St Peter’s Magazine, July/August 1901
Sing we Merrily!

This issue looks at the activities of the choir, as accounts of the men’s choir excursion took up a considerable amount of space in the July and August issues of the 1901 Parish Magazine.

Summary of the magazines

In the July issue of the Parish Magazine the account of the men’s choir outing took up a complete page. Other items, such as the Girls’ and Boys’ Sunday School Treat on 13 June, the offertories, notice of a sermon on 21 July on behalf of the United Kingdom Beneficent Association (patron: His Majesty the King), and notices of baptisms and marriages took up half a page. The rest of the issue was filled as usual with the monthly calendar, the list of parish officers, and the motto and homily for the month, and a brief notice that the Rector was returning from his holidays on 28 July! The magazine ‘wished him a hearty welcome…’ and ‘trusted that he had thoroughly enjoyed and greatly benefited by his holiday’ (SPM 7/1901).

In August 1901 the account of the men’s choir outing was restricted to just over half a page. This allowed space for the notices of baptisms and marriages, the offertories, a brief discussion of the Girls Friendly Society Annual Festival (on June 29 at Southwell with 300 people travelling by special train from Nottingham to hear a sermon preached by Archdeacon Richardson), the Girls’ Evening Home summer party on 22 June (held at Burton Joyce, with tea at the Victoria Hall, Lambley - travel via Gedling Station), the St Peter’s Day school summer outing to Mablethorpe by train on 12 July, and the Infants Sunday School Treat to Wilford.

The July 1901 motto ‘He shall testify of Me’ (John 15.26) was used by the Rector to consider the work of the Holy Spirit as ‘we have come in the course of our ecclesiastical year to the end of the Church’s doctrinal teaching, and now have to carry out that teaching in our practical life. Every doctrinal truth should have its effect upon our life and conversation’ (SPM 7/1901). The working of the Holy Spirit, he argues, can be seen though the life of Jesus, and through both his humanity and his divinity.

The August 1901 motto was ‘the people that do know their God shall be strong’ (Daniel 11.32). The Rev. Geo. Edgcome used this to begin a disquisition upon the importance of spiritual knowledge and how that helps to give people to the strength to follow the way of living advocated by Jesus. In doing so he expressed his concern that secular education would only give people the knowledge to get on this world and be good citizens, and not the knowledge of salvation which can only be had through religious education and through having ‘the Bible as the most important book in our schools’ (SPM 8/1901).

The Choir

The singers

Not a lot is known about the membership of the choir except that it was made up of boys and men. There is no reference to girls or women in accounts of the choir in 1901/02 except incidentally (Mr Curtin’s niece went with the men’s choir outing in 1902 - SPM 10/1902). The choir boys had an annual outing to Skegness (SPM, 9/1901 & 10/1902). In September 1901 Mr John Neale, one of the choirmen, was presented with a silver-plated dinner cruet by his fellow choristers on his marriage (SPM 10/1901). He paid the boy choristers 10s-6d (in total) for attending his wedding (SPM 7/1902). In April 1902 the annual meeting of the choir was presided over by Mr J. W. Curtin, the people’s warden. Mr E. C. Smith is named as Honorary Secretary, and Mr W. Nicholson as his assistant. The Committee members were listed as Messrs Dommett, Riley and Windley. (SPM 6/1902). A Mr G. S. O’Rourke wrote up the report of the choirmen’s excursions in the Parish Magazine in 1901 and 1902. Mr G. Smith joined in with the choirmen’s outings (SPM 7/1901 and 10/1902) as did Mr Sibley and the verger, Mr Robinson. However none of the foregoing gives firm evidence that these men, apart from John Neale, sang with the choir. Most of these men filled other roles in the church too, such as Penny Bank Managers, Sunday school teachers, sidesmen, Parish magazine editors and Churchwardens.

The costs of the choir were defrayed from the earnings of the Parish Magazine (SPMs 5/1901 & 4/1902) and seem to have included expenses for washing surplices and buying music and books. In 1901 these expenses came to £13-0-0 (SPM 5/1901). The choir excursions were funded separately.

The organist

In 1901/1902 the Choir was under the direction of the organist and choirmaster Mr Lawrence J. Norman of 44 Trent Boulevard, West Bridgford. He held regular Friday evening practices at 8pm throughout the year. In 1901 during the meeting of the Easter Vestry, Mr J. W. Curtin proposed a vote of thanks to the choir for their voluntary services, ‘remarking that the musical part of the services had been much improved under the direction of the present organist’ (SPM 5/1901). As well as providing sacred music in church on Sundays and solemn days, he is also recorded as playing the piano for a singsong on a choir outing (SPM 10/1902). This was at the Half-way House between Scarborough and Filey during the men’s choir outing of 30 August 1902. As organist he was paid £25-0-0 per year (SPM 4/1902). The organ that he played on Sundays was manually pumped. An item in the March 1902 Easter Vestry accounts records the wage for organ blowing as £2-12-0 (SPM 4/1902) and the account of the choirmen’s excursion of 1902 records that the organ blower (unnamed) was one of the party (SPM 10/1902). The organ cost £5-0-0 a year to tune (SPM 4/1902).

The music

Little is recorded in the Parish Magazine’s monthly calendar about the music sung by the choir, although the readings for every Sunday service are listed. Its normal Sunday fare seems to have been hymns from the ‘Hymnal Companion to the Book of Common Prayer (Second Edition)’ and psalms from the ‘Cathedral Psalter’. It is only on particular festivals - Easter, Whitsun and Harvest Festival - that the choir’s music is listed. At Easter 1901 ‘a proper anthem was to be sung, instead of the Venite’ in the morning. This was listed as the ‘Te Deum’ by Jackson (1730-1803) sometime Organist of Exeter Cathedral. The evening service used a ‘Cantate ad Deus’ by Bunnett. For both services the anthem was ‘Christ is Risen’ by Turner (1651-1740). At Easter in 1902 the anthem was ‘They have taken away my Lord’ by Stainer (1840-1901). At Whitsun in 1901 the choir sang another anthem, ‘What are these?’ by Stainer. At Harvest Festival the anthems sung by the choir were, in 1901 ‘O, clap your hands!’ and in 1902 ‘The earth is the Lord’s’.

The music for two special services during the years 1901/02 is also listed: that for Councillor Denman’s funeral in December 1900 (SPM 1/1901 & 1/2001) and for Queen Victoria’s memorial service on 2 Feb 1901 (SPM 2/1901 & 2/2001). For both, the hymns ‘Hush, blessed are the dead’ and ‘Forever with the Lord’ are listed, as well as ‘O, God our help in ages past’ and ‘Peace, perfect peace’ for the latter service. Each service closed with the ‘Dead March’ from Saul by Handel. This last was also played for the funeral of a parishioner in 1902. The special coronation music for Edward VII in June 1902 is not listed however, perhaps because of the circumstances surrounding it. The coronation did not take place because of the ‘unexpected serious illness of our Most Gracious Majesty’ (SPM 7/1902) which postponed the coronation from its planned date of 26 June 1902. The King made a remarkable recovery from appendicectomy - a very dangerous operation in 1902 - and was crowned in December 1902, the same month in which the choir festival was finally held (SPM 12/1902). One side effect of the King’s illness was that the Choir Festival in the planned Coronation Week (and therefore the Annual Offertory to the Choir Fund to have been taken on that occasion) was cancelled (SPM 7/1902). This resulted in a personal appeal on behalf of the Choir Fund being made to Congregation and Funds (sic) hoping for a liberal response.

The choir excursions

The Parish Magazine of June 1902 pointed out that ‘the annual excursion [was] the only recognition that the choristers got for their services’ (SPM 6/1902). The choir excursions were financed by donation and fund raising concerts, and in June 1901 by two Sunday collections which raised £5-3-9d in total (SPM 7/1901). The donors were listed in the parish magazine annually and the concerts were the annual choir festivals. The names of the donors were published annually in the Parish magazine. In 1901 the men’s excursion cost £17-12-0 and the boys’ cost £7-7-9 (SPM 7/1902).

Men’s excursion 1901

On 22 June the choirmen set off to visit Warwick, leaving Nottingham by train from the Arkwright Street Station at 7.50am for Rugby, and then by a three-horse brake [coach] to Leamington for lunch. At Leamington they were joined by Mr Geo. Smith who had narrowly missed the 7.50am train. After lunch and after exploring Leamington, its pumps - especially in the Royal Pump-room - and it Parish Church and public gardens (where they heard the Black Dyke band playing a selection from ‘Elijah’ (SPM 7/1901)), they continued their journey to Warwick.

As they approached Warwick they came ‘quite unexpectedly upon the castle… with its grim grey walls and turrets… We pulled up on the bridge at the entrance to the city whilst our guide, Mr E. C. Smith, took a snap shot at the castle’ (SPM 7/1901). The article does not mention what other photographs were taken that day, but cameras were not commonplace equipment in 1901. The men split into two groups, ‘one bent on visiting the castle and grounds, whilst the other traversed the city.’ Although the latter party managed to find the Parish Church and the museum, both were closed. However they did have a guided tour of the Leicester Hospital for Pensioners (SPM 8/1901).

From Warwick the party retraced their steps to Rugby, this time via. Kenilworth where all they saw were ruins. And it started to rain. They dined at Rugby and made a few speeches, but Mr Norman the organist could not be drawn into playing for them. Although they visited the town after dinner, ‘except for its school, the great name of Dr Arnold, and Tom Brown’s book associated with it, our visit did not leave much of a pleasant impression’ (SPM 8/1901). They left by train for Nottingham, arriving home ‘just an hour before the day’s final close’ (SPM 8/1901), according to Geo. O’Rourke, the author of the account of the choir outing.

Men’s excursion 1902

On 30 August 1902 the men’s choir excursion went to Scarborough (SPM 10/1902), leaving Victoria Street Station at 6.20am. It included Mr Bell (the Curate), Mr J. W. Curtin and his nieces, Mr Sibley, Mr Windley, Mr Geo Smith, Mr Robinson the verger, the organ blower (unnamed), Mr G. O’Rourke and Mr Norman (the organist). Mr Curtin supplied everybody with a morning newspaper and Mr E. C. Smith, the honorary secretary, arranged in advance for coffee and morning refreshments to be brought on to the train at York. Unfortunately these did not arrive in time for the train, but Mr Curtin managed to arrange some last minute alternatives.

They arrived at Scarborough at 10.40am. After exploring the town in small groups - ‘climb[ing] up the steep and winding walks on the front, listen[ing] to the pierrots, see[ing] the harbour, inhal[ing] the fishy odours, and view[ing] the castle and its shattered ruins’ - they met again for lunch at the ‘Silver Grid’ at 2pm. (SPM 10/1902). Most of them then drove to Filey via. the coast road for the afternoon, stopping at the Half Way House for tea where, it seems, Mr. Norman played some songs on the piano. At Filey they visited the Life Boat House and wandered along the front before returning directly to the ‘Silver Grid’ at Scarborough for tea. On the way back to Nottingham they sang some more songs and hymns in the train, and Mr Windley offered a vote of thanks to the organisers, especially Mr E. C. Smith, before they arrived home at 1.30am.

The boys’ excursions

In both 1901 (22 August) and 1902 (11 September) the boys were taken to Skegness for the day, leaving from Victoria Station before 9am. Refreshments of fruit and sweets were provided on the way. However in 1901 they had arrived by 10.20am, whereas in 1902 it took them until 11am. They were accompanied by adults - E. C. Smith, the Rector, J. W. Curtin and L. J. Norman in 1901, but only by Mr Bell, Mr Curtin and Mr Denman in 1902. On arrival the boys were given spending money which in 1901 ‘they spent on the usual amusements, such as donkey rides, side-shows, and switchbacks’ (SPM 9/1901). In 1901, perhaps because ‘the weather was all that could be desired’ some of the boys bathed as well as paddled. In 1902 however, ‘it was a wet day, but the lads enjoyed the different attractions of Skegness, especially the donkey rides’ (SPM 10/1902). In 1901 the party were said to have had ‘an excellent dinner and tea at Hiley’s restaurant’ before leaving for Nottingham at 7.40pm. In 1902 they left a little earlier and arrived home at 8.30pm.

Hugh Busher with Keith Charter

Next month, as the Parish Magazine enters the autumn, this series will look at some of the social outreach work of St Peters in 1901-1902, before focusing on the church Bazaar, St Peter’s major annual fund raising event, in the October issue.

© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 15th July 2001