Reverend Mark Bloxham of Tamlaght O’Crilly
Lower Church of Ireland – near Innisrush
Mark Bloxham was curate in Tamlaght Lower (back then known as Tyanee Chapel of Ease) from 1826 until his death in 1849.
On initially encountering this old broken and weathered gravestone, in Tamlaght Lower graveyard, I could never have imagined the secrets that it held. The rare surname, and the fact that the dead man had been a preacher at the church, close on 200 years ago, especially drew my attention. Thus began many months of research and the following up of clues (i.e. only after much photography and photoshop work, to determine the words on the gravestone).
The Wording on the Gravestone
Here among his people
lie the remains
Reverend Mark Bloxham
for 23 years
incumbent of this Parish.
He died 10th April 1849
aged 53 years.
Also his son
Fennell Collins Bloxham
who died the 25th April 1846
aged 2 years & 10 months.
Also his Mother-in-law
Mrs Jane Collins
The gravestone is broken below this point (i.e. below the line – Mrs Jane Collins) and the rest is sadly missing. Presumably the gravestone was initially standing vertical, and has at some time toppled (and broken). It is an intriguing headstone, because here from nearly two centuries previous, lies one of the church’s earliest ministers.
Indeed, here lies the son (and grandson) of a very senior Irish army captain and politician – namely, Mark Bloxham senior. Born in 1773, Captain Mark Bloxham commanded the Liberty regiment that suppressed the Robert Emmet Rebellion in 1803. He was the recipient of a sword of honour from the City of Dublin. He was High Sheriff of Dublin from 1804-5 and Lord Mayor of Dublin from 1816-7. The Rev Wilfrid Abbott, in Coleraine, was apparently (in the early half of the 1900s) in possession of the sword and of a fine oil painting of the Captain, and his great-great-grandfather.
ORIGINS But where did they come from. Well, Bloxham is a very rare surname. The related surnames of Bloxham, Bloxam, and Bloxholm, are all derived from place names in England. They originate either from a Bloxham in Oxfordshire, or from Bloxholm in the county of Lincolnshire. Both places were recorded as “Blochesham” in the Domesday Book of 1086. The name ‘Bloxham’ begins to appear in the Irish newspapers from the 1750s onwards. Indeed, the name that appears is that of Mark Bloxham. This presumably is the Reverend Bloxham’s father and indicates that he may have moved from England to Ireland at that time.
SIBLINGS The Reverend Bloxham had two siblings, Alicia and Jane. Alicia, the oldest sister, married William Taylor of Upper Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin. She died in January 1836. Jane, the other sister, got married, in February 1822, to Lieutenant-General John Stratford Saunders. He was the second son of Morley Saunders (of Saunders Grove, County Wicklow) and Lady Martha Stratford, daughter of the Earl of Aldborough, and sister of the three succeeding Earls. The general served in the West Indies, Egypt, and in Spain’s Peninsular War (notably at the Battle of Talavera). He was 84 years old when he died on the 26th March 1846, at his large residence, Golden Fort, near Baltinglass, in County Wicklow. He had two sons and a daughter. The eldest son, a lieutenant in the 56th regiment, was left his property.
MARRIED The curate, as a young man in Dublin, appears to have had several close female friends. But above all others, his heart yearned for Caroline Anne Collins. He reveals in his poem to her (called ‘Anna’), that after initially being friends, they had separated for two years. Prior to the separation, he had given her a brooch, to keep, in memory of their friendship. But when she returned to him, after the two years apart, she returned the brooch. They would go on to be married.
– With a Brooch as a Memorial of Friendship which had been formerly presented to her by the Author and which she had just returned to him after a separation of two years –
This gift accept – the offering of an heart
A wo-worn heart that once but beat for thee
That to its core now feels the piercing smart
A heart that bleeding groans I am not free
This gift accept twas once the pledge of love
Was ever love more ardent more sincere
Say was it not each vulgar thought above
Say Anna hast thou since ever found its peer
This gift accept a friendly hand bestows
O why be thus denied a fonder name
But madman hush nor rashly e’er disclose
Two years elapsed thou could st not be the same
This gift accept whene’er it meets thine eye
In pity o’er my memory shed a tear
Give me no more I ask the soul drawn sigh
Then quick forget that still I linger here
Written in July 1818, when 22 years old
Mark Bloxham and Caroline Anne Collins were married at St. George’s Church in Dublin, on the 4th January 1820. Mr Fennell Collins was the witness for the bridegroom; and Mr James Findlay was the witness for the bride. By 1835, they had 7 children. Their final child, Fennell Collins Bloxham (named presumably after his maternal grandfather), was born in 1843. The young child died less than three years later, of scarlet fever, and is referred to on the Innisrush gravestone. Scarlet fever is a disease that can occur as a result of a group A Streptococcus (group A strep) infection. The symptoms can include the characteristic rash, as well as a sore throat, fever, headaches, and swollen lymph nodes.
“If clergymen are allowed to marry they must first fall in love. If they fall in love they will write and sing of it. Therefore clergymen are allowed to write and sing of love.”
HIS BOOK OF POEMS Bloxham says that he wrote his first poem, as a 22 year old, in May 1818, in response to an earlier letter from a college friend who subsequently died young. He goes on to say that the vast majority of the poems, were written in the following ten months.
The final efforts were written in 1820, soon after his ordination. The collection of poems that he finally put together in 1834, and which commercially hit the shelves at the beginning of 1835, was called – Paradise Regained, and Other Poems. The book was 234 pages long and sold for 7 shillings and 6d.
The original title, Paradise Regained, was the name of a poem from 1671, by English poet John Milton, Paradise Regained is connected by name to Milton’s earlier and more famous epic poem Paradise Lost. Bloxham derived his book’s name from Milton’s 1667 classic, Paradise Lost.
The reviews were not good, to put it mildly. Indeed, in some cases, the reviewers in Dublin were very cruel. Possibly snobbery, though more likely due to Bloxham not displaying (in their eyes) sufficient deference to John Milton. Paradise Regained is a poem by English poet John Milton, first published in 1671. Bloxham was frowned upon by some for dedicating his book to a nobleman, Lord Brougham, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. Lord Brougham reputedly held heterodox opinions. Apparently the Lord was a deist and socinian. Socinianism is a heresy concerning the nature of God. It denies the doctrines of the Trinity and deity of Christ,
Bloxham, in his writings, refers to his intention to ruffle some feathers with regard to his choice of book name, as well as disclosing that he would be prepared to finish the book of poems, if he could find funding to pay for someone to take over his pulpit duties in Innisrush. The curate says:
I am perfectly aware of the existence of John Milton…….though I had never read his work, nor have to this day the subject suited my taste. I know that he wrote a poem entitled Paradise Regained, though I have never read it. I am quite conscious that my identity of title will necessarily remind the reader of his work and put the whole weight of his justly high character in contrast with my humble pretensions and paradoxical as it may appear I have selected the subject and taken the title precisely because it must lead to such results. What them do on think that Milton can ever be equalled. Why should not think so he made Milton – can he that made trim not also make others…..So then you have the vanity to say on equal Milton. I say no such thing. I simply say the thing is possible and that I have made the attempt I have led it may be the forlorn hope success may be difficult may be improbable but it is not impossible.
It is not however the mere feelings of vanity or ambition for applause that have led me to submit this volume to the public. Indeed I had to sacrifice both in resolving to publish my work in an unfinished state. I am a father of seven children in a household for nearly fifteen years an actively clergyman acknowledged to possess some merit professionally being without family influence in the church am still, of course, an unbeneficed clergyman and to continue such I offer the completion of my work the purchase of a competency in a professional line for maintenance of my family vanity therefore has had place in this publication…..I give the work (my book of poems) in it’s present form to the public, in the conviction that if I be considered competent to the task there exist men who being friendly to literature will me in such a position in my profession as will enable to employ assistants in the ministry and thus pie from the necessity of constant preaching will put into my power to finish my work did not nor do an exemption from general parochial duties It was pulpit duties alone that I found present an obstacle….
But the Reverend Bloxham was ill-advised to compare himself to John Milton. The reviewers in Dublin and London poured scorn on his book of poetry.
“As Mr Bloxham is, we are sorry to say, a clergyman of the Establishment, we feel ourselves bound to tell him that he takes a most indiscreet way to exalt the character of his gown and fulfil the duties of his calling. It is impossible but that some of the just ridicule which he brings upon himself by his poetic drivellings, must attach to him in his professional capacity. His sermons must be eloquent indeed if they make his congregation forget his sonnets…….we say that respect for his cloth ought to have made Mr Bloxham withstand the temptation and keep his melodies in manuscript for the solace of his private hours and the daily delight of his amiable family of seven children were admirers enough to satisfy his passion for applause. Publishing at all, he should have published such enormities under a feigned name.”
“we cannot think of entering upon a criticism of the book – and we think his own book preface impales Bloxham sufficiently without the further cruelty of a scrutiny into his abilities. One circumstance we regret, namely, is that the author has a large family and a small income. If he expects his book to enlarge the latter, we fear he will be disappointed”
“Grammar he apparently considers a mere ornamental appendage — an affair of form and ceremony, which, on occasions of real importance, is better dispensed with.”
INNISRUSH The Reverend Mark Bloxham was ordained in Dublin in 1820. He was the Curate of Tyanee Chapel of Ease for 23 years, from 1826 until his death in 1849. Unfortunately his father died (in only his 52nd year) the year before his son’s appointment in Innisrush.
The Curate lived in Glenone Glebe (houses 33/34 Glenone School, according to the 1831 Census of Ireland). There are twelve people living in the house – Mark Bloxham and his wife, Caroline Anne, plus their seven children (2 boys and 5 girls), and three female servants.
700 protestant souls in a 3 mile square area
700 protestant souls in a 3 mile square area
He reveals that although parish duties are fine, pulpit work consumes a lot of his time. The salary is minimal – in 1834, Bloxham reveals that despite being in charge of “700 protestant souls” in a “3 mile square” area, he earns less than one hundred pounds each year. From another source, we see that in 1837, Bloxham received £92. 6s. 2d. (payable by the rector in Tamlaght, Rev. William Napper), and £4. 7s. 6d. from the rent of two houses. The Rev. Bloxham also has use of Glenone Glebe-house. The Glebe comes with 15 acres of land, with a rental value of £18. 15s. per annum.
One imagines that it must have been difficult leaving the city life of Dublin, and moving the 130 miles north, to rural Innisrush (especially so soon after the early death of his father in Dublin). But Bloxham evidently had, and maintained, good contacts in the capital. Notably, he seemed to have friends in the Dublin newspapers. His name regularly appeared in the newspapers (during this research, over 150 references/articles, where he is mentioned, were discovered). Obviously he was a big letter writer, and wrote regularly to many newspapers. In modern times, one imagines that Bloxham would have loved social media.
Even during his era, in the early to mid 1800s, there was strife in Ireland. One particular period of local tension came in the spring of 1832. During a procession in Portglenone, on Friday 31st March 1832, the Ribbonmen shot and killed a man called James McCartney. The innocent bystander was standing in his own doorway when hit by presumably a stray bullet.
On the day in question, the Curate’s family were returning home, but only got as far as Ahoghill. As the Belfast News-Letter, Friday 6th April 1832, writes: “At the time of the (Ribbonmen) procession which terminated so fatally, the family of the Rev. Mr. Bloxham, who were on their way to Portglenone, were obliged to stop all night in Ahoghill, as no Protestant was allowed by these ruffians to enter the town. An attack had been threatened on the house of the Rev. Arch Deacon Alexander, and a number of the Ribbonmen actually visited the house of this most respectable Clergyman, to the serious alarm of the female portion of the family, who were at the time almost without protection. The ruffians, however, departed, without executing their threat.”
Bloxham’s family were stranded for the night in Ahoghill, and the curate was having his own difficulties, in trying to get home. He had been returning from Belfast and had made it as far as Portglenone. But he was stranded for a time in Portglenone, unable to get over the Bann bridge. The Ribbonmen had blocked the bridge. The Dublin Observer, Sunday 8th April 1832, wrote: “the Ribbon party took up a strong position on the (Bann bridge at Portglenone), in the county Derry side of the River Bann, and would not let any person pass, unless some of their own friends. The Rev. Mark Bloxham, who was returning from Belfast, had to leave his horse, car, and servant in Portglenone, and wishing to get home, had to get an influential Catholic to escort him home.”
These were dark days. The people of the area were scared and fearful of what might happen. At McCartney’s funeral, Bloxham pleaded for calm. As the Belfast Commercial Chronicle wrote (on Wednesday 4th April 1832): “The county is in a frightful state: and to show their detestation of the dreadful murder that had been committed, upwards of 20,000 people, from the neighbouring towns and surrounding country, attended the funeral of McCartney, who was an Orangeman. The Reverend Messrs. McCay and Bloxham addressed the immense multitude in a spirit of peace suitable to the day, and hoped they would not take any revenge, but let and the laws of their county punish the offenders.”
The records indicate that the curate conducted many weddings and funerals during his 23 years in Innisrush. On at least two occasions, he was selected on behalf of the diocese as a delegate to support the doctrine of the Established Church, in public with the Catholic clergy of the diocese. His overall workload was considerable, by his own admission, most notably the preaching aspect. It appears, from what he writes in the mid 1830’s, that he would have been much happier to forego the pulpit duties, and instead pursue a literary career. But his solitary book of poems in 1835 did not meet with critical success. He would remain in the pulpit.
The relationship with his senior, the Rev. William Napper, the Rector of Tamlaght O’Crilly, isn’t clear. But by the 1840s, it appears that it isn’t good. Communication seems to have broken down. When the Lord Primate of the Church of Ireland holds the triennial visitation of the Derry diocese in September 1843, he reveals that he has received a letter from the Rev. Mr. Bloxham, Chaplain of Tyanee Chapel of Ease. Bloxham claims, in his letter, that he was removed from the chaplaincy, “because for twelve Sundays he was absent from his charge”, although the duty was regularly performed. “That” added his grace, addressing Mr. Bloxham directly, “is a mistake. You have been suspended, but not removed. You are still the chaplain.”
Mark Bloxham remained in charge at Innisrush until his death on the 10th April 1849. He was only 53 years old. He seems to have died quite suddenly. There is no record of what caused his passing. His father had also died in his early 50s. And the Reverend’s eldest son (another Mark) was only 54, when he died suddenly of “heart disease” in May 1876, while on police duty at Tubbercurry in Sligo. As a County Inspector for the Royal Irish Constabulary, he had gone to the Tubbercurry area to inspect local police stations. He was found dead in his hotel bed. Perhaps there may have been a history of heart disease within the family. But we can only speculate as to why all three men died in their early 50s.
Caroline Anne Bloxham survived her husband by a further 38 years, and was 88 years old when she died in Belfast on the 25th October 1887. She had outlived her eldest daughter, Alicia Hartley Church, who was only 61, when she passed on in her home at Oatlands near Limavady on the 16th July 1882. She is buried in Kilrea.
In closing, it’s perhaps fitting to return to the curate’s primary love, namely that of his wife. This poem – of yearning for home and his partner – was composed while returning to Ireland on the ferry, from mainland Britain.
(composed at sea)
No more a starless exile now I stray
Where fate directeth or where fortune drives
For see emerging from the sparkling spray
Idalia’s smile my every hope revives
She points the way to where the Graces wait
To light the torch by passion’s lord bestowed
Their beauties glowing with congenial heat
The wanderer welcome to their bright abode
My many sorrows now are quick forgot
Which love had suffered of his all bereft
With heart exulting in its blissful lot
I taste the joy which long my bosom left
While clasped to faithful love’s impassioned breast
In Caroline I feel supremely blest
*note Idalia is a name of Venus
||birth||April – Mark Bloxham is born in Dublin|
|1816||Mark Bloxham’s father (also called Mark) serves as Lord Mayor of Dublin from 1816 to 1817|
|1820||marriage||4th January – Mark Bloxham marries Caroline Anne Collins in St Georges Church, Dublin. Both are worshippers at the church. Fennell Collins and James Findlay are cited on the marriage certificate as witnesses.|
|1820||Ordained as a church minister|
|1821||April – “the Right Honorable the Earl of Erroll has appointed the Reverend Mark Bloxham, A. M., of Middleton, County Cork, only son of Alderman Bloxham, of this City, one of his Lordship’s Domestic Chaplains.”
Source: Saunders’s News Letter, 3 April 1821
||birth||3 August – Birth of son, Mark Bloxham, to parents Mark & Caroline Anne Bloxham. Baptised at St George’s Church in Dublin.|
|1822||2 September Mark Bloxham appointed as Chaplain of Molyneux Asylum for Blind Females at Leeson Park in Dublin|
|1825||8 August Mark Bloxham’s father, Mark senior, of Gardiner’s Place in the County of Dublin, passes away. He died at Arbutus Lodge, Merrion Avenue, Booterstown. The lodge set on 5 acres of land, had two gardens, a shrubbery, a coach-house, a stabling, and a dairy. He had owned the property for some years and had been known to rent it out on one year leases. He was still serving as an elected Councillor in Dublin City Council at the time of his death.|
|1826||innisrush||Starts preaching in Innisrush – or to be precise, Tyanee Chapel of Ease|
|1826||birth||12 August On the 12th inst. at Glenone Glebe, County Derry, the lady of the Rev. Mark Bloxham, a son.
Source: Saunders’s News Letter, 16th August 1826
|1829||birth||20 February Birth of a daughter, Caroline Anne Marcia, to parents Mark & Caroline Anne Bloxham
Source: Belfast News Letter, 27 February 1829
|1830||birth||Mark and Caroline Anne’s daughter Alicia is born.|
|1830||Mark Bloxham referenced in the Ordinance Memoirs, as being Curate of Tyanee Chapel of Ease.|
|1831||1831 Census of Ireland has the Reverend living in Glenone (listed as living at House 33, or later in the notes as 34 Glenone School). There are twelve living in the house i.e. Mark Bloxham and 8 other family members (9 family in total). The family is made up of 3 males and 6 females. There are 3 female servants.
||7 April Peers voting by proxy “in the County Derry side of the River Bann, and would not let any person pass, unless some of their own friends. The Rev. Mark Bloxham, who was returning from Belfast, had to leave his horse, cart, and servant in Portglenone, and, wishing to get home” Source: Londonderry Sentinel|
|1833||birth||20 May At Glenone Glebe, County of Derry, the Lady of the Rev. Mark Bloxham, of a son.
Source: News Letter, 28 May 1833
||Paradise Regained an unfinished Poem and Minor Poems By Mark Bloxham the Right Honourable the Earl of Errol Groombridge London AM Chaplain to 1834
24 January “Just Published, price is 8 shillings, Paradise Regained and Other Poems by the Reverend Mark Bloxham, A.M., Chaplain to the Earl of Erroll. London: Richard Groombridge, Paternoster-Row.
||birth||2 August “BIRTHS At Glenone Glebe, County of Derry, the lady of the Rev. Mark Bloxham, a daughter.”
Source: Derry Journal, 15th Sept 1835
||birth||6 November “At Glenone Glebe, County of Londonderry, the lady of the Rev. Mark Bloxham, of a son.”
Source: Belfast Commercial Chronicle, 11 November 1837
||3 March “Married. Feb. 25, in the Chapel of Ease, Tamlaght O’Crilly, by the Rev. Mark Bloxham, Joseph Courtenay, Esq., of Tyanee, in the county of Derry, to Mary, fourth daughter of John M’Watters, Esq., of Laurel Lodge, in the county of Antrim.” Source: Dublin Evening Packet
||birth||6 March “Birth – March 1st, at Glenone Glebe, County of Londonderry, the lady of the Rev. Mark Bloxham, of a son.”
Source: Dublin Evening Mail
||20 January “We are requested by the Rev. W. Henn, curate of Erigal, and the Rev. Mark Bloxham, chaplain, Tamlaght O’Crilly Chapel of Ease, to state that, but for their absence from home, their signatures would have been appended to the address to the Lord Bishop of Derry, on the subject of the Liturgy, &c., which appeared in our publication of Wednesday.” Source: Dublin Evening Mail|
||birth||8 July “Birth. At Glenone Glebe, County Londonderry, the lady of the Rev. Mark Bloxham, of a son.” Source: Dublin Weekly Register|
||17 September VISITATION OF THE DIOCESE OF DERRY.
The triennial visitation of this diocese was held on Thursday, in the Cathedral, by his Grace the Lord Primate. At the close of the reading-desk services, which were conducted by the Rev. James Graham and the Rev. John Kincaid, curates of the Cathedral, the primate proceeded to deliver his visitation charge, which was listened to with breathless attention, and was admired by all who heard it for its deep-toned piety and for the lessons of wisdom in which it abounded. The usual inquiries into the state of the several parishes, and places of worship, were then made. The number of clergymen absent from the visitation did not exceed half-a-dozen.
When the ordinary interrogatories respecting the parish of Tamlaght O’Crilly had been answered by the Rev. Mr. Napper, the rector, his Grace the Lord Primate said he had received a memorial from the Rev. Mr. Bloxham, Chaplain of a Chapel of Ease in that parish, in which it was stated that the writer was removed from the chaplaincy, because for twelve Sundays he was absent from his charge, although the duty was regularly performed. That, added his grace, addressing Mr. Bloxham, is a mistake; you have been suspended, but not removed. You are still the chaplain.
In the evening, the Lord Bishop of Derry entertained the clergy at dinner in Corporation Hall. Source: Statesman & Dublin Christian Record,
|1846||death||25 April DEATH “At Chapel Glebe, County Londonderry, of scarletina, in his third year, Fennell Collins, son of the Reverend Mark Bloxham”
Source: Belfast Commercial Chronicle, 29 April 1846
||27 November Mark Bloxham conducts the marriage, in Innisrush Church, of Robert Smyth (second son of John Smyth Esq. of Sprucebank) to Mary Macintire (third daughter of William Macintire Esq.)|
|1848||9th February 1848 Mrs. Bloxham, acknowledges with many thanks, to have received from Colonel Loughead, (American Consul,
Londonderry), five casks of Indian meal for the use of the poor Lower Tamlaght, County Derry
22 September On the Friday, Mark Bloxham writes a long and detailed letter to the Dublin Evening Post, on the topical issue of education and the National Board. They reference the letter in the Tuesday 26th edition of the newspaper and publish it on Thursday 28th.
|1849||death||10 April Mark Bloxham dies at 53 years of age, at his house in Portglenone. He was still Chaplain in Innisrush at the time of his death. In total, Mark Bloxham preached in the church for 23 years, between 1826 and 1849. His remains, along with those of his young son, and his mother-in-law, are buried in the church graveyard.
|1887||death||25 October Caroline Anne Bloxham, at 88 years of age, widow of the late Reverend Mark Bloxham, dies at 68 Donegall Pass in Belfast.
Ballymena Observer – Saturday 29 October 1887