Our members are participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge for 2018 with the theme People of My Place. Today's entry is from Anne Jolley.
In 1868, Upper Swell estate comprised almost the whole parish and allowed presentation to the Bishop of a chosen candidate for rector. When Reverend Rees Davies arrived in 1898 with his new wife, he had the patronage of Alfred Sartorius of Abbotswood House. In 1901, the estate would be sold to Mark Fenwick.
Upper Swell parish is very broad, with most still living around the Norman church, C16th manor, mill, Abbotswood House and cottages. Youngest Fenwick daughter, Constantia, remembered the red bearded Reverend cycling in all weathers to outlying farms and neighbouring Condicote church, also his responsibility.
Rees Davies was born in Brecon, where his father farmed. A Cambridge graduate, he was ordained in 1889, followed by curate positions in Pembrokeshire and two years as vicar of St Michael’s Pembroke. In Upper Swell, this energetic rector cared for approaching 250 parishioners, including the acutely poor.
By 1901, Reverend Davies agreed to prepare boys for entrance examinations to tertiary education. He soon became a member of the Stow Board of Guardians, known for his regular attendance. Costs challenged because of old, infirm or temporarily sick residents and numerous travelling vagrants. Reports describe bonus payments to Master or Matron, donation of rectory garden apples and addition of milk puddings during 1916 meat scarcity. The Rector wished that people knew how thoroughly well the inmates were cared for. He also served on the District Council.
He collected for charities, gave sermons for local organisations and made efforts to light lamps and fires before services. Further benefice duties included poor fund coal, presenting attendance certificates at Condicote school and marking the retirement of the Lower Swell headmaster and wife. Reverend Davies gave thanks from Upper Swell mothers, “because of your great kindness in looking after children, especially on wet and snowy days and seeing to the drying of their clothes after their long journey.” Later, for Mark Fenwick, Reverend Davies served on the committee of the Swell horticultural society.
WW1 traumatised the tiny community. Too old for active service, Reverend Davies was a constant. In August 1914, horses were brought for war purposes and Abbotswood prepared as a Red Cross Hospital. By September, 14 men were called up or recruited from the benefice. Belgian refugees arrived in Stow, food prices rose and there was involvement with local military tribunals, discussing temporary exemptions. Perhaps thinking of its losses, Rees Davies donated brass candlesticks to Condicote church, blessed on a Bishop’s visit. Four Upper Swell soldiers died, with Condicote suffering even more. The Rector conducted memorial services for many of these men, bringing comfort to their families.
After hostilities, Reverend Davies was at the centre of peace celebrations and services of praise and thanksgiving for victory, but still collected for Prisoners of War. He celebrated returning demobbed local soldiers, and was on the Upper Swell war memorial committee.
Rees Davies unexpectedly died in post, aged 72. Tributes included:
- “His genial presence and kindly manner endeared the Reverend gentleman to all”
- “Here he ministered with diligence and faithfulness that won the goodwill and respect of all….. He was beloved”
His grave was lined with Upper Swell garden flowers.