Religion was at the heart of the work carried out by Lady Henry Somerset at Duxhurst, the village she founded in Surrey as a home for women and children affected by alcohol abuse: “the farm colony for inebriate women” as it was gloriously described in Whitaker’s Almanac.
Lady Henry’s faith developed over the years. During her early temperance days, she worked along side Methodist women on the streets of Ledbury, the market town near one of her family homes, Eastnor Castle. But by the time she was in her fifties, she was a devout Anglo-Catholic and she filled not only her home at Duxhurst (The Cottage) but many of the buildings there with religious imagery. Although the village was non-denominational, Lady Henry was proud to assert “We are not afraid of ritual. Rightly understood it is a great help to faith.”
The church she had built in the centre of the village, St Mary and the Angels, was very beautiful. Whilst on the outside it appeared rustic and simple, inside it was very spendid, full of valuable pictures and icons which she had brought back from her travels abroad as well as a splendid organ.
Sadly this wonderful church, which brought peace to the herats of so many people, is no longer standing. Its graveyeard is overgrown and many of the gravestones have been vandalised.
Yet, rather wonderfully, there will be a church service on the Duxhurst site on Sunday 19th June 2011. This special service is being arranged by the congregation of nearby Emmanuel Church at Sidlow, as part of its 150th anniversary celebrations. I am delighted that Duxhurst is being remembered in this way.
The service will be at 3.30pm, followed by a picnic tea. The service is open to all, something which would have pleased Lady Henry herself.
Details of Emmanuel Church’s 150th celebrations can be found on http://www.emmanuelchurchsidlow.co.uk under the special events section.
As part of their special weekend, I shall be giving a talk about Duxhurst at Emmanuel Church on Saturday 18th June.
How I wish we had known about the Service at Duxhurst, we would have made every effort to come. If there is anything like this again please let us know
I’m not sure if there will be any more services on the site but I’ll keep you informed .
I’m also going to put up on this website details of talks I have planned over the next year. It might be worth your while checking out the site occasionally, especially if you are in the Reigate area.
Dear Ross Black, Greetings from Auckland, New Zealand. I am fascinated to have found on your site a picture of the interior of St Mary and the Angels. Not many baptisms were ever done there but I and my three siblings were baptised there on the 2nd May 1931. I was born September 1928 so was just over two and half years old but I can remember the event. I have just finished writing all that I can remember of my life which will be printed in a very small edition just for family and close friends. Is there any problem with my including this picture?
Howard A Pugh
Dear Howard How lovely that you can remember your baptism at Duxhurst. I think it must have been a beautiful little church but sadly now lost forever. You are more than welcome to use the photograph of the church interior in your life story – it is well out of copyright. Ros
Ros are you still giving talks about Duxhurst? If so my cousin and I would love to arrange to come to one
How lovely to hear from you. I’m doing a Duxhurst talk at East Dean, East Sussex on Mon 2nd Sep 7.30. If this is any good, email me on email@example.com for full details. Otherwise I do a Scandal Salvation & Suffrage talk which includes Lady Henry Somerset & Duxhurst & will be speaking at Sompting on 18th Sep, Maresfield 8th Oct or Merstham 10th Oct . Best wishes Ros