Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Consecration of St George the Martyr - A correction

Three days after the report in The Times, the following letter appeared from George Bramwell, solicitor to the Radcliffe Trust. The tone is mild enough but I suspect Mr Bramwell might have choked on his toast when he read the original article.

Consecration of Wolverton Church

To the Editor of The Times Saturday, Jun 1st 1844

Sir, On reading in your valuable journal of the 29th inst. An account of the consecration of the above church, I perceive there are some errors into which you have inadvertently fallen.
            It is stated that the Radcliffe trustees, the owners of the Wo;lverton estate, liberally gave the ground for the new church and parsonage, but, in truth, they have done a great deal more, or the church would never have been erected.
            The Radcliffe trustees have paid the entire expenses of the erection of the new church and parsonage, which will amoun to about £5,000; beyond this, they pay £100 a year to the minister of the church towards his stipend.
            The Birmingham Railway Company have, doubtless, given some assistance towards this good work, having, by subscription, raised £2,000, which has been appropriated for the endowment of the minister.
            I trust you will allow this explanation a place in your columns.

            I remain, Sir,
            Your most obedient servant.
            Solicitor to the Radcliffe Trustees.

Furnival’s Inn, May 30th, 1844

P.S. The patronage of the church is vested in the Radcliffe trustees.

I wonder if this was not a turning point in relations between the Radcliffe Trust and the Railway Company, because after this episode the Trust would not part with any more land for the development of New Wolverton. In the 1850s there was a strong demand for more housing but the Trustees would part with no more land and the L&NWR had to develop New Bradwell. It was not until 1860 that the Trust was willing to sell more land.

The Trustees had a perfect right to be peeved. They had taken a lead as early as 1841 in promoting a church, which they saw as their moral duty to the new population. They would provide the land and set up an endowment for the ministry. The Railway Company however was only prepared to put up £1,000 towards the church and parsonage and £50 a year towards the minister's stipend. Matters were at an impasse, even though the Trustees had already hired George Weight as the incumbent. A temporary church had been established in the school, but with a growing population this was becoming less satisfactory. The Trust forced matters to a head by agreeing to contribute £2,000 towards the cost of building (estimated at £4,000) provided the Railway Company contributed an equal amount. Eventually the L&BR put up £1,000 and raised a further £1,000 by subscription.

The Railways were the new thing and indeed the future. The Radcliffe Trust represented conservation of the past. The Railways were in the ascendent; the Trust was in retrenchment. It is therefore easy to see how everything could be spun in favour of the railways.

However, the Trustees were now minded to stem growth and in the first instance achieved this by restricting parish boundaries. This letter from Bramwell to Henry Quartley, Vicar of Holy Trinity, illustrates his cast of mind at this time.

I believe every respectable resident in the Parish of Wolverton deeply regrets that this large station has been fixed in their immediate vicinity and would be averse that the Station should be again enlarged and the population doubled or nearly so . . . I trust that even in these days of railway omnip[otenmcewe shall be able to keep the railway company within their present boundaries and effectually oppose their acquiring more land at Wolverton. (20th March 1846)

George Bramwell remained as Secretary and Solicitor to the Trust until his retirement in 1880, so he did change his mind and bow to the prevailing winds. I suggest however, that the issue of the church had other consequences.

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