Rev H W G Kenrick (1862 - 1943)

The Herbarium
The University of Hull
Cottingham Road
United Kingdom

by Richard Middleton, 2009

Specimen collected in Rome, 1901 The Rev H W G Kenrick is one of the largest contributors to the University of Hull Herbarium (HLU). His British material amounts to 676 specimens of vascular plants and, although now interleaved with the main collection, seems to represent his personal herbarium. It covers the period 1889 to 1939 but, perhaps surprisingly, contains no grasses or sedges and only a single rush.

In addition to the British material there is a small collection of plants collected on visits to Europe. These fall into three groups:

  • 1890 - 31 specimens - Carlsbad,Drachenfels,St Goar, etc.
  • 1895 - 8 specimens - Lugano, Bellagio, Cadenabbia.
  • 1901 - 6 souvenir specimens from Rome - Romulus' grave, etc.

A collection of plants made in Ootacamund, India, in the early 1880s is held at the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh (E). This has now been attributed to Kenrick and seems to be part of the material donated by Hull to Edinburgh (Noltie, H. 2007. pers. com.).


H W G Kenrick does not appear on the lists of known botanists (Desmond 1994) and these biographical notes have been pieced together from a number of sources. The main clues to his ecclesiastical connections were a Dandelion specimen collected from the "St John's vicarage, Hammersmith" in 1903 (HLU 11638) and the fact that only 5% of his specimens were collected on a Sunday!

Henry William Gordon Kenrick was born in India on 30th October 1862, the son of John Henry and Mary Eunice Kenrick. The Madras registers record his baptism in Ootacamund on 4th February 1863 and note that his father was a journalist. In the English census his place of birth is usually given as Bangalore. The Alumni Cantabrigiensis (Venn 1954) confirm that he was the son of J. H. Kenrick of Ootacamund which ties in well with the collection at E. Venn also records that he attended the Bishop Cotton College in Bangalore and a note in The Times for 5th November 1888 refers to "W. H. G. Kenrick, MA Madras" in a list of Cambridge University candidates for Holy Orders. In view of his age and qualifications it seems likely that he arrived in Britain from India between 1885 and 1888.

By coincidence, his first appointment as a curate in Britain was at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Hull, and it from this vice-county that his earliest plant in HLU was collected - a specimen of Potentilla anserina from Bridlington in June 1889. His stay in Hull was short 1888 - 1890 and he moved on to curacies in Cambridge, St Andrew-the-Less in 1891 and St Mary-the-Great 1892-3 (Venn 1954). He graduated with a BA from Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1893 after which time he was to spend the rest of his ministry in London. The botanical record of his Cambridge days only amounts to a hand-full of specimens including four from the River Cam in August 1891.

His first London appointment was to St Saviour's, Pimlico in 1893. A specimen of Persicaria maculosa collected from his "windowbox, 91B Grosvenor Road" in June 1894 may be from his lodging place. In August of 1894 he spent time botanising in South Hampshire (v.c.11), collecting seven specimens from King's Sombourne. The reason for this visit is may relate to the recent death of Rev. George David William Dickson (1822 - 1894), vicar of this parish, who's daughter he was soon to marry.

Early in 1895 Kenrick married Agnes Eliza Georgina Fox, the young widow of Solicitor Thomas Merritt Fox who had died in May 1892. Although little is yet known of Kenrick's earlier life, Agnes's family is better known and gives some insight to the social circles in which he was moving. Agnes was born in late 1861, the third child of the Rev George Dickson and his wife Eliza Bennett Dickson, née Hunt. Rev Dickson was the son of Sir David James Hamilton Dickson and was for many years the vicar of St James the Less, Westminster. Sir David Dickson was an eminent Naval surgeon, eventually becoming the Inspector of Hospitals and Fleets, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Linnaean Society. Agnes's mother's family were no less prominent, Eliza Bennett being the daughter of the eminent surveyor Sir Henry Arthur Hunt and Eliza Susannah (née Bennett?). Fashionable London houses and a retinue of staff seem to have been the norm.

Although there are a few specimens collected on his September trip to Lugano, Kenrick's British plant collecting was low-key in 1895, with only four specimens in the collection. However, the following seven years were to account for more than half of his total collection. Specimen labels show that on his move from Cambridge he resided at 91B Grosvenor Road but in 1898 he was appointed as curate at the Church of St John the Evangelist and moved to 46, The Grove. In May 1899 Kenrick's name appeared on the list for Masters of Art published by the University of Cambridge.

In 1898 his preserved specimens show that he spent the first three weeks of July in the Verwood area, collecting plants from Dorset and the New Forest. Later in the same month he made collections in Kent and Sussex. His 1899 collections indicate that he spent a four week period July/August in the Lake District with specimens covering a wide area from Furness in the south to Skidaw in the north. In 1900 he spent two weeks or so at the end of June in the southern Lake district and a further spell in the Verwood area at the end of September. Kenrick seems to have spent at least six weeks, including all of July, in the Lake District during 1902. 1903 was his most enthusiastic collecting year, with almost 150 specimens added to his collection - many from a month spent in Cornwall. There is a single specimen for 1904 but 25 or so for 1905 when he spent two weeks in Scotland around Braemar.

In June 1905 he became the vicar of Holy Trinity, Hoxton and moved to the vicarage in Shepherdess Walk, where he was to live for the next 42 years.

In 1908 the first edition of the English Missal was published by Knott & Co., London. Although his name does not seem to appear in any of the editions, Kenrick is generally regarded as the author/compiler (Venn, Stephenson). Kenrick seems to have been a prominent Anglo-catholic and his preachings were, to some, controversial. His Good Friday service of 1911 was interrupted by a group of Wickliffe preachers, headed by Mr J Kensit, who considered that Kenrick's "veneration of the Cross" was "idolatrous". A disturbance followed which led to the police being called, a report in the Times and an open exchange of letters between Kenrick and the Bishop of London. It is comforting to know that "Mr Mills, the organist, played throughout the disturbance". It is also of interest to note that , by the following year, the leader of this disturbance repented, apologised to the Archbishop for his "wickedness" and was hoping to prepare for the priesthood. Kenrick was obviously a "High Church" man and an unverified source suggests that the Tridentine Mass could be heard in Hoxton well into the 1930s. In 1928 Fr. Kenrick was also appointed as the Rural Dean of Shoreditch.

Henry Kenrick was closely associated with the shrine at Walsingham. In 1936 he led the first organised walking pilgrimage to the shrine (Anon 1958). Kenrick was also closely involved with the Sion College. Reports in The Times show that he was elected as Assistant to the Dean in 1931, Joint Dean in 1932 and by 1934 he was the College President. In 1935 both Kenrick and his wife were present at the funeral of Prebendary George Henry Perry, he as President of Sion College. In 1940 they were both present at the funeral of Mr Percy George Gales - Rev Kenrick "assisting".

His collecting became much more low-key after his appointment to Holy Trinity Hoxton and although a few specimens were added to the collection in most years, the number rarely reached double figures. These specimens, however, show that he continued to make frequent trips to the Lake District (1910, 1911, 1913, 1916, 1917, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1925, 1929, 1933 & 1937). Other areas visited include North Wales (1918, 1926), Worcestershire (1926), north west Yorkshire (1930), Scotland (1933, 1935), Cornwall (1936) and Jersey(1937).

On his retirement in 1937 he made his final move to 2, Highgate Avenue N6 . Five specimens from his garden at Highgate are preserved in the collection. His wife Agnes died suddenly on 5th April 1941 and after a Requiem at St Augustine's, Highgate, was buried at Finchley cemetery. Henry Kenrick lived for another two years and died on 5th of January 1943. On 9th January he too was buried in St. Pancras Cemetery, Finchley.

The last four specimens added to his collection were taken in Dawlish, Devon, in September 1938. The six decade period covered by Henry William Gordon Kenrick's collection clearly demonstrate his life-long interest in plants and the fact that he still considered it worth-while to preserve specimens from his garden when in his late 70s shows the pleasure that they must have afforded him throughout his life.

References & Sources

Anon. 1958. Our Lady's Mirror. Society of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Crockfords Clerical Directory 1865, 1937.

Census Returns for England 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 & 1901.

Desmond, R. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists. Taylor and Francis, London.

Embry, J. 1931. The Catholic Movement and the Society of the Holy Cross. The Faith Press. London.

Madras Baptisms: N/2/44/16.

Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths.

Stephenson, C. 1972. Merrily on High. Darton, Longman & Todd. London.

The Gentleman's Magazine March 1850.

Times Newspapers 1888 - 1943.

Venn, J. A., 1954. Alumni Cantabrigiensis. Cambridge University Press, London.