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Samuel Ewer ~ Baptist Minister, Wood Lane End d.1708
In 1679 some Baptists from the parish of Kensworth, near St. Albans, moved into Hemel Hempstead with the Rev. Samuel Ewer as their first minister. Ewer is considered to be the founder of the Baptist Church in Hemel Hempstead, and as the records of the Abingdon Association show Hemel Hempstead to have joined them in 1656, it would seem likely that Ewer had already taken up residence in the area, when the group from Kensworth joined him in 1679.( see also entries for 1656 and 1657) It is thought this group met in Wood Lane End House (later known as Wood Lane End Farm) where Samuel Ewer lived until his death in 1708 (See entry for that date). These premises were certified for use in 1712 - see the entry for that year, and belonged to his widow Sarah. [ S1 p.255; S142, p.208;S143 p.178 ]
In 1689 as a direct result of the Accession of William and Mary, in 1689, The Toleration Act was passed which allowed nonconformist congregations to worship in their own way, without interference from the law. This Act had considerable impact over the years in Leverstock Green as the Quakers and Baptists and others already meeting to worship within the area, were now able to do so without fear of prosecution, and there are several instances of groups registering their places of dissenting worship within the area, including Wood Lane End Farm where Samuel Ewer lived and preached. He was amongst those who attended the London Assembly in 1668 [S144,p.210; S142,p.208] See also: http://www.ccel.org/creeds/bcf/biose.htm
24th December 1708 The funeral of Samuel Ewer, referred to by a contemporary as " a generous worthy man, well beloved and respected by his people" took place. Ewer had been the Baptist Minister for the "church" in Hemel Hempstead until 1707. He and his family had lived in WoodLane End House, it had also served as the local Baptist Church. Mr. John Piggott of London preached the sermon at Ewer's funeral, his address giving us an insight into the character of one of the principle residents of this area in the late 17th century. These are some extracts from that address:
" He was justly esteemed by all men of probity and good sense, who had the advantage of his aquaintance: for if we consider the Reverend Mr. Ewer in any relation while living he was very desirable."
"He has distinguyished himself for several years as an exemplary Christian, whose piety towards God, and affability towards men, have recommended him to the esteem and aprobation of all...."
"...he was well qualified with useful learning and ministerial gifts: a man vigilant, sober and of good behaviour; given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, nor greedy of filthy lucre, but patient: not a brawler....one that ruled well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.......He coveted no man's gold or silver; he was the farthest in the world from a little mercenary spirit: it was not the prospect of earthly gain, but the love of souls that engaged him in the ministerial work. He did forego that which he ought have demanded, I mean the maintenance of himself and family.......Yet you be witnesses for your deceased pastor, that he always generously gave his labours; and yet that did not cause him to take less pains in the promoting of your salvation...."
"If the sermons of your deceased pastor had not all the embellishments of language which some boast of, they had this peculiar advantage, to be full of solid Divinity.........the praise of this useful minister is in all the churches, where the knowledge of him hath reached. Here, indeed he lived, here he constantly preached; and I believe you will all own that his life was an excellent sermon: for in that you may see the practicalness, and usefulness of relative duties."
"In him you might behold the manly tenderness of a loving husband, the melting compassion of a kind father, the generous freedom of a true friend, and the admirable qualifications of a faithful pastor........"
"As to his particular behaviour during his last sickness, I am told by those who were nigh him, that he did not pass the time of his illness without some violent assaults from Satan: and it pleased the Lord to afford him speedy relief..........his indisposition was but short; he was well and dead within the compass of seven days. He did not apprehend that he should die of his illness until about two days before his death. His pain was so great that he feared to discourse but little; and when he drew near his end he was sometimes delirious. Yet when he had the least interval, he expressed a very great concern for the church under his care...."
Mr. Ewer was survived by his wife and children, and some of his descendants lived in the Hemel Hempstead/Leverstock Green neighbourhood for many years. It would appear that Samuel Ewer had been a man of some learning, writing a reply to "The Infant's cause pleaded, cleared, and vindicated." by Edward Hutchin. The manuscript to this reply was finished just before his death, and was so highly thought of that it was referred to by Thomas Davye of Leicester in 1788 in his "Treatise of Baptism"; and was also translated into Welsh and published in that language.
Members of Samuel Ewer's congregation: Thomas Marsom, James Hardinge, John Ward and Matthew Dunn, corroborated the view of Ewer given by Piggott in his funeral address, finishing their written account with :
"His name and memory will be deservedly precious in the churches of Christ, not only in this but succeeding ages." [S143, pp. 178 -183; S142, p.208.]
John Dickinson 1782~1869
John Dickinson, the founder of the papermills at Apsley & Nash Mills, (buying Apsley Mill Nash Mill in 1810) had a great impact on Leverstock Green, as he not only did he purchased the Chambersbury Estate but was also one of the principle patrons and moving forces behind the building of Holy Trinity Church.
As John Dickinson owned Chambersbury and Bunkers Farm by 1850 when his daughter and son-in-law moved in it seems likely he purchased the Leverstock Green end of the estate following the death of John Field in 1844. Dickinson had already been in possession of the Nash Mills end of the estate by the Tithe Survey of 1840. [S262, S366]
Sir John Evans 1823- 1908
In 1846 a meeting was held at Abbots Hill (the home of John Dickinson) which decided that a new church should be built in Leverstock Green, as it then formed the junction of St. Mary's, Hemel; St. Michael's (St.Albans); and Abbots Langley, each being at least 2 miles distant. The minutes of the meeting began:
"In consequence of an opinion having prevailed generally among landowners, clergy and gentry residing in the neighbourhood of St. Albans, Abbots Langley and Hemel Hempstead, that the district in and about Leverstock Green was insufficiently provided with Church Accommodation...."
In August 1849 Holy Trinity was completed. As well as having contributed a considerable sum to the building fund for the church, John Dickinson also donated the oak pulpit at a cost of £30, and the font, at a cost of £10.
John Evans married Harriet Dickinson, daughter of his uncle John Dickinson, on September 12th 1850 at St. Lawrence's Church Abbots Langley. Nash Mills having been within the parish of Abbots Langley until the new parish of Leverstock Green was formed in 1850. Harriet's father was having a house built for them in Nash Mills Village, The Red House, but at the time of their marriage it was unfinished. They therefore went to live at Chambersbury in Leverstock Green. (See entries from Sept. 1850 - June 1851) The 1851 census shows both the Evans to be 27 years of age, with John listed as a papermaker. They had a cook, a housemaid and a stable boy to wait on them as live-in servants at Chambersbury. Evans became the first Churchwarden at Holy Trinity Church in Leverstock Green.
John Dickinson 1782~1869
They moved to The Red House in July 1851, and in 1856 they had moved to Nash House at Apsley; sadly Harriet was to die the following year. [ S84 ] Whilst living at Chamberbury, the Evans' worshipped at the newly completed Holy Trinity Church and John Evans was one of our first churchwardens. As newly weds the Evans' suffered two incendiary fires thrown at the house by agreeved mill workers from Nash Mills & Apsley. Fanny Pratt Barlow recorded in her diary for December 31st 1850 the 2nd of these devices:
"...made Papa very unhappy, poor dear; he is so sensitive as to his popularity and the attachment of the poor around him!" [ S92, p.94]
John Evans was for many years head of the paper manufactory at Nash Mills, taking over from his father-in-law, but was especially distinguished as an antiquary and numismatist. He was the author of three books, now standard texts: The Coins of ‘the Ancient Britons (1864); The Ancient Stone Implements, Weapons and Ornaments of Great Britain (1872, 2nd ed. 1897); and The Ancient Bronze Implements, Weapons and Ornaments of Great Britain and Ireland (1881). Whilst living in Leverstock Green he discovered a Bronze Hoard along Westwick Row, now partly housed in the Ashmolian Museum and partly in the Bristish Museum.
He was President of the Geological Society from 1874—1876; the Anthropological Institute, 1877—1879; the Society of Chemical industry,’ 1891—1893; the British Association, 1897—1898; and for twenty years (1878— 1898) he was treasurer of the Royal Society. As president of ‘the Society of Antiquaries he was an cx officio trustee of the’ British Museum, and subsequently he became a permanent trustee. His academic honours included honorary degrees from several universities, and he was a corresponding member of the Institut de France. He was created a K.C.B. in 1892. He died at Berkhamsted on the 31st of May 1908. He was buried with his first wife Harriet, at St. Lawrence's Church Abbotts Langley.
2008 being the centenary of Sir John Evans' death, the Ashmolean Museum have launched a project in his name. Full details of which can be found on the Project's website: http://johnevans.ashmolean.org/index.html Sir John & Harriet's son Sir Arthur Evans, an even more famous archaeologist than his father, was born shortly after his parents left Chambersbury on 24th June 1851. He was born on 8th July at The Red House, Nash Mills, the house Harriert's father had built for the young couple.