Amblecote Boldero

by Nick Baker

Amblecote Rev.BolderoJohn Simon Boldero was appointed Vicar of Amblecote in 1866 following the death of the Reverend J.W.Grier. Aged 36, he came from an long established Suffolk family. Previously the Reverend Boldero was curate at Enville, and no doubt as a result of this the Earl of Stamford and Warrington, in whose gift the ‘preferment’ of the Amblecote incumbency lay, put him forward as Vicar.He was already married to Emma Burell when he came to Amblecote and they had several children.

Boldero was considered a quiet man who rarely took part in public life, although he was inaugural Chairman of the Parish Council, and was involved in the workings and administration of both the Amblecote National Schools and Stourbridge Grammar School.

During his long tenure, which lasted from 1866 to1900, he adhered strongly to High Church principles. Indeed, when first arriving in Amblecote his interpretation of certain aspects of ritual caused an amount of disharmony amongst his parishioners, although this subsided in time. He was not, nevertheless, without an occasional radical accomplishment and his abolishon of pew rents, which deprived himself of a considerable ‘Vicars perk’, was widely admired. He also introduced the weekly collection and central heating.

However, John Simon Boldero’s most important achievement was the early introduction of the Harvest Festival, something that was widely copied in adjacent churches of all denominations. This celebration, which even in modern Britain has yet to fall fowl of educational multicultural revisionism and thus still retains a remarkable foothold even in our schools, was a Victorian adaptation of an idea that had been around since pagan times. The earlier Christian celebrations of Lammas (literally loaf-mass) which occurred at the beginning of the harvest, followed by a secular ‘harvest home’ held at its end, were consolidated into a single religious post-harvest event. The idea began in the 1840’s in Cornwall, when the opium-smoking eccentric clergyman-poet Reverend Robert Steven Hawker of Morenstow devised a harvest celebration involving aspects of Lammas together with the now familiar display of produce. Taken up by the ultra-conservative Archdeacon George Anthony Denison the concept of giving thanks for a successful harvest via a formal celebration within the church calendar was developed. Boldero, whose High Church leanings made him sympathetic to Denison’s ideas, was quick to introduce a Harvest Festival at Enville which, as a rural parish with very strong formal ties to the land (via the Earls of Stamford and Warrington), was an ideal launch pad for the idea. In transferring this to Amblecote, a semi-rural area but with significant industrial development on the fringe of the Black Country, Boldero brought the Harvest Festival to a wider, urban, audience. They responded to the concept  not only as a generally ‘good thing’, but also by making a typically Victorian connection with an idyllic ‘medieval’ past represented by ‘honest’ agricultural toil. This pseudo-medievalism was at one with the High Church movement and it is significant that Father Stanton, a famous Tractarian, preached to a large congregation at the invitation of Boldero during Harvest Festival 1887.
Amblecote Boldero Grave

Boldero died on January the 4th 1900 aged 69 at the Vicarage in Vicarage Road (now demolished and the site of Queens Crescent).

His funeral, which took place the following Tuesday, was a suitably ‘gothic’, reflecting the ritual he had espoused. Churchwardens, prominent clergy and others watched throughout the night over the pall draped coffin, dimly lit by candles; and the following morning before the burial in the churchyard the Eucharist was celebrated. The Reverend Boldero’s widow, Emma and various of his children are also buried in the gave.