Blackham All Saints’ Raising the cash
When he wrote about Blackham’s new church in his Historical Notes of Withyham, Hartfield and Ashdown Forest, Rev C N Sutton revealed the “Total cost of building, £1,308; but a few fittings are still needed.” That figure is slightly higher than one quoted in the Kent & Sussex Courier on 9 September 1901 at the time of the laying of the foundation stone. The writer claimed: “The church, which is known as All Saints’, will not be opened with the burden of a heavy debt; indeed, it is reasonable to hope that all the money necessary will be raised by the time the building is ready for services. “The total cost of the site, church and some of the fittings will be just £1,256. Towards this, £1,117 is either promised or given. The Chichester Diocesan Association, recognising the value of the work and the need of support, have made four grants, amounting in all to £125. The collections at the foundation stone laying on Monday reached £15 6s 9d so that about £124 is still required.” We know from a sign in the porch that: ‘Incorporated Church Building Society granted £30 in 1902 towards building this church, upon condition that all the sittings are for the free use of parishioners according to Law.’ And it would seem from press cuttings that Rev Sutton was very much committed to raising the money from as early as March 1893 when he organised a concert in The Great Hall, Tunbridge Wells (opposite the Central Station). It seems to have been a sparkling occasion even if the financial return wasn’t as great as hoped. “A Grand Sacred Concert was given at the Great Hall on Saturday afternoon last, by a number of London artistes, in aid of a fund for building a church at Blackham, Withyham. The concert was under distinguished patronage but the attendance was not very large and the promoters did not receive such a substantial sum for their commendable efforts as would have been liked. “The programme opened with a trio (piano, violin and violoncello) by Mr Fredk Hunnibell, Cpl A Cunningham and Sg Major E Walker, the latter two being of the Royal Artillery Band, and exceedingly well was the selection played. “Mr J M Price, the possessor of a fine bass voice was heard to advantage in two songs. Mrs Walter Lloyd (contralto) also rendered a couple of choice items and Miss Kentish Moore (Mrs Bolton) so pleased the audience with her first contribution that an encore was demanded. “Cpl A Cunningham and Sgt Major E Walker were also encored in the second part of the programme. Mr Frek Hunnibell, FCO, proved an efficient conductor and accompanist.” [Kent & Sussex Courier 24 March 1893] Even if it didn’t succeed as a fund raiser, it appears to have boosted awareness of the project because a month later it was reported that “The Venerable the Archdeacon of Lewes visited Blackham a few days’ since and inspected the site for the proposed new church. The diocesan architect Mr Lacy Ridge has now received instructions to prepare the plans.” And the Archdeacon’s enthusiasm for the church was said to be important in persuading the Diocesan Association to make their four grants. And there is no doubt of Sutton’s commitment because as late as July 1901, only three months before the foundation stone was laid, he had persuaded Frederick Hunnibell to “give an organ recital in St Michael and All Angels’ Church, Withyham, on Wednesday next at 3pm when he will be assisted by the rector, who will play solos on the violin. The collection will be in aid of the Blackham Church Building Fund.”
Rev Charles Nassau Sutton
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