40 years of history given back to church

Hayley MaceDetailing everyday life in mid-Victorian Beccles, the letters and keepsakes of a church minister have been treasured by his family for generations.Hayley Mace

Detailing everyday life in mid-Victorian Beccles, the letters and keepsakes of a church minister have been treasured by his family for generations.

Now the large, leather-bound book containing John Flower's correspondence and commentaries has been brought back to the town and it was yesterday presented to the church where he served for 40 years.

As minister at the Independent Chapel, now the Methodist and United Reformed Church in Hungate, Beccles, from 1833 to 1873, Rev Flower kept letters, postcards and written notes about events which took place in his own family, within his congregation and in the town.

The collection was carefully compiled into one large volume by his wife Henrietta and it has been passed down through the Flower family ever since, providing an historical record of family life in mid-Victorian society.

Yesterday, the book was officially handed over to the church, where it can be seen for several weeks, before it is given to the Lowestoft record office.

Pamela Flower, who had come to Beccles from her home in France to present the book to the church, said: 'I first saw the book back in the 1970s. I looked through it and realised it had great value as a real social history and I thought back then that something should be done with it.'

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The church's current minister Rev Joanna Jacobs said: 'It is wonderful to be able to hold history in your hands. This book is not just about history, but faith as well.

'In receiving this on behalf of the church, we all thank the Flower family and we will treasure it. I am sure there will be people who will come and discover a lot in it.'

The decision to bring the book back to Beccles was made after Rev Flower's great-grandson Raymond, who is an author and had been writing about his family's history, met Michael Todd, from Ditchingham, near Bungay, while on holiday in Malaysia.

Mr Todd, who took a keen interest in the tale of Mr Flower's links to Beccles, then helped to arrange for the collection to be given to the church where so many of its tales are set.

Mr Todd said: 'Hopefully the tome has finally found a resting place where it started more than 150 years ago. It has finally come home.'

The story of the book, which was for years stored under Raymond Flower's aunty's bed, is now recorded in his new book about the family, called Dissenting Flowers. Mr Flower was unable to attend the presentation yesterday because of poor health.