Charles Snape MD and his family

Charles Snape, who lived in Morchard Bishop for about ten years from 1866, was born in Chester in about 1812. His father James (b 1769) died when Charles was six years old. His mother, Sarah (1755-1853), was the daughter of William Davies of Marrington Hall in Shropshire. 


His parents owned a brewery in Chester. Charles had four brothers, all of whom sought their fortune abroad. Philip and James emigrated to Australia in 1837-8. Both became Police Magistrates.


His elder brother Thomas William became a solicitor and Clerk of the Peace in Chester before running up gambling debts. In 1837 he married an elderly (presumed wealthy) widow (a Mrs Isabella Castles) in Dublin, but on establishing that her wealth was greatly exaggerated they parted. He was imprisoned for debt in 1841 and 1842 and was sacked. About that time he had an affair with Elizabeth (Bessey) Strickland Standish (b 1800) - from a leading and most ancient Lancashire family - by whom he had two daughters. In 1848 at the Old Bailey he was found guilty of offering to accept a bribe when working as a junior clerk in the City of London Remembrancer's Office. He lost that job and spent a month in Newgate Gaol. In 1854 he married (claiming he was now a widower and under his assumed name of Edward Sedgley) Eliza Sarah Handley (b 1819) who described him as "a gentleman in every sense of the word, when sober." Within a week they too set off for Australia. He didn't succeed as a solicitor there, went bankrupt and died in 1862 aged 50.


Charles Snape's wife was Agnes Taylor, the widow of a Captain in the Honorable East India Company. They married in 1848. She already had five daughters and together she and Charles had five more children. In 1862 he left his family for over a year and visited his brothers and seeking work in Australia. He worked as a doctor in New South Wales but could not find a permanent position and did not like the climate so returned to England and settled in Morchard Bishop. Of his children, Emily Lucy (b 1855), married Dr William John Chichele Nourse who also worked in Morchard Bishop and Bow.

His son Charles (b 1851) married Margaret Anderson in 1881. She found a compromising letter to him from their servant Annie Pigeon (b Torquay 1879). They separated and then he sent Margaret to Nova Scotia with their children, giving her £5 as they departed from Liverpool docks. They divorced in 1903, a newspaper report claiming "No meaner story of the methods of a wrong-doing husband ever came before the Divorce Court than the undefended action of Snape v. Snape". Then Charles and young Annie emigrated to Jamaica, with their son Charles Edward, born in 1902.


In about 1875 Dr Charles Snape retired to Wiveliscombe, Somerset, where he died aged 83 in 1896.

The archives of the Price-Davies family of Marrington have been preserved and include correspondence from and about Charles Snape, particularly during his medical training, including a later letter written when he visited his brothers in Australia in 1863. Rev Richard John Davies, Rector of Aberhafesp in Montgomeryshire from 1827 was Charles's uncle, being married to his mother's brother. He was an executor and trustee of Charles's father's will.

18 Jan 1835 448/620 A Letter to Rev. R. J. Davies from his nephew Charles Snape. Since he last wrote he is sorry to say that the reasons which he then expressed for remaining in Manchester have not been realised so it is folly to lose any further time there. His chief reason for remaining was the study of anatomy but owing to the ineffective state of the Anatomy Bill, there has become a complete dearth of subjects. Out of a class 93 students there have been only 6 subjects divided between them since October. They must be well grounded in Anatomy in order to pass their exams in London, and his only alternative is to go to London immediately. He therefore wishes to put himself again under Mr. Partridge where he will have every facility and advantage. The very circumstance of his name being connected with that of Partidge may be of advantage to him in after life and a recommendation in practice. Mr. Whalton one of the surgeons and Mr. Beever the House Surgeon at the Infirmary strongly recommend it, but he does not intend to do it without his uncle's consent. It will not in the end make more than a difference of £30 or £40 which will have to be made in the finishing of his education. He is aware that when he has finished he will scarcely be worth a shilling but he will have the satisfaction of feeling that he possesses a full knowledge of his profession. He feels confident that after he has passed his examination he will be able to make his way through life and practice with credit to himself. He was in Chester 3 weeks ago and drew from Mr. J. Bagnall £40 £25 of which he paid for bills, and the remainder after deducting £5 for books he still has. He hopes he will give as early an attention to this as will be convenient.

3 Feb 1835 448/621 Letter from Sarah Snape to the Rev. R. J. Davies Charles arrived in Chester at 5 o'clock on the previous evening. He gave her his note which told of his intention of leaving Manchester and placing himself under Mr. Partridge of King's College and she hopes he will complete his education as a medical practitioner and be found sure and steady at his post. She and his sisters think he will persevere and make friends who will introduce him into practice. There is a sum of money £200 which will be required to make a completion of all his studies and will the Rev. Davies advance that sum from her money which is in her possession. Charles left at 8 a.m. for Manchester. He talks of being in London at the latter end of the week...

6 Feb 1835 448/622 Letter from Charles Snape to his uncle the Rev. R.J. Davies. Mr. Beever only received a letter from Mr. Partridge that evening which accounts for the delay in writing. Unfortunately Mr. Partridge has no vacancy for a pupil until next May. He will therefore have to go into lodgings for a period and so shall not be in any immediate want of so large a sum of money. Charles leaves the next morning to stay with the Newbolds at Macclesfield until Tuesday. He then goes to London arriving on Wednesday, and will then look out for lodgings. It will be desirable for him to enter the hospital immediately and also the lectures and this will amount to the sum of £40 so would Davies send him a cheque for £50 to him at Mr. Partridges 8 Lancaster Place, Waterloo Bridge and Charles will not trouble him again till May.

8 May 1835 448/624 Letter from Charles Snape to his uncle the Rev. R.J. Davies. Since he last wrote he has altered his plan of study. When he left Manchester his friends regretted his departure and all hoped that he would eventually settle amongst them. As he is rather attached to the place too he hopes to try and obtain some public appointment there which will be a recommendation to him insubsequent practice. He has in view the house surgeoncy at the work house which will be vacant on 12 October and the salary is £100 with board and lodging. He may possess sufficient interest in order to stand a fair chance of success. In addition to being members of the College of Surgeons, candidates are required to be members of the Apothecaries' Hall for which he has been reading since his arrival in London and it is his intention to offer himself for examination towards the latter end of July. He looks forward with some apprehension as to his success but even if he does fail he will have the satisfaction of thinking that he did not offer himself for examination before he was ready for it. It will be October before he can go to Mr. Partridge now so he will not be in want of so large a sum as anticipated. He would be obliged for £50 at his earliest convenience. His direction will be 14 Ely Place, Hatton Gardens, Holborn.

19 May 1835 448/625 Letter from Charles Snape to his Uncle Rev. R. J. Davies. He acknowledges his uncles kind letter and draft for £50. Because of the alteration in his views he will be detained in London 3 or 4 months longer than expected. The appointment if he is so fortunate as to obtain it will not permit him to have a private practice as the services of the house Surgeon are entirely devoted to those patients placed under his care by the guardians of the poor. There will then be no advantage in going to M/C before the vacancy occurs for he could not expect to do anything which would remunerate him...

15 Sep 1835 448/626 Letter from Charles Snape to his uncle the Rev.R.J. Snape. He expects his uncle will have been expecting to hear that he had gone up for his examination last month. The court only examines a limited number each week and his turn did not come until Thursday last on the evening of which day he is happy to say he passed. He had thought this was an unsurmountable difficulty, but he feels the greatest confidence about the College of Surgeons, which he intends to pass next May. The expense of education in London was much more than he imagined and it will take more money to finish than he possesses. He belives he has only £230. He has already had £100 and Mr. Partridge's fee amounts to 100 guineas. He knows it will take nearly £100 more in Hospital practice, lectures and surgeon's diploma. He therefore throws himself on his uncle and mother's generosity to give their consent to him borrowing £70 of their money. He promises most faithfully if he obtains the post at Manchester workhouse, to repay every farthing with any interest his uncle may think proper. He is very sorry to make this application but he hopes he will not refuse him for he will then be placed in very unpleasant circumstances, for Mr. Partridge has kept a vacancy in his house entirely for him. He has written home and expects an answer on Thursday. If he assents to this will he transmit to Mr. Partridge either the sum of 100 guineas as his house fee or the whole of the £200 by the end of next week, for the first of October is Thursday fortnight and he requires to be paid in advance. He must express his deepest most sincere and heartfelt gratitude at the kindness and fatherly attention he has had at his uncle's hands. He cannot express one thousandth part of the gratitude his heart feels and he fears he will never have the opportunity of showing it. He thought of going to Margate or Ramsgate next Monday for a few days to recruit his health which is not as strong as he could wish because of his close confinement since his arrival in London. Would his uncle therefore let him know his feelings as soon as possible.

16 Sep 1835 448/627 Letter from Charles Snape to his uncle the Rev.R.J. Davies. He feels quite ashamed to trouble him so soon with another letter, but he omitted to give him his direction which is 14 Ely Place, Holborn. He had received a letter from Catherine that morning saying that her mother and all of them write in giving their consent to his having the sum which he had mentioned to his uncle, who may rest assured that he will not deceive him. If he does not obtain the situation in Manchester he will be able to get some other. He hopes his uncle will not forget that he ought to go to Mr. Partridge's on Thursday 1st October but he will not be able to go unless the money is paid in advance. He hopes his uncle will excuse him being so particular. He had seen his uncle Price on the previous day and he is in a dreadful fright about his family being exposed to the cholera, which was then raging in Florence. Catherine hasgiven an account of her engagement with a young clergyman, Mr.John (?) Edwards, but he expects his uncle knows all about that.

1 Oct 1835 448/629 Letter from Charles Snape to his uncle the Rev. R. J. Davies. He has received his uncle's kind letter and draft for £105, for which he gives his sincere thanks, and also in complying with the wishes of his family in lending him the sum necessary to complete his education. He would have acknowledged it sooner but he only returned from the Isle of Wight on the previous evening. ...He went to Mr. Partridges on the previous evening and could not avoid remaining, unless by breaking his word and acting in an ungentlemanly manner. His uncle will therefore see that the £105 has been entirely appropriated to him (Mr. Partridge) and he has none to enter the lectures and hospital practice. This is of great consequence, for the later it is deferred thelonger he will have to remain in London as the certificates are taken by the colleges only from the date on which the student entered. He therefore requires £25 for lectures. 22 guineas for hospital practice, 26 guineas for diploma. There is a debt of £16. Will he therefore be kind enough to allow him to draw the remaining £95. He will not have to trouble him further. The winter Session commenced that day and he intends to work hard and by the end he hopes to be able to place himself on the same footing in point of knowledge with men who are many years his senior in the profession. He hopes he will remember how important the money is for if delayed, he will lose much valuable time and information. He expects to have finished in London inApril and soon after will accept his kind invitation, and will enter into any security which he may require to pay the money back. His address is now 8 Lancaster Place, Waterloo Bridge.

9 Oct 1835 448/630 Letter from Charles Snape to his uncle the Rev. R. J. Davies. He hastens to acknowledge the receipt of the draft for £95 which his uncle had kindly sent him the previous day. He has only to add that he will not stand in need of any further sum, as that will pay all the expenses of his education in London. His time is now very much occupied in the dissecting room at King's College, where there is abundance of work before them. He hopes therefore that his uncle will excuse him.

14 May 1836 448/631 Letter from Charles Snape to his Uncle Rev.R.J. Davies. He is almost ashamed to be under the necessity of applying to his uncle again for money in order to pass his examination at the College of Surgeons, but having had a few bills to pay these had consumed all that he had previously sent him. He is afraid that he will be much displeased at the request, but he may rest under the assurance that he will never again have to apply to him. He expects daily to receive a notice from the college of Surgeons to go up for examination, but he willnot be able to answer the Summons unless he has the money to pay for the diploma; and if that should be the case he would have to wait 2 months before he would have the chance of presenting himself on account of thenumber of names already down for examination. He would feel deeply indebted if he would send him £35 and then he will be able to leave London without owing anything. He may rest assured that he will pay every farthing back when he has the opportunity a time which he hopes is not far distant. He has been extremely sorry to hear from his Aunt Price that his Uncle (Davies) health is not in a very good state, but hopes he will derive great benefit from his visit to Cheltenham...

19 May 1836 448/632 Letter from Sarah Snape to her brother the Rev.R.J. Snape. She has received Margaret's letter telling her that Charles has written asking his uncle for £35 which she particularly desires him to let him have. She has every confidence that he will return every shilling of it and altho his education to qualify has been expensive it is maintenance for life. Catherine had a letter from Charles that morning informing them that he had passed his examination at the Surgeon's Hall, last Friday, and that he would return to Chester the last week in May. He will lose no time in getting an employment...

27 Mar 1837 448/635 Letter from Charles Snape to his uncle the Rev. R.J. Snape. It gives him great pleasure to announce that he has been elected house surgeon to the Bolton Dispensary. The numbers were Snape 114, Sweetbor? 24, Farrow 4. He did not expect such a result because of his lateness in the field, but by activity and good recommendations he came off with flying colours. He was a stranger but there was strong feeling in his favour because of the respect and esteem everyone has for his uncle Richard Snape. His salary is £100 per annum with house, coals, candles and attendance, and there is a bonus of £20 per annum if his duties are performed in a satisfactory manner. This is little enough when the arduous duties of the office are considered but far more preferable to the Manchester or East India affairs as he has little doubt that with strict economy he will be enabled to save £50 per annum, he will be gaining experience and with good conduct will draw himself into Notice and 'place himself in that position in society which it is my ambition to attain'. He owes a few bills e.g. stationers, in Bolton and there are also sundry little things which he will need when he gets to Bolton. He also stands indebted to his brothers and sisters who advanced him money to forward his views in Sheffield and Bolton. Would his uncle be so kind as to allow his mother to advance him £50 and he could then discharge all these little things and the debt in London, which would be a consolation to him and he could then practice without living in the continual fear of being arrested for debt. He promises most faithfully to pay half if not the whole at the expiration of 12 months. He enters upon the duties of his office on Saturday next, and will have to leave Chester either on that day or the next so hopes to hear from his uncle previously to that...

12 Feb 1863 631/3/237 Letter from Charles Snape to his uncle.

He understands his brother Philip wrote to him informing him of the death of their brother Tom, & to give him the facts he has copies from a long letter written by his widow to Philip, referring to some of the principal events which have occurred in his unhappy career. "What a melancholy fate was that of poor Miss Standish (a member of one of the leading and most ancient families in Lancashire) if true! Philip is disposed to believe in its accuracy from a conversation alleged to have taken place 2 or 3 years since between the widow & Pickering, (whose mother was connected with the Gerard family) but he has written to Pickering to ascertain whether it is a fact. This statement settles the doubtful question of Tom's second marriage, as it seems perfectly clear that the old lady he so impiously married, and whom he so wickedly abandoned, lived until the 4th of October 1854; consequently he has no legitimate children living, for he has left none by his widow, who has I understand, one, but it died - I believe my poor unhappy brother was addicted to gross habits of intemperance up to the very last".

He says it is a perfect delusion about there being a practice worth £600 p.a. going a begging in this district. "The physician who is practising here, and who is determined to remain, made, he believes, £400 one year, which he considered a fortunate year", so he has made arrangements to leave there in about 10 days time for Sydney. If he is not successful in hearing of some really good opening there he intends to rejoin his wife & family in England. The "excessive heat" of the climate does not suit his constitution. During the last 2 or 3 months the thermometer ranged from 94° to 108° in the shade & about 150° in the sun "with about 9 months drought". The pecuniary loss to the colony has been very large - a great quantity of live stock having died of sheer starvation and want of water.

The drought has has at last firmly given way, and some heavy floods have occurred during the last fortnight, and now all the people seem to be apprehensive of a regular deluge. "We have had all but a famine in this part of the Colony, in consequence of the difficulty of getting up supplies and the different stores having run out - the effect has been to run up the price of provisions; but all this is now mercifully changed - 2 or 3 weeks ago the country was one vast deset - today all is fresh, green and blooming." He was very pleased to meet his two brothers again, but so changed. They seem to have had a hard struggle all through life and Philip has never recovered from the very serious losses he had in consequence of the floods which occurred about 3 years since: James also lost a good deal of money about the same time - a bush life is not to be envied, but he thinks James rather likes it.

Written from Warialda, New South Wales.