When we covered the tenure of Reverend William Masters in our first article, we mentioned that, in a contest for the most impactful figure, he would be competing with the Reverend Eric John Anthony who was the Vicar of Long Marston from 1931 to 1962. He was also the Vicar of Puttenham after the two parishes had been joined together in 1909. This was ‘to the dismay of Puttenham parishioners’ according to Margaret Vincent’s history of the village.
In her history, Margaret describes Reverend Anthony as very much a ‘Uncompromising High Churchman’ and he made a number of early moves to confirm that label. He introduced Daily Mass rather than Matins and ‘trained servers in red cassocks for the Eucharist with incense and a tabernacle’. A more practical early move was to install electricity in the Church for the first time.
It is easier to write about Reverend Anthony because there are people still alive who remember him well. It is a reflection of his personality that Don Winfield referred to him as ‘His Majesty’ , a nickname used behind his back by his parishioners. But those still alive also have very positive memories of things he did for the village that were not part of his spiritual responsibilities.
A particularly memorable contribution to village life was in 1936 when the Rothschild family offered to sell the current recreation ground to the Parish Council for the princely sum of £30. This was a generous price even in those days but the Council spurned the offer. Father Anthony was furious at this short term stance and used his own money to put down a deposit to secure the deal. He then called a public meeting which resulted in the required funds being raised by local residents.
Don Winfield also remembers the role of ‘His Majesty’ in the early 1960s, securing the present cricket ground which had previously been used as allotments and was owned by the Church. In this case there was some opposition from allotment owners but Father Anthony agreed to sell to the Club for £400. It is not certain whether he was a cricket fan but he certainly seems to have been influenced by lobbying from the Committee, chaired by Don Dean of that prominent Long Marston family.
Let’s mention the War
Father Anthony’s time at Long Marston included the war and the tragedy of the bombing of the village school in January 1941. He had already set an example by vacating the vicarage soon after the outbreak in 1939, moving to Astrope House. The vicarage was used initially by an evacuated school and later as a hostel for farm workers. The Reverend also `decided to give up the car provided by the Church and use his bicycle.
He was very much involved in the relocation of the school classes following the bombing. His particular concern was the Sunday School which had been held in the school for many years. Contrary to the preferences of the children and their parents, his typical solution was to send the children to the normal ‘high church’ service which was not ideal for the little ones.
A tale of two churches
Margaret Vincent’s histories suggest that Father Anthony favoured Long Marston over Puttenham. She writes that there was no Daily Mass at the smaller village, only quarterly Holy Communion with Evensong on Sundays. She also mentions that ‘great pains were taken to beautify Long Marston Church’ while at Puttenham it was ‘questionable whether the Church would stand at all’. In fact Father Anthony did organise significant work at Puttenham in the 1930s, arranging the repair of both the tower and the roof.
In Long Marston Church his ‘beautifying’ included a stained glass window as a tribute to his predecessor, the Reverend Lowdon, paid for by personal contributions that the Reverend managed to obtain from local residents. He also arranged the creation of five statues, representing five Saints – Francis, Gregory, John, Peter and Paul. According to Vincent, these were largely at the Reverend’s personal expense.
The other notable contribution by Father Anthony was the launch in 1947 of the quarterly Parish Paper, which was the precursor of our Village Newsletter (converted to the current format in 2003). The Church had previously produced a Parish Magazine but publication was discontinued in 1939 when war broke out. That first revived edition in 1947 is contained on our website Tringruralhistory.co.uk.
Father Anthony took his last service in September 1962 and retired to live in Berkhamsted. He did however return to live in Astrope where he died in 1970. Though those that remember him talk about the fear and reverence they felt towards him, he is generally remembered with affection as well as respect. Local families were grateful for his music lessons and the encouragement he gave to children to further their education. He is a worthy competitor – with the Reverend Masters – for the best ever Vicar of Long Marston.
- The Church and Manor of Puttenham, Hertfordshire, by Margaret Vincent
- All Saints Church Long Marston, 1883-1983 by Margaret Vincent
- A Potted History of Long Marston and Puttenham by The Village Horti Society
- Tring Rural Villages in the Twentieth Century by Jenny and Alan Warner