When Carter came to Clewer

Several writers, including Carter’s biographer, have made much of the poor state in which he found Clewer Church and parish on his arrival in 1844. For some time the parish had been under sequestration owing, it was said, to “the intemperate habits” of the former Rector, William Henry Roberts.

The later years of Roberts’ incumbency may have been clouded, but it seems as though those who sought to boost Carter’s reputation chose to ignore much of what had gone before.

The parish registers make it clear that Roberts was the first rector for perhaps a hundred years to devote himself to the parish and not to live at Eton leaving Clewer to a curate. Roberts conducted most of the services himself. Sometimes his father came to help and he always signed himself “Vice Provost of Eton.” This does not suggest a state of neglect.

Roberts, during his 13 years, did what no predecessor had done: he ministered the sacraments and took the statutory services for hundreds of parishioners. The Church in his time was sufficiently well thought of for wealthy parishioners to set their mark on it. In 1828 Col. Dare of Clewer Green had his distinguished friend, Daniel Paterson, buried in the north aisle, with an impressive stone to mark the spot. When Lord Harcourt died in 1830 an important marble by Sievier was placed in the north-east corner. His wife, Mary, is also commemorated. In 1837 the same family installed a memorial to Ann Woods who had served the Marquise d’Harcourt for many years. In 1834 Clewer Church had its own book of hymns and psalms printed. One of Roberts’ churchwardens was George Kellner, an important member of a family of Court musicians.

None of this suggests a church in a state of neglect. I believe that possibly Roberts’ last few years were sad, but that historians have chosen to ignore what had gone before in order (perhaps not consciously) to enhance Carter’s role.

Denis Shaw