RE-OPENING OF KEN CHURCH (3rd May 1862)
During the last few years much has been done in various parts of the county of Somerset towards restoring sacred edifices that “decay’s effacing fingers” had shorn of some of their beauty and a great deal of their strength ; and to a reflecting mind, there are few tasks more in harmony with modern growth and progress than to engraft the endeavours of the present upon the zeal and grandeur of the past, as, in so doing, we preserve unbroken that link which binds us to the ages that are gone, and show to all around that, whilst we glory in improvements which our fathers wot not of, we can yet reverence every energy which called each stately pile into being, and do our utmost to make that which is a “thing of beauty,” abide “a joy for ever.”
Where’er a spire points up to heaven,
Through storm and summer air,
Telling that all around have striven,
Man’s heart, and hope, and prayer.
Where’er a blessed home hath been,
That now is home no more,
A place of ivy darkly green,
Where Zion’s songs are o’er.
There it is the aim of zealous Christian effort to restore such place of worship, and nobly do the exertions put forth in the many instances recurring testify to the willingness of those who take part in that which to them is a labour of love, since, as the work to be done is frequently of a very costly description, the sums needed are of necessity large. Sometimes the village church, where have worshipped many generations, has in part decayed, and the glory has only partially departed, like Nailsea old church, the restoration of which we noticed a short time since, but in other instances the whole, or nearly the whole building appears to have succumbed to the irresistible influence of time, and this was the case with the ancient structure at Ken, which having been for a while undergoing extensive alterations was on Tuesday formally re-opened.
The antiquity of Ken church is attested by the fact of the register dating from 1543, while the date of the communion cup and of the cover is 1545. It is a small edifice, as so scanty is the adjacent population that a larger structure would not be required. Indeed, the facts presented by the census of 1861 testify that the neighbourhood is getting thinner and thinner ; since, in 1851 there were 323 persons in Ken, whereas ten years later we find there are only 282. If, however, there is this decline in numbers, the zeal of the parishioners does not appear to be diminished, and they have done their utmost to strengthen the hands of their incumbent, the Rev. John Acres, A.M. Since the early part of 1861, the whole of the original building, except the tower, has been pulled down to the foundation, and rebuilt from the plans of Messrs. Fosters and Wood, architects, of our city. The mason and general contractor was Mr. T. Hartree, of Clevedon ; the woodwork was undertaken by Mr. J. Bennett, of Limekiln-dock ; Mr. Bell, in company with Mr. Gay, both of Bristol, supplied the glass. The church, which is Gothic in character, consists of nave, chancel, vestry, porch and tower. The walls are of pennant – stone, lined with magnesia – stone, the latter being, we are informed, presented by Sir A. Elton, of Clevedon. There is but one entrance to the church, with the exception of a door adjoining the vestry. The public entrance is at the south side, and the oak door has been re-cased and otherwise restored. A neat pair of gates is placed outside the porch. The roof is constructed of the best American pitch pine, but the whole of the fittings of the sacred structure are of oak, those in the chancel being of English, and in the other parts of the church, American wood. Formerly the pews had been high and enclosed, being made of deal, but at present, in accordance with modern buildings, they are low and open. A raised gallery has been erected, in which the school children are accommodated, so that more room is provided for worshippers in the body of the church. There are 26 seats in the church, and these will contain 140 persons. Great care has been taken in the restoration of the chancel, it being ornamented with carved oaken bosses, which are wrought in an extremely handsome manner, being cut out of some wood from Keynsham church, which structure Mr. Bennett is at present engaged in restoring. It is computed that the oak is at least 500 years old. To return to Ken church ; the glazed ornamental tiles for the chancel were supplied by Minton ; the iron work, which is conspicuous in several instances as an ornament and for use was executed by Mr. Bennett. In order that the sacred structure might be thoroughly warmed, one of Perrett’s stoves has been put up, and we may state en passant, that Keynsham church will be warmed in a similar manner. Some of our readers may be aware that the ancient and curious monument of the celebrated Christopher Ken was placed in the chancel but it has now been removed to the west end of the church, being placed against the tower. In all, the restoration has occupied about 14 months, which is a great deal longer than it was at first anticipated it would require, as the works were commenced at the beginning of the year 1861, and all of them were to have been finished by September of that year, but no intention then existed in any one’s mind to rebuild the walls, as it was considered that they would last for an indefinite period. A competent authority gave an opinion that it would be necessary to take down the old walls, and after some demur the universal opinion of the parishioners confirmed this view. Still, though convinced of the necessity of making such a sweeping alteration as would leave the tower standing out of the original structure, the parishioners did not relish the notion of paying the extra amount which would be requisite. Accordingly the works were for a while delayed, so that it was at one time feared the restoration would not be carried out in a satisfactory manner. At length, however, the parishioners consented to give the extra amount needed, and the work thenceforth proceeded rapidly. We do not think the subscribers will regret that they have acted liberally in the matter, since they can now be well proud of their church. There were numerous presents made by liberal-minded persons, some of which we may mention. A window in the tower was given by Mr. Bell, the design being taken from a picture, formerly belonging to the Marchioness of Bath, but at present in the possession of Mr. J. H. Markland, of Bath. Messrs. Fosters and Wood gave two stained windows, and a memorial window in the south chancel was given by the incumbent. The communion chairs and cushions were presented my Mrs. John Griffin ; the kneeling cushion was worked by Miss Milward, sister of the former incumbent. Mrs. C. Edwards, whose husband is a large contributor to the funds of the church, gave the candlesticks ; Miss A. Grevile, linen ; Miss F Grevile, the markers. If the whole of the debt at present on the church is made up in a certain time, a gentleman who has already given £25, has promised that he will give £50 in addition, so that the efforts of the charitable are desired that this further amount may be obtained. The total cost of the sacred edifice, we are informed by the incumbent, is about £870, though the builders say that, with extras, it will exceed £1000. We cannot quit the brief notice we have given of the details of the restoration, without congratulating Mr. Shipp, who executed the wood carving under Mr. Bennett, and Mr. Duval, who did the carving in stone under Mr. Hartree, as these branches of ornamental work were performed with consummate taste and skill.
Brightly shone the sun on Tuesday morning, and early were many of the inhabitants of Ken astir in order to complete the necessary preparations that the proceedings connected with the re-opening of their church might pass off in a creditable manner since they anticipated several visitors would be present from Clevedon, Yatton, and other places, nor were they disappointed, since a very numerous gathering took place. In order to accommodate so many, a number of chairs had been borrowed from All Saints’ Church, Clevedon, lately erected by Lady Elton. The chancel was prettily decorated with flowers, two neatly fashioned crucifixes, composed of these frail but beautiful offspring of nature being affixed to the east wall, while the elegantly written scrolls that ran round the walls of the church formed an appropriate border, and added a charm to the appearance of the interior. On the North wall, and exactly opposite the entrance, was an extremely tasteful scroll containing the assertion of the Psalmist, “I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the House of the Lord,” at either end being the sacred monogram “I.H.S.” A procession of choristers and clergymen was formed prior to the morning service, and they walked to the church, the Rev. J. Acres bring up the rear, with the two church wardens bearing wands ornamented with flowers. In addition to the choristers of Ken, there were several who took part in the service from the choir of St. Raphael’s, Bristol, and the manner in which all acquitted themselves is deserving of praise.
The Rev. Prebendary OMMANNEY preached the sermon, and having ascended the pulpit, he gave out as his text the first verse of the 122nd Psalm – “I was glad when they said unto me we will go into the house of the Lord.” In his introductory remarks the rev. gentleman said that there was gladness at the present time both for minister and people, and joy for the work completed ; gratitude to those who had aided, and praises to God for mercies begun and continued ; and there were the happy, sanctifying influences of the present assemblage, the fond hopes of loving and faithful hearts for future blessings, of which that restored sanctuary might prove the source. All those things turned their hearts to the Psalmist’s language as they met once more within the courts of the Lord’s house, in the place of His more especial presence in that parish. On such an occasion it was not unnatural to fix the attention of the congregation upon the solemn obligation which the creature had to work for the Creator and the high majesty of Him whom they served, and the reverence and godly fear in which they approached him in the sanctuary. The rev. gentleman unfolded the peculiar grandeur of the Jewish ritual, and contrasted it with the spiritual tone of the Christian worship. He then spoke of the efforts put forth by piously-disposed men and women to erect noble structures to the worship of God, quoting a passage from history relative to the great strides made in ecclesiastical worship in the reign of the first Christian Emperor of Rome. In further remarks the minister eulogised the Prayer Book, and spoke highly of the Anglican Church, as contrasted with the Puritan and Genevan forms of worship. He thought the one was so much more cheerful than the other as to instantly commend itself, and he referred more particularly to the jubilant tone of the Te Deum, hymn of the three children, song of the Virgin, and the exultation of Simeon. He wished that those sublime compositions should be sung to strains that were appropriate, deprecating any vulgar, inharmonious, and inappropriate sounds, as they were degrading in their character to the House of God. How good and pleasant it was to hear a whole congregation, in one heart and with one mouth, glorify God, even the Father of their Lord, Jesus Christ. If their Choral Association accomplished that, its great object in the smaller as well as the larger parishes of that deanery, it would be difficult to estimate the importance in their church worship, and the interest which would be felt in it by all the people. At any rate, the attempt deserved encouragement, and should be supported liberally by every Churchman. The rev. gentleman thought that the language of the Prayer Book was so dignified when compared with the familiar, canting, fondling expressions sometimes adopted in speaking of Christ, which were at variance with good taste and reverent piety. Speaking of the service of the Church of England, he said that it was quite different to the cold reserve and fierce fanaticism of the Puritans. He then passed on to make some observations relative to the churches of the county, saying that the noble churches of Somersetshire had been happily spared. The hand of the spoiler and of the desecrator had changed for the spirit of the restorer and the taste of the beautifier, and the exclusiveness of the pew system was yielding to the open and unappropriated benches of the poor worshippers, as at the command of Him who said “My house shall be called the house of prayer for all people.” It was an omen of good throughout the land that “God, even our God,” was giving them the blessing. Speaking more particularly of Ken church, the minister said the pious work of restoration began, and through many difficulties had been carried out, by the ratepayers, and by means of the voluntary gifts of landed proprietors, thus combining the sacred principles of legal and voluntary offering. As regarded the funds there was a great deficiency, which if not paid might entail a loss upon the incumbent, as he would lose a liberal contributor to the church.
The offertory having been taken the benediction was pronounced, and the service brought to a termination.
In the evening a second service was held, which concluded the engagements of the day.
From a cutting of the time – thanks again to Jane Lilly