Saturday, May 28, 2016

"Men in Black"- A Curate's Lesson

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In 1877, a newly ordained curate, 24 year old Rev. Samuel Francis Barber, arrived in the village of Lower Mitton on the Severn in Worcestershire. By all accounts, he was well-liked by his parishioners and his superior. Or he was, until the following year, when he had the temerity to go about in a pair of coloured trousers. For men of the cloth, black was the default colour. When his vicar, the Rev. Mr. Gibbons remonstrated with him, Barber simply resigned his position. It was true that any flashiness or colored vestments were sensitive issues in the Victorian church as many thought them "Romish." But Mr. Barber's daring trousers were said to be "of an ordinary mundane color & pattern." With sympathy in the face of such "vicarial tyranny," some villagers passed round a (presumably black) hat to collect a going-away token. For Mr. Barber, getting a reputation for being, well, "too big for his britches" might be a career-wrecker for a young curate but he survived.

As for more difficult questions about a clergyman's trousers, the vicar of Bracknell was asked in a London court whether his trousers were "disarranged" when he was found in a remote copse with a young lady not his wife. The story of the Rev. Mr. Howes can be found in Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1 now available for Kindle.
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