Rev Arthur Miles  The years before Withyham
Arthur Miles was born 13 June 1888 in Neatishead, Norfolk, the son of a school-teacher also named Arthur (1861-1924) and Ellen Jane, nee Pointer (1860-1903) who was also a teacher. Three years later the couple had another son, Bertram. Arthur trained to be a teacher at Peterborough and taught maths and music at a boys’ school in Cambridge between 1908 and 1909. By the time of the 1911 census, his widower father was headmaster at Arkenstalls School in Haddenham, Cambs, and Arthur jnr was an assistant teacher at the same school. Soon after that he appears to have given up teaching to train for the church although, as we will see, he never abandoned his interest in education. On 19 December 1915 the Bishop of Winchester pronounced that he “solemnly administering Holy Orders, under the protection of the Almighty, in the Parish Church of Farnham, in the County of Surrey, within our Diocese and Jurisdiction, did admit our beloved in Christ, Arthur Miles, Theological Associate of King’s College, London (of whose virtuous and pious life and Conversation and Competent Learning and Knowledge in the Holy Scriptures, we were well assured) into
the Holy order of Priesthood, according to the manner and form prescribed and used by the Church of England.” Arthur’s first position was as a curate at St Thomas A Beckett church in Portsmouth from where he moved to St John the Baptist church in Peterborough in 1917. On 17 September 1918, Arthur married Augusta Carrie Drake in her home village of Sutton in Cambridgeshire. She was the daughter of a prosperous ironmonger, Charles Drake and his wife Laura. Their first child, Paul Arthur, was born in 1920 (pictured below with Arthur and Augusta) and he was followed by A David (Robin) in 1923, two years after Arthur had been appointed as vicar at St John the Baptist church, Tidebrook, a village midway between Wadhurst and Mayfield. Arthur stayed at Tidebrook for 12 years and it is clear from the press cuttings that he threw himself into the job with great enthusiasm. He appears to have been involved in the whole of the village life, including handling the lantern for slide shows and on occasions performing at social events. “The members of the Tidebrook and Beech Hill Women’s Institute choir gave a concert in a well-filled hall on Saturday evening in the Beech Hill Hut, when they sang the songs for whch they gained high awards at the Lewes Festival and the orchestra gave their Yorkshire Symphony “Mr S Ansell conducted and also contributed amusing character songs. The Rev A Miles, vicar of Tidebrook,
pleased the audience with his baritone songs, as did Miss Clements, mezzo-soprano. “The masterpiece of the evening was a scene from Nicholas Nickleby in which Mrs Wildy as an old gentleman was screamingly funny, while Miss Bevan as Mrs Nickleby was equally good “Mrs Miles as Kate Nickleby and Miss Clarke, an old gentlewoman’s attendant, also acted well.” (Sussex Agricultural Express 5 June 1931) It was while at Tidebrook that we learn of what might have been Arthur’s first contact with Blackham. On 12 August 1932, the Kent & Sussex Courier reported that Arthur had conducted a wedding at St John the Baptist church between local girl Vera Nellie Baldock and her groom from Blackham Frederick Walter Allen, with Ivy and Nellie Allen among the bridesmaids. Arthur’s energy and enthusiasm had clearly been noted by senior people in the diocese. He was often called upon to give a guest sermon, including preaching at an ordination service in Chichester in 1931. And his interest in education led to him being appointed as one of the diocese’s inspectors of religious education by the Bishop. In 1933 Arthur was appointed as vicar of St Mark’s, Little Common, Bexhill where the local paper greeted him with enthusiasm: “The appointment of the Rev A Miles as Rector of St Mark’s, Little Common, has given particular satisfaction to the teachers and managers of church schools who know the value of his services as one of the sub-inspectors of religious education in the diocese. In this
capacity he is already known in Bexhill.” (Bexhill Observer 21 October 1933) And the paper also applauded one of his early initiatives to solve the problem the whole church was having in attracting men to Sunday services. “The Rev A Miles has done so well since he has been at St Mark’s that the may be able to succeed where others have failed in persuading the men of the parish to come to church. “He is making a beginning with a service for men and lads tomorrow afternoon and all church leaders and worker who know how invisible men can make themselves on Sunday, will hope to hear of a good congregation.” (Bexhill Observer 6 April 1935) Arthur’s stay in Bexhill was a short one. In 1936 he filled in on a number of occasions when the Rev H W Layng, vicar of Withyham, was too ill to take the service and when Rev Rev Layng died in August of that year after 20 years serving the parish, Arthur was the first choice to replace him. He was inducted into the post on 1 October 1936, the start of an incumbency that was to be long and successful
Arthur and Bertram
Arthur Miles at his ordination in 1915
With thanks to Alison McFaul and other grandchildren of Arthur Miles for their help with information and photographs
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