George Finch was one of this church's longest serving vicars, second only to the Rev. Arthur Durrant. Like Arthur Durrant he also died in office; rather suddenly, at the age of 64, on June 25th 1899. He had served as Priest and Pastor to the villagers of Leverstock Green for over twenty-seven years.
An early copy of Crockford's Directory for 1890 gives the following information about him:
Leverstock Green Vicarage, Hemel Hempstead. - -University College Oxford, BA 1857, MA 1862 Ordained Deacon 1859, priest 1861 Nor. Vicar of Holy Trinity Leverstock Green diocese of St. Albans 1871 (Patron, Trustees; TRC £42,av £34, Fees £5, Eccles Comm £195, other sources £30; Gross Income £264 Net £252 3 a of Gl; Pop 827. Formerly C of W of Dereham 1859-62; St.Stephens, St. Albans 1862-64; Chiddingfold Surrey, 1868; Chicheley Bucks 1869-71.
The earliest mention of him in the Leverstock Green school log books is on October 23rd 1871 when the new teacher, Hannah Mayhew recorded the following:
"I Hannah Mayhew certified mistress, re-opened this school today think the children quiet and tractable; but their attainments far below the average. Rev.G. Finch present a great part of the morning".
The following day it was Mrs. Finch who visited. After that there were many and numerous entries concerning the vicar and his wife. The latter who would occasionally oversee the girls' needlework. Sometimes both Mr. & Mrs. Finch would attend, bringing with them various friends and relatives as on Dec. 15th 1871, when Hannah Mayhew recorded: " Afternoon rather dull, during the break, Rev. & Mrs. Finch & ladies & a gentlemen came in."
It was usual from then on for the vicar to visit the school once or twice a week, often taking the top classes for scripture lessons. On one occasion in 1872 the "Rev. G. Finch attended school for two whole mornings to assist in work" - in the absence of the schoolmistress. Mr. Finch obviously took his duties as school manager very seriously.
On 23rd June 1899, Mr. Ford the school master, reported in the school log that the Vicar had been too ill on that day to take his usual scripture class. Two days later the whole village was mourning his passing.
A report of over 2000 words was given in the Hemel Hempstead Gazette for July 1st 1899- giving an extremely graphic account of the Rev. Finch's last days and the funeral which followed. As well as giving a superb snapshot picture of the events in Leverstock Green at that time, it is a wonderful example of how the journalistic style of the time has left a record of not just events, but a whole way of life. The report, which I think well worth repeating verbatim, is a great insight into the social structure and etiquette of late Victorian life; a time when the clergy were largely drawn from upper middle-class and noble families - the church frequently representing the career path of the younger sons of the landed gentry. It also reflected the importance in society of the Freemasons.
From the reports we have, the Rev. Finch was obviously a sincerely religious man, who took his duties as clergyman very seriously and with great humility. His contemporaries (from all walks of life), would not have considered him ostentatious or particularly wealthy, yet he employed several household servants, a full time coachman and gardener. This is a far cry from the life of the clergy in the late 20th century. It is also interesting to note that 64 is considered a ripe old age - a classic reminder of how life expectancy has increased considerably over the last century. At the time of the Rev. Finch's demise, many people did not live beyond their middle forties, and infant mortality was extremely high.
Article from the Hemel Hempstead Gazette July 1st 1899
DEATH of the REV. GEORGE FINCH
With deep regret we record the death of the Rev. George Finch MA Vicar of Holy Trinity Leverstock Green; who passed away on Sunday morning1 at the ripe age of 64 years. The decease of the reverend gentleman came with painful and unexpected suddenness and the removal of one so well known and beloved has occasioned wide spread sorrow, not only in the parish where he laboured so earnestly and devotedly for many years, but in the adjoining town of Hemel Hempstead and the whole countryside. On the Sunday previous to his death, the reverend gentleman took full duty at Holy Trinity Church, and he was busily engaged in making his customary pastoral visits in Leverstock Green on the following Wednesday . Next day, Thursday , he was taken ill. Dr. Steele of Hemel Hempstead, his medical attendant was called in, and the serious nature of the attack being recognised a specialist from London was summoned on Friday evening. His condition from the first was very grave, the throat affection2 being very acute. As a last resource on Saturday night, Drs. Steele Cross and Coutte (house surgeon at the West Hertfordshire Infirmary) performed the operation of tracheotomy, but Mr. Finch never rallied, and passed peacefully away at half past one o'clock on Sunday morning. The decease had been suffering from Bright's disease3 and the immediate cause of death was oedema of the throat. It was a sad Sunday at Leverstock Green, the entire village mourning the loss of their revered vicar. In Hemel Hempstead the intelligence of the sorrowful event was early received and the deceased's many friends, and indeed all who rejoiced in the privilege of having known such an estimable gentleman felt the shock keenly, and heartfelt sympathy went out to the stricken widow and family in their irreparable loss.
The Rev. George Finch belonged to an old and well known county family. He was the second son of John Finch esq. of Red Heath, Watford. His elder brother the late Henry Charles Finch who succeeded to the family estates on the death of his father, died at Red Heath as recently as May of last year. As already mentioned the deceased gentleman was in his 64th year. He graduated at University College Oxford, gaining his BA degree in 1857 & MA in 1862. He was ordained deacon in 1859 and priest in 1861, in the diocese of Norwich. It was in 18614 that he was instituted into the vicarage of Holy Trinity in the diocese of St. Albans. Previous to that Mr. Finch served as curate of West Dereham 1859-62, curate of St. Stephens St. Albans 1862-64 and curate of Chidingfold Surrey 1868 and curate of Chichely Bucks 1869-71 from whence he removed in his preferment to Leverstock Green.
On July 9th 1867 he was married at Aldenham to Miss Royds, daughter of the Rev. Charles Royds Vicar of Aldenham. There are nine children living, four sons and five daughters. His eldest son is the Rev. Henry Charles Finch at the present time curate of Aldenham Hertfordshire. His second son Cecil Denne Finch is now in Melbourne, whither he went in 1895.
The late vicar was a charming loveable gentleman of the old school. He leaves behind him a name fragrant with sweet memories of a noble upright Christian character, adorned by a never failing generosity and kindness of speech and manner which endeared him alike to rich and poor, and the rich fruits of an earnest busy life spent in the service of others. As one who knew him well once recalled with pride and affection, he was never known to think much less speak ill of anyone. He led a simple open life, and was most unassuming; the humblest of his parishioners could at all times approach him confident of getting prompt and generous sympathy and help. His clerical brethren in West Hertfordshire will greatly miss him. He was at all times ready to help them and he was a well known and welcome figure in the pulpits of neighbouring churches. As a preacher he was earnest and helpful and had a good style. Foremost in works of charity and philanthropy the West Hertfordshire Infirmary at Hemel Hempstead enjoyed the high privilege of his zealous and valuable support. He was intimately connected with the direction of the Institution, having been right up to the time of his death a regular and hardworking visitor of the Committee of Management. It is interesting to recall that after the erection of the new buildings he had the misfortune when leaving the institution in 1896 to slip and break his leg.
The late Mr. Finch had been a Freemason for about 42 years. He was admitted to the Apollo Lodge at Oxford when about 21 years of age. He was one of the founders of the King Henry VIII Lodge which was consecrated on 11th November 1878. Since that period he had filled the office of Worshipful Master and had been treasurer and Chaplain of the Province of Hertfordshire. The Rev. W.O.Thompson and Mr. Henry Balderson are the only survivors, now Mr. Finch is dead, of the petitioners names in the warrant of the Prince of Wales, Grand Master of the Order, constituting the Henry VIII Lodge.
The deceased gentleman was a keen sportsman. He was a member of the Committee of the Hemel Hempstead Horticultural Society. For many years he represented the county of Hertfordshire as visitor at the Convalescent Home at ST. Leonard.
The Ecclesiastical parish of Leverstock Green was formed in 1850 from the parishes of St. Michaels (St. Albans), Abbots Langley and Hemel Hempstead. Holy Trinity Church was erected in 1848 from designs by Mr. Raphael Brandon. The register dates from 1848. The living has a net yearly value of £259 and is in the gift of trustees. Previous Vicars were the Rev. Richard Richards (1848), The Rev. Charles Frampton (1851) and the Rev. Robert Helme (1861).
On Sunday morning at St. Paul's Hemel Hempstead the Rev. E.J.Gallop, in a few brief words before his sermon, made touching reference to the death of the Rev. George Finch. Speaking of the deceased clergyman as a kind friend and neighbour, Mr. Gallop said "He was well know to us of this parish and congregation, and we were always glad to welcome him as a preacher in our pulpit. His kind and loving words, so earnestly delivered, with such telling force, will ever be remembered by us for he always spoke to us from his heart, with that power which comes from a conviction of the truth that he declared. It was my privilege to administer the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion to him and his family last evening, and thus they received strength and grace to bear the burden laid upon them. May God grant unto him Eternal Rest and unto them Divine Comfort and Consolation."
The Rev. C.A. Leveson also made reference in his sermon at the Parish Church to the death of Mr. Finch, as did also Mr. H. Smith on Sunday evening at Leverstock Green Baptist Chapel.
Never, perhaps, was a more imposing and impressive scene witnessed at Leverstock Green than on the occasion of the funeral of the late Rev. George Finch, on Wednesday afternoon. Representatives from all the public bodies and institutions with which the rev. gentleman had been connected were present, together with a large number of friends and acquaintances from the surrounding neighbourhood, whilst the residents of Leverstock Green itself, judging by those present, had turned out en masse to pay their respects to one who had ministered to them for so many years. Punctually at half past three o'clock the funeral cortege reached the entrance of the Churchyard. The coffin having been borne from the Vicarage upon a hand bier, under the superintendence of Mr. White of Hemel Hempstead the undertaker. It was met at the gate by the Rev. H.J.Glennie (nephew and Godson of the deceased and vicar of Holbeck Leeds) who took the service assisted by the Rev. H.T. Wood (Rector of Aldbury and cousin to Mrs.. Finch) who read the lesson. As the funeral cortege preceded by the surpliced choir, under the direction of Mr. T. H. Ford (choirmaster)5 entered the church, "O rest in the Lord" was played by Mr. W. Child - the organist. The choir chanted the 39th psalm to a Gregorian and after the lesson (hymn No 401) "Now the labourer's task is o'er" was sung with much feeling. Whilst the solemn procession wound its way from Church to grave the organist played the Dead March in Saul. Immediately preceding the Blessing the choir sang (Hymn No 499 A & M ) "On the Resurrection Morning". The grave, (which was situated near the vestry door, and close to that of a child of the deceased), had been lined with fern leaves interwoven with white roses, arum lilies, marguerites etc. The work had been carried out by Mr. Dunbar of Boxmoor through the kindness of Mrs.. Bailey6, and for which Mr. W. Davis (churchwarden) and others had kindly sent flowers. The lid of the coffin bore a large brass cross, inlaid the inscription on the plate being as follows:
GEORGE FINCH M.A.
BORN NOVEMBER 1ST 1836
DIED JUNE 25TH 1899
In addition to the officiating clergy mentioned above, the following were present in their robes:-
Revs. E.P. Anderson , Vicar of Abbots Langley; C.A. Leveson, Vicar of St. Mary's Hemel Hempstead; J.B.Watson, Chaplain at Leavesden Asylum; F. Hodgeson, Rector of Little Gaddesden, and W.T. Drake, Vicar of Great Gaddesden.
The mourners included Mrs. Finch (widow) Rev. H.C. Finch, Messrs Clement, Robert and Reginald Finch (sons) Miss Finch, Misses Marion, Georgina, Sybil, and Kate Finch (daughters) - Miss Ethel Finch was unfortunately prevented from being present owing to a bad foot - Mrs.. Glennie (sister), Mr. Baldwin Finch (nephew) Rev. R.G.Glennie, Mr. Walter Glennie, Mr. Walter Manley (nephews), Miss Censner, Rev. T. Goddard and Mr. Arthur Goddard, Mr. C.G. Green and Mr. C.D. Royde (brother to Mrs. Finch).
Amongst those also present were Messrs Percy & Henry Boulton, Mr. E.G.. & Miss Oddie, Dr. Steele, Mr. John Oddie, Mr. Hugh Nicoll, Mr. H.J. Royde, Mrs. Blackwell, Mr. S.J. Blackwell, Mr. Ernest Gallop, Mr. & Mrs. W. Grover, Dr. Ambler, Mr. & Mrs. Hughes, Mr. Church. Rev. Stephen Campbell, Mr. Vaughan Hughes, Mr. Stapyton, Miss Dorothy Gallop, Rev. W.D. Dudley, Mr. Silvester, Mr. John Weall, Mr. & Mrs. Robert Webb, Mr. H.J.Toulmin, Mr. Arnold, Mr. Thomas Ormandy, Mr. J. Parrott, Mr. F. Lepscomb, Mr. N.W. Robinson, Mr. P. Clutterbuck, Mr. Ralph Day and others.
The following clergy were also present: Revs. A. Wilson (Leavesden), M.M. Rosseter (Apsley), A.H.Parnell (Abbots Langley), C.V. Bicknell (St. Albans), Robert Merrick, (Puttenham Rectory) & E. Wilcox.
The only floral tributes were a beautiful cross from the Masters and Misses Finch (of Ventnor), nieces and nephews, and a wreath from the family of the deceased and one from Halsey Chapter of Freemasons.
The domestic servants and Messrs West & Sear (coachman and gardener) also attended. Messrs W.S. Davis, J.K.Hart (churchwardens), G.A.Finch, J.Bailey and J. Bishop kindly assisted in the church arrangements.
There was a large gathering of freemasons at the funeral, representatives attending from the Hemel Hempstead, Watford, Berkhamsted, and St. Albans. (The late Mr. Finch was a member of the Halsey Chapter). Amongst the brethren present from King Henry VII Lodge were PM's W.Bros, H.Balderson, J.Mellor, L.Patterson, J.Hales, Lovel Smeathman, Maitland Thompson,, Bros Rolfe, Cannon, Oliver and Howe.
Mr. Ford, the schoolmaster, recorded in the logbook that the school was closed on the day of the funeral as a mark of respect. Two days later on - June 30th 1899 - a special meeting of the School Managers was held, and Mr. William Davis, Farmer of Well Farm was appointed Manager in place of the late Rev. Finch. Mr. Davis was also to act as Treasurer and Correspondent for the school.
George Finch's grave is well marked and easy to see, being by the north east corner of the church in a large triangular plot. This plot is outlined by an extremely low stone wall (more like edging) giving the grave of the deceased vicar space and pride of place; with a stone cross set into the ground. Sadly, at the time of writing, the grass covering most of the plot is somewhat overgrown. The memorial inscription on the path side of the plot reads as follows ; George Finch, for nearly 28 years Vicar of this Parish, born All Saints Day 1835, died Sunday June 25th 1899. Georgina Fanny Finch his beloved wife died November 4th 1935 aged 90 years. The grave of their first daughter, mentioned in the Gazette write-up, is at the apex of the triangular grass plot; being a small upright cross on a stone step. The inscription at the base of the cross reads: Kathryn Dorothy Finch April 18th 1876 aged 1 year 8 months. The nearby Finch graves and large stone altar chest belong to the various members of the Finch family from Corner Farm - no relations of the Rev. Finch. Two of his daughters - Beatrice (Miss Finch of the funeral write-up) and Ethel (who was unable to attend due to a bad foot), are also buried close by on the opposite side of the path. Beatrice Ada was born 8th August 1878 and died March 22nd 1945, and Ethel Mary was born November 22nd 1882, dying March 26th 1938. I have yet to discover where George Finch's relict and his family lived after his demise.
The Sunday following the Rev. Finch's death (July 2nd) saw two memorial services taking place at Holy Trinity. On these occasions the church was filled by parishioners "from all parts of the widest part of the parish" The Hemel Hempstead Gazette once more gave a lengthy report on the occasions, reporting verbatim the extremely long sermon preached by the Ven. Archdeacon Lawrence of St. Albans, who had also been a close friend of the deceased. Mrs Finch, together with her daughters and some of her sons also attended this service. The Rev. J.R.Watson, Chaplain at Leavesden, preached at the evening service.
An entry in the school log book by Mr. Ford for September 21st 1899 noted:
"Mrs. Finch, Miss Finch and Miss S. Finch with the Rev. Stephen Campbell visited this morning. A large photograph of the late Vicar has been hung on the wall of the schoolroom. It is the School Children's Memorial to the late Vicar."
The following year members of the congregation purchased the organ - still in use today - as a memorial to the Rev. Finch. The inscription reads:
"The Organ was given in 1900 by parishioners and friends in memory of the Revd. George Finch, Vicar from 1871-1899.".