Rev William Newton
Rev William Newton was ordained in 1861. His first position was curate at St John’s Ousebridge, York, which he held for 11 years.
At the time of his appointment as vicar at All Saints’ Parish Church in 1872, Rev Newton, was a bachelor. However that changed on 24 April 1877 when he married Kate Fox, the youngest daughter of Rev Fox, the vicar of his previous parish in York.
Having retired, Rev Fox moved to Rotherham at the same time as Rev Newton, where he became an afternoon lecturer at the Parish Church.
On the occasion of Rev Newton’s marriage there was much rejoicing in Rotherham and the church was packed long before the ceremony. The streets outside were thronged and the crowds down High Street took advantage of windows and roofs in order to get sight of the couple.
Venetian masts were erected on each side of the pathway leading from High Street and an arch was constructed at the entrance of High Street. Buntings were hung from the church spire and the occasion was much celebrated in Rotherham.
In 1874 a public meeting, presided over by Rev Newton was held to consider a report prepared by Sir George Gilbert Scott on the fabric of the Parish Church. It was unanimously agreed that the restoration plan for the church should be adopted.
The old galleries were removed and the high backed pews replaced by more comfortable pews. The organ was moved to the north chapel making room for more seating in the transept. The whitewash was stripped from the walls and there were repairs to the roof and floor.
The reopening ceremony was attended by the Archbishop of York and Earl Fitzwilliam, together with a congregation of over 1,500 townspeople.
The cost of the restoration exceeded £10,000, towards which the vicar gave £1,000.
Following his concerns over the lifestyle of the townspeople and their drinking habits, and with the cooperation of the temperance movement, Rev Newton decided to establish a cocoa and coffee house in Wellgate, which he hoped would provide a counter-attraction to the many public houses in the town. He believed that in order for such an establishment to be successful it must be well thought out and well managed.
Philanthropy, in order to fulfil its mission, must be judicious and well-directed. It must also be sagacious and consistent.
The establishment proved very popular and he later purchased the reverse of a lease on the piece of land on which St George’s Hall was built.
St George’s Hall for some years became a centre for Church Work and learning where the working class could meet where beer and spirits were not served. In addition it provided rooms for community activity.
The stipend for the vicar of Rotherham in those days was only £200 pa, a third of which was paid to the previous vicar as a pension. However Rev Newton had a private income, which he used for the benefit of the town. At his own expense he built Stoneleigh, the villa adjoining the vicarage for the purpose of providing accommodation for his curates.
Unfortunately Rev Newton’s vicariate of Rotherham was to last for only seven years. His privately funded works and ministering to the townspeople of Rotherham had made him very popular and loved, and his care for the welfare of the community made the occasion of his untimely death much lamented.
Following a visit to his family home at Barrettes Park, Birmingham Rev Newton fell and broke a leg whilst skating. His recovery was progressing well, but died suddenly a month after the fall, his death being attributed to ‘gout affecting the heart’.
A service took place in the parish church, the whole town mourned and business ceased. Clergy from surrounding districts attended along with the Mayor and Corporation, the School Board, the Feofees, the Weekly Board of the Rotherham Hospital, the Guardians and Freemasons were represented and a large contingent from the Friendly Societies with Admiral Douglas representing Earl Fitzwilliam.
Reference to his death was made by every religious denomination and in most public places and everyone mourned at the loss the town had sustained.
Letter from the Burial Board to Mrs Newton and her family:
“The Burial Board of the township of Rotherham beg to express to Mrs Newton and her family the deep sorrow they feel at the sad and untimely loss of their much respected Vicar, the Rev W Newton. As Vicar of this Parish he was the warm hearted friend and adviser of all who sought his help, and his bright example of Christian life, self denying and devoted character were evidences of his fitness for the position he held. By his early removal his family and fellow townsmen of every denomination have sustained the loss of a true friend and it is our fervent prayer that it may please the Almighty, who has seen well to remove from us one so full of use, fullness and Christian example to comfort and support you and us under the bereavement.“
“Mrs Newton and her family desire most sincerely to thank the Burial Board for their kind resolution expressing sorrow at the death of the late Vicar and the high estimate they have forming of his character. It is most gratifying to them to be assured that his fellow townsmen of every denomination feel in his removal, the loss of a true friend.
Mrs Newton and her family also much gratefully appreciate the fervent prayers of the members of the Board, that it may please God to comfort and support them under their bereavement.“
Mrs Newton later wrote asking the Board’s permission to have an Iona Cross erected in the cemetery to the memory of Rev Newton.