Jane EVANS 1785 - 1837
Fifth child, third daughter of Lewis EVANS (1753 - 1827) and Anne NORMAN.
Born 20th October 1785, Froxfield, Wiltshire
Died 14th February 1837, Gloucester Cathedral
Sister of Emma
Emma and Jane EVANS
In the north walk of Gloucester Cathedral there are two memorial tablets(1) set in the floor where underneath lies the remains of members of the Evans family. The cloisters are full of such stones and tablets, but it is a great many years since bodies were allowed to be buried in such archeologically sensitive space.
One tablet is of white marble with a somewhat extravagant black marble border around it. It is totally out of keeping with the limestone of the cloisters and of the original stone flooring – but it comes from a time when such niceties of ‘fitting in’ were not a priority. The extravagance of the memorial is certainly a sign of much love for the two who were buried there.
The stone tells us of two women, Emma and Jane Evans, sisters.
THE MOST DEARLY BELOVED AND MOST DEEPLY LAMENTED NIECE
OF THE REV. ARTHUR BENONI EVANS M.A.
HEADMASTER OF THE COLLEGE SCHOOL GLOUCESTER.
AND SECOND DAUGHTER OF THE REV. LEWIS EVANS VICAR OF FROXFIELD WILTS.
DIED THE 14TH OF FEBRUARY 1857 AGED 52 YEARS.
“WHEN THE EAR HEARD HER, THEN IT BLESSED HER, AND WHEN THE EYE SAW HER, IT GAVE WITNESS TO HER.” JOB.
“KINDNESS, MEEKNESS, AND COMFORT WERE HER TONGUE” ECC.CUS (Ecclesiasticus)
“HER BODY IS BURIED IN PEACE: BUT HER SPIRIT LIVETH EVERMORE.” ECC.CUS
COME RESIGNATION! WIPE THE HUMAN TEAR
DOMESTIC ANGUISH DROPS O’ER NATURES BIER:
BID SELFISH SORROW HUSH THE FOND COMPLAINT
NOR FROM THE GOD SHE LOVED, DETAIN THE SAINT
TRUTH, MEEKNESS, PATIENCE, HONOURED WERE THINE
AND HOLY HOPE AND CHARITY DIVINE;
THOUGH THESE THY FORFEIT BEING COULD NOT SAVE.
THY FAITH SUBDUED THE TERRORS OF THE GRAVE.
OH! IF THY LIVING EXCELLENCE COULD TEACH
DEATH HAS A LOFTIER EMPHASIS OF SPEECH.
IN DEATH THY LAST, BEST LESSON STILL IMPART,
AND WRITE, “PREPARE TO DIE.” ON EVERY HEART.
SISTER OF JANE EVANS, ALIKE BELOVED AND LAMENTED
BY HER SORROWING UNCLE.
DIED APRIL 27TH 1838, AGED 55 YEARS.
(Maud, my cat, sits on the memorial to give an idea of size.)
Of their mother Anne Norman (1750 - 1788) little, if anything, is known personally - except she came from a well-known Welsh family. This family could claim kinship with great many other well-known families of South Wales who had lived there long before that land became industrialised and other people had poured down from the north of Wales looking for work in the mines. These families had farmed the land and pastored the people for many generations. Her brother John Norman had been a pupil at College School in Gloucester where he had won lasting fame for himself by knocking down the headmaster before running off. He was nicknamed ‘the Bold’ for his intrepid nature.
It is interesting how it is details like this that get remembered.
How often is history shaped by what was done and remembered by men? I don’t mean to be wholly critical here, because apart from some notable exceptions girls and women’s lives were far more shielded in the past as they didn’t have the same freedom to do things like climb up into cathedral galleries. But I bet they would have loved to.
The Reverend Lewis Evans (1753 -1827) their father, also Welsh who had escaped the confines of his native land, had been a country parson but his main interest in life was that of astronomy. He used to observe stars from the bottom of the dry well in the Rectory Garden. He set up a stone in the nearby churchyard recording the latitude and longitude of the village of Froxfield in Wiltshire. He designed instruments for himself and set them up in a small observatory he had built in the garden; he entered eclipses and sightings of interest from night sky in the parish register. He planned and made a most complicated astronomical clock. His scientific interests led him to lecture at the Artillery Barracks at Woolwich, which took him away for many months at a time from his parishes.
Lewis Evans was not easy to live with. His children were far more attached to their father’s brother, the bachelor Uncle Arthur Benoni at Gloucester. After their mother Anne’s death in 1788, (Emma aged 6 and Jane aged 5) together with their three brothers looked towards Uncle Arthur.
The two older boys Thomas Simpson EVANS (1717 – 1818) and Arthur Benoni EVANS junior (1781 – 1854) went to live with him and were educated by him at the College School which we now call Kings School.
When they were old enough, the two girls, Emma and Jane kept house for Uncle Arthur. We have no record of how or where they (and their younger brother Lewis) were educated or anything much of their lives between the year their mother died and the time they kept house for their Uncle Arthur. However, we do know that their father married the woman who had come to act as housekeeper to him and the motherless daughters at home. She, Elizabeth HALLIDAY, the stepmother, in turn bore him two daughters (Cunitia and Hypatia.) Their father Lewis Evans died nine/ten years before Emma and Jane.
It must have been a rather sad family after Emma and Jane’s mother’s death in 1788. Four other children had died in infancy. The last child died the same year as their mother Anne – so I assume it was childbirth that brought on her death. This was common in those days before women could have control over their fertility. This was her ninth child, and she had no choice in the matter, unless her husband and she ceased intercourse. Their brother Lewis (1784 – 1804) later died aged 20.
Why didn’t Emma and Jane marry? Perhaps they were not inclined. Perhaps the fear of endless pregnancies ending one day in premature death leaving six children under the age of ten as their mother had, was not an attractive option. Perhaps Uncle Arthur had not the time or inclination to find suitable partners for his nieces. Perhaps they were contented with their lot. Perhaps they felt they hadn’t sufficient dowry or ‘bottom drawer’ fitting for their class. Perhaps they saw it as their Christian duty to look after the uncle who had been so kind to them and more of a father than their own father had been, especially after he had married a second time.
Maybe the right men were never in that small world of the Cathedral cloisters, although this is hard to imagine as cathedrals were very masculine institutions then, together with the College School. There would have been many lay clerks, clergy, and school masters – but no, they remained unmarried.
One interesting point is though is that there is a pattern that follows through many generations of the family. The women (that is, the women born into the family descended from the Evans’s, not those who married in) were often single or if they married did not have children, apart from a few exceptions. This does not mean to say they were hard or unloving – quite the reverse.
It was such a different life to ours today. Music was chief pleasure in the circle of friends around the cathedral. There were the Three Choirs Festival connections; Dr. Lysons and William Mutlow the then cathedral organist (who is also buried close by in the cloisters) made up part of the music circle that the Evans family so much enjoyed and was part of. One can imagine that Emma and Jane may have played and sang in musical soirees popular in those days by way of entertainment and expected of young ladies whether or not they had natural talent.
As well as keeping house for their uncle, playing a full part in entertaining guests and visitors and overseeing the running of the house, they no doubt sewed and went for walks in their long skirts. Visiting was very much an art form in those days. Being ‘At Home’ or not and leaving visiting cards. There was the etiquette of saying the right thing, arriving and leaving at the correct time.
Joan Evans’ writings on which I depend so heavily talks of the Evans family living ‘in the Cloisters.’ This does not make sense – but their living in Little Cloisters (off the North Walk of the main cloisters) does. This ancient building would have made an unusual but comfortable home. It is now part of the Kings School complex. It contains within it some of the domestic buildings belonging to the former abbey.
Gloucester held a pleasant society in those days of the late 1700’s into the mid 1800’s, and a very small one. The city still lay within the circuit of its mediaeval walls; and though tree-shaded walks had replaced the walls, the ancient gates and bridges yet remained. Beyond them lay unspoilt countryside.
The city was the centre of a microcosm bounded by Stroud, Cirencester, Cheltenham, Tewkesbury, Ross and Monmouth; and within this little world the clerics, lawyers, doctors and minor gentry kept up a society all of their own: a society narrow and insular, yet both cultivated and polite. The port of Gloucester, to which came wine and corn and all sea-borne produce, and the Gloucester market, were its economic centres; the Cathedral Close, and the few decent squares were centres of its social life. This has all but disappeared with so much callous and needless destruction in the 1960’s – just a whisper of the old Gloucester remains as you view it from the top of the cathedral tower. Here and there behind modern facades the occasional mediaeval sloping roof gives a clue to the true age of a few remaining old buildings. The Close around the Cathedral – College Green together with Millers Green and Pitt Street is an island from the past.
It was another world where Jane and Emma lived and yet the same cathedral, the same cloisters walk.
Who knows the inner thoughts of these two young women? We may never know. Why did they die comparatively early? We may never know. They were not worn out by childbearing as their mother was. We may never know. We can only ponder.
Emma and Jane both died before their uncle. Jane died in 1837 aged 54 and Emma in the following year of 1838 aged 56. Their uncle Arthur Benoni died just a few years later 1841 aged 82, a good age even by today’s standards.
And so lies the remains of Emma and Jane in the north cloister walk lying close to the house of Little Cloisters much lamented by their loving Uncle all those years ago. To nearly all people walking over their memorial today they remain mere names. Nothing really known of them except the fragments I have gathered here.
(1) The other memorial stone is to Emma and Janes' uncle the Reverend Arthur Benoni EVANS (1759-1841), his brother the Reverend Thomas EVANS (1757 - 1808) and nephew (son of Thomas Evans) the Rev. Arthur Benoni Thomas EVANS (1802 - 1854.)
The above is an extract from a talk given by Judith F Hubbard August 1999, at Gloucester
See also Time and Chance by Joan Evans 1943