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Chester Cathedral and its Historical Links with New York
Every year many American tourists visit Chester to enjoy its history. However, how many of these tourists realise that Chester has old and eminent links with America, and in particular New York?
American tourists visiting Chester Cathedral may be surprised to find two prominent New York figures commemorated in memorials in the Cathedral. George Clarke of Hyde was a former British Colonial Governor of New York. Frederick Phillips was a wealthy landowner who was forced to flee New York during the American War of Independence.
George Clarke of Hyde was a prominent figure in New York politics whilst America was under British Colonial leadership.
George Clarke was born in 1676. In 1706 he became the Secretary of the Province of New York. He was married to Ann Hyde. George Clarke and his wife purchased an extensive amount of land in Hempstead, Long Island, New York in 1724. Their estate was called Hyde Park.
George Clarke was elevated to the Acting Colonel Governor of New York in 1736. He continued in this role until 1743. He subsequently took on the position of Lieutenant Governor of New York.
He returned to England having amassed a fortune in America. His return voyage to England took an interesting turn. Whilst on his way back to England he was captured by a French cruise boat. However, after a short period of time he was able to secure his release.
George Clarke died in Chester on the 12th January 1760 aged 84 years. He is interred in the Chester Cathedral. His Memorial inscription reads as follows:
"In the memory of George Clarke of Hyde Esquire who was formally Governor of New York and afterwards became resident in this city. He died January Xii, MDCCLX aged LXXXiV and was interred in this chapel."
Left : The Memorial to George Clarke
Right: The Memorial to Frederick Phillips
Chester Cathedral also contains a memorial to Frederick Phillips, an American who was born in New York in 1720, and who died in Chester in 1785. Phillips was a wealthy landowner in New York at the time of the American War of Independence. The memorial inscription tells the whole story of how Phillips amassed his estate and how he was deprived of it due to the loyalty towards the British at the time of the American War of Independence.
"Sacred to the memory of Frederick Phillips Esquire late of the province of New York a gentleman in whom the various social, domestic, and religious virtues were eminently united. The uniform rectitude of his conduct commanded the esteem of other whilst the benevolence of his heart and gentleness of his manners secured their love. Firmly attached to his Sovereign and the British Constitution he opposed at the hazard of his life the rebellion in North America and for this faithfull discharge of his duty to his King and Country he was proscribed and his estate one of the largest in New York was confiscated by the usurped legislature of that province. When the British troops were withdrawn from New York in 1783 he quitted a province to which he had always been an ornament and benefactor leaving all of his property behind him which reverse of fortune he bore with calmness, fortitude and dignity which had distinguished him through every former stage of his life. He was born in New York the 12th day of September in the year 1720 and died in this place the 30th day of April in the year 1785 aged 65 years"
An interesting anecdote about Frederick Phillips is that he nearly became the father-in-law of the American President George Washington. Frederick Phillips had a daughter called Mary. In 1756 George Washington fell in love with Mary and he proposed marriage to her. Mary declined the offer of marriage. If history had taken a different course the name of Frederick Phillips would be more widely known by American historians. Alternatively, it may be the case that if George Washington had married into a family so loyal to British colonial rule he might have been deemed not to be suitable to be an American president!
Burne, R.V.H, Chester Cathedral: From its Founding by Henry VIII to the Accession of Queen Victoria, S.P.C.K, London, 1958
Greene, Nelson, Three Rivers Hudson, Mohawk, Schoharie : History from Americas most Famous Valleys. The story of Old Fort Plain and the Middle Mohawk Valley, O'Connors Brothers Publishers, Fort Plan, NY, 1915
Raino, John. Biographical Directory of American Colonial and Revolutionary Governors 1607 - 1789, Meckler Books, Wesport, 1980, p.262
Wold, Barry.L & William.A.Kearns, Guide to the George Hyde Clarke Family Papers 1705- 1937, Collection Number 2800, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library, 1991. http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/ead/htmldocs/rmmo2800.html