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Main | Bk2: Henry Atley, Louisa Tomlin (Cobley), Jane Weekley, Elizabeth Figgis, Maud Burgin: SOME WORKHOUSE LIVES. »
Thursday
Feb212013

Bk. 2: Isaac Gaskarth: Charles Proby: John Watson: William de Pipe Belcher: Alfred J. Sandilands: Percival R. R. Sandilands: Edward Sandford: Edward A. Sandford: William O. Leadbitter: Andrew C. Neely: Charles W. Cotes. VICARS OF DENFORD CUM RINGSTEAD. (Also some curates including Robert Morgan Vane: Thomas Brownrigg: Thomas Symonds: Benjamin Clay: Charles Chalklen: Edward Bowman: John G. Rogers.

Bk. 2: Isaac Gaskarth: Charles Proby: John Watson: William de Pipe Belcher: Alfred John Sandilands: Percival Richard Renorden Sandilands: Edward Sandford: Edward Armitage Sandford: William Oram Leadbitter: Andrew Cavendish Neely: Charles William Cotes. VICARS OF DENFORD CUM RINGSTEAD. (Also some curates including Robert Morgan Vane: Thomas Brownrigg: Harrrison Packard: Thomas Martin Symonds: Benjamin Clay: Charles William Chalklen: Edward Bowman: John Gurney Rogers: Edward Kitson.)

 

It may come as some surprise that the smaller village of Denford had for centuries been the senior church of the Denford cum Ringstead Parish joint parish. The two ‘vicarages’ were linked from before 1535 and Ringstead was described as a chapelry which means that weddings could not be solemnized there. Nevertheless the Ringstead Marriage Register starts on November 26th1569. The relationship between the two churches is therefore somewhat unclear but we do know that the incumbent always seemed to have lived in a vicarage in Denford. John Glassbrook, an eighteenth century vicar, wrote a Memorandum in the Denford Parish Registers in 1763:

When I was first Vicar I found the two Parishes contesting about Ecclesiastical Superiority. I happen'd this year to meet accidentally with Brown Willis Esq. (one of the most eminent Antiquarians this Day in England) who answer'd me upon good Grounds that Denford was the Mother Church and that Ringstead originally was no more than a Chapel of Ease. This information is able to support itself but what in my opinion adds weight and strength to it is This, That the Parish of Ringstead is oblig'd to repair some Part of the Wall belonging to the Churchyard of Denford and I am credibly inform'd that it can be proved at this time by living Witnesses that it has been so repaired.

There was also a vicarage in Ringstead in first part of the nineteenth century but it may be that this was always the residence of the curate.

Certainly the same ‘incumbent’ had always had charge of both churches until recent times and these are recorded as far back as Peter of Chester in 1237. Of course, originally these priests would have been Roman Catholic. Starting with Henry VIII’s break with Rome the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries were a time of religious turmoil when the church was splintered high and low. In 1662, after the restoration of Charles II to the throne after Cromwell’s Commonwealth, an Act of Uniformity was introduced. This laid down that all clergy and Government officials should take an oath to follow the rites and prayers prescribed in a new Book of Common Prayer. Over two thousand clergymen refused and were expelled from the Church of England. Henry Raymond, the curate at Ringstead was one of these ‘Two Thousand Worthies’. Another of these ’Worthies’ from Desborough set up a church at Rowell (Rothwell). The local nonconformists made the long trek there until in 1714 forty-three people broke off from Rothwell and set up the Baptist Church in Ringstead. The division and occasional bitterness of this break from the Church of England smouldered in Ringstead throughout the nineteenth century, erupting into rows over education in the 1890s.

 

Isaac Gaskarth (1752 -1811) VICAR 1777 - 1811

We are looking at the nineteenth century in these lives so our first vicar is Isaac Gaskarth who was appointed the vicar of Denford cum Ringstead on 18th July 1777. These ‘livings’ were owned by wealthy patrons who would install their chosen man, although their choice had to be affirmed by the Bishop. In Isaac’s case his patron was the local Lord of the Manor, Leonard Burton.

Isaac had been born in Crosthwaite in Cumberland and was christened there on 26thNovember 1752. The exact sequence of Isaac’s career is a little unclear but we do know that he was ordained as a deacon at the Bishop of Durham’s Chapel within the Castle at Bishop Auckland. Two years later, on 13th July 1777, he was ordained by the Bishop of Durham as a priest and five days later was appointed to the vacant vicarage at Denford cum Ringstead

The Gaskarths of north-west England were linked to the aristocracy but if there was any connection it was a distant one. We know that Isaac was admitted as a ‘Sizar’ to St John’s College, Cambridge. A Sizar would have had a grant probably in the form of free meals or lower lodging costs. In return he would, perhaps, have had to do menial jobs for the better-off, full fee-paying students. Exactly how and when he gained a degree, M.A. and Bachelor of Divinity is again not clear. It seems that his B.D was obtained as a ‘Ten Year Man’ at Easter 1790. Isaac would have matriculated (enrolled) at St John’s College on July 7th 1779 and then, as long as he was over twenty-four years of age, he could qualify after ten years had passed without having been tested in any way. As the Cambridge M.A. could then be obtained, again merely by the passage of time, it appears that his studying was not a great hardship for Isaac. Is it possible that he spent some of the term in Cambridge and much of his parochial work was done by a curate? This ‘Ten Year’ practice was not often used and was abolished in the middle of the nineteenth century

One of Isaac’s earliest actions after he was appointed vicar was to apply, in 1778, for a Gamekeeper’s Licence. This may seem a little odd for the local vicar. Was he moonlighting for extra income? The reason for his application can be explained by the laws of the ‘game’ at this date which would soon be challenged and mainly swept away.

E.V. Bovill explains, in English Country Life 1780- 1830, how the system worked:

Under an Act of 1671 the killing of game was prohibited, in general terms, to all except owners of land worth £100 a year, lessees of land worth £150 a year, the eldest sons of esquires or of persons of higher degree and the owners of franchises. A curious anomaly was that if an esquire or a person of higher degree had not the necessary qualifications to kill game, his eldest son was not debarred from doing so. Another was that although a lord of the manor might grant the right to kill game to his gamekeeper he might not do so to his younger sons. This led to younger sons sometimes engaging themselves as keepers in order to secure the right to shoot. The owners of only a few acres could not enjoy the game their fields harboured, and which destroyed their crops, unless they could persuade a qualified neighbour to shoot it for them.

It seems that Isaac was obtaining a Gamekeeper’s Licence so that he could shoot and fish on his patron, Leonard Burton’s land and also, perhaps, some of his neighbours.

The living must have suited Isaac  for he stayed thirty-four years in his post. We see, in the Northampton Mercury of 7thApril 1804, that he was supplementing his income by taking paying students into Denford Vicarage. He advertises for ‘four young gentlemen’ to be given lessons in ’the Rudiments of the Greek and Latin Languages preparatory to their Entrance into any of the public schools’. It is from this advertisement that we know that he has an M.A. but whether obtained through hard study is unclear. We will briefly refer to this advertisement again.

In 1806 Isaac also took over as rector of Islip, a living with a value of £275 a year. It was still possible to hold more than one living with the permission of the Bishop. Of course today, with smaller congregations and difficult economic times the Church of England has again been forced to gather parishes together under one vicar or rector. At this time it was often a way fo gaining extra income without doing anything for it. It appears that at this point a clergyman called Daniel Crofts was appointed as curate of Ringstead. We can see this from the Parish Registers. From July 1796 until December 1808 all the christenings and until January 28th 1809 all the burials are performed by Isaac but from then until Isaac’s death they are all registered by the curate, Daniel Crofts.

Daniel came from a family of clergymen in Lewes in Sussex where Croft memorials still line the walls of the church. He had attended Kimbolton School and then Christ's College, Cambridge where he gained his B.A. in 1809 (or possibly late 1808). His first post was as curate of Ringstead and he then moved on to become Rector of Shelton in Bedfordshire where he continued until his death in 1866. Once appointed, barring gross misconduct, a vicar had a job for life whereas a curate had no security of tenure and could be removed at a whim.

Returning to Isaac Gaskarth, it has ofen proved more difficult to fill in the details of the clergymen's families than for most of their congregation. They may be at best only a brief footnote in Burke's Peerage but, as with many of the upper classes, their social lives often covered a wide geographical area and few. if any, were baptised, married and had children near Denford or Ringstead. Isaac Gaskarth was no exception. As we have said, he came from Cumberland and in his Will he mentions his sister, Sarah, and a Thomas Gaskarth, who is almost certainly his brother. We are sure, therefore, that he was the son of John and Sarah Gaskarth and had, besides Sarah and Thomas, at least two other brothers, John and James.

Unfortunately for us, there are a number of Isaac Gaskarths in Cumberland. We know that there was an Isaac who agreed to a bond of £200 for a licence to marry Elizabeth Coward on 29th December 1766 in the parish of Windermere. This couple had at least four children of whom two were called Isaac, the first named having died at just four years of age. Another Isaac Gaskarth married Jane Porter at Crosthwaite in 1791 and had three children. Our Isaac would have been very young for the first marriage and for the second would have been living in the Ringstead area. There was also the ambiguous evidence of the advertisement in the Northampton Mercury on 7th April 1804 for "four young gentlemen" to study the "Rudiments of the Greek and Latin Languages". The place for the teaching is "eight miles from Wellingborough and four from Thrapston" so it is certainly Ringstead or Great Addington rather than Denford but there are four clergymen to whom applicants can apply so we cannot be completely certain that the "Married Clergyman" who is to do the teaching is Isaac. There is also no sign of the burial of a wife of Isaac after this time.

All we can say is that there is a possibility that Isaac had been married. We do know that he did marry by licence to Rebecca West on 9th August 1810. His wife was a twenty-seven year old "spinster" and Isaac, some thirty years her senior, is described as a "bachelor". If this was his first marriage he would not be the last Ringstead clergyman to marry late in life.

Isaac made a Will later that same year, on 12th October 1810, and he died just over a year later on 2nd December 1811. He was fifty-eight years old. One of his first recorded acts in the Parish had been to take out a Gamekeeper’s Licence most probably so that he could fish on the Nene. One of his last was to bequeath to Lord of the Manor, Leonard Burton:

. . . his fishing-rods, fishing lines, hooks, nets and whatever belongs to the amusement of angling

Ringstead had, and still has, a name for its fishing and Isaac would not be the last incumbent to be a field sportsman. He was also something of a craftsman it seems for he left to:

. . . Thomas Porter, son of John Porter [his long-serving Parish Clerk] his Turning Lathe and all my tools belonging to the Art of Turning. Also I give and bequeath all other Tools, Instruments and Goods in my Workshop to my godson William Geary of Denford Lodge. Also I give and bequeath to the said William Geary the sum of Ten Pounds.

He left similar amounts to Jane, the daughter of Ann Geary and to his Parish Clerk, John Porter as well as to Thomas Gaskarth, of Bridge End near Keswick, for the maintenance of Isaac's sister Sarah.

After these few bequests he left the residue of his estate, including a house in Great Addington, to his new wife, Rebecca. In the Poll Book of 1806 Isaac is shown as having a vote at Denford but his residence is at Ringstead so it may be that the Vicarage for the joint Parish was in Ringstead at this time. It was in  Ringstead churchyard that he was buried on December 9th 1811.

 

Charles Proby (c1765 – 1822) VICAR 1812 - 1822

The next vicar appointed was Charles Proby who was born on 20th January 1765. He was the eldest son of Captain Charles Proby who was the Commissioner of the Naval Dockyard at Chatham. Once again he was on the fringes of the aristocracy. The Proby family seat was Elton Hall in Huntingdonshire. Charles married twice, firstly, in 1791, to Susan Cherry whose father was Chairman of the Victualling Board and secondly, on 6thJanuary 1796 to his cousin Catherine Proby who was the second daughter of Baptist Proby, the Dean of Lichfield.

In 1781, at the age of sixteen, he had matriculated at St John’s College, Cambridge, as many of the Denford cum Ringstead vicars of this period had, He gained his B.A. in 1785 and his M.A. in 1789. Charles then entered the Inner Temple in 1789 but seems never to have pursued a legal career. For many of his class the choice was the military, the law or the clergy. It was the latter that he chose for he was ordained as a deacon at Winchester, in 1790, and as a priest by the Bishop of Peterborough on 29thJune, 1792. His path was set and he became a curate at Tansor in the same year. A year later he was appointed the Rector of Stanwick. He also seems to have acquired the parish of Slawston in Leicestershire in 1802. In 1808 he was ‘collated’ by the Bishop of Lincoln to the Prebend of Lafford or New Sleaford. This was by this time just an honorary title, usually given to senior clergymen for good service and meant he could sit in the prebendal stalls, which were behind the choir, when attending a service.

On the 12th March 1812, following the death of Isaac Gaskarth, Charles was appointed to Denford with the chapelry of Ringstead. Except at his appointment and death he always seems to be referred to as the Rector of Stanwick and it would seem that most of the work of the joint parish fell to his younger curates. In 1812 the curate was Robert Morgan Vane who again was connected to the aristocracy. He was born 4thOctober 1785, the eldest son of Morgan Vane of Bilby Hall in Nottinghamshire. Unusually for the local clergy at this time, he went in 1804 to Emmanuel College in Cambridge gaining his B.A. in 1808 and his M.A. in 1811. He was ordained as a priest in 1812 and became curate of Denford and Ringstead in the same year. He moved on to become Rector of Lowick and Islip in 1816 which he held until 1842, a post that he combined with being chaplain to the Duke of Dorset.

Robert Morgan Vane’s successor as curate was Thomas Brownrigg. He had been the curate at Rushden and on the 6thJuly 1816 was appointed to Denford cum Ringstead. He was there for just two years, which was often about the length of time that curates served in a small parish before moving on to another curacy or vicarage.

It was during Thomas’s time as curate that the frame for the bells was repaired. On Saturday February 8th 1817 the Northampton Mercury had an advertisement for:

Any competent Person who wishes to engage in putting the FRAMES of the BELLS in complete repair , are requested to inspect the same and give in their respective Estimate to JOSEPH BETTS and WM GEARY. Churchwardens of the Parish of Ringstead, Northamptonshire

Ringstead January 29th 1817

The church fabric was perhaps beginning to show the signs of rot and decay that would leave it in a ruinous state some forty years later.

We know little more of what he did apart from officiating at 35 baptisms, 10 weddings and 15 burials, but we do have some idea of how his house was furnished. The Northampton Mercury for 28thFebruary 1818 has an advertisement for the sale of the household furniture and other effects of the Reverend Mr. Brownrigg of Ringstead who was ‘removing to Yorkshire’. The fact that he is said to be ‘of Ringstead’ implies that he was living in the vicarage there. The sale is of:

Handsome mahogany dining, Pembroke and other Tables; modern mahogany Chairs (horse-hair Seats);Scotch Carpets, hearth Rugs, mahogany writing Desk, ditto dinner Tray, tea Trays, Caddie &c; Bath Stove, Grates, Fenders and fire Irons, four-post and other Bedsteads, in cotton and check Furniture; well seasoned feather and flock Beds, Blankets and Counterpanes; bed-side Carpets; dressing Tables and Glasses, oak dining and other Tables, oak Bureau; deal painted Bookcase, with Drawers; Rumford Roaster, complete; two kitchen Grates and kitchen Requisites in general, in Copper, Brass, Iron, Tin &c., Glass and Earthenware and various other Articles, which are expressed in Catalogues to be had at the White Hart Inn, Thrapston, Green Dragon, Higham Ferrers, at the Place of Sale; and of the Auctioneers, Irthlingborough.

Thomas moved to Bramham in Yorkshire and in 1841 we see him there aged 76 as a “Clerk in Orders”. Looking after him is a female servant called Ann Winterburn. Would it be a lonely, solitary decline into his grave? Not quite. On 26th September 1844, aged 79 he married thirty-six year old Ann. It seems to have been a happy marriage for Thomas, when he died some four years later, left an annuity of £50 as well as:

All my furniture plate linen china pictures wearing apparel and such of my books as she shall select and other household effects of which I shall die possessed unto my dear wife Ann.

In 1818, at about the time that Thomas Brownrigg was leaving, the Government had set up a Select Committee which was asking every parish to make returns on what educational facilities were available for the poor. The returns for Stanwick, Denford and Ringstead were signed by Charles Proby but it looks as if the information for the latter two parishes was produced by a curate called ‘H. Packarde’ and countersigned by Charles as the vicar. This curate is not on the Church of England clergymen online database but we know that it was Harrison Packard . The return for Stanwick is interesting in that we see a little of Charles Proby’s attitude. He observes

There are a few of the poor who cannot afford something towards the education of their children but they put them to the lace pillow as soon as they can use their fingers; and when strong enough the boys are employed in husbandry.

The return for Ringstead reveals that there is a Sunday School, supported by voluntary contributions in which about 40 boys and girls are taught. There are also two day schools kept by women in which about 24 children are taught at their parents’ expense. At Denford we see there is also a Sunday School and 'a lace school kept by a woman, the parents paying for the education of their children.’ It is in the final column where the entry for Stanwick given above had been made and in this column the entry for Ringstead has a different tone.

The generality of the poor cannot afford the means of education for their children and would be glad to possess them.

Harrison Packard(e) was not long in the parish and from May 12th 1818 until December 7th of the same year he conducted sixteen baptisms. It may be that after the resignation of Thomas Brownrigg a temporary curate had to be drafted in. He was the son of a Suffolk Rector and had been born in his father's parish of Middleton in 1873. He had gained his B.A. and M.A. at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Apart form the short stay at Ringstead he spent all his career in Suffolk, finally taking over the Rectorship of Fordley with Middleton and the Vicarage of Westleton, on his father's death in November 1819. There is a memorial  in Holy Trinity Church, Middleton to his father and also to Harrison and his wife Esther who died just two months before him in 1860.

Thomas Martin Symonds replaced Harrison Packard as curate on the 7th June 1819. He followed a well-trodden path. He had been born in Bury St. Edmunds on 13th April 1796 and after school in his home town he went to St John’s College, where he gained a B.A. in 1818 and an M.A. in 1819. He was ordained a deacon at Salisbury on June 6th1819 and was appointed the curate at Denford cum Ringstead in 1819 and the following year ordained as a priest. Without delving too deeply into his pedigree he had apparent links, as many of the Ringstead clergy did, with the Irish gentry. In fact the Carysfoot title was a late ennoblement of the Proby family to which the Vicar was closely related, who lived just down the Nene at Elton Hall. In 1822 Thomas collected, with the help of the churchwardens, the sum of £10 11s. 9d. in aid of the Fund for the Relief of the Distressed Irish.

As later reports indicate, Thomas would have found Ringstead an appealing place to serve his curacy. An advertisement for a cottage with distant views of Ringstead in the Northampton Mercury on 17th July 1819, enthuses:

To a Sportsman, this Situation is truly desirable, as the River abounds with Fish and the Country with Game; and as a Hunting Box it is particularly adapted, being within a convenient Distance of three or four Packs of Fox Hounds.

Thomas went on to become the curate at Elton where he lodged for many years with Valentine Jelly and his family in Dial House. Valentine was a farmer and former miller. He had a daughter, Ann, who Thomas married on 23rd April 1840. After their marriage they moved into the Rectory, for the incumbent, Dr Fisher had been appointed to be Master of the Charterhouse, and from then on spent little time in the Elton parish. It may seem unusual that Thomas remained a curate for over twenty years. Alan G. Clarke, who has written a detailed history of Elton gives a clear reason why he stayed so long. He tells us, that according to some villagers at the time, he was:

. . . less than adequate in  his parish duties and more addicted to the pursuit of field sports than the well-being of his parishioners.

Throughout the nineteenth century hunting, and to a lesser extent, fishing were criticised as cruel sports and in particuloar, the hunting clergyman was condemned and ridiculed. Writing just before the start of the century William Gilpin remembered:

. . . hearing a story of a clergyman who was not remarkable for neglecting, at least the outward part of his duty; but once unhappily forgot it through his love of hunting. He was eagerly engaged in a fox-chase, when the fox took to earth, as they call it: on which he cried out, "Gentlemen, I must leave you: This puts me in mind that I have a corpse to bury at four o'clock this evening; and I fear I shall be an hour too late."

By 1865, when Anthony Trollope published his Hunting Sketches in the Pall Mall Gazette, the criticism of the "Hunting Parson" was getting more vociferous. Trollope defended the clergy from this constant condemnation of them indulging in almost any pastime believing that, "it has a very strong tendency to keep out of the Church that very class, the younger sons of country gentlemen, whom all Churchmen would wish to enter it". He adds, however:

But not the less is the general feeling very strong against the hunting parson and not the less will it remain so in spite of anything that I may say. Under these circumstances our friend the hunting parson usually rides as though he were more or less under a cloud. . . He is never natural in his self-talk as is any other man. He either flies at his own cloth at once, making some false apology for his presence, telling you that he is there just to see the hounds, and hinting to you his own knowledge that he has no business to ride after them; or else he drops his profession altogether, and speaks to you in a tone which makes you feel that you dare not speak to him about his parish. You can talk to the banker about his banking, the brewer about his brewing, the farmer about his barley, or the landlord about his land; but to a hunting parson of this latter calss, you may not say a word about the church.

Nevertheless, it is a pleasure to read Thomas's clear neat hand in the Registers and he officiated at some 73 baptisms, 12 marriages and 30 burials during his time in Ringstead and is very rarely replaced by a "locum".

We will see that Thomas Symonds was not the last Denford and Ringstead clergyman to enjoy the chase but by the end of the century when Oscar Wilde famously described fox-hunting as , "the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable", the time of the hunting parson had passed, although there were a few who still rode to hounds until the 1960s.

On July 3rd1822 Charles Proby died. He was always a shadowy figure in the background and we do not know how much his presence was known in Ringstead. John Wade wrote ,”The Black Book or Corruption Unmasked” between 1820 and 1823 which was a popular book at the time. In it he listed the ways that the Establishment gave public monies to their friends, supporters and relatives. In the case of the Church of England he shows how charges such as “Surplice Fees” once intended for the poor, were now taken as part of a clergyman’s income. He also told about the illegal but continuing practice of the selling of preferment (putting someone in a living subject to the bishop’s approval) and railed against the pluralists who had a number of livings or paid posts at the same time. He adds:

We hardly need remark that, those who are in possession of the greater number and most valuable benefices are connected by marriage, politics, or in some other way with those who have the disposal of them. Indeed, it is impossible to peruse the list of dignitaries and highly beneficed clergymen, without remarking that most of them are “honourable lumber”, who have been handed over to the Church, from inability to succeed in the more arduous professions of the law, the Army, or Navy.

John Wade then gives us a “Peep at the Pluralists” by listing all the clergymen with more than one living, usually with a poorly paid curate to do the work. Among them is Charles Proby whom he lists as having the following livings:

                Waddeson, Stanwick, Ringstead with Denford, Slawston, Tachbrook and Twickenham.

He also adds that Charles is Canon of Windsor and Prebend of Lincoln.

We know, however, that Charles’s life was not always an easy one and that a number of his children had predeceased him and that his faith would have been tested by his children’s deaths. His infant son, Granville Leveson Proby, (his exact namesakes were 3rd and 4thEarls of Carysfoot) died on 3rd March 1811: on 12th November 1817 Charles, his second son, died in his seventeenth year; on 6th June 1818 his daughter Mary-Catherine died aged twenty; on 3rd October 1818 his daughter Susan Mary died aged twenty-three years and on 2ndFebruary 1821, his daughter Georgiana aged twenty-four also died at Ham Common. These deaths of his family in the prime of their lives, does make one wonder if there was a genetic problem, caused by the in-breeding of the aristocracy. Their effect,  one young death after another, may have hastened his own end.

 

John Watson (c.1782 - 1851)       VICAR 1822 - 1851

John Watson seems to have come from somewhat humbler roots than his predecessors. He had been born in Great Yarmouth and baptised there on 1stFebruary 1782. His patron was Thomas Burton who now lived in Great Yarmouth and it may be that the two men were linked by marriage. He was ordained as a stipendiary curate of Hemblington, a small village between Norwich and Yarmouth, on 9th July 1815. An Act had been brought in, in 1806, which allowed the Bishop to take one fifth of a non-resident incumbent’s income to pay for a stipendiary curate to do the work of the parish in his absence. His annual stipend was fifty pounds. John would have been about thirty-two at this time so it may be that he had gained his Doctor of Divinity and other qualifications before this time, although he is only shown with this qualification when he is instituted, on 23rdAugust 1822, as vicar of Denford cum Ringstead. I have not yet found what he was doing in the intervening years. It is possible that he was the John Watson who married Ann Carr on 13thOctober 1808 in Great Yarmouth.

A few months after his appointment to Hemblington he was appointed as ‘priest’ of Acle some five miles to the east which had a:

                Salary £60 & the surplice fees with the parsonage house and 6 acres of glebe land.

An advertisement in the Norfolk Chronicle shows that John was also, like many other clergymen, supplementing his income by taking in pupils to prepare them for public school but, in his case, it may be there was also instruction at a higher level, perhaps for university entrance:

                                                                                                Acle Parsonage 28th June 1821

                                                                The Vacation for the pupils under the tuition of

                                                                The Rev’ Dr. WATSON will terminate the 22nd July

TERMS

Above 16 years of age   50 Guineas

Under   do                           40   do.

Entrance Two Guineas

Two Vacancies

 

As we have said, John then became the vicar of Denford-cum Ringstead in 1822. Thomas Symonds had vacated the curacy around the time of John Watson’s arrival. He went on to become one of the domestic chaplains to the Countess of Carysfoot in 1828 and ten years later Rector of Broomswell in Suffolk and finally to Adwick-le-Street in Yorkshire. He gained this last appointment on the hunting field when he became friendly with the patron of the living, Earl Fitwilliam, after Thomas had lent him his gloves on a cold day. Adwick le Street, north of Doncaster, was part of the Earl's Wentworth Estate. Thomas Symonds died on 23rd April 1859 aged sixty-four.

Thomas had been replaced as curate by Benjamin Clay. Benjamin was the second son of the Reverend Benjamin Clay, who was Rector of East Worlington in Devon. As was the almost invariable rule for Denford and Ringstead clergymen for a time he had gained his degree at St John’s College, Cambridge. He was ordained as a deacon by the Bishop in Exeter Cathedral on Sunday 31st August 1817 and as a priest on 3rd September the following year. It is also worth noting that the Exeter Flying Post for 11thSeptember 1817 records that, ‘Clay, Benjamin, jun., gent, East Worlington’ had obtained a General Game Certificate for the year.

When he had moved to the Ringstead Vicarage we know that he kept at least one spaniel, almost certainly as a gun dog. It is likely that his sister also lived with them. We know little about him except that at about eight o’clock one June evening in 1826 he, and his sister, decided to take the spaniel for a walk along the banks of the Nene. The dog went into the water, perhaps after ducks or moorhens and became entangled in the weeds. The story was reported almost verbatim across the local newspapers of the nation.

Mr. Clay fearing the animal would be drowned, requested his sister to go forward while he took off part of his clothes, and went into the river to get out the dog; she accordingly did so, but had not proceeded far before she heard a loud shriek, and in a few seconds she ascertained that her unfortunate brother (who was no swimmer) in attempting to reach the dog, had got out of his depth and sunk to the bottom. Several men were near the spot at the time; but the body was not got out for three quarters of an hour afterwards, when means were used to restore animation, but without success. The little dog, for whose sake the unfortunate gentleman thus lost his life, swam ashore without the assistance of anyone.

Much of the story is told on a marble plaque in the Ringstead Church tower which adds:

And by the last act of his life gave painful proof of that kindness of heart, which had endeared him to all who knew him.

Benjamin Clay was replaced temporarily by Thomas Woodcock Brown. Once again he had come via St John’s College. His stay was brief and he went on to become vicar of Horninghold in Leicestershire. He remained in post there until his death at nearby Blaston on 24th October 1850, ‘after a lingering illness borne with Christian resignation’.

It was Charles William Chalklen (1803 – 1846) who was Benjamin Clay’s more permanent replacement. He had been born in Deptford, in 1803, and educated at St Paul’s School in London. He gained an "Exhibition" of £100 for three years from the Mercers’ Company who were the patrons of the school which enabled him to go to Clare College and gain his B.A. before ‘migrating’ to Trinity College for his Master’s degree. He had been ordained as a deacon on 21st December 1826 and as a priest a year later.

His first appointment as a curate was at Higham Ferrers, on the day of his appointment as a deacon, and then as curate of Ringstead with Denford, (is the changed order of the villages significant?), on 11th August, a few months before his ordination as a priest.

Charles William Chalklen was a curate with literary aspirations and one wonders whether there was friendship and fellow feeling with the older Leonard Abington who was appointed Pastor at the local Particular Baptist Church just three years later. Both published poetry with biblical themes. Charles was a contributor to the Westminster Review, Blackwood’s Magazine and Christian Monthly Magazine. He also had written Babylon: A Poem(1821), and The Hebrew, A Sketch in the Nineteenth Century: with the Dream of Saint Kenya which was self published just after Charles had moved to Ringstead. He had sent it to William Blackwood who had not acknowledged that he had received it. Charles wrote a letter about this to Blackwood, from Ringstead Vicarage which may show that his sister actually may have been the author, but it is unclear, and we must assume that it is his own work. Blackwood had asked a David Macbeth Moir to read it for him and perhaps it is as well that Charles did not see the review that the reader had sent the publisher. He wrote:

"The Hebrew" is characterised by that eloquence and redundant imagery so prominent in all the productions of your writer, but I am sorry to add deformed by that extravagance of tone and peurility of feeling which would to a dead certainty prevent it as a tale of human interest from ever taking hold on public attention. . . I regret much to see talent of such fine description absolutely murdered from a defect of taste - for certainly no living writer would select such subjects for embellishment as this clever but unfortunate Charles Chalklands [sic].

He married Elizabeth Leman of Huntingdon and moved away to become the headmaster of Bletchingly Grammar School in Surrey in 1831. For whatever reason he left this post in 1832 to go to Louth and, on 21stJanuary 1834, once more became a curate, at Northborough, near Peterborough. This was to be his last appointment and the 1841 Census shows him there, aged 37 with his wife Eliza. There are also two pupils and a female servant.

It is almost certain that Charles would have know that John Clare, the "Ploughman Poet" was living at Northborough at this time. Clare had moved there from his beloved Helpston and this move had become a metaphor for his sense of a lost Eden. In 1827 Clare had published The Shepherd's Calendar and in 1835, a year after Charles Chalklen had arrived, Clare's Rural Muse collection came out. On 5th May 1837 Clare wrote from Northborough to his publisher, John Taylor, in London. He ended his brief letter:

The curate here draws well and has made many sketches from the poems God bless you

Yours Ever

John Clare

We see that Charles Chalklen and John Clare were well acquainted and we can imagine them talking of poetry and the natural world. Charles was to see the last years of John Clare's freedom. His mental iillness was worsening and it was in 1837 that Clare entered High Beech in Epping. He "escaped" from Epping in 1841 and made the long, hard walk home but later the same year he was taken to the Northampton Asylum, his final home, where he died in 1864.

In early 1846 Charles went to London to see his stepmother who was dying. While there, he had a tumour removed from his head. The preface to his last book states:

The operation was not a dangerous one, and he was rapidly recovering from its effects; unfortunately, in his anxiety to prosecute some antiquarian researches at the British Museum, he left the house too soon: the day being damp, he took cold; erysipelas came on, and after a few days of intense suffering, on 28th of January he died.

He was buried on 1st February in the churchyard of Islington St. Mary. He was forty-two.

The Westminster Review mourned his death and reported on the posthumous publishing of Semiramis, an historical morality and other poems in 1857 by W. Pickering. It has a mixture of the natural, the classical, the antiquarian and the religious. It was published in two volumes, the second being taken up by Semiramisa (probably unstageable) blank verse drama about an Assyrian Queen who, like King Arthur, had been mythologized into a fictional character. The first volume included some of his earlier poems and it may be surprising that a young clergyman should write an elegy to the notorious Lord Byron: 

BYRON'S DEATH.

Many master minds with fragrant song

Have chapleted thy fair front, England strong:

Princely, lovely country; fear'd and loved;

Full many of thy sinewy sons have moved

 

The world with the firm lever of their verse.

None though tower'd 'mong those Titan spirits,

None 'mong those our sad land yet inherits,

Mightier than he who filled this day a hearse.

 

The book had been published under the patronage of the Duke of Rutland, Earl Fitzwilliam, the Bishop of Peterborough and many others. The Westminster Review also reported that Charles had left a ‘destitute widow’. I have tried to find out what happened to Eliza Chalklen but without success. Semiramis is still available a a new 'print on demand' book via the internet

We now will return to John Watson, the vicar, based at Denford under who these curates, based in Ringstead, worked. He was to remain the vicar until his death in 1851 and we know that he did live in the Denford vicarage and spent some time in the parishes. We also know, however, that he also lived elsewhere. He was appointed the vicar of Doddington in 1838 and, more significantly the curate of St. Vedast in Foster Lane, Brompton in the district of Kensington.

These facts emerge from the death of his first wife, Ann, who died on 17th July 1832, aged forty-eight years. When we look at the St Vedast alias Foster Parish Burial Register we find that Ann was buried on July 20th in the Chancel. The service was conducted by John Howard Rice who was probably the husband of John's daughter, Mary Ann. All the other burials at that time, stretching from February 24th 1832 to 19th September 1833, were conducted by John Watson. There are only sixteen burials on the double page of the Register so the burials were an occasional occurrence. Ann died of cholera which was a new disease to England and had swept through Europe from Asia. It arrived here first in Sunderland in 1831 and was probably brought to London on the colliery boats in 1831/32. St Vedast alias Fosterwas originally a Wrenn church standing only a few hundred yards north-east of St. Paul's Cathedral. This London cholera outbreak had a final death toll of 6,536 people. Cholera was a product of the terrible housing conditions but for many years was believed to be caused by ‘miasmas’ or foul air. It was only the work of John Snow, who established that it was spread by the pollution of the drinking water, and the building of an efficient sewerage system under Sir Joseph Bazalgette and others that finally eliminated the disease from Britain.

John Watson may also have been conducting some marriages there for he officiated at the marriage of his daughter Jacoba to George Horsley on November 1st of the same year as his wife’s death. He was also a Lecturer at St. Mildred’s in the Poultry, in the City of London, which meant that he would have been required to give some ‘lectures’ or sermons there.

Looking at the Registers for both Parishes we can see that in the first part of his incumbency he mainly or entirely lived away from Denford and Ringstead and his curate performed the duties of the two parishes. We know that in July 1832 his curate was Edward Lawson Bowman, born in Carlisle in about 1791. He had been come from Cotterstock, north of Oundle and near Southwick Hall. He had also established the usual sideline of tutoring young men. He ‘received into his House six Young Gentlemen, to educate in the usual Branches of Classical and Commercial Learning’.

Edward Bowman and his wife, Elizabeth had children before they moved to Ringstead but a daughter, Christiana, was born there in about 1834. We know that at this time that a solitary cello was used to accompany the singing in Ringstead. Could it have been one of Edward Bowman's relatives? In the first part of the century there would have been instrumental accompaniment, sometimes in a Gallery or at the back of the nave, rather than an organ in most village churches. Thomas Hardy, in Under the Greenwood Tree gives a touching account of the last days of one such set of players being replaced by the organ. In many churches the old metrical psalm singing would have been the only music with sometimes the clerk reading out each line ("lining out") before it was sung. The Wesleyans introduced hymns and at first they were opposed as being too personal but they gradually took over and a flood of hymnals were published.

Edward Bowman moved on to become the Rector of Croglin near Carlisle where he had purchased the patronage. By 1837 he had opened a school at Seacombe in Cheshire, across the Mersey from Liverpool. On March 25th of that year he advertised in the Manchester Guardian that:

Young men are INSTRUCTED on the most approved systems in all the various branches of a classical and commercial education, liberally treated, so as to associate the comfort of home with scholastic pursuits, have the use of a good library, the advantage of sea bathing, and every attention paid to their morals and improvement. - Seacombe is seated on the Cheshire side of the Mersey, and is the nearest ferry from Liverpool, the steamers plying every half hour from the Prince's Dock Parade. - The situation cannot be surpassed for beauty and purity of air, and possesses every requisite the most desirable for a boarding-school establishment.

Among the references that he quotes  are the Duke of Dorset from Drayton House near Thrapston, the Rector of Woodford and John Watson.

The nineteenth century was a period of reform in the church. The tithe system was changing with a money rent replacing the old payment in kind and the Ringstead Enclosure largely separated the landowners from the villagers. Also the nonconformists continued to attract many of the local people away from the parish church. There was also an increasing outcry in the press about pluralism and the other uses of privilege within the Church of England. With the national secular certification of births deaths and marriages the church battled to keep its central position in the village. There is no sign of a curate in the 1841 and 1851 Ringstead Censuses and at some point Ringstead Vicarage is sold. In 1841 it appears to be lived in by Thomas Lee, the baker but this is not clear. These pressures could have forced John Watson back to his home parishes although there is no sign of him in either parish in 1841. The Parish Registers reveal to us, however that around May 1836 John, after having officiated at almost no baptisms, marriages and burials suddenly started performing at amost all of them until iill health intervened towards the end of his life.

 

Ringstead Vicarage June 21st 1847.

A rough sketch by George Clarke.

With the kind permission of Northampton Record Office  (GCPS Bk13 p20)

The state of affairs can be seen from an incident reported across England, and the Empire, which we have described in a previous biography (Book 1) but is worth repeating briefly here. Thomas Stains had fixed a wedding day for October 12th1842 when he was to marry Mary Roberts in Ringstead Parish Church. At this time only the church had a licence for weddings in the parish. On the morning of the wedding, John Watson sent for Thomas and finding, as his parents were Baptists, that he had not been christened, and even though Mary Roberts and her family were members of the church, he refused to marry the young couple. The report continues:

The disappointment was great; yet as the wedding-dinner was prepared and the invited guests assembled, they kept the day as pleasantly as they could, under the circumstances. The young man went to Dr. Watson to have his money returned; for it seems in that parish they demand the whole of the fees when the banns are put in. “Well,” said the Doctor, “If Thomas Messer (the clerk) will give you his share (half-a-crown), then I will return you my part of the fees.” The honest clerk instantly refunded his portion. Stains returns to the poor parson, saying, “I am come for my money, Sir.” “What!” says he, “did Messer give you up his?” “Yes Sir, he behaved like a gentleman.” The poor Clerical Doctor, on examining his treasury, found it reduced to a solitary half-crown. This sum he gave to Stains, with a note written by him to the clerk, begging him to pay the remaining 3s. 6d. for him. But what now was to be done? The parties must be married somehow, and that legally too; their characters were irreproachable. The whole parish cried shame on the Vicar. The Dissenters in the village, with several staunch church people, immediately raised the 3l. [£3] requisite for licensing the Baptist Meeting at Ringstead as a place for marriage, which was instantly applied for and obtained; and on the expiration of the 21 days notice required by law, Thomas Stains and Mary Roberts will be the first couple married there.

This led to the Particular Baptist Chapel being licensed for weddings.

The Wesleyan Methodists do not appear to have ever had a burial ground in the village. We see that John becomes exasperated with the Methodists who were not baptised in the church but wanted to be buried in the churchyard. We see his comments on infant deaths in the Burial Register:              

7th July 1844 Elizabeth Rawson otp aged 2 years and upwards. So called by what is termed a Wesleyan naming but not an acknowledged baptism.

There are other shorter but similar entries which continue until 1849 when we know John’s sight was failing.

At this time the sonof the local "gentry" gave a helping hand. Thomas Wilkins was a landed proprietor who lived in Ringstead House. He was also alocal Justice of the Peace. His son, Thomas Hodsoll Wilkins had been born in Wisbech in 1824 and gained his B.A. at Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1846. He was ordained a priest in 1849 and became a curate at nearby Slipton in the same year. It was also at this time that he acted as the Ringstead curate and performed some 47 baptisms, 9 weddings and 18 burials in the few years before the arrival of the new vicar. To have the son of the local "gentry" as curate may have appealed to some parishioners but others would havebeen grateful that the confessional box had disappeared from the Anglican Chuch many years earlier.

After his brief stint in Ringstead he continued at Slipton and also became the Chaplain of Thrapston Union Workhouse form 1852 until 1860. At about this time his father moved away to Leamington and Thomas became an Anglican Chaplain at Damstadt in Germany from 1861 to 1867. He may have married there before he returned home to be with his widowed. eighty-four-year-old. father in Denbury in Devon. He is now a "clergyman without care of souls". The 1871 Census shows them there with other family and servants and it is here that Thomas junior is shown as married. I have not found any sign of his wife or children but there may be good reasons for this. Crockford's last has sight of him was at Ipplepen, near Newton Abbot but he died in Kensington in 1879. 

Returning to John Watson, we know that he married his second wife, Martha before 1851 as they are together in the Denford Vicarage then but so far I have not found her maiden name or the marriage. She was born in St Marylebone, Middlesex and is some fourteen years his junior. John is now sixty-eight and there is a note at the side of his entry in the Census form which tells us that he is blind. He died on the 23rdOctober 1851 in the old Denford Vicarage.

There is a marble plaque in the Ringstead Church to John and he is buried in Denford Churchyard beneath a slab outside the Chancel window.

Thomas Burton, the patron of the living had died in Great Yarmouth in 1841 and George Capron had taken over much of his former ‘manor’. The connection between the Burtons and the parishes may have been severed, at least temporarily, and, while John Watson was still living, on 7th April 1849, the Norwich Mercury carried the following advertisement

CHURCH PREFERMENT

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

To be Sold by Private Contract

The next presentation to the united Vicarage of Denford and Ringstead in Northamptonshire. The present incumbent is in his 67thyear. The Preferment consists of the Vicarial tithes of Ringstead committed at £145 per annum, a cottage and about 84 acres of land in Denford, Ringstead and Raunds let at £77 per annum. A railway runs through the parishes and there is a station at Ringstead.

The price and further particulars apply to Messrs Fishes Lucas and Steward, Great Yarmouth

 

 

William de Pipe Belcher (1808 - 1891) Vicar 1852 - 1854

The new vicar was William de Pipe Belcher whose name may have attracted a few jokes in the Swan and the Black Horse. He had been born in 1808 in Ashbourne in Derbyshire, the son of a vicar. His father, Paul, had been to St John’ College but William went to Magdalen Hall in Oxford on 20thJune 1827. He gained his B.A, in 1832 and became a deacon in 1833 in Lichfield Cathedral. In 1835 he was made a priest at Buckden Parish Church in Huntingdonshire (Buckden Palace was until 1842 the residence of the Bishop of Lincoln) and became a stipendiary curate (filling in for a non-resident vicar) at Croft in Leicestershire. We know that he enjoyed his fishing there because in June 1848 he charged six frame-knitters from nearby Earl Shilton with using nets to take fish in Croft Brook without the permission of the owner or of William who had the fishing rights. All were fined sums ranging from four shillings to two pounds.

He was appointed to Denford cum Ringstead on the 26th January 1852. One would have thought it would be a good place for William to enjoy his sport. He had also been married, on 5thMay 1852 to Sarah Emma Allsopp, a widow, at Newton Solney, not far from Burton-on Trent.

In August of that year the Northampton Mercury reported that:

The rector and parishioners of Croft, Leicestershire have presented the Rev. W. De Pipe Belcher, vicar of Denford and Ringstead, in this county, with a handsome memorial of their affection and esteem for him as their pastor over a period of fifteen years. The testimonial consists of an elegant silver inkstand, a chaste silver pocket communion service, a handsome silk gown and hood. We are informed that this is the second testimonial received by Mr. Belcher from the parishioners of Croft during his ministry among them.

This does seem possibly a piece of news provided by William himself and if so, was he trying to impress a sceptical new congregation of his worth? Whatever the reason, his stay in Ringstead was short. He resigned and seems to have moved to South Darley in Derbyshire and then, in 1864 to the perpetual curacy of Thurlby in Lincolnshire. In the 1881 Census he was a widower living in ‘The Rookery’ South Darley and was a ‘clergyman without care of souls’. It looks as if he was set for a quiet retirement? Surprisingly, (and how regularly I use that word), he married Harriett Susannah Wilton, nearly half his age, in 1882. William died in March 1891 and the Census a weeks later shows his widow living on independent means with her sisters in Cheltenham. With her is her six-year-old daughter, Pauline de Pipe Belcher, born in Darley Dale.

A curate named J. G. Rogers was the named minister at 10 baptisms, 9 marriages and 6 burials between 27th March 1853 and 14th November 1854. This is almost certainly John Gurney Rogers who seems something of a mystery but whose life we can only briefly mention here. He had been born the son of a Royal Navy captain at Antron Lodge in the parish of Sithney near Helston in Cornwall and was baptised in St Allen’s church on 24th May 1814. He married young, on 10th August 1831 to Frances Franklin Cove who was some three years his senior. John matriculated at Jesus College, Cambridge where he gained his B.A. in 1839 and was ordained a priest in 1841.

By 1841 the couple are living in Dallington Vicarage in Sussex with two children and two servants. They had further children but by 1851 John is a visitor, staying with George Taylor, a farmer, and his family in Stanton in Suffolk, He is described as, “Clergyman. No care of souls”. As we have seen, shortly after this he moved to the Ringstead area to act as the curate before moving to Oundle where he is lodging with a cabinet maker and upholsterer. Here, and in every subsequent Census, he is referred to a “Clergyman without care of souls”. By 1871 he had moved to the Tything of Whistons near Worcester where he was in a lodging house, now with his thirty-five year-old unmarried daughter, Frances Georgiana. The 1881 Census shows the sixty-eight year old John at 17 Bridge Street, Worcester, still with his daughter Frances. He was for a time the Chaplain of the Droitwich Union. He died at Worcester and was buried there on 3rd May 1886.

Meanwhile, his wife Frances had been an “Annuitant” with her younger children, in Chiswick in Middlesex in 1851. By 1881 she had moved to Hulme in Manchester where her married daughter, Esther Bolton and unmarried son, Charles, are shown living with her. Charles is an “Engine Fitter”. She died at Chorlton-upon-Medlock in 1880.

After John and Frances parted what happened to the two of them? Did John wander, a poor clergyman, from place to place looking for work or did he have a good source of unearned income which enabled him to live his life without the necessity of work. Was Frances struggling on a small annuity, bringing up the younger children by herself or living a life of ease? We do know that by 1911 the eldest son John Antron Rogers was living in wealthy Lytham. He is now 69 years old and he describes himself as “No occupation Gentleman” and both his wife and unmarried daughter as “No occupation Lady”. In 1881, aged thirty-nine he had put for his occupation “Retired shopkeeper”. Obviously money had come through the generations at least to the eldest son and his wife.

What really happened must be left for someone else to tell. John Gurney Rogers, like the Baptist Minister John Collett, is one of those people who briefly left their mark on Ringstead but whose lives were largely lived elsewhere.

 

Ringstead Church from the south-east in 1847 by George Clarke

The church looks neat and tidy here but was soon to be in an almost ruinous state

With the kind permission of Northamptonshire Record  Office (Ref NAS 51)

 

 

Alfred John Sandilands (c1803 -1862) Vicar 1854 - 1862

On 26thAugust 1854 Alfred John Sandilands was instituted as the new vicar of Denford-with-Ringstead. The newspaper notice states that it is on the presentment of Thomas Burton Esquire of Great Yarmouth but, as I have said, I am not sure if this is correct. Interestingly he was previously at St Mary’s Church, Cross Green, South Darley, Derbyshire so he and William Belcher seem to have done something of a swap.

He had been a pupil at Westminster School and had then gone to Trinity College where he had gained his degree as a ‘Ten Year Man’, by the mere passage of time. He had been ordained and become a stipendiary curate at Haydon Bridge Chapel before moving on to a similar post at Bishopwearmouth in County Durham two years later. In the 1841 Census he is living alone in Bishopwearmouth with a female servant and a  fourteen-yearold boy as his man servant. In 1845 he moved to Cross Green, Darley in Derbyshire. He had spent his earlier career in mining areas and he had the confidence to take on the challenge of Denford and Ringstead. Alfred and his nephew Percival brought energy and a certain arrogance to the task.

He had married a widow, Ann Maria Leggatt, on 11thApril 1850 in Brighton and they came to Denford four years later. It is unclear how much they lived in the area because a London Directory of 1860 lists: 

Sandilands, Rev. Alfred John, 17 Park square east, Regent’s park, NW – Cross Green hall, Darley near Matlock – Woodford Cottage, Thrapstone.

We can see that he did not even live in the Denford vicarage. Nevertheless he set about his task and, in the case of Ringstead Church it was a large one. The Northampton Herald in March 1862 described the state to which it had been reduced:

The church is rapidly going to ruin. Two years since it could have been put in complete repair for about £200, but in two years hence it will require not less than £900 or £1000 to effect efficient reparation. It has been closed for some time, and the services are conducted at Denford, about one mile distant. The gates of the churchyard have had all the rails taken from them, the churchyard wall is falling into the street, and the yard itself is the resort of all the idle and mischievous urchins of the place who commit every act of violence and ill-usage on the sacred edifice. There is scarcely a whole pane of glass in the entire edifice, whilst in many places the window-frames have been taken out and flung into the interior of the church, so that the mischievously-disposed have not the least trouble in procuring admission into the body of the church and committing acts of sacrilege. The interior presents a most deplorable spectacle. The pavement is strewn with broken glass, remnants of the window-frames, stones, brickbats, dust &c. The stoves remain intact, but all the iron piping has gone. The dust-covered pulpit wears an air of utter desolation, and all round is exposed to the effects of wind and rain. The spire exhibits signs of decay, and the walls require repairs in many places.

It appears that there had been no services for some years in Ringstead Church and the village had been abandoned to the Nonconformists. This article may have been prompted by Alfred and he was aggressively trying to remedy the situation. He wrote a letter to the local newspaper and the controversy exploded onto the letter page of the Northampton Mercury as to whose fault the delay in the repairs was. First W.B Stopford replied in a letter to the Mercury on 10th May 1862 to which he added the correspondence between the vicar and Mr. Slater, the architect which he felt would explain the reason for the delay. These letters showed that Alfred was not prepared to let the repairs go ahead until he had seen all the plans and was happy with them.

Alfred then replied with a letter to the Northampton Herald on May 12th in which he states: 

Sir, - As Mr. Stopford, of Drayton House, took upon himself last week to send you a copy of a letter addressed to me by Mr. Slater, the architect for the intended repairs of Ringstead Church, as well as my reply to that gentleman, I beg to enclose you my correspondence with the Bishop of Peterborough upon the subject, which will throw a different light upon the matter to that which Mr. Stopford wishes to convey in his letter to yourself of the 7th instant.

He then goes on to give the full text of his letters to the Bishop of Peterborough:

                                                                                                             Woodford, Thrapston, April 1 1862

My Lord, - I beg to inform your lordship that, by the request of Mr. Stopford and Mr. Capron, Mr. Slater, the architect employed by them for the restoration of Ringstead Church met me and Mr. Allen, the churchwarden, yesterday, to submit his plans and to consult on the subject. After carefully examining them, as well as the specification, I felt greatly mortified and disappointed to find that so little was proposed to be done. Repairing the roof and taking down the chancel arch, together with reglazing the windows appear to be the chief part of the work, leaving the interior in its present melancholy, deplorable, and disgraceful state. I expressed to Mr. Slater my regret that he should be called upon to undertake such partial repairs, which would neither do credit to himself, nor the parties that employed him, and that I would certainly acquaint your lordship by the next post what was intended to be done, having promised you sixteen months ago that I would report from time to time what was done in the matter. I have requested Mr. Slater to forward to your lordship the pans and specification in the hope that your lordship’s kind influence with Messrs. Capron and Stopford may alter their determination and cause them and their tenants to repair the church in a more efficient and respectable manner. The specification goes no farther than to leave the church like the inside of a barn. There is not a pew fit to sit in, and the flagging throughout the church is broken to pieces. There are only two wrecks of pews in the chancel and the whole in a most dilapidated state. To make the church anything like decent, all the broken pews should be swept away, and replaced by open seats or benches. Had Messrs. Capron and Stopford followed out the plan recommended by Mr. Law the former architect they employed, I think great satisfaction would have been given, and the estimate he made would not be so much more in proportion as the present contractor, Mr. Parker, - claiming £570 for the work to be done. For myself, I would most willingly contribute handsomely if I could afford it. Having given largely to various improvements in Denford Church and the heavy expenses I have to encounter in building the house in at Denford preclude the possibility of my rendering any assistance to Ringstead Church. I should indeed hesitate to reinstate the fine organ I purchased expressly for the church until the interior was thoroughly restored. Hoping your lordship will excuse me expressing myself so strongly in the matter which I have so greatly at heart.

                                I have the honour to remain,

                                                My Lord with the greatest respect,

                                                                Your Lordships’ truly obliged servant,

                                                                                ALFRED J. SANDILANDS.

 In a second letter to the Bishop Alfred remarks tartly:

Considering Mr. Stopford receives a commuted tithe of nearly £400 a year in right of his wife, and possesses a large farm in the parish, and that Mr. Capron owns by far the greatest portion of the parish, I hope your lordship will acquiesce in my determination to oppose as far as lies in my power, anything being committed until the whole is finally arranged to be completed in a decent and becoming manner 

W.B Stopford once more replies in the Northampton Mercury on 20th May [mistakenly printed as March but corrected in the next issue]

 Sir, - It is not my wish or intention to enter into a controversy in the newspapers respecting the lamentable state of Ringstead Church, but as the vicar, in his letter to the Bishop of the 3rdinst (published in the Herald last week), broadly insinuates that Mr. Capron, as the principal landowner in the parish, and I, as the proprietor of the great tithes, have not done as much as was our duty towards the restoration of the church, I hope that you will enclose the two letters I enclose. The first is from myself to Mr. Sandilands, dated April 1860, to which I have never received a reply: the second is a letter from me to the Archdeacon in answer to a private enquiry he had made to me as to the causes which had led to the present state of the church.

I may add that since my letter to Mr. Sandilands was written he has purchased the advowson of Ringstead and is, therefore, now patron of the living as well as the vicar.

I will not add one word to the contents of these letters, but will allow the public to form their own conclusions from them.

                                                                                                I remain, &c.,

                                                                                                                W. B. STOPFORD. 

The letter which he had written to Alfred was attached included the paragraph:

I will not conceal from you that we labour under very great disadvantages by the little support we receive from you. Your absence yesterday [with Mr. Capron] was most unfortunate. The parishioners imagine you are lukewarm in the matter; and the absence of any subscription on your part, however small in amount, produces a very bad effect, which we have hard work to combat in a parish composed principally of Dissenters.

                                                                                I am, Rev. Sir.

                                                                                                                W.B. STOPFORD.

The other letter was one to the Archdeacon telling him that they could not establish a Church Rate and so had tried a system of voluntary subscriptions but had only collected £120, and that the lowest estimate for repairs being £440, he and Mr. Capron had made up the shortfall in proportion to their property in the parish.

We see that the reason that Alfred and his family had been living at Woodford was because the new vicarage at Denford was being built. Unfortunately Alfred did not live to see either the renovation of Ringstead Church completed or the new Rectory (now the Old Vicarage)  finished in 1863. He died suddenly at his home in Woodford on 22ndSeptember 1862. There is a memorial to him in the tower of Denford Church which quotes, ‘the last words of his sermon spoken by him in this church twenty-six hours before his death’:              

He that hath taken up the shroud and fought the good fight for a season, at the last day, when the books shall be opened, and the hearts of all men shall be known, the sword of his warfare shall be taken from him, and a crown of everlasting glory placed upon his head. 

Alfred had married late (although it could have been his second marriage) and may have had no children of his own but his wife, Ann Marie had been the daughter of George Maximillian Bethune and had previously married Horatio Leggatt by whom she had had three sons and two daughters before his early death in 1838. Alfred left an estate of less than £3000 (a considerable amount of money) and among his bequests was the advowson for the parish to pass to one of his stepdaughters (probably Georgiana). The “vicarage" was offered in October 1862 with a value of £320 including the ‘residence’ which was obviously nearing completion.

There is one small mystery that may just be a result of not having the evidence available. In 1851 when Alfred was at South Darley with his wife Anna and daughter Georgiana there is also a twenty-nine year old "Housekeeper" called Jane L Watson who was born in Rothbury in Northumberland. In 1862 Jane, now living at Park Square in Middlesex, along with his brother, the Reverend Richard Samuel Butler Sandilands, were the Executors of his Will. They had some sort of disagreement over the wording of the bequests and Jane went to the Court of Chancery. I have not found her definitively in the next two Censuses but in 1881, aged a surprising 55, she is living at 65 Blackett Street in Newcastle upon Tyne and living "from her property and dividends". With her is her "half sister", Georgiana Leggatt who is an "Annuitant", aged 52 and born in Crawley Sussex. Now, although there are some discrepancies, there are too many coincidences for it not to be the same two people. So who were the parents of Jane Louisa Watson? She is always spoken of as a spinster or unmarried so if this is true and Alfred was the father then she was probably illegitimate. Of course the description of Jane and Georgiana's relationship in the 1881 Census could be wrong and there may be other explanations.

Alfred came from a typical nineteenth century clergyman's family with links to the church and the landed gentry. His brother, George Percival Sandilands had died in 1836 and it was his son, who was the next incumbent under the patronage of Alfred’s stepdaughter, Georgiana Leggatt.

 

Percival Richard Renorden Sandilands (1826 – 1890) Vicar 1863 - 1874

Percival Richard Renorden Sandilands was the eldest son of Alfred’s brother. Like his uncle he seems to have been a formidable personality who achieved an amazing amount in his comparatively short stay in the joint parish.

He had attended Tonbridge School where he became head boy in 1843. He gained a Judd Exhibition Scholarship and was a Rustat. Exhibitioner at Jesus College, Cambridge. He was awarded a B.A. there in 1848 and an M.A. in 1851. 

In 1849 he had been ordained as a deacon while, from 1848 to 1850 he had been an Assistant Master at Crewkerne Grammar School. He seems to have combined this work with his duties at the curate at Chaffcombe in Somerset from 1849 -50. He then moved on to become curate of nearby Seavington St. Mary from 1851-3 before becoming Classics Master at Cheltenham College, a post that he held for ten years.

It was probably the sudden death of his uncle, Alfred, that decided him to make a change from school teaching and to become the new vicar of Denford cum Ringstead. He had married Sophia Anne de Brett at Clifton in Gloucestershire on 3rdJuly 1851 where the service had been conducted by Alfred, whilst he was still the vicar of South Darley. The couple had a large family, mainly born while Percival was the Housemaster of Beaufort House in Cheltenham School. 

They moved into the new Denford Vicarage and Percival began a period when the church and villages of Ringstead and Denford were transformed by his hard work.  The Sandilands had a following wind for their work on the church. In 1839 Dr. John Mason Neal and Benjamin Webb had founded the Camden (later the Ecclesiological) Society. It had a journal on church architecture which promoted the returning of parish churches ot a re-created medieva, purity with the "Decorated Period" of Gothic Architecture being the ideal. Many new churches were built in this style and most parish churches were "restored". The old box pews, as at Ringstead, were ripped out and replaced with open pews facing the altar. Under the influence of the "High Church" Oxford Movement rictual and the altar became the focus of the church rather than the pulpit. Few churches were left untouched and then, and today, some rued the loss of much of the interior furnishings, but along with the improvements came renovation and the repair of the crumbling fabric.

Alfred would have lived to see the repair work begun. The chancel arch and part of the south wall and buttress of the chancel and north wall of the aisles was rebuilt. The tracery of the East and parts of the South windows were taken out, reset and partially restored. The roofs throughout the church were renewed with deal and were covered in lead. The clerestory windows were opened and portions of the walls were restored and the parapet reset. Also drains were formed around the whole perimeter of the church.

Nevertheless, as Alfred had fought for, a second contract was taken out, for the full restoration of the church. The Northampton Mercury of 31st October 1863 listed what had been done:

The spire, which was in a very bad state, was taken down to the levels of the sills of the upper lights and rebuilt with a new vane executed by Mr. Potter of South Moulton-street. The tower walls were made good and underpinned and new floors of deal inserted. The septum walls of chancel and chantry, the internal stonework &c., was cleaned and restored, and the walls were replastered. The whole of the old pews and gallery were cleared away and the church has been re-seated with simple open seats of deal, the children being placed in the north chantry. The font has been replaced in its old position on a new step and the passages of the nave and aisles relaid with red and black Staffordshire tiles. There were remaining in the chancel in the chancel some of the old stall ends and fronts, these have been restored and replaced, and the new fronts &c., made to correspond with them, and of oak. The chancel has been paved with Minton’s encaustic tiles in patterns. The pulpit is of stone and stands on the south-west side of the chancel arch: red stone is introduced in the shaft, angles and patterns in circles.

The contracts for the whole of these works, including pulpit and chancel seats (the carving of which was executed by Mr. S. Poole, of London) were taken by Mr. Parker of Thrapston, and the whole of the restorations have been carried out by him from the designs of the architect, Mr. William Slater of 4, Carlton Chambers, Regent-street, London. 

It was not until October 1863 that the church was finally re-opened by Percival Sandilands at which time the Churchwarden's Minute Book indicates that the church had been closed for three years. The number of christenings and marriage ceremonies fell during those three years (burials cannot be deferred), followed by a large increase, especially in christenings of older children. Were the few ceremonies during this closure held in one of the porches?

 

Wooden notice in North Porch of Ringstead Church recording that a grant of £80 had been given for the reseating of the church in 1863.

It appears to be a standard notice with the local numbers inserted later. The old bought box pews had gone but the new open "free" pews were still "allocated", one suspects, along class lines.

Author’s own photograph

Alfred had the last laugh, even if it was from the grave for, in the Churchwardens' Accounts we see that the initial cost of the renovations came ot £1,500 and there is also notice of a £500 loan taken out on behalf of the Parishioners. It seems that the final bill was a little under £3000 instead of the £440 that W. B. Stopford originally envisaged. He had also given the new oak stalls in the Chancel as a gift to the Parish and the new pulpit was presented by a relation of Percival called French. His uncle gave the Corona, font cover and service book. Percival also emphasised that the curtain, Communion Cloth, linen for the Holy Table, flagon and plate and a small harmonium were given by his friends and relatives.

The local landowners may have thought, with a sigh of relief that they were rid of this ‘turbulent priest’, but Percival first restored Denford Church in 1864 with a voluntary subscription of £1600 and then set his sights on educating the young people of the two parishes – and that was going to cost money!

We have detailed in a chapter on the schoolmasters, in Book 1, that Percival may have seemed to have a poor opinion of the Ringstead, ‘labouring classes’, but he was relentless in his pursuit of their moral and educational improvement by the provision of a ‘National’ (Church of England) School. In the story of the schoolmaster we told of the two reasons that Percival cited for the need for a school:

1         The extreme ignorance and low moral tone of the population, particularly of the inhabitants of     Ringstead.

2         The absence of any resident Gentry to exert a healthy influence on the lower orders.

We can see this as a slur on the Ringstead working people but we can see now that it was also a criticism of ‘Lords of the Manor’ and landowners who were not resident.

He did not believe in the provision of a one education system for all and he continued to advertise for six pupils to be prepared for the public schools by him, aided by the Reverend E. Kitson, a ‘Double Honour Man and Bell University Scholar’. Edward Bredin Blake Kitson was born in Malta on the 9th June 1842, the son of Ann Jane and the Reverend Edward Kitson. His father, a Royal Navy chaplain, had gone to Malta on HMS Princess Charlotte and had married there to Ann, on 30th March 1841. She was the daughter of Colonel Bredin and had been born in Portugal. After service abroad, his father had become the chaplain of the Royal Greenwich Hospital and Edward is with his parents in Greenwich in the 1851 and 1861 Censuses although by the latter one he was a student at Christ's College, Cambridge.

In August 1866 he was appointed to the Curacy of Denford-cum-Ringstead where he assisted Percival in the work of the parishes as well as his teaching. By 1871 he had left t he had left the post and had follwed his father to become a "Chaplain to Her Majesty's Forces" based at the Herbert Hospital, Shooter's Hill, Kidbrooke and is living there with his unmarried sister Francis and his younger brother Thomas. This hospital was the first purpose-built reflect the beliefs of Florence Nightingale (the architect was her nephew) with wards at right angles to a main corridor to maximise fresh air and daylight. Of course Florence believed in the passage of diseases by miasmas or foul air. Edward was posted to Canada and on 4th November 1875 he married Katherine Ann Allison from St John's, New Brunswick. The wedding was ar Halifax, Nova Scotia. The couple did not have any children and after returning home Edward worked first at Aldershot before becoming the vicar of Northaw near Potters Bar in Middlesex. He died, aged seventy-six in 1918.

After Edward Kitson had left, Percival advertised, in 1870, for just two pupils to be educated alongside his own sons

Nevertheless he was determined to give the children of working people in the parishes a proper education and he harangued and pleaded with all the local landowners so that, in spite of the costs borne by many of them in the recent renovation of the two churches, they subscribed again at a rate, according to their Poor Rate contributions. George Capron gave £50 and the Reverend G. Capron £75; W.B. Stopford also gave £50 and the Trustees of Ringstead Charity, £47; and so on down to Miss Beeby who gave £1. Percival was willing to practise what he preached and gave £70. It must also be remembered that George Capron gave the land on a lease so long that it was the same as freehold.

We will not go over the details of the building of the school which was covered in the previous book or the celebration of its opening in a chilly, if renovated, church on 13thNovember 1867. Percival Sandilands was a tireless worker who had given time and money to the erection of the school. He was also a stickler for discipline. At the Northampton Assizes, a Charles Blencowe was brought to court for ‘embezzling suet’ from him on 2nd January 1869. Charles was acquitted.

It was found that the children from Denford, especially the infants, tended to forego the slog up the hill and then down again into Ringstead when the weather was bad. Percival set about overseeing the building of an Infants School in Denford which opened in 1872.

Percival had also taken time to inspect Wellingborough Upper Grammar School in June 1868. The results were announced at a Prize Day and the class-stratified education that was envisaged was clear from the speeches. First, the headmaster, the Reverend T. Auden, opened with a few remarks on the objects of the school:

To make the school as useful as it could be made for the town and neighbourhood – to make it, in fact, what the “Schools’ Inquiry Blue Book” defined as a school of the 2nd class – that is, one which should afford a sound and useful education for the sons of professional men, farmers and upper trades-people.

Percival then detailed his favourable ‘examination of the school and stated that:

He felt, in fact that this grammar school offered a complete solution of that problem about which so much had been said and written, and for which new schools had often been thought necessary, viz., the providing an education of immediate utility for boys intended soon to enter business or agriculture without, at the same time, neglecting the classics, which formed the best basis of education.

All this work was done while Percival obviously continued with the sports of a country gentleman. The Northampton Mercury on the 8th January 1870 reported that:

We regret to hear that a very serious accident occurred on the 1stinstant to the Rev. Percival Sandilands incumbent of the parishes of Denford cum Ringstead near Thrapston. It appeared that the rev. Gentleman was engaged in hunting, and that whilst following the hounds near the village of Coppingford, his horse slipped after a leap and fell over its rider, breaking his arm in two places, and inflicting injury upon the spinal column near its junction with the head. He was removed to a house nearby, and although for some time he was considered to be in a precarious condition, it is now hoped that, with due care, recovery will ensue.

He had taken the baton from his Uncle and accelerated. During this time he had also taken on the post of Chaplain to the Thrapston Union Workhouse, a post that he held from 1866 until 1870. His work done, he moved on to become the vicar of Chudleigh Knighton in 1875. He still retained his interest in school and discipline. Besides being the perpetual curate at Chudleigh Knighton he ran a small private school at his house called Lyvedenin Wolborough, Newton Abbot.  He wrote from there to a friend on 26th September 1874:

I must not continue a member of the Northamptonshire Architectural Society though if I live and prosper three or four years longer I shall try to get back to the Diocese but away from the banks of the Nene.

His school had, in 1881, fourteen boarders, aged between 9 and 13 years.  There was a staff, besides Percival, of: Tutor, Matron, Cook and three maids. On 12th July 1883, the Exeter Gazettereported that Percival, acting in his capacity as a school manager, was charged with ill-treating a schoolboy, eight years old, who was causing a schoolmistress some trouble. He was found not guilty but the report felt that as a clergyman he should not lay himself “open the accusations of malicious parties”. It seems from the report that this is at the Chudleigh Church of England School rather than his own private school. For whatever reason, Percival’s school ran into financial difficulties and the London Gazette of March 4th listed him as those seeking a first meeting, “in the matter of liquidation by arrangement or composition” with his creditors under the 1869 Bankruptcy Act. 

It seems that Percival did not prosper and he died on 6thOctober 1890 in Chudleigh Knighton. Whatever his faults the people of Ringstead and Denford had much to be grateful to him for his tireless work.

As an aside it is interesting to note, particularly in view of his successor’s son’s cricketing prowess that Percival and his wife had a son and daughter born at Denford besides older ones born elsewhere. The boy was Rupert Renorden Sandilands who played football for Old Westminsters and between the 5th March 1892 and 16th March 1896 also played five times for England at outside left, scoring three goals. Rupert, described as the "brilliant Old Westminster sprinter", who was on the staff of the Bank of England, played in a match against Wales on 18th March 1895. It was watched by 13,000 fans at Queen's Club in West Kensington. He scored a goal in the 74th minute which secured a draw for England. This was a historic match for it was the last time that England fielded an all amateur side. The Football Association had legalised professionalism in 1885 and now it began to take over the national side.

Edward Sandford (1818 - 1879) Vicar 1874 - 1879

After the frantic time of the Sandilands the new incumbent put his energies into managing the schools and churches as they settle in. He was the son of the Reverend Humphrey Sandford and was born in 1818 in Shrewsbury, in the county of Shropshire where the family had been “since the Conquest”.

He had been educated at Shrewsbury School and St John's College, Cambridge, and had originally been intended for the legal profession. The 1841 Census finds him, aged 20 years old, as an “Attorney” lodging with a cabinet maker and his wife at 8 Lower Wharton Street in Clerkenwell. It appears that he was a solicitor of the Court of Chancery and an attorney of the Court of the Queen's Bench but he decided that the legal profession was not for him and he became a student at St Bees Theological College. St Bees was a coastal village in Cumberland and the College was established in 1816 and took in its first students a year later. It was the first Theological College opened by the Church of England and was established by Bishop Law who needed clergymen for the exploding population of industrial Lancashire. What had been a ruined Abbey was repaired and rebuilt to become the college buildings with the local vicar acting as the Principal. Prior to this all curates had all been from Oxbridge or, occasionally, had been privately educated by a clergymman. St Bees was also a milestone in the introduction to the clergy of young men from the professional and middle classes rather than the gentry. The students lodged in private houses in the village and its intention was to " supply a good and economical education for candidates for Holy Orders". It concentrated on producing good parish priests rather than bishops. Soon other colleges, attached to universities, emerged and in 1895 St Bees closed.

Edward was ordained as a curate at Trinity Church, Coleham, Shrewsbury. In 1847 he moved to a tougher area when he became the curate of St John the Baptist, the parish church of Halifax. On 20th September 1848 he married Mary, the daughter of Joseph Armitage Esq. of Milnsbridge House, Huddersfield. He was briefly the vicar at the family living of Bicton but moved on to Elland, south of Halifax in 1853 as the perpetual curate and, later, Rector.

It was at Elland that he had his most obvious achievements of his career and perhaps where his heart seemed to remain. The church had many alterations, the Rectory House was built, Greetland Church erected, the National Schools enlarged and the cemetery consecrated. Elland was a small industrial town, originally based on the woollen cloth trade, but also with other small manufacturing industries, using first the canal and then the railway.

With middle age, Edward decided, in 1872, to move to the more comfortable parish of Grandborough, near Rugby, in Warwickshire but he did not settle and moved to Denford with Ringstead in July 1874. We know that Edward and his son Edward Armitage Sandford took and almost daily interest in the new school at Ringstead, checking on the children’s progress and giving regular religious instruction. There are also records in the School Log Book of his wife and daughter visiting the school to inspect the needlework. The school helped to bring the whole of the vicar’s families into the community.

His time in the joint parishes was not to be long for, after a period of very severe weather, he died in Denford Vicarage on 18thDecember 1879, aged 61 years. He was buried in the family vault in Elland churchyard. A muffled peal of bells was rung at Ringstead on the evening of his funeral.

There are no entries in the Ringstead Burial Register in the last six months of Edward’s life but that does not mean that there was no work for the grave digger in the churchyard. This surprising fact is brought to light by an article in the Northampton Mercury of 9th August 1879 written, it seems, by the Ringstead Church Weathercock. From its lofty perch the Weathercock writes to the newspaper:

 

 

Ringstead Weathercock 2012

Authors own photograph

 

While taking an outlook on Tuesday evening, I saw what turned out to be a funeral procession, wending its way to a spot at the base of my support in God’s Acre. It is not the first procession by many that I have witnessed, but, generally, I am accustomed to see an official in white, and to hear him repeat, for the consolation of the mourners, a form of service rich in comfort. This time I looked in vain for the white-robed comforter, and I ascertained that his services had not been requested, as the bereaved friends belonged to the uncompromising Baptist persuasion. The body, that of a young man of 21, and unbaptised, was lowered into the grave right beneath my eye, and though, unless my sight deceived me, I saw the resident Baptist minister of the village present, not a word was said. When I first saw this minister I concluded that he was going to hold a service, and yet he did not begin. I thought if he were the minister of a Gospel worthy of the name, surely this was the time for him to address some of its consolations to the sorrowing company around the grave, but, to my surprise, from first to last, he was as one dumb. I could not understand such conduct, and wondered why the silence was maintained. But after the mourners had departed a strange sort of explanation was given. I was told that the law would not allow any other than the comforter in white to dispense consolation to mourners within the sacred enclosure, though they call it God’s Acre, and that the Baptist minister did not speak because the law would not let him. I was curious to know what law! All I could ascertain was, that it was not the law of God, nor of His Gospel but some misconceived or misconstrued Parliamentary enactment. When I hear this I wished my voice was as good as that of the ancient cock in Scripture for then I would have administered a rebuke to Englishmen as telling as that which caused St. Peter to weep so bitterly. I had heard that civilisation had been making rapid strides of late, that the people had become very enlightened and that the Victorian era eclipsed all its predecessors, but such scenes as these, which I hear are of frequent occurrence in the country, make me doubt whether civilisation has advanced much since the stones which support me were first laid; and I have been wondering whether silent funeral are necessary to the safety of the church for, if they are, I shall soon wish that I could spread my wings and fly away from a church needing such heartless safeguards as these.

 

This was a common practice and the weathercock would not have been disturbed by the tolling of the funeral knell for bells were also not allowed for nonconformist burials in the churchyard. I do think, however that the burial would usually be entered in the Register and it may be that Edward was ill and this was an oversight.

The name of the dead man was Thomas Ralph Mayes, a shoemaker, and the son of Daniel and Charlotte Mayes. As we would expect he does not appear in the Ringstead Baptisms Register but it may be something of a surprise to discover that, although buried in the churchyard, his name is not in the Burial Register. How many others are so unrecorded? Of course the Northampton Mercury supported the Nonconformist cause and one wonders if the “Weathercock” was a staff reporter. 

Edward Armitage Sandford (c1852 - 1921) Vicar 1880 - 1885 

Edward Armitage Sandford was probably the second son of Edward and Mary (née Armitage). It is difficult to be certain about the children of the gentry without sight of the Parish Registers because, in the boys’ cases, they are rarely at home after infancy. He was born in the Isle of Up Rossall, Bicton, near Shrewsbury in 1851 and by 1861 Edward, aged 9 and his younger brother, Henry Rossall Sandford, are at a small prep school in Lytham St Annes in Lancashire. Ten years later and Henry is 18 and at Clifton School, near York, and Edward is 19 and finishing his time at Shrewsbury School.

We know that Edward was a keen cricketer, although the two sets of statistics that I have found on the internet may not do him justice. He played in a two-day match for Shrewsbury School against Malvern College on the 27th and 28th June 1871. Edward was bowled for 6 in his first innings and 8 in his second. He bowled one over in Malvern’s first innings and four overs for 3 runs in their second. He had an even greater honour later, in a three-day match, on the 6th – 8thJune 1878, for Elland, his father’s parish, against the touring Australians. The Australians fielded 11 players and Elland 18, but even so the home side could only muster 29 runs, to which total Edward, coming in sixteenth, added nothing, (it was a popular score). The Australian, Boyle, took seven wickets in two overs with Edward being part of a hat trick. In the match Boyle took 11 wickets but his colleague Spofforth took 16: figures that are unlikely to be repeated. In the second innings Edward scored one run out of 66, and he did not bowl in the match. The Australians only managed 90 and 85 although, with eighteen fielders, fours must have been difficult to come by. It would have been a great honour for Edward to play but perhaps he would have preferred the details to have disappeared by now.

After Shrewsbury School he had matriculated at Christchurch College, Oxford on the 14thOctober 1871, aged twenty. He gained his B.A. four years later and his M.A., in 1881, after his clerical career was well under way. He had been ordained by the Lord Bishop of Ripon in the Cathedral Church on 14thMarch 1876 as a deacon at Rastrick of Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band fame.

After his father’s death in December 1879 Edward Armitage Sandford took over both the vicarage at Denford cum Ringstead. The 1885 Crockford Directory tells us that the living had 75 acres of glebe land and there was a gross income of £350 and a house. One of his earliest duties was to perform a double “fashionable marriage” for the Dearlove sisters in Ringstead Church, not something that was a regular occurrence. The Northampton Mercury of the 14th August 1880 described the scene:

The young ladies are both daughters of the late Mr. Joseph Dearlove, of Ringstead House. The family have so long resided in the village, and have been so generally respected and esteemed, that every one was anxious to vie with each other in manifestations of goodwill and congratulations. Quite early in the morning arches of evergreens and flowers were erected over the gateways to Ringstead House and churchyard. . . .

As the bridal party left the church, flowers were strewn in the path and quantities of rice thrown over them. After the wedding dejeuner, the newly-married couples went amid hearty demonstrations and the enlivening strains of the Ringstead band to the station, en route for Blackpool and Scarborough.  

It was during Edward Armitage Sandfors's time that the Ringstead churchyeard was declared full and unusable. There were some Ringstead people buried in Denford churchyard but there was an outcry and a new "secular" Cemetery was opened a little further out of the village. The first person to be buried was Thomas Stains on the 14th March 1881. Nearly forty years earlier he was the young man who was refused a marriage because, as a Baptist, he had not been christened by the church. This was still a problem and Edward did not sign the Burial Register and "Unbaptized" was written in that colum, seemingly by another, shaky, hand.

Edward married Mira Isabella Rodwell on January 3rd1882, at High Laver in Essex, where her father was the Rector, and the couple settled in the Vicarage in Denford.

We saw in the chapter on schoolmasters in Book 1 how both Edward and his father took a keen daily interest in Ringstead School. The times were changing and the schools also brought the vicar in greater contact with the children and the families of the village. On 9thMarch 1881, for example, he is part of an “entertainment” that the choir and church members gave in the schoolroom. There were songs by Edward and his sister as well as by the headmaster John Bannister, and his wife. He was also, not surprisingly, the captain of the new Ringstead Cricket Club and, in 1882, presided over their first annual meeting when John Bannister was presented with a “purse” of £8 3s. 6d. collected by the members of the club and friends, as “a small token of their esteem, and as an expression of their sympathy with him in the serious loss [of an eye] that he had sustained by an accident in the cricket field on September 13th". The cricket pitch might be as dangerous as the hunting field but it was played with local people from many backgrounds.

There was still much animosity in the area between the Nonconformists and the Church of England which would erupt near the end of the century over the religious service in the school at the start of the day and we get a hint of it in a report of a meeting of the Bible Society which Edward attended on 20th May 1882.

The attendance, although not large, was larger than the previous year, and, considering the malevolent opposition the society had to encounter in the town and neighbourhood, it is satisfactory to find that it hols its own amidst such conflicting elements.

Edward also had encouraged the local bellringers and had asked in 1884 that seven of them from Ringstead should be admitted into the Raunds, Wellingborough and District Society of Church Bellringers.  

The Church of England has been described as the Conservative Party at prayer, so it is no surprise to find Edward and many of the local clergymen at a banquet on 30th December 1885, given by the party to celebrate Lord Burghley’s return to Parliament at the last election.

Edward Armitage Sandford was not to stay long in Denford and Ringstead but as patron of the living, appointed the Reverend William Oram Leadbitter to succeed him in January 1886. He had many years left to live and at first he seems to have taken a “sabbatical” for in 1891 he and Mira, his wife, at living at Avon Lodge in Malmesbury in Wiltshire. He became the curate of the parish in 1890 but describes himself in the Census as “late vicar”: he is only thirty-nine years old.

He is recorded as the curate of Henbury in 1892 but by 1901 he is living in Bath and is now a clergyman with two female servants to look after him. His wife, meanwhile, is a visitor living on her own means at No. 1 Marlborough Place in Sidmouth. It may be she was “taking the cure” for in 1909 she dies and in 1911 Edward is at Pembroke House, 18 Hallam Road, Clevedon in Somerset. It appears that he remarried to Margaret C Teuton (or Teulon) in 1913 at Long Ashton in Somerset and it there that he died in1921, aged sixty-nine.

 

William Oram Leadbitter (1861 - 1920) Vicar 1886 - 1894

William Leadbitter came from a very different background than all the previous curates and vicars of the joint parishes and as a result we find him with his parents through his childhood years. He was born a month before the 1861 Census, the son of George Leadbitter and his wife, Margaret. George is a “house and commission agent” aged twenty-four and the family are living at 7 Pearson’s Yard in Newcastle upon Tyne. Lodging with them is Isaac Patterson, aged eighteen, who is a Joiner and Cabinet-maker. Around them is a mixture of craftsmen and labourers, a number born in Ireland.

By 1871, George is an accountant living with Margaret and their three children at West Kyo in County Durham. It appears that his first wife, Margaret, died in 1863 and he married Mary McGuire in 1864 so she is William’s stepmother. Another ten years and George is still an accountant, living next door to the Miners Arms in Kylance Head in Tanfield. Most of his neighbours are coalminers. All the couple’s children seem to have been encouraged to look to the professions for work. William is not at home but his brother, James, at sixteen, is a law student and we know that thirteen-year-old George goes on to become a teacher.

I have not been able to find William in the 1881 Census he was almost certainly at University College, Durham, studying for his degree. On 6th June 1885 he was ordained as a deacon at Peterborough Cathedral, and, at the same ceremony, as a licensed curate at St Marks in Peterborough.

Confusingly, he was already acting as a curate in Finedon on 16thNovember 1884. We know this because he had been preaching at Islip and, on his way back to Finedon, disaster struck. The Northampton Mercury reported that he:

. . . returned home in a pony and trap, in company with Mr. W. Turner, who was driving. On ascending the hill near Finedon Poplars they were run into with great force by a trap, containing about half a dozen persons, coming in an opposite direction. Both Mr. Leadbitter and Mr. Turner were very violently thrown out of the trap, Mr. Leadbitter being injured on the head and various parts of the body. Mr. Turner was injured in the arm. The shaft of the trap was broken off and the harness damaged, but the pony was apparently unhurt. The pony and trap belonged to Mr. Thomas Leach of the Bell Inn. The occupants of the other trap, we understand hailed from Woodford and were returning home. Several of them were thrown out, and one, a woman complained of being hurt.

The report clearly shows who it considered was at fault and where one’s sympathies should lie.

In January 1886 he became the Vicar of Denford and Ringstead with Edward Armitage Sandford still the patron of the living. While at Finedon he had obviously noticed Lillian Gertrude, the young daughter of the vicar, George Paul for they were married in 1887

William was a different kind of minister than the rather patrician ones that had preceded him. He was not connected to the landed gentry but that does not mean that he was always welcomed by all the people of the two villages.

We see hints of William’s different approach in the brief articles that appeared in the Northampton Mercury. On 19thJune 1887 there was a flower service and “an appropriate sermon” was preached by William to the children. In January of the following year there was a “Grand Concert” featuring Ringstead Brass band and comic and sentimental songs. William “presided” over the show and the proceeds of “over £2” were to be devoted to “the purchase of a magic lantern [early type of projector] for the new Working-men’s Guild”. A little over a year later, the Mercury reported that in Denford: 

The Rev. W. O. Leadbitter has this week opened a new reading-room at the Vicarage free of charge, for men for each Wednesday evening. Newspapers and games will be provided, and smoking will be allowed.

At the same time, however, he began to upset some of the middle classes on whom his position in the community still largely depended. He accused Mr. Bird, the Medical Officer of the Thrapston Union of neglecting his duty. His complaint was heard by the Board of Guardians and dismissed. William was not cowed and wrote again to the Board of Guardians giving a detailed account of how Susan Gunn, who Mr. Bird claimed to have visited, had not in fact been visited. He also claimed: 

. . . Indeed, so poor has been the treatment which the woman [Susan Gunn] has received that she has been compelled to go as an out-patient to the Northampton General Infirmary. She has been an out-patient since April 7th and although she has a certificate from the Infirmary doctor to say that she is unable to work, she is, by the petty spite of the Union doctor, prevented from receiving the extra sick allowance granted by the Guardians.

The Board agreed that William did not understand the duties of a medical officer and Mr Peach believed that Susan Gunn was a “bad woman” to let Mr. Leadbitter act as he had. We need not judge who was right or wrong but we can see that William was trying to defend his poor parishioners even if it brought him in conflict with the authorities. 

Throughout the century thre was a clear identification of the Church of England with the Tory Party and the Nonconformists with the Whigs and, later, the Independant Labour Party. Affluence, however, was beginning to blur the edges and this could lead ot increased animosity. J. R. Wilkinson, preaching at the opening of the new Ringstead Baptist Sunday Schools in 1887, stated:

It is a matter of regret that the descendants of many wealthy Nonconformists left them because society gives them the cold shoulder unless they attend church. We respect persons who honestly differ from us, but we despise those who have not the manliness to remain members of the humble Congregational or Baptist churches, and become Churchmmen as a short cut to gentility.

This was summed up by the saying that, "a carrriage never goes to a meeting house for three generations".

It was at this time, in June 1889, that William’s brother, George, was drowned. He had become an assistant master at Exmouth House in Devonport. With some friend he had hired a boat and gone to Barnpool. George had dived off the boat and swum towards the shore. Suddenly he disappeared and after a frantic search his body was found face downwards in six feet of water. It was assumed by the way he was curled up that he had been seized with a sudden attack of cramp.

We saw in an earlier episode that William had hired a horse and trap to get around his work. It may be that he also used the bicycle to get around his parishes. Perhaps we can deduce this from an article that was published in the Northampton Mercury which listed new inventions that had been recently patented. Included in the list was: 

An adjustable revolving bicycle jack and stand – W.O. Leadbitter, Denford Vicarage, Thrapston, Northampton.

The 1891 Census finds William and Lillian and their young family at the Denford Vicarage. With them is a daughter Margaret aged two and a baby son (later named Geoffrey) just one day old. There is, however, plenty of help at hand for Lillian’s sister is staying with them and there is also a nurse and three female servants. A sixteen-year-old young man is also there who is a “cow boy” so presumably William kept some cows on the glebe land.

It was in April 1892 that William received his worst publicity when under a heading, “A Perverse Parson”, the Mercury published the following brief report. 

The annual vestry meeting was held in the Schoolroom on Monday morning. The usual time was at five in the afternoon, but at the last vestry meeting a resolution was passed unanimously that seven o’clock in the evening would be a more favourable time for working men to attend. The chairman was instructed to notify the same to the vicar, the Rev. W.O. Leadbitter, who instead of complying with the very reasonable wish of the vestry, called the meeting at ten in the morning. When questioned as to his proceeding his replay was that he had a perfect right to call it when he thought well, and refused to put it to the meeting for an adjournment. Ultimately the proposer, the Rev. R.A. Selby put it to the meeting himself and it was carried by about 40 to 6. The 40 then left the meeting, the vicar and a certain local preacher giving them a hearty clap of the hands.

When we consider William’s defence of a poor woman his behaviour here seems a little odd. If we discover that the Reverend Selby was the local Baptist Minister we realize that this was part of a sectarian power struggle centred particularly on the school. There had also been anger at the way that the charity allotments had been run and a Vestry Meeting three years earlier, in 1889, had been the potential focus of this dissatisfaction. There had been an unusually large attendance but the meeting had passed off without incident. Nevertheless, whatever the history, William does not seem to have handled the situation well.

We see through the second half of the nineteenth century that the Vestry and Parish Meetings became a place where the increasing franchise coupled with the larger number of duties being delegated to it caused constant friction. The parish constables are still elected annually but we also see discussion about the state of the footpaths, the lighting of the streets and the collection of sewage and the burial of the dead. The vicar still often chaired the meetings but others also took this role and in 1894 the Local Government Act made the new secular Parish Councils take over most of these duties.

In 1890 William had proposed, it appears unsuccessfully, that the Parish did not adopt the 1833 Lighting Act. Nevertheless the new Parish Council adopted the Lighting and Watching Act on 24th January 1895. We may look at the Vestry meetings at another time but it is enough to say here that we see an increasingly political and secularised view on parish matters as the new electors began to exert their influence.

William had another difficult situation to deal with at Ringstead School when the long serving John Bannister was replaced by Albert Crew as headmaster. The first chaotic five months of 1893 have been detailed in the story of the schoolmasters in Book 1 but it involved William in meetings and letter writing and much local animosity

In the following year William Oram Leadbitter moved on from Ringstead. The report in the Mercury of his leaving shows a rather patronising attitude to him but also reveals a certain respect:

A good many people in East and North Northamptonshire will be pleased to hear of the preferment of the Rev. W.O. Leadbitter, vicar of Denford cum Ringstead to the important parish of St. Luke’s, Leicester. Whilst at Finedon as curate (where he married a daughter of the Rev. G.W. Paul and sister of Mr. Herbert Paul, M.P.), he gained many friends, and in the quiet Denford district he was highly esteemed for his energetic work for his Church, although his zeal in that direction has sometimes brought him into collision with a section of the parishioners. A good preacher and an energetic worker, his proper sphere is in a town parish, where there is room for his energies; and I shall expect to hear a good report of his labours in Leicester.

That many people in Denford and Ringstead had a respect for William, and that he had an affection for them can be seen by the fact that still, in 1900, he came back to preach at the harvest festival service. Also there is a grave in Denford Churchyard for William’s father, George who died on 29th September 1897 and perhaps had come to stay with him in his old age. The grave also remembers his brother George who was drowned in 1889.

William remained as vicar of St Luke’s before, in 1906, he became the vicar of West Walton, north of Wisbech in the Norfolk fens. His daughter Margaret married an important Hebrew scholar called Alfred Guillaume. His son, Geoffrey was killed at Gaza in the First World War and is commemorated on the war memorial there. William died a few years later on 2ndJune 1920. He left £1946 12s. 7d to his widow, Lilian.

 

Andrew Cavendish Neely (1860 - 1937) Vicar 1894 - 1898 

Andrew Cavendish Neely who became the vicar after William was once again someone whose roots led back to the Anglo-Irish landed gentry. His father, also Andrew, had been born in Ireland in 1809. He married late and Andrew was his fourth child. Andrew senior had become the vicar of Ashton in Northamptonshire in 1853 but before that had run, with his brother, Lisburn Academy, a private school in the north of Ireland. 

All the children were born in Ashton and Andrew Cavendish Neely was christened there on 14thOctober 1860 and spent his early childhood at the Rectory. The 1881 Census records him, aged 20, at the Rectory but notes that he is “an undergraduate – was Oxford”. It seems that he transferred to London for when he is ordained as a deacon in December 1883 it states that he has come from London University. He became a curate of Market Harborough (1883-4) and then St Saviour, Leicester (1884-6). He was appointed his father’s curate at Ashton from 1887 to 1894, possibly as he was getting too old to run his parish by himself, and combined this with being curate-in-chief with Hartwell from 1891 to 1893.

It was in November 1894 that he was appointed the vicar of Denford cum Ringstead, now under the patronage of Mr. S. G. Stopford-Sackville. His father came to live with him in at Denford when he resigned as vicar of Ashton in 1895. It seems likely that his two older, spinster sisters, Agnes and Julia, also came to stay with Andrew for the 1901 Census has them with him after he had moved on to Islip.

The vicars kept up the visiting and management of the Ringstead and Denford Schools. On July 23rd1897 Andrew commented unfavourably on the work of Miss Standen and Miss March, the two assistant mistresses which seemed to lead to both leaving the school within the month. On March 31st1898, he wrote in a letter to Mr Capron at Southwick Hall, mainly trying to get a subscription towards oak benches and book desks for the choirboys in the Chancel, to harmonize with the men’s seats at a cost of £7 12s 0d. He also wrote:

I also hope the school may be maintained as Voluntary School. I hear, however, that the New Code is likely to make the carrying on of Voluntary Schools more difficult than ever. 

Those last four words emphasise the extra workload, as well as opportunities that the schools placed on the vicars and sometimes the strain showed. How did the Vicars cope with the two churches' services each Sunday? A Preachers' Book has surviced which notes the services (and texts) as well as the collection totals from 1886 until 1907. We see that the pattern seems to have been:

10.30 am Matins and sermon

6.00 pm  Evensong and sermon

      and the following week:

8.00 am Holy Communion

2.30 pm Evensong and sermon

We cannot be sure but it may be that the reason for this fortnightly pattern was that the reverse pattern was happening in Denford Church, allowing the Vicar to be at all the four services. There were some guest preachers and other variations and Andrew Neely also introduced a Litany on Friday mornngs.

Andrew Neely’s time at Denford and Ringstead was not long but the independent shoemakers of the area seem to have made a deep impression on him that he carried with him for the rest of his life. In 1929 the Northampton County Magazinepublished a poem written by him about a supposed meeting in a railway carriage and a shoemaker’s “shop” between an undercover reporter and a Ringstead shoemaker. It is set in 1896 but it is not clear exactly when the poem was written:

                Of course you’ve heard of Ringstead in the valley of the Nene?

                Well that’s the place I come from, where nearly all the men

                Their wives and boys and girls as well, are employed in making shoes,

Yes! I thought you’d know about it; most folks do, but they confuse

Our work with other sorts, you know, that’s done in our towns

Like Leicester and Northampton where they call us rustic “clowns”.

Those folks can’t make shoes sir – not as I want to boast

But they know no more of shoe work than they know the coast

Of the South Pacific Ocean or of China or Japan;

They can’t make shoes from start to finish; us chaps at Ringstead can!

 Then, later, the man goes to the workshop where the shoemaker tells him:

“Hard work?” Why, yes, of course it is. Just try to pull this thread.

Can’t manage it? I thought not. Try something else instead.

Hammer this bit of leather, on this iron, on your knee,

It don’t hurt me a blessed bit – but you just try and see!

“Don’t want much of that” you say? Ah! You haven’t learnt the trick,

I’ll tell you about it sometime. Can’t learn it all so quick.

You’re right, it is hard work, sir and more than that, it’s Art

To do it all yourself like, and fit in every part.

The missus sews the tops, of course, but then that’s not so tough,

But if you had a day at that, you’d say you’d had enough. 

These extracts show that Andrew Neely had much more respectful and sympathetic attitude to the working people of Ringstead that that shown by his predecessors, even those who worked hard to improve their parishioners’ lot. In 1898 Andrew moved down stream to Islip as Rector, where his father died, and in 1902 he married Edith Mary, Canon Hodgson’s daughter, at nearby Aldwincle. He became the organising secretary for the Society for the Propagation of theGospel in the archdeaconry of Oakham and then Northampton. He moved on to become rector of Milton Malsor in 1904 and Rural Dean of Preston in Northamptonshire in 1910 before retiring to Eastbourne, where he died in 1937.

 Reverend Neely (top right) and Mrs Neely (middle of 2nd row with large white collar).

Taken from photograph of Milton Malsor Church Choir 1916.

With the kind permission of Milton Malsor Historical Society (www.miltonmalsorhistory.org,uk).

 

Charles William Cotes (1861 – 1900) Vicar 1898 - 1900 

Charles William Cotes had been born in Highworth in Wiltshire. He was the eldest son of a Solicitor, also Charles, and his wife Lucy. His father died when Charles junior was still a small child. He was sent to Abingdon School and then on to Pembroke College in Oxford.

It seems that there was a strong Australian connection for, on the 23rdJuly 1876, his mother had remarried, to Joseph Guillaume, who was from the department of the “Honourable Chief Secretary, Melbourne, Victoria. The wedding notice also discloses that Lucy was the sister of the late Bishop of Grafton and Armidale in Australia. This brother was called William Collinson Sawyer who had become the first Bishop of this new diocese where he arrived in Grafton, after many months of travel on 13th March 1868. Two days later and, perhaps significantly, he and one of his sons were drowned when his boat was upset on the Clarence River on Sunday 15th March 1868.

With this Australian connection it is no surprise that after being ordained first as a deacon and then as a priest by the Bishop of Llandaff and then serving his curacy at nearby Roath that he too travelled to Australia and became the curate at Christ Church in the South Yarra diocese of Melbourne. In 1891 he moved on to New Zealand where he was the incumbent at St Mary Mornington with Green Island (the parish was split soon after his arrival) and finally became vicar of Wakatipu from 1894 to 1896. It was while he was in New Zealand that he married Brenda Marian Traill on 5th April 1894 at the Holy Innocents Church in Dunedin.

Charles seems to have had little home life as a child, being either at boarding school or staying with his widowed aunt and her elderly spinster sister at Purton, near Wootton Bassett. This lack of a home base may have given him a restlessness and it was perhaps this trait, or possibly illness, that brought the couple back to England in July 1897.

In 1898 he became the curate at Wellingborough Parish Church and a year later was offered the living at Denford cum Ringstead by the current patron, the local M.P., Mr Stopford-Sackville. For some reason he fell out with his church wardens so that they resigned although they still continued to attend the services. He seems to have been in poor health and was ain the habit of sitting up very late at night. The Evening Telegraph continued with what happened on that night of Saturday 3rd November 1900 and the following morning. His widow, Brenda, gave evidence at the inquest held at the Cock Innin Denford.

On Sunday morning she saw deceased about two o’clock. He came up to the bedroom and he said it was a nice fire she had. He came back in a quarter of an hour and witness asked if he was coming to bed. He replied, “Yes, in a minute or two,” and then went down again, and witness went to sleep. She missed him at seven, and as he had been to bed she went to see if he was in the study, but she did not find him there. Next she sent the maid to the church, and the answer that she brought back was that he was not there. Witness then sent the maid to the sexton, whilst the girl also found the boat was not in the boathouse. Witness saw their boat down the river empty. The man Groom went down the river and found the boat and oars. Deceased had not been well for twelve months, but she did not know that he was depressed at all. He never threatened to commit suicide, and she knew no reason why he should. He was in no financial difficulties. Deceased was in the habit of sitting up late, and often used to fall asleep on the sofa and come to bed when he woke at two or three o’clock in the morning. It was no unusual thing for him not to come to bed till two. It was not usual for him to go out in the boat at that time in the morning. Deceased was a very good swimmer. He had fainting fits lately and nearly fainted in church once or twice.

Although his body was not located at first, Groom confirmed that he later found William face down in the river, just over the side of the boat. Dr. J. W. Gainer of Thrapston stated that he knew that William had a weak heart.

The jury returned an open verdict of “Found Drowned” but it would seem likely that William was struggling with depression and had committed suicide. He was thirty-nine years old.

There was a large procession at William’s funeral at Denford on Monday 5th November 1900 led by the St. John Ambulance Corps and the local clergymen, but there is no gravestone or memorial in either church or churchyard. Is that because of his suspected suicide? His widow, Brenda, moved to Newcastle on Tyne and, probably, then on to Wales, where she had been born, so perhaps he is remembered elsewhere.

He was replaced by Francis N. Pickford who had also been in the Australian clergy before returning home but our century is up and we must leave the Anglican curates and vicars of Denford and Ringstead. As Percival Sandilands pointed out, there was not a resident “gentry” and for most Ringstead people the vicar or curate would have been their only contact with University graduates or the old aristocracy. For much of the century the vicar and his family would have looked outside the village for their social lives and spent much of their time away from the area. By the end of the century this was changing and the vicar and his family took an increasing part in village events. This was partly the changing times but the school had also been a catalyst in this greater integration in the community. It could have been a lonely life sometimes, of the village but yet set apart from it by position and education, and some of the clergy, like William Cotes, may have found this hard to cope with.

The local vicars and curates would have buried a number of men, women and children claimed by the waters of the Nene and two of their own also drowned in those quiet, dangerous waters.

Throughout these stories of the local clergymen we have seen an increasing undercurrent of animosity between the vicars and some sections of the village community, especially the Non-conformists.  We might believe that Ringstead was a particularly rough-and-ready place which, as Percival Sandilands remarked, had no resident landed gentry to set a proper example. However, recent research by Robert James Lee, focussed on Norfolk, has shown that the problems of Ringstead were mild compared to many rural places elsewhere. Henrietta Batson, the wife of a Berkshire vicar, wrote both novels and gardening and genealogical books. In an article in 1892 in the magazine, Nineteenth Century, she stated:

Our labourer hates his employer, he hates his squire, but above all he hates his parson. They are all richer than he is, and he has been told by social agitators that they have taken the money and lands which should be his . . . He hates them but he conceals his hatred as well as he can, so that he may still benefit from their kindness.

Others saw the animosity arising, not from misplaced envy, but from the part the parson played in the landowners’ and politicians’ attempts to keep him in his allotted place.  Whatever the interpretation of the reasons for these stresses, the fact is that they did exist.  Henrietta Batson’s bitterness was perhaps born out of the daily observation of her husband, a clergyman who suffered from severe depression. All the men we have looked at would have had different personalities, prejudices and work ethics but, in broad terms we see the change from the hunting and fishing vicars of the early years to the hard-working resident clergymen at the end of the century. The new workload of the management of the school, and the religious instruction there, together with an increased pastoral role within the community would have led to a very different lifestyle to that enjoyed by men like Charles Proby and John Watson. The vicars also began to come from different backgrounds and be educated at Anglican Colleges and the new redbrick universities. The world was changing and vicar’s son and labourer’s son both died in the terrible war that was soon to come.

 

View of church from south showing group of small children and a well trodden path to Raunds

Pre 1906 Postcard from Author’s collection

Comparison of Ceremonies performed by Vicars and Curates in Ringstead in the Nineteenth Century

The table below shows what proportion of ceremonies were conducted by vicars and curates. I had to make decisions about some entries so it is important not to see small differences in comparison figures as significant. It might be argued for the less active vicars that they were looking after Denford while the curates saw to the Ringstead flock. However, if we look at the first half of the century at the Denford Registers we see a very similar pattern of attendance for the clergymen. With Isaac Gaskarth, the curate, only seems to be doing most of the duties in Isaac’s last years. Charles Proby was accused of being a pluralist and the figures bear this out with him officiating at only 5% of christenings in Ringstead. John Watson began as a largely non-resident pluralist and his curates carried out almost all the ceremonies. There is a sudden change and from July 1837 he conducted most of the ceremonies sometimes helped by his son, also John, who became the curate at Doddington and other members of his family. It is only in the last year of his life, when his blindness and old age prevented him, that he conducts few ceremonies. Apart from the short incumbency of William de Pipe Belcher, for the rest of the century, the vicars ran both parishes and only called on curates or other clergymen in times of illness or for other temporary reasons.

One of the watershed moments for the church was the first half of the 1830s. The bishops of the Church of England were seen as key in the throwing out of the 1831 Reform Bill in the House of Lords. On November 5th 1831 effigies of bishops replaced Guy Fawkes on many bonfires. There was a cholera outbreak starting in 1831 (which claimed John Watson’s wife) and many saw it as a judgement of God upon the nation. King William ordered a national day of fasting and humiliation on 21st March 1832. Church of England clergymen were abused and even stoned in the streets of London and the new industrial cities. The abuses of its powers by the church with its control of the only two universities, and some of its clergymen getting very rich through influence led to a Commission which started to redistribute the church’s wealth among the clergy and to stamp out pluralist and non-resident clergymen. Added to the death of his wife, it may be that these were factors in the move of John Watson back to his country parishes

VICAR

VICAR or CURATES (C)

officiating

 

Approx

Years

Baptisms

Marriages

Burials

 

ISAAC GASKARTH

 

1777 – 1811

(figures from 1800 only)

 Vicar

-

11 (from 1800)

(24 total)

95

(70%)

31

(91%)

64

(74%)

 

Daniel Crofts (C)

-

-

40

3

23

 

Others

-

-

-

5

-

 

TOTAL

(approx no. per year)

 

 

135

(12)

34

(3)

87

(8)

 

Note: Isaac officiated at all baptisms up to 12th December 1808 and all burials until 24th January 1809. All Curates & Others after those dates. Similar for marriages although Isaac did take 2 marriages in later period.

CHARLES
PROBY

1812 - 1822

Vicar

 

10

8

(5%)

5

(9%)

9

(12%)

 

R. Morgan Vane (C)

 

 

56

18

16

 

Thomas Brownrigg (C)

 

 

35

10

15

 

Harrison Packard (C)

 

 

16

8

6

 

Thomas Symonds (C)

 

 

53

10

22

 

Others

 

 

7

6

6

 

TOTAL

(approx no. per year)

 

 

175

(17)

57

(6)

74

(10)

 

 

 

JOHN WATSON

1822 - 1851

Vicar

 

29

159

(37%)

68

(42%)

130

(41%)

 

Thomas Symonds (C)

 

 

20

2

8

 

Benjamin Clay (C)

 

 

38

18

23

 

Thomas W. Brown (C)

 

 

7

1

12

 

Charles W Chalklen (C)

 

 

55

17

36

 

Edward Bowman (C)

 

 

91

34

60

 

T. H. Wilkins (C)

 

 

46

9

18

 

Others

 

 

19

12

27

 

TOTAL

(approx no. per year)

 

 

435

(15)

161

(6)

314

(11)

 

Note: John Watson’s tenure was in 3 distinct phases: 1822 - 1836 he officiated at 1 baptism. 1836 – 1848 he was at almost all baptisms and from then until his death his blindness meant the curate took over most duties. A similar story for marriages (I have not included 3 marriages between death of John and the appointment of W Belcher.) T. H. Wilkins acted as a “locum” and is in “Others” before he became an “Assistant Curate”. Burials are broadly similar. (6 burials between death of John and appointment of William not included.)

WILLIAM de PIPE BELCHER

1852 - 1854

-Vicar

 

3

17

(55%)

7

(44%)

16

(57%)

 

J. G. Rogers (C)

 

 

9

9

6

 

Others

 

 

3

-

6

 

TOTAL

(approx no. per year)

 

 

29

(15)

16

(5)

28

(9)

 

 

ALFRED J. SANDILANDS

1854 - 1862

-Vicar

 

7

34

(87%)

29

(88%)

64

(90%)

 

No Curates

 

 

0

-

-

 

Others

 

 

5

4

7

 

 

TOTAL

(approx no. per year)

 

 

39

(5)

33

(5)

71

(10)

 

Note: I have not included 5 ‘others’ who officiated at Baptisms and 2 others at marriages between death of Alfred Sandilands and institution of Percival Sandilands. John Bywater officiated at 9 burials between death of Alfred and 30 May 1863

VICAR

CURATE

 

Approx

Years

Baptisms

Marriages

Burials

 

PERCIVAL R.R. SANDILANDS

1863 - 1874

Vicar

 

11

157

(97%)

26

(84%)

109

(89%)

 

No Curates

 

 

-

-

 

 

Others

 

 

5

5

14

 

TOTAL

(approx no. per year)

 

 

162

(15)

31

(3)

123

(11)

 

Note: 1 “Other” baptism and 4 burials between Percival Sandilands and Edward Sandford not included. Percival employed a curate (E. Kitson) but he seems to have acted as schoolteacher. Percival had a hunting accident on 1st January 1870 which accounts for most of the “Others”.

Edward

Sandford

(1874 -1879)

Vicar

 

5

39

(74%)

26

(84%)

45

(85%)

 

No long-term Curates

 

 

-

-

-

 

Others

(incl. 12 E. A. Sandford)

 

 

14

5

8

 

TOTAL

(approx no. per year)

 

 

53

(11)

31

(6)

53

(11)

 

2 marriages  and 2 burials between death of Edward Sandford and his son taking over are not included

 

Edward Armitage Sandford

(1880 – 1885)

Vicar

 

5

48

(98%)

23

(88%)

74

(85%)

 

No Curates

 

 

-

-

 

 

Others

 

 

1

3

13

 

TOTAL

(approx no. per year)

 

 

49

(10)

26

(5)

87

 

1 marriage and 4 burials for “Others” between E. A. Sandford and W. O. Leadbitter not included.

 

William O.

Leadbitter

(1886 – 1894)

Vicar

 

8

111

(90%)

45

(88%)

74

(85%)

 

No Curates

 

 

-

-

-

 

Others

 

 

12

6

13

 

TOTAL

(approx no. per year)

 

 

123

(15)

51

(6)

87

(11)

 

2 marriages and 4 burials between W.O. Leadbitter and A.C. Neely not included. From burial of Thomas Stains on 14th March 1881 all burials in new “secular” Cemetery.

Andrew C. Neely

(1894 – 1898)

Vicar

 

4

71

(100%)

18

(100%)

 

 

No Curates

 

 

-

-

 

 

Others

 

 

-

-

 

 

TOTAL

(approx no. per year)

 

 

71

(16)

18

(9)

*

 

Burials not included from now on as now in new Cemetery and many “certified” people officiating

 

William Charles Cotes

(1898 – 1900)

Vicar

 

2

25

(100%)

10

(100%)

 

 

No Curates

 

 

-

-

 

 

Others

 

 

-

-

 

 

TOTAL

(approx no. per year)

 

 

25

(13)

10

(5)

*

 

2 marriages after his death not included. Burials as for Andrew C. Neely*.

 

 

 

References

Various censuses (www.Ancestry.co.uk ).

England & Wales Free BMD (www.ancestry.co.uk ).

Ringstead and Denford Parish Registers (NRO).

www.ccedb.cch.kcl.ac.uk .

www.theclergydatabase.org.uk .

Clergy List 1915 (Crockford) (NRO).

Northamptonshire and Rutland Clergy from 1500. Rev. Henry Isham Langden M.A. (Archer & Goodman 1940) (NR0).

http://eagle.cch.ac.uk .

Cambridge University Alumni 1261-1900. (www.Ancestry.co.uk ).

Oxford Alumni, 1500 – 1886 (www.Ancestry.co.uk ).

London Directory 1860 (www.ancestry.co.uk ).

London, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burial, 1538 -1812 (www.ancestry.co.uk )

London, England, Deaths and Burials 1813 -1980. (www.Ancestry.co.uk ).

https://familysearch.org .

www.rushdenheritage.co.uk

Bath Chronicle, Bedford & Peterborough Gazette, Bucks Herald, Bury & Norwich Post, Cambridge Chronicle, Chelmsford Chronicle, Cheltenham Chronicle, Cheltenham Looker-On, Derby Mercury, Evening Telegraph, Exeter Flying Post, Hampshire Advertiser, Huddersfield Chronicle, Huntingdon, ,  Kentish Gazette, Leeds Intelligencer, Leicester Chronicle, Leicestershire Mercury, London Standard, Morning Chronicle, Norfolk Chronicle, Northampton Mercury, Northampton Herald, Oxford Journal Reading Mercury, Stamford Mercury, Yorkshire Gazette, and other newspapers. www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk ).

Manchester Guardian 25th March 1837 . (Quest Historical Newspapers via Cambridgeshire Libraries online).

A Village on the Nene. Alan G. Clarke (Spiegl Press 2007).

Three Dialogues on the Amusements of Clergymen. William Gilpin (B. & J. White 1796).

Hunting Sketches. Anthony Trollope.(1865).

Notes made by Janice Morris on Ringstead Re-opening in Northampton Herald 31st October 1863 which she has kindly copied to me.

Letter from Percival Sandilands 26thSeptember 1874 (NAS26 NRO).

www.genuki.org.uk .

A Digest of Parochial Returns made to the Select Committee of Education of the Poor etc. 1818 (http://books.google.co.uk ).

The Black Book or Corruption Unmasked. John Wade (ohn Fairburn New Edn. 1828) (http://archive.org )

The Gentleman’s Magazine June 1812 vol. LXXXll (http://books.google.co.uk ).

Ecclesiastical Gazette 1839 (http://books.google.co.uk ).

No Compromise: Nonconformity and Politics 1893 - 1914. W.C.R. Hancock. (The Baptist Quarterly April 1995)

Ringstead Churchwardens Account Book (NRO 280P/16)

Ringstead Parish Preachers Book 1886 - 1907. (NRO 280P/13)

Ringstead School Log book.

The Victorian Church Part 1. Owen Chadwick. (Adam and Charles Black 1966)

The Clergy List for 1841. C. Cox (http://books.google.co.uk ).

The Church of the Holy Trinity, Denford. Stephen Swailes (Denford 1990:2003).

Church of the Nativity of the blessed Virgin Mary, Ringstead. K.M. Watson (Ringstead 1880).

Memorial Inscriptions at the Church of the Holy Trinity Denford. (NFHS 2003).

Memorial Inscriptions at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Shared Church Ringstead. (NFHS 2005).

Ringstead Minute Book with Parish Minutes 1865 – 1909 (280P/103. NRO).

Letters re Charles Chaklen and "The Hebrew" (www.british-fiction.cf.ac.uk/publishing/hebr28-4.html ).

www.denfordchurch.co.uk/history.htm .

www.choleraandthethames.co.uk .

http://en.wikipedia.orgSt. Mildred, Poultry: Collinson Sawyer.

www.stbees.org.uk .

www.british-fiction.cf.ac.uk .

Semiramis and Other Poems. Rev. Charles William Chalklen A.M. (William Pickering 1847).

www.cricketarchive.com .

www.englishfootballonline.com .

www.clevedon-civic-society.org.uk .

Andrew Neely letter (Southwick Hall Archive)

http://nla.gov.au .

Northampton County Magazine Volume 2 Jan. – Dec 1929.

http://gleninnesanglicanchurch.com .

www.anglicanhistory.org .

Rural Society and the Anglican Clergy 1815 - 1914. Robert Lee (Boydell & Brewer 2006).

Reader Comments (4)

Reverend Alfred John Sandilands

A fascinating account, on which I may be able to add a few things?

Though Sandilands married the widow Anna Maria (not Ann Marie) Leggatt in 1850, their period of cohabitation was brief and he lived apart for the rest of his life. His behaviour towards her, not without provocation I’m sure, is hard to square with his calling as a Christian minister. Or, to be charitable, perhaps he was better at ministry than at marriage.

His stepdaughter Georgiana (not Georgina) Mary Bethune Leggatt in 1873 married a widower, Robert Young Rowley, whose first wife had been Ann Watson. The couple married in and both died in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Although born the same year, the Georgiana (not Georgina) Leggatt living with Jane Watson at 65 Blackett St, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in 1881 must be a different woman. She was born at Crawley, Sussex, while Anna Maria’s daughter was born and baptised in Westminster, Middlesex.

July 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMaximilian

Maximilian
Many thanks for these corrections and additions. Working from Censuses I know that I sometimes misread names slightly. It does seem quite a coincidence about the two Georgiana/ Georgina Leggatts doesn't it? I may have another look at it to see if I can work it out.. Many thanks again. David

August 4, 2014 | Registered CommenterDavid Ball

Good job.. I read your all this site very carefully.. Many people are like your post including me because it is very different than others.. I want to read more helpful information that is important for me.. Your efforts is very unique.. Thanks for post..

November 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBath Respray Ireland

Many thanks for your kind words gagandeep

November 12, 2014 | Registered CommenterDavid Ball

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