Reverend Frederick Silver (1821 – 1884)

Reverend Frederick Silver, was the Rector of Norton-in-Hales from November 1850, until his sudden death in August 1884. Frederick Silver was a philanthropist who brought about many great improvements to the village of Norton-in-Hales. Over the course of time and through the passing of many generations, his memory and good deeds have sadly been forgotten.


Frederick Silver was the second son of Stephen Winkworth Silver and Frances Susan Adams. Born on 6th September 1821, at St John’s Wood, London. He was baptised afew weeks later in the parish of St Marylebone [1]. Stephen Silver, Frederick’s father was a successful self-made business man, who grew up in Winchester. When Stephen was 2 years old, his father died tragically when he fell from his horse just streets away from the family home and his pub, The Three Tuns Inn at Winchester [2]. Stephen’s mother, Elizabeth Finch, was just 27 when she became a widow and a few years later in 1799 she remarried the local Tailor [3]. Stephen’s step-father’s occupation must have influenced his career path for by the time he married Frances Adams in 1812 he already had his own drapers business established in Cornhill, London. Stephen was the owner of S. W. Silver & Co, a company that specialised in equipping the military, colonists, explorers and travelers with every article they may need for their voyage, camp or new life in the far off limits of the British Empire. Over the years Stephen greatly expanded his business, he had offices at Sun Court, Cornhill; an outlet at 4 Bishopsgate, London; a workshop at 33 & 34 Nassau Place, Commercial Road East, London and premises at 4 St George Crescent, Liverpool. When Stephen died in 1855, aged 65, he was succeeded by his sons Stephen William Silver and Hugh Adams Silver who continued to expand the family business. They were responsible for establishing the India Rubber Gutta Percha and Telegraph Works Company which produced waterproofing and insulating materials. In 1864, this new company engaged in submarine cable manufacture for which is became very well known. The company’s factory in Greenwich covered 15 acres and employed over 2,800 people and became known as Silvertown after the family. [4]

Early Life

Frederick’s family home was 42 Abbey Road, St John’s Wood, London. This was a large detached residence which was approached by a carriage drive into a forecourt. It had 12 bedrooms, a bathroom and a suite of 5 reception rooms. It had 2 large conservatories that were heated with hot water pipes. Outside there was a brewhouse, a carriage yard with a 4 stall stable and standing for 2 carriages, with a man’s room over it. It had over an acre of gardens including a fruit and vegetable garden stocked with apples and pears [5]. Living here were Frederick’s parents, his two older sisters Frances and Elizabeth, an older brother Stephen William, two younger sisters Marianne and Jessie and four younger brothers Hugh Adams, Edgar, Walter and Septimus. When his was a boy he received a private education which most likely was home tutoring with his brothers. In 1839 his sister, Frances married Francis Hockin, a merchant of Hartland Quay, Devon at their parish church of St Marylebone. A couple of years later, Frederick then 19 years old made the 226 mile journey from his home to Hartland with his father, mother and sisters Elizabeth and Jessie to visit Frances and her husband [6]. Frederick was destined to follow the path into priesthood, during Victorian times it was custom for the eldest son to enter the world of politics or inherit the family business, which Stephen William would eventually do. The second son would take holy orders, this was Frederick’s path, the third son would have a career in the military, Hugh Adams eventually raised and equipped the 9th (Silvertown) Essex Rifle Volunteer Corps in 1860.

Stephen William Silver
Edgar Silver



I don’t know if Frederick, like many other young men of his time and status went travelling on some grand tour before he went to university. He was 22 years old by the time he went to Worcester College, Oxford, which put him a few years older than most of the young men who started that same year. For Frederick a university education at that time would have involved lectures in Greek and Latin, a little bit of mathematics and of course theology. A bookplate (a small decorative print label that would have been pasted into a book) of his coat of arms still exists and a copy of it is held within the Franks collection in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum. In 1846 he took at B.A degree; he was then a year later ordained a deacon and then a priest in 1848 by the Bishop of Oxford. He later obtained an M.A in 1850 [7]. He would later go on to become a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society [8], Royal Linnean Society [9], Royal Geographical Society [10] and a lifetime member of the Meteorological Society [11]. His first experience as a clergyman was gained at St Mary’s Church, in the parish of Wendover, Buckinghamshire [12]. For three years he was a curate at St Mary’s under the guidance of its rector Reverend Spencer Thornton. The parish of Wendover at this time was very extensive, containing 5,000 acres, 409 houses and nearly 2,000 people of which 1,200 resided within a quarter of a mile of the church. Reverend Spencer Thornton was only eight years older than Frederick and was also the son of a London gentleman. Spencer Thornton was himself a fascinating person who showed great concern for the welfare of his parishioners. His thoughts were that the sick should claim the clergyman’s first attention; he believed that in sickness people’s hearts are generally tender and open to receive a kind visit from a clergyman. He made great efforts to know the names of all his parishioners, paying them all regular visits and even kept a list of the names of Godparents from the baptisms he performed. He encouraged villagers to avoid Sunday labour; he promoted education by introducing a lending library, ran a Sunday school, performed evening lectures and held writing and bible classes for women [13]. During Frederick’s time at Wendover I believe Spencer became a role model which inspired him to continue some of the same initiatives with his own parishioners when he became a Rector. In the summer of 1848, at the parish church of St Marylebone, Frederick married Harriet James. Harriet was the daughter of a wealthy property owner [14]. The Rector conducting the wedding ceremony was Frederick’s brother-in-law George Chute (George married Frederick’s older sister Elizabeth Smyth Silver and became the Rector of St Mary’s Church, Market Drayton, Shropshire). I do not know how Frederick and Harriet met, however their family homes were only a few doors apart. The Silver family lived at 42 Abbey Road and just around the corner on Landford Place were the James’. Also both of their fathers were wealthy business men who no doubt socialised in the same circles. In May 1849 Frederick and Harriet had, what would be their only child, Spencer Thornton Silver, named after Reverend Spencer Thornton. Less than a year later, in the January of 1850, after 12 years of ministerial labour, Rev. Spencer Thornton died suddenly just 36 years old. He had been to London to visit his family at Marsden Hill and then visited relatives in Woodhall Park. On the Saturday he left to return to Wendover in time for his Sunday duties, seeming to be in perfect health and spirits, he arrived at the train station from Hertford and decided to walk from there to his destination. On North Street, Finsbury, a witness saw him stagger and fall and within minutes he died. His funeral took place on 19th January 1850 at St Mary’s Church Wendover. I think it was unlikely that Frederick would have taken over from the Rev. Spencer Thornton, there were already a number of curates at St Mary’s when Frederick arrived at Wendover. In spite of this, a few months later the patronage of St Chad’s Church at Norton-in-Hales became available and S. W. Silver & Co purchased it and presented Frederick as the new Rector.

Norton in Hales

It was in November 1850 when Frederick, Harriet and their baby son Spencer moved into the old Rectory. The Rectory was described as a “good stuccoed house, situated near the north-east side of the churchyard” [15] and included 11 acres of land. Like most Rectors at that time the family employed a number of servants, most of whom lived with them at the Rectory. Sarah White – Cook, Elizabeth Lovatt – Housemaid, James Stevens – Groom, Ann Mead – Nursemaid [16].

When Frederick first arrived, the village consisted of around 64 houses and 310 people. The village and its general surroundings were in a poor state, the street was an old rough paved road, the small miserable looking cottages were mainly thatched and had their cesspools and manure pits close to their front doors, which in the warmer months, would create a lingering stench. The church also shared in the general dilapidated condition of the parish, its interior uncomfortable and its tower containing only three bells, the tenor of which was cracked and had, when rung a particularly painful sound.  The entrance to the churchyard was by way of a lych-gate which faced down the street towards the school’s scanty accommodation.  In the centre of the old village green, stood a large Chestnut tree and beneath its shadow the old “bradling stone”. The boundary on the north side was an old farm house, with a line of tumble-down bays; to the south the Smithy, an old half-timber building, behind which was a pond of stagnant water, known as the “blacksmiths pit”. The east boundary was the churchyard fence. Like most villages during the early Victorian era, law breaking and drunkenness were commonplace.

Education for the ‘working class’ was very basic, with Children going to work as young as 8 years old. If you could read, literature was expensive, even newspapers were shared among households. Being possessed of certain knowledge Frederick desired to impart it to others, so he started to hold lectures at the rectory. The Sunday night lectures were always based on scriptures and broader topics were covered at the weeknight lectures, which were held in Frederick’s personal drawing room and afterwards he would throw open his library to all those who attended. These weeknight lectures soon became known as the Man’s Mutual Improvement Society, at which public questions were debated.  Due to the popularity of these lectures a new room was built attached to the rectory which was called ‘the lecture room’. For the children in the village he had the school rebuilt at his own cost. 

James Wainwright

Another example of Frederick’s kindness was when he befriended a man called James Wainwright who had moved away from the industrial north and was living in a caravan by the river Tern. Frederick encouraging him to stay so found him a more comfortable and permanent accommodation in the form of an end cottage on main street. It is in this cottage where James began his work as a shoemaker and coal dealer. Actively involved in church life he was an organist and bell ringer. James was a self-taught man and through the support of Frederick he excelled and soon became the parish clerk, sexton, district registrar and Sunday school teacher in the village. His beautiful copperplate writing preserved forever in the Parish Register of birth, marriages and deaths.

Frederick’s Museum

Frederick continued his efforts, wanting to engage with those who were not attending church, he needed to think of something that would incentivise them, rather than host prayer meetings, or other ritualistic entertainment, he had another idea. For many weeks the people in the village witnessed large and peculiar boxes being delivered to the Rectory, which greatly excited everyone’s curiosity.  After the curious cases had been coming in for a month or two the people of Norton in Hales were one morning astonished by the appearance of posters on every wall, and on the trees far away in the county, announcing that Mr Silver was to open a museum and that it would be open to the public the following Sunday afternoon. On that Sunday they first crowded to hear the Rev. Frederick Silver preach. He modestly related how he had recognised, as he believed the chief needs of the town and why he resolved to collect a museum. In the afternoon they crowded into the museum to see his collection. Frederick wanted to enlighten and inspire, he wanted to show them the world by bringing it to their doorsteps. And so the museum was kept and the Rectory was again expanded to include the picture gallery. He would, over time continue at a great cost, to add to his collection, but not as a idle pastime, but with a passion to provoke curiosity, learning and excitement in those whom he shared it with.

“As I can not travel myself, I get my friends to send me some samples and benefits of theirs.”

Frederick Silver

I have never seen a picture of Frederick, the only description I have of him is from a visitor from Manchester

“He is above the average height and proportionately stout. His voice is low and for a man’s, unusually sweet and pleasing. With the natural ease and grace of a gentleman, he at once removed all apprehension of fear and awe that his cloth usually so much depends upon. There is too, a merry twinkle in his bright eyes, as he repeats to you some quaint conceit or apt rejoiner of which he is the author or the friendly critic.” [17]

unknown visitor

On the 9th October 1855, Frederick’s father, Stephen Winckworth Silver died, aged 65. In his father’s Will he and his younger brother Edgar inherited 5 acres of land with the factory and two houses at Trinity Marsh, North Woolwich (the site of Rubber Gutta Percha factory). He also inherited the perpetual advowson (patronage) of Norton-in-Hales, which included the glebe land; titles, buildings, as well as some other land and buildings situated in Norton-in-Hales Frederick’s older brother Stephen and younger brother Hugh jointly inherited S.W.Silver & Co [18]

Frederick was a workman every day of the week, and in every way that was likely to benefit the parish. Through his kindness he paid a doctor to visit the village to attend to the ailments of the villagers free of charge, the lodge at the entrance to the Rectory grounds, was converted into a surgery for this purpose. The sanitary conditions of the village were also improved, the ‘blacksmiths old pit’ was filled up and its site with the adjoining portion of the village green was planted with trees. The old farm building on the east side was pulled down. The centre of the village green was enclosed and planted. Frederick was a trustee of the Brand Estate and was mainly instrumental in the work of re-modelling the cottagers dwellings, in the re-arrangement of the farms and the general sanitary conditions of the village and in the course of time the people were provided with a more comfortable class of dwellings.

As well as doing all he could for his parishioners, Frederick’s charitable efforts went beyond that of the parish boundary. In October 1862 he gave a number of sermons relating to the distress in Lancashire (known as the Lancashire Cotton Famine), by October 1861 the supply of cotton was cut and with no imports meant , mill closures, mass unemployment and poverty in northern Britain. On the 25th November a house-to-house visitation was carried out and over £38 was collected.  Here is an extract from a letter he wrote accompanying the charitable collection [19]

We have made our little collection in this parish, the amount £38 10s, 5d. We wish very much for it to go direct to the part (Rochdale I think it is) in which Mrs M is so deeply interested in, if you would kindly forward it for us. I wish the sum were much larger, but we only have 300 people in the parish; and although thank god no poverty, yet all have to work very hard for their living. I may, however say that small though the sum may be, it is wrapped up in many prayers, and given in every instance with the heartiest wishes for the increase comfort of the poor sufferers. My journey round the parish yesterday in the company of Mrs M, made me love the people more than ever, seeing as we did, sums of money, whether large or small, given with such an un-begrudging hand. Our school children collected £1 entirely of their own accord, among themselves.

Rev. Frederick Silver

Restoration of the Church

In 1863 Frederick decided he’d like to enlarge and improve St Chad’s Church, so a public meeting of parishioners was held to discuss the subject. Along with improvements, Frederick wanted to introduce a ‘free pew system’, a good deal of bitterness was manifested at the proposal by a section of the parishioners. Their initial objections were based principally on the fact that the old prescriptive right of sitting was to be taken away. The churchwardens at that time were a couple of quiet good meaning sort of men, who cared little of what Frederick did or how it was done just as long as they weren’t troubled and he paid for it. On a vote being taken a decided majority was in favour of the proposal and the work was shortly afterwards commenced, the services in the meantime were held in the lecture room. Frederick decided he would restore the church without the aid of an architect, so he procured a number of books; King’s Study book of Medieval Architecture and Art; an Analysis of Gothic Architecture by R and J. A. Brandon; Brandon’s Parish Churches; Brandon’s Open Timber Roofs; Potter’s Ancient English Architecture and Hunt’s Domestic Architecture, to study the subject [20]. The work began in early 1864 and it was anticipated that the work be completed by the October. However several delays had occurred but eventually through the collective labour of the villagers; Mr Allman, the builder and superintendant; along with Frederick’s own hand, the grand project was completed and in May 1865 the Church was officially re-opened and the newly built chapel was consecrated.

Wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps Frederick’s son Spencer, left Norton-in-hales to attend Christ Church, Oxford in 1867 [21]. Whilst at Christ Church he made the acquaintance of a young gentleman called Samuel Beckett Chadwick of Daresbury Hall, Cheshire. In due course Spencer invited his friend Samuel to Norton and returning the favour, Samuel invited Spencer to his family home in Runcorn  where he met his future wife Frances Chadwick. During their engagement Frances was a regular visitor to Norton in Hales, on her first Sunday at church she sat next to Mrs Silver in the third stall in the Chancel. Prior to the free pew system this seat had previously been used on occasion by Mr Coulson. Mr Coulson believed that he still had a legal right to this seat, so that day he and Frederick had a very sharp altercation regarding this subject. The following Sunday Mr Coulson came to church late, whilst the first lesson was being read, he walked up to the chancel seats, upon seeing Miss Chadwick again occupying the same seat, he turned around and left the church. Frederick being a man of peace tried hard to bring about a reconciliation with Mr Coulson. He had even spoken to Mr Radford-Norcop Senior of Betton House, to see if we would mind giving up his seat for Mr Coulson, however this greatly offended Mr Radford-Norcop who penned a letter to Frederick, full of bitterness towards Mr Coulson on account of his actions, he also intimated his intention to leave the church forever, a threat he unfortunately carried out. Mr Coulson and his family attended the church occasionally and occupied the seats in the chancel-north not being quite satisfied to the rights of his tenants sittings as well as his own he entertained the idea of building at his own expense, for his own soul use and that of his tenants a new north transept. He obtained consent from Frederick and the churchwardens and applied for a faculty. Mr Marten Harcourt Griffin, the owner of the Brand estate was at this time residing in France and the information was by some means conveyed to him of Mr Coulson’s application for this faculty and that this transept was to be built partially over this Griffin’s family’s vault. Mr Griffin felt that Mr Coulson had no legal right to do this and so instituted legal proceedings against Mr Coulson. This law suit soon became to assume large proportions, at this point Frederick stepped between them and having the power as Rector to put his veto on the proceedings he used it and so put a stop to what might have been a prolonged and expensive legal battle. Frederick then undertook the work to build the north trancept, which was completed at his own cost and afterwards he formally presented this extra accommodation free to the parish forever. [22]

I have no more to say except that the object of my life has been not so much to bring you to church, as to heaven; and to make you all good and happy.

Rev. Frederick Silver

Over the following years the Floral and Horticultural Society was founded, the object of was to teach the youngsters the beauties of nature and to encourage among the cottages a taste for neat gardens and the growth of window plants. Frederick regularly distributed annuals, as well as large quantities of geraniums and other bedding plants among his parishioners. He even provided each with a sheet almanac, written by the Essex agriculturalist Mr Joseph Mechi [23]. Each year prizes were given to the growers of the best specimens at the annual show which was held after the hay harvest. In 1872 Mr Ricks, of Oakley Gardens, was the judge and the following is his report on the cottage kitchen gardens, embracing all of the parish:- “There are signs of general improvement, since lasts year’s inspection. The gardens are looking remarkably clean and neat, and the crops are good. Taking the lateness of the season into account, I think it is evident that great care and attention have been bestowed on them.”. There were prizes for Best Cropped Gardens – labourers, Best Cropped Gardens – tradesmen, Neatest and Prettiest Front Gardens and Windows of Cottages, Best Collection of Six Window Plants. Special prizes of pictures were given to all the competitors except those who gained money prizes. In the afternoon Tea was provided by Mrs. T. Jones, Market Drayton in one of Messrs. Dale & Millington’s large tents. The Market Drayton Town Band played a good selection of dance music and the large company separated at dusk, highly pleased with the days outing.

In June 1870 A party of the North Staffordshire Certificated School Teachers association visited Norton-in-Hales. Frederick was on the platform to meet the party and at once placed his services at their disposal for the day. This was the best thing that could have happened to them, for it had once be said that nothing can exceed the affability and generousness of this gentleman. It was pleasing to find that for twenty years he had been unvarying interested in all that concerns the temporal and spiritual interest of his parishioners and he was held in most deserved high esteem. By the kindness of the Rector each member of the company was allowed to carry away a pair antlers which had belonged to the Hawkstone Park deer. Two months later a Tea Party and Al Fresco Ball was held, the community of Norton in Hales was now like a family and the urban rule of life “What is everybody’s business is nobody’s business” was here quite ignored, each person’s being the affairs of all. Outside the Griffin Arms, kept by Mr and Mrs Pimlett stood a maypole upon what was once the village green where the ruddy maidens and merry youths of the village used to trip it in honour of flowery may-day. But on that day just ladies of the locality were to be seen, flitting about in their summer attire. Tea was served in a neat tent and directly afterwards dancing commenced to the music of 23rd Cheshire R.V.

Spencer Thornton Silver

Rev. Spencer Thornton Silver was ordained to the ministry on Trinity Sunday at Coventry. In addition to assisting his father in the services, he preached two sermons, one in the morning and the other in the evening, the subjects of both being singularly plain and appropriate for a younger beginner. A very favourable impression was evidently formed of him, the evening sermon especially being most feeling and impressively delivered. He left the parish a few weeks later to take charge of a curacy he had obtained at Powick, in Worcestershire [24]. On 2nd July 1872 at All Saints’ Runcorn, Cheshire, Frederick conducted the wedding service to marry his only son Spencer Thornton Silver to Frances Chadwick. A few days later the newlyweds came to visit Norton in Hales. Weeks earlier a committee was formed of the principal inhabitants of the parish and a good sum was soon collected,  not only from the parishioners but also from friends and well-wishers in the neighbourhood. It was determined by the committee that they should purchase a piece of plate, after this was agreed, Frederick on his own account issued over 100 invitations to a tea a 5 o’clock. Two large tents were hired from Messer’s Dale and Willington of Cox Bank and the band of the 3rd Shropshire Rifle Corps (Whitchurch) was engaged. The beautiful weather of the previous week meant that all hands had been hard a work in the Hayfield, so the decorations within the village were not extensive. At the Railway Station a small arch was over the entrance gates with union jacks at each side, flags also floated from the Stationmasters house (George and Emma Holbrook).  At Mr Davies’s an arch was erected, and number less mottoes and bridal decorations were affixed to the side and at the top in a long line “The Lord shall bless them.” a flag was also at the corner of Mr Davies’s building. At Mr Jones, an arch was thrown across the road, in the centre of which was a flag with the inscription “Long life and happiness to the Rector’s family.”. At the other end of the village,  at Norton Farm,  Mr John Eardley had an arch erected, the sides were dressed with laurels and mottos.  The flags were inscribed “May the prosperity of an only son be the glad reward of a loving mothers care and may we the people of Norton long enjoy our many privileges.”  Suspended from the centre a large flag floated with the crest of the rectors family in the centre, with large letters encircled around it “Long life, health and happiness to the Bride and Bridegroom.”. Union jacks, flowers and mottoes were also displayed throughout the village. The entrance to the ground where the tents were erected was by the main entrance to the church,  it was spanned by a triumphal arch surmounted with five flags, beneath which was an embroidered heart on scarlet ground. It contained on one side the motto “May the blessing of Heaven attend them.” on the reverse “As years roll on, may their happiness increase.”. This was the work of Mr Allman,  builder, Audlem and was decidedly the best of the kind.  At the entrance of the church,  an arch of evergreens,  surmounted with banners and motto “We bless you in the name of the Lord.”. On either side of the entrance to the church, on either side of the walk to the church was a row of pikestaffs with crimson and white banners which had a very pretty effect.  Shortly before 3 o’clock the band marched from the entrance gate of the rectory, round the house to the lawn, playing a merry tune.  The committee assembled together and at the Rector’s invitation proceeded to the Rectory Hall. Shortly after, the bride and bridegroom entered, accompanied by the Rev. Silver, Mrs Silver and a few friends.

Mr John Eardley (the Rector’s churchwarden) then read the following address “Address to the Rev. Spencer Thornton silver B.A., on the occasion of his marriage July 2, 1872.” Dear Sirs – it is with the feelings of great pleasure that we, for the first time, address you on a public occasion. You have been one with us for a period of 22 years, during which time you have emerged from childhood to manhood. We need hardly remind you of your progress through those stages has been anxiously and carefully watched by us and it is now our duty and privilege to present you with a few words of hearty congratulations on the most important step you can possibly taking your life – your marriage. We pray that the Almighty Disposer of Events may shower down upon you and your esteemed bride. His choicest blessings,  that you may enjoy much happiness,  both temporal and spiritual, and that in his good providence, you may be spared for many years,  each earnestly engaged in doing the Great Master’s work and every year strengthening the bond of mystical union which will never end, but will last through the countless ages of eternity. We have thought it good that you should be asked to possess a small memento of our heartfelt wishes, on this auspicious occasion.  We therefore beg your acceptance of the accompanying piece of plate. As you gaze upon it from time to time, may it remind you of the happy days you have spent in our midst, of the unqualified respect and esteem in which your parents have for so many years been held in this parish and neighbourhood, and of the time when in the ordinary course of events, you will return to the sacred offices now held by your dear Father.  We heartily pray that the day of his departure, may be far distant,  but that when it is does come, you may be endued with wisdom, strength and guidance to carry on the work of this parish, so that it may be truly said of you as was said of your father, by the late good Bishop Lonsdale, at the re-opening; “We thank Mr Silver for a lesson set to all.”. We remain, dear sir, ever yours faithfully, the parishioners of Norton-in-Hales and other friends, signed on their behalf by William Mate and John Eardley – Churchwardens. Richard Eardley, William Eley, John Maddox, Robert Tilsley, William Furnival, John Jones – Members of the Committee. July 2nd 1872″

Mr Spencer briefly replied he said he’d thanked them for their thoughts of him, he should always remember their many acts of kindness during the past 22 years. When he came of age, his kind friends then remembered him and again on the greatest event of his life, they still thought of him.  He should never forget them and again begged to thank all very much. The band was stationed in the balcony and commenced playing at the conclusion of Mr Silver’s speech. The visitors arrived in good numbers by the train from market Drayton which came in about 4 o’clock most of them pleasantly strolled around the rectory grounds and viewed the church and  museum. Frederick with his usual affability gave the kindly greeting, expressing his pleasure to each and all for their attendance.  Tea was laid out in one of the tents and the committee officiated as helpers, the guests assembled in numbers of upwards of 140, and partook of a hot good tea. Also upwards of 60 children had a tea of good current bread on the lawn, their wants freely attended to. Dancing began, this too many, the great enjoyment of the day was commenced by Lieutenant Colonel Broughton and Mrs Spencer Silver in a quadrille. The bride afterwards joined in a dance with Mr John Eardley. Dancing was continued at intervals throughout the evening. The universal kiss-in-the-ring was also indulged in by a few young people. It was a little omission on the part of the committee, perhaps, that a few games have not been provided such as croquet and cricket. At intervals there was some change ringing on the hand bells by the Norton ringers led by Mr Wainwright and during the day the bells of the parish church rang merry peals. At 7 o’clock half a pound of Tea was given to each of about 60 of the cottages of Norton. Dancing ceased soon after 9 o’clock, after which, Mr W. Reeves (Hinstock), said he was requested to say a few words. The people of Norton had for many years enjoyed privileges which were peculiar to them. Their esteemed Rector had been the leader of very good work which could promote the intellectual and moral character of his people. Amongst the many happy gatherings which had taken place there , the present would be marked as a red letter day in the history of Norton.

On 9th April 1873, at Powick, Worcestershire, Frederick’s 1st Grandchild Mary Elizabeth Harriet Silver was born.

Miss Margaret Brown Colville, Stepdaughter of  Edward Foster Coulson, of Bellaport Hall, died on the 10th December 1874 at the Grosvenor Hotel, London. This event would again create another legal issue and further stress to Frederick. Mr Coulson had a mutual desire to secure by faculty a new vault to be built under the west side of the new transept, for the internment of his stepdaughter and no time was to be lost. Frederick made an express journey to Litchfield for the purpose of making this application on Mr Coulson’s behalf. The weather was intensely severe and Frederick suffered much for this journey. The result of his meeting in Litchfield was that a sort of provisional faculty was granted to Mr Coulson on the condition that the Rector made a general application for the whole church. Frederick reluctantly did this, which was sadly against his wish and when the necessary notice was placed on the church doors, Mr Griffin and Mr Coulson once again entered into an expensive lawsuit which lasted about four years. No one will ever know, except those intimately acquainted with Frederick the vast amount of anxiety and suffering this caused.

Following the two years spent at Powick, Worcestershire, Spencer Silver became the senior curate to his uncle, the Rev. Richard Lee James, vicar of a large parish in Watford in Buckinghamshire. On 1st December 1875 Frederick’s second Grandchild Allen Silver was born.

Death of Spencer Silver

Sadly on 14th December 1878 at Beechen Grove, Watford, Spencer Silver died. About six weeks before he had a sudden attack of paralysis (acute myelitis 2 months, paraplegia) [25] with the medical advice available, hopes were entertained that he would ultimately recover. During Saturday several telegrams were received by Frederick and Harriet which excited the gravest apprehensions and then at 7pm one was received which conveyed the dreaded news, that their only son, the mothers joy and pride, the father solace and stay, the hope and expectation of the parish was no more. Strangers passing through the village the next morning must have noticed that something unusual had happened. He would have seen that without a single exception every blind was drawn and that a sad and settled gloom pervaded every face. Spencer had a high reputation as a hard-working energetic young clergyman. On several occasions during his visits to Norton he has preached in the parish church and the impressions made by his earnest concise and practical sermons upon the people, gave them high hopes for the future.

Instead of the eight joyful bells calling the worshippers to the house of God he would have heard one solitary muffled bell booming dolefully through the village and went to this was added the effect of the shroud of snow which had fallen during the night and completely enveloped the beauty of the village, in an indescribable scene of gloom and sadness. During the Sunday service Frederick avoided making any reference to the sad event. He slightly alluded to the loss sustained in the royal family. He affectionately reported that he was here to embrace religion, in health and strength, as when troubles came, which assuredly they would, sooner or later nothing short of this could supply the least comfort. Spencer’s body, along with Frederick and Spencer’s distressed widow arrived at Norton from Watford on the last train, on Tuesday at 9pm and was met voluntarily at the station by the farmers and cottages of the village. It was born shoulder high by them, the procession headed by a boy carrying a lantern, the lateness of the hour, the measured tread of the bearers in solemn silence through the snow, formed altogether a scene which would never be faced from the memory of any witness. Spencer in his coffin was carried into the library of the rectory where he remained for any friend or parishioner to take a last farewell of him. Spencer, was just 29 years old when he buried on Saturday 21st December at 12 o’clock in a plain grave in the cemetery at Norton-in-Hales.

Less than a year after Spencer’s death Harriet and Frederick had a quarrel at the Rectory [26], Harriet left the Rectory and her husband suddenly and never returned. One can only assume that following the premature loss of her only child that she suffered a great deal and may have lost her faith along the way and no longer attended church. Harriet aged 55, moved to 8 Langford Place, Marylebone, London, to live with her aging mother and younger unmarried brother Edmund. I do not know how Frederick separation from Harriett impacted him, but they did not divorce. By 1881 Frederick had his two grandchildren Mary Elizabeth Harriett aged 8 and Alan aged 5, living with him at the Rectory. His younger sister Jessie, along with her ladies companion came also came to stay with him for a period of time.

Rev. Frederick Silver’s Death

By 1883 Frederick health was deteriorating, aged 63, he was having heart problems. He still carried on, even when he was physically unable, quite often he would collapse whilst giving his sermons. On the 9th August 1884, Frederick completed his last will and testament, which was witnessed by Benjamin Sutton Hawthorn, Solicitor, Market Drayton and Edward Shuker, Clerk to Mr Hawthorn [27]. Nineteen days later Frederick was found dead on the road between the village and the railway station. He had risen before the rest of the household and left the rectory, but whether merely for a walk, for business or to catch a train it is not known. With similarities to Rev. Spencer Thornton’s death, the last time he was seen alive, he was walking rather hurriedly in the direction of the train station. Just moments later he was discovered by the roadside, by Thomas Meakin who worked at Bellaport Hall. An inquest was held the following day at the Griffin Arms Inn, before George Gordon Warren Esq and a jury of which Charles Tayleur Esq (Brand Hall) was foremen. The jury returned a verdict to the effect that Frederick had died from natural causes [28].

The Funeral

An early autumn afternoon; a sky flecked here and there with clouds, portending rain; a fresh south-west breeze tempering what would otherwise have been the unbearable heat of the sun which had just passed its meridian; a quiet seasonable afternoon. Such was that Tuesday in Norton. The groves in the woods had not yet donned their rusted garbs; the deep-crimsoned ash, the silvery beach and the stately Oak still had their summer tints; and, in the orchards the sun-kissed fruit made pictures of beauty set in frames of living green. But the reapers work was done, the last sheaves had been carted to the granary and the harvest was ended. Tokens of sorrow were everywhere; the farmer shrouded the windows of his dwelling; the cottagers window blinds were drawn down; the village shops were shuttered; the fields were silent and deserted; the bellows at the village’s forge did not roar nor did the hammer make music on the anvil. Above all rang the sonorous boom of the muffled bell in the tower of the parish church. Visitors all wearing signs of mourning flocked into the village by every avenue, from the Potteries, Market Drayton, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, hamlets and villages they came. Men and women of almost every social degree, the landed proprietor, the gentleman farmer, the well-to-do agriculturalist, the prosperous tradesman, the professional gentlemen, the horny handed Artisan and the humble labourer all were represented and all came with one intent and purpose and that was to pay the last tribute of respect to the memory of the much loved Rector of Norton- in-Hales. The rectory and the neighbourhood of the Church was the centre to which villagers and visitors alike made their way, indeed almost every seat in the little sanctuary where Frederick ministered to his parishioners for the long term of 34 years was occupied sometime before the funeral cortege left the rectory. His remains were enclosed in a shell and oak coffin, where he’d laid in the library so that any friend, almost up to the final moment had the opportunity of looking upon the face of the dead for the last time. His body was robed in the surplice, hood and scarf which the Rector wore when conducting his last service. At 2pm the mournful procession emerged from the rectory and as soon as the voice of the Rev. Athelstan Corbett, Rector of Adderley, was heard reading the opening sentences of the burial service every head in the large crowd on the drive was uncovered [29]. The coffin which remained unhidden by a Pall, was literally covered with beautiful wreaths of flowers, which were not only placed on top, but around the sides. Every seat was occupied and the nave, transcept and aisles were crowded. The coffin was placed at the entrance to the Choir, where the shadow of the chancel falls, but it was not enveloped in gloom, for the sun caught the gorgeous hues of one of the painted windows and threw them in a flood of mellow tints to mingle with the softer beauty of the wreathes upon the coffin lid. The organ under the manipulation of Mr Garton pealed forth a strain of solemn music, above which now and then was heard sounds of sobbing. The appropriate portions of scripture were impressively read by the Rev. Corbet and the hymn “Days and moments quickly flying” was sung. Then all that remained of one who had loved that sanctuary so long and so well was lifted upon the shoulders of the bearers and the cortege set out for the Cemetery. Over 1,000 persons were present, nearly all of whom then formed into procession and followed the mourners to the little God’s acre, where not long ago Frederick stood by the open grave of his only son and had self-experience of the bitter pangs of bereavement. Near to Spencer’s grave, about midway down the avenue of yews, another grave had been dug and there his remains were laid. A short service was read by the grave side, many of the mourners were moved to tears and the final chapter in a life, the greater portion of which was devoted to the service of God and humanity, was brought to a close.

When Mr Silver came to the village thirty four years ago, the village did not wear the pleasant aspect which is now one of its attractive characteristics, nor did it possess any of the institutions with which its latter history has been inseparably associated. He will need no cenotaph to perpetuate his worth; the whole parish is a living monument to his memory, and everything that is good and best in it will stand instead of the perishable epitaph written by the carver’s tool.

John Eardley

Rev. Silver was a warm friend to all his flock, as a clergyman, he was a devout adherent of the Church of England; as a Christian; his catholicity of spirit lifted him above the petty narrowness of creeds; as a man he had a heart that overflowed with love and sympathy. He believed that the world of humanity was made up of two great mounds, one of happiness and one of misery; and of his opinion, it was every man’s duty to make the former higher and to do what he could towards lowering the latter. His name was a household word. Outside his own parish everyone spoke of him with respect; at home, all his parishioners loved and respected him, indeed he might have been the original of Longfellow’s picture.

John Eardley

I say it without fear of contradiction that Mr Silver found Norton as it were a desert and left it blooming like the rose. The history of Norton during the time he was Rector reads like a poem strewn with the flowers, yes there might be weeds amongst the flowers but when we stood in yonder little gods acre that memorable autumn afternoon when the woods were radiant with the golden glory of decay and the sun shone out of a clouded sky and the tears that fell into the open grave fell upon the coffin lid of a man who had done his best for those amongst whom he had dwelt so long, not a dead man but a man whose memory will live as long as Norton in Hales exists. But I see better days for Norton than any she has ever known Norton will have a more glorious history in the next thousand years than in the past, men and women of Norton be true to yourselves be true to each other and act in the spirit which animated the sweet voiced poet when he sang – Let us, then, be up and doing, with a heart for any fate; still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labour and to wait.

Mr T. P. Marshall, of Market Drayton

Sale of the Museum

On 27th December 1884 the principal registry granted Frederick’s personal estate to Stephen William Silver Esq (Brother) of the Benhams near Wantage in the County of Berkshire; Reverend Edgar Silver (Brother) of Highfield Rectory near Southampton; Walter Hugh Silver (Nephew) of Sun Court, Cornhill, London; Stephen Winkworth Silver (Nephew) of Sun Court Cornhill London and Ernest Wollaston Silver (Nephew) of Christ Church College. His personal estate was valued at £18441-0-1.

Days later, Messers. Edwards were engaged to sell by public competition the contents of the Rectory. It was proclaimed as one of the most distinguished and important sales that has ever adorned the annals of auctions in the district. It was fixed for 26th January, 1885 and took place over 13 days. The catalogues (at 2/6 each) admitted four persons to the public view, and were a passport to the purchaser throughout the sale. A separate catalogue of the book portion of the sale was issued at 1/- each, and admitted one person only to view and sale.

  • Monday 26th January – Household Glass and China
  • Tuesday 27th January – Organ, Oak Furniture, Curiosities and Natural History Specimens
  • Wednesday 28th January – Curiosities, Natural History Specimens and China
  • Thursday 29th January – China Collection
  • Friday 30th January – Curiosities and Armour
  • Monday 2nd February – Engravings, Water Colours and Oil Paintings
  • Tuesday 3rd February – Shell, Plate and Linen
  • Wednesday 4th February – Coin, Jewellery, Medals and Autographs
  • Thursday 5th February – Drawing-room, Dining-room and Hall Furniture
  • Friday 6th February – Library, Music Room and Bedroom Furniture; Microscopes and Mounted Specimens
  • Monday 9th February – Bedroom Furniture and Outdoor Effects, Carriages, Birds in Aviary, Books, Various Volumes and odd lots of miscellaneous works.
  • Tuesday 10th February – Books
  • Wednesday 11th February – Books
  • Thursday 12th February – Books or any lots remaining unsold

For over 20 years the museum and picture gallery had been among the chief properties in the magnet which had attracted thousands of visitors to the village every summer. Everything in the rectory and about its surroundings had been characteristic of the reverend and genial virtuoso who had been the central figure in all that concerned the welfare and progress of the village for more than a quarter of a century. The dispersion of the many objects of interest which people have looked upon as part and parcel of Norton in itself would be missed.

In 1885, a Silver Memorial Fund Committee, was founded. Mr Charles Tayleur, Brand Hall (chairman); Mr A Garton (secretary) Norton School; Rev. J Harding, Market Drayton; Mr D Eardley, Brand Farm; Mr John Eardley, Norton Farm; Mr E Furnival, Bellaport Park; Mr John Jones, Church Farm; Mr J Bibby, Norton Wood; Mr John Wainwright, Yew Tree Farm; Mr James Wainwright , Norton; Mr T Pimlett, Griffin Arms; Mr B Pemberton, Norton; J Meadows, Esq., Oakley Villa. They raised over £200, with which they purchased a new stain-glassed window which was inserted into the north trancept of the Church. The window depicts in the two side lights two scenes from Our Lord’s description of the Last Judgement in St. Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 25 “I was hungry and ye gave me meat” and “I was naked and ye clothed me.” The centre light shows the healing of the paralytic man at the pool of Bethesda, “Rise, take up thy bed and walk.”

Memorial Window

Fredericks’ widow, Harriet died in 1891, aged 65. Frederick’s grandson Alan Silver and his wife had no children and Alan died in 1920. Frederick’s granddaughter Mary grew up living with her uncle Edgar Silver, she married a Doctor from Cheshire, they had 2 children William and Barbara. Mary died in 1973 aged 100, this was the last of Frederick’s descendants, she outlived her husband and children and she had no grandchildren.

© Hannah Hague

[1] London, England, Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906
[2] Hampshire Chronicle 1794
[3] Hampshire, England, Allegations for Marriage Licences, 1689-1837
[5] Morning Post, 4th December 1869
[6] 1841 Census
[7] Oxford University Alumni 1500-1886
[8] elected fellow, May 11, 1855, Feb 1885 65th Annual General Meeting
[9] 1870/75 proceedings of the Linnean Society of London
[10] Certificate of candidate for election into Royal Geographical Society, 1859
[11] 1867 list of members for the Meteorological Society
[12] London St James Chronicle Whitehall And General Evening Post Newspaper June 8, 1847
[13] Memoir of the Rev. Spencer Thornton by Rev. W. R. Fremantle
[14] London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1597-1921
[15] History, Gazetteer & Directory of Shropshire, 1851
[16] 1851 Census
[17] Manchester and Lancashire General Advertiser, June 1880
[18] The last will and testament of Stephen Winckworth Silver, 27th November 1855
[19] Extract from the Rochdale Observer 1862
[20] Rectory sale catalogue, 1885
[21] Oxford University Alumni, 1500-1886
[22] The Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser 5th 1870
[23] The Preston Chronicle & Lancashire Advertiser, Jan 29 1870
[24] The Newport & Market Drayton Advertiser, 8th June 1872
[25] Spencer Silver's death certificate 1878
[26] John Eardley's Diary
[27] Frederick Silver's Last Will and Testament, 9th August 1884
[28] The Manchester Evening News, Friday August 29 1884
[29] The Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser, September 1884