Review of All Souls' Church, Crockenhill: Portrait of a Victorian church, its village setting, school and almshouses 1850-2002 (full title)
The latest in the Farningham and Eynsford Local History Society's excellent series of publications is a definitive account of the story of Crockenhill Church, its incumbents and parishioners. It was written by Susan Pittman to mark the 150th anniversary of the consecration of All Souls' in 1852. It sets the church in the context of the wider community of Crockenhill and includes the history of the church school and almshouses. The work will be of obvious interest to anyone connected with Crockenhill and its locality. However, it is also an example of that genre of detailed local study that will prove enlightening and satisfying to anyone with an interest in English social history from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day.
Susan Pittman has organised her portrait into sections which cover the periods of each incumbent, with preceding chapters setting out the background to the establishment of a church in Crockenhill. This account includes fascinating information about the lives of the inhabitants of an ordinary village, and of how these have changed over the years. We see what an important role the church has played in the lives of these villagers including in education, care of the elderly and impoverished, entertainment and social activities, as well as in Christian worship. Each incumbent, with his activities and achievements, is examined in turn and Mrs Pittman succeeds in conveying their individual characters. Woven in are some excellent stories about Crockenhill people, sometimes sad, sometimes amusing.
It is clear to any reader of this work what an immense amount of research has gone into its writing. It is the fruit of many years' hard graft in libraries and archives and of interviewing Crockenhill residents. All the information is skilfully analysed and assembled into a hugely readable text, which is illustrated by a great number of wonderful old photographs, maps and drawings. Sources of information are set out fully at the end. Susan Pittman has performed a valuable service to the church and community of Crockenhill by compiling this account of their last 150 years.
Dr. Paul Lee