2014 June Worth Family Bible

The Worth Family Bible

The Worth Book of the Month for June 2014 is the Worth Family Bible, donated on 10 May 2014 to the Edward Worth Library by Peter and Cleone Blomfield of Queenstown, New Zealand.


The signature on the title-page of the Bible is that of Edward Worth’s father, John Worth (1648-1688), Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. The Bible was printed at Cambridge in 1629 by the University printers Thomas and John Buck and is bound in a contemporary binding which includes annotated parchment spine-linings. Thomas Buck had been appointed printer to the University of Cambridge four years before, in 1625. As a Fellow of St Catherine’s and in his role as Esquire Bedell (1624-1670) Buck’s interests were not solely focussed on his printing house and he often worked in tandem, either with his brothers John and Francis Buck, or with colleagues such as Leonard Green and Roger Daniel. Likewise, his brother John (also an Esquire Bedell), continued to be involved in the printing office until 1668 though his name does not occur on imprints after 1635.

The titlepage, engraved by John Payne, depicts the Tetragrammaton, ‘Yahweh’, the Hebrew name for God, shown here in the heavens and surrounded with a script from the Book of Genesis ‘God saw everything that he had made and behold, it was very good.’ Immediately underneath are Peace (carrying an olive branch) and Justice (with her sword). To the left of Justice are scenes from the Old Testament: Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge; Abraham and Isaac. To the right of Peace are scenes from the New Testament: the nativity and the resurrection. The title is flanked on the left by Moses and his tablets of the Law and on the right King David plays his harp. Underneath are the four evangelists while a central cartouche of the Last Supper is above an image of a deer drinking from a stream, captioned with the appropriate biblical reference Psal. 42. 1: ‘As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after three, O God.’


This Bible is not only of interest because of its printing history but also because it substantially expands our knowledge of the Worth family in the late seventeenth century. It does so because John Worth used the flyleaves of the Bible to record the births (and in some cases early deaths) of his family. Here we see his references to his two surviving sons, Michael and Edward, and to two daughters who died young, Anne and Susannah. The births and deaths of other children are subsequently referred to, but only Michael and Edward survived to adulthood. Following these references to the births and deaths of their children John Worth sorrowfully records the death of his ‘deare wife Comfort Worth’ on 24 September 1681 and notes that on 10 May 1682 the Chapter of St Patrick’s Cathedral, having granted his brother William a burial place in choir, the bodies of Comfort and six of their children were transferred there. These annotations substantially increase our knowledge of the family circle of Edward Worth and both the Librarian and the Trustees of the Worth Library are very grateful to Mr and Mrs Blomfield for donating this important source to the Worth Library.

The Bible also includes important provenance information: the front pasteboard bears the inscription ‘C. Wellbeloved York’. It is not known how the Bible became the possession of Charles Wellbeloved (1789-1858), who was a Unitarian minister of some renown. When Manchester College moved to York he played a pivotal role in teaching students theology, primarily by encouraging them to read carefully the old and new testaments without any preconceived theological assumptions. This was in line with his own theological viewpoint but led to some disquiet among the students and initially at least his commitment to Unitarianism was in some doubt. However, Wellbeloved’s spirited defence of Unitarianism against the strictures of Archdeacon Francis Wrangham allayed these fears. The Old Testament proved to be the subject matter of his magnum opus, an intended translation of the Bible for families. Wellbeloved, with his gift for languages, was well placed to produce this but the sheer scale of the work ensured that it was never completed: he eventually published three volumes as Holy Scriptures of the Old Covenant (1859-62). It is likely that Wellbeloved used the inter-leavings in the Worth Family Bible as a number of the remaining inter-leavings bear annotations in a nineteenth-century hand. The vast majority of the inter-leavings have, unfortunately, been torn out.


It is clear from accompanying documentation that after Charles Wellbeloved the Bible came into the possession of, Benjamin Harris Cowper (1822-1904), the author of (among other works) The Apocryphal Gospels. He, like Wellbeloved, was a biblical scholar and also shared the latter’s interests in antiquities. Cowper, in letters dated 30 May 1870 and 6 June 1870 addressed to the ‘Rev. E. W. Newenham’ says that he ‘purchased the old Bible as a curiosity,’ and that it had come from Wellbeloved’s library. His description of it as ‘clean, with wide margins, in 3 vols, old strong calf, partly interleaved’ is a reminder that the present Bible is partial in nature – it stops at the Book of Ezra. Cowper had initially intended to have it rebound in one volume but did not do so. It is not known what happened to the volumes dealing with the Apocrypha and New Testament.

The letter dated 6 June 1870 makes it clear that the ‘W’ in ‘E. W. Newenham’ stood for ‘Worth’ and that Cowper was in fact attempting to contact descendants of the original owner. That his offer to sell it to Edward Worth Newenham was accepted is evident from the final letter, dated 16 June 1870, where Cowper states that he had received payment and forwarded the Bible as requested. Though this latter letter is not addressed it is likely that it was to the same recipient as Cowper’s other correspondence. Reverend Edward Worth Newenham (d.1892) was one of the Newenhams of Coolmore, Carrigaline, Co. Cork and held substantial estates in Cork, having succeeded to the family estates at Coolmore following the death of his uncle. The reference in Cowper’s letter of 6 June to a Dorothy Worth (mentioned in the now lost reply of Edward Worth Newenham) suggests that the reverend was a descendant of Dr Edward Worth’s first cousin, Edward Worth of Rathfarnham (whose daughter Dorothy had married William Newenham (1696?–1738), of Coolmore, Co. Cork. Edward Worth Newenham died in 1892 and had two sons, William Thomas Worth and Edward Arthur Worth, as well as three daughters, Anne Marie (d.1864), Helena Adelaide (1873) and Edith Sophia. It is not known whether it was Edward Worth Newenham who decided to sell the Bible or whether this decision was taken by his descendants, though it seems more likely that this event took place after his death in  1892. In any event, the book did not stay at Coolmore (if it ever got there), for its next destination was to New Zealand.

How the Bible came into the possession of the Blomfields is a fascinating story which Mr and Mrs Blomfield have pieced together as follows: Mr Peter Blomfield was given the Bible by his father, Dennis Blomfield who in turn inherited it from his father Sidney Blomfield. While it is possible that Sidney may have bought it himself, Peter considers this unlikely as Sidney did not leave any other books to his family. A far more likely candidate for purchase of the Worth Bible was Sidney’s mother-in-law and Peter’s great grandmother, Amelia Rochfort (1845-1942). Amelia was the daughter of Henry Lewis (1815-1889), and the wife of John Rochfort (1832-1893). Both men played important roles in the surveying of New Zealand: both the Lewis Pass and the Lewis River on the South Island are named after Henry Lewis while Mount Rochfort on the west coast commemorates John Rochfort. These two men were part of a close knit friendship network of surveyors and geologists who had travelled to New Zealand to make new lives for themselves. There they had socialised together and intermarried with other surveyors’ families (for example Amelia Lewis’ sister Eleanor married Arthur Dudley Dobson whose own sister, Mary Dobson married Julius von Haast. Both men would likewise be commemorated by having mountain passes named after them: Arthurs Pass and Haast Pass, both in the Southern Alps of the South Island).

Of these the most colourful was undoubtedly Amelia’s husband John Rochfort who had travelled to New Zealand in 1850 at the age of nineteen, having previously qualified as an engineer under Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Three years later he returned to Britain, detailing his adventures in a book published at London in 1853 (a reprint of which Peter Blomfield kindly donated to the Edward Worth Library). On his return to New Zealand he set about exploring and surveying the west coast of the South Island and would later design the main Trunk Railway Line running through the centre of the North Island. As Peter graphically related during the reception to mark the donation ‘This was an adventure of guns, Maori warriors, difficult terrain, impenetrable bush, punishing treks, raging rivers, terrible weather and starvation from which he barely survived but his fluency in Maori enabled him to win the tribes over.’

It is unlikely that Rochfort purchased in the Bible in the 1850s but he might well have done so later on for his wife Amelia, a lady known for her piety. Equally, she might well have purchased it herself: she was a redoubtable woman who ran a nursing home in Nelson for many years, ably bringing up her children, among whom was her daughter Josephine. It was at this nursing home that her daughter Josephine met her future husband, Sidney Blomfield, for Sidney had been shipwrecked on the North Coast in 1888 and had nearly died of pneumonia. We know that Sidney subsequently travelled to England but returned to New Zealand in 1901 and married Josephine.

Did the Worth Family Bible come to New Zealand after the death of Edward Worth Newenham in 1892 or before this date? Given Amelia’s connections and interests she might well have purchased it herself from an emigrant to New Zealand either in the late 1890s or early years of the twentieth century as she lived until 1942. Or did her son-in-law Sidney Blomfield purchase it in London when he returned there, prior to his marriage to Josephine Rochfort in 1901? We have no way of knowing. All we can say is that, thanks to the combined researches of Peter and Cleone Blomfield, who indefatigably tracked down previous owners of the Worth Bible, and thanks to their generous donation, the Worth Family Bible has finally returned home.


Black, M. H. (1984) CambridgeUniversity Press 1584-1984 (Cambridge University Press).

Blomfield, Peter and Cleone; notes of speeches at reception 10 May 2014.

Brady, W. M. (1864), Clerical and Parish Records of Cork, Cloyne and Ross (London: Longman).

Kelly, James (2008), ‘Newenham, Sir Edward(1734–1814)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008.

Oates, J. C. T. (1986), CambridgeUniversityLibrary. A History. From the Beginning to the Copyright Act of Queen Anne (Cambridge University Press).

Plomer, H. R. et al (1977), Dictionaries of the Printers and Booksellers who were at work in England, Scotland and Ireland 1557-1775 (The Bibliographical Society).

Wykes, David L. (2004), ‘Wellbeloved, Charles (1769-1858), OxfordDictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press).

NUIG Landed Estates Database: Accessed 9 June 2014: http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/family-show.jsp?id=2852


Text: Peter and Cleone Blomfield and Elizabethanne Boran.

Newspaper article: http://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/310589/ancient-passages

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