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Barwick Church in the Nineteenth Century


from The Barwicker No.70
June 2003



In the Parish Magazine of January 1901 is printed the "substance of a sermon preached on Sunday morning, 30 Dec. 1900 by the Rector, Rev FS Colman". He clearly takes the view, along with many others, that the old century ended on the last day of 1900 rather than that of 1899.

"So might we think the old year to be bidding us farewell with a last word of counsel. Today we ought to speak again of the Christmas message, but this being the last Sunday of the century, one feels justified in departing from the custom of the Sunday after Christmas. Daily and periodic literature is full of this thought; we read the century's record of scientific and commercial progress, of discovery and conquest. The religious papers tell us of the Church's work at home and abroad. But of the parochial life that means so much to us, we do not read. So this morning I want to speak of the century in Barwick Church.

1. THE BUILDING. A hundred years ago the church, to a casual observer, might have appeared much as now. But there are changes. The pinnacles on the tower, blown down many years ago, have been rebuilt in a style more in accordance with what they would have been originally. In 1726 there had been a so-called 'restoration' and probably at that time the perpendicular tracery of most of the nave windows had been removed and round-headed moulding put in their place. In 1801 these, and shuttered window frames in the chancel, defaced the fine old church. The roof of the nave had been lowered, and where now a cross crowns the eastern gable of the nave, a chimney pot protruded. Internally, there was no organ, a gallery filled the eastern end of the nave, high square pews covered the floor, and in one pew was a stove, with chimney carried up to the roof; much of the stonework was decayed and the whole building was in bad case. All this was altered to what we now see in 1850 when a thorough restoration took place. At the same time, and we cannot but regret it, the remains of the ancient chancel screen were removed, and also the carved oak screens, one of 15th. century work, one later, that enclosed the Gascoigne and Ellis chapels at the eastern ends of the north and south aisles.

2. THE RECTORS. A hundred years ago, the rector was the Rev. James Hodgson, who had come here in 1799, and died suddenly on his return from transacting business in Leeds in October 1809. He was the last rector to be buried here. William Lort Mansell DD succeeded (see edition No. 33). He was already Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Bishop of Bristol; he was the last of the non-resident pluralists whose neglect of the parish wrought so much harm. He does not appear to have lived here at all. He died in 1820 and was buried at Cambridge.

William Hiley Bathurst followed. To him we owe a great deal. He left the most careful and accurate record of all that happened during his incumbency, he spent large sums of money (the income was so much greater then than now) on improving the rectory and glebe buildings, he built Manston church and vicarage, and aided many local improvements. He resigned in 1852 on account of the Gorham Judgement on Baptismal Regeneration, and died in 1877 at Lydney, Gloucestershire.

Charles Augustus Hope then held the rectory for the long period of forty-six years, dying two years ago this very day. It was he who carried out the restoration of the church, collecting for the purpose over 2000. He was also instrumental, in moving the school from the churchyard and building the present premises. He was buried in Scotland. Since the 12th. century forty-six rectors have held this benefice, and no century has seen so few changes as the 19th.

3. SPIRITUAL LIFE. A hundred years ago people were not so zealous of spiritual matters as they are now. Apathy was terrible throughout the whole church. No doubt non-resident rectors accounted for much spiritual indifference here, e.g. after Bishop Mansel's incumbency Mr Bathurst had no less than one hundred and twenty seven candidates for his first confirmation, an impossible number had proper work been done in previous years.

Till less than fifty years ago the Holy Communion was celebrated only seven times a year. In 1852 there were but fifteen communicants on Easter Day, and the population was larger then than now (it was 1835 in 1841, the parish being then undivided, against 1285 in 1891). In 1885, (probably after hundreds of years' neglect), the Biblical rule of weekly communion was restored, and in 1894 an opportunity was given at last at all the Sunday services for worshippers to give their offerings. From this you will see how spiritual things have progressed; the one church (six miles from the western boundary has now three daughters; with a less population there are seven times as many communicants, more liberality, more loyalty, more life. The great revival in the Church made itself felt here, and Barwick, if a little slow and hesitating, did at last respond. Today we can thank God we have a higher ideal than was cherished a hundred years ago; we are living a little nearer to primitive Christianity; we read our Bibles and study the teaching of the Apostles to more purpose.

4. NOW TO LOOK FORWARD. In your religion be true to your Bible. See how the early Church moved forward with leaps and bounds, loyal to Apostolic doctrine and fellowship, strengthened by sacrament and frequent worship. Progress must with us be on the same lines. Apostolic teaching and ministry, frequent and devout use of the means of grace. Strive for unity.

'Be of one mind, live in peace,' and then see what follows: 'the God of love and peace shall be with you.' We may in some things think differently, we may vary as to details, but if we are at one in seeking the glory of God and the welfare of His Church, we shall be truly united.

And keep a high ideal, seek perfection in all things; try to make your church more beautiful and as worthy as can be of the worship of the great God; let it be the best-kept, most cared-for, truest-loved house in the parish, a power for great good in our midst, a giver of help beyond our boundaries. Seek perfection in your own life. Let it reach to a high ideal in tone, in sincerity and in grace; be diligent in prayer and charity. Thus we may leave our mark on the years that lie before.

And if, a hundred years hence, a rector shall stand here and talk of the 20th. century as I do of the 19th. he may speak pityingly of our simplicity and ignorance; he may look round the church and see it more beautiful than now: but may he tell his congregation - 'In the early days of the 20th. century they were of one mind, for they sought God's glory above all else; they lived in peace, for men who seek one high ideal do not quarrel; therefore the God of love and peace was with them and blessed them with a blessing, whose power even now we feel and in which is still the monument of their faith.' May such be the epitaph of our lives."


FREDERICK SELINCOURT COLMAN


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