.jump-link{ display:none }

Friday, 8 June 2018

Churches, Choirs & A Conductor in the Family - 52 Ancestors: Wk.23

"Going to Chapel" is this week's theme in Amy Johnston Crow's  year-long prompt to write "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks".  

Church life played an important part in the lives of my ancestors. We were not particularly musical  in terms of playing instruments, but I grew up with a background of church music.

I always knew from my father that my maternal great grandfather John Matthews (above)  was a prominent member of the Methodist Church in Wolverhampton,  but had not delved into research to find out more.  But two years ago,  heard, through my blog,  from a distant family connection who wished to pass onto a direct descendant  of John Matthews some memorabilia.  Among  the collection was this  silver crested baton presented to John in recognition of his service to the church. in particular in his role as conductor of the choir. 


The tiny inscription reads:   
Presented to John Matthews

By the Choir and Congregation of Wesleyan Chapel, Ladymoor

To hold the baton used by my great grandfather was a delight to me, as the love of choral music  has been one of my main interests.  

[As a sideline - of course when my granddaughter saw the baton,  her first reaction was "Oh - Harry Potter's' wand"!]

My uncle Fred Weston (below) was a choir boy  at Warwick Parish Church. 

 My uncle Fred Weston, born 1905  as a choir boy 
He was the eldest child  of Albert Weston and Mary Barbara Matthews. 

Sadly there is no similar photograph for my father John Percy  Weston, who at the age of seven joined the choir at Broseley Church, near Ironbridge, Shropshire   I was very grateful to  Broseley Local History Society whose website featured transcriptions from the local newspaper at the time the Weston family lived  in the town.   The frequent reports on church activities presented a picture of what Dad could have well been involved in with Stainer's "Crucifixion" one of his favourites which he could clearly remember. 

 Broseley Church
 The inscription written in the prayer book presented to my father in 1928

I persuaded Dad (left to write down an account of his early life and later his war time experiences and was pleased to have these, as I have very few photographs prior to his meeting my mother.

He recalled in Broseley, "Our house was next door to the Wesleyan chapel, and when we were in bed, we could hear the church choir practising.  

We had a "palace" organ double keyboard.  Mum was very musical and Dad, who,  as far as i know  had never had a music lesson,  played in Coalbrookdale Brass Band and could also play the violinMum would play the organ on a Sunday night, and Dad the violin  and we would sing hymns from "Ancient & Modern" [The Church of England Hymn Book] and also Methodist hymns."  

Dad was very involved in church life, wherever we lived (and we moved around a lot), whether it was as secretary to the Vestry, Vicar's Churchwarden or organizing Christmas Fayres or summer garden fetes.  My brother and I attended Sunday School from a young age and I went on to become a choir member and then  a Sunday School teacher.

Sunday evenings meant, without fail we had on TV "Songs of Praise"  and then on the radio "Sunday Half Hour"  - a programme of hymn singing.  

Dad met my mother, Kathleen Danson  in Blackpool, Lancashire.She came from nearby Poulton-le-Fylde and  her Danson family back to 1736 were baptized, married and buried at St. Chad's Church. where I also was baptized and where Dad sang in the choir.   But in the course of my family history research into the Danson family I discovered  another "church" connection. .  

St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde, noted for the carpet of crocuses in springtime.
My great uncle George Danson (1893-1916) was killed on the Somme.  I traced an obituary in the local press and it included the statement " He was a member of the Poulton Parish Church choir" - I never knew that but it delighted me to find this other side to his life. 


For me it was important to  have a traditional church wedding. according to the prayer book, and with a strong musical content. I have  sung in choirs since my primary school days, until recently when I decided it was time to "retire" my voice. The large sacred choral oratorios remain among my most memorable concerts, including  Handel's "Messiah", Verdi's "Requiem". Mendelssohn's "Elijah', and works by Mozart and Haydn.  Top of my list has to be  the short but beautiful Requiem by  Faure.  

Thank you to my ancestors for giving me this background. 

As a member of the Roxburgh Singers, 
taking part in a concert in Kelso Old Parish Church, Scottish Borders 

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks 


  1. I love this post.... and the bit about Harry Potter’s wand... I have kids and grandkids that could relate haha!
    My Granny also sang in her church choir. She didn’t play the organ in the church, but she did play for the Church women’s group. I have fond memories of my grandparents staying over at our house and Granny and I watching Hymn Sing on the TV.
    I sang in our church junior choir while my Mom sang in the adult choir. The Messiah was her favourite and I remember her practicing it at home with the piano.
    Thanks for stirring up these memories!

  2. Thank you, Dianne, for sharing your own similar musical background. Yes, I could not resist putting in, as a sideline, about the Harry Potter wand!

  3. Great family generations story.

  4. Can't sing a note. I missed that gene, but mom can. Thank you for bring back those memories.

  5. Beautiful!!!! Love the photo's great blog!!!!


Thank you for your comment which will appear on screen after moderation.