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A History of St. Andrew`s Church, Charmouth

(1) Audain
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 I have gradually pieced together the story of Charmouth`s most colourful Parson. His unbelievable life would make a blockbuster Hollywood movie. His name was John Audain and his family originated from St. Kitts, in the West Indies. He was to take on the position of Rector of our village in 1783, on the death of William Combe, who had been the Minister for nearly 40 years of this and the neighbouring Parish of Catherston. On his death it was assumed that his son, Brian would take on this position, but although he was to become Parson at Catherston, he only had the position of Curate in Charmouth. The senior role was to go to John Audain, who would have been just 18 at the time and only recently ordained. The Lord of both Manors at the time was Francis Phipps Henvill, a descendant of Anthony Ellesdon, who lived in St. Kitts. He was also Patron of the Church and no doubt used this position to ensure that his kinsman became its new Rector. It would seem that although the Reverend John Audain was to appear in the village records in this position for 43 years, most of this time was spent in the West Indies. The work of the Church was to be done by three able Curates, Brian Combe, Joseph Hodges and Thomas Snow. It was not until 1826 that he would lose his position to William Glover after his long absence. George Roberts in his History of Lyme Regis of 1834,provides an anecdote of his earlier time in Charmouth as follows:
“ He fought a battle at Lyme Regis with an Irish chaise driver, and preached with his usual energy. His preaching carried every one with him: his fighting was good and manly, but not so successful, for the knight of the whip eventually beat him”.
He was to marry Ann Willett , and have a son, John Willett Audain, After a few years he tired of these shores and returned back to the West Indies. H.N. Coleridge in 1825, under Dominica, gave a long account of the exploits of Parson Audain of Roseau. An abbreviated version appears below:
One of the finest pathetic preachers of his age, according to contemporaries ,whose appearance was fine, gentle and venerable, and who supplemented his stipend by owning a small privateer. His schooner was captured, (whilst smuggling negroes to Guadeloupe) by another privateer, from Nevis. The Parson went to Nevis, posted his rivals name on the Courthouse door, and stood on guard there with loaded pistols for three days in the hope that the man would come and challenge him in a duel. He had fought thirteen altogether in his life, and on one occasion, while waiting for the seconds to reload, he went up to his opponent, suggested 'just a little something to fill in time, good sir' - and knocked him flat with his fist. 
This time, however, his enemy laid low, so he fitted out a second schooner, and took command of her, himself. His first quarry was an apparently harmless Spanish merchantman, but she suddenly opened fourteen masked gun- ports and it was he who had to surrender. All his crew were massacred except himself and his carpenter, who hid behind a wine cask all night. He was still Rector of Roseau until the new Governor listened to the stories about him and made him resign. 
After this Audain turned Trader, and took a cargo of corn to San Domingo and settled there. He once challenged two black Generals to a duel, and shot them both, and Christophe threatened to hang him if they died. But the Parson escaped by night in an open boat and went to St. Eustatius. There he found many religions, but no ministers, so he recommended clergyman of every kind, in the morning he celebrated a mass for the Catholics, then a Lutheran service in Dutch, then Church if England matins. In the evening he sang hymns and preaches he'll fire to the Methodists. Meanwhile his wife, Ann, who had more tranquil tastes, lived at Bristol. So he now married a Dutch widow, conducting the ceremony himself. He died in 1825, aged 60 at St. Eustatius, still serving in absence as Rector of Charmouth.

Romeo Hamilton an African baptised 1800 28th September.
Francis Phipps Henvill, Esq. appointed John Audain. He was quite a hero of romance. For his versatility as Auctioneer, paid preacher to Episcopalians, Methodists and Catholics , etc. in the same day, privateer, etc. see Coleridge's Six months in the West Indies and also the West Indian Special Book. In the latter work is an account of his leaving the pulpit to go to sea in his privateer, in chase of an enemy's vessel, which he carried by boarding, before a frigate that was in chase came up. He fought a battle at Lyme with an Irish chaise driver and preached with his usual energy. His preaching carried every one with him, his fighting was good and manly, but not so successful, for the Knight of the whip eventually beat him. He died in the West Indies


178. Church & Yard (11s-5d) 1r 21p

179. House & Orchard (£2-10s-0d) 2r

180. Higher Field (£2-4-1d) 1a 1r 17p

181. Lower Field (£4-5s-1d) 2a 2r 19p

182. Mrs Hannah Newberry House & Garden (£2-0-0d) 24p

183. Mrs Hannah Newberry Church Yard Mead (£3-11-10d) 2a 34p

184. Meeting House & Orchard (£2-10-0d) 3r 2p

185. Meeting House Common (£1-15-5d) 1 a 29p

185A. Meeting House Coppice at langmoor (7s 6d) 3r 30p

Charmouth has had one or two notable rectors. One of them who died in the middle of the self-indulgent eighteenth century (and to whom there is a tablet in the church) so loved his dinner-table that he asked to be buried in it, and his coffin was actually made thereof. Charmouth lacks imagination, or there would be by now some blood-curdling legend of the groaning board. A more interesting person than this lover of cates and wine was his successor-but-one, the Reverend John Audain, whose adventures are told by Henry Nelson Coleridge ^ in his entertaining book Six Months in the West Indies, a book, by the way, which would be well worth reviving. Audain, who started life as a midship- man, was appointed to Charmouth in 1783 - 1827, presumably not long after his ordination. He was pre-eminently a militant parson, and it is recorded that he fought a battle at Lyme with an Irish chaise-driver, who beat him. But then, besides the business in hand, Audain was simultaneously delivering a most eloquent sermon. No doubt he found the combination breathless work. Audain subsequently became rector of Roseau in Dominica. It was there that Coleridge heard of him. I wish I could transcribe his account in full. It is very entertaining, but rather long. I shall, however, quote as much as possible. Audain, a British patriot, though his name suggests a Gaulish ancestry, fitted up a schooner for the purpose of private warfare against the French. " It is even yet fresh in the recollections of 1 Nephew of the poet and recorder of the Table-Talk. 69 WHERE DORSET MEETS DEVON the inhabitants of Roseau, with how joyful a rapture this holy Dominican once broke off the service on a Sunday, unable to repress the emotions of his triumph on seeing the vessel of his faith sail into the bay with a dismasted barque laden with sugar, rum, and other Gallic vanities from Martinique." Soon after this the gallant clerk lost his luck. A friend of Coleridge's met him one day at Basseterre in St. Kitt's, " surrounded by negroes, to whom he was distributing plantains, yams, potatoes, and other eatables, and holding private talk with them all by turns. Having caught my friend's eye, he came up to him and said, * I am going to smuggle all these rascals this evening to Guadeloupe.' He did so in his schooner, but remained himself on shore. A privateer of Nevis captured the smuggler before she could get to her market. Audain became furious, went himself to Nevis, and challenged the owner of the privateer to fight. The challenge was not accepted, and Audain immediately posted the name of the recusant, as that of a scoundrel, on the wall of the court-house. He himself for two days kept watch upon the platform, with a sword and four pistols stuck in his belt, to see if anyone dared to touch the shields." Undaunted and truculent, Audain fitted out another schooner in which he sailed in person. But on the second day of his voyage he was captured by a Spanish trader (better armed than he had thought), his crew 70 CHARMOUTH butchered and himself only saved by the miraculous hap that his conqueror was a man whom he had once served. These misfortunes told against him at Roseau. Unless justified by success, smuggling and privateering were deadly sins in a parson. So Audain threw up the living COTTAGE, ONCE THE "QUEEN's ARMS " INN. and went to St. Domingo, where he lived for a time as a legitimate trader. But ere long he had challenged and nearly killed two black officers, and had to leave hastily to escape hanging from a tamarind tree. He next went to St. Eustatius, where " were many religions, but no priest." Audain, essentially liberal-minded, offered comprehensively to supply the want. His offer was accepted and "in the morning he celebrated mass 71 WHERE DORSET MEETS DEVON in French, in the forenoon read the Hturgy of the Church of England, in the afternoon sprackened the Dutch service, and at nightfall chanted to the Methodists." ^¦^ THE "GEORGE" INN. Rendered poor by his losses, he listened gladly to the blandishments of a wealthy and massive Dutch widow. To make certain that all was correct, the bridegroom himself performed the ceremony; but seeing that he 72 CHARMOUTH already had a wife in England, the irregularity was unimportant. When Coleridge wrote, in 1825, Audain, a man of sixty, was still living at St. Eustatius. But he was a reformed character, and the noise of his praying disturbed his neighbours at night. With his wives he was on excellent terms ; the Dutch wife loving and tending him, the English sending him Christmas presents. Truly, he was a man of parts. He had fought thirteen duels, was a skilled boxer, and, on one occasion at least, combined the two forms of combat. " He was a singularly eloquent preacher in the pathetic and suasory style, and he rarely failed to draw down tears upon the cheeks of most of those who heard him. His manners were fine and gentle, and his appearance even venerable. He was hospitable to the rich and gave alms to the poor." The autobiography, which Coleridge heard and hoped he was writing, seems, unfortunately, to have been a myth. The Dictionary of National Biography ought certainly to have taken cognizance of such a hero. I know not where or when he died. With whatever regrets, we must go back to Charmouth without him.
Charmouth Dorset
Charmouth, Dorset
Francis Bickley has given a good account in his book "Where ' Dorset meets Devon" of John Audain, rector from 1783 to 1827. During the time of his absence from the parish and when William Glover was rector. 1822 to 1835 curates in charge were appointed. I have records of three.


The 1823 Poor Rates show Reverend John Audain with John Taunton Sequestrating the Rectory now valud at £6

  Audains were related to both the Phipps and Henvills, in St. Kitts.

Robert Phipps of the I. of St. Christopher, Esq. Will dated 19 May 1717. To the daughters of my brother Joseph Phipps., Esq., deceased, viz., Ann Phipps, Mary Phipps, and Alletta Phipps, £100 each. To Mary Audain, wife of John Audain, Susannah Henvill, Robert Henvill, and Ann Henvill, the sons and daughters of my brother-in-law Robert Henvill esq.