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James Legrew and his Family

The words "Part of Our History" written in the St. Lawrence's Visitors Book are partly responsible for this article. They were written by David Legrew Hesse when he and his wife, Jerri, visited the Ancient Church.  David is a descendant of the 19th century Rector of St Lawrence's - the Reverend James Legrew M.A. - and he sent us a very impressive family tree.  The information gleaned from him and from various other sources enabled this article about James Legrew and his family to be written.

James Legrew was born on December 16th 1769 in Stewart Street, Spitalfields, London. He was the son of Obadiah and Martha, nee Hesse. Obadiah was a weaver and was descended from a family of Huguenot refugees. James was ordained deacon at Norwich in December 1792 ands priested a year later. In 1792 he became the curate of Wetherden, Suffolk which is where, I assume, he met his wife to be, Elizabeth Harrison. She had been born at Wetherden in January 1771 and died in September 1825 at Ramsgate, Kent, 'after a lingering illness'. This is how her demise is described on her memorial in St Lawrence's church. The lovely monument, which depicts a kneeling woman, was made by her son James who became a sculptor. But more of him at a later date.

In 1830 James became Rector of Chaldon church and a year later Rector of Caterham as well. However, the church register shows that he was already an officiating minister at St. Lawrence's in 1797. He was bequeathed the advowson of St. Lawrence's by his grandfather, Solomon Hesse, in his will of December 1792 and it remained in the family until 1951 when it was relinquished to the Bishop of Southwark under the Advowson Act.

At St. Lawrence's we have much to thank James Legrew for. In 1832 he shared the cost of the new church porch and vestry with the Lord of the Manor, Charles Day. A year later he paid £11 for the iron gates and pillars which we still pass through today as we enter the churchyard on the south side of the church. His name is on several pieces of church silver including a flagon given to the church by his family after his death.

James died at Caterham on 5th August 1856 and was buried at St. Lawrence's on 11th August, aged 86.

There is a lovely description of James Legrew reproduced in the Bourne Society's Local History Record, volume eight. It was written by James Balch who wrote an account of life in Caterham from about 1856. He himself was born in 1845.

"The Rector the Rev. James Legrew was a quaint old gentleman of the old school, who wore black breeches and gaiters like our Bishops wear at the present day. He was very kind-hearted and much beloved by his parishioners. I was present in church the last time he officiated, when he fainted at the Reading Desk. I well remember his funeral; he was carried to the church by eight of his parishioners all robed in white smock-frocks as was customary in those days."

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