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2002/02 pp3–4


A case of identity


If you walk through old St. Mary’s churchyard you may notice opposite the Bridges’ vaults a simple well-cut gravestone which records the deaths in 1762 of Penelope Hallifax, aged 20, wife of Thomas Hallifax Esq., and of her month-old son Thomas.


I have long wondered whether there could be any connection with the then vicar, James Hallifax, though his only son turned out to be called Charles. There was also a Hallifax who became a partner of Richard Glyn in the newly formed bank in 1753 of Vere, Glyn and Hallifax in the city. Apart from the Revd. James’s fourth wife, there are no other Hallifaxes in the graveyard.


Recently, light has fallen on this mystery. The Revd. James Hallifax and Thomas Hallifax were first cousins. Richard Glyn was patron of the living of St. Mary’s Ewell. They were all connected with the City of London: Richard Glyn and Thomas Hallifax both became Lord Mayors (as had Richard Glyn’s uncle-in-law Sir William Lewen, whose imposing memorial is in the chancel of St. Mary’s church); and in 1757 James Hallifax was the Lord Mayor’s chaplain.


Both Richard Glyn and Thomas Hallifax married heiresses. Penelope was the daughter of Richard Thomson of Lincoln’s Inn. Thomas was 41 years old at the time of their marriage which ended with her death nine months later.


Thomas’s career has a Dick Whittington flavour about it. He was born in Barnsley, the third son of a clockmaker, and apprenticed to a grocer, though he did not finish the term. Instead, he came to London where he eventually became a goldsmith and was elected Lord Mayor in 1776. He lived in Enfield and for his second wife, he married another heiress belonging to the Savile family, in whose vault in Enfield he was buried ‘with great pomp’ in 1789.


There is an interesting entry in the parish records for 1765 where the vicar, James Halifax, records the burial of his stillborn daughter on June 15, and then makes a note that when his third wife Ellen died a month later, the baby was ‘taken out of the ground and placed in the coffin with her mother to be carried to Chastleton and buried there’. (At the time of her marriage to James Hallifax she was described as the widow of Thomas Fothergill of Chastleton).


James Hallifax’s fourth wife Frances was however buried in Ewell churchyard after her death in 1795, and there is a memorial tablet in the present church by the sculptor, Thomas Banks RA. This is interesting because James had become rector of Whitchurch in Shropshire in 1777, and died there in 1787.


It is also worth noting that the custom of keeping the north side of the church for the graves of the hoi polloi does not seems to have been observed in Ewell. The Bridges vaults and the Calverley vaults are all on what would have been the north side, as well as the grave of Penelope Hallifax. The present path crosses the former nave of the old church, and would have originally led to the south door.

Charles Abdy

A case of identity

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