Those following the progress of our rebuild of Eston Church may have noticed a few references to our resident owl, the Revered Vyvyan Peck. Our choosing the name ‘Peck’ has a fairly obvious explanation, but the more uncommon ‘Vyvyan’ is derived from a fascinating story of a 19th Century criminal – The Revered Vyvyan Moyle.
At first glance Moyle, who was born in 1835 to relatively wealthy parents, appeared to be a typical 19th Century vicar of a rural parish. He was appointed Vicar at Eston in 1868, the same year St Helen’s was upgraded from a chapel in the parish Ormesby to a parish church, having served as a curate in Ormesby. He was married to Wilhemina Wade, who was allegedly an Irish heiress. Moyle showed all the signs of being a wealthy, successful member of society in the North East – he delivered lectures to influential people (including Members of Parliament) and was apparently generous and well liked. He even paid for a new Gothic-style East window for St Helen’s.
Moyle’s window from the Chancel, photographed in the 1980s.
The same window when Beamish arrived at St Helen’s in 1998. Unfortunately, due to us setting the Church in 1822 this later window isn’t included in our rebuild, but we’ll endeavor to lay it out somewhere nearby in the churchyard.
Considering his relatively modest income, Moyle lived an extravagant life. His house was what is now the Manor House at Normanby, and he had a vast array of luxurious possessions, including a collection of artwork. The source of this wealth became apparent in December 1872, when Moyle was arrested and charged with four counts of fraud, including forgery. The company he was accursed of defrauding was Jackson, Gill & Co., a furnace makers, who alleged that he had stolen £22,000 – a huge sum in the 1870, worth well into the millions in today’s equivalent.
Moyle pleaded guilty, but wasn’t given bail because of how serious the charges were. Whilst awaiting trial he was declared bankrupt and the contents of his home were auctioned. At his trial in March 1873 local dignitaries spoke of his previous good character, but this had no impact, and Vyvyan was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. His trial and conviction caused quite a stir of media interest – the story was even reported in the New Zealand press!
He was released on October the 19th 1878, and moved to Berkshire with his wife and family, being titled a ‘clergyman without care of souls’. In 1885, despite the circumstances of his conviction being explained to the Bishop, Moyle was given a vicarage and appointed vicar of St Clement’s Church, Ashampstead, Reading – the Bishop seeking to give him another chance as a repentant man. In 1895 Vyvyan wrote ‘Notes on the Ecclesiastical History of Ashampstead, Berks., for the last 50 years’. It appears that his wife and son (who was also a vicar called Vyvyan) had left him, as they were living in Sussex in 1901.
St Clement’s Church, Ashampstead.
Sadly Moyle’s peaceful and honest life didn’t last. In 1906 at the age of 71 he was tried, alongside a William Davenport, for conspiring to defraud. They were convicted of trying to induce people to be depositors in a false company entitled ‘South & South-West Coast Steam Trawling & Fishing Syndicate’. Moyle pleaded guilty and was given eighteen months’ hard labour, although this time he didn’t survive, and died shortly after his release in 1908.
As far as we know the Revered Vyvyan Peck doesn’t share any of the criminal leanings of his namesake…
(Alongside court records, census returns and death indexs, information for this post was drawn from an article on the Normanby History Group’s website,which is well worth reading if you’d like more information).