Warwick's West Gallery Quire

William Perry,
William Perry,
and William Groves Perry







Notes for a case study of a local Warwick family, composer and botanist
© 2006 Edwin Macadam, Oxford.

NB  This page is updated from time to time to include references and further information as it comes to light.

William Perry, William Perry and William Groves Perry

William Perry (I) was likely to have been born c. 1740 in Kidderminster. He married Jane Allen, also likely to have been born in Kidderminster c. 1743. Their marriage was at St Mary’s Church in Kidderminster on 27th August 1764.

They had three children,

  1. William (II) Perry, christened in St Mary’s Church, Kidderminster, on 5th June 1765,

  2. John Perry, christened in St Mary's on 17th January 1768, and

  3. Caroline Perry. She was presumably christened at the same church, having been born in Kidderminster on 2nd June 1771. Caroline then likely wed Gabriel Evans in Kidderminster on 5th July 1802.

It may be that William (I)'s wife, Jane, then died, for on 3rd December 1776, in Kidderminster at St Mary’s, a William Parry married an Elizabeth Sines, and they had two traceable children:

  1. John Parry, who was christened in Kidderminster 19 September 1777, married Mary Roberts, a Baptist, in Kidderminster on 25th May 1803 and died there in October 1837. He was a weaver by trade, and his family appear to have stayed in Kidderminster.

  2. Mary Perry, who was christened in Kidderminster on 24th January 1782.

‘Parry’ and ‘Perry’ appear interchangeable throughout, depending on the whim and accent of the recorder.There is therefore a little doubt as to whether this indeed is the same person, especially as there would have been two sons by the name of John alive at the same time. Unusual but, again, not unknown.

The burial place of William (I) has not so far been traced, but the two boys William (II) Perry and John Perry obviously travelled to Warwick at some point during their early lives, and met two sisters, whom they married in St Mary’s Church in Warwick; William (then aged 29) married the elder sister Maria Ann Groves on 7th July 1794, and John (also then aged about 29) married the younger sister, Sarah Groves, on 16th July 1797. The girls' parents were William and Sarah Groves, who had been married in Shipston-on-Stour on 16th July 1797, and who, again, must have travelled to the expanding town of Warwick in the late eighteenth century. By these two marriages the dynasties of the Groves Perrys were created. Interestingly there was also another Groves Perry family in Birmingham at about the same time, but no links can be traced to it, and it must therefore be assumed as entirely coincidental.

From records existing, it would appear that these two families were not poor, for they both owned property, the Groves in Shipston-on-Stour, and the Perrys in Stratford, and later on in Warwick and Leamington.

In 1796 William (III) Groves Perry was born to William and Maria Ann (frequently also written as Mary Ann). John and Sarah were not far behind, although with a much larger family of nine children, starting with

  1. Maria Ann on 27th August 1798,

  2. Sarah Groves in 1799, who died as a baby,

  3. John in 1801,

  4. (another) Sarah Groves in 1802,

  5. Catharine in 1804,

  6. Elizabeth in 1806,

  7. William in 1808,

  8. Richard in 1810, and finally

  9. Samuel in 1812.

All these children were christened at the Cow Lane Chapel in Warwick, which subsequently itself became rechristened the Brook Street Chapel when many roads were renamed as a result of early redevelopment of the then town centre.

John’s allegiance must have been to Stratford on Avon, as William (II) and John together had registered a printing press there in 1803, and where they also ran the Shakespeare Circulating Library. It is interesting to note that many of John's children were christened for a second time at the Rother Street Chapel in Stratford, the last two, Richard and Samuel, being re-christened together there on 24th July 1815. 

William (II) then registered a printing press in Warwick in 1807, where he had set up his own business premises in the Women’s Market, North Side, up against the south wall of the county gaol. [Immanuel's Ground practice in the North Street Methodist church, immediately on the opposite side of the same building]. The premises comprised a dwelling house, yard and outhouse, where presumably the press was set up. In 1806 William is also recorded in the Warwick Town Census as being the proprietor and occupier of premises in the Women’s Market, North Side, and presumably was entitled to vote as a result of his ownership of this property.

It is known that he also had a bookshop, and subsequently he moved to Old Square, Warwick in about 1820-21, the time when disaster struck the family business of Perry, Hill & Co. This was a worsted manufactory in the Saltisford area of Warwick (roughly where Sainsbury’s now is). Along with others in the area the business went bankrupt in 1820/21, even though it may well only have been set up some 25 years before, at the time when several other similar factories in that area of Warwick came into existence; quite possibly this was at about the same time as the Perry family came to Warwick.

William II (presumably not William I) and William Groves were partners in that firm, along with Samuel Hill and . . . Pinkstone, and as a result of the bankruptcy they all had to put their entire personal possessions into trust for the benefit of the firm’s creditors. The Deed setting up the Trust is dated 1821 and was

  • from William Perry, to Richard Tomes and John Russell, bankers, William Collins, woolstapler, and Walter Hill, draper, all of Warwick, of a house, with buildings and premises, in [the Market Place] Warwick, late in the occupation of William Perry and now of William Rose; a house, with buildings and premises, in Leamington, in the occupation of Charles Laurence; a house in the High St., Stratford-upon-Avon, late in the occupation of John Perry; four leasehold cottages in Mill St., Shipston-upon-Stour; and three cottages at the back of New St., Shipston-upon-Stour.

  • assignment in trust for the benefit of creditors, from Perry, Hill, and Co. to the same party, of all their personal estate.

It would seem that the premises referred to in Shipston may well have been previously owned by the Groves family, and came into possession of the Perry family as a result of the two marriages.

In 1822 the premises in the Market Place were let to William Rose, also carrying out the business of a stationer, for a term of 12 years at a rent of £70 per annum. It is suspected that Rose may have been a partner in the printing business with William Perry and was granted a tenancy as a precautionary measure, but at the same time the Trustees agreed to sell the property, subject to the tenancy, to a Thomas Rose, gent, it then being described as being

situate on the north side of the Market Place, between a house in the tenure of William Bond to the east, and a house in the tenure of Henry Baly to the west, and also 95 sq ft of ground on which stands an outhouse, the whole backing onto the gaol.”

The price agreed to be paid was £1,200, of which £900 was required to pay off the mortgagee, Henry Haines, and the balance went to his creditors. This sale, however, appears not to have been completed, for it was finally sold in 1825 (1829?) after auction particulars had been prepared, to Henry Baly, William’s next door neighbour, for the same figure.

The same auction particulars in 1823 also included the

“Worsted Factory, lately in the occupation of Messrs Perry, Hill & Co., a house with 2½ (acres?) of land adjoining the factory; a house with outbuildings and a yard, situate in the Market Place Stratford-upon-Avon the property of the Trustees of William Perry”.

By 1841 William (I) and Mary Ann (both “aged 70” – an approximation as the figures were all rounded to the nearest 5 or 10 years) are recorded as living in the Saltisford, in Warwick.  William (I) was described as “Book Keeper”, and the Burial Register of the Brook Street Chapel notes that “William Perry, New Street, Gentleman, died 2nd June 1843 and was buried in the Chapel on 6th June 1843”.  His wife Mary Ann moved permanently to their son’s house in New Street, and is recorded as dying there. 'Book Keeper' in this context is thought not to refer to accountancy, but, literally, to a keeper of books, bearing in mind his probable connection with his son's bookshop.

William (III) Groves Perry
Turning again to their son, William (III) Groves Perry, he was a noted amateur botanist, and he is recorded in an 1891 book by Bagnall about the flora of Worcestershire as “a truly enthusiastic botanist”, “an able linguist, well skilled in mathemetics, and an accomplished musician” and also as “an amiable man, always ready to lend a helping hand”.  Bagnall, in dealing with Perry’s early life and before going on to describe his botanical research in both Warwickshire and Worcestershire, states that he was a bookseller in the High Street.

His botanical researches started at the age of 16, when in 1812 he visited Hampton Magna, near Evesham, and in 1813 the Worcester / Bevere / Ombersley / Kidderminster area, where apparently he was searching for a new plant, a national rarity, the Twiggy Mullein, Verbascum virgatum, which had been found and noted by anther botanist in an earlier publication in 1787. His notes of his researches and finds are in the Warwick Museum, as is his Herbarium, and he is credited with having made the only known records of the flora of many wetland sites in both Warwickshire and Worcestershire. His interest in botany was lifelong; he was still collecting plants and making records in 1856, seven years before he died.

In this respect he was an early Secretary to the Warwickshire Natural History and Archaeological Society (which was formed in 1838), and keeper of their herbarium curator of their museum from 1840. He compiled a catalogue of the Warwick Library in 1847.

He would have been brought up in an atmosphere of books and music, for his father seems to have had musical abilities and may have been organist at the Brook Street Chapel before his son took over that task. He must also at the age of 24 have been badly affected by the demise of the worsted factory and by losing many of his possessions to pay the outstanding debts. It is doubtful that he ever recovered from this, for his will when proved in 1863 showed that his possessions were worth less than £450.  This shows that in all probability he was only the tenant of the house n New Street, which was the family home not only up until the time of his death, but also that of his wife, Mary.

He was married to Mary Hawkes, a girl from Coventry where she was christened in St Mary's Priory & Cathedral on 4th Aug 1798. The wedding took place on 11th August 1823 in St Mary’s Church in Warwick, and their daughter Sarah was born on 22nd November the same year. Obviously wanting a son to call William, their next child was a girl whom they called Wilhelmena Cecelia, she being born on 4 Jun 1825. The long awaited son William (IV) was born on 2nd February 1827, but died seven weeks later.  All these children were baptised in the Cow Lane Chapel, later to be called the Brook Street Chapel.

Pigot & Co’s National Commercial Directory for 1828-29 still lists William Groves as being a Music Seller in the Market Place, and also notes him at the same address as being a Professor or Teacher of “geography, mathematics, writing, etc.” He was not, however, one of the voters noted as living in Warwick in William West’s  History. . . of Warwickshire, [1830] presumably because, as noted before, he did not own the house he was living in. His parents were in the Saltisford, their address being given

Index (by Surname) to The History of Warwickshire,
by William West, 1830

PERRY, Sarah

Dressmaker, Brook St, Warwick



 - , Saltisford, Warwick



Weighing Machine Ho., Saltisford, Warwick


PERRY, Wm. Groves

Music Prof, Academy, Market Square, Warwick


as ‘Weighing Machine House’, suggesting that there was still a connection with the old factory premises, possibly that they had been allowed to remain there, and later in 1841 William Groves is found also to be back in the Saltisford before he moved to New Street, for his wife died on 27th October 1834 and was buried in . . . (?)

He moved to New Street some time before 1845, when he is recorded in the Post Office Directory for that year as being both Bookseller and Stationer. ‘New house, new baby’ goes the saying, but perhaps a wife first? Certainly so, for in 1861 William Groves is living with another Mary, aged 43 and 23 years his junior. She was Mary Spikes, born and christened in Birmingham in about 1818. They had with them William (VI) T[homas] aged 9, and Mary G[roves] aged 8. William was born in 1852 and Mary on 9th January 1853. What is not recorded by the 1851 and 1861 censuses is the fact that in the mean while there had been yet another William (V) who was actually christened William Groves Linnaeous Perry, after a famous botanist of the day; he was born on 25th May 1850, but died in September of the same year.

William Groves Perry died on 25th March 1863 in his house in New Street, Warwick, and his brief obituary in the Warwick Gazette that same week describes him as an Alderman, a local person well respected and loved, and the organist at the Chapel. He was buried in the Chapel Yard in Brook Street, where presumably he remains buried even though the Chapel itself has been redeveloped as the offices of a local firm of architects.

The 1881 census records his second wife Mary living in Old Square, Warwick, with her unmarried daughter Mary as a Teacher of Music, and her son William T A Perry as a bank clerk. She was obviously carrying on the family business as a Bookseller & Stationer, and was  employing 1 Woman & 1 Boy, as well as having a female servant aged 21 called Hannah. 

And what of his music?  Apart from his botanical records and publications, outlined below, he appears to have been involved in musical circles generally other than just as the organist of the Cow Lane Chapel.

In 1815 he published a Catalogue of the ‘Warwick and Leamington Musical Library’ consisting of an extensive collection of vocal and instrumental music, ready for circulation, price 1s. 

In 1816 he published New Music for 1816 at the Musical Library, Warwick . . . composed and adapted by W G Perry . . . Slavonian Paternoster, as performed in the service of the Russian Greek Church 1s, Hymn to Russian Music, 1s, Harvest Home 1s 6d.

His main musical work was

  • Original Sacred Melodies, consisting of Psalm and Hymn Tunes, Pieces etc., by
    W. Perry, arranged for four voices, with a separate accompaniment for the Organ or
    Pianoforte by W. G. Perry
    . London, Clementi & Co., sold by W. G. Perry, Warwick.  12/-

The accompaniment was really only a reduction of the voice parts into two systems suitable for use at the keyboard, although the book included a setting of Vital Spark (the first piece), four other set pieces and 53 hymns, some or all of which were presumably his father’s compositions, although arranged by him. The words are mainly by Rippon, Watts, and Burder, who presumably was the then minister at the West Orchard Chapel at Coventry.

The debate is when this was actually published, as the British Library catalogue has it as being ‘c. 1820 ?’ An advertisement for this book appeared in the Warwick Advertiser on 31st October 1829  stating:

“Perry’s Original Sacred Melodies. The last number of this work is in the hands of the engraver and a list of the subscribers will be given in that number . . . those who wish to subscribe on the Original Terms please forward their names to W G Perry, market Place, Warwick. Subscription price of the complete work 12s.”

Thus it would seem that the work had been published in separate parts over a period of time, and that the final Subscription Edition only appeared as late as 1829 or early 1830. 

Subscribers' List

A study of the list of Subscribers is quite rewarding, as it shows the type of people who subscribed for copies (and thereby helped with the cost of publication) and the churches and chapels into which it passed. Thus in 1820 it would seem that there was a strong Society of Singers in Warwick based in the High Street Chapel, another Society in the Wesleyan Chapel, and yet a third Society at West Orchard Chapel, Coventry.


Within the musical world, as to organists, both Edmund Tims of Hampton Lucy and Henry T Elliston at Leamington had two copies, and John Elston at Hatton had one, whilst  several self-styled  Professors of Music also had single copies - Samuel Deacon of Leicester; Charles Elston and John Hewett of Leamington; Frederick Marshall (also organist) of Leamington; James Marshall (another organist) of Warwick; William Marshall & Son of Leamington and Oxford; and John Satchell Jnr. of Warwick.  James Merridew was a  music seller in Warwick, and Owen Owen the same in Leamington. A Mr Bernard, organ builder at Stratford on Avon also had a single copy, whilst on a higher level, seven copies each were sold to John Pearson of Foleshill (Coventry) and John Russell of Kidderminster.


The Brook Street Chapel (originally Cow Lane Chapel), Warwick
A study of Non-Conformity in Warwick gives an interesting snapshot in time and somewhat of an insight into the musical and spiritual life of its various churches and chapels. As a result of the Presbyterian Minister's Arianism, a small Congregational element separated from its parent church in Church Street (then the High Street) in about the middle of the eighteenth century. It met first in a room in the (then) High Street, following which a chapel was built about 1758 in Cow Lane, now called Brook Street. Thus it was that the Brook Street Chapel was born, which eventually became the spiritual home of William Perry, and presumably his son.


In 1760 the house of Henry Collins was registered for worship by the independents1, and in 1784 Thomas Collins gave a room to be used as a vestry for the chapel2.  The chapel was enlarged a number of times, and a still larger chapel was built on the site in 18263, which still exists today (see photograph).  Now taken over as an office for a firm of Architects, it once contained a gallery on three sides supported on slender pillars, and there were originally Regency style wall decorations. The principle elevation was designed by Thomas Stedman Whitwell. 


The Wesleyan Chapel, Warwick
Methodism was introduced into Warwick by a lay preacher from Yorkshire in about 1801, and the house of Henry Chlist in Castle Street was licensed by him and eight others for worship in 1804. Six of these eight also had a licence for a malthouse in Gaol Lane in 1805, and by 1810 the room in Henry Chlist's house was still in use for meetings. A Wesleyan Chapel was built in Chapel Street in 1830, but this was sold in 1834 as a result of declining membership, and became the Borough National School. However, it was to this congregation that William Perry sold copies of the book of Psalm and Hymn Tunes, which hopefully they took with them when the new chapel was built in 1839 on land called Lower Fryers in Stand Street.


With the spread of Methodism, a further chapel was built in Avon Street in about 1840; this was rebuilt in 1863, and was still in use in 1965. The Stand Street Chapel was used until 1863, when it was replaced by a chapel in Market Street, and two years later a further chapel was licensed in Bowling Green Street. Both were replaced by the new building in Northgate in 1893, which is where Immanuel's Ground practice today. The Stand Street chapel was then taken over in 1864 by the Primitive Methodists, (who had formed in Warwick by about 1850), and used it until the chapel was closed in 1935.


The High Street Chapel, Warwick
The other chapel in Warwick where William Perry introduced his music was the High Street chapel. This appears to have been the Presbyterian chapel, built as a meeting House in 1781 on land given to the congregation in exchange for a converted house which was absorbed into the grounds of Warwick Castle. The new chapel was registered in the name of Samuel Clemens in 1781. The congregation had been Unitarian since the mid-18th century, apparently following the doctrines of James Kettlewell, who was their minister from 1746 to 1785. With rising congregations, the chapel was enlarged in 1863 in a Gothic style with gable ends of stone ashlar.


The West Orchard Street Chapel, Coventry
A split occurred in the Vicar Lane congregation in Coventry in 1776 following the election of a minister who did not have their full support. Those who broke away assembled in various private houses under their chosen minister, John Griffiths, until 1777 when they built a small chapel at West Orchard, which seated about 300 people. After some three years vacancy Rev'd George Burder (see below) was appointed in 17834; his enthusiasm as a preacher soon attracted new members to the chapel congregation and, as a result, galleries had to be erected in 1783-845. In 1787 the chapel was further enlarged to seat about 6006.  Bombed during World War II, the Chapel was rebuilt as the West Orchard United Reformed Church at the Chesils, Styvechale, in Coventry.


1  G.R.O. Worship returns vol. vii, no. 119.
2  Kemp, History of Warwick, p 169.
3  Collection of letters and memoirs by J. Moody - minister 1781-1801, in Birmingham Reference Library 516405.
4  Sibree and Caston, Indep. in Warws. 82-85, 88-89.
5  Ibid. 85-86, 89.
6   Poole, Cov. 235.



Listen to examples of William Perry's hymns (midi files) :

My grateful thanks to all who have helped in this research, especially my wife Sheila, Tricia Entwistle and Richard Chamberlain-Brothers. Also to Immanuel’s Ground, Warwick’s West Gallery Quire, who unwittingly have acted as guinea-pigs in a revival of some of Perry’s original sacred melodies.


William Groves Perry’s botanical publications:

  • PERRY,W.G., A Select List of Plants found in Warwickshire. Appeared in Dugdale's Warwickshire, 1817.
  • PERRY,W.G., Manuscript notes interleaved in Perry's personal copy of Plantae Varvicenses Selectae, compiled c.1823-1839.
  • PERRY,W.G., Loudon's Magazine of Natural History Vol.IV., 1831, p.450.