Möens, William John Charles (DNB12)

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MÖENS, WILLIAM JOHN CHARLES (1833–1904), Huguenot antiquary, born at Upper Clapton on 12 Aug. 1833, was second son of Jacob Bernelot Möens, a Dutch merchant who, born in Rotterdam on 18 Jan. 1796, settled in youth in London, and died at Tunbridge Wells on 19 July 1866. His mother was Susan Baker, daughter of William Wright of the City of London, solicitor. The family, of old standing in Flanders, derived its name from Mons in Hainault. A great uncle, Adrian Möens (1757–1829), became a naturalised British subject in 1809, and was from 1800 consul for the Netherlands in Bristol, where he died 18 May 1829. Möens, who was privately educated, began his career on the Stock Exchange, but soon retired to a house which he had bought at Boldre in Hampshire, devoting himself to yachting, and later to antiquarian researches. In January 1865 he proceeded with his wife to Sicily and Naples, and on 15 May, while returning from Paestum with a party, including, besides his wife, the Rev. John Cruger Murray Aynsley and Mrs. Aynsley, the two men were suddenly captured by a band of about thirty brigands near Battipagha. Möens, a pioneer of amateur photography, had been photographing the temples. The two ladies took refuge in the village, and Aynsley was released next morning to negotiate a ransom fixed at 8000l. Möens remained in the brigands' custody for four months, being dragged over the mountains, insufficiently clad and often starving. Italian soldiers hotly pursued the band, without capturing them, and Möens, being very tall, was often a mark for the soldiers' bullets. Strenuous efforts for his release were made by his friends. On 26 Aug. the brigands gave him up after receiving from him the sum of 5100l. In January 1866 Möens published a lively account of the episode in 'English Travellers and Italian Brigands.' A new edition was called for in May, and the book was translated into several languages. The proceeds of sale Möens devoted to building a school near his residence at Boldre, Hampshire. In 1867 he bought the estate of Tweed in the same county. In 1869 he sailed his steam yacht Cicada from Lymington up the Rhine to Strassburg, and by French canals to Paris and Havre. A similar trip followed in 1870, and next year he published 'Through France and Belgium by River and Canal in the Steam Yacht Ytene.' Möens deeply interested himself in the New Forest He made a special study of forest law, and fought several battles for the commoners' rights. By his support of the New Forest Pony Association he did much to improve the breed. He was a member of the Hampshire county council from its formation. He published pamphlets on the working of the Allotment Acts in 1890 and Parish Councils Act in 1894.

Möens closely studied genealogy especially that of Flemish families settled in England. In 1884 he edited 'The Baptismal. Marriage, and Burial Registers of the Dutch Church, Austin Friars.' In 1885 he was one of twelve persons who founded the Huguenot Society of London. He read the first paper on 13 May, on 'The Sources of Huguenot History,' and edited the earliest publications. He was elected a vice-president in 1888, and was president from 1899 to 1902. His work for the society was untiring and of great value. Elected F.S.A. in 1886, he was appointed a local secretary, and was a member of the Hampshire Field Club and Archæological Society.

He died suddenly at Tweed on 6 Jan. 1904, and was buried at Boldre church. He married on 3 Aug. 1863 Anne, sixth daughter of Thomas Warlters, of Heathfield Park, Addington, but left no issue. By his will he divided his library between the Hampshire county council and the French Hospital, Victoria Park, London.

Besides the works cited, Möens edited: 1. 'The Walloons and their Church at Norwich: their History and Registers, 1565-1832,' Lymington, 1887-8, with an historical introduction (which was reprinted separately with a new preface 1888; 150 copies). 2. 'Chronic. Hist. der Nederland, Oorlogen, Troublen,' &c., 1888, an account of an anonymous work by Philip de St. Aldegonde, printed at Norwich in 1579 by Antony de Solemne, a Brabant who came there in 1587 (reprinted from Archæologia, li. 205). 3. 'Hampshire Allegations for Marriage Licences granted by the Bishop of Winchester, 1689 to 1837' (Harleian Soc. Publications, vol. 34), 1893. 4. 'Registers of the French Church, Threadneedle St.' (Huguenot Soc.), 1896. 5. 'Register of Baptisms in the Dutch Church at Colchester from 1645 to 1728' (Huguenot Soc.), 1905.

[Burke's Landed Gentry; Athenæum, 16 Jan. 1904; Huguenot Soc. Proc, vol. vii. 1901–4, p. 324 (with portrait); Möens's works.]

C. F. S.