Broad Street Wrington HISTORY
The Quest for John Vane
John Gowar
[Village Journal, February, 2006]

Readers who have surfed into the History section of the excellent Wrington website will know that the provenance of one of our most distinguished Rectors has been a matter for some discussion. He was the Reverend John Vane, Rector from 1828 until his death on 29 December 1870, and Perpetual Curate of Burrington from 1831.

I am grateful to Joyce Smith for letting me have the notes and correspondence of Hugh Smith and Michael Lawder concerning him and to Neil Jackson of Bath for much information about the families involved.

There are quite a few discrepancies in various reference books that mention John Vane, but the consensus has been that he was born in County Durham about 1791 and was the natural son of William Harry Vane (1766-1842), who became the 1st Duke of Cleveland.

He held the Manor of Wrington and hence the benefice. One contradictory reference, citing the Record of Dulwich College where John Vane was a Fellow from 1818 to 1848, says he was "the acknowledged natural son of Lord Castlereagh" (Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons during the post-Napoleonic period).

In fact, the truth is otherwise. It is revealed by Edith, Lady Londonderry, in her biography (Macmillan, 1958) of Frances Anne (1800 - 1865), wife of the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry. The story is quite complicated, so please be patient!

At the time, there were two immensely wealthy families called Vane, living in County Durham. Both were descended from sons of Sir Henry Vane (1589 - 1654), English Secretary of State in 1640. One was the previously mentioned Clevelands who owned Raby Castle, which is still occupied by members of the family. The Rector of Long Newton, the Reverend Sir Henry Vane, LL.D., Bt, Prebendary of Durham Cathedral, was from the other branch. In 1768, he had eloped with a local heiress, Frances Tempest. They had a daughter, also called Frances Anne, in 1769, and a son, Henry, in 1771.

The daughter married a prominent politician, called Michael Angelo Taylor, who eventually became Father of the House of Commons. They had no children.

The son inherited the Tempest estates and coal mines through his mother, changed his name to Vane-Tempest and married an Irish heiress in 1799. Their only child was the first-mentioned Frances Anne, the subject of Lady Londonderry's biography. Her godfather was none other than William Harry Vane, later 1st Duke of Cleveland. And she married Lord Castlereagh's step-brother, who became the leader of reactionary Tory opposition to parliamentary reform. Where does that leave our John Vane ?

In her biography, Lady Londonderry makes four references to a "Jack Vane". He is said to have been an illegitimate son of the younger Henry Vane, eight years older than Henry's legitimate daughter and heir, Frances Anne. The fit is too close to be a coincidence.

The Reverend John remained unmarried. He became the executor and residual beneficiary of the wills of the Taylors (his aunt and uncle) and left most of his own estate to his half-sister's eldest son, who became the 5th Marquess of Londonderry. He was chaplain to the House of Commons and held a position in the Sovereign's household. Throughout his life he must have been intimately involved at the highest level in the social and political activities of the period.

The quest has led into some fascinating byways. If I can organise the material on the life and times of the Reverend John Vane into a reasonably coherent state, I'll ask for it to be put onto the Wrington website.
John Gowar