The whole evil in this parish at the present time


Apart from the hideous extension, St. James Church, Brownhills, hasn’t changed much in 165 years.

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.

Peter wrote:

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.


ST. James on a postcard from more sedate times… Image supplied by Clive Roberts.

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!’


Still can’t work out what possessed the architect.



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….

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24 Responses to The whole evil in this parish at the present time

  1. john mainwaring says:

    My father was church warden there and worked on the tower.
    Whilst they were modernising the interior
    they ripped out the beautiful wooden screen from inside the church and just throw it away,
    Being a cabinet maker and joiner myself it really saddened me to see this and i can remember arguing with my father about it.

  2. peter says:

    Thank you Pedro………and Bob.

  3. david oakley says:

    Hi Bob,
    Thanks, Pedro, for this latest entrancing contribution, and to Bob for displaying the full text. I love these little ‘historical by-ways’, into which the blog sometimes wanders. And the vestry meetings, ‘Vicar of Dibley’ style. But much more rancorous, are an entertainment in itself.
    Keeping a funeral cortege waiting at the door of the church for 30 minutes seems unforgivable nowadays, but the issues between the Vicar and his parishioners seemed to go much deeper than that. With the help of ‘A short History of the Church of St. James’. And conjecture, this time spelt with a capital ‘C’, I offer the following:-
    The Vicar, by all accounts, had been waiting to conduct the burial service for this man for at least 35 minutes. One could imagine him, correctly clothed, prayer-book in hand. Pacing the aisle, and peering out at intervals for signs of the hearse, getting more and more internally agitated as time passed. Probably his last priestly duty before tea. No show. The man of God went into a sulk, probably muttering, “When he does come, he’ll wait until I’m ready !”
    There are one or two undercurrents to take into consideration at this time, firstly, the Vicar was rather new to Brownhills, and there may have been a battle for power at the annual vestry meetings. Secondly, the former vicar, the Rev. Henry Nash, ‘whose interest in the parish became somewhat personal when one of his daughters married the son of the then proprietor of Ogley Hay Mill’ . There was probably disappointment and resentment when this incumbent who had made himself part of the community, “exchanged livings” which brought in Rev. S Arrowsmith, from all places, Liverpool. A ‘scouser’ from a great city, who would probably be unsympathetic to the needs of his new flock, so probably thought the parochial Dr. Maddever. The Vicar was given such a warm time at the vestry meetings that one suspects that a singular aim could have been for him to take himself off and ‘exchange livings’ some miles away from Brownhills. There could have been other differences, the ‘hands on’ approach adopted by the Brownhills parishioners, at the vestry meetings, could have been different to the ‘nodding affirmative’ of disinterested city parishioners in the great city.
    At all events, Rev Arrowsmith stuck it out for 23 years until 1916, ‘His preaching was brilliant, many of his sermons published far and wide’. So from a stumbling start, one can imagine that his role in that earlier burial delay was lost in the midst of time.
    ……………As I said, pure conjecture, but thanks again, Pedro.

    • Pedro says:

      Ah yes David he stuck it out for 23 years until 1916.

      ‘And this is law, I will maintain
      Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
      That whatsoever Local Board may reign,
      I will be the Vicar of Ogley Hay, Sir!

      I think there may be more to come in this tale.

      All the best Pedro

    • Hello David.

      Good to have you around. I hear you’ve not been so well lately – you always have my, and I’m sure, the whole readership’s best wishes.

      You are clearly a far more charitable man than me with the Vicar. I have no little regard for Dr. Maddever, who was no bumpkin and an educated man; and I would personally have expected a fit of Clerical pique to be beyond the bounds of decency in such circumstance.

      While I’ve no doubt a number of annoyances must have existed and been troubling the Vicar, from what I can tell of the Doctor – who clearly spent a lot of time working alongside people who were not, shall we say pulling in the same direction – I would imagine him to be something of a diplomat; he certainly gives this impression in his periodic reports to the UDC where he can be charming and scathing to the assembled dignitaries simultaneously. I can’t help feeling that for Maddever to take against the Churchman so vehenmently there must have been clear grounds.

      The history of St. James is a wonderful work, to be sure. But like a Eulogy, probably the place to remember the good, and overlook the less pleasant facets.

      Best wishes

      • Pedro says:

        From the little I have found about the Doctor, his self-description seems to be apt…

        “No wonder there are free thinkers like myself.”

  4. Clive says:

    Nice one Pedro

  5. Andy Dennis says:

    Are not such delusions of grandeur why so many working folk left the CofE, or previously RC, and joined non-conformist churches?
    Different ethos, I appreciate, but similar facets are displayed in the Father Brown mysteries and his relationship with the bishop.

    • Sharply observed. I’ve been struck as I’ve worked on the blog over the years, that Methodism, which I always imagined to be the more staid of the two actually seems to be fairly progressive in many aspects, whereas the C of E was not; I’m minded here particularly of St. James being sniffy over the offers by William Roberts to fund schoolbooks, I think, but his money was considered dirty.

      Memory is hazy, but I think that’s the gist.

      From the histories here, it certainly seems Methodism was more in the working class heart, if that makes sense?


  6. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    a very intersting article by Pedro…the lay people in this episode seem to be some ofthe first councillors and officlals of the newly created UDC. Methodism has always had a different bureaucratic structure..the Ministers are, and have always been , itinerant and invited to a circuit of churches on a sort of fixed term invitation..which may or may not be renewed..and the invitation is by the circuit meetings of lay people..whose decision and authority is final within the circuit. A would be applicant to the position of minister in any circuit would firstly meet the circuit stewards,and then face a full interview by the circuit meeting..of lay people from all the churches in the circuit. The Methodist equivalent of bishops have never had any input or say in the internal matters of the circuit as such. Sounds complicated but it seems to work well .
    a big thanks to Pedro and to your goodself.
    kind regards

  7. Pedro says:

    I have found more info from the Lichfield Mercury concerning the Rev Arrowsmith’s predecessor Rev HA Nash, who was vicar of Ogley Hay from 1890 to 1893.

    Rev Nash’s departure in 1893 was fact it was a swap. He went up north to St Mark in Liverpool and the Rev Arrowsmith came down.

    The report says that the change is much regretted by all parishioners with whom Mr Nash was very popular. In a letter he says he had to give the opportunity much thought and prayer…

    “…but the quietness and monotony of rural life has tried me most painfully, and if I were to remain here for any considerable time I would become entirely unfit for further work. I spent all my previous life amid the busy activities of London and Birmingham, and the change to prolonged stillness which prevails here, and which must prevail in any rural district, is more than I can bear…”

  8. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    I believe this is the list of the St James’ vicars before then.
    Rev Thomas Jackson 1857-69;Rev John Singleton 1870-73, Rev Joseph Judson 1874-78, Rev C Walton 1879 – 84; Rev A Charrington 1885 – 89, Rev Nash 1989-93
    kind regards

  9. Pedro says:

    I have a different conjecture to David’s above…

    Rev HA Nash was at the Church of St Thomas in Lambeth before moving to St Margaret in Ladywood in 1875, where he stays until 1890. He then moves to Ogley Hay and gains the respect of the parishioners who are sad to see him go in 1893. But he misses the challenges of the big city.

    Rev SF Arrowsmith was nine years in London, and nine years in Bath before moving to St Mark in Liverpool in May of 1889. He remarked that a change had been desirable but did not say why. He described himself as an Evangelical but thoroughly attached to the Church of England. On taking the post he took over the accounts saying they would be returned to the churchwardens some time in the future.

    After three or so years the Rev Arrowsmith is tired of the city bustle and wants to get out in the sticks, so in 1893 there exists an ideal swap!

    On arrival at St James the Rev Arrowsmith takes over the accounts? After a couple of years the accounts are brought into question, and we have the Vestry meetings of 1895/6. He then realised that he could not ride roughshod over the likes of the good Doctor, and settled for a quiet life. Any reporting of the subsequent Vestry meetings is very brief and they are thinly attended.

    There are still two services at Watling Street in 1902. His preaching was more appreciated in Ogley Hay when he stopped slating the Royal Family!

    Rev Nash retired in 1906 when the Church of St Mark was demolished.

  10. Pedro says:

    Doctor Maddever died when he fell from his jaunting car after suffering a heart attack in January of 1911. He had suffered from a weak heart for some time.

    As the cortege passed from the house to Norton the streets were lined with people whose faces bore signs of their regret at losing a genial and kind friend. The service at Norton Canes Parish Church and the graveside was conducted by the Rector Rev JB Pimblett. Among the mourners were the Rev EB Kingston, Rev CE Frossard (Hammerwich), Rev RA Weston (Burntwood).

    Many others were named.

    At the next meeting of the BUDC it was said that they had lost not only a capable and conscientious officer, but a warm and true-hearted friend.

    I cannot see any mention of the Rev Arrowsmith.

    (info from the Lichfield Mercury)

  11. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    Andy Dennis gave an excellent precis of Dr Maddevers life, as a comment in the blog article The Health of Brownhills, July2012’which includes probate of the estate left by the good Doctor, valued at £445,207 in todays money

  12. david oakley says:

    Hi Bob.
    Thanks, Pedro, for your research which has put a little more flesh on the bones, metaphorically speaking, of the Rev. Nash and Rev. Arrowsmith, and for your account of the discord between the two main personages of this tiny historical drama. As Chairman Mao said, some years ago “ Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend “ Each contribution adding something of value to the matter in hand.
    What struck me, in your latest contribution to the discussion is the burial of Dr. Maddever at Norton Parish Church, was he no longer an Ogley Hay parishioner ? I wonder whether he moved parishes in order to “Free himself from that turbulent priest” which would account for Rev, Arrowsmith’s prolonged and comparatively peaceful reign. Is there a record of Dr. Maddever moving house, during that period ?
    Finally, two quotations:- ‘ But the quietness and monotony of rural life has tried me most painfully and if I was to remain here for any considerable time I would become entirely unfit for further work ‘ .
    ‘The inhabitants of the district are doubtless aware that the Rev gentleman had been away for several months to recruit his health which has 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 .’
    Both were a description of parish life, in Ogley Hay, as seen through the eyes of two different incumbents.
    Once again, thoroughly enjoyable.

    • Pedro says:

      In the census Maddever was at Coombe House in 1891 and also in 1901, down as the civil parish of Norton, and the Ecclesiastical Parish of Ogley St James.

      • Pedro says:

        Rev Arrowsmith was preaching during the January of the Doctor’s death.

        Interesting that both the churches are called St James being so close together…good job they got the right one!

        • Pedro says:

          At Brownhills the Church was known at the first as St James the Apostle, and the one at Norton Canes as St James the Great.

          Now I believe they are just St James.

          Any road up it appears that the Great and the Apostle were the same chap.

  13. Pedro says:

    From the publication commemorating the 150th Aniversary of the consecration of St James…

    …With the Revd Sidney Feetham Arrowsmith began a long incumbency of 23 years, during which much good, faithful and lasting work was done. It is said that his preaching was brilliant, with many of his sermons being published both far and wide. Of all the previous Incumbents he showed great zeal for the missionary work of the church. With such a long stay in the parish he would have seen many changes. The Church roof had to be repaired and interior painting and redecoration carried out with the cost being met by grant from the Incorporated Building Society.

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