Old Oak

This is subtitled ‘The story of a Forest village’, and it is a cracker of a book, published in 1932 about the Rev J E Linnell who was vicar at Pavenham, Bedfordshire for 37 years and left a journal of his life when he died at the age of 76 in 1919. He was described as:

“Short and sturdy of build – almost as broad, in fact as he was tall… Immensely strong physically, a mighty walker, a fearer of God and of nothing else, without any sense of cute, a lover of all things appertaining to the country, fiercely independent and impatient of authority, a trap by nature with a love for all other wanderers, easy to have the gloves on with all and sundry up to his seventieth year, the raciest of raconteurs, and a blazing patriot…His grandmother, Miss Elliot, of Luffield Abbey, a very considerable heiress, eloped with his grandfather, William Linnel of Silverstone; and his father John Linnell born in 1795, was one of her 17 children. HIs grandmother’s fortune divided among many sons and daughters only brought a few thousands to his father, … Moreover, such was his love of all sports that he had little interest in anything connected with business. ..he was a fine old type of Englishman, essentially religious at heart, who never changed his habits – or his manner of attire, for that matter; for he wore yellow nankeen breeches, white stockings, and low shoes till his death in the ‘seventies. 

On leaving school he joined the firm of his cousin, William Whitlock, then one of the biggest English timber merchants, and was soon being sent by them to different parts of the country in connection with their ventures.

At some time during the next part of his life he seems to have become an absolute agnostic and, in his wanderings for the Whitlocks, to have studied at first hand the habits of gypsies, tinkers, tramps, and all sorts and conditions of men not usually recognised by the conventional. Gradually a change came over him, due, he always used to aver, to the prayers of his mother, who died when he was twelve, and after long soul-struggles, which he would compare with Bunyan’s he is found as an assistant master at the old Grammar School at Hampton Lucy near Stratford-on-Avon, and enteringMr Kendall’s coaching establishment for the Army and the Church, with no less than four bishops willing to ordain him.

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