Reverend Townsend

Posted in General Village Interest

In 1898 the Rev Townsend, a bachelor came to Elmham as the new vicar. The vicarage was the Georgian house next door to the ruins. There were two gates then, the present one and another, roundabout where the noticeboard is alongside the wall - now bricked up - which one was the tradesman's entrance I'm not sure.

In the past I've often written snippets from his diaries where he records bits and pieces of church and village life (especially the weather.)
He was one of four brothers and I think I am right in saying one of his brothers Major General Sir Charles Townshend K.C.B. ,D.S.O. came to dedicate the Memorial tablet for WW1 in church on Sunday January 11,1920. Note the H in the middle of his name. (I don't know if our Rev Townsend and his family were related to the Townsend family of Raynham Hall.  (Perhaps someone can tell me.)

On the 17th September 1928 there was a presentation to him on completion of 30 years Ministry here in Elmham. I have seen a book with the names of  the  350 people who contributed to the grand sum of £50.10s., written in the most beautiful copper plate writing by Mr Percy Finch of East Dereham, an ex-parishioner of Elmham. (Oh to be able to write like that, it is a work of art.)
A Parish Meeting was held in the school to which the Rev. Townsend was invited and it was "the outcome of a desire on the part of the parishioners irrespective of creed, to show their appreciation and regard for the vicar".

It was said that E. H. Townsend had wanted to be the friend of all and to live at peace with everyone.

It was hoped that the cheque for £50.10s, which was a tangible token of their esteem and affection, and that he should spend it on his own personal comfort and pleasure, with the reservation that he should not return it in any form for the benefit of the Parish.

The Rev Townsend said he had spent a happy time in Elmham. He said, in a thank you letter which was printed in the village newsletter, that the cheque "is given with the goodwill and from the hearts of such a large number of donors.

He was actually here until 1946 - he wanted to retire earlier but was persuaded to remain for the duration of WW2. The handwriting in his diaries gets steadily worse from the early 1930's until it is illegible.
He was buried just inside the church gate, his headstone is to the left of the path.

The vicar was involved in many aspects of village life. Any report of village happenings to be found in the local Press mentions him. He was a regular visitor to school where the children were expected to learn tracts of the Scriptures, and I read somewhere that if he was walking around the Parish and saw labourers and workmen in fields he would cross over and stop them for a chat.
Photographs of him always show him wearing a battered trilby, looking a size too small for his head!

Finally - he had a servant called Polly Skipper, who always wore black, with a hat, who sadly spent her final days in Beech House, once the Workhouse, now the Rural Life Museum.
She lived opposite Nelson House, on the bend, her cottage long gone. She used to walk down to Grange Farm for the vicar's milk. On the way back she'd drink some of the milk and top up the milk can with water from the pump which was near the phone box. Bless her!

Janet Woodhouse