Saturday, August 6, 2016

Newman and the Poor of Littlemore

Sister Mary-Birgit Dechant, F.S.O. writes about how as the Anglican Vicar of St. Mary's the Virgin in Oxford, John Henry Newman also addressed the needs the people of Littlemore. She includes details about how his mother and sisters helped him:

In 1830, his mother, also called Jemima, and his two surviving sisters, Harriett and Jemima, moved to Rose Hill, close to Littlemore. They were happy to be near John Henry. They soon got involved in the various parish duties at Littlemore. Newman had a set of rooms in their house and it served as a kind of vicarage for Littlemore. His sisters gathered the children of Littlemore and ran a rudimentary school. They and their mother visited the sick and elderly. . . .

John Henry's brother Frank, sounding a little like either a Jane Austen character or Judas complaining about the expensive nard used to anoint Jesus, commented that it might be too expensive for their mother and sister to maintain a house and servants in Littlemore. Newman answered him that he needed their help and it was better for them to be able to help the poor in Littlemore than to do all the housework. Sister Dechant continues:

One thing was certain: the people of Littlemore were very grateful for all the Newman family did for them. Forty years later, Anne Mozley, Newman’s sister-in-law, found the memory of both the rector and his family alive in the parish. In 1875, she related to his sister Jemima that one parishioner (Martha K.), “still sees you and Harriett in green silk cloaks, in which you looked so nice. You were her ideals of goodness and taste. It had been an honour for her to help in the kitchen at Rose Bank (to which the family had moved from Rose Hill). [...] Also she was of Newman’s mother’s class, has most devoted recollections of her kindness to people, knows still her taste in needlework, and how particular she was.” 9 On one occasion Mrs. Newman, glad that there were so many candidates for Confirmation, rejoiced in “seeds of promise sown by yourself”. Summing up she wrote: “everyone is very grateful and I do hope the people are something better and happier than they were some time ago.”10 

They also helped him build a church in Littlemore:

In April 1835, Newman’s sisters collected signatures for a petition to Oriel College to build a church: practically all the inhabitants of Littlemore signed it.11 This time the request met with approval. With joy, Newman wrote to his friend Henry Wilberforce, “I am building a chapel at Littlemore. If you know any rich man furnished with ability, I have no objection to be indebted to him. I hope to do it for £500 or £600. The College give ground and £100. Population 470. I want it to hold 200.” 12 Mrs. Newman had the honour of laying the foundation stone of the church on 21st July 1835. In her diary, she wrote, “A gratifying day. I laid the first stone of the church at Littlemore. The whole village there … J.H. a nice address.”13 She calls the occasion “that day of triumph.” Sadly, she died suddenly on 17th May 1836. Newman commemorated her in the new church with a memorial plaque made by his good friend Richard Westmacott.  

Read the rest there.

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