The Church of All Saints
in the Town of Preston
Photograph supplied by and © of Brian Young
The following is reproduced from "Our Churches and Chapels" by Atticus (A. HEWITSON) and was printed at the "Chronicle" Office, Fishergate, Preston. 1869. The Lancashire Online Parish Clerks Project wish to acknowledge Project Gutenberg who have made this and many other books freely available.
The calendar of the canonised has come in handy for the christening of churches. Without it, we might have indulged in a poor and prosaic nomenclature; with it, the dullest, as well as the finest, architecture can get into the company of the beatified. Barring a few places, all our churches are associated with some particular saint; every edifice has cultivated the acquaintance of at least one; but that we have now to notice has made a direct move into the general constellation, and is dedicated to the aggregate body. We believe that in church-naming, as in common life, "ALL is for the best," and we commend, rather than censure, the judgment which recognised the full complement of saints when All Saints' was consecrated. A man maybe wrong in fixing upon one name, or upon fifty, or fifty hundred, but if he agglomerates the entire mass, condenses every name into one, and gives something respectable that particular name, he won't be far off the equinoctial of exactness. In this sense, the christeners of All Saints' were wise; they went in for the posse comitatus of saints--backed the favourites as well as "the field"--and their scheme, so far as naming goes, must win. There is, however, not much in a name, and less in a reverie of speculative comment, so we will descend to a lower, yet, perhaps, more healthy, atmosphere.
In 1841, the Rev. W. Walling, son of a yeoman living is Silverdale-- one of the prettiest places we know of in the North of England--came to Preston, as minister of St. James's Church. He stayed at the place for about a year, then went to Carlton, in Nottinghamshire, and afterwards to Whitby. Mr. Walling was a man of quiet disposition; during his stay in Preston he was exceedingly well liked; and when he left the town, a vacuum seemed to have been created. He was a missed man; his value was not found out until he had gone; and it was determined--mainly amongst a pious, enthusiastic section of working people--to get him back again if possible. And they went about the business like sensible people-- decided not to root out his predecessor at St. James's, nor to exterminate any of the sundry clerical beings in other parts of the town, but to build him a new church. They were only poor men; but they persevered; and in a short time their movement took a distinct shape, and the building, whose erection they had in view, was prospectively called "The Poor Man's Church." In time they raised about 200 pounds; but a sum like that goes only a little way in church building--sometimes doesn't cover those very refreshing things which contractors call "extras;" a number of wealthier men, who appreciated the earnestness of the original promoters, and saw the necessity, of such a church as they contemplated, came to the rescue, and what they and divers friends gave justified a start, on a plot of land between Walker-street and Elizabeth-street. On the 21st of September, 1846, the foundation-stone of the church--All Saints--was laid by the late Thomas German, Esq., who was mayor of Preston at that time. The building, which cost about 2,600 pounds, was not consecrated till December, 1856, but it was ministerially occupied by the Rev. W. Walling on the 23rd September, 1848, and he held his post, earning the respect and esteem of all in the discharge of its duties, till October 10th, 1863, when death suddenly ended his labours. When the church was consecrated there was a debt of about 750 pounds upon it; but in a few years, by the judicious and energetic action of the trustees, it was entirely cleared off. The present trustees of the church are Dr. Hall, Messrs. J. R. Ambler, F. Mitchell, and W. Fort. The successor of the Rev. W. Walling was the Rev. G. Beardsell, who still occupies the situation; but before saying anything to the point concerning him we must describe the church and its concomitants.
All Saints' is a good substantial-looking church. It is built in the Ionic style of Greek architecture; has a massive pillared front; is railed round, has an easy and respectable entrance, and--getting worse as it gets higher--is surmounted with a small bell turret and a chimney. Other things may be put upon the roof after a while, for space is abundant there. The church has a square, respectable, capacious interior--is roomy, airy, light; doesn't seem thrown together in a dim foggy labrynth like some places, and you feel as if you could breathe freely on taking a seat in it. It is well- galleried, and will accommodate altogether about 1,500 human beings. The pews are good, and whilst it is impossible for them to hold more people than can get into them, they are charged for as if one additional person could take a seat in each after being full! This is odd but quite true. In the case of pews which will just accommodate five persons, six sittings are charged for; those holding four are put down in the rent book for five; and this scale of charges is kept up in respect to all the pews, whether big or little. The rents go into the pocket of the incumbent. At the southern end there is a small chancel, which was erected at the expense of the late J. Bairstow, Esq. It is ornamented with several stained glass windows, and has an inlaid wooden canopy, but there is nothing startling nor remarkable about the work. Beneath the windows there is painted in large, letters the word "Emmanuel;" but the position of it is very inconvenient. People sitting above may see the name fairly; but many below have a difficulty in grasping it, and those sitting in the centre will never be able to get hold of more letters than those which makeup the mild name of "Emma." Names- -particularly great ones--should never be put up anywhere unless they can be seen. On each side of the chancel arch then is a small tablet; one being to the memory of the Rev. W. Walling, and the other to that of the late W. Tuson, Esq., who was one of the original wardens. The church is clean and in good condition; but the windows would stand re-painting. There are about 400 free seats in the building, and they are pretty well patronised. The general attendance is tolerably large; between 700 and 800 people frequent the church on the average; but the congregation seems to be of a floating character, is constantly changing, and embraces few "old stagers." Formerly, many who had been at the church from the first might be seen at it; numerous persons recognised as "fixtures" were there; but they have either gone to other churches or died off, and there is now a strong ebb and flow of new material at the place.
The congregation is of a complex description; you may see in it the "Grecian bend" and the coal scuttle hood, the buff waistcoat and the dark moleskin coat; but in the main the worshippers are of a quiet well-assorted character--partly working class, partly middle-class, with a sprinkling of folk above and below both. The humble minded and the ancient appear to have a liking for the left side range of seats; the swellishly-young and the substantially-middle class take up a central position; people of a fair habilimental stamp occupy the bulk of the seats on the other side; whilst the select and the specially virtuous approximate the pulpit--one or two in the excelsior category get even beyond it, and like both the quietude and the dignity of the position. The galleries are used by a promiscuous company of worshippers, who keep good order and make no undue noises. The tale-tellers and the gossips--for they exist here as in the generality of sacred places--are distributed in various directions. It would be advantageous if they were all put in one separate part; for then their influence would not be so ramified, and they might in the end get up a small Kilkenny affair and mutually finish off one another. Late attendance does not seem to be so fashionable at All Saints' as at some churches; still it exists; things would look as if they were getting wrong if somebody didn't come late and make everybody turn their heads. When we visited the church, the great mass were present at the right time; but a few dropped in after the stipulated period; one put in an appearance 30 minutes late; and another sauntered serenely into the region of the ancient people just 65 minutes after the proceedings had commenced. At a distance, the reading desk and the pulpit look oddly mixed up; but a close inspection shows that they are but fairly associated, stand closely together, the pulpit, which is the higher, being in the rear. There is no decoration of any sort in the body of the church; everything appears tranquil, serious, straightforward, and respectable. The singing is of a very poor character,--is slow, weak, and calculated at times to make you ill. Pope, in his Essay on Criticism, says--
Some to church repair,
Not for the doctrine, but the music there.
Probably they do; but nobody goes to All Saints' for that purpose. No genuine hearty interest seems to be taken in the singing by anybody particularly. The choir move through their notes as if some of them were either fastened up hopelessly in barrels, or in a state of musical syncope; the organist works his hands and feet as well as he can with a poor organ; the members of the congregation follow, lowly and contentedly, doing their best against long odds and the parson sits still, all in one grand piece, and looks on. The importance and influence of good music should be recognised by every church; and we trust in time there will be a decided improvement at All Saints'. A church like it--a building of its size and with its congregation--ought to have something superior and effective in the matter of music.
We have already said that the Rev. George Beardsell is the minister of All Saints'. He has been at the church, as its incumbent, about five years. Originally Mr. Beardsell was a Methodist;--a Methodist preacher, too, we believe; but in time he changed his notions; and eventually flung himself, in a direct line, into the arms of "Mother Church." Mr. Beardsell made his first appearance in Preston as curate of Trinity Church. He worked hard in this capacity, stirred up the district at times with that peculiar energy which poor curates longing for good incumbencies, wherein they may settle down into security and ease, can only manifest, and with many he was a favourite. From Trinity Church he went to St. Saviour's, and here he slackened none of his powers. Enthusiasm, combined with earnest plodding, enabled him to improve the district considerably. He drew many poor people around him; he repeatedly charmed the "unwashed" with his strong rough-hewn orgasms; the place seemed to have been specially reserved for some man having just the perseverance and vigorous volubility which he possessed; he had ostensibly a "mission" in the locality; the people of the district liked him, he reciprocated the feeling, and more than once intimated that he would make one or two spots, including the wild region of Lark-hill, "Blossom as the rose." But the period of efflorescence has not yet arrived; a "call" came in due season, and this carried the ministerial florist to another "sphere of action." Mr. Beardsell was translated to the incumbency of All Saints', and he still holds it. When Mr. Walling was at this church the income was about 260 pounds a year; taking everything into account, it is now worth upwards of 400 pounds.
Mr. Beardsell is not a beautiful, but a stout, well-made, strong- looking man, close upon 40, with a growing tendency towards adiposity. He has a healthy, bulky, English look; is not a man of profound education, but, makes up by weight what he may lack in depth; thinks it a good thing to carry a walking-stick, to keep his coat well buttoned, and to arrange his hair in the high-front, full- whig style; has a powerful, roughly eloquent voice; is rather sensational in the construction of some of his sentences; bellows a little at times; welters pathetically often; is somewhat monotonous in tone; ululates too heavily; behaves harshly to the letter "r"-- sounds it with a violent vigour, and makes it fairly spin round his tongue end occasionally; can sustain himself well as a speaker; is never at a loss for words; has a forcible way of arranging his subjects; is systematic in his style of treatment; and can throw into his elucidation of questions well-coined and emphatic expressions. He likes perorations--used to imitate Punshon a little. He has a good analogical faculty; takes many of his illustrations from nature, and works them out exceedingly well; is a capital explainer of biblical difficulties; is peculiarly fond of the travels of St. Paul; piles up the agony easily and effectively; many times gets into a groove of high-beating, fierce-burning enthusiasm, as if he were going to take a distinct leap out of his "pent-up Utica," and revel in the "whole boundless continent" of thought and sacred sensation; is a thorough believer in the "My brethren" phrase--we recently heard him use it nineteen times in twenty minutes, and regretted that he didn't make the numbers equal; delights in decking out his discourses with couplets and snatches of hymns; has a full-blown determined style of speaking; reads with his gloves on, and preaches with them off, like one or two other parsons we have seen; makes his sermons too long; is a good platform man, and would make a fair travelling lecturer; has a great predilection for open-air preaching, and has spells of it to the Orchard; might with advantage work more in and less out of his own district; wouldn't commit a sin if he studied the question of personal visiting; shouldn't think that his scripture reader--a really good, hard-working man--can perform miracles, and do nearly everything; can talk genuine common sense if he likes, and make himself either very agreeable or pugnacious; is an Orangeman, with a holy horror of Popery; can give deliciously passionate lectures about the Reformation; considers money a very important article, and is inclined to believe that all people, particularly parsons, should stick to it very firmly; will have his own way in church matters; likes to fight with a warden; has had many a lively little brush over sacrament money; might have got on better with many of the officials if he had been more conciliatory; is a man of moderate ability, of fair metal, of strong endurance, but would be more relished if he were less dogmatic, were given less to wandering preaching, and threw himself heart, soul, purse, and clothes into his own district. Near the church, and occupying good relative positions on each side of a beerhouse, called "The Rising Sun," are All Saints' schools. One of them--that now occupied by the boys-- was, according to a tablet at the outside, erected several years ago by our old friend Captain German "as an affectionate tribute to the memory of Thomas German, Esq." About five years since, two class- rooms were attached to it, at the expense of J. Bairstow, J. Horrocks, R. Newsham, and T. Miller, Esqrs. The other school, set apart for the girls, was erected after that built by Captain German. Both of the schools are very good ones--are large, lofty, and commodious. That used for the boys is, scholastically, in a superior condition. The master is sharp, fully up to his duties; and, according to a report by the government inspector, his school is one of the best in the district. The average day attendance at the boys' school is 150; whilst at the girls school the regular attendance may be set down at 330. The schools are used on Sundays, and their average attendance then is 800. Much might be written concerning them; but we must close; we have said enough; and can only add that if all are not saints who go to All Saints' they are about as good as the rest of people.