The Reverend Morley Unwin and his Family

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Morley Unwin, the second son of Thomas and Martha, was baptised on 31 July 1704 at Saint Peter Cornhill, London. Thomas Unwin was a goldsmith. Morley’s parents were married as soon as Thomas completed his apprenticeship. Their firstborn son, another Thomas, is listed as being baptised in 1702 followed by Morley, four more sons and finally a daughter Martha named after her mother. Morley was probably educated at Charterhouse. It was close to his home in London and the school he chose for his son. He was a Fellow of Queens’ College, Cambridge, from 1727-1744. He was a Master of Arts and a Bachelor of Divinity, Superior Bursar, Censor Theologicus and Philosophicus, Dean of Chapel, and Catechist; also Chaplain in the Navy, Master of the Free School, Huntingdon and Vicar of Oakington, Cambs. He was Chaplain to the Earl of Harborough, who presented him to Richard, Bishop of Lincoln who canonically instituted him Rector of Wistow, Hunts., on 23 December 1737. Morley Unwin was the first Rector to be presented to Grimston by Queens’ College, Cambridge and that was in 1742. William Hayley tells us in his Life of William Cowper that [Morley Unwin] had likewise been Lecturer to the two Churches in Huntingdon before he obtained from his College the living of Grimston. While in expectation of the preferment, he attached himself to a young lady of lively talents, and remarkably fond of reading, the daughter of Mr Cawthorne, a draper of Ely, and, on succeeding to the expected living, married her and settled at Grimston; but she not liking the situation, and wishing for a scene less sequestered, prevailed on her husband to establish himself in the town of Huntingdon, where he was known as well as respected. Grimston, a quiet agricultural village, is about 8 miles east

Morley Unwin, the second son of Thomas and Martha, was baptised

on 31 July 1704 at Saint Peter Cornhill, London. Thomas Unwin was a

goldsmith.

Morley’s parents were married as soon as Thomas completed his

apprenticeship. Their firstborn son, another Thomas, is listed as being

baptised in 1702 followed by Morley, four more sons and finally a

daughter Martha named after her mother.

Morley was probably educated at Charterhouse. It was close to his

home in London and the school he chose for his son.

He was a Fellow of Queens’ College, Cambridge, from 1727-1744. He

was a Master of Arts and a Bachelor of Divinity, Superior Bursar, Censor

Theologicus and Philosophicus, Dean of Chapel, and Catechist; also

Chaplain in the Navy, Master of the Free School, Huntingdon and Vicar

of Oakington, Cambs. He was Chaplain to the Earl of Harborough, who

presented him to Richard, Bishop of Lincoln who canonically instituted

him Rector of Wistow, Hunts., on 23 December 1737. Morley Unwin

was the first Rector to be presented to Grimston by Queens’ College,

Cambridge and that was in 1742.

William Hayley tells us in his Life of William Cowper that

[Morley Unwin] had likewise been Lecturer to the two Churches in

Huntingdon before he obtained from his College the living of Grimston.

While in expectation of the preferment, he attached himself to a young lady of

lively talents, and remarkably fond of reading, the daughter of Mr Cawthorne,

a draper of Ely, and, on succeeding to the expected living, married her and

settled at Grimston; but she not liking the situation, and wishing for a scene

less sequestered, prevailed on her husband to establish himself in the town of

Huntingdon, where he was known as well as respected.

Grimston, a quiet agricultural village, is about 8 miles east of King’s

Lynn. Morley would not have been allowed to remain a Fellow of

Queens’ College as a married man and the living of St. Botolph’s in

Grimston was found for him.

Morley Unwin married Mary Cawthorne in the Lady Chapel of Ely

Cathedral on 27 March 1744.

William Cawthorne Unwin, their son, was baptised at Grimston on 15

March 1745 and the entry, which Morley made himself in the Register of

Baptisms at St. Botolph’s, has this one entry underlined. He must have

been so proud, delighted and thrilled to be the father of a son at the age

of 41. They left Grimston in 1746 and a daughter, Susanna, was baptised

on 26 August 1747 at All Saints and St John’s, Huntingdon. Morley

and Mary Unwin moved to a house in the High Street in Huntingdon in

1748, where he prepared a few pupils for the university whilst a curate

undertook his duties in Grimston.

William Cowper, at the age of 33, after a bout of severe depression

during which he had attempted suicide, moved to Huntingdon on 22

June 1765. His brother John was a Fellow of Corpus Christi College,

Cambridge (also known as Bene’t College from the neighbouring church

of St Benedict) and the close proximity of Huntingdon to Cambridge

allowed the two brothers to visit each other frequently.

William Cowper first met the Unwin family in September 1765; on 25

October he wrote to Joseph Hill:

I have added another family to the number of those I was acquainted with

when you were here. Their name is Unwin – the most agreeable people

imaginable; quite sociable, and as free from the ceremonious civility of

country gentlefolks as any I have ever met with. They treat me more like a

near relation than a stranger, and their house is always open to me. The old

gentleman carries me to Cambridge in his chaise. He is a man of learning and

good sense, and as simple as Parson Adams1. His wife has a very uncommon

understanding, has read much to excellent purpose, and is more polite than

a duchess. The son, who belongs to Cambridge, is a most amiable young

man, and the daughter quite of a piece with the rest of the family. They see

but little company, which suits me exactly; go when I will, I find a house full

of peace and cordiality in all its parts, and I am sure to hear no scandal, but

such discourse instead of it as we are all better for. You remember Rousseau’s

description of an English morning; such are the mornings I spend with these

good people; and the evenings differ from them in nothing, except that they

are still more snug. And quieter. Now I know them, I wonder that I liked

Huntingdon so well before I knew them, and am apt to think I should find

every place disagreeable that had not an Unwin belonging to it…

Yours, dear Joe,

WC

By November 1765 Cowper is telling his friends of his imminent

removal into the home of the Revd. Morley Unwin, adding in a

postscript,

I know nobody so like Mrs Unwin as my Aunt Madan, I don’t mean in person,

for she is a much younger woman, but in character.

– a clear indication of his respect for Mary’s intelligence and the attraction

she held for him. Aunt Madan was, before her marriage, Miss Judith

Cowper and a notable bluestocking: she was Alexander Pope’s beautiful

‘Erinna’ for whom he wrote ‘Letter to a Lady’.

Cowper gives us an insight into the life of the Unwin family in

Huntingdon in a letter of 20 October 1766 to his cousin Maria Cowper.

…I am obliged to you for the interest you take in my welfare, and for your

inquiring so particularly after the manner in which my time passes here. As

to amusements, I mean what the world calls such, we have none; the place

indeed swarms with them, and cards and dancing are the professed business

of almost all the gentle inhabitants of Huntingdon. We refuse to take part

in them, or to be accessories to this way of murdering our time, and by so

doing have acquired the name of Methodists. Having told you how we do not

spend our time, I will next say how we do. We breakfast commonly between

eight and nine; till eleven, we read either the Scripture, or the sermons of

some faithful preacher of those holy mysteries; at eleven we attend divine

service, which is performed here twice every day; and from twelve to three

we separate and amuse ourselves as we please. During the interval I either

read in my own apartment, or walk, or ride, or work in the garden. We seldom

sit an hour after dinner, but, if the weather permits, adjourn to the garden,

where with Mrs. Unwin and her son I have generally the pleasure of religious

conversation till tea-time. If it rains, or is too windy for walking, we either

converse within doors, or sing some hymns of Martin’s collection, and by

the help of Mrs. Unwin’s harpsichord make up a tolerable concert, in which

our hearts, I hope, are the best and most musical performers. After tea we

sally forth to walk in good earnest. Mrs. Unwin is a good walker, and we

have generally travelled about four miles before we are home again. When

the days are short, we make the excursion in the former part of the day,

between church-time and dinner. At night we read and converse, as before,

till supper, and commonly finish the evening either with hymns or a sermon;

and last of all, the family are called to prayers. I need not tell you, that such

a life as this is consistent with the utmost cheerfulness; accordingly we are

all happy, and dwell together in unity as brethren. Mrs. Unwin has almost a

maternal affection for me, and I have something very like a filial one for her,

and her son and I are brothers. Blessed be the God of our salvation for such

companions, and for such a life; above all, for a heart to like it…

Yours ever, my dear cousin,

W.C.

The piety, tranquillity and erudition of Morley’s family home was

exactly what Cowper needed at this time. However, tragedy was about

to befall the Unwin family

On 13 July 1767, just twenty months after moving in with them,

Cowper writes:

My dear Cousin,

The newspaper has told you the truth. Poor Mr. Unwin being flung from his

horse, as he was going to his church on Sunday morning [28 June 1767],

received a dreadful fracture on the back part of his skull, under which he

languished till Thursday evening, and then he died. This awful dispensation

has left an impression upon our spirits, which will not presently be worn off.

He died in a poor cottage, to which he was carried immediately after his fall

about a mile from home; and his body could not be brought to this house till

the spirit was gone to Him who gave it. May it be a lesson to us to watch,

since we know not the day nor the hour when our Lord cometh!

Your affectionate friend and servant,

Wm. Cowper.

William Unwin Mary Unwin

Morley Unwin’s deep love for Mary and his son William, daughter

Susanna, and other members of his family and household is clear from

his will.

This is the last Will and Testament of Mr Morley Unwin Rector of Grimston

in the County of Norfolk. I Give to my Dear Wife five hundred pounds over

and above the sum which she is intitled to by our Marriage Articles. I Give

to my Brother, John Unwin and to my Son William Cawthorne Unwin fifteen

hundred pounds in Trust to plane the same out upon Government or other

Security as they shall think proper and to pay the Interest or Dividends

arising from the same every half year as they shall receive it to my Daughter

Susannah Unwin whose receipt shall be a full discharge from time to time.

But it is my will that if the person in whose hands the said fifteen hundred

pounds is now vested shall be minded to continue the same upon the present

Security that it remain as it now is unless either of the Trustees shall Chuse to

Change the Security and place the said fifteen hundred pounds in the publick

funds or upon Government Security. And in that case I direct that either of

the Trustees shall upon giving Six Months notice to the person in whose

hands the fifteen hundred pounds is vested have full power to roll in the same

and to plane out the said sum in the joint names of the said Trustees for the

use of my said Daughter and pay her the dividends from time to time as they

shall receive the same until the day of her marriage and till such time as the

principal Sum of fifteen hundred pounds be paid but my mind and will is that

my said Daughter shall not Marry without the consent of her Mother and

the Trustees before mentioned or such of them as shall be then Living. And

if my Daughter shall Marry without such consent I hereby revoke the said

Legacy and order it to Sink into the residue of my Estate in Case my Daughter

should live to the age of Twenty five years and be then unmarried. I hereby

empower her by her Last Will to give and Dispose of one thousand pounds

to whomsoever she shall think fit and in case my Daughter should dye before

Marriage I give six hundred pounds to my Brother Thomas Unwin and the

like sum my Sister Martha Unwin part of the said fifteen hundred pounds. I

give to my Brother Matthias Unwin ten Guineas and all my wearing apparel

Given only excepted if he shall think it worth his acceptance. I give Martha

Sales now an apprentice at Mansfield one hundred pounds upon the day of

Marriage provided she Marrys with the consent of my Wife. In the meantime

I will that my Executor herein afterwards pay her interest for the same at four

pounds percent the Interest to Commence from the Day of my Death and to

continue till the Day of her Marriage and till the principal sum of one hundred

pounds be paid provided as before mentioned She marries with the Consent

of my Wife. I Give unto the said Martha Sales five pounds for Mourning. I

Give to the Rev. Dr. Everard of Lynn Dr. Patricks Commentary in two Vols

full. I Give to Mary Samrock and Elizabeth Forgham five pounds each if

they be respectively living in my family at the time of my Death. I Give to

my Brother John Unwin one hundred Guineas. I Give to my Cousin Stephen

Unwin Ten Guineas. I Give to my Brother John Unwin all my Right Tithe and

Interest in and to the next presentations to the united parishes of St. Mary

Woolnoth and Saint Mary Woolchurch in Lombard Street London in Trust for

the benefit of my Son William Cawthorne with full power to my said Brother

to Change Such or otherwise dispose of my said Right of Presentation at

the request and with the Consent of my said Son for whose Sole Benefit the

said Right of Presentation is intended by the aforesaid Trust. And I Direct

that any receipt or writing Executed by my said Brother with the Consent

aforesaid shall be a full and absolute Tithe to any person or persons to whom

the said Right of presentation shall be in any Circumstances Conveyed or

Transferred. And in case of my Sons Demise before the age of Twenty four

years I Give the said Right of presentation and all my tithe and Interest

therein to my Brother John Unwin in further Trust to Sell and Dispose of the

same as he shall think fit and to give a Discharge to a purchaser for the same

and the Money arising therefrom to Divide Share and Share alike to my wife

and daughter whose respective receipts shall be full and eternal Discharges

to my said Brother provided nevertheless that if my said Brother shall chuse

to take the said Right of Presentation after the Demise of my Son under the

age of Twenty four years paying for the same Six hundred Guineas to my

Wife and Daughter Share and Share alike it shall be his own to all intents

and purposes upon such Payment. But if my Daughter should Marry without

the Consent of her Brother and my Brother John Unwin I will that the whole

Sum of Six hundred Guineas be paid to my Wife Exclusive of my Daughter

having any Share or part thereof. I will that the Rent of my House for half

a year and housekeeping for three Months after my Death be paid out of

my Estate. I give to my Wife all my plate, linen and china and household

furniture also all my wine and other liquors. The residue and remainder of

my Estate I Give to my Son William Cawthorne Unwin and I appoint my Son

Sole Executor of this my Last Will and Testament and thou Most Wonderful

God have Mercy upon me through the attainment and satisfaction of Jesus

Christ my Redeemer! The contents upon the otherside and the above are

written by my own hand. Morley Unwin. March 14 1767.

Signed and published and certified as the last Will and Testament of Morley

Unwin the Testator in the presence of us and in the presence of each other

who have subscribed and signed as witness thereof.

April 30:1767

The section of the will relating to St Mary Woolnoth (my italics) appears

to explain how John Newton came to be appointed Rector of this

prestigious living in the City of London, where he moved after leaving

Olney in 1780. It may be assumed with some confidence that William

and Mary Unwin decided to award the living to their old friend when it

became vacant.

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Footnotes

The Cowper and Newton Journal includes scholarly articles, notes and reviews on Cowper, Newton and their contemporaries, as well as more general articles from the 18th century.

Joint Editors

Professor Vincent NeweyTony SewardDr William Hutchings

Editorial Board:

Dr Ashley Chantler (University of Chester), Dr Michael Davies (University of Liverpool), Kate Bostock (Museum Trustee), Professor Martha J. Koehler (University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, PA), Professor Bob Owens (University of Bedfordshire).

Reviews Editor: Tony Seward

The predecessor to The Cowper and Newton Journal was The Cowper and Newton Bulletin.  Published in 8 volumes from 2002-2009, it contained museum news in each issue as well as one or more full-length scholarly articles and shorter notes.

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