CHURCH RESTORATION 1870 – 1880
All sections of the
Victorian Anglican Church came under the influence of the
movement dedicated to the abolition of church pews and to
opening up the churches to all classes of society. Richard
Hurrell Froude, a fellow of Keeble College in Oxford was an
early advocate of the abolition of private pews and pew rents.
He was a leading founder of the Oxford Movement, and by the
time he died in 1836 the Pew abolition movement was growing
A report by a Select Committee on Church Rates and Pew Rents
in 1851 brought the abolition issue to the forefront of national
debate. Supporters of abolition declared that it was a fundamental
principle of the Gospel that no distinction should be made
in the House of God between rich and poor. Disregard for this
principle had proved to be most injurious to the cause of
religion, and remained a great hindrance to the Church fulfilling
her mission as a National Church.
Powerful pressure groups were established to lobby both individual
parishes and the episcopate, in order to bring about total
abolition. The resultant structural changes required large
sums of money, and this accounts for the slow pace of change.
Two major national organisations campaigned for the abolition
of pews: The Manchester Association for the Freedom of Worship
founded in 1844 and The Free and Open Church Association established
in 1856. This latter body was re-named the Church Reform League
From the mid nineteenth century the terms, “free pews”
and “free sittings” were in common usage, especially
by the Anglo-Catholic Movement, within the Church of England.
The need to abolish pews and beautify the interiors of often
neglected Medieval Church buildings, was also acknowledged
by the Evangelical wing of the Church.
Linton Church had been neglected over the centuries and the
building was in a poor state of repair by the 1850’s.
The Reverend Brett seems to have concentrated on the welfare
of the poor, the reform of morals, the expansion of education
and the enlargement of the congregation rather than repairing
the fabric of the Church building. However, his successful
preaching packed out the services and accentuated the already
acute accommodation problems.
Overcrowding and neglect had been commented upon by local
newspaper correspondents. In 1855 William Creaser of Linton
wrote, “ Our Church ill becomes the Town. Blocked up
arches, wooded mullions, discarded tracery, bricked up windows,
sound destroying galleries and black repulsive pews are the
leading features of our house of God. Common decency calls
aloud for reform”. The Cambridge Independent Press added
to these negative comments in 1859 and stated that accommodation
in Linton Church was inadequate. Two families were reported
to be monopolising seven pews and paper demanded that Churchwardens
do something about the situation.
The newly appointed Linton vicar, the Reverend Edward Wilkinson
came from Sudbury in 1859 and was determined to renovate the
Church and remove the old pews and galleries. He was 37 years
of age, a fellow of Christ’s College in Cambridge and
resided with his wife at the Great House, the present day
Linton House. It required a ten year battle before the vicar
secured majority support in the small group of influential
people who controlled the Linton Vestry. In 1866, Wilkinson’s
position was strengthened when he became the Rural Dean of
the Camps Deanery and the arrival in Linton of Doctor Ireland
sealed his eventual victory. Dr. Ireland resided at the”
Limes” in Horn Lane, present day Amherst and was a strong
and persuasive advocate of reform.
On 22 July 1870 the Vestry voted by seven votes to six to
petition the Chancellor of the Diocese of Ely for a Faculty
to remodel the Church, at a cost of around £477. The
Reverend Wilkinson was to pay for most of the alterations,
and I assume that he received financial support from the National
Association for Freedom of Worship.
The Vestry majority argued that“the Church was out of
repair, unsightly and inadequate for the present congregation.
There was an urgent need for increased accommodation since
the pews covered areas of forty to sixty square feet and often
only seated eight to twelve people. They were often completely
empty and it was impossible to seat the vastly increased Church
congregation”. It should be remembered that Linton’s
population had virtually doubled to over 2,000 people in the
period from 1800 to 1850. Wilkinson’s appointment as
Local Treasurer of the National Association of the Freedom
of Worship Movement in July, 1871 confirmed his importance
in the national campaign for “freeing up churches for
rich and poor alike”.
The Church Plan labelled “A” was drawn up Daniel
Pitches Day, the main Linton builder and undertaker. He resided
on the present day Paintin’s site. The plan shows the
layout of the Church interior before Ely granted Wilkinson
The Church looked completely different from its present appearance.
Breast high Pews dominated both Aisles, the Chancel and the
south part of the Nave. There were a few “free”
seats under the blocked up West Gallery and further seats
for the poorer members of the congregation on the oaken benches
in the north section of the Nave. There was additional seating
in the West Gallery of 1791 and the North Gallery of 1832.
The West Gallery was reached by a staircase leading from the
South Porch side of the Church. The larger North Gallery was
entered from a staircase located near the children’s
seats beside the northern Porch.
The small finger organ was located in the West Gallery. The
Royal Arms were displayed on the front of the West Gallery
and there was a gilt clock face above the Gallery. The Tower
base could only be entered from the outside of the Church
via the West door. Inside the belfry area the town kept its
small Napoleonic Fire Engine and leather fire buckets. The
Font was placed close to the south Porch by the second arch
of the north Aisle.
The greatest difference we would notice in the pre-1870 layout
was the positioning of the Pulpit. There was a large three-decker
Pulpit fixed to a huge pillar on the south side of the Nave.
This location demonstrates the dominance of the sermon in
Church services at this time. During the alterations the remains
of a staircase was discovered in the pier itself. Repairs
to this arcade also exposed the three Norman Clerestory roundels
of an earlier building.
The Chancel Arch was filled with wooden boarding and some
of these were inscribed with the Ten Commandments set out
in gilt letters. The Screen had long gone. The Chancel itself
was in a poor state of repair and the old wooden ceiling was
partially filled in. Very little, if any of the present day
wooden panelling surrounded the altar. Most of the present
day Nave and Aisle Monuments were then fixed to the northern
and western walls of the Chancel. The Sclater-Bacon Monument
blocked much of the arch leading to the former Paris Chapel,
at the eastern end of the south Aisle.
The Faculty sanctioned radical changes to this pre-1870 layout.
The Church interior plan was changed and acquired an entirely
new look, very similar to the appearance of our present Church.
All the existing pews and seats were removed and replaced
with chairs. The floors were made good using four thousand
brick tiles purchased from Haverhill. At the west end of the
Church the West Gallery was removed and the Royal Arms consigned
to Daniel Day’s builder’s yard. The half arch
by the Tower marks the point where the staircase was filled
in, and the entrance to the base of the Tower was now opened
up. The external door to the Tower was sealed up and only
re-opened in 1904. The small organ was removed to the Millicent
The Northern Gallery seems survived in the post-1870 Plan
“B” because it was deemed to be impractical to
remove this Gallery unless the Church was enlarged. The precise
date of its removal is unclear, but probably took place in
the late 1870’s or 1880’s when it became evident
that Linton’s population was in rapid decline.The Font
was relocated closer to the west end of the south Aisle.
The three decker pulpit ended up in the builder’s yard
and its removal exposed the structural weaknesses of the huge
pier it had been attached to. The old large arch at the east
end of the Nave had to be replaced by two arches. These are
not shown in Daniel Day’s proposed alterations in Plan
“B ” since he had not envisaged the replacement
of the large pier. If one views the two arches from the south
aisle you can still see the wide curve of the old single arch
in the plaster work. A new pulpit was built into the southern
arch of the Chancel and two Desks were positioned on either
side of the Chancel arch.
All the wooden boards were stripped from the Chancel arch
and deposited in the builder’s yard. However, the rest
of the Chancel was left untouched because Pembroke College,
the Rectors of Linton were responsible for the upkeep of the
Chancel. They were unable to come to an immediate agreement
with the Rev. Wilkinson but agreed to contribute a further
£200 to the general restoration if the Vicar accepted
the plans of their architect. Eventually the Vestry agreed
to Mr. Cory’s plans for the restoration of the Chancel
and this work was completed in 1878 to 1879 during the Ministry
of Wilkinson’s successor, the Rev. Herbert Hall.
The total cost of repairs to the Chancel and the Millicent
Chapel was in the region of £552, and the final bill
was largely met by the College. The new Master of Pembroke
College in 1870 was John Power and he completely re-modelled
the Old Court buildings of the College. The Master and Fellows
were now more receptive to change and Linton Church benefited
from this willingness to spend money.
The Chancel roof was repaired and the original open timbered
roof exposed. All the windows were repaired and re-glazed.
A handsome oak reredos was positioned across the whole of
the eastern wall and wood from the old screen and pews was
used in its construction. A new oak altar rail was also installed.
The Chancel contained numerous monuments placed high up on
the inside wall arch and the lower sections of the northern
wall. These were all re-positioned to other parts of the Church.
The three Flack Monuments were relocated to the wall of the
northern Aisle, and the Lone Monuments were fixed to the south
wall of the base of the Tower. Some smaller Monuments were
placed in the floor of the Millicent Chapel. The Sclater-Bacon
Monument was moved to its present position in the south Aisle.
In 1879 a new organ was installed in the Millicent Chapel,
completely obscuring the magnificent Millicent Memorial. Plans
to re-position this on the wall of the north Aisle were abandoned.
The priest’s door in the Chancel was unblocked during
Changes to the window glass were largely completed whilst
John Charles Longe was Vicar, from 1887 to 1905. He finally
secured a Vicarage for Linton in 1896, the present day number
3 Church Lane.