Incumbant at Holy Trinity Leverstock Green from 1899~1936
In October 1899, following the death of the previous incumbent George Finch (see http://bacchronicle.homestead.com/GFinch.html) Arthur Durrant was installed as the Vicar of Holy Trinity Church Leverstock Green. The Rev. Durrant was to remain in Leverstock Green until, like his predecessor, he died in office nearly 36 years later.
Arthur Durrant had graduated from Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1881 with a BA. He was a son of George Frederick Durrant and his wife Harriette nee Wilce. George was a farmer and landowner who lived at South Elmham All Saints in Suffolk at the time of the 1881 Census. Arthur was not at home on the night of the Census - he was an Assistant House Master at Cheltenham College, (Hazelwell), College Road, Cheltenham at that stage! [This is not Cheltenham Ladies' College, but origianally a boys' and now a Co-educational day and boarding school, immortalized by being used for the film "If", and host of the Cheltenham Cricket Festival. I am indebted to the present Housemaster at Hazelwell, the Rev. Nicholas Lowton for the information. 22.04.2002 ]
He had been curate at St. John's Stratford between 1883 and 1885. Between 1885 and 1889 and again from 1891-4 he had been at the Mission Church of St. Peter in the parish of St. Mary, Plaistow East. He had been at Saffron Waldon Essex between 1889 and 1891. He had been perpetual curate of St. Peter, Upton Cross Essex from 1894 till his appointment at Holy Trinity.
Arthur Durrant and his wife Alice Pelly (a daughter of Cannon Raymond Pelly) were married in 1885 and had three children when they moved to Leverstock Green in 1899: Lorna Millicent, (born 1886) Arthur Michael (known as Michael and born in 1889), and Enid Mary. A fourth child, a daughter, Dorothy Mary was born on 26th September 1906, and died tragically in 1933. She is a particularly interesting character as it is generally thought she is the model for Katherine Clifton, the heroin in the Booker Prize winning novel, and Oscar winning film The English Patient. (click here to link to page telling Dorothy's story.)
As was to be expected at that time the Rev. Durrant and his family were widely respected in their local community, and played a key part in all the everyday life of the village. However, when new to the Parish the new Vicar's views on services caused quite a stir amongst the churchgoers; with very public arguments being reported in the local paper for 27th April 1901 & 5th April 1902.
VICAR OF LEVERSTOCK GREEN
HIS ROMANIZING TENDENCIES
At the recent vestry meeting at Leverstock Green the Vicar, Rev A Durrant caused some surprise by stating that he had decided to make a change in his warden for the year. Mr Davis had not always agreed with him, and thinking a little new blood would be beneficial, he nominated Mr Arthur Seabrook. Several spoke of Mr Davis' abilities, and Mr Hart, the Parish Warden resigning, Mr Davis was elected in his place after a heated discussion. Another point argued was whether the organist (Mr W C Child) was appointed annually. Mr Davis contending that he was while Mr Child considered that he was not.
Subsequently a representative of the Herts Standard was informed that the vicar and Mr Davis did not agree because of the former's high church views. Mr Davis he found very much aggrieved on the subject. He said he had been Parish or Vicar's Warden for 45 years and he thought he had been treated very shabbily by the Vicar in being thrown over by him in the way he was. Mr Davis did not hesitate to charge the vicar with having Romanizing tendencies. Asked what he took exception to in the service, Mr Davis said the vicar had introduced processional hymns, and bowed to the altar before he went into pulpit, and on other occasions, and that he had lighted candles on the alter at the early celebration of Holy Communion. "He doesn't do it at the other services, went on Mr Davis, " because he knows I should blow them out if he did." He stated that he came into office the same year as the old vicar, The Rev. Finch, and had always agreed with him, and had never had a difference of opinion with the Vicar until Mr Durrant came and introduced some new forms in the services. "I know its the tendency now" he went on, but I am an old man, and have been used to the old fashioned ways, and I don't like the other." He was taken aback when the Vicar appointed Mr. Seabrook as his warden, and thought it was hard to be thrown out after all the service he had done and with the church owing him £18.
The vicar told the journalist that the proceedings at the Vestry on the day in question were exceedingly dull, in fact more than usually so. He appointed Mr Seabrook as his warden as he had a right to do, and did not see why he should give any reason for his change. [Gazette 27th April 1901]
LEVERSTOCK GREEN BREEZY MEETING
To have been held on Monday in the Vestry room, but owing to an unusual number of parishioners congregating it was adjourned to the schoolroom. There were present Messrs. Jos. Bailey, J K Hart, W Davis, A Seabrook, ( churchwardens) W C Child D Charge, W W Sears, W. Parkins, WS Cook, F Goodenough, W Cooper, A Spacey, G Doggett, Greenway, Timson and many others. The vicar ( Rev. A Durrant) having taken the chair read the minutes and asked that they might be confirmed. Some dissent was expressed as the accounts of last year were not shown. The vicar then proceeding, said the business of the meeting was to elect churchwardens for the year. Several parishioners asked that the accounts might be shown and several uncomplimentary remarks were used towards the chairman. When order was restored he said he would ask Mr Arthur Seabrook to again be his warden. He had helped him all he could during the past year and he believed he had the good of the parish at heart. Mr Seabrook accepted the office. The chairman said the next business was to select a Parish Warden, but before doing so he would read a letter from the Archdeacon, which would he thought be of some guidance to them, as there was some common belief that the incoming churchwardens were responsible for the outgoing warden's debts. They were about £20 behind. The letter was to the effect that the newly awarded churchwardens were in no way responsible for any debts which their predecessors had contracted, and could refuse to pay them, but might as they saw fit pay out the old wardens as soon as funds allowed.
The letter was received with cheers and uproar. When silence was again restored, the chairman asked them to elect a warden for the parish. Mr Goodenough proposed Mr GH Dell, Mr Sears seconded. Mr Bailey (Chambersbury) proposed Mr W C Child, This was seconded by Mr W S Cook, The chairman having put names to the meeting, a show of hands was taken and Mr W C Childs was elected. Mr Child briefly thanked the vestry for his election. Another call was made for the accounts which were then produced by Mr Davis. An attempt was made to examine them, but owing to the prevailing disorder no satisfactory conclusion seemed to be arrived at. There appeared however, to be a deficit of about £20 which Mr Davis said was due to a great extent to the falling off of subscriptions. He mentioned a few who he said had refused to subscribe any more.
The sidesmen were elected en bloc Mr WW Sears was appointed to represent the parish at the rural decanal conference. Mr Bailey proposed a vote of thanks to Mr Davis for his service as Churchwarden, which was seconded by Mr Hart. The meeting broke up while this was being put. [Gazette 5th April 1902]
This view of the Vicarage grounds was taken in about 1908. If you look carefully you can see the tennis net in the foreground.
[This page is taken from my book "Archive Photograph Series: Leverstock Green & Bennetts End." ]
The date of this painting of .the Vicarage is uncertain as is the artist. However as the Rev. Durrant was himself a skilled artist it could possibly be one of his. This photograph was taken many years ago and its whereabouts is no longer known. My thanks to John Powell for providing the scanned image.
One of the earliest community projects the Rev. Durrant was to involve himself in was the raising of funds to secure a Parish Hall for the village. Beginning in 1904, the Rev. Durrant was the instigator and chairman of the committee raising money for this worthwhile cause; later becoming Chairman of the Trust set up to manage the land and later the Hall itself once it was opened in 1920. (See web page on Parish Room Trust)
By virtue of his position as Vicar, the Rev. Durrant was on the board of managers for the village school. In this role, and also that of Pastor to the school, he was frequently visiting the school as is recorded in the school log books where he was frequently recorded as "taking class.........to Holy Scripture." It was also his job to check and sign the registers as having been correctly compiled, and report on the findings of the school Inspectors. Below is a brief extract from one of Rev. Durrant's entries in the school log:
The Rev. Durrant was very much at the centre of secular life in the village as well as its spiritual life. Naturally he was involved in the Sunday School as well as the National School, as indeed was his whole family.
This Sunday School photograph was taken about 1920. The Rev. Arthur Durrant is seated in the middle with his wife all in black to his left (R. as viewed). Two of their daughters Lorna and Dorothy can been seen to the back right in front of the windows, Lorna at the end with a dark hat, and her sister Dorothy to her right ( L. as viewed) in a white straw hat.
Another of his secular interests was with the newly formed Girl Guides. He was the Guides' chaplain and meetings and camps took place in the Vicarage grounds. He also accompanied the local Guides when they went to Hyde Park at the end of May 1913 :
LEVERSTOCK GREEN GIRL GUIDES AT HYDE PARK PARADE
A number of members of the 1st Leverstock Green Girl Guides, in charge of their captain Miss Cox, attended the Empire Day gathering in Hyde Park on Saturday and were very much impressed with the ceremony. Altogether some 9000 boys and girls were drawn up in columns and afterwards inspected by the Princess Royal, Lord Roberts and Miss Baden Powell. The Leverstock Green Girl Guides journeyed to London by Motor Bus accompanied by some members of the committee and the chaplain the Rev. A. Durrant. Near Marble Arch they joined the Laughton company and marched to the Park. Captain Cox was marker of the 6th section, which comprised some 80 girls. It is interesting to note that the Leverstock Green Company was one of the first to be formed in the country, the movement having being initiated about 4 years ago. [ Gazette 31 May 1913]
Taken about 1914, Leverstock Green Girl Guides wih their chaplain Rev. Arthur Durrant. The camp was probably in the vicarage gardens.
He got involved with other activities as well as this extract from the Gazette concerning Coronation Celebrations in June 1911 shows:
LEVERSTOCK GREEN CORONATION CELEBRATIONS
A long list of successes in regard to Coronation celebrations in the villages in this district has been chronicled, but few were more thorough and passed off more harmoniously than those of Leverstock Green .This little village proved its loyalty by highly creditable displays. The committee, with the Vicar, the Rev. A. Durrant, on the bridge, and the schoolmaster Mr. T H Ford on the helm, spent many hours of careful thought and discussion in arranging details,..............
Although according to the tenets of the time the Durrants were the social superiors of the majority of Leverstock Green residents and their families, all the members of the family participated in the social and fund-raising events which formed such an integral part of life in Leverstock Green before the second world war. From the numerous reports in the local paper of the entertainments in Leverstock Green during the first 20 years of the twentieth century, it is obvious that the Durrants were a highly talented family musically, and they were prepared to use those talents for the enjoyment and benefit of the local community.
Fund-raising for the Parish Hall generally took the form of musical or dramatic entertainments performed in the school. The very first of these, held at the end of December 1904 had the Rev. Durrant acting as Chairman and MD, while his wife Alice entertained the audience with her violin playing. In the second concert during that first season not only did the Rev. Durrant act as Chairman, but he also was one of the artiste's performing a song. Throughout the following years various members of the Durrant family helped entertain the Leverstock Green community at numerous events. Alice Durrant, Arthur's wife, was an accomplished pianist as well as a violinist, and she could also play the church organ, frequently obliging at weddings etc. She also formed a small orchestra which was popular when playing at local events. Arthur Durrant himself played both violin and cello; Enid played the violin and Michael the cello. Less is known about Dorothy's musical talents as she was very much the baby of the family, not being born until 1906. However she is reported as providing the percussion by playing the tambourine in 1921 as one of her mother's orchestral players for a weekly dance held in the newly opened Parish Hall.
The whole family had good singing voices, and would often perform solos and duets at the various entertainments in the village, as well as providing instrumental playing. Vocally they effectively formed their own chamber choir: Arthur was a bass, Michael a tenor, young Enid a treble and Mrs. Durrant an alto. Part of a report of an al Fresco concert in the village in 1909 stated that: "A glee party consisting of Miss M E Grover, Miss E. Durrant, and Masters C. & W. Parkins as trebles; Mrs. Durrant and Mrs. Umfreville as altos, Mr. W. Dell and Mr. A M Durrant as tenors and the Rev A. Durrant and Mr. W. Seabrook as basses delighted the audience with three glees, the voices harmonising splendidly together." Michael was obviously also prepared to let his hair down a bit more and took part in "an amusing duet in costume, by Messrs H. Lavers and A M Durrant" in 1905 . A few years later in 1909 taking part in " an amusing nigger duet" with Mr. G. Evan-Thomas. At the same concert his sister Enid "gave a pretty skipping display."
As well as entertaining the village community with their musical talents, members of the family also contributed to the local community in other ways. As previously mentioned the Rev. Arthur was one of the original committee who raised funds for the Parish Hall, eventually becoming the first Chairman of the Trust when it was established. The vicar was also one of the prime movers several years later in raising funds in order to build a new village school, eventually opened in Pancake Lane in 1930.
Mrs. Durrant was often called upon to present gifts and prizes at local events, and was obviously held in great esteem by the locals as shown by the following report in the Gazette for May 11th 1907 -
"MOTHERS' UNION A meeting of the Leverstock Green branch of the MU was recently held at the Vicarage and an interesting presentation to Mrs... Durrant the Vicar's wife, on the occasion of her birthday took place. The gift consisted of a silver-mounted glass box suitably inscribed, and was supplied by Mr. J. Kimmich jeweller of the Broadway Hemel Hempstead........"
The Gazette then went on to report the speech of thanks delivered by Mrs..Durrant.
During the First World War Alice Durrant encouraged the women of the village to enrol in the Women's Land Army, taking the chair at a public meeting in February 1916 which explained the scheme.
Sadly Alice Durrant died on October 2nd 1927 aged 61, and was buried in Holy Trinity's churchyard. The spot chosen by her husband being next to the path where the Rev. Durrant would pass everyday whist journeying between the Vicarage and his church. (Click here to see page showing the graves and memorials of the Durrants within the church and churchyard.)
However in 1935 a memorial Mother's Union Banner, made in her memory, was blessed.
A BEAUTIFUL BANNER
DEDICATION SERVICE AT LEVERSTOCK GREEN
On Sunday evening after evensong at Holy Trinity Church Leverstock Green, a banner for the Mother's Union, given on memory of Mrs Alice Mable Durrant, wife of the Vicar (the Rev. Arthur Durrant), who was for 26 years the Enrolling Member for this Branch of the Society, was dedicated by the Vicar. The banner, held by Mrs Ayre, who was supported by Mrs. W.J. Seabrook and Mrs Simmons, was carried in procession around the church, being preceded by the Vicar and the choir, singing the hymn, "For All the Saints Who From Their Labours Rest", and followed by the children carrying their own little banner and processional cross. The many mothers, who assembled to participate in the dedication of their banner, and the other members of the congregation, were thus enabled to see the beautiful design and exquisite embroidery close at hand.
The design, which was generously presented by Mr. Christopher Webb, of St. Albans, is of a full-length figure of the Blessed Mother, with the Holy Child in her embrace, seated on a stone bench, as it were, in a garden, with tiny flowers in clusters around her feet. The background of this central panel is of white brocade, against which the deep blue robe of the Virgin stands out in bold relief, softened by the flowing veil, the subdued red of the lining, the gold of the tunic, and the black cincture and sandals. On each side is a panel of blue, on one of which is worked a shield bearing the emblem of the Blessed Trinity, and on the other side a vase, made of cloth of gold, holding the lilies of the Annunciation. Above and below the figures, which are surrounded by an aureole, the title is inserted in letters of gold. The lining of soft plum colour, the fleur-de-lys fininshings of brass.
This magnificent design has been exquisitely embroidered and mounted by Mrs. Sydney Clarke, of St. Albans , whose beautiful work is so well known and admired and who undertook this skilled and most exacting task as a labour of generous love in memory of the old friend of her girlhood days. "We at Leverstock Green" writes a correspondent, "feel that it is difficult to express our gratitude to her for all the hours of patient thought and work that she has expended in order to produce our lovely banner, for her work seems, indeed, to be inspired, in the perfection and delicacy of every part, especially the faces, so difficult to manipulate in needlework, but which she has made to be mostly sweetly gracious and attractive
The Durrant's son Michael was obviously a very talented young man, and like his parents willing to use his talents for the benefit of the Leverstock Green community. In June 1909 The Gazette reported the following:
LEVERSTOCK GREEN - A Local artist. Mr. Michael Durrant, son of the Vicar is to be congratulated on having his picture of Leverstock Green Church hung in the Academy this year. Mr. Durrant has also had on show at LEVERSTOCK GREEN a ...... Drawing of the proposed parish hall for the village and this picture was much admired by the visitors at the sports on Whit Monday.
Enquiries made of the Royal Academy showed the painting hung in the summer exhibition to have been of a design for a rood screen for Holy Trinity Church. Possibly this design was later used by his father when commissioning the screen erected in the 1930's. Michael was also to exhibit at the Royal Academy the following year, this time a design for a font at a church in Cromer.
Lorna (R) and Dorothy (L) Durrant enlarge from Sunday School Photo. See the webpage on Dorothy for a stunning studio portrait of her in later years.
No photographs have come to light to date of Enid.
The Durrant's eldest daughter, Lorna, was to spend most of her adult life in Leverstock Green, dying unmarried in 1950 at the age of 65. A memorial to her is inscribd upon the oak rood screen commissioned by her father. (Click here to link to Durrant memorials) She too played an important part in the local community, being one of the Sunday School teachers and involved in the Girl Guide Movement (along with her mother), though she was also to be the cause of much strife and anxiety for the Rev. Durrant as well as his parishioners. Lorna must have trained and qualified as a teacher at some point as in the school log book for 11th June 1917 - Miss Lorna Millicent Durrant (Vicar's elder daughter) was noted as being a certificated supply teacher, who was covering for Mrs. Ford who was unable to attend to her duties. Lorna would have been nearly 31 years old at this time.
A very successful missionary pageant and garden fete, in aid of the Universities Mission to Central Africa, was held on Saturday in the Vicarage Grounds. Both afternoon and evening performances were given and well attended, a large number of people from Hemel Hempstead being among the assembly, while great interest was evinced in the play, in which there were no less than 140 performers, and which was specially written for the occasion by Miss Laura Durrant.
However, in 1932 Lorna was to find her private life splashed all over the National newspapers, making Leverstock Green, her father and herself notorious and leading to the breakdown in her own health and a rift, possibly never to be healed, between the Rev. Durrant and his parishioners.
On the 17th February 1932 - Leverstock Green became headline news in the national press:
PATHOS OF A
"HER HEALTH - AND
"Daily Express" Special Correspondent.
I am able to reveal today the truth about a strange real-life story of the battle between a father's love and anxiety for his child and a constant lover's love and loyalty for his sweetheart.It is a story which has all the elements of drama and tragedy in it, and it should be told in order that the cloud of misunderstanding should be lifted.The leading characters in this moving tale that centres on the village of Leverstock Green , between St. Albans and Hemel Hempstead , are three:-One: The vicar's daughter, Two: The vicar Three: The vicar's one time gardener, now a successful Canadian rancher and farmer.
Many years ago the vicar's eldest daughter Lorna Durrant, fell in love with the vicar's young gardener. It was more or less a boy and girl affair, and there was a secret understanding between them.
It was hardly to be thought the vicar would give his eldest daughter to his young gardener, and indeed the youthful lovers did nothing so foolish as to ask him. Instead the lad, fired with love and ambition to make good, deserted the unpromising opportunities of Leverstock Green and migrated to Canada.
He has made good right enough though it has taken him many hard years of work to do it..
When he first went out somewhere near the beginning of this century he was a strong good looking boy of the village. Now he is fifty and Lorna is forty-five. He has made good and come home again.
The pair it appears, have been corresponding, though Mr. Durrant apparently did not know from whom the Canada correspondence came. The aforetime gardener, now a well seasoned, clean-limbed, clear-eyed man is in Leverstock Green, having arrived for his bride, whom he feels he has well earned.He went straight on his arrival to her father's house, But Mr. Durrant objected to giving his 45 year old daughter in marriage.
I saw the father at his vicarage today and found him quite willing to give his reasons for refusing his consent to his daughter's marriage.
"The village thinks", he said with tears in his eyes, "that I am simply acting the proud father. It is quite true that I object to unequal marriages with social differences, but that was no means the final reason.
"It is something far more serious than that. My daughter some years ago suffered so badly, that she had to be certified and put under restraint. In fact she has been under such restraint altogether on two occasions for seven years.
"Then four years ago she recovered and came back to live with me.
"I came home yesterday week and found him with my daughter. My consent to a wedding was asked, but I really could not give it. As I say, I might have waived the question of any social difference, and I have said as much to another daughter in discussing the matter, but this further question of health is too serious.
"I have consulted a specialist, and he said I have acted quite rightly. I have also been to see my Bishop. His view is the same.
"How can I let a daughter of mine go right away to a farm in Canada? If she wereto have any recurrence of her trouble she might wander away and be lost in the snow or somewhere.
"And now comes the crowning part of what I have to tell you.
"My daughter, last week, after his return, went to stay with a friend at St. Albans , and a day or so later I got a message "Come at once", I went and found Lorna distraught beyond words.
"So serious was it that three medical men who saw her said that she should again be placed under supervision for the time. With proper authority this has been done."
The old vicar wept in his trouble.
"Now the village has turned has turned against me. I shall not preach next Sunday. I am really so distressed I don't know what to do."
I heard elsewhere that at one of the services on Sunday last there was very few persons present in church, and at the Communion Service only two.
Then I saw the would be bridegroom. His attitude towards the matter is that if Lorna is free to do what she likes after the month's observation in the institution, where she is, he will get married whatever happens. Whether the bride is liable to suffer from mental difficulties or not makes no difference to him.
"Who is the best to look after her if she is ill? he asked me. Isn't it the man who loves her and whom she loves.
"This is no boy and girl affair. It is a deep attachment which has grown with the years. I guarantee to take care of her.
"Mr. Durrant talks about her getting lost in the snow and all that, but he does not know Canada. I can get a doctor to my farm in fifteen minutes."
On 20th February 1932 The Daily Express once more took up the story of Lorna Durrant:
GOOD NEWS FOR
THE LOVER WHO
Daily Express" Special Correspondent.
I learn tonight that there is an excellent chance of a happy ending to the love affair of the vicar's daughter and the Canadian farmer who was once her father's gardener.
This has been brought about by a dramatic development which occurred yesterday.
The Rev. Arthur Durrant, the seventy-year-old vicar, I understand has withdrawn his objection to the marriage of his daughter, Lorna, to her childhood sweetheart, Mr. Frederick Seabrook, who recently returned from Canada, where he emigrated twenty-eight years ago promising to make good and return to claim Lorna's hand.
Mr. Durrant returned to this village yesterday to conduct a funeral service, and immediately after his arrival he cycled to the home of Mr. Seabrook's father. Mr. Seabrook jun. was out and the vicar left a message asking him to call later at the vicarage.
When Mr. Durrant returned to the vicarage, Mr. Seabrook was waiting for him, and the two men had a long conversation inside.
A HAPPY ENDING
Tonight Mr. Seabrook told me that the vicar had defiantly withdrawn his objection to our marriage.
"Mr. Durrant" he said, "told me that he actually withdrew his objection to our marriage before Lorna was taken to the nursing home, and he explained that he was too busy with church affairs to let me know. So I think that after all there will be a happy ending."
Miss Durrant is still in the nursing home at St. Albans and Mr. Seabrook told me that it would not be possible for her to leave within a month.
"I have inquired about her," he said, "and I am told she is going on well. She has asked about me several times, and the knowledge that her father has withdrawn his opposition to our wedding will be a great relief to her, and will help her to get well quickly."
I understand that the vicar has informed the Bishop of St. Albans that he feels he cannot take the services at the parish church on Sunday. Consent has been given by the Bishop for someone else to deputise for him.
The Gazette was strangely quiet on the subject of the Durrants at this time, but on 19th February 1932 - Following the previous national coverage of the Durrant/Seabrook Romance, the following article was published in the Herts Advertiser :
THE VICAR'S DAUGHTER
ROMANTIC LOVE STORY AT
WHY CONSENT TO MARRIAGE WAS REFUSED
REV. A. DURRANT'S STATEMENT TO
THE "HERTS ADVERTISER"
A romantic love story in which, however, there is an heavy element of sadness, was revealed this week, at Leverstock Green.
The central figures are the Vicar of Leverstock Green (the Rev. )A. Durrant, his eldest daughter, Miss Lorna Durrant and Mr. Fred Seabrook.
It is a story which has its beginning over thirty years ago, when as a lad of eighteen, Fred Seabrook, the eldest son of Mr. & Mrs. Reuben Seabrook, of "Bennetts End" Leverstock Green , was given employment at the Vicarage there as a gardener.
There he met Miss Lorna Durrant, and a boy-and-girl friendship sprang up between them which was to ripen into something deeper as the years went by.
After two years at the vicarage, Fred Seabrook left to find work in other parts of the country, and in 1904, he went to Canada.
In the years which followed, he established himself as a rancher and farmer, and now at the age of fifty he has a ranch at Saskatchewan.
Never, did he during those years, did he lose the impression made upon him, when first he met the Vicar's daughter as a young girl, and apparently a correspondence ensued between them which increased his determination to return home to seek her hand in marriage.
About three years ago he came from Canada to Leverstock Green for twelve months' holiday and personally renewed his long-standing friendship with Miss Durrant. He returned to Canada and did not come to England again until about three weeks ago.
Immediately upon his arrival, he again met Miss Durrant and went to the Vicar to ask his consent to their marriage. The Vicar, however, felt there were reasons which compelled him to refuse that consent.
Those reasons, the Vicar related to a "Herts Advertiser " representative, yesterday. He was deeply affected while giving his objections, the chief of which relates to the mental health of his daughter.
While the Vicar has decided views that there should be social equality in marriage, he made it clear that this was entirely a secondary consideration in causing him to oppose the marriage.
It transpired that Miss Durrant's health at one time necessitated her being in a mental institution for seven years, and that owing to the excitement caused by the events of the last few days, it has again, upon medical advice, been necessary for her to enter an institution.
The Vicar said that when his daughter first signified her affection for Mr. Seabrook, her late mother and he (the Vicar) thought that this was a passing infatuation, - a boy-and-girl affair - and took little notice of it.
It was not until Mr. Seabrook returned from Canada, a few weeks ago, that the matter again came to his notice. He had since learned that Lorna had been corresponding with Mr. Seabrook while he was in Canada, but she did not tell him so at the time.
"Came to Marry Lorna"
"The other day," continued the Vicar, "Mr. Seabrook suddenly appeared in the hall of the Vicarage and said that he had come home to marry Lorna. I was so taken by surprise that I could not say anything. Afterward I saw him and told him that he ought not to marry Lorna, giving him my reasons.
Apart from pointing out the differences that might arise through their having been brought up in different environments, I told him that my main objection to the marriage was that I felt it might tend to again unstabalise my daughter's mind, explaining to him that my daughter had already received treatment in a mental institution.
"I then consulted the mental expert who had previously treated her and asked him for his opinion. He said that marriage might have an adverse effect on my daughter's mind, and he would give me a written statement to that effect.
"Meanwhile my daughter had gone to stay with a friend at St. Albans. When, on Mondaylast, I was about to go to the doctor for the statement, I received a telephone message from my daughter's friend saying "Come over at once." I went, and found my daughter is a state of great mental excitability. Marriage was then out of the question.
"I did not know what to do. There was no one at the Vicarage to look after her, but I suggested that she should be taken there and I would get two nurses to attend to her.
"The Doctor, however, said he thought it would be better under the circumstances, for her to go into an institution. A magistrate was called in, she was certified and taken to Hill End Mental Hospital.
It is said in the village that Miss Durrant has been looking extraordinarily happy since Mr. Seabrook arrived home, and it was generally understood that there was an understanding between them, although Miss Durrant wore no engagement ring.
The strong feeling which the romance has aroused and the subsequent events caused by Miss Durrant's departure from the village have, however, given rise to circumstances which are deeply felt by the Vicar.
"Up in Arms."
"When I went back" he said, " I found the whole village up in arms against me, because they thought I had done a very wicked thing."
"I think, that when they know the whole of the circumstances, they will not want to criticise me. Mr. Seabrook feels no resentment towards me, and we are quite good friends; in fact, we have just had tea together. We intend to do everything we can for Lorna, and, if she gets better, I will consent to their being married.
"It has been entirely on account of my daughter's health that I have refused consent; that has always been the primary objection in my mind."
Miss Lorna Durrant is regarded with the utmost affection in the village, and the Vicar says she has been of very great help to him in his work and at the Vicarage.
She was trained as a teacher, and gained all her certificates. Her chief interests have been the Sunday School and the Carol league.
The Vicar feels that he cannot take the services it he Parish Church on Sunday and has communicated with the Bishop of St. Albans, who has consented to someone deputising for him.
In the midst of all this national publicity, Lorna's youngest sister Dorothy was to quietly marry in South Kensington Registry Office, later receiving a church blessing from her father. The wedding was presumably so low key following the national publicity afforded Lorna and Mr. Seabrook. The wedding took place on 29th February 1932. ( see separate web page on Dorothy)
Finally the sad story of the thwarted lovers was to draw to a close, and this was reported on 22nd April 1932. The Herts Advertiser reported:
THE LEVERSTOCK GREEN ROMANCE
MR. SEABROOK RETURNS TO CANADA
The Romance of Miss Lorna Durrant, eldest daughter of the Vicar of Leverstock Green, and Mr. Fred Seabrook, a prosperous Canadian farmer who was once the Vicar's gardener, has, apparently, come to a dramatic close.
Mr. Seabrook returned from Canada to his home in the village, about two months ago, to marry Miss Durrant, whom he met when he was a gardener at the Vicarage twenty-eight years ago.
The Vicar, however, objected to the marriage, on the grounds of his daughter's health, and later she was removed to Hill End Mental Hospital St. Albans, for a month.
As time passed, the vicar withdrew his ban, and Mr. Seabrook waited on in the village in the hoping for the return of his fiancé in better health.
Last Friday, however, he left for his ranch in Saskatchewan, and Miss Durrant is still in the Hill End Institution.
A representative of the " Herts Advertiser " who called on Mr. Seabrook's mother at Bennetts End, Leverstock Green this week, was told that Mr. Seabrook had returned to Canada because he was unable to wait any longer. His business requires his presence there.
"He went away broken-hearted," said his sister.
The Vicar told our representative that he often visited his daughter, whose health is slowly improving.
"I do not know when she will be able to come home," he added.
[ Herts Advertiser April 22nd 1932]
With the Gazette giving the following report the next day:
RETURNS TO CANADA
The return of Mr. Fred Seabrook to his ranch in Canada has rather upset the expectations of a happy wedding bells climax to a Leverstock Green romance. It will be remembered that Mr. Seabrook returned to the homeland some time ago with the expressed desire and intention of marrying Miss Laura Durrant, the daughter of the Vicar of the village. Miss Durrant is however, in a nursing home, and as her health does not show signs of immediate improvement Mr. Seabrook has decided to go back to his ranch.
It is stated that he is broken hearted at being unable to marry the Vicar's daughter, who he has know for many years, as he was engaged as a gardener at the vicarage when he was 18 years of age. He left England in 1904 and has established a ranch at Saskatchewan. He is now 50 years of age. He made an acquaintance with Miss Durrant as a boy and renewed this when he came home for a holiday three years ago. Immediately on his arrival a few months ago he went to the Vicarage and said that he had returned to marry Lorna. The Vicar at first objected and a good deal of publicity was accorded the romance. Miss Durrant was however taken to a Nursing home and has not been able to leave since.
Mr Seabrook has had to return to Canada to attend to his business [Gazette 23/5/1932]
Sadly Leverstock Green, and members of the Rev. Durrant's family were to be in the limelight once again fairly soon following the death of his youngest daughters' husband in September, to be followed by her own adventures in the Libyan Desert and Iceland and her eventual death from an accident a year later. See web page on Dorothy Durrant.
Arthur Durrant was to suffer considerable grief over his children. Michael and Dorothy died young when full of promise and Lorna caused great anxiety over her health and personal matters. The Durrant's middle daughter, Enid, must also have caused her father ( and possibly her mother too) considerable anxiety, though initially all would have been as they would have wished. On the 22nd February 1919 the Gazette proclaimed the following:
"An engagement is announced between Charles Hazeldene Moore, Kings Shropshire L.I. only son of Mr. & Mrs, H.T. Moore of Redbourne House near St. Albans, and Enid Mary, the second daughter of Rev. Arthur and Mrs. Durrant of Leverstock Green."
They were to be married the following August, the Gazette reporting the Marriage in their edition of 23rd August 1920. The wedding took place at Holy Trinity in Leverstock Green. The Rev. Durrant gave the bride away, with the ceremony being conducted by Rev. Cannon E.J. Gallop. There were two bridesmaids, the bride's sister Miss Dorothy Durrant and her cousin Miss Stella Pelly. The Hon Robert Grimston (a scion of the Earl of Verulam from Gorhambury) and Master Richard Randolph acted as pages. Sadly the marriage was not to last, ending according to local gossip in divorce, with Enid remarrying and going to France to live with an artist. Although divorces were less rare in the early part of the twentieth century that the previous century, they were still not really "the thing" and definitely NOT what was expected of a carefully nurtured daughter of a Church of England clergyman. By the time of Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton's death in 1932 Enid had married a George Anson, for the couple were staying with her sister Dorothy & her husband at Moor Place when he was taken ill and died. Little else is know of Enid other than the fact that she was reputedly a good artist.
In 1932 The Rev. Arthur Durrant commissioned a massive oak Screen which was erected across the chancel arch, cutting the church in two. He dedicated the screen to those members of his close family who had died since his coming to Leverstock Green. In the latter part of the twentieth century this screen was reordered and moved back in the chancel. However the beauty of the light oak pierced screen and its carving is still an integral part of the church where the Rev. Durrant worked and worshiped for 36 years, a lasting memorial to his family.
The death of Rev. Arthur Durrant, whilst still in office occurred at the beginning of July 1936. An elaborate funeral took place on Wednesday 8th July, and a special programme was printed for the preceding watch over the coffin which took place on Tuesday 7th, and the funeral mass held on the Wednesday morning. The funeral itself took place at 2pm. on Wednesday 8th July text.
It was noted in the programme that:
" His first lesson to us, his spiritual children, was that in our Church going we should put first what God Desired, which was our Worship of Him, and be careful not to put the desire for our own personal satisfaction and edification in the first place instead."
A further note in the programme suggests that the Rev. Durrant had been ill for some time as "The Love of the Good Shepherd was the subject of his last sermons - II Sunday after Easter, April 26th." Presumably as his last sermon had been preached over two months previously he had been incapacitated since that time.
The Rev. Durrant left lasting memorials in the church to his family, not just with the Rood Screen, but also with the four angels commissioned by the congregation in his memory (see entry for 1942 and click here to view page on Durrant memorials), and the huge old lectern, now disused. This lectern was made from timber recovered from an old disused boat in Rye (Sussex), and which Rev. Durrant's son Michael had made into the lectern and presented to Holy Trinity. It was an appropriate gift as Michael Durrant frequently read the Lesson.
Memorials were also given by members of the congregation in remembrance of Arthur Durrant. The most prominant being the four carved and gilded angels, originally "flying" from the top of the altar screen and now placed about the Sanctuary following the re-ordering of the church. The Mothers Union in addition donated a brass vase in Arthur Durrant's memory. (See photos below)
10th July 1936 - The Herts Advertiser & St. Albans Times carried the following obituary:
THE REV. A. DURRANT
THIRTY-SIX YEARS VICAR OF
VILLAGE IN MOURNING
The whole of the village of Leverstock Green was in mourning on Wednesday, when the funeral took place of the Vicar the Rev. Arthur Durrant, the news of whose death on Friday was received with profound regret.
Long before the funeral service the mourners began to fill the parish church and kneel in silent prayer with their eyes fixed on the draped coffin which stood in the chancel, and on which rested the late Vicar's biretta and stole.
The Rev. Arthur Durrant was a native of Suffolk and was born in the parish of Rumburgh. He was educated at Yarmouth Grammar School and at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he took his degree of BA in 1881. At the University he was a keen oarsman. He rowed for his college and received a trial for the Cambridge boat. He was also a football enthusiast in his early days.
When he left Cambridge he was, for a short time, an assistant master at Cheltenham College, before he entered the Ministry in 1883, being ordained at St. Albans to the curacy of St. John's Stratford. Later he was in charge of the St. Peter Mission, Plaistow, for, 1886 to 1889, and again from 1891 to 1894. For the two intervening years he was curate at Saffron Waldon. At Plaistow he was compelled to carry on his work in a little mission room and quickly started an ambitious scheme for building a church in the district. He was responsible, through wonderful efforts, for the beautiful church which stands today in Upton Lane Forest Gate.
Mr. Durrant was passionately fond of his East End work, and it was a great disappointment to him when he had to give it up owing to his wife's health. It was at Plaistow that he was concerned with the Du Panloup system of Catechising, the system of the clever French educationalist, which he continued in his work at Leverstock Green . He left Plaistow to becomeVicar at Upton Cross serving there from 1894 to 1899.
At Leverstock Green his primary interest, as in all his previous work, was with the children, and it seems fitting that his last public work should be in connection with the building of the new Church Schools there. It was a truly magnificent accomplishment that a village such as Leverstock Green could undertake such a scheme involving over £5,000.
It was through the unceasing efforts of Mr. Durrant that the scheme materialised in May, 1931, when the Bishop of St. Albans opened the new school, and that he lived to see the parish cleared entirely of debt in that respect, the last £50 being received a week before he died. He was for many years Chairman of the school Managers.
When his wife died in 1927, his cherished desire was for a memorial to be erected in the church and it was a great joy to him when so fitting a memorial as the beautiful carved oak chancel screen and rood were dedicated to her memory at the end of last year. His wife, Alice Pelly, was a daughter of Canon Raymond Pelly, who was vicar of Stratford during his curacy, and they were married in St. John's Church in 1885. There was a family of four - one son and three daughters.
His favourite pastime, which was a great conciliation to him in his declining years was his interest in art. He painted, during the last twenty years, nearly a hundred canvases, for the most part scenes of Leverstock Green and its surroundings. His subjects also included a number of French landscapes and scenes round Paris. He was for many years a pupil of St. Albans School of Art - and continued his studies there regularly every week to the end of last term. The Principal speaks well of Mr. Durrant's wonderful appreciation of colours. and many others have commented upon his work at local exhibitions. It is a remarkable fact that Mr. Durrant, when he was over seventy years of age. changed from water colours to oils with so great an appetite and success. Other examples of his talent in art are to be found in the beautiful illumined Litany he recently completed.
It was a great shock to him in 1916 when he lost his only son, Captain Michael Durrant MC, who was killed in the war when he was only 28 years of age.
A second tragedy was the death of his youngest daughter, Dorothy in 1933, widow of Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton whom she married the previous year.
Mr. Durrant during the war was Chaplain to the Queen's Westminster Rifles who were billeted in Leverstock Green, and later he dedicated a memorial window in the Lady Chapel to the fallen comrades of that Regiment.
On Tuesday evening, vespers were said and the service was conducted by the Rev. A.E.Power, following which a watch was kept in the church by various parishioners and friends throughout the whole of the night until 8.30 on Wednesday morning, when a Requiem Mass was conducted by the Rev. EA.. Power, assisted by the Rev. A.C.Jeffrey (Vicar of Chipperfield), and attended by a large number of parishioners.
The whole of the village was in mourning for one who had been their friend for many years.
BY the time the service was due to start, the church was full to capacity with schoolchildren, teachers, representatives of various local organisations, and parishioners of all classes.
The Bishop of Bedford was in attendance and other robed clergy present were the archdeacon of St. Albans (the Venerable H.A.Skelton), the Rural dean of St. Albans (the Rev. CH Edmunds, the Rev. A.C.Jeffries and the Rev. A. Hackback.
The service in the church was conducted by the Rev. A. Hackback (brother-in-law of the deceased) assisted by the Rev. C. S. Carey. The order of service included the hymn, "The King of Love my Shepherd Is," and Psalm xc., "Lord, Thou hast been our refuge."
Mrs. Grimwood was at the organ, and the special music she played was: "I know that my Redeemer liveth" and "O Rest in the Lord."
The Rev. EA..Power led the procession from the church to the graveside and was followed by the Crossbearer, acolytes, robed clergy, the immediate mourners, nurses who had attended Mr. Durrant during his illness, School Managers and teachers, school children, and finally the general congregation.
Children Lead Singing
The short, but impressive service at the graveside was conducted by the Bishop of Bedford. After the Bishop had pronounced the Blessing, the schoolchildren, who were standing by one side of the grave, led the hymn "Now the Day is Over."
Immediately the family had retired to the Vicarage, the general mourners filed past the graveside, hesitating for a few moments to pay their last respects and look down upon the coffin.
The immediate mourners were Mrs. G. Anson & Miss L. Durrant (daughters), Mr. N. Durrant (brother), the Rev. A. Hackblock and Mrs. Hackblock (brother-in-law and sister), Miss Durrant (Aunt), Mrs. & Miss H.K.Foster, Mrs. Mortimer-Rowland and Lady George Cholmondeley (sister-in-law) Mr. & Mrs. P. Wooley (nephew and niece) Mr. R. Durrant and Mrs. Rosedale (cousins), and Lady Clayton East.
Others in the Congregation
The Mayor of Hemel Hempstead (Mr. A.H.Jarman), Mr. A.E.Usher (Town Clerk) and Mr. B. Webster represented the Leverstock Green School Managers.
Others present included the Countess of Verulum,...... (there then followed a long list of numerous representatives of groups and organisations e.g. Scouts, Guides, the school, the St. Albans School of Art , the Baptist chapel, the local Conservative Association and all the local "worthies", and many others from the village.)
As was to be expected at that time the Rev. Durrant and his family were widely respected in their local community, and played a key part in all the everyday life of the village. The Rev. Durrant also undoubtedly had private income of his own as they could afford a considerably more lavish lifestyle than the majority of the rest of the Leverstock Green community who at the time were mostly either farmers, agricultural labourers and their families, or brickmakers and their families. A governess was employed to teach Enid and Dorothy and two local girls who were privileged to share their education in return for their companionship (they did not attend the local school as pupils); they had their own private carriage - as had their predecessor - and they employed several servants and gardeners - the latter to form family complications later. The 1901 census, just two years after their coming to Leverstock Green, showed the Durrants employing three live-in servants: Elizabeth Hyett the cook; Rose Lee a Housemaid, and Harriet Littlefield Enid’s nurse. The Durrants also had extremely well connected relatives who from time to time visited them at the Vicarage.Alice’s brother, aged 19 and an army officer was visiting on the day of the 1901 census. Noteable by his absence was 12 year old Arthur Michael away at school – probably Malvern College Prep School
Kelly's Directory for 1902 records that the net yearly value of the living of Holy Trinity was £271, reducing to £240 in 1908 but rising again to £258 per annum by 1926. At the time this would have constituted the main income of the incumbent.
The Vicarage in Pancake Lane was itself after Chambersbury the largest house in the village, and its rather spacious grounds, were often home to "village" events such as pageants and school "treats". It was also the scene of a minor society wedding when the Rev. Durrant's sister got married in 1901.
INTERESTING MARRIAGE AT LEVERSTOCK GREEN
Marriage of Miss Marion Durrant youngest daughter of the late Mr G F Durrant of South Elmham All Saints Suffolk and Mr Arthur Hackblock of Coltshall Norfolk took place at the parish church Leverstock Green on Tuesday May 23rd -..................... bridesmaids were Miss Lorna Durrant (niece of the bride), Miss Dorothy Heathcote, Miss Charlotte Pelly, Miss Binfield and Miss Marion Binfield....................... The bride was given away by her eldest brother Mr G F N Durrant and Mr Herbert Hackblock acted as best man. The ceremony was performed by Rev A. Durrant, vicar of Leverstock Green (brother of the bride) the service being fully choral. Mr Childs presiding at the organ. The church was tastefully decorated by Mrs Bailey. A large congregation was present.
During the afternoon a reception was held by the Rev A and Mrs Durrant at the vicarage....... (Then followed ad long list of guests)
Both bride & groom were recipients of numerous and costly presents..................... left for honeymoon in Switzerland in the evening. [Gazette 1st June 1901]
Lieutenant Arthur Michael Durrant, MC
The Durrant daughters: Lorna, Enid & Dorothy.
These two undated snapshots show the Rev. Durrant and his daughter Lorna. The right hand picture was taken outside the Vicarage. The originals are in the possession of John Powell, to whom I am grateful for their use. They were entrusted to him by Hilda Dell of Pancake Lane when he was resident at the Old Vicarage (Danehurst).
In September 2002 I was fortunate to be contacted by Frederick Seabrook's nephew & his wife. Fred remained a bachelor for the rest of his life, but was a dearly beloved Uncle to his brother Leonard's ten children. After retiring, Fred moved to the small city of North Battleford in Saskatchewan where he lived to be 82 years of age, eventually dying in hospital in North Battleford on March 17th 1964. The photograph to the right was taken in about 1951/1952.
When emigrating to Canada Fred Seabrook had been given a pipe and tobacco pouch as gifts by the Church.
The Mother's Union Banner of 1935 in memory of Alice Durrant.
This painting, recently given to me my May Williams nee Matthews and her neice Maureen Kelly, was painte by Lorna Durrant as a present for May's mother. Unfortunatly the painting is neither signed, nor can May remember what the occassion may have been. It is, however, tempting to speculate that it was meant to be a depiction of the procession of the Mother's Union following the dedication of their new banner. (See above.)
Click on thumbnail to enlarge and read inscription
"Interest in Art."
Watercolour painting of St. Albans by the Rev Arthur Durrant. Click image to enlarge. My grateful thanks to Madge Field for allowing me to reproduce this here..
The design of the new Parish Hall was described later in the same edition of the Gazette:
A plan of the proposed building has been prepared by Mr. C. Ford Whitcombe, A.R. I.B.A. And Mr. AM. Durrant which allows of a main hall to seat 200 people, a class room to sit 50 at tea, a stage, a library, a cloakroom and a kitchen and a coal-place. By taking away a moveable partition a view of the stage will be possible from both the main hall and the class room and there would be seating accommodation for 270 persons. With regard to the exterior it is proposed to have a red-tiled roof and white walls with Dutch brick dressings.
Sadly the hall which Michael helped design was never to materialise, and Michael himself was to die in 1916 a war hero, having been awarded the Military Cross, only a few months before:
MILITARY CROSS FOR VICAR'S SON
The Military Cross has been awarded to Temporary Second Lieutenant Arthur Michael Durrant, 8th Battalion Royal North Lancashire Regiment (attached to 171st Tunnelling Company as described in the London Gazette: "For conspicuous gallantry and resource near Frellingheim on 23rd December 1915 When a charge placed by our miners in a German gallery had only partially exploded and warned the enemy; Second Lieutenant Durrant, with two other officers, succeeded and placing a second charge which demolished the enemy's gallery. There was imminent danger throughout of the Germans exploding a mine. For several months Second Lieutenant Durrant has been carrying out dangerous work in almost constant contact with the enemy, and has set a fine example of coolness and determination. Lieu. AM Durrant is the son of Rev Arthur Durrant, vicar of Leverstock Green. [Gazette 12th February 1916]
His obituary in the Gazette for 16th December 1916 read as follows: -
"We regret to record the fact that the name of Captain A.M. Durrant, M.C. R.E., son of the Rev. Arthur Durrant, vicar of Leverstock Green , figured in the list of officers killed, published on Wednesday.
The gallant young officer is one of three from the patriotic village of Leverstock Green who have won the military Cross in the present war. He enlisted in the ranks shortly after the outbreak of war, joining a London Fusilier Battalion. After Christmas 1914, he transferred to the Loyal North Lancashires, with whom he crossed the channel. Obtaining a commission he was attached to a tunnelling section of the Royal Engineers, and it was while on this dangerous duty that he gained the Military Cross. Second Lieutenant Durrant ( as he was then) was in charge of a mining party which accidentally broke into a German mine just about to explode. The situation was full of possibilities, but they young officer kept his head and prevented the Germans from exploding their mine by exploding his own first and blowing the enemy party to fragments. He has been home twice on leave, and on one of these occasions married Miss Jemima Wilson, a daughter of the late Captain Belford Randolph Wilson, 19th Hussars, of Grey Wells Hants.
Before enlisting Captain Durrant was practising as an architect, being a member of the firm of Mooresmith & Durrant, E.C. He showed unusual aptitude for his work, gained his A.R.I.B.A. And specialised in church building, and practically re-built the Parish Church at Broadstairs."
For additional details on Michael's military career click here to see web page concerning those men who served in the forces during WWI from Leverstock Green. We know from the decendants of Michael's widow that he had no children.
THE LEVERSTOCK GREEN CHRONICLE
an in-depth history of one village in Hertfordshire UK.
Click to link to principle LG Chronicle web pages.