Friday, 24 May 2013

A new account of the life of an important Suffolk Clergyman and Magistrate during the 19th century

Read this exciting new biography of Thomas Anderson who was Rector of Felsham and a Suffolk magistrate for over fifty years.

Thomas Anderson


Rector of Felsham

1822 to 1872




Felsham PO Stores


Price £6


Also available from the author



The proceeds from the sale of this new booklet will go towards the digitalisation of photographs of Felsham in the Spanton-Jarman Collection. These photographs are held at the Suffolk Record Office on behalf of the Bury Past & Present Society.

Extract from the Foreword to
'Thomas Anderson ~ Rector of Felsham 1822-1872'
Any attempt to write the biography of someone who lived over a hundred and forty years ago in Felsham and who left behind no portrait, diary, letters or personal reminiscences is beset with difficulties.  With the Rev. Thomas Anderson there is none of that interesting record left by other 19th century parsons who were his approximate East Anglian contemporaries: Richard Cobbold of Wortham, John Longe of Coddenham, John Henslow of Hitcham, and Benjamin Armstrong of East Derham.
We do not know what Thomas Anderson looked like because no drawing, painting or photograph of him has survived.  We do know that he had his photograph taken in Bury St Edmunds sometime during 1864, along with other local clergymen, with prints selling in the photographer’s shop for one shilling each, but it has not been traced.  So a biography without a written or pictorial portrait and without access to documents giving details of character, opinion and social attitudes, could be not only dry and uninteresting but seriously unbalanced. 
Nevertheless, it is amazing how much can be re-created from even the most seemingly banal pieces of evidence such as snippets from local newspapers. It must be stressed, though, that this strategy is a minefield for the amateur local historian as deduction based on incomplete evidence can easily turn into fiction and conjecture.   Genealogical sources, mostly on-line, can provide generally accurate access to the basic details of Thomas Anderson’s life – where he was born, when he married, when he died, and so on.  It has been a major task to put some flesh on these rather dry bones of bare fact.  However, we are particularly fortunate in that one of Thomas Anderson’s great nephews lived in Felsham during the 1930s and 40s and related some family anecdotes that give a wonderful glimpse of happenings inside the Rectory during his great uncle’s incumbency.
 We are also fortunate in that Thomas Anderson was not only a rector but a magistrate and sometime Chairman of the Suffolk Quarter Sessions, and as such was frequently mentioned in reports of court proceedings in local newspapers such as the Bury & Norwich Post and the Ipswich Journal.  So, although we will probably never know much about his personal life, Thomas Anderson had a public persona as a well-regarded and conscientious magistrate which can give us some clue as to his social attitudes and his position in society.  Nevertheless, the reader may feel that the biography which follows is seriously over-dependent on reports, articles and advertisements in newspapers.  It can only be hoped that, in time, more background information on Thomas Anderson will become available and that a more rounded “life” will eventually emerge.
As a well-educated man and ordained priest, Thomas Anderson would certainly have known George Herbert’s book The Country Parson, written one hundred and seventy years before he arrived in Felsham.  In this seminal book he would have read Herbert’s description of the ideal parson’s life which included the stricture:
The Countrey Parson is exceeding exact in his Life, being holy, just, prudent, temperate, bold, grave in all his wayes
Despite the research constraints outlined above, this brief biography provides plenty of evidence that Thomas Anderson’s life reflected many of these virtues that George Herbert held in such high esteem.

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