Rev. William Douglas Stenhouse (1911-1992)
Rev. William Douglas Stenhouse, also known as Bill, was born on 11th October 1911 in Beijing, China. He was the son of John Maitland Stenhouse & Gwladys Harrison Hopkyn Rees and grew up in Kent.
Historically the Stenhouse family originated from Comely Park, Dunfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland and have a long and proud tradition of church and military service particularly in India and the Far East. His father trained as a doctor and served as a private physician to Prince Leopold of Battenberg with whom he spent two winters in Khartoum. He also worked in China, where he met his wife Gwladys, who was a missionary there. When war broke out he joined the Royal Army Corps and died at the 8th General Hospital, Rouen, France having been wounded in action.
William’s grandfather was Major-General William Stenhouse of the Madras Infantry. He was born in 1840 at Zakynthos, Greece and served in India chiefly in the Indian Forest Department.
William (Bill) was ordained in 1936 at Canterbury Cathedral and served his first curacy in Ramsgate, Kent. He was employed as a Clerk in Holy Orders on 29th September 1939 in Folkestone, Kent and as the vicar of St Mary the Virgin, Martham, Norfolk between 1947–1953.
When he was 41, he married Mary Percival Jackson on 9th June 1953 at St Mary’s Parish Church, Croydon, Surrey and they went on to have two children. William died on 26th January 1992 at Yelverton in Devon where his wife had died two months earlier. They are shown on the right at Martham.
Local Martham people remember him fondly and say he was a lovely man and was sadly missed when he left the village. He lived with his mother at the Vicarage and married just before he left for pastures new. People remember he had a lot of garden parties and fetes in the garden of the Vicarage and was heavily involved in the amateur dramatics at the local church hall.
Personal memories of Rev. Stenhouse shared on Facebook in 2020:
Dorothy Allen: I remember a Somerton Sunday School outing on the river, when the Rev Stenhouse fell in Ranworth Broad jumping to the bank to moor the boat for us to have a picnic.
Terry Turner: That sounds a lot like Rev. Stenhouse. He was a natural comedian, we missed him so much when he left. I doubt that Martham ever had another vicar like him.
Barbara Warnes: My mother remembers him as the vicar of Martham and Somerton when she attended his Sunday School. When she was about nine, she can remember him coming to see her with his mother soon after he first came to Martham and that he married before he left the village.
Paula Leech: I recall how he brought my grandmother home from Somerton Church and that he never stopped when driving down Lion Hill, Somerton he went straight across into Cottage Road. She used to be so frightened and was lucky he never crashed into anyone.
Elizabeth Toll: I remember him arriving in the village and officiating at the wedding of Frank Watson & Ethel Maggs on 3rd October 1953.
Below is a copy of his signature taken from one of the St Mary’s Church Register of marriages at Martham.
Sources: Appointment information courtesy of the: Clergy of the Church of England Database at https://theclergydatabase.org.uk