The Rev. Edmund Cartwright, M.A., F.S.A. (c. 1777 - 1834)

by Mark Antony Lower, M.A., F.S.A. in his book 'The Worthies of Sussex' published in 1865


This gentleman, who completed the History of Western Sussex left unfinished by Dallaway, was the only son of the Rev. Edmund Cartwright, D.D. and F.R.S., Rector of Goadby-Marwood, Leicestershire, and a Prebendary of Lincoln. The father was a man of great mechanical abilities, and was buried in Battle church in this county, where there is a monumental tablet to his memory. He married Miss Hodges of Hempsted in Kent, who gave birth to our topographer about the year 1777.

From very early life the younger Cartwright gave great promise of intellectual power, and his father wishing to bring him up to his own profession sent him, at the early age of fourteen, to Balliol College, Oxford. This precocity enabled the young student to take his Master's degree at about the age when the generality of young men of the present day commence their university career. But though a scholar, he preferred a military to a clerical life, and his father yielding to his wishes obtained for him a commission in the West Yorkshire Militia, in which he ultimately obtained the rank of Captain. Charles, Duke of Norfolk, then Colonel of that regiment, however induced him to relinquish his commission and take holy orders, promising as an inducement to provide for him out of the enormous church patronage which he then held. He first gave him the rectory of Ernley, 1804, and that of Storrington, 1805. Mr. Cartwright subsequently became rector of Parham, on the presentation of Lord de la Zouche, 1820. In 1824 he exchanged for the vicarage of Lyminster, which together with Ernley he held till his death. He was also a Prebendary of Chichester[1] and Chaplain to the Duke of Gloucester. He married first a daughter of Sir George Wombwell, Bart.; and secondly Miss Palmer, whose brother, the Rev. George Palmer, Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, became rector of Sullington. By the latter lady, who survived him, he had several children.

Mr. Cartwright's favourite pursuit was archeology. While yet a militia officer he devoted all his leisure to it, taking notes of everything worthy of observation in the dis­tricts where his regiment happened to be quartered. Thus, while stationed at Chichester, he visited every antiquarian object, not only in the city itself, but also within a circuit of twenty miles. The information which he obtained on this occasion was of great service to him when, in 1815, at the request of Lord Henry Howard, one of the executors and the residuary legatee of his noble patron, who had bequeathed funds for the purpose, he undertook to complete the History of the three Rapes of Western Sussex which Dallaway had begun, but had relinquished in consequence of other engagements, and the disappointments which had attended his undertaking. As stated in the notice of that gentleman, all the copies of the Rape of Chichester, except one hundred and twenty-five, and all those of the Rape of Arundel except sixty, had been destroyed by a fire at Messrs. Bensley's the printers. Mr. Cartwright however completed the original design, by writing the Rape of Bramber, which appeared in a lordly tome in 1830. He next undertook to edit the Rape of Arundel, from Dallaway's copy, and it appeared in 1832.

At the time of his death, which took place after a lingering illness in 1834, he was engaged in compiling a History of the Cathedral and City of Chichester, which was looked forward to with much interest by the public. He also contemplated a memoir of his father, and of his father's brother, the celebrated Major Cartwright, but he is believed to have made little or no progress in either of those works. Indeed, though possessing a large fund of ancient and modern literature, and a highly refined judgment and taste, he was of some­what indolent and procrastinating habits, and projected much more than he ever carried into execution. Socially he was much esteemed, and his great store of anecdote and fine conversational powers, rendered him a most agreeable companion.

His History of the Rape of Bramber, though more carefully executed than the volumes of Dallaway, partakes in some degree of the defects of that work, being often slight, hasty, and meagre. Still it is a valuable contribution to topographical literature and a becoming ornament to the libraries of Sussex.

[1] His stall was Hova Villa, in which he succeeded the Rev. J. Dallaway