7 April 1830 – 20 September 1913
Master of Abbots Hospital, Guildford, Surrey
A Fine Old Character
The 20 September 2013 is the 100th Anniversary of the death of Henry Harris my 3x Great Grand Uncle, who was Master of Abbots Hospital, Guildford, Surrey between 1890 – 1913 a role which is confirmed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry was a well respected man of his community and very much loved by his colleagues and inmates of Abbots Hospital.
My relationship to Henry Harris
A LINK With the PAST.
Death of Mr. Henry Harris
Master of Abbot’s Hospital for 23 Years.
A Fine Old Character.
In recent years many links with the past have been broken in by the death of old and popular citizens, and this week it is our melancholy duty to record the passing of yet another who was actively associated with the life of the borough as long as the forties and fifties of the nineteenth century We refer to the death of Mr Henry Harris.
The venerable and much esteemed Master of Abbot’s Hospital, whose death occurred on Saturday morning at the ripe old age of 84 years. For some time Mr Harris had been in failing health but it was not until the end of August that he became confined to his bed with a malignant disease of the stomach. He gradually sank, and though the end came as a great blow to his family, it was not altogether unexpected.
The deceased gentleman was one of the remaining few who remembered the days when Guildford was, compared with today, a sleepy country village. When he was born on April 7th 1830, many old customs of the feudal type were in vogue in the county town of Surrey. But he lived to see its population considerably more than double and its name as a centre of progress and industry become second to none in this part of the country. To enumerate all the great changes he witnessed in Guildford would be well-nigh impossible, but any one who had a chat with him of the good old days’ was struck with wonder at the changing order of things, and the many improvements which had been brought about during his lifetime. He could tell many fascinating and extraordinary stories of riot and election scenes in the town, of the days when the four-horse coach was the principal means of conveyance to London and elsewhere, and of ancient doings and places in Guildford which are now but a memory.
As a boy he attended the old Blue Coat School – now known as Archbishop Abbot’s School – and which was then held, above all other places, in a room in Holy Trinity Church tower. Then, again, he would recall with pride how, as a mere stripling, he was selected as one of the boys whose duty it was on Sunday mornings to go round and ring a bell in front of the dwellings of the magistrates to warn them it was time to attend divine service!
Mr. Harris was apprenticed to a Mr March a builder, who carried on his business in Woodbridge-road, and subsequently for nearly 40 years he was in the employ of the late Mr. R. Nye also a builder. It was in 1890 that he was appointed master of the hospital, and it was his proud boast that only two others had held this post longer than he had done ever since the hospital was opened in 1621. These were the Rev. J. Holland, who was master from 1654 to 1691, and Mr Thomas Terry, who held the post from 1861 to 1885, beating Mr Harris by only one year. There have been three rectors of Holy Trinity during Mr. Harris’s period of service, viz, Canon Valpy. Canon Grant, and the present Rector (the Rev. E.C. Kirwan).
As master of the Hospital the late Mr Harris was an ideal official. He was deeply interested in the fine old building of which he had charge, and it was always a delight to him to show visitors round and explain the many antiquities of the place to them. To the brothers and sisters he was a real foster father, and anyone who attended the time honoured new year’s dinners at the institution could not but be struck with the affection his ‘children’ had for him. But it was not only by his charges that he was so highly esteemed and respected, for the members of the Board of Governors and the townsfolk generally looked upon him as one of the town’s most worthy citizens.
Always a staunch churchman, Mr Harris was as a boy a chorister at St Nicholas, and later he was for many years a sides man at Stoke Church. In politics he was formerly a Liberal but he died a convinced Liberal-Unionist. Mrs Harris predeceased him some 25 years ago, but he leaves a family of one daughter and three sons – Miss Harris who has now for many years acted as his house-keeper, Mr H.J. Harris, Mr W.A. Harris and Major W.R Harris – who have been the recipients of many messages of sympathy from those who were admirers of one of Guildford’s most popular, most worthy, and most entertaining characters.
Death of Mr H. Harris
Master of Trinity Hospital
Second Longest in the Office for 800 Years.
The town has lost another well-known resident by the death of Mr Henry Harris, Master of the Hospital of the Blessed Trinity.
Mr Harris usually enjoyed excellent health despite the fact that he was 83 years old but on September 1st he was taken ill, and gradually becoming weaker, passed away in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Mr Harris was a native of Guildford, as were his father and grandfather he received his education at the old Bluecoat school, which used to be held in the tower of Holy Trinity Church, and he was one of the boys told to ring the bell in front of the magistrates house on Sunday mornings to warn them it was time they started for Church. This interesting old custom lasted for many years, and it’s discontinuance almost coincided with the closing of the school. On leaving school he was apprenticed to the late Mr R. Nye as a joiner, but ultimately became a clerk. For 15 months he was also clerk to Mr R. Wood, who took over Mr Nye’s building business.
In April 1890, he was chosen by the governors as Master of Trinity Hospital in succession to the late Mr George Challen, the appointment being afterwards confirmed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has the power to veto.
It is interesting to recall that since the hospital was founded by Archbishop Abbot in 1621, only one master has had a longer length of service than the deceased. The Rev E.J Holland was master from 1651 to 1691, but Mr Thomas Terry was master from 1861 to the autumn of 1884. So that he held the office for the same period as Mr Harris. It was during Mr Terry’s mastership that the Jackman apartments were reopened, the allowance of each inmate raised from 3s 6p, to 8s a week, two women added to the number, and the front garden laid out, whilst the hospital underwent a general system of repair Mr Harris outlived all the brethren who were in the institution when he was appointed. He served under three rectors of Holy Trinity the late Canon Valpy, Canon Grant, and the Rev E.C. Kirwan – and during his 23 year’s mastership there were about 60 new inmates.
Mr Harris took a very deep interest in the beautiful old hospital, and was solicitous for the welfare of the inmates. A great lover of flowers, the gardens in the quadrangle received special attention at his hands, and their brightness was always a source of joy, not only to the old people, but to the visitors.
Mr Harris received valuable assistance in the control of the hospital from his daughter, Miss Harris, whilst his son (Mr W.R Harris) frequently gave his services, especially on the occasion of the New Years dinner which is a great event at the institution.
In his younger days Mr Harris was like his father, strongly attached to the liberal party in the town.
A correspondent writes: It would occur to the majority of persons that the filling up of the mastership of Trinity Hospital would be an easy matter. But it is not so. The late Mr George Russel, who died in 1861, was the only applicant a few before that. In the same year the Governors issued an advertisement for a master who must by the ‘laws’ be either a native of the old borough or a resident of twenty years. No one from Guildford came forward, but a Mr Thomas Tong, a theatrical carpenter, of Tooley Street, S.E. Who was born in Guildford in 1795, and was taken away when only four weeks old, applied, and was elected. This was the most important times of all as the master had to administer the new scheme and also to raise the hospital to its former state, it having sadly deteriorated. Mr Tong died in 1884, at the advanced age of 89. Again in 1884, the only real applicant was Mr George Challen, who died in 1890. Two applied at his death, and Mr Harris was elected.
The Guildford Institute
Vol 1 Page 206/7 Page 160