The Munificence of Sir George Elliot 20.05.1881
Sir George Elliott, who recently visited Aberaman, Aberdare, has expressed bis intention of erecting, on a suitable site near the British Schools, a handsome church, to accommodate the congregation at present worshipping in the schoolroom. It is hinted that the church may take the form of a memorial to Lady Elliot, whose lamented death was recently recorded.
Sir George Elliot, Bt., M.P. for his employees in the Powell Dyffryn Mines and as a memorial to his wife, Lady Margaret and his daughter Elizabeth at his own personnel cost, it cost £5,000 to build.
It was designed by E. H. Lingen Barker of Hereford in the early decorated style cruciform in plan, consisting of a chancel with a semi-circular apsidal end. The sloping character of the site utilized to provide three useful rooms beneath the chancel and transepts, the floors being supported on iron girders and white brick arches. The main walling of the church was built of local Pennant sandstone from the Aberaman quarries. The copings, quoins and other dressed stone came from “Mr Pictor’s” Westwood Quarry, the imitation of natural foliage and fruit, executed by George Frederick Herridge, a sculptor from Cardiff.
Opening of St. Margaret’s Church Aberaman 06.10.1883
An event of an unusually interesting description, especially to the inhabitants of Aberaman, took place on Saturday last, when the handsome and substantially built church, erected at the sole cost of Sir George Elliot, Bart., M.P., was formally opened for divine worship by the Bishop of Llandaff. A brass plate, which is intended to be placed in the building, contains the following inscription “This Church has been erected by Sir George Elliot, Bart., M.P., and dedicated to the glory of God in memory of his beloved wife, Margaret, and their daughter Elizabeth, 29th September 1883.”
The service, which commenced at 11 a.m., was attended by a large congregation, including the neighbouring clergy and the leading residents of the district, Sir George Elliot being accompanied to the church by his son, Mr G. W. Elliot, M.P. for Northallerton, and other members of the family.
The church and ground adjoining are some two acres in extent, and the ground had been tastefully laid out, under the direction of Mr Little, of Aberaman, by Mr Shaw, of Swansea. The church, which is calculated to seat about 400 people, is in the general style of architecture adopted in England in the reign of Edward I, and his two successors. The whole of the local stone for the walls and steps came from the Aberaman quarries and the white brick from the Powell Duffryn Works. Mr C. Shepherd, of Cardiff, was the contractor for the largest portion of the works, which have been carried out under the superintendence of Sir George Elliot’s architect, Mr E. H. Lingen Barker, of London and Hereford; who also supplied the design for the building and all its details. We may add that the vessels for the altar have been presented by Mr W. T. Lewis, and the altar cloth by Mrs Johnson, of Aberdare.
The service, full choral, was commenced by singing the processional hymn, 393, from Hymns Ancient and Modern, the first lesson (1st Chronicles, 29th chap.,) being read by the Rev. H. E. Thursby, and the second lesson (11th chap. of Mark,) by the Rev. Hugh Jones, the curate in charge, the prayers being intoned by the Rev. H. Bowen Jenkins, M.A., Oxon., vicar of Aberdare. Mr A. N. James, the organist of the church, presided at the organ a fine new instrument, erected for a cost of £400, and presented by the inhabitants of the district.
The bishop took as his text the words. ”And it came to pass that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom,” St. Luke, 16th chapter, 22nd verse. His lordship pointed out that this was one of the holy days of the Church, and directed the thoughts of his hearers to those parts of the Scriptures which laid before us an account of those ministering spirits of whose services in our behalf we were specially invited by the Church to thank God on this day. He then proceeded to say that time was, and that not very long ago, when the rich showed a spirit of self-indulgence, and unconcern for the glory of God, and the spiritual wants of their neighbours, but thank God those times were past and gone forever. They had now a far higher sense of their responsibilities. Of this, we had abundant evidence in the various charitable institutions, which, during the past half-century, had sprung up in our large towns, in the provision made for the large employment of labour, and the for the large employment of labour, and the health and comfort of the people; and more particularly in the attention which was given to the spiritual needs of those whom they employed. In this great diocese, whore such help was so urgently needed, and it was to him a source of thankfulness that he was able to point out many instances of the growth of such a Christian spirit, not the least gratifying of which was to be seen in the chaste and beautiful temple which had this day been set apart for the use and benefit of the surrounding population. In less than three weeks he would be engaged in consecrating a similar building in a neighbouring parish, the result chiefly of the munificence of a single-family. May it please God by his grace to stir the hearts of others to follow these good examples.
After the service about 200 Freemasons of the eastern province of South Wales, of which Sir George Elliott is the Grand Master, met in the schools adjoining the church, and a grand lodge of emergency was held. Sir George was present, and after giving his brethren a very cordial welcome, he very affectingly alluded to the circumstances under which the sacred edifice had been founded and Bro. Tennant, the Deputy-Grand Master, thanked Sir George for the heartiness of his greeting.
The provincial officers, besides Sir George and Mr Tennant, were: Sir George Elliot, P.G.M.; Mr Tennant, D.P.G.M. Mr J. F. Parkinson, P.G D. of England and P.D.G. M. Middlesex; Mr T. Thomas, P.S.G.W.; Mr E. Jones, J.G.W. Dr Walters, Mr G Chap, Mr H. P. Charles, P.G. Treas.; Mr J. Jones, P.G. Sec. Mr J. L. Perrin, G.D.C. Mr J R. Harris, G.S.P. Mr G. Butterwell, P.G. Tyler; 0. Hurford, P.P.G.S. Mr R. T Phillips, P.P.G.D.C. (North Wales and Salop) Mr H. Simmons, P.P.G.D C It. Thomas, P. P.S.G.W. H. Southern, P.P.S.G.D. C. F. Goode, P.P.G.D.C. (Mon) T. L. Lewis, P.P.G. Org.; E. Lawrence, P.P.G. Org.; E. Jones, P.P.G. Sec.; E. J. Thomas, P.P.G.D.C.; T. Goodfellow, P.P.G.S.B.; E. Roberts, P.P.G.R W. Jackson, P.P.D.C D. C. Jones, P.PG. Treas.; D. R. David, P.P.G SB D. Davies, P.P J.G.; W.J. Thomas, P.P.G.P.; G. Smith, P.P.G.S.P.; T. B. Powell, P.P.G.S. B. E. Thomas, P.P.B.C. W. Whittington, P.P.S.G.W. J. E. Price, P.P.S.G.W.; Rev. A. E. Campbell, P.P.G.S.; and T. Phillips, P.P.G.P.
In a spacious and nicely decorated marquee, erected by Mr J. Smart, Cardiff, in Aberaman Park close to the house, a most sumptuous luncheon had been laid out for the hundreds of visitors. This was provided on the premises, under the direction of Mr W. Little, who placed on the tables an abundance of every delicacy of the season. The waiting, under the management of Mr C. Rosser, Aberdare, was all that could be expected.
Before the luncheon was concluded Sir George, who rising was hailed with much cheering, said their, worthy bishop, who had rendered such excellent service that day, was about to depart by train. Although they were only ill the middle of their meat they would not, he hoped, consider there was an end to the business because this was not grace, he wished to ask them to drink to the health, every happiness, and long life of the Lord Bishop of Llandaff.
The Bishop, in responding, thanked all from the bottom his heart for how they had received the toast just proposed by Sir George. It was to him great pleasure to come amongst them to perform the functions which he had just discharged, for he assured them it was one of those works which he took a great interest and pleasure in because it was the providing of church accommodation for the teeming” thousands that peopled those valleys. Though they had good things before them, still there were higher and better things which they must look for. They must remember, amid their worldly prosperity and worldly businesses, that there were souls within them to be saved, and that those houses of God were the place where they received spiritual strength for the nurture of those souls, which were precious in the sight of God and in the sight of His holy angels. Having again thanked his hearers, his lordship bade all good evening and left the tent.
Sir George afterwards asked his Masonic friends to take a glass of wine with him; and he added that in asking them he did not exclude others joining, though they were not masons. They had no secrets that day. The brethren having responded.
Mr R. H. Rhys said that in consequence of the bishop’s departure he felt it incumbent upon, on, him to propose a toast which he know they would respond to most heartily. He thought that what they had seen that day the beautiful church which Sir George had dedicated to the use of the people of that district, and the sumptuous manner in which he had entertained them, would be always remembered by everyone present with the greatest satisfaction that no words were needed to commend the toast. He begged to propose “The Health of Sir George and long life to him and the whole of his family.” He was sure that Sir George had been a great benefactor to that district and neighbourhood, and they were all immensely proud of his coming amongst them. He hoped they would respond to the toast with the enthusiasm which it deserved.
The toast was drunk with the greatest enthusiasm, the vast company before resuming their slats singing vigorously “For he is a jolly good fellow.” This was followed by repeated outbursts of hurrahs.”
“Sir George, responding, said: Mr Rhys, Ladies and Gentlemen, not excluding my Masonic friends, in the few words I am going to utter. I am pleased beyond expression to see a company so large, so enthusiastic so genuine as I am certain that you are in your feelings: on this occasion. Our chief object here was that of opening the new church, which, I hope will be found to be a great blessing and a great benefit to the district. In doing this I have not in contemplation any service that will hereafter be conducted in that church no particular form, excepting which I should prefer what I mean to tell you is I would rather not see in the present or the future any extravagance in the form of its service.
Should like it to be very much on the lines of old Protestantism as we know it. It will pass probably out of my control, and all that I wish is that when that time comes the founder of the church, his wishes and his objects, will form some guide as to how the services are to be performed in that church. You are not to understand I hope, at all events, that you will not think so that I am disapproving of what I saw and heard today. You will understand that I am not laying down any particular law or regulation but I should like, if possible, that the services should be conducted in a manner that would be conducive to the best interest of the people. Times may change, and the services in some details may be required to be varied and do sometimes vary in different places. I have no hard and fast line upon the subject in my mind, but what I do hope is that it will never be a matter of controversy, and discontent, and separation that the service should take any extreme form, either high or low.
I have been very much pleased with our bishop it is the first time I have seen him. His genial demeanour, his presence, his temper, his manner, his doctrines, which we have heard this morning, all commend themselves to us. I hope that his usefulness in this country and district will be great, and that he will obtain a hold of the minds of the people, and that the Church will be strengthened. I do not set my face, as you all know, against Dissenters. Why should I? They are the bulk of the people in this part of the country, and, therefore, I have no feeling to utter other than of great respect for all those who differ from me in any views whatever and that is the code that I have acted on all my life and at this time of the day. I do not intend to depart from it.
It may, however, be observed that there is something in taking care of that which you believe to be the right and best and that which you belong to. There is a great and strong attitude taken by many denominations in this country, especially in Wales, against the Established Church. I have been sorry to see that. It has been made a strong political question, and I do not concur with it. I am not here to make a political speech, but at the same time I am here to tell you that throughout my rather I do not call it a long life, at any rate, throughout many years I have been an open-handed helper to almost every denomination, but I have come to the conclusion that it is worth considering whether the line ought not to be drawn somewhere when I find that some denominations teach, and positively make it their initial card as it were, and their public life and politics, to disestablish and pull down the Church to which I belong.
I think I have the right, I do not say I will do it – to pause and say, “Ought I to assist these people in the way I have been doing, or not?” I do not put it higher than merely say I claim the individual right to pause before I assist, as I have been assisting, people who declare that, if strong enough, if I and others make them strong enough they will pull down the old Church (applause, and cries of “No.”) I do not like to say this, because the bulk of those here no doubt, belong to that Church. (Cries of “No.”) Be that as it may. (A voice: “We all belong to the Church.”) Yes, but I mean the Church of England.
Quakers belong to a Church, and a very good Church, and, therefore, I shall not say more on the subject than this, that I hope that this Church which we opened today, instead of being a source and means of contention, will be something round which those differing will find comfort and consolation, and make it their ruling point to try and see how small their differences are rather than fight against each other.
Sir George then asked his friends who were not Masons to join him in a glass of wine, this having been done, the worthy baronet asked the company to drink to the health of Brother Tennant a toast which was most cordially drunk.
Mr Tennant, in replying, congratulated Sir George and the inhabitants of the district in having such a grand church to worship in.
The proceedings then terminated, and the company separated.
On Sunday services were held in the new church in the morning, afternoon, and evening. In the morning, the service was intoned by the Rev. T. E. Thursby, assistant curate, the Rev. Hugh Jones, curate in charge, preached, and the Vicar of Aberdare celebrated holy communion. There was a litany in the afternoon. In the evening, the Rev. Hugh Jones intoned the first part of the service, and Mr Thursby the second part, the sermon being preached by the Vicar of Aberdare, who chose for his text 1st Peter ii 5. The address was the most appropriate one, the rev. gentleman comparing the building of the material house to that of the spiritual house. He asked that the donor of the beautiful building they were assembled in might always be remembered in the prayers of the congregation and of those who laboured there.
Mr A. N. James presided at the organ during the day, and the singing generally was good. The “Marche dos Flambeaux,” was played as a concluding voluntary. The church was crowded at all the services, many being unable to find room. The altar was handsomely decorated with choice flowers. Sir George Elliott was present during the morning service. The only fault we must find is with the gas fittings in the pulpit, which are evidently into proximity to the preacher. This, however, is a matter that may easily be remedied.
On Monday, the choir of St. Margaret’s Church, the trustee and committee of the British Schools, the whole of the Aberaman school children, numbering nearly 900, and also the Industrial School children partook of a substantial cold collection, at the invitation of Sir George Elliot, in the tent in which ho entertained his guests and visitors on the previous Saturday. Sir George was present and manifested the greatest possible interest in the proceedings. Before leaving hearty cheers were given for Sir George.
CYMRU / THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF WALES 2013
Back to Aberaman