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  • Diana Wells

No Such Person as a Vicar of Twickenham?

A lively correspondence began on the letters page of the Richmond & Twickenham Times on 11 December 1954, the details of which were diligently kept and recorded in the albums of news cuttings compiled by the first archivist of St Mary’s, Donald Simpson.


The first salvo was fired by Horace Fletcher, of Wellesley Road, who wrote: When the successor to Canon Rogers comes to Twickenham, I am hoping that this may be the opportunity to put right a common misunderstanding. There are several parishes in Twickenham, each with its own vicar, churchwardens and parochial church council … with no authority over any of the others. It is quite incorrect therefore to use the expression “the Vicar of Twickenham” or “Twickenham Parish Church”.


The following week brought a well-argued response to this provocative statement from A.H.M. (Alan) Urwin, of Arragon House, Church Street, a notable local historian, who stated that The Church of St Mary the Virgin has been for more than 600 years and remains today the Parish Church of Twickenham, arguing that the newly created districts of Holy Trinity in 1841, St Philip & St James in 1861-2, St Stephen’s in 1875, All Saints in 1914 and All Hallows in 1940, were the grown-up daughters of the mother church of St Mary’s, while in no sense subordinate …  History, custom, legal accuracy and courtesy demand that St Mary’s should be recognised as the Parish Church of Twickenham.


The next correspondent, A.W. Woodhead, of Manor Court, referred to Crockford’s entry for the Vicar of Twickenham living in the Vicarage, Twickenham, while the other incumbents were respectively known as the Vicar of Holy Trinity Twickenham, All Saints Twickenham, etc. Canon Alan Rogers, who had just moved away to become Vicar of Hampstead, wrote that he had been instituted in January 1949 to the benefice of Twickenham, where he had no kind of jurisdiction over the other vicars and we all worked happily together as equal partners. As Vicar of Hampstead he found the situation to be “exactly parallel”, as St John-at-Hampstead was, in Alan Urwin’s words, the “Mother Church” in a place of many parishes.


The newspaper’s final item, headed IN A NUTSHELL, was a short but confident letter from William Hitchinson, the curate 1953-56, living at St Mary’s Lodge, The Vicarage, stating that The official title of the Vicar of Twickenham Parish Church is: The Vicar of Twickenham. As the final word on this matter, when our current Vicar was asked about this matter recently he looked at the legal document he was presented with by the Bishop at his induction, which reads that he was "Instituted to the Benefice of the Parish of Twickenham within the Diocese of London" - with no specific mention of St Mary the Virgin but definitely the Parish of Twickenham!




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