Reverend Richard Hugh Hamilton was the perpetual curate at Oulton St. John’s church for over 40 years from 1848 until 1889 making him the longest serving priest to occupy the role. Born at Thomastown in Ireland in 1816 he was descended from a landowning family which moved from Scotland during the reign of James I in the early 1600s. His father and brother were also clergymen.
Richard Hugh was educated at Trinity College in Dublin and ordained by the Archbishop of York in 1846 before becoming a curate at Thorganby near York. Two years later he came to Oulton and shortly after he arrived married 29 year old Katherine (Kate) Louisa Johnstone from Kilkenny. She was the daughter of another Irish Anglican priest who had the living at Tullow in County Carlow. Their wedding took place at the hotel occupied by the British diplomatic delegation in Brussels but it’s not known why they were there.
Hamilton’s salary, or stipend, was paid by the Blayds/Calverley family of Oulton Hall and it’s likely he was appointed because he knew John Calverley or had been recommended by an acquaintance or family member.
Richard Hugh and Kathleen Louisa had two sons and three daughters whilst they were in Oulton.
Herbert Sewell Hamilton was baptised by his father on 10 August 1856 but died just over a year later. He was buried in the churchyard on 1 September 1857. His grave is marked with a headstone bearing the simple inscription “Herbert. One Year. Jesus called a little child unto him.”
The eldest son, Beresford Robert Hamilton, went on to be an officer in the army, initially joining the 4th West Yorkshire Militia as a lieutenant when he was 20 years old in 1872.
The Hamiltons usually had two unmarried female live-in servants working for them at the parsonage at any one time. Interestingly none of those recorded in the census returns came from Oulton or Woodlesford, perhaps a conscious policy of making sure any “downstairs” gossip about the family didn’t reach wagging tongues in the locality too quickly.
The first two servants were sisters Jane and Mary Thompson from Kippax. Ten years later the cook, Sarah Dickinson, 23, came from Filey. Her younger helper was Harriet Sheldon, the 16 year old daughter of Rothwell labourer Jeremiah Sheldon.
After a stint with the Hamiltons Harriet Sheldon moved across the village to The Elms off Farrer Lane to become the cook for Christopher Jewison, one of the local doctors. She left there in 1874 to marry Oulton born gardener Edwin Spikin (or Spiking) Sharp. He was born “out of wedlock” and his baptism record at St. Peter’s church in Leeds only shows his mother’s name, Hannah, the middle name perhaps being the name of his father. Edwin was brought up in the home of his grandfather, Joseph Sharp, an Oulton master mason and stone merchant who employed 3 masons in 1851.
Edwin and Harriet Sharp later established a grocery shop on St. John’s Street near the Three Horse Shoes where the landlord in the 1880s was Edwin’s uncle, Edward Sharp. After a few years as a “pupil” teacher at Oulton school Edwin and Harriet’s only child, Alfred, continued the grocery business as well as acting as the rate collector for the Hunslet Rural District Council.
Another couple who must have known the Hamiltons well were Benjamin and Mary Jowitt. As well as meeting in church they were invited to social occasions at the parsonage along with others who lived locally. Some of the photographs have survived in an album kept by Mary and illustrate this page, although as they were mostly unlabelled it has proved difficult to identify all the faces.
Benjamin Jowitt was born in Oulton on May 19th 1860, the fourth child of Sarah Ingham who had married brewery labourer John Jowitt at Rothwell in 1849. This particular branch of the Jowitt family in the area was descended from Benjamin’s great grandfather, Jonas Jowitt, born in 1762 in Hartshead parish near Cleckheaton. He was a tanner and appears to have migrated with his wife and growing family roughly due east via Woodkirk near Tingley before finally settling in Rothwell parish in the Royds Green area.
Benjamin Jowitt became a nurseryman in the “kitchen garden” at Oulton Hall, where a number of men were employed to grow vegetables and fruit. It was here that he first met Mary Hindley, four years younger than him, who was a housemaid at the hall. She came from Sandiway, a village in Cheshire and was the daughter of a gamekeeper . It may have been through his connections amongst other keepers that she made the move across the Pennines to Oulton.
Mary and Benjamin were married at Weaverham near Sandiway in 1892 and spent the rest of their lives at Heaton Norris near Stockport where he continued to work as a nurseryman and she brought up their two sons. The album she kept bears the inscription: “Mary Hindley, with best love and wishes for a happy birthday from SJ.” The initials are believed to be those of Benjamin’s older sister, Sarah, who worked alongside Mary as a housemaid at Oulton Hall.
In 1889 Reverend Hamilton and his wife left Oulton for Astley near Stourport on the banks of the River Severn in Worcestershire where he had received an ecclesiastical promotion by becoming rector. He died there in 1894. His daughters never married. The youngest died in 1906 and the two eldest were living at Cheltenham when they passed away in 1932.