Rev. Frederick Selincourt Colman

Rev. Frederick Selincourt Colman

from The Barwicker No.40
Dec. 1995

Back to the Main Historical Society page
Back to the Barwicker Contents page

Undoubtedly the most significant contributor to the study of the history of Barwick is the Rev. Frederick Selincourt Colman who was rector here from 1899 to 1910. His monumental book, 'The History of the Parish of Barwick-in-Elmet', published by the Thoresby Society in 1908/9, has provided a base for much later work. In his book he modestly provides us with only a few details of his education and career in the church. However 'Crockfords Clerical Directories' and Venn's 'Alumni Cantabrigienses' have enabled us to fill in many of the details of his life. We are grateful to David and Geoffrey Colman, his grandsons, for supplying valuable documents and information about the family.

He was born on 18 August 1857, at Shepherds Bush, London, the son of Frederick Charles Colman of Cumberland House, Kew, Surrey. He attended Kings College School, London, and matriculated in 1879. He was admitted on 28 July, 1879, to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, as the Mawson Scholar and he was awarded his BA (Mathematical Tripos) in 1882.

Colman was ordained deacon on 21 December 1882 and began a clerical career that took him to many parts of the country. In the period 1882-4 he was the curate of Freemantle, Hampshire, in the diocese of Winchester and on 23 December 1883, he was ordained priest.

In 1884-5, successive editions of Crockfords directories tell us that he was curate of Pelton (in Durham) but Venn says that he was at Petton (Salop) at this time. In 1885-7, after another long distance move, he was curate of Balham Hill, Surrey, in the Southwark diocese. In 1886 he was awarded his MA.

On 1 July 1887, he was appointed curate in charge of St Andrew's Mission District, Earlsfield, Wandsworth. That year he married Constance Mary Hawkins and in the following year their daughter Dorothea Constance Ellen was born. We are most grateful to Rev Colin W Pritchard, the vicar of St Andrew's, Earlsfield, for copies of publications detailing Colman's activities there.

The district of Earlsfield had been formed from the outlying parts of the parishes of St Anne's, Wandsworth, and St Mary's, Summerstown. Colman inherited from his predecessor a district with an active religious and secular life and he maintained and extended this work with all the energy and dedication we have come to regard as typical of the man. It was no easy task. At the time the population of the area was described as:
"Very poor working class, hawkers and costermongers, with a proportion of artisans, railway servants, with a considerable number of people whose incomes are only sufficient for their own necessities."
He first conducted services with a small choir at a little iron building called Bendon Valley Mission. He had the help of a lay preacher and later another clergyman. There were two Sunday schools which eventually had 25 teachers and 500 children on the rolls and there was an impressive list of district visitors. Also organised by the church was a soup kitchen, a working men's club, and such thrift and charitable organisations as a provident society branch, a penny association, a penny bank, a Band of Hope branch, a maternity society and a Dorcas society for making garments for the poor. Mrs Colman helped in many of these activities as well as running Sunday afternoon bible classes for young women.

Much of this information has been derived from the Annual Reports for the years 1888-90, which Colman began in addition to an existing monthly magazine. His predecessor had started a fund for the building of a permanent church and this scheme Colman embraced with great enthusiasm revealing his undoubted skill asa fundraiser. When he arrived the fund stood at about 250 but one year later the total was over 2000; in 1899 over 3000 and by 1890 over 4000, enabling the work to start early.


Rev. FS Colman


A church in the English Gothic style was planned and the foundation stones were laid in 1889. The church was partly complete (the west end was added later) when the consecration service was held on 8 February 1890, with most of the money already collected. Colman was inducted as the perpetual curate of the new church, which seated 540 people and from the start it was filled at the Sunday evening services. When complete it had a capacity of 800.

With the responsibilities of a new church and a rapidly growing population it is no surprise that in 1891 Colman's health gave way. He broke down completely from the strain of overwork and he was away for some months. In 1892, their second daughter Grace Mary was born. It was in this year that he left Earlsfield to become Vicar of Kingston Vale, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, then in the Rochester diocese.

On his leaving he was presented with a desk with a plaque which reads "A farewell gift (accompanied by a purse) from the parishioners and friends of St Andrews Earlsfield July 1892". It is now in the vicarage in Sittingbourne, Kent, of his grandson, Rev Geoffrey Colman.

We are grateful to Julie and Robin Gill of New Malden, members of the Teale family formerly of Scholes and readers of 'The Barwicker', for kindly providing information about Colman's time in Kingston Vale.

He started a parish magazine in his new parish, the first edition coming out in September 1892. He had the backing of a prominent local sponsor, Mary Adelaide, the Duchess of Teck, mother of the future Queen Mary, wife of King George V.

He began to write articles in the magazine about the history of Kingston Vale parish. During their stay there in 1896, a son was born, Hugh Frederick Charles, the father of David and Geoffrey. It is thought that Princess (later Queen) Mary was his godmother. The Colman family for many years used to get a small gift from her each Christmas.

In the preface to the book 'The History of St.John the Baptist Church, Kingston Vale', published in 1927, the compiler drew heavily on his work and notes that the parish "will ever be indebted to him for his account of its church and surroundings"

He clearly achieved a great deal at Kingston Vale and in his resignation statement in the magazine in early 1899 before his move to Barwick, he writes:

"Much that I planned here upon my coming has been attained, in some respects even more. The church is now for its size and style, one of the the most beautiful in the neighbourhood, and for this my gratitude is deep. The services represent, I think, all that lies within our present powers and requirements, there is sufficient frequency in ministration to meet all our needs and there is abundant evidence of their appreciation. In this way I have been led to feel that the constructive work that I have planned has been more or less carried out "

He seemed well satisfied with his work there except for the failure to build a Vicarage house. Of his planned move to Barwick he says:

"At Barwick I shall come to the traditions of an ancient parish, and these have always had a great fascination for me, a good and settled home in a bracing, healthy spot, an income sufficient, and not more than that, to maintain it, a Church whose history and whose very stones take us back to days before the Norman Conquest."

He seems to have made up his mind already to write his book. There is a sad irony about this being a healthy spot in view of his frequent illnesses here and the reason for his subsequent departure.

Whether the royal connection was influential in his being appointed rector of Barwick we do not know but Queen Victoria was the patron of the living at that time through her Duchy of Lancaster. At Barwick he was instituted to the benefice on 28 April 1899 and inducted by Archdeacon Waugh on 1 May. He was already an experienced local historian. In his first few months here he must have read the Rectors' Logbook begun by William H Bathurst but not added to by Charles A Hope. He contacted Bathurst's son whose reply in December 1899 is copied into the book. This explains Bathurst's departure from Barwick in 1852 following his doubts over the validity of the Church of England baptismal service.

Colman then outlines some of the parish activities of Rector Hope which have been reported before (see 'The Barwicker' No.35). He then continued Bathurst's practice of recording year by year his activities here. He notes the Easter vestry meetings, the names of the churchwardens chosen and the annual confirmation services. He devoted considerable attention to church property and had repairs carried out on the rectory and the farms. In 1900, he sold Flying Horse Farm and Whinmoor Nook Farm and some land because "the buildings were so ruinous that they would be a constant source of expense; the land was also very poor and might in a succession of bad harvest be left on my hands".

Six months or so after he arrived here Rector Colman, just as he had done at Kingston Vale, started a parish magazine. We are grateful to Mrs C Barker, late of No.2 The Rectory, for presenting us with most of the editions of 1904 and 1905. Here the Rector describes more fully those church events that he mentioned in the Logbook, such as special services, Sunday and Day School prize-givings with lists of the winners, bazaars and other fundraising activities. Mrs Colman is mentioned from time to time in her role as rector's wife - playing hostess at the rectory, organising the refreshments and taking a young men's Sunday School class.

The notices in the magazine reveal that Rector Colman took an interest in many aspects of parish life. In January 1904, he took part in the opening ceremony of the new Reading Room, to be henceforward dignifed with the name Institute, in what had been the old Wesleyan Chapel. He gave a short history of the Reading Room, before Colonel Gascoigne, the lord of the manor, formally opened the building.

Despite its pagan origins he was a great supporter of the Barwick maypole. In May 1904, he congratulated the polemen on a successful lowering and adds, "We are very proud of our Maypole and we must see that when the time comes for raising it, it shall be worthy of the village and the old custom". In a less permissive mood during an epidemic of children's illness in September 1905, he took to task those parents who allowed their infected children to run about the streets and go into shops.

With such an interest in the wider concerns of the parish, it is not surprising that he became a member of the Barwick Parish Council, in fact he was the Chairman during the years 1900-1907 and 1908-9. The council met each month and he came into contact with many features of local life. Colman presided over the official opening of the new Parish Council Offices in 1909 (see 'The Barwicker' No.34).

As rector, Colman had important responsibilites for Barwick School. He was Chairman of the Board of Managers, who were in charge of the maintenance of the school building. They acted on reports from the education authority, appointed the teachers and considered and decided the dates of the school holiday.

In his work in this large parish Rev Colman usually had the assistance of a curate. In 1899, Rev H T Young was appointed but he resigned in September 1900 to take up a similar post in Sittingbourne, Kent, 'in consequence of the climate being too cold for his health'. He was replaced by Rev J S Robertshaw but he left in autumn 1902 and Rector Colman carried on the work alone.

With all this furious activity and lack of assistance it is no surprise to find that Colman became ill in 1904 and he regretted that he was compelled to neglect a great deal of his work. He records in the March parish magazine, that this was "only on the advice of a London physician whom he had consulted in addition to a local medical man". He recalled his previous breakdown about thirteen years before and although he says he got perfectly well again, "there had been lately threatenings of trouble, in some sort of legacy from the old breakdown". The doctors assured him that "unless he took a complete rest, he ran a grave risk of serious collapse". Yet he stayed on and hoped to keep going until Easter.

He was compelled to give up work entirely in November 1904 because of "a form of nervous exhaustion" and in December he left for Brighton and subsequently Italy. The magazine for January 1905 reports that Colman and his wife and children were at Rapallo, on the shores of the Gulf of Genoa. The following month there is a charming letter written by Mrs Colman. She reports that:

"When we left Brighton in Christmas week he had gained little in strength, and the long tedious journey, broken though it was by two days' rest in Paris, tired him much. But since getting here he has improved slightly, but surely; the warm bright sun, the clear air, and the quiet restful life are doing all, I am convinced, that the doctors promised. Although he can even as yet walk very little, he can sit out in the sunshine for hours at a time, and enjoy an occasional drive in the lovely scenery of this wonderful coast. All things considered I am very hopeful of bringing him back to Barwick fit for work. "

Mrs Colman warns her readers that progress might be slow and asks them to be patient until the cure is complete. She then tells more about their situation:

"There have been one or two frosts and a little snow, a visitation almost unknown here, but otherwise we have had the most brilliant sunshine day after day. Rapallo is sheltered from the cold winds by mountains that surround us on the landward side, and on the sheltered shore palms and rare trees grow luxuriantly. Orange and lemon trees are laden with yellow fruit, and flowers that belong to a warm English Spring are flourishing already. Besides all these beautiful things on land we have before us a sea of the deepest blue."

What a pity it is that we have no more examples of her writing, with her sharp eye and light elegant prose; no descriptions of her life in the rectory and the garden or excursions into the Barwick countryside.

For the first three months of the Colmans' absence, the Rectory was occupied and the church services taken by Rev. Bathurst George Wilkinson, the owner of the Potterton and Kiddal estates. He must have made a good impression as the parishioners here gave him a memorable send-off when he left the parish for Switzerland. For the remainder of Colman's absence the parish was mainly in the charge of Rev W T E Cary.

When he had recovered sufficiently, Colman wrote several letters to his parishioners, stressing his disappointment at his absence but emphasising his determination not to return until he was completely better. He returned to Barwick on 20 May, 1905. In the following September he received welcome assistance of Rev M W Thackraw as curate. Colman's work on the history of Barwick began to manifest itself when he printed in the parish magazine the names and some details of the past rectors. After his resignation in September 1907, Rev Thackraw was replaced by Rev H E Horton.

In 1908, Colman wrote in the Logbook, "Early this year I was again compelled by ill-health to leave the parish for some months taking no active part in the work from Christmas until June". Rev Horton and also Rev E Richardson and Rev E North Cox in turn carried out the work during his absence.

In the years 1908/9 two books of great importance to Barwick were published. The first was 'Wills, Registers and Monumental Inscriptions of the Parish of Barwick-in-Elmet' by G D Lumb, a most valuable work of reference. The second was Rector Colman's 'The History of the Parish of Barwick-in-Elmet'.

The publication by the Thoresby society of his book is an important landmark. There is no better summary of the contents of the book than that provided by Colman himself in the preface:

"This book is a collection of the available records relating to a single country parish, gathered both from public sources and from private manuscripts which had not been before accessible. I have tried to arrange them so that they may best illustrate the history of the parish, its antiquities and institutions, classifying them under subjects rather than periods. First there is a view of the whole parish, its topography and history; then an account of the village of Barwick and its ancient earthworks; the Church with the clergy and endowments; the manors and their associated families; an explanation of the disappearance, under enclosure of the commons, woods, and open fields; some notes on parochial officers and their accounts; and lastly there are lists of manorial tenants showing us the inhabitants at different periods for over three hundred years before the registers begin."

The book was written nearly 90 years ago by a Church of England minister who was a major landowner and a prominent and influential member of the local community. The contents of the book reflect the times and the position of its author. There is a great deal of emphasis on the ownership of property and the family history of the landed gentry, but there is little space devoted to the lives of the majority of the people who lived and worked here.

Colman gives much valuable information about the Church and his predecessors as rector. However there had been a substantial Methodist community in Barwick for a century and a half in his time here. Yet in his book the words Methodist or Wesley never appear. He makes no mention of the new chapel which was built in 1900 almost within sight of his rectory.

The times and character of the author are reflected too in his treatment of women in the book. They occur as landowners by default, as widows and as heiresses in the absence of a male heir. Yet there existed in Colman's time here a remarkable women's organisation, the Barwick Female Friendly Society (see 'The Barwicker No.7). For more than a century, its officers collected contributions from its women members and in time of need provided monetary assistance for them. Colman was a trustee and assisted in the dissolution of the Society in 1901, and yet there is no mention in his book of this organisation which must have been almost unique for a small country community.

Practically all of the material he uses is derived from written sources. His extensive notes, which he deposited with the Thoresby Society, do contain some recollections of Barwick people but he doesn't appear to have used them in his book and the sections on the 19th. century are poorer as a result. However these criticisms are minor compared with the wealth of material the book contains and we must be for ever indebted to him for his expertise, energy and stamina in completing the book.

It must have been an enormous task to accumulate the necessary information for his book and the pressure of work took its toll on Colman's health. In the preface to his book he says that interruption by repeated illness had delayed publication.

It must have come as little surprise to concerned Barwick folk when it became known that he was leaving. In January 1910, he signed a conditional resignation of the benefice as a result of an exchange of livings with Rev Reginald Henry Harvey MA, Rector of Hanbury in the Diocese of Worcester. In the Logbook he says, "This was done in consequence of my frequent ill health and from the urgent representations of my doctors that I should be better in a milder climate".

Colman left the parish he had served so well and in March 1910, Rev Harvey was instituted and inducted to the living in Barwick. He remained for 23 years and we are at present researching his life and work here. .

At Hanbury, in 1911, Colman was appointed Warden of the Diocesan Office of Readers for Worcester. In 1916, he was made an Honorary Canon of Worcester Cathedral and in 1917 he was appointed Rural Dean of Wick.

Frederick Selincourt Colman died at Malvern on 8 May, 1917, aged 59.


Frederick Colman's grave, Hanbury 2004


Of his children the second daughter Grace was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge, where she obtained her MA. She entered parliament in 1945 as the Labour member for Tynemouth but was defeated in the 1950 election.

His wife Constance lived for many years after his death. She is remembered by her grandson Geoffrey as a 'tiny woman of great beauty'. She retained her wonderful sense of humour right to the end and would say that she would be 'having words with the Lord' one day concerning the lapse of time between her husband's death and her own. Geoffrey has provided us with a letter written in 1950 when she was approaching 90 years old, which is bright and cheerful despite what she styled her 'limited brain power' and 'second hand eyes'. She died in 1953.

The last few sentences of the preface to Colman's book could be a statement of the philosophy of Barwick-in-Elmet Historical Society as we attempt to continue his work of recording the history of the parish.

"Now that it is finished I cannot help wishing it were possible to write it all again, to try to do it better, and still to add to it. But even so there would be no finality, for if it is true, as the Preacher told us more than two thousand years ago, that of making many books there is no end, it is certainly true that there is no end to the making of the book of just one ancient parish."


ARTHUR BANTOFT


Back to the top
Back to the Main Historical Society page