St Andrew’s Parish Church

February 12, 2007
St Andrew's Church

St Andrew's Church

EXTRACTS FROM THE VESTRY BOOK 1800 – 1970 AND THE RECORD BOOK 1900 – 1916
Until Parochial Church Councils were born in 1921 the government and management of the church at parish level was entirely under the control of the Incumbent and the Churchwardens who were always male. Much interesting information relating to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries can be found in these two books.

The VESTRY BOOK contains

Vestry book

Vestry book

the record of the meetings of the Annual Vestry, at which the Churchwardens were appointed and elected to office and includes information about the affairs of the Parish Church during the previous year. The extent and interest of the record depends a good deal on the care and imagination of the scribe/reporter in any particular year. Frequently that person was the incumbent of the day, but sometimes it was one of the churchwardens; it was all written by hand and, in some cases is very difficult to decipher. The following extracts provide some insight into parish activities during the nineteenth century in particular.

The second entry in the Vestry Book, dated 26th day of December 1800, records the decision to provide a ‘Proper Workhouse’ within the parish, in compliance with the ‘Act for the Relief and Employment of the Poor’. The Churchwardens of the day, with an Overseer, were responsible for regular payments to the poor. In 1801, this was set at 3s. a week for each person in the family. During most of the 19th century the main business of the Annual Vestry meetings, apart from the appointment of the Churchwardens, Way Wardens and Overseers, was to do with the relief and care of the poor of the Parish. On May 1st 1807, for instance, it was agreed ‘to inoculate those persons who have not as yet had the smallpox (and who are not able to pay) at the Parish expense’ – the Churchwardens to determine who was eligible. In 1802 a Doctor (described as the surgeon) was appointed to attend the Parish poor at an annual rate of Ten Guineas – ‘Fractures and Amputations excepted’. Would the exception have perhaps applied primarily to wounded soldiers or sailors who had managed to return from the Napoleonic wars? In 1811 this became 12 guineas and by 1820 had risen to £20, excluding Midwifery!

By 1860 more general church business was being discussed at Vestry Meetings. So, on the 5th September 1861, ‘the drawing of the alterations and repairs to the church, now proceeding at the expense of Sir Richard Plumptre Glyn, were laid before the Vestry and approved’ – under the chairmanship of the then Rector, Robert Salkeld. In 1894 there is the first mention of the appointment of Sidesmen, namely Edwin Lawrence and Mr Lampard (and in 1918 of lady Sidesmen, the first being Mrs Edmonds, the Rector’s wife).

Harvest Festival poster

Harvest Festival poster

At the Easter Vestry of 1896 ‘the Rector made a brief statement as to the new East End hangings, stating that the cost was covered by the balance in hand from the Parish Teas…’ which brings us to the RECORD BOOK, a small leather bound copy titled in gold lettering and covering a regrettably short period from 1901 – 1916. Probably there were previous volumes. The yearly entries deal almost exclusively with the Annual Parish Tea held late on the Friday afternoon of the Harvest Thanksgiving week-end. Teas were held in the school and required two sittings because of the numbers involved. The following extracts give some interesting insight into the organisation and scale of these important social activities.

The organisation of the Parish Teas followed

The Gladdis family

The Gladdis family

an exactly similar pattern throughout the 16 years recorded as follows: a lady presides at each of the 15 tables and brings crockery and cutlery for 12 persons, but no food. Among those mentioned are Lady Glyn, Mrs Pichford, Mrs Jesse, Mrs and Miss Chick, the current Rector’s wife and, of course, Mrs Gladdis, first in her role as the Head Teacher’s wife, and then as the Head in her own right.

A bill from Jeffery & Sons, Bakers

A bill from Jeffery & Sons, Bakers

The food came from a variety of sources – farmers gave milk, butter, tea, ham and sugar. Cakes and bread were bought from Jeffery of Blandford and our own R. J. Edwards of Fontmell. During the week preceding the Tea, people went round the parish selling tickets – 6d (£1.25 today) for parishioners and 9d for non-parishioners. A balance sheet is given for each year and a note of anything on which the balance in hand was expended. In 1901, for example, this was for “providing furniture and games for the Reading Room”. Expenses in 1901 were £5.18.9 (about £280 today), in 1906 £5.3.7 and in 1915 £4.5.5. Nearly every year it is recorded that “the remainder of the bread, butter, etc were made up into packages and sent to the old people of the parish by Mrs Gladdis”.

The Harvest Thanksgiving Divine Services, held in St. Andrew’s

Annual Harvest Thanksgiving poster

Annual Harvest Thanksgiving poster

Parish Church on the Friday, always took place at 7.45 am (Celebration of Holy Communion) and at 7.30pm (Evensong and Sermon). There was always a Visiting Preacher, and the Festival Services continued on the following Sunday at 11.00 am, 3pm (children) and 6.30 pm – again with a Visiting Preacher in the evening.

There are some conclusions that can be drawn from the record, which reflect the fact that the majority of men worked on the local farms. Rural poverty in the area was extensive at the time. For some who enjoyed the Tea it may have been their main meal of the day. The cost to each participant of 6d – at current valuation – would have been considerable.

The Incumbent and Churchwardens also gave relief to some of the poorest people in the community such as those indicated here. In 1900 it is recorded that, ‘as had been the custom for some years, the following were distributed: 15 pieces of flannel, 3 yards in length, and about 20 tea and sugar lots of half a pound of Tea and 2 pounds of Sugar’. Was the flannel intended for clothing, washing or cleaning?

These brief extracts provide a kind of snap shot of a small, mostly poor and settled village community in the nineteenth century. Churchwardens had civil powers in addition to their ecclesiastical responsibilities and exercised the Church’s age-old pastoral responsibility of having a particular care for the poorest members of the community. The major social and economic upheavals, which followed the two World Wars of the last century, resulted in the wholesale transformation of the social and economic structure of England, including Fontmell Parish, which now accommodates a prosperous and ever-shifting community. Descendants of parishioners of 100 years ago, still resident in the parish, are few and far between.

Author: Jennie Jones