Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

BROWN Rev'd George - Memories of a Village Evangelist

George Brown of Woodborough

The villages of England have supplied to all departments of service valuable labourers who have often obtained distinction, and the subject of this sketch is surely worthy of a place among that number.

George Brown (great-uncle of Cornelius Brown, of Newark), was born at Woodborough in 1759. His father was a Godly man and a framework knitter. George was brought up to the same business, but very early displayed a thirst for learning, and the village had a rare privilege for those days, a school endowed by the Rev’d, Mountague Wood, Rector of St Michael’s Royal, London, who had property in Woodborough and Lambley.

Mr Wood was a descendent of John Wood, Recorder of Newark 1627, and also of Sir Richard Mountague, Lord Chief Justice of England, a pioneer in education 130 years before the first Education Act. One of its first masters was Richard Oldacres, an enthusiastic teacher who ran the school at a stipend of £30 a year and a free evening school as well as a boarding school, teaching English, Latin, Greek, algebra, surveying, navigation, astronomy, &c.

It was from this fount that young George drank, for his biographer says he made some proficiency in Greek and Latin. About the year 1788 he became acquainted with the Countess of Huntingdon, and that at her request entered her college at Trevesca, and after one year’s study was set apart as an itinerant minister to the villages, for they were sadly neglected, Dr. Thoroton said of Woodborough in 1677: “A populous village, but for the most part the church is empty”.

George, who knew the need all too well, used to say that many of the clergy carried a dark lantern; his consuming passion was to bring them the light. His labours were very extensive considering that, like St Paul, he was always minded to go afoot. His “parish” was the counties of York, Lincoln, Warwick, Worcester, Hereford, &c. Thus he tramped from village to village and house to house. In the cottages of the poor and the drawing rooms of the rich he brought to all the good tidings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He used to sign himself the “well-wisher of the poor”. He has been known to come home without his shirt, having given to someone poorer than himself his own. He had an extensive knowledge of the Bible and was called a walking concordance. At one time he was so long away his friends thought him to be dead. Mr Rowarth of Nottingham found him at Worcester, with the words of St Paul (2 Tim.1 16). “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Mr Rowarth, for he oft refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chain, but when he was at Worcester he sought me out diligently and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may have mercy of the Lord in that day, and how many times he administered unto me at Nottingham thou knowest very well”.

That Mr Brown’s ministry was made a blessing to many these few extracts from many letters found among his papers will show. “The friends of Christ in Herefordshire have been refreshed by the frequent labour of your highly esteemed friend George Brown. I trust his work has been abundantly blessed and that he will have an eternity to adore the providence of God which sent him here, and to admire the grace which would not let him spend his strength for nought”. A lady writes: “I have been favoured with an opportunity of hearing Mr Brown again. How gracious is my heavenly Father for thus opening to my springs in the desert”. Another writes: “I am happy to let you know that our aged brother has been labouring here publicly and from house to house in weakness and in health, the Lord giving him much favour with all the people”.

Thus for 54 years he exercised a much needed ministry. Taken ill at Worcester, he was brought to his friend Mr Rowarth, but at his own wish was brought to Woodborough, and at his brother John Brown’s his gracious spirit the saints’ everlasting rest, October 23, 1833-a happy end of a noble life. On the south side of the churchyard a stone marks his burial place with this arresting inscription still legible: “Whose faith follow”.

John Clayton, Methodist Recorder 1933.


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