That there Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler has been exercising his eye for unusual stories from the newspaper archive again, and he has, yet again, found a gold nugget – this one had me wryly amused, and I think it will you, too.
St. James Church, the parish church of Brownhills and the crowning glory of Ogley Hay has not been mentioned that much here over the years; it seems that as a community, Browhills and Walsall Wood were more focussed on Methodism (in most of its diverse strands) that they were on the good old Church of England. It seems that largely the great and good worshipped at St. James.
This is an interesting story, and worth ploughing through; I’m unsure of the sources (hopefully Peter will clarify), but it is rather fascinating and does belie some disquiet with ecclesiastical process in Brownhills in the 1890s. I can’t imagine a funeral being held up in such a way; there must have been outrage in the town!
Thanks to Peter for yet another great spot, and I have a few more in the bag from the local history rapscallion to come.
Comment here or mail me: Brownhillsbob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.
In good old Queen Victoria’s reign….the Vicar of Ogley Hay (1895)
We have come across Dr Maddever on a few occasions.
In April 1895 the Vicar, Rev SF Arrowsmith, of Ogley Hay conducted the annual vestry meeting in Ogley Hay Parish Church. It was attended by a large number of parishioners including the good Doctor Madddever.
The vicar said that the meeting was called for the express purpose of electing churchwardens and sidesmen. The new Parish Councils Act had dispensed with certain businesses which were customary on previous occasions; one being that it was no longer needed to bring the accounts before the meeting. The accounts had, for the first time, been audited by Mr J Holland, and he suggested that Mr Holland be re-appointed as auditor. He then told the meeting who he elected as Warden and sidesmen.
But a Mr Carlin thought that this was not satisfactory; the accounts had always been examined at the Easter meeting. He did not question the accuracy, but remarked that the parishioners had a right to see the accounts laid before a public meeting, and see how the money was being spent. (‘Hear, here.’). He then went on to say that he would like to call attention to a little grievance.
The Vicar calls for order, but a parishioner interjects that Mr Carlin has a right to speak.
Mr Carlin draws attention to a recent funeral, and on behalf of the Vestry, to enter a protest against the unchristianlike manner displayed.
‘Out of Order,’ protests the Vicar.
But Carlin continues… displayed to an old and respected inhabitant.
‘You must not do it,’ protests the Vicar.
Carlin then proposes that George Hodgkins be re-elected as people’s warden… this was carried unanimously.
In thanks Hodgkins admits that there had been complaints about certain matters, but trusted there would be no need for dissatisfaction in the future… no more unpleasantness.
But the good Doctor Maddever is not satisfied it seems…’Will you give an authoritative statement why a corpse and the friends were kept waiting outside the Church while the Vicar was getting his tea ready?’
The Vicar again shouts ‘This is Out or Order!’
Mr Bradbury says that he would like those those gentlemen put in office to show more courtesy.
The Vicar… ‘You can only deal with matters of which notice has been given on the notice board… and if my right is called into question I can disolve the meeting at once.’
The Doctor is having none of this… ‘We have a perfect right to ask for an explanation, and we have a great deal to do with the fact that you kept a dead man lying at the gates, which I consider a disgrace to the human race and Christianity.’
A Mr Gritton thinks this is all unfair, and Hodgkins tries to calm the situation, but more join in.
The Doctor to the Vicar… ‘It seems to me that you are afraid of having an investigation!’
Vicar… ‘You have no right to raise these questions.’
Maddever… ‘I have a right to speak!’
Vicar… ‘Yes, privately.’
The vicar was accused of not speaking very privately to Mr. Haden, and Maddever added that the Vicar’s conduct lately had been of an unchristianlike character… so the Vicar tries to close the meeting.
Mr Brown proposes that they have a Parish meeting; Mr Moore seconds and proposes that Maddever takes the Chair….’The clergyman seems to want to burk every question about the Church!’
Hodgkins again tries to pacify, but the Doctor is having none of this, and insisted the question before them was reference to keeping a body waiting at the Church door by a so-called Christian clergyman; they wanted an explanation, and also about charging double fees, which to him looked like the filthy lucre business.
Vicar…’I will give an explanation, but I don’t want my conduct discussed here.’
Maddever…’It is discussed from one end of the Parish to the other!’
Carlin again speaks about the great infliction on the Church to have these scandals going about, and observed that in addition to the regrettable incident at Mr Pole’s funeral, there was a grievance with the respect to charging double fees, and also the case of an esteemed and valuble Churchman who had the great infliction of being told that his own church, and in the presence of the Choir, that he was on the verge of bankruptcy. (Voices…’Shame of the Vicar.’)
The discussion went on and the Vicar left the vestry somewhat abruptly.
A Parish meeting was held there and then with Maddever in the Chair, and Carlin proposes a resolution of protest against the unchristianlike and ungentlemanly conduct of the Vicar displayed at the funeral of the Late J Poole, who for over 30 years had been a respected member of the Parish.
Mr Bradbury told of how the funeral was unavoidably 35 minutes late, and he waited nearly half an hour before going to see the Vicar…
‘We have come to see if you will bury this poor fellow. We have been waiting a good while now and people are getting rough outside.’
Vicar…’And I have waited for you for an hour, and I am not in a particular hurry now.’
The Vicar was told that the delay was unavoidable, but he repeated what he had said.
Bradbury…’Then I am very sorry for your tender mercies towards us.’
And the Vicar replied…’You had better go home and have your tea and I’ll have mine.’ And walked away.
The lateness of arrival of funerals was discussed, and Bradbury confirmed that the Vicar had read the Service with his back to the grave, he had walked past the mourners and bearers, and then turned his back upon the people. (‘Shame’)
Mr Brown brought up another question in respect of the attitude of the Vicar…the use of the pulpit to ridicule certain members of the Royal Family, with such remarks that the Vicar hoped the Queen lived long enough to see that the next heir to the throne would not succeed her.
Vestry meeting Easter 1896…
The date of the meeting had been changed by the Vicar. It was questioned as to whose right it was to call the meeting, and stated that the election of the vicar’s warden was by the courtesy and consent of the vestry. Arguements as to the law ensued and the Vicar, as usual, ruled out of order.
The Vicar agreed that his ruling was the ultimatum of his authority, and he was backed by the Rev WAR Hill as to being the ruling of the Bishop. He maintained that the use of the vestry meeting was only to elect the people’s warden, and tried to move on.
But Mr Brown said that before the warden was elected he had one or two questions. There was a circular issued by the Bishop asking for information as to regard to the Church, whether congregations were increasing or diminishing and so on. It was marked confidential, and he had been informed that no other person but the churchwardens had the right to see it. He would like to know if Hodgkins had seen it and assisted in the filling in. A lot of flanneling went on, and it was found that the Vicar was present.
The Doctor was having none of this…’Had the Vicar any right to see it? (To the Vicar) How could a man fill in an honest opinion adverse to himself, if it was seen by you?’
Brown went on to suggest that one question was as to whether the Vicar was popular with his parishioners; whether the parish worked well. He had it on authority of a churchwarden in another parish.
‘No such question’ said the Vicar, as he tried to move on to the election.
But Mr Moore suggests that it is a rule to read the minutes of the last meeting, as it has been for the last twenty years.
‘Not now needed and is out of order, Archdeacon has ruled’, claims the Vicar.
Brown… ‘There is a great deal out of order in this parish!’
The warden is elected and Hodgkins does his normal pacification, he will be very glad to see I’ll-feeling overcome.
Moore… ‘It can only be overcome by one thing!’
But the Doctor has had enough of this…’It will never be overcome as long as we have an autocracy in the Church; as long as there is no appeal to any other people. Unless we can prove a man immoral in some shape or form there is nothing intellectual that can stop him being put over us.’
Vicar… ‘I am sorry to interrupt but can you kindly allow Mr Hodgkins to go on.’
Brown is not finished. He said that the only reason they had for requiring a change was that they felt bound to protest as parishioners that the vicar of the parish should be like the celebrated character in the Mikado, Poo Bah, Lord High Everything. The Vicar was practically the vicar, churchwarden and Choirmaster. He wondered he did not take up the work of sexton and the church cleaner.
Moore… ‘He has driven half the choir away!’
The election was completed and Hodgkins elected by 11 to7
But the Doctor was not finished, and asked the Vicar why there were not two services in the Mission Room at Watling Street. He understood that over the last fourteen years it had been compulsory.
The Vicar denied this and after a heated debate said he would consider the matter of the second service but did not hold out any hope.
The Doctor comes to the point… ‘The crux of the whole matter is, there is a good fat living and practically nothing to do for it. We have no power to say nay. We can only say that the Church of England, as represented by the Bishop and Clergy, is a piece of humbug. In all other professions you have a voice; with spiritual food you have no choice. No wonder there are free thinkers like myself. We have to take it from anybody, that is the whole evil in this parish at the present time.’
Moore enquires if any minutes have been taken.
The Doctor has, more or less the last word…’It is not necessary, nothing is necessary, only the Vicar!’
September 1899… The Return of the Vicar
The Rev SF Arrowsmith will conduct the services at St James, Ogley Hay. The inhabitants of the district are doubtless aware that the Rev gentleman has been away for several months to recruit his health, which had suffered somewhat through the energy he has displayed in coping with the laborious work entailed to him by his arduous and important duties in the district….