Bremhill PCC

Minutes of meetings 1933 – 58:

The following are notes which try to give some idea of the content of the above. Much is fairly straightforward, but I did note a couple of things which may be of interest. At this time the parish was Bremhill with Foxham, but quite often there was no Foxham representative at meetings.

First impressions are that the meetings are concerned primarily with ‘housekeeping’, with the main topic being that of finance.

In the list of those present we again have the procession of familiar names – Vines, Hatt, Hands, Eatwell, Fry etc. Interestingly, mirroring the attitude of the day, men are always listed first, followed by ‘…and also Mrs James, Mrs Hands…etc’ – women appearing as almost an afterthought.

Budgets are examined and discussed, but relatively little detail is given as to how the money available is spent on the various requests. At the AGMs the budgets are presented, totals given and accepted, but again little detail of spending given. This is usually referred back to the later parish meetings where there is no public presence. At the AGMs Parish officers are elected (or usually re-elected).

Most common ‘housekeeping’ items are churchyard trees and general churchyard tidiness. Up until several years after WW2, the churchyard was clearly often ignored. There were a couple of instances given where the grass had not been cut for a year. In 1934 a fund was created for churchyard upkeep, which, in December stood at 3s.6d! Graves were often left untidy. A Mr. Bull was often brought in to tidy the churchyard for a small payment, but in the late ‘30’s he resigned and there seems to have been little enthusiasm to find a replacement!

Other items brought up regularly for attention were the organ which needed repair (bellows going), (The organ was replaced relatively recently with the present one thanks to the considerable help of Dr Christopher Kent from Tytherton Lucas. You will already, no doubt, have come across Christopher – most people have! – who, until he retired ran the Music Dept at Reading University. He is an acknowledged expert on organs and found the present small organ, which has some considerable historic value, in Cambridge and helped in its installation.) In addition, the roof and walls gave concern, dampness being the culprit, crumbling brickwork in the Tower and the flagstaff. Heating from coke stoves also caused problems.

Interestingly, talking to Dr. David Stevens, the current Treasurer of the PCC, he agreed that the discussions today in the PCC meetings bear a good deal of similarity to those in 1930’s! Different times, but same problems with fabric and same difficulties in raising money. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

Over the years, certainly until the 1950’s, St. Martin’s finances were often in a worse state that those of Foxham. There was often a deficit reported for Bremhill (£25 or more) while Foxham were showing a balance of, in one case £42. As one might well imagine, given the disparity in age of the two buildings, it would seem that the fabric problems were far greater for St. Martin than St. John. Could this also imply that perhaps Foxham, as a settlement, was wealthier than Bremhill?

In 1938/39 there was the first mention in the meetings of the idea of holding a fête to raise money. With the exception of the war years, this became an accepted way of raising funds and a joint fête was sometimes held with Foxham. Again, this resonates with today when St Martin’s holds many social village events to raise money.

In 1937 and 1938 there are the first indications that church attendance is falling. The vicar (Canon Peters) mentions this in meetings in both years, asking PCC members to chase up people. The suggestion is also made that everyone in the village be given a supply of small envelopes and if they do not come to church, an envelope will be collected from them into which they should put a small amount of money. Again, finance, or lack of it, is important.

In general, the minutes, while recording the items discussed, tended to lack detail. There were e.g. entries which said “…the canon read a letter from the Bishop.” But no indication of what was actually in the letter. Luckily, after a range of different minute-takers, in 1950, Mrs Bradbury, the vicar’s wife, took over as secretary and the minutes became far more detailed and clearer to read!

Canon Peters resigned in October 1939 (I assume, retired). From that point on, until the end of the war, meetings became less frequent. There was a gap of almost two years without a vicar until May, 1941. Rev. Pain is mentioned as Chair for the AGM in that month, but it would appear he lasted less than a year (unless he was brought in as a stop-gap from another Parish – no indication) as there is no further mention of him.

April 1942 AGM: new vicar had been appointed – Rev Carrier. He appears in the War Book as the warden for Bremhill village and was a member of the Invasion Committee.

WW2: very few meetings of the PCC were held during the war. The only minuted meetings were the AGMs. Very little mention was made of the war and no mention made of the work of the Invasion Committee. The only reference was that repairs were a little more difficult to carry out and that in 1946, the usual organist had now been demobbed, so the replacement had to pack his music and the other got his job back!

Wartime discussions still focussed mainly on finance for repairs and increasing the payment of different officers such as verger and gravedigger.

No mention between 1933 -58 was made about any minority group such as Methodists etc. The PCC business was clearly centred on St Martin’s and St John’s, with some concern shown about falling attendance.

** During Rev Carrier’s time, there was a long and involved situation about the Eddrup bequest which has been recorded in some detail in the minutes by Carrier. Eddrup left a sum of money to the parish which really had not been touched. So it was suggested that this money should be put into a trust fund together with some other money controlled by the PCC and which would produce annual interest to be used for the Parish. He had several meetings with Lloyds Bank and in 1946 a fund with cheque signatories was created. A new vicar arrived in Dec 1946 and there has been no mention made since of this money or this fund. I have found no indication of what happened to Eddrup’s bequest.

Out of my own curiosity and interest in Eddrup, I would like to know the answer! If this incident could be of interest, I would be happy to delve further. It is well documented in the minutes and I know the exact spot to find it. As David Stevens is very knowledgeable about St Martin matters, I can grill him!

There is also another interesting item. There is(was?) apparently a chalice cup in the church which has some value. There were discussions while Carrier was here about getting a professional valuation for it and possibly selling it to raise funds. Carrier was asked several times in minutes if it had been valued, but there has been no mention of any sale. (On further, later, questioning, it would appear that the Chalice is still with the Church, but locked away in a safe place, which was not divulged to me!)

My liking for gossip and possible scandal was wakened when it was recorded in the minutes of Sept 25th 1946 that Mrs Carrier had left the village while Rev Carrier remained as incumbent. From the school role during the summer term of that year, it was clear they had two sons, both at the school, but in September, their names were no longer there. It would have to be assumed that the relationship, therefore, had broken down and I just wondered why! I subsequently searched at some length using ‘Ancestry’, but could find no trace of either. However, 3 months later a new vicar was appointed.

At the same meeting mention was made about the sale of Glebe Farm and from the wording it was clear that there had been considerable controversy – but again, a lack of detail gives no clue about reasons for this controversy.

*** Dec 10th 1946: minutes show that a new vicar had been appointed – Rev Bradbury. Interestingly, from this point on, the size and upkeep of the Vicarage becomes an important issue and will play a considerable role in 1956. On arrival, Rev Bradbury immediately proposed that part of the vicarage and its garden should become a community centre for the village (as there was no village hall or central meeting place). This was accepted and the garden was still used as a venue for village events until the late 1990s. (The first village event we went to on arrival in the village in 1994 was a tea party, held in the vicarage gardens!) Later, part of the vicarage was adapted to provide flats accommodating two families.

In 1950, Mrs Bradbury became secretary of the PCC and the quality of the minutes improved greatly. Far more detail was given, which meant that the event described below has been recorded in some detail.

At this time, of course, women were not accepted for ordination as priests and the diocese was concerned about finding enough vicars to fill vacant livings. In 1956, the Church Commissioners clearly had in mind the fact that the Rev Bradbury was likely to retire in the near future. The adequate care of souls was the main force behind their decision and certainly, of course, not finance (!), but they were concerned that no vicar, and in particular his wife, would accept to live in such a large rambling building which was difficult to heat and in urgent need of considerable repair which they could not afford. The solution, they decided, was to split up the Bremhill Parish, so that Foxham would be attached to Christian Malford, E.Tytherton would go to Sutton Benger and Bremhill become part of St Mary’s parish in Calne. This was discussed and decided, except that they forgot to inform Bremhill PCC who only discovered it when invited by letter to a meeting in Swindon where there was to be no discussion as decisions had been already taken. Outrage in Bremhill and disagreement about adequate care of souls! (See attachment 2)

A friend of Rev Bradbury contacted him to say a small parish near Reading had been involved in exactly the same situation, but with the help of a solicitor and a QC had managed to defeat the Oxford Diocese and sent him contact details. The PCC decided to go ahead and fight, engaged the solicitor and the QC and finally in January 1959 received a letter from the solicitor with an enclosure from the Church Commissioners stating they were withdrawing their proposals. Victory for the PCC. (Attachment 3/4)

Of course, if we look at future developments, we see that present-day conditions have necessitated change. Rev Bradbury retired in 1959 and another incumbent nominated. Bremhill was then also linked to Derry Hill, but that, apparently, was not an easy or happy link. Then in 2010, the Marden Vale Parish was established, centred on St. Mary’s in Calne, with a team vicar in Derry Hill, but also very much part of Bremhill. The Commissioners built a smaller, modern vicarage and the old vicarage was sold, firstly to a family who owned the Manor House Hotel in Castle Combe (before it was taken over by big business) and then by the present owners who run a wine importing business from the house. This is quite a nice story – bit David and Goliath – but not sure how interesting to the Project it is, but I would be happy, again, to write it up if it were to be of any use.

Ewen Bird

IMG 2435

IMG 2436

IMG 2437