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Mr Beaufoy and Mr Hobler

Originally published in Gazette 290 (Summer 2007)

In 1905, soon after his appointment as Headmaster at CLS, Dr Arthur Chilton met Mr Mark Beaufoy, who lent him a set of letters concerning his uncle Henry Beaufoy’s gifts to CLS. Dr Chilton says he realised their importance from a first reading, and set them aside to return to later. In fact it was 17 years later, on the death of Mark Beaufoy in 1922, that he was prompted to transcribe and annotate the letters before returning them to Mark Beaufoy’s son. This was no small task; what we have now in the archive are carbon copies of typed transcripts of 144 letters, with a linking narrative and other supporting information, amounting to 134 pages. I wonder where the top copy went – perhaps to the Beaufoy family?
The Beaufoy family has a long and interesting history (see and ), and from the mid 18th century were prosperous vinegar brewers in Lambeth. Colonel Mark Beaufoy (1764-1827) was a brilliant man, who was elected FRS on the strength of his writings astronomy, navigation, hydrology and other scientific matters. He was also the first Englishman to climb Mont Blanc, in 1787. His son Henry Benjamin Hanbury Beaufoy (1786-1851) shared his scientific interests; he too was elected FRS, for his experiments on the rifling of gun barrels.
The first letter in the collection is from Henry Beaufoy’s solicitor, Francis Hobler. His father, also named Francis, had recently retired after forty years as Clerk to the Lord Mayor. It seems that our Francis thought it would be a good idea to keep the family name before the City authorities, perhaps with a view to gaining some official position. His means of doing this was to present a prize medal in memory of Mark Beaufoy to CLS, which, six years after its opening, was then beginning to make its academic reputation under the leadership of Dr George Mortimer.
Hobler explains this to Henry Beaufoy in this prime example of an oleaginous lawyer in full flow (Letter 1):
“26 Bucklerbury, 16 Dec. 1843
My dear Sir,
The many kindnesses received by me from your hands have impelled a desire of some grateful expression of the estimation in which I hold them. To you, all considerations which I could render seemed to me as mere trifles, but there is a Homage due to Honour and Virtue, which blended with intellectual attainments deifies man and causes him to be envied by his associates. Need I mention that I with pleasure refer to the researches and labours of your late amiable and highly respected Father, whose scientific calculations and productions have distinguished him as one of the chief luminaries of useful knowledge in his day.
An object so dignified has induced me to perpetuate his name and merits in a way that I thought would be agreeable to you.
The City of London School founded in consequence of an endowment by John Carpenter, Town Clerk of our great Metropolis in the reign of King Henry the fifth, has as a main feature in its course of education a Mathematical Class, and to that School I have presented a pair of Dies, for a silver prize medal to be hereafter distinctively called and known as “The Beaufoy Medal” to be annually awarded to the most successful [and] proficient of the Tyros in Mathematics. And, to blend Fame, Honour and Utility together, the design on the Obverse, when no pictorial resemblance of your Father was to be obtained, is a junction of the armorial insignia of the City of London and of your Family, with a shield bearing the device of John Carpenter, of whom no arms are known, as its munificent Founder. A specimen from the dies, struck as a unique, and in an especial manner, as an oblation to you, now presents itself before you, and I hope you will think with me, your Father’s Fame will not suffer by this momento of his past excellence and majesty of mind, - no discredit will be the result to you, nor disgrace attach itself to the mead of praise due to the labours of the artist, who has, as it appears to me, so ably performed his task in engraving the Dies. These, with the copy of your Father’s work you were pleased to present to me, bound in Russia Leather most elaborately and richly tooled, have been accepted by the Governors and Committee of the School, and are now their property. Copies of the medal in Bronze have also been deposited in the British Museum and Guildhall Library.
Worthy and excellent Sir, may I hope that I have your sanction in this attempt to render due Homage to your Father’s merits, as a trivial return for the many obligations I consider myself indebted to you, and may I further take the liberty of adopting the opportunity so favourably afforded me of unfeignedly expressing my desire to ever maintain your good opinion and esteem.
                                    I remain, my dear Sir,
                                       With the utmost regard
                                            Your very faithful and obedient servant
                                                            Fra. Hobler
H.Beaufoy Esq.”
Faced with this fait accompli Henry Beaufoy does not attempt to compete in length, though he comes close in eloquence (Letter 2):
South Lambeth, December 19 1843
“My Dear Mr Hobler
Your letter and the exquisitely beautiful Medal that accompanied it have deprived me of the power of conveying those feeling that pervade me, on witnessing so princely, so magnificent an instance of private liberality. I could say so much it becomes hopeless to attempt it: I must be content therefor[e] to assure you of my unfeigned gratitude for the greatest honour that a private citizen could have had conferred upon him. May Heaven prosper your intentions, may the fruits prove commensurate with the deserts of the Public School, that will ever henceforth be associated with your name and memory.
                        Believe me to be,
                            My dear Mr Hobler,
                            Most grateful, and sincerely yours
                                                Henry Beaufoy
Francis Hobler Esq.
Dr Chilton notes: on Letter 1 is written “Received Tuesday 19 December 1843, with a beautiful Gold Medal struck with the Dyes [sic] named in this letter.” “Answ. inscribed by Mr Hobler’s Mr Granger (?) (His own clerk) see copy annexed.” Letter 2 is from this copy which is very illegible. The book Hobler refers to is Nautical and Hydraulic Experiments with numerous Scientific Miscellanies by Colonel Mark Beaufoy F.R.S., printed and published June 1 1833 by Henry Beaufoy his son; in 1923 Dr Chilton said this was still in the school library, but a recent search (May 2007) has failed to find it, and it does not appear in the Guildhall Library catalogue. The inscriptions of the medal are, on the obverse, “Col. Mark Beaufoy, F.R.S. died IV May MDCCCXXXIV”, and on the reverse “Premium for Mathematical Proficiency. City of London School founded MDCCCXXXIV. Fra. Hobler donavit MDCCCXLIII”.
The gift of the Beaufoy Medal was to have significant consequences for the school, which had now been brought to Henry Beaufoy’s attention. The first indication of this is described in a report of the City of London School Committee to the Court of Common Council, 2 October 1844 (Document 3). After relating Mr Hobler’s gift of the medal the report continues:
“On the occasion of the first presentation of the Beaufoy Medal, which took place at the annual distribution of prizes, presided over by the Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor, on the 26th. July last, your Committee had the extreme gratification of being informed, by a public announcement then made by Mr Hobler, that Henry Benjamin Hanbury Beaufoy Esq. of South Lambeth, son of the late Col. Beaufoy, in testimony of his gratification at the respect shewn to the memory of his father, and from a desire to promote the object proposed by the before mentioned medal, and to encourage the study of mathematical science, with a view to the practical application thereof to the use and service of mankind, had authorised him to signify his intention of investing in the Public Funds in the name of certain Trustees, a sum of money sufficient to produce as dividends the yearly sum of £50, to be applied to the perpetual support of a Scholarship, to be called “the Beaufoy Scholarship”, to be established in connection with the City of London School, and to be enjoyed by pupils proceeding thence to the University of Cambridge.”
There follow financial and legal details of how this intention has been carried out, and then:
“The advantages which must result to the school from the acquisition of so valuable a gift and the stimulus which it will perpetually afford to the pupils to the study of practical as well as theoretical science, combine to render it one of incalculable importance. A peculiar interest must also ever attach to the endowment, from the manner in which it has been bestowed – springing as it does from the spontaneous liberality of a gentleman who has hitherto had not the slightest connection with the school or with the Corporation beyond that of being a citizen of London – and who in accomplishing an act of generosity rarely paralleled in an individual, has manifested a spirit of genuine philanthropy towards his fellow citizens which entitles him not only to their grateful thanks but also to their lasting respect and regard.”
Continuing in this vein, the report recommends placing a tablet “in a conspicuous part of the school” to commemorate the establishment of the Beaufoy Scholarship. The motion to receive this report was unanimously agreed to, and the city seal was set to the deed of trust. Then the Chairman of the School Committee, Warren S. Hale, proposed and the Court ordered that the thanks of the Court be ornamentally written and presented to Mr Beaufoy (the story of which will follow in the next issue).
The tablet was duly installed in the Milk Street school, and then moved to the Victoria Embankment building, where it remains on the wall outside the Great Hall. The inscription reads as follows:
of South Lambeth in the County of Surrey
Fellow of the Royal Society, Citizen and Distiller of London
by deed, dated xxxth December, mdcccxliv
vested in certain trustees the sum of
One thousand seven hundred and seventeen pounds stock
in the Three per cent Condolidated Bank Annuities
for the purpose of establishing
a scholarship of the value of Fifty pounds per annum
to be called
and to be enjoyed
by pupils of the City of London School
proceeding thence to the University of Cambridge.
This scholarship
is designed to encourage the study of
mathematical science
with an especial reference to its practical application
to the use and service of mankind,
and to be
in furtherance of the objects proposed by the institution of
the Beaufoy medal
a Prize annually given by the Committee of the School
in commemoration of the scientific attainments of the founder’s father,
the late Colonel Mark Beaufoy F.R.S.
the dies for which medal were presented by
Francis Hobler esquire of Walbrook, London

After this article appeared in the JCC Gazette No.270 (Summer 2007) Matthew Payne (CLS 1984-89), now Senior Archivist at the London Metropolitan Archives, told me of a collection of letters which were then in the Guildhall Library. These turned out to be the originals of the Beaufoy correspondence; they had been deposited there by Dr Chilton shortly before his death in 1947. They, together with much other archival material relating to the school, have now been transferred from Guildhall to the LMA. These manuscripts reveal how it is that, unusually, both sides of the correspondence have survived: when Beaufoy received a letter he drafted his response between the lines of the original and in the margins, usually in purple ink. Having deciphered just a sample of his minute handwriting I am full of admiration for Dr Chilton’s perseverance in transcribing the whole story.