'The Birth and Growth of Hampton Hill' | 1. The Changing Face of Hampton Hill | 2. Village Amenities | 3. The Parish Church of St James's | 4. The Schools of St James's Church | 5. Social Life | 6. The War Years | 7. Personalities | 8. The Victorian Village | 9. Modern Trends | Chronological Annals | Acknowledgments
It is not clear to what extent any organised social life existed in the village prior to 1863, but in so far as New Hampton led a separate existence socially before this date it was almost certainly centred on the beer houses in existence at the time, details of which have been given in a previous chapter. Most of the hostelries were at first licensed as “Beer Houses” and a licence to sell spirits was uncommon.
As the early residents of the village were mainly artisans it is very probable that they would not have had the money for spirits even if such had been available. From various reports in the local press it would appear that Hampton villagers desirous of carousing used to make their way to New Hampton and in several accounts, a man accused of drunkenness was stated “to have been to the Common,” as our village was often called.
The beer houses, some of which in course of time were to become our public houses were far from being the orderly places they appear today, and there are all too many reports of drunken fights amongst “the wretched people” who escaped from their “even more wretched dwellings “ - to quote the then Vicar of Hampton - to seek solace in strong drink. In May, 1864, Edward Danes, water bailiff of the Queen’s River, Bushy Park, who lodged at the Star beer house made an attempt on his life by cutting his throat. He was unsuccessful and the wound was not serious but the incident could scarcely have helped the already dubious reputation of the village. In July, 1864, there was a quarrel which developed into a full-scale riot between the Irish labourers who were engaged in laying down the railway, and the locals. The trouble started in the Duke of Wellington, when, after refusing to pay for their beer, the Irish broke stools and windows. Mr. Austin, the landlord, remonstrated with them and was knocked down and jumped on by four men who “hurt him very much indeed” as he afterwards plaintively complained to the magistrate. Fighting broke out and the Irish called reinforcements from their encampment which was close by. About twenty of them, armed with sticks and loaded with stones set about the villagers “whereupon a most desperate encounter took place which lasted about half-an-hour.” The unfortunate Mr. Austin was again knocked down with half a brick and dragged into a ditch and brutally beaten with the butt end of a gun. Six policemen arrived, accompanied by Dr. Holberton, and after tending the wounded, marched at the head of about fifty civilians to the encampment of the Irish in a field belonging to Mr. Deacon, in Burton’s Lane, “for the purpose of taking them by force.” The birds, however, had flown but had left their little dwellings behind them which were immediately levelled to the ground and set fire to. A great search ensued and four men were captured hiding behind ricks in Mr. Deacon’s farmyard. They were all injured and had to be carried to the police station in a cart. A further search of tents in Mr. Brice’s meadows at Rectory Farm was to no avail and the crowd dispersed. At the Petty Sessions one of the prisoners was still so seriously hurt that he had to be carried to the bench and the SURREY COMET reports that, “the case created a great sensation in court as it was quite a sight to see the bandages and plasters which had been applied to the wounds.”
In 1866 the landlord at the Star was charged with keeping a disorderly house after a brawl on his premises. Previous convictions of keeping a disorderly house, being open at unlawful hours and of assault were also mentioned. The constable who made the charge in this instance, doubtless incensed by having been told “that no b—y policemen” were wanted on the scene, described how a crowd of eight or ten persons, male and female, were fighting. The landlord was said to have used “the most disgusting language” and to have slammed the door in the constable’s face. Despite the former’s aggrieved declaration that he was in bed at the time in question and that his house was a well conducted one, the landlord, one Charles Digby by name, was fined four pounds with fourteen shillings costs. In 1868 Robert Rolfe, beerhouse keeper, was summoned for having his house open at 11 a.m. on a Sunday. His house backed on to the park and access via a ladder was easy and presumably not obvious to passers-by in the road.
It was incidents such as those mentioned above that hardened the attitude of many church people towards strong drink. Mr. Fitz Wygram, first Vicar of St. James’s Church, was strictly against drink and its attendant evils and he put his energy into the foundation of traditions specific to New Hampton and distinct from the public houses. As early as May, 1864, a clash occurred between the redoubtable Vicar and some members of the St. James’s Cricket Club of which he was president. The club members had met on their practice ground in St. James’s Road “to play what was intended to be a comfortable game at cricket,” and after the Vicar’s side were out for twenty-seven runs owing to the excellent bowling of a Mr. Summersby, some of the players sent out for some ale in a bottle, as provision for a refreshment booth had been omitted. The president ordered the ale off the ground “and went so far as to say that he would throw it over the hedge into the High Road.” Five members resigned from the club “which caused much disappointment to all present, all through the conduct of the president to whom the field belongs.” One suspects that the reporter was not a staunch advocate of total abstinence! The incident does, however, illustrate the strong stand that the Vicar felt it necessary to adopt at the time.
Despite frequent clashes with the law, the inns were used from time to lime for inquests and we hear of such being held at the Crown and Anchor and the Jolly Gardeners in 1868, and at the King’s Arms in 1869, where a verdict of accidental death was given on a sixteen months-old child who was drowned in a tub of water. She was the daughter of a solicitor residing at Cambridge Villas in Uxbridge Road.
To woo the villagers from the beerhouses, in 1865 a series of popular entertainments, known as Penny Readings, was commenced at St. James’s School in December. People paid one penny admission, and a very large audience was present on the first occasion. The programme was usually made up of readings on a variety of subjects, interspersed with glees. In 1868 Captain Estwick was Hon. Secretary and during this season the Vicar, reading a paper entitled “Cottage Building,” stated that no working man should pay more in weekly rent than he could earn in a day. The Vicar himself owned considerable property in the neighbourhood and had built many cottages for working people, so one can imagine his remarks were received with great interest. At the end of the same year the SURREY COMET reports that twenty-three readings and an amateur concert had been held and the profits, amounting to £5 12s. were given to the parish lending library - a new innovation - and to the Blanket Loan Society, the latter’s function speaking for itself of conditions in the village. In 1869 the glee party was organised by Mr. Singleton - a well-known name in the Hampton Hill of today - and Mr. Fitz Wygram read “‘Netherstone‘ - a tale of privation, pathos and parish work.” The SURREY COMET adds slyly that “Mr. Singleton’s glee party probably gave the greatest pleasure to the audience!” Nevertheless the readings were very successful and “an attraction to all within walking distance” (and this probably included Hampton). It was from these humble beginnings that the much more ambitious Winter Entertainments which flourished in the 1890’s were to take form. Indeed, it is under the heading “Winter Entertainment” that we read that people came “in great numbers” to support Ici on parle Francais and a “beautiful little drama in two acts - ’ Meg’s Diversion,’” when the proceeds were for the maintenance of the church schools. In 1886 the programme included “Through Fire and Water,” followed by a farce which was described as being well known, namely, “Little Toddlekins,” which, the SURREY COMET assures us, “kept the audiences in a continuous roar of laughter.”
In 1889, the Penny Readings which had been such a feature of early parish life came to an end, spoiled by “rowdyism” and it was thought that the time had come for a more elaborate form of entertainment. Out of the old organisation, which had been the leading one, as far as organised village entertainment was concerned, arose the new committee. Its first venture drew “a large and representative assemblage” for what is described somewhat dampingly, as “a fairly attractive programme.” The most popular performer was Miss Inez Roe, who was destined to become the leading lady of many future local dramatic entertainments. She played “Dot” in the next venture, “A cricket on the Hearth,” which was given in aid of local institutions and charities and was much more warmly reported, the SURREY COMET going so far as to say, “That Hampton Hill numbers among its residents many ladies and gentlemen who are possessed of great dramatic ability has often been proved but it was hardly expected that they would exhibit such remarkable talent as was witnessed in this performance.”
As a more organised social scene became established the public houses became meeting places for gatherings whose prime object was not merely the consuming of beer, and in the seventies and eighties a number of clubs and societies were based in them. Smoking concerts were held in aid of various deserving causes and cases of individual hardship. The Rising Sun was the scene of a smoking concert in 1885, this time the cause was the Crescent Football Club. Music and song was the order of the evening and we read of one house after another acquiring a music licence. Song was obviously a necessary adjunct to the “capital meals” or “sumptuous repasts” which seemed a feature of village life, particularly as prosperity increased. As there was no hall suitable for any major celebrations until the l890’s the public houses were the scenes of the dinners and teas following the various sports days, and as they improved in prosperity they undoubtedly improved as to the amenities they provided.
Slate Clubs started, not only to collect for convivial junketings but to help villagers save against the inevitable rainy day, and these clubs were also based on the public house of their choice.
In 1873 the New Hampton Quoits Club played its opening match at the King’s Arms Inn. In 1874 the Fulwell Football Club was formed at a meeting at the same house. At the Crown and Anchor, in 1875, a New Year’s Dinner was provided by Mr. and Mrs. Nobes for the Crown and Anchor Harmonic Society. There were the usual songs and recitations and we are told that the company dispersed “just as the clock was striking twelve.” Another flourishing club was the Pigeon Club, which had the Brewery Tap or Old Mud Hut, as its headquarters. This house was situated in the High Street (No. 46) and ceased to be licensed in 1913 and has been described in a previous chapter.
The King’s Arms, on the new estate of gentry’s villas, seems to have been the one patronised by the non-artisan class, and a Masonic Lodge was founded there in 1874 “amongst the gentry of the neighbourhood” but by March, 1875, this was forced to move to the Red Lion, Hampton, because an application for a spirit licence at the King’s Arms, described as being “on the new Hampton Hill Estate” was rejected. It was stated somewhat oddly in support of the application that “a beerhouse was much more objectionable than an ale house and that a spirit licence would tend to keep the place respectable.” Presumably only the gentry could afford spirits and the beer drinking “hoi polloi” would thus be held at bay. Mr. Abraham Benn, of the Jolly Gardeners, objected on the grounds that so far only thirty-nine houses on the surrounding new estate had been erected; no doubt he feared competition. The application was opposed by several other local people, including the Vicar, but was supported by Rev. J. Burrows, Hampton’s Vicar, the owner of the property.
In October, 1881, the Tam O’Shanter Lodge of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes was founded at the Roebuck Inn and twelve brothers initiated. A new lodge of Odd Fellows was founded at the Rising Sun in August of the same year as it was felt that a growing district should support a lodge of its own.
At the beginning of the 1880’s, as a result of a public meeting, one of the longest lived institutions in the history of our village was inaugurated. The Vicar, the Rev. F. J. Fitz Wygram, was in the chair and he explained that he was sure that there was much uncultivated talent among the working men and that an institution such as a Working Men’s Club would bring it out. He promised that a collection would be made in St. James’s Church the following Sunday towards the £10 which was the sum thought necessary to launch the project. The Vicar also promised a room free of expense for the season, and said that he hoped to see the management in the hands of the working men themselves. Provisional rules were presented, by which the room was to be open from six to ten p.m. Chess, draughts and dominoes were to be allowed, daily papers provided and coffee and bread and cheese were to be sold at reasonable prices. The Parish Library was to be kept in the club room, and subject to its own rules, was available for the use of members. As a concession to non-smokers, the club was opened an hour earlier and smoking banned until six o’clock. We are told that the club used to meet initially in the old Congregational Chapel in Windmill Road, now known as a Spiritualist Chapel. Begun by the Vicar and finished by his widow as his memorial, the building in the High Street was opened in January, 1882, and cost nearly £900. The opening ceremony was performed by Mr. Loftus Fitz Wygram in the club’s large library and in reporting the event the SURREY COMET states that it was established mainly “to encourage habits of temperance and to counteract the evils of strong drink.” It was known as the Fitz Wygram Working Men’s Club and Coffee House and was the village’s first community centre. As we go to press our village, threatened with suffocation in the mass of the Greater London area, is forming a Hampton Hill Association and it has been suggested that Fitz Wygram’s building might become our new community centre. Like John Brown, Fitz Wygram’s soul goes marching on!
Many and various were the club’s activities and its amenities increased and improved. In 1885, at their annual general meeting, it was reported that they were now in possession of a stage and that in addition to the chess, draughts and dominoes they now had billiards and bagatelle and were engaging in friendly competitions with other neighbouring clubs. In 1886 they held their annual ball on New Year’s night and between seventy and eighty people were present, presumably in the Institute’s big upstairs room. The affair was opened by Mrs. Bligh as the Rev. H. Bligh was indisposed. Great praise was accorded to Mr. Hallt, and Mr. Keates, who was M.C., for the “effective decoration of the room and the skill and taste displayed in the general management of affairs.” There was a small band conducted by Mr. Neave, who was at the piano. Two at least of these names are familiar in the village today. Later on in the same year fifty members were present at the annual supper where Mrs. Fitz Wygram’s health was drunk, as all present felt “that if Mrs. Fitz Wygram and her family had not taken such a deep and lasting interest in the club it would not have been such a success.”
One of the great events of the year was the club’s annual sports. In 1889 they were held in Mr. Tom Bailey’s field, off the High Street, and included amongst the more usual items, a jockey race where one entrant carried his partner, and a hundred yards menagerie race when a goat, two lambs, two geese, a pig and two tame rabbits were supposed to be driven the distance named. Goose, pig and lamb got the prizes and the event caused amusement to some although others thought it a “cruel and sickening spectacle” and there can be no doubt that to the competing creatures it was evidently far from amusing.
The village possessed its own brass band which was much in demand at public functions. In 1885 the band had an annual income of £37, of which £15 had come by way of public subscription and £10 was remuneration from public engagements. This leads one to wonder how much it cost to hire the instruments and wind to blow or thump same for an afternoon’s entertainment. One suspects that part at least of the reward was the joy of music making and the thrill of public acclaim.
The church was busy providing all sorts of means of occupying time and thought profitably. At Lent in 1885 Mr. Bligh, who had succeeded the beloved Fitz Wygram after his sudden death in 1881, circulated a long letter to all the working men and women in his parish “earnestly inviting them to attend Sunday evening services to hear plain mission addresses.” Mission work was strenuously exercised in the neighbourhood by St. James’s, the Congregationalists and the Primitive Methodists and they all played their part in caring for the villagers. In the above mentioned letter Mr. Bligh “fitly expressed his anxiety for his flock” and his first address on God’s Love, to a packed church, was, we read, “both powerful and impressive.”
In February of 1885 a Mr. H. Raywood gave “one of his characteristic addresses” to the Total Abstinence Society, and as a result of his arguments twenty-five pledges were given.
Earlier in the same year St. James’s had organised a Parish Tea and Entertainment and over one hundred and fifty people were present Miss Bligh and Miss Eva Bligh sang “Annie Laurie” and “Love was once a Little Boy,” respectively and each was “rapturously applauded.” A spirited duet was “beautifully played” by Mrs. Bligh and her sister, Miss Butler. The next night the Congregational Chapel held its Annual Social evening in the chapel’s schoolroom and their pastor, Mr. Waterhouse, was presented with “a very handsome silver inkstand” as “a slight token of his flock’s esteem and regard during his seven years’ pastorate.” Songs followed and “graphoscopes,” an electric battery and a fine musical box” were provided for the amusement of those present.
In 1886 a clergyman, a Mr. Barkett, from Buttermere, gave a lecture in the boys’ schoolroom on Beekeeping. This was advertised as being for “cottagers, agriculturalists and labouring classes” to “stimulate a pursuit capable, not only of affording rational and profitable occupation, but also a material increase to the income of the poor.” There was no comment in the Press as to the numbers attending!
Later in the same year we read of the inaugural meeting of the Primrose League, Hampton Hill Habitation, and Mr. Bligh was a member, thus deserting the usual policy of the clergy in showing no political preference.
The Lawn Tennis Club, established May 1st, 1880, was started “to enable the middle-class to indulge in this favourite exercise,” and was by now flourishing and it gave some of the numerous dramatic entertainments which enlivened village life. We are told that amongst their presentations was Byron’s comedy, “The Weak Woman,” and the farce, “The Goose with the Golden Eggs.” As the entertainment was in aid of their club let us hope that it did indeed provide a golden nest egg or two against a rainy season.
In 1889 we read of another concert in aid of the Congregational School Library, and of a bazaar to raise funds for the Female Orphan Home. £10 per annum would support an orphan, and due to lack of money we are told that there were only forty orphans being cared for although the home had room for fifty.
On June 18th, 1964, between seventy and eighty members of St. James’s Church went on a Centenary River Trip and thought it a most ambitious adventure, but on July 20th, 1889, on the occasion of the Congregational Sunday School Outing, over two hundred children and relations went to Burnham Beeches by road, and parties equally as large were constantly setting off from the village by train and road to enjoy themselves farther afield.
A very great event must have been the wedding, in 1889, of Miss Gertrude Frances Bligh, eldest daughter of the esteemed Vicar. “Very rarely,” says the SURREY COMET, “has such a brilliant spectacle been witnessed in Hampton Hill.” The event had been talked of for a long time past and was looked forward to with much interest by the parishioners. A covered way was constructed from the vicarage to the church, which was beautifully decorated with “bunches of lilies, red gladioli, hanging baskets and flowers and choice plants and ferns.” “To say that the church was crowded is only conveying a faint impression of what was really the fact, for it was literally besieged long before the doors were opened and very many were unable to secure admission.” The bride was dressed in white corded silk covered with Irish point lace, tulle veil, orange blossoms and pearl ornaments. She had six bridesmaids, among them Miss Eva, her sister, Lady Alice Bligh and Lady Mary Bligh, her cousins. They wore pink Surah silk, hats of lace and carried blush roses. The bride was accompanied to the altar by her uncle, the Earl of Darnley. The officiating clergy were the Rev, and Hon. H. Bligh, father of the bride, and Rev. H. T. Kirby father of the bridegroom. Local ladies and girls of the church school helped with the dress under the guidance of a London dressmaker. The bouquets were all made by Mr. Towell, a local florist, and the interior decorations to the vicarage were arranged by Rowland Moores (draper, of the corner of Windmill Road, opposite the Crown and Anchor). A vast crowd of titled and village gentry were at the reception in the old Vicarage and they mingled with those of lesser social standing - not a usual occurrence in those days. Many valuable presents were received, and among them were gifts from local institutions, the Vicarage Bible Class, the Choir and the Boys’ Bible Class. Mr. and Mrs. Veysey (the stationmaster and his wife) loyally presented a picture of Fulwell Station! The following Wednesday the choir were entertained to supper at the Vicarage as were Mr. and Mrs. Veysey and many local people who were each presented with a memento of the event as they left. The Blighs were so exhausted by the festivities that they retired to rest at West Malling, the estate of the Rev, and Hon. E. V. Bligh and Lady Elizabeth Bligh.”
Annual parades were a feature of the times and one of the biggest was that of the local and neighbouring Friendly Societies in aid of Richmond Hospital, the establishment which catered for local needs before the Hampton or Teddington Hospitals were in existence. In 1885 the parade started from Lion Square, Hampton, and marched to St. James’s Church, New Hampton, preceded by the New Hampton Brass Band, twenty-four strong, playing “capital selections of best music in a very appreciable style.” The parade was followed all the way by “a very large concourse of people,” and the procession was “marked with the utmost decorum thanks to the capital manner in which it was all arranged.” Rev. H. Bligh preached the sermon, his text being, appropriately, “Flesh and Blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven,” and with this salutary thought in their minds the congregation gave generously - £7 being collected from them after they had listened, we are told, “with marked attention.”
May Days were also celebrated by parades, as well as by games and competitions in Bushy Park, and in 1887, although New Hampton’s interest was centred round the Jubilee Tower and Spire, there were teas and sports, followed by dancing and fireworks.
The New Hampton Cottagers’ Garden Society was founded in 1871 and their annual shows caused great excitement and a spirit of keen competition. The SURREY COMET reports show the great number of different classes which were open to exhibitors and the scope and support of the club was phenomenal. The annual shows were held in St. James’s Vicarage’s extensive grounds and a report in 1874 states that for the convenience of the working man some of the committee would be in attendance there at five a.m. to receive entries! “Gentry” and nurserymen were allowed to exhibit in special classes, but the interests of the cottagers were well looked after. In 1874 it was Lord Alfred Paget, from Upper Lodge, who presented the prizes, the first prize for vegetables being won by a Mr. Barter, a Balaclava man, to whom “greater credit was due as he had but one arm.”
In 1882, as well as their show, the Society held a bazaar in aid of a fund to build three teachers’ houses. This idea had originated from Rev. F. J. Fitz Wygram and was “enthusiastically taken up by Mrs. Fitz Wygram and a number of ladies of St. James’s district.” The bazaar housed a bee-keepers’ tent and there was an incredible number of exhibits of all kinds. There were special classes for cottagers only and also for jobbing and assistant gardeners, and the large number of entries from the latter give an indication of the number and size of local properties.
By the end of the 1880’s social activity in New Hampton must have been considerable. Church and Chapel provided many and various activities and entertainments and a growing community spirit was bringing an end to the old, aimless, barren lives of the villagers. New Hampton had arrived and village pride was ever increasing. Seldom can a single community have owed so much to the activities of one man. Before the Rev. F. J. Fitz Wygram came to look after “the wretched type of people,” “the Common” had nothing to recommend it, but he set about giving the place its self respect and by help and coercion where each was needed, laid the foundations of the sturdy, self-reliant Hampton Hill of the 1890’s.
II. The 1890’s and the beginning of the 20th Century:
The parish of Hampton Hill was born at a time when the Church of England was trying to catch up on a century that had moved too quickly for it. The corruption of the eighteenth century had left it inadequate to minister to a nation whose social structure was being transformed by the Industrial Revolution. Statesmen, such as William Gladstone, although firm churchmen, realised that the State would have to supply unfulfilled needs and accept to a growing degree, responsibility for affairs which hitherto had been under the jurisdiction of the Church.
For instance, the 1870 Education Act brought thousands of schools under the control of school boards and in general, though not in Hampton Hill, the church school was superseded by State education.
By the end of the nineteenth century the parish priest was losing the position of extreme authority which he had exercised for twelve centuries. Ecclesiastical control over such matters as wills and divorces was lost and the 1890’s generally were the last years in which the social life of the country could be said to centre strongly around the Church. In Hampton Hill this period was extended longer than in most parishes due to the tremendous influence the Church had played in the formation of the village and also to the personality and substance of the first three vicars. In its early years it had, of necessity, almost a monopoly control over the social activities of the cottagers but after thirty years the situation began gradually to change. The “Church” societies - those that we still associate with the Church today - were becoming firmly established. The Church did provide welfare work and entertainments but this latter was gradually passing into the responsibility of lay organisations, and village societies which had originally been run by the Church were no longer in her care.
The following study of the organisations and activities which formed the life of our village at the turn of the century will illustrate what has been said.
The Adult Church Societies attached to St. James’s:
As the functions of Church and State diverged, so spiritual and temporal interests tended to become divided and societies grew up, based on the Church, which attracted the diminishing number of churchgoers and finally virtually became exclusive to them, as they are today. Tragic as this division may be, it was better for the Church to supply religiously based societies rather than to leave spirituality as a matter for the Sunday Services only.
While State schools and the popular Press spread knowledge generally, St. James’s maintained its church schools and continued to do so until the late 1920’s. Much was done in the parish to spread religious knowledge to all age groups of the rapidly growing population and in the forefront of this field laboured that almost legendary lady, Mrs. Fitz Wygram, widow of St. James’s first great Vicar. After her husband’s early death she moved across St James’s Road into Larkfield and proceeded to make it a centre of church life, and there she held and organised a number of Bible Classes. There were separate groups for men, women, young men and young women, as distinct from the Sunday schools for children. The many members which these classes attracted were treated to special entertainments from time to time. A “capital” supper was held at least once a year for each group and there were many concerts and musical evenings. In 1896 there was a steamer trip for men and their wives and the following year a special entertainment for the men’s and young men’s classes. As late as 1910, three years before her death, it is recorded that the classes were “as usual entertained with accustomed generosity by Mrs. Fitz Wygram.” By this time there were also lectures regularly for the Church Reading Union, but the adult Bible Classes survived Mrs. Fitz Wygram’s death and were thriving in the 1930’s. A Bible and Study Group exists today.
Another organisation which was flourishing in the 90’s and was supported by many adult churchgoers was the Communicants’ Association, later known as the Communicants’ Guild. In addition to its regular meetings, it held an Annual Tea but this appears to have been replaced by an annual general meeting, according to the Parish Magazine.
At the same period, that stalwart of all “churchy” societies, the Mothers’ Union, was founded. Pledged to defend the principle of the lifelong sanctity of marriage - which the State had at that time abandoned - it soon became the dominant voice in many parishes that it remains today. In Hampton Hill a meeting was held in December, 1897, with a view to forming a branch. At the same time, a more informal “Mothers’ Meeting” continued until the 1930’s. The Mothers’ Union held monthly meetings, with an annual general meeting in the summer and a supper in February. A number of distinguished speakers came down to St. James’s, amongst them, in December, 1902, the wife of the Bishop of London.
A comparable society for men did not appear for some years, but in January, 1910, a branch of the Church of England’s Men’s Society was formed. Within a few months it had a full programme, including a social evening, a slide show and a lecture on church history. This varied type of programme continued for many years with a regular service each month.
The dispensing of charity was one of the most important functions of the Church in the Middle Ages; one-third of her income being devoted to the poor. Since then, much of this responsibility has been assumed by other bodies. However, the Church continues to fulfil many of the duties that neither central nor local government wish to perform. This was particularly so before the advent of the Welfare State. (In 1953, shortly after the coming of the present incumbent, the Rev, R. Brunt, there was concern felt by St. James’s for the needs of the parish’s older residents, and following the deliberations of a church commission on “The Wider Church”, a meeting was called in the parish hall, to which representatives of interested Associations were invited, and as a result, the Hampton Hill Old Peoples’ Welfare Committee was formed, which has proved of great benefit in augmenting the work of the already existing Darby and Joan, and the now lapsed ‘Three Rs Club,” which latter used to meet until 1962 in the Fitz Wygram Club Room. (Editor.))
St. James’s maintained a number of almshouses in the parish, as St. Mary’s had done for the whole parish of Hampton for many centuries. The need for general support was illustrated by the debt of £200 which had to be found by independent means in 1896.
This was before the days of either Old Age Pensions or National Insurance. Thus, as well as caring for old people, it was frequently necessary to provide aid for the able-bodied. The Parish Magazine of 1891 provided that “in consequence of the unusual severity of the weather which has thrown so many out of work and has caused much distress amongst the working classes, a soup kitchen has been opened with a view to mitigating, as much as possible, the suffering which prevails.” The kitchen opened on December 20th, 1890, in the Fitz Wygram Working Men’s Coffee Room and a subscription list was started in the village to enable the managers to sell soup at half price. By the end of January the secretary, Miss Barnard - an indefatigable church worker - reported that 1,197 pints of soup had been served. During this outbreak of bad weather the Rev. H. Bligh gave money to needy workmen out of his own pocket and arranged for work to be found for them laying down the path which runs from the “kissing gates” by Burton’s Road railway bridge, skirting the railway line and emerging opposite Fulwell Station. We understand that the expenses involved were also met out of the reverend gentleman’s own pocket. Fortunately there was a lighter side to the spell of bad weather. Arrangements were made to hold an old-fashioned frost fair on the river adjacent to the ferry at Hampton, but the thaw set in rapidly and the festivities were shorn of their anticipated gaiety. A twelve-stone sheep was to have been roasted on the ice but it had to be partly cooked and then roasted in front of a large “devil” under the lee of the Bell Hill wall. Mr. Makepeace, of Hampton Hill, erected a portable printing press and ran off copies of a handbill to commemorate the event. There were about two thousand spectators and the ground being a “mass of sloppy mud,” spectators, sketchers, reporters, amateur photographers, itinerant musicians - all presented an exceedingly bespattered appearance. The carving was done in a “commodious” tent and two hundred quarten loaves were distributed.
There being no National Health Service in those far-away days, the Church, having erected the spire and tower to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, decided to celebrate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee by the provision of a parish nurse. A committee was set up in April, 1897, and funds soon poured in. The first nurse was appointed in September of that year. The inspiration of Jubilee Year proved a lasting blessing to the parish and the Magazine of 1909 noted that the nurse had made 3,086 visits in that year, when her services were still being maintained by public subscription.
Beyond the needs of the parish itself, St. James’s contributed generously to the work of the Church by the Home and Foreign Missions and other charities. The N.S.P.C.C. was keenly supported as was the Waifs’ and Strays’ Society. A branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society was formed in 1896. The divergent theology in the Church of the time evoked the parody:- “We are not divided, all one body we, Some support the C.M.S. and some the S.P.G.”
St. James’s, however, was quite impartial, and held a sale of work to aid both the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the Church Mission Society! There were also regular missionary working parties and monthly services of intercession. Offertories were devoted to the S.P.G. on Advent Sunday, 1902, to the Colonial and Continental Church Society on Ash Wednesday, 1909, and to the Mission to Seamen in May, 1909, to quote a few examples of charitable giving. Special appeals, such as that for the Indian Famine Relief Fund in 1897, were also generously supported. There was also a Teddington Hospital Fund and regular sums were contributed to help what must have been the fulfilment of a long felt parish need.
In spite of not having its own church hall until as late as 1932, the parish provided sales of work, plays, parish teas and suppers, concerts and “tableaux vivants,” usually in the school room, even before the Victoria Hall was opened in 1897. A sacred concert in March, 1896, was described as “a new departure.” In 1897 the annual parish tea was replaced by a “conversazione” which was repeated for many years. Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, besides presenting the parish with the Victoria Hall and a district nurse, was the occasion for many celebrations and it is significant that the Vicar, the Rev. C. R. Job, was appointed chairman of the Jubilee Arrangements Committee which was convened by the Urban District Council. Mr. Bowling Trevanion was treasurer, whilst further arrangements were in the hands of a suitably undenominational group of ladies. Sports, games, music and fireworks took place in Bushy Park and tea was provided for all those over sixty years of age. An interesting pointer as to how far money went in those days is that £20 provided fireworks, £10 buns and ginger beer for 600 children and a further £10 covered the cost of two hundred “meat teas.” Each child was given a Jubilee mug. How many of them are left in the village now one wonders?
The Victoria Hall was opened in December, 1897, with a concert and thereafter advertisements for functions appeared frequently, such as “Amateur Theatricals, reserved seats 2s. 6d., unreserved 1s. Tickets from Mr. Makepeace, Hampton Hill Post Office.”
The Orchestral Society flourished in the early 1900’s and performed
“The Messiah” in 1909. As we have already heard the village
boasted of a large brass band and in 1893 they gave a concert to raise
funds and we learn that they drew their performers from “far
afield,” i.e., Teddington!
The Parish Church of St James, Hampton Hill, TW12 1DQ
Main site: stjames-hamptonhill.org.uk