Letters and postcards in the collection of Mr. A. G. Barrett, a great grandson of the Reverend William Fergusson Barrett and his wife Margaret Ann Barrett, provide not only a vivid account of the life and work of the Reverend and Mrs Barrett in Parkgate and Neston but also a record of the community in which they lived and the people they knew.
William Fergusson Barrett was born in Liverpool on 7th April 1845 the son of William Fergusson Barrett and his wife Jane.
He was a pupil at Mostyn House School when the headmaster was Edward Henry Price where he frequently played for the school’s cricket team. Price left Mostyn House in the hands of his nephew, the Reverend Algernon S. Grenfell, to become headmaster of Philbert House School, Holyport in Berkshire. In 1871 William was employed as an assistant master at Price’s school. He left there to take up a post as assistant master at Kensington Grammar School, London.
On 23rd December he married Margaret Ann Hughes in Hammersmith, London. Their five children were all born in Hammersmith: Mary in 1873, John William in 1875, Andrew in 1876, Robert in 1878 and Ruth in 1880.
In 1882 William became headmaster at Mostyn House School and the family moved to Parkgate. He and his wife quickly became involved in work with the local community. They made the recreation grounds in Mostyn House available for the local Sunday Schools’ annual tea and organized musical entertainments.
William was ordained in 1895 and began holding church services for residents of Parkgate in the school.
In 1889 he resigned as Headmaster of Mostyn House. The Rev. Canon Gleadowe, Vicar of Neston was getting on in years and suffering from ill health had proposed that the Reverend Barrett should act in his stead.
The family moved to Church House, opposite the Parish Church, in Neston. Reverend Gleadowe did not make the decision to resign his position as Vicar until November 1892 when the Reverend Barrett was seriously ill with pneumonia. A few days later William Barrett died from pneumonia.
His obituary and an account of his funeral appeared in the Chester Courant on Wednesday 09 November 1892
DEATH OF THE REV. W.F. BARRETT OF NESTON
A FAITHFUL PARISH PRIEST
The Rev. W. F. Barrett, who since the partial retirement of the Rev Canon Gleadowe, at the close of the year 1889, had had charge of the parish of Neston, died at his residence, Church House, a few minutes after midnight on Monday week, aged 47 years. No death within living memory had awakened such profound sorrow in this locality, and the whole district was plunged in mourning. The flag was placed at half-mast on the church tower, and the flags of the Neston and District Bowling Clubs and other local institutions were also lowered, while the shutters of the business premises and the blinds of the private residences were almost without exception partially closed. The rev. gentleman’s illness commenced on the 26th October with an attack of pleurisy, and this was followed by pneumonia and inflammation of the lungs, but not the slightest doubt existed in the minds of the inhabitants but that the primary cause of death was overwork. It had been noticed for some time that the untiring zeal and energy with which he was pursuing the work of his sacred office was telling upon his strength, and this fact had lately been a matter of such general remark that no one was greatly surprised when it became known that he had fallen a victim to disease. On Sunday week, at the parish church, the Roman Catholic Church, and at every Nonconformist place of worship in the district, earnest prayers were offered up on his behalf, and the course of the disease was followed with painful interest. The bulletins posted outside the residence were scanned by a constant stream of anxious inquirers, and when, on Monday week, the announcement appeared that he was “sinking”, a crowd of several hundred persons were to be seen weeping in the streets. As the deceased belonged, so to speak, to the whole parish, it may not be out of place to state that his last hours fully accorded with the sanctity of his life among the parishioners. He took a final farewell of his household and friends on Monday evening and gave the benediction with the utmost composure. One of his last remarks was, “I die with the fullest confidence in God’s mercy”. Immediately before his death Mrs Barrett, at his request, sang the hymn, “Glory to Thee, my God, this night,” and he took part in it as well as he was able. His dying utterances were words of tender farewell to members of his family.
The deceased was educated as a boy at Mostyn House, Parkgate, and he afterwards became one of the masters of Kensington Grammar School. About ten years ago he succeeded the Rev. A. Grenfell as Principal of Mostyn House, Parkgate, and he was ordained a deacon by the Bishop of Chester on March 25th, 1885, his object at the time being to attend to the spiritual welfare of Parkgate. On the partial retirement of the Rev. Cannon Gleadowe, he retired from the school, and accepted the charge of the Parish, with the Rev. A. Humphreys as his assistant. He commenced duty on January 1st, 1890, and since then he had keenly interested himself in every movement which was calculated to benefit the neighbourhood. He was a member of the Neston and District Bowling Club, and he took the principal part in establishing the Neston Quoit Club(which has a membership of over 100), the Neston Football Club, and was connected in some way with every institution in the parish where his influence was likely to be of service. His lo ss will be severely felt by the school managers, the Neston and District Literary Society Library and Club, his adult Bible class – in fact there was no organisation in the neighbourhood that did not benefit by and appreciate his genial and sympathetic presence. The Parkgate fishermen remember with gratitude his labours in connection with the Shipwrecked Mariners Benevolent Society, and the numerous concerts which, in conjunction with Mrs Barrett, he organised for charitable objects in connection with the parish were always a success. He was one of those very rare individuals who “gets everyone’s good name”, for he never made an enemy or was tempted to give an angry retort, no matter how his patience was tried by the very mixed population he had to deal with. He was as popular in the pulpit as elsewhere, and there is no doubt but that the proposal, which is already on foot to provide a permanent memorial of his work here, will be adequately supported.
The muffled bells commenced to toll on Friday afternoon at three o’clock, and at half-past three the cortege left the deceased’s residence. The surpliced choir (each of the boys bearing a beautiful wreath of flowers) and Drs Russell and Blunden led the way, followed by the relatives and general mourners. The clergy came next, and after them the medical attendants. The coffin of polished oak with massive brasses, surmounted with beautiful floral tributes, came next, borne by Sunday School teachers, members of the Bible class, quoit club, etc and the family, the relatives, and general mourners followed. The church was filled with parishioners, and as the procession entered the south-west door and proceeded up the nave to the chancel “Surely he hath borne our griefs”, from the Messiah, was played on the organ. The body was deposited in the centre of the chancel, and the choir, clergy and congregation chanted the 29th and 90th Psalms. The hymn “O God, our help in ages past” (a favourite of the deceased’s) was also sung, and a number of persons were visibly affected while the service was in progress. As the procession retired from the church, the impressive strains of the “Dead March” in Saul sounded from the organ, and when the churchyard was reached the bells again tolled, and the procession moved to the grave. The service at the graveside included the hymn, “Now the labourer’s task is o’er”, impressively rendered by the choir and mourners, and was brought to a close by the hymn “Thine for ever, God of love”. The shield on the casket bore the words “William Fergusson Barrett, M.A., borne April 27th 1845, died November 1st 1892. The chief mourners were Mrs Barrett (wife), Miss Mary and Miss Ruth Barrett(daughters), Messrs. Andrew and Robert Barrett(sons), Mr and Mrs J. Hughes(brother in law and sister) and Mr. and Mrs R. D. Barrett(brother and sister in law). Among those present in addiction to the chief mourners were Revs. Canon Gleadowe, Canon Feilden, T. A. Bury(New Ferry), W. E. Torr(Eastham), T. Dunn(Burton), Canon Blencowe, J. Pulliblank, J.O. Young, A.P. Reynolds (Kingsley), the Hon. C.F. Cross(Shotwick), J.W. Aldom(Thornton Hough), R.J.L. Fox(Heswall), John Towert(Neston Presbyterian Church), J. Lyon(past curate at Neston), the Hon Henry Holbrook…
The bearers were Messrs. J. Parry (Bible class), S. Jones (old servant of Mostyn House), S. Scarratt (superintendent Neston Sunday school), G. Bell (captain Quoit Club), and A. Coventry (Bible class).
There were special services on Sunday morning and evening, and the bells remained muffled, while the chancel and the vacant stall of the absent pastor were still decked with a profusion of the crosses, wreaths, and other floral devices which had been forwarded for the funeral. The congregation were attired in deep mourning, those who appeared in other than sombre-hued garments being the exception; but in accordance with the wish of the relatives, the morning service was of a particularly bright description, and the hymns, which were selected with special reference to the occasion, were in keeping with this view.
Margaret Ann Barrett, nee Hughes, was born in Liverpool in 1846, the oldest child of architect John Brandreth Hughes and his wife,Ellen. She lived in Liverpool until her marriage to William Fergusson Barrett on 23rd December 1871.
After her husband’s death she remained at Church House (later Gittins shop) until her death in 1925. The 1901 Census records show her at the home of her daughter, Mary, who was living in Parkgate with her husband Harry Martindale Speechly. Mary and her husband emigrated to Canada the following year. Mrs Barrett was a woman of great energy and the obituaries which appeared in the local newspapers after her death in 1925 gives records some of the work she did.
Cheshire Observer 21 November 1925
DEATH OF MRS. W. F. BARRETT.
Neston has been suddenly plunged into mourning by the death of Mrs. W. F. Barrett, which occurred at 6.15 on Thursday morning. She had been in failing health for some time, but was present at the evening service in the parish church on Sunday, and on Monday attended the Parkgate Mothers’ Meeting. She also attended the lecture on Canada, given in the Town Hall on Tuesday afternoon, and heard the happy reference to her granddaughter’s marriage, which takes place in Winnipeg to-day (Saturday). The end came very suddenly on Thursday morning, and as yet the loss to the district is hardly realised.
It is about 45 years since Mrs. Barrett first came to Parkgate, when her husband, the late Rev. W. F. Barrett, succeeded the late Rev. A. S. Grenfell as head of Mostyn House School. From that time sha has always taken a deep and active interest in all that appertained to the welfare of those around her, and it is almost impossible to enumerate her activities, which covered a wide area. She, with the late Mrs. Comber, inaugurated the Mothers’ Meetings at Parkgate over 40 years ago, and this she attended regularly until her health began to fail, when her visits grew less frequent. She was also head of Little Neston Mothers’ Meeting for well over 30 years and was regarded with deep affection by all who attended.
On the death of her husband in 1892, she courageously undertook much of the work which he had started while acting as senior curate of Neston, notably the Men’s Bible Class, which she continued with great success for several years. She had also a Bible Class for young women and her quiet, earnest work will long be remembered by those who witnessed it. The missionary societies found in her an ardent supporter, and she acted as local secretary for the S.P.G. and the C.M.S., only relinquishing those duties a few months ago. She was keenly interested in temperance work, and was formerly secretary of the C.E.T.S., a diligent and welcome district visitor, and an honorary member of the Neston Ladies’ Club, never failing to take her place in the annual procession. She was a brilliant pianist, and as a musician had few equals, and for many years acted as the accompanist to Neston Choral Society, and no entertainment was considered complete unless Mrs. Barrett contributed to the programme. She was a competent music critic, and her contributions to these columns, which appeared with the initials “M.A.B.,” were both enjoyable and educational, and showed how deeply she had probed into the history of music. Mrs. Barrett possessed an exceptionally keen sense of humour, which made her at all times a delightful companion, and she will be very keenly missed by a host of friends in all parts of the country. She was 79 years of age and leaves a family of three sons and two daughters the two eldest of whom are abroad.
Cheshire Observer – Saturday 21 November 1925
NESTON & PARKGATE
THE LATE MRS BARRETT
The funeral of Mrs. Barrett, whose death was recorded last week, took place at the Parish Church on Saturday, at noon. High. street, which is usually a busy thoroughfare at that time. wore an unwonted air of quiet. all blinds being drawn, and overhead on the church tower the flag drooped sadly at half-mast. Beautiful floral tributes were carried from the old Church House across the way, where Mrs. Barrett had resided for 35years, and placed in the chancel and under-neath the memorial tablet to the Rev. W. F. Barrett, and while, the mourners were assembling, suitable selections of music, including, “Blest are the departed” and “O, rest in the Lord,” were played on the organ by Mr. A. B. Coleman.
The cortege was met at the church gates by the Vicar (the Rev. W. Bidlake), and the surpliced choir, while members of Neston Ladies’ Club. their white wands draped with black, lined the path on either side. The service, though simple, was very impressive, and the hymn. “0, God, our Help in ages past,” was sung, followed the 90thPsalm. After the lesson had been read and prayers offered. the choristers slowly led the way into the churchyard, singing. “Blest are the pure in heart.” The committal sentences were read by the Vicar, and afterwards the Nunc Dimittis was softly sung to Barnby’s well known chant. The chief mourners were: Mr. A. Barrett, Mr. R. Barrett (sons), Mrs. Miller (daughter), Mr. Miller (son in law) Miss Daisy Miller (grand-daughter), Miss M. Hughes (niece). Mrs. A. A. Miller, Mr. Rawdon Smith, Mr. Douglas Miller, Mrs. Cartmel, Miss D. Cartmel,Miss Blackburn, Mrs. A. Jones, Miss A. Marle, Mr. and Mrs. Pemberton, Major R. Eaton Hall, Mr. T. S. Comber, Mr. T. A. Jenning., Mr. Philip Lloyd, Mr. Alec Lloyd, Mr. Preston Witter (Chester). Mr. Dunstan Walker. Mr. M. Richardson. Mr. J. G. Lee,Mr. R. L. Price. Dr. Gunn. Mr. and Mrs. Hargreaves, Mr. H. C. Agnew (representing Mr. A. G. Grenfell and Mostyn House School). Mr. Wilson (representing Dr. Grant). Mr. A. D. Prentice, Mr. H. Smith. Miss Cadby, Miss Finch, Miss Wilkinson and Miss Newall (representing Ashton House), Mrs. Gill, the Misses Wulff, Mrs Johnson Houghton, Mr. and Mrs. H. F. Russell, the Rev. C. Steedman Davies, Mr. G. Troughton, Mr. and Mrs. A. Wood, Mr. and Mrs. Nicholson, Mr. P. Maddocks, Mr. and Mrs. C. Coventry, Mr. F. Parrington, Mr. Beamer, the Misses Marle. The hon. members of the Ladies’ Club included Mrs. Harrison, Mrs. Larden Williams, Mrs. Livermore, Mrs. Barber. Mrs. Mansfield. Mrs. Rimmer, Miss Ward, Miss Fryer; and the benefit members were led by Mrs. Bushell and Miss Henderson. Practically the whole of Little Neston Mothers’ Meeting were present, and there were also representatives of Neston, Parkgate and Colliery Mothers’ Meeting, and very many members of the Parish Church congregation. The arrangements were carried out by Messrs. W. Fleming and Co., and Messrs. G. Bell, James Smith, T. Metcalfe, E. Jellicoe and W. Bartley acted as bearers. Among the numerous floral tributes were wreaths from the Parish Church choir, Parkgate Mothers’ Meeting, Little Neston Mothers’ Meeting, Committee of Ashton House and the Girls of Ashton House.
The service at the Parish Church on Sunday morning was of a memorial character, appropriate hymns being sung, and many were deeply affected as the Vicar alluded in his sermon to Mrs. Barrett’s long life, spent in the Master’s service. Even through sickness and infirmity she bad kept in intimate touch with the whole of parochial life, and her influence would long be felt. A touching service closedwith the hymn. “For all the saints, who from their labours rest.”
But now, alas! The place seems changed;
Thou art no longer here:
Part of the sunshine of the scene
With Thee did disappear.
Mrs. Barrett has fallen asleep, and the anguish of the parting is still upon us. When a little time slips by, and the trees cease their sighing, and the mists become clearer, we shall look down through the years, and see glowing far away in the distance the little recording lights of her life, and we shall feel the calm of a Benediction ever us. We shall look up from all the scenes with which she brightened, and her whisper will reach our ears.
My soul is ready to depart
No thought rebels, the obedient heart
Breathes forth no sigh.
The wish on earth to linger still,
Were vain, when ’tis God’s sovereign will That we shall die.
She lived like that, intensely. steadfast in faith and courage. She seems to have been always with us. In our baby days we knew her and loved her. How she loved us. too! Her eyes always smiled a on great big crowd of fat jolly children, and some music in her life drew us from our games and our homes. She would teach us to be temperate in all things. Merrily we laughed with the live little anecdotes she read to us. We were very plastic in her hands, and her discipline was wonderful. Again, I see her in the schools, this time at the harmonium. She always came to us before Christmas, and taught us to sing carols. The memory comes to us, all delightful, all happiness. Days passed, and the years, Mrs. Barnet still was with us. The tall old home seemed to absorb some of her personality, and the children, new grown up were drawn by the old sweet force to her home. Those happy talks, the music, the cosy little teas, and the virile atmosphere bespeaking God’s work. It was all so quiet, so homely, so comfortable, so progressive. Many feet will pass that door in the years to come. Many eyes will glance swiftly in tender respect. Little notes popped into many a home. They were typical of her. Were, it a marriage morn, a personal gift and the message “For you and the good man. May God bless you”; of a christening, a day of sorrow – she knew them all and her tender message of joy or consolation was not delayed.
Far away, out among the heathen. out in our colonies, she accompanied them all. for many who played in the Neston fields are scattered over the globe. Picture her at the head of her long table, with a list of her distant friends, and piles of magazines, interesting papers. and Christmas or Easter cards. She remembered all, and many a lone soul in foreign climes thanked God for the life in Neston. It was a wonderfully active life, the details of which have been well written elsewhere, and I purpose only some glimpses of little inclinations which appealed to me. It seems so strange to be writing the past tense. We are numbed with it yet. It seems that we must we her again, as we saw her almost yesterday, outside our dear old church, resting awhile on the arm of her loved nurse and attendant (Mrs Cartmell), ‘ ere going in to partake of Holy Communion, or sitting in her familiar seat leading off the hymns and psalms; or again in the Town Hall, as we saw her last week. When the sun rose two mornings, later Her soul to Him who gave it rose, God led it to its long repose. She passed in the twinkling of an eye, and a cloud swept over our happiness.
It was just noontide with the sun high in the heavens when they brought her into church and everyone seemed to come with her or was represented. The bells were not muffled, there were no funeral marches or dirges. No, Mrs. Barrett was not like that. We sang hymns. “Blest are the pure in heart.” and “0 God, our help in ages past.” and the ninetieth psalm. The singing choristers came in with her, and flowers were everywhere. She loved them so. All the mothers, rich and poor alike, came to give tribute of their love, and many friends were present in thought. In a little vase she was wont to place a few flowers in memory of her husband, whose saintly life is well remembered in the parish. and flowers were there this day, and wreaths or great beauty were placed near his memorial tablet. Yes, her heart was known to the people and then a great quietness fell. The aisles were flooded with softened colour, and as we thought of her and listened, the pure notes came from the organ, “0, Rest in the Lord.” Like a psalm from Heaven it came on our ears, and when they laid her in a spot which was very dear to her, under the tree, all the flowers were round about her, everyone sang, or tried to sing, the beautiful Nunc Dimittis, and we left her in God’s keeping.