A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
by Richard Barton (October 2017)
St Bartholomew’s Church at Oakridge was built as a chapel-of-ease to Bisley and the architect employed was Robert Stokes. An Appeal was started in 1834 and signed by Thomas Keble, his brother John Keble of Oriel College, the Reverend Sir John Prevost and the Reverend Isaac Williams of Trinity. This Appeal raised £1,000 which included the following donations: the Keble family £292; Bishop Monk of Gloucester £20; Reverend Sir John Prevost £100; Reverend Isaac Williams £45 and Reverend John Henry Newman £25.
In 1834 Keble and Prevost set about raising money for a new church at Oakridge, to serve some 2000 inhabitants. John Keble wrote to Prevost with suggestions that he gather up some of the superfluous sovereigns at Oxford: –
‘write and tell them that the inhabitants live a long way from the Mother Church (Bisley) and there is a lack of accommodation in the church anyway. Stress the poverty of the people and the fact that they would willingly go to church if they had one. If you and Tom (John Keble’s Brother) agree I would ask for two sums of money – one for a mere building and one for a handsome building. I would prefer you to do it without the help of the Church Defacing Society who will not give any aid when there is any beauty of architecture.’
The subsequent Appeal was worded ‘To persons disposed to support the case of sound religion and the Apostolic Institutions of the Church.’
The church was consecrated in 1837 and the first curate, the Reverend Charles M. R. Barker, was appointed in that same year on the recommendation of Dr Pusey. He was the son of Charles Raymond Barker of Fairford and had attended Wadham College Oxford, gaining his M.A. in 1838.
The Reverend Charles Barker was made Vicar of Oakridge when the village was designated a separate parish but Barker lived in Bisley with his wife and family and, no doubt because of some mental disorder, he maltreated his wife. The Vicar of Bisley, the Rev. Thomas Keble, came to hear about what was going on and repelled Charles Barker from Holy Communion. Barker appealed to Dr Pusey as well as the Bishop of Gloucester but Keble stood his ground and did all that he could to defend the wife who, on one occasion in 1863, was knocked down in the hall, her face covered in blood. Barker seems to have been found some work at Bodleian and he died on 19th November 1875 at Clifton. The East window at Bussage is in Charles Barker’s memory.
Charles Barker’s grandfather, John Raymond Barker, had married twice. By his second marriage he had two daughters one of whom, Maria, born c1801, married Edward Bouverie Pusey in 1828. Pusey was ordained just before the marriage took place. Pusey was well known to the Kebles and the Kebles well known to the Raymond Barkers. Maria died in 1839 leaving Pusey distraught. Their daughter Mary Amelia married Rev James Graham Brine in 1854, in Oxford, and they had 13 children, one of whom James Edward Bouverie Brine married Louisa who died at Cheltenham aged 84 in 1947. James Edward was curate at St Thomas Oxford in 188,1 aged 25, and lived with Pusey as an undergraduate. He was the father of Norah Bouverie Brine whose plate memorial, a silver salver, is at St Stephen’s, Cheltenham. Norah died in Winchester but is buried at Leckhampton. In 1911 she was living with her mother at Greenmount, Cleeve Hill where she died in 1947. Her father J.E.B. Brine had died in April 1915. Norah was born in Ceylon, a British subject by parentage. She was Pusey’s great granddaughter.
The brother of Charles Barker, the first Vicar of Oakridge, was Frederick Mills Raymond Barker and he was Vicar of Sandford in Oxford in 1843. In the 1851 Census he was living in Pusey’s house at Christ Church, Oxford where he is described as a relative, a clergyman with no cure of souls. Also living in the house were Pusey’s son Phillip, aged 20; his daughter Mary aged 17, Mary Brine a Sister of Mercy aged 38 born in Ireland.
Frederick Mills Raymond Barker purchased Bisley Manor in 1854 but thirteen years later, in 1867, he and his wife Bithia, were received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. They had children Mary, Edward and Charles and Catherine. Their son Charles became a Catholic priest and Catherine a Canoness of the Priory of Our Lady of Good Counsel at Hayward’s Heath. Frederick was living in Brighton in 1871, aged 55, with his wife, daughter Mary and daughter Catherine who had been born in Bisley.
Father Charles Raymond-Barker, S.J., was born at Bisley in 1859 and died on 11th December 1955 at St. Beuno’s College, North Wales, at the age of 96. He was educated at Stonyhurst before entering the Jesuit Order, and was ordained in 1892. For five years he taught at St. Aidan’s College, Grahamstown, South Africa. In 1908 he was appointed to Rhyl, and from 1911, whilst still living there, served the mission at Denbigh. During World War I he served as a chaplain. In 1919 he returned to Rhyl cum Denbigh and remained there until 1932 when he became attached to the Sacred Heart Church at Wimbledon. In 1941 he retired to St. Beuno’s but was active until shortly before his death. He was an accomplished musician and composed several motets and hymn tunes.
Father Charles’s brother, Edward Raymond-Barker, became a prominent electrical engineer and inventor who specialised in submarine telegraphy. In 1883 he married Rose Marie Crawford and they had nine children including Mervyn, who became a Roman Catholic priest, like his uncle, and he died at Georgetown, British Guiana on 8th June 1962. Another of the sons of Edward and Rose Marie Raymond-Barker was Richard. He joined the Royal Flying Corps in October 1914 after serving with the Northumberland Fusiliers. He flew fighter aircraft on the Western Front and was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in September 1917. On 20th April 1918 he was shot down and killed by Baron Manfred von Richthofen, the ‘Red Baron’. Richard’s brother, Aubrey Basil Raymond-Barker, also served in the Royal Flying Corps too.
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In 1916 permission was granted to Edward Raymond Barker for Mass to be said in his private oratory. His property, the Mansion, had belonged to his family since 1854, when a Mr. Wilson sold it to his grandfather, the Reverend Frederick Raymond Barker. In 1930 the Raymond-Barkers donated the site for Bisley’s Roman Catholic Chapel. Auction details for 1932-33, deposited in Gloucestershire Archives, would indicate that the family left the Mansion within a few years of making this gift of land.
Meanwhile, Charles Francis Ullathorne Meek, a convert, and a relative of Archbishop Ullathorne, through his mother, decided that he wished to build a Roman Catholic Church in Bisley as an act of thanksgiving to God for his conversion. Bisley then held only ten Catholic residents, but the chapel was intended to serve also the needs of the six surrounding villages of Oakridge, Bussage, Eastcombe, France Lynch, Upper Chalford, and Sapperton.
Charles Meek was born on 25th May 1883 at Chigwell in Essex and served in the Royal Artillery. At the time of the 1911 census he was a Captain.
On Rosary Sunday (the Sunday within the Octave of the Feast of the Ascension), 1st June 1930, the foundation stone of the new chapel was laid by the Rev. Father Dunstan Sargent, O.P., the parish priest of Stroud, acting as the delegate of Dr Burton, the Bishop of Clifton.
The architect was Wilfred C. Mangan and the builder was R.A. Berkeley of South Cerney. Mangan’s design was illustrated and commented upon in The Tablet:
‘In designing this little chapel, the architect has been at pains to avoid anything out of harmony with the surroundings. The walls are faced in rough white cement, heavily quoined and buttressed with local stone in random sizes and courses. The mullioned windows, of local stone, are filled with leaded glass in diamond panes, and the roof is covered with hand-made grey Cotswold tiles. Sixty worshippers will find accommodation in the little building, but provision has been made for later extension.’
On 21 March 1931, The Tablet reported that the completed chapel would be opened on St George’s day by Monsignor William Lee, Vicar Capitular of the Clifton diocese, when Fr Bede Jarrett OP would preach. Although allowance was made for later extension, the church remains very much in its original form, and continues to be served from Stroud.
The solemn blessing and opening of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels, which took place on Thursday 23rd April 1931, was reported in the local press. The ceremony was performed by Monsignor Lee and assisted by Monsignor Long. The service commenced with special prayers during which the celebrant, with his assistants, encircled the outside walls of the chapel, sprinkling them with holy water. Then, during the singing of the Litany of the Saints, the procession entered the chapel, the interior of which was also sprinkled, and the linen cloths and ornaments were placed upon the altar. The Solemn High Mass which followed was sung by Father Sargent O.P. (parish priest of Stroud), with Father Philip Darley O.P. acting as deacon and Father Nicholas Humphreys O.P. as sub-deacon. The music of the Mass was sung by a choir of Dominican Nuns from St. Rose’s Convent, Stroud. After a sermon preached by the Very Rev. Father Bede Jarrett O.P., the Provincial of the English Dominican Order), Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was given by Monsignor Provost Lee. Among those present at the opening ceremony, which was largely attended, were the Countess of Gainsborough, the Marquis and Marquise de Ruvigny, Lady Makins and Mr. Albert Rutherstone.
The chapel, providing accommodation for nearly 100 people, was built of local stone and in keeping with Cotswold architecture, from designs by Mr. Wilfrid C. Mangan. The ground upon which the chapel stood and the contents were mainly the gifts of local Catholics. The altar was made of English oak, the altar rails being carved from Columbian pine. On a tree nearby was hung the bell to call people to church, while a distinctive feature of the building was that over the entrance was a medallion in gold and blue mosaic of the Papal Arms mounted on cross keys. The opening date coincided with St. George’s Day so the Papal flag and the Union Jack were flying over the entrance to the church, and the altar was decorated with red and white roses.
‘Over the entrance door, upon the inside of the chapel, is a brass tablet bearing the inscription: “Pray for the good estate of Charles F. U. Meek, who built this chapel as an act of thanksgiving to God, 1930. Sancta Maria de Angelis, ora pro nobis.”’ His daughter, Sister Mary Benedict Meek O.S.B., was for many years Prioress at Princethorp and Fernham and she was able to recall the opening of the chapel at Bisley.
The Meeks moved to Cheltenham in 1931, and there Charles founded the St. Vincent de Paul Apostolic Union, which developed into a wider movement called the Parochial Apostolic Union. This was a simple union of prayer for any practising Catholic who would undertake to work and pray for the conversion of some known individual person. For the spread of this work, Charles Meek visited many parishes in England and was in touch with many bishops abroad. He worked very hard but his Apostolic Union did not survive him. In his last years Charles Meek was living at St Edmunds, Andover Road, Cheltenham, and he died, a widower, at the General Hospital on 14th January 1961. The history of his movement is preserved in the archives of Douai Abbey.
In 1934 Mass was said in the chapel at 9 a.m. on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays of the month; but in July of the following year, Monsignor Lee (who had been consecrated Bishop of Clifton on 26th January 1932) visited Bisley, with the Prior of Woodchester (the Very Rev. Father Hyacinth Koos O.P.) and the newly-appointed parish priest of Stroud (the Rev. Father Martin Harrison O.P.) and told a well-attended meeting of parishioners that arrangements had been made for Mass to be said at Bisley every Sunday at 8 a.m.. In the years 1951 to 1954 the time of the Sunday Mass was changed to 9.15 a.m.
It has been noted that the current arrangement where by the little chapel at Bisley is served by the priest from Stroud reverses the ancient roles of the two places, for in pre-Reformation days, Bisley’s church was the mother-church of Stroud.
From ‘Taking Stock’: Chapel of St Mary of the Angels, Bisley
‘The church is small, with an unaisled nave and sanctuary under a prominent tiled roof (originally covered with grey Cotswold tiles), gabled south porch and lean-to north sacristy. The walls are rendered but with exposed dressings of local stone. The windows are mullioned, with stone hoodmoulds and leaded panes; the three-light east window is set high up. A stream gurgles in a channel under the west end. The interior, under a high-pitched collar purlin roof, is simple but pleasing. The walls are plastered, the floor timber boarded. There are no fittings and furnishings requiring particular mention.’
The Bisley Virgin
Our story begins with a Miss Mary Gompertz who was living in a rented cottage alongside, and belonging to, the Stirrup Cup in the village of Bisley. One day, whilst, digging in this cottage garden she came across a small headless stone statue with the broken head close by. She immediately took the parts along to Mr and Mrs Gerald Gardiner, the two artists living at Magnet House, and Mr. Gardiner was quick to recognise it as being a medieval stone carved figure. Mr. Gardiner had the head expertly restored to the figure and Miss Gompertz said that she would keep it safely in her home till a suitable bracket was made for it in the little chapel of St Mary of The Angels.
John Dinkel, the former Administrator of the Burrell Collection, Glasgow, and later Keeper of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, examined the little statue back in 1975 and he thought that originally it may have been an object of domestic devotion, dating from about 1500, and possibly of a Flemish provenance. The little statue certainly caused something of a stir in Bisley during the 1970’s and attracted interest from the local press.
For a time, the statue passed into the ‘care’ of the Paraclete Fathers at Brownshill until one day it was ‘rediscovered’ by a visitor from Bisley in their private chapel of St Michael. Father Burns was petitioned and, as a result, the statue was returned to Bisley on Monday 1st July 1974. Father Desmond Swann kindly offered to pay for a suitable niche to receive the statue and so Mr. Beames of Art Memorial carved a small ‘niche’ and fixed a little carved stone plinth to receive the statue. At last ‘Our Lady’ had a worthy home in the Catholic chapel at Bisley but then, on the following Palm Sunday, a fire in the church blackened her with smoke which necessitated a gentle clean.
Stroud Journal, 24th April 1931
Newspaper Cuttings, 1930, 1931
Gloucester Journal 6th July 1935
Catholic Directory 1934 and 1940
Clifton Diocesan Year Book 1951-1954
The Tablet, 1930, 1931
Copies of correspondence given to me over twenty-five years ago by a Bisley parishioner
Mary A. Rudd, ‘Historical Records of Bisley’
Brian Torode, ‘Touched by the Oxford Movement’ (see elsewhere on this site)
Father Alban O.S.B., manuscript article ”The Lay-Apostolate in Gloucestershire from the Reformation to the Present Day’
J.N. Langston, Post-Reformation Catholic Missions in Gloucestershire – ‘Bisley’
Chris Hobson, ‘The Raymond-Barkers of Fairford Park’, November 2007, Fairford History Society
Clifton Diocese ‘Taking Stock’ ‘Our Lady of the Angels, Bisley.’
J.A. Harding, ‘The Diocese of Clifton’ 2000
Bussage Church History