Rev. John Brand – The Great War Vicar

The Rev. John Brand was vicar in Platt throughout the Great War and prominent in supporting the community through what must have been a very testing period in the history of the parish. Born the son of a farmer in Cambridgeshire during 1855, the Rev. Brand came to Platt in 1907 and was actively involved in renovating the almshouses, restoring the church, building the new school and in his last years, working with the parishioners on the construction of the memorial hall. We have reproduced two newspaper articles concerning John below. The first is an obituary published in the Kent Messenger (23 December 1922) and the second a tribute by the Bishop of Rochester published in the Sevenoaks Chronicle (27 April 1923) on the occasion of the induction of his successor, the Rev. John Newton Mallinson.

On the day the Memorial Hall was officially opened, the Rev. Brand sent the following letter to the Hall Committee:

I thank you for your kind invitation to me to take part in the service of dedication of the Hall today, and I welcome it as an expression of your feeling that your first thought should be that our Churches should thank God for the lives given and laid down for us for our villages and our homes.

I congratulate you on the consummation of our wishes to build this Hall, because when you and I have long been forgotten, the building will stand as it were side by side with the Parish room, each with its great responsibilities and high purpose reaching forward continually to their larger fulfilment – this to raise and enable the social life and brighten the homes of the people the other to carry on and intensify the life of the Parish and to be the handmaid of the Church (spiritual) by the side of which it stands.

I shall never forget, and I am sure that you will never forget, the Memorial services for the men, one by one as they fell. Those solemn services held in God’s house, in God’s acre where Platt mourners have laid their dead in the years that have past seemed to bring home and near to us and your buried dead the men whose bodies lay on the battlements of France and Belgium, of the East, and faraway lands. So, in order that we may keep them with us may this Memorial which you have erected here be a help to the living along the path of life, as we hope the Memorial to be placed in the Church will keep in continual remembrance that higher life which is won only by the law of self-sacrifice.

The Late Rev John Brand | Vicar of Platt for 15 Years

Amid many manifestations of sympathy and sorrow, the funeral took place at Platt on Saturday of the late Rev John Brand, the much beloved Vicar for the past 15 years who, after a prolonged illness, passed away at the Vicarage on the previous Tuesday at the age of sixty-seven years.

Deceased was educated under Professor Church of Ightham (who was his great friend), and later at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was a Curate at St. Peter’s, Nottingham, from 1880 to 1885, and went from there to Cossall, Nottingham, for three years. In 1889 he was made Rector of Bridgetown, Western Australia, and in 1898 returned to England to become Curate of High Ercall in Shropshire, where he stayed for a year. Mr Brand was then appointed Chaplain to the British Legation at Tangier, but in 1900 he again returned to England as Curate of Great Bourton, Oxfordshire. In 1901 he was appointed Curate of St. Alban’s, Dartford, and in 1903 was made Vicar there. It was in 1907 that he was presented by the Bishop of Rochester to the living of Platt.

In Western Australia, Mr Brand’s parish was 600 miles long and there, with the aid of Government grants, he organised the efforts which led to the building of the church, vicarage, hospital, and several schools. When he left that country he was presented by his parishioners with £80, which was almost entirely made up of very small sums, from the poorest sections, together with an address in which the people expressed their gratitude for his work – a work which had resulted in his leaving them a poorer man than when he went amongst them.

During his ministry at Platt, the late Mr Brand, in spite of chronic Ill-health, restored the almshouses, built the new schools, secured a large and well-fitted parish room, and greatly improved the vicarage. He last work was the complete restoration of the church, which was to have opened simultaneously with the dedication of the war memorial. With death intervening, Mr Brand was not able to see the fulfilment of one of his best works, and it was a sad coincidence that his own funeral was the first ceremony to take place in the newly restored church, for which he laboured until the day of his demise. His last and dearest wish was that the work remaining in connection with the restoration should be carried out as it would have been had he lived a few weeks longer. His uprightness of character, his noble generosity, and his kindness of heart were amply testified to by the many acts and tokens of affection on his death.

Kent Messenger – 23 December 1922

PLATT VICAR INSTITUTED | Bishop’s Eloquent Tribute To The Late Rev. John Brand.

The collation and induction of the Rev. John Newton Mallinson, LTH, to the Vicarage of St. Mary’s Platt, vacant by the death of the Rev. John Brand, B.A., were performed on Saturday afternoon by the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Rochester and the Ven. A. T. Scott, M.A. (Archdeacon of Tonbridge), respectively, in the presence of a crowded congregation. The attendant clergy were the Revs A. P. Pascoe (Rector of Wrotham), who acted as Chaplain to the Bishop, E. H. Stewart, R.D. (Rector of Kemsing), F. W. Warland (Rector of Kingsdown), B. T. Winnifreth (Rector of Ightham), J.H. Bradbury (Borough Green), F.S. Gammon (Barne’s Cray), Chas. Moore (Vicar of Bexley), E.B. Whaley (Slade Green), C.G. Holland, M.A. (Sevenoaks), C.R. Basset, Edward Bell, and Dr. L. E. Lewis, M.D. (Rector of Finningley, Yorks.)

The impressive service was fully choral, St. Mary’s Choir being augmented for the occasion by a number of choristers from Bexley, which also sent a large contingent of the Vicar-elect’s old parishioners, to the number of 160 or so. The hymns sung were: “Lead us, Heavenly Father, lead us” and “Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire” before the ceremony, and, after the address by the Bishop. “We love the place, O God” during which a collection was made for the parochial quota of the Rochester Diocesan Board of Finance.

The BISHOP said that the institution of the new Vicar naturally brought to his mind and to the minds of all who knew the late incumbent that fact that it was taking place consequent on the decease of him who for 15 years was Vicar of this parish, the Rev. John Brand. He did not think that Mr. Brand’s work and character were sufficiently appreciated by those who had the opportunity of knowing him here, but he was certain that in years to come his incumbency would be looked back upon with great gratitude by his successors to the important work of this parish and by all those who had the interests of the Church at heart. Mr Brand was a man of creative power, a man of statesmanlike outlook, a man who saw what things had to be done and did not hesitate to carry them out, a man of resolve and courage. He came to Platt (as they knew) from the incumbency of St. Alban’s, Dartford, a parish of a close artisan population, for which is special gifts were not, perhaps, as suitable as for a parish in the country, for it was well known that Mr. Brand was devoted to country life, and was one who loved Nature, loved animals, was at home in the garden, and had knowledge of farm life and rural conditions – a knowledge which had been fostered, as they were aware, by his nine year’s experience in Western Australia. He (the Bishop) knew that country fairly well, and he knew that the vast needs of the population spread out over that Great Continent afforded great opportunity for the showing forth of those gifts which Mr. Brand possessed. He was a man who was as a clergyman essentially a pioneer one who in that huge parish – a parish bigger than England – did all that was necessary to be done in the building of churches, hospitals and schools, so that those who came out from the old country, with its spiritual and educational privileges, could have in their new land something to remind them of the religion of the Mother Country which they loved and the advantage of some methodical arrangement by which their children would be brought up in those very sparse districts with facilities equal to those they had themselves enjoyed. That was the kind of work for which Mr. Brand was particularly suited, and he came here with that same creative faculty, that same statesmanlike outlook, that faith and courage to face difficulties and undertake burdens which characterised him out in Australia. He had not been here long before the almshouses were put in order and a little later on he had to raise £1250 for the building of the Church Schools, which stood close by, in order that the needs of the rising generation might be provided for. He then set to work to ensure that the church property itself should be handed down to his successors in a better condition than that in which he found it.

In looking back through the files of letters which he had received from Mr. Brand he found again and again such a phrase as this occurring, “I desire that my successor should come here and find things in good order. What I propose to do will add to the value of the buildings.” The late Vicar had not only a statesmanlike view of the future, but also a most self-sacrificing and unselfish idea of what he was doing and for whom he was doing it. After effecting improvements to the Vicarage House and the Parish Room, he was faced with the difficulties of the fabric of this church, a church which, although it was only 80 years old, had been built in a way which certainly did not reflect great credit on the contractors, whoever they were. It was falling to pieces – mortar, stones and tiles had to be renewed, and the Architect’s survey showed the tower was in a bad state. Mr. Brand took upon himself these successive waves of new burdens and obligations, loyally and with courage, and carried them, instead of postponing them and passing them on to his successor, which he would have done had he been thinking of himself, and wished to take a petty advantage out of it at the expense of him who should come after. His sole object was to leave the place far better than when he came into it.

When they remembered that for the latter part of the time Mr. Brand was suffering from illness – from a particularly painful kind of complaint, which for many years was sapping his strength and making life very difficult with regard to anything like pleasure, though he said little about it – it appeared all the more remarkable that he should have so courageously carried on his work of improving the church and everything connected with the parish. As long ago as 1907 he wrote referring to his malady, but in 1921 he had a holiday and came back with hope renewed, to find himself pledged to take up this question of the church repairs. He had done it in a way which was obvious to the eyes of all those gathered there that afternoon, but he (the Bishop) remembered the shock which this church gave him from an architectural point of view. It had been designed in a way which did not conform to the ancient ideas of church building, nor would its kind be erected today by any capable ecclesiastical architect. It was very largely due to the splendid work of Mr. Brand and help he received that the church in which his successor would conduct worship was in its present state, with regard to both the fabric and the light, and because of the earnestness and courage of his predecessor, Mr Mallinson would be spared from all responsibility in the matter of the buildings and schools of this place. They must not disguise the fact that in the later years of his work here, Mr. Brand was not altogether able to carry his people with him in one or two matters, which caused him a very great deal of sorrow and thought, and which they would recognise was due very largely to his being in poor health at that time, and, therefore, unable to bring to bear in every way that patience which a man in full health could do on matters on which there was a difference of opinion. They would remember that very touching letter, the last words of a dying man, which he addressed to his parishioners on the occasion of the opening of the new hall and unveiling of the memorial tablet. That letter was a confession that he desired in every way to extend the hand of fellowship and friendship to those who had not seen eye to eye with him with regard to the object of that memorial, and to put an end to anything which had in the minds of some caused a little rift in the late of friendship and harmony in this place. But whatever view was taken, they could not fail to recognise in Mr. Brand a whole-hearted, unselfish, hard-working man who rose superior to a lingering and painful illness, and who ministered to his people to the very best of his power during the long period of his incumbency.

The church would have been re-opened about last Christmas-time with thankful gratitude to Almighty God for the work of restoration, and in a way worthy of the sacrifices made to secure that the fabric should be preserved for the high purpose for which it had been erected. Mr. Brand would have been there to thank God for the results of all the efforts which he had exerted to bring about that consummation. But God thought otherwise, and the first occasion on which the church was used after the completion of the work was when the late Vicar’s mortal remains were brought here for internment. He looked back now on the work done and saw that the feelings of the people as a whole were, in spite of any little difficulty, feelings in which diversity of opinion in any sense was now swallowed up in the recognition of labours accomplished under difficulty by one who was a whole-hearted and devoted servant of his Master. Their feelings of sympathy were, he knew, extended in the very fullest way to Mrs. Brand, whose quiet work here and kindness to the people was recognised on all hands. He (the Bishop) saw her a few days ago in her new home, and she wished him to thank everybody here for the many acts of kindness which she had received in conjunction with the death of her husband, and particularly for a great act of generosity of which she had been the recipient from those who had collected a considerable sum of money to show their appreciation of her husband’s work and to assist her in the strained condition of her circumstances. She would ever keep in grateful memory those acts of kindness and that collective proof of it which the people here had given here.

John Brand, the fourth incumbent of St. Mary’s Platt had gone to his rest, and now they had the Rev. J. N. Mallinson to take up the work and carry the succession of clergy who had held this Vicarage. Mr. Mallinson came here with eleven years’ experience in a parish where he had been practically from the first in sole charge of a daughter church, and where he was known, respected and loved. The best introduction which Mr. Mallinson could have to the people among who he was to serve in the future was the presence that afternoon of some one hundred or so from Bexley, who had followed him there to be witnesses of, and to take part in that service, and although it parted them from him, they wished to show that in losing him they did not cease to take an interest in him and in the future which lay before him. They welcomed also the presence of so many clergy from the Dartford Deannery and the presence and the help of the Bexley Choir, so that with their assistance the opening service of a new incumbency might be a worthy worship of Almighty God. To the Vicar was committed an important charge, and it was the duty of those in the parish of Platt to see to it that he was supported in his new work. Any who might possibly have been lacking in devotion to church work ion the last few years must realise that now was the time to come forward and do the very best in their power to support their church, not mainly because there was a new incumbent, but because they would wish to cherish the memory of Mr. Brand, whose greatest desire was not only to hand on the property and all that concerned the parish to his successor, but, what was far more important, the souls of those born here and chosen by God to worship in this church, a united and harmonious congregation, to welcome a man with great powers of conciliation and a capacity for sympathy with people’s desires, one who through his years of service in Bexley had been ever-ready to smooth over difficulties, to lead without driving, and had thus commanded the love and respect of those around him.

Concluding, the Bishop said he trusted that this service was the beginning of a long incumbency, one which year by year would fine the people drawn more and more to Christ, and so of necessity drawn to one another. So they would go forward together, the shepherd and the sheep, advancing in all that was good.

Sevenoaks Chronicle – 27 April 1923