Booklet by Rev George John Tuck
Guest Contribution: Foundation of St John’s Church, Newton
In 1911 the vicar of Newton, the Rev G. J. Tuck, wrote and self printed a booklet telling the story of how Newton church was founded by the efforts of John Powell, yeoman, of Newhouse Farm assisted by the Rev T Powell, Rector of Turnastone. The work was mainly based on correspondence, from the Rev Powell, in the Hereford Journal of 19th October 1853.
The booklet was reissued in 1984 with a new introduction and a footnote giving some later history. Both editions are no longer available and the full text is reproduced here.
It is 140 years since John Powell's church was consecrated in the Parish of Newton in the south western corner of Herefordshire, under the shadow of the Black Mountains. It is 50 years since the death of Rev. George Tuck, the church's longest serving vicar, who put pen to paper and paper to printing press in 1911 to record some of the history of the church and its construction.
No doubt that even then, much of the history of the church had disappeared for ever and had it not been for the Rev. Tuck the story of the foundation of St. John's Church, Newton might by now have been forgotten. The Rev. Tuck personally wrote and edited his story of the foundation of the church in the dimly lit study at his remote Vicarage a mile or so from the church. He personally printed the work on by hand, using moveable lead type and hand made blocks for his illustrations, at his aptly named " Newton Press" . Few copies of his 'little red book' survive today, so it seems opportune to reprint it now lest the story be lost forever.
Rev. Tuck could not have foreseen in 1911 that his work would be reprinted seventy years later with an Introduction composed on an electronic computer and printed electronically in less time than it took him to stitch his pages together by hand! We hope he would have approved.
The original text of the Rev. Tuck's booklet is reproduced in facsimile [but here converted to modern type], complete with his original cover design and illustrations. A short chapter has been added to bring up to date the history of John Powell's tiny church deep in rural Herefordshire. The opportunity has been taken to correct the odd omission from the original text and to correct one or two errors in the story, but this must not be read as a criticism of Rev. George Tuck, who served the parishioners of Newton so faithfully for 46 years until his death in 1934.
Newton, March 1984.
The Story of the Foundation of many of our churches, if it could be told, would often times sound very like romance. Newton is an instance. One could scarcely imagine a more remarkable and interesting chain of events than that which brought about the building of a church in Newton. The story is largely the story of one man, and shows what may be accomplished by a devoted and persevering member of the Church, full of faith, and burning with zeal. The story is too good to let it be forgotten, and therefore it is given here, though with the passing of time, many details have already been lost, and there is no means of recovering them now.
Newton, formerly known as Newton-in-Clodock, was originally one of the four townships of the old parish of Clodock, and its parish church was quite four miles away. About the year 1840, John Powell a yeoman living at New House, Newton, conceived the idea that something more was necessary to be done for the spiritual welfare of Church people in Newton. He felt that the parish church was too far away, and he longed to have the Church services brought within reach of himself and his neighbours. John Powell was a man in advance of his time. Within the last generation there has been a notable increase of church building and provision of spiritual facilities; but in John Powell's day things moved slowly, and people were content to take things as they were. Now Newton was different from the other townships of Clodock. Each of the other townships had its own chapel-of-ease, or district church, while Newton had none. John Powell's bright idea was to get a church built for Newton. But what prospect had a small and unknown farmer of accomplishing so great an object? Most people in his day would have given up the idea as impossible. Where was the money to come from? How was it to be obtained? How long would it take? How do you get a church built? John Powell was not dismayed. He set himself to do what he could, and the story is wonderfully well told in a letter printed in the Hereford Journal of October 19th, 1853, the substance of which follows:—
" HOW A SMALL CHURCH WAS BUILT BY SMALL MEANS"
My Dear Euphranor,—You have of times asked me to furnish you with a short narrative of the ways and means by which that little church was built of which we have so often discoursed. " Keep a thing seven years; it will turn up for use after.” I kept the intention for seven years of doing this. There is situated, in a remote part of this county, and much unknown to its busy towns and go-ahead people, the township of Newton, in the parish of Clodock. What do you mean by remote? I hear you say. Why, I mean that this township of Newton is placed with respect to Europe, London, and Hereford much as you and I are situated in respect to the archbishopric of Canterbury, the bishopric of Hereford, and a canonry in Hereford cathedral - we are remote from these. Perhaps you will the more readily understand the nature and condition of this place and people, if I tell you what they have not. Well, then, they have no lord or baronet, nor great man. You, my dear Euphranor, who are so thoroughly a lover of old England as to love her very pimples, will be rejoiced to hear that in Newton there is neither railway, canal, factory, forge, or foundry; there is neither post office nor posting house; there is neither stage coach, nor stage wagon, nor stage van; there is neither doctor, nor lawyer, nor butcher, nor baker; neither does her Majesty's Inland Revenue receive from this primitive place a single shilling of assessed taxes. I have told you the negatives; let me say a word as to its possessives. It has, then, as to physical conformation, a combination of gentle hills and dingles, hanging woods and rippling streams, open heaths and cultivated fields, banks of green meadows, white cottages standing in neat gardens, comfortable farmsteads surrounded by pasturage and arable. It has a population of four hundred, a people possessing in a remarkable degree the character of simplicity and honesty.
Let me now refer to some matters of fact. The township of Newton was for more than 1840 years without a " House of God," without a " preacher of the Gospel," without the " ordinance of the Church," without the ministrations of a " Priesthood” the inhabitants were as sheep without a shepherd, a flock without a fold, a house without a light. From the centre of the township to the parish church of Clodock is a distance of four miles, and thither went those who would be married, and thither were carried those who were to be baptized or buried. Through mud and mire oftentimes wended the marriage party; amid storm and sleet oftentimes moved heavily the funeral procession.
My dear Euphranor, you will perhaps smile when I say I have known one John Powell of Newton! Do not laugh at me for a simple loon. I hear you say: “And who was John Powell of Newton, pray?" I answer: " He is one of a thousand.” Now let me tell a plain unvarnished tale. A few years ago I was one morning sitting in my little parlour at Leaveastone (sic), musing as men do after breakfast who have no particular avocation chalked out for the day, when Molly, my maid of all work, popped her old-fashioned-cap'd head in at the door, and announced that a person wished to see me. " Show him in," said I. Then walked in a man whose appearance, as it was nothing beyond that of men in general, offers me now nothing remarkable for description. I stand five feet ten inches in my shoes, and my visitor seemed to stand an inch or better higher than myself, with a somewhat spare, but by no means gaunt, figure; his hair was rather long and grey, his countenance pale, his coat blue, of country cloth and rustic cut; his breeches of drab cord, with long gaiters of the same; his general appearance that of a quiet, honest, comfortable yeoman. " Take a seat, sir," said I, as my visitor stood within the room. He quietly seated himself on the nearest chair. I waited a few seconds to be informed of the purport of his visit, which was briefly announced in the words - " I do want you, if you please, to help me to build a church.” If my visitor had asked me to lend him a hundred pounds I should have been less astonished, and have had a better opinion of his sanity. " Build a church," I replied, in a tone of half surprise and half irony. " Yes," said he, " build a church, and take to us.” There was something so quaint, simple, and earnest in the manner and matter of the application, that instead of cutting it short I was induced to enter with some interest into ''the birth, parentage, and education" of the affair, the substance of which was briefly this:- My visitor was John Powell, yeoman, of the township of Newton, in the parish of Clodock, in the county of Hereford, his soul had long yearned for the erection of a church in this spiritual wilderness ; deeply attached to the doctrines and discipline of the Church, it grieved his spirit to see nothing but the error of dissent around him. Christened, married, childless, tender hearted, his affections seemed fondly to cling to a Church as something he could love and foster. He had been some ten or a dozen years in search of aid toward this cherished object, the result of which he announced to me as being a subscription of £6 and a few shillings. A good foundation this, thought I, to commence building a church upon. I heard the statement of my new friend without making any observation, and when he had finished, I felt that, without any previous calculation, or counting the cost, I was at once committed as his yoke fellow in this work. “Well now, my good friend”, said I, " pray, how are we to set about the business? You say you have six pounds some odd shillings towards it. This is a small beginning; what prospect have you of assistance?''
" Well, Master, you see there's a going to be a general election very soon. Let's try the members." The suggestion appeared to me a very feasible one; and having at once committed myself to the work, the first step to be taken was to furnish myself with the necessary details as to the peculiar circumstances and leading features of the case. After a little further conversation my worthy visitor took his departure, being instructed to call again in a fortnight. Just at this particular time there seemed every probability of a contested election for the county, and I wrote an application to each of the four candidates: and, in the course of a few posts received answers from three of them, each answer containing a cheque for £10.
At the appointed day good John Powell came to know “what luck." I was cruel enough to " play him" a little at first, but when in sober earnestness I announced to him the successful result of three applications out of four, the tears rushed into his eyes, burst their channel, and poured down his cheeks.
Thirty pounds obtained thus easily, merely for the asking, seemed to both of us such an omen of success, that we at once accepted it us such. We had then to make fresh casts, and look around us where we might best do so. " There is the Squire, he would be sure to give something; though he has no property in the township, still he is always very good in subscribing for the benefit of his neighbours," said John. " There's the trustees of young De Winton, the patron of the living, why not try ‘em? The Squire's sisters, too, are good ladies, and always ready to support charities and such like; they would be sure to give something for old acquaintance sake.” No sooner said than done. Write to the Trustees; go to the Squire and the sisters. John Powell has the touch of Midas; an answer from Major S in a few days with a cheque for £10; the Squire down with £10; the ladies, ditto repeated, £10.
When John Powell and I met again, we were rather surprised at the facility of obtaining money by begging letters; but then, I remembered the name of a certain wealthy woman, mentioned in a certain interesting narrative, whose heart was opened by a certain special agency.
'Why not, Master, try some of those societies in London, that gives .money for churches?" " I don't think, (said I) that this is a case of sufficient importance to induce the Church Building Society to make a grant" . " Induce, or no induce - try 'em, master, there's no harm done if they won't give us anything." Then and there we sat down; a statement was drawn out, an application made, and the package started by that day's post. A few days brought a reply from the Secretary, stating that the application had been duly received and would be laid before the committee at their next meeting. Good John Powell could not abide to be idle in the good cause, during the time that must elapse before we could hear again from the society. Nothing would do but I must write to this one and that one-fly a note hither and thither- make free to apply to any body, where there was even the semblance of a chance. He seemed endued with a power of perpetual motion. A journey to Hereford, or Brecon, or Abergavenny, or anywhere within miles, so the chance of a pound subscription at the end shone before him, was a gleam of happiness. Shoe leather, hunger, fatigue, repulse, dust, dirt, all vanished before the hope of a sovereign. I verily believe that, with the certainty of a £5 note for his object when he got there, he would have walked to the Land's End.
I do not encumber this brief narrative with the sayings and doings of my worthy friend whenever we met, but content myself with telling you, my dear Euphranor, that by dint of applications sent by post, or delivered personally, we had at the end of six months, contrived to raise about £230. One day, after calculating our funds as amounting to this sum, John Powell came to my house, and the moment I saw him I discovered in his countenance and manner signs that betokened some " mighty purpose" within. " Master (said he) I don't see why we should not try the Queen Dowager. I do see often in the papers that she have given to churches and charities; try her, Master, do; it’s no harm." I certainly was somewhat astonished at the suggestion, but so implicitly did I feel bound to carry out any such proposition of my simple, guileless, earnest friend, that without more ado, I sat down, drew out a petition and statement for her gracious Majesty, Adelaide, of pious and blessed memory, and gave it to John Powell to get signed as numerously as possible by the people of Newton. In a few days he returned tome, with it signed by about a hundred and fifty persons. I posted it the same day, and within a fortnight received an answer, signed " William Ashley” containing a cheque for £25 in her Majesty's name. Again, worthy good John made his appearance, with all the marks of a " mighty purpose " working in his heart, " I've been a thinking, Master, that the Lord Abergavenny have a deal o' property about there parts, and perhaps him would give us something -but then, the old Lord don't do any business his-self, but leaves it all to his steward, Mr. Rowlands, and he's a Roman, and perhaps would not like to give to a church - but try him, Master - there's no harm in that." Accordingly, with all the docility of a ready and willing clerk, I sat down, wrote to Mr. Rowlands, sent John Powell with the letter to the Post Office, and when he came again to know " what luck, " I produced to his astonished eyes a cheque for £30. It would be useless to try to describe the tremulous delight, the tearful gratitude, the guileless piety, with which he received the good news. " We had now been waiting some weeks, expecting a letter from the Church Building Society, when one morning I received an official looking communication, which, from its seal, I at once recognised as " the long-looked for come at last.” I confess that my heart throbbed a little as I broke open the envelope, unfolded the long sheet enclosure, and with a hurried perusal that scarcely gave me time to catch the phraseology, picked out I as by intuition, that the Society made a grant of fifty pounds, payable upon the consecration of the proposed church. There are some contingencies on which we build that are, nevertheless, very shadowy; this looked to me very like one; seeing that even the funds for its erection were yet in the paulo post future.
Now, my dear Euphranor, I shall not enter more particularly into details relating to the how and the when we obtained the needful; but I must say that, by the indomitable perseverance of John Powell in suggesting applications to be made, and his unwearied walking to make many of them personally - together with the favour of Almighty God, who seemed to dispose the heart of every person applied to liberally and promptly to respond, we found ourselves, in the course of nine months, in possession of rather more than £400, including the conditional grant of the Society. The next thing was to obtain a site; this was at once found by John Powell making over an acre of ground in one of his meadows, situated centrically in the township, and adding to this a donation of £10. We next procured a plan, specification, and estimate; and for this we were greatly indebted to the worthy and able Squire, himself a dab in such matters. This settled, we entered into a contract with a neighbouring builder, and set to work with right good will - my friend John Powell incubating the proceedings with us much patient care and waiting as a hen upon her eggs. Well! in due time the egg was hatched - a full-grown church stood manifest one morning before the wondering, gazing, swimming eyes of as devoted a member of our Apostolic Communion as ever trod in shoes. But was this all? Was all said and done? Here was .the body, but where was the spirit? How was life to be breathed into this mass of mutter?
" Well, master," said my excellent friend John to me one morning, " what must us do now?" " Why," replied I, " John, the next thing to be done is to get it consecrated, in as much we can't draw the Society's £50 until it is so" . " And what must we do about that, master?" The township of Newton was at that time in the diocese of St. David's, whose Bishop resided at Abergwili in Carmarthenshire, a distance of seventy miles. " I tell you what we will do, John; I'll write a letter to the Bishop about it. And you shall take it to him at Abergwili" . " Get it ready, master, and I'll start tomorrow" said he. No sooner said than done; there and then I drew up a statement of the case, sealed it, and handed it to my Mercury, who on the following morning was on his way to Abergwili, a walk of seventy miles. Euphranor, I am a fatalist, not a Mahomet one, but a Christian fatalist. What the Supreme ruler determines shall be done, whether it be the Temple of Solomon to be built, or a sparrow to full to the ground, but He uses agencies. The same Spirit that " put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary" into the hearts of Aholiab and Bezaleel, moved the heart of John Powell to undertake all manner of labour for the sanctuary in Newton. After a few days, faithful John made his appearance, he gave me a glowing description of the hospitality with which he had been received by the Bishop, and the kindness shown him by Mr Melville, his Lordship's chaplain, and handed me a letter from the Bishop, in which he expressed the gratification with which he should consecrate the new church at Newton, as soon as due provision was made for its endowment. " Here is a pretty kettle of fish, John" , said I; have the Society's grant of £50 as soon as the church is consecrated and to have the church consecrated as soon as it is endowed; and pray; where's the endowment to come from? "
You will bear in mind, my dear Euphranor that the succeeding steps taken from the reception of the Bishop's letter were not taken at the gallop; to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear is not an easy matter. I confess that if we had looked upon this matter of the endowment in the light of an ordinary practical matter of business, it would have seemed utterly hopeless. John Powell looked upon it merely as question of time, he did not doubt its ultimate accomplishment, he never asked where the endowment was to come from; all he troubled himself about was when it would come, and all his heart's desire was that it might come in his time. Some months had elapsed in this from of patient waiting and looking for, when one day John Powell came to my house wearing a cheerful countenance, and as bright as if he had come to announce that a special messenger had arrived from some unknown realm bringing an endowment in his hand. He greeted me with the usual " Master" , " I think here's something as will do for us, please God; I think we shall manage it yet." So saying, he, with an air of considerable satisfaction, put his rough hand in the pocket of his square-tailed coat, and drew forth to my surprise a newspaper which he deliberately unfolded, and then, pointing to a certain paragraph with his finger, said triumphantly, " Please to read that, master”. Now what was this wonderful bit of news about? It was simply the copy of an announcement in the Gazette that Her Majesty's Ecclesiastical Commissioners have endowed a church somewhere or other with a certain sum, I forget what. The simple circumstance of John Powell seeing this paragraph was, by God's blessing, the means of procuring an endowment for Newton church. Nothing would do for him but that I must immediately apply to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners on its behalf. I confess it appeared to me almost absurd to do so, but (as usual) I assented to any proposition suggested by this good and devoted man, and therefore, without more ado, sat down, drew up a statement, set forth facts, and made an application. Does the result seen incredible? Well indeed may it appear so; but it is plain, simple, unvarnished truth. A few posts brought an answer from the Secretary to the Commissioners, that answer was a printed one: in one paragraph of it, which was regularly official, it was stated that where a population amounted to 400 the Commissioners granted (under circumstances) an endowment to a new church of £80 a year: this paragraph was pencil-marked. But now arose a difficulty; were we entitled to consider this as a promise of an endowment, and would the Bishop of St David’s so consider it? I have told you a long tale, my dear Euphranor, 'tis time I should cut it short. We ventured boldly and did interpret it as a promise. The Bishop acted chivalrously, and accepted it as a promise. All preliminary arrangements were duly made, a day was fixed by his lordship for the holy duty, he came, he saw, he consecrated; a glorious day it was for Newton, and all the region round about. The hospitable, worthy Squire entertained the Bishop, clergy, and a large party at dinner, and after the Queen's health, his lordship, with good feeling, proposed the health of " Mr John Powell of Newton" .
Many months more passed away, and then an able and excellent minister was nominated to the cure, in which he has since laboured to the great benefit and satisfaction of his people: one good act, among others, being, to constitute worthy John Powell perpetual churchwarden by annual nomination.
In finishing this too lengthy narrative, I must not omit to say that when the church was built and consecrated - being dedicated to St. John - it yet required certain fittings. Books for Divine Service were given by the Squire's lady; a font is promised by a neighbouring gentleman; a chalice has been presented by a neighbouring clergyman; a paten also. There yet remains a want, there is no bell. My worthy friend has set his heart on three bells, and if he could but once hear their glad sound he says he should die happy. He firmly believes he shall have them, having obtained promises to the amount of ten pounds, towards an outlay of sixty. But no cloud of doubt obscures the vision of his faith and hope, he dreams of hearing those bells. I would his dream were realized. There is a large and liberal spirit of Christian love abroad in the land, and our own beautiful county has a fair portion of it; and therefore I think that in due time a merry peal of bells will sound forth from the steeple of the church of St. John in Newton.
Believe me. dear Euphranor,
Your faithful friend and fellow presbyter, TAMOTH.
The foregoing story speaks for itself; it remains only to give a few explanations, and to supply later information.
Newton was formerly more populous (400) than it is now (174). In former times John Powell kept fourteen servants at New House.
The writer of the Letter was the Rev. T. Powell, Rector of Turnastone and Dorstone.
The “Squire" was Squire Wood, of Whitehouse.
The cost of the entire work, according to the best information available, was £700. This, though it sounds small to us, is, after all, not unlikely. Materials were close at hand; the site was given; the utmost economy was used, and John Powell with his servants contributed much labour. Further, much of the interior furnishing was given by other parishes. The massive Norman font is apparently very old, and may have served for centuries in another church before it came to Newton. The pulpit is an old Jacobean pulpit in oak, very much like the pulpit in All Saints' church, Hereford, and is probably, by the same hand. The Royal Coat of Arms bears the “G.R." (King I George iii.), and must have come from another church. The Chalice was formerly in use at Ewyas Harold church, and is thus described in Archdeacon Stanhope's Book on Church Plate, recently published:-
''SILVER CHALICE. This is a beautiful small porringer of the time of Charles II. The bowl is decorated with the acanthus leaf in repousse work, and it has scroll handles on either side, which as usual, have been cast, filed up, and added to the bowl. It has evidently been a domestic piece of plate, and came from Ewyas Harold. The condition of it is very good. London Hall marks of 1682."
A Paten was presented to the church in 1853 by Archdeacon Freer. The old oak chest may have been in some vestry before it came to Newton, or it may have come from a private donor. All these are still in the church, and lately a lectern has been added, which served for years in Hardwick church; also a brass alms dish from Bacton.
John Powell's hope of hearing three bells was not realized; one bell was, however, obtained.
The church was consecrated by Bishop Thirlwall, on the 2nd day of May, 1844, by the name of St. John's church. Newton.
After the church was consecrated, an Order of Council was issued in 1848, separating Newton from Clodock, and constituting it an independent parish, under the name of St. John the Baptist, Newton.
The first Vicar was the Rev. J. W. Jenkins, and the full list of the Vicars of the Parish up to the present is as follows:-
J.W. JENKINS, Appointed 1847.
P. H. STERUSCHUP, 1861.
G. V. COLLISON, B A. 1864.
G.J.TUCK, M.A., 1888.
The income of the Vicar, mentioned above as the endowment by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, is £80 a year; so that the tithes pass away from the parish - the greater tithe to a lay owner, and the small tithe to the Vicar of Clodock.
The Registers of the Parish start in 1848. The first Baptism registered is that of John Watkins; the first burial was that of Elizabeth Maddox. The ages of the first eight persons buried were: - 74, 66, 65, 83, 37, 69, 75, 64. There are burials recorded at 98, 91, 94, 96; and many over 80. Owing to a legal difficulty, Newtonians still had to go all the way to Clodock to be married, since Newton was not allowed to celebrate marriages; but the present Vicar was able to get this altered, and Newton has now all the rights of other parishes. The first marriage at Newton church was that of William Henry Sanders and Sarah Jane Palmer.
John Powell's energies were not exhausted over the building of the church. There was no school within reach, and though he had no children himself, he felt that a school was the next thing needed. And happily that was accomplished, the time being twenty years before the State thought of doing anything. A small room was built on a corner of the churchyard: and in that room Sunday and day schools were held, and most of the older people of the district received all their education there. It is significant that every one of them speaks of that time with affection, appreciation, and respect. Presently the room was found to be too small for the purpose, and under the Act of 1870 a Board school was built about a mile from the church. Since then, the room has been used for the ordinary purposes of a Church Room, and is a most useful appurtenance of the church. Behind the room, and joining the road, was built a small stable; and we are told that, in John Powell’s time the stable was constantly used by farmers from a distance, for putting-up their horses when they rode over for the Church service.
With the stimulating example of John Powell before them, it has been the duty and pleasure of succeeding officers of the church to see that his work is kept up and preserved. And in the course of nearly seventy years it is evident that times of needful restoration will come. One such restoration took place in 1869, when the east window was put in, and much repair work was done. In 1896 the high pews were lowered, and a flooring was laid down beneath the seats. From this it may be gathered that the church of the consecration was very different from what it is now. Repairs are often needed, owing to the high winds and severe weather of late years.
The completion of John Powell's work was seen in 1901, when a Vicarage house was built at a cost of £600, the scheme having been inspired by John Powell’s work, and his method followed.
A few particulars may now be given about the church generally. Newton church is a stone building in Early English style, consisting of nave and small chancel, with a square tower at the western end, the lower part of which is utilized as a porch. It seats eighty people, and at the present time may be said to be just barely sufficient for the needs of the congregation. The churchyard contains half an acre. It is well laid-out, and in it lie most of the old people who knew John Powell. He himself was laid to rest in the place of honour, close to the east wall of the church, and his monument, lately restored, is grand with the simple inscription upon it. It is like the man himself -simple and unassuming, believing in quiet, devoted work for God rather than in display and advertisement of himself. Thus it runs: -
SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF
JOHN POWELL , YEOMAN.
LATE OF THE NEW HOUSE, NEWTON,
WHO FOUNDED THIS CHURCH,
HE DIED AUGUST 31sr 1804. AGED 78 YEARS.
He was privileged, therefore, to see the fruit of his labours for twenty years. We still have his old Prayer Book which he used at the services. He was churchwarden till the day of his death. What a record! What a memory! What an example for us! We thank God for such men as John Powell. And so we leave him in the kindly keeping of the Lord, whose cause he served so well; while the Holy Words are sounding forth from Heaven :-
" BLESSED ARE THE DEAD WHICH DIE in THE LORD : EVEN SO,
SAITH THE SPIRIT, FOR THEY REST FROM THEIR LABOURS, AND THEIR WORKS DO FOLLOW THEM."
Footnote added in 1984
It is impossible to match the style of Rev. Tuck's presentation of this story so we will confine ourselves to the facts and place no interpretations upon them, and try not to place any undue emphasis on any particular point in continuing the story of John Powell's Church.
Rev. Tuck died in 1934 aged 81 years and is the only Vicar of Newton to be buried in the Churchyard there, only a few feet away from John Powell.
To bring the list of Incumbents up to date, we should add:
As well as the long serving vicar, Newton Church has had at least two other long and faithful servants. John Hughes retired in 1958 after nearly 50 years as Sexton. When he died in 1959, he was buried alongside the west wall of the Church. Reginald Thomas ('Tom') Gwillim served as organist for over 30 years. He too is buried at Newton, alongside his wife May who also served the Church in so many ways. Following Mrs Gwillim's death in 1959, Mr Gwillim presented an organ to the Church in her memory. He was a well known local craftsman and had made the case himself. A window had to be removed from his house in order that the organ could be extricated and brought to the Church!
It is interesting to note that the original Minute Book for the Annual Vestry Meetings still survives, having served even earlier as the Account Book for the Poor Law administrator of the Township! The first such meeting was held on November 22nd 1849 at 3pm, when among the business transacted was the appointment of one Philip Davis as Parish Clerk at a wage of six (old) pence per week and the levying of a three (old) pence in the pound Parish Rate. This produced an income of £8/14/6. A later book, started by Rev. George Tuck, records the elections and resignations of Churchwardens and Parochial Church Councillors, sometimes in curious circumstances, year by year to the present day.
It seems curious that Rev. Tuck, when studying the records before writing his book, did not notice in the Minutes of the Meeting of 1851 the details of the acquisition of the oak chest which he mentions on Page 13. The record shows that it was purchased from one James Mapp of Ewyas Harold for One Pound and that Four Shillings was paid for its carriage to Newton. The incidence of Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals at Newton is so low that the original Parish Registers are still in use and may be found in the chest.
It is also a little odd that Rev. Tuck omitted the name of one of the Incumbents of the Parish. It appears from the Minute Book that the Rev. P.H.S.Strong held office from 1865 until 1877, though it is possible that for some reason the Rev. P.H.Steruschup assumed an extra name and became the Rev. Strong. In any case the Rev. Collison was the Curate of Newton from 1864 and it was not until 1877 that he became Vicar. The Minutes of several Vestry Meetings prior to this date reveal that he took the chair 'at the request of the Vicar’ who appears not to have been present for reasons which are not revealed. Although Rev. Collinson left Newton in 1885, he sent an annual donation to the Church Funds for another four years.
Rev. Tuck records the death of John Powell in 1864. The Minute Book indicates that Mr Powell attended Vestry Meetings regularly until 1855, after which there is no record of his attendance. His signature in 1854 is very shaky and we must conclude that in his later years he suffered sufficient ill-health to prevent him walking the short distance from New House to the Church.
Another omission from Rev. Tuck's work is the date of building of the 'little school room' and the stable he mentions on page 14. The Minutes of the Vestry Meetings are also curiously silent on the matter. Were they built without the knowledge of the Church authorities? Both buildings still stand at the corner of the Churchyard; the schoolroom has been the venue for many functions, particularly since the demise of the Board School (now private residences) in 1962.
In 1930, a proposal was made to unite the Benefices of Newton, St. Margarets and Michaelchurch and after some opposition this took place. Rev. Tuck was the first Incumbent of all three parishes. From 1969 until 1777, Newton had no Vicar of its own; the Vicars of Clodock (1970-1974) and Rowlestone (1974-1977) officiated as Priests-in-Charge. In 1977, the Benefices of Newton, St. Margarets and Michael church were amalgamated with those of Clodock, Llanveynoe and Craswall.
There are several other milestones in the history of Newton Church that are worthy of record. The first Bank Account was opened in 1940, when it was apparently considered prudent to place some money on Deposit. Until that time the Church Funds had been held, in cash, by the Churchwardens. The oak Reredos was made in 1930 by Tom Gwillim, the Church organist, for which he was paid £12 and given the warmest thanks at the Annual Vestry Meeting. He was subsequently commissioned to make the reading desk which stands near the Altar. The oil lamps which had lit the Church for decades were replaced by a Calor Gas system in 1954 and this in turn by electric lighting in 1964. This latter change was made possible not only by electricity coming to the area for the first time but also by the generous bequest of a parishioner, Mrs Bradley.
Newton, March 1984.
For an account of a dispute over the benefice click here
For the church register of baptisms click here
For the church register of burials click here
For a photograph of Newton Church click here