Alan Taylor (left) and Rev Tony Shepherd with part of the local history society display Photo: Ray Duff

By Ray Duff – A small enthusiastic congregation attended events to mark the 125th anniversary of the death of the remarkable Rev Matthew Woodward at the Parish Church of St Mary & St Eanswythe’s Church, Folkestone.

On Saturday the Rev Tony Shepherd, a former curate of the Church on the Bayle in the late 1960s and through the 1970s held a talk about the life and work of Rev Woodward.  He related how Woodward had become vicar in 1851 and shortly after married Rosamund Barrow whilst living in Victoria Grove, then one of the poshest streets in town. They had 10 children in all, though sadly two died very young.

Rev Shepherd relates the story of Rev Woodward Photo: Ray Duff

Rev Woodward, seeing the rather dilapidated state of the Church at that time, as well as being hugely concerned about the poor of the town, began the formers first refurbishment in 1855 as well as changing some of the way services were held including introducing Hymns Ancient & Modern as an example.

He also began to help fundraise for further Churches to be built  around the town.

Firstly St Peter’s on The Durlocks and later St Michael’s, St Saviours, and also St Andrew’s Nursing Home. 

He also worked to gain the help of usually women form the ‘rich’ west end of the then town, to go to provide assistance to the poor, especially children, on the east side and sometimes help in Court cases. 

He also oversaw the arrival of the Clewer Nuns and then St Eanswith Nuns on the Bayle, and some other more progressive advances. These as well as further changes to the Church itself, the extension of the Nave, installation of the (William) Harvey stained glass window and was present when the bones of St Eanswith herself were first rediscovered in 1885.

His life was not without controversy, as his wife and five of his children were also inducted into the Roman Catholic faith, and some of his staff were involved in prosecutions for using the wrong liturgy practices.

Woodward went on the support the opening of the Royal Victoria Hospital, The Folkestone Lifeboat and much else alongside his ongoing work for the poor of the town  He also wrote a history of the Church (1885), and a childrens’ hymn book, which was distributed around the UK. Woodward died peacefully on May 1, 1898, and his funeral was well attended by much of the town.

Other events to mark the anniversary were a Festive Parish Eucharist, led by the former Bishop of Dover, Rt Rev. Richard Llewellin on Sunday and then a Guided Tour of the Church itself and it’s rich history, artefacts, and personages on Monday.  A photographic exhibition about Woodward and his work is on display 29 April – 29 May, daily, during church opening times.

Some further info:-

St Mary & St Eanswythe Church,_Folkestone

Rev. Matthew Woodward. 

There is sadly nothing specifically about his life on line as such, just his history of the Church book.

Arthur Tooth

Folkestone & District Local History Society

By Ed

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