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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Berkin with the communicants of the church


Crown granted five acres of land for the purpose on Harry Hill, being a spot situated within a reasonable distance of from 250 to 300 cottages. To the estimated cost of 2,500 pounds, contributions, amounting in some cases to 30 pounds each, were given by the Earl of Liverpool, Right Hon. N. Vansittart, the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort, Sir Thomas Baring, Lord Calthorpe, Joshua Watson, Esq., Rev. H. H. Norris, W. Wilberforce, Esq., M.P., Rev. J. Pratt, &c. The building of the church (the design of which comprised a chancel 15 feet square, a tower about 60 feet high, and a body or nave 40 feet by 60 feet, calculated to hold from 400 to 500 adults, and a large children's gallery, for whom a school-room 30 feet by 50 feet was also to be built close adjoining) was begun on the 4th of June, 1816, and was used for the first time upon the 2nd of February following, on which occasion the sermon was preached by the Rev. Edward Bickersteth, from St. Matt. iv. 16. It was consecrated, as the Church of the Holy Trinity, by Bishop Ryder, on the 26th June, 1817, who preached a sermon, not yet forgotten, upon 1 Kings viii. 30; and the whole property of the living was vested in the Lord Bishop of Gloucester, Lord Calthorpe, and the Right Hon. Nicholas Vansittart, Rev. J. Kempthorne and Rev. Charles Bryan, as trustees.

Although Mr. Berkin had thus accomplished the important object of providing the inhabitants of the north-east portion of the Forest with "a church

which they could call their own," he felt that it yet remained for him to make the building really useful to the people by imparting to them more and more just views of the Christian life. Accordingly he laboured if possible more abundantly than ever amongst them, visiting their houses at short intervals, collecting neighbours together, and expounding the Holy Scripture to them under their own roofs, or else opening the church so as to draw them off from the corrupting pastimes which were common at certain times of the year, and bestowing much pains on his Sunday school.

[Picture: Holy Trinity Church and Schools, Harry Hill]

Sometimes, when necessitated to take relaxation, and to go from home for a few weeks, he improved the time by acting as a deputation for the Church Missionary or Bible Societies, and even now his name is remembered in distant parishes. The Missionary Association for which he acted as secretary, and which was called the North-east Forest of Dean Branch, sometimes contributed 220 pounds a year to the cause, or a total of 3,300 pounds. The appliances, now so generally known, for interesting the young were even then in actual operation in his own school, and effected their purpose well. His monitors and sub-teachers were carefully guided by him; and no doubt with the design of duly impressing its importance upon his scholars, holy baptism in accordance with the rubric was always administered during divine service, after the second lesson, and this took place most Sundays, as the register shows.

Few clergymen took more pains than Mr. Berkin with the communicants of the church, who were always visited before the communion day, and who generally presented themselves to the number of about seventy. On two occasions valuable livings were offered to him; but, said he, "since my ministerial work began in this neighbourhood, here it shall end," as it accordingly did, after forty years of labour, on the 11th October, 1847. He was buried in his own churchyard, being followed to the grave by his sorrowing people, and worthily committed to the tomb by the Rev. James Davies, of Abbenhall. His funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. H. Poole, who took for his text 2 Tim. iv. 6-8. {163}

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