Headington history: People

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John Holford Scott (Scott-Tucker) (1854–1918)

John Holford Scott was born at Kirby Muxloe in Leicestershire, the only son of John Haigh Scott, a cleric, and his wife Anna J. H. Watts. His birth was registered at Blaby in the last quarter of 1854.

On 25 October 1875, at the age of 20, he was matriculated at the University of Oxford from St Mary Hall, but did not obtain his BA until 1883, when he was 28.

At the time of the 1881 census (which was two years before he obtained his BA), Scott (26) was an assistant schoolmaster at a small school (for about 15 boys aged from 9 to 13) at 10 & 11 Louisa Terrace in Littleham, North Devon.

In the second quarter of 1884 Scott married his first wife Margaret Tucker (born at Slapton in Devon in 1852/3) in the Kingsbridge registration district of Devon.

Scott was appointed Deacon at Falmouth in Cornwall in 1883 and Priest in 1885. His eldest son John Richard Lewis Holford Scott was born at Falmouth in 1885, and his only daughter Margaret Scott in 1886.

Scott was elected Oxford Diocesan Secretary of the Church of England Temperance Society (CETS) with effect from 15 October 1886, and the family moved to 83 Wellington Square, Oxford, where it was based. Scott spoke at meetings all over Oxfordshire, and the following report was published in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 10 December 1887 about a meeting at Steeple Barton:

The Diocesan Secretary (the Rev. J. Holford Scott) followed with a stirring speech on the terrible evils of intemperance, and the duty of combating it by example, with energy and perseverance. He concluded by appealing to all temperance advocates to show united and determined action in the matter of the Sunday closing of public-houses and clubs of all kinds.

A second son, Duncan Scott, was born in 1888 while Scott was living at Wellington Square in Oxford. Around this time Scott was very ill, and unable to preach or speak for nearly five months.

St Andrew's House


In about May 1889 Scott was appointed Vicar of Headington and Chaplain of the Headington Union, and the family came to live in St Andrew’s House (left).


Their fourth child, Harold Beaver Holford Scott, was born at this houseon 26 November 1889 and baptised in St Andrew’s Church a month later.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal records Scott’s achievements at Headington Horticultural, Poultry, Pigeon, Cage Bird, Rabbit, Cat, & Dog Show: in 1890 he won second prize for his fruit, and his cat was highly commended; and in 1891 he won second prize for three plants.

The new Vicar worked hard for Headington. Right away in 1889 he was in correspondence with the Local Board, promising that he would “never rest until some solution is found to the all-important problem of ‘How to drain and pave New Headington’.”

The 1891 census shows John and Margaret Scott living in St Andrew’s House with their four children (aged 1, 3, 4, and 5) and two nurses and a cook.

In the middle of 1891 John Holford Scott changed his surname by deed poll to Scott-Tucker (presumably connected to the fact that his first wife’s maiden name was Tucker), and his children also took this surname. The following year, his father died.

In 1892 Scott-Tucker was instrumental in founding the Headington Young Women’s Social Union, and the Headington branch of the Church of England Temperance Society grew greatly in strength during his incumbency.

In 1893 Scott-Tucker together with the local doctor Robert Hitchings founded Headington United Cricket Club, and when the cricket season was over the same autumn, they started up Headington United Football Club. Scott-Tucker played for both the cricket and the football clubs, and at the age of 39 managed to score two of the goals when Headington beat Victoria on 13 January 1894.

Scott Tucker also worked hard as Chairman of the committee that raised the funds needed to build in 1894 the new Headington National Schools (now the right-hand part of St Andrew’s Primary School). His wife Margaret also played her part in the parish: in August 1894 she had a stall in the marquee at the Horticultural Show in order to raise money for home missions and the new schools, and she also organized a collection to pay for the statue of St Andrew that was placed over the front door of the new school (now moved to the back wall).

Scott-Tucker had extracted a pledge from Miss Isabella Watson-Taylor of Headington Manor House to give £400 towards the new Headington National Schools, but she died before handing the money over. He brought an action against her executors in the High Court of Justice (Queen’s Bench Division) but lost his case, as this report from Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 7 August 1897 shows:

Court case about school money, 1897

Scott-Tucker’s next appearance in court was on behalf of his 12-year-old son John, as this extract from Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 7 August 1897 shows:

Bike fine 1899

Scott-Tucker’s personal downfall began after the Kingscote family moved to Bury Knowle House in 1894. Although he only had an income of £300 a year (with a house), in 1895 he agreed, along with George Moore, Vicar of Cowley, to stand surety for Adeline Georgiana Isabella Kingscote, the wife of his churchwarden Colonel Howard Kingscote.

In December 1898 another hapless man, Lord Byron (a collateral descendant of the poet of that name) was ensnared by Mrs Kingscote, with the two vicars providing a reassuring presence at a meeting in Bury Knowle House. Byron advanced securities to Mrs Kingscote solely on the strength of the securities of the two vicars. Scott-Tucker was later to allege that Mrs Kingscote told him that “the Colonel and her children would be ruined unless he saved them”.

On Sunday 26 February 1899, Scott-Tucker accompanied Mrs Kingscote to Cheltenham to arrange for more money from Lord Byron (who advanced her £50,373 in all). As reported in The Times, the Official Receiver was later to state that Scott-Tucker had been drinking champagne and smoking cigars at the Queen’s Hotel there that Sunday; but in court in Oxford the question “Had you attended divine service in the church that day?” was disallowed. (Ironically, less than two years before, Scott-Tucker had written in the Headington Parish Magazine, “There is no greater hindrance to religion than intemperance”….) Another question disallowed in court was “Are you still officiating at the church?”

On 15 May 1899 Scott-Tucker wrote the following letter, later produced in court, to Colonel Kingscote:

Letter to Colonel Kingscote May 1899

When later in 1899 Mrs Kingscote went bankrupt, she immediately fled to Switzerland, leaving the men to face the music. When summoned before the Official Receiver, The Times reports that Scott-Tucker said that

he did not derive any benefit, pecuniary or otherwise, from lending his name and assistance to Mrs Kingscote. What he did was out of kindness and to help her in her difficulties. She was not related to him in any way, but was one of his parishioners.

There was obviously a suspicion that he had received favours for his money, but to the remark in court: “I cannot help noticing upon what terms she addresses you”, he replied simply, “She addressed everyone in those terms.” He also said: “I believed in Mrs Kingscote from the very first to the very last” and “I was told over and over again that I would never lose a farthing.”

The Bishop of Oxford suggested that Scott-Tucker should resign his living in Headington, which he had held for ten years, and by the start of June 1899 St Andrew’s Church had a new vicar, Robert Walter Townson, who was himself to leave after a scandal. Four hundred of Scott-Tucker’s parishioners signed a letter of condolence and farewell and hope for his future.

The following appeared in The Times of 19 June 1899:

A Clergyman’s Failure.—A receiving order has been made against the Rev. John Holford Scott-Tucker, vicar of Headington, near Oxford. The gross liabilities are estimated to amount to £20,390 9s. 11d., and those expected to rank are £19,845 0s. 7d. The assets are estimated to produce £346 10s. 8d., leaving a deficiency of £19,498 9s. 11d. The debtor states the causes of his insolvency to be signing accommodation bills for Mrs. Howard Kingscote, of Headington, for which he has received no benefit at all. The larger creditors are also creditors in the bankruptcies of Lord Byron and the Rev. George Moore. The debtor has been called upon to submit an account of his Stock Exchange transactions, a cash account, and an account of his bill transactions since January 1, 1898.

At Oxford Crown Court in February 1900 it was said in Scott-Tucker’s defence that he had been “misled by the misrepresentations of this lady”; but the Judge’s opinion was that the mischief had been occasioned by the late Vicar of Headington “embarking upon this extraordinary career of infatuation”, and his application to be discharged from bankruptcy was refused.

The following letter from Mrs Scott-Tucker appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 10 February 1900, and shows that the family were still living in Headington:

Letter from Mrs Scott-Tucker

Around this time, the former Vicar of Headington was penning the words and music for a new patriotic song: Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 3 March 1900 reports:

Patriotic song of 1900

Scott-Tucker remained Chaplain of the Headington Union Workhouse until 1901, and at the time of the census that year was living with his wife Margaret at 53 Divinity Road in Oxford. Of their four children, only their eldest, John, a scholar of 15, was at home, and they had just one young servant girl. His other three children (Margaret (14), Duncan (13), and Harold (11) were staying at 1 St James’s Cemetery, Liverpool on census night with their uncle and aunt: Richard F. Winter (48), a clergyman, and his wife Constance. As Constance’s birthplace was Kirby in Leicestershire, she was probably John Scott-Tucker’s sister.

The death of Margaret Scott-Tucker (49) was registered at the Wirral in the last quarter of 1901 (8a 293), and this implies that the whole family spent some time in Liverpool. Scott-Tucker, now aged 46, moved to South Africa in that year, where he was Acting Chaplain to the Forces in 1901/2; Priest-in-charge of Rustenburg in 1903/4; and Curate of St Albans in Pretoria in 1904/5.

Scott-Tucker then returned to England, and in 1907 he was appointed Curate of St John the Evangelist in Westminster (a church destroyed in 1941). He evidently wished to start his new life back in England with a new name: on 29 February 1908 it was announced in The Times that he had changed his surname back from Scott-Tucker to Scott. He was then living at 46A Marsham Street, Westminster.

In the second quarter of 1908 at St George’s, Hanover Square, John Holford Scott married his second wife, Marian Louise Cureton, who was nine years his junior. At the time of the 1911 census he was still a clergyman, and he and Marian were living at Wilburton Vicarage in Ely, Cambridgeshire with two servants.

John Holford Scott died at Wilburton Vicarage on 8 January 1918 at the age of 63. His effects came to £187 16s. 6d., and his executor was his son John.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal

The sensational case of the novelist and the vicar was reported week after week in Jackson’s Oxford Journal. See especially the edition of 22 July 1899 (pp. 8fg, 9ag) under the main heading “Bankruptcy of the Vicars of Cowley and Headington”, which gives a full transcript under the subheading “Examination of the Rev. Scott-Tucker”. The latter examination was adjourned, and the transcript resumes in the edition of 29 July 1899, p. 5.

John Holford Scott (Tucker)’s children

The children retained the surname of Scott-Tucker. John Scott-Tucker became a Major in the army, retiring to Stoke Fleming on Dartmoor in the 1930s, while Harold Scott-Tucker moved to Arkansas, where he died in December 1963.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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