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Reverend Robert Brickel B.A.
Rector of Hoole 1848 - 1881
Memorial by W. Miles Myres M.A. Originally published 1884
Web transcription © 2008 Hubmaker
For reference only - Reproduction by any means strictly prohibited

Photo of the Reverend Robert Brickel, Rector of Hoole 1848-1881

THE Rev. Robert Brickel, who will long live in the memories of the people of Hoole as their good old Rector, was a native of the Furness district of North Lancashire. Brought up among the hills, he always cherished an affection for the beauties of nature and often expressed his regret that his lot was cast in the flat uninteresting neighbourhood of Much and Little Hoole. He received his early training in the locality from which he sprang. He owed much of his simple piety to the influence of his home. After a fair education he proceeded to Trinity College, Dublin, with the aim of entering holy orders. He was successful in his University career, was a Divinity Prize man, and took the degree of B.A. in 1835. In the following year he was admitted to Deacon's Orders by the Bishop of Chester (afterwards Archbishop Sumner, of Canterbury), and entered upon his clerical work as Curate of Cockerham, near Lancaster. In the next year he was ordained Priest. After holding the Curacy of Cockerham for about two years he was appointed to the Incumbency of Shireshead, in the same district, where he remained for ten years. While at Shireshead he married Catherine, daughter of Mr. James Barton, solicitor, of Ulverston, niece of the Rev. Miles Barton, then Rector of Hoole. The marriage was solemnised in the Parish Church of Hoole, on the 13th of April, 1841. He had only two children, a son William Barton, who died in infancy, 29th January, 1842, and a daughter Elizabeth Ann, whose death on May 12th, 1871, was the great sorrow of her father's life.

On the death of the Rev. Miles Barton who had held the Rectory of Hoole for 36 years, and in whose family the advowson had been for some generations, the Rev. Robert Brickel was presented to the benefice by the patron Mr. James Greaves Barton, and was instituted on the 28th November, 1848. He took his first services in the Parish Church of Hoole, on Advent Sunday, 1848.

The Parish of Hoole comprises 2,851 acres, whereof 1,701 acres are in the township of Much Hoole, and 1,150 in that of Little Hoole; the soil is partly marly loam, alternated with peat moss and marsh, and the surface is generally level. Hoole, Mr. Brickel tells us - "has no attractive scenery, no mountains, nor hills, nor valleys, nor, alas ! trees in sufficient number to hide the nakedness of a flat country." We are told that Hoole gave a name to a family as early as the reign of John. Much Hoole was anciently held by the Montebegons, the Manor of Little Hoole was granted by Roger de Montebegon to the Priory of Thetford.

The living is a discharged rectory valued in the King's Books at 16 14s. 0d. The parish was formerly a part of Croston, but was severed in 1641. The church which is dedicated to St. Michael, was erected as a chapel of ease to Croston, in the 15th century. The nave was re-built of brick in 1628. A stone tower was raised in 1720, and a chancel was added in 1824. There is a massive stone font which was given by John Stone, the first patron of the living, and the vessels for Holy Communion were presented by his wife.

Those who call to mind the somewhat sluggish state of many of our country parishes and the easy going character of the ministrations of the clergy will not be surprised that the advent of a new rector in the height of youth, with energy, and zeal, and a burning desire to do his Master's work soon made a marked difference in the aspect of affairs at Hoole. Mr. Brickel found the machinery of the parish at work - schools open - but all needing care and attention more than could have been given by the late rector. He soon saw that if the Master's work was to be carried on aright, much more intimate relations must be established between the rector and his parishioners, and temporal matters must be cared for as well as spiritual - religion must be made a matter of every day life, and the country parson must be prepared to rebuke vice, to oppose evil, to foster good, to help by advice and influence in every cause which was likely to improve the agricultural, or sanitary, or social, or moral, or educational, or ecclesiastical condition of the people committed to his charge.

Some idea of the state of affairs at his advent may be formed from the fact which he himself records that "a young man when rebuked for his shameful and wicked conduct to a young woman, answered me by asking `what had I to do with it?' and to my question `what do you suppose that I am in the parish for ?' gave me the reply ` to marry and to bury folks."'

He clearly saw that something more was needed than the official work of preaching and praying, and attending public worship and sacraments - that his duty bade him to be actively interested in the improvement of the people of Hoole in temporal things - especially as the parish was cut up into small parcels, and had no resident squire. Hand-loom weaving - with its poor wages, uncertain employment, and bad prospects - was the only in-door industry.

The character of the people was such that there was said to be no place between Preston and Liverpool so given to coarseness and the abuse of travellers as the neighbourhood of Hoole. Idle corners and frequent fights were the terror of the passers by.

The new Rector set himself to strive to improve the state of things. By Allotments he provided employment, by a Savings Bank, and Village Band, by Tea Parties and Entertainments, he endeavoured to provide safeguards and recreation for all. Other improvements were effected. Time was when stagnant ditches and bad water courses abounded, when the land was neglected, and poverty and disease were rife. Intemperance and impurity had produced their evil results. The wretched accommodation in the cottages had injured health and morals. Illegitimacy and weakness were a great curse to Hoole.

The rector threw himself into every movement for alleviating distress, or staying the progress of evil. He was one of the early promoters of the cause of temperance, he led his people on the way to thrift, he did all in his power for the improvement of cottage homes, and was able to thank God that in his parish "the handloom has been succeeded by the powerloom, that our stagnant ditches have been filled up, our manners are less rude and more civilized, we have our land better drained and manured, and that there is a great decrease in drunkenness and bastardy." In all his work he felt the importance of hearty co-operation on the part of the laity of his neighbourhood, it was his aim in his own quiet unostentatious way to secure the sympathy of all with whom he came into contact. Who that knew him was not affected and influenced for good by his true earnestness and simple guileless zeal? It was not long after his appointment to the Rectory of Hoole that he inaugurated what has now become almost everywhere an annual feast-a Harvest Home festival. It began in a small way, but became year by year more attractive, until it drew together many of the neighbouring parishes and had its offshoots in the surrounding districts. The hearty services in the Parish Church, the simple words of earnest counsel, the meetings for tea and recreation in the School, and the goodwill and fellowship in the whole parish, will not be soon forgotten.

About the same time Mr. Brickel gave his attention to the erection of new schools for the parish. The original school, an endowed school of some antiquity, was held in part of a weaver's cottage, quite unfit for the purpose. The new undertaking prospered, and was heartily carried out. Though there were but few parishioners of substance to help in the work, yet friends in the neighbourhood gave liberally, the farmers carted the materials, while the poor handloom weavers came on Saturdays and Mondays with spade and pickaxe and barrow to assist in the excavations. In 1850 the work was brought to a successful termination, the parish was provided with a well appointed school holding 150 children, which has been the means of effecting untold good.

Nor was the house of God neglected. The Church itself was improved and heated with hot water in 1856, the pews were rearranged, and the churchyard enlarged and drained and planted in 1854, an organ was obtained in 1857. But the principal improvements to the fabric were made at a later period, and were intended to perpetuate the memory of the Rev. Jeremiah Horrocks in the minds of the parishioners of Hoole, to whose ancestors he had ministered. This movement was set on foot in Hoole in 1857

A memorial tablet had already been erected in the Church of St. Michael, Toxteth Park, Liverpool, in the Parish where Horrocks was born, at the sole expense of Mr. Moses Holden, astronomer of Preston, but no public acknowledgement of "the strange unaccountable genius of this young man," "Minister of Hoole," "a prodigy for his skill in astronomy," had been set up in the parish where he had lived and laboured, on "a small pittance," combining, as it is believed, the duties of Village Schoolmaster with the higher office of Country Parson.

"Proud of Horrocks as one of my predecessors, and gratified by supposing that I occupy the same old pulpit in which he performed his higher duties. l am venturing upon this public appeal." Such were the words of the Rector of Hoole in asking "the Men of Science especially in Lancashire, to help in setting up a memorial window and a tablet in the Parish Church in memory of Horrocks, so that the quaint inscriptions on the sundial and the old clock " Sine sole sileo," and " Ut hora sic vita," which we believe to have been of his selection, may not be the only remembrance of his having lived among us." This letter was not in vain. It was followed by other appeals which brought in subscriptions from the neighbourhood, as well as from scientific men throughout the kingdom; and as a result, the Parish Church of Hoole was enlarged by a chancel aisle, called the Horrocks Chapel, containing thirty sittings `free to the poor for ever,' beautified by a memorial window, and dedicated in November 1859. The old pulpit from which Horrocks had preached, which still remains, was restored.

A Sermon was preached in the Parish Church of Preston, on November 9, 1859, by the Rev. Dr. Mc.Neile, as a panegyric of Jeremiah Horrocks, and afterwards published under the title "The Astronomer and the Christian."

A large marble tablet with gothic border, was placed on the north side of the nave, as a memorial from the Clergy, with the following inscription, from the pen of the Rev. Canon John Owen Parr, Vicar of Preston.-

Born at Liverpool; Educated at Cambridge,
Curate of Hoole,
Died in the 23rd year of his age, 1641,

The Wisdom of God in Creation was his study from early youth.

For his wonderful genius and scientific knowledge,
Men speak of him as
"One of England's most gifted Sons."
"The pride and boast of British Astronomy."

Amongst his discoveries are
The nearest approximation to the Sun's Parallax,
The correct theory of the Moon, And the Transit of Venus.

But the Love of God in Redemption was to him a yet nobler theme,
The Preaching of Christ Crucified a yet higher duty;
Loving Science much, he loved Religion more;
And turning from the wonders of Creation to the glories of the Cross
He expressed the rule of his life in these memorable words :-


" In Memory of one
so young and yet so learned,
so learned and yet so pious,
This Church in which he officiated, has been
Enlarged and Beautified,

A church clock was set up by the Parishioners "in memoriam Horroccii" with the dates 1639, 1859, and the words, somehow associated with Horrocks, "Ut hora, sic vita."

On a handsome monumental brass which is placed near the chancel is the inscription:

Ad Dei Gloriam.
Horrocks' chapel, erected by subscriptions from Lancashire, Oxford and Cambridge. The Tablet by the Clergy, the three side windows by Thomas B. and J. Addison, Esqs., and the clock by the Parishioners of Hoole. 1859.

One other work of material improvement in the Parish must be mentioned. For Hoole it was a great work. In former ages the want of a Glebe house had often caused the non-residence of the Clergyman. Since the advowson had belonged to the Barton family the Rector had usually resided in the Manor house, and there Mr. Brickel had taken up his abode. But this was two miles from the Church and Schools and from the main population, and the distance interfered with the due discharge of parochial duties. In 1864 therefore it was thought desirable to endeavour to provide a Rectory house. A convenient site was given by Sir Thomas G. Hesketh, Baronet, of Rufford Hall, subscriptions were collected from the patron, landowners, and the Rector's friends; the parishioners as in the case of the Schools were ready to help in labour, and at a cost of £830 (exclusive of site) the present Rectory was completed, and secured as a residence for the Parson of Hoole, in 1867. There were those who were unable to see the removal of the Rector from the Manor house without great regret. The old family place was dear to the Rector and to the Rector's wife and child. Memories were cherished of many happy Harvest and School gatherings held on the old bowling green, in the days when "O that will be joyful" and the "Old Hundredth" were the favourite hymns, and the Rector's coffee feast with its joyous games was the annual treat of both young and old at Hoole. But the advantages of the change of residence have been experienced, the new Rectory has established its position, and has become endeared to those for whose benefit it was built.

The Parochial Schools, the enlarged Church, the Horrocks Memorial, and the Rectory house, are substantial memorials of the incumbency of Robert Brickel as Rector of Hoole, the result of a "trade of begging from house to house," as he loved to call it, which was especially unpleasant to his taste, which he hoped in 1872 to have " now given up never to resume except from the pressure of some great calamity."

But in 1874 the year of the transit of Venus, what Mr. Brickel's friends called his "Horrocks fever " returned. Lectures were given explaining the phenomenon, an interesting little book on the subject entitled, "A Chapter of Romance in Science " principally relating to Jeremiah Horrocks and his discoveries was published by the Rector, with a preface by the Lord Bishop of Manchester. "Proud of Horrocks as its Curate, and of itself as the only spot on earth from which there went the first greeting to Venus on her Transit, the parish of Hoole is desirous of paying a tribute, at this time, to the Memory of its Curate in the form of a little book."

An appeal was issued for subscriptions to defray the expenses of a national memorial to Horrocks in Westminster Abbey. A Sermon was preached on August 16th, 1874, in the Parish Church by the Bishop of Manchester on " Religion and Science" with collection for this purpose, and on December 9th the day of the transit an enthusiastic meeting was held in the village in honour of the young astronomer curate of 1639.

This notice of Horrocks must close by a copy of the Tablet erected by public subscription in Westminster Abbey.



In memory of
Curate of Hoole, in Lancashire,

Who died on the 3rd of January, 1641, in or near his 22nd year, having in so short a life
detected the long inequality in the mean motion of JUPITER AND SATURN;
Discovered the orbit of the moan to be an ellipse ;
Determined the motion of the lunar apse ;
Suggested the physical cause of its revolution ;
And predicted from his own observation the Transit of Venus, Which was seen by himself and his friend William Crabtree
On Sunday the 24th of November, [O.S.] 1639 ;
This Tablet facing the Monument of Newton
Was raised after the lapse of more then two centuries,
December 9th, 1874

The attention which the Rector gave to Astronomy, thus called forth by the remembrance of Horrocks and by the Transit of Venus was a part only of his recreation. The Work of God in nature had many charms for our Country Parson. Natural History, Geology, Botany, and other branches of Natural Science were favourite subjects of study; he was a constant attendant at the meetings of the Preston Scientific Society. But the great work to which he had given his life was the uppermost in his mind. He was a diligent visitor, a faithful preacher, an earnest parish priest. In the earlier years of his ministry at Hoole he was constant in house to house visitation, believing that a house going parson made a church going people, his cottage lectures were regularly held, and the means of grace were brought home to the people committed to his charge. Every man was without excuse. None were omitted from the Rectors efforts to do good. But he complained in 1872 "I have spoken, alas! to how many of you for a long, long time in vain. The one thing needful is more neglected than anything else, and yet it is for that only, the glory of God in the salvation of your souls, that I have been living these 23 years. The thought of any lengthened service with no more real fruit of the spirit makes my heart faint; but whether you will hear or whether you will forbear, I must work on till God bids me rest."

He found that he was unable to visit as in earlier years, he could not see his dear people in their own homes as frequently as in times past, and therefore he sent to every house a pastoral address, "This world and the next," that none might be without an appeal and testimony.

The great sorrow of his life, in the death of Elizabeth Ann, his only and beloved daughter, wife of Mr. J. Jenkins of Belfast, had fallen heavily upon him in 1871, diminishing the elasticity of his bodily frame while it was the means of mellowing his character. But though house to house work was interrupted the efficiency of his labours was not impaired.

It was often his complaint as a Country Clergyman contrasting his work with that of a Town Incumbent, "One knows one's people too well; one feels one has done all one can with them; yet one must go on in hope; it is the Master's work it is for us to do his will."

And his labours were highly valued by those among whom he ministered.

In August 1877 at the 29th School Treat the regard and gratitude of his people took a substantial form. An Address was presented setting forth the good will of the parish and the earnest prayer that it might long have the advantage of his presence and labour, and a pleasant surprise was prepared for the Rector and his wife in the gift of a pony with silver mounted harness and a suitable carriage, which was the result of a parochial subscription, as a token of kindly feeling. The gift was acknowledged before the harvest home in a short pastoral letter, a form of communication which Mr. Brickel had already brought into use.

It may be remembered that a great disappointment came upon the Rector and the parish, when the pony which had been thus presented was stolen from its stable and not recovered.

Two more years passed away in the uneventful life of the Rector of Hoole, and he felt the result of failing strength, though not yet well stricken in years. He was wont to say "It is a weary world, I am so tired," but his spirit would soon revive, and some fresh thought of the Master's goodness would bring back his activity.

In November, 1879, he sent forth " A third and last letter " to his parishioners, to which he prefixed the words " Ask Him, Trust Him, Rejoice in Him, Wait patiently for Him in all things," calling the letter " Good things and true from our loved dead." It was addressed to his "dear children loved dead." It was addressed to his "dear children of the Sunday School and young friends of the Reading Room," and took the place of a larger work which he had intended to issue to the parish on " the Truth and our Duty." In this letter are summed up the points of the Rector's teaching and work during the time of his ministry at Hoole. From it may be gathered, if the reader be curious to know, to what school of thought the Rev. Robert Brickel belonged.

"I trust" he says "that the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, sometimes called the three Rs, Ruin by Sin, Redemption by Christ, Regeneration by the Holy Ghost, are very plainly though not systematically set forth, throughout the whole of the letter."

"The kingdom of God which Jesus Christ" came to set up ought to be established in every "heart, in every family, in every nation."

"That we are here on trial to chose whom " we will serve;

"That the Bible and Prayer Book, the Sabbath " and Sacraments, our Church and School should be "precious things to us;

"That we should ask God for the Holy Spirit "to guide us, and help us, and keep us;

"That we should always be looking to Jesus "as the author and finisher of our faith, our all "sufficient Saviour;

"That we should thank Him and rejoice in " Him always;

"That we should go on from strength to "strength, in duty to God and our neighbour, "loving God supremely, and doing as we would "be done by, hating sin, and following after holiness;

"That we should die daily, waiting and "watching as servants for our Lord's coming, - are "truths a practical knowledge of which should be "the grand object of our life."

Encouragement and warning - the remembrance of good effected, the recollection of much evil still remaining - despondency and hope are blended in this last pastoral-which the well tried minister of God sent forth after 43 years of service as a clergyman of the Church of England. It is a solemn appeal-a final farewell to the parish to consider its ways-made the more impressive by the record which it contains of the influence of the Gospel of the Grace of God in the case of some well known "loved dead."

"After 43 years service as a clergyman of the Church of England," he writes,-" I must be nearing the end-and I am not sorry that bodily strength is failing, except that I cannot, as in times past, come to your own firesides and talk with you there about the wonderful works of God." "Age has compelled me," he continues, "to give up some of my ministerial duties. I cannot come and see you as in times past, nor can there be the cottage lectures, prayer meetings, temperance or other meetings at the school, as in former times. For these with anything like frequency, you will have to wait till a younger man takes my place." But it was impossible for him to be an idle man; to the last he kept up the performance of his ministerial duties at Hoole, and was ever ready to render aid to his neighbours. Often, after the regular services in his own parish, he went on to Preston, to help his friend the Rev. W. M. Myres, either at St. Paul's Church or in St. Barnabas' Chapel-of-Ease, where his earnest kindly words of experience, and hope, and faith, and love, were deeply valued.

It was his custom at the beginning of the year, to send a tract, or book, or address, to each family in his parish, and early in 1881, every householder received a New Testament, a copy of Rev. E. H. Bickersteth's Hymnal Companion to the Book of Common Prayer, and three of Rev. J. C. Ryle's Tracts.

"At the beginning of the new year, 1881," writes one of his neighbours and executors - Rev. R. Gardiner, Rector of Bretherton, - "he seemed to be in his usual health and vigour. His ever active mind was always busy, arranging plans for the good of his people. Just at this time the new line from Southport to Preston was in course of construction. A number of navvies were then engaged in Hoole and Longton. To reach this class of men has always presented difficulties to the minds of thoughtful and Christian men. The plan adopted by Mr. Brickel seems to have been eminently successful. A supper was provided for the navvies and their wives on Old Christmas Evening, 6th January. At the meeting held afterwards, addresses full of good advice and wisely uttered, were given by him and his young friend, the Rector of Tarleton. Valuing the Word himself, he distributed to each a small copy of the New Testament. The meeting was not wholly of a religious character, but was diversified with music and solos. He always maintained that harmless amusement was a necessity of life; and that if the character is to be well formed recreation must have its proper place. It was when returning from one of these meetings for the navvies, the heavy snow compelling him to walk, that he caught the cold which brought on his final illness. These simple and earnest `pleadings for Christ' seem to have made a deep impression on their minds, in fact, by none was his death more sincerely regretted than by these men."

On the 1st of February he was called to Preston to attend the funeral of one of his oldest friends - the late Alderman John James Myres. Perhaps this sorrowful visit to the Preston Cemetery aggravated his weakness; another link was broken in the chain of affection which bound him to earth.

"The 6th February was the last Sunday on which he took duty in the old Parish Church, which he loved so dearly. It was with difficulty that he went through the service, and several times he paused for breath. He continued, however, to visit his people until the Tuesday afternoon, when he became much worse. His old friend and medical adviser, Mr. Hall, of Preston, was then called in. From the first he held out no hope of recovery.

"On Thursday, the 10th, he was visited by some of his brethren in the ministry. He then told them that his time in this world was not long. His work was now done and he could leave himself implicitly in the hands of his Heavenly Father. Placing his hands on his heart, 'this,' he said, 'has been always weak, and most of my family have died from heart disease.' He then requested Hymn 534 in the Hymnal Companion to be read.

Fierce was the wild billow ;
Dark was the night;
Oars laboured heavily ;
Foam glittered white ;
Trembled the mariners ;
Peril was high;
Then said the God of God,
"Peace : it is I"

Ridge of the mountain wave,
Lower thy crest;
Wail of the tempest wind,
Be thou at rest.
Sorrow can never be,
Darkness must fly,
When with the Light of Light,
" Peace : it is I"

Jesus, Deliverer,
Come Thou to me;
Soothe Thou my voyaging
Over life's sea ;
Then when the storm of death
Roars sweeping by,
Whisper, O Truth of Truth,
" Peace : it is I"

"Prayer was then offered up, into which he seemed to enter with heart and soul. It was his earnest desire that all his clerical neighbours, with whom he lived in such close friendship, should meet on the Sunday evening at his house, to celebrate together for the last time, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Notice accordingly was given to each, but this, one of his last wishes, was never carried out. On the Sunday evening he was then too ill, and at the earnest request of his wife, the idea was given up. Before separating on Thursday evening, messages were sent to some of his parishioners in whom he took a deep interest. He also expressed a wish that an old friend, from whom he had received much kindness, should be written to after his death, conveying his sincere thanks and praying that a blessing might rest on all her efforts to do good.

"On the evening of the following day, Friday, the 11th, he lost the power of speech, which he never. regained.

"Sunday, the 13th, for the first time he was unable to take duty. Indeed, his end appeared to be very near; but his faith, if possible, grew stronger as the body became weaker. Family prayer was conducted that morning by one of his relatives, who had come a long distance to see him. He put into his hand the little Bible which he was accustomed to use, and placed his finger at the portion which he wished to be read. To shew how clearly he understood what was going on, he made signs to his friend to cease, when the paragraph was finished. The prayers, at his special request, were read from the book of "Common Prayer." The old familiar sound had still music for his ears. He loved it in health, and now in sickness it was his great comfort.

"During the early part of this week, there seemed to be a little improvement, and hopes were held out of his ultimate recovery. On Monday, the 14th, the Holy Communion was ,administered by one of his young friends to whom he was warmly attached. The heavenly smile upon his face, and the intelligent way in which he joined in the service, showed at once how deeply he realised the presence of his Saviour.

"At times he was restless and tossed from side to side in bed. His small polyglot, containing the Bible and Prayer Book, was his constant companion; this was generally by his side. In these moments of pain and uneasiness the book was frequently displaced, and caused no little pain to his body. At his suggestion it was then fastened round his neck with tape, and there it remained until his death.

"On Wednesday, he was again visited by his clerical neighbour, who administered the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. His whole heart was drawn out in the service, and he evidently seemed to be near "Home." There was the angel smile on his face which showed how deep was his peace within. At the ter sanctacs he raised his face toward heaven, and though he could not utter intelligible words, still sounds were heard which showed that to him the service was no idle form. He always enjoyed the Communion office, but never, perhaps, so much as on his sick bed; whenever an opportunity occurred he always partook of the memorials of Christ's dying love.

"He slept little on Thursday night, and on Friday morning he was much weaker. It was then evident to all that his end was approaching. He slept a good deal during the day, but was still quite conscious. In the evening he was visited by the Incumbent of Longton, who, knowing it to be a favourite with him, quietly sang Lyte's Evening Hymn:-

Abide with me! fast falls the eventide ;
The darkness deepens ; Lord, with me abide,
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day ;
Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away ;
Change and decay in all around I see ;
O Thou, who changest not, abide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee ;
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour ;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's power ?
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be ?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless ;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness ;
Where is death's sting ? Where, grave, thy victory ?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes ;
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me. Amen.

"Soon after this, in audible words, he bade "good bye" to his dear wife and sister-in-law, who were constantly by his side, and a little after o'clock he sweetly 'fell on sleep.'"

So passed away from the scene of his labours of over thirty years, the good Rector of Hoole. His last illness was but brief; it was as he had often wished it might be, comparatively painless and short. "I cannot bear pain," " I hope that I shall not be a trouble to my friends."

And he left behind, tho' but for a few months, the partner of his sorrows and his joys-the weaker vessel, indeed, whom man's judgment would have pointed out as likely to be the first to depart and be with Christ. But here too the Master granted the servant's prayer, for it had been sometimes the utterance of Mrs. Brickel's heart, " What would the poor man do if I were to be taken first? So singularly absent minded is he in matters of common life. "

Among his last wishes, expressed in writing for his executors, was a desire that his funeral might be simple. He gave directions for the conduct of it, which were faithfully carried out. It was all that a country parson's burial should be. So far as possible, all the arrangements were carried out by the parishioners amongst whom he had lived. The coffin, with the simple inscription, "The Rev.. Robert Brickel, died February I8th, I88I, aged 68 years," was borne from the Rectory to the Parish Church, by the members of the young men's class, in relays of four, headed by their teacher, the village schoolmaster, Mr. M. Webster.

The officiating clergy were, Rev. R. C. Fletcher (Tarleton), Rev. W. M. Myres (Swanbourne, Bucks), Rev. R. O'Brien (Hesketh), Rev. W. Sharp (Altham), Rev. Dr, Twiss (Mawdsley), Rev. R. Falls (Rufford). After the relatives followed a long train of friends from the neighbourhood, with the principal parishioners of Hoole, headed by the churchwardens and the Rev. R. Gardiner (Bretherton), and Rev. J. Johnson (Longton), the executors.

The roads were lined by sorrowing women and children, and the church was filled with those who felt that they had lost a pastor and a friend.

The parcel of ground selected as the resting place of the late rector lies a little wide of the south east corner of the church, where had been already laid his infant son, his only sister, and his other child, the beloved daughter to whom allusion has been made.

Few could read the inscription on the upright stone without recognising the rector's hand. "Prepare to meet thy God; Death and Judgment are at hand; Heaven or hell will be thy home; Jesus, who is coming to judge, now waits to save Believe, love, obey."

It remains to record the fact, that, on the 25th of May, 1881, Catherine Brickel, the sorrowing widow, out of much weakness, was called to rest.

A tablet has been fixed in the Parish Church of Hoole, which perpetuates the remembrance of Mr. and Mrs. Brickel in the following terms:-

For 33 years Rector of this Parish,
WHO DIED FEB. 18TH, 1881,
This Tablet is erected by Public Subscription,
In remembrance of one
Greatly beloved and deeply regretted,
A kind neighbour, a faithful friend,
A student delighting in the works and word of God,
A Pastor
Whose last message to his beloved flock was
Repent, believe, obey.
He was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost,
And of faith,
And much people was added unto the Lord.
He was followed by his beloved wife,
On the 25th day of May, 1881.

Sermons were preached with impressive allusion to the death of Mr. Brickel, in Hoole Church, on the Sunday before and after the funeral, by Rev. R. C. Fletcher, Rector of Tarleton, and Rev. J. Johnson, Vicar of Longton, and by Rev. W. Sharp, Vicar of Altham, near Accrington, friends new and old of the departed servant of their Lord, who along with others had ministered to him in his last illness.

From these a few extracts will present a picture of the Rector whom they commemorate. "Some of you,-says Mr. Fletcher, preaching on Gen. iii, I9, have lost a good friend and a true one ; you have lost one who studied your welfare, one who took a deep interest, not only in his church and in his schools, but in the people of the parish themselves You have lost one who sought to do good among you, one who went in and out amongst you as a father and a friend, one whom you knew that you could trust, one upon whose advice you could rely, one whose presence was always a comfort to you at your bedsides when you were ill, and one whose hearty greeting was always pleasant to you when you were well. You know how he lived. You know the innocence of his life, you know the depth of tenderness that he has shown, you know how much he thought of his people, how he looked out for means of doing good. He has been rector of this parish for many a year, and a right good rector too. He not only preached the Word, but lived the Word; he not only taught you what you ought to do, but he lived it, and showed it to you in his life. And if you have profited by that example you will find that you have not been left comfortless, but have been left with a knowledge of One who does and who will comfort all those who look to him."

"His daily life - is the testimony of Mr. Sharp, in his sermon on Rev. xiv, I3,-was a commentary upon the doctrines which he taught, and his death was a confirmation of the truths, he so firmly believed. He was firmly rooted and grounded in the faith; and although during his long ministerial career he had seen wondrous changes, both in ritual and doctrine, introduced into the church, yet your departed rector ever remained faithful to the Protestant and Evangelical principles with which he commenced his ministry - a devout, earnest, and consistent christian, a laborious, pains-taking, and faithful pastor, anxious above all things for the salvation of your souls, and the glory of his divine Lord and Master. For consistency of character I have never known his equal, during the many (35) years of our uninterrupted friendship. I never knew him either do an act or utter a sentiment that was inconsistent with his profession as a Minister of Christ. Let us determine, by God's grace, to follow him as he followed Christ.

"I can scarcely trust myself-continues Mr. Sharp-to speak of the closing scene of his life. When summoned to his death-bed I found that he had lost the power of speech, but his looks and his actions were more eloquent than words ; and never can I forget the way in which he endeavoured to communicate to me that he was about to surrender his stewardship and enter into the presence and joy of his Lord. With his left hand he seemed to thrust the world away from him, as that with which he had now done for ever, and with his right hand he pointed upwards to Him, while a look of more than earthly happiness spread itself over his countenance. To say that he was resigned, or that his end was peace, would be to fall far short of the reality. There was the full assurance of faith. His simple child-like faith in Christ enabled him to triumph over the fear of death, and to long to be ` absent from the body, that he might be present with the Lord.' `Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours and their works do follow them."'

As a clergyman - it has been often said - Mr. Brickel was of the old fashioned type. In many points he reflected good George Herbert's " Country Parson," who, " when he is to read divine service, composeth himself to all possible reverence, lifting up his heart, and hands, and eyes, and using all other gestures which may express a hearty and unfeigned devotion." " His voice is humble, his words treatable and slow." " Who is exceeding exact in his life, being holy, just, prudent, temperate, bold, grave in all his ways," " the character of his sermon is holiness," "he is not witty, or learned, or eloquent, but holy." " He hath a special care of his church, that all things there be decent and fitting His name by which it is called." Wherever he is he keeps God's watch." "He is sincere and upright in all his relations; He is just to his country, he carries himself very respectively as to all the fathers of the Church, so especially to his Diocesan. He keeps good correspondence with all the neighbouring pastors round about him; he fulfils the duty and debt of neighbourhood to all the parishes which are near him." In doctrine and exhortation he was true to the articles of the Church of England. He was warmly attached to the Book of Common Prayer, the familiar holy words of which were a comfort to his dying hours. He respected the order and discipline of his mother Church, and maintained the scriptural authority and the political expediency of the union of Church and State.

He was a Protestant Evangelical Churchman, though he would call no man master upon earth. He was not blind to the need for reform, but he was opposed to change. "Surely - he wrote in his last letter - every unprejudiced christian will say of our National Church, "With all thy faults I love thee still." Some of thy patrons, and ministers, and members do no real good, and at times much hurt within thy borders; yet thou art a noble witness of sound doctrine in a form of sound words grand in their simplicity, and thy bishops as a body are not to be surpassed for' learning and piety. It will be a sad day for England, should the time ever come, when she has no Bible read in her Board schools and no Church established in the land. May God forbid it. The right of a nation to its government is from God. The duty of a nation by its government should be for God. Woe will be to the nation and government without God. "

The controversies of the day as regarded vestments and ceremonies had no charm for him. He desired to be taught by the Spirit and led by the written word of God in the lines of the English liturgy as he had known it in earlier years. But, though firm in his own principles, he was tolerant of those who differed from him. He strove and prayed for union amongst those who professed and called themselves christians. "If our Christianity cannot make us lose sight of our differences, our differences may be causing us to lose our Christianity."

Amongst the Societies which he was ready to help, while he gave the foremost place to the Church Missionary Society, and the Society for the Promotion cf Christian Knowledge, he was always a consistent supporter of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

As a preacher the late Rector of Hoole was earnest and practical; his sermons were generally unwritten, with homely illustrations and pointed appeals. His aim was to teach the people to understand the Word of God and to lead them by God's help to live aright in the faith and love of the Saviour who was the propitation for their sins. It was evident to all how deep and true was his desire for his people's good. "My dear Brethren, he wrote in 1879, "careless and thoughtless and wicked as some of you are in the sight of God, yet, from my heart and soul, as your minister, I love you. You may not quite understand this, because you have no real care or love for your own souls; but having lived among you for above a generation, and having always had a welcome from the parish as its minister I should be not only unfaithful to God but most ungrateful to you, if I did not strive and pray for your real good in body and soul, for time and eternity. Yet I am wearied, sadly wearied, with your insulting indifference and open dishonour to my master the Blessed Son of the Living God, who loved us and gave Himself for us. And truly I am not less wearied with myself than with some of you-wearied with the plague of my own heart-but God is greater than my heart, and His grace is sufficient for me, and His strength is made perfect in weakness, and I know in Whom I have believed. I am wearied likewise with the feebleness of my services to you in preaching Christ and Him crucified, but then, as a dying sinner I know that His blood cleanseth from all sin both in heart and work, I have gone and do go unto Him daily, and I know that He is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by Him."

And again. "For every family and every member of every family able to discern between good and evil, I would give as my last words which, if able to speak, I should say in the hour of death-THINK ON THESE THINGS-GOD HIMSELF BIDS US COME AND REASON WITH HIM ABOUT OUR SOULS AND OUR SINS, GOD WISHETH NOT THAT ANY SHOULD PERISH BUT THAT ALL SHOULD COME TO REPENTANCE. LET US THEN TURN TO HIM IN TIME! LET US ASK HIM, TRUST HIM, REJOICE IN HIM, AND WAIT PATIENTLY FOR HIM IN ALL THINGS."

A few words must be added of a personal character and this short memoir must be closed.

Those who had the privilege of Mr. Brickel's friendship cannot but have keenly felt his removal from their side. There was a truth and faithfulness in his nature which, added to his simple piety and unaffected holiness, exercised a marvellous influence upon those who were brought much into contact with him. Though he was naturally somewhat liable to depression of spirit from physical causes as well as from the constant sense of the evil of the world in which he was, yet there were few men who were more genial or more hearty in their welcome and intercourse. It was to him a joy to enter into others' joys, and a sorrow to bear a part in others' griefs.

To have seen him in free intercourse with two of his oldest friends, who still survive, when the memories of former days were contrasted with present experiences, or when the recollection of some stirring adventure brought mirthful laughter to the grave and reverend divine, or to have watched him with his younger friends, entering into their plans, cheerfully helping in their work, countenancing their recreations, and partaking in their joy, is to have realised that Christianity is not intended to weigh down all the lighter feelings o f our souls, and that heart religion is not synonymous with gloom.

It was his natural unaffected piety, so deep, so real, as a matter of every day life with its lights and shades, its joys and sorrows, through storm and sunshine always sincere, this, rather than scientific taste, or theological learning, or social gifts, which made him so good a neighbour, so trusted an adviser, and so valued a friend to many of his younger brethren in the ministry. Religion in daily life made him a willing helper in time of need, a comforter in sorrow, a peacemaker, a counsellor, a father, a brother, a friend.

What he might have been, had the providence of God led him, as at one time seemed probable, to the oversight of a large town parish, it is impossible to say. He had, with all his country tastes, a fondness for the town. He liked numbers, and incident and society. It was a real pleasure to him to be with friends in Preston, and to take part in well attended Services, and to join his brethren at their religious or other meetings. His genial and hearty greeting has been often missed since he was called away.

In his country parish he had leisure for much reading and for quiet thought. He was much alone with his Bible and his God. He was not without his doubts; difficulties of belief laid hold on him at times. But " he fought his doubts and gathered strength, and found a stronger faith his own."

The Master's words were often on his lips, "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." St. John, vii. 17.

"A man he was to all the Country dear: "- Honoured in his life for his consistent faithful discharge of the duties of his high calling as Country Parson, for his true and sincere friendship, for his simple genuine piety, for his furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, both by his preaching and his living, during the long period of thirty three years - in the Parish of Hoole, more than three-quarters of his ministerial life - in which, as the Village Pastor of Goldsmith,

" He tried each art, reproved each dull delay,
Allured to better worlds and led the way ;"

Honoured in his death by the deep reverence with which he was laid to rest in God's acre of the church which he loved, by the handsome Tablet which has been erected to his memory, in the House of God in which he ministered in holy things, by the foundation of the Prize in the school which he cherished, and by the affectionate remembrance of many loving hearts to whom publicly and from house to house he made known the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Our departed friend had, comparatively speaking, an uneventful life, unmarked by greatness of any kind, but "were there more salient points in his character, he would not have been - it has been truly
said by one who knew him well - "the worthy, loveable, kind, conscientious Parish Priest he was; a steadfast friend, and, as far as we can judge, a consistent Christian man; may we all try to live up to his standard."

Remember them that had the rule over you,
which spake unto you the word of God;
and considering the issue of their life, imitate their faith.

Jesus Christ, is the same yesterday and to-day, yea and for ever.
Heb. xiii, 7, 8. (Revised Version.)

Memorial of the Rev. Robert Brickel, B.A. by W. Miles Myres M.A.
Originally published 1884
Web transcription © 2008 Hubmaker
For reference only - Reproduction by any means strictly prohibited