- People gather for the special Duxhurst service
On Sunday 18th June, 2011 local residents and members of Emmanuel Church, Sidlow gathered on the site of the old church of St Mary and the Angels, at Duxhurst, Surrey.
The service was part of Emmanuel Church’s 150th celebrations. The Duxhurst site is within its parish and Emmanuel Church itself has a few of the treasures which were rescued from Duxhurst before the church fell into total ruin.
The service was led by Rev Bill Campen, who read out a list of names of those buried in the small churchyard of St Mary and the Angels, including Gertrude Cass, who had taken over the village after the death of Lady Henry Somerset and struggled desperately to keep it going. She lived in The Cottage, Lady Henry’s former home and died, aged 99, in 1958. Several children, probably residents of the Duxhurst children’s home, are also buried there. Sadly many of the gravestones have been vandalised, for in the 1960s the estate was popular with young people for parties and various nefarious activities. Yet, for this special service, locals had worked to clear some of the scrub and brambles from the graveyard.
In his short sermon, the Rev Campen talked about the Duxhurst tabernacle which was on display. This was a small cupboard in which the consecrated bread, and possibly wine (at Duxhurst, this was of the non-alcoholic variety), were placed after Holy Communion and then often taken aorund to the sick and housebound. But, as he explained, this particular tabernacle has great symbolic significance as it represents the great changes in the Anglican church in the late 19th/early 20th century and the rise of the Ritualists and Anglo-Catholicism.
The Duxhurst tabernacle
The tabernacle used to belong to Fr Dolling, who had worked at the mission church of St Agatha’s in Portsmouth. He and Lady Henry Somerset would have known each other through their respective ministries and through St Alban’s Church, in Holborn, with which both were associated. When Fr Dolling was setting up a new parish church in Portsmouth, some of the furnishings of his old church were redundant and Lady Henry was able to obtain them for her new church at Duxhurst.
It may have been on a simple table, out in the open air, rather than on a side altar in a wonderfully ornate, yet homely church, but it was, nevertheless, rather wonderful to feel the tabernacle had come home.
I am a freelance writer & author of 4 social history books, featuring female social reformers of the late 19th and early 20th century. In a previous life I managed a housing charity. I also give talks.
I have been trying to trace the home my father and his sister were put into back in the 1920’s.
I remember he talked about Duxhurst and a nun that looked after them by the name of Miss Cass .
I am just wondering If this could be the link I have been looking for and wonder if you could help.
Dear Christine – it sounds very likely that your father may have been at Duxhurst. In the 1920s Miss Gertrude Cass was in charge there; Lady Henry Somerset died in 1921. However Miss Cass was not a nun although the children may have thought of her as such.
I was write a longer email personally to you. Ros