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2001/02 p4


The Glyns and Mr. Gladstone


The Glyns of Ewell, the family that dominated the parish for more than 200 years until the death of Margaret in 1946, claimed descent from an ancient family, at one time resident at Glynllifon in North Wales. A separate branch of the ancient family that called itself Glynne occupied Hawarden Castle in Flintshire and acquired a baronetcy in 1661. The 8th baronet was Sir Stephen Glynne, whose children included Stephen, who became the 9th baronet, and Catherine, who married one of the most eminent of Victorian statesmen, William Ewart Gladstone. It was a successful marriage which produced seven children who reached adulthood, and was able to withstand the stresses that must have arisen from Gladstone’s psychological and religious craving to save fallen women. Satisfying this craving involved Gladstone in meetings and conversations with dozens of prostitutes, some of whom would be taken to the Gladstone’s house. When the great man came too close to succumbing to temptation he would scourge himself. It is sad that William Gladstone, four times Liberal Prime Minister and responsible for bringing to the statute book so much of the reforming legislation in Victorian times, including the Education Bill of 1870, should be remembered more for fallen women than for his public service.


Catherine Gladstone, Cathie as he referred to her in conversation, supported her husband throughout his life; a telling example is the way she would, in his later years, prepare for him small bottles of sherry and egg that would go into the Commons by despatch box for him, one bottle for an important speech, and two for a really major one: the House would know what to expect by the number of bottles. Gladstone died on 19 May 1898 aged 89: Cathie joined him in Westminster Abbey two years later in the space left by his side in the statesmen’s corner.


Catherine’s brother, Sir Stephen Glynne, has a tenuous connection with Ewell: he was a shy bachelor whose great passion in life was to write notes on churches, and between 1825 and his death in 1874 he visited about 5500 churches in England, as well as others in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. One of these churches was Ewell. Glynne’s visit to St. Mary’s was in June 1844, i.e. four years before the new church was built and the old one demolished (apart from the tower). The report is not very complimentary: it begins, ‘This Church has a patched and unprepossessing exterior and has altogether been much maltreated’. The tower was considered somewhat superior and there were kind words for some features of the interior.


Sir Stephen seems to have been better at recording churches than running his business affairs: the Hawarden estate got into financial difficulties, and was bought up by Gladstone, who spent a large part of his life there.



Abdy, Charles, The Glyns of Ewell (Privately, 1994).

Matthew, Colin., Gladstone 1809–1898 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997).

Sherlock, R.J., ‘Sir Stephen Glynne’s notes on the churches of Surrey’, Surrey Archaeological Collections 55 (1957) pp65–117.


Charles Abdy


The Glyns and Mr. Gladstone

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