Introducing Revd Rupert Brunt
Revd Rupert Brunt
Revd Brunt was born in Manchester in 1910 to an American mother
and a father who was a Water Engineer. The family lived in Rochdale
before moving to Chiswick in 1918, and he finished his schooling at
St Paul's, before going up to King's College, London, to read History.
His mother hoped he would become a barrister and Revd Brunt liked the
idea of journalism. However through his involvement with the SCM the
idea of ordination grew so he completed his theological degree also
at King's. It was through the SCM that he and Connie met, briefly in
1932, and finally married in 1944. The marriage took place at St James's
by one of those amazing quirks of coincidence. Connie had moved from
her post in Nottinghamshire to be closer to her parents during the war
and worshipped at St James's. The wedding was to be in Sussex but because
of the preparations for the Normandy landings he wasn't allowed anywhere
near the church! The re-arrangement plans made St James's the obvious
Revd Brunt was previously vicar of St Faith’s, N Wilford, Nottingham.
He had a very happy link with St James’s as he and Connie had
actually been married here so they felt they were not coming to strangers
in a strange parish, but were “in a sense coming home - but
not to rest, but to work with you and for you, to the best of our ability
and to the utmost of our strength, in the service of God”
The Church authorities had actually invited someone else to be vicar
but he had declined because the stipend was so low. However, Revd and
Mrs Brunt embraced this poor parish, accepting the challenge.
They had three children, Rosalind, Clare and Bernard. Mrs Brunt,
née Middlemiss, used to teach at Lady Eleanor Hollis School
when she lived here before her marriage. A flourishing Young Wives’
Group was inaugurated due to her enthusiasm and personality. Read
the article Our New Vicar.
Appointment and induction
In the Autumn of 1950 Revd Brunt was unexpectedly invited to meet
Revd Knapp (Vicar of Hampton and Patron of the living of St James's)
to discuss a possible appointment to the vacancy. The interview commenced
with Revd. Knapp suggesting that since they both knew very little
of each other, they should kneel in silent prayer for a while. The
prayer over, Revd Knapp went to his desk and offered Revd Brunt the
job. The Institution and Induction of the new vicar took place on
the evening of Friday, March 16th 1951. “A
really crowded church, with all pews filled, added to the sincere
spirit of worship and prayer which everyone had come to offer on this
very important occasion. One had the feeling of belonging to a very
large family, all gathered to welcome two people whom they were prepared
Significant developments during
Revd Brunt's incumbency
The patterns of worship were to undergo radical changes. Soon after
becoming vicar, Revd Brunt and the Church Council had discussions
about the times of different weekday services. There were so many
different opinions that he decided to experiment over a period of
time. Several Sunday services were dropped, with Eucharist at 09.30
becoming the main service of the day, some times of services were
changed and some new services were added. Read the article The
Parish Communion. Revd Brunt was keen to involve members of the
congregation and also children, for example presenting the bread and
wine in the Parish Communion service or reading the lessons. For many
in St James's the principal legacy from Revd. Brunt was a new and
deeper insight and awareness of prayer.
The Sunday School also underwent many changes in order to cater for
as many children as possible and the Rectory Sunday School was started
to encourage children in that part of the parish.
The momentum of the parish quickened further with stewardship campaigns,
parish weekends, and study and prayer groups. There was a very active
Social Committee that organised parish outings and rambles, Harvest
Suppers, firework parties, carol singing round the parish, New Year
Parties, folk evenings, buffet and barn dances, and tennis matches.
The wider community was also served by the parish with the Nursery
School, the Old People's Welfare Committee, the Wayside Monday Centre,
Newcomers Parties; a thriving Young People's Fellowship and so on.
Architects who made detailed inspections over the years reported that
the condition of the church was poor and needed a good deal of renovation
and renewal. A well planned “Great
Renovation Drive” in 1953 saw many fund raising activities
and a house-to-house collection. Revd Brunt and some parishioners
in fancy dress pushed an ancient barrel organ around the streets,
causing the villagers to give generously. Over the years many aspects
of the church fabric were improved including re-roofing the building.
By 1962 on the eve of the church's centenary Revd Brunt was able to
report "We now have a better and
sounder building than at any time since its foundation."
The organ was renovated during 1951 and more fully restored in 1972
with a new electric action replacing the old pneumatic action. In
1967 a Garden of Remembrance was created for the interment of ashes
near the Lych Gate.
In 1954 the need for a new small hall was discussed and consequently
Wayside, a large house in St James’s Road, built in 1883 and
originally called Armaside, was bought the following year. It proved
a sound investment and provided the church with meeting rooms, for
many years being the meeting place of the PCC, the Sunday Schools,
the Young People’s Fellowship and many other church-related
groups such as the Mothers’ Union, the Young Wives, the Tuesday
Club, the Young Families Group, and the Wayside Monday Centre (a counselling
Throughout Revd Brunt's incumbency the committees of the PCC were
expanded in both scope and membership to consider many different aspects
of the church's work locally and to make recommendations to the main
Council. Financially the situation at St James's was improving but
more was still needed. A Christian Stewardship Campaign was launched
in 1961 with professional fund-raising support. Read the article
Christian Stewardship Campaign.
In 1966 the parish adopted the Diocesan Scheme for Christian Stewardship
which had a more spiritual approach, equal consideration being given
to the value of time devoted to service and in worship as to the more
material gifts. in January 1952 the old Hampton Hill Parish Magazine
was replaced by 'The Spire', which was organised by a committee who
expanded the range of contents, and which was eventually distributed
free. See the magazine.
The End of Revd Brunt's incumbency
Revd Brunt retired to Seaford in December 1980.
"Our Vicar inherited a moribund parish and decaying church. Another
had been the first choice of the Church authorities, but turned us
down because the stipend was so low. Rupert and Connie accepted us
in our poverty, welcomed in faith the challenge, and at the end of
the nigh on thirty years they leave us immeasurably richer."
At his leaving he was given a presentation and thanked, among other
things, for transforming St James into a warm, living church and for
giving the parish a real understanding of Christian stewardship. “It
is not often a parish has the real blessing of having the ministry
of such a good and true and Christian couple for so long. In recalling
the past we shall be doubly grateful for the present and full
of hope for the future.”
The garden of rest
The tributes were many and various but they all emphasised Revd
Brunt’s deep faith, humility and love.
“We can pay the greatest tribute to Connie and Rupert by continuing
to live as they have lived themselves amongst us.” The
September 14th issue of the Richmond Guardian recorded: “Mr
Brunt will be remembered for giving the parish new life when the congregation
had fallen dramatically and its buildings were in a poor condition.”
So, after nearly thirty years, they left the parish so much better
off, both spiritually and materially. Read the article Farewell
to Rupert and Connie and Rupert
Brunt, An Appreciation.
Revd Brunt died in 1989 and his ashes were buried in the Garden of
Remembrance in the churchyard after the Parish Communion on 15 October.
Family and friends filled the church for the service was also a memorial
service for him.