The Tale of The Church Furniture


Mr Charles Mainwaring died on July 19th 1850 at Coleby.  The sale of his effects was spread over nine days and dealers attended from London and many parts of the country.  Included in the sale were the principal parts of the church furniture intended for Hackthorn, on which, the carver, Mr Anstey, had been working at Coleby for some 5 years.  As the furniture had not by then been officially handed over to Hackthorn church by Mr Mainwaring, his executors claimed that it should be sold with the deceased’s other effects for the benefit of his legatees.  The following extract is from a Lincolnshire newspaper of the time:-

Coleby Hall Sale – 31st October 1850

“At this day’s sale we record an incident which has probably found few parallels in the annals of buying and selling, and which will give those who are too apt to look only on the dark side of the pictures of life, a better view of human nature than they are wont to take, showing that noble and generous feelings are still alive amongst us, and are not dead and buried as some assert.

“The programme of the day’s proceedings had created much interest, and had brought together great numbers of people, probably from four to five hundred.  The business was going on as specified in the catalogue, when the auctioneer (Mr Clarke) stopped, and addressing the meeting said, “Gentlemen, the next ten lots are the Communion Table and other furniture intended by the late Mr Mainwaring for Hackthorn Church, and it is a pity they had not been sent over there”. (Deep silence) – At that moment a Jew dealer, of tall and very commanding stature, wearing a long beard, and known under the soubriquet “Big Ben” made his way through the crowd to the bottom of the table, took off his hat and turning to the auctioneer, said “Mr Clarke, the following ten lots were intended by the late Mr Mainwaring for Hackthorn church, and they never ought to have come into this room at all.  I propose’ Sir, that you should put them all together, and if you will do so, I will purchase them, and present them to Hackthorn church.  (Loud Applause)   Yes, Sir, I, a Jew, will present them myself to a Christian Temple”.

“The room at this moment presented a scene worthy of the pen of Sir Walter Scott.  The tall dignified figure of the Jew, with his animated countenance rising high above the heads of those who surrounded him – the surprise of the Auctioneer – the excitement of the meeting plainly depicted on the countenances of the spectators – the breathless deathlike silence which continued whilst the transaction was pending – all formed a scene not readily forgotten by those who witnessed it.  “Bravo” exclaimed Mr Charles Lee, one of the representatives of the late Mr Mainwaring, “Bravo, Benjamin, I will go halves with you”. “Then, Sir, continued Big Ben, “I offer £10 for the lot; and now” (looking round the room) where is the Christian who dare bid against me”.

“A last conference having taken place between the Auctioneer and the representatives, and the Jew having solemnly declared, upon his honour as a man, that he would hand over the things to the church the moment they were his, the lot was knocked down to him for £10, to the evident satisfaction of Mr Clarke himself, and amidst loud and prolonged cheering from all parts of the room, the applause not subsiding for several minutes.

“As soon as possible afterwards the order for delivery was placed in the hands of the Vicar of the Parish of Hackthorn, who instantly stated to the Auctioneer that he had been wholly unprepared for the generous part Mr Benjamin had taken in the matter, and quite overcome by his feelings, could hardly exclaim “May the God of the Hebrews bless him for this act”.

Thus was fulfilled, at last, Mr Mainwaring’s intention; respect for whose memory had made it a subject of general regret in the neighbourhood that his wishes with regard to the furniture had not been carried out earlier”

The furniture and effects intended for Hackthorn church were duly delivered and installed in the church.  An appreciative letter of thanks was written to Mr Benjamin, signed by the Vicar, the Church Wardens and prominent members of the Parish, ending up with their wish to place on record their sense of his noble-minded conduct as an instance of the most excellent gift of charity, “to help each and all of us to prepare ourselves for that heavenly place where there is to be neither Jew nor Gentile, neither bond nor free, but where the Anointed Saviour will be Lord of all”.

By March 1851 the Church was entirely finished, all the furniture installed, and the Church yard made up on the south side to approximately the same level throughout; the cost was estimated at about £5000, of which Charles Mainwaring provided some £4000 for wages and materials and Robert Cracroft (1783-1862) £1000 for accommodation and rations of the workmen engaged.

During the five years whilst the Church was being rebuilt services were held regularly in the old Barn in the stable yard, later converted into the theatre and now the Village Hall.