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Bedford, William John (1805–1869)

A few lines to the memory of this lamented clergyman, from a friend who knew him for above forty years, will, it is hoped, be forgiven - if zeal and energy in the pastoral office, never ceasing charity, religion pure and peacable, commanding eminently the love of his people, and the respect of all his clerical brethren, may claim something more than a mere passing notice, in a country so far distant from the scene of his later labours. The Rev William John Picket Bedford was the eldest son of the late Rev Dr Bedford, Senior Chaplain of Tasmania, and, after the usual University course at St John's College, Cambridge, graduating in 1831, he returned to that colony. There he remained several years, as Chaplain at Campbell Town , but on his father's death, he resolved on settling in England where a less fettered, and more extended career of usefulness awaited him. After a few years, he was offered and accepted the vicarage of Bramford, in Suffolk; and there the writer saw him, in the early years of his ministration, when already full of plans for the welfare of his parishioners, and the restoration of his church to its ancient beauty. He found it disfigured by the coats of plaster, and other contontrivances resorted to in the Puritan days, to conceal carved crosses and angels from Cromwell's soldiery. He left it, decorated and attractive But he repaired also his dilapidated school buildings, he instituted an evening service, and filled the church with an attentive and grateful congregation. All this, in litttle more than eight years His efforts are thus recorded, on the occasion of his funeral, in the Ipswich Chronicle - as an example to others, willing to tread in the same footprints.

The remains of the Rev W J P Bedford, late vicar of Bramford-cum-Burstall, were interred in Bramford churchyard, on Saturday, February 6th. Most of the principal inhabitants of the place, with the clergy of many of the surrounding parishes, were present, in order to pay a last tribute of respect to the memory of one who had done so much to elevate and improve his parish. Mr Bedford was instituted to the vicarage of Bramford, and took up his residence in tho parish in the year 1859. He was a man of rare energy, and soon made his presence in the parish felt in a variety of ways. Prior to this time, Bramford, although a village of more than 1000 inhabitants, had no schools worthy of the name. But in little more than a year, Mr Bedford obtained the erection of a handsome and commodious set of schoolrooms, with residence for the master , and several hundreds of boys and girls have since that time been educated there, to the incalculable advan- tage of tho population of tho place. The church itself formed the next object of Mr Bedford's attention, and only those who can remember the worse than neglected state into which that beautiful edifice had been allowed to fall, and who con contrast its present with its former con- dition, can form any idea how much has been done in this direction. It is not only the old and often told tale of ugly pews removed, and the fair proportions of a beautiful interior restored by the removal of a gallery. All this was done; but the care of the lamented gentleman was extended to every part of the sacred building. Windows were carefully restored, arches opened, doorways inserted, walls strengthened, repairs of all kinds executed - with such loving and intelligent care that the beautiful fabric once more appeared in such a form as to do justice to the skill and zeal of those who first planned and dwelt upon its fair proportions. The rev. gentleman was not merely a man of zeal and emergy, but he had a fine and cultivated taste for English architecture, and no man was quicker to condemn whatever he found discordant with it. He studied every detail of his beautiful church, till it had become to him as familiar as thee face of an old friend ; and he knew exactly what would harmonise with it - and nothing, from placing the lamps for the evening services, the arrangement of the wreaths for Christmas decorations, up to the insertion of a memorial window, was ever plannued hastily or carried out in bad taste. The Christmas decorations of the last few years have been one of tho most prominent features of the season in Bramford, and the source of not a little pleasure to the large numbers who visited the church from Ipswich, for the sake of seeing, as they usually did, one of tho most beautifully adorned churches within their reach. Mr. Bed- ford also increased the number of services in the church, and in his time Bramford Church was first regularly lighted for evening service. So highly was this alteration appreciated by the poorer parishioners, that they presented the rev. gentleman with a testimonial ; which was, of course, very highly prized by him to the latest hour of his life. The lamented gentleman had been suffering for some time from an exhausting malady ; and died at Hastings, whence his remains were brought by rail for interment, on Saturday. The funeral was of the most simple and unos- tentatious character, and remarkable for nothing but the numbers of the parishioners, who attended, and who met the procession at the gate to the churchyard."

Mr. Bedford died in his 64th year. He has left a son, resident in Tasmania, and a son and daughter in England; a brother and sister — Mr. Bedford, surgeon, and Lady Stephen, wife of the Chief Justice — being residents in this city.

Original publication

Citation details

'Bedford, William John (1805–1869)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/bedford-william-john-15637/text26834, accessed 23 November 2017.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2017

Life Summary [details]

Birth

1805
London, Middlesex, England

Death

31 January 1869
Hastings, Sussex, England

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence