From Essex Review Vol 3, Page 275 (1894)
By: J.C. Atkinson, Danby Parsonage, Castleton.
My reminiscences of Salcott and Virley Churches of sixty-five to seventy years ago (c1830) are somewhat peculiar. My father was frequently officiating in them, one or both, and I was not infrequently his companion on the walk thither and back. No one in the neighbourhood in those days ever distinguished these places otherwise then as Salcot and Virley. There had been a time, not so very far back in the past, when my father's residence at Great Wigborough commenced, at which service in Salcot church had been celebrated once a month. Nay, my father told me that it was consistent with his own personal knowledge that, during twenty-seven of the twenty-eight days involved, the church porch was utilised as a pigsty, and that it was "cleaned out" for the Sunday's use on the previous Saturday afternoon;
I remember perfectly well the worthy who occupied the clerk's place leaving the special pew under the reading desk allotted to him, walking with much dignity up the nave to the steps leading the gallery across the west end, taking his place at the north-end of the same, and after deliberately arranging himself and his "big fiddle" tuning the same, and giving out the number of the psalm to be sung, then proceeding to set the tune and lead the singing. One, day when my father was the officiating clergyman, the above preparatory stages having been deliberately gone through, he unluckily set the singing too high, and the tuneful choir broke down. Nothing abashed, this country precentor simply exclaimed "Naa, that won't do", and started afresh. But again, he was too high, and another collapse ensured. Again, and this time a very snarling "Naa, that won't do either" he began once more. This time the attempt succeeded, and the old chap returned to his seat of office on the conclusion of the melody. Not that he did so always, for when once the "prayers" were over, he retained his seat in the gallery.
I may also mention the fact that, at the time I am referring to, there were candlesticks on the altar, after the custom which had prevailed time out of mind, and when there was as yet a very marked absence of any warmth, or heat, or strong antagonism which was developed not such a very lengthy period afterwards. The separation of the sexes in the same church was also a notable feature. The men all sat on one side and the women on the other.
Notes by T.B. Millatt:
J.C Atkinson was the son of Rev. John Atkinson who was Curate of Goldhanger, Great and Little Wigborough, Layer Marney, Peldon. Rector of Wethersfield, Curate of Berechurch 1855-1860, Rector of Fishtoft, Lincs 1860-1870.
Article typed by T.B. Millatt in 1970s. Transcribed for web by Anne Taylor August 2020
Salcot is now usually spelt Salcott
The Parish Church of St Mary Salcott Virley