The 1620s Brompton tax defaulter

As we all know, it is not uncommon for rich people to seek to dodge their tax and other financial obligations. This is nothing new. So it is scarcely surprising that Edward Cayley – or Caley (the surname spelling was fluid) – of Brompton, Yorkshire, father of the first Cayley baronet, was charged in the 1620s with non-payment of sums due for church repairs and other local obligations.

On 4 October 1624, at the Yorkshire Quarter sessions at Malton, Yorkshire, a warrant was issued to attach Edward and another member of the local gentry called John Agar “for refusing to paie all their arrearages imposed on them” for repair of the chapel, the support of the poor, a hospital “and other services of [obligations due to] His Majestie.”

This was not a one-off. Edward must have been a habitual defaulter. Clearly arrears had built up. And just over three months later he and John Agar were the subject of another court order at the Yorkshire Quarter Sessions at Helmsley. This was for non-payment of “their rates and cessmts [that is, cessments, meaning taxes or assessments] for the lands they hold in Sleightes and West Inges, and all parochial duties to Amonderby Church, and all arrears, as the same have been anciently and accustomably paid: and to be discharged from paying any such duties to Appleton le Street Church, but, notwithstanding, to be at liberty to repaire to either of the said churches as they thinke fitt.”

A few years later, in about 1630, Edward declined the honour of knighthood, opting to pay £25 into royal coffers instead. The monarch had the right to demand that all holders of land equivalent to the old feudal measure of one knight’s fee or more accept knighthood or pay a fine. The law still held at this time that a knight was required to supply the king with a body of soldiers on demand (a hangover from the feudal era), and many people preferred to pay the fine. This was a common way for a king short of funds – as Charles I was – to mulct landowners, though I believe the fine could be imposed only once on a landowner in each reign.



Charles Bagot Cayley: agnostic translator of Catholic texts

Charles Bagot Cayley, the long-term close friend of the poet Christina Rossetti, published translations and poems. As a poet, he was nowhere near the first rank, and his phrasing is often artificially “poetic” and convoluted; his translations varied in quality, with his best work being his rendering of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which preserves the terza rima rhyme-scheme of the original and which for the most part uses a fairly plain choice of words which matches Dante’s own use of the ordinary Italian vernacular of his day.

One of the benefits of modern technology is that digital print-on-demand reproduction has made it much easier to acquire copies of obscure publications at a reasonable price. Besides Charles Bagot Cayley’s commercially published volume of verse Psyche’s Interludes, I have recently bought a facsimile copy of a slender book simply entitled Poems and Translations, which was printed for private circulation in 1880. This contains poems of his in English and Italian, and a number of translations.

Charles Bagot Cayley was an agnostic – and it was this which prevented Christina Rossetti, a devout high-church Christian, from agreeing to marry him. So it is slightly curious that, at the end of this small volume are translations of the Dies Irae and Stabat Mater. I would speculate that they were undertaken with Christina Rossetti’s encouragement. Like many of his poems, these translations have a somewhat awkward style, with words and phrases in a frequently unnatural order which necessitates several readings if the sense is to be fully grasped.

Here are a couple of extracts from his translation of the Dies Irae, to illustrate what I mean.

Judge of righteous indignation,
Grant acquittal in donation
Ere the day of liquidation…

… Set me on thy right for ever;
Me among thy lambs oh sever,
With the goats to mingle never.

With the second extract, I grasp the meaning, but in the second line in particular the use of the word “sever” – to fit the rhyme scheme – is extremely peculiar, and could mean something more or less the opposite of what is clearly intended.

In a future post I may give specimens of his poetry, some of which shows attempts at emotional passion which seem out of character for a man known to be extremely shy and scholarly, and which sometimes come across to me with unintentionally comic effect.

Health advice from a Victorian paterfamilias

My great-great-grandfather Edward Cayley, a banker who lived at Stamford, Lincolnshire, seems to have been something of a worrier about his children’s health, judging by one or two surviving letters to his son Arthur (my great-grandfather).

Here is an extract from an 1854 letter referring to two of his other sons:

Edward & George are gone to day to sea in a boat in order to have a quiet bathe. I do not however like this mode of bathing thinking it very dangerous.

A slightly later letter of the same year shows him anxious about some illness which had afflicted Arthur, who was at Cheltenham College. It is full of good Victorian advice:

I was very sorry to hear from Mr Sandilands [a teacher there – probably Arthur’s housemaster (English public schools were divided into ‘houses’ in which pupils slept and had common rooms, and which competed against each other in sports etc)] that you were unwell & suffering from a complaint which does not often attack those of your age. Can you account for it in any way? Have you been heated & afterwards exposed to the cold air or in any other manner got chilled? I am sure your malady is not constitutional. Do you get plenty of air & rise early in the morning. The weather being very changeable it is better to continue your warm clothing sometime longer, but regulate your bed covering according to the temperature of the weather for too much bed covering in hot weather is injurious. Pray write soon & tell me how you are. I have requested Mr Sandilands to supply you with money to bring you home.

An 80th Birthday Poem by the Aeronautical Baronet

Sir George Cayley, the 6th (aeronautical) baronet, was always a man who teased and flattered ladies. Including his wife, right up to the end of what was a very long marriage. Here is a poem he wrote on her 80th birthday in 1853.

Full many a pleasing, many an anxious thought
This lengthened day of eighty years has brought.
The sylph-like form, with budding beauty graced,
The guileless smile, by no reserve defaced,
In early life my soul enchanted held,
And every worldly anguish daily quelled.
In middle life a numerous offspring bound
Our hearts still closer on this mutual ground.
Advancing years dispersed that youthful flock:
Marriage and death parental bonds unlock,
And childhood ripened into man’s estate
Runs the same round assigned to us by fate.
In after life by gradual slight decay
We cheerful trod our ever downward way;
And now the barrier seems upon its verge,
A future world beyond the funeral dirge
Comes full in view, and with its cheering smile
In trustful confidence all fears beguile.
To meet in that bright world of peace above
Those who engaged our short and earthly love,
To part no more, and share in heavenly joy
Angelic thoughts, and loves that never cloy;
In these chaste views our hearts can still unite –
The rising moon outshines the coming night.

The reference to meeting in “that bright world of peace” may well have been hopeful thinking. Sarah, his wife, was prone to furious outbursts of temper, and it was said of Sir George that, as a result, he had been born in Paradise but lived in Purgatory.

In Full Regalia in a Rickshaw to Quell Riots

Henry Priaulx Cayley (1877-1942 – see A Banker’s Family) was a naval officer who spent part of his career with the Australian navy. He saw action in the North Sea during WW1. On one occasion in 1917 he reported that his ship, the Sydney, of which he was then second-in-command, was having some “differences of opinion” with a zeppelin which “amused herself by sitting up overhead, well out of range, and thoroughly bombing us.”

In 1919 he was on his way back on the Sydney, of which he was now captain, to Australia when riots broke out in the Straits Settlements – the colony consisting of Malacca, Dinding, Penang and Singapore. He and his ship were called in to help restore order.

Besides more conventional ways, like sending landing parties into Singapore and Penang, he clearly decided it was a time to show some imperial aplomb. At Penang he donned his full ceremonial naval uniform and rode through the chief city in a rickshaw. Whether this fearsome display was enough to end the disturbances there, alas the accounts do not tell us.

I am sure my sister-in-law, who, among her many artistic skills, is a brilliant cartoonist, could portray the scene!

A Right Royal Visit … and a Cayley

This has long been one of my favourite Cayley stories.

George Cuthbert Cayley (1866-1944, grandson of the 7th Cayley baronet) was a career naval officer who rose to the rank of Vice-Admiral. For much of WW1 he was in charge of naval facilities at Harwich. In 1915 King George V made a visit, and George Cuthbert Cayley escorted him around. George V asked him who one of the hovering dignitaries was. “Oh, that is the Chief Constable of Suffolk. He has been in office for 30 years.” When the king commented that that was a long time, the reply came, “Yes sir, just 30 years too long.” Asked to expand on this, our worthy Cayley added, “Well sir, he’s a damned old fool and the County have been trying to get rid of him for 30 years!”

Source: The Keyes Papers, vol. 1, pub. Navy Records Society 1975 – letter of 25 April 1915 from Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt (who was in command of the British ships based at Harwich)

An Australian bridge champion

I well remember when, in my later teens, my first real girlfriend, who was a bridge player, tried to teach me how to play. Bidding systems were beyond me, and it was almost the quick end of our relationship. We soon decided I had a mental block.

So it was with some humility that I discovered the other year that one Cayley was an Australian bridge champion. He was Harry Francis Cayley (1910-1981), usually known as Frank, son of Henry Priaulx Cayley (about whom there material for at least one future blog post) who was himself a keen bridge player. He was Australian national champion in all the main types of bridge championship – individual, pairs and teams. He represented Australia in bridge matches against New Zealand and frequently played in the top team of his own State of New South Wales. He was a founder member of both the NSW and the Queensland Bridge Associations: he was the first president of the latter, and president of the NSW Association for 38 years, afterwards being given the honour of being made President Emeritus. He was Vice-Presient of the International Bridge Association for ten years, and, for a period, President of the Australia Bridge Federation.

He was a journalist who was the second Australian to have a regular bridge column. He wrote a number of books on bridge, the last of which – Contract Bridge Made Easy – might have helped me in my teens if I had had any aptitude for the game. He also wrote what some regard as still the standard work on the history of the Australian flag – Flag of Stars, reprinted in 1980 as Beneath the Southern Cross: The Story of Australia through Flags.

He was 13 when he first played bridge. This was apparently a school punishment which was inflicted for playing poker, and the punishment angle was that he was kept indoors and not allowed to go boating. Many of us will have had experience of rather more severe punishments at school.

Let me close this blog post with words from Frank Cayley’s last interview, when he said that the “worst attribute in a bridge player is complacency. Self-satisfaction is fatal to progress. When you think you know everything, you really know nothing about the game.” Those thoughts could be applied wisely to so many aspects of our lives.

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