Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Consecration of Banbury Church September 1797

St Mary the Virgin, Banbury in Oxfordshire. 
A photograph taken in the 1880's.[1]

My great great great grandfather the Rev'd Hervey Baber, appears to have always been interested in his family history. After his death he left behind several sets of notes, including a hand written "Memorandum" in the form of a note book in which he recorded the key events of his life and also those of his friends and relatives.

The entry for 1797 in Henry Hervey Baber's Memorandum
[Please click on the image for a larger version.]
The entry above reads... 

21                Attended Dr. Bourne’s Chemical Lectures Feb.y.
        Crotch married Miss Bliss July 10.
     Went to Greenwich July 30
     Took a tour with Webb thro’ Part of Kent. From London to Gravesend in a Hoy – walked to Rochester – rode to Canterbury to Dover, coach broke down – no accident. Walked to Deal – rode to Margate – returned to Greenwich in a Margate Hoy.
Returned to Oxford Sept 1.
Mr J. Petil Andrews Esq.r Died Aug’t
James left Woolwich augt. 5
Went to Banbury with Crotch etc. to see the church consecrated – danced (for the first time in public) at a Ball the same evening.  Sept 6
Attended Dr. Pegges Anatomical Lectures &c; Course dissected for the first time a leg.  Nov.r

The challenge once I had deciphered these notes was to unravel who was who amongst the many people referred to, or the events described. Over a decade ago, I first started to research the events and people in the memorandum, however with only limited results.
With the advent of the British Libraries online newspapers, I have restarted my efforts, and am finding that it is to much greater effect.

The entries above provide the following interesting example.

"Went to Banbury with Crotch etc. to see the church consecrated – danced (for the first time in public) at a Ball the same evening.  Sept 6."

Having driven through Banbury on many occasions, I knew that it had a very fine church at the top of the hill, and that it is quite unusual for its architecture, in this region with its many fine Medieval churches, and it turns out that this was the church that Henry had visited.

St Mary the Virgin, Banbury, photo by Elliott Brown. [2]

 Turning to the newspapers I soon found several articles that had appeared in the following week of September, describing the day, and the events inside the church. The longest and most comprehensive account appears in the Oxford Journal.
Oxford Journal - Saturday 16 September 1797.
On Wednesday the 6th instant, the new-built Church at Banbury was opened for Divine Service, and the form of Consecration performed with becoming solemnity by the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Oxford, attended by a respectable body of the neighbouring Clergy.
  An emulation zealous and highly commendable appeared among the Inhabitants, each striving to pay the greatest honour on the occasion. The various Societies of the Town, with the Trustees and Parishioners, entered the Church with the Mayor and Corporation in procession.
High prayers were chanted in a style of peculiar excellence,  by the Rev. Mr. Beckwith and a full choir from Oxford; and the celebration heightened beyond thought, by the inimitable execution of Professor Crotch on the Organ who very liberally gave his services for the day.
A Sermon suited, to the purpose was preached by the Rev. J.Lamb, the Vicar,[3]to a congregation of between two and three thousand persons.
This beautiful edifice is the design and architecture of S. P. Cockrell, Esq. and will remain a lasting monument of his refined taste and distinguished abilities. The inside is finished in the most simple and chaste style of the Ionic Order.
The Western Front remains for completion, by the addition of a Doric Portico, and a circular Tower of the lightest and purest proportion."
From the article it appears that Henry had travelled with Professor William Crotch to Banbury. As Henry was studying theology at All Souls, Oxford at the time, it is very possible that he may have been part of the choir.
William Crotch turns out to have lead a most interesting life, born in 1775 he was soon discovered by his mother to be a gifted musician, who was able to play the organ by the age of three and a half.  He had learnt to play the organ by tapping out the National Anthem which he had absorbed by ear, and was soon able to play it on the organ.

His mother took him up to London and to other cities to exhibit his playing, to many people including the King. 
As the following article from the Oxford Journal on Saturday 3rd of July 1779 demonstrates.
"OXFORD, July 3 Mrs. CROTCH, from Norwich, begs Leave to acquaint the Ladies and Gentlemen of this University and City, that her Child, who is not yet Four Years of Age, will, by Permission of the Vice-Chancellor and the Stewards of the Musical Society, play upon the ORGAN at the Musick Room this Day at Twelve o'clock. — Any Contributions will be gratefully received of such Ladies, and Gentlemen as shall honour Mrs. Crotch with their presence. N. B. A Striking Likeness of this Child, finely engraved by Fittler, may be had of the Printer of this Paper, Price 4s. each."
It is possible that the following engraving may be the one referred to above.
Master Crotch.
"At twelve years old, he composed an oratorio; but he had not at that time either formed his taste, or acquired correctness in composition. He took the degree of Bachelor of Music at Oxford in 1794; in 1797, was made organist at St. John's; and succeeded Dr. Hayes in the Professorship of Music, though only twenty-two years of age: he took his degree of Mus. Doct. in 1799. The substance of these lectures was read in the Music School of Oxford, in 1800 and the following four years."[4]

As William and Henry were both aged 22 it is quite possible that they had become friends during their studies in Oxford.
A possible indication of the closeness of their friendship is that Henry had recorded Crotch's wedding to Miss Bliss earlier in the same entry.

Crotch married Miss Bliss July 10.

This event was recorded in the Reading Mercury dated Monday the 17th of July 1797.

"On Monday was married, at St. Mary's church, Mr. Crotch, Professor in this University, to Miss Bliss, eldest daughter of Mr. Bliss, Bookseller, in the High-Street."

Being married to the daughter of a bookseller, appears to have had great practical benefits for William, as is demonstrated by the following advertisement that appeared in the Oxford Journal on Saturday the 6th of January 1798.

In 1798, Henry would write about a trip to London where on July 12th and 13th he visited William and his wife, and they together made an excursion to the studio of Sir William Beechey, where Crotch showed him the painting below that Beechey had done of William some years before.
William Crotch, painted by Sir William Beechey. [5]

Sadly the newspapers are silent about the festivities in Banbury on the night following the consecration.
Did the choir and all the other clergy stay on for a celebration in the town?
Was this perhaps what had caused Henry to pluck up sufficient courage to be able to dance for the first time in public?

[2] The rest of Elliott Brown's photos of this fine church are to be found here
[3] John Lamb (1781–1815) also chief burgess and aldermen of the borough.  In later life he held an additional cure in Northamptonshire, where he resided, paying Banbury's curate £40 with additional fees of about £98 in 1814.  In the early 19th century divine service was held twice on Sundays and Holy Communion was administered 10 times a year to about 50 people; prayers were said on Wednesdays and Fridays each week.  From British History Online
[4] The Eclectic Review, 1831. Page 249.

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