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Twickenham United Reformed Church

Our History: Three prominent members

In March, April and May 1998 our church newsletter carried short biographies of the three members known to have appeared in the pages of Who's Who and they are reproduced below.

But to place them in context, first read Tony Bryer's editorial from the May 1998 newsletter:

As soon as I finished writing the first of the three mini biographies of former members who made the pages of Who's Who, I realised that this might be open to misinterpretation - does it look like name dropping or imply that we value some people more than others? This was certainly not my intention.

I think that it is more than coincidental that all three were among the 62 people to join our church during the eventful pastorate of F.T.Simmonds (our minister from 1899-1907). Before then the recognisable names on our membership roll are those of local shopkeepers and tradesmen. At the turn of the century new development brought in those engaged in middle class occupations, and the nature of the area - reflected in the membership of our church - changed, not for the first or last time.

When I was a young person, it seemed that most of our church members were civil servants, teachers or nurses; now, as in late Victorian times, we also have a number of members who run their own small businesses. If this newsletter has come through your letterbox, rest assured that we are all just ordinary people like you and your neighbours, and you would, we hope, feel at home among us if you wished to join us one Sunday.

But what of the other 59 members who joined our church during Mr Simmonds' pastorate? Some we know about, indeed some our older members may remember a few of them, but most are now forgotten - but this does not mean that their contribution to their church and community was any less valuable. In the past Janet Lees has reminded us about some of the un-named women who play a key part in the Bible narrative - and there are many men too. So too in our century.

More than forty years ago a French priest, Michel Quoist, wrote a book called 'Prayers of Life'. On of the meditations is called 'The Brick'. It ends:

"I thought, Lord, of that brick buried in the darkness at the base of that big building.
No one sees it, but it accomplishes its task and the other bricks need it.
Lord what difference whether I am on the roof-top or in the foundations, as long as I stand faithfully at the right place?"

May we each be ready to faithfully serve in the place God has given us, whether in the public eye or not.

Tony Bryer


John Allen Harker, 1870-1923

(March 1998)

John Allen Harker CBE D.Sc. was born in Alston, Cumbria, in 1870 where his father was Congregational minister. After school in Stockport (his father moved there in 1871), he then studied at Manchester and Tübingen (Germany) universities. He came to work at the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, rising to Chief Assistant and Head of Thermometry. From 1916 he was Director of Research at the Ministry of Munitions. He wrote scientific papers, served on government committees and visited the USA and Canada on behalf of the British government. He was on board the Cunard liner Andania when it was torpedoed off the Irish coast in January 1918 with a loss of seven lives. In 1921 he went into private practice, but died in 1923 aged just 53.

Dr & Mrs Harker lived in Teddington, firstly in Kingston Road, then moving to 'Alston', Queens Road: we may guess that he named the house (still there) after his birthplace.

Dr Harker's delightful account of his first visit to our church (1903?) appears in our church history, 'Chapel Next the Green': "Good Mr Purchase was in the porch smiling and gave him a hymn book and showed him into a seat. He did not remember what the sermon was about, and there was not a large congregation, and it was not a grand service, but he went home and told his wife, and after his wife had been to a service, he didn't know which of them was the more delighted".

Both became church members in May 1904, just after he had been elected to the Church Committee (which from 1903-9 took the place of the Diaconate); subsequently they both played an active part in church life until around 1920-21 by which time they had moved from the area. His church membership was formally transferred to Whitefield's Memorial Church in December 1921

Mr Purchase may no longer be in the porch but we will be just as pleased to welcome you to any of our services - no D.Sc. required!

Peter Galloway Fraser

(April 1998)

The second of our three members to appear in Who's Who, [Peter] Galloway Fraser JP is the one of whom least is known. As you might guess, he was a Scot, who came to London as a Parliamentary reporter for the Dundee Chronicle. In 1890 he went to work for George Newnes, ultimately becoming editor of 'Tit-Bits'. In 1899 he moved from Putney to 13 Strawberry Hill Road where he and his wife lived until his death in September 1925.

Mr Fraser joined our church in 1904 (on the same day as Dr John Harker), having been elected to the Church Committee the year before. He served on the Committee until 1906 but does not appear to have held any other church office after this.

On his death, fellow editor and church member, J.H.Broad, recorded in the Richmond & Twickenham Home Journal, "His editorship of Tit-Bits was perhaps his most outstanding position ... Since his retirement he has taken extensive interest in local affairs and has occupied some very important positions [unfortunately not detailed]. Twickenham has lost a most capable and loveable gentleman". In contrast, the Richmond & Twickenham Times [3.10.25] felt that "the fact that he was at one time editor of Tit Bits, not generally regarded as a serious weekly production, does not convey any idea of his abilities ... His best efforts appeared in the Scottish papers". Does anyone know more about him?

Clifford Copeland Patterson, 1879-1948

(May 1998)

In contrast to last month, there is no shortage of material about the last of our three members to appear in Who's Who. Sir Clifford Copeland Paterson, son of a tanner and leather merchant, was born in Stoke Newington in 1879. After school he trained in general and electrical engineering then came to the newly established NPL in 1903, specialising in light and lighting. He was awarded an OBE in 1916 for his work on the Paterson-Walsh aircraft height finder.

Mr and Mrs Paterson joined our church in 1906, on transfer from Stamford Hill. They lived at 28 Clifden Road, then 10 Walpole Gardens. Both were keen sailors and gardeners. He served us as Sunday School Superintendent (383 children in 1908!), Church Secretary from 1907-1916 and was a Deacon until moving to Oxhey in 1923.

In 1916 the Osram Lamp Works in Hammersmith invited Mr Paterson to set up a research department for them (before the war they had depended on German technology), but he was not free to accept such a post during the war. Five days after the Armistice, Hugo (later Lord) Hirst, a founder of GEC asked him to become founder director of the GEC Research Laboratories (GEC having taken over Osram), a post he held until his death in July 1948.

The labs were initially housed at Hammersmith, 71 staff moving to a purpose-built facility in North Wembley in 1922. Work on filament lamps naturally developed into electronic valves. During World War II the staff grew to more than a thousand and the work on searchlights, camouflage, radio, and radar was to play a key part in the war effort, Mr Paterson being rewarded by a knighthood in 1946.

Mr Paterson was President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers 1930-1 and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1942: they now hold an annual Clifford Paterson lecture. 'The GEC Research Laboratories 1919-84' and 'A Scientist's War - the war diary of Sir Clifford Paterson, 1939-45', both by Clayton & Algar, detail his scientific work. as does the 21-page obituary published by the Royal Institution. The latter notes the influence of his Christian faith on the way in which he ran the GEC labs, seeking to create an culture of co-operation and partnership.

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