Four Curates of Barwick-in-Elmet Parish. Back to the Main Historical Society page
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Four Curates of Barwick-in-Elmet Parish.

from The Barwicker No.81

The dictionary defines a curate as "a clergyman in the Church of England, assisting a rector or vicar". In his book, "The History of the Parish of Barwick in-Elmet", rector Colman lists the 61 curates who served the parish between 1559 and 1907. In most cases he gives the name only; for the others he supplies a few details of their lives. An exception is John Irvine, who was curate here from 1819 to 1827 but, perhaps of more importance, he was headmaster of Barwick School from 1821 to 1824 (see "The Barwicker" No.38). It is unlikely that the list is complete.

There must have been a number of curates who, in past centuries, served under non-resident rectors and who, over-worked and under-paid, oversaw the religious life of the parish while their superiors were elsewhere.

We have very few sources of information concerning past curates but in more recent times we can gain some knowledge of their lives from the very few early parish magazines that we possess and from such sources as "Crockford's Clerical Directory" and university records. Four curates served under Rev. Colman, who was rector here from 1899 to 1910. They took the services at St Philip's, Scholes. A factor that seriously affected the lives of all four was ill-health.

Henry Theakston Young studied at Keble College, Oxford, where he gained his MA. He was appointed curate here in 1898 and so occupied this office when Rev Colman arrived. There are however few mentions of him in the two parish magazines of 1900 but Colman's logbook tell us that he left Barwick to take up a similar appointment in Sittingbourne Kent, in September 1900 "in consequence of the climate being too cold for his health". However, in the parish magazine of January 1901 Colman gives us some more details:

"Through an oversight no mention of the fact that the Rev. HT Young had written desiring to express his very warm thanks for the present given him on leaving. It will be remembered that there was no opportunity of making the gift before he left and it was sent on to Sittingbourne. Mr Young spoke most kindly in his letter of the great gratification it had been to him to receive this present, and how he would always treasure it with the happiest memories of the time he spent here. He asked for this message to be conveyed to those who joined in the gift, and this is done now, with many apologies for the delay."

The Rev. HT Young was replaced by Rev. James Sidney Robertshaw. He was born in Manchester. He studied at Keble College, Oxford, taking his BA in1897 and MA in 1901. He became a deacon in 1898 and was appointed curate of All Saints in Leeds that year. He was ordained priest in 1899. He came to Barwick as curate the following year. He was responsible for the services at Scholes and in the parish magazine of December 1900, his advent timetable is published. The census reveals that in April 1901, aged 26, he lodged in "Town Street" (Main Street), Barwick. His landlady was Mrs Frances Thompson.

The circumstances of his appointment here are not revealed to us until he planned to leave. The parish magazine of September, 1902, reports:

"It is with great regret that we announce that the Rev. JS Robertshaw will be leaving us before very long. He came here, two years ago, after a very dangerous illness, which made it impossible to return then to work in a town parish, to which he had felt himself called, and, which undoubtedly affords the best training for a young clergyman.

He has now so far regained his strength that he feels it to be his duty and his privilege to take up again the more exacting task of a town curacy, and has accepted work in the parish of All Souls, Leeds. The Vicar, the Rev. Herbert Johnson, is an old friend of the Rector's, and with him Mr Robertshaw cannot fail to work happily, while the splendid organisation of the parish will offer him the very best of training. In coming to this decision Mr Robertshaw has the entire sympathy of the Rector, who, though he will miss him greatly, can but cordially agree with the motives for his leaving, and wish him every happiness and blessing. He will not be so far away but that we shall hope to see him sometimes amongst us in the future."

He returned as curate to All Souls, Leeds, in 1902 and stayed until 1910, a lengthy spell for a curate. There is a gap in our record of his appointments until 1919, when he became vicar of Upper Hopton (near Mirfield), remaining there until 1924. He was curate of Bognor in Sussex from 1924 to 1927. One is tempted to conclude that his move was prompted by concern about his health, given that the coastal town was a place noted for its therapeutic climate. King George V convalesced there after a severe illness in the late 1920s and later the town was granted the title of Bognor Regis. Rev. Robertshaw left Bognor in 1927 to move along the coast to become Vicar of Southbourne, where he stayed until 1931.

Rev. Robertshaw was not immediately replaced as curate. The extra work undoubtedly had an affect on the health of rector Colman (see "The Barwicker" No.40). He reports in March 1904 that his doctors recommended a complete rest and added :"It is not possible to go away at once and leave the parish, and although every effort has been made to get a Curate, or even temporary help, there had been no great success". The following month rector Colman commented about his "still indifferent health". He eventually broke down completely and spent several months convalescing at Rapallo on the shores of the Gulf of Genoa. During that period, for about three months, Rev. Bathurst George Wilkinson, the owner of Potterton Hall, acted as rector in his absence. Later several clergymen helped out on a temporary basis.

Rev. Colman returned to the parish in the summer of 1905 and in the July edition of the parish magazine explained the situation :

"In September the parish will, all being well, have the advantage of an assistant curate. When Mr Robertshaw left, the Rector thought he could with occasional help, manage to work the parish alone, and therefore save the cost of the stipend which falls entirely upon him, and is a heavy charge. The additional labour proved, however, too much for him and there is no doubt that it was one of the causes of his severe illness. Consequently we are going back to the former arrangement, and the Rector has secured the services of a clergyman whose work he trusts will prove a great help and blessing to the parish. The Rev. MW Thackrah, MA is a Yorkshireman and it is hoped all will welcome him as a friend."

Matthew William Thackrah studied at Queen's College, Cambridge, where he gained his BA in 1901 and his MA in 1905. In 1901 he began his training for the ministry at Cuddeston College where he was appointed deacon in 1902. That year he was appointed curate at St Paul's, Balsall Heath, Birmingham, in the diocese of Worcester. He was ordained priest in 1904 and remained there until he was appointed curate of Barwick-in-Elmet in 1905. The ill health which was such a feature of the lives of the Barwick curates took on a wider though temporary aspect as the rector notes in the parish magazine of February 1907.

"We have been afflicted with a perfect pestilence of illness, not fortunately, so far as was can see, of a serious type but enough to cause a great deal of inconvenience. It reached such a pitch in the last week of January that on the Sunday following it was impossible to carry out the services in the usual way. The Rector was ill, Mr Thackrah was hardly fit to be out. Mr Jessop (St. Philip's organist and Sunday school superintendent. Ed.) was ill and the Scholes service had to be given up. Mr Booth (Barwick School headmaster and All Saint's organist. Ed.) was ill and Mrs Colman being ill too, was unable to take his place at the organ, and that had to be silent. It has been a quite extraordinary visitation and it is to be hoped we shall not only soon see it pass off but find no after effects from it."

Rev. Thackraw left Barwick later in 1907 to be replaced Hubert Ellis Horton, who was educated at Hartford College, Durham, where he gained his BA in 1906. He then attended Ripon CL College and became deacon the following year, when he was appointed curate of Barwick-in-Elmet. He was the last licensed curate in Barwick for many years, until Rev. Lovell Clark was rector. He was ordained priest in 1908. He left Barwick in 1909 to become curate of Skipton where he remained until 1913. For the next decade or so he held various ancillary posts. From 1913 to 1917 he was Choir Chaplain of Ripon Cathedral. From 1915 to 1917, he was the Diocesan Inspector of Schools for the Ripon diocese and Chaplain of St. Magdalen Hospital in Ripon from 1916 to 1924. He was appointed Minister, Canon and Joint Vicar of Ripon. From 1918 to 1919 he was a chaplain to the Royal Air Force.

In 1924 he was appointed rector of Swillington, a post he held until 1928. He renewed his connection with education as Diocesan Inspector of Schools in 1926, a post he held until 1935, when he became an assistant inspector. In 1928 he was appointed Vicar of Kirkby Malzeard-with-Dallowgill.

The parish magazine for October 1940 reports that Rev. Horton, still vicar of Kirby-Malzeard, had been appointed rural dean of Ripon. The rector here, Rev. Lovell Clarke, sent his congratulations and received the reply: "I am particularly glad that one of the first letters of felicitation came from the parish in which my ministry began and of which I have such happy memories."

He returned to Barwick to take one of the harvest services on 11 October 1945. Canon Gray reports:
"It was a great pleasure to have the Rev. HE Horton as the preacher - and the sermon was thoughtful, helpful and had a quiet force and effective calm that must have been a comfort and strength to many a one in the fair congregation present on this week day. It was 38 years ago that he preached his first harvest festival service in Barwick Church."

So, of the four curates who served during the time Rev. Colman was rector here, one left Barwick because of his ill-health, one came to Barwick because of his ill-health and a prime factor in the appointment of the other two was the ill-health of the rector. Rev. Colman left Barwick to become Vicar of Hanbury in the Diocese of Worcester in 1910. He says in his logbook, "This was done in consequence of my frequent ill-health and from urgent representations of my doctors that I should be better in a milder climate". This was a sad parting for a man who had previously described Barwick as a "bracing, healthy spot."


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