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BAMPFYLDE MOORE CAREW

 

From the Western Antiquary, 1887:

A letter from George Townsend, a well-known Exeter artist

Bampfylde Moore Carew, King of the Beggars

 

Robert Goadby, a printer of Sherborne in Dorsetshire, who died in 1778, was the author of the Life of Bampfylde Moore Carew. His "new edition corrected and improved" of 1812, contains an engraved portrait of Carew, a vignette in the title-page, and two full-page illustrations in octavo, from designs by Craig, the well-known illustrator of popular books of his time.

 

Goadby opens the life of this notorious character thus:

"Mr. Bampfylde Moore Carew was descended from the ancient family of the Carews, son of the Reverend Mr. Theodore Carew of the parish of Bickleigh near Tiverton, in the County of Devon; of which parish he was many years a rector very much esteemed while living, and at his death, universally lamented. Mr. Carew was born in the month of July 1693, and never was there known a more splendid appearance of gentlemen and ladies of the first rank and quality at any baptism in the West of England than at his: the Honourable Hugh Bampfylde Esq. who afterwards died of an unfortunate fall from his horse, and the Honourable Major Moore were both his illustrious godfathers, both of whose names he bears.

 

The Reverend Mr. Carew had a numerous family all of whom he educated in a tender and pious manner; and at the age of twelve, our hero was sent to Tiverton School, where he gave promise of future service in some honourable profession. The young men at Blundell's (i.e. Tiverton School) at this period were much addicted to field sports, and maintained for their pastime a pack of hounds, Carew being a sort of leader in these diversions. As was not unusual in such cases, the hunting expeditions brought upon the young sportsmen complaints from the neighbouring farmers of injury to land and crops. On one occasion, a deer was chased and the farmers laid heavy complaints to the master of the school. On enquiry being instituted, Carew and his companions were so severely threatened, that, for fear, they absented themselves from school. This was the turning point in Carew's career, for, happening to fall into the company of some gipsies, he became so pleased with their mode of life that he abandoned the school and his friends.

 

His exploits in this new course of life were wonderful. He has imposed upon the same company three or four times a day, under different disguises and with a different tale of distress. Sometimes a distressed clergyman, now a ship-wrecked sailor, a footman, an old woman, and so forth, as occasion dictated. He was a man of strong memory and pleasant address, and could assume the manners of a gentleman with as much ease as those of any other character. At the decline of the old King of the Beggars, one Clause Patch, Carew was elected as their King and remained faithful to them to the last after a service of forty years.

 

We see in the career of this man a melancholy instance of misused talent, an exhibition of a living lie, and we may have a charitable hope that he repented of his evil life, as is suggested in the conclusion of of his "Life" by Keys of Devonport, who says that, having been promised help by Sir Thomas Carew of Haccombe, on retiring from mendicant life, the reflection of the past "so continuously wrought upon him that they occasioned a severe bodily illness, on recovering from which he voluntarily yielded his regal authority. He died 6 July 1759, in the 66th year of his age, and the50th of his travels. His wife died before him. His daughter survived both and was married to a gentleman of rank".

Rose Cottage, Bickleigh
Rose Cottage, Bickleigh

Believed to be the death-place of Bampfylde Moore Carew

Sketched by George Townsend c. 1887

 

 
 
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