During a recent sort-out of years of accumulated clutter in my study, I came accross some copies of historical newspaper cuttings that I was given some time ago by The Shefford History Group. One was about the re-opening of St Michael's Church after a major restoration completed in 1907.
I've included a transcript of the article below (from the Bedfordshire Express, dated 2nd March 1907) - no pictures unfortunately, nor is the journalist acknowledged. A remarkably detailed piece of journalism, made all the more impressive by the lack of technology available for recording such fine-grained detail at the time.
THE RE-OPENING SERVICE
ADDRESS BY THE BISHOP OF ELY
On Saturday, the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Shefford, was re-opened by the Bishop of Ely after having been restored, a very large number of parishioners and others attending.
The Church, which was formerly a Chapel-at-ease to Campton, but was separated about four years ago, is a plain stone structure with a perpendicular Western Tower, containing one bell.
The tower and part of the north aisle dated from the 14th century, but the rest of the Church was comparatively modern, it having been restored in a very careless manner in 1850. But little of the old structure except the walls and the tower remained after this time, and so poor was the workmanship that when the further restoration was suggested in the early months of last year the interior resembled a large barn, was very draughty and not weatherproof.
When the Rev. W.[R sic] K.Stuart was appointed to the living of the newly-constituted ecclesiastical parish some three years ago a restoration scheme was under consideration, but eventually it was abandoned, and it was not until last July that the scheme that was brought to so successful an end on Saturday, was taken in hand by the Vicar and Churchwardens. Messrs. Mallows and Grocock were consulted, and they submitted plans which met with approval, and the work was soon put in hand, appeals having in the meantime been made for subscriptions. This scheme involved provision of new inner roofs, re-seating throughout, the provision of new screens and altar and new heating apparatus, at a total cost of between £800 and £900. The pleasing appearance and comfort afforded fully justifies this outlay. The floor has been re-laid with wood blocks, the walls coloured in artistic shades of green and handsome panelled inner roofs of semi-circular span designed by the architect, put under the old roof. The seats of pine, are very comfortable and are well-planned, a north aisle having been added. In the centre aisle are two radiators, and around the building are hot water pipes, this part of the work having been carried out by Messrs. Kilpin and Billson. The sanctuary has been most tastefully fitted.
A new altar of fumed oak occupies the centre of the east end of the church, and on the north and south sides respectively, which has been re-decorated in keeping with the general scheme, and the choir vestry, both being separated by handsome screens of fumed oak of pleasing design. On either side in front of the altar are three new oak choir stalls, and to the south is a handsome oak pulpit with open-work panels, and approached by wooden steps from the back. The altar is furnished with a new brass cross and candlesticks. The church is well lighted by inverted incandescent gas lamps. Of the total amount required upwards of £500 has been collected by the Vicar and his helpers, entirely by subscriptions. Messrs. Page and Sons of Buckden, Hunts, were the builders.
The robed clergy clergy present at the service on Saturday included the Bishop of Ely, Archdeacon Bathurst, the Rev. J.Pycock (Rural Dean), the Rev. G.M.Osborn (Campton), the Rev. C.M.Greenstreet (Northill), the Rev. J.A. Guilleband (Southill), the Rev. R. Isherwood (Meppershall), the Rev. L.H.Postgate (Shillington), the Rev. W. Clark (Upper Stondon), the Rev T. Collison (Gravenhurst), the Rev. R.S.Bagshaw (Henlow), the Rev. G.J.Mayhew (Arlesey), the Rev. H.F.F.Williams (Silsoe), the Rev. W.C.Browne (Haynes), the Rev. A.D.Atkinson (Chaplain Three Counties' Asylum), and the Rev. A.E.Wanton (Holwell).
Archdeacon Bathurst and the Rev. J.Pycock read the lessons, and the prayers were intoned by the Vicar. Suitable hymns of thanksgiving were sung, and after the Bishop's address and blessing the Te Deum was sung as a psalm of thanksgiving.
Sermon By The Bishop
Preaching from the words "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's house" the Bishop said they were accustomed to remember them as they read them in the authorised version, "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business." But the words as written in the revised version were very true, for it was the Saviour's meat and drink to accomplish His Father's work. The words were remarkable ones and were regarded as essential to the Law of Jesus Christ: in them He spoke of his heavenly Father and Mother and proclaimed what was the best law and habit of His life. His Father's house was His earthly spiritual home: I sat daily in the temple preaching and teaching, but ye heard me not, but said: Depart. And now they had come into the house of their Father to re-dedicate it anew to His service and join together in prayers of thanksgiving. As the Bishop of the diocese, he rejoiced to meet them and join with them in those prayers for God's blessing for the future, and praise for His blessing in the past. He was going simply to remind them of the uses that they must put that parish church. They passed it in the street; it stood in the midst of their homes, yet separated from them to remind them in the cares and pleasures of daily life, preaching to them a silent sermon. They entered by the font, and every time they came in it should remind them that by baptism they were made the children of God, dedicated to God because redeemed by the precious sacrifice of Christ. That church bore some of the characteristics of those in which Christ worshipped, for they read that. He preached and read in the synagogue of of His native town. They came to the lectern, the place where the Bible was read, the Bible which gave them the record of God's revelation of the earlist ages. Did they remember how when the Saviour read read that book and explained its meaning all the eyes of those in the synagogue were rivetted upon Him? So might they learn day by day, and especially on Sundays, as they listened to the appointed lessons. They had in those lessons the greatest and grandest portions of the Bible. But they must make the habit of the church the habit of the home, and read their bibles there. They would find much in them which they could not understand, but they also find much that would make them wise unto salvation. There were the ancient collects which had been on the lips of the members of the Church for centuries. He knew it was difficult to throw their hearts into them sometimes and really pray them, and now as they heard them in that renovated church let them pray that they might really pray them. Then there was the pulpit where was proclaimed to the God's news of reconciliation; and that was a grand doctrine. There they knew they were to serve God with their minds and intelligence, as well as with their hearts, and that true belief must bear fruit in a true life.
Then the whole church lead up to the Holy Table, where they received the symbols of the body and blood of Christ. They who were endeavouring to do God's will though conscious of many failures and many sins should frequently come there that they might draw nigh to Christ and live after His example and according to His will. And so, in that quiet season of Lent the re-opening of that Church should speak to them of a new spirit. Let them use that church as they had never used it before. There they would bring the joys and sorrows of their lives: the children who were to be received into the Kingdom of God; ther would come the bridegroom and the bride; and there they would bring those who God had called again to Himself. Make it your spiritual home, the preacher said in conclusion; it is your Father's house and here in an especial way God reveals Himself. Make that your habit and law which Christ made His habit and law from childhood to the end: I must be in my Father's house.
Originally Published: 2nd March 1907 in the Bedfordshire Express
Uploaded to SM3A Website: 17/11/2019 (by Stephen Lines, SM3A Webmaster)
Source: (Copy of a press cutting donated by): The Shefford History Group