Friday, 10 February 2012

Ingatestone: Canon Hudson

‘Edward Freeman Hudson. 1906-1989’ is the simple title of a limited-edition book written by the late Kenneth Langford in 1995.  I discovered a copy of it while browsing in a secondhand bookshop in Colchester recently.  Canon Hudson, as he was known by all parishioners, was the Rector of Ingatestone and Curate of Buttsbury from 1952 (sixty years ago) to 1988.  His epitaph in St Mary’s Church, Buttsbury, describes him accurately as “A loving Priest and true friend to all”.  I remember him well, as would all who lived in Ingatestone during those years.  The book is an interesting and insightful read.

Canon Hudson loved Ingatestone and its people.  He was involved in many aspects of village life: taking assemblies at least three days a week at the (CofE aided) Junior School; as Chairman of Governors of all three schools; a regular visitor to Brownies and other local organisations; taking a full and active role as parish priest and taking an interest in wider diocese activity.  He was a highly educated man who enjoyed reading, and drew on his extensive knowledge to illustrate his sermons.  The parish magazine, ‘The Tower’, had a significant contribution by him, giving news of local events and personal reflections.  I remember someone calling it the “I magazine”, but given a chance to read it today the monthly editions would say much about a mid-twentieth century village.  It demonstrates a priest in touch with his parishioners, and must have provided Mr Langford with plenty of source material to create the biography.  Canon Hudson’s ministry was at a time of an enormous growth in the local population as Ingatestone developed into a small dormitory town.  Ingatestone was one of the first villages on the ‘great Essex road’ to be bypassed.  Until then the Rectory overlooked open fields. 

But he was very much of his time.  He did not like calling people by their Christian names – and it is unimaginable that he would have been called Canon Edward.  He regarded himself as an ‘English Catholic’, having a closer working relationship with the Catholic Church than “dissenters” – with whom he had “many friends and no enemies”.   He was against the ordination of women priests, writing that he hoped that the motion would be “crushingly rejected”.  Mr Langford wonders what he would have made of the decision to accept women priests, just four years after his death.  The only woman who attended his committal service was his widow.  Without doubt he was a highly respected community leader and, says the author, easily capable of becoming a Bishop.  Despite offers he would not leave Ingatestone.

It seems also he had a part in saving St Mary’s Church, Buttsbury, from demolition in the 1950s.  The old village had ceased to be a civil parish in the 1930s, being amalgamated into Stock and Billericay, and the old church in the country had been war-damaged requiring extensive repairs.  He wrote in ‘The Tower’, “people come to Buttsbury for peace and rest, and find it. … The present popularity of Buttsbury with its stark unadorned beauty and penetrating peace is not surprising”. 

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