The Vicar’s Tea Party

Once more we return to Edward Nayler, of Townsend House, and his Diary of Events in 19th Century Sedgley, and its Parish.

The year is 1835, and the memories of Cholera were fading. In the Summer of that year the Reverend Charles Girdlestone was preparing for what must have been an annual event to mark the progress of the National Sunday and Infant Schools connected with the parish. Among these was the local one given by the Earl of Dudley in 1828 costing £1000, one year before the reopening of the new All Saint's building. This school many Sedgley residents will recall. It stood well set back from the road, facing Dudley Street, on land belonging to the church. Its playground is now part of the car park behind the Somerfield store, KwikSave until June 2004.

It had obviously become Vicar Girdlestone's practice to celebrate the school's progress with a tea party, in what was then the extensive Vicarage garden. One of these events was recorded by an artist's engraving, known to some Sedgley folk, but available to all now from The Staffordshire Record Office. The press report has a quaint ring about it to modern ears and I anticipate it provoking some smiles!

July 8th 1835 - On Monday afternoon, the Rev. C. Girdlestone gave his annual entertainment to the National Sunday and Infants' School connected to the Parish of Sedgley. For this purpose the vicarage gardens were prepared and the children, to the number of 700, were regaled with tea and buns, with the addition of fruit, etc., for the teachers. It was a source of high gratification to notice the kindness and affability displayed by the clergy and gentlemen who attended to the requirements of the assemblage. Previous to the entertainment, a public examination of the children took place, and they acquitted themselves in a manner most creditable to their teachers. Among the company present on the occasion we noticed Lord and Lady Ward and family, The Rev. Robert and Mrs Wrottesley, The Rev. Mr & Mrs Moore of Eccleshall, Miss Hinkes of Tettenhall, The Rev. G. W. and Mrs Woodhouse, The Rev. H. and Mrs Thursby and family, and many of the neighbouring gentry. The doxology, which was sung at the conclusion of the feast, was given by the children with great effect.

(It is probable that some of the visitors were those who had examined the children, TG)

The success of the day must have given great pleasure to Charles Girdlestone, who in November, was to hear of yet another success; this not only for himself, but for the parishioners too.

November 4th - Her majesty the Queen has become a subscriber to the edition of the New Testament and Commentary, published by the Rev. C. Girdlestone, with a view to paying off the debt on the Sedgley church rate.

(The church did not escape the hand of a taxman! TG)

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