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The Rushden Echo & Argus, 20th December 1929, transcribed by Jim Hollis.
Robert Emms Bradfield
Rushden’s Famous Minister - The Late Robert Emms Bradfield

Man Who Helped to Make Town of Today - Champion of Many Causes

Rev Bradfield
Rev Bradfield
  Many interesting memories were recalled of Rushden in the middle years of the last century, at a meeting held in the old Top Meeting Chapel at Rushden on Saturday to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the Rev. Robert Emms Bradfield. The late Mr. Bradfield came to Rushden in 1857, and soon made himself a conspicuous figure through his eloquence, fearlessness and sound judgment. His earnestness in the causes of education, the extension of the franchise and more particularly the great stand he took for total abstinence gained him a reputation that extended far beyond the borders of Rushden, then scarcely more than a village.

  At the meeting on Saturday, which was preceded by tea, the Rev. J. A. Sutherland (former minister of the Rushden Park-road Baptist Church, and now of the Park-street Baptist Church, Luton) was in the chair, and among others present were Mr. C. L. Bradfield, son of the late Mr. Bradfield, the Rev. F. W. Pollard, of Kettering, and a number of others who can recall the early days of Mr. Bradfield’s ministry.

A Grave Omission

  Mr. Sutherland said it would have been a grave omission to have let the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of Mr. Bradfield go unrecognised.  Although 50 years had passed, be was glad there were those left who could remember Mr. Bradfield, and others who were conscious of the influence that he left behind him.  It was not his privilege to know Mr. Bradfield personally.  He had to make the acknowledgment that in the year that Mr. Bradfield passed away he came on the platform.

  Mr. Sutherland continued : “I must say a word as one of his successors in the ministry.  I had not heard of Mr. Bradfield until I came to Rushden, due to the fact that I had no sort of connection with this part of the country.  I was no sooner in Rushden that I found I had a predecessor who was Mr. Bradfield, and not because his photograph hung in the minister’s vestry to acquaint me of the fact.  His name kept cropping up, and there was no name that interested me more than that of Mr. Bradfield.  I began to feel at once that he was one of the most distinguished of my predecessors.  I found as I went about in the town that the interest and appreciation was by no means limited to the people who attended the Park-road Church.  In the most unlikely quarters where I found the older people I found them reminiscent of this name.  I began to inquire for myself and began to realise the personality he must have been, what an influence he must have wielded, how many fights he must have engaged in, and what a fighter he must have been.

An Effective Leader

  “Those were the days when a champion had the privilege of championing great causes.  The country was seething with excitement and expectation.  People were tired of the fetters of the past, were clamouring for the liberty that was theirs by right and into the strenuous battles of that time Mr. Bradfield threw himself heart and soul.  Rushden found an appropriate and effective leader in Mr. Bradfield, not only because of his enthusiasm, but because of his sound judgment.  The influence of his work is one of the richest possessions of the Park-road Church.  Mr. Bradfield stayed here for a number of years, and the church in this town was fortunate in having such a man for such a long time.  How he stayed so long I don’t know, because Rushden was not so attractive then as it is now.  He could have been elsewhere, but he realised that his life-work was here, and it was a magnificent thing for the community that he was not lured away.

  “There were living at the time such men as John Turnam Brown, of Northampton, and James Mursell, of Kettering, but Robert Bradfield was in no wise inferior to these.  They recognised his worth so that John Brown, when his work was getting rather heavy, actually sounded Mr. Bradfield to see if he would become his colleague at Northampton.  It was rather tempting, but Mr. Bradfield was not the sort of person who would sit at anybody’s back.

  “This town, I am sure holds incalculably to his influence.  In this progressive growing place the citizens may be proud that a former minister of this church played such a part in building up the Rushden of to-day, and I am glad this church recognises its indebtedness.”

More Than It Could Repay

  The Rev. F. W. Pollard recalled that his father, Charles Pollard, was one of Mr. Bradfield’s closest friends and that he himself as a youth knew him well.

  Referring to the late Mr. Bradfield’s temperance work, Mr. Pollard said that he played a splendid part in the cause of total abstinence. It was some satisfaction to know that the Rev. Joseph J. Jenkinson, a Kettering man, first advocated temperance in Rushden in the days of the Rev. John Whittimore, and from the day that 15 of them signed the temperance pledge the work made great progress in the place. The town of Rushden owed more than it could repay to Mr. Bradfield for the uplifting of the people and his teaching of the dangers of strong drink. As he looked back he realised something of the wonderful power that characterised Mr. Bradfield’s preaching and of the help that was given by such men as John Cave, William Colson, and a family of Sargents. They were thankful that they had had such men as Mr. Davis, Mr. Tomkins and Mr. W. J. Harris to carry on his work in the ministry.

  Letters were then read from Mr. George Denton, and the Rev. Isaac L. Near, of Penge Tabernacle, apologising for their absence. Mr. Near’s father was at one time a minister at Stanwick. Mr. Alfred Sargent, and Mrs. Ward also spoke, the latter recalling Mr. Bradfield’s monthly visits to preach in her mother’s house at Podington.

Men Only

  Mr. C. L. Bradfield expressed the appreciation of the family to those who had arranged the commemoration service.  He said he had often been asked what his father would think if he were alive to-day.  “I think the first thing he would say,” added Mr. Bradfield, “would be ‘What a lot of deacons,’ but I don’t think that would trouble him much.”

  “What my father fought for,” went on Mr. Bradfield, “was the best way to serve his church.  Those were the days when there were no choir stalls and when we had a singing pew in the gallery for men only.  I can recall the day when Joseph Bayes, in a fit of absent-mindedness, started one line of hymn with one tune and the next with another tune when announcing it.

  “People ask what doctrines my father had, and whether he was orthodox.  I believe that in the first 12 years he was in Rushden he heard so much about doctrines and creeds that he must have become shy of them.  Ministers used to meet at the Manse, smoking shag in their long pipes quite contentedly until they got to doctrines, when they began to quarrel and get nasty about it.  I don’t think anyone can level the charge at my father that he belittled the doctrine of the Christian Church.”

  Mrs. J. Tailby recalled that there were only five people living of those whom Mr. Bradfield baptised.

  In conclusion, Mr. Sutherland reminded the gathering that so anxious were the authorities to keep Mr. Bradfield out of politics that his rent was assessed at £11 10s. to bring him just beyond the limit of the £12 franchise, and so prevent him from having a vote.  However, he fought for it, and eventually got the ten shillings put on.

  During the meeting a number of Mr. Bradfield’s favourite hymns were sung.

Wellingborough & Kettering News, February 12th, 1881, transcribed by Kay Collins

THE LATE REV. E. BRADFIELD - A very handsome marble tablet, the workmanship of Mr. Jarvis, of Bedford, has just been placed in the Old Baptist Meeting, in memory of its late pastor. The memorial, which is of white statuary marble, on a black background, occupies a prominent position on the wall in rear of the pulpit, and bears the following inscription: "This tablet is erected by loving hearts to the Rev. Robert Emms Bradfield, in remembrance of his twenty-three years faithful work as pastor of this Church, of his labours as a social reformer, and of his earnest zeal in the Temperance cause. Born, Feb. 8th, 1818, died Nov. 16th, 1879. 'His servants shall serve Him, and they shall see His face.' Rev. xxii.,3, 4."

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