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Archive for May, 2013

A bronze sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II is to be installed in the south niche of the Clock Tower. It will be unveiled by the Deputy Lieutenant of Bexley, Major D. J. Hewer, at noon on 9 June 2013.

The Clock Tower is currently being prepared for the big occasion!

Clock Tower under wraps in May 2013

Clock Tower under wraps in May 2013

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James Geddes was born in the village of Ruthven, near Buckie, Banffshire on 17 June 1841, the eldest of ten children of John Geddes and Ann Dow. From an early age he felt a desire to devote his life to the work of the ministry, and he went to Hackney Theological College in London to prepare for it. He then accepted an invitation of the Bexleyheath Congregational Church (which had opened in 1854) to succeed Rev. John Adey. The Rev. James Geddes was minister there from 20th September 1868 to 1920.

Bexleyheath's Congregational Church in 1907

Bexleyheath’s Congregational Church in 1907

Geddes was a great preacher with “a style and a method all his own. His sermons were always interesting and always came home to the hearts and lives of his hearers. He had a wonderful gift of apt and forceful illustration.” He was also a great pastor, visiting the homes of his people, and he took a prominent part in temperance meetings.

Rev. James Geddes

Rev. James Geddes

Those people who remember him in his later years usually recall first his great skill as a reader and preacher, equipped as he was with a strong but not harsh voice that retained to the end the accent of his Scottish birthplace. Geddes was a figure known to the whole town, and he could often be seen striding along the road on the way to visit one of his ‘flock’ or to chase up those unfortunate people whose absence he had carefully noted during the previous Sunday’s services. To the children of the Sunday School he was a remote and perhaps revered figure, and his infrequent appearances at the school were guaranteed to cause a stir. He lived in a large house on Broadway, Bexleyheath, near Gravel Hill, with his wife Jessy Harriot and his three children, Jessie, James and Willy. Mrs Jessy Geddes was for a while in charge of a small enterprise that offered help to the poor mothers of the town who were unable to support their children on their own. Their daughter, Jessie, taught children in the ‘Bible Class’ of the Sunday School.

Mrs Geddes and daughter

Mrs Geddes and daughter

In 1911, on the occasion of Rev. Geddes’s 70th birthday, a new hall was erected, later renamed the Lower Geddes Hall, in recognition of the minister’s long and faithful service.

By 1913 Rev. Geddes was suffering from poor health but the church was reluctant to accept his resignation and instead it was decided to share his duties with a co-Pastor, Mr Aeneas Anderson. In 1919 Rev. Geddes suffered a bereavement in the family that affected him greatly, and in the same year Rev. Owen Evans took over as Pastor, although Geddes continued to be involved with the church. He lived in Freta Road. In 1920 Geddes moved to Eltham but even after retirement he still visited neighbouring churches and was welcomed by large congregations coming to hear him. “The secret of his wonderful ministry undoubtedly was tireless energy. He was a hard worker and gave himself up wholly to whatever he undertook to do… There was a solidarity and responsibility in his character which invited confidence. He was at the same time a sympathetic friend and a welcome visitor in times of bereavement.”

James Geddes died at the house of his daughter in Eltham on 23 February 1927 at the age of 86. He was buried in Bexleyheath Cemetery, alongside his wife who had died in 1911.

Many years later, in 1988, the church in Bexleyheath’s Market Place was demolished and a new United Reformed Church was built in its place. [The Congregational and Presbyterian churches merged to form the United Reformed Church in 1972]. Amidst significant town development at that time, the road was named Geddes Place and the new church was called the Geddes Place United Reformed Church.

Geddes Place URC in 2011

Geddes Place United Reformed Church in 2011

Sources:

The Church on the Heath by Ian Crowe, a pamphlet produced by Bexleyheath URC in 1982

Obituary of Rev. James Geddes in Bexleyheath Observer 25 Feb. 1927 p9

Funeral of Rev. James Geddes reported in Bexleyheath Observer 4 March 1927 p13

Family history information from Jim McGill, descendant of John Geddes, brother of Rev. James Geddes.

1841-1911 census

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