The Reverend John Cayzer’s volume of Scott’s Bible

Black and white etching of Reverend John Cayzer
Rev John Cayzer

On the 1st January 1841, the congregation of the church at Shalom Chapel, Oval, Hackney presented their minister the Reverend John Cayzer, with a six-volume commentary on the Bible, written by the Reverend Thomas Scott in the late eighteenth century, and still popular over fifty years later.  The first of the six weighty leather-bound volumes was stamped with a gilded dedication “as a memorial of their esteem and affection” from the parishioners, and ended with a reference to a quotation from 1 Thessalonians (ch. 5 v.12-13: And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves).

In 1978, “A Victorian Shipowner” [1] a privately printed company history covering the life and work of company founder Sir Charles Cayzer, referenced the Reverend Cayzer’s Scott’s Bible, identifiable by its distinctive cover inscription and “still…in the family”.  However, there was no indication of where in the family it was, or from whom the authors had received this information.  The answer arrived unexpectedly in June 2014, when one of the trustees of The Cayzer Family Archive received an email from a Mrs Womersley in South Africa.  Mrs Womersley’s husband had come across the first volume of Scott’s Bible among the effects of his late father, Bob Womersley.  After more than thirty years the volume had resurfaced at last, but how had it got from Hackney in 1841 to South Africa in 2014?

The Reverend John Cayzer made his will in 1852, dividing his small estate between his four surviving adult children.  There was no money to speak of, but among the specific bequests, each child was allotted books from the Reverend’s library, according to their interests.  “Scott’s Bible 6 vol: quarto Which I wish to be kept in the Family as it was given me by the Church” was specifically bequeathed to the elder of the two sons, John Tyack Cayzer, who shared his father’s religious leanings.  (By contrast, the younger son, Charles William Cayzer(1), less pious by inclination, and a schoolmaster by profession, received two dictionaries and a 23-volume encyclopaedia).

Scott’s Bible duly came into John Tyack’s possession when his father died in 1853.  In later life John and his wife Sarah moved in with their daughter Charlotte Womersley and her husband Pelham, no doubt bringing with them the half-dozen volumes of Scott’s Bible among their worldly possessions.  After Charlotte’s death in December 1881, John and Sarah moved to the home of another daughter, Jane Wedd.  There Sarah died in 1882, and John moved once more, to live with his eldest son, John Stollery Cayzer, where he settled permanently until his death in 1899.

Colour photograph of Scott's Bible at The Cayzer Family Archive
Scott’s Bible

While John Tyack made these peregrinations in the 1880s, his nephew Charles William Cayzer(2), the son of John’s younger brother Charles William Cayzer(1), spent the same decade expanding his Clan Line freight-shipping business, in trade firstly with India, and secondly with South Africa.  Looking around the wider Cayzer family for relatives to join the business, Charles considered the five Womersley boys, the sons of his favourite cousin Charlotte, now deceased.  Charles had been close to Charlotte, and was fond of her husband Pelham; their sons could certainly be given a helping hand. The oldest son emigrated to the USA, but the other four boys would all at one time or another work for Charles’ management company, Cayzer, Irvine & Co.  The youngest son, John Samuel “Sam” Womersley was the first to join Cayzer, Irvine in London straight from school in 1885, moving quickly to the head office in Glasgow.  Offered the opportunity to open a Clan Line agency “Palmer, Womersley & Co” in partnership with a Captain Palmer, in Port Elizabeth, Sam seized it immediately, and arrived in South Africa in early 1890, aged barely 22.  In later years the three middle Womersley brothers followed Sam to South Africa; one to join the Port Elizabeth office, one as manager of the East London branch of Palmer, Womersley, and one, having worked for Cayzer, Irvine in the UK, to try his luck as a diamond prospector.

Aged almost 50, Sam Womersley married in 1917.  He and his wife had three sons, of whom the youngest, Henry Robert “Bob” Womersley would join the Port Elizabeth branch of Palmer, Womersley in 1946, as soon as he was demobbed at the end of The Second World War.  He worked in the office alongside his father and uncle, Sam and Ted, and Ted’s son, Keith.  Palmer, Womersley continued to represent Clan Line interests in Port Elizabeth until 1971.

When Bob Womersley died in 2009, Volume I of Scott’s Bible, sole survivor of the original six-volume set, and now in rather poor condition turned up amongst his possessions.  His daughter-in-law had the leather binding restored by a bookbinder.  Then, intrigued by the inscription, she began some on-line research into the Reverend Cayzer, and contacted The Cayzer Family Archive.

Here then was the same volume whose cover inscription had been quoted in “A Victorian Shipowner”; it had been Bob Womersley who had been in communication with Cayzer House and the authors in the 1970s.  Sam Womersley’s move to South Africa in 1890 to work for Cayzer, Irvine had ensured that the family relationship between the descendants of the Reverend John Cayzer’s two sons would endure, as indeed it does to the present day.  And it is possible that Sam was given the volume (or indeed, perhaps the entire set of volumes) by his grandfather, John Tyack Cayzer.

From Sam, the book(s) passed to his youngest son, Bob; and on Bob’s death, the sole surviving volume came into the possession of his own son.  Astonishingly, if Scott’s Bible was passed by John Tyack directly to Sam Womersley, then (including the Reverend John Cayzer himself) this volume has only been in the possession of five members of the Cayzer family across six generations.

The present-day descendants of Sam Womersley felt that this surviving volume, interesting and historic as it is, would be better served by returning it to England, and donating it to The Cayzer Family Archive.  It now has the distinction of being the oldest item in The Cayzer Family Archive; and is as remarkable for its survival and safe arrival back in England, as for its association with the Reverend John Cayzer.  And the Reverend would surely approve the fact that more than 160 years after his death, and as per his wish, the surviving volume is still “kept in the Family”.

[1] Muir, Augustus, and Mair Davies  A Victorian Ship Owner (Cayzer, Irvine & Co Ltd, 1978)