History of High Beach Church, Part 1

The First High Beach Church  1836 – 1885             Fifty years of St Paul’s

Subscription List ….1834

From ancient times, High Beach was part of the Manor of Sewardstone in the parish of Waltham Holy Cross, one of the many monastic properties which passed into private ownership after the dissolution in 1540 of the Abbey of Waltham.

In 1833, Captain Charles Sotheby RN, who had recently finished thirty years active service at sea, succeeded his father as Lord of the Manor, which his family had owned since 1674, and took possession of the Sewardstone Manor House at Highbeech Green.

William IV was on the throne, Wellington had turned politician, Mr Gladstone had begun his long parliamentary career, the Epping New Road was being constructed through the forest to bypass the hilly main road through Loughton and England had been at peace since the defeat of Napoleon.  The exiled ex-Emperor Napoleon had died on the island of St Helena, and the English admiral who escorted him there was now living at Wallsgove House on “Highbeech Green”.  Vice-Admiral the Rt Hon. Sir George Cockburn GCB PC MP had started his naval career as a midshipman in 1786;  he had been one of Nelson’s captains, and after thirty years at sea, had become a Member of Parliament and one of the Lords of the Admiralty.

Living nearby at the Manor House was another naval officer, Captain Charles Sotheby who had been a midshipman in one of Nelson’s ships at the Battle of the Nile in 1798;  his last job at sea was to clear the Mediterranean of pirates in 1827.  Succeeding his father in 1833 as Lord of the Manor of Sewardstone, which his family had owned since 1674, he adopted a plan first suggested by Sir William Wake, Lord of the Manor of Waltham, to build a chapel in the out-lying parts of the Abbey parish.

With the Admiral’s support, Sotheby started a subscription list for a building fund.  He gave £200.00 himself and twelve members of his family contributed £342.  Sir George, Lady Cockburn and Miss Augusta followed with £100.00.  The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London (in whose diocese Essex then was) gave £50.00 each.  Many local people subscribed – Dr and Mrs Allen, the Arabins, Mr Collingridge and MrWalford, the Rev Mr Capper, the abbey curate, Miss Banbury of Warlies, the Newell Connops of Honeylands, Col George Palmer of Nazeing Park and Mr Colvin of Holyfield, Hatch Abdy of Chigwell Hall and Brice Pearce of Woodford.  The Board of Ordnance, which managed the Royal Gunpowder Factory in Waltham, gave £20.00 and Mr Fox and Mr Kirby 2/6 each (15p).

Archdeacon Hamilton, Rector of Loughton, a kinsman of Captain Sotheby’s first wife, and several of his relations, subscribed generously as did the Maitlands of Loughton Hall, General Grosvenor of The Warren, a Waterloo veteran, and several other parishioners.  The Rector’s son, W K Hamilton (a vicar in Oxford and later Bishop of Salisbury) gave £100.00 and others of the Hamilton family contributed.

Many of the subscribers were London friends of the Captain’s father, William Sotheby – poet and scholar – including Hallam and Palgrave (distinguished historians), Sir Coutts Trotter (a Cambridge don),Joanna Baillie the Scottish poetess, Lady Davy (widow of the scientist Sir Humphry Davy), and Lady Noel Byron (widow of the famous poet).  Lord Carrington and the Marquess of Northampton, politicians, Lord Teignmouth (former Governor-General of India) and the Rev Christopher Wordsworth – nephew of another well known poet and Head Master of Harrow School where the Captain’s son, Charles William Hamilton Sotheby was a pupil, seventeen other clergymen, three judges and several MPs also contributed.  Sir William Wake pledged £10.00 a year towards the minister’s stipend, trusting his heirs to do the same (which they did, until 1909).  At the final count, 205 donations totalling £2,273.00 were lodged with Coutts, Bankers in the Strand.

St Paul’s Chapel …..   1836

While the subscriptions were still coming in, a site for the chapel had been agreed – a piece of land on the edge of the Forest known as Blencow’s Green, about half-way between Wallsgrove House and Lippitts Hill, part of the “waste” or common land of the Manor, which Captain Sotheby conveyed by deed poll to the Church Building Commissioners.

A certificate was signed by four respectable house-holders that there were three hundred people living over two miles from the Abbey Church and within one mile of the new site.  Compensation for loss of pasturage rights was paid to the Abbey Churchwardens.  A meeting of subscribers appointed four trustees – Admiral Cockburn, Captain Sotheby, Newell Connop, and the Rev Thomas Hans Sotheby  (Vicar of North Mimms, cousin and brother in law to Charles Sotheby who was later to marry the Archdeacon’s daughter).

Notice of the proposal to build a chapel was sent to the incumbent of Waltham Abbey, the Revd W M Whalley, who had been non-resident for years and now lived in Swerford, Oxfordshire, and to the three patrons of the benefice, a lady in Tunbridge Wells, a gentleman in Ireland and Mrs Whalley of Swerford, requiring them to waive their duty of providing a church for the parishioners of Sewardstone.

Mr Hubert, a Lambeth architect, was commissioned to draw up plans for the chapel, and John Woodward, a builder also of Lambeth, was given the contract.

Early in 1836 the building work began, and Captain Sotheby and his London lawyer engaged in lengthy negotiations with the Commissioners, the Treasury and the Bishop of London.  The chapel was authorised under an Act of Parliament “to promote the building of additional churches in populous parishes”, the Bishop agreeing to hold the patronage – the right to appoint the minister.

By October the builders had finished and the lawyer and the Bishop’s secretary decided that the chapel should be called “St Paul’s,Waltham”, and began to make arrangements for the consecration.

Coutts the bankers were instructed to invest, on behalf of the trustees, £1,000.00 in 3% Government stock as endowment for the benefice, and a further £65.00 for a repairs fund.  It was agreed that the chapel should have 250 sittings, 150 to be “free” for the use of the poorer parishioners, and the rest to be “rented” by the gentry and farmers.  Pew rents, after putting £2.5.6d (£1.285) annually into the repairs funds, were to be used to pay the clerk, beadles and pew-openers, any surplus to go to the minister’s stipend.  The deed of endowment was drafted, discussed, amended and finally engrossed on parchment, and signed and sealed by the four trustees in time for the consecration of “St Paul’s Chapel in the parish of Waltham Holy Cross” on Tuesday the 20th December 1836 by the Rt Hon and Rt Rev Charles James Blomfield, Lord Bishop of London, who also preached the sermon.  An enthusiastic promoter of church building, Bishop Blomfield had just launched his Metropolis Churches Fund, and over two hundred new churches were built in his diocese (which included Hertfordshire and Essex) during his twenty-eight years in London.  He was the first bishop to discard the ceremonial Episcopal wig.

Appointed by the Bishop in time to take part in the consecration service was the Revd William Watson MA, aged twenty-six and single, a graduate of St John’s College, Cambridge, ordained deacon in 1834 and priest a year later by the Bishop of Oxford.  He had spent two years as curate of Cottisford in Oxfordshire, a village only twelve miles from Swerford, where the incumbent of Waltham Abbey was living.  Mr Watson’s first services were on the following Sunday which was Christmas Day, and early in January 1837, he was present at a meeting at Admiral Cockburn’s houses to appoint the first churchwardens;  Richard Arabin nominated and appointed by Mr Watson, and Captain Sotheby by the inhabitants.  George Hunt, the village Schoolmaster was appointed Parish Clerk.  No parsonage house had yet been provided in High Beach but Mr Watson’s home was in the pleasantly rural village of Stoke Newington, a coach ride to Waltham Cross or a twelve mile ride on horseback to High Beach.

Stipend and Parsonage …. 1837

The New Year came with St Paul’s completed, furnished and consecrated, but without a minister – and an appointment was hardly likely until a parsonage was provided and a sufficient stipend guaranteed.  Some services were held, however, as the first chapel-wardens (Captain Sotheby and Richard Arabin) were in office, and George Hunt (the village Schoolmaster) had been appointed parish clerk for the princely sum of £1.00 per annum.  So far, the only certain income for the minister was £34.00 divided from the investment, the £10.00 from Sir William Wake, some part of the pew rents, and the odd fee – little more than £50.00.  On the advice of the Bishop, the trustees applied to Queen Anne’s Bounty – a fund to augment poor livings set up in 1704 from Crown Revenues – and were granted £36.00;  Sotheby added £10.00 which brought the income to about £100.00 a year.

St Paul’s, having an endowment, was regarded as a “perpetual curacy” – a benefice without tithes.  These were a tenth part of the annual produce of a parish allotted to the parish priest since Saxon times, and commuted by the Tithe Act of 1836 to an annual rent-charge, which was often as much again as the stipend.

There were no tithes for St Paul’s as Waltham was also a perpetual curacy, because part of the parish had been tithe-free monastic land and the rest, with the tithes, had passed into lay ownership after the dissolution of the Abbey in 1540.  These tithes, valued at £1,400 a year, were now shared by the Lords of the manors of Waltham and Sewardstone, Wake and Sotheby, while the incumbent of the Abbey Church had a stipend of £187.00 (Waltham was a “donative curacy” in the gift of lay patrons and exempt from Archdeacon’s jurisdiction).

Other perpetual curacies nearby were St John’s Chapel, Epping with £120.00 and Theydon Bois where the Lady of the manor took all the tithes leaving the minister with £64.00 which had to be augmented by Queen Anne’s Bounty.  Perpetual curates were the lowest order of the beneficed clergy, but readers of Trollope’s “Barchester” novels will not be surprised to know that some local parsons were very comfortably off.  The Rectors of Chingford with £595, Theydon Garnon with £700.00 and Woodford with £788, also had tithes and glebe and the Archdeacon at Loughton enjoyed £500.0 plus tithes, a large rectory “recently much improved and handsome pleasure grounds” with forty-two acres of glebe in addition to other sources of clerical income.  He paid his curate £100.00 a year when many curates had to make do on £50.00 or less.  Glebe Land belonging to the benefice was another profitable perquisite, being rented to neighbouring farmers if not farmed by the parson himself.

A parsonage house for St Paul’s was provided by Miss Maria Sotheby, the Captain’s eldest sister, who gave a pair of weather-boarded cottages on a quarter-acre plot adjoining Wallsgrove boundary.  Repairs, costing £19.6.0d (£19.30p)  were hastily started;  the rooms were small with no fire-places upstairs;  the privy was in the ditch at the back of the garden under the Admiral’s hedge.  The only description of the parsonage is one given by Mr Norton, written in 1891 when he was still living there.  “It originally consisted of two cottages occupied in the good old days by the village schoolmistress and habitable for a single man but wholly unfit for a married man with a family.  Our six children occupy three bedrooms, the dimensions of which are 12’ x 7 ½’ x 6 ¾’, 10 ¼’ x 6 ½’ x 6 ¾ ‘ and 10 ¼’ x 8 ½’ x 6 ¾’.  There is no fireplace in any of the rooms and even in the coldest weather, we are compelled to leave the doors wide open that there may be some kind of ventilation.  Later the deeds of the property were taken by the Bounty Office as security for a loan of £180.00 to make the cottages habitable for a bachelor clergyman.

First Incumbent …  1837

It was not until the 21st April that Mr  William Watson was instituted to the new benefice and he had to wait until 1st June to receive his first half-yearly payment from the endowment.  No doubt the Easter offering had been welcome!

Early in May 1837, the news came from London that the King’s failing health was causing concern and on the 11th, the Bishop signed the document which assigned part of the Waltham Abbey parish as the ecclesiastical  district or chapelry of St Paul’s and he sent the licence for marriages to be performed.  On the 21st May, the worshippers at Morning Service were honoured by the presence of the Dean of York, the Very Rev William Cockburn DD, the Admiral’s brother, who preached a charity sermon in aid of the parish school.

One of the Rev. Watson’s first duties was to copy out the Description of the District from the Deed of Assignment and to mark the boundaries on a tracing of the Waltham parish map.  He took charge of the three ancient alms-houses at Lippitts Lane End, built by Bishop Hall in 1608 when he was Curate of Waltham, and of the small Church School which dated from 1818.

The Rev. Watson “read himself in” with the 39 Articles on Sunday the 4th June when he also conducted the first baptism making the entry in the new Register of Baptisms in the Chapelry of Saint Paul, Waltham:  “Ruth, daughter of Eliza and William Cordel, labourer of High Beech”.

Three days later, he privately baptised John, son of Farmer Hampton of Sewardstonebury;  on the 11th Mary Ann, daughter of George Chatten, gentleman’s servant of High Beach and on the 18th , Charles Terry – whose father was a labourer of Lippitts Hill.

One of the new minister’s first visits was to Waltham Abbey, where the resident curate – the Revd J L Capper – produced the Bishop’s Deed of Assignment from which Mr Watson copied out the Description of the district and marked the boundaries on a tracing of the large scale parish map.  Mr Capper handed over the supervision of the three ancient almshouses at Lippits Lane end, given in 1608 by Bishop Hall when he was curate of Waltham, and of the small Church School, which had been started in High Beach in 1818 and now had about twenty-four pupils as well as being used for Sunday School.  It was almost entirely supported by voluntary contributions, hence the annual charity sermons appealing for funds.

King William IV died in the early hours of the 20th June, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chamberlain went to Kensington Palace at 5.00 am to tell the young Princess Victoria that she was now Queen of England.  The Bishop of London and Admiral Cockburn were among the privy councillors gathered at the Palace later the same morning for the swearing in of the new monarch.

During the next six months, the Rev Watson christened ten more infants, including in July the daughter of his neighbours, Dr and Mrs Allen, and in September, Frederick Edward, son of Charles Sotheby and his second wife, Mary Anne.  His elder son, Charles William Hamilton Sotheby, was now a senior scholar at Harrow School.

It seems that High Beach parents had been “saving up” their baptisms until the minister arrived, no doubt because of the discomfort of travelling to and from the Abbey Church, through the narrow rutted lands, deep in mud during wet weather.  Funerals still had to make the weary journey as there was no burial ground at St Paul’s.

On the 20th August, the Ven A G Spencer DD, Archdeacon of Bermuda, preached in the morning and on the 12th November, the Revd. Thomas Stanton MA, perpetual curate of Buckhurst Hill, which was then still in the parish of Chigwell, came over to preach in the afternoon – an exchange of pulpits, giving Mr Watson the chance to admire the new St John’s, built at the same time as St Paul’s.

Poets and Parsons … 1837

In July 1837, the poet John Clare came to High Beech as a patient in Dr Matthew Allen’s Asylum.  Allen was an enlightened pioneer in the treatment of mental illness, and since 1825 his asylum had occupied three houses near St Paul’s – Fairmead House, Lippits Hill Lodge and Springfield House.  Reliable inmates like Clare could roam at will in the forest.  Clare wrote:-

“How beautiful this hill of fern swells on
So beautiful the Chapel peeps between
The hornbeams, with its simple bell;  alone
I wander here, hid in a palace green.

I love to see the Beech Hill mounting high
The brook without a bridge and nearly dry ..
There’s Bucket’s Hill, a place of furze and clouds,
which evening in a golden blaze enshrouds.”

About the same time, Alfred Tennyson, the future Poet Laureate, came to live at Beech Hill Park.  He and his mother were “seat-holders” at St Paul’s.  The sound of the Abbey bells in the distance is said to have inspired his “Ring Out, Wild Bells”.

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
ring, happy bells, across the snow;
the year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.”

Tennyson visited the Asylum and was reported as being “delighted with the mad people .. the most agreeable and the most reasonable persons he has met with”.  He was “greatly taken” with Dr Allen, but not enthusiastic about his other neighbours.  “Large set dinners”, he wrote, “with stores of venison and champagne, are very good things of their kind, but one wants something more;  and Mrs Arabin seems to me the only person about who speaks and acts as an honest and true nature dictates”.  The venison and champagne dinners must have been at the Manor House, Captain Sotheby as Lord of the Manor having an entitlement of Forest deer.

A lady who, as a child had lived nearby, wrote:

“I have a kindly remembrance of Lord Tennyson, knowing him when a schoolgirl;  he was then Mr Alfred, with dark brown hair, living with his mother.  The house stood in a small park belonging to Mr Arabin, who had his home in the vicinity.  The park adjoined some fields belonging to my father, Mr Thomas Meeking.  Being such near neighbours, Mrs Tennyson and my mother became acquainted.  The former used to drive in a Bath-chair drawn by a Shetland pony led sometimes by Mr Alfred.  He always had a kindly word for us children.  When in the Forest, we frequently came across him, walking with his hands behind him under his coat, or sometimes with a book, seated on a tree that he been felled.  It was a great loss to us when the Tennysons left the neighbourhood.  The house was then pulled down and a large red brick one built in its place by Mr Richard Arabin.”  (Richard Arabin, whose home, Arabin House, was “in the vicinity” was William St J Arabin, Serjeant-at-law, one of the Forest Verderers, and owner also of the Woodredon estate.)

Tennyson’s son remembered that “there was a pond in the park on which in winter my father might be seen skating, sailing about on the ice in his long blue cloak.  He liked the nearness of London, whither he resorted to see his friends, but he could not stay in town even for a night, his mother being in such a nervous state that he did not like to leave her.  ‘The light of London flaring like a dreary dawn’ was an especial admiration of his during the evening journeys between London and High Beech.”

In 1839 the poet wrote:  “I have been at this place all the year, with nothing but that muddy pond in prospect and those two little sharp-barking dogs”, but in London he was happier.  Thomas Carlyle, the famous philosopher, described Tennyson and Matthew Allen “discovered smoking in the garden.  A fine, large featured, dim-eyes, bronze coloured, shaggy-headed man is Alfred;  dusty, smoky, free and easy, a most restful, brotherly, solid-hearted man.  Allen looked considerably older;  speculative, hopeful, earnest-frothy”.

The Tennysons left High Beach in 1840 on medical advice.  “So much to do”, Alfred wrote, “and so much to feel in parting from the house.  Such a scene of sobbing and weeping was there among the servants at Beech Hill, and the cottagers’ daughters all joining the chorus.”  As far as we know, Tennyson never returned to High Beach, but his friendship with Doctor Allen continued, a story to which we will return later.

Fabric, goods and ornaments …  1838

St Paul’s was a neat brick and tile building with stone facings and bell-cote, a porch on the south side and a vestry on the north.  The west end faced the road, where there was a gate in the tarred fence.  A typical “preaching-house” of its time, the most prominent piece of furniture being the wooden pulpit with carpeted stairs, dwarfing the communion table.

Under the white ceiling, the walls were colour-washed.  There was no form of lighting except for candles on the pulpit and heating was provided by a coal stove.  Box-pews for the gentry, the seats covered with coloured baize, and benches either side for the free seats, were sufficient for 250 people to sit down.

The pulpit and the reading desk below had tasselled cushions, footstools and hassocks, and a Bible and Prayer Book of largest folio size.  The communion table, standing on a carpet under the east window and covered with a red velvet cloth, had kneeling stools round the communion rails and on the wall behind was a Ten Commandments board.  The font was near the door and other painted boards showed the royal arms of William IV and the Table of Consanguinity, beginning with the solemn warning that “A Man might not marry his Grandmother”.

In the vestry, which had a fireplace with fender and fire-irons, drugget on the floor and a curtain over the window, were a table and two chairs, a washstand with jug, basin and soap dish, a decanter and glass, an ink-stand, the alma-box and four wands used at the Consecration.  On the walls were a looking glass, a framed plan of the chapel, and a row of pegs on which hung two surplices and a black gown.

The register chest, a heavy iron box in which the parish documents were stored, had been kept in the vestry too, until Rev Watson had it moved to the Parsonage – a horse and cart job for two strong men.

Publick Worship … 1837

Sunday morning service began at 11.00 o’clock.  Cottagers and their families waited outside, doffing hats and curtseying as the gentry came in their carriages and traps or on horseback, and took their seats in the pews.  Then the village people went in to their places on the benches, and last of all the Lord of the Manor arrived with his family party and led the way up to the front pew.

The bell stopped ringing and the Minister, wearing a long flowing surplice over his black clerical coat, took his place at the reading desk.  He began the service of Morning Prayer, reading, as directed in the Prayer Book, “with a loud voice”, and continued as far as the second lesson, after which it was the time for baptisms.  He then finished Morning Prayer, went on with the Litany and the Communion Services as far as the Creed.   While the congregation, led by the Parish Clerk, sang a metrical psalm, the Minister retired to the vestry to change his surplice for the black preaching gown, and climbed up to the pulpit for the sermon, which was considered the most important part of Sunday worship.  Forty or so minutes later, having finished his “lastly”, he escorted the Lord of the Manor to the door, followed by the gentry, and then the villagers at a respectful distance.

On the monthly Sacrament Sunday, the communion table was spread with a “fair linen white cloth” on which the chalice and paten were placed;  the Minister resumed his surplice after the sermon and, standing at the “North-side of the Table”, went on with the rest of the Communion Service;  the communicants “went up” in order of precedence, led by the Lord of the Manor.

There was hardly time to get home for a hasty meal before returning at 3 o’clock for Evening Prayer and another sermon.  Except during the darkest months, the Minister, after the second lesson, was expected “diligently and openly” to instruct and examine the children in some part of the Catechism.

Getting Established … 1838

Early in 1838, the Revd. Septimus Pope, Curate of Loughton preached at St Paul’s, and Archdeacon Hamilton himself came on the 22nd April to preach the charity sermon for the schools.  Other visiting clergymen who came regularly were the Admiral’s nephew,  G. A. Cockburn (Vicar of Pocklington, Yorkshire) and A P Saunders (Head Master of Charterhouse School), Clerkenwell, who was engaged to marry Miss Emma, daughter of William Walford of Beaulieu who in 1838 was elected chapel-warden in place of Richard Arabin.

On the 1st June, the legal documents conveying the house and thirty-eight perches of land to the benefice as a free gift by Miss Sotheby were completed and signed.  The deeds, and a plan of the property were then handed over to Queen Anne’s Bounty as security for a loan for improvements;  “the Incumbent” Mr Norton wrote later “borrowed £180.00 on mortgage to make the cottages habitable for a single man”.  The Bounty also augmented the minister’s stipend by £36.00  per annum.

On the 8th July 1838, Rev Watson published his first banns “between Charles Rodgers bachelor and Eliza Herbert spinster, both of this parish” whom he joined in matrimony on Sunday the 26th August.  The first wedding at St Paul’s had been on Saturday the 18th.  As there was a parson in the Walford family, Rev Watson did not officiate but he made the entry in the new Marriage Register:  “Augustus Page Saunders of full age, bachelor, Clerk of Charter House, London and Emma Frances Walford, of full age, spinster of High Beech, by Licence”, the Officiating Minister signed “Oliver Walford”.  He was the Second Master of Charterhouse School.

During the year there were eight baptisms and two more weddings at St Paul’s, for which the minister received fees at the same rate as those authorised at the Abbey Church, one shilling for a christening and for calling banns and 5/6d for a wedding.

The School .. 1839

Mr Watson now turned his attention to the village school, which was in fact a “National” school – one of a group of schools in the parish of Waltham supported by a parochial committee under the auspices of “the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church throughout England and Wales” which was founded in 1811.  This society, and the smaller and  non-denominational “British and Foreign Schools Society” were the only organisations then tackling the problem of elementary education on a national scale.

In 1818, there was a school in Waltham town (the Lady Chapel of the Abbey Church was used as a school-room), two small schools in Upshire, two more in Sewardstone, and the one in High Beach.  the parish schools committee had to raise about £100.00 a year for their upkeep.  In 1833 there were twenty-four children attending the High Beach School, the National Society by then having over 13,000 schools attended by 409,000 children.

In that year, the Government started to make building grants to help the two societies, on condition that the schools were made open to inspection, and by 1839, six hundred and ninety-two new National and one hundred and sixty British schools had been built.

The National Society regarded the parish clergyman as their local representative, and the parish school as his school, with a teacher working under his supervision, he himself giving the religious and moral instruction, based on the Church Catechism.

Mr Watson was therefore responsible for the running of the village school and for collecting subscriptions to maintain it.  George Hunt, a shoemaker by trade, was “parish school master” and the school was probably held in some sort of outhouse attached to his cottage in Mott Street.  It was high time that a proper schoolroom was provided, closer to both chapel and parsonage.

Captain Sotheby again released a piece of Forest land, 33 years by 22 yards, adjoining the north side of the Dairy Farm, and almost opposite the parsonage.  A trust deed, securing the site permanently for “the education of poor children” and designating the incumbent and churchwardens as trustees, was signed on the 11th September 1839.

Mr Watson applied to the National Society for aid towards building a new school, and received a Treasury grant of £36.00 and a further £7.00 on completion a year later;  the balance of the total cost (about £150.00) had to be covered by donations.

Country schools were built by village bricklayers and carpenters by rule of thumb and to no particular plan, except that a barn was considered to be a good model.  The new school was probably a brick and tile building like the chapel, one large brick-floored room with latticed windows high up the walls so that the children could not look out, a porch fitted with rows of pegs for hats and coats, a gravelled space in front and a couple of privies at the back.  Inside were the teacher’s desk and benches for the children, blackboard and easel, a few books and wall-maps, writing slates, and two necessary deterrents, a cane and a dunce’s cap.

Some of the older children earned a few coppers a week as monitors, drilling the others in their lessons.  The income of the school was about £50.00 a year, from the local subscriptions, church collections, and the weekly fees of a penny or two per child, known as “school pence”.  Children from the poorest families had their school pence paid by the local church people living in the large houses in the neighbourhood;  others were put to work at an early age and did not attend school – education was not yet compulsory.

Sermons and Wedding Bells  ..  1839

The Sotheby-Hamilton connection had begun with the Captain’s marriage to the Hon. Jane Hamilton.  After her death, he married his cousin Mary Anne, daughter of his uncle, Admiral Thomas Sotheby.  The connection was strengthened when the Revd. Thomas Han Sotheby, Mary Anne’s brother, married Jane Catherine Hamilton, the Archdeacon’s daughter.  The ceremony, at Loughton on the 27th December 1838, was performed by the bride’s brother, the Revd. Walter Kerr Hamilton.

A feature of William Watson’s time at St Paul’s is the surprising number of visiting preachers.  The regular charity sermons continued with the Ven G Robinson – late Archdeacon of Madras for the SPG – and the Rev T H Sotheby, for the schools and in 1840 the Rev G K Morell for the schools and the Rev R Davies, secretary for the CMS, for his society;  in 1841 the CMS secretary again, and the Rev R B Heathcote, Rector of Chingford for the schools.

The four parsons who had relatives in High Beach, Saunders and Walford, Sotheby and Cockburn, were regular preachers and the Loughton curate, H R C Cobden, S Pope, R K Morell and C Tower, came occasionally, as did curates from nearby parishes, S. Compertz from Lambourne, T.  Stanton from Buckhurst Hill and J. L.  Capper from Waltham Abbey.

Other visiting preachers, all in 1839, were the Bishop of Nova Scotia, the Revd. J. M. Heath of Cambridge, T Clarke from Oakwood, Surrey, G Heathcote from Connington, Huntingdonshire and brother of the Rector of Chingford, and Tennyson’s brother Charles, Vicar of Grasby, Lincolnshire where Alfred owned a small estate.

Mr Watson vacated his pulpit to visiting preachers at 23 services in 1838, 35 in 1839, 17 in 1840 and 12 in 1841.  If he was away from High Beach on some of these occasions, we can assume in the light of a happy event in 1839,  that he spent a good deal of time in Loughton, improving his acquaintance with a certain lady who lived there.

On Monday the 1st October 1839, the bells of the ancient parish church of St Nicholas, Loughton, rang for the wedding of William Watson and Eliza Lane, daughter of well-to-do Loughton residents.  Their honeymoon lasted a month, the curate of Oakwood taking the duties at High Beach for three weeks and the Rev G Kidd Morell, curate of Loughton, for the fourth.   Morell was a Fellow of St John’s, Cambridge, Watson’s own college.

It seems the new Mrs Watson was not prepared to move into the cottage-parsonage, and the happy pair set up house on York Hill,  Loughton, where they remained for the whole of their married life.  Watson’s pastoral care of the people of St Paul’s continued for two years longer, the wardens for 1839 and 1840 being Dr Allen and William Kettlewell,  and 1841 being Captain Sotheby and Dr Allen.

The Incumbent’s last entry in his List of Preachers at St Paul’s is for the 26th September 1841 when the Rector of Chingford preached at both services and Rev Watson’s last baptism was on the 29th November.  He resigned the living after five years at High Beach, during which time he had conducted 45 baptisms, and 8 weddings.  The burials, being at Waltham Abbey, were not recorded at St Paul’s.

In 1842 Mr Watson was curate-in-charge at St John’s,  Buckhurst Hill, and he later became curate of Loughton and for some years also Morning Preacher at St Paul’s Woodford Bridge.  He died in 1869 at Loughton, where his gravestone in St John’s churchyard carries the inscription:  “Erected by those who remember with gratitude his labours amongst them”.

Second Incumbent ..  1842

The Bishop of London appointed the Rev Henry Eley MA to St Paul’s soon after William Watson’s departure.  Eley was a Londoner aged 42 who had been at Peterhouse, Cambridge and ordained by the Bishop in 1831.  Since 1838 he had been Vicar of Coggeshall in Essex, a small ancient town with a large medieval church, recently restored, with a good organ.  The stipend was £230.00 a year plus tithes and a good vicarage and sixteen acres of glebe and a large new National School.

Eley was author of several published books, including “The Geology of the Garden” and why he left a good living for the meagre emoluments of St Paul’s is not known.  His first recorded service in High Beach was on Sunday the 13th February when he published banns.

The following month sad news came from Loughton.  The Revd. T. H. Sotheby had brought his wife back to her old home at the Rectory for the birth of their child.  A boy was born on the 23rd February and christened Walter Edward Hamilton but Mrs Sotheby died on the 6th March, mourned by all who knew her.

The people gathered at St Paul’s for morning service on the 26th February 1843 to find no less than five christening parties waiting round the font for the reading of the second lesson to finish, when Mr Eley proceeded to baptise three girls and two boys.  His last three baptisms were all in one week – one at the morning service on the 19th March, a second “privately” on the 21st and a third in the Chapel on the 23rd.  In his short stay of only thirteen months at St Paul’s, he conducted four marriages and eleven baptisms.  Eley left High Beach at the end of March as the Bishop had presented him to the vicarage of  Broomfield near Chelmsford, where the stipend was £161.00 with an extra £194.00 in tithe rents, and he stayed there until 1861 when he retired and went to live in Brighton.

Third Incumbent … 1843

The Rev. Samuel Pryer Field MA was appointed by the Bishop to “The District Church of St Paul’s High Beech in the Parish of Waltham Holy Cross” – it was no longer a “chapel”.  He was another Londoner, aged twenty-six and son of an official of the Royal Mint, educated at St Paul’s Cathedral School and Pembroke College, Cambridge.  Ordained deacon in 1839 and priest in 1841 by the Bishop of London, he had been Perpetual Curate of Emsworth, Hampshire.

Field arrived at St Paul’s at the beginning of May 1843 and his first Sunday morning service took place on the 7th May, the first Sunday of each month being Sacrament Sunday, and included Holy Communion.  There were also Communions at Easter, Whitsun and Christmas.

“The Church-wardens, or other fit person appointed for the purpose, shall receive the Alms for the Poor, and after Divine Service ended, the money given at the Offertory shall be disposed of to such pious and charitable uses as the Minister and Churchy-wardens shall think fit”.  So says the Book of Common Prayer, and the Communion Alms were kept separate from the other collections, and used for the benefit of the poor parishioners.

In a new account book, neatly bound in white leather and inscribed in black ink on the cover “St Paul’s High Beech”,  Mr Field kept a careful record of the communion alms, starting with the collection  on the 7th May of £2.3.4d (£2.17p), and two sums handed over by Mr Hanson, one of the wardens – the Easter Day (April 16th) alms of £2.8.6d and the previous Incumbent’s balance of £8.6.6d.  Mr Field’s first payment was to Mr Hubbard, the other warden, 3/6d (17.5p) for Easter Charities, and then he began the regular does to old people in need.  Typical entries are:-

Mrs Hale 1/-
Mrs Kirby 2/6d
Mrs Cordell 5/-
Widow Hills 2/6d
Old Williams 2/6d
Various small sums to the poor 5/-

Very soon after Mr Field’s arrival in High Beach, the people of the village were shocked to learn that Dr Matthew Allen of the Asylum, former chapel-warden and a resident since 1825, had become bankrupt.  Some years before, the doctor had embarked on a “philanthropic undertaking” designed to occupy his patients profitably.  He became very enthusiastic about a scheme for wood carving by machinery, and he persuaded his friend Alfred Tennyson to invest all his money, including the proceeds of the sale of his property at Grasby, in “The Patent Decorative Carving and Sculpture Company”.  At first, all went well, with the prospect of producing carved oak furniture at low cost and selling to an interested public.  By 1843, however, the business had failed, leaving the doctor bankrupt, and the poet penniless.  The latter fell into such a state of depression that he had to take a lengthy hydropathic treatment at Cheltenham and he recovered only slowly.  The unfortunate Allen died in 1845, and as his life had been insured for part of the debt, Tennyson was able to recover some of his unwise investment.

The Asylum continued under Mrs Allen, who lived at Fairmead House with the women patients.  At Lippits Hill Lodge, an attendant supervised the men and a Dr Forrest came to take charge of the more difficult cases at Springfield House.

Meanwhile, Mr Field continued to record in his Alms Book the receipts of the offertories (which came to an average of about £40.00 a year) and noting how the money was used in “pious and charitable” ways including weekly doles to the alms-house widows and other poor parishioners.  There was coal at 3/6d (17.5p) a sack, loaves at 9d (3p) each, blankets at 5/5d (27.5p), a 1 ¾ cwt sack of rice “to be sold to poor at reduced rate” for £2.3.9d (£2.17p), buns for the children on Good Friday 3/- (15p), payment for nursing a sick widow 3/- (15p), faggots “delivered at the houses of some of the poor” £1.1.0d (£1.05p).  Occasionally Mr Field made his charitable payments on the spot -  “the communion alms distributed after the Lord’s Supper” and “alms given to poor at time”.

The Rev Samuel Field often made explanatory notes in the Alms Book .. “Sir G Cockburn, balance of £3.00 he gave me for Mrs Back.  Her husband having recovered, he wished me to give her £1.00 which I did on Wednesday and to devote the balance to the charities of the place”

“Mr Davis “gave me £5.00 to dispose of in the Christmas Charities which I did in the following manner – Benevolent Society £2.2.0d, bread £1.10.0d, Offertory Christmas Day £1.00, balance credited 25th December 8/- (40p)” .  The following year, “Mr Davis brought me again £5.00”.

“Mrs Withers brought me £7.6.3d.  School subscription, Bread, Benevolent, Schooling of Children.”  The last was a common custom – the gentry of the parish paying the school pence for the poorest families who could not afford the weekly 2d per child).

To correct an omission, “January 31st.  From my private account which ought to have been entered according to dates:  14th F Williams 2s, 15th Mrs Freshwater 2s, 19th, Mrs Sawer 1s.”

In the Baptism Register, “nos. 57-108 inclusive were transcribed on the proper vellum forms and delivered to the Archdeacon’s Apparitor at Brentwood.”

“The entries in Pages 8 and 9 were made by me.  Saml. F. Field, for the purpose of recording the dates of the children’s births in order to facilitate the searching of the Register at any time.

                                                                                                     Saml. P Field
Parsonage                                                                                     Incumbent
High Beech                                                                                  July 10th 1846”

In 1845, only nine years after the church was built, Rev Field noted that he had to take a High Beach baptism at St John’s Buckhurst Hill, “High Beech Church being under repair”.  He recorded several “private baptisms” – those sad occasions when the newborn child was not expected to live, and a clergyman was hurriedly called to the house.  Mr Capper, the Abbey curate, took one in Mott Street – the baby was “base born” and the father’s employment was “in a baggage warehouse in Boulogne”.  The Rector of Chingford, Mr Heathcote, was called to another in Sewardstonebury.  Rev Field took others in Rats Lane and “Lippetts Hill”.

If a child who had been privately baptised did survive, the parents brought it to church later to be “received” and “certified” to the congregation, in accordance with the Prayer Book Order of “Private Baptism of Children in Houses”.

On one occasion, Mr Field went to baptise Isaiah, the son of an “itinerant Tin Man” and his wife, of Harrow, who were living in the Forest.  Some years before, Rev Eley had baptised their daughter Naomi, the father then being described as a peg-maker.  They were perhaps gypsies on their travels.

Under Mr Field’s supervision, the school was flourishing.  Schoolmaster Hunt’s methods were now outdated, and Mr Field applied in 1844 to the National Society for a place in their new Westminster Training Institution for Miss Mary Ann Burrell, daughter of the village grocer and postmaster, and formerly in domestic service.  She was admitted in January 1845, and until she had completed her course, the Society sent one of their “organising masters” to High Beach.

Two years later, when there were twenty boys and twenty girls attending school daily and on Sundays, grants of £16.00 from the government and £5.00 from the Society were paid to the school.  Miss Burrell’s salary as a trained teacher was £34.00 per annum and the cost of maintaining the school was £51.00, raised by Mr Field from subscriptions in addition to the children’s “school pence”.

St Paul’s National School, High Beech, Essex

The following extracts from the Reports and correspondence of the School Inspectors appointed by the Crown, as also by the Ruri-decanal Chapter, have been printed for the information of those who have evinced an interest in the welfare of the School.

Her majesty’s Inspector visited the school on the 14th March 1845 and reports thus:-

     “This school is well supplied with apparatus;  the instruction is very good.
      The children read History of England;  write well on paper and slates; work
      higher rules in arithmetic, and receive good religious instruction.”

The Ruri-decanal Inspectors, the Venerable the Archdeacon Hamilton and the Revd. T. T. Storks, Curate of Loughton, visited the High Beech School on the 26th August 1845, and have recorded their opinion of the School as follows:-

     “A favourable report may be confidently made in general terms of this school.
      Amongst the children were some remarkable for their intelligence.”

On the 7th July 1846, the Ruri-decanal Inspectors, the Rev. Thomas Shelford, Rector of Lambourne and the Revd. Thomas Hubbard, Rector of Stondon Massey inspected the School  and their report read:

     “That 15 children read well, and have advanced beyond the four rules of compound 
      arithmetic;  10 have some knowledge of geography and the History of England.
      The religious instruction of the elder children is highly creditable.”

On the 18th November 1847, the Ruri-decanal Inspector, the Revd. William Hood, Vicar of Nasing, visited the School and gives the following opinion of its state and condition:-

     “The subdued tone and quiet discipline of this School are among the first particulars

        that strike the notice of the Inspector;  the acquaintance of the first class with

        religious knowledge generally, but more particularly with the Church Catechism

        and sacred geography, is deserving of especial commendations, and shows the

        importance of a school-room being well provided with maps, and of the

        proceedings of the School being frequently overlooked by some one who is

        possessed of such authority and information as may guide the Teacher and

        influence the children.  The progress of the lower classes appears to be not less

        attended to than that of the upper.”


On the 30th November 1847, Her Majesty’s Inspector visited the School, and in a letter of recent date, he writes thus:-

       “I am most happy to state that your school is in a most satisfactory condition,

         both as regards the moral and religious instruction, and the general proficiency

         of the children.  There can be no doubt that constant pains have been taken,

         and that both the Teacher and the Managers of the School have endeavoured to

         do their duty – and have succeeded.”


From the above, it is thought that the Subscribers, by whose kindness the School is supported, will be pleased to find that their liberality, upon the testament of competent and disinterested witnesses, is producing a real, and it is to be hoped, lasting benefit to the place, by imparting to the rising generation a right bias and tone of feeling, such instruction of a secular character as the present exigencies of society demand, together with habits of cleanliness, decorum and Christian-like demeanour.”  (Copy of a printed circular – the final paragraph no doubt written by the Revd. S. P Field).


In 1846, under the reforms of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the whole of Essex, with the exception of Chingford and eight parishes in the Barking Deanery, was transferred to the Diocese of Rochester, and the parishes of Chigwell, which still included Buckhurst Hill, Loughton, Epping Upland (including the town), Nazeing, Waltham Abbey and High Beach, now formed the Deanery of Barking in the new diocese – with the Rector of Loughton, Archdeacon Hamilton, as Rural Dean.


The Archdeacon

The Venerable Anthony Hamilton MA had known Loughton since his boyhood – his grandfather being Alexander Hamilton of Debden Hall. His father was Rector of Orsett and Archdeacon of Colchester, and also Vicar of St Martin’s-in-the-Fields and Rector of Hadham in Hertfordshire.  His mother was the daughter of a Bishop of London.


Educated at Harrow School and at St John’s College, Cambridge and ordained in 1801, he became his father’s curate at Hadham, and in 1805 was presented to the rectory of Loughton by the Lady of the Manor, Miss Anne Whitaker, “a very formal lady and reconned very rich, living in good style” at Loughton Hall.


In 1807 he married the daughter of the Physician to the Prince Regent, their children being Walter Kerr, who became a bishop, Edward, who lived mostly abroad and Jane Catherine, who married Thomas Hans Sotheby.


Well-known in influential circles, the Rector became also Prebendary of Wells in 1810, Rector of St Mary-le-Bow in 1920, Archdeacon of Taunton in 1827, and Precentor and Canon of Lichfield in 1831.  He was a Chaplain-In Ordinary to the King, Librarian and Parish Clerk of St Martin’s-in-the-Fields, a magistrate, a Governor of Chigwell School, an Inspector of National Schools, and a Rural Dean.


Although often away on his other duties, he was much respected in Loughton for his benevolence and “high Christian character”.  He was a “high and dry” churchman, loyal to the Church “as by law established and genuinely concerned for the spiritual and temporal welfare of his parishioners.  His National School was “well attended and well-disciplined”, but he viewed with disfavour the activities of the “dissenting minister” and the British School at the other end of the parish.


The parish church of St Nicholas was a typical small Essex Church dating from the 12th century, a mile down a winding lane from the main road, along which were the villagers’ cottages and the houses of the well-to-do parishioners.  The population had grown from 681 in 1801 to 1,333 in 1841, and “the pews were so full in the morning with the gentry that the working-people could only find room in the afternoon”.


So the Archdeacon started a subscription list for a new church, among the donors being Captain Sotheby and members of his family, and the Revd William and Mrs Watson.  The subscriptions totalled over £3,500.00.  A loan on the security of the church rate produced £1,000.00 and the Archdeacon contributed £1,134.00.  The church of St John the Baptist was built on a hilltop site overlooking the scattered village at a cost of £5,850.00, a further £182.00 being collected at the consecration by the Bishop of London in November 1846.  In the chancel is a stained-glass window in memory of Thomas Hans Sotheby and his wife Jane Catherine, a reminder of the links between Loughton and High Beach.


Parson’s progress - 1848

In October 1848, Mr Field began to record in the Alms Book,  the number of communicants at each service.   On the 1st there were thirty-eight and the alms amounted to £5.0.6d (£5.025).  The average for the next twelve months was twenty-five.  He now held Communion services on Ascension Day and Trinity Sunday as well as at other Festivals, and from time to time, on Saints’ Days as well.


By 1850, he had been incumbent of St Paul’s for seven years, but his financial position had not improved – he still received the £70.00 stipend without tithe or glebe benefits, and the £10.00 each from Sir William Wake and Charles Sotheby (now Rear-Admiral), with the fees and part of the pew rents, barely brought his income up to £100.00 a year.


The 1848 edition of White’s Directory of Essex rather unkindly exposed the situation to inquisitive readers:-


“St Paul’s is a small, mean structure. The benefice is a perpetual curacy of small and uncertain amount”.  It is not surprising, therefore, that Mr Field was contemplating a move.


Whether he sent his resignation to the Bishop of London, who had appointed him, or to the Bishop of Rochester, who was not his Diocesan, is not known but in July 1850, Admirals Sotheby and Cockburn started a complicated correspondence with the Bishop of London, pointing out that the Deed of Patronage of 1836 stated that “the right of nominating a minister to St Paul’s shall for ever thereafter be , remain and continue in the Lord Bishop of the Diocese of London for the time being.”  However, the Bishop’s legal adviser, after studying all the relevant documents, ruled that the patronage had been transferred, with the parish, to Rochester.


Mr Field’s entries in the Registers show that the occupations of bridegrooms, fathers of wedding couples and of children baptised, living in High Beach were:

a gentleman, a yeoman, a merchant and a farmer, 7 gardeners, 4 shoemakers, 2 shopkeepers, 2 policemen, 2 carpenters, a bricklayer, a blacksmith, an ostler, a gamekeeper and a silk weaver; 4 domestic servants and 39 labourers.


The Marriage Register also shows that there was widespread illiteracy in the parish.  Thirteen of the first twenty-five marriages at St Paul’s (1839-1849) were weddings in labouring families, and out of fifty-two people who signed as married couples and witnesses, thirty-one did so with a cross (“John Smith X his mark”) as they could not even write their names.


Local addresses include Mott Street, Forest Side, Clay Hill, Rats Lane, Pyners Green, Lippitts (or Leopard’s) Hill, Sewardstone bury and Green, and Church Street.


There were fourteen marriages during Mr Field’s incumbency, all of which he conducted himself.  It is interesting to note that two were on Sundays, four on Mondays, one on a Tuesday, four on Thursdays, one on a Friday and two on Saturdays.  Out of a total of sixty-eight baptisms, he performed fifty-seven.


On the 7th July 1850, Rev Field gave 15s (75p) to poor communicants in addition to the weekly doles, and on the 25th “12s (60p) to the poor at Church on St James’ Day”.   He then totalled the figures with a balance of £6.14.3 ½ d for the attention of his successor, and he left High Beach at the end of the month when he moved to the rectory of Boulge with Debach near Woodbridge in Suffolk.  In 1862 Field became Vicar of Dewsbury, Yorkshire, moving again in 1867 to be Vicar of Sawbridgeworth, where he died in 1878.  His long and varied ministry covered nearly forty years , for seven of which he left in the Alms Book, a fascinating record of his pastoral care of his parishioners in High Beach.


Fourth Incumbent …. 1850

In the event, the next incumbent must have been appointed by the Bishop of Rochester, as he arrived in High Beach within a week of Mr Field’s departure, whilst the correspondence with the Bishop of London was still continuing.


The Rev. Henry Francis Mallet MA of Balliol College, Oxford, arrived as the new Incumbent of St Paul’s at the beginning of August 1850.  Aged twenty-nine, he was the son of a gentleman of St Pancras and had been the Curate of Hardmondsworth with West Drayton in Middlesex.


Mallet continued the weekly doles to the almshouse widows and other deserving poor parishioners and was very generous with other charities.


                                                                                                £     s   d

Flannel for poor person                                                                7   4

2 pair sheets and other clothing for Bag

Harknett Junior (case of distress)                                           1    0   0

Mrs Cornell, shoes etc crippled child                                          5  0

Mrs Pigram for daughter                                                             10 0

Benjm Ellis, shoes                                                                        7  6

Ellis (Mrs in confinement)                                                           5  0

Wine 8s, meat 3s for poor                                                            11 0

Burrell for calico for poor                                                            6 0

Expenses of Ellen Andrews to hospital                                       15 0

Towards funeral of Ellen Andrews                                             15 0

Harknett junior (wife again confined)                                         5  0


Mr Mallet took two weddings and six baptisms in his first ten months, and then for 1st June and 8th (Whitsun) he noted “Offertory alms collected by Revd. H Beattie”.  On the 3rd June, the Revd. William Streatfield, Vicar and Rural Dean of East Ham, conducted the wedding of Major George Hogarth of Newport Monmouthshire and Ellen Vardon Dawson, daughter of Mr Thomas Dawson, merchant of High Beach, and until the end of September, the Sunday services and six baptisms were taken by the Revd. W. R. Brown.


Mr Mallet returned to duty on the 5th October when he recorded an outstanding payment, “Nurse for Mrs Burgess in May, 9s (45p)”, but on the 9th, Mr Watson came over from Loughton to conduct two weddings, one of the bridegrooms being George Hunt, the Parish Clerk’s son.


In September 1851, Archdeacon Hamilton died at the age of 73, having been Rector of Loughton for forty-six years.  The parishioners had hoped that his son, Walter Kerr Hamilton, now Canon of Salisbury, would accept the living, but unlike his father and grandfather, he disapproved of pluralities, and the rural delights at Loughton could not tempt him from the cathedral close.  The Revd. Thomas Trundle Storks, the Archdeacon’s curate since 1843, became Rector, and Canon Hamilton was consecrated Bishop of Salisbury three years later.


It soon became clear that Mr Mallet would not stay at High Beach much longer, and the two Admirals wrote to the Bishop of Rochester about the patronage of St Paul’s;  it seems that they were still insisting that the Bishop of London was legally the patron and should appoint the next minister.


Henry Mallet left High Beach in 1852, his last payment being to the “widows in advance to 7th June”.  He found that he had been too liberal with his charities as he had overspent the alms money by 2/7d (26p).  He noted that Mrs Kendal gave him 1/6d (7.5p) and he put in 1/1d (5.5p) himself.  He held no other benefice and died about ten years later.


Fifth Incumbent  ….1852

The new incumbent, appointed by the Bishop of Rochester, was the Rev Louis Alexander Beck MA who arrived in time for Sacrament Sunday on the 4th July.  A Warwickshire man aged thirty-eight of Jesus College Cambridge, he had been since 1847 curate of Great Ilford, (one of the Essex parishes which had remained in the London Diocese) and for the last year, Perpetual Curate of St James, Upper Clapton as well.


The communion alms on his first Sunday amounted only to 18/7d (95.5p) but improved in August with £2.6.0d (£2.30p) in the alms box so that he could continue the customary doles to the poor.  Then he pencilled across the page in the Alms Book, a dramatic note:

 “Church under repair – no communion from August to Christmas Day”.


Miss Maria Sotheby, the Admiral’s sister, who had given the two cottages which became the Parsonage, died in 1852, and by her will, made in 1847 when the school was flourishing under Mr Field’s care, left £200.00 for “the Charity School connected with St Paul’s Chapel, High Beach”.  The Incumbent and the two Churchwardens, Charles Sotheby and James Dawson, as trustees, invested the money as “The Sotheby Bequest for religious instruction in the High Beech School” and the investment brought in (as it still does) about £5.00 per annum.


The following year, the village lost another well-respected resident by the death of Admiral Sotheby, Lord of the Manor for twenty-one years, the man whose enthusiasm had inspired the building and development of St Paul’s.  The obituary notice in the Gentleman’s Magazine reveals the interesting story of his naval career.

“January 20th, in Lowndes Square, London,

     Charles Sotheby, Esq.  Rear-Admiral of the Red.

He was the eldest son of William Sotheby Esq FRS> of Fairmead Lodge, Essex.  Born in 1772, he entered the Royal Naval Academy in 1795, and embarked in 1798 as a first-class volunteer on board the Alexander 74,.  Captain A J Ball, attached to the force in the Mediterranean, in which he was present as a midshipman at the Battle of the Nile, at the capture of Le Genereux 74 and Ville de Marseilles store-ship, at the blockade and surrender of Malta, and on shore as aide-de-camp to Captain Ball, at the siege of the Castle of St Elmo.   He removed on the 12th December 1800 into the Foudroyant 100, the flagship of Lord Keith, in which he took an active part in 1801 in the operations in Egypt.  On the 21st October 1801, he was nominated acting Lieutenant of the Penelope 26, and having been confirmed by a commission dated 25th January 1802, he continued in that ship in the Mediterranean and North Sea, until transferred in 1803 to the Princess Royal 98, the flagship in the channel.


On the 25th April 1807, he was appointed to the Thetis 38 in which he took part in a variety of operations against the Turks;  on the 18th October 1808 to the Trident 74 as a Flag-Lieutenant to Rear-Admiral St A J Ball; and in March 1809 to the acting command of the Pilot 18 which on her return from the Mediterranean formed one of the advance squadron in the expedition to the Scheldt.  He was confirmed in the rank of Commander on the 8th January 1810 and on the 6th July following was appointed to the Latona 38 employed off Lisbon, until the end of February 1812, when he was promoted to post rank.


On the 24th August 1814, he was appointed to the Slaney 20 lying in the Medway, and on the 1st October to the Tamar 24, in which he served on the Halifax, South American and Cape of Good Hope stations until March 1816.  On the 18th May 1824 he was appointed to the Seringapatam 46 fitting out for the Mediterranean where during a stay of more than three years, he was very active in the suppression of piracy, and on one occasion in May 1825, by his spirited conduct forced the Bay of Rhodes to acknowledge an insult which had been offered to the British Consul.  He obtained flag-rank on the 20th March 1848.


Admiral Sotheby married first, 15th February 1819, the Hon. Jane Hamilton, third daughter of William, 7th Lord Belhaven and Stenton;  and secondly, 18th November 1830, Mary Anne, daughter of the late Admiral Thomas Sotheby by Lady Mary Anne Bourke, daughter of Joseph Deane, 3rd Earl of Mayo.”


Charles William Hamilton Sotheby, his son by his first marriage, succeeded him as Lord of the Manor.


The Rev. L A  Beck’s records are not so detailed as his predecessors’.  In the Alms Book, he noted only the names and amounts of the weekly charities.  When he reached the last page, in 1855, of the book which Rev Field had started in 1843, he wrote “carried on in another book” but unfortunately this has not survived.


Rev Beck however did start a new book – for the minutes of Vestry meetings.  The District Churches Act  of 1856 provided district churches to claim parish status, although the incumbents remained perpetual curates, and Rev Beck marked the change by heading the pages of the registers “The new Parish of St Paul, High Beech”.  An annual Easter Vestry meeting now had to be held, all ratepayers, whether “church” or “chapel” , being entitled to attend, primarily to vote in the election of churchwardens.  In December 1856, Rev Beck called a special Vestry meeting “at the National School Room” to consider steps for raising funds for church repairs (the original repairs fund must have been exhausted by the work done in 1845 and 1852) – but no decision was reached.  The wardens in office were recorded as T C Hoseason whose son, a Commander RN, had married the late Admiral Cockburn’s daughter, and John Hyde of Honey Lane Green Farm, who was to be churchwarden for the next twenty years.


The first Easter Vestry was held “after notice given in the Vestry of St Paul’s Highbeech on Tuesday 6th April at 12 o’clock in the forenoon”.  Mr Beck, in the chair, nominated Mr Hyde as his warden and Mr George Boss was proposed as Parish Warden, both being duly elected.  Then the Incumbent re-appointed George Hunt as Parish Clerk with a salary of £6.10s (£6.50p);  this was the son of the original clerk who had retired in 1851.  The 1858 meeting was delayed until July as St Paul’s was again under repair.  The wardens were re-elected, and after a discussion about raising money for the repairs, “it was determined to call upon the parishioners for their voluntary contributions”.


In 1859 Messrs. Hyde and Wm S Lupton were elected churchwardens, and George Hunt re-appointed “for the ensuing year at the same salary as before”.  The same appointments were made i9n 1860 and 1861 but in 1862 “the meeting was adjourned as only one Churchwarden was present” and the entry for 1863 is “no Vestry”.


Meanwhile at the school which Mr Field had left in such good order, “standards were declining” in 1852, and the Government Inspector reported in 1859 that “the children know next to nothing”.  Both Miss Burrell and her successor, Miss Sophia Crump, daughter of a local gardener, had married – the latter to Miss Burrell’s brother, the village “letter carrier” – and by 1864 a Miss Day was the mistress.


 Mr Beck recorded twenty-six marriages and 150 baptisms in thirteen years, his final entry being for the 9th February 1865.  (Only six of the weddings and twelve of the christenings were taken by other clergymen, of whom Rev Watson was the most frequent – his last visit was in 1861).


A brief obituary notice in the Gentleman’s Magazine completes this part of our history.  “Clergy deceased:  March 2nd 1865, in Stafford Street, Edinburgh, the Rev. Louis Alexander Beck MA, aged fifty, incumbent of High Beech, Essex.”  He left a widow, and a small daughter whom he had baptised in St Paul’s Church on Christmas Day 1857.


Sixth Incumbent …. 1865

In 1836, when St Paul’s was built, the coaches were in their heyday, providing local services to London from Waltham Cross and Loughton, while the long-distance mail-coaches from Newmarket and beyond used the Epping New Road, completed in 1834.  Thirty years later, the railways, which had reached Waltham Cross in 1842 and Loughton in 1856, had rapidly developed, so that the journey to town (apart from the ride to and from the station at the speed of a horse) took little longer than it does today.


When the news of Mr Beck’s sudden death in Scotland on the 2nd March 1865, reached the Bishop at his Palace at Danbury, he offered the vacant living to the Rev J Norton, vicar of a small remote Hampshire parish.  Mr Norton accepted without hesitation.  He settled his parish affairs, and arrived in High Beach in time to take the Sunday services on the 26th March – hardly  giving the unfortunate Mrs Beck time to move her possessions.  All this was done in little more than three weeks, thanks to the new-fangled railways and the greatly improved postal facilities.


It is not easy to see why he decided to accept the appointment.  A church needing constant repair, a neglected school of ill-taught children, an inconvenient and no doubt dilapidated parsonage, income of £100.00 a year, would surely have discouraged most clergymen seeking preferment.


In 1860, out of 12,000 livings in England and Wales, 5,000 with stipends of less than £200.00 were considered “inadequate”.  Mr Crawley’s plight as the Perpetual Curate of Hogglestock in the Diocese of Barchester, with a wife and three children to support on £130.00 a year, was described in 1867 by Anthony Trollope:


“.. three pounds of meat a day at 0d a pound, will cost over £40.00 a year, bread for such a family at 9d a loaf must cost at least £25.00.  Clothes for five persons, of whom one at any rate must wear the raiment of a gentleman, can hardly be found for less than £10.00 a year a head.  Then there remains £15.00 for tea, sugar, beer, wages, education, amusements and the like.  In such circumstances, a gentleman can hardy pay much for the renewal of his furniture.


The Rev Josiah Norton MA, the new incumbent of St Paul’s,  was a married man in his thirties.  Born in Newington, South London, son of a lace draper, he was Scholar and Exhibitioner of St John’s College, Cambridge, then curate of St Mary’s, Southampton, and in 1856, Vicar of South Baddesley near Lymington where a new church was built in 1858, perhaps a reason for his appointment to High Beach.  Many years later, he wrote:  “Acting on the suggestion of Bishop Wigram when he presented me to the living, I obtained permission from Bishop Claughton, Bishop Wigram’s successor, to build a new church on a more suitable site.”


The parsonage was the same house contrived in 1837 from Miss Sotheby’s two weather-boarded for roomed cottages – “wholly unfit for a married man with a family”  as Mr Norton described it.  Making their home even more cramped as time went on, the Nortons’ six children were all born within ten years, Reginald George in 1866, Horace William in 1868, Gertrude May (Lily) in 1871, Florence Elma (Queenie) in 1872, Bertrand Josiah in 1874 and Eustace Gerald in 1876..


Mr Norton baptised two infants on the 26th March 1865, his first Sunday in High Beach, and on the 6th April, he took the chair at his first Vestry meeting, when Messrs Hyde and Holman were re-elected as churchwardens.  The latter was replaced by Mr Croskey at a special meeting held later in the year.


The new Incumbent spent a great deal of time in the Village School, clearly accepting the dictum of the National Society that the parish clergyman was held responsible for the welfare of the parish school.  He reported to the Education Department that children were often absent because of illness caused by the dampness of the school building.  Although it stood well up the hill, it was sited in a hollow, and as Mr Norton wrote, “often after heavy rains, the School is flooded, and the children cannot attend on account of the damp, muddy state of the floor and walls”.


By now, the Education Department had gained firm control, and an annual grant was made provided the inspection was satisfactory and the teacher qualified.


On the 6th January 1866, Miss Louisa M Liddiard, a “certificated teacher of the 4th class”, took up her duties, starting a daily record of school activities and progress in the new Log Book.  She soon “made a rule to keep every child in one hour to learn a lesson who were in school after 9 o’clock”.  Mr Norton read prayers every morning, and then took the first class for Scripture and Catechism.  Every Friday he examined all the children in their lessons, at first finding the writing indifferent, the spelling bad and the arithmetic and reading very indifferent, but rewarding those who repeated their poetry “very nicely” with cards (illustrations from The Pilgrim’s Progress).  He severely reprimanded a boy for “inattention to studies”, caned another “for showing bad temper when spoken to”, and punished several children for their “disobedience in bringing things to eat in the schoolroom”.


In July 1866, the Government Inspector’s report was encouraging:  “This school is increasing rapidly.  The instruction and order are very creditable”.


As the school was so close to the parsonage, Mrs Norton often accompanied her husband on his afternoon visits to see the needlework and to hear the children sing a hymn learnt for Sunday School, rewarding some of them with cards “on condition that they were at school on time on Sunday morning”.  Mr Norton “thought it a good plan for the children to learn the hard words in their reading books, and commit them to slate from Dictation”, and on one Monday morning he “expected the little ones to know the letters of the alphabet as far as M by Friday”.


In spite of his efforts, the next year’s report was disappointing:  “The Mistress must endeavour to acquire more school management.  Another group of Desks and Benches is required.”


Miss Liddiard tried to assert her authority.  “Three elder boys kept in to write 500 words for playing during lessons”.  “Found one boy in the Upper Standard very imperfect in the Catechism – to write a portion for home lesson”. “Two boys kept for showing a sullen temper”.  “Four children kept for neglecting to do home lessons”.  “Several reprimanded for not being at Sunday School”.


She left at Easter 1868, and other mistresses came but soon departed.  One “stayed in school till 6 pm to superintend the sweeping and arrange the position of the classes”.  Another found “the little ones very tiresome on account of the heat”.


The Inspector’s next report did not mince matters:

“The instruction is very elementary.  The mistress is untrained and not certificated.  No grant is due on account of the school since it has been in the hands of a teacher not qualified~”.  In December 1872 the school was closed for three weeks while “the Room as enlarged”.


…  Mr Norton was planning his next move …


In January 1867 Mr Norton received a welcome letter from the Ecclesiastical commissioners to say that his stipend had been augmented by £100.00, giving him a basic £170.00.  The Commissioners were empowered to bring all low stipends up to at least £150.00 and many “inadequate” livings like that of St Paul’s had by now been improved – locally, Coopersale to £180.00, Theydon Bois to £166.00, Roydon to £150.00 though Epping still remains at £120.00.  High Beach had begun to rise in the league table!


Vicar of St Paul’s ….1868

The District Churches Amendment Act of 1868 authorised  Perpetual Curates to style themselves Vicars, and Mr Norton used his new title for the first time in September 1868 in the Register of Baptisms.


Early in 1869, William Watson died at Loughton.  He had “married money”, and the Watsons lived in some style with a cook, a housemaid, a laundry-maid and a groom.  There is no doubt that he was remembered as kindly in High Beach as he was in Loughton.  His gravestone in St John’s Churchyard also records the death two years later of his wife, who left £1,000.00 to the parish to provide bread, coal and clothing for the poor.


At the 1869 Easter Vestry, Mr Hyde and Captain Roger Upton were elected churchwardens.  By now the Vicar was planning to build a new church to replace St Paul’s, and early in 1869 applied to the Bishop or a faculty (licence) to proceed.


In July, a diocesan official reported to the Bishop that “High Beech church is a modern building of small size of white brick and uninviting appearance, said to accommodate 250 persons.  It is not in very good repair, there being signs of settlement in several places.  it is situated at the foot of a steep hill on clay.  It is proposed to remove this church (or build another) about a quarter of a mile to the top of the hill to a spot where four ways meet (where it would originally have been placed but for some objections of some leading inhabitants).  This site, lately enclosed on the Loughton Road, would on the whole be more central and convenient for the majority of the present inhabitants.  All the principal inhabitants are in favour of the proposal.  There seems to be every reason for consenting to Mr Norton’s application.  It seems to be in no doubt that the necessary funds would be forthcoming.  I should recommend that a burial ground be attached to the New Church.  there is nothing in or of the old Church worth preserving – it would make a good school room.”

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