From the Worcestershire Chronicle April 24th 1861

Alleged Slurring of the Burial Service.

Spring Gardens, Worcester 23rd April 1861

I had the misfortune about a week since to lose a sister who resided in Ledbury, and whilst staying there to attend her funeral, I went on Thursday last into the church yard of the parish church, and saw the remains of the late Mr Joseph Bird, an old inhabitant, taken into the church preparatory to interment, the doors of the church were then closed, and the corpses of two children were brought by their friends for interment,and, as I was then informed, by a time appointed. As the remains of Mr Bird were brought out of the church, the vicar directed the bearers of the two other coffins to follow him, which they did, and the three bodies were buried at the same time, the two latter never having been taken into the church and having only part of the burial service read over them and that outside the church.

My sister was buried on Friday last at the same church. The time appointed for the ceremony was half-past two o'clock, which appointment was made by the vicar himself through his clerk; myself and other relatives and friends of the deceased attended at the church three minutes before the appointed time, and were kept waiting fifty-three minutes, notwithstanding the sexton went for the vicar twice, and I went for him myself three times. The burial service was performed over the remains of my sister, and also over those of another person at the same time, and when a portion of the service was read outside the church, the vicar stood about midway between the two graves, but at such a distance from each, that his voice was quite inaudible at the grave of my sister where I was standing. The burial service was upon each of these occasions read by the Rev. John Jackson, the vicar of the parish of Ledbury.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,


From the Hereford Times 31st January 1863 To the Editor of the Hereford Times.

In the parish of Ledbury we have about 5,000 inhabitants, and, with the exception of the district of Wellington Heath, the spiritual welfare or care of souls was for several years intrusted to the Rev. J.G. Watts. About two and a half years since he turned us over by exchange to our present Rector,the Rev. John Jackson, of Dodderhill.
In the time of Mr. Watts connexion with the parish we had many grievances and complainings, one of which was a complaint of want of room in the church. This has been remedied, for now, alas! We have room enough and to spare, and pews are at a discount; the evening service on a Sunday, when we had a large congregation, discontinued; Wednesday night service left off; the Parkway service given up, and Hambrook also; as to parochial visiting, having heard nothing about it, I can make no remark.
I have to crave your indulgence for a little space in the Hereford Times to narrate a short history of recent events in which I have been somewhat interested; it is with respect to the organ and the choir of our parish church, the organist of which I have been for more than forty years.
When our rector first came among us he expressed himself satisfied with the choir; however, he soon made an attempt to meddle with the organ, but was foiled in the attempt. With the exception of his first words of approbation, he has not taken the slightest notice of the choir either by praise or censure until within the last few months.
In my individual capacity I have not exchanged an unpleasant word, or had one word of complaint; against me he has not lifted up his voice. In the service of our church we have repeated changes, and now he is at work at the poor organ again. In the early part of October last a vestry meeting was held for passing the churchwarden's accounts, when the Rector fell foul of the poor organ, saying that it was so bad, that the singing had come to a break down on the previous Sunday, there being only two or three singers in the gallery, and that he supposed next Sunday there would be none at all.
He was asked if he knew why the treble singers were not in the choir on that day; and I have the words of two or three gentlemen who were present that his answer was he did not know, and that that was no part of the business of the meeting. By the way, the treble part of our choir consisted of five or six females of the age of about 15 or 16, whose services have been unrequited for the last two years, and who on that Sunday had absented themselves from a report in the town that their places would be occupied by boys trained for choral service.
In addition, for two months previously,we had six or seven little girls from the National-school. In consequence of their withdrawal, two or three young ladies joined the choir and the others returned. The following is a copy of a letter I received from the Rector:

October 30th 1862

Dear Sir,

The schoolmistress of the girl's school has informed me that you called yesterday to inquire why the children who had sat in the organ gallery had been removed, and by whose direction.
It was by my direction, and the reason for my so doing was that the behaviour of some of the women sitting there is so unseemly, that I do not wish the children to be contaminated by them.
I may take this opportunity of stating that the singing as well as the behaviour of some of these women, has always been bad, and to me unsatisfactory; but I did not interfere in the matter, hoping that these might, in the course of time, improve.
Finding, however, that the organ has become more out of tune, and the singing (especially for the last few Sundays) execrable, I shall organise a choir under my own direction, and take the organ under my own control (which I have the power of doing), and this arrangement will come into operation from the beginning of February next,

I remain yours truly,

J. Jackson.

The comments I make upon the above are as follows:

The second paragraph in the letter and the declaration at the vestry is Jackson v Jackson and an unfounded attack upon those who have quite as reverently assisted in the service of the sanctuary as the Rector himself.
The third is a repetition, with the charge that the singing has always been bad. Now how is it that the Rector has never made a word of complaint till within the last few months? The fourth is a charge against the organ, and the word execrable used as to the singing. I suspect that the addition to the choir of two or three young ladies of superior voices,instead of his being unable to break down the choir, was the great annoyance.
So much for the letter, and now I will relate a circumstance or two which have occurred since. The funds of the National School not being in a flourishing condition, the Rector preached a sermon in aid, and something short of half the sum required was collected during the morning service.
A not very pleasant tone was observable in his afternoon discourse, and after the short prayer following the sermon, and while the money boxes were being handed to the few people attending the afternoon service, he left the pulpit, came up into the organ gallery, and accused two little girls of talking all the service time. The words used were, “You women have been talking all service time! I will send the Churchwardens to turn you out of the Church”.
He then left the gallery, reascended the pulpit stairs and pronounced “ the peace of God which passeth all understanding, &c.” I should suppose he must be ignorant of the statute of the 5th and 6th of Edward VL, which makes chiding in a church by the minister an offence punishable by suspension. The next display was on the Sunday, when a collection was made for relief of the distressed operatives of the cotton district.
After the congregation had left the church, the choir remained to practise a Psalm tune for the afternoon service.
This was done with a very moderate power of the poor organ. When we had just finished, the Rector presented himself in the gallery, saying in a very angry tone, “We have been very much disturbed in the Vestry by your noise” then turning on his heel and going away.

On Tuesday, the 13th, I received the following:

The Rectory, Ledbury, Jan 13, 1863.

Mr. Thomas Woodward, Ledbury.

Sir, I hereby inform you that I forbid you to act as organist at the parish church of Ledbury on and after the 26th day of January, 1863. J Jackson, Rector.

Now, after 40 years service as organist, and five and thirty years gratuitous services as secretary to the Dispensary, whereby the rates for the poor have been relieved, I think I was entitled at all events to gentlemanly treatment.
I have also rendered a gratuitous service at the church on Wednesday evenings till the congregation was reduced to about 20, and then he resigned his weekly ministrations; he has also resigned the treasureship of the National Schools, &c.,and as resignation is the order of the day, I shall feel resigned to my fate.

Ledbury 20th Jan 1863

From the Hereford Times September 12th 1863

The Church Organ.

We noticed last week that the collection towards defraying the expenses of enlarging the Ledbury Church organ, after two performances at the reopening on the 2nd inst., fell something short of £ 17. We have been favoured with a statement of the amount subscribed to purchase the organ, viz. £ 436 14s., which was opened in July, 1820, when after a musical performance, and after deducting the expenses thereof, the net receipt was £ 88 11s 10d., making a total of £ 525 5s 10d.; but at that time the dove hovered over the church with her olive branch fresh and green, and things went on pleasantly. It may be interesting to some of our readers to know that, prior to the year 1820, the fine old church of Ledbury was in a dilapidated state.
An inhabitant, a Mrs Elizabeth Brydges, left by will a sum of £ 500 towards its restoration, the legacy to be paid when “a subscription was begun and the work set about”.
The good people of Ledbury, with a few connected with the parish raised the sum of £ 375 7s. By subscription, and by other means the sum of £ 555 18s. which after deducting £ 42 0s 4d. legacy duty, &c., upon Mrs. Brydges bequest, made the sum of £ 1,389 4s 8d.
After describing the dilapidation, the account goes on to state that “the new pewing of the church having been accomplished, it was then suggested that so large and magnificent a fabric and so numerous and respectable a congregation deserved an organ” under this impression a subscription was entered into for that purpose, and an organ no way inferior to the present appearance of the church was obtained from Elliott of London, who took great pains to build such an instrument for tone and compass as should neither disgrace his reputation nor the spacious building in which it was placed.
It seems by the account that the sum raised for the organ was £ 525 5s 10d., and that cash paid for the organ was £ 455 16s., the balance of which was expended in the glazing of the windows of the chancel and other work at the altar.

From the Hereford Times September 12th 1863

The Blind Organist of Ledbury Church.

This young man is the son of an old and respectable inhabitant of this city (Hereford) and is now 24 years of age.
On 31st December, 1846, he accidentally received a blow from some sharp instrument in the right eye, from which total blindness in the injured organ and partial blindness in the other has resulted. Indeed he is now only enabled to tell the number of windows in the Church.
In 1851 he became an inmate of St George's School for the blind, in Southwark, and there he acquired the rudiments of music on the peculiar plan adopted there, commencing his studies on the 5th day of April 1854.
He remained there till June 1857, when his studies were pursued in his own private domicile; and on Easter Sunday, in 1858, he became the organist of St Xavier's Catholic Church, Hereford.
In May last year he was selected organist of Ledbury Church, and immediately commenced the tuition of the youths who were on Wednesday enabled to take a prominent part in the full Cathedral Services of the day.
To have achieved such a result with raw material, in so short a time, is in itself testimony to Mr Bather's ability. However, we may add that Mr Bather plays with spirit, taste, and accuracy, and on this occasion was complimented from the pulpit by the Rev. Prebendary Custance.

Benjamin Bather b 1839, first son of John Bather, a bookbinder of Maylord St, and Emma. Leaving Ledbury before 1871, he became a Professor of Music. Mus. Bac. New College Oxford. Fellow of the College of Organists, London by 1881.