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Parsons Family and Friends

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PARSONS William Henry. - St Aidan's 1888. d. 1890, p. 1891 Worc. C. of St Jude, Birm. 1890-92; St. Martin, Birm. 1892-97; Chap. Birm Eye Hosp. 1896-97; C. of St. Jas. Hatcham, 1897-1900; V. of St. Matthias, Tulse Hill, 1900-05; R. of Swanage 1905-08; V. of St. John's, Tunbridge Wells, 1908-25; V. of St. Geo. Tiverton, Dio Ex. from 1925. (P. Trustees; T.R.C. 144l w I a of Gl. val. 2l; Q.A.B. 441l; Fees 10l; e.o. 44l; o.s. 80l; Gross inc. 721l, Net 695l and Ho; Pop. 2011.) St George's Vicarage, Tiverton. [Crockford 1930]


Written at Locking during a very pleasant holiday, 1911. I stayed at the Vicarage with my family, from August 1st to September 12th. Written at the old house, still occupied by my brother Joe.

My birth and family - 1865

I was born at Locking, Somerset, on Jan 12.1865. My father, George Parsons, was a farmer, son of George Parsons and Elizabeth his wife, nee Hewlett. My paternal grandfather died Feb 28 1865 aged 61. He was a farmer and lived for many years at Wick St Lawrence about 5 miles from Locking. My grandmother died in 1876 aged 76, and I can remember her very well.

My mother, Hannah Gould, was the third daughter of Job and Mary Ann Gould. Job Gould was also a farmer at Wick St Lawrence. He died in 1870, and my grandmother died in 1872. My father was born at Wick St Lawrence Feb 23rd 1831, and died Jan 1st 1897 at Locking. My mother was born at Worle, April 7th 1835, and died May 16th 1911.

Both are buried side by side in the little churchyard at Locking. They were married on my mother's birthday, April 7th 1864, at Wick St Lawrence. It was not the custom for people in their station of life to go away for a honeymoon, so they drove off together in the evening for their new home at Locking. Here they were destined to spend the remainder of their days.

George Parsons, bachelor,
and Elizabeth Hewlett, spinster,
"both of this parish"
were married by licence
at Wick St Lawrence April 12th 1828.
  • James Hewlett
  • Susan Jenkins
  • Sarah Parsons
My grandparents:

memory of
George Parsons
who died February 28th 1865
aged 61 years
also Elizabeth
relict of the above
George Parsons
who died March 23rd 1876
aged 76 years

(Tombstone at Wick St Lawrence churchyard)

They had four children of whom I was the eldest. My sister Elizabeth Catherine was born Oct.
25 1867. John Gould born Sept 11 1870. Joseph James born Oct 1 1874. We were all baptized in Locking church.

My parents:

George Parsons, bachelor
Hannah Gould, spinster
married, after banns
at Wick St Lawrence
April 7th 1864
by Aubrey Townsend, Curate
  • Cornelius Hancock Poole
  • Elizabeth Gould
Aubrey Townsend (later spelt Townshend) born in Dublin 1812. Curate of Wick St Lawrence 1861-1869; Curate of Locking 1869 - 1874; Vicar of Puxton 1874-1891; Died Aug 20 1891; buried at Puxton.

Locking is a quiet village with a population of about 120. Here I grew up and spent the first 22 years of my life. I had very few companions at any time in the village. Some of the pleasantest recollections of those early days are the visits I used to pay to my aunts at Weston. Mrs Marion Louch was my mother's eldest sister, who was married to a saddler, Samuel Louch, a very godly man of a type rarely met with in the present day. I can well remember the family prayers in that home. My aunt was a woman of strong character and great intelligence. They had two sons, William and Charles, the one five years and the other three years older than myself. These were my most intimate companions during the first 15 years of my life, and I believe that the influence of that home was very great. My uncle was a Plymouth Brother, but of a very tolerant kind. My cousins were members of the Baptist Chapel and I always went to their place of worship when staying with them. I formed the impression in those days that the nonconformists were very much more devout and religious than churchpeople, and I fear there was some justification for this belief (in that district).

Job Gould was the son of Joseph and Hannah Gould (my great grandparents)
Hannah Gould died June 30 1816
Joseph Gould died Jan 7 1842
William Louch emigrated to America.

Charles was on his way to America for a holiday, and was drowned in the wreck of the Titanic, April 1912.

The sons of both are now engaged in Christian work, and are splendid examples of the influence of Christian parents and Christian homes.

My father's family

Mary Ann (Clark)
Elizabeth (Harris)
James (Australia)
Sophia (Harris)
Henry, married .........................…
Sarah Ann (Nipper)
My mother's family

Marion (Louch)
Jane (Stebbins)
Hannah (Parsons)
William (died young)
Elizabeth (Parsons)
Annie (Gill)
Joseph (America)
- the last of the family,
died in America Feb 4th 1935.

My first cousins were very numerous

Church life in Locking

My father had always been a churchman, and I can remember that on Sundays he always wore a black cloth frech (??) coat and top hat, which he never wore on any other occasion. My mother before her marriage had attended a little chapel (Methodist) at Worle, and I think she always inclined to the belief that "chapel" was better than "church," but as there was no chapel in Locking she went regularly to the parish church.

Locking ChurchThe Vicar of Locking, Rev G.H. Law, was blind, and he kept a curate to do all the work. The morning service was very long, Morning Prayer, Litany and Ante Communion, and the curate preached in a black gown. There was only a harmonium in those days, and the service was not very inspiring.

The curates were:
  • Rev E.H. Powell, afterwards Vicar of Hewish. He baptized me.
  • Rev Aubrey Townsend
  • Rev Hutchins, baptized Joe.
Holy Communion was celebrated once a month after Morning Prayer. Notice was given "Dearly beloved on Sunday next I purpose etc."

Early Communions were unknown.

I used to gaze at the stained glass windows until I knew every detail by heart. There was no evening service. The farmers and their families all attended church in the morning. A service was held in the afternoon at which I think the congregation consisted largely of servants and farm labourers.

Sunday School, Miss Dickson.

The Parish Clerk, John Cavell, said the Amens and Responses in a loud voice. He had a desk in one of the pews and a large Prayer Book.

The Sexton used to stoke the fire during service, making a great noise.

On Sunday evenings we used to sit round the table and read the Bible together, and my mother taught me hymns and read The Pilgrim's Progress to me. I was very fond of that book and got to know it well. Another favourite reading of my mother's was the opening chapters of the Book of Job.

I owe a great deal to my mother. She was one of the most scrupulously honest and truthful women I have ever known. I am sure that she prayed very earnestly for her children. She worked very hard in the dairy, and everything in the house was always wonderfully clean. Her cooking, in my father's view, was superior to that of any woman on earth.

The blind vicar died in Dec 1875, and was succeeded by a young vicar, the Rev H.K. O'Connor, who had been curate of Weston-super-mare Parish Church.

Vicars of Locking

  • G.N. Law
  • H.K. O'Connor 1876 - 1880
  • W. Clifton-Mogg 1880 - 1887
  • A. B. Sayce 1887 - 1894
  • A.J. Woodforde 1894 - 1909
  • L.F. Jackson 1910 - 1914
  • A.G. Love 1914 -

Names of the farmers in Locking

  • C. Bisdee, Locking Head
  • T. Parsley, afterwards F. G.Day
  • James Salmon
  • Hy Danach
  • Samuel Chaplin
  • John Wylde
  • Wm. Hucker
  • Isaac Barrett
  • Robin Flagg
Clerk. John Cavell

Manor House

  • Mrs Barnes and Miss Dickson
  • Then Mr Lewis
  • Then Mr Harris, an old colonial
  • Then Miss (?) Jimingham and Mrs Johnson
Great changes took place in the services. The black gown was given up, more music was introduced, a lectern was provided and the east end of the church furnished in the approved High Church fashion. The changes did not meet with universal approval, especially the intoning of the services, and some parishioners absented themselves altogether. On the other hand the preaching of the Vicar drew large numbers of people from the surrounding villages, and the church was never so full as during Mr O'Connor's ministry 1876 - 1880. He left in 1880 to take an Indian chaplaincy. the Rev G.H. Law had left £500 towards the building of a vicarage, and £100 for a new organ. The organ was opened Aug 2nd 1877, and at that time I joined the choir. The foundation stone of the new vicarage was laid in 1878(?), but Mr O'Connor left the parish before it was completed, and the Rev W. Cliften-Magg became Vicar in 1880 and remained until 1887.

The family of Job Gould:

  • Maria, Dec 12, 1831 Feb 22, 1895 aged 64
  • Jane April 6, 1833
  • Hannah April 7, 1835 May 16, 1911
  • John Dec 26, 1826 Apl 10, 1911
  • William Aug 4, 1840 1858
  • Elizabeth July 11, 1843 Nov 20, 1918
  • Anne Aug 23, 1845 Feb 11, 1929
  • Joseph March 16, 1848 Feb 4, 1935

My childhood - 1870-80

But I must go back a little in my history. At the age of 5 or 6 I was sent to the village school. The mistress Miss Knibb was a good teacher of Scripture, and I learnt a great deal of Bible History under her tuition. At the age of 9 I was sent to school at Banwell, to Mr H.J. Stockbridge. (Mr Stockbridge carried on his school till he was over 85 years old. He died about 1931.) Another Locking boy went at the same time (John Taylor, died March 29, 1877) and we used to walk together every morning, carrying with us our midday meal.

I was not a very robust boy. I had had pneumonia when a month old, and was throughout my boyhood subject to colds and what my mother called "delicate on the chest." Learning was easy to me, and I was blest with a very retentive memory, and it has been a matter of lifelong regret that I was not sent to a better school. I left school altogether in June 1878 being then only a little over 13 years of age.

  • 1879. Very hot summer. Sheep diseased. Heavy losses.
  • 1880. General Election
  • 1881. Death of Lord Beaconsfield

I read everything I could get hold of, and my father, who read nothing but the local newspaper on Saturdays, never understood my love of books. I got books from the Y.M.C.A Library in Weston. I did not take kindly to the farming life, which was a grief to him, I think; but at the same time, I worked on the farm from the time I left school until I went away from home in 1887. My father allowed me to sell apples from the orchard. I picked them and sold them in Weston. I also had some cattle to graze on his land at Crollum (??). My prospects were very good indeed if I could have reconciled myself to a farmer's life. But God had other plans for me.

As I grew towards manhood, a very strong bond of affection drew my father and me together. He loved to have me as a companion in his walks around the farm and in his drives, and we became real "chums".

My Christian life - 1881-1887

Lord Arthur Hervey, Bishop of Bath and Wells 1869-94I was confirmed in 1881, March 9th, at Worle Parish Church by the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Lord Arthur Harvey. I remember that he addressed the candidates very earnestly and affectionately on the words in Acts xiv.22 [They encouraged the disciples and urged them to remain faithful.]

First Communion at Locking March 13, '81. I became a regular communicant, and I am sure that I desired to live a Christian life, but I craved for something more than I got at Locking Church, and became a frequent and at last a regular worshipper at the Wesleyan Chapel at Banwell. My uncle, Joseph Gould, was converted in some revival services about the year 1882, and this made a great impression upon me. It was a sudden and remarkable conversion. I was at this time much troubled about the doctrine of Election, and also about "sudden conversion." Then about that time I read Haslam's book, "From death unto life", and I began to understand more about the Christian life. I became intensely zealous about the souls of others, and longed to see the gospel preached more clearly to the people of Locking.

In the year 1885 an opportunity arose, and with the co-operation of another young farmer, Wm. Day, I hired an empty cottage, and arranged a weekly service, securing speakers from Weston. I believe that much good was done. At any rate, it brought me out, and I became known as a definite worker for Christ. In October 1886, we kept the first anniversary of the Cottage Meetings, by holding a service in my father's barn. About 70 people were present and the address was given by Mr Lyon, from Weston. I now longed to devote myself entirely to mission work, and the way was opened early in 1887.

It came about in this way. I went to Weston one evening to attend a meeting in connection with the "Week of Prayer" in the first week in January. I bought a copy of "The Christian" and in it I saw an advertisement: "Young men wanted as evangelists etc; apply Church Army." I wrote without saying anything to anyone at home, and had an early reply. After some further correspondence I was asked to go to Cheltenham for a week-end, to take part in Church Army work, and to enable the Captain there to give a report to Headquarters. I went, addressed the Sunday School in the afternoon, and spoke at a meeting in Holy Trinity Mission Room in the evening. I fear the Captain's report was not too favourable, but I learned afterwards that the people at Headquarters had formed a good impression from my letters, so they did not give up the matter, but asked me to go for another Sunday to Bath, to the parish of St. James' where the Rev. P.V. Filbert was Vicar. I took part in several meetings, and on the Monday morning had the pleasure of hearing the Rev. W. Haslam who was holding a mission in Bath Abbey. (Many years later I preached in Bath Abbey.)

I join the Church Army - 1887

At last I heard from London that I was accepted for the work, and I arranged to leave home on April 4th, the Monday in Holy Week. My father had a very poor opinion of the whole thing, and I think he and many others expected that I should soon be coming home again. I well remember the affectionate parting with my mother at the little garden gate. (April 4th 1937. The 50th anniversary of my leaving home. I thought much of it throughout this day, Sunday. The day in 1887 remains in my memory as through it were yesterday.) She had said nothing to discourage me, and I felt that if it was the call of God, all would be well.

On arriving at Paddington I took a cab to the Training House in the Edgware Road, and soon felt at home in the new surroundings. The men in the House were all of a very different class from that in which I had been brought up. Some were ex-salvationists and nonconformists, most of them town bred men, some from the North, some from Wales, some Londoners.

Wilson Carlile, founder of the Church Army Being Holy Week, we attended service every evening at 5.30 at Brunswick Chapel, where the Rev H. Armstrong Hall was incumbent. He was a most eloquent preacher, and the addresses were a great delight to me. The Rev. F.S. Webster was his curate and was also Principal of the Training House. Mr and Mrs Chambers resided at the House, and we saw a good deal of them. Miss Cheshire was a frequent visitor and also Mr Edward Clifford, the artist. The Rev. Wilson Carlile was Chief, and we saw him very frequently.

Mr Webster gave us instruction every morning and afternoon on the preparation of addresses and on Bible, Prayer Book and Church History. In the evenings we were engaged in mission work, usually at the Reeve Mission Hall in Marylebone parish, and in open air work in Hyde Park, and sometimes we were sent in pairs to Paddington or Chelsea, where there were Church Army stations. On Sunday mornings we went to service at Brunswick Chapel at 8 and 11, afternoons to Hyde Park, and evenings to the Mission Hall.

I spent 10 weeks in the House, and was very happy there. I attended the May Meeting of the Church Army, and the Conference in that week. I remember Bishop Thorold (Rochester, afterwards Winchester) visiting the House. I was sitting in the front row during Mr Webster's lecture, and the Bishop took up my slate (we had slates and not paper) and read my notes of an address. He returned it with the words, "That is very intelligent."

On Whit Monday I went to Roxeth near Harrow, where there was a Church Army Demonstration, and we had a good day. I went on another occasion to Richmond to the Rev Evan Hopkins' parish. The Captain of the Training House was John Massie, a man whom I liked very much.

My brother has kept some of the letters which I wrote to my mother, and I insert two written from London. The first is dated April 26th 1887.

My dear Mother,

I suppose you will be looking out for a letter, or else I should not write now. I am writing this in bed. I have had bronchitis. I had a bad cold more than a week ago, but did not take much notice of it. Last Thursday Mrs Chambers thought I had better go to the doctor. I did so and he ordered me to stay in bed, and come to him again on Monday morning. I went yesterday, and he sent me home to go to bed, and here I have been all day yesterday and today. I am not allowed any meat. I get beef tea, rice puddings and bread and butter. I am very happy. I just lie still and think of God's goodness. I shall be all right in a few days - don't worry about me.

I had a letter from Uncle Joe yesterday, and one from G. Criddle today. I hear Mr Russell is coming to Locking this week. I always think of the meetings. I have got some news to tell you - I am made Lieutenant. I am over all the other men. I was pretty surprised, as there are men who have been here much longer than I have. I think I am in favour with the superiors - don't mention this to anybody else.

How is father getting on? Is he quite well and the work getting on all right? You have not told me much news since I have been away. Much obliged to Mr Dunscombe for his offer - shall be very glad to accept it when I come home.

Mrs Chambers came and sat with me half an hour this morning. She is such a nice, motherly woman. She and Mr Chambers gave up £700 a year to come here for £150. God bless them. She told me I should be sent out about the first or second week in June - perhaps before that. The House will be shut up from the middle of June to the 1st of August.

The doctor has just been and says I shall be all right very soon. I have to stay in bed a little longer. I do hope you will feel quite easy about me. I thought I would not tell you anything about it, but I knew you would expect a letter.

God bless you all is the prayer of
Your loving son.

Another letter is dated 'Saturday.' I think it must have been written in the first week in May.

My dear Mother,

I hope you received the hymn book I sent you and also the Gazette.

I should like another Western Mercury if there is any news. We have been very busy this week, and am very tired. As a result of the Conference we have received this week over £900. We had glorious meetings. The Bishop of Rochester (Thorold) took the chair on Thursday. The place was packed.

We are having splendid weather. Hyde Park looks beautiful just now. I have been to see the Albert Memorial this afternoon. This morning I went to a service in the Jews' Synagogue. All the men keep their hats on.

You need not feel at all anxious about my health. I am, I think, as well as ever I was in my life.

I wrote to Willie Day last week, but have not had an answer yet. Who took the meeting this week?

I had a letter from Burrows the other day, also one from Mr Harper. He has a friend who thinks of entering the Church Army, so he wrote to ask me all about it.

I send you two very interesting cuttings from the Gazette. That was a glorious half night of prayer last week, and we have had many answers to prayer since.

The work is spreading very fast. Last week, from Thursday to Sunday we had 12 conversions. It is such a joy to see sinners coming to the Saviour. I feel it is a work that is worth giving one's life to. I am sure I shall never regret giving up all for Christ.

I ask you all to pray for me, and for the Church Army.

Hope you are all well, and with love to all

I remain

Your loving son.

I finally left London on June 12th. On Saturday June 11th I was informed that I had been appointed to Barrow-in-Furness.

My last Sunday in London was a solemn but most happy day. I spoke in Hyde Park in the afternoon. After tea a special service was held in the Training House Chapel, at which I received my "Commission" as Captain from Mr Chambers. Special prayer was offered on my behalf. I conducted the Mission Service in the evening, Mr Chambers being present, and I was told afterwards that I "spoke splendidly." But I had a very humble opinion of myself, and felt very diffident about the task before me. Still, I believe that the 10 weeks in London brought me out of my shell in a wonderful way, and that I developed much in that time.

Barrow-in-Furness 1887-88

After the meeting I had supper, and at midnight left Euston for Barrow, two of the cadets coming in a cab to see me off. I had to change at Leeds, and spent several hours in the waiting room. In the train from Leeds I heard the Yorkshire dialect and could hardly understand what was said. I reached Barrow at 9 o'clock on Monday morning June 13th and the next day wrote a letter which I am glad has been preserved.

1 Beech Street
Cemetery Cottages

My dear Mother

I had to write in such a hurry yesterday that I had not time to tell you much. I was tired yesterday as I was at work all day Sunday, and then travelling all night.

The Captain who has left here has gone to Belfast. Mr Carlile went over there last week, and got an opening there, so he had to get a man at once. Dilworth, an Irishman, was chosen, and I was chosen to fill his place. He was a married man and had a house furnished, and I am taking on the same place. Have got the house all to myself. I got up this morning, lit the fire and got my breakfast. I think I shall be all right. I shall get a woman once a week to clean the place, and I can manage the rest myself. It is a very healthy place, close to the sea. I had my first meeting last night. The Hall holds 120, and it was full. It won't be like that every night; the people came to see the new Captain. We had a very good meeting. The Hall is a part of the house, the bedroom is over it. I have a large bedroom and a nice little sitting room upstairs, and a small kitchen downstairs (all furnished), and all for 2/6 a week. I went to bed very tired and did not awake till 8 o'clock.

I felt it very much leaving the Training House. I am sure I shall never forget that dear old place and all the dear people there. I received my commission on Sunday afternoon, and gave my farewell address at the meeting at night.

My Vicar went away yesterday till Saturday, so I am left almost in charge of the parish. I feel that I want the prayers of all my friends. I want to do my duty, both to God and the Vicar.

I should like to have all your photographs to look at, now I am so far away from you. This is a long way further north than Liverpool. It is not so hot as London, but is a beautiful place for the summer. London was very hot. I shall not be able to come home for some time (it would cost so much).

Dear mother, could you put me down a few pounds of butter and send it by Parcels Post, or if is was too heavy, by rail? I could eat it better than what I might buy here. We had very good butter in London. Capt. Dilworth left some bread, butter, tea, sugar, flour, coal and sticks here. I paid him 1/6 for the lot.

I wrote to Uncle Peale (?) on Saturday morning, and said how glad I should be to see him. I suppose he will call at the Training House, and be surprised to find me gone. I thought I should have seen the Jubilee in London. They are making great preparations.

It seems wonderful when I think of the way the Lord has led me. I almost think sometimes I must be dreaming, and that it can't be true.

I suppose you will be having Sunday meetings at Locking now. You must tell me about it every week, and send me a "Mercury" sometimes. I don't think I have any more to tell you now. So with much love to all

I remain

Your loving son.

On the following Saturday the Vicar, Rev. John Henderson, returned from the Isle of Man, and came down to see me. We walked up to the vicarage together, he holding my arm, and talking to me in the most affectionate manner, as if he had known me for years. He asked me if I had ever thought of taking Holy Orders. I said I certainly had never dreamed of such a thing, and that I knew no Latin or Greek. He replied that that was easily got over, that he saw on Monday morning in the brief interview we had that I was not in my right position, that he had already taken me to his heart, was anxious to help me on, and that I was quite suitable for the ministry. The following letter will explain the matter.

June 20th 1887

My dear mother,

I am glad to tell you I received the butter this afternoon. I had the letter on Saturday, and I had almost begun to think the butter was lost, but was very glad to receive it just in time for tea. It did go well. It had not melted a bit. It was packed well. I also received the paper you sent last week. It went to London after I had left, and they sent it on here, also a letter from C. Louch. I received last Saturday's Mercury today. I don't see anything about the Jubilee at Locking. Are the Days going to take any part in it? There will be bonfires here upon a very high mountain which will show many miles. Of course it is a thing which may not happen again for many hundreds of years.

Dear mother, I have had my prayers answered. All the time I was in London I prayed that I might be sent to a Low Church parish, and I don't think there could be a Lower than this. The Vicar is such a nice, good, earnest man, thoroughly concerted and working for souls. He has taken an interest in me already, and I think he wants to help me to something higher. He even suggested a possibility of my entering the ministry. Of course I should have to study hard for 2 or 3 years, and the £140 (I had £140 in the bank before I left home) would have to go, but I don't know that the Lord is leading me that way. I leave it all with Him. I'm sure He will guide me right.

It is not quite like Church Army work here, very different to the work in London. I have no doubt that the Lord has brought me here, and that I am in just the place He would have me be.

I have not told you about my salary before, because I only knew this morning. I get 19s a week and house rent free, so that I'm not at all badly off. (I was 8 months in Barrow, and on this salary I saved £12 in 8 months (30/- a month)) But I hope for something better in the future.

In the meantime I shall strive to do my duty where I am, and be content where I am as long as God keeps me here.

Please don't tell anybody anything I have told you in this letter.

Tell me full particulars of Jubilee, and any news there may be in the village.

Much love to all

Your affectionate son.

Many, many, thanks for the butter.

(In 1920 I visited Barrow and called on Mrs Williams, who told me she still had the earthenware pan in which my mother sent the butter!)

Training for the Ministry 1888-89

Monday (June 27?)

Dear Father and Mother,

I have a very important question to ask you. Mr Henderson, the Vicar, presents his compliments to you, and says that he is greatly interested in me, and desires to help me on. Nothing will satisfy him but my going in for Holy Orders. Don't laugh! it's quite true. He wrote to the Principal of the Birkenhead College for a Prospectus this morning. He thinks that if I study with him until Easter I shall then be fit to enter the College. I should be there 2 years, and it would cost £200, and I want to ask you if it can be done. Don't let it frighten you. I know it is a lot of money, but I will find £100 myself if you will find the other. I think it can be managed. I am determined to do all I can in study with the help of God, and I believe a bright future lies before me.

It does seem wonderful the way in which the Lord has led me. I am sure He has brought me here. I often think of that night when I bought the "Christian" and saw the advertisement about the Church Army. Just going into that shop, and buying that paper was the means of altering the whole course of my life. Please write back and let me know what you think about it.

Don't think of the money now but think of the distant future (if God should spare me).

The Vicar heard me speak the other night and was very pleased. He said many men in Holy Orders would be glad if they could speak as well. (Don't tell anyone else this) I am not boasting, because I know it is the gift of God. I was with the Vicar all day Sunday. Have been staying with him since Friday, but don't see him much by day, as we are both at our work.
(The reason for my being at the Vicarage was this: the bed at the Mission Room was full of insects (fleas and bugs!) and when I told the Vicar he insisted on my coming to the Vicarage, having the mattress burnt and new ones put in.)

Fancy me some day being "Rev."

Goodbye - W.H.P.

The next letter is dated
July 4th 1887

My dear Father and Mother,

I received the Prospectus from St Aidan's College, Birkenhead this morning, and I find that it will not cost so much as I had expected. I think £160 will be quite sufficient.

The term begins on April 29th. The Entrance Examination Fee is £2.2.0 Term Fee £21.0.0 per term. There are 3 terms in the year, so this would make it about £70 the first year. Then there is bed linen and towels, washing, cap and gown, and books.

Mr Henderson recommends this college in preference to any other, as he went there himself.

I am getting on fairly well with Latin, and am just going to begin Greek. (The date written in my Greek Grammar is July 4. 1887 so that exactly 3 months after leaving home I was beginning my studies for College.)

The Vicar encourages me, and says I am sure to succeed. He has more confidence in me than I have myself, it is so much higher than I had ever hoped to get; but by God's help I now mean to use every honest endeavour to succeed. The Christian ministry is the highest and noblest office that any man can occupy, but, unworthy as I am, I cannot help feeling that God has called me to it, else why am I here? It is not my own seeking, and I suppose I should never have thoughts of such a thing.

How are you getting on with the haymaking? I sent you a newspaper on Saturday. You will see that we are having a very dry time here. Mills are stopping and altogether it is getting very serious.

I went though the iron works the other day. It is very interesting to see the way the pig iron is made. The works never stop, but work night and day, Sundays and all. All the men here work in the iron, steel, and wire works. I like it very well here, especially as I have something definite to work for. I must then close.

With love to all
Your loving son
I hope you never show my letters to anybody.

These are all the letters preserved dealing with this period of my life.

I remained at Barrow 8 months. In July I went to the Keswick Convention, and in October I went to the Church Army Conference at Wolverhampton, in Church Congress Week. As I was so far south, the Vicar suggested that I should go on and see my friends at home. So I had a few days at Locking. In January, 1888, Mr Henderson went to Birkenhead, and while there saw the Principal of St Aidan's who strongly advised my entering the Preparatory Class before beginning the ordinary course. it was too late to make arrangements for spending a whole term in the Preparatory Class, so I arranged to go for a half term, entering in February.

(I revisited Barrow in July 1920, on the way to Keswick. Stayed 3 nights at Duke of Edinburgh Hotel. Saw several old friends, and enjoyed the visit immensely.)

I can never feel sufficiently grateful to Mr Henderson for all his kindness. There are few men to whom I owe more. It is almost certain that but for him I should never have been ordained. He was Vicar of St Paul's, Barrow, which contained the hamlet of Hawcote. He afterwards became Rector of St Pancras, Chichester. He was very popular in Barrow, and was a member of the School Board.

At that time the Vicar of St Mark's, Barrow, was the Rev T.J. Madden, another St Aidan's man, who afterwards became Archdeacon of Liverpool. (He died Dec 1915)

I worked very hard at Latin and Greek during those few months, and I think made very good progress, considering that I previously knew not a word of either.

I entered St Aidan's in Feb 1888. In the Preparatory Class there were I think 8 of us: Chaplin, Worden, Fraser, Pitt, Howarth, Beswick, Moore, myself. The Principal was Dr Wm Saumary Smith, afterwards Archbishop of Sydney, a man whom we all revered. The Vice-Principal was the Rev J.T. Kingsmill B.D. T.C.D. and the Tutor the Rev H.W.B. Crozier, M.A., T.C.D.

I spent two very happy years at College, and succeeded in getting the first place in each terminal examination, and gaining prizes for Bible, Prayer Book, Greek Testament, Divinity, Preaching, English Composition. My brother has preserved 3 letters written by me towards the end of my college course.

Negotiating a first curacy - 1889-90

St Aidan's Coll.
Nov 1, 1889.

My dear mother,

News, news, lots of news.

I have been offered a curacy!!
This morning I had a letter from a clergyman in Birmingham asking me if I would like to come there. He had heard of me through Mr Webster, formerly of the Church Army.

He has a parish of 6,000 inhabitants, in the very centre of the town, has a large church, well-attended, and a mission church holding 300 or 400 people. And he has asked me to come and see himself and the parish. I have written to say that I should be pleased to see him at the end of this term, as I am on my way home.

Since commencing to write this letter I have received another one from Mr Webster (F.S. Webster was killed by a motor omnibus in London, Jan 2, 1920.) in which he tells me that the vicar in question is a very good man, and a hard worker, and that he has a full church of working and middle class people. He also says that he will be very pleased to get me near him, as the parish adjoins his own.

18 Yew Tree Road
Nov 18 1889

My dear Mr Watton

I am very glad to have the opportunity of expressing my high appreciation of the true godliness of Mr W.H. Parsons and his general fitness for the work of the ministry. I had the responsibility of directing his studies over two years ago and was struck by his remarkable insight into Scripture truth and his power of presenting it to others in a clear and forcible manner. At the same time he displayed much Christian courage, true zeal and a beautiful humility under peculiarly difficult circumstances.

I am delighted to find that he has gained distinctions at St Aidan's and am confident that he will prove a most able and truly spiritual help meet for you in the ministry.

Yours very sincerely,

F.S. Webster.

18 Yew Tree Road
Oct 31 1889

My dear Parsons

I am glad to say I have met with a first rate opening for you as curate. The Rev T. Watton of St Jude's B'ham is as good a Vicar as could be had, he is thoroughly evangelical a very hard worker and has a full church of working and middle class people. He wants a man at Xmas but I believe will wait for you till Trinity.

His parish adjoins mine so it will be very nice to have you there. Mr Watton is the local secretary of the Church Pastoral Aid and of the Church Defence Societies and is one of the most beloved clergy in B'ham. He is going to write to you I believe tonight.

Yours very sincerely

F.S. Webster.

Mr Watton (for that is his name) wants a man at Christmas, but is willing to wait for me till Trinity. The whole thing seems like the working of Providence. I am very excited tonight, and cannot do any work.

More news.

I am going to Barrow tomorrow to stay till Monday. On Sunday night Mr Henderson is going to read prayers in the Mission Room, and I am to preach. They have printed bills to that effect. I had such a kind letter from Johnson who is now the secretary of the Mission Room committee. He is so glad to know that I am going to pay them a visit, and it was he who had the bills printed. He expects a crowded house on Sunday night.

Mr Henderson was here on Wednesday. I am going to stay at the Vicarage, and shall talk over the Birmingham affair with him.

And now I want to ask you all to pray about it. It seems like a direct call from God. I have not sought it for myself, but it has been offered me, and I want to feel in all that I undertake that I am being guided aright. And now farewell. I hope to be able to tell you more in a few days.

With fond love to

I remain, my dear mother,
Your affectionate son.

St Aidan's Coll.
Nov. 6th 1889

My dear mother,

Please thank Joe for his letter and say that I shall not be able to write to him at present as I am very busy.

well, I went to Barrow on Sunday, and I may say that I never enjoyed a visit so much in all my life. Mr Henderson made me feel quite at home, and I had a very hearty welcome from everyone, rich and poor alike. We had 130 people at the service on Sunday night. Mr Henderson read prayers and I preached. He wore his surplice and I wore my college gown. I talked over the curacy business with him. He advised me not to be in a hurry to accept anything. It would not do for me to go to Barrow as a curate, but he said that if he left Barrow and took another living and wanted a curate, nobody else should have me.

Altogether I had a most enjoyable time.

I may tell you that it is probable that there will be a lady come to take up residence at the Vicarage as Mrs Henderson before very long. He told me this in confidence, though nothing is actually settled yet.

Now about the Birmingham matter. I have heard from the Vicar in question again, and he is anxious for an interview at once, so I am going down to Birmingham next week. I feel sure that it is a very good opening, and so the Principal thinks. The stipend he offers is very good, and from all I can gather with regard to the Vicar and the parish I think it is just such a place as I would like. I do not want you to spread this news just yet, because it may all end in nothing. However I am going to see him on Thursday next week, and after that I will let you know the result of the interview.

For myself I hope that I shall get the curacy. I am sure you will remember me at the Throne of Grace next week. Pray that I may have wisdom and discretion given me to act aright in the matter. So much depends on my first curacy. Miss Jimingham sent me a very nice present of two volumes last week. I have also just got the books I ordered with the Prize money. I am getting quite a good library.

And now I must close. The time is going very rapidly, and in a few weeks I shall (D.V.) be home again.

With fond love to all etc.

St Aidan's Coll.
Nov. 25. 89.

My dear Mother,

I have more important news.

I have written to the Bishop of Worcester about my ordination, and he has consented to allow me to sit for his examination at Lent, so that if I pass then, I shall be ordained 3 months sooner than I expected. He has also engaged to take me without the Cambridge Examination. The fellows here tell me that I must have been born with a silver spoon.

The reason that I am going up for ordination sooner is that the Vicar at Birmingham is losing his present curate at Xmas and wants to get help before Trinity. Of course he could have got plenty of men at once, but Mr Webster so strongly recommended me that he is willing to wait for me. However, he prevailed upon the Bishop to ordain me at Lent. It is a very great relief to escape the terrible Cambridge Exam. I shall have to work almost night and day now for the Bishop's Exam; so I hope that when I come home I shall be able to have quiet, and plenty of time to myself.

I shall probably come back and stay a fortnight with Dodge. I should do more work that way, I mean just before the beginning of next term. We have finished lectures this term, and the exams begin next week. The Principal has gone today to see the Archbishop of Canterbury (Benson) about the Sydney Bishopric. It is not yet decided about his going to Australia. It is a great worry to him being kept so long in suspense. Hoping you are all well, and with fond love to all,

I remain

Your affectionate son.

Nov 21 1889

My Dear Sir
I am willing to admit you as a candidate for Holy Orders next Lent, on the nomination of Mr Watton, without the certificate of having passed the Cambridge Preliminary Examination.
Yours faithfully
H Worcester
Mr W. H. Parsons

The following is from a portion of a letter, undated but evidently written soon after ordination.

I shall not be able to come home for a while; perhaps I may run down for a day or two at Easter, but the Vicar is very busy and there is so much to be done, that I don't like to say anything about leaving the parish so soon.

I am sorry to say that Dodge lost his mother last week. I did not see him to say 'Good bye' before I left Birkenhead.

The Principal wants me to go up for the class list at the end of term. He always gives a lunch to the seniors at the end of their last term and they make speeches etc.

I think there is yet another prize in store for me. The Tutor told me one night that the Principal had told him I was the best preacher among the seniors, so I conclude that the sermon prize is to be awarded to "Parsons." We had to preach 2 sermons this term from the pulpit. We also had practice in reading, and I was one of 5 selected by the Principal for the final test. So if I do not get the Reading Prize I shall at least get honourably mentioned. I can't tell you how hard it was to leave St Aidan's, and to say "Good bye" to all the fellows. We had a prayer meeting in my room the day before I left. There were 14 present and they all prayed very earnestly for me. It was so encouraging to know that one had so many personal friends who took such a deep interest in one's welfare.

Rabone came to the station to see me off. It has been a happy time, and now it is all over. Now a great work lies before me.

I am ordained to serve in Birmingham - 1890

At Worcester I slept in Canon Creighton's house (afterwards Bishop of London), He was away, but I had a latchkey. On the Sunday I had lunch at Dean Goth(?) and supper with Canon and Mrs Melville, most delightful people.

Ground plan of St Jude's, Birmingham (1849-1951) near the Bull Ring I was ordained in Worcester Cathedral by the Bishop of Worcester, Dr. Philpot on Sunday, March 2nd 1890. Ordained at the same time W. Welchman, later Archdeacon of Bristol, T.W. Longfield, T.S. Lawrence, W.C. Richardson. The ordination sermon was preached by T.G. Watton. On the following Sunday evening I preached my first sermon in St. Jude's Church, Birmingham from the text I Corinthians: I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified.

I have tried to make this the motto of my ministry and though conscious of many failures, I thank God that He has used me to be a blessing to many.

You can read about William's time at St Jude's, Birmingham, here.

I am writing this (Sept. 7, 1911) in the house in which I was born, and looking back over the years that are past I can only say that I am filled with wonder at the providential guidance of God through every step of life's journey, and to Him I give glory and praise.

Sept. 1918

I have just returned to Tunbridge Wells from a month's holiday in Somerset. I had the locum tenency at Chilcompton, and while there, cycled over the Mendip country, and to Frome, Bridgwater, Locking etc. The following lines are on "Somerset" (The Little Guide) Wade.

"Fair winds, free way, for youth the rover;
We all must share the curse of Cain;
But bring me back when youth is over
To the old crooked shire again.

Aye, bring me back in life's declining
To the one home that's home for me,
Where in the west the sunset shining
Goes down into the Severn sea."

The story is continued in the Recollections of Evelyn, the daughter of his first Vicar, whom he married August 11th 1896. Evelyn begins her story on their wedding day.

William added some notes in the back of the notebook in which he wrote Reminiscences.

  • 1865-1887 Locking; age 22
  • 1888-1890 College; age 23-25
  • 1890-1897 Birmingham; age 25-32
  • 1897-1905 London; age 32-40
  • 1905-1908 Swanage; age 40-43
  • 1908-1925 Tunbridge Wells; age 43-60
  • 1925-1934 Tiverton; age 60
  • 1934 Resigned; age 69 3/4

22 years in the old house.
Nearly 22 years wandering
Settled at St John's 17 years
at St George's 9 years.
Weston. Oct 10, 1934: 27 Quantock Road
April 2nd 1937: 12 Clarence Grove Road.

  • 1891
    Tirebuck married June 17
  • 1892
    Watton left
    I went to St Martin's
    [list of names]
  • 1893
    Norway. Liverpool. ?London
  • 1894
    Carlsbad, Cologne, ?, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, ?
  • 1895
    ?, ?, Lucerne, ?, Grindelwald, Bern
  • 1896
    Married, August 11
    Tirebuck died, October 22
  • 1897
    Jan 1. My father died.
    Hatcham offered. Stayed with Davies.
    Kennedy, Wilson, ?, Tiarks, Nibbs.
    Browning, Trayman, Lesley, ? Butcher
    Cycle rides. Hayes Common. Chislehurst
    C.H.M.U. May Meetings
    Salisbury Square. Bible House. ?
    Bow Church. St. Mildred's
    Victor born May 22
    Debating Soc. Pleasant Monday Evenings
    > G. Watton at St. John
    Grundy. Pring.
  • 1898
    Winnie born
    Holiday in Ilfracombe
  • 1899
    Boscombe. Locking.
    Interview with Trustees December
  • 1900
    St Matthias offered, Jan
    Instituted February 22
    [list of names]
    Stanley born August 11
    Margate. Herne Bay. Richard's Castle.
  • 1901
    Queen died
  • 1902
    Lowestoft. Coronation
  • 1903
    Howard born February 21
    Parish Room scheme
    Swanage holiday
  • 1905
    Swanage offered
    Instituted at Salisbury August 11
  • 1906
    Watton family at Swanage
  • 1907
    Martin born
    Preached at Harvest, St John's Tunbridge Wells
  • 1908
    Tunbridge Wells
    Parish Magazine gives all important details of following years.
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