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Twickenham United Reformed Church

Our History: F.W.Pearce 1866-1928

From the Thames Valley Times – Wednesday 17 October 1928, page 3


A Conscientious Official Whose Life was Given to the Public Service


Resolutions of Sympathy : Morning Service at Congregational Church Abandoned

By the sudden death on Sunday morning, at his residence in Spencer Road, Strawberry Hill, of Mr. Frederick W. Pearce, the borough surveyor and engineer, Twickenham has lost a valued public official. For thirty years he had given of his best to Twickenham in conscientious and disinterested service and with a generous heart and hand.

The sympathy of the whole town goes out to the widow and family in the heavy loss they have sustained. Mr. Pearce's life was given to the faithful discharge of his duties.

It is one painful duty to record today the sudden passing, at half-past ten on Sunday morning, of Mr. Frederick W. Pearce, F.S.I. who for thirty years had held the responsible position of surveyor and engineer at Twickenham, first to the Urban District Council, and latterly to the Town Council. He was 62 years of age last April.

A native of Somersetshire, Mr. Pearce came to London as a young man full of that boundless energy and thoroughness which characterised him all through his life. Entering the service of the Wimbledon District Council, he occupied the position of assistant surveyor, and on his leaving was made the recipient of a testimonial placing on record his valued services. He came to Twickenham in October, 1898, to succeed Mr. G. B.Raffin* who had obtained an appointment abroad [South Africa], and on Wednesday next would have celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of his work in the district.

Twickenham was at that time little more than a village, with a population of 1,600, but with the coming of the trains, the cutting through of York Street, which had just been completed and the building developments taking place on all sides, Twickenham was fast passing from a village to a town. With that development came the laying out of new roads, seventy of which were made up under his personal supervision in the succeeding ten years, the District Council of those days having wisely decided to undertake its work on a systematic basis. Richmond Road, then a narrow thoroughfare, was widened as we know it to-day. Further road widenings were made with the extension of the trams towards Hampton Court, Mr. Pearce always taking the long view, which succeeding years have proved the correct one, of wide thoroughfares for the traffic he foresaw.

Radnor Gardens

Then came the acquisition of Radnor House and the raising of its grounds several feet so as to prevent the occasional floodings that would have made riverside gardens an impassability. The Teddington Lock was in course of construction, and Mr. Pearce seized the opportunity by arranging with the Thames Conservancy and the contractors to have the excavated material barged down stream and deposited on the gardens, saving the town many hundreds of pounds in so doing.

As the town grew the need of enlarging and reorganising the fire brigade was taken in hand under Mr. Pearce's personal direction. The old horsed engines were replaced by motors, the fire station enlarged, and latterly, the chief officer of the brigade installed with living accommodation on the spot.

Another important project of those days which threw a heavy responsibility on his shoulders was the construction of the sewage works and refuse destructor, the work of which was so heavy that, at his suggestion, a consultancy was called in, Mr. Fairley, of Richmond, being engaged by the Council.

With the increasing population came the need of new schools and in the construction of these some of Mr. Pearce's best work was done, for he was a keen educationist and knew exactly what were the requirements of an elementary school. The Orleans Schools, which were erected in 1910, were followed a year later by the Nelson Schools, which catered for the children in East Twickenham and Whitton areas. One of his last tasks was the building of another school at Whitton to meet the demands of that growing area.

War Time Activities

Then, with the need of an isolation hospital becoming apparent, one was erected at Whitton in 1906 from his plans and under his direction, in such a manner that when extension became necessary last year it was an easy and comparatively inexpensive matter, for he had had an eye to the future in the original building.

Then, with the coming of the war, during which the constructional work of the Council was suspended, he threw himself into the activities the Council undertook for the successful prosecution of the war, and how well he did it was nobly expressed in a few words at the meeting of the Congregational Mothers' Union on Monday afternoon. He became the fuel officer and the transport officer of the Council, but there was much that he did during this trying period that extended far beyond the limits of those offices.

To the improvement of the riverside path between Marble Hill and Richmond Bridge he devoted much personal attention, being careful to preserve the rural amenities of the walk, particularly in the neighbourhood of Marble Hill, when raising the path and filling in the ditch. Trees there were which had to go but not one was taken down in the clearing which impaired the view from the riverside or from Richmond Hill.

The purchase of York House and the coming of incorporation had placed increasing burdens and responsibilities upon his shoulders. The alterations necessary to York House were much larger than was anticipated when taking over the building, and this work, coupled with the transfer of the offices from the old Town Hall, came at a time when the surveyor and his department were working at their hardest. The Strawberry Vale and St. Margaret's road improvements were just completed. The demand for Council houses and flats was growing more incessant, the widening of King Street, the pulling down of the old Town Hall, the development of the Richmond House Estate, all had to be dealt with.

The purchase of Orleans Riverside Land, the development of the Cambridge-gardens and of the Cross Deep Estate, and the widening of St. Margaret's road, Strawberry Vale, and Cross Deep had thrown heavy burdens on his shoulders, coming, as they did, on the top of his other routine work. The Council, realising it, offered him assistance, but he never complained, and worked on cheerfully to the last.

The Church He Loved

Full of boundless energy, even when his health was by no means good, Mr. Pearce, amidst all his manifold public duties, found time for many outside interests. To the Congregational Church on the Green, of which he was deacon for eighteen years, he was a devoted member and supporter, the children, especially, having in him a supporter and friend. He was its church secretary, and it is not too much to say that its existence to-day as a church is in no small measure due to his life and influence. Whilst fully alive to the social side of the church, he never lost sight of the place the church must fill in the spiritual life of its people, and it is a tragic coincidence that a meeting to consider the deepening of the spiritual life of the church was to have been held this week, mainly as a result of the suggestions he had made.

He was a Freemason, being a member both of the Richmond Lodge and Richmond Chapter, and of the Twickenham Rotary Club, whose motto, "Service above self" inspired his everyday life.

Another of his outside activities was the Lower Thames Valley Association of Surveyors, of which he was secretary. He was also a member of the Institute of Municipal and County Engineers and a vice-president of the Twickenham Rifle Club and the Twickenham Philanthropic Society. His many activities and official duties were placing burdens upon the shoulders of the surveyor, which his health, never robust in the past few years would not bear, and of late it had begun to manifest itself and twice on Saturday there were indications whilst he was at work that he was not well. But he worked on, returning to York House in the evening after the office had been closed to attend to some work he desired to see through.

On returning home he complained of feeling unwell and his medical adviser, Dr. Rayner, was called. In the morning he seemed better, but he was persuaded to remain in bed, and almost the last thing he did was to arrange for a message to be sent to the Congregational Church so that the duties to which he usually attended could be discharged to others. Then almost with out warning, he passed away in the presence of the members of his family and Dr. G. H. Dupont, the borough medical officer who chanced to be passing the house at the time.

Tomorrow's Funeral

The funeral will take place to-morrow (Thursday) afternoon. A service will be held at the Congregational Church at 3 and will be attended by the Mayor and Corporation, wearing their robes of office, and the staff at York House and the employees. The service will be conducted by the pastor ( the Rev. J. T. Rhys), who will be assisted by the Rev. Harold Bickley, B.D., of Northampton, a former pastor of the church, who on the occasion of his visit to Twickenham a few weeks ago was the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Pearce. The vicar (the Rev. W. P. Cole-Sheane), and the Mayor's chaplain (the Rev. James H. Watson), will also assist in the service.

The municipal offices will be closed at 2.15 and the workmen in the employ of the Council will leave work at one o'clock.

Public Pulpit References

Many have been the expressions of sympathy which Mrs. Pearce and family have received, and at most of the churches on Sunday evening there were references to the sad event.

The flag at the municipal offices was flown at half-mast, and was on Sunday the first indication to many of the missing member of the Corporation.

The Parish Church

The sad news was conveyed to the clergy at the Parish Church on Sunday morning by Alderman F.C. Clark.

At the evening service prayers were offered on behalf of the mourners and the hymn "The radiant morn has passed away" was included in the service.
In the course of his sermon, Prebendary H. J. R. Osbourne dealt with the part that religion played in our daily life, and emphasised the close link between this life and the next. They had had that day, he said, a tragic example of that fact in the sudden passing of the borough surveyor, a most valued public official, who had done a great deal for the town; in fact, he worked too hard. It was a beautiful thought at such times to remember that he had been called to higher service.

Twickenham Brotherhood

Mr F. W. Pearce was to have presided at the meeting of the Twickenham Brotherhood at the Congregational Church, at which the address was given by Mr Harry Gosling M.P., the Minister of Transport in the Labour Government, who resides at Strawberry Hill.

The chair was taken by Mr J B Potterill, who made a feeling reference to the death of Mr Pearce.

Mr Gosling said that Twickenham had lost a really valuable public servant. Alas, he had gone, and someone else must take his place. Life today was calling for high endeavour on the part of all of them and while they took off their hats in memory of their late brother, let each of them resolve to work a little harder in good causes than they might hitherto have done.

At the close of the gathering the congregation stood as an expression of their sympathy with Mrs Pearce and her family while the orchestra played Chopin's "Marche Funebre."

Congregational Church

The news reached the Congregational Church just as the pastor, the Rev. J. F. Rhys was about to ascend the pulpit for the morning service and was received with something approaching consternation; the deacons at once arranged that the service should be abandoned. The Rev. J T. Rhys who was deeply affected, made brief, but feeling, allusion to the great loss the church had sustained by the death of one of its deacons and its church secretary. He read the 23rd Psalm, offered prayer, and the service concluded.
At the evening service a resolution of sympathy with the family was moved by Mr. W Purchase, seconded by Mr W. Gould and supported by Mr E Dawe, and carried in silence, the members rising.

There were touching tributes of esteem and affection at the Mother's Meeting of the Congregational Church on Monday afternoon at which a resolution of sympathy was moved by one of the members and supported by the Rev. Luther Caws Burden (Isleworth).

It was at first suggested that the wreath to be sent should be provided out of the funds of the meeting but the members unanimously rejected this saying they desired to be allowed to contribute personally to the wreath they would send.

One of the members expressed the thoughts of the gathering. She would never forget how quietly and kindly he had helped the mothers whilst their husbands were at the war. Another member expressed what the employees felt. "He was the chief of the workmen but a most lovable master."

Education Committee

At the meeting of the Twickenham Education on Monday evening which held at York House, the chairman (Alderman V. G. Heptonstall) said; Before we commence the usual business it is my sad duty to say a few words of the terrible loss the town suffered yesterday by, as most of you know by now, the sudden death of our borough surveyor to this committee. It seems almost impossible to realise that only last week at the mayoral banquet he was laughing and joking with the rest of us. He had had thirty years service to the town and was a most thorough and capable man. To those who knew him a rather severe exterior covered a heart of gold. His great fault – if he had a fault – was in trying to do too much xxx xxx. He tried to do those things which perhaps he might have passed on to his subordinates. He did this because of his great love of the town. He never hurried. He was always deliberate in his opinions and work and had a restraining influence on many, whom I might call impetuous members of the committee and Council. The town had been built up in the last ten years and many of the things he did we shall like to look upon as monuments to his memory, for the improvement of the borough coincided with his period of office. I have found his help of immeasurable value when attending on our behalf, conference with Government officials. His eloquent and masterful way of presenting our case has been of the greatest assistance to us and the town. He loved Twickenham as few men do, and I feel sure that his death was hastened by the vast amount of work he did. We have suffered a heavy blow but we have yet to realise how exceedingly heavy that blow is. I move that a letter be sent to Mrs Pearce and family conveying the sympathy of Twickenham education authority.

The Town Clerk said: On behalf of the staff of the Corporation, and as town clerk and the education secretary, I should like to take this opportunity of associating myself with what your chairman has just said. Mr Pearce would at the end of next week have completed thirty years service with the District Council and the Corporation. During the whole of that time I have been associated with him in the conduct of the work of the town. By the courtesy of the Mayor, I understand that I shall have the opportunity of amplifying my remarks at the next meeting of the Corporation, but in the meantime I should like to state that by the death of Mr Pearce the whole staff has lost a valued colleague, one whose assistance and advice were always readily and willingly given to any member who required it and xxx whose loss will be deplored in the municipal offices for many years to come.

The resolution was carried in silence, the members rising and standing with bowed heads in memory of a faithful colleague in the public service.

Other Public References

Feeling references to the death was made at the luncheon of the Twickenham Rotary Club on Monday by the president (Councillor C.H. Farthing) and a resolution of sympathy with the relatives was passed.

At the evening service at the Twickenham Green Baptist Memorial Church the pastor, the Rev. H. H. Gardiner expressed the sympathy of his congregation with the family and said how his death would be a great loss, not merely to the Congregational Church of which he was an active member, but to the other churches of the borough.

At the luncheon of the Teddington club yesterday, at which the Rev. Dr. Tatchell gave an address, feeling references to the death of Mr Pearce were made by the chairman (Mr. Carman).

* * * * *

* Mr Pearce's relationship with the Council was apparently a much happier one than Mr Raffin had enjoyed.At the Council meeting where Mr Raffin's resignation was reported Councillor Morrow 'proposed that the resignation be accepted with pleasure'. 'Where does the pleasure come in?', asked the chairman. 'Because it will be a great satisfaction to the residents to know that they are getting rid of him (shouts of 'oh!') and in future business will go on more satisfactorily than in the past', came the reply. Councillor Beard said that he 'believed Mr Raffin to be as honest and straightforward a man as ever came to Twickenham'. Mr Webb said that when he got notice of the resignation he thought it a happy release for the Council, after all they had gone through. Mr Goatly urged that the motion be not put as the resignation was a matter of fact and could not be refused.

Fred Pearce was appointed at a salary of £260, rising by £20 annual increments to £400. The RTT recorded the votes cast for each candidate: Pearce: 13; Webb: 6; Scott: 2; Towlson: 1; Morley: 1 and Maxwell: 0. One has to feel some sympathy for Mr Maxwell's public rejection, but no doubt Mr Pearce was gratified by the clear majority he received. He was later described as Twickenham Council's greatest public asset. According to a contemporary sketchwriter, "Yes I did say so, and meant what I said. I am sorry I cannot make myself plainer, but the facts are as I have stated and I have nothing to withdraw or add" would be his standard reply to anyone who questioned what he said.

Our thanks to Dr T.H.R.Cashmore for bringing this to our attention and to Annie Morris for transcribing it

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