Rector who gave £15,000 to build churches and schools

PUBLISHED: 11:55 19 September 2008 | UPDATED: 09:27 25 May 2010

A picture that recalled the destruction of the Victoria Methodist Church in February, 1934.

A picture that recalled the destruction of the Victoria Methodist Church in February, 1934.

In years of swift growth when new churches were built, Weston was fortunate to have as its Rector Archdeacon Henry Law, who in addition to his conscientious work

When this drawing of Christ Church was made there had been very little development on the surrounding hillside. The church was consecrated in 1855.

In years of swift growth when new churches were built, Weston was fortunate to have as its Rector Archdeacon Henry Law, who in addition to his conscientious work gave £15,000 towards the cost of churches, schools and other public buildings in this area.Henry Law was the son of a former Bishop of Bath and Wells, Dr George Henry Law. The Bishop died at his cottage residence, The Caves, Banwell, on the very day in 1845 of the opening of Weston's St John's School, towards the building of which his son had made a big donation.Archdeacon Law had two periods as Rector of Weston, one from 1834 until 1838, and another from 1840 until 1862. It was he who ended the bitter controversy over Weston's Town Hall by buying it himself and giving it to the town.He played a great part in creating the three parishes of Emmanuel, Christ Church and Holy Trinity. The site of Emmanuel church was consecrated in 1847. It had seating for 900, and at the time of its consecration had an organ that had belonged to George III, and had earlier been presented to Weston Parish Church by the late Mrs Smyth Pigott.The next parish created was Christ Church. Henry Davies gave the land on which the church stands in Montpelier, and also gave generously towards the cost of the building. This church has accommodation for between 500 and 600, and was consecrated in 1855.Only seven years later in 1862 there came the creation of Holy Trinity to serve the very fashionable area on the hill then known as Cliftonville. Archdeacon Law gave £1,000 towards the cost of Holy Trinity church. Thus, taking into account the rebuilding of the Parish Church, four new churches were built in Weston between 1824 and 1862, a period of 38 years. There were others to follow, St Saviour's in 1892, All Saints in 1902, and St Paul's church in 1911.There was also growth in the churches and chapels of other denominations. At one time the Wesleyan chapel was the old Town Hall at the back of High Street. When it became inadequate a new chapel was built in Regent Street at St James' Street corner. It is now Barclay's Bank, but you may still recognise it as the former chapel by its tower.Another chapel no longer used as such was the Independent Chapel, High Street. It was built in 1858 on the site of a former chapel at a cost of £2,300, and seated 500. It is now Woolworth's.The Baptists made a start in Weston in 1847 and opened their first chapel in 1850 in Wadham Street. This was soon found to be too small and a new chapel was built on the same site in 1864. It was blitzed during the Second World War and later rebuilt.A Weston architect with engagingly bizarre ideas, who left his imprint on Weston in the Mercury offices, the Constitutional Club, (formerly the Masonic Hall), and the facade of the old Market Hall in High Street (destroyed in the Playhouse fire), was responsible for the design of the New Baptist Chapel, in Bristol Road, built in 1866 at a cost of £3,000 to accommodate 700.The original Victoria Methodist Church in Station Road was opened in 1900, the Methodists moving to it from their Regent Street premises. It was destroyed in a spectacular fire in 18934, but magnificently replaced.In 1851 the nearest Catholic Church to Weston was at Bridgwater, and to meet the needs of the local community and visitors, services were held in the old Assembly Rooms connected with the former Railway Hotel, now The Anchor. The little church of St Joseph's, Camp Road, was built in 1858 on land given by Joseph Ruscombe Poole. In 1929 there was the splendid addition of Corpus Christi, built to replace a temporary chapel in Carlton Street, while in 1938 Our Lady of Lourdes Church was built at Milton. The Catholics have also contributed to education in Weston through La Retraite and Corpus Christi schools.Among other denominations there are the Society of Friends, or Quakers, who have worshipped regularly in Weston since 1844, and whose building at the corner of Oxford Street and High Street was lost in the Second World War blitz, and subsequently replaced.The Congregationalists have been holding services in Weston since 1824. Their first church was in York Street. Later they built the High Street chapel that was to become Woolworth's. Their Boulevard church, built in 1876, was destroyed by fire bombs in 1942, and since finely rebuilt.There have, of course, been a number of additions to Weston's churches in recent years, including those built to serve the growing suburbs and council house estates, and those of denominations previously unrepresented locally by churches.The Anglican Church was responsible for building Weston's first school in its early village days. The first guide book of 1822 announced that "A School Room for a hundred children, with a house annexed, for the master and mistress, has recently been built at the sole expense of the Rev S Jenkins; and a Sunday school is opened under his immediate direction."This generous benefactor was the Rev Stivard Jenkins, the parish church curate, who lived at Locking. He appears to have been a much-loved man. We do not know anything about the history or ultimate fate of Stivard Jenkins' school.Our first guide book also says: "Mr May had a seminary for Young Gentlemen on the North Parade, and Mrs Dowman has an establishment for the education of Young Ladies in Wellington Place. To accommodate visitors, she receives pupils for the Weston season, and occasionally admits two or three ladies as boarders. Miss Dyer also receives a few boarders on moderate terms, at her house in Sea View place."The first official church school, the St John's National School at the foot of Church Road, was opened in 1845, when Weston's population was between 3,000 and 4,000.An appeal for the school asked for the support of visitors stating: "It is in consequence of the influx of so many person creating a demand for juvenile labour, to attend to donkeys, etc., during the summer months, that so many boys flock to Weston from all parts of the country and have constant employment during the short season, but are left with no resources through the long winter months ..."St John's Schools closed in 1964, and later demolished to make way for the new Technical College, served Weston education for over 100 years. There was at one time a plan to build a new St John's church school on the Glebe land near to the Rectory, but it came to nought.In 1846, the year after the opening of St John's, the British School was opened in Hopkins Street. Beedle's Guide briefly tells us that this "is for the children of Dissenters of the town". Hundreds of Westonians had their education at the British School.Archdeacon Law, whom I have mentioned, also had an infant school built at Carlton Street, "principally at his own expense".In 1859 at the Albert Hall at the back of Emmanuel Church, Weston, has "Albert Memorial Night School, Industrial Institution and Museum" which, we are told, was established "for the instruction of the working sons of working men, whose education had been neglected, and who were desirous of improvement".We are also told that "in the museum will be found a valuable collection of fossils, as well as a number of local and other antiquities. There are also the skeleton of the whale that was caught in Sand Bay and the seal that was captured on Birnbeck Island, with other objects of interest."About 1870 Weston also opened a "Bible and Domestic Mission House and Infant Day Nursery", of which a guide book tells us: "This excellent institution supported by voluntary subscriptions, will be found in Orchard Street, ... conveniently in the midst of the labouring population. It was established during the present year for the purpose of taking care of infants over three months and under three years of age, during the hours that the mothers go out to work, and to obviate the necessity of their keeping at home the elder children 'to mind the baby'. Open from 7 a.m. until 7.30pm."The Walliscote Board Schools were opened in 1897, the architects being our old friend Hans Price and his partner Wooler, and the builder Charlie Addicott. The total cost was £20,000. Hans Price also designed the Government School of Science and Art, now the Technical College.A sad feature has been the decline of private schools in Weston. So far as girls are concerned today, Le Retraite is the only surviving one taking students up to university entrance. The most recent casualty was Westcliff.Girls' private schools of years ago included the Athelstan and Villa Rosa in the Shrubbery; Dunmarklyn and Holywell Ladies College in South Road, and Stanmore House in Royal Crescent. Then there was St Faith's in Atlantic Road, now moved to St Audries, and Rossholme, which has moved from Ellenborough Park to East Brent. There was also Mrs Porstmoth Fry's Rodney House, Hazelhurst, and Burton House.Among the boys' schools were Clarence, Stonehurst, Kingsholme, Fairleigh, Brean House, Lewisham, and Brynmellyn. St Peter's Preparatory School, founded in 1882, still flourishes. The college was started on the site of the Grand Atlantic Hotel in 1846, moving to Walliscote Road about 50 years later.Weston Grammar School began as a co-ed school for 350 boys and girls in converted war-time hospital huts on a Nithsdale Road site in 1922. The huts were only intended to be temporary, but they served for 31 years until the permanent building was opened on the Uphill Castle field site in 1935. There have been a number of additions to our local schools since, and now we await the biggest and costliest of them all, the Technical College which is to open this year.* This article, edited by Jill Bailey, was originally published on January 10, 1969

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