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Our Grandfather — Edward Allen Sydenham

by Elizabeth Millward

You can click on any photo to see a larger version with some details.

Edward Allen Sydenham Edward was born on 19 April 1873 at 55 Minster Street, Reading, the first child of Joseph and Alice. Later there were two sisters: Winifred born 1876, and Muriel born 1884.

It is likely he grew up playing with his many cousins in Reading, as both his aunts had married local businessmen, although his uncles were spread around the country.

Young Edward spent at least some time away from home for his education. In 1891 when he was 17 he was a pupil of the Reverend Edward Ebenezer Crake, the Rector of the small village of Jevington, five miles north of Eastbourne in Sussex. There were only five boys at this small school. It may well have been here that his interest in history was developed. The ancient church of St Andrew has a Saxon tower built of flint and re-used Roman bricks to protect against marauding Vikings.

He went on to Merton College, Oxford, the only member of this branch of the family to have followed an academic path and not a trade, though this would have been easier for him with a well-off father.

He also went to Wells theological college, finishing in 1896. Next he went as curate to St Mary's, Oldham. This is a very beautiful and large parish church.

He was ordained deacon on the nineteenth of December 1897 in Manchester cathedral.

There are details in the 1901 census of where he was living while he was in Oldham. He lodged at 36 Shaw Street (actually in the parish of St Stephen and All Martyrs) with Mrs Mary Hague, a widow with four adult children living at home. They were Elinor, age 36; Lily, a dressmaker age 33; William, a machinist age 26; and Florence, a teacher age 22. For a young curate age 27 it may well have been very lively and enjoyable.

He stayed in Oldham until 1905 when he went to St Matthew's church Northampton, then a new church built some thirty years earlier.

Edward Allen Sydenham and his wife Ada Lilian, nee Stone St. Peter's Church, Wolvercote Two years later in 1907 he went to Christ Church, Ealing. Finally he had his own parish in 1909 when he became vicar of Wolvercote, Oxford. He was now 35 and must have felt the need to settle. On 21 November 1911 he married Ada Lilian Stone a local girl age 17, daughter of William James Stone a worker in the local paper mills.

On 4 October 1912 Eldred St Barbe was born and presumably the young couple were very happy with their lives. However, this was not to last.

On 3 October 1914 Ada, then aged twenty, died of peritonitis at the Acland Home, St Giles, Oxford. Edward was with her. She was buried in Wolvercote churchyard on 7 October.

Five years later, on 23 June 1919, Edward married again, this time to Althea Josephine (known as Jo) Walker, born 11 February 1889, the daughter of Joseph Walker, a dentist from Kimberley, Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Edward Allen Sydenham's children, Eldred and Michael Another son, Michael Wyndham, was born 18 June 1920.

The family left Wolvercote in 1927 and moved to the parish of West Molesey in the diocese of Guildford. The nave and chancel of the parish church date back to the 12th century, built of plastered rubble and in places the walls are five feet thick. The tower of flint and stone was added in the early 15th century. When Edward arrived the church was undedicated, though it had in the past been dedicated to St Margaret.

Ada Sydenham's grave "The Rev Sydenham was said to be unhappy that the church was again unnamed. He took a line on the church, straight down West to East, then worked out the compass point on which the church was built. The sun appears over the horizon on that line on St Peter's day, and so the church was named after St Peter." (Parish website)

This is typical of his painstaking approach to all he did, a noticeable family characteristic!

Apart from his work as a parish priest, like his father he had many other interests.

He was a highly skilled water colourist and left a legacy of hundreds of paintings and studies. There were also some oil paintings. Most of his work is landscapes, including many painted in Sark in the Channel Islands, a favourite holiday destination. He is thought to have exhibited at the Royal Academy.

He was a musician and composed many church anthems, at least one of which was published.

Edward A. Sydenham's model railway He was also an amateur engineer and built a model railway that went round the garden of the vicarage. It is not surprising that both his sons became engineers.

He wrote both poetry and prose which was often rather sentimental, but he was at his best with his touches of comedy.

There is even a one-act play that survives, though it was probably never performed.

His interest in Roman coins was on a greater intellectual level. He published many books on the subject, either written alone or in collaboration with others. He received the Royal Numismatic Society's medal in 1930 and was President of the society from 1937 until 1942 when he retired. His books are still in print and available over sixty years later.

It is through this interest that his name lives on beyond the family.

Ivy House, Cowes Books published:

Historical References to coins of the Roman Empire. 1917
The coinage of Caesarea in Cappadocia
The coinage of Nero. 1920
Aes grave, a study of the cast coinages of Rome and central Italy. 1926
Coinage of the Roman Republic (Roman History) - with Geoffrey Colton Haines
The coinages of Augustus
Historical References on coins of the Roman Empire from Augustus to Gallienus.
Coinage of Cappadocia – with Alex G. Malloy
The Roman Imperial Coinage – with Harold Mattingly; co-author of volumes 2, 3, and 4; co-editor of volume 5.

They stayed in West Molesey until 1942 when Edward retired and bought Ivy House, Cowes, Isle of Wight. His interest in history continued in retirement and he was an assistant curator at the Carisbrooke Castle Museum. He continued his ministry by providing assistance at St Mary's church, Cowes.

He died in the spring of 1948 and is buried in Cowes.

Let him have the last word about himself. Among his papers were some brief poems he called Cameos. This is one of them:


Too many irons                       
                                      And not sufficient fire to make them glow.
Too many talents                    
                                   Spent, misspent, with few results to show

The content of this page was last updated on 28 July 2008. It is copyright © Elizabeth Millward.

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