Rev Ivor Granville Farrar (1874-1944)

Rev Ivor Granville Farrar

Written by Catherine Parry-Wingfield

Occupation: Clergyman

Family background and early life

Ivor Granville Farrar was born at The Lodge, Marlborough College, on 14 September 1874, where his father, the Rev. Frederic William Farrar (1831-1903; ODNB), was headmaster.  His mother was Lucy Cardew (1841-1921), whose father Fredrick Campbell Cardew (1808-c.1853) had been in the Indian Civil Service.  Ivor was the youngest of their ten children; five sons and five daughters were born in 13 years.  Frederic Farrar left schoolmastering to become rector of St Margaret’s, Westminster, and was subsequently archdeacon of Westminster and chaplain to the King, Edward VII.  During this period the family lived in the Deanery, Dean’s Yard, Westminster.  The Farrar family included a number of clerics and claimed descent from Bishop Robert Ferrar, Bishop of St David’s who was burnt at the stake in Carmarthen in 1555.  Three of Frederic and Lucy’s sons went into the church, and all five of their daughters married clergymen.  Maud married Henry Montgomery (1847-1932), later bishop of Tasmania; they were the parents of Bernard, who would become Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery of Alamein (1887-1976).

As well as his clerical duties, Dean Farrar was a prolific writer on theological subjects and his immensely successful Life of Christ was published in 1874. the year of Ivor’s birth. He also wrote a number of novels, of which the most famous was Eric or Little by Little, a moralising tale of school life.  Shortly after Dean Farrar’s death in 1903, his eldest son Reginald wrote a moving biography of his father.  The Dean’s daughters contributed memories of their happy childhood at Marlborough, at Westminster, and on their family holidays in Dorset where much of the Dean’s writing was done.

‘We were a family of ten children, all healthy and strong, .... [frequently taking] rambles, enriched by his wonderful talk.  Many of his books were largely written in the leisure of these holidays .... [and he was] never disturbed by our merry games.   In London .... his study was only separated by folding doors from a drawing-room where his five daughters practised on the piano in succession.   .... The social life at Dean’s Yard was very charming.... [including] historians, poets, churchmen and the eminent in science and art of his day....The Deanery was filled with beautiful objects and with colour…’ (Farrar, 1904). Their London visitors included Charles Darwin (1809-1892; ODNB), Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892; ODNB), Robert Browning (1812-1889), the actor Henry Irving (1838-1905; ODNB), and famous artists including William Holman Hunt (1827-1910; ODNB), whose works illustrated Farrar’s Life of Christ, who mixed with the constant flow of churchmen. In Dorset there was ‘an innocent-faced donkey, ‘Blacknose’, who every day might be seen….with the scarlet-capped babies in panniers on each side, and a vigorous little fellow astride his back’ (Farrar, 1904).  Ivor would have been one of those lusty babies. 

Family paintings and photographs show Ivor as a round-faced child, with long dark hair cut into a thick fringe.  A photograph taken when he was about six years old shows him with his brother Percival, a couple of years older, both dressed in velvet suits with lace collars and cuffs, with their mother Lucy, probably on the way to have their portrait painted.

During Dean Farrar’s time as Dean of Westminster, Ivor attended Westminster School, entered in his mother’s Family Book as St Peter’s College, its correct name, just a minute’s journey from home, across Dean’s Yard.  Next he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating with a B.A. in 1895, followed by a Master’s degree in 1899, and then trained for the clergy at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. 

Early Career 

The Rev. Ivor Farrar became the assistant curate of St Michael’s, Chester Square in London’s fashionable Belgravia.  Following family tradition, Ivor ventured into writing religious tracts, and in April 1903 The Religious Tract Society published his work Some Fathers of the Reformation (price 1s 6d).  An unknown reviewer was not overly impressed: ‘This is a rather ‘precious’ volume of semi-historical, semi-theological essays bound together by a strongly Protestant purpose. The style is somewhat weak and florid, but much is well and clearly said.’ The reviewer concludes ‘the author may be recommended to prune his periods and to endeavour to see two sides of a question; and then he will probably write a good book.’  It does not seem that Ivor was inclined to pursue religious authorship; perhaps the weight of his father’s fame in this field was too great for him to live up to.  In May 1903 Ivor took up the living of St George’s, Millom.  The new red sandstone church had been built by Paley and Austin in 1874-7 and the spire was a major landmark, visible from Furness, across the sands.

Life at Millom

Ivor knew the area, as his sister Sibyl (1867-1941) had married the Rev. Sidney Savage (1867-1941), vicar of St Mark’s, Barrow-in-Furness, in 1889.  Ivor’s name appears in the vicarage Visitors’ Book, one of the first family members to visit his newly married sister.  In 1906, he married Constance Lily Adams (c.1888-1968), the 18-year-old daughter of the Rev. George Adams, vicar of St John the Baptist at Erith in Kent. Constance, who was born in Argentina, had ambitions to be an artist but was denied the chance of attending art school as it was thought to be unsuitable for a vicar’s daughter.  In her teens, she had to content herself with painting the abundant wildflowers around her father’s church and vicarage, and would continue to paint throughout her life. 

Ivor’s very young wife accompanied him to Millom after their wedding.  On the back of her painting of a handsome staircase, with a longcase clock on the landing, Constance wrote ‘my first married home’. She kept a number of postcards of Millom at that time, showing it as a thriving industrial town, based on mining and the iron works. She wrote on a card of ‘Holborn Hill from the Church Tower’……‘The mountain is Black Coombe.  This is the view from my bedroom window’.  Ivor and Constance had no children.


A newspaper report from December 1907 recorded that ‘One of Dean Farrar’s clever sons, the Rev. Ivor G., Vicar of St George’s, Millom, has accepted from the Bishop of Carlisle the offer of the living of Grange-over-Sands.’ The bishop was John Diggle (1847-1920) and the living at St Paul’s church was taken up in March 1908; he and Constance remained there for the next eight years.  Constance carefully kept the many postcards sent at Christmas, and by family, friends and parishioners throughout the years, and these record many details of the life of the parish in the early 20th century.  Plans were drawn up during Ivor’s time to build a new church, for an expected congregation of 600; these plans were thwarted by the outbreak of the First World War, though a new clocktower was built during his incumbency.  By the end of 1911 funds were being raised to build the parish hall; postcards of the laying of the foundation stone in July 1912, by the wealthy local benefactress Sophia Arkwright (1841-1929), reveal unseasonable weather, huge puddles across the building site and a forest of huge umbrellas, though not covering the procession of little choirboys.

These postcards hint at a very lively social life for the parishioners of St Paul’s, in which Ivor and Constance played a significant part.  Ivor would have presided over the service in 1911 celebrating the coronation of George V.  This was followed by a parade, various sporting events, and concluded with a bonfire. Much of Constance’s life was taken up with organising parish activities, many involving massive amounts of cake-making.

Extravagantly costumed performances took place at the Victoria Hall, with photographs of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado easy to place, though one card depicting a kitten in a pot suspended from a cradle of small branches, flanked by two women in black bonnets, is more difficult to fathom, unless this is the witches’ scene from Macbeth.  Another card depicts the formidable Miss Forbes Wilson twice, one image smiling for ‘A good rehearsal’, the other glowering for ‘A bad rehearsal’, the latter clearly had consequences that were best avoided!  Ivor’s sister Sibyl, now living in Hexham, Northumberland where her husband had become Canon of Hexham Abbey, may have helped. In January1903 Ivor stayed at Hexham, one of many visits which he made there, joined by Constance after their marriage.  Ivor took part in one of the home dramatics which Sibyl ran, written and acted by members of the family and friends.  The Savage children issued a formal invitation to a performance at The Priory, the Savage home, of Little Red Riding Hood, followed by dancing:  Ivor played the part of a farmer, and of ‘Goodman Grey’, a rheumatic old woodman.

Sporting activities abounded, and Ivor led the scout pack.  Through the family link to Hexham, the Grange badminton team, men and women players, visited there in March 1909.  Ivor commented in the Priory Visitors’ book ‘Grange Badminton Club were beaten by Hexham, but who will win next time ????’  The Grange Hotel, funded by the Furness railway, with its lawns and tennis courts, was clearly popular with the locals, as was its long-serving manager, Thomas Rigg (d.1913) who organised a charabanc service.  One postcard has a long list of the subscribers to his retirement present.

Among the postcards there are a number of cartoons drawn by Tom Darwell and produced in Grange, using humour to combat the shadows of World War I.  Some seem surprisingly irreverent to send to the vicar’s wife.  From January 1915, a pair of toddlers kiss behind the little girl’s bonnet with the motto ‘As it was in the beginning, now and ever shall be, the world will never mend’; another shows ‘Tommy Atkins’ fast asleep in bed, a framed motto hangs above his head pronouncing ‘God’s best gift – sleep’.

Ivor’s incumbency at Grange lasted into the first two years of the war.  Even Grange had its wartime anxieties, perhaps because of the Vickers shipyard and munitions factory being not far away at Barrow-in-Furness.  One correspondent revealed that a supposed German spy had been arrested, from among the Belgian workmen who were there.  In 1915 Ivor and Constance went to Italy, Ivor serving as a military chaplain.  He was awarded the British War Medal for this service and Constance brought back a photo album filled with postcards of the famous sights of Rome.

His Later Years

Not long after their return to Grange, Ivor became ill, probably in the early stages of tuberculosis which would eventually confine him to a wheelchair.  Parishioners wrote to Constance, full of concern for him. The Farrars left Grange in 1916 and then spent a long period in London.  Their address, in the Hexham Priory Visitors’ Book in 1923, is given as Torrington Place, WCl; Ivor added in the Remarks column that he had ‘preached to the mayor and hung many pictures’. On their next visit he commented ‘3 sermons!’ Clearly the clerical family visitors were put to work.

Ivor and Constance made their last home near Dolgellau, North Wales, where Ivor became the vicar of the small parish of St Mark’s, Brithdir. This exceptionally beautiful Arts and Crafts church must have given him much solace.  He died in 1944 and Constance lived on until 1968, devoting her many years of widowhood to parish work, work for National Savings, and for other good causes, for which she was awarded an MBE.  Both Ivor and Constance Farrar are buried at Brithdir.


  • Reginald Farrar, The Life of Frederic William Farrar, 1904, repr 2008
  • Foxe’s Book of English Martyrs, 1563
  • Pedigrees on   [re Cardews]

Family collections and papers include

  • Lucy Farrar’s Family Book
  • Sibyl Savage’s Family Press Cuttings
  • Sibyl Savage’s Visitors’ Books for Barrow-in-Furness and The Priory, Hexham
  • Constance Farrar’s large collection of postcards; those of Grange-over-Sands have been deposited with the archives at St Paul’s Church, Grange