Willingham Franklin Rawnsley, the elder brother of Hardwicke, and the assiduous family genealogist, opens his account of the family history in his Rawnsley Records:

In those early days of childhood when one takes nearly everything for granted we used to have a notion that our name was a rather superior one because it was unlike anyone else’s and anyone of the name was surely to be a relation.

Legend has it that the Rawnsleys were originally Protestant Huguenot refugees from northern France, driven out during the wars of religion, but this story is completely unsubstantiated. Another persistent story, again without foundation, is that the family had a coat of arms, boasting three eagles displayed, which gave rise to a suggestion that the family came originally from Prussia.

Be that as it may, by the early 18th century we move from legend and fancy to recorded history. Whatever their origins, the Rawnsleys were established in Yorkshire in the flourishing wool trade by the early 18th century. And Hardwicke's undisputed line begins with William Rawnsley, who was born in 1715. William, described variously as 'wool-comber and stapler', whatever his origins may have been, became a prosperous merchant and a member of the new bourgeoisie spawned by the industrial revolution. He evidently had a substantial house in Bradford with, according to General Richard Burn Rawnsley, his grandson, a coat of arms over the fireplace, which the General remembered seeing as a child.

It is with William Rawnsley's son Thomas, born in Bradford in 1755, the great-grandfather of Hardwicke, that our story really begins. Thomas moved from Yorkshire to Lincolnshire as a young man, marrying Deborah Hardwicke of Bourne in 1784, when he was 29 years of age, and she a year older. They had 12 children, six of whom died in infancy. The Stamford Mercury refers to Thomas Rawnsley at various times as a 'gamekeeper' for different Lincolnshire estates and by 1811 he seems to have gone into partnership with his father-in-law as farmer and grazier. As his descendants were to continue to be, he was a public-spirited man, involving himself in a variety of activities in the common weal.

In 1821 he served on a Crown Court Grand Jury and by 1822 his ascension to the ranks of the landed gentry was completed by his appointment as Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Lincoln. His substantial residence, Cavalry House in South Street, Bourne, still stands today, as evidence that with the upwardly mobile Thomas, the Rawnsleys had become 'carriage folk'. Thomas died in August 1826, his wife having pre-deceased him in 1808, no doubt worn out with bearing 12 children in 24 years. Thomas and Deborah are remembered with memorial plaques in the parish church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Bourne.

Thomas Rawnsley's eldest surviving son Charles, born in 1786, and educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, joined the Bengal Native Infantry, and died unmarried at Fatehgarh in the Punjab on 11th July 1811. Joseph Hefford, a younger son, baptised 6 August 1793, is recorded as having served at the Admiralty at Somerset House for more or less the whole of his working life, dying at the age of 64 in 1859.

By 1819 Thomas is listed as having an estate in Outwell, in the Isle of Ely and Norfolk, where his daughter Elizabeth, one of only two of his six daughters to survive infancy, had married the Rector, her cousin William Hardwicke. She died after a 'severe and lingering illness' in June 1826. The only information we have about the other surviving daughter Harriet, baptised 10 May 1795, is that she married a Mr. Edward Day, described as a druggist, of High Street, Birmingham.

Thomas Hardwicke, Thomas Rawnsley’s second son, and grandfather of Hardwicke, was born in 1789. He was a King's Scholar at Eton, and Reynold's Scholar at Exeter College, Oxford, before taking Holy Orders. He was ordained Deacon at Norwich Cathedral on 20th December 1812 and Priest the following year. Baroness Willoughby d'Eresby and her son Baron Gwydir, Patrons of the livings of Belleau-with-Aby and Spilsby in Lincolnshire, presented Thomas Hardwicke to these benefices in 1813. The following year he was appointed Domestic Chaplain to Lady Willoughby d'Eresby. In 1814 following the death of the incumbent, he was offered the Rectory of Folkingham, near Bourne by Sir G. Heathcote, Bart.

The following November, Thomas Hardwicke married Sophia Walls of Boothby Hall, Lincolnshire, and their first son, Edward, was born on 3rd October 1816. A second son, born in 1817, was diplomatically named Drummond after Peter Drummond-Burrell, Lord Gwydir, his patron, to whom Thomas Hardwicke was also appointed Domestic Chaplain. A daughter, Sophia, followed on 27th October 1818.

In addition to his ecclesiastical duties, Thomas Hardwicke, like his father before him, took an important part in local affairs, being a Justice of the Peace, Chairman of the Spilsby Savings Bank, and Chaplain to a Friendly Society associated with Spilsby. He also gave generously to various good causes, and was instrumental in the setting up of a local Association for the Saving of Lives from Shipwreck, and chaired the Lincolnshire Life Boat Association among others.

In 1825 Thomas Hardwicke's tenure of the cure of souls at Spilsby came to an end when he moved to become the Rector of the neighbouring parish of Halton Holgate. Care for the poor and indigent was traditionally a concern of the Church, and for many years, almost until his death in 1861, Thomas Hardwicke acted as a vice-Chairman of the Spilsby Poor Law Union.

By April 1861 Thomas Hardwicke’s health was failing and he felt obliged to resign his post with the Spilsby Union, one which he had filled since its inception in 1837. He died later that year. Willingham recalled that his grandfather:

was the most loveable of men, who drove over from Normanton in a dogcart one wet day to see me when a very small boy at Uppingham School, and whom we used to see once or twice a year at Shiplake and at Halton, from our earliest days till I was a lad of sixteen. My short Easter holidays of about a week were spent at Halton more than once and never were holidays more enjoyable.

Edward Rawnsley, Hardwicke's uncle, born in 1816, was educated at Eton and Brasenose College, Oxford. He was ordained in 1840, and in 1848 married Mary Jeanette, widow of the Rev. George Kennard. The following year he was presented to the living of Hundleby near Spilsby, of which the Patron was once again Lord Willoughby d'Eresby.

Robert Drummond Burrell Rawnsley, the second son of Thomas Hardwicke and the father of Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley, did not go to Eton, but was educated at Rugby School under the famous Dr. Arnold. He subsequently won a Hulme Foundation Exhibition to Brasenose College, Oxford, being also elected a Demie and later a Fellow of Magdalen College, where however in the Finals of 1840, he only scraped a Third in Literis Humananioribus. He was ordained Deacon at Lincoln Cathedral on 14th March 1841 and Priest the following year, and a few months later married Catherine Ann Franklin, the only surviving daughter of Sir Willingham Franklin. Drummond's brother Edward conducted the marriage ceremony at Horncastle, and Drummond immediately took up his first living, at Little Hadham in Hertfordshire. Here the first three of his ten children were born.

Catherine Ann’s family, the Franklins, had become established in Lincolnshire at about the same time as the Rawnsleys in the 18th century. We first hear of them when Willingham Franklin Sr. (1739-1824) opened a shop in Spilsby. After his marriage to Hannah Weekes, the daughter of a substantial farmer, he opened a bank, which, however, was to fail a short time later.

Twelve children were born over the shop, of whom two at least were to make a name for themselves in the world. The second son, Willingham (1780-1824), Catherine Anna’s father, made a career in the judiciary, became a judge in the High Court of Madras, and was given a knighthood. Sir Willingham and his wife, Catherine Elizabeth, both died within a few weeks of each other in India during an epidemic of cholera. The youngest son, John (1786-1847), joined the Royal Navy, serving as a midshipman at Copenhagen and Trafalgar, two of the most famous battles in the history of the Service. He made a number of expeditions to the Arctic overland and by sea; was awarded a knighthood for his services to exploration; became Governor of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) when it was a penal colony, and was finally to lead the ill-fated expedition in search of the North-West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, in the course of which he and the crews of both his ships, the Erebus and Terror, perished in the ice.

The Tennysons were likewise a Lincolnshire family of some standing, and great friends of the Rawnsleys even before the families were linked by marriage. Dr. George Clayton Tennyson, who it seems went into the Church with some reluctance, was Rector of St. Margaret's Church, Somersby, and the neighbouring parish of Bag Enderby. A man of uncertain temper, he suffered from severe depression and epilepsy. He was a good friend of Thomas Hardwicke Rawnsley, and their children were often together.

Dr Tennyson's third surviving son, Alfred, who was to become Poet Laureate, was as a child terrified of his father, and always feared that the latter's mental instability would be inherited by his own children. Alfred became in turn a good friend and confidant of Drummond Rawnsley and his wife, and he and his brother Charles Tennyson Turner were to become major influences on Hardwicke in later life.

In 1849 Robert Drummond Burrell Rawnsley accepted the living of St. Peter & St. Paul, Shiplake-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. Hitherto a rather sleepy little village, Shiplake came to public attention the following year with the long-delayed marriage of the future Poet Laureate Alfred Tennyson to Emily Sellwood, a first cousin of Drummond's wife, Catherine Ann, on the Franklin side.

A year after the Tennyson marriage, Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley and his twin sister Frances Anna were born at the Vicarage in Shiplake, on 28th September 1851, therefore missing all the excitement of the Tennyson wedding, in which they were only able to share in retrospect.

 Next: Early Years