Michael Powell

 

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Stories & People - Paper 7

A TWICKENHAM DUO

This paper, based on the archives of Twickenham United Reformed Church, provides us with case studies of a Builder/Deacon and a Borough Surveyor/Church Secretary.

Twickenham United Reformed Church has a significant part of its history available on line at www.twickenhamurc.org.uk/history  and I am grateful for the church’s permission to reproduce material from it.

INTRODUCTION

Abraham Slade 1817-1903

Prologue

New year reflections

Personal and family life

Business life

Church life

Epilogue

F.W.Pearce, F.S.I 1866-1928

SOME OBSERVATIONS

   

INTRODUCTION

This Paper relates to Abraham Slade (1817-1903) who owned a small building business and became a Deacon of the church, and Fred Pearce (1866-1928) who some time later combined the roles of Borough Engineer and Church Secretary

The Slade material comes from his personal diary, revealing the inner struggles associated with family, business and religious life. By contrast the Pearce material is from a published obituary showing a highly esteemed public servant. Although these are very different modes of insight, the strongest link between the two men depicted is their long involvement with the community to which they came as ambitious young men.

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Abraham Slade 1817-1903

Prologue

 

Introducing the diary he started in 1856, Slade recapitulates the story of his birth in Somerset , moving to London and thence out to Twickenham where he established his own business of carpentry and furniture making, and latterly housing and shop development.

 

In these notes I have not been drawn into the intricacies of Slade’s migration from Methodism early in life, through his central Congregational period, to a final Baptist period. He shopped around but was essentially the same person throughout.

 

Slade introduces himself

 

I bought this book in Oxford Street , London February 11 1856

 

Was born at Upton Noble in the county of Somerset Feb 6th 1817 - Son of Jacob and Sarah Slade - and grandson of Thomas and Miriam Slade - and of Edward and Margaret Tanner.

 

When 26 years of age I got tired of Wincanton. Although I had a wife and a dear child I had a serious mind and wanted to see the world, nothing would do, but I must leave all and to London I came, a stranger in this city of vice and wretchedness.

 

In the March of the year 1848 I left London and came to Twickenham little thinking that this was to be my future destiny, but my heavenly guide knew how to bring matters about for to bring me to himself. (Glory be to his holy name)

 

In the latter end of the year 1852 I was short of employ and left the shop where I had been for nearly five years, not knowing what to do, I committed my ways to him who has promised to direct one, and all who trust in him, and he opened a way of life for me that I little expected. I started on my own account and the Lord sent me a plenty of work and now, the time I am writing is the 17 day of Feb 1856 and I am doing very well having enough for 3 men and myself.

 

 

Slade talks about his religious perspective

 

I shall be very brief in this part of my history, as 34 years of my life was spent in sin, running after the vanities of this wicked world, seeking rest and finding none. Having when about 7 years of age gone to a Methodist chapel school on Sundays, and hearing good men pray, it had a great effect on my mind. I began to think seriously, and the Spirit of the Lord strove with me, which is the first serious Impressions, I can recollect.

 

But Alas, they were like the morning dew, they soon wore off, and my parents both being ignorant of the plan of salvation, cared little for their own souls or the souls of their children (at that time).

 

When about 17 years of age I was apprenticed, at Wincanton a little town in Somersetshire where I had a very bad example set me a boy as I was without anyone to care for my Spiritual welfare.

 

About that time a great revival took place among the Methodist at Upton Noble, my native village, and among many others my own poor ignorant Father, was said to be converted, and then I became serious myself and felt I should like to become a child of god. I have got up on the sunday morning and walked over to Upton to meet the people of God, by 7 O'clock in the morning, a distance of 9 miles, and felt a pleasure in doing so.

 

He reads Baxter and Wesley

 

July 6. .[1856]..I find the advice of that good man, Mr Richd. Baxter to be good in my case, he says, question yourself, and as how you are going on, and often and repeatedly. (had a good time at chapel this morning, found it good to talk to the boys in the school...)... ...

 

July 27.[1856] Saturday evening. This has been a week of trial mixed with much mercy. I find the cares of business which are incessant, to much for my weak body. My health is very delicate... I look forward to a good day tomorrow. Mr Harvers is to preach in our little chappell in the morning, and the Lord's supper in the evening... Mr Westleys Journal has interested me much of late: it is very instructive. ...

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New year reflections

 

New Year is often a time to take stock

 

Jan 24. [1861] ...Trade is very dull and many are out of employment at the presant. The weather is very unfavorable. We had a terrible hurricane on Thursday 21st which did much damage and many persons got hurt. The steeples of churches blown down, one wing of the Crystal Pallace at Sydenham was blown down & many houses injured. After a winter of severity and much distress the spring seems far in the distance - But looking at the state of Italy & the Continent, we as Englishmen have reason to bless God for our priviledges and liberty.

 

Jan. 4th. [1862]...My Brother Tom came to see us on the 23 of Dec. and returned on the 27th. per Great Western. Mrs and Mr Hunter from Richmond dined with us on Christmas day and we spent the afternoon and evening at home very comfortable.
This last year has been an eventful one; the death of
Prince Albert just at Christmas has made things very dull... My house that I am building will be furnished by Lady day if well...

 

Dec. 31st.[1865] ...Christmas has passed away and the weather has been very mild - Much drunkeness and riot by many people - Went to Clapham, Brixton & St Martins Lane on Boxing Day... got home safe... I have lost much of my jobbing work through the treachery of my men - Am finishing of my corner shop for Mr Goatly. It is to be a butchers let on lease for 21 years    - My anticipations for the next year are but poor what with loss of customers, high wages demanded by workmen - and every thing as far as business goes looks gloomy - My only hope is in God...

 

Jan. 1st.[1870] New Years Day - The old year is once more past away, full of events, and to many it has been a year of sorrow and trouble. Trade by most has been very bad. The building trade has had a severe check - so many failures by unprincipled people, and so many thousands of houses built and standing empty has made a panic in the trade... I have had a busy year and a profitable one - have added 3 rooms to my own house and made other alterations. Built the bakers shop at Willow Place , Hampton Road... Have spent a comfortable Christmas. Had Miss Fry, Cousin Ben, My Niece Miss E.Vining, do. Fanny James to dine with us. Went to Peckham on Boxing Day, Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

 

Jan. 1st.[1872] New Years Day - The old year is once more past away, full of events, and to many it has been a year of sorrow and trouble. Trade by most has been very bad. The building trade has had a severe check - so many failures by unprincipled people, and so many thousands of houses built and standing empty has made a panic in the trade... I have had a busy year and a profitable one - have added 3 rooms to my own house and made other alterations. Built the bakers shop at Willow Place , Hampton Road... Have spent a comfortable Christmas. Had Miss Fry, Cousin Ben, My Niece Miss E.Vining, do. Fanny James to dine with us. Went to Peckham on Boxing Day, Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

 

Dec. 29th.[1872] ...Xmas is past over once more. We have been very happy and quiet, have not been from home, but little company. This year has been a year of steady progress... On the whole I think it has been one of the happiest of my life.... I am as well as I ever was but feel a little more inclined to rest and quietness. Provisions are dear: bread 8` the 4lb loaf, Beef 10d, Mutton 10d, Pork 8d, potatoes 16/- per sack - carpenters wages 8d per hour

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Personal and family life

 

The purpose of the business is to provide for the family

 

Aug 25. [1856]...I am about beginning to build 4 cottages. I have worked hard and been careful and have I think sufficient to finish them. Thou O My Father hast made me thy steward, and may thy blessing attend my labours, and may the provision which I am trying to make for my children, be under thy special care... I know the responsibility of a parent, I trust the Lord will give me wisdom to do a parent's duty. I feel anxious for my 2 brothers, who are going to Australia , and they are both unconverted... but my prayers shall be dayly repeated for them while the Lord gives me breath. I have repeatedly warned them and I trust my example may have some influence on them...

 

July 10.[1857] I am now in my new house and my Shop is nearly completed...

 

 

Family connections are maintained

 

Aug. 1.1857 Returned from Wincanton & Upton. Been down for 5 days... ...

 

Sept. 5. 1857. I have this day received a letter from my two brothers in Australia . After a pleasant voyage and in good health, they are now at a place called Mudger 180 miles from Sidney

 

Dec. 29 [1858]. The old year will soon expire... Christmas day my family and myself were quite to ourselves. We had a piece of roast beef, a goose & plum pudding - a good old english dinner. Sent poor old Mr Wiltshire a dinner

 

July 1[1859]. To day - or rather this evening we have been visited with a terrible Thunderstorm... The rain fell in torrents to the depth of 8 inches - God in his goodness has spared both me and mine. May my heart be truly grateful to him for it. I have again been enlarging my premises in the yard. I have now better warehouse room than I had.

 

August 2nd. 1860 Went down the country and saw my relations - took my boy Arthur with me... During my stay, 9 days, I shot 24 rabbits, they being very plentiful - Bought 5 home to Twickenham. Came back on the 12th and brought my mother with me - She staid with us a week and returned.

 

 

Family responsibilities, joys and sorrows are never far away

 

Sept. 14th [1862] . Business is not very brisk. I have 3 moving jobs in hand and a job for Mr Twining's Museum (to slate the roof). But I bless God that I have a trifle coming in from my houses. But my family of 6 children are expensive...

 

Jan. 11th.[1867] My Brother Jacob, 34 years of age, is come from New Zealand and staying with us. He has been gold digging and been pretty fortunate. Jan. 31st. We have this day lost our dear little Miriam this evening at 5 o'clock - I had been to town and was just home in time to see her breathe her last... She was born in April 1865...

 

 

Holidays and grandchildren become part of the story

 

July 17th. [1876] My Daughter Julia & self started for North Wales . Reached Llandudno in the evening... to chapel twice next day (Sunday). Started Monday for Bettsycoed - saw the Swallow falls, Miners Bridge, Fairy Glen - went on to Dolwyddelan. The afternnon very hot, the road very dusty, but the walk delightful, the scenery very fine... Coached it to the pass of Llanberris - walked through the pass, staid at Llanberis all night. Went on Snowden next day, started about 8, reached the top about 1. Never shall I forget the beautiful views from its summit... Went to Carnarvon. Saw over the castle, Menai Bridge &. Had 12 days ramble - felt all the better for it.

 

May 8th.[1877] Mrs Norton, my Daughter, safe del 'd of a son at 7p.m. - Just rec'd new pair of boots from Pitman, Wincanton - Good fit. Very busy - Bricks selling at 50/- per m. Wages... Carpenters 8d and 9d [per hour] - Bread 9d 4lb loaf... Just had a new set of wheels made for old van, cost £10 - repair to do 48/-. Bought set of harness for £4-10-0 at Parkers, Upper St Martin 's Lane.

 

At the age of 70, Slade says he is too old for building. However, with his son’s help work continues for another ten years. References to holidays and travel become ever more frequent.

 

Dec. 20th.[1887] Sold Willow Cottage & 3 Shops to Mr J.Hall for 950£... I have now £500 which I intend to pay off a mortgage at Midsummer on my estate at Teddington - and about 800 to put to some other purpose but I really don't know how to lay it out; I am too old for building, I don't want the toil of it... Thank God myself & family are all well at this time - I am resolved to give up business as soon as I can put matters right. Having just altered my house to make more room I have now only a small shop which I intend to close as soon as I can.

 

Feb. 6th.[1888] I am this day 71 years old... I don't expect to be very robust again. I went to the tricycle show at the aquarium on the 31 Jan and a fine show it was, but my Quadrant I prefer and count it best for me... I am now having a bath put in to Staunton Lodge - cost from 10 to 12£. Every body want baths nowadays but the people die all the same and don't seem to be any healthier than their forefathers. Indeed this is the age of fads. ...

 

Feb. 6th [1888] . I am this day 71 years old... I don't expect to be very robust again. I went to the tricycle show at the aquarium on the 31 Jan and a fine show it was, but my Quadrant I prefer and count it best for me... I am now having a bath put in to Staunton Lodge - cost from 10 to 12£. Every body want baths now a days but the people die all the same and don't seem to be any healthier than their forefathers. Indeed this is the age of fads. ...

 

Feb. 6.[1897] I am this day 80 years old... Since I last wrote in 1895 how many changes have there been? Many dear dear old friends have gone to rest, and I seem left almost alone. My contemporys are all gone before one, but my dear wife have been spared to me although a cripple and unable to walk... We have been to Bournemouth since the 1st of December, my wife still there... One person in our family have given us great sorrow (through drink)... the curse of drink, how dreadful - it ruines both body & soul. Last summer I bought a piece of freehold land in the 5th Cross Road . Arch built me 3 cottages on it. They are let at 7/6 a week - cost altogether about 620. I pay all the rates for them... ...

 

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Business life

 

Slade often comments on the political situation and his financial concerns

 

Dec. 5 [1857] I have neglected my Diary this last month. I am resolved to be more diligent in the future. Trade is very dull, the panic both in America and at home has nearly put a stop to all the trades. It is now I bless God my hope is in him... ...

 

Jan [?]3. 1858 - I have made out all my Bills and sent most of them out.. I find I stand very well with regard to my temporal affairs. The year has been on the whole prosperous. Bless the Lord for his mercy and goodness...

 

 

May 7[1858] I have this day got my Lease granted & signed, which I hope will be all for the best. Have had a trying day. Business is very urgent. I find it a bad thing to be in the hand of lawyers. A most severe taste to meet their demands. I trust that my Children when grown up will try to avoid them. ...

 

May 16 [1858]. Cast down - but not destroyed. I have severe trials in my business. Having got my lease settled, I find the payments are very heavy, but in looking over my books, I find I have sufficient to pay all, and about 60£ left. Only my money is out, but if my creditors will have a little patience, I shall (by God's blessing) get on very well. This is the most trying year I have experienced, since I have been in business...

 

Sept 31st.[?] [1858] Went to Brentford with my men & apprentice to the County Court as plaintiff - G.Score Defendant. Amount, ballance of bill £5.4.7d. Got the full amount and my expences. Dick Claridge, W.Gaylor, and A.Bullie from London swore false, Score swore false, but God gave me the victory truth prevailed. Cost Score £10.17.6. Got home all right.

 

Feb. 5th. [1865]...Business is fair for the time of year. I am Building 3 small cottages for myself - in the Second Cross Road at the back of my shops. The weather has been very severe and all against us. Money is scarce - a commodity we cannot do without... ...

 

Various types of work are undertaken

 

May 22. ..[1859].We have a plenty of work. My men are busy. This last week we have made some forms for the Teddington friends. They have the students come to preach to them - as yet they have only a barn for their preaching place. They are trying to get up a chappel. May the Lord bless them...

 

Sept. 5 [1859]. I have now some heavy orders on hand... I have the contract for repairing all Apsley cottages. The amount of contract is £375.10.0 and I trust by his Guidance it will not be a bad job - I have also a wardrobe price £25.0.0 which will be a good job...

 

Nov 6. - 1859 This last week has been a rough one. The weather has been unusaly rough. Much damage has been done both on sea and land and many lives lost. My Apsley cottages are nearly finished, and right glad I shall be when the matter is settled as the tenants have given me more trouble than any job I ever had before... I am thankful for work, but not for such evil disposed persons as I have to contend with. Mr Cox at The Poplars is giving me a deal of trouble. After doing his work and trying to oblige him, he is not willing to pay me.

 

Sept. 2nd.[1860] I have finished my furnishing job at Sunningdale and a very nice job it has been - Mr Reed is perfectly satisfied - Bless God for His goodness.

 

March 2nd. . 1861 Trade is dreadfully bad. We have done nothing scarcely since Christmas in the selling department. But this last 2 days work had dropped in and bless God I still have hope... My boy William will be out of his time in June. I have 2 other apprentices and Woollet is still with me, but I have more general repairs to houses now than I used to have. Cabinet work not being much called for here, and what we make does not pay. As it is so nigh London most people go there for goods. I have been looking at several plots of ground to put up some cottages as I have about £400 and some material beside. But the ground has not yet made it appearance. As usual I have placed the matter in the hand of God... The party that now has the shop that I was nigh taking is oblidged to turn out with a short notice for the railway is going through it, and bless God I am now snug in my own house

 

Feb. 24th.[1862] Nearly another month is past... I see the last report speaks of bad luck &tc - but I am apt to complain to soon... Business is better and I have no reason to complain, and why should I. Batcombe Lodge is nearly completed and I am commenced yesterday 22nd. with another Villa to be called Longleat Villa after the celebrated seat of the Marquis of Bath in Somersetshire...

 

March 29th. [1862]...I am progressing with my house called Longleat Villa, whilst Batcombe Lodge is not let. The weather has been so wet. It has rained nearly all through the month...

 

Jan. 1st..[1865]..I built 3 shops in Chesnut Place (corner of Staines Road ) at the beginning of the year, and now I am about beginning 3 cottages at the back of them which I have saved this year...

 

Dec. 20th.[1879] Sold Willow Cottage & 3 Shops to Mr J.Hall for 950£... I have now £500 which I intend to pay off a mortgage at Midsummer on my estate at Teddington - and about 800 to put to some other purpose but I really don't know how to lay it out; I am too old for building, I don't want the toil of it... Thank God myself & family are all well at this time - I am resolved to give up business as soon as I can put matters right. Having just altered my house to make more room I have now only a small shop which I intend to close as soon as I can.

 

 

As an employer of labour, Slade is often under pressure

 

May 2nd [1858]....The week past has been a busy one, having had on several extra workpeople. I feel my responsibility to be great May the Lord help me...

 

Dec. 13th [1858] Have been very unwell this last fortnight - Have my winter complaint bad cough - what is worse I have been declining spiritually... Business is brisk for the time of year. Richard Pond, my old master's son is come to work for me. I hope he is a thoughtful young man. May I have grace to set a good example before my men & boys... Went to London last saturday, paid Harris £20. Paid Loaders and several others. Thank God I owe very little, while I am owed a good deal. This has been a prosperous year, Bless the Lord...

 

Sept. 10th.{1864] Saturday evening. My man Woollett has this evening given me a week's notice to leave me after being with me for seven years... For along time past he has been dissatisfied and has been slandering me behind my back, and has made my 2 apprentices dissatisfied. I have placed confidence in him by sending him out to my customers - which he has turned to his own account by getting my work away - and now to crown the whole, Him and Pond has taken a shop close by me and is about opening against me - What the result will be I am at a loss to say...

 

Business-religion interface

 

May 11th [1856]. For this last fortnight I have had little time or opportunity for writing, my mind having been much drowned in business and the cares of this life... There have been many large meetings lately of the enemys of my master Jesus, and these men would make the sabbath a day of toil, but glory to god they have not succeeded. The Lord has frustrated their designs, the legislature has decided in favour of the sabbath. Glory be to God.

 

My business is extended from one man. I have 3 and a prentice but I am not ambitious... I am surrounded by those who are ignorant, who profane the sabbath by buying and selling, but they do not get rich. I keep the sabbath and delight in the Lord, and although I labor hard, I am happy and the Lord prospers me. He shall be my guide while life lasts.

 

Jan 11[1859]. Wrote to Mrs Robertson for the amt. of her a/c which has been owing 8 months after due. Offered to take the goods back in part payment - Herd a student preach last evening. Felt encouraged at hearing the word.

 

 

A business mentor gratefully remembered

 

John Nash Goatly died Nov. 2nd. 1862 aged 52 years. And we buried him at Ealing old church on the 8th. This man was the only man that ever took me by the hand in business. I have found in him a friend, and in him I have lost one...

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Church life

 

Slade is much concerned about his Chapel’s building finance

 

Oct 21st 1866 The people are altering the Independent Chapel and I am afraid they are going to entail a heavy mortgage on it which will be a heavy drag to my neighbours as well as myself & family... When Lady Shaw died she died intestate - and 560 pounds had been lent by her at the erection of the chapel, so that her heirs made a claim for that amount... the whole of the property was sold to Mr A.Bowring of Fenchurch St London, and the people then formed a committee of 12 to carry out the repurchase of the property from Mr Bowring and among the rest my name was placed among the number (but without my sanction), and when done I did not unfortunately withdraw it.

A scheme was then set on foot by a few of the leaders of this movement to borrow six hundred pounds and pay off the debt... and to this I consented. But some few were not satisfied by this but wished for alterations in the property that would involve a very heavy outlay... amounting in all to about 2800 pounds. My name was put with another as Treasurer but my partner took every thing into his own hands and I never saw any of the books or accounts... and feel sorry ever my name was associated with a proceeding which instead of helping the cause of Christ, I am afraid will be a heavy clog to it. I would advise all my children to beware how they act in all these matters... I would hope the matter may end well and that my fears may fall to the ground.

Chosen for the Diaconate

 

March 28 1872 . The Church has this day chosen me for one of their Deacons - Feeling myself unqualified for the office I wished them to choose some one in my place, but they would not hear my objection and wished me to take a month to consider the matter.

April 24.[1872] I have well and prayerfully considered the matter of the Diaconite and feel convinced it is the Lords will I should do something to help on his cause...

 

 

Service as a Deacon is matched by local community service

 

(1873 March) Omitted to say I was chosen by the ratepayers for a member of the Local Board for 3 years. I am still performing my duties attending its meeting once every fortnight. Have the drainage question in hand - which is a difficult one.

 

 

Epilogue

 

Feb.10th [1903]. Abraham Slade, the writer of the foregoing diary, passed away at 4.50p.m. He was buried at Twickenham New Cemetery on Feb 13th  


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F.W.Pearce, F.S.I 1866-1928

Borough Surveyor and Engineer, Twickenham

Secretary, Twickenham Congregational Church

From the Thames Valley Times – Wednesday 17 October 1928 .

A native of Somersetshire, Mr. Pearce came to London as a young man and entered the service of the Wimbledon District Council in the position of assistant surveyor.

He came to Twickenham in October, 1898 and for thirty years held the responsible position of surveyor and engineer, first to the Urban District Council, and latterly to the Town Council.

Twickenham was at that time little more than a village, with a population of 1,600, but with the coming of the trains, the cutting through of York Street , which had just been completed and the building developments taking place on all sides, Twickenham was fast passing from a village to a town. With that development came the laying out of new roads, seventy of which were made up under his personal supervision in the succeeding ten years,

Other works included the raising of the grounds several feet Radnor House so as to prevent the occasional flooding that would have made riverside gardens an impassability. The Teddington Lock was in course of construction, and Mr. Pearce seized the opportunity by arranging with the Thames Conservancy and the contractors to have the excavated material barged down stream and deposited on the gardens, saving the town many hundreds of pounds in so doing.

Another important project of those days which threw a heavy responsibility on his shoulders was the construction of the sewage works and refuse destructor.

 

With the increasing population came the need of new schools and in the construction of these some of Mr. Pearce's best work was done, for he was a keen educationist and knew exactly what were the requirements of an elementary school. The Orleans Schools, which were erected in 1910, were followed a year later by the Nelson Schools , which catered for the children in East Twickenham and Whitton areas. One of his last tasks was the building of another school at Whitton to meet the demands of that growing area . 

To the improvement of the riverside path between Marble Hill and Richmond Bridge he devoted much personal attention, being careful to preserve the rural amenities of the walk .

The purchase of York House and the coming of incorporation had placed increasing burdens and responsibilities upon his shoulders. The alterations necessary to York House were much larger than was anticipated when taking over the building, and this work, coupled with the transfer of the offices from the old Town Hall, came at a time when the surveyor and his department were working at their hardest.

To the Congregational Church on the Green, of which he was deacon for eighteen years, he was a devoted member and supporter, the children, especially, having in him a supporter and friend. He was its church secretary, and it is not too much to say that its existence to-day as a church is in no small measure due to his life and influence.

Twickenham Rotary Club, whose motto, "Service above self" inspired his everyday life.

Another of his outside activities was the Lower Thames Valley Association of Surveyors, of which he was secretary .

In a tribute the chairman of the Twickenham Education Committee referred to Pearce’s great love of the town. He never hurried. He was always deliberate in his opinions and work and had a restraining influence on many, whom I might call impetuous members of the committee and Council. The town had been built up in the last ten years and many of the things he did we shall like to look upon as monuments to his memory, for the improvement of the borough coincided with his period of office. I have found his help of immeasurable value when attending on our behalf, conference with Government officials. His eloquent and masterful way of presenting our case has been of the greatest assistance to us and the town. He loved Twickenham as few men do.

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SOME OBSERVATIONS

 

I am grateful to Twickenham URC for putting some of their history on line and even more for their insight in seeing the relevance of the working lives of two significant people concerned with different aspects of building and the built environment.

 

Abraham Slade came from Somerset to Twickenham in 1848 and established a business of good moderate size that under his sons continued at least until the end of his 80-year life. Like all building businesses it experienced many peaks and troughs with the economic cycles. Building up a permanent and reliable labour force was continuously difficult as disloyalties crept in, ethical behaviour varied and ambitious and able men chose to move off, sometimes not very far at all, to establish their own enterprises. But over the long period it seems to all have been reasonably satisfactory and successful.

 

This story is reflected in Slade’s religious comments. Conversion was not just an inner and spiritual matter but was the basis of an acute ethical sensitivity to the way he, his work force and his customers behaved in business. It was morally wrong to be disloyal to an employer, and not to pay one’s bills if a customer. These early pains seem to have gradually given way to a sense that God can be trusted when times are difficult and can be gladly praised when things in the end go well. Slade’s story can be read as a business man’s persistent pilgrimage along a track that was often rocky and difficult. Despite the difficulties, God can be praised.

 

It was 50 years later in 1898 that Fred Pearce, also originally a Somerset man, secured the job of what was to become the Borough Surveyor and Engineer. As a Fellow of the Surveyors’ Institute he was in near the beginning of a new profession, the Institute having been formally established in 1868 with a membership of 49. Alongside the newness of the profession went the development of the Town and Borough. Pearce seems to have had the skills and qualities to grow naturally into that public role. Over his 30 years of service he won respect for doing the job well, not least in relation to the key local government field of education.

 

We have no insights here into his inner religious life. What we do see is a man elected to the Diaconate and entrusted with the responsibilities of Church Secretary. That points to a strong, practical discipleship.

 

It seems to me that we have two strong types here, Slade the tradesman who through hard experience becomes a successful business man, and Pearce the professional who through competent and committed public service wins great respect. In their ways and their time they were, I am inclined to feel, authentic, true Lay People.

                            

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