The much-loved Rector died in July 1859. Elsewhere on this site you can see his notice of death in the newspaper (says died July 12th aged 76) and his gravestone in Hathern churchyard (says died July 19th aged 75). Three years late his daughter Lucy Frances March Phillips, (born in 1821 - died 1908, having never married) published a history of his life as a Minister looking after Hathern and Thorpe Acre, 1500 inhabitants initially "without a single resident of the educated classes". The following is a precis of that that record and what a feast of information about life in the village it is. It has been provided by Dr. Andree Bagley who is working on a comprehensive history of his life, who commented "Interesting re middle-class attitudes towards the poor of the village, the saintly and generous character of ETMP and his relatives, references to the hosiery trade and the louts from Nottingham, the fracas at the wedding service, and the diseases that ravaged the village but have, mercifully, been eradicated.". If you want to read the unabridged version (nearly 500 pages) it is available on Google Books with this link


Miss Lucy F March Phillips, 1862, My Life, and What Shall I Do With It? London, Longman & Roberts.

A younger son in a country gentleman’s family, he passed through school and college, not without honours, but without any great success. His wish to be a physician he gave up at his father’s desire. Ordained a priest at 24, he was immediately presented to a family living of about £350 a year, and took charge of two manufacturing villages, two miles distant from each other, and containing severally about twelve and three hundred inhabitants, without a single resident, in either, of the educated classes.

Educating the young

The only means he had of imparting this instruction to the children of Hathern, were the Sunday schools. At Thorpe, a little school of industry gave him the opportunity of instructing the girls there during the week; but at Hathern there was no day school where more than a little reading could be taught, until 1850. His first object, therefore, was to make the Sunday schools as efficient as possible. It will be remembered that at the time he began his work, in 1808, the whole system of schools and teachers for the working classes had to be formed. Bell’s and Lancaster’s schools had been introduced in 1797-1798, but they were not common. The first school of this kind he had the opportunity of inspecting, was at Liverpool, which he visited in 1814 or 1817, and from which he gathered all the lessons he could; but the system itself was very inapplicable to Sunday schools. He had to form his own plan, to educate his own teachers, and to take, not books he would have chosen, but such as could be had; whilst from the want of day schools, the children had practically to be taught reading in the Sunday schools - on one day in seven, and without any of the appliances or acquired skill in teaching it, which now made that task comparatively so easy. These schools had been established in the village by Mr. Cocker, one of his immediate predecessors, in 1804; the girls’ school was taught in the church; the boys had an old parish schoolroom, which soon proved too small for their numbers, and was eked out by room hired in different parts of the village, as they could be found. For the girls, Mr. Phillips built at once a small room kin the Rectory garden, which contained the first three classes; and in 1832, a schoolroom was erected, partly by contributions, large enough to hold 100 children, who were then removed from the church. The two schools together varied in number from 200 to 250; the children were admitted at five, when in later years an infant school was added, at three years old; they generally remained in the girls’ school till they were eighteen or twenty; in the boys’ to sixteen or eighteen. Each school was divided into classes containing from ten to fifteen each; and the children passed regularly through these, staying from one to two years in them, till they reached the first, where they remained as long as they would, or till drafted off as teachers for the younger classes. The work of each class was distinct, and so arranged as to form one progressive system throughout. His aim was to teach them, "that they may become, in the best sense of the word, good Bible scholars; so that in after life they may be able to read and study that blessed book with ease, intelligence and with pleasure." The morning school lasted from nine till half-past ten, when they went to church; the afternoon school from two till five; in later years, till half-past four: the last hour of the afternoon was occupied with some Old Testament history. A night school, held once every week for each school, furnished the Sunday scholars with an opportunity of learning summing and writing; and a small lending library was attached to this. Mr. Phillips himself attended these schools to assist the more advanced in learning higher branches of arithmetic than the parish clerk could teach.

Parish library

A parish library opened in 1839, gave the young people the opportunity of extending their general information. It was much used at first, but nothing being made self-supporting it was not often supplied with new books, and in time was very much forgotten. The general love of reading by which Hathern is in some degree distinguished, was probably the most wide-spread effect of the measure of education given in these schools. When, in 1856, a book-hawking society was established in the district, more books were sold in Hathern than in any other village of the same size, though day schools had been opened in many of them for years.

The impact of the hosiery trade

The circumstances of the village made the general results of his work less than they might have appeared to be in a more settled population. The branch of the hosiery trade carried on in Hathern was a peculiar one, higher paid, but less certain than the ordinary work; and this brought into it a continual succession of journeymen from all parts of the district who, coming for two or three years to a place where they were strangers, had no regard for their own character, and no one to check or control their conduct. This constant influx of ignorance and demoralisation added to the immorality of the place itself. The principal effect was that the good workmen, steady family men, were continually moving off to Loughborough or Nottingham.

Church attendances and Bible Associations

In 1815 he found the average number of grown-up attendants at the Hathern church was about 200; at that time about 150 more were regular or occasional attendants at dissenting places of worship, and 183 "living as heathen." In 1820 the numbers must have been about the same; for putting the two villages together there were 300 grown-up persons attending church. From 1840 there were barely 100 grown-up persons on average at either service on a Sunday.

He played an active part in the formation of the Loughborough branch of the Bible Society. Mr. Williams, his first curate, said of Rev. Phillips

–"I have known him to go over to Thorpe in the morning, visit and teach there until late afternoon, and then walk some 20 or 30 miles before coming home, to visit some Bible Association." Between 1819 and 1823 he and Mr. Babbington were continually employed in forming Bible Associations all round the neighbourhood. The Rev. J. Sankey helped with the Hathern work.

Medical work

His medicine store was first at his own house, but [as] this was becoming inconvenient, he employed the village leech-woman as his dispenser at Hathern, and the schoolmistress had charge of another medicine chest at Thorpe. He had on average, 10-12 patients at once; one year (1846) he had for several weeks above forty. Every 3rd year he held a general (smallpox) vaccination until the law made it compulsory.

Social activity

Long before the word ‘allotment ground’ was heard of, in 1811, Mr. Phillips divided a little field of the glebe close to the village into 10 gardens of good size, which he let to steady men with families. Soon after, he persuaded the parish to let out the roadside wasteland as gardens. As the hosiery trade became more uncertain, thirty families subscribed to a land club. Mr. Phillips had two fields drained and divided into 58 lots – this was in 1850. He also divided some grass fields of the glebe and a river meadow rented from his father into twelve holdings each sufficient to feed a couple of cows. This enabled people to buy milk for their families independent of fluctuations in trade. The holding were let to such of the working men as had room in their houses to manage the milk. In 1836 he gave up a small field close to the village for a playground, in the hope of clearing the streets of the older boys’ cricket and hockey, and to enable the men to play cricket freely without borrowing the ground of the publichouse-keeper who expected to be paid by the beer they drank. One end of the field was turned into a quoit and skittle ground but the ground proved too hard for cricket matches. There was a valuable charity belonging to the parish which he found in a great state of neglect. Being one of the trustees, he soon got this put on a better plan; it then produced above £50 a year. £10 was paid to the parish schoolmaster on condition that he taught reading and writing to the boys of all families who rented less than £10 a year. A few pounds were appropriated to apprenticing a boy every second or third year to some trade other than stocking making, a fatherless child generally being selected. The remaining £40 was expended in purchasing strong calico which was divided amongst all the poor parishioners thereby tending to promote cleanliness and health. The chief difficulty of meeting the wants of the people of Hathern arose from the failure of their work. In the first time of such distress, after the conclusion of the war in 1815, he aided them by buying cotton and giving them work in their own trade. The next period of distress was 1836/6. He persuaded farmers and ratepayers to contribute money in addition to his own and his brother’s contribution toward a road improvement fund. They raised £100 and the stocking weavers were paid 9s a week to repair the roads of the parish. The ‘Round Bank,’ a place of heaps and holes, was cleared and levelled, the streets widened, and the roads in the village made very good before the return of trade ended the business. In the famine year he raised £50 by private collection and five kitchens were opened in different parts of the village. The villagers’ chief subsistence on days other than the two soup kitchen days was field turnips. In the winter of the Crimean war the work failed again with some of the potato crop destroyed by the frost. Mr. Phillip’s brother sent supplies of seed potato which did much to keep up their hopes and energies. The last season of such distress lasted from November 1857 through to May 1858.


The total abstinence society was formed in 1854, not by Mr. Phillips in the first instance, but by some of the steadiest men in the place, and by several of the leading Baptists and Primitive Methodists. He provided the society in his own place with monthly lectures. There were 183 members in 1859.

Local administration

With the parish business he had little to do as possible; he felt himself unfit to manage it for good, and thought it wiser not to involve himself in any measure in the petty details and squabbles of village politics, which could not promote, but might in many cases hinder, his ministry among the disputants.

When the question of church-rates first became unsettled he proposed they should legislate for themselves and take a bill which had just been proposed by Lord Althorpe for their guidance. In 1835/6 he proposed that the parish should take the whole charge of the edifice, that he himself would defray all the expenses of the worship, and the congregation should pay for their luxuries. As the church had been put through repair a few years before (Church Building Society grant) and the chancel had always been kept in substantial repair, the parish thankfully accepted the offer. However, the parish forgot their engagement and in 1850, owing to their neglecting the painting and repairing of the water spouts, and of the lead on the roofs, a part of the church itself was found to be in a dangerous state. The rain came in in many parts of the roofs, and the chancel was so seriously injured that Mr. Phillips had to take down the greater portion of it, and build it again from the ground, at an expense of above £300. On this, in 1851, he gave up his agreement, and the church rates were again collected foe a little time. But in 1853, when a meeting was called to settle the rate for the next year, and no opposition having been hinted at, only seven ratepayers attended it. An infidel quietly got together six or seven men, whom he kept drinking at the public house nearby until the business of the meeting was completed except for the actual passing of the vote. Then his band came in and, at his dictation, voted that there should be no church rate, that they should have no churchwarden, that the bell ropes should not be repaired, that the surplices should not be washed, that they wanted no wine for the sacrament, and that the church clock should not be wound up; and then they slunk back to the public-house to drink out the rest of their treat. Of the five men who, at the meeting in 1853, voted for the church rate, one was a Methodist. Of the eight who voted against it, only two can be classed among any dissenting body – the other six were all really, and by profession, infidels.

His ministry

In October 1808 he was ordained priest and entered the living of Hathern. The spring after he came, 1809, typhus fever broke out in the village, and many were severely ill. And for a long time, though there were not many deaths. The village was still in a very rough state. The north side of the churchyard was the usual place for celebrating all the fights that took place; and a recess that lay between the north aisle and the vestry was used for fives and skittles. Mr. Cocker had in a great measure put an end to the fights, at least in that place. But at the first marriage Mr. Phillips solemnised, the crowd who followed the wedding party into the church began, according to their wont as the clerk told him, to amuse themselves, whilst the service was going on in the chancel, by pelting each other with Prayer-books and basses in the church; and one bass thrown by a bolder hand, flew between the couple and fell within the rails. He stopped the service and ordered the church to be cleared; but the mob refused to go, till, warned of the consequences, and finding the service would not be completed till they obeyed, the church was gradually emptied and the doors were locked; the crowd clustered round the windows hooting and yelling defiance, but not caring to stay when the service was finished, he found the churchyard deserted and quiet. Orchard and garden robbing had become so common amongst the apprentices and journeymen, that nothing was safe in either, and this sort of property was absolutely useless. Determined to put a stop to it, he had a lad brought up before the magistrate for robbing one of his own trees, and got him sentenced to be flogged, quite illegally as he afterwards learnt; for the boy’s master, who often beat him much more severely at home, offered to pay the fine for him, and this the magistrate had no right to refuse. The remedy, if rude, proved very effectual: not an apple tree was robbed for many years.

In the autumn of 1810, a young girl (Mary Gibbs) – she could not have been more than eighteen – walking from London to Manchester in search of work, stopped at the Anchor Inn at Hathern, so utterly worn out it was impossible for her to proceed on her journey. She was most kindly treated by the people at the inn, and nursed there for some days; then lodgings were taken for her in the village, and when she was fit for work, she got employment at Mr. Paget’s cotton mill at ouch, and continued to live at Hathern. About a year afterwards she seems to have joined the Methodists. She became ill in 1812, and died the following year of consumption. The following notes are taken from a sermon preached by Mr. Phillips after her death......

Mary Gibbs was born in Bletchington, – the 6th of 8 children. Father died when she was 7. At nine and a half apprenticed in a cotton factory at Hemscote near Warwick (Mr. B. Smart). Mr. Smart was harsh and cruel in his treatment giving little food – ran away after 4 years. Travelled 45 miles to Bletchington in one day but found her mother was insane. Returned to Mr. Smart who had her whipped and confined in the Bridewell for 14 days. The Bridewell in December was bitterly cold and her feet swelled – a lifelong problem. The treatment was much harsher and 3 years later she ran away again. Made it to Daventry where she collapsed in a pub- they cared for her and gave money. Eventually got to London but her brother, in the Guards, could not be found. Started out for Manchester having stayed a while in Tower Hill. At Highgate she got work haymaking and stayed for 6 weeks. Had to stop for 4 days at St. Albans on account of the rain and swelling of her legs. Stayed a week in Dunstable with an old overseer from Hemscote – now a match-seller. Started again for Manchester her feet swelling so much that she could hardly walk. Her money was soon all gone – she at last reached Hathern and a resting place.

When Mr. Phillips first came to Hathern the church was open for morning service on Saints’ days; but this was only attended by a few children from the parish clerk’s school, and some old people from the workhouse – a row of miserable cottages at the lower part of the churchyard, He soon, therefore, substituted for them a regular weekly lecture, every Thursday at Hathern, and every Wednesday at Thorpe. His work at Thorpe seems to have been for some years more satisfactory to himself than at Hathern: there were few disturbing elements in that little village, a more settled population, and none of that constant intercourse with the then infidel and disaffected population of Nottingham which was continually bringing evil into Hathern. At Dishley the congregation was in part composed of educated persons from Loughborough. The path from Hathern to Thorpe lies for about a mile and a half along the turnpike road, and then crosses some meadows watered by a little trout stream for about half a mile further to the hamlet. The little chapel at Dishley, which served instead of a parish church to Thorpe Acre, lay halfway between the two villages.

Those first years were times of much excitement: the coaches as they passed northward, not rarely carried some huge placard, announcing by such words as ‘Buasco,’’Almeida,’ ‘Barossa,’ ‘Salamanca’ that the tide of conquest was turned at last. But there soon came darker days at home, and the road was no longer solitary at night: discontented, suffering men crept in twos and threes along its further hedge, or in larger bands took possession of the footpath, and challenged all who passed with their watchword ‘Captain Ludd,’ causing all the more alarm, amongst the poor at least, because it was well known that the noisiest of these challengers were often the paid spies of a most un-English government. Mr. Phillips was several times challenged, but never stopped; and the only precaution he took, to satisfy the alarm of his family, was to carry a dark lantern.

At the conclusion of peace (1815) there was a great dinner and dance on the green, Mr. Phillips warned the congregation against this temptation and took no part. Before the end of 1820, he obtained the help of one like-minded with himself, The Rev. J. Sankey who continued to work with him for more than eight years. They were actively involved in forming the Branch Bible Society at Loughborough. In 1821/2 he was greatly concerned at the invasion of the parish by a body of Ranters, preaching and praying in the streets, holding meetings, and "I remember the first time they preached at the cross, walking up and down the garden thinking they would overturn everything, and destroy all that had been begun."

Coming home for the Christmas holidays of 1830, his second boy, Fred, had given up his place inside the coach to a schoolfellow who was unwell, and, the weather being very severe, he had caught a cold which ended up as inflammation of the chest. After lingering between life and death for three months, he slowly sank and died the following March. Eldest son, Tom, died Sunday, July 24, 1838 – he was crippled by a long illness.

He was much occupied in meeting the active system of proselytising now commenced by the Roman Catholics; and he proposed to set on foot a society which took the name of the Loughborough and Ashby Protestant Tract Society. He was asked by his friend, the Rev. T. Barton, to preach at the re-opening of Kingston Church. In 1844: you would like to see the little church [at Thorpe Acre]; it is the prettiest little bijou ever erected, thanks to the care and taste of Mr. Railton; everybody admires it – all of stone – Derbyshire – decorated Gothic, with a campanile and a high roof. I suppose it will be consecrated in the spring, the flooring is being laid. (It was finished in 1845 and consecrated in the beginning of October).

In early May, 1845, his youngest daughter died. Ten more years and he too should follow. And so it came to pass that the place he had chosen for himself besides the graves of his two boys was unexpectedly filled, and he chose another outside the little enclosure where the three now sleep together, and next to them as keeping guard over them still. Before the end of February 1846, small pox and measles had appeared in the village, and low fever soon followed here and there, at first confined to young men and women, but soon attacking persons of all ages. In a letter written in July to a Nottingham paper, he says "The place has been labouring under severe sickness for the last four or five months. During tjat time, out of a population of 1250, about 280 have been ill with different disorders, more or less severe. Of this number above 160 have been ill of continued fever, but of these only seven have died, and of these seven, three occurred in one family. At the present time 50 persons (not included in the 160) are labouring under the disorder; in several cases it is very severe, and some may, perhaps, prove fatal. But it is evident from the fact that only seven deaths have as yet occurred in above 210 cases of fever, that its character has been mild." The fever was not really of a very infectious character though the fears of the neighbourhood made them shun the village, as though it had been smitten with the plague. The summer was exceedingly hot, and the low chambers in the tiled roofs of the cottages became almost insupportable to the fever patients, many of whom crawled down and lay out of doors, Before it left the place, 290 had had it, and of these 17 had died; 19 had the smallpox and of these 5 died. The last case of fever was the mother of a young family, who lingered for ten weeks, and died in the middle of October.

September 27 1849 –"Cholera creeps towards us, but at a very slow place. I see Ashby and Barrow-on-Soar are added to the list of infected places."

Having since 1848 obtained the help of his son-in-law as his fellow-labourer in the parish.

June 27th 1857.

My dear R----, Mary Cox died on Wednesday, and is to be buried this afternoon. She is one of the very few I knew from my first coming to Hathern, and with whom I have always had Christian communion. Of this description, I scarcely know another friend survives except Ellen Long. L---- accompanied me last evening to Wysall. The (Bible Society) meeting was a good one. The Gracedieu Sheepshed fete at Garendon will be very grand, and we must do what we can to make it complete.---- will have a cricket game; the people the park; the children, a procession with drum and fife; all tea. This grand affair will cut down our poor tame thing six days after.

Throughout that summer (1858) the diphtheria had been in the village, chiefly, though not entirely, amongst the children. There were about 30 serious cases of it, and 10 deaths.

Go to top
JSN Time 2 is designed by | powered by JSN Sun Framework