Tuesday, 3 May 2016


Here is another view taken at Matins-time in St Nicolas’, Great Coates, to me almost as evocative of that time as Matinlight.

Meanwhile, I spent a wet Bank Holiday afternoon chasing down a hitherto missing 1911 census record for one of my father’s grandmothers.  I knew that she had mental health problems at the end of her life and that she was not at the family home in Southend on census night.  No amount of searching for her by name had showed up where she was visiting or being cared for that night. 

In the end, the answer was as simple as searching out the address at which she is recorded as having died a few months later.  The neutral sounding 33 Peckham Road, Camberwell turns out to be part one of the then largest Asylums in the country (Camberwell House) for which page after page of patients are listed by their initials rather than their names.

There is enough circumstantial detail (aged 61, married, born in Oxford) to be sure that ‘ASG’ is Annie Sarah Gregson (born Mallam), and there is the stark but not unexpected word ‘Lunatic’ in the extreme right hand column reserved for record of ‘Infirmities’.

I was also able to identify the large family home near the seafront in Southend (used as the Cumberland  Hotel and Banqueting Suite for most of the years since the family left in the 1930s) on Google Street View, and may have caught sight of it shortly before demolition as it is surrounded there by builder’s hoardings.

The Bank Holiday weekend was exactly twenty years on from my father’s death.  I remember him in 1985 attending the first Eucharist at which I presided and saying afterwards that he had thought of his mother after the service – Annie Gregson’s daughter, brought up in that house, my grandmother who died ten years before I was born. 

I was sure that he was echoing 2 Timothy 1.5 “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” and thinking that my vocation was at least in part shaped by the faith in which his mother Barbara had nurtured him and her mother Annie had nurtured her long before her mental health fractured.

So a lot of me goes back to Frederic and Annie Gregson.  I have my grandmother’s sketches of them, her parents, above my desk as I type.  He was one of those instrumental in building St Alban’s, Westcliff and he served as an early lay member of what was to develop into the General Synod.  Three of her sisters married clergymen, as did one of her children, one of her sisters became a religious sister, one of her other daughters was an SPG missionary in Japan at about the time of her death, and William Temple’s book on John’s Gospel is dedicated in memory of one of her nephews.

A lot of well used prayer books over the years.

I’d seen for the first time the grave of her parents (Thomas and Martha Mallam) in Oxford in 2014  and of the one of her sisters who became a religious sister (Mother Charlotte CHC) in Oxford in 2015.  

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