William Carew Rayer. [Obituary]

Trans. Devon. Assoc., 1892, Vol XXIV, pp. 45-46


Rev W. Harpley

Prepared by Michael Steer

This obituary was read at the Association’s July 1892 Plymouth meeting. The Glamorgan Archives holds papers relating to the Rayer/Jenkins Family of Holcombe Court (Devon) and St Athan. Family records indicate that The Rev William Rayer of Holcombe Court, Devon, son of William Rayer (1749-1829) of St Athan, Glamorgan, purchased Holcombe Court from Peter Frederick Bluett in 1858. The Rev William Rayer's eldest son, William Carew Rayer (1820-1892) inherited the estate, and was also lord of the manor of St Athan. He died without issue, and the estate passed to his nephew, William Harmar (1869-1936), son of William Pycroft Harmar and Frances, third daughter of the Rev William Rayer. William Harmar assumed the surname and arms of Rayer in lieu of those of Harmar in 1923, and died without issue. The estate then passed to the Rev George Morganwg William Thomas (b. 1879), formerly of Holcombe Hall, Devon, which was sold in 1941. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. 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 Carew Rayer was the eldest son of the late Rev. W. Rayer, for more than fifty years rector of Tidcomb Portion, Tiverton, and of Jane, the daughter of the late Sir Thomas Carew, Bart He was born on September 26th, 1820, at Tidcombe Rectory, Tiverton. He received his early education at Blundell's School, whence he removed in 1834 to Eton, and subsequently to Christ Church, Oxford. At Eton he took advantage of the facilities for athletic exercises, and in 1839 he became captain of the boats, and on going to Christ Church he presently rowed stroke to the Eight.

In 1866, soon after the death of his father, Mr. Rayer took up his residence at Holcombe Court, which was purchased by his father of Mr. Peter F. Bluett. He was patron of the living of Holcombe Rogers, and about a dozen years ago he thoroughly restored the parish church at his own expense. Beside being owner of the Holcombe Estate, he was in possession of considerable property in Cornwall and in Glamorganshire. He was a justice of the peace for the county, and frequently sat on the Cullompton Bench. He was also a governor of Blundell's School and a subscriber to many of the Tiverton charities.

He became a member of this Association in 1877, and although he never attended any of the annual meetings, yet he took a lively interest in the proceedings, and more than once has told the writer that he had spent many pleasant and instructive half-hours perusing the volumes of the Transactions.

Mr. Bayer will probably be best remembered as a Master of Foxhounds. The pack he owned was originally known as Tiverton Foxhounds, supported by subscriptions, and he was one of the leading supporters. In 1866 Mr. Bayer took charge of the pack and supported them at his sole expense, and for twenty-five years hunted the picturesque, if somewhat wild district known as the Tiverton country. On Monday preceding his death he contracted a chill while hunting; influenza supervened, and this subsequently turned into bronchitis, which proved fatal. He died on the 11th January, 1892, at the age of 71 years.

Of Mr. Bayer's personal character volumes might be written. At home and abroad, in the hunting field or on the magisterial bench, he was a true type of the "fine old English gentleman." From the time of his and Mrs. Bayer's introduction to the parish as the new owners of Holcombe Court, general instructions were given to the heads of the domestic arrangements to "supply whatever may be wanted " in the shape of food, and frequently in raiment. To his tenantry on the Holcombe and Glamorgan and Cornish estates he was most liberal. There was scarcely a resident of the parish of Holcombe Rogers, or of the adjoining parishes, with whom the courteous occupier of Holcombe Court was not on friendliest terms; and he was as condescending as kind to all, even to the humblest of the boys of the school of his own maintenance. For everybody, whom he usually addressed familiarly by Christian name, he had a kindly word and happy expression of an always pleasant countenance.

In 1868 Mr. Bayer married Charlotte, daughter of the late Admiral Dashwood, of Lyndhurst, Hants, but leaves no issue.