Henry Godwin

Author: Julie Goddard
Date published: 04/04/2021


At the death of Henry Godwin on June 19th 1874, at his residence The Lawn on Speen Hill, Newbury lost an eminent and valuable citizen.

Mr. Godwin was born in 1811 in Bath, though his antecedents were of Wiltshire stock. He began practising as a solicitor in 1833 in Southampton, but in 1837 he moved to and settled in Newbury, having offices in the Market Place and later Northbrook Street. His worth was recognised when he was appointed Clerk to the Magistrates. Though by profession a solicitor, Mr Godwin's private interests were literary and historical and as early as 1841 he became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. Early in his career he wrote a three volume historical novel entitled "Stonehenge, or the Romans in Britain." Also two volumes of poetry, which his contemporaries did not judge to be of high value, but were interesting; one contained hymns and the second recorded some religious thoughts, including some which had been translated from Greek and German. In fact Mr. Godwin was fluent in several languages and as well as the ones previously stated, he read Spanish and French.  Other works from his hand were the second volume of Transactions of the Newbury Field Club containing works on Donnington Castle and the History of Welford. His "The Worthies of Newbury" was read to the British Archaeological Association when it met at Newbury in 1859.

His interest in history and Newbury involved in his becoming a founder member the Newbury Field Club and a Vice President of the Literary Institution for many years. The parish church benefited greatly from his interest when it need of extensive restoration. In particular the east window received his financial interest.

Mr Godwin was a great supporter of the plans to create a cemetery to relieve the overused church graveyards, which were causing health hazards in the centre of town. A site on Newtown road was identified and decided upon. Mr Godwin was a keen supporter of the two chapels — one for members of the Church of England and the other for Non-conformists. He died in 1874 after a seven month illness and he was buried in the cemetery in a grave opposite the door of the Church of England chapel. His family proposed and financed the stained glass window there in his memory.

He married Martha (maiden name probably Burke) of Bray around 1835 before coming to Newbury. A family soon began to arrive; Henry Burke Godwin in 1836, Laura Adele in 1838, John Charles in 1840, Charlotte Ellen in 1842 and Caroline Elizabeth in 1846.

Besides Mr Godwin being buried in the cemetery, his wife joined him in the family vault in 1905, where his daughter Laura Adele had been buried in 1868 and his son John Charles in 1898.

Sources: as above

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