The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Rev Robert Augustus Gordon

Rev Robert Augustus Gordon

A carte-de-visite portrait of Reverend Robert Augustus Gordon (1816-1895), for many years the Rector of Barley, near Royston in Hertfordshire.

Born on the island of Dominica in the West Indies in or about 1816, he was the third son of John Gordon (1788-1836), a merchant who owned various slave plantations on the island. Together with his partner James Matthews, Gordon père owned nearly 300 slaves and received several large sums of money in compensation from the British government in 1836, following the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833.

Educated at King’s College London and at Pembroke College Cambridge, Robert was admitted at Lincoln’s Inn in 1837 but switched careers from the law to the church; in 1839 he was ordained a deacon and the following year he became a priest. He served successively at various parishes: Curate of Charing, Kent (1839-1840); Curate of Sundridge, Kent (1840-1846); Rector of Avington, Berkshire (1846-1853); and Rector of Barley, Herfordshire (1853-1890). He was also the Rural Dean of Buntingford in Hertfordshire from 1854 to 1882.

On 27 April 1847, he married Elizabeth Frances Lindsay, daughter of Philip Yorke Lindsay of Balcarres, Fife. Elizabeth was born at Orissa (now Odisha) in India in or about 1817. Their marriage produced no children.

The couple appear on the 1861 census living at the Parsonage in the village of Barley in Hertfordshire, where Robert was the Rector. At the time of the 1871 census, they were living at 34 South Street in Mayfair, London. Also present on the night of census were Rhoda Lindsay, Elizabeth’s cousin, and six servants. Their next-door neighbour was Florence Nightingale. In 1881 they were maintaining a large household staffed by nine servants on Tilney Street in Mayfair.

Reverend Gordon died, aged 79, on 4 August 1895 at his residence, 24 Eccleston Square in London. He left an estate valued at £15,524. According to his long obituary in the Herts and Camb Reporter (9 August 1895): 'Of friends the rev. gentleman had many, both among clergy and laity, and his acts of kindness and charity were largely bestowed on his poorer parishioners and suffering humanity generally. The restoration and interior decoration of Barley Church were largely due to his benificence [sic]; for in 1871, he, together with Mrs Gordon, contributed £4,700 toward the total cost, reaching nearly £6,000, the remainder being raised by other subscribers. For beauty and costly workmanship few village Churches or even town Churches can excel this fine, old Norman structure, built 700 years ago.'

Photographed by Camille Silvy of London on 3 July 1861.


Code: 126456
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© Paul Frecker 2018