Sunday, 19 January 2014

Clergy in the parish registers of Bromley,Kent

The work of transcriptions in many volumes of a parish register is painstaking, challenging and yet it is possible to perceive something of each person who makes the record.
As I have handled material from 1578 to the early years of the 20th century I have noted various signatures in the registers.
In this blog entry I want to mention the two longest servants of the people of Bromley and place them in a context of succession.
I note that in 1603 James Dyer calls himself Curate of Bromley as a holder of the living.
In 1607 there is a signature of John Preston and in 1620 Jasper Carrow is also entered. By 1634 Richard Rathbone or Rathbourne signs. These fragmented periods of ministry are firmer when the Vestry records are considered. Henry Arnold signs the parish register 1648-1662 and there is record that he was elected at a Vestry to be Parish Minister in 1653. Simlarly the names of Stephen Grasscombe  Minister1678-1681;1682 George Wilson;1686 and Edward Roman 1686 appear.
Succeeding Henry Maundrell and Samuel Bowles comes the first long serving Minister Harington Bagshaw who signs as Vicar. Bagshaw was Chaplain at Bromley College and it is common for the chaplains of the College to sign entries in the burial register. Harington Bagshaw held the College Chaplaincy from 1696-1734 and was also Rector of Woolwich. Prior to the destruction of the ancient parish church a memorial stone recorded this information. Harington and his wife Abigail had a son Thomas who succeeded his father in 1734 as Chaplain to Bromley College and remained as such for 54 years,until 1787 and was also Vicar of Bromley from 1744-1785. He was also Rector of Southfleet.
The Bagshaw's father and son bring an order to the earlier anarchy of record keeping although the burial register becomes disorganised over several pages in the period 1738-1740,before order is restored. Thomas Bagshaw was a contempary and friend of Samuel Johnson,contributing to additions to Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language published on 15 April 1755. You can read this dictionary online Johnsons dictionary online .Johnson's acknowledgement to Thomas Bagshaw for his assistance included "If many readers had been as judicious,as diligent,and communicative as yourself my work had been better". I think that this compliment might equally be applicable to both Bagshaw's service to the widows of clergy at Bromley College and the town and parish.
Thomas Bagshaw died in 1787 and Boswell mentioned that he resigned the living of Bromley parish shortly before his death.
His curate Dr.Henry Smith assumed the living from 1785 and remained Vicar of Bromley until 1818. He in turn was succeeded by a curate James Edward Newell from 1819-1826 in which year he signs the register as Minister of Bromley. From 1826 until 1865 Newell is absent from signing the register and appears to be living in retirement.
In 1865 the register is signed by Arthur Gresley Hellicar M.A. who had great influence in the expanded town and Anglican Church building;his brother acted as architect for one of the churches under construction. He arrived as curate became Vicar until his death in 1904. He was an influential figure in the town and was Chairman of the Science and Art School. He also purchased the iron church from Ryde and had it erected as a chapel of ease in Park Road on land leased for the purpose and was opened in 1872 and the parish register records imediate use. Baptisms during a period of rebuilding to enlarge the parish church seating capacity take place at St John the Evangelist, Park Road.
Meanwhile land for a permanent church was purchased in Park Road and a separate parish Church of St John's was created out of the ancient parish in May 1880.
The Reverend Hellicar was an antiquarian and took great care of the parish registers in his keeping, describing in great detail the contents and recording annual totals of baptisms and burials. It is of enormous value to me in transcribing the volumes to have a record of how many entries in each year my transcript should contain and the discovery of entries in unlikely places within bindings accounts for the totals that Arthur Hellicar left for me!
The preservation of records today rests in no small measure on the care of these men to maintain the records. I find it moving to note that Reverend Hellicar baptised illegitimate children privately unless the parent requested baptism with other children of the parish publicly and I note the numbers of adult baptisms and whole family baptisms conducted by him. These all suggest a man of faith, sensitivity  commited to bringing others to faith in Jesus Christ.