V is for Frederick Vyner

As usual, I am again focusing on the famous, the forgotten and the misbegotten for round 19 of the popular ABC Wednesday meme. But finding suitable characters is getting harder, so apologies in advance if I miss out some of the alphabet.

Frederick VynerIn the wilds of North Yorkshire you will find Newby Hall, a place of fun and frolics for all the family, but it is also home to the church of Christ the Consoler, a permanent memorial to a murdered son, Frederick Vyner.

The young man was the son of the widowed Lady Mary Vyner and they were a well-connected family, her daughter, Henrietta, being married to the Earl de Grey, a prominent member of Gladstone’s Liberal government and later Viceroy of India.

In 1870, the 23-year-old Vyner set off on the grand tour of Europe, and once in Athens, he joined a small group of tourists for a day trip to the site of the Battle of Marathon, some 25 miles away. Unfortunately for them, on their way back through the mountains, they ran into a band of brigands and were taken hostage.

Greek Brigands

The brigands brought to trial

Hostage taking was not unusual in Greece at the time and most instances were settled peacefully through the payment of ransom. In the case of Vyner and his fellow travellers, the notorious gang demanded the enormous sum of £32,000 (about £3 million at today’s value).

Even so, it seemed the deal would be made and one of the captives, Lord Muncaster, was released so that he could return to Athens to arrange for the money to be raised. Meanwhile, Vyner was quite enjoying himself. His captors treated him well and he joined them in foot races and boulder throwing competitions.

But things were to go tragically wrong. As well as the ransom, the gang also demanded a full pardon for their nefarious activities which the Greek government refused to concede. Instead, troops were ordered to rescue the group by force. The brigands panicked and in the confusion, Vyner and the other captives were shot dead.

Vyner MemorialWhat became known as the ‘Dilessi Massacre’ was reported across Europe and caused an international incident as furious speeches were made in Parliament and Queen Victoria herself was openly critical of the Greek government.

Lady Mary Vyner was heartbroken at the loss of her son and she and the de Greys decided to use the money they had raised for the ransom to build two churches on their land as a monument to young Vyner’s memory, Christ the Consoler at Newby and St Mary’s at Studley.

For more information, see Christ the Consoler on Wikipedia, Christ the Consoler website, The Dilessi Massacre on English Heritage; The Dilessi Murders by Romilly Jenkins and Brigands of Hellas in The Spectator.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

5 comments… Add yours
  • Melody Steenkamp 7th December 2016

    how sad this story…. thankfully afterwards something was created to make sure they would never be forgotten.

    Have a nice ABC-day / – Week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc-team)

  • leslie 7th December 2016

    More fascinating history and in an area of England that I love! I must ask my friends if they know of this place so they can take me there next time I visit.

    abcw team

  • Yorkshire Pudding 7th December 2016

    To have fun, you just can’t beat a boulder throwing competition. As for the etching of Frederick Vyner, he looks very scary. Perhaps the Greeks threw their boulders farther.

    • Mr Parrot 8th December 2016

      I suspect he was playing header tennis with the boulders by the look of that forehead.

  • Roger Green 8th December 2016

    my goodness that’s sad


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