Queen Victoria, supported by her consort Prince Albert, ruled through a period of great change. The Industrial Revolution and the expansion of the British Empire changed the world around them beyond recognition.
In Loxwood The Wey and Arun Junction Canal, brought a focus on commercial activity, education for all children between the ages of 5 & 10 became Law, John Sirgood arrived in the village and through his teachings many of the poorest were helped out of poverty and as the railway network developed, people came to live in Loxwood who would have a lasting positive impact on the village.
Princess Alexandrina Victoria, daughter of the Duke of Kent and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld was born at Kensington Palace, fifth in line to the throne.Read More...
Albert Francis Charles Augustus Emmanuel of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the younger son of the duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was born at Schloss Rosenau, in Bavaria and was to become the greatest influence on Victoria’s life.
On 19th June 1837, Victoria went to bed a Princess. She woke the next day, a Queen. Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert, in 1840. He supported science, trade and art in Britain. Victoria and Albert had nine children. They believed that a good family life and Christianity were very important. In general, English people followed their example.
Prince Albert expressed his fondness of the Princess through the medium of music. They played and performed duets together. Here is a sample of Ein Ständchen’ (‘a serenade’), apparently composed by Prince Albert for the Queen to be.
Approximately 400,000 people lined the streets to get a glimpse of their new Sovereign. On her Accession, Buckingham Palace became The Queen’s (and later The Prince’s) official residence. Victoria was the first Sovereign to use the palace as her home.
The Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace opened in 1851. It happened partly because of Albert’s hard work. The exhibition showed the success of British people in Victorian times.
In 1861, Prince Albert died and Victoria stayed away from public life.
Britain became more powerful in the following years, and in 1877, Victoria got the title ‘Empress of British India’. In 1897, Victoria celebrated 60 years of being monarch. This surpassed her grandfather King George III. She was queen for 63 years, seven months longer than any other king or queen of Britain until Queen Elizabeth II passed that milestone. People called her the ‘grandmother of Europe’ because many of Victoria’s children became kings, princes and princesses of other countries. Queen Victoria died in January 1901.
Loxwood in the Victorian era
With the Wey and Arun Junction canal bringing commercial cargo through Loxwood the area around Brewhurst Mill, and the Toll House became a significant trading point. During this period the number of farms increased, shops were built on the road between the canal and the chapel and major agricultural shows were held in the fields opposite the Onslow Arms Inn.
However with the coming of the railways in 1865 the Wey and Arun canal could not compete and almost overnight the commercial traffic on the canal ceased. The canal closed in 1869, the trade moved to the nearby stations at Rudgwick, Slinfold, Cranleigh and Baynards and the loss of the commercial traffic must have decimated the villager’s way of life.
During the years leading up to the closure of the canal, a nonconformist Christian movement known as the ‘Cokelers’ or ‘Dependents’ as the brethren preferred to be called, was attracting a growing number of followers. They were led by shoemaker, John Sirgood who according to legend arrived in the area in 1850 with his wife Harriett, having pushed a handcart packed with their worldly goods from Clapham in London because they were so poor they couldn’t afford the train fare! They initially lived in Shamley Green, however by 1861 they were in the Old Cottage in Spy Lane and John was preaching his Christian beliefs to the farmworkers and anyone else who would listen.
Sirgoods gentle way of teaching resonated with some of the labourers, many of whom were illiterate having missed out on compulsory education. Their situation was desperate, but Sirgoods message was liberating, and gave them hope that by following God’s word, working in ‘Combination’, pooling resources, and using their talents for the benefit of the community, they could lift themselves out of poverty and live a simple, yet fulfilled Christian way of life.
Sirgood and his followers were persecuted for their beliefs by some of the village elders and their meetings were often disrupted, but he continued to convey his message and his Christian movement became a serious rival to the Church. The Dependents built a chapel in Spy Lane and then they built a small parade of shops by the village pond which they named ‘The Combination Stores’.
The Dependents encouraged women to become involved in commerce and from its inception the Combination Stores were mostly managed and run by single women, which enabled them to escape the tyranny of a life in Service, that many had feared they would live.
The Dependents grew crops on smallholdings which were sold in the stores, and they gradually increased the inventory to cover a large range of products across several departments. In addition to grocery there was a butcher, draper, ironmonger, home furnishings and a great Steam Bakery. The Combination Stores then added a garage, and sold motorcycles, bicycles, trailers, fuel and even hired out horses and traps.
The Dependents faith always came first but the stores were so successful that over time they had practically cornered all trading activities in the village.
John Sirgood died of natural causes at The Combination Stores on October 19th 1885, with his vision fulfilled and ‘Brother John’ was buried in an unmarked grave at the Chapel in Spy Lane.
Other notable moments
On Saturday August 9th 1873 in the Court of Queen Victoria, at Osbourne House on the Isle of White, Loxwood Chapel of Ease was ratified by her Majesty as a Consecrated Church. This remarkable act brought an end to the historic tie with Wisborough Green Church, that started in 1404 and confirmed Loxwood as a separate ecclesiastical parish.
Shortly afterwards in 1874 a new vicarage was built and then in 1878 the first village schoolhouse opened on waste land between the vicarage and the river bridge. The villagers needed a dedicated venue for their clubs and in 1896 the owner of Hill Top Stores, John Elliott, donated a parcel of land for that purpose. The “Reading Rooms” were funded and built by the villagers and became the first Library and meeting place.
Now the village had a Parish Church there was a need for a new church and burial ground. The owner of Ifold Manor, Lionel Constable generously donated some land opposite the village school to the village and in August 1900 the new church started to be built.
Queen Victoria died before the new church was completed and a service in her memory was held in the old church in January 1901, one of the final notable services to be held in that church.