William Frederick Rock [Obituary]

Trans. Devon. Assoc. 1890, Vol XXII, pp. 37-40.


Rev. W. Harpley, M.A.

Prepared by Michael Steer

The paper was delivered at the Association’s July 1890 Barnstaple meeting. William Rock was born in Barnstaple to Henry and Prudence Rock. He was an elder child and older brother; with two sisters, Ann (b. 1804), Prudence (b. 1810) and two brothers, Henry (b. 1806) and Richard (b. 1808). Another brother Charles and a sister Maria died as babies. His father was a shoemaker at 46 High Street and a freeman of the borough holding a right to vote. William came into contact with William Busk, a parliamentary contestant, who visited with the family. Busk took an interest in William and was able to present him to Christ's Hospital's London Bluecoat School, where he started in 1811. A reasonably complete biography of this major philanthropist, together with his portrait is available in Wikipedia. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive (incomplete). Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

William Frederick Rock died at his residence, Hyde Cliff, Blackheath, on February 9th, 1890, at the ripe age of 89 years. As the princely benefactor of Barnstaple, and the founder of the North Devon Athenaeum, which is the peculiar home of Literature, Science, and Art in that division of the county, he had placed his native town and North 

[pp.39-40 missing]

endowed by Mr. Rock and his sister, Mrs. Payne, was opened in the summer of 1889.

Mr. Rock’s death was mourned by the whole municipality which he had laid under such heavy and lasting obligations. His memory will ever be kept green in the county which he loved, and of which he was a typically generous son. - H. W. S.