Formation of a Temperance Organisation in Frome.

(An account by Joseph Chapman of Portway, Frome, written in about 1882)

Letter from Band of Hope
[For full size left click on image]

No authentic record is in existence of any attempt to form a Temperance organisation in Frome prior to a meeting which was held on the 1st July 1836.

Some few persons in this Town had been awakened to a sense of the enormous evils which intoxication inflicted on society, and this was mainly due to the agitation in Lancashire, and the discussion in the House of Commons in 1834 arising out of the motion of Jas. Silk Buckingham the member for Sheffield, for a Select Committee enquiry into the Causes & Results of Intemperance.

Amongst those few was one whose perceptions and sympathies were ahead of his colleagues, and his name is the principal one deserving of historical prominence. Henry Crine, a gentleman by birth and family connections but who by some means or other had become reduced in circumstances, had adopted Frome as a location, and the office of School Master as a profession. He was a member of the Baptist Church in Sheppards Barton, and a devoted worker in every branch of christian effort. Few of his scholars are now settled in Frome, or indeed survive, but it is the pleasant duty of one of them bear testimony to his work, and especially to record the fact that to him under God's providence the Town and neighbourhood is indebted for whatever of good has resulted from the unbroken witness bearing of over 50 years against the common & habitual use of intoxicating drinks.

During the years 1834 & 5 he gave his Sunday afternoons, or portions of them to personal visitations to every household where he could gain access, endeavoring to secure adherents to the principle of total abstinence which he had himself adopted.

One of those, and so far as can be known at this distant period, who signed his Pledge Book, and has ever since maintained an uncompromising attitude towards strong drink, from a period of at least 12 months anterior to the formation of any Society, still lives in the town, as the wife of the writer of this article, and with her husband has been for more than 46 years a member of the Committee of the present "Band of Hope and Abstinence Union".

"Not unto us O'Lord but by thy name be all the Praise".

On the 1st July 1836 Henry Crine, S.W.Strong, Saml.Horton and Henry Aggs, met together, but the place of meeting is unknown, it was probably at the residence of the latter, for he was called to take the chair at their little meeting -Two resolutions were passed:

"1st. That it is expedient to form in the town of Frome, a Temp. Society upon the principle of Total Abstinence from all Spiritous and Fermented liquors."
"2nd. That this meeting adjourns to Thursday next when it is hoped each gentleman now present will attend and bring one or more persons who may be interested in the movement."

Before recording the results of subsequent meetings it seems but right to say a word or two with reference to each of the remaining three Pioneers of Temperance effort in Frome. Samuel Horton was a native of Lincolnshire who had established himself as a grocer in the Lower Market Place. He was a Local Preacher amongst the Wesleyans, and was frequently called to account for his somewhat erratic movements. He was the first to preach a Temperance Sermon in the Town, and occasionally afterwards in the pulpits of the villages around, where he had to officiate, and on two or three occasions, without obtaining the necessary permission. He introduced the writer, and others to do the same thing, which of course gave offence to some, and especially to those in authority over him. He did good service to the cause for many years, but his Political partisanship at one of the Elections overcame his judgement and his principles, and marked him in so much inconsistency of conduct, that he never recovered his position and influence as a temperance reformer.

This was the torch night of the Society. Like the cloud seen of old from Carmel it was "little as a human hand", but it has never ceased to spread, and more or less to shed forth its beneficent droppings on a drink stricken population.

Saml. Strong and Henry Aggs, were both members of the Society of Friends. The former was a Tradesman, a Tin-Plate worker, and in 1842 emigrated to New Zealand, and from thence for more than 40 years, occasionally sent monetary help, or words of kindly sympathy to those who were still endeavoring to cultivate the field of labour, the boundaries of which he had been one of the first to define. Henry Aggs, was the first manager of the Frome Branch of the Wilts and Dorset Bank, but of his Teetotalism, after the regular organisation of the Society very little, if anything, is known.

On the 7th July the same gentlemen were true to the appointment, but they had only succeeded in obtaining the presence of one other person who in the brief record kept by the same Chairman who presided over the first meeting, is simply styled Wm. Jones. This gentleman was without doubt a Baptist minister, then and for some years after resident in the town, but who never grasped the Temperance Banner with a manly hand, nor bore it aloft with the energy, and endurance of a Hero.

The Ring of Metal of this newcomer may be soon detected as of the "Sounding Brass" order , for his name never appears after this meeting, when he speedily signalised himself as the mover of the 1st Resolution "That 2 pledges shall be adopted by this Society", and by a subsequent resolution the duty of preparing the 2 forms of Pledge, devolved on Henry Crine.

Pursuant to adjournment they met again on the 14th July and adopted for submission to some future meeting of a more public character, the following declarations.

"1st. We whose names are underwritten knowing that many and great evils result from the use of ardent spirits and also from partaking of fermented liquors in Public Houses, Taverns, or Beerhouses hereby agree to observe the following rule so long as we remain members of this Society. We agree to abstain from Distilled Spirits except for medicinal purposes, to use all other Liquors in moderation, and to discountenance the frequenting of Public Houses, Taverns and Beerhouses, together with all other causes of, or practices tending in any degree to Intemperance."
"2nd. We whose names are undersigned knowing that many and great evils result from the use of Intoxicating Liquors, hereby agree to observe the following rule so long as we remain members of this Society. We agree to abstain from all from all Intoxicating Liquors except for medicinal purposes, or in Religious ordinances."

No document exists in which appeal may be made for the name of those who signed either of these forms of pledges. All that can be known is that at a subsequent meeting, the record of which was so imperfectly kept that it is without date, Henry Aggs announced that J.S.Buckingham had kindly consented to visit Frome, and would lecture on the subject of Total Abstinence on the 9th November 1936. Mr.B. visited the town and lectured in the large Wesleyan Chapel, and at the close the 2 pledges were adopted experimentally for three months. S.Horton & Henry Crine acted jointly as secretaries, but notwithstanding the duties were so divided that minutes of meetings were very imperfectly kept, when at all.

On the 1st February 1837 J.A.Smith of London, one of the earliest educators of the people on the chemical properties of alcoholic drinks, and their physiological effects gave a lecture in the Friends Meeting House. "Some few re-signed their names, and a few others were added". Ones regret deepens at the paucity of the reward. How many constituted the "few" in either case, or which of the Pledges received the greater number of signatures must remain an unsolved & unsolvable mystery. It may be interesting to note a PS to this shadow of a minute referring to the first attempt to vindicate Total Abstinence on physiological grounds , "Some little disturbance took place, but not much moment".

On the 17th March another meeting was held in the Wesleyan School Room and 3 Brothers named Hayward from Bath were the speakers and now another name appears, that of the then Minister of Zion Chapel.

No [....] [.] have rejoiced more than that of him who compiles this brief history, could have written otherwise than this "The Rev Mr C__ made some observations considered by some as calculated to neutralize the good impression" The Priest and the Levite true to the original type, passed on "the other side".

On Good Friday March 24 - the first meeting was held in the National School Room in the afternoon, and again in the Evening at the Friends Meeting House Speakers were "Reformed Character" from Bath - The Chairman was Mr. Cotterell from Bath, the father of J.H.Cotterell, who again and again came to Frome in those early days to help the struggling cause. At this date also, it is recorded "We have no Committee, most of the members have not [resigned] the pledge, so that the affairs of the Society are managed by the whole of its members who meet at Mr. Crine's every Wednesday at 7 o'clock - No. of members 38"

By the 20th April the number of members had increased to 51, but no meeting of a public character was held (except one in the "Ranters Chapel" at which Saml. Horton preached the first Temperance Sermon) until the 18th July when a Tea Meeting was held for the first time in National School Room, 139 were present, and after the tea a Public Meeting was held in the same place. The author of the "Curse of Britain", Mr. R.Baker, then Independent Minister at Shepton Mallett. Messrs Cotterell father and son from Bath, and some local Friends took part. Also Robert Charlton from Bristol whose venerated name appears for the first time in the records of the temperance work in Frome.

The Historian of the time briefly and somewhat regularly states "We had a most delightful day, and many signatures were obtained" 202 persons had up to this date signed the Pledge of Total Abstinence. 20 had withdrawn from membership and at this early date we have also the record of the nucleus of the "Band of Hope" for "14 Juveniles" had been admitted to the Society. The expenses to this date were 9.13.9 with a deficiency of 13/3

During the summer the second Borough Election took place and as usual the accustomed influences of drink and demoralisation came into full play. On 9th Nov 1837, the 1st Anniversary of Mr. Buckingham's visit, and the public formation of the Total Abstinence Society was celebrated in Rook Lane Chapel and the following interesting facts are recorded as the work of the year.

 
        Adult Members  242  Juveniles  74
        Withdrawn       57  Withdrawn   6
                       --------------------
                       185             68   Total   253


"A flourishing branch has been planted at Nunney. Brothers Vickery and Hird amongst the Primatives cultivate it with great care."

"Branches have been attempted at Road, Mells and Leigh on Mendip. Nunney and Leigh are the most promising."

"Drunkards have been reformed, converted and led to join the Christian Church and are now the foremost to conduct our Temperance Prayer Meetings."

(These meetings were held for many years every Sunday evening, after ordinary services, in a cottage in Bell Lane).

On the 20th Dec a meeting was held in the Primative Methodist Chapel, 3 friends from Bath again assisted. 19 signed the Pledge, and Messrs Crine and Horton as Secretaries, were each presented with a silver medal.

On the 7th Feb 1838 the first regular Teetotal Committee was elected 11 in number and chosen by ballot. All these have passed away, several of them failed to continue "faithful unto death".

The first business of this first Committee was to agree on payment being made to one of the earliest members of the society (Mr.John Allwood) for his outlay on gas & coal furnished at the public meetings, and on their next meeting they received his renunciation of all claim and his assurances of willingness to serve the Society in any way he possibly could. He maintained his integrity to the last, and died at a good old age.

On the 7th June 1838 the number of members was recorded as 543. Viz 276 adults & 267 juveniles and 2 meetings per week were held in a room of a Private House at the rent of 1 per quarter. Some time in July the first picnic was held in Orchardleigh Park as a "Treat to the Juveniles", and at a committee meeting on Aug 10 it was resolved to appropriate the profits which had accrued from the same, to the Nunney Society. A revision of the members list having been made about this time it showed a falling off in numbers to 149 adults and 150 juveniles.

Aug 10. - Committee Meeting - Is recorded the first introduction of the Bristol Temp. Herald into our town for presentation to each of the Ministers for this and the coming month.

On the 25th Nov (Frome Fair Day) a Tea meeting was held, the results of which were considered "exceedingly satisfactory". These meetings, or their equivalents, have continued until now.

Feb 12/39 - It was decided in order to promote the interests of the Society by furnishing the Speakers with more extensive information, and to this end that the British Advocate & Journal in the London Intelligence for 1838 & 1839. The Temp. Examiner and some others were ordered to be procured.

March 12. - The committee decided that the profits on the recent Tea Meeting amounting to 1/7d be appropriated towards purchasing "Crockery for the use of the Society."

June 5.- Special Committee Meeting - in consequence of the death of Mr. Crine which took place on 4th June 1839, and on Sunday the 9th. He was buried "near to Zion Chapel, 26 members followed, wearing medals suspended by a Black Ribbon."

On Aug 20. - A tea meeting in Rook Lane School and 100 sat down. Chairman Capt. Clark,R.N. of Nunney, Isaac [Phelp] and Jas.[Strikman] of C.Cary and others spoke and 9 signed the pledge - no record from this date till Feb. 25th 1840 when Rev. J.Spooner of Hinton nr. Bath, lectured in the National School 11 signed the Pledge, a new committee of 7 were appointed - Joseph Chapman Secr. On the 27th and 28th Thos Whittaker gave two lectures in the National School Room - 33 signatures - on the 30th March Mr. Whittaker lectured again, and on 1st April at Nunney in the Primative Methodist Chapel.

On 21st April the record runs "The Rev. I. Williams (of Horningsham) was most rudely treated by young persons, the Brothers Smith were seriously injured, and a band of determined fellows are resolved to obstruct our progress. On the 30th the same gentlemen lectured at Rode and 42 signed the Pledge."

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The article is unfinished. While most of the manuscript is written in ink it is written in pencil from the 10th August. While there are a number of blank pages following the text the back page contains ( in pencil):

Thomas Hudson, 14 Hilda Road, Brixton, S.W.
1st Mr Thompson
2 Mr Saunders
3 Mr Thornton
4 T Hudson, London

According to the book "Temperence Pioneers of the West" by Thomas Hudson, that was published in 1887 these were the speakers at the "Grand Gala Night" on 18th November 1886 celebrating the thirtieth Anniversary of the "Band of Hope and Abstainers' Union", at which Joseph Chapman was Chairman.

The article must have been written in about 1882, as the Society was formed in 1836 and the writer comments "The wife of the writer had been for 46 years a member of an Abstinence Union". It seems likely that the document was used by Joseph as chairman of the meeting and that it, or a completed version was used by Hudson in his book published the following year.

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NOTES:

James Silk BUCKINGHAM
Born 25 Aug 1786 at Flushing nr Falmouth went to sea before age of 10.
1818 started a Journal in Calcutta, suspended in 1823.
1824 started "Oriental Herald" in London.
1828 started "Athenaeum".
1832-37 Member of Parliament for Sheffield. Then 4 years travelling in N.America.
1843-46 Projector of "British Foreign Institute".
1851 President of "London Temperance League".
Died 30 June 1855

William Sproston CAINE (1842-1903) A temperance reformer & (from 1886) a Liberal MP

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