Sidney Newman Sedgwick (1873-1941)

In the last two parish magazines we published excerpts from an article about the Education Bill of 1902, written by the Rev. Sedgwick, Curate here from 1897-1905. He was such an interesting and talented person that I thought readers might like to read more about him. I am grateful to Alun Roberts for providing much of this information, and for obtaining copies of some of Sedgwick's operettas.

Sedgwick wrote a book called Letherhead and its Legends, first published in 1901, which too many people have taken as a factual history, but as he himself pointed out, they were written as "legends", and "do not pretend to any strict historical accuracy".

He also wrote several novels, some of which were about Roman Britain and, to fill in his "spare time", so to speak, he composed both words and music of several very amusing operettas in the Gilbert & Sullivan style. Not great music, but very entertaining, and some of the libretto is extremely funny. Several of these operettas were performed in the Letherhead Institute. One wonders how he ever had time to write sermons and visit parishioners!

He lived at No.3 Fairfield House, now part of the Working Mens' Club! Quite appropriate, as he was very interested in improving things for working class people. His housekeeper there was Charlotte Tate, who married Harvey Collyer, a member of our church, in 1903. When Sedgwick left here he became Rector of Bishopstoke, near Portsea, and the Collyers went there too. Charlotte's health was not good, so in 1912 they decided to go to California. Tragically, they sailed on the Titanic, and although Charlotte and her daughter survived, poor Harvey drowned. It was through Sedgwick that our former East window went to St. Mary's Church, Bishopstoke, when our present one was installed in 1909.

In 1922 Sedgwick became Rector of Liss in Hampshire, and in 1934 his final parish was Warnford, also in Hampshire. He retired in 1938 and died in Liss in 1941 in a house in a small housing development, which he had arranged to be built during the Depression in the '30s to provide work for some of the many unemployed local men.

He was a man of exceptionally wide interests and talents, and was remembered with great affection in all his parishes. We hope very much to put on one of his operettas in the relatively near future.

Linda Heath, Leatherhead Parish Magazine December 2002