Ancestry * Biography * History
Francis William Tremlett was born in Twillingate, Newfoundland, the grandson of Robert Tremlett, who was born in Devonshire, England, on April 24, 1764, the son of Laurence Tremlett, a textile factory worker, and his wife, Anne. Robert voyaged from England in 1775 at the age of eleven to Newfoundland, then one of the North American colonies of the vast British Empire of the day.
Francis began his formal education at St. John’s University in Newfoundland from 1842 to 1846. He wished to pursue the path of becoming an Anglican minister, and in 1846 he would achieve the first step toward that vocation when he was ordained a deacon in the Church of England by the bishop of Montreal. In 1847 he was ordained a priest by the same bishop. Later in 1847, he would bid farewell to Newfoundland and voyage from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Boston aboard the bark Acadian, accompanied by his mother Elizabeth and siblings Isabella and Louisa.
From 1846 to 1851 Reverend Tremlett was also chaplain to the bishop of Newfoundland, during which time he performed missionary work with Canadian Indians, possibly the Inuit or the Beothuk tribe, the latter being a people uniquely indigenous to Newfoundland at the time. Missionary work was a potentially difficult if not dangerous undertaking. The Beothuk were a small tribe, reclusive from European settlers, but on occasion mutual enmity and violence between the two was known to have occurred.
In 1849, he travelled to England and married for the first time to Josephine Scarlett Dare at St. John’s Church, Paddington, in the shire of Westminster, London. Reverend Tremlett’s well-connected bride was born Josephine Catherine Bonella Scarlett in Jamaica on September 27, 1806, to Bonella Bowen and Philip Anglin Scarlett, a slaveholder.
By 1851, Reverend Tremlett was also Curate to St. Botolph’s Church in Boston, but the relationship with his bishop there soon soured because Reverend Tremlett tried to start his own church for the poor without the bishop’s authorization. The bishop admonished him not to preach there, but Reverend Tremlett ignored the bishop and was therefore subsequently summarily removed after an exchange of acrimonious letters between the two men.
After that, apparently Reverend Tremlett had had enough with Boston and it wasn’t long after the St. Botolph’s incident that he booked passage to Europe. He immersed himself in his studies, earning his master’s degree in 1850 and then his doctorate in 1852, both from what was then the Protestant University of Sachren at Jena in Germany.
In 1853 Reverend Tremlett is shown as officially finally settling down in the parish of St. John, Middlesex County, London, and set upon the task of doing what his bishop would not allow him to do back in Massachusetts: establish his own church and his own ministry. He would achieve his goal in 1859 with the construction of the Church of St. Peter in Belsize Park, an area northwest of London in the borough of Camden. The church was consecrated by the Bishop of London Archibald Tait and Reverend Tremlett received his incumbency (tenured position of office) in 1860.
He now had his ministry and his pulpit, and soon many were drawn to his congregation by his preaching and personal charisma. As word spread, his flock eventually crossed boundaries of the Victorian social class, as among them were members of the aristocracy, the upper mercantile and middle classes, evangelicals, as well as orthodox parishioners. Church attendance grew so quickly that it quickly outstripped the capacity of St. Peter’s, and special galleries had to be constructed to accommodate the overflow. By all accounts, Reverend Tremlett was a fiery orator, a real wrath-of-God, fire-and-brimstone vicar, and he was prolific in raising money for and from his church—and eventually for the Confederacy.
The vicarage at St. Peter’s would eventually become known as “Rebel’s Roost,” where Reverend Tremlett entertained the company of many a Confederate over the years, from soldiers and sailors of all rank to agents to diplomats and even C.S.A. president Jefferson Davis himself and his wife, Varina. Much more than just a social gathering place, St. Peter’s became the hub for Confederate communications during the American Civil War, and Reverend Tremlett also provided safe houses in various locations around London during the war years.
The South had the greatest economic need for European trade in general, and had the greatest military need for ships. This transformed Liverpool largely into a virtual Confederate port. Indeed, the historian Frank Merli observed, “Soon after the war began, it was said that Merseyside [Liverpool’s county] flew more Confederate flags than Richmond”. Yet England was officially neutral with regard to the war. Further, England was also abolitionist, since The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 had outlawed slavery throughout the United Kingdom. All of this presented complicated, delicate political issues for the leaders of Queen Victoria’s government, Prime Minister Henry John Temple, Third Viscount Palmerston, also known as Lord Palmerston, and foreign secretary John Russell, First Earl Russell, also known as Lord Russell.
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Even though the book’s finished, this blog will continue with future posts.
’til next time,