John Martin, the Duke’s librarian, wrote a series of articles in the Northampton Mercury listing perceived shortcomings in the maintenance and administration of churches in Bedfordshire. He wrote under the pseudonym of “W.A”, wisely, because he was often quite rude. Here, from British Newspaper Archive, is his article on Eversholt Church, published on 21 March 1846. Click for a bigger version, although a transcript appears below.
Bedfordshire Churches, no 25.
This church stands on an eminence in the centre of the village, and is externally in very fair condition. The leaden roof remains over the nave and aisles, but that of the chancel has a flimsy covering of slate. This is almost invariably the condition of this part of the building; its repair falling on the incumbent, who having only a life interest, is easily persuaded to adopt this apparently less expensive material. It is to be regretted that the Archdeacon permits this, and that some arrangement could not be devised by which the expense might be more equally divided.
Internally there has been sad work at some remote period, the contemplation of which must render the ecclesiastical antiquary very indignant. Though we must not touch on this theme, we observed remains of early painting on the chancel wall, which has been brought to light by a partial removal of the thick coat of whitewash which overlaid it. This part of the building had, we were informed, been recently restored – a new window, the liberal bequest of the late rector, has just been completed in good character, from a design of the Duke of Bedford’s architect, Mr. Hacker. The restoration of the walls and the removal of an ugly screen do the present rector great credit. But he has sadly marred the whole by placing some new pews, leaving a passage to the communion table of very scanty proportion. The effect, as may be supposed, on a Sunday, is most unsightly, for we were told, that some of the occupants, having the fear of Puseyism before their eyes, make no scruple of turning their back on the minister, while others not haunted by this weakness, judge it more decorous to turn their faces towards the altar. A right arrangement of the body of the church would have superseded this melancholy exhibition.
The wooden roof of the nave has yielded to a lath and plaster ceiling, bad as can be – the aisles are not in the same state, but the wooden work that has been supplied to patch up the decay of the original is very sorry stuff; its condition, we are informed, attracted the notice of the Archdeacon on his recent visitation, and a portion is to be restored in better taste. We shall rejoice to see it. A trumpery gallery, with a wooden framework, obscures the eastern window, and spoils the effect of the arch. The seats in the body of the church are open, they have not long replaced as we hear, the old oak seats; these are deal and are not even painted to resemble the former ones; but are of a white colour. A few pew pens are placed against the walls; some of a size which, when the occupants are kneeling must bring their faces in very close contact. The pulpit, reading pew, and desk are in three tiers, and so misplaced that the congregation in the north aisle cannot see the minister, and we should imagine find great difficulty in hearing the service.
The churchyard was in good order, and we were glad to observe that the late rector had set an example worthy imitation in desiring his remains should mingle with many of his flock; mindful perhaps of the health of those who survived him, and indulging the poet’s wish, that many “an evening sun should shine sweetly on his grave”.
We were rejoiced to see that those entrusted with the duty, had erected a Christian memorial over his remains: standing gracefully amid cherubs, doves, hour glasses, and the various other devices of the Mason’s pattern book. Over it they had not been scared “through a cowardly fear of being called Papistical” to place the symbol of redemption to hallow his last earthly resting place.
He had left, we were told, a handsome legacy to the National Schools of the village, but we saw no record of it, or of his liberal donation of the Chancel window; but he has a imperishable renown that passeth not away – for “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord” – their works do follow them.
March 13, 1846
The reference to Puseyism is obscure. There is an article about Pusey and his movement at Wikipedia, but I can’t understand why having the fear of Puseyism would encourage people to turn their backs on the minister. Anyone who understands, please leave a comment!
“Trumpery” is “Showy but worthless finery”, I learn.
I think that “a Christian memorial” and the “symbol of redemption” mean that the grave has a cross. (Barbara Miles in her survey describes it as a “large low Celtic style cross on a rough base”.) Are cross memorials associated with catholicism? The quote, “through a cowardly fear of being called Papistical”, comes from “A tract upon tomb-stones; or, Suggestions for the consideration of persons intending to set up that kind of monument to the memory of deceased friends. By a member of the Lichfield Society for the Encouragement of Ecclesiastical Architecture.”, by Frances Edward Paget, published by John Thomas Walters in 1843, so it was bang up to date when John Martin quoted from it, and directly in his field of church architecture. Still, I wish Martin wouldn’t write in so florid and pompous a style.