‘Squarson’, sportsman and ‘Father of the Village’,
Vicar of Willington 1858-1912.
By Gordon Vowles

The Gostwick Press, 2010.
Price £6.00 (£7 from the author - including postage & packing, see below)

This is an excellent, well-researched and highly readable account of the life and works of the Reverend Augustus Orlebar, and late-Victorian and Edwardian village life and politics. It provides fascinating insights into the role of ‘Squarson’ as village leader, and should have a much wider appeal than to just to those with an interest in Willington’s local history or the Orlebar family.

Augustus Orlebar, born in 1824, was the seventh son of Robert Charles Orlebar and spent his childhood at Crawley House, Aspley Guise. Robert was a member of a collateral branch of the Orlebar family. Orphaned in 1837 he was adopted by his uncle, William Augustus Orlebar, living with him at Hinwick Hall. In 1838 he was sent to Dr. Arnold’s Rugby School, where he studied until 1842. He was an excellent cricketer, captaining the School XI. He was admitted to Wadham College, Oxford in 1843, reading classics.

He returned to Bedfordshire in 1852 having been offered the living of Farndish, a small parish of only 82 people. In 1858 he was offered the living of Willington by the Duke of Bedford, the village being part of the Russell estates. The following year he married Caroline Yarde Scobell, daughter of the rector of Lewes, under whom he had trained. They had a long marriage, bringing up six children. Augustus supplemented his limited income by tutoring young men of good families for ‘going up’ to university.

One of Augustus’s major projects was the restoration of the parish Church. The Duke of Bedford funded major improvements in 1867 and 1877, the latter designed by Henry Clutton, the architect of the new parish church at Woburn.

Augustus was keen to improve the education of the children of the poor, and promoted a day school. In 1867 the Duke gave £1,000 to construct a Church of England school under the National Society. Augustus was a member of the village School Board from 1875 to 1903, and Chairman from 1899. In 1905, aged over 80, he resisted proposals to close the school and amalgamate it with one at Cople. He was also a member of the Management Committee of Bedford County Hospital and a Poor Law Guardian. He had an interest in agriculture, working the glebe lands, and was a strong supporter of the county Agricultural Show and was said to have kept the best herd of Alderney cattle in the area.

He remained an active sportsman, promoting a successful village cricket team. In later life he spent his evenings playing bridge and his mornings reading a Greek testament, or walking with his dogs. Augustus died in September 1912, mourned by family, friends, clergy and parishioners, having earned the title ‘the father of the village’.

If you needed further encouragement to buy this book, all proceeds will go to the Friends of Willington Parish Church, and it has been published in association with Willington Local History Group. As a Society, we should support good local histories. I hope you will feel the same.

Recommendation: An excellent book and a good cause.

Copies can be obtained from the author for £7 (which includes postage and packing): Gordon Vowles, 5 Beauchamp Place, Willington, Bedford, MK44 3QA

Illustration of book cover