the building of Christ Church School #2

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We have already heard about the arrival of Reverend William Hodgson at Christ Church and his determination to build a school.

For some reason, just over a year passed before Hodgson pushed on with his scheme. He submitted an application to the National Society for money to build a school.

Application

He wrote to Reverend Joseph Wigram MA, secretary to the Society again in September 1839:

19 Sep 1838

Dear Sir,

Since I wrote to you about a year ago a District has been assigned to my Church, the population of which amounts to 6,500. In this District there are very few that are at all wealthy, and almost all the operatives are handloom weavers of cotton. This statement, I trust, will convince that we have done what we can.

A Schoolroom is very much needed, and with all deference I would earnestly request you to use you influence on our behalf. Mr Haslegrove, Incumbent of of St Peter’s Islington, is well acquainted with the circumstances of the people, and would be likely to confirm my statement. When I opened the case to you we had about 200 children so that the increase of the year is 150, and I doubt not be we shall continue to increase in number.

We have no room except the Church nor is there any that we could occupy.

Leaving our cause in the hands of him who has the hearts of all men in his rule and governance

In Dec 1838 Hodgson wrote to the Bishop of Chester; Colne was a poor, troubled and rather godless place – how was he supposed to raise money there ?

I have just received a letter from Mr Wigram insisting on the necessity of some further efforts in raising local contributions for the School, and am sorry to say that under present circumstances I have not hope of more being done. One of our Esquires whom I expected would be a principle subscriber refused to help me because I endeavoured to make the children church people; and all his friends followed his example so far as to refuse. At all events circumstances render it necessary to discontinue teaching in the Church. The Church Sabbath School is a most beneficial institution, but in this case its evils are a counterpoise. I think that a letter from your Lordship would be a full counterpoise for our own local deficiency. The people of this neighbourhood are politically the most disaffected in the Kingdom; and how can we so successfully counteract the evils as by giving the youth a sound and scriptural education ? As to the want of this in this part you already know enough. Though I may herein be too troublesome, your Lordship’s past kindness makes me fully confer in your interest for the future.

Subsequently, Hodgson sent an impassioned response to Wigram’s suggestion he raise more money locally:

The Church was only opened in 1836, and with the exception of the donor of land the congregation have nothing to spare. Those who have wealth go to their pews in the parish Church, it being nearer to their residence than mine, and for some very unjustifiable reasons, in which I have not been concerned, are prejudiced against the place. My labours however have been blessed to the gathering of a large congregation from amongst a people who either lived altogether in the neglect of the Sabbath or were augmenting the ranks of political dissenters. Church principles have almost been lost in this place, which I have been cautiously endeavouring to revive. One of my efforts to do so has been catechising in the Church, which so offended one of our country Esquires – who calls himself a Church Man, and whom when I had reason to expect would be a principle subscriber – that he told me he would not give me aught because I tried to make the children Church people. Besides his independent wealth, he is one of our principle manufacturers. If I fail in my application, it will be in a consciousness of having done what I could. There is however only one alternative;- if you cannot assist me, the children must be dismissed, and that will be to my mind a most painful task, so painful that I must endeavour to avoid its endurance by seeking for myself another situation. We cannot go on in the Church, the pews are so narrow that we cannot efficiently carry the national system into operation, and the children having to come a considerable distance have to eat their dinners in the Church, which aught not to be the case. There is, moreover, scarcely a Sunday but complaints are made of the children taking dirt into the pews, and the generality of the people are holding back from taking pews on that very account. So that I shall never be locally supported until the Church is freed from their annoyance. I have laboured hard for a congregation;- besides my pastoral visits I am preaching five times a week, going over on extent of country about 5 miles square. Few perhaps in doing this would find time for the Sunday School, but I nearly always superintend it myself. Hence you may judge how painful it will be should I be necessitated to dismiss them. I have on my list 70 zealous and youthful teachers, whom to some extent I have instructed in the national system and there is not another school in the neighbourhood that even professes to have adopted it. Should I be able to keep these and the children they will add very naturally to the stability of the congregation. But, should they be sent away, they will at the best only swell the stream of dissent. In all this extent of country there is no other Church Sunday or Daily School whereas besides it four other are very much needed, and had I the means in these four I could muster 1000 Sunday School children and a considerable number on weekdays. I owe my pious impressions to a Church Sunday School, and for that reason the Sundays of my pious life have been spent therein. Even during the three years of my ministry and having to gp through three services I have on no single Sunday been absent from the School, except when absent from home.

My dear Sir help us if you can. Since your honourable Committee have heard enough of the poverty of Colne and its Chapelry! If your Society cannot help me efficiently, I will thank you to inform me whether I might meet with help from any other. If it cannot be done on the present scale, could it be done on a smaller ? – a small room will be better than none, though a smaller would be too small for our present number, viz 350. To what sudden transitions from hope to fear the human mind is subject!

Sources: the image of Christ Church – Lancashire Archives reference PR 3173/2; Hodgson’s letters to The National Society are at the Church of England Record Centre, reference NS 7/1/3365

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