Whatever Happened To The Bapchild Burial Club

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This is a question I asked myself having reviewed a copy of the Sittingbourne, Milton & District Directory. This document dated approximately 1902 was found by Jan Kingsley, which detailed the character and listed the residents of our village at the turn of the last century.

We often think that a lot has changed over the last hundred years but perhaps a closer examination of this document may prove that statement to be inaccurate.

The description of our village was recorded as follows,

Bapchild is an ancient parish situated on the main road from London to Dover and about a mile south-east from Sittingbourne. The area of the parish is 1085 acres and the population is 421. The village is purely agricultural and the land heavy clay with chalk sub-soils which supports fruit growing. Other areas of the parish supply clay to the brickfields in the neighbouring town of Sittingbourne.

The Parish Church dedicated to St Laurence is built of flint and in the style of Norman and Early English with a shingled spire and one bell. The parish registers date back to 1562 and the memorials in the church mainly relate to the Gascoyne and Lake families. The present Vicar is the Rev James Horan who has held the Living since 1881 and would have lived at The Old Vicarage in School Lane.

Mr. T.A.Thompson was the Headmaster of the Bapchild and Tonge National School and the assistant teachers were his Wife and Miss.M.Wood who took the infants class. The Headmaster and his Wife lived in the School House and it should be noted that every Head of the School has lived in this property since the school was founded in 1852 until 1999.

The document revealed the character of the village at this time through the clubs and societies, which met regularly and some of these are listed below.

  • Parish Council Meetings held quarterly, Chairman Mr. E.B.Gascoyne.
  • Church Services, St Laurence at 11.00 a.m., 3.30 and 6.30 p.m.
  • Baptist Mission Services 10.30 a.m. and 6.30 p.m.
  • Clothing Club every Monday.
  • Girls Friendly Society Class at 4.00 a.m. every Wednesday.
  • Bapchild Cricket Club, Secretary Mr.F.C.Beacon
  • Bapchild Post Office, sub-postmistress Miss Emma Pinn. (Collections and Deliveries three times daily!)
  • Bapchild Burial Club every third Tuesday, Secretary Mr.T.Usher.

One particular society was the Fox and Goose Hand-in-Hand Benefit Society. This Club met every fourth Monday at the pub for the purpose of providing sick pay and death money, which together with the Burial Club was an early local forerunner of social services and support now, provided by central government.

The directory also describes the houses and their locations with names still known today, such as Pretoria Cottages, Porch Cottages, Muddy Lane and Radfield. Many family names survive from this period for example Gascoyne, Wood, Monk, Baker, Shilling, Terry and Kennard to list just a few.

So as we entered the new millennium and prepared to see further expansion of this ancient settlement perhaps the character of our village has not changed as much as we think. The Church and Public House are all still here as well as the Cricket Club, Parish Council and other Societies have taken the place of those that existed a hundred years ago. The surrounding countryside is still predominately agricultural and would be recognizable to our forebears but we shall probably never see the return of the Bapchild Burial Club?

Supplied by Richard Bush 15th May 2004