Parson Hawker of Morwenstow

For forty years, writes D.M. Hopkinson, the eccentric Vicar of a remote parish in Cornwall led a richly combative life both in High Church politics and in literature.

In 1834, a new vicar was inducted to a large but sparsely populated parish in north Cornwall; ‘this wretched hamlet of Morwenstow’, ran the entry in Murray’s Guide. For forty years he held the care of souls in that remote and formidable place; and meanwhile he achieved some fame as a poet, admired by Tennyson, Longfellow, and others.

It seems astonishing, therefore, that, at his death in 1875, he should have been described by the Church Times as a ‘blasphemous rogue and scoundrel’. The Reverend Robert Stephen Hawker, whatever offence he gave to the editor, was perhaps the most memorable of nineteenth-century West Country clergymen.

Although he did not visit London until he was over sixty, he achieved a nation-wide reputation both in church and literary circles. But his writing and his distinctive quality as a man and a priest have particularly strong associations with the awe-inspiring coastal scenery between Bude and Hartland.

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