Rev. George Newnham

Every generation has its alcohol related problems. In Victorian/ Edwardian times temperance movements emerged with the enthusiasm of religious crusades.

Organisations such as the ‘Recabites’ urged Corsham people to “sign the pledge” for a life committed to abstinence. In 1903 a cinema show at the Town Hall financed the “Good Templars Movement”.

The foundation of the Church of England Temperance Society followed the arrival of a dedicated clergyman, the Rev George Newnham (1806 – 1839). Having retired from his living at Combe Down, Bath (35 years at £30 per annum) he took up residence at The Grove, High St, in 1877.

A strictly orthodox and outspoken parson, every day started with family prayers. Diarist Herbert Spackman records “3.1.1888: Mr Newnham preached and could not help treading on political grounds. He spared no one, but had a hit all round”.

On 7.12.1888 Herbert recalls “ I went to choir practice at the Methuen Arms in the evening. Mr Newnham went out before “Blow the Gentle Gales”.

George Newnham’s grave occupies a corner of the south cemetery of the church. In those days of large families, he was married three times and sired thirteen offspring.

The main tenet of his preaching was “abstinence” – presumably this only applied to drink!