Rev. Charles Lench: The Victoria Connection

Frank E. Clarke


Much of the history of Heartís Content Road, Victoria Village and Victoria is linked directly to Crockerís Cove, Carbonear and surrounding communities. One of the best sources of information available comes from church related records such as those of births, marriages and deaths. Other information comes from church bulletins and other such records. From these, we can focus on the lives of some of the people who played a part in the evolution of our history and added important pieces to the puzzle that makes up our past.

One such source of information comes from the life of Charles Lench, a Methodist minister who served Carbonear and various other communities in the Conception Bay area. Victoria was first known as Heartís Content Road then Victoria Village when he served at Carbonear.

Generally speaking the name of the community was Heartís Content Road from around 1852 to 1869. At times it was referred to in Church Records as Victoria Village from around 1864 to around 1907 even though sometimes the older name was used. Thereafter it was for the most part referred to as Victoria. At times, in church records, others referred to the area as Beaver Pond, Swansea or Jobís Pond when they were asked where they lived.

Bert Riggs, writing in the Tuesday, February 13, 2001 edition of the Telegram presented an excellent history of this unique man. Information about him is also found in The Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and The Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador Biography.

"The Newfoundland clergy of the 19th and early 20th centuries were usually men of varied talents in addition to their clerical responsibilities. Many, especially those assigned to parishes in rural Newfoundland, often performed the duties of teacher, school board member, justice of the peace, doctor, legal counsel, confidant and general advisor to the people in their community. Others found time for extra-clerical pursuits in other fields, such as history, literature, gardening and public service.

Charles Lench was one of these. Born near Dudley, Staffordshire, England on May 8, 1859, the son of Mary and Alfred W. Lench, he was educated at Kingsgrove, England, and through private studies.

He came to Newfoundland as a Methodist probationer in 1883, and was stationed at Flat Islands, Petites and Carbonear, before his ordination into the Methodist ministry in 1887. Following ordination, he served in Channel, Herring Neck, Greenspond, Bay Roberts, Bird Island Cove (Elliston), St. Johnís at Alexander Street, Freshwater, Western Bay, Grand Bank, Bonavista and Brigus, usually spending three or four years in each pastoral charge." It is his stay at Carbonear in 1886 and1887 that is of interest to students of Victoria history.

"While serving in Bonavista, Lench oversaw the construction of a new church building. Designed by his son, Charles Harris Lench, an architect, upon completion it was the largest wooden church in eastern Canada, with a seating capacity for 1,200.

His ministerial duties included involvement in the administration and governing of the Newfoundland Conference of the Methodist (later United) Church. He served as district financial secretary in 1909, before being elected by his fellow clergy and lay delegates as secretary of conference in 1910 and president in 1912.

He was Newfoundland delegate to the general council of the Methodist Church in Canada in 1914, and a representative to the social and moral reform board of the church in 1921. He served separate four-year terms as chairman of the Burin and the Bonavista districts of the church in Newfoundland, and acted as chairman of the board of the Methodist Guards, the churchís paramilitary organization for boys, from 1902 to 1905.

In addition to these responsibilities, Lench found time to write. He was a chronicler of the history and development of the Methodist Church in Newfoundland, and spent many hours researching the history of several of the communities where he was stationed.

His earliest writings on the subject appeared in local publications, The Methodist Monthly Greeting. It was a 14- part series entitled The Makers of Methodism, which ran from November 1899 to February 1901.

He also published three books documenting the history of the church in particular areas of Newfoundland: The History of the Rise and Progress of Methodism on the Western Bay Circuit (1912). An Account of the Rise of Methodism on the Grand Bank and Fortune Circuits from 1816 to 1916 (1916) and The Story of Methodism in Bonavista and the Settlements Visited by the Early Preachers (1919). These books are important for their vivid accounts of the early Methodist missions who established the church on a solid foundation in rural Newfoundland during the 19th century.

They also provided valuable details about the history of these communities, and the people who lived there and contributed to the development and day-to-day work of the church. The Bonavista and Grand Bank books were reprinted in 1985 and 1986, respectively making them available to new generations of people interested in local church and community history.

Lenchís writing was not limited to church history. He traveled extensively and often wrote about his travels, the places he had visited and the sights he had seen. Many of these were published in the Newfoundland Quarterly to which he was a frequent contributor in the early decades of the 20th century. They included An Ocean Voyage (1904) concerning a trip he took from Liverpool, England to Montreal, and accounts of visits to the Dore Gallery (1902) and Madam Tussaudís waxworks (1903) in London.

Other Quarterly articles include Life in an Outport (1903), Grand Bank: An Interesting Outport (1912) and Shakespeare, the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon (1913).

Lench joined the Loyal Orange Association some time after his arrival in Newfoundland and served for five years as grand chaplain.

He wrote two essays, published as pamphlets, which may have resulted from his membership in the Orange order and may have been intended for the reading pleasure of its members. These were In the Footprints of William of Orange: The Hero of the Loyal Orange Association (1917) and No Surrender: The Seige of Derry and its Lessons (1926).

He published two pamphlets with very patriotic themes: The German War and its Aftermath (1916), and Oliver Cromwell (1924). He also published a commemorative booklet entitled A Souvenir of the Brigus Methodist Jubilee of the Opening of the Church, 1875 - 1925 (1925).

Lench married Emma R. Harris, whose father, Rev. Thomas Harris a clergyman in Newfoundland for almost 50 years, was a colleague of Lench, on July 21, 1887. They were parents of three sons and two daughters.

He retired from the active ministry in 1930, and died shortly thereafter, on Feb. 13, 1931. He was buried in Brigus, where an overflow crowd attended his funeral at Brigus United Church.

In addition to the 47 years he devoted to his clerical duties, Lenchís legacy included his extensive writings, which contribute much to our knowledge of the establishment and growth of the Methodist Church in Newfoundland."

While Lench was stationed at Carbonear he traveled extensively around the local area. Victoria Village, which was a fairly large settlement when he was there, was likely one of the areas he visited. The community did not have its own established church , though it is known that services were often held in peopleís homes, so people from the settlement went to Carbonear to attend church services, have their children baptized, were married and often were buried.

Lenchís Pond on the Heartís Content Barrens , near present day Victoria is likely named for him, as this area was a favored fishing and hunting area for many of the residents of Carbonear and surrounding areas, including Robert Pack for whom Packís ponds are named

There is no hard evidence that Lench served at Victoria Village. However we know that he was involved with the spiritual growth of the community and its residents. Following is a list of children from Victoria Village he baptized while he served the Carbonear circuit.

Children living in Victoria Village Christened by Charles Lench

 

Surname

Name

Date of Birth

Date Christened

Father

Mother

 

Clarke

William Kendal

07/20/1887

03/22/1887

Robert

Elizabeth

Parsons

John Robert

01/171887

03/22/1887

Silas

Alice

White

Mark

10/18/1886

03/22/1887

Joseph

Louisa

Clarke

Alfreda

01/09/1887

02/27/1887

George

Diana

Clarke

Eliza Jane

10/04/1886

01/07/1887

William

Sarah Ann

Burke

James

10/27/1886

01/07/1887

Henry

Eliza

Curnew

Patience

10/27/1886

11/30/1886

John

Ann

Ash

Marion

08/29/1886

11/07/1886

William

Prudence

Parsons

William

07/14/1886

07/15/1886

George

Emma

White

Willis Brettle

08/12/1886

09/14/1886

John

Frances

 

Children living at Beaver Pond Christened by Charles Lench

 

Surname

Name

Date of Birth

Date Christened

Father

Mother

 

White

Mary

08/29/1886

09/14/1886

Charles

Emily

 

At this period in history many people from the communities of Heartís Content Road and Victoria Village were buried at the Methodist Church, Carbonear. The earliest record that we have of someone being buried from Victoria Village is presented below. While there may have been others they are nor recorded.

Residents of Victoria Village buried by Charles Lench at Carbonear

 

Surname

Name

Age

Date Buried

Clarke

Eliza Mary

6 months

03/22/1887

 

A number of marriages took place at the Methodist Church at Carbonear during the period that Charles Lench was there but there is no record of his having married anyone from Victoria Village at that time . However several people from Victoria Village were married by him at Freshwater.

 

People from Victoria Village married by Charles Lench at Freshwater

 

Surname

Name

Surname

Name

Date Married

 

Penney

Charles

Thomas

Mary

02/06/1908

Ash

Mark

Vaters

Elmira

02/09/1909

 

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