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As I remember to have read this piquant effusion in my youth, a long time ago, and as Richard Stephens did not give up the ghost till 1831, it is more than probable that in this, the last act of his life, he was guilty of literary piracy; a crime one can afford to forgive in a blacksmith;—may he be safe from the enraged shade of the poor author he defrauded! The churchyard seems to be very full of bodies. I suppose it has been the burial-place of this very large parish ever since 1408, at which time, after divers controversies at the court of Rome as to whether the dead should be buried here or at Worcester Cathedral, it was agreed on all sides that the parishion­ers should bury the dead here, on paying 6s. 8d. yearly, on the feast of the Trinity, to the prior of Worcester.

 

The stoves were crackling and burning brightly and the sunbeams were streaming through the windows, the seat-doors stood invitingly open, exhibiting comfortable green-baized and cushioned interiors, and all things wore a neat and clean appear­ance, as I entered and introduced myself to the female sexton; the lady politely es­sayed to put me in one of the three im­mense pews (or rather rooms) which I was told belonged to Sir O. Wakeman, the lord of the manor. Notwithstanding her assurance that there would be abundance of room, as no one scarcely ever came there, I preferred to select a more humble sitting, of about nine inches by twelve, than to flounder about, a conspicuous object, in one of as many feet. By and bye the “lord" entered, and took his seat in the principal drawing-room, which, with the other two seats, forms nearly one-eighth of the whole ground accommodation of the church, and all this for a single man, a bachelor, and one who rarely brings with him a crowd of relatives or visitors to lounge upon these fifty feet of cushion. No wonder that a parish of 6,000 inhabitants were shockingly squeezed by this arrangement, and that a large number of them were consequently pushed up underneath the roof, and depo­sited in little galleries; I am not aware, but of course the expense of erecting these galleries ought to have fallen upon the "lord." In addition to all this display of occupancy, there is a large stove placed just in front of the communion rails, in such a position as to prevent the approach of but a very limited number of communi­cants to the table. Surely, if the religion of some men consists in pushing others "from their stools," it is tolerably clear that if the kingdom of heaven itself were to be purchased, the presence of the poor man would not be tolerated there. Alas, for the poor! alas, for the proud! I trust that the gentleman with whom I am now taking such liberties will think of these things, and if he despise my reproof, let him read the following; it is from the pen of a man (Douglas Jerrold), whom I love for his kind feeling to the poor, though he and I have but little else in common:—

 

"Look down the middle aisle. It is filled with common people—with God's commonest earth: farming men, labourers, artizans; the dredges of the world, who are nevertheless told by the good man in the pulpit that they have—every one— within them, an immortal angel. They are assured that all wealth is vanity; they are directed to look upon pride and arrogance as deadly sins; and with these lovely precepts touching their heartstrings, they look on each side and see the ladies and gentlemen—called by the clergyman their fellow-creatures, shut up in pews, set apart in closets: as, though in the presence of their Maker, and while denouncing them­selves miserable sinners, they would vin­dicate their right of money, and buy of heaven itself the privilege of first con­sideration. Poverty and humbleness of station may sit upon the middle benches: but wealth and what is mouthed for res­pectability must have cribs apart for themselves—must be considered Christian jewels to be kept in velvet boxes—lest they should catch the disease of lowliness by contact with the vulgar. Surely there are more masquerades than masquerades in halls and playhouses. For are there not Sabbath maskings, with naked faces for masks? How many a man has rolled him­self to church, as though, like Elijah, he must go even to heaven in a carriage?"

 

The services were performed by the perpetual curate in a solemn and deliberate manner; the singing was tolerably well-managed, and the congregation were gene­rally attentive; but I have to complain of several late comers, as likewise of the practice adopted by some young men here of standing up and leaning over the seats when the rest of the people are at prayers. A church is not properly a place for loung­ing or quizzing; and hence I suppose arose the large red curtains with which a certain respectable lady from an adjoining semi­nary has entirely encompassed and shut in her young pupils from the rude gaze of mankind. This Turkish custom, I fear, must be extended if young men will per­sist in entering our churches with unwor­thy motives. But, on the other hand, the ladies have somewhat to blame themselves for; they too often assume the properties of the magnet by their flaunting ribbons their rich satins and velvets; and I feel assured that the beauty of the ladies of Claines requires no such allies to produce conquests. Of all the follies that can be fairly placed to the charge of the human race — and, heaven knows, they are as thick as gnats in a summer sunbeam— none can be laid to more people's doors than the pride and fancifulness of the judgment in adorning, to say nothing of covering, one's outer scaffolding, the body. But when these extravagancies and follies are introduced even into the temple, 'tis not strange that, by such wooing, man becomes fallen a second time, for, as an old satirist observes—

 

"When such a she priest comes her mass to say,

Twenty to one they all forget to pray."

 

Claines church, it seems, is a favourite spot—a sort of "St. George's, Hanover-square," with the ladies of this neighbourhood, by whom it is very frequently selected for the performance of a ceremony which the generality of the sex hope to have ad­ministered at least once in their lives on their own account. A maiden lady (who by the bye had traversed the earth's orbit about fifty times) once informed me that it was but natural for people to seek retired spots to hide their follies; but I feel confi­dent that younger females see, in the se­clusion of Claines, something far different from this—their bright eyes see and feel a poetic beauty, and withal a congeniality of position for those who, stepping forth from the crowded ranks of society, plight their mutual vows before the altar of the church, in the calmness and quietude of rural shades. There was a matter of ten or a dozen couples " asked in church " on the occasion of my visit, and I believe that during the ministry of a former curate (who benevolently put all kinds of facili­ties in the way of young sweethearts) the average was nearly double that of the present time. No wonder then that with this amount of business on the hands of the ringers, and the constant excuses the fraternity will make for the exercise of their vocation, the ears of the villagers are dinned perpetually; and no wonder that one of the bells, wearied with so much babbling on marriages, like a vain coquette, is at last grown old, cracked, and unfit for service. Times are much altered here since the period (1288) when William Can­ning (who was five times mayor of Bristol) assumed holy orders at Northwick, in this parish, actually to avoid a marriage in which king Edward had wished him to become one of the principals.

 

After hearing an admirable, christian-like, charitable sermon, on the civil, social, and religious position of this country, as likened to the vineyard in which the master gathered wild grapes, and having watched the church-goers divide into groups, dis­persing hither and thither across the fields and lanes, and the boys' and girls' schools, trimly and uniformly dressed, headed by their teachers, marching to their seat of learning, I also turned on my heel, and walked leisurely homeward.

 

The bulk of the great tithes of this parish formerly belonged to St. Wulstan's Hospital, but Henry VIII appropriated them to Christ Church, Oxford. The monastery of the White Ladies originally received the small tithes, and the priest of St. Swithin's, in this city, also received certain of them, as ghostly father of the nuns. The minister of St. Swithin's, I be­lieve, still continues to receive this emolu­ment, although, of course, his "ghostly fathership" has been for many years a sinecure. As a portion of the income of the sisterhood was formerly devoted to the repairs of the chancel of Claines Church, I cannot, therefore, help thinking that, as that institution is now suppressed, the pro­ceeds of the " ghostly fathership" should be applied in the aforesaid repairs; or it may very usefully form an addition to the income of the perpetual curate of Claines, and would thus fulfil a far more legitimate purpose than that of enriching a clergyman who has nothing to do with the parish; for I understand that the whole stated in­come of the present curate of Claines is but 27l. derived from the lay impropriator, augmented by a grant from Queen Anne's bounty, which was laid out in the purchase of land, added to his surplus fees, &c., which perhaps raise the whole to 180l.—a small sum indeed for a perpetual curacy in so extensive a parish, where I believe that the benevolence of the clergyman results in the distribution of a large portion of his income for charitable purposes. Latimer, in speaking of the clergy, says—"They have great labours, and therefore they ought to have good livings, that they may commodiously feed their flocks; for the preaching of the word of God unto the people is called meat. Scripture calleth it meat, not strawberries, that come but once a yeare, and tarry not long, but are soone gone; but it is meat and no dainties. The people must have meat that must be familiar and continuall, and daily given unto them to feed upon. Many make a strawberry of it, ministring it but once a yeare, but such do not the office of good prelates. For Christ saith: Quis putas est servus prudens et fidelis, qui dat cibum in tempore. Who think ye is a wise and faithful ser­vant? he that giveth meat in due time so that he must at all times convenient search diligently.''

 

The parish of Claines was originally a chapelry to St. Helen's, in this city; it was divided into several hamlets or tythings, including the ancient manor of Northwick, and the church was called the church of Northwick, though situated in the hamlet of Claines. In 1218 Claines became a separate parish. It appears that the late Sir H. Wakeman bought the advowson of this benefice of Christ Church College, pending a suit then in the exchequer, and the issue of which was so successful that the baronet is presumed to have made a " nice thing of it." I hope some day to be enabled to attack, if not diminish, this monstrous evil of lay patronage and lay money-dabbling in religious matters, which, like a cancer in the bosom of the church, will spread to her final destruction, if the lancet be not speedily and unsparingly applied.

 

There are said to be, near the church, existing traces of the foundation of an old parsonage-house, which house is said to have been standing within living memory, but the patron has not thought it worth his while to restore it, although the present curate, in consequence, lives in a house which, I should say, judging from its size, costs him an annual rental of some £70, or £80. So that, it would seem, the patron is determined to make the unfortunate curate literally fulfil the apostolic doctrine of “spending and being spent" among his parishioners; and how he would fare, were it not for the proceeds of another living, it would not be difficult to foresee.

 

I am happy to hear that the allotment system and provident clubs are in useful operation in this parish, under the care of Mr. Curtlet, Mr. Gutch, and Mr. Palmer, the perpetual curate, whose exertions in ameliorating the condition of the pour, and educating their children, are well backed and supported by two or three active and benevolent ladies. The plan of allotments in particular works well; the rentals being punctually paid. One of the regulations enjoins on the tenants the necessity of at­tending some place of divine worship. There are upwards of thirty allotments. I have been informed, though I am reluctant to believe it, that the two principal land­owners in the parish not only give no as­sistance to the benevolent scheme, but that—what makes the matter truly unin­telligible—one of these gentlemen occa­sionally presides at the meetings of the committee; and urges, as an excuse, that he cannot let them any of his land without offending the farmers! A pretty speci­men, forsooth, of independence and libe­rality combined!

 

Among the charitable donations left from time to time in this parish are the following:—Edward Thomas, gent., 1656, left, £50 to remain as stock for ever, to place out poor children as apprentices; and in connection with his gift, I should think it is a singular instance, unprece­dented in any other part of the kingdom, that there is now in hand a large sum of this stock unapplied, for lack of candidates. I am informed, however, that this is not attributable to a want of publicity, as the matter has been advertised. In a large parish like Claines, one would think there were hundreds of poor children whose parents would be delighted with such an opportunity of benefiting them. I hope this will answer the purpose of an adver­tisement to such persons. For myself having accidentally heard of this state of things, I shall not fail to stop every poor person I may henceforth happen to meet in the street, and if they chance to have children answering the description required, post them off immediately to the church­wardens of Claines, to whom I wish much joy for their extra labours during the next three months. Among the remaining charities are—Mr. Charles Evans, , £10; interest to be given to old bachelors and maids on St. John's day; and the rev. T. Cooke £21, interest to purchase gowns and coats for poor men and women, to be marked.

C.

T.   M.

The reflecting mind revolts at this un­feeling attempt to level poverty with crime, by putting on a badge approximat­ing to that (the only one that can be ex­cused) of the

R.V.

on the county rogues and vagabonds. The offence to my feelings is still greater from the fact of the donor having made such unworthiness the means of perpetuating his initials to posterity;—and from a clergy­man, too, whose sacred profession should have taught him to remember—

 

"Who builds a church to God and not to fame,     

Will never mark the marble with his name."

 

The intention of the donor, however, is frustrated, inasmuch as the initials have long ceased to be attached to the garments. But I must here pause, and close my notice of the parish of Claines—a locality which has on the whole afforded me, in my brief rambling, far more of pain than pleasure. In my next paper I shall take the reader to the neighbourhood of royalty.— Worces­tershire Chronicle.

 

 

STRAY NOTES ON THE CHURCHES AND CHURCH GOERS OF

WOR­CESTERSHIRE.

BY A  RAMBLER.

 

from:

 

THE MIRROR

of

Literature, Amusement, and Instruction

(Price Twopence)

No 2, Saturday, January 10 1846 (Vol 1, 1846)

 

 

CLAINES.—It was on a bright alluring morning in the month of December that I resolved on making a pilgrimage to this retired and favourite village, and with that intention, having donned my winter coat and thick-soled shoes, I sallied forth to enjoy the morning air. What a change had come o'er the face of the country since my last ramble, and how suggestive of saddened thought, mixed with religious hope, was the transition. But a few weeks had passed since nature was rejoicing in her beauty and her lap was teeming with abundance; now, the fields had lost their verdure, the air was no longer vocal except with the occasional twittering, chirping noise of a solitary sparrow or red-breast which hurried by with chilly haste, appa­rently in the vain hope of somewhere ob­taining a warmer "berth," and the sun threw its horizontal beams upon trees and hedges which in their nakedness were hung with rain drops, glittering like jewel­lery upon a hag. So much for the sea­sons—

 

Thus change they; and we change as well,

The heartfelt glow, the joyous swell

Of spirits ever pay, Pass on, nor leave a trace behind,

Like summer's perfume on the wind,

Save one last, lonely ray.

Spring will return to earth."

 

 

On approaching the church from the fields, no one would suspect the existence of an ecclesiastical edifice, the site being so flanked and defended by trees. The build­ing wears a piecemeal appearance, as though it had been formed by the junction of three or four old houses.

The original portions of the building are somewhat an­cient, bearing traces of both the Tudor and perpendicular styles, here and there disguised by the alterations and repairs of more modern architects, the bulk of these alterations (including a handsome new porch) having been effected some three or four years ago. The porch is decorated with small stained glass windows; and a poor box is there fixed, which by its bright and clean appearance puts a nega­tive upon the facetious satire I  have some­where heard—namely, that charity boxes are the safest sanctuary for the spider to take shelter in to avoid intrusion. The interior of the church consists of a nave, chancel, and side aisles, formed by two rows of pillars and arches. The east win­dow is of modern stained glass, bearing the royal and episcopal arms; at the west end is a gallery with an organ of tolerably good tone and quality, and small galleries over the north and south aisles are among the latest improvements. The organ was presented by the late Sir H. Wakeman, but there is no available fund out of which to repair it or to pay the organist, who, therefore, together with a female singer (the only paid one), is remunerated by subscription.

The “new” porch

The poor box

I observed no monumental remains worthy of note in the interior; near the north window of the chancel aisle once lay the stone figure of John Porter, who formerly occupied and gave the name to "Porter's Mills,'' in this parish; this effigy is now removed to the outside, and instead of being on its back is placed on its side, and besides this, is robbed of a leg and hands; the carving is good, especially of the cap. The inscription conveys a most equivocal compliment—"John Por­ter, which was a lawyer, 1577.” Perhaps it may have been the fact of Mr. Porter being a lawyer that induced the authorities to turn his effigy out of the church, dur­ing the progress of certain repairs, and to make him do penance by lying on his side under the drippings of the roof; the gen­tleman however seemed to have been al­most prophetic on this very point while writing the epitaph which was formerly placed over the figure, for the first line of the couplet selected was—

 

" Omnia transibunt—nos ibimus, ibitis, ibunt."

For my own part I do not believe that Mr Porter or any one else would have sus­tained much disadvantage by burial in the grave-yard, instead of the church interior. There is something pleasant in the idea that the little hillock which is one day to cover us shall be kissed by the sunbeam, and covered with flowers; that happy in­fancy shall pluck therefrom its daisies, and the wayfarer stop to bestow a kind thought upon him who sleeps below. I would say, in the words ascribed to Saint Swithin—

 

"Pile not the marble

Upon me when dead,

The wide vault of heaven

Alone be o'erspread;

Where the rain wets the turf

Be my narrow house made—

Where   the passenger walks

Let my ashes be laid”

 

In the churchyard, near the principal north entrance, is a fine specimen of antiquae reliquaiae, in the parish stocks; it is pre­sided over by a still greater piece of anti­quity, namely, a very venerable but now decaying yew, apparently six or seven cen­turies old. The position of the stocks be­ing about midway between the church and the alehouse which stands in the yard, is, I dare say, meant as an admonition to the rustics, and intended to "give them pause" in passing from the one to the other, to beware lest they "put their foot in it." As however this machine appears to be never brought into requisition (the Sunday wakes being almost suppressed here), I would advise the authorities to bargain for the sale of it to the Worcester bench of magistrates, who now, for the lack of such an hold-fast on the understandings of the subject are constantly compelled to dis­miss without punishment drunkards and disorderlies who may happen to possess no cash; the act (a very old one) prescribing only the stocks as the alternative in case of non-payment of fine.

A new stone font stands at the west end of the church; but there is a basin on a pedestal standing by the north­west pillar of the chancel.   In this same pil­lar is an ancient piscina (or recess used by the officiating priests, wherein to wash their hands when engaged in the services); it is probably as ancient as 9 Henry V, when Helena and John Frogmore gave two parcels of land in Northwick for the main­tenance in Claines church of a chantry to the Virgin.

The “new” Font

Piscina

The Norman Font

Basin & pedestal

Sir Henry Wakeman

The article below is a full copy which appeared in “The Mirror” magazine in 1846. It is an anonymous account of a visit to Claines Church and makes fascinating comparison with Claines today. The writer has drawn heavily on the Worceser Directory information on Claines, but also makes some personal observations which link them quite closely to the parish.

We believe the writer to be a well known Worcestershire Historian, Mr John Noake, who wrote “The Rambler in Worcestershire” in 1851 and contributed publicly to other Gentlemens Magazines.

Current photographs are shown where there is a reference to a feature still seen today.

It’s a long read, but a fascinating one for anyone who knows, or is interested in the Church!

“Stray notes on a Church in Worcestershire”

Claines in 1846

 

 

 

 

(So passes away the glory of this world, all things shall pass away, we shall pass away, you will pass away, they will pass  away.)

 

The grave-yard, which is intersected by paths like diver­gent rays from all points, contains but lit­tle that is remarkable: there is an old arched stone to one Nicholas Tindal, of the date of 1741; and there is likewise a stone over the remains of Richard Ste­phens, sometime blacksmith, of Lowesmoor Wharf, who either begged, borrowed, or stole the following epitaph:—

 

"His sledge and hammer he's declined,

His bellows too has lost its wind,

His fire's extinct, his forge decayed,

And in the dust his vice is laid;

His coal is spent, his iron's gone,

His nails are  drove,  his work   is done."

Richard Stephens’ grave today

Claines Parish Stocks- as they may have been.

John Porter, now returned inside

His Epitaph

The Mirror
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