John’s, Waterloo Road, London.

After becoming an associate of King’s College, London, in 1848, Mr. Maugham proceeded to Oriel College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. (3rd class Math.) in 1852, and M.A. in 1885. He was ordained Deacon in 1858, by the Bishop of Oxford, and Priest in 1855 by the Bishop of Winchester. Prior to his appointment, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, to the Vicarage of Whitstable, he was curate of Hazlemere with Tyler’s Green, Bucks, 1853-4; curate of St. Thomas, Ryde, I. of W., 1854-5; curate of Reigate, 1885-8; curate of Chertsey, 1858-60; curate in charge of Kirton by Boston, 1860-67; curate in charge of Sturry, Kent, 1867; curate in charge of St. Peter, Sandwich, 1867-70; curate in charge of West Farleigh, Kent, 1870-71; and curate of East Malling, Kent, 1871.

During his incumbency the parish church of All Saints has been thoroughly restored. In 1873 the tower was repaired and strengthened, while its ancient features were carefully preserved. At the same time the west wall of the nave and the north-west corner of the aisle were rebuilt. In 1876 the reparation included the reconstruction of the remainder of the nave and chancel under the direction of the eminent architect, Charles Barry, Esq., of London, the cost of the re-building of the chancel being borne by Mrs. T. Clarke, the lay-improprietor of the tithes. A new vestry was at the same time added to the church.

In 1874 the churchyard (which had been closed for interments under an Order in Council in the year 1857) was added to by the gift of Wynn Ellis, Esq., of a large piece of land adjoining. This was consecrated on the 3rd January, 1875, and here the late Vicar now rests.

He was twice married, his first wife being a lady of German birth, who died and was buried at Ems, where she was staying with her husband for the benefit of her health. About three years ago Mr. Maugham married Miss Matthews, daughter of the late General Matthews, of Bath, who survives him. He leaves no children.

The funeral took place on Tuesday, and was an impressive ceremony. Most of the places of business in the town were closed from one to three o’clock. The procession left the Vicarage at half-past one. The chief mourners were Mr. Henry Maugham and Mr. W. Somerset Maugham, nephews, who were accompanied by Mr. J. Hayward. The trustees of the local charities (of which body the deceased was a member) followed, as did also a number of Freemasons, wearing white gloves, and each carried a sprig of acacia, which they dropped into the grave at the conclusion of the burial, Mr. Maugham having been for many years a member of the local Lodge, of which he was a Past Master, holding also the rank of Past Provincial Grand Chaplain. Many other inhabitants formed part of the procession.

Arrived at the churchyard, the coffin was received by the clergy – the Rev. W. Blizzard, Vicar of Seasalter, the Rev. E. A. Phillips, Rector of Swalecliffe, and the Rev. E. Ellman, assistant curate and mission priest of Whitstable.

The whole of the choir were present, vested in surplice and cassock, and the cortege moved to the west door of the church while the accustomed sentences were intoned by the clergy.

The coffin, which was covered with beautiful wreaths and crosses, was deposited in the chanel, and Psalm 90 was sung to Felton’s mournful chant. The lesson was read by the Rev. E. Ellman, and then, preceded by the choir and clergy singing the hymn, “O, Paradise.”, the coffin was borne to the grave. The committal prayers were said by the Rev. W. Blissard, the anthem, “I heard a voice from Heaven,” being beautifully sung by the choir, who also, at the close of the service, sang with great feeling the hymn, “Now the labourer’s task is o’er.”

Their had been a celebration of the Holy Communion during the morning, at which Mrs. Maugham and friends were present. In addition to those who followed from the Vicarage, a large number of persons were present in church and in the churchyard.

We have been requested to express the sincerest thanks of Mrs. Maugham and the other members of the family of the late Vicar of Whitstable, for the kindness universally shown to them in the latter’s illness and death, and especially to thank those who attended his funeral at Whitstable church on Tuesday, the 21st of September.

Oystertown additional comment.

No children?
No, Henry Maugham fathered no offspring, but he was a father to William (Somerset Maugham) in his formative years, although what he would have felt about the direction his nephew’s life took in later years we will never know.

In addition he was like a father to the people of Whitstable. He, along with the Rev. Blissard, helped feed them when the hard winters came, helped house them when the floods destroyed their homes. In his busy twenty-six years at Whitstable he baptised, married (including our Shingleston Family) and committed many of them to God. The gap in the parish church magazine later that year after ‘Vicar’ is a small one. The gap he left in the town after his death must have seemed like a chasm.

All Saints' Church, Whitstable.
All Saints’ (Whitstable) Parish Church, 2003.

Henry Maugham's grave.

Henry Maugham’s grave 2003.

Further notes.

Henry Maugham’s first wife was Sophie von Scheidlin, who died in 1892.

His second wife was Mary Ellen Matthew, whom he married in 1894.