The third edition of the guide draws mainly on the text of the previous two editions which were prepared 45 and 20 years ago.
This third edition has updates on the repairs and maintenance together with the additions to the general fabric and facilities.
We are most grateful to the Bishop of Wolverhampton, Michael Bourke (now retired), for kindly writing the Foreword. He was Vicar of Southill from 1978 to 1986 before taking an appointment as Archdeacon of Bedford and subsequently Bishop in 1993.
Quoting from the introduction to the first edition:- "The preparation of such a guide required the help and assistance from many people and grateful thanks are expressed to Mr. S.C.Whitbread for all his helpful co-operation, information and advice and for the loan of books from his library at Southill Park; to Miss P.Bell and Mrs. Richards of the County Record Office; to Mr. E.C.Wood for the drawing of the old Church; and to Mr. F.C.Levitt for a series of notes on the Church fabric"
Colin McCartney Liz McCartney
Churchwarden Past Churchwarden
We can conclude therefore, that during the period 1250-1540 the Vicars whose names are recorded were Members of the Order at Newnham, and possibly lived mostly at the Priory House, travelling out to Southill to perform their religious duties. Monasteries were dissolved by King Henry VIII, and from that time until 1667 the Patronage of the living was held by various individuals, including the Queen from 1562 to 1598. From 1667 the Patronage has been the right of the owner of Southill Estate, beginning with Sir John Keeling (or Kelynge), then the Torrington family 1711-1795, and the Whitbread family from 1795 to 1994 when the Bishop of Bedford suspended the patronage and appointed the new Priest-in-Charge. In 2013 the patronage was reinstated when the Priest-in-Charge was appointed Vicar.
Margaret Cotton of Southill who died on the 3rd June 1502 left 'to the high altar of the Church of All Saints' Southill 12d; to the Church of Lincoln 6d; to the Church of Southill 40d.' John Maynard of 'Brome' who died on the 21st April 1522, left 'to the high altar for tithes and oblations forgotten 3s.4d; to the Church of Lincoln 2d; to the making of a new aisle 'now beginning' of the north side of the Church 40s.' The Residue of his estate was to be spent in repairing the highway from his home in 'Brome' to the church gate at Southill where 'most needful to be done'.
On the first day of the month of August in 1532 John Hychman of Stanford in the parish of Southill made his will 'I do bequeath my soull to Almighty God and my body to be buryed in the church yard of Southill aforesaid. I bequeath to my Mother church of Lincoln 4d. and to the hye autor of Southill aforesaid for oblacions and tythes forgotten 12d.'
Just one more example Richard Randall of Brome in the parish of Sowthenell, after committing his soul to Almighty God and his body to be 'bureyed in the churche yarde of All Sanets in Sowthyenell - he bequeathed - 'to the high autor in Sowthyell for tithes and oblacyand by me neclygently forgotten 2d. - also a crosse clothe price 10s.' (i.e. a cloth to veil the Cross during Lent).
Isaac Windsor Church Warden
Thomas Wells Church Warden
This book contains the accounts in considerable detail for the years from 1785 to 1952.
'Mr.Woodarns the Church Woorden a bill for reparien the Beels'
March 2. 1765
for laying 5lb on the fourth bell gudgeon at 8d. lb.........£0.3s.4d.
for lining the pin, a key and cotter..............................£0.0s.8d.
for 8 large keys 1 iron to the stock 2lb.......................£0.2s.8d.
for lining the iron pin to the pulley...............................£0.0s.4d.
for mending a lock and a key to the belfry...................£0.0s.9d
for 2 new gudgeons to the third bell 14lb. at 8d............£0.9s.4d.
for 3lb. iron wedge to do............................................£0.2s.0d.
for altering the clapper, 2 new keys............................£0.1s.6d.
for lining a large stple 1 iron to the wheel 2lb. 2 keys...£0.1s.6d
for lining the pulley iron 30 nails.................................£0.0s.10½
for altering the little bell clapper 2 keys,......................£0.2s.6d.
for lining the pulley iron along holdfast........................£0.1s.0d.
paid to Will Osborn for helping...................................£0.0s.6d.
We learn that each Easter the surplices and linen were washed and the clock was oiled. Repairs to the clock are mentioned often and there is frequent reference to the repairing of the village stocks. Among the payments made by the churchwardens are sums for killing vermin, pole-cats, hedgehogs, sparrows and their eggs. In addition to the repair of the church and churchyard, the expenditure of each year included the clerk's salary and expenses, provision of wine for the Sacrament, provision of books and of forms of Prayer for special occasions, payment for bellringing, confirmations and the Churchwardens' visitation. The last occasion for an entry for sparrows was in 1786, viz,
To Mr.Wells - Bill for sparrows for the months June-July 1786.......£1.19s.0d.
An entry in 1788, March 28, reads thus:
Albone - Bill is Annually and has been for many years back One pound for winding up the clock, Ten shillings for washing the linen for the Sacrament and Thirteen shillings & 4d. for what is called Basket Money.
1789 Jan 20th Paid Wm. Walker as per Bill for the Stocks.....£1.9s.0d.
1793 Paid for letter to be read concerning the French Clergy...£0.1s.0d.
(Collections were made throughout England for the relief of the French Clergy who emigrated on account of the troubles and persecutions in their own country: when at Southill and Old Warden the collection was £61.19s.6d.)
The cost of these repairs was £3,800, and at the same time the chancel was repaired by Mr. Samuel Whitbread at a cost of £2,000. It was decided to raise the £3,800 by means of annuities. Eight people loaned sums of varying amounts and the Churchwardens guaranteed half-yearly payments during their lives. The rate of the annuity depended upon the age of the annuitant and ranged from 9% in the case of one aged 50, to 18% for one aged 70, and the responsibility for payment of the annuities went on until the last annuitant died in 1836. As each of them Iived to a ripe old age the repayments totalled in all £5,037.10s.6d., and this turned out to be rather an expensive way of raising money. Indeed, one annuitant - Mrs.Elizabeth Heather of Hitchin - loaned £150 when she was 70 for an annual payment of £27.6s.0d. She lived until she was 88 and when she died in 1831 she had received £469 in return for her investment.
The church was re-opened for Divine Worship on Sunday, 20th November, 1814 although some of the painting was not quite finished. In 1817 only £250 was needed to complete the payment for the work, amounting to £3,800, and a Vestry Meeting authorised a further annuity to be raised for this purpose. It has been said that this restoration which "gives Southill Church its present rather austere appearance came a little too late for 'Gothic' romance and a little too early for archaeological accuracy." The re?building, together with the general appearance of the interior, was scathingly criticised in an article (part of a series on Bedfordshire churches) which appeared in THE NORTHAMPTON MERCURY on December 7th, 1846, and was reproduced in THE BEDFORDSHIRE TIMES. The writer, W.A., began his article 'The whole of the church has not long since suffered what an inscription chooses to class as repairs. A reward is offered by the Churchwardens for the discovery of any persons defacing the fabric, a privilege which we presume these functionaries desire to monopolise, and it must be confessed that the aspect of the church affords abundant proof of their fitness for the task,' (This notice can still be seen in the Church porch). He went on to criticise the fittings of the church, especially the Family Pew at the west end, and the high pews attached to the walls in the north and south aisles. (These were removed by Faculty in 1957). The pulpit and the reading desk, whilst said to be better placed than usual 'were very poor examples' These were evidently made of deal and in 1912 were replaced by new ones made of oak. 'The whole is as smooth as the handiwork of the plasterer could make it and consequently all vestiges of architectural ornament either removed or covered over.'
However, an article in THE BEDFORDSHIRE TIMES dated June 2nd, 1899, by A.H. gives a very praiseworthy description of the church. The simplicity which prevailed clearly pleased him. He wrote, 'the pulpit and the prayer desk are plain and neat; all the appointments are extremely simple; if there were at any time sedilia, credence table, piscina, they have disappeared.' He concluded his article - 'The Church is an excellent example of a carefully kept and neatly appointed evangelical place of worship. No incongruous decorations mar the effect of the simple and impressive architecture.'
'A true Note and Terrier of Tithes and other gifts belonging to the Vicarage and Parish Church of Southill' was made by the then Vicar the Reverend Frederick H. Neve ? and the Churchwardens, James Snitch and John Humberstone in June 1822. This was shown at the visitation of the 'Honourable and Right Reverend Father in God, George, Lord Bishop of Lincoln' held at Bedford on the 25th June, 1822. In this the Parish Church is described as 'an ancient building, repaired and new pewed, the roofs covered with copper, in the year 1814.' The description goes on 'the Church contains a tablet of the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Belief, a Communion Table with a covering of red cloth, also a linen cloth for the same. The Church contains a font of stone, pulpit, Reading and Clerk 's Desks, a cushion for the pulpit, the King's arms adjoining, and under the same roof is a Vestry.'
1. The more urgent matters of repair.
2. The remaining work to the church fabric.
3. Work required to be carried out to the Byng Vault
The work was done by Mr. J.T.G. Godman of Southill and completed before 1966, when another inspection was made by Mr. Levitt, and again the necessary work was classified under urgent and not so urgent repairs. Extensive repairs to the roof and parapet of the South Aisle were done by Mr. Godman in 1967 at a cost of over £900. In these ways the fabric of the church as you see it today is in excellent condition, and still merits the praise of the writer A.R. in THE BEDFORDSHIRE TIMES of June 1899 already referred to 'the church is an excellent example of a well-kept place of worship.'
One of the major problems facing the newly appointed Vicar, Revd. Michael Redfearn, and the
Time never stands still and the next Quinquennial Inspection was due having been delayed a year while the repairs were in hand. The major requirements this time were associated with the stonework on the tower. This work was completed at a cost of £57,500 at the beginning of 1995. Again this was only made possible by generous donations and Charity Grants supported by the efforts of the congregation.
Early in 1999 it was suggested by Mr Sam Whitbread that the church might be floodlit to mark the forthcoming new millennium. There was a national Millennium Church Floodlighting Trust set up which would provide some funding for approved installations provided the system was installed and could be switched on at the millennium changeover. A scheme was designed which would cost just under £5000 and was approved by the Floodlighting Trust and a 45% grant was acquired. The remaining installation costs were paid by for by a single donation from the Whitbread family. The system was installed and certified in time for the switch on at a special service, led by the Vicar Ken Dixon, as the new millennium began. From that time the floodlighting automatically comes on at dusk and goes off at midnight each day throughout the year. The cost of the lighting and the maintenance of the equipment is totally paid for by many individual donations – each one commemorating a family member, friend or occasion.
Major roof repairs were identified as a major item in the next quinquennial inspection. These included replacing the copper on the south and north aisles and the chancel roofs. This was work was completed in 2002 at a cost of £98,240.
In 2003 a new hard wood Church Gate was made and installed by Richard Hubbard, a parishioner, at a cost of £879 paid for by a Parish Grant of £500 and donations from parishioners. This was followed in 2004 by the installation of a pair of hand rails at the chancel steps, also installed by Richard Hubbard. .
In 2005 Mr Bruce Deacon was appointed church architect and the subject of toilet facilities at the Church was debated many times and temporary arrangements provided with limited success with various other proposals being investigated. Eventually a temporary solution was agreed in 2011 when a high quality Portacabin with modern toilet facilities was installed on the ground outside the north door by Teambuilding Systems Ltd. This facility is fully accessible to wheelchair users and also has a baby changing facility.
Evidence of dampness on the inside walls of the church led to the conclusion that the drainage system outside was in need of maintenance. In 2013 the concrete and tiles around the foot of the walls were removed and a gravel filled soak-away system was installed by Cutmore Bros of Potton consequently the church walls have now dried out. This work was at a cost of £5890. A pathway with level access to the north door was laid with a bound gravel non-slip surface enabling level access into the church. This work was carried out by RJ Pinnock & Sons with the special surface supplied by Phoenix Surfacing Ltd. The cost of the work, £14,000, was covered by donations and grants from Wixamtree Trust, Mid Beds Council and Friends of Southill Church. Pathway lighting was added and paid for by a generous donation from the estate of a well known local member of the congregation – Dougie Stanton.
As a result of the quinquennial inspection by the Church Architect, Bruce Deacon, in 2012, further work to the exterior windows and stonework needed to be carried out. This work was done by Steve Todd Stonemasons at a cost of £20,000.
Due to the growth in the Sunday School a suitable area was required and the Whitbread Pew area was identified provided the window openings were glazed. This work was carried out in 2011. Also in that year a new sound system was installed by DB Music Ltd and financed by an anonymous donation.
'Every person sixteen years old, for Easter Offerings pays two pence, each garden one penny. Two of the Stanford Farms pay three shillings each, one Rowney Farm two shillings and sixpence. Three other farms two shillings each. The three Mills one shilling each, and each remaining farm one shilling each. Thirteen shillings and fourpence yearly as Basket Money by the Churchwardens, and every householder at Easter, the sum of four pence.'
From these old records of the life and work here we realise the great responsibilities undertaken by the Churchwardens, and the importance of the Annual Vestry Meeting. The Parochial Church Council only came into being in 1921. During the 150 years covered by the Churchwardens' Book there had been 25 churchwardens, an average term of office of just over 13 years. Very important too, was the office of Church Clerk and during this same period there had only been six. Hezekiah Albone held the office until 1794, when he was succeeded by John Sells who remained until 1831, a period of 37 years. The next Clerk was David Dickens who held office for 52 years until 1883. He was succeeded by Joseph Simms who resigned in 1918 after 35 years. Next came Herbert Webb who was Clerk for 26 years until 1944, when Percy Rook became Clerk and served until 1956. John Sells was removed from office by a vote of the Vestry Meeting for overcharging for a burial, in consequence of which the Vestry decided that he was not a fit person for the situation. Later on, the Vestry Meeting no doubt feeling such a decision was somewhat harsh after 37 years' loyal service, granted him a pension of £4 a year for his life, which was duly paid to him each quarter until his death in 1838.
Lighting is first mentioned in 1849 when pulpit lamps were bought for £9.8s.7d. Oil lamps were later hung in the Nave and electricity was installed in 1932.
There are very few references to the Vicarage in these records. The last Vicarage in the parish was built in 1858, and previous to that Glebe House in Southill Park was inhabited by the Vicar. The original house, however, referred to in the Archdeaconry records in 1708, is no longer in existence, and was probably situated near the church. It was described thus: 'The vicarage house hath six rooms below, vizt. a Hall, Parlour, a room joyning the Parlour, a Kitchen, Buttery, Brewhouse, above five chambers, a study, a closet, the chambers floored with some Oak some Elm and some Ash boards, the whole house well covered with tile, a barn containing two bays with a Leanto which serves for a Stable and a Privy house all covered with thatch'
During the period when Southill was joined with Old Warden, 1770 to 1843, the Vicar lived in the Vicarage of Old Warden. When Southill was disunited from Old Warden in 1843, the Vicar, the Reverend Gerard Andrewes Baker, M.A. possibly may have lived at Glebe House until 'The Old Vicarage' was built in 1858.
When the Southill Parish joined with the Clifton Parish as a joint benefice in 1994, the new vicar, Rev Ken Dixon, moved into the modern rectory in Clifton. The vicarage in Southill was then sold and has been in private ownership ever since.
As you enter the door, above it you will see the Royal Coat-of-Arms, and to the West of the South Wall a Memorial Tablet to Samuel Whitbread III, born 5th May, 1830, who died on 25th December 1915, having lived at Southill since 1880 and served Bedford as Member of Parliament 1852-1895. The Tablet also commemorates his wife, Isabella Charlotte, 1836-1916 and their daughter Maud 1859-1898 and her husband, Charles Whitbread, 1866-1896.
The Window at the West End of the South Wall is in memory of Joscelyne Whitbread, daughter of Samuel Howard and Madeline Whitbread, who died in 1936, aged 29. The Window was designed by Hugh Easton. To Joscelyne Whitbread is also dedicated the modern Font designed by Sir Albert Richardson in 1937.
In the West Gallery is the Organ, made by J.W.H. Walker & Sons, Ltd., of Ruislip, Middlesex (formerly of London) some years prior to 1847; it was completely overhauled by this firm in 1950 and equipped with a 'Discus' electric blower. This organ is unusual in that the pedal board covers a different range of notes than the norm and as such has caused many an organist to look down with amazement!
Beneath the Gallery is the Whitbread Family Pew, above which is inscribed:
The alterations and repairs of
were begun A.D.1814 and completed A.D. 1816
at the expense of the Parishioners and
under the auspices of
Samuel Whitbread, Esquire
Frederick Henry Neve, M.A.,Vicar
James Snitch Churchwarden
John Humberstone Churchwarden
This is the only reference in the church to Samuel Whitbread II, who lived at Southill House from 1799 until 1815, was Member of Parliament for Bedford from 1790 until his death in 1815 and is well known for his generosity and philanthropic work. He is buried at Cardington Church, in which village he was born, and there is in that church a beautiful Memorial to him and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Whitbread.
This is an opportune moment to look down the Nave and into the Chancel and see the church fully in its simple and spacious setting. The colourful radiance of the East Window can be seen in all its beauty and significance, exalting as it does Jesus, the Good Shepherd. The chancel arch, whilst modern, is in perfect keeping architecturally with its two chamfered orders with a label, the inner order springing from two moulded corbels. The nave arcades are of five bays and a half - as on both sides a half bay butts up against the West end - and are clearly nineteenth-century imitations of the fourteenth-century Decorated style which were originally there. The arches are in two chamfered orders with labels and spring from piers formed of four rounds with moulded capitals. Above the arcades are the clerestories which are alike, containing four windows and four-centred heads consisting of two lights in plain wooden frames. The roof is seen to be in beautiful condition.
By the West Door is the List of Rectors of Southill, compiled by Mr.F.A.Blayds, July, 1903. Nothing is known of any individual Vicar before 1540 save that all were of the Order of the Priory of Newnham, Bedford. Of the Vicars after 1540, the introduction to the Southill Parish Register makes special mention of one:
'Southill Church probably witnessed little of the disturbance felt in many places during the Civil War and Commonwealth period, for it is seen that the Vicar William Taylor, who was instituted in 1640, is mentioned regularly in the register until 1656. He was one of the clergy who conformed, and was granted an increased maintenance in 1652-3 by the Committee for plundered Ministers.'
There is a record of the Will of Michael Sheldon - 'Vicar of the Vicaridge and Parish Church of Southill' 1681-1711, in which he committed his soul to Almighty God and his body to the earth 'to be decently buryied in the Parish Church of Southill'. After personal bequests he made the following: 'I give and bequeath unto such of the poor people of the Parish of Southill as frequent public service of the Church the sum of fifty Shillings to be distibuted amongst them by the Parish Wardens and Overseers of the poor of the said parish within two months of my decease.' There is a slate plaque in the floor at the East end of this North Aisle, by the Vestry door, commemorating Samuel Bedford '40 years Minister of this parish (1711-1752) and his wife Elizabeth.'
The stained-glass window in the North Aisle is in memory of the Reverend Charles Baldock, Vicar from 1867-1877, and his wife, It was put in by their children and the several lights contained winged figures each bearing on a scroll a stanza of the hymn 'Nearer my God, to Thee.' Reference has already been made to the window in the North-West corner which is clearly of thirteenth-century work. Both the other windows in this aisle are fifteenth-century, as are the Chancel East and South-East Windows. The North Door is also of fifteenth-century origin, with a pointed head and projection, the moulding of the side posts being two double curved orders. The effect of the doorway can best be seen from the outside. The North Wall according to its plinth is said to be of the fourteenth-century. In this aisle are Memorial Tablets to members of the Ringsted Family and date from the eighteenth-century. On one of them you will see an urgent plea: 'Reader, be ye also ready, for in such an hour as you think not the Son of Man cometh.'
At the Eastern end of the North Aisle is the small Vestry used by the Vicar, which contains the Registers in current use, the Communion Plate, and the robes worn for the services.
On the North side of the Vestry Door can be seen a Tablet containing details of the Will of Frances Smyth, daughter of the Reverend Laurence Smyth, who bequeathed the sum of £200 to the Vicar and Churchwardens for the benefit of the Poor of Southill. On the South side is a Tablet commemorating the Charity known as the John Maynard Charity of 1557. The Will of this John Maynard is copied in full at the beginning of the Churchwardens' Book (1785-1850).
Entering the Chancel, the East Window can now be seen more clearly. It was installed in 1867, in memory of William Henry Whitbread (l795-1867) by his widow. It has three principal lights, the centre one showing Jesus, the Good Shepherd; the north - the Sower - and the south - the Reaper. Under the window are the words 'He was a father to the poor, and the cause which he knew not he searched out.' On the South side of the chancel is a smaller window in memory of William Henry's widow, Harriet, who was born in 1796 and died in 1871. The subject is taken from the Book of Job, chapter 29 - a woman carrying a child in her arms, is dispensing bread with the other and beneath are the words 'When the ear heard her it blessed her, and when the eye saw her it gave witness to her, and the blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon her.'
On either side of the East Window are two stone Tablets containing, in clear lettering, the Ten Commandments, the Creed and the Lord's Prayer.
On the North Wall of the Chancel are several Tablets. Three commemorate the Reverend Laurence Smyth, M.A., and members of his family. Laurence Smyth was Vicar of Southill and Old Warden for 48 years, 1752-1800. He is mentioned several times in Lord Torrington's Diaries and he it was who entertained Dr. Samuel Johnson and his friend James Boswell to tea on an occasion (June 3rd, 1781) when the celebrated doctor was staying in Southill with his friend Edward Dilly. His striking epitaph testifies to his 'dilligent reading of the Holy Scriptures which teach us to be wise unto salvation' and that he deservedly obtained the character of the 'truly Christian Pastor, the Scholar and the Gentleman'
Then there are two Tablets: one to Charles Conrad Grey who died, aged 31, in 1848 and who is described in words from Malachi, Chapter 2, verse 6: 'The Law of Truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips'; the other to his wife, Caroline, who died in 1854, and was the eldest daughter of Major Macan of Cariff, Co. Armagh.
A brass plate commemorates the Reverend Henry Sneyd Robert Macan, son of Major Macan and stepson of William Henry Whitbread, who died at Southill on 8th February 1862, aged 31. 'From his earliest years he walked with God and was truly a living Epistle known and read of all men'.
On the South Wall of the Chancel is a Tablet indicating that Tom Adkin was buried beneath the Chancel. He was a life long friend of Samuel Whitbread II from their undergraduate days at Cambridge and he stayed on frequent occasions at Southill House.
In the Chancel floor there are memorial stones to John Nodes 1666 and George Nodes, members of a family whose names had appeared in the Parish Register for well over a hundred years (there is also a beautiful Mural Tablet to George Nodes 1777); another to Mary, wife of Thurgood Upwood, and near to the step, one to Sir John Kelynge, 1680, whose family owned Southill House before the Byngs. This Sir John was Member of Parliament for Bedford in 1661, and was Chairman of the Sessions when John Bunyan was tried in the old 'Chapel of Herne' in 1661. He took part in drafting the Act of Uniformity and also in several notable trials of the period.
On the ledge of the window in the Chancel stand two stone corbels (another one in much more mutilated condition is on the window-ledge in the South-East of the South Aisle). It is probable that these originally stood over the entrance to the church.
In the South Aisle there are four fifteenth-century Windows, the one in the West bay has already been described, put there in memory of Joscelyne Whitbread. A Window in the East bay was evidently blocked in at the time of the 1814-15 alterations.
In the South Aisle there is also an old Chest with three locks once used to keep the Registers and Records of the church. The Chest used to house a beautifully bound Bible of the 1717 publication, and used when the Reverend F.H. Neve, M.A. was Vicar and Frank Snitch and Charles Bailey, Churchwardens, 1538. There are also three old Service Books engraved with the names of the Vicar and Churchwardens. All these old books are now stored in the new storage facility in the portacabin building.
On the South Wall are two Memorial Tablets. The first is to Edward Dilley, a Bookseller of London, who was born at Southill in 1732 and died there in 1779. He was one of three brothers, John, Edward and Charles, all unmarried. John continued to live in Southill at the house now known as Yew Tree Farm and he was locally referred to as Squire Dilly. Edward and Charles were publishers in the Poultry, London, and were intimate friends of Dr.Samuel Johnson and James Boswell. On several occasions Edward brought his friends to stay with him in Southill at his brother's house. On one of these visits it is recorded that Dr. Johnson and Boswell attended Morning Service on 3rd June 1781. To commemorate this visit a special service was held on the 3rd June 1951, the sermon being preached by the Vicar, the Reverend T.W. Griffiths. He finished his sermon with these words: 'Mr. Dilly braught his guests to Church: the guests were ready to come, for they knew it was their duty ..... Dr. Johnson would have been a great man on any account, but his greatness is enhanced by his humble Christian discipleship.' The inscriptions on this Tablet may seem strange to us, yet they testify to that hope of eternal life which is fundamental to the Christian Faith - 'Better the day of one's death than the day of one's birth' (Job); and 'The grave is the subterranean road to bliss'(Young).
The other Memorial Tablet is in memory of a Nathanael Fowler, born in Northill 1667 and who died in Southill in 1710. He was the son of the Bishop of Gloucester who had been Rector of Northill 1656-1673. The Epitaph pays a touching tribute:
'A kind relation, a good friend,
He lived in peace and in peace he died'
By the South Door is the War Memorial Tablet to the men of the Parish who gave their lives in the two World Wars 1914-18 and 1939-45.
TOWER AND BELLS
There are now six Bells in the Tower. Five were installed in 1814 and were part of the major repairs then; they were made by John Briant, Hertford, and the details are:
1. Diam. 29 in. Height 21 in.
2. Diam. 30 in. Height 22 in.
3. Diam, 32 in. Height 24 in.
4. Diam. 35 in. Height 26 in.
5. Diam. 371/2in. Height 29 in.
Then the 6th was installed by Messrs. Steenbrink, Founders, London, in 1867. Diam. 421/2in. Height 291/2in.
The following used to hang on the walls, of the belfry;
Rules to be strictly observed by everyone who enters this Belfry.
We ring the Quick to Church, the Dead to grave,
Good is our use, such usage let us have.
He that wears Spur, or Hat, or Cap, or breaks a stay,
Or from the floor does from a bell rope sway,
Or leaves his rope down careless on the floor;
Or nuisance makes within the Belfry Door,
Shall sixpence forfeit for each single crime,
T'will make him careful at another time.
Whoever breaks or injures any of the Handbells
(which hang on the wall) shall make the Damage good.
We Gentlemen Ringers are nobody's foes,
We disturb none but those who want too much repose
Our music so sweet, so enchanting to hear,
We wish there was ringing each day of the year.
To call the folks to Church in time, we chime:
Three seven minute peals stop, one minute
between, toll the tenor four minutes, ring
the Ting Tang three minutes. Total 1/2 hour.
When mirth or pleasure on the wing we ring
At the departure of a soul we toll.
John Hale, Sexton
David Dickens, Parish Clerk
It is interesting to note that the last two lines of the Rules were quoted by Dorothy Sayers in her novel 'The Nine Tailors' (Chapter I - Second Course). It would appear that when these Rules were drawn up there was a Priest's Bell or 'Ting Tang', now lost.
In the 'Church Bells of Bedfordshire' we learn that the following customs prevailed at Southill:
'On Sunday mornings the 3rd Bell was rung at 8 and 8.30 a.m. alternately, in addition to the ringing before Morning and Evening Prayer. At funerals the same number of tolls was given (3 x 3 and 3 x 2) on the tenor for people over twenty years of age, on the 5th for those under twenty, on the 4th if under sixteen, on the 3rd if under twelve, on the 2nd if under four years of age. These are given before and after the knell on the tenor bell, which is rung with a stroke at intervals of a few seconds. Merry peals of bells were rung on Christmas morning at 7 a.m. and on New Year's Eve and New Year's day the old year was rung out and the new rung in.'
Passing the South Porch two memorial stones can be seen: one of Colonel Samuel Gilbert Isitt, O.B,E., Churchwarden from 1924-1964, and the other to Charles Wheatley Patrick, Vicar of Southill from 1952-1960.
Proceeding along the South Wall of the chancel a small blocked-in door can be seen in the South-West corner. Near this is a bricked-in Leper's Peep. Finally, we go round to the North East corner of the church to see the Byng Vault or columbarium. Passing the East Window we come to the Entrance to the Byng Vault. It was formerly well lit by a large round-headed East Window and a roof as high as the Chancel. There was also a door from the Vestry, now closed up, on to a stone platform from which there is a descent by steps to the lower part where the niches are arranged in two tiers, the larger ones being occupied. Now the only entrance door is from the outside. On the North Wall of the Vault is a shield bearing a coat-of-arms and the motto 'Tria juncta in Una' ('Three joined in one').
Here are buried members of the Byng Family, from the death of Admiral George Byng, First Viscount Torrington and Baron of Southill (1721) and his sons Pattee (1759), George (1750), Robert (died October 6th, 1740 in the Barbadoes) and the famous John Byng, Admiral of the Blue, who was shot on board the Flag-ship MONARCH on the 14th March, l757. He was born in Southill House (which his father had bought in 1695) in 1704 and after a successful naval career he became Admiral of the Blue in 1746. He failed to relieve the Island of Minorca in 1756 and, after being recalled, was tried and condemned to be shot, not for treachery or cowardice, but for an 'error of judgment'. His body was brought to Southill and laid beside his father's. His Epitaph, reputedly composed by Dr. Johnson, reads:
To The Perprtual Disgrace
Voltaire in his 'Candide' says the Admiral was shot 'pour encourager les autres' ('to encourage the others').
The Byng family bequeathed to the Church a silver Chalice, Paten and Flagon, all engraved with the coat-of-arms of George Byng Baronet, 1715, before he was raised to the peerage in 1721. These treasures can be seen in the Cecil Higgins Museum, Bedford.
At 12 noon on March 14th each year, the Tower Captain tolls the bell 52 times - one for each year of the Admirals life.
Opposite the Entrance to the Byng Vault in the North-East corner of the Churchyard are to be seen memorials to members of the Whitbread family. Like all ancient churches, Southill is said to have a ghost, whose footsteps have been heard by many, and even a dog well accustomed to entering the church with his mistress is said, on one occasion, to have been clearly startled. Whether there is truth in this or not I cannot vouchsafe. What I thankfully remember day by day is that this church stands, a silent, beautiful witness to the Christian Faith. Here, the people of Southill have come to worship God ever since the thirteenth century. Here, a continuous Ministry has administered the Sacraments and the Word in the simplicity of a lovely church, set as it is in the beautiful surroundings of Southill Park.
When THE BEDFORDSHIRE TIMES reporter, A.R. visited Southill. in June 1899 he wrote: 'At no season of the year can the Grounds of Southill Park look prettier than they do now, with the contrasting foliages of early summer, the dark tones of the firs and cedars, the bright green of the Elms, beeches, the bronze green of the poplars and the golden green of the oaks.'
The congregation was reminded of this description in June 1969 when they celebrated the first Flower and Music Festival. On entering the Churchyard that same reporter noticed an unusual epitaph on one of the tombstones (since removed):
I feel this mud wall cottage shake And long to see it fall;
That I my willing flight may take,
To Him Who is my all.
Burdened and groaning then no more
My rescued soul shall sing;
As up the shining path may soar.
Death thou hast lost thy sting.'
When he asked the Clerk if the epitaph were an indication of the Low Church practices here, he replied: 'We are plain, simple people at Southill. '
Maybe it is well for us all to remember our Lord's own words:
'Except ye become as little children ye shall in no wise enter the Kingdom of Heaven.'