Saturday, 23 April 2016

More than memorials

This week St Michael’s has received a further £1 000 grant (from Sports Relief) towards the £9 045 needed to replace the increasingly woodworm-ridden and rickety chairs in the church.  Identifying a replacement design which is robust yet moveable and comfortable yet acceptable to the heritage monitoring bodies involved has been one thing.  Reducing the funding gap now to just £625 has been another.  We hope to receive soon the paperwork which would enable us apply for official permission to go ahead.  We would hope to have the new chairs in place over the summer.

St Michael's has the paperwork needed for the much more expensive (about £50 000) project to restore the organ, and this week began to display the Public Notices which are the final stage of applying for permission to go ahead with this.  Here progress may not be that immediate.  We have just submitted proposals to the heritage monitoring body to adapt toilet provision and to relay a deteriorating section of stone floor, and we have done further work this week towards finalising a funding application to close the £30 000 or so gap to be able to fund all three of these things together.

The organ itself was given in memory of James and Martha Letten in 1936, and this is recorded on a tablet beneath the organ gallery, so it is my old notes about them which I’ve dug out, making connections with the two other memorial tablets in the church.

James Letten and Martha Somerville were both from Gravesend watermen and lightermen families.  What today would be called James’ entrepreneurial skills led him first to own his own boats on the Thames and then to take up the incentives offered to those willing to migrate in the 1870s to contribute to the rapidly growing fishing industry in Grimsby.  Letten was to become one of the prominent Grimsby Trawler owning names through the heyday of the industry over four generations.

James and Martha are not buried here.  Their eldest son, James Somerville Letten, had similarly migrated to Southampton and it is with his family that they spent the last years of their lives and it is there that they are buried.

Their second son, William Somerville Letten, however, was one of the Trustees of the Will of Joseph Chapman (his name appears as such on a second tablet beneath the organ gallery) which financed the major extension of the church 1913-15; he was married to Joseph Chapman’s cousin Alice.  The first tablet records that the organ was his gift.  He and his wife are buried in the churchyard.  They had no children.

Their third son was George Somerville Letten.  He married Kate Mudd, daughter of the Harrison Mudd who was another of the prominent migrated trawler owners and a sometime Mayor of Grimsby.  They are buried in the churchyard, as are their son Frank Letten, Frank’s wife’s cremated remains (as recently as the 1990s) and an infant son of theirs, and as is Kate Letten’s brother George and his wife. 

George and Kate Somerville Letten’s daughter Dorothy married Harold Mountain, son of the Thomas Mountain in whose memory the west window of the church was given by his wife Rachel (at about the same time as the organ was installed – see a third tablet beneath that window in her memory).  This Thomas Mountain was another of the Trustees of Joseph Chapman’s Will (and again his name appears as such on the tablet recording the legacy which funded the 1913-15 building).  Thomas and Rachel Mountain and their son Harold are all also buried in the churchyard.   

Meanwhile, the picture is quite different, and is my attempt to draw the fragments of the Saxon Cross the astonishing announcement of the discovery of which in the Rectory garden at Louth was made this week (much nearer than Monasterboice, or, indeed, west Cumbria).

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