John Redford Stillman

Date published: 07/02/2013
© Newbury Weekly News






          Many of your readers (writes a correspondent) will hear with deep regret of the almost sudden death of Mr. John Stillman, for many years Vestry and Parish Clerk of Newbury. It has perhaps fallen to the few men in this neighbourhood to become as well-known and respected as he who was so lately in our midst, by whose removal the parish has lost a faithful servant, the poor a devoted and unwearied helper.


          Mr. Stillman was a man who loved his office and rejoiced in his work, of shrewd, intelligent mind with a very retentive and well stored memory, and it will be difficult to replace the energy, kindly consideration, and thoroughly genial feeling which he practised and diffused around him. No one knows perhaps better than the writer that poor Stillman was a man of open and generous disposition, who would never turn away from a friend in need. He liberally subscribed, perhaps beyond his means, in the furtherance of every object which he thought would benefit his native town, and his honest face will long be missed by the poor and needy who come not under general observation.

          As Vestry Clerk, Mr. Stillman had the management of the business connected with the election of children to Christ's Hospital, and his accurate acquaintance with the pedigrees of those who claimed affinity to West and his wife was of great value. His services too were much sought after by Professional men and others engaged in making genealogical enquiries and his ability in that capacity is well-known. The intimate knowledge Mr Stillman possessed of the claims of those who applied to participate in the benefits of the numerous parochial charities made him almost  public almoner, and he always acted with the greatest impartiality.

          He was unremitting in his civility and attention to strangers, and all who visited the Church, and his happy manner of pointing out its more interesting features, and relating some of its historical associations, made many a visitor feel a respect for the old building which, on first entering he conceived to be too well “swept and garnished” to contain of anything of especial notice. The admirable manner in which the Church-yard has been kept under Mr. Stillman's active supervision, has obtained widespread commendation, and few such hallowed precincts have had such a careful and faithful custodian. But now old Church farewell! “the pride of the valley and the beacon from afar,” as our old friend liked to think of it. No more, on earth, will he hear

“The Sabbath bells harmonious chime,”

or listen as he was wont with feelings of patriotic exultation- loyal Englishman as he was- to the joyous, stirring peals rang out from the old grey tower

“For victory by sea or land,

And happy peace at at length;

Peace by his country's valour won,

And established by her strength:

Or when a glad thanksgiving sound,

Upon the winds of heaven,

Was sent to speak a nation's joy,

For some great blessing given.”


No! he has passed away, and his name is now added to that book his so often scanned, in whose pages riches and poverty, beauty and deformity, stand side by side- the parish register.

          The Rector of Newbury, preaching at the evening service on Sunday last, on the subject of “Lost Opportunities” referred to the late Mr. Stillman, “who was to us in this parish a faithful and most zealous servant. Many of you have known him for more years than I have, but I doubt whether you loved him better. I have never known a man more strictly honest in all the dealings of his life, more loyal, more devoted to the special work which God had given him to do – the custody of this church; more genial and cheerful,  more unselfish in the simple performance of his duty. He had his failings; and so have we; but among our virtues let us see to it, that when the record is opened we are able to include, that in the outward execution of our work we have done our duty as cheerfully and zealously as he has done his.”

          At the conclusion the “Dead March” was played by Mr. J.H. Godding, the larger part of the congregation remaining sitting.

          The funeral took place on Wednesday at one o'clock. As the clock struck the hour the clergy and choir proceeded from the vestry to the west door, the organist playing a plaintive dirge, where they met the body; the Rector reading the beginning of the Burial Service. The coffin was them placed in the centre aisle, while the remainder of the service was gone through. At the close of the service the hymn “Now the labourer's task is o'er” was sung, many of the congregation being visibly affected. The corpse having been removed to the hearse, it was taken to the Cemetery, followed by the clergy, churchwardens, the choir, several members of the “Hearts of Oak” Benefit Society (of which Mr. Stillman was an energetic member for over 21 years), and a large assemblage of the congregation. The Rector then concluded the service, and the coffin, which was covered with some beautiful flowers, including a very choice wreath was deposited in the grave. Immediately before the service the bells rang a muffled peal, and one continued to toll during the burial. A number of shutters were closed along the route.

          The funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr. H.S. Hanington.


Newbury Weekly News  27 January 1881


Family Search: John Redford Stillman born 1828 in Newbury

Wife: Sarah.

Children: Edwin Froome Stillman, John Edgar Stillman in 1871 census

BMD Died Mar Q 1881aged 53

Sources:Newbury Weekly News 27 January 1881

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