3 . The cream jug of the Revd Thomas Roger Du Quesne

DuQuesne milk jug smlThis cream jug would have represented friendship and conviviality for Woodforde on his visits to the hospitable Revd Mr Du Quesne of Honingham [Parson Woodforde Society Collection]'Rotation Day.' These two words, which crop up frequently in the Norfolk diary, convey a wealth of meaning: friendship, conviviality and generous hospitality.

Woodforde relied heavily on the stimulus and reassurance provided by his clerical neighbours. The cream jug of the Revd Thomas Roger Du Quesne (1719–93) of Honingham, west of Norwich, is a symbol of the support mechanism so necessary to combat the loneliness and isolation of the clergy's life in rural areas. As described later on this page, some aspects of the 'rotation' anticipated the establishment of clerical societies which, with the occasional exception, largely date from after the diarist's death.

The 36-year-old Woodforde was invited to become a member of Mr Du Quesne's set in January 1777, only a few months after he had come to live at Weston Rectory. They met regularly in one another's homes for dinner (the meal held in the early afternoon) and would linger playing cards and chatting well into the evening.

Like Woodforde Mr Du Quesne was a bachelor. He left this colourful jug to his widowed housekeeper Elizabeth (Betty) England on his death, and it is now in the collection of the Parson Woodforde Society.

'The closest of Woodforde's Norfolk friends'

Woodforde's biographer Roy Winstanley describes Du Quesne as 'the closest of Woodforde's Norfolk friends and the only one ever invited to make the journey into Somerset and meet his family'. He continues:

Thomas Roger du Quesne was born in 1719. His great-grandfather was a distinguished admiral in the French navy, and ennobled as the first Marquis du Quesne. But the family was Huguenot, and in 1685, when the Edict of Nantes was revoked, left France.

Our Mr du Quesne's father was miserably poor, yet made a marriage which was to be exceptionally advantageous for the son. He married a widow, Mrs Job Yates, the daughter of Sir Roger Bradshaigh, second baronet, of Haigh in Lancashire, who was related to the Townshends. They took good care of Mr du Quesne, who indeed became a conspicuous example of the value of patronage. Educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge, he became vicar of Honingham with East Tuddenham, 1753 . . . He was a prebendary of Lichfield, 1765; Chancellor Canon of St David's, 1776; and prebendary of Ely, 1783, this last being worth 'worth £300 a year', as Woodforde wrote.

He was unmarried, and well looked after by his servants whom he treated as his friends and to whom he was exceptionally generous. He loved music and delighted in playing the violin. Mr du Quesne appears to us an excellent type of cultivated, civilized 18th-century cleric, although the system which enriched him kept others, some of whom were his neighbours, in a state of grinding poverty.
[Roy Winstanley, Parson Woodforde: The life and times of a country diarist (Morrow & Co., Bungay, 1996), p. 142]

DuQuesne milk jug base smlThe underside of Mr Du Quesne's jug. The writing confirms he had owned it until his death in 1793 and had left it to his 'servant' Elizabeth England; her daughter Hannah recorded the gift on the base in 1857 [Parson Woodforde Society Collection]

Studies of Mr Du Quesne

Woodforde's first editor John Beresford published a study of the Revd Mr Du Quesne: Mr Du Quesne and Other Essays (Oxford University Press, London, 1932), which can be bought secondhand from online bookstores.

Beresford's work was praised in The Spectator for 11 June 1932. The anonymous reviewer refers with a touch of asperity to the subject of Beresford's work, however, despite acknowledging that Mr Du Quesne's church memorial contains a handsome tribute. He had been beloved by his parishioners 'in an almost unexampled degree':

Any friend of Parson Woodforde is sure of a welcome . . . No one knows the leisured byways of the eighteenth century better than Mr Beresford. He writes of them with almost more care than such men as Du Quesne warrant, but with an urbanity which his subjects themselves would appreciate.

The Parson Woodforde Society Journal contains many articles on this interesting man, as in vol. 1 no. 3 and vol. 17 no. 1. The Journal for Winter 1968 is devoted entirely to Mr Du Quesne: vol. 1 no. 4. The cream jug is pictured on the cover of another edition featuring the vicar: vol. 52 no. 1: April 2019.

Thomas Du Quesne had his portrait painted by John Theodore Heins in 1750 when he was aged thirty or thirty-two (some sources give his year of birth as 1717). The painting is in the care of the Norfolk Museums Service (accession no. NWHCM:1946.15), but is not currently on display. It shows an affable man in clerical dress; a hint of a smile plays across his strong, clear-cut features.

Countering loneliness and depression among the clergy

It is very apparent from Woodforde's diary that he suffered from depression, especially in his later years. Lowness of spirits at Weston Rectory even infected his much younger companions, his nephew William (Bill) Woodforde and, later, William's sister Anna Maria (Nancy). The problem was widespread, as the clergy's responses in the episcopal visitation returns tell us in searing detail.

Impoverished Evangelical curates, of a very different religious and pastoral bent from that of Woodforde and his friends in the Rotation, perhaps felt it most painfully as they feared their mission to 'awaken' a slumbering flock had failed. It is significant that the first clerical society founded in Norfolk, at Little Dunham in 1792, was composed of Evangelicals led by the Revd John Venn, later of Clapham. Many of the early members had been trained by the Revd Charles Simeon at Cambridge. As well as shaping their spiritual development Simeon took immense care of their mental and physical wellbeing and devised strategies whereby they could cope with the many pressures on them.

Two articles by Margaret Bird and Richard Wilson in the Parson Woodforde Society Journal for April 2021 examine these pressures: vol. 54 no. 1. Margaret Bird continues the analysis in the Journal for August 2021: vol. 54 no. 2.

In its small way Mr Du Quesne's cream jug is a coping strategy in its own right. The nourishing of clerical camaraderie helped lift the spirits of the members of the Rotation.