Friday, 14 October 2011

Stondon Massey: Revd. Edward James Reeve

An extract from ‘Jottings’ by EHL Reeve written in 1881 and now available in a booklet entitled ‘After Dinner Anecdotes’.

 “In medio tutissimus ibis” is the Rector’s of Stondons motto.  Imbued with a firm belief in the English Church, he is equally uncompromising to Roman Catholic and Dissenter, courting neither the one nor the other out of fear or favour.

Mr Ely, Rector of Broomfield near the Curacy of Little Waltham, said to him in those early days of his ministry, “Your sentiments are right, but you will never be popular”.

[Edward James Reeve was Curate of Little Waltham, near Chelmsford, Essex, from 1847 to 1849 having previously served as Curate at Ide Hill, near Sevenoaks in Kent, from 1844 to 1846.]

On some points of Church doctrine or discipline my father feels so strongly, that in speaking of them he seems almost inspired to inveigh against those who would make breaches in her walls.  On such occasions he feels as though he would like to be addressing a huge mass of people on some wide plain, and fancies them still pouring in to hear him.  “How many are there?” he supposes to himself to ask, “20000 Sir” is the reply, “and they are still coming up”. “Let them come on”.  And when assembled, he can imagine himself addressing them all, and like Samson, dying at the hour of triumph.

Mr Wyndham Holgate Inspector of Schools, sent by the Government round the Country to inquire into the state of school buildings – whether or no they were adequate to the number of children etc – in due course came to Stondon.  Had the cubic weight of air in the room been deemed insufficient, the Government could have obliged the parish to build another school of proper proportions.  It was however deemed to be sufficient.  My father is in possession of the title deeds of the ground on which the school stands, it being given to the rector by Mr Philip Herman Meyer the Lord of the Manor for use as School property as long as the school should be conducted according to the principles of the Church of England.  Mr Wyndham Holgate endeavoured to persuade my father that he only had to accept the conditions of Government called the “Conscience Clause” (by which children, whose parents objected to the teaching of the English Church, might be instructed in secular learning only) to obtain a Grant from Government, instead of paying the salary of the governess himself.  This was just the proposition to call forth his best energies, and I have it from Mrs Meyer herself who was present at the time, that she never heard such a torrent of eloquence, such pithy and witty sentences; such speedy, such sharp retorts. He had the best of the argument throughout, and his adversary retreated, assuring him that there were only two other such in the kingdom, and that he was a regular old John Bull.  On wishing the Rector good-day, the Inspector said, “You are quite right, Mr Reeve, there is no doubt, in your view of the matter.”

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