Rev. Joseph John Gurney (1848-1890). Curate of St Mary the Virgin, Martham

The signature of Joseph John Gurney

Joseph John Gurney was an assistant curate at St Mary the Virgin, Martham from August 1873 to April 1876 at the time that Rev. George Pearse was the vicar. Joseph was the grandson of George.

Joseph chose a challenging time to work at Martham when, like other areas, there was a smallpox epidemic in the village. Burials at St Mary’s show a spike in 1873 when Joseph was employed. There were also many other deaths in the village that did not result in burials at St Mary’s. The disease had no respect for class and three of the Rising family died in 1871 within a few weeks of each other although I have no proof it was from smallpox.  Rev. Pearse was getting on by then and despite being the vicar did not officiate at any burial, instead he employed a number of curates of which Joseph was one and he is to be respected for working through those difficult times which would have included visiting the homes of those who had the disease.

Joseph was born in 1848 at Earlham Hall, Earlham Park, Norwich and was the second child of John Gurney and Laura Elizabeth, nee Pearse. He was baptised on 23rd February 1848 at St Mary’s Church, Earlham and the record listed his father as John Gurney and his mother as Laura Elizabeth. The Gurney family were an exceedingly rich banking family. Earlier generations of Gurneys were influential and wealthy Quakers who established the bank bearing their name in 1770. The family became sufficiently well known to be mentioned in Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1875 comic opera Trial by Jury: a character describes his accumulation of wealth as “at length I became as rich as the Gurneys”.  Gurney’s Bank merged with Barclays in 1896.

Hoveton Hall
Earlham Hall

Joseph grew up at his parent’s homes at Hoveton Hall near Neatishead in 1851 and at Earlham Hall, Norwich in 1861. By the time he was 23, in 1871,  he had become a student of theology and was lodging at 11/12 High Road, Lowestoft. Apparently, Joseph was a very Anglo Catholic type of clergyman favouring the high church end of the spectrum within the Church of England

When he was 31, Joseph married Frances Julia Martineau on 7th January 1879 in Weybridge, St James, Surrey, she was the daughter of William Henry Martineau and Lucy Martin. In 1881 they were living at Lakenham Lane, Norwich where Joseph was the vicar of St. John de Sepulchre. Joseph & Frances did not have any children.

Joseph died on 12th April 1890 in Lakenham Old Hall, Norwich aged 42. His estate was probated on 7th June 1890 and was valued at £55,179  19s. 0d. The Executors were his brother John Francis Gurney and half-brother William Ernest Ripley.

Grave of Joseph John Gurney at St Mary’s Churchyard, Earlham, Norwich

Sources: Appointment information courtesy of the: Clergy of the Church of England Database at

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