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Continuing the transcript of

Fifty Years of Sheffield Church Life

The Rev. W. Odom

[ photo ]
Hon. Canon of Sheffield

or see full chapter list with descriptions, and illustrations

Chapter III


I said, "Let me walk in the fields";
He said, "Go work in the town."
I said, "There are no flowers there";
He said, "No flowers, but a crown."

After ten years with a leading firm of Sheffield solicitors, my long-cherished hopes were realized, and I entered as a student at St. Bees Theological College, then most prosperous, under the headship of a scholarly Principal, Canon Knowles, from whom I received every possible assistance.

During the pleasant years in Bank Street I had learnt much of men, and gained business experience which has been of the utmost value. Moreover, I had the example and the encouragement of two well known and much respected Churchmen, whose names are still gratefully remembered – Mr. Henry Rodgers and Mr. Arthur Thomas – to whose precepts and training I owe more than words can express. As an example of their generous thought, I was, during my last year at the office, allowed half of each day for private study, my salary being paid in full, which kindly act doubtless helped me to a good place in the examinations.

The College Class Lists show that in the second year (1876) I was placed fourth among the twenty-two students of my term. Moreover, there fell to me the "Rupertsland Prize" for the Greek Testament, with commended papers for Holy Scripture, Butler's Analogy, Paley, the Books of Acts and Hebrews, and Parochial Work, altogether, to both my friends and myself, a welcome surprise, but it meant hard work, and not a little burning of the midnight oil.

Well do I remember the solemn time of ordination in York Minster, at Trinity, 1877, when I went up for the ordeal of examination under the burden of a great sorrow. The examinations were not arranged as now, but were held during the week preceding ordination. The examiners were Canon Thorold (Bishop-designate of Rochester) and Archdeacon Hey. Mentally weary, with nerves highly strung, I anxiously awaited the result, and was much relieved to hear my name along with two others occupying the first three places in the examination.

On Trinity Sunday we were ordained by Archbishop Thomson – seventeen deacons, of whom seven were from my college, and ten priests, three from my college. A most impressive sermon was preached by Canon Thorold from Acts xx, 24: "The ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus." Three things, at least, he said, were everlasting – truth, love, and joy. If the young Christian soldiers would finish their course with joy, let them with joy begin it – a joy tempered with humility and built on a manly faith. Let them be sanguine and bright. They must win. The soldier who went into the battle expecting to be beaten did not fight well.

My old friend, the Rev. James Battersby, Vicar of St. Simon's, where I had worshipped and worked for some years before going to college, offered me a title, which, in preference to lighter posts in the country, I gladly accepted. It was at once a privilege and a pleasure to return to Sheffield, where I had so many friends, and where, in the providence of God, I have continued to this day.

Let me here give an account of the formation of St. Simon's parish, which has features of peculiar interest as showing how the Church of England is able to do good work in a district from which Nonconformists seemed obliged to retire, thus justifying its claim to be the Church of the poor.

In the year 1856 a very poor and densely-populated part of Sheffield, lying between South Street, Moor, and the Porter brook, extending from the Moorhead to Ellin Street, known as the Porter Street district, had been marked out by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, but was not endowed, and was without clergyman or church until, on the application of Dr. Sale, Vicar of Sheffield, the Church Pastoral Aid Society made a grant of £100 per annum for a curate. A room in Matilda Street accommodating 200 had been secured, but it required renovation and furnishing before it could be used for Divine Service. Mr. Battersby was appointed by Dr. Sale as curate-in-charge, but as yet there was no congregation, so his first work was to go into the street, lanes, and courts with which the district abounded. This he did on the Sunday morning of August 10th, conducting his first service in the open air at the corner of Porter Street, six or eight adults and a few children forming the congregation. The hymn "Grace, 'tis a charming sound," was sung, and prayer offered, after which the preacher gave a simple address from 1 John i, 7 : "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin." A similar service was held in the afternoon. Thus began the day of small things. The work of the first month was outdoor preaching and house-to-house visitation. The room named was furnished at a cost of £40, and soon became filled to overflowing. A Sunday School, quickly numbering 100 scholars, was commenced.

In July, 1857, there was an appeal for funds to build a suitable church, but no site could be obtained, almost every yard of land being built upon. It happened, however, that a Baptist Chapel in Eyre Street was for sale, the congregation desiring to move to the suburbs. This was secured at a cost of £2,200, which was used by the Baptists in erecting their Cemetery Road Chapel. After certain alterations had been made, the newly-acquired building was opened on January 28th, 1858, as St. Simon's Church, and a goodly congregation soon gathered within its walls. In 1860 further improvements were made, at a cost of £400, and in 1865 the adjoining schools, accommodating 300 children, were built at a cost of £800. Up to this about £4,000 had been raised and expended upon church and schools.

In 1865 the church was again enlarged and much improved by the Church Extension Society, the front being brought up to Eyre Street, and the substantial brick tower added, so increasing the accommodation for about 750 persons. In May, 1866, it was consecrated by Archbishop Thomson, and a district assigned, endowed with £200 per annum, by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Thus was provided a comfortable church, with day and Sunday schools, and varied parochial organizations, in one of the poorest districts from which Nonconformity had retired.

After a faithful ministry of twenty-three years, Mr. Battersby was, in 1879, preferred by Archdeacon Blakeney to the vicarage of St. James's. In bidding farewell to his old flock, and expressing his gratitude for undeviating kindnesses, he said: "I have given the best part of my life, my health, and my means to the parish of St. Simon's in providing for the parishioners a church, schools, and other ecclesiastical machinery for the general good of the whole." He was presented by his many friends with an illuminated address and a purse of 128 guineas.

Mr. Battersby, deeply versed in Holy Scripture, held very strongly what are known as the doctrines of Grace, and highly valued the main teachings of John Calvin, especially as expressed in Article XVII of the Church of England. It is well to bear in mind that the doctrinal views of Calvin as set forth in his works were very different from the popular idea of Calvinism. It has been said that Calvin was not a Calvinist; his keen logic did not intrude into a domain which must ever lie beyond human knowledge. Many have tried in vain to reconcile God's sovereignty and the freedom of the will. But the truth remains that the love of God is ever first: "We love Him because He first loved us." Concerning the doctrine of Election, a great preacher has somewhat bluntly put it: "The elect are whosoever will, and the non-elect, whosoever won't."

For several years Mr. Battersby preached monthly a weeknight sermon in London, to large congregations, first at Verulam Chapel and then in St. George's Church, Southwark. These sermons were published, and had a large sale.

In 1869-70 the Sheffield Times, in a series of articles by "Criticus" on the Churches and Chapels of Sheffield, gave a pen-and-ink sketch of Mr. Battersby. "His aspect," said the writer, "is pleasing, and calculated to win the sympathies of his audience. He has a good, bold, and persuasive voice, capable of every kind of modulation, and completely under the control of its master. ... attired in his academical gown, he appears to great advantage, and lifts his arms, points his finger, and raises his hands with an easy grace. He preaches extemporaneously and without notes, with great fluency and fervour. ... He is frequent in his references to the 'law and the testimony,' and makes his hearers turn over the leaves of their Bibles with a noise like that of the leaves of the forest when summer is green."

To the wise counsels and earnest and tactful ministry of James Battersby, my first and only vicar, I owe much. At the outset of my ministry he gave me this fourfold rule of work. Let your first care be given to Bible study and preparation for the pulpit; then visit the sick and aged; after that call upon the members of your congregation; after which engage in as much house-to-house visitation as time permits. During a long ministry I have sought to follow this order, and have advised my colleagues to arrange their work on similar lines.

My first sermon, delivered "in fear, and in much trembling," to a very critical congregation, was on Ephesians, vi, 18, 19: "Praying always ... And for me, that utterance my be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the Gospel."

During my days as a curate my vicar allowed me to start a parish magazine, on condition that the magazine, 'Old Jonathan', was localized, and that I took all the risk, which I willingly did. We soon gained 400 regular subscribers, and from that day to my retirement from parochial works – nearly forty years – it has been a privilege to prepare and send forth a monthly parish magazine.

In our congregation were a well-to-do tradesman and his wife, who showed the clergy no small kindness. After an afternoon in the parish there was always a welcome to tea. Mrs. A., daughter of a Congregational minister, well versed in her Bible, and a most intelligent woman, was to me, as curate, as in after years to my colleagues, a real Priscilla. A great admirer of C. H. Spurgeon, she bought his weekly Sermon, and whenever, in her opinion, it was specially good, she would get an extra copy for me. On my bookshelves is a volume with about a hundred of these "selected" discourses.

One of my colleagues, a dear faithful fellow, who now rests from his labours, had a little weakness for compliments, and, moreover, somewhat prided himself on the logical arrangement of his discourses. On one occasion our "Priscilla" pointed out a supposed defect in one of his sermons, when he replied, "I thought it very logical." Her calm rejoinder was, "Well, Mr. ----- , it may have been logical, but I don't think it was altogether theological."

It may be well to give here some description of the parish in which I was to spend twelve happy years of service. The patronage of St. Simon's was in the hands of four trustees – the Archbishop of York (Dr. Thomson), the Vicar of Sheffield (Archdeacon Blakeney), and two laymen, Mr. Henry Rodgers and Mr. Thomas Wilson – who honoured me with an invitation to occupy the vacant post. Mr. Battersby's congregation was largely drawn from various parts, and the greater portion followed their old Vicar to St. James's, with the result that at first my position was one of peculiar difficulty, as practically a new congregation had to be gathered.

The population at this time was about 6,200, entirely of the working-classes and the very poor, dwelling in houses closely packed, mostly back to back, about two-thirds in courts and narrow lanes. In addition to several cutlery and other works there were three large breweries, a huge gasometer, and thirty public-houses, with scores of others close at hand. The number of poor widows averaged nearly 200. There was not a tree nor a foot of garden within the parish, nor did it contain a Nonconformist place of worship. Since then a large number of poor and squalid dwellings have, happily, been pulled down, and streets widened, reducing the population in 1911 to 4,428.

What a change from days, which a venerable friend can still recall, when Eyre Street, like the neighbouring Norfolk Street, was the abode of doctors, clergymen, and merchants; when on Sheffield Moor, from the Moorhead to the old horse dyke at the foot, there were only the two large houses of Mr. Holy and Mr. Newbould, the old Woodman Inn and a few cottages; when, near to where Ellin Street now is, was Green Bank House with its grounds, in which a Master Cutler resided,* amid fields and trees; close by a big sheet of water, known as Bennett's Dam, on which my friend often boated; when trees and flowers graced the now squalid district at the foot of Porter Street, and gipsies encamped on Sheffield Moor.

[ * Footnote: Thomas Ellin, jun., Master Cutler in 1841. ]

During the early months of my vicariate the congregations were small and the offertories scant, but we proved that "Difficulties are the stones out of which God's Temple is raised." And so they were faced prayerfully and trustfully. Special attention was given to parochial visitations and pulpit preparation, with the result that there was soon an encouraging increase in the congregation. Amongst old friends who remained to support me was the late Alderman W. J. Clegg, afterwards Mayor of Sheffield, and his family. He and Mr. Joseph Ridge were my first wardens, and I have a grateful recollection of their loyalty and liberality. With the assistance of a devoted wife and a united band of lay helpers the work went steadily on, and the varied organizations gradually increased in vigour and numbers.

Amongst the other parochial organizations formed were a Communicants' Union, a Mothers' Meeting, a Friendly Society, and associations for our young people. Services were held at the various works, and outdoor preaching and house-to-house visitation were given special attention. Before long the church was renovated and the organ much improved. A new classroom for young men accommodating thirty was added to the schools, and a mission room seating about a hundred erected in Sylvester Street.

During the first year the work was greatly strengthened by a course of monthly sermons on the Apostles' Creed, with the following as special preachers: The Revs. S. Earnshaw (Chaplain of the Parish Church), A. R. Upcher (St. Mary's), Dr. Potter (St. Luke's), J. W. Merryweather (Carbrook), H. A. Favell (St. George's), R. Douglas (St. Stephen's), J. Battersby (St. James's), M. Holmes (Wadsley), Canon Blakeney (Parish Church), C. G. Coombe (Crookes), and J. H. Hewlett (Fulwood).

In the fourth year we were much helped by a Parochial Mission, conducted by the Rev. J. H. Shaw, Vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Cheltenham, nephew to that sweet singer Frances Ridley Havergal, of whose loving spirit he seemed to partake. I can only say here that his words, so tender and sympathetic, attracted large congregations, and left behind them an abiding blessing.

During my ministry in this parish I was specially favoured by three* of the most earnest and loyal clerical colleagues that vicar ever had – devoted, spiritually-minded men, for whom I retain deep regard.

[ * Footnote
The Rev. G. Roper, B.A., 1879-84, later Chaplain to the Royal Infirmary, afterwards Vicar of Coven, Staffordshire, where he died in April, 1902.
The Rev. George Moore, B.D., 1884-86, Chaplain to the Royal Infirmary 1901-12, now Vicar of Packington-with-Willesley.
The Rev. James Maurice Ham, M.A., 1886-98, who since 1903 has been Rector of Newhaven, Sussex. ]

I had the great pleasure of seeing two young men whom I had prepared for confirmation ordained to the ministry – one Charles T. Roper, who for reasons of health went to Australia, where he met a sad death by accident in a long ride on ministerial duty; the other the Rev. Walter Brown, now Rector of Cooneen, Ireland.

As the years passed, my ministry at St. Simon's became more deeply interesting, and even now after almost thirty years I recall many instances of God's gracious dealings with men, one of which I must relate. During a parochial mission, outdoor services were held in the dinner hour at several of the works. W--- B--- , a working man who lived near the church, and had hitherto refused all invitations to enter it, was present at one of these. As he listened to the gospel message he said to a mate standing by, "John, if the preacher is right we are wrong." Before me is a small memorandum book which he gave me when I left the parish, in which he had set down how he was brought to Christ and his after experiences. The account reads like a chapter of Bunyan's Grace abounding to the Chief of Sinners. Here are two or three brief extracts:

"In the month of October, 1882, there was a Church of England Mission in Sheffield, and up to that time I was a drunkard, a sabbath-breaker, and a gambler, for at the time of my conversion I had backed a horse to win a race. There were mission services in our factory yard, and it was through these services that I was convinced of sin and came to the conclusion that I would be a Christian. But then I had to consider the horse race. I had backed a horse, and paid the money, and the race had not yet been run. I prayed that the horse I had backed might lose, but, strange to say, it won, and I did not know what to do with the money. I had no books to worship God with, and thought I would give my friend, Mr. Odom the money to buy Prayer Book, hymn book, and Bible, and put the remainder into the collection box. [This was done.] After this I began to read my Bible, and whilst reading once I read the first Psalm, and it rested on my mind some weeks. One day in November I was asked to have a drink of whiskey. Whilst I was standing at the bar drinking my whiskey, I heard the old song of drunkenness, and then the first Psalm came to my mind very powerful. I went home, and made up my mind to be a teetotaler. There was a temperance meeting at the school, to which I went and Mrs. Odom asked me to sign the temperance pledge, which I did; she then pinned the bit of blue ribbon on my coat, and I have worn it ever since. After this I thought I had done with trial and temptation, but I have to watch and pray." [Here follows an account of his temptations and how they were overcome.]

He was confirmed and became a regular communicant. From the time of his conversion to the day when God's finger touched him he was a regular worshipper at St. Simon's, rarely, if ever, absent. He was an earnest Sunday School teacher, and a most effective speaker at out-door services. He has said words of help and comfort to many sick and dying neighbours. A working-man, warm-hearted, intelligent, and yet so gentle, he induced many of his fellow-workmen to sign the pledge, and led them to God's House. When I left for Heeley he gave me a pair of fine ivory-handled razors engraved with my name, in a case, which I have used ever since, and which, like the giver, are genuine metal.

The consistent Christian walk and faithful service for the Master of this noble Sheffield working-man will long remain one of the happy recollections of my ministry. Some years after leaving St. Simon's I received an urgent message that whilst working he had been seized with a serious illness – would I go to see him? Going at once, I found that consciousness and the power of speech had returned for a brief interval. He smiled as I entered his room and gave me the old warm welcome. In former years I had stood by the death-beds of his wife and three of his children, and now the summons had come to him. We talked of old times, and of the Lord's dealings and leadings, and then prayed together. Almost his last words to me were: "Friend, my will is wholly absorbed in the will of my Lord Jesus Christ." As I recalled the time – 16 years before – when under strange circumstances he had turned to the Lord, and thought upon his consistent walk and faithful service for the Master ever since, I knew that all was well, and felt that the ministry which had led him to the Cross for pardon and peace had not been in vain.

In St. Simon's Church are two memorials of special interest, recalling grateful recollection of friends whose names appear earlier in this chapter. One is the well-designed lectern of polished brass, at the base of which is the inscription – "In memoriam – Henry Rodgers, died April 25th, 1882, aged 67 years. 'The memory of the just is blessed'." The other, a very beautiful oak pulpit, hexagonal in shape, panelled in varied designs, the panel in front having the sacred monogram I. H. S. surrounded with ivy leaves. It bears the following inscription – "To the glory of God and in loving memory of Arthur Thomas this pulpit is erected by his wife, October, 1886." It is well that such memorials should stand in the church of a poor parish in which both took peculiar interest and manifested much practical sympathy.

Early in 1887 I received from the Simeon Trustees the offer of a large parish in Hull, which after much anxious consideration I felt it a duty to decline, preferring to remain in Sheffield, where I had so many kind and generous friends.

During the nine complete years of my vicariate, ended Easter, 1888, the collections and contributions for parochial objects, local charities, and home and foreign missions amounted to £3,735. 8s. This included £321 for church improvements, £303 for the sick and aged poor, £172 for the Church Missionary Society, and £164 for the Church Pastoral Aid Society, but did not include grants made by societies to the Curacy Fund and for the aged poor, nor the cost of the fine oak memorial pulpit to Mr. Arthur Thomas. During the same period the number of deposits in our parochial branch of the Yorkshire Penny Bank reached the large number of 107,735; the amount deposited being £7,743. 6s. The sums paid by members of the Mothers' Meeting and Sewing Class for clothing material amounted to £422.5s., whilst magazines sold during the nine years reached a total of 45,000 monthly copies.

The contributions for parochial objects, local charities, and missions for my closing year in the parish amounted to 358. 6s. 9d., and it was a satisfaction to hand over to my successor, the Rev. Charles F. Knight, who subsequently became Vicar of All Saints, the parochial organizations free from debt, with balances in hand. There was a large roll of communicants, a united congregation, and the Mothers' Meeting started by my dear wife numbered 102 members.

I have grateful recollections of the Churchwardens,* so considerate in every way, and the united and earnest body of Churchworkers, apart from whom the work could not have been carried out.

[ * Footnote – Churchwardens during my vicariate were: William Johnson Clegg, Joseph Ridge, John Charles Clegg, John Padley, A. T. Fox, J. T. Thompson, James Dyson, and James Fieldsend. Of these, five have passed away. ]

At length the call came to leave the parish in which as curate and vicar I had ministered nearly twelve years, and to the church and people of which I was deeply attached. On September 30th, 1888, I bade farewell to crowded congregations, the number of communicants being amongst the largest in the history of the church. Amongst several tokens of affection which I and my dear wife received from a loyal and devoted people, the greater part of whom have now crossed the flood, were a large oak study table and a very handsome silver kettle and stand, with an afternoon tea-table from the Mothers' Meeting. The presentation was made by the Mayor of Sheffield, Mr. Alderman Clegg, with whose warm friendship and generous support I had been privileged throughout my ministry.

Such are amongst the memories of the eventful years in the Master's service at St. Simon's, which must ever hold a warm place in my affections.

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Beginning of this chapter

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Full Contents


Sheffield in the 'Sixties
The author's reminiscences of 'Old Sheffield' and its inhabitants.


The Church in Sheffield, 1866-1916
Brief history of the church in Sheffield and its development, timetable of subjects and tutors from an Educational Institute Class List of 1866, clergy names, benefactors, details of churches/parishes, etc — this chapter has been split into two pages, the link taking you to the first of these.


THIS PAGE: Memories of St Simon's, 1877-1888.


Christ Church, Heeley, 1888-1916
History, descriptions and anecdotes of Heeley before it became developed, names of residents, and a comprehensive account of the author's incumbency, including details of the church extensions, building of the Sunday Schools, fundraising, collections and expenditure, a little about Nonconformists, names of curates/scripture readers/deaconesses/churchwardens etc, and the author's eventual retirement — this chapter has been split into two pages, the link taking you to the first of these.


Heeley and the War
Names of congregation members fallen in the Great War, including one VC (Sgt-Maj J C Raynes, Royal Artillery, with citation given), together with extracts from letters written by servicemen giving accounts of conditions at the front (France, Belgium, Egypt), their experiences in battle, and thoughts of home; also an account from a survivor of the sinking of the hospital ship 'Anglia' in the Channel.


Recollections – Men and Things
Many names and anecdotes of clergy, laymen and others known and befriended during the author's ministry — this chapter has been split into two pages, the link taking you to the first of these.


Books and Travel
Author's favourite reading, details and a bibliography of other published work, and travel.


In Memoriam – Mary Odom
A very personal tribute from the author to his wife, Mary, who died in 1913.


"God and Cæsar." A Sermon preached before the Mayor and Corporation.
Text of a sermon preached at Sheffield Parish Church in 1887.


"Public Worship – its Methods." A Paper read at the Islington Clerical Meeting, London, 1903.
Text includes the author's observations on the principles established at the time of the Reformation, the dangers of a return to 'mediaevalism', and public worship as laid out in the Book of Common Prayer.

Names of Subscribers
(the names of over 250 subscribers listed alphabetically by surname, of interest to those who may be "ancestor hunting" (in many cases only initials are given, not christian names).
Please note these are only the names of pre-publication subscribers as printed in the book, but many more individuals are mentioned in the text whose names have not been indexed. Throughout this transcript most names have been highlighted in bold at least once (not necessarily if they are repeated). If searching for specific surnames, place names or any other information through the various chapters, make use of the Find or Search facility in your browser while on each page.

Illustrations from the book — click thumbnails for enlargement in a new window
(for chapters and contents, see list above)

Interior of Sheffield Cathedral - click for enlargement

Interior of Sheffield Cathedral Church
(St Peter & St Paul)

Leonard Hedley Burrows, Bishop of Sheffield - click for enlargement

The Bishop of Sheffield, Leonard Hedley Burrows, D.D.,
to whom the book is dedicated

St Simon's Church, Sheffield - click for enlargement

St. Simon's Church, Sheffield (covered in Chapter III on this page)

Exterior of Christ Church, Heeley - click for enlargement

Christ Church, Heeley: exterior
(the author's time at Heeley is covered in Chapter IV)

Interior of Heeley Church - click for enlargement

Heeley Church: Interior

Floor plan of Heeley Church - click for enlargement

Floor plan of Heeley Church,
dating the various extensions

Whit-Monday at Heeley - click for enlargement

Whit-Monday at Heeley
(no date given, but possibly ca. 1916/1917)

Heeley Vicarage - click for enlargement

Heeley Vicarage
The individuals are not named, but could well be Rev and Mrs Odom

Rev. Canon William Odom - click for enlargement

The author,
Rev. Canon William Odom

Memorial Cross, Heeley Churchyard - click for enlargement

Memorial Cross for Mary Odom,
Heeley Churchyard (see Chapter VIII)

Memorial Window, Heeley Church - click for enlargement

Memorial and Commemoration Window, Heeley Church

Dedication - click for enlargement

This copy of the book includes a handwritten dedication
from the author to the Bishop of Sheffield, 1917

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