Harry SAYERS (1850–1871)
St Paul’s section: Row 19, Grave E12 [St Paul ref K16]

Harry Sayers

To the Dear Memory of
Undergraduate of Worcester College, Oxford
who died after a short illness
Feb. 23, 1871, aged 20.

“A few more years shall roll,
A few more seasons come,
And we shall be with those that rest
Asleep within the tomb.”

Who can doubt / how near we mingle with that spirit world / to our clogged sight inscrutable unknown. / H. Sayers

The cross that stood on this base is lying flat on the grave, which also has kerbs

Harry Sayers was born at 1 St Peter’s Square, Hammersmith in 1850, the son of Reuben Thomas William Sayers (born in Birmingham in 1813/14) and his first wife Eliza Johnston Mellis (born in Glasgow in 1821/2). His parents both living at Grove Terrace, Peckham when they were married at St George's Church Camberwell on 30 August 1842 (their own parish church having been destroyed by fire). They had the following children:

  • Eliza Mellis Sayers (born at Seymour Terrace, Kensington in August 1843 and baptised at St Mary Abbots Church there on 1 October)
  • Amy Sayers (born at Church Row, Islington on 31 March 1845 and baptised at St Mary's Church, Islington on 11 May 1845)
  • Florence Sayers (born in Kensington in 1846/7, reg. first quarter of 1847)
  • Marshall Sayers (born in Kensington in 1848, reg. third quarter); died aged five in 1853
  • Harry Sayers (born at 1 St Peter’s Square, Hammersmith in 1850 and baptised at St Peter's Church, Hammersmith on 13 June 1851)

Harry’s father Reuben Thomas William Sayers was a professional portrait painter, and four of his paintings can be seen here.

At the time of the 1851 census Harry Sayers was just five months old, living at 1 St Peter’s Square, Hammersmith with his parents Reuben (35) and Eliza (29) and his three sisters Eliza (7), Amy (5), and Florence (4), and his brother Marshall (2). The family employed one general servant and an unmarried woman of 22 who was Harry’s wet nurse.

In January the following year, when Harry was just one year old, his mother Eliza gave birth to a baby girl who only lived a few hours. Just two weeks later on 1 February 1852 at the age of 29, Eliza also died at 1 St Peter's Square. She was buried at All Souls Cemetery, Kensal Green on 6 February.

On 27 March 1853 at St Mary's Church, West Kensington, Harry’s father Reuben Thomas William Sayers married his second wife, the widow Mrs Mary Ann Parker of 3 Chapel Place, North End: she was born in London in 1815/16 and was the daughter of the solicitor Charles Hull.

Marshall Sayers, the elder of his two sons by his first wife, died at the age of five eight months after their wedding and was buried at All Souls Cemetery, Kensal Green on 25 November 1853.

The 1861 census shows Harry (5) living with his father, stepmother, and three older sisters at 1 St Peter’s Square, Hammersmith. Reuben Sayers (47) now described himself as a portrait artist and historical painter, and the family had a cook and a housemaid.

Harry was educated at the Godolphin School in Hammersmith, where he wrote poetry. His old headmaster published those poems over twenty years later in 1890 (book in the Bodleian Library, or online), and wrote in the preface:

Many years ago the writer of the following verses was a pupil of mine at the Godolphin School, Hammersmith, of which I was Head Master. At that time I had a number of promising boys under my charge, and I often used to spend odd moments in anticipating their future. It was my dream that Harry Sayers would win the Newdigate, the well-known prize for English Verse at Oxford, and would afterwards distinguish himself as an author and preacher. To some such destiny he seemed to be marked out, not only by his unusual powers of composition and elocution, but by the truthfulness and reverence of his character, and by his apparent possession of that priceless gift of boyhood, a pure mind.

Harry's stepmother Mary Ann Sayers died at the age of 50 in 1868 (reg. Kensington second quarter).

Harry was matriculated at the University of Oxford from Worcester College on 24 June 1870, aged 19, with an ambition of entering the Church. He duly drafted verses in competition for the Newdigate Prize, but did not live long enough to complete the, as just eight months after his matriculation he succumbed to a virulent fever. He attended chapel at Worcester College on the evening of 22 February, and died suddenly at the college the next day:

† Harry Sayers died at Worcester College at the age of 21 on 23 February 1871 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 25 February (burial recorded in the parish register of St Paul’s Church).

His death notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 25 February 1871 read simply: “Feb. 23, at Worcester College, Harry Sayers, aged 20.” One of his poems seems to foreshadow his death:

I saw them weeping o’er my tomb,
Their sorrow touched my breast;
I grieved, and wish’d their tearful gloom
Could see me calm at rest.

The following is an extract from a sermon given by the Revd G. H. Tidcombe at St. Peter’s Church, Hammersmith shortly after Harry’s death:

I cannot let this day pass without saying a few words of him who has been so suddenly taken from among us. Born in this Parish, he was Baptized in this Church, where latterly his voice had become familiar to us in the reading of the Lessons. Of the irreparable loss to his family none can speak, the God of all comfort alone can comfort them, Time alone can in some measure soften their grief. Generous and manly, unselfish and affectionate, he had endeared himself to all, and his short College life had already given promise of a bright and successful future. He had desired to be admitted into the Church’s Ministry, and hopes had been cherished that as a poet as well as a preacher he might have become distinguished.

Harry’s father, and two half-brothers he never met

In 1871 Harry’s father Reuben Sayers (56) was still living at St Peter’s Square, Hammersmith with his three surviving daughters: Eliza (27), Amy (26), and Florence (24), and a 14-year-old servant boy.

On 16 May 1876 at St Mary's Church, West Cowes, Isle of Wight, Harry’s father Reuben Thomas William Sayers married his third wife Sarah Gould Marchant (born in North Currey, Somerset in 1835/6, and 21 years his junior). They had two sons:

  • Reuben Marchant Sayers (born at St Peter’s Square, Hammersmith on 13 May 1877 and baptised at Chiswick on 3 June)
  • Lorne Douglas Watson Sayers (born at St Peter’s Square, Hammersmith on 22 July 1878 and baptised at Chiswick on 24 August).

The 1881 census shows Harry’s father and his new wife living at 1 St Peter’s Square, Hammersmith with their two young sons, and Harry’s full sister Eliza (37). The family had three servants: a cook, nursery maid, and housemaid. Harry’s sister Florence (34) was paying a visit to Cornwall, but his sister Amy, who died in 1890, is hard to find.

Harry’s father Reuben Thomas William Sayers died at 1 St Peter’s Square at the age of 73 on 18 October 1888. His personal estate came to £1,284 7s. 3d.

At the time of the 1891 census Harry’s sister Eliza (47) was head of the household at 1 St Peter’s Square: she was living there with her sister Florence (44) and one servant. Eliza died in 1897, so at the time of the 1901 and 1911 censuses Florence (54) was there alone with one servant.

The third Mrs Sayers lived nearby at 7 St Peter’s Square with her two sons, and they were both with her in 1901: Reuben junior (24) was a civil engineer, and Lorne (23) was a student.

Her two sons were married in London before the next census:

  • On 28 April 1906 at St Cuthbert's Church, Kensington, Reuben Marchant Sayers, described as an engineer of Warwick Road, married Clive Olive Willes of 44 Comeragh Road, the daughter of the barrister Edward Willes;
  • In 1910 at St George’s Hanover Square, Lorne Douglas Watson Sayers married Lucile Newell Schiff.

In 1911 Sarah Gould Sayers, the third wife of Harry's father, was living alone with one servant at 7 St Peter’s Square. She died at that address on 12 January 1919. Her effects came to £13,383 5s. 1d., and her executors were her stepson Lorne Douglas Watson Sayers, now a Major in the Army Service Corps, and Horace Edward Golding Sayers.

Harry’s three unmarried sisters
  • Eliza Mellis Sayers (born 1843/4) died at 1 St Peter’s Square at the age of about 53 on 10 February 1897. Her effects came to £4,792 3s. 5s.
  • Amy Sayers (born 1845) died at 1 St Peter’s Square at the age of 45 on 25 September 1890. Her effects came to £4,798 9s. 7d.
  • Florence Sayers (born 1846/7) died at 1 St Peter’s Square at the age of about 81 on 17 October 1928. Her effects came to £16,569 6s. 9d., and her half-brother Lorne was her executor.
Harry’s half-brothers
  • Reuben Marchant Sayers (born 1877) was a consulting civil engineer in 1911, living at 2 Earls Court Gardens, Kensington with his wife Clive [sic] and his daughter Ruth (3). The family had a cook, housemaid, and nursemaid. He died of typhoid on Christmas Day 1917: obituary (PDF on IEEE Explore).
  • Lorne Douglas Watson Sayers (born 1878) continued to serve as a Major in the army, and he and his wife Lucile had at least four children: Patricia Mary Sayers (1911), Charles Lorne Sayers (1914), Leslie Watson Sayers (1917), and Arnold Lewis Sayers (1923). He was living in Ireland in 1911, at Caplahard, Glasson, Westmeath, with his wife Lucile, and a groom and female servant. By 1928 he was described as a retired Major. He died at Alston Hall, Halberton, Devon at the age of 62 on 17 October 1940. His effects came to £28,584 17s. 6d.



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