A History of Hickling by Chris Granger: Appendix 3

A History of Hickling to 1860

and of all its Clergy.

by Christopher Granger

Memoir of 27 years as a Churchwarden of Hickling.

A MEMOIR OF 27 YEARS AS A CHURCH WARDEN OF HICKLING

by Christopher Granger

Eileen and I arrived in Hickling to the sound of church bells on the ninth of December 1969. The Bishop was paying a visit. Not to us but to the church. Later, Main Street was lined with cars containing teenagers to be confirmed. This should have been a warning.

Christopher Granger
Christopher Granger

On Good Friday 1971, I innocently went to Holy Communion and swelled the congregation to perhaps five. Within a jiffy I was co-opted on to the PCC and within a week appointed church warden to replace the ailing Miss Munks, my one condition being that I need not attend church regularly. I was indeed fortunate because, while I had little notion of what my duties were bar an inkling that one of us was rector’s and the other people’s church warden. The redoubtable Mrs (Edith) Spencer, who in her previous incarnation had been Hickling’s beloved(?) school mistress, was my fellow church warden. She did the work of both church wardens. I occasionally had to sign along the dotted line but not much more.

In 1973 things hotted up a little. For some worthy reason the Church Hall which had formerly been the School House had to become the Village Hall. Incidentally, in about 1772 Joseph Westby left ten pounds in trust to pay for a Church schoolmaster. This, together with forty pounds collected by the Rev Edward Anderson in the 1840s to provide bread for Hickling’s poor, still existed lying in an unused account at a major bank and so could easily at any time have vanished into the bank’s coffers. Frankly, while it might have been a little difficult to comply with these provisions, the Charity Commissioners had given us carte blanche to use these funds for any appropriate charitable purpose. It would have been better if the trustees had drunk it rather than for it to sink into the bank’s coffers. The other charities listed on a board in the tower disappeared when the then sole trustee in the late 1700s died insolvent. Reverting to the main topic, I was soon appointed first treasurer of the Village Hall Committee but, within a year, my employer had whisked me off together with Eileen and Rachel for a blissful seven months experience in its Birmingham office. David Johnson succeeded me as treasurer. When we returned, he was in place and because as a trustee I had a financial interest in the buildings, I was not allowed to be a member of the Village Hall Committee. Very convenient.

Leslie Harwood to my mind was a kind and very learned man with an unfortunate knack of putting his foot in it. For example, he told Manny Thorpe, who was a qualified surveyor, when he offered to draw up plans for the alteration of the Church Hall, that he was not sufficiently qualified to do them. There had been similar indiscretions before I arrived in Hickling. Jo Pickering from Kinoulton tells me that she remembers him there, wearing his pyjamas when he came to take the Service. I can recollect him doing so too (underneath his trousers). His wife was mentally ill and he had neither the time nor the money to prevent both the Rectory and its gardens from falling in to decay.

At some time in the 1970s the carpet in the chancel was changed, the Babington brass was less heavily covered and the colour scheme in the chancel was changed. The main funding event of the year was the Gymkhana and I was entrusted with the raffle. I was also given the tasks of preparing an updated church terrier and reviewing insurance arrangements.

In 1979 Mrs Spencer left the scene due to ill health and Ian Woolley was sworn in as church warden in her place. Meanwhile the unbelievably good and at the end thrice born again Christian, Ron Shaw, the PCC secretary from time immemorial (actually since 1970), together with Trevor Kirkman (lay reader, sometime treasurer and later priest) and, no doubt, others held a steady ship. Shortly afterwards Leslie Harwood retired and moved to Glebe Cottage.

The Rectory was sold and was purchased by the Barbers. A few years later it passed by sale into the hands of the Cadogan-Rawlinsons. The, by then, Old Rectory was transformed and its gardens would have gratified Rev Foster, Leslie Harwood’s  predecessor, whose gardens had been the pride of Hickling. The Rawlinsons indeed opened the gardens to the public. Rosemary Rawlinson’s inspired garden design and plant selection transformed them. Her rare breed sheep produced lambs for Easter Services. The baton passed to Mark and Caroline Samworth, the new owners, who later married and a fortunate few of us were guests at their wedding. They now have a family and it is to be hoped that their dynasty prevails for decades to come. 

Roy Williamson, the then Archdeacon of Nottingham and later Bishop of Southwark, a truly remarkable man, called some meetings, one at my house, to find a successor. Percy Cox was a former Army chaplain and was a breath of fresh air and like all breaths of fresh air, no sooner come than gone. Within a year, the greener grass of the Isle of Man lured him away. I have little doubt that, had he stayed, I would have been sacked as church warden for non-attendance at church. Roy Williamson again held his customary round of meetings and in due course Peter Harrison who later changed his surname to Brameld was duly appointed rector. For my sins, I was put in charge of the seating plan for his induction service and many worthy dignitaries including the Dean and Chaplain of Queen’s College, Cambridge, which holds the advowson for this parish, came. All did what they were told and sat in their appointed places. Not so Peter’s family and friends. 

The greatest blessing to come out of this event was that Peter developed the relationship with Queen’s College and this bore fruit in a few memorable weekends when their choir came to sing and the Dean and other clergy came with them. Some of us were fortunate enough to board a chorister and the Dean graced us with one of the most stimulating sermons heard in Hickling for years. Sadly, Peter took strong exception to something he said in his sermon and he was never asked to preach again. The dean was enthusiastic about women being priests. Peter, I believe strongly influenced by his wife, was dead against.

Peter and Monica at first used a Wimpey house in Kinoulton as the Rectory but a few years later they moved into a purpose built Rectory on Kinoulton, Main Street. 

Peter was always a trifle unworldly but that is no bad thing in a priest and cared deeply for his disabled wife, Monica, and their children. Monica and he vehemently opposed the ordination of women priests and he resigned in 1993, and joined the Russian Orthodox Church.

During his time many good things were achieved. The Royal Arms in the tower were restored to their former glory at the expense of the Cadogan-Rawlinsons. A worthy crew of ringers funded the restoration of the bell tower and bells, additional bells being acquired to make a full peal. This was fully made use of by a merry band of bell ringers. I hope that they would smile at this charming piece of doggerel from Great Bowden Church Belfry.

Whoe’er designs harmonious bells to sound

In tuneful chimes, or the merry round

These orders must observe

If you get drunk and hither reel

Or with your brawls disturb the peal

Or with mundungous smoak

Or if you dare profound this place

By oath or curse or language base

Or if you will presume a peal

With hat or coat or armed heel

Or turn your bell in careless play

For each offence shall two pence pay

To break these laws, if any hope

May leave the bell and take the rope.

NB.  He who plucks the bell over when turned shall pay sixpence

(Edward Inglehern,  church warden.)

Anita Kirkman did wonders with the choir. Ted and Doreen Faulks and Ken and Rosemary Cadogan Rawlinson willingly allowed church functions to be held in their grounds and permitted use of their kitchens etc. If a tractor was needed, Will Walker would always oblige. PCC meetings were usually held in the comfy surroundings of members’ sitting rooms or kitchens with refreshments provided by the hostess. Ron Shaw blithely carried on as secretary through thick and thin. John Bloor steadfastly kept the parish church’s electoral roll. We were fortunate that the quinquennial surveys did not reveal any catastrophic problems with the buildings and repairs were relatively light. The rafters had been treated within living memory.

The priority given to the funding of the bells, there was little money left for such matters as the Vaux tomb and the Anglo Saxon sarcophagus, but at least conservators were called in, the problems understood and moves were on foot to repair the crack in the sarcophagus. Many years ago it had been stood up to make it more noticeable, in all probability with diocesan advice or approval, but this is what had caused the crack. The Vaux tomb was brought in from the churchyard where it had recently been found.

I always felt that to have had responsibility for the ancient church buildings placed in my frail hands for a brief period of history was a great privilege. 

Meanwhile Stan and Gary Watts mowed the churchyard regularly and maybe emulated the venerable Percy Collishaw, a former church warden, who had scythed it and the rectory lawn in days of yore. Richard Collishaw wound the church clock. Margaret Woolley, Doreen Faulks, Pam Shaw and others were busy fund raising behind the scenes. We had two future priests in Christine Turner and Trevor Kirkman among us contributing significantly in their own ways. Trevor was a tower of strength and had great enthusiasm for the bells. Christine Turner’s husband, Steve, a director of ITV News, was a brilliant fund raiser. Ian Woolley as my fellow church warden worked tirelessly behind the scenes and did the physical things which I could not do.

This was not, however, a golden era and there were from time to time minor contretemps. Matters clerical never interested me, but raise their heads they did.  Strong views were expressed on ecumenism, whether priests should take Holy Communion behind the altar or in front of it, which prayer book should be used and above all women priests, At some stage a lady member of the PCC suggested that she should be described as a sidesperson rather than a sidesman when carrying out that duty, I hope I responded with sidesmaid. She obviously had not studied linguistics at University. Towards the end, a treasurer had trouble in balancing the books and I had to spend a week in two consecutive years, preparing the church accounts. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Events, both memorable and unmemorable came and went. Village Fairs, outdoor services with the Salvation Army, Harvest Festivals, Carol Services, Midnight Masses and Easters recurred with the utmost regularity. In 1978’s carol service, in a moment of quiet, the rather too loud voice of my four year old son blurted out “I’ll smack you and I will kill you”. I am not sure whether it was Eileen or I that was the intended victim. The occasional concert brought music to our ears. On 21 September 1985 an American lady planted a tree in honour of her forebear, Frederick Maltby, who was born on 20 July 1865, was taken over to the United States as a baby and adopted at the age of three months. He took the surname of Warner and made good, becoming Governor of Michigan from 1904 to 1910. This tree, a flowering cherry, Prunus yedoensis, now graces the churchyard opposite the South porch,

When Peter joined the Russian Orthodox Church, an interregnum ensued and I, for my sins, was appointed acting chairman of the PCC. Fortunately, I was able to exclude myself or maybe I was excluded from the subcommittee of three to whom were given the task of selecting the next priest in charge together with representatives from Kinoulton and Upper Broughton. Their task was fraught with dangers. Candidates were brought forward by the diocese, which had canvassed the three parishes as to their preferences, and, if you turned down one or even worse more than one, your chances of ever having the luxury of a priest rapidly diminished. I voted in favour of women priests in the PCC and would today. But, as one would expect women priests frequently had well paid  husbands or partners and, if that was the case, they were sometimes prepared to act without a stipend, a boon to a cash strapped Church of England, whose advisers had lost a fortune for it in ill-advised property deals at the end of the first property boom. So much so that it could hardly afford its pensions let alone its salaries. Whatever Archbishop Carey’s political sympathies and religious attitudes may have been, he was a strong financial administrator. We were now told that all that was lost had been recovered by dint of better investment policy, but surely the Church would have been far richer if it had started off on the original higher base. The parishes now have horrendous quotas to find in fund raising, while the number of its practising members has tended to wane. These were not my problems. Fund raising is not my strong point.

Early on in the interregnum I was somewhat disconcerted to be asked to interview a young couple who planned to marry in the church, one of whom was divorced, to decide whether they should be allowed to do so or not. This was a matter on which I was no expert and I took what advice I could. The couple seemed genuine enough, but don’t they all, I allowed the church wedding to go ahead  At least it made some people happy, if not God, and it swelled the church coffers a little.

Other things seemed to carry on happily much as before but rudderlessly. The only blips seemed to occur at the AGMs. On the first occasion, Ken Rawlinson, quite reasonably, severely criticised the poor performance of the treasurer whom I had twice had to bail out wasting a lot of my time in preparing the church’s accounts. I took it as an attack on me for being an incompetent chairman, I suppose that I could have sacked him but did I have the authority, and if I had, who would have replaced him. I tendered my resignation but they would not accept it, I would have walked out, but being in a wheel chair, I had the step down from the chancel and the step out of the church to contend with. A great blessing came out of this. Ken took on the role of Treasurer. The second AGM went without hitch but I was taken aback, when Ron Shaw, blithely as ever, tendered his resignation with immediate effect. It took six months to find a replacement and. this, for me, mounted Pelion upon Ossa as I had to act as PCC secretary as well until Jane Fraser filled the breach six months later.

Ron and Pam Shaw left Hickling within a year and went to live near their son in the Cambridge area, but occasionally returned for fleeting visits. Twice he called upon me brim full of the happiness of a man secure in his faith. On his second visit he told me that he had been born again into the happy clappies. To my way of thinking, to have been born again twice is some achievement.  

Shortly thereafter Stephanie Fahie was duly chosen to fill the vacancy left by Peter, A previous candidate, also a woman, was not so fortunate, Stephanie was duly inducted. For his own reasons Ian Woolley refused to have wine served at the bun fight after her induction. Her welcome could have been warmer.

Many things continued as before but modernisation may well have been required and Stephanie very reasonably had her own agenda. Modern English replaced the old fashioned. Readings shortened to four or five lines provided on a bit of paper. Unfamiliar hymns replaced familiar ones. For fuddy duddies like me the tragedy is English of the King James’s Bible and the Book of Common Prayer are frequently replaced with a modern version on the grounds that young people would not understand the old English. This in my view is nonsense. If this had been seventeenth century Russia I might have been an Old Believer joining the procession towards self immolation on the funeral pyre. Stephanie was also disinclined to continue the visits of Queens’ College choir and the Flame group who were learning to listen to what people who were coming to you with their concerns.

In due course came the second AGM after Stephanie’s induction and as was only reasonable she wanted to make changes. I had been telling her that she she should arrange an orderly succession of church wardens. What neither Ian nor I nor the PCC were expecting was for us to be asked on the eve of the AGM to stand down. Ian was deeply hurt. I, of course was delighted to be relieved of my responsibilities which still involved a lot of correspondence. We resigned, Ian very reluctantly, and neither of us attended the Easter Vestry meeting (AGM). Jack Munks, the organist, resigned in sympathy. The PCC were rather taken aback. No successors were elected. Sensibly the hiatus was short lived and the admirable Rosemary Cadogan-Rawlinson and Richard Collishaw stepped into the breach as church wardens. They have both since passed on the baton, as was only fair on them. In the past, a well ordered parish would restrict its church wardens to a two year term. Today, sadly, the manpower is sometimes lacking.

The work on the church building continued without its former wardens. Death watch beetle was found in the roof. The rafters had been treated by Rentokil in the 1970s and I think that the treatment was still under guarantee.   

In retrospect, probably neither of us were ideal church wardens. Ian’s faults were far less serious than mine. He did not wish the bell fund to appear in the PCC accounts and he knew his own mind. Mine were doctrinal and thus much more serious. I believe that a lot more fire and brimstone is needed in sermons, and that as a miserable sinner, there is no health in me (Stephanie did not agree with either of these). Also that, unless I truly repent, my sins will not be forgiven me. Worse still, I am incapable of faith. I use my brain instead. I have always been fascinated by church history. Ever since its earliest days Christianity has been an eclectic religion. To convert those who worshipped a female God, the Marian cult was introduced. Latin America appreciated a touch of Voodoo. Constantine raised his banner in the name of Christ. Without him there would have been no Onward Christian Soldiers. Heretics were burnt. The Cathars were persecuted in their thousands because, while quite willing to attend church services, they were dualist, believing that there was a good God, the God of the soul and the New Testament, and a bad God, and that the body and all tangible things belonged to Satan. This was anathema to the Catholic hierarchy and after diplomacy failed Pope Innocent III launched the Albigensian Crusade which was led by the French Crown. Any French nobleman who took up arms against the Cathars was to be rewarded by gifts of land which had been confiscated from the Cathars. Some hundred years later Philip IV of France ordered the arrest, torture, leading to false confessions, and burning at the stake of many members of the Knights Templar, enriching the Crown by confiscating their possessions. Many good English Christians whether Catholic or Protestant were put to death for their beliefs following the reformation.

In doctrinal matters, it was the weak who were labelled as heretics, no matter what the merits of their theological arguments. The only safe place to go is the four Gospels and perhaps my beloved Revelation. The books in the Bible were chosen in preference to other texts which were rejected on doctrinal grounds. I am not convinced by St Paul’s damascene conversion and feel that he may have declared it in order to usurp the authority of the apostles.

(Chris’s account ends here)