Above: The main photo shows Taxal Church before the new south window was installed. So it would have probably have been taken in the late 1880s.
Today, the foreground is overgrown, muddy and crowded with grave stones. Under one of which lies Rev Evans (inset).
An 1888 newspaper report described the attack by Rev. Samuel Evans on one of Taxal Church’s most senior wardens as “One of the most exciting scenes ever witnessed in any place of worship in The Peak” (see previous post). And ended with the words “It is believed that legal proceedings will follow”…
A pugilistic parson tackles a lieutenant-colonel
The extraordinary scene in Taxal Church. The rector bound over.
At the Stockport County Police Court yesterday, before Colonel Howard and other magistrates, the Rev Samuel Evans M.A., rector of Taxal appeared in answer to a summons charging him with unlawfully assaulting Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Hall J.P. of Horwich House, Chapel-en-le-Frith, in the parish church of Taxal on Sunday last.
Defendent pleaded not guilty.
Mr Cobbett of Manchester who appeared for the complainant said that on Saturday last a vestry meeting was held at Taxal at which Colonel Hall was present in his capacity of parishoner’s warden. The meeting broke up without anything having been done and next day Colonel Hall posted a notice on the church door, calling another meeting for Saturday next.
When Colonel Hall went to the church on Sunday afternoon he found that the notice had been taken down and happening to have another copy in his pocket, he put it up and went to his seat in the church. At that time the rector was in the reading desk and the voluntary was being played.
The rector left the desk, went to the porch, took down the notice, and placed it in Colonel Hall’s pew, and having done so stood in a defiant attitude. Colonel Hall left his pew and went to the porch with the intention of fixing up the notice again, when he was followed by the rector who said “I forbid you to put that notice up”.
Struck him a violent blow
Colonel Hall replied, “Very well, I can stand here,” and held the paper in his hand. The rector then insisted on his leaving the church and as he refused he took him by the collar of his coat with his left hand and struck him a violent blow on the right cheek with his clenched fist.
He also struck a second blow but members of the congregation interfered and Colonel Hall walked out of the churchyard. Colonel Hall J.P. gave evidence and said that for some days he felt as if he had a mustard plaster on his face. He still felt the effects of the blow.
In cross-examination by Mr Brown who defended, witness admitted he did not reside in the parish but said he was a large ratepayer and was parishioner’s warden. When he put up the notice he was simply asserting his own rights and those of the people he represented. They had been 12 months without the sacrament having been administered in the parish.
Mr J.C.Bagley, grocer, said he was going into the church on Sunday when he met all the congregation coming out. He saw the rector, who was in a very excited state, seize Colonel Hall by the neck with his left hand, and with his clenched fist give him a violent blow on the right cheek.
He delivered another blow, when witness seized hold of the rector and asked him how he dare strike a member of the congregation. The second blow struck a man named Bennett, who went between them.
At this point Mr. Brown admitted the assault and it was agreed that no more witnesses should be called.
In defence Mr Brown contended that Colonel Hall, not being a parishioner, had no right in the church, that the vicar was asserting his rights in requesting him to leave and when he refused, to take steps to compel him to do so. Further, he contended that the juristiction of the magistrates was ousted.
The Rev defendent then consented to be bound over in the sum of £10 to keep the peace for six months, and to pay the costs of the day.
Parson v people at Taxal
The following Saturday another vestry meeting was held…
On Saturday afternoon a vestry meeting of the parishoners of Taxal was held in The Mechanics Institute, Whaley Bridge for the purpose of confirming the minutes of the last two meetings, passing the accounts of the late churchwardens and for the election of wardens for the coming year.
The meeting was called by the Lieutenant-Colonel Hall J.P., parishoners warden, who last week prosecuted the rector (Rev S. Evans) for assaulting him in the church on the Sunday previous.
Much to the surprise of those present, the rector was the first to arrive and took the chair. He said he had communicated with the Bishop’s secretary respecting the proceedings of that day week and was informed that it was in his power to appoint both churchwardens, but as it had been the custom for the parishoners to appoint one, he had no desire to depart from it.
He refused to allow a thing in the accounts relating to the services in the Mechanics Institute and also £44 due for flagging in the churchyard, because such work having been done without a faculty was illegal and those who did it could be punished.
If anyone questioned the legality or propriety of his action they could attend the visitation on Thursday next. If there was any kind of confusion at that meeting he should at once adjourn it, and they had their remedy.
He had instituted an action at law against certain persons for removing parish books from the vestry of the church, where they had been since 1739 until he became rector. He concluded by asking for a proposition for a parishioners warden.
At this point the meeting became very noisy. The meeting passed a resolution that the accounts be read first but the rector refused to allow this to be done or to put the resolution. He said they must appoint a warden and then they could do as they liked what they read.
The meeting declined to proceed with anything until the accounts had been read and after some excited proceedings the rector declared the meeting adjourned and left the room so that again nothing was done.
My thanks to Mike for his initial research. And to David Easton for allowing me to use information from his website: ‘The extraordinary parish of Taxal‘.