Pear Tree Church - Southampton

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Early Benfactions of Jesus Chapel

 

During the service of consecration of the church the Bishop had spoken of the altar as being "properly furnished". Was the silver borrowed for the occasion, we wonder, and did the Bishop know about it'? Why else would he express the wish that the offertory of £41 2s 2d, collected on a silver plate, should be used to provide a chalice for the new church'? It is not known whether this was done or not. The silver still in existence today all dates from after the Restoration of Charles II and mostly came as a bequest from a second Catherine Palmer, a maiden lady, probably a niece of the original benefactress, who died somewhere between 1680 and 1691 and was laid to rest in a vault in Jesus Chapel. The bequest consisted of a chalice, a cover, two handsome silver flagons, an altar cloth, a pulpit cloth and a cushion.

 

For knowledge of the early benefactions of Jesus Chapel we are indebted to the Rev. Thomas Andrewes, who became minister around 1705 or 1706. He sat down on one occasion and drew up a list of the benefactions known up to his day. He listed the gifts of Catherine Palmer and the Countess of Exeter, the bequest of silver of the later Catherine Palmer, the gift of land in Berkshire under Captain Smith's will, the small house in Sea Road provided by Captain Smith for the use of the curate in charge, the bequests made under the will of Nathaniel Mills in 1638, the annuity of £5 for which John Packer, Captain Smith's "most deare brother" had made himself responsible, and so on.

 

By the time that Thomas Andrewes had taken up his incumbency some of the benefactions still remained, but others had been "lost". The money of Catherine Palmer and the Countess of Exeter was still safely invested. The church silver was still in existence. The small house in Sea Road, known as the Old Parsonage, was still being used by the curate in charge. If it were sold, the Rev. Andrewes estimated it might bring in £10. Nathaniel Mills' bequests - £2 yearly to the parson of Jesus Chapel, £1 yearly for the upkeep of the church, and £2 yearly for the poor of the parish, to be paid for ever out of his manor or farm of Woolston - were still being administered by the mayor of Southampton, and three of his most ancient aldermen. But the ownership of the land in Abingdon had been disputed, so nothing was coming from that source, the Packer annuity was no longer being paid, and there were other losses in income.

 

It is hardly surprising that Jesus Chapel had sustained "losses", considering the turmoil and reversals of fortune which would have taken place during the trouble between King and Parliament, only a generation after the founding of the church John Packer, for instance, had been a very wealthy man who owned several estates, among them being Groombridge, in Kent. This estate eventually went to John Packer's great grandson, Philip, whose fortune declined and Groombridge had to be sold. If the benefaction to Jesus Chapel had been a charge on this estate, it would have been lost on the change of ownership. Captain Smith had also left his own family very well provided for, but in later years his son Richard appears to have had problems with money. A blank for a baronetcy purchased on his behalf by his father was never taken up, a copyhold to land in Bitterne was forfeited in 1641 (only two years after he succeeded to it) for non—payment of £41 l0s, the patronage of Jesus Chapel was sold by him, for £10 "in the hand", to Martha Mylles in 1685.

 

There is a poignant little story about one would-be benefactress of Jesus Chapel. This was Lady Martha Coney, widow of Sir William Coney of St Anne's, Westminster, half sister of the Catherine Palmer who gave the silver to the church and whose coat of arms is carried by the silver flagons. When Lady Martha died in 1691, she left a will in which she expressed the desire to be buried in the same vault at Jesus Chapel as her sister. Her wish was granted, and Lady Martha was laid to rest alongside her sister. After making a few bequests to relations, Lady Martha also desired that £30 "be set out at interest for the use of the parsons that shall belong to Jesus Chapel near Southampton ".This request was denied by her family, who said that her assets were not sufficient. As the Rev. T L 0 Davies wryly commented, years later, "The parsons can only regret that her means were not equal to her goodwill".