Rev Robert Francis Willis

Born 18 September 1834 at Cambridge, eldest son of Professor Robert Willis, and baptised 9 July 1835 at St Andrew the Great. Educated at Marlborough College February 1848 - Easter 1850, and then King William's College on the Isle of Man March 1850 - Midsummer 1853 (there in the 1851 census) and Caius College, Cambridge (B.A. 1858; M.A. 1862). Ordained deacon 1860 and priest 1861. Curate of Bradpole, Dorset, 1860-1864; Hornchurch, Essex, 1864-65; Romford, Essex, 1865-66; North Perrott, Somerset, 1866-74; Crewkerne, 1874-1881; Middle Chinnock 1881-85. Perpetual Curate of Chillington, 1874-85; Vicar of Chillington with Cudworth 1885-1904 (Alumni Cantab).

CHILLINGTON-CUM-CUDWORTH. Enthusiastic Reception of the Vicar.—It having been intimated to the parishioners that the Rev. R. F. Willis, who for the last three years has been resident at Seavington, was about to live in the restored Vicarage at Cudworth, they determined to give him a hearty welcome on his arrival. Both villages were en fête for the occasion, and the bells chimed out their merry notes long before the hour fixed for his coming. At the entrance to the village a beautiful floral arch, the work of the Misses Dunell, was erected, bearing the inscription "Welcome to Cudworth." Opposite the church was another, decorated by Mrs. Miller and Miss Watkins, on which were the words " Health, Happiness, and Prosperity." On an arch over the entrance to the Vicarage was the motto "Unity, Peace, and Long Life." Mrs. Wyatt, Mrs. White, and others kindly assisted in the decorations. At Cross Tree large numbers of parishioners and friends assembled, and on the appearance of the Vicar and Mrs. and the Misses Willis they were received with loud and hearty cheers. After a short delay the horses were unharnessed and the carriage pulled to the Vicarage by sturdy men amidst enthusiastic applause. Mr. Willis, who is greatly beloved by his parishioners, is the first incumbent of the parish who has resided in the Vicarage for more than one hundred years, the house, which was in most dilapidated state, having been nicely restored at his sole expense by Messrs. Vaux & Ash, builders, Seavington. Western Gazette, Friday 11 October 1889, p7

Died at Cudworth 5 June 1901, and buried there on the 8th:

CLERGYMAN'S FATAL FALL – REV. R. F. WILLIS, VICAR OF CUDWORTH. – News of the death of the Vicar, the Rev. Robert Francis Willis, which occurred on Wednesday morning as the result of a fall, created a very painful sensation throughout the district. It would seem that whilst the rev. Gentleman was in the act of going upstairs on Tuesday evening he, from some cause or another, missed his footing, and fell to the bottom of the flight. He was rendered insensible, and sustained such severe injuries to his head in the fall that he never regained consciousness, and death supervened the following morning between seven and eight o'clock. The deceased gentleman was of a very charitable and kindly disposition, and was deservedly respected and esteemed by all who knew him. He obtained his B. A. degree at Cambridge in 1858, and was made M. A. 4 years later. In 1860 he was ordained deacon, and in the following year priest. He was curate of Bradpole, Dorset, from 1860-1864, of Hornchurch, Essex, 1864-5, of Romford, Essex, 1865-66, of North Perrott, 1866-74, and of Crewkerne,1874-81. In 1874 he was appointed perpetual curate of Chillington, and held the post until 1885, and he was curate of Middle Chinnock from 1881-85. In the latter year he was instituted as Vicar of Chillington-with-Cudworth, of which the Bishop of Bath and Wells is patron. The gross income of the living is returned at £248, and net £243 with house. The parishioners number just under 300 – An inquest will probably be held. Western Gazette, Friday 7 June 1901, p7

Married at Netherbury, Dorset, on 30 October 1866, to Christiana Charlotte Keddle. She was born at Bridport, Dorset, in about 1837, daughter of Shering Keddle, a solicitor. Baptised at Bridport 22 July 1837, and buried at Cudworth 9 March 1900.

Dearest & best of wives, & Mother - never can be forgotten. Waiting in patient hope until we are reunited. R. J. W. Written by her husband in the margin of the burial register.

Issue one son and two daughters:

  1. Robert Willis, born about 1868 at Netherbury in Dorset.

  2. Marianne Humfrey Willis, born about 1871 at North Perrott, Somerset, baptised there 30 April 1871, and died 8 December 1952 at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge. Married at St. Paul's, Cambridge, on 25 August 1903 to her cousin, Ernest George Besant, son of Margaret Elizabeth Willis and William Henry Besant. He was born 2 February 1876, and died 4 February 1949 in Cambridge.

  3. Margaret Emily Christine (Cherry) Willis, born at Crewkerne 1 September 1879, baptised at Chillington 28 September 1879, and died in 1972. Married at Cambridge 16 April 1907 to Frederick William Lyons:

    CUDWORTH. Marriage of Mr. F. W. Lyons and Miss C. Willis .—On Tuesday at St. Paul’s Church, Cambridge, by the Rev. F. Besant (vicar of Sibsey, Lincolnshire), assisted by the Rev. Dr. Stokes, D. D., vicar of the parish,the marriage was solemnised between Mr. Frederick William Lyons, of the Imperial Maritime Customs, China, third son of the late Mr. F. W. Lyons, of Warrenpoint, Newry, and Miss Margaret Emily Christine Willis (Cherry), youngest daughter of the late Rev. Robert Willis (vicar of Cudworth and Chillington). The bride, who was attired in a travelling dress of light French grey cloth, trimmed lace, wore a picture Leghorn hat trimmed with lilies of the valley and pale blue ribbon, carried a shower bouquet of ferns and lilies of the valley, the gift of the bridegroom, was given away by her brother, Mr. Robert Willis, H.M.'s Consul of Hang Chou, China. Miss Eva Martin (cousin of the bride) attended as bridesmaid. She wore a blue voile dress with hat to match, and carried a shower bouquet of roses. She also wore gold chain bracelet, the gift of the bridegroom. Mr. B. D. Bruce, of Edinburgh, acted as “best man.” After the ceremony the Organist played Mendelssohn’s Wedding March,” and the guests were invited to the house of Dr. and Mrs. Besant (uncle and aunt of the bride), where luncheon was provided. Unfortunately, owing to a severe attack of bronchitis, Dr. Besant himself was unable to be present at the ceremony. The bride received some useful and handsome presents. Mr. and Mrs. F. W. Lyons left Cambridge in the afternoon for London en route for Switzerland. Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser, Wednesday 17 April 1907, p5