Arthur Hugh Rawlins ROBINSON, MA, BMus.

1879- 1945

Vicar of Ringmer 1936 – 1939

  

Rev Arthur Robinson arrived in Ringmer in July 1936 and stayed until July 1939, but for the last few months of that time he was in ill health and other clergy had to help out by taking some services. After leaving Ringmer he and his wife retired to Cambridge where he died on Christmas Day 1945. His was only a short incumbency and at the end of his working life, but I think we can still detect his influence today!

  

Born in 1879, his father was the Rector of Whitechapel then later Vicar in Aston, Warwickshire. Arthur was clearly talented as not only did he win a Foundation Scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge, but he also became the ‘Stewart of Rannoch Scholar’ for Sacred Music. In 1900 he gained his BA in Classics and the following year a bachelor of Music degree. His musical ability proved to be of significance in his future career in the church.

  

Ordained in 1909 in Canterbury he subsequently served in a variety of places including: Westgate on Sea, St Martin in the Fields in London, and in Maidstone. During the First World War he was a temporary chaplain to the Royal Navy.

  

In 1926, whilst Rector of Mersham, in Surrey he married Madeline Rachel Walpole who had also been a student in Cambridge and had subsequently worked as a Librarian. The newly married couple went out to South Africa where Arthur becamethe Rector of Doornfontein in the Transvaal. However after two years his health was suffering and they were obliged to return to UK. They had no children.

   

On return to the UK he first became Rector of a parish in Lancashire, but then returned to Kent as Vicar of St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe, and after five years there, in 1936, he came to be Vicar of Ringmer bringing an interesting and varied background.

  

Arthur Robinson

Rev. Arthur Robinson at the planting of the Holm Oak with John Christie and his children, Rosamond and George.

There are two ways in which we can still detect his influence today. In 1938 there was a ceremony on the Village Green, just outside Springett Cottages, to plant the Holm Oak. Sussex Express reported that the Rev Robinson led the prayers. Just look at the size of the tree now, those prayers were effective!

 

There are two ways in which we can still detect his influence today. In 1938 there was a ceremony on the Village Green, just outside Springett Cottages, to plant the Holm Oak. Sussex Express reported that the Rev Robinson led the prayers. Just look at the size of the tree now, those prayers were effective!

   

The other way that makes Rev Robinson special was his particular interest in church music. When he left the parish in Mersham the local paper reported that the church possessed one of the finest choirs in Surrey. The most notable innovations during his inspiring leadership were his organ recitals and congregational practices after Sunday services”.

  

He soon began to influence the music here in Ringmer. He introduced congregational practices, described as ‘singing lessons’ after the Sunday evening service. These included talking to them from the pulpit on various aspects of church music and then leading them in practice.

  

The Sussex Express wrote that “The result was that the congregation took an increased interest in the hymns” and continued “ he has done much to raise the standard of music in the village”.

  

Of course Mr Robinson came to Ringmer at a key time for the development of music here. Two years previously The Opera House at Glyndebourne had opened and many Ringmer residents were already involved in one way or another, and it also brought new people to live in the area. One of these was George Austin, a member of the musical staff at Glyndebourne . He became organist and choir master here at St Mary’s two years before the Rev Robinson arrived.

  

The Rev Robinson and George Austin must have made a formidable team musically and after a year of working together they decided to reorganise the church choir and allow women to join. They decided to do this because of the lack of boys. Mr Austin explained “The trouble is that Ringmer is such a large parish – its boundaries cover over 25 miles – that the majority of the boys live too far from the church to attend choir regularly. It was a popular idea and the women came forward readily to help lead the singing. We now have a large choir for a village, and unlike many churches, the members are all robed, which averts clashes of colour among the women’s dresses. Our principal endeavour is to do simple, good church music well.”

  

It is not surprising that women came forward as George Austin was already conducting the Ringmer WI choir. In 1938 The Bishop of Chichester visited St Mary’s and afterwards he paid tribute to the “beauty and reverence of the musical part of the service”. He was so impressed that he suggested to the BBC that they might broadcast a service from Ringmer. As a result, on Sunday 4th June 1939 at 9pm a shortened evensong was broadcast from Ringmer church. The newspaper report gives full details of the bell ringing, the organ voluntaries and the order of service and it also lists all 30 members of the choir, which included amongst the boy sopranos Denis Wicks who subsequently became well known opera singer.

  

That choir also included Mr B. Courage and Miss E. Richardson who having met in the choir subsequently got married and their daughter Ruth Peters still sings in the choir today! The church choir still wears robes but now a different colour. So it seems that we can still detect the influence of Rev Arthur Robinson today. The tree is still growing and the choir are still singing!

 

Anne Stamper

23/6/2016

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