Life story shared by Yota Dimitriadi with information from Anna Craik’s book. A special thank you to the Archivists at St John’s College, Cambridge
Eustace Fynes-Clinton was born in 1845, exactly one hundred years after his grandfather, John Mathews. He was the fifth son and ninth child of Charles John Fynes-Clinton and Rosabella Mathews, who were married at Orston in 1829 and spent more than twenty years at Cromwell.
The children were :
- Dormer, born 1830, died 1880, m. Mary Hewson.
- Charles Henry, born 1835, died 1915, m. 1st, Ellen Falkner, 2nd, Thomasina Gordon Shaw.
- Osbert, born 1839, died 1900, m. Louisa Lloyd.
- John, born 1841, died 1898, m. Eleanor Hodden.
- Eustace, born 1845, lives at Haslemere, m. Louisa Richenda
- Geoffrey, born 1847, lives in New Zealand, m. Fanny Searle.
- Arthur Norreys, born 1850, died 1916, m. Georgiana Gill.
- John Mathews, died in infancy. John Mathews was born when Dormer was four and Caro was three years old. “When he was a few weeks old the two elder children were out walking with the nurse, who carried baby John in her arms. “Oh, nurse,” cried Caro, “look what a funny blue face baby’s got !” The child had been seized by convulsions, and died soon afterwards” (Craik, 1924, p.150).
- Caroline, born 1831, died 1919, m. James Wilson Holme.
- Anna Rosa, born 1833, died 1855.
- Emma, born 1837? lives at St. Leonard s, tn. Herbert Alfred Holme.
- Bertha, born 1843, lives at Watford, m. Truman Tully ralkner.
- Rosabella Paulina, born 1853, died 1918.
We know some wonderful anecdotes about the family from Anna R. Craik’s family history book ‘Annals of our Ancestors. Some Records and Recollections of the Families of Fynes-Clinton and Mathews (Eure of Witton)’ published in 1924. One hundred copies of the book were printed for circulation among the family descendants. It was digitised in 2018. Anna was Eustace’s niece, Caro(line)’s daughter, and the eldest grandchild of the family. Anna prefaces her book with the following:
“I have tried to set these ancestors before you in their human aspect, by recalling the trivial stories and incidents of which their lives, no less than our own, were made up.”
The Fynes-Clinton family were members of the peerage and descended from Byzantine and Roman Emperors: Emanuel Comnenus, Emperor of Constantinople, married Berthe (or Irene), sister of Gertrude, wife of the Emperor Conrad.
Eustace’s grandfather, Dr Charles Fynes-Clinton, was sixth in descent from the second Earl of Lincoln, and was in very close succession to that Earldom during the minority of the fourth Duke of Newcastle. He was known as “ Dr Fynes” and a street in Westminster is called after him, “ Fynes Street” . Dr Fynes’s brother, Henry, was a classical scholar following an unsuccessful parliamentary career. His life work was the publication of Fasti Hellenici, an extensive collection of the cultural, civil, military and literary affairs of Greece from 560 to 278 BCE.
Eustace was in possession of a parchment in denture bearing the signature ‘E. Clynton’ sealed by a signet ring engraved with one mullet, the Clinton badge. This document, which was written in Latin and dated Jan. i, 1556-7, concerned large grants of lands, manors and houses, made by the first Earl of Lincoln to trustees for the use of his son Henry on his marriage to Catherine Hastings. Among other property, mention was made of “the late monastery of Kirkestead, lately dissolved”. This afterwards became the property of Sir Henry Fynes and his descendants.
Among Eustace’s famous relatives is his nephew Sir Hubert Parry the famous musician and composer of the latter 19th/ early 20th century. The well-known hymn Jerusalem, a poem set to music to raise Britain’s morale during WWI, and the coronation anthem I Was Glad are some of his famous compositions.
Another niece of his, Paulina, Secretary of the RCM, campaigned for the education and registration of midwives and worked at the Midwives’ Registration Bill with Miss Rosalind Paget, Honorary Treasurer of the Royal College of Midwives, as they lived together at 5 Sloane Court, London.
As a child Eustace “was considered the good boy of the family, and certainly his face in the group of six brothers looks quite angelic” (Craik, 1924, p.167).
Anna’s book recalls stories of the boys’ life and mischiefs, especially of Eustace and Geoffrey around the age of 10-12; like climbing up the church tower, the natural haunt of bats and owls and making their clean white ducks dirty just before the Sunday church service or being caught flying down the stairs to supply themselves from the larder with anything eatable they could lay their hands on!
The family lived at Cromwell Rectory for years. They left Cromwell Rectory for Bedford, where some of the sons were educated at the College in 1850, but furniture was left at Cromwell, and they spent a whole summer there in 1857.
“The Cromwell children were relegated to the low-ceilinged attics of the Rectory, as their father did not like the peace of the house too much invaded by them; but as they were constantly outdoors it had no ill effects upon them. There was a large, productive garden, well kept, with quantities of fruit. The mother allowed them to go among the gooseberry and raspberry bushes, with leave to eat twenty berries each. Their appetites were larger than their arithmetical powers, and if they lost count (which invariably happened) of course they had to start counting the twenty all over again from the beginning”.
Eustace spoke of his father with the greatest affection and admiration. His father “was devoted to astronomy and never failed to observe the wonders of the heavens, and he succeeded in interesting his children in this science. Even during his last hours when dying (practically of a broken heart) in his London house, the ruling passion prevailed, and he said to Selina, the maid who was attending on him, “Pull up the blind — Jupiter is in the south and I want to see him once more.”
Caroline and her sister Anna were sent at an early age to Miss Lee’s school at Tynemouth, near the home of their grandmother, Mrs. John Mathews.
Dormer and Charles were educated at Cheltenham and Uppingham. Dormer went on to Wadham College, Oxford, entering there at the same time as Anna’s father (James Wilson Holme), who was a few months older. The two became devoted friends, and when James went to visit Dormer’s family, he met with Caroline, Dormer’s sister, and they fell in love.
Osbert, John, Geoffrey and Eustace were educated first at Bedford Grammar School and then at King’s College, London. Osbert and Eustace went on to Cambridge. Arthur, the youngest, was sent to St. Paul’s School, and afterwards was elected to a studentship at Christ Church, Oxford.
Eustace’s parents had been criticised for not sending their sons to Westminster School, where his father and his brothers had been educated, and which was so closely interwoven with the traditions of the family. Anna writes that their choice of schools was determined entirely by the religious convictions of the headmaster. The head of Westminster School at that time was suspected by them of leanings in the direction of ‘High Church’ opinions, and this was quite enough to prevent them from allowing their children to be brought up in the famous place of learning which had fostered so many of their forefathers. Anna writes, “It would have been a painful surprise to my grandfather if he could have known how obsolete his views were to become a few short years after his death, and how little his descendants were influenced by the scrupulous care he took over their religious training, some of them going to the opposite extreme and rising to “ high ’’-ness he could never have pictured in his wildest nightmares.”
Eustace was carefully coached and prepared for school by his father, “with whom he was a special favourite, as much for his amiable nature as for his application to work. He felt only love and admiration for the father who inspired several of his other sons more with fear than anything else.”
At the age of eleven he was sent to King’s College School, London, where he excelled academically. On Thursday 24 July 1862 he was awarded a prize for Greek iambics (given by the Council). He then went to St. John’s College, Cambridge. His brothers Charles Henry and Osbert also went to St John’s as well as Osbert’s son.
Below you can see a scan of the file on Eustace, which was retained by his tutor, Stephen Parkinson. The admissions register gives the information that he was admitted as a ‘pensioner’. There is a column in the admissions register for ‘school’, in which, in this case, the name of the person who examined him is entered. Half the entries in the admissions register are like this, with the applicant having been educated at home.
Stephen Parkinson also kept examination books, listing where his pupils came in the examinations and who was awarded exhibitions or scholarships. As you will see, Eustace was awarded an exhibition of £30 on entrance to the College. He is also listed under ‘scholars elected June 15 1866’.
Again Eustace did well in his studies. In the Christmas 1864 exams he was in the First Class and came 6th (out of 49 in the First Class and 89 in total). In June 1865 he was in the First Class and joint 13th. In Dec. 1865 he was in the First Class and 18th, although the students in places 17-24 are under the sub-heading ‘suspn’, which probably means ‘suspension’. In June 1866 he was in the First Class and 8th. In Dec 1866 he in the Second Class, joint 3rd, although this time there were only 13 students in First Class and 57 overall. He took the voluntary Classical exam in Easter 1867 and was in the First Class, 3rd place. In June 1867 he was in the Third Class, 4th place. This time there were only 6 students in First Class, 8 in Second Class, 5 in Third Class and 9 in Fourth Class. He was in residence in College until and during the Michaelmas term of 1867.
His brother Charles Henry was admitted to St John’s in 1867. This time the person examining him was C. J. Fynes-Clinton, M.A., of Oriel College, Oxford. It must have been their father although his name isn’t in Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigiensis.
Eustace was awarded his B.A. in 1868 and was given his M.A. in 1872, just before the death of both his parents, by right without sitting further exams, as was (and is) customary.
After his M.A. Eustace became Assistant Master at Cheam, then at Grantham Grammar Schools, and after becoming Headmaster of Stamford and Stratford-on-Avon, he accepted the Headmastership of Wimborne Grammar School (Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School ) on 10 January in 1880, where he remained for twenty-seven years and raised the school to a high pitch of efficiency.
In 1907 he retired. At his retirement Old Winburnian dinner, Rev’d G Styles paid tribute to Eustace as the departing Headmaster, his prudent and diligent governing, and wisdom in dealing with the many problems and changes in policy occurring since he took the reins. Eustace was presented with a cigarette case containing £42 and his wife a Silver Purse containing £21. The previous day the boys of the school had presented him with a handsome clock (from The Old Wnburnians- The history of the school).
He and his wife then spent some years at Swanage. In November that year his eldest daughter, Margaret Alice, married Ernest Norman Travers, third son of Major-General Cummins at The Cathedral at Singapore (with the ReV. F. Swindell officiating). He then moved to Foundry Cottage, Haslemere, which is now a Grade II listed cottage. By 1914 we find him as the Diocesan Examiner to the Dorset County Council and examiner for the County scholarships. We do not know when and why he moved to Reading.
Eustace died in January 1928. His contributions to Wimborne School were celebrated on Wednesday 1st August 1928 during the annual commemoration of the founding of the school. At that event Major-General H. A. V. Cummins (Camberley). an old student and Eustace’s best friend preceded the prize distribution unveiling the tablet to the memory of Eustace.
The fumed oak tablet was placed on the north wall of the large school room by old Winburnians. It bore the School arms, with the letters carved, and was the work of the artist who designed the war memorial. It was inscribed: ” To the memory of Eustace Fynes Clinton, M.A.. headmaster of the school, 1879-1907. This tablet was erected by his old boys in fond regard and grateful appreciation. 1928″ (Western Gazette, Friday 03 August 1928).
General Cummins also read a letter, which he had received from Mrs Fynes Clinton, in which she said “I am sure the years at the Grammar School were the happiest years of his teaching life, and nothing gave him greater joy than to see or hear from one of his old boys “. It was a joy to them to see recorded this remembrance in such a delightful way. My daughters and I feel great thankfulness for it.”
In his speech General Cummins also shared that Eustace’s scholarship was brilliant. He remembered that he was a man who not only knew, but had that very rare gift of being able to impart knowledge, had sympathy with his pupils and a very deep sense of the beauty of that subject. “Mr Clinton had rare sympathy and rare knowledge but in addition, whether it was in literature, music art or nature possessed to a wonderful degree the sense and love of beauty, and that, love of beauty showed itself, as it was bound to do, not only in his teaching but the beauty of his whole life—in his family and his home, in his religion and in his friendships” (Western Gazette, Friday 03 August 1928).
On 1st January 1879 Eustace married Louisa Richenda, second daughter of the Rev. Francis Macaulay Cunningham, Rector of Witney and afterwards of Brightwell, Oxon, and the father of four daughters. The service was conducted by Louisa’s brother, Rev H.N. Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham’s half-brother was Sir Henry Cunningham, the novelist, whose wife was a daughter of the famous Lord Lawrence.
Louisa’s mother was Alicia Charlotte, daughter of Sir Edward Poore of Cuffnalls, Bart., and his wife Agnes, daughter of Sir John Marjoribanks, well-known family in Scotland. The Poores were a very ancient family and in Salisbury Cathedral there are numerous monuments to members of the Poore family buried there. There were several celebrated bishops from the family, of whom the earliest known is Roger le Poer (or Pauper), Bishop of Salisbury,
Eustace was the Master of the College Stratford-on-Avon when he married Louisa.
Eustace died on 11th January 1928 at the age of 82 and is buried with his wife, Louisa. She died on 9th July 1933. She was 79 years old. On Eustace’s grave there is a cast iron plaque, quite unique for our cemetery. It is written in Ancient Greek and has a quote from the comedy ‘Frogs‘ by the Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes. It reads “ὁ δ᾽ εὔκολος μὲν ἐνθάδ᾽ εὔκολος δ᾽ ἐκεῖ”, which is roughly translated as “But he [Sophocles] was easy going here [on earth], is easy going there [Hades]”.
Section 82, Row A, Plot 24