Published in 1937 this small pamphlet by Miss T Wilson, written to encourage Harpenden people to donate to the B&FBS, was amongst the items left to the Harpenden & District Local History Society by Amy Coburn (2016).
It was printed by 3rd Chiswick Guides, 1, Arlington Park Mansions, W4.
Miss T Wilson was Theodora Wilson. She records becoming hon. assistant secretary in her diary (see Theodora’s Journals page 173)
“A Bible Association was formed in this village in the year 1819 which has been the means of distributing in this neighbourhood 830 copies of the Holy Scriptures and of contributing to the General Fund of the British and Foreign Bible Society … … … the sum of £159-14-0 in free contributions.”
So runs the first minute in the old book which is still in existence. The minute is dated September 20th 1837 and the meeting was held in the Village Schoolroom. The B&FBS was itself started in 1804 by a group of men in London who desired to accede to the wishes of a little Welsh girl, Mary Jones, to have a Bible of her own in her own language. The aim of the Society was to provide every child and older person with at least a Gospel in his own language. Now, the Bible Society publishes Bibles, or portions, in 700 languages for use all over the world. The portions are sold below cost price to those too poor to pay a large sum and the Society so helps all the Missionary Societies to give the Word of God to the primitive folk of Africa and the South Seas, and also in various dialects of the old civilisations of India, China, and Japan.
In Harpenden the earlier association to help publish the Scriptures, formed in 1819, came to an end, and in 1837 it was refounded, and from that time we have constant minutes of the meetings.
Again to quote from the old book: Mrs Leonard has undertaken the offices of Secretary and Treasurer ……..and a few friends have been found willing … … to canvass the village and neighbourhood to enquire into the want of Bibles etc and also to obtain new free contributions
The names of these old districts would sound strange now: The houses adjoining the Grammar School. Stakers Lane and Breadcoat [sic] Square. This in modern terms would be Harpenden Hall, Station Road and a group of cottages opposite the station approach which old inhabitants may still remember. The Village from Stakers Lane to Harpenden Lodge, and from the Turnpike to Mr Lewin’s house ….. and to Pimlico on the Common. The turnpike was at the bottom of Sun Lane, and Mr Lewin’s house is now Messrs Anscombe’s shop [Wellington House]. Pimlico, Hatchings [sic] Green, and Bowling Alley are still known names round about the Common. At the second meeting held a month later it was reported that: many children cheerfully agreed to do extra work in order to obtain pence for the purchase of a Bible. The children’s work was straw-plaiting which was taught in the old plaiting schools. The old Village Schoolroom was on Church Green and kept by Mr Whitehouse who, at the Annual Meeting, 1838, kindly lent it for this purpose and Mr Leonard, master of the Grammar School presided.
Mr. or Mrs. Whitehouse’s school was threatened with extinction when, in 1860, the National Schools were built and to compensate the old lady, Mr Lydekker of Harpenden Lodge set her up in stationary and ink and sealing wax which was the start of Messrs. Whitehouse Newsagents.
At this meeting of 1838 it was also suggested that persons should engage to subscribe for the purchase of a Testament or Bible in a foreign language in consequence of which 3 of Mr Fogg’s children engaged to provide for the printing of 3 Chinese Testaments; so early in the history of the Harpenden Auxiliary does the claim of Foreign work present itself. Mr Fogg was one of the original subscribers and also Mr Curtis of the Brewery House [The White House] in whose barn the meeting took place under rather tragic circumstances in 1839. These premises are now in process of demolition and the private house which was on the site is now occupied by the Wesleyan Church.
Relaunch in 1855
Interest seems to have flagged after Mr and Mrs Leonard gave up their school and left Harpenden. In October 1855 a a public meeting was held in the British School-room (now the Public Hall) [since 1994 “Park Hall”] which was thinly attended in consequence of the very dark and exceedingly wet evening. Harpenden had no street lamps or pavements in those days and public meetings were often arranged for a night of full moon.
In 1858 Dr Gilbert’s name first appears. He and friends exerted themselves to resuscitate the Association. In 1859 Mrs Maria Gilbert, afterwards Lady Gilbert, wife of the first Director of the Rothamsted laboratory, became secretary, and held this position for fortyfive years. The Rev E.T.Vaughan was first mentioned as Chairman of the annual meeting in 1860 and Mr Anscombe read the report. He was treasurer of the Association for many years. In 1875 the meeting was held in the newly erected National Schools and the Rev E.T. Vaughan, the Rev J. Hargrove, one of Harpenden’s best beloved curates, Dr Griffith, Vicar of Sandridge, were present.
Mention is made of collection boxes. Mr Henshaw, head master of the British Schools, held one for the boys of his class; also: It has been decided to publish the report in the Harpenden Home Visitor, our first parish magazine.
This custom together with the reports of other similar societies continued till 1898 when a separate report was published under the direction of the Rev Spencer Buller, the new Rector.
In 1905 Lady Gilbert resigned the secretaryship and Mrs Hammond became the most devoted and efficient secretary with Mr Victor Hodgson as treasurer.
More collectors recruited
Garden meetings and lantern lectures enlivened the annual meetings and the district, now fast developing with new roads, was again divided into a dozen or more districts, from which lady collectors gathered subscriptions for the Parent Society. Also offertories at the Parish Church under the Rev A. Keogh and at St. John’s district church greatly assisted the funds even during the dark days of the War. In 1917 the total was £153. and in 1919 £180. That was our peak year. Miss Wilson took over the secretaryship in 1920 and with the help of Mr. George Carter of Aplins Close and later Mr. George Stephenson and Mrs Oliver Green and a gallant band of collectors has continued quiet and rather uphill work.
If this little account of a good work in Harpenden during 100 years interests you will you help us to raise the total now averaging £70 to £100 by giving at least 100 farthings i.e. 2/1 or better still 100 pence 8/4 or any sum to:
or to the local collector.