by Frank Sharman


The Rev. Octavius Frank Walton first appears as the curate of St. Stephen’s, Spring Street, Hull.  He married his vicar’s daughter, Amy Catherine Deck, in February 1875. Soon afterwards the Rev. Walton took up an appointment at a church on Mount Zion, Jerusalem where he and his wife stayed until 1879. They then moved back to this country, living for some years in Cally, Kirkcudbrightshire. In 1893 the couple were at St. Thomas’, York where the Rev. Walton had the living. In 1893 they moved to St. Jude’s Church on Tettenhall Road, Wolverhampton. In the 1911 census  they are listed as living at 9 Tettenhall Road, but by 1913 they occupied St. Jude's vicarage. In January 1918 the Rev. Walton retired and  returned to Leigh, Kent, and lived at Great Barnetts, where he became a noted amateur photographer. When Mr. Walton died, is not recorded;  but Mrs. Walton lived until 1939, and died at Leigh.

St. Jude’s church had been built in 1869 and served one of the best residential neighbourhoods of the time. The photo, left, shows the church as it was when the Walton's were there with, on the right of the photo, the original rectory in which they would have lived.  It had been built at the same time as the church.

The living was an very comfortable one, being worth, according to the Red Book of 1902, £430 per annum, almost £200 per annum more than any other of the Wolverhampton churches except St. Peter’s. 

Not only that, the substantial rectory, next door to the church at 96 Compton Road, was pulled down in 1897 and replaced with a substantial new one, to designs by Weller. It is seen to the right of the photo (right) as it is now. 

Add to Mr. Walton's living, and his Easter offering (which in his parish might well  have been substantial), Mrs. Walton’s income from her novels, which sold well, and it must be that the Walton’s were among Wolverhampton’s better off citizens.

Mrs. Walton’s writing career seems to have started in 1870 and she was in pretty regular production thereafter.  Her works are nearly all directed at children, the early ones being, essentially, evangelical tracts, mainly about the importance of finding God, even in adverse circumstances. For, however comfortable Mrs. Walton’s own life may have been, she often writes about the working classes, and does so with sympathy.  She seems to have met them, suggesting that in her role as the vicar’s wife she went far beyond the bounds of St. Jude’s to where the need was obviously greater.  Her later novels are more akin to the standard children’s novel of the time and the religious element, though still present, is very much reduced.

Her novel, which is of particular interest here, has but little preaching in it and is directed mainly at teenage girls, almost at the Peg’s Paper level. “The Lost Clue” was published by the Religious Tract Society in 1907, and it contains interesting descriptions of Daisy Bank which, at the time would have been seen as a remote part of Bilston, three stops down the railway line from Wolverhampton. 

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The information on this page about the lives of the Walton is taken, except for the extracts from the novel and where otherwise noted, from the British Library web site.  Thanks to Reg Aston for help in identifying the places mentioned.