Wickford in 1897 according to the Wickford Parish Magazine

A present from Wickford in America


1897 in Wickford

Wickford Library has a folder containing a photocopy of the St Catherine’s Church Parish Magazine for 1897. The original was sent to the Wickford Archive by the archivist of the church in Wickford, Rhode Island, USA. . By that year the magazine had been being produced for ten years. Its original aim had been to provide “wholesome reading for both old and young” while containing an “interesting record of Church work and village doings” (li). 

The Rector in 1897, who would leave at the end of the year, was George Porter. The Churchwarden was Mr G H Patmore, and the Church Clerk and Sexton was Mr David Upson.

Obviously the prime concern is to keep readers informed with what is happening in the Church. The January issue reports on the recent Christmas Day Services. Though the “Church was carefully and tastefully decorated”, the attendances had been “poor” (iii). Each issue of the Magazine has information about Church officials, dates and times of services, to whom collections (offerings) are to be distributed, which hymns will be sung in coming weeks, and details of births marriages and deaths. News is also provided about the activities of groups linked to the Church and various other village events. So, for example, we can learn things about the Church School, the Cricket Club and the Queen’s Jubilee.

The Church ran a morning and afternoon Sunday School and Mrs Porter ran a Bible Class for Lads on some Sunday afternoons. Children attending the Sunday School received tickets for attendance, punctuality and lessons learnt at home. They handed these in at the end of the School year and were rewarded with prizes. These were given out by Mrs Porter on the Treat afternoon on July 21st, along with various games, which took place despite the rain. Before leaving for home “the children sang a verse of the National Anthem, and concluded with the usual cheering” (xxx).

The Church also ran a Mothers’ Union, one objective of which was “to awaken in mothers a sense of their responsibility, as mothers, in the training of their children” (ii). The Union was set up in 1891 and in 1897 there were 16 members.   There was a group of the Girls Friendly Society whose aim was “to band together young girls of all classes who desire to walk in the Narrow Way themselves, and who are anxious to encourage others to do the same” (iii). There were also a Clothing Club and a Coal Club whereby members could save up over the year. The Church heard about foreign missions, for example in January about missionary work among the Coreans. A Rev. Alfred Porter from Kei Road in Grahamstown on the Cape was on a six month holiday during the year, having been working overseas for fifteen years. He was almost certainly a relative of the Rector and sometimes took services in the local churches while he was here.

The School

The Magazine also included regular reports about the Church Day School. This had just been enlarged and refurbished and there were regular updates on paying off  the debt that had been incurred. The Head teacher was Mr W J Sully, who was also the Church organist, and the Assistant teacher was his wife. The monitress was Lilian Gooch. The school could take 100 pupils and usually had around 90 on roll. The school had been donated a glass fronted case by Colman’s of Norwich which contained samples showing the different stages in mustard manufacture. Messrs Ingram and Sons had donated specimens of India rubber in stages of its manufacture and a Mr Whitmore had given specimens of cork.

The Church School underwent an unannounced inspection in January, which went well. The school was closed for a couple of days in February because of flooding in the village. An examination of drawing which was supposed to occur in June could not take place because the school was closed for three weeks by a measles epidemic. In the last week of school a Treat was organised at Wickford Hall (July 28th). Tea was served to children, infants and old people and Mr Sully had organised “a goodly programme of sports … to suit all ages” (xxxi). After the awarding of prizes and the singing of the National Anthem “the children testified by their hearty cheering how much they had enjoyed themselves” (xxxi). The HM Inspector’s Report on the School, after visits in January and July, was excellent and the School was awarded the highest grant that it could be given.

Technical Instruction

The magazine also reported on further education classes which it described as “technical instruction”. A previous course in dressmaking had gone down well and a second course of 12 sessions had been signed up to by 20 people but only one attended every lesson. Average attendance was 9. A proposed course in hygiene was abandoned, presumably through lack of interest. A series of three lectures took place at Runwell Rectory on English Church History. In August Mr Halstead loaned his barn for a group of students to be taught butter and cheese making.


The Wickford Cricket Club held its Annual General Meeting at the Castle Hotel on February 10th. Rev Porter was the President, Mr Tricker the captain, and Mr Ruffhead the treasurer. A fund raising concert of songs, recitals and an amusing operetta for two was also held in February. Four games were played in August, three won, one lost. Over the season 16 matches were played, 8 won and 8 lost. A Junior Cricket Club for under 17s club also existed. 1897 also saw a revival of the Football Club. Mr R W Patmore became the Secretary and Treasurer after a meeting in The Swan on October 6th. A newspaper apparently reported that the team had a good half-back line and a strong pair of backs. Carpenter (centre forward) and the Marshal brothers provided a very effective forward line (xlv).

On March 18th a Parish Meeting was held to elect a new Parish Council. Eighteen nominations were received and after a show of hands the following were elected: G English, H E Franklin, James Gigney, Rev J Hawes, G H Patmore, G A Brunwin, and William Archer. The first meeting took place on 21st April.

Diamond Jubilee

A public meeting was held on the evening of April 9th to decide how the village would celebrate the “Diamond Jubilee” of Queen Victoria. Wickford would not be behindhand in showing its loyalty. The Rev Porter took the Chair. Suggestions included having a parochial tea and sports day, the building of a village hall for which Mr Gigney offered to donate a site and providing the village with street lamps. The eventual decision was made to pay off the School debt and have a tea, with sports. Committees would be formed to gather subscriptions for one or both activities. (Mr Gigney was deemed to have already made substantial contributions to the School funds so he completed a project to put fencing around the southern side of the churchyard instead). Gigney’s hardware stores had been established by his father in the same year that the Queen had come to the throne. The Jubilee Commemoration Committee eventually decided not to bother with a tea and sports event after all. Services of prayer and thanksgiving took place in the village on the 20th June and Tuesday the 22nd was a public holiday. The Queen processed through London, from Buckingham Palace, to St Pauls and the Mansion House and back to the Palace. The weather was glorious and the ceremony “was perhaps such as had never before been witnessed in any nation of the world” (xxv). According to the Parish Magazine it was reported that “no attempt was made to celebrate the occasion in a public way” in Wickford but the accounts in the Magazine were said to refute this claim. Mr and Mrs Marshall apparently provided entertainments for the young and old of the parish whilst Mr Gigney provided presents of tea (xxv).

Great Storm

Wickford was fortunate to miss the great storm which took place across sixty square miles of mid-Essex on Midsummers Day. The Church designated one of its collections to the Storm Relief Fund.

The 6th Annual Horticultural Society Show was held in Rettendon Place on July 7th. Among other awards, Wickford Cottagers won First prizes for “Twenty-four gooseberries” (J Dawson), and “Twelve round potatoes” (W Peters). Miss Marshall got a first for her cut flowers table decoration. First prizes also went to H J Carter for throwing a cricket ball, G Franklin and F Hopton for the sack race and B and G Franklin for winning the Three-legged race.

Sadly the December issue of the Parish Magazine reveals that the Rev Porter has left Wickford for Bournemouth. Unfortunately the climate in Essex was not suitable for Mrs Porter and had caused her frequent illness. The Porters were proud of their work in the School, the Mothers Union and the Girls Friendly Society and left the village with the gift of a travelling bag and the best wishes of the parishioners.

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