A Modern Gloucestershire Sermon

At the annual Gloucestershire Society church service in Compton Abdale on Sunday, 19th September 2021, the Reverend Dr. (Mother) Alycia Timmis, who is the Priest-in-Charge of the Northleach Benefice, gave a fascinating sermon. Her sermon was meticulously researched  and was absolutely relevant to the Gloucestershire Society, to the extent we learnt forgotten information about the early days of The Gloucestershire Society.

Dr. Timmis has kindly given her blessing for the sermon to be presented on this page for all to read.

The Sermon For The Gloucestershire Society

It is a privilege to be here today to share in this celebration of the works and achievements of The Gloucestershire Society.

I was moved by the stories and accounts of individuals who have been helped through the acts of kindness shown by this Society. Both of our readings this morning speak of generosity, hospitality and kindness to strangers.

I read something recently about kindness, called the “virtuous cycle” whereby a kindness shown is then shared — in other words: kindness begets kindness. In my quest to learn more about the Society, I was delighted to discover a connection between the great work of The Gloucestershire Society and one of my son’s favourite story books, from the pen of Beatrix Potter. I speak of course, of  THE TAILOR OF GLOUCESTER.

Beatrix Potter’s The Tailor of Gloucester is one her best-loved books and may have been her own favourite. It is based in a true story. One which Beatrix Potter heard from her cousin, Caroline Hutton, of Harescombe Grange, who heard it  from the tailor himself. Although the tailor in the book is an old man, the real one, John Samuel Prichard, was actually around twenty-three years old when “the event” took place.

John Samuel Prichard, born in 1877, was the son of farmer, he was helped into a tailoring apprenticeship by The Gloucestershire Society. He served his indenture with John Powell, a Master Tailor. John Powell proved to be a kind and fatherly Apprentice Master. From him and under his roof, John Prichard learned his craft and trade, but, also found future love and companionship. Years later, after his own tailoring business met with significant success, Prichard married his former Master’s daughter, Ida Eugenia Powell in Gloucester in 1917.But, all that came later. After “the event”.

Just like the tailor in the story, John Prichard had a modest tailoring business in Gloucester, and in the 1890s had been asked to make a waistcoat for the Mayor of Gloucester to wear in the procession from the Guildhall, Eastgate, to Shire Hall, Westgate, for the opening of “The Root, Fruit & Grain Society Show”. Prichard worked on the Mayor’s waistcoat but, feeling unwell, left the garment unfinished on a Saturday afternoon and shut up shop for the weekend. He returned to the shop on Monday to find the garment finished, except for one buttonhole, on which was pinned a scrap of paper with the message “No more twist”.

It later transpired that Prichard’s apprentices, lads like himself who had been helped by The Gloucestershire Society, grateful for Prichard’s generosity to them as their Master Tailor, had completed the work out of kindness to him. Prichard put the scrap of paper which declared “No More Twist” in the shop window, alongside  a special notice which stated:” “Come to Prichard’s - where the waistcoats are made at night by fairies!” And so - the legend was born! And, reached the pen of Beatrix Potter! There followed success, renown and fame. The rest, as they say, is history.

At the heart of the Tailor of Gloucester’s story — both real and re-imagined — is kindness, generosity and concern for others. And, the remarkable work of The Gloucestershire Society. This ethos of kindness is and has been at very the heart of The Gloucestershire Society, from its foundation in 1657 to this very day.

May God bless you all as you continue your work as part of God’s great mission of love, generosity and kindness.