Guarlford History Group

St Mary's Church

Revd William Joseph Fancourt (curate)

It is interesting how 'strands' from the small rural village of Guarlford and its church, St Mary, reach out and touch other counties and countries.

This page tells the story of curate William Joseph Fancourt and his seven children. William was born in the poor parish of Shoreditch in London, about 1809 and he died in Malvern in 1852 aged only 42. He appeared in Pigot's directory of 1842, where he was listed as the master of an establishment for educating the sons of gentlemen:

Fancourt W J, Ankerdine House Academy, Great Malvern

William's father was clergyman Revd Thomas Fancourt (1771 - 1857).

Our story began when the words on the large plaque above the church door were transcribed (see photo below).

Plaque at rear of church

The purpose of the plaque was simply to advise the congregation that seats in the church could not be bought or reserved.

Here is what it says,

This chapel was erected in the year 1844. It contains one hundred and eighty four sittings, and in consequence of a Grant from the Incorporated Society for promoting the enlargement, building and repairing of Churches and Chapels, the whole of that number are hereby declared to be free and unappropriated for ever.

A plan showing the number and situation of the free seats is fixed up in the vestry room.


Vicar: Revnd J Wright MA FRS

Churchwardens: William Joseph Fancourt and John Archer


Revd John Wright was the vicar of Great Malvern Priory from 1844 to 1850. William Joseph Fancourt was then a curate at Malvern Priory and its vicar, John Wright, almost certainly appointed William, his curate, to be one of the first churchwardens.

The list of incumbents on the north wall further records that William, Curate of Malvern Priory, became the second incumbent of St Mary in 1846, following on from Revd Francis H Romney.

John Noake in The Rambler (1848) briefly referred to Revd W J Fancourt as

'a gentleman who is much beloved for his active and zealous pursuit of his Christian duties'.

The 1851 census recorded William Joseph Fancourt born Shoreditch, London, about 1810, living at or near New House on the Guarlford Road with his wife Agnes (maiden name Bell) and seven children. His occupation was recorded as curate of St Mary's Chapel which was then a 'Chapel of Ease' under the jurisdiction of Great Malvern Priory.

Grave of William Joseph FancourtSadly, according to the burial register of St Mary, William died shortly after the 1851 census at the early age of 42, leaving a widow Agnes and seven young children Agnes, Thomas, William, John, Jane, Edward and Charles.

William is buried near the north east corner of the church. His memorial, a flat slab topped by a large Latin cross, reads around the edge: 'This stone is laid to the memory of William Joseph Fancourt minister of this church who died May 15th 1852 aged 42 years. Rev XIV Ch 13'.

Even more sadly, William's two youngest children, Charles 2 and Edward 4, died not long after in 1853.

After her husband's death Agnes Fancourt moved to Peachfield Cottage in Hayes Bank Road, Poolbrook, to live near her brother John Bell at Peckham Grove.

At this point you might think the family were forgotten and ended their days in poverty but you would be wrong.

Here is the story of William and Agnes's five surviving children.

Agnes Fancourt

Agnes Fancourt (junior), born Malvern 1838, died Eastbourne 1903, was the eldest child of William Joseph Fancourt and Agnes Bell.

She married 23rd July 1867 at Great Malvern Priory, clergyman John Brunsdon Fletcher (1840-1926). They had two daughters Edith Elizabeth and Eleanor Frances.

Her daughter Eleanor Frances Fletcher born 1872 Berwick on Tweed married John Hayman  Joyce, Eastbourne 1896. John Hayman Joyce of Timberscombe, Somerset was the son of a Yeoman Farmer of 600 acres.

Agnes's eldest grandson Hayman John Hayman Joyce (1897-1958)  had a successful military career in the British army.

He became Major General Hayman John Hayman Joyce CBE DSO who commanded 4th Division during World War II.

Agnes's youngest grandson, Thomas Fancourt Hayman Joyce born Rye 1907 also had a military career. In 1936 he married Betty C Bruford. He was promoted to Major, Royal Artillery, and died in 1946 aged only 39.

Thomas and Betty had a son, Robert John Hayman Joyce, who was Agnes's great grandson. He also pursued a successful military career like his father and uncle.

Lieutenant General Sir Robert John Hayman Joyce KCB CBE DL (born 16 October 1940), was a former Master-General of the Ordnance and great great grandson of Revd William Joseph Fancourt of St Mary, Guarlford.

Thomas Fancourt

Thopmas Fancourt (1840-1919) width=Thomas Fancourt, son of William, (who was probably Guarlford's first churchwarden) born Malvern 1840, has a fascinating story.

He was educated at Lancing College, Sussex, and trained as a missionary at Canterbury.

In 1865 he married Elizabeth Emma Robinson in Leeds and emigrated to New Zealand where he was ordained.

He became Archdeacon of Wellington New Zealand and died in 1919. He is buried in Bolton Street Cemetery, Wellington, New Zealand, alongside his wife who died in 1903.

Click the links below to find out more.

Obituary 1

Obituary 2

Thomas was survived by a son and three daughters.

William Fancourt

William Fancourt, was born Malvern about 1842, and like his brother Thomas, he also became a clergyman. We have no information about his early life but he reappears in the 1881 Scotland census in Edinburgh, He was lodging with the MacManus family at 10, Gillespie Crest and his occupation was recorded as Episcopal Clergyman, St Johns Church, Edinburgh. Also living at the same address was his sister Jane.

In 1883 William married, Edinburgh, widow Mary Charlotte MacPherson.

Mary, a dancing teacher, born Worcester, was the daughter of James Hervey D'Egville, a dancing teacher and artist. His father Louis had taught dancing to the gentry and royalty.

Mary had first married civil engineer Charles MacPherson, Leominster, Herefordshire in 1869, by whom she had three children Charles, Grant and Roland.

About 1891 William and Mary moved to West Linton and lived at the Parsonage, No 8 Biggar Road, where he was the minister of St Mungo's Episcopal Church in West Linton, Peebleshire. William died at West Linton in 1907.

His stepson Charles became a musician and married London 1910, Sophia Menella Newbolt the daughter of Rev William Charles Edmund Newbolt. She was born in Malvern Link when her father was vicar of Malvern Link. In 1910 her father was a Cannon of St Paul's Cathedral. In 1911 Charles MacPherson was sub organist and later organist of St Paul's.

William's stepson the Reverend Roland MacPherson also entered the church.

John Fancourt

John Fancourt born Malvern 1844 worked as a clerk for the Bank of England and lived in Essex. He retired to Worcester where he died in 1918.

He married his cousin Susannah Stearne Bell, Thornbury 1871, by whom he had two sons.

Jane Fancourt

Little is known about Jane Fancourt, born 1847, the younger daughter of William and Agnes (senior). She never married but lived with her widowed mother until Agnes' death in 1873. In 1881 Jane was with her brother William in Edinburgh and in 1891 she was visiting her brother John and his family in Essex. Perhaps later she visited her brother Thomas in New Zealand, and so did not appear in the 1901 and 1911 England census?

St Mary's burial register records Jane died in 1925 and is buried in Guarlford churchyard with her parents.

West Window of St Mary 2013


  1. England, Wales and Scotland Census from 1841 to 1911.

  2. England and Wales BMD index.

  3. Photo of Thomas Fancourt circa 1900 from a book credited to the National Library of New Zealand.

  4. Pigot and Co Royal National and Commercial Directory 1842

Research by: Angus and Rosemary McCulloch

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Last updated 2nd October 2014