G W Minns was born at Norwich on 23 April 1837, the son of George Minns, a builder. Educated at Norwich Grammar School, Minns matriculated at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge in 1855, passing in 1859 to Cuddesdon. He became a bachelor of law (LL.B.) in 1859. At Cambridge he attended the lectures of Professor Robert Willis (1800-75) and “began his lifelong habit of picking up old things of every kind”. He travelled around Norfolk sketching churches and visited Holland.
G W Minns was ordained a deacon in the Oxford diocese in 1860. His first curacy was in Berkshire (Charney-Bassett, 1860-2), but he soon returned to his native county, taking a curacy at Burnham Overy (1863-4). The years 1863 to 1866 were spent mostly abroad in Normandy, Paris and Italy, sketching and studying architecture. He came home in 1866, married and became curate of East Dereham (1866-8). During these ten years Minns was an active member of the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society and contributed papers to its journal, Norfolk Archaeology. His specialisation was rood screens and their painting. He left Norfolk in 1868. He was successively curate of Englefield Green in Surrey (1868-71), curate of St James’s, Piccadilly (1871-5), vicar of St John’s, Clayhill in Enfield (1875-9 and vicar of Weston in Hampshire (1879-1914). “By 1887 his sons and his pupils were off his hands, and his small parish, though always fully worked, was not sufficient to absorb all his energies; someone then described him as an oaktree planted in a flower-pot. He took up collecting for Foreign Missions and Church Education, and was ready to return to archaeology.”
G W Minns became the first editor of the Hampshire Field Club (later the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society) in 1885. The Papers and Proceedings “became his main secular business off and on for nearly thirty years”. He was solely responsible for volumes I to IV (1885-1903). Confessing to “declining energy”, Minns wanted then to retire but was associated with Professor F J C Hearnshaw in the preparation of volume V (1904-6). He collected the papers by his friend Thomas William Shore (qv) into the “Memorial volume” (published 1908-11) and, after Hearnshaw had removed to London, produced a “supplement” to volume VI (preface dated May 1914). He took on the editing of the catalogue of the library of Titchfield Abbey and in 1892 was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquities. He excavated at Titchfield in 1893: connection with the Delmes and other Huguenots led to his election as vice-president of the London Huguenot Society. He was always ready to contend for the preservation of ancient buildings, for example the guard chamber by the West Gate (later Tudor Merchant’s Hall) and the oft-threatened Bargate. In 1914 Minns gave up the parish of Weston and in 1916 moved to Winchester, where he died, aged 82 years, on 15 February 1919.
“As an editor George William Minns was rather autocratic … and he had hard work to establish and maintain a certain standard of scholarship and accuracy. Towards the latter, and in the matter of proof-reading, he was much helped by his devoted daughter. Punctuality in publication was beyond his or any man’s powers”. The early Proceedings, before the club obtained the services of professional draughtsmen, “contain several of his sketches, rough but effective, in a style directly derived from Cotman and the Norwich School”. He was a fair linguist and had travelled to most European countries with a special eye to their architecture.
The above is largely based on an obituary by Ellis Hovell Minns, his second son, in Papers and Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society, volume VIII, 1917-19, pages 327-31; bibliography of G W Minn’s writings on pages 330-1; illustration facing page 332. Direct quotations from the obituary are in quotation marks. E H Minns (1874-1953) was fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge (1899-1905 and 1913-51), librarian of the college for 26 years, president (1928-47) and senior fellow: he occupied the same rooms in Old Court for almost 6o years, from the day he first came into residence until his death. He was university lecturer in palaeography (1906-27), Disney professor of archaeology (1927-39), Sandars reader in bibliography (1927) and president of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society (1913-14 and 1929-30). His magnum opus was Scythians and Greeks, published in 1913. He was knighted in 1945. (Obituary in The Times, 15 June 1953 headed “A scholar to his finger-tips”) and Alumni Cantabrigienses.


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