Seymour Ashwell was born in Beckbury, Shropshire in 1835 or 1836. He was Rector of Finmere from 1866 to 1901. He is best known for his Rectory and his extensive carvings in the church.
As the rain fell on the afternoon of Tuesday, 31 December 1901, mourners filed into St Michael’s Church. Churchwardens Alfred Lepper and William Barrett guided villagers and visitors to their pews in a church still adorned with Christmas decorations. The schoolteacher, Miss King, played the organ. Mourners had come to commemorate the life of Finmere Rector Seymour Ashwell, who had died at the Rectory, aged 64 years.
During the 35 years of his incumbency he made great changes in the parish, the building of a new rectory, the improving of many cottages in the village, thereby adding materially to the comfort of the occupants, besides being a large subscriber to the schools, of which he took a large interest. (Bicester Advertiser, 4 February 1902)
Seymour Ashwell had worked diligently to improve the decor of the church, which had been enriched with dedications to his family.
Beneath the lovely stained-glass east window, erected to the memory of the deceased’s mother, were the words in white lettering ‘Alleluia’ and ‘Emmanuel.’Wreaths of ivy hung at the ends of the choir stalls, and in the sill of another beautiful stained-glass window in the wall of the south aisle (erected to the memory of the deceased’s father) had been placed floral wreaths. The massive stone pillars were draped with ivy, and above were the texts ‘Glory to God’ and ‘Prince of Peace.’ A floral anchor was hung on the lectern and the front of the pulpit was decorated with a large cross of white blooms. (Bicester Advertiser, 4 February 1902)
Ashwell was a skilled woodcarver and he spent many years carving decorations to enliven Finmere’s otherwise plain church. Among his contributions are the pulpit, font cover, reredos, tower screen and the ends of the pews in the choir and nave. Ashwell also rebuilt the Rectory (now the Old Rectory), commissioned Hill Leys, and continued Palmer’s good works to support the poor and the school.
The funeral of the Rev. Seymour Ashwell, Rector of Finmere, took place at Finmere on Tuesday afternoon, and was attended by a large number of mourners, notwithstanding the unfavourable weather, a slight rain falling. Some time previous to that fixed for the commencement of the obsequies (2.30 p.m.), parishioners and others began to enter the Parish Church, and were shown to their seats by the churchwardens, Mr Alfred Lepper and Mr W Barrett. The interior of the sacred edifice presented a far more inviting aspect that the unpleasant weather without. The Christmas-tide decorations were still in evidence, and were of the most tasteful character. Beneath the lovely stained-glass east window erected to the memory of the deceased’s mother, were the words in white lettering “Alleluia” and “Emmanuel.” Wreaths of ivy hung at the ends of the choir stalls, and in the sill of another beautiful stained-glass window of the south-aisle (erected to the memory of the deceased’s father) had been placed floral wreaths. The massive stone pillars were draped in ivy, and above were the texts “Glory to God” and “Prince of Peace.” A floral anchor was hung on the lectern and the front of the pulpit was decorated with a large cross of white blooms. The cortege left the rectory in walking procession, owing to the proximity of the church, and the coffin, on which had been placed a cross and two magnificent wreaths of flowers, was borne on the shoulders to the entrance of the churchyard, where it was met by the Rev. E Worsley, R.D., of Evenley by whom the service was excellently performed. Entering the Church, soft music was played on the organ by Miss King, and again as the mourners retired to the south-east of the chancel, where was situated the earth grave, now lined with moss and evergreen dotted with white bloom, and having a lovely floral cross at the head and an anchor at the foot. The chief mourners were: Mr Denis Ashwell (son), Mrs Ashwell, Miss Ashwell, Miss A Ashwell, Miss E Ashwell; Mrs Glen (sister), Charlbury; Miss Hussey (sister-in-law), Windlesham; Rev. K C Bailey, Bradwell; Mr E Slater Harrison, Shelswell Park; Rev. R Spencer Harrison; Rev. A G Burton, of Shrewsbury; Rev. H. Trower of Wolverton; Rev. — Kingsford, Shropshire; Mr E Worley, Stony Stratford; The Earl of Effingham; Rev. Symes-Thompson, London; Mr W Swire, Westbury Manor; Dr Fenton, Brackley; Col. Gosling; Mr and Mrs J B Kingscote; Major Green; Mr Rousby, Cottisford; Mr George Drake; Rev R D L Clarke, Fringford; Rev A Armstrong, Newton Purcell; Rev. W C Risley R D, Shalstone; Rev L Johnstone, Maids Moreton; Rev. T H Cookes, Newton Purcell; Rev. R Ussher, Water Stratford; Rev. A Price, Hethe; Rev. R R Kirby, Mixbury; Rev. L E Goddard, Water Stratford; Rev. A M Littlehales, Stratton Audley; Rev. E Holme, Stowe; Rev. C Low, Chetwode; Rev. H Harrison, Steeple Aston; Mr T R Hearn, Mr E H Small, and Mr R E Bennett, Buckingham; Mr A Burrowes, Maids Moreton; Mr and Mrs Arnatt, Mr and Mrs J T Hadland, Mr Lucas, sen., Mr W Lucas, jun., Mr Farley, and Mr J Price, Tingewick; Mr James Coles, Brackley; Mr James Rogers, Oxford; and the following were amongst the parishioners—Mr A Lepper and Mr W Barrett (churchwardens), Mr and Mrs Jeff. Tredwell, Mr C Barrett, Mr R George, Mr and Mrs Jeff. Tredwell, jun., Mr C Lepper, Mr F Cotterill, Mr Bull, Mrs Higgins, Miss Lepper, Mr R Lepper, Mr A Lepper, jun., Mr F. Ridgeway, Mr Grantham, Mr C Bray, Mrs Cotterill, Miss Tredwell, Mr R Tredwell, Mrs J Clifford.
The floral emblems were very lovely, and were from the Earl of Effingham, Mrs Gem, Mrs Glen, Mrs Neave, Col. Gosling, Mr and Mrs Staples-Browne, Sir Samuel and Lady Sophie Scott, Mr Montague Wilks, Dr and Mrs Symes-Thompson, All the Parishioners, Mr and Mrs Rousby, Mr and Mrs Tredwell, Miss King, Miss Hussey, Mr and Mrs Cottrell, Miss H K Hussey, Mrs Farley and Family, Misses Hussey (Salisbury), Mr and Mrs Hussey-Freke, Mr and Mrs Jeff Tredwell, Rev K C Bailey, Mr and Mrs Lepper and family, Rev. and Mrs Burton, Mr and Mrs Percival, Mr and Mrs Kingscote, Mr Barrett and Mr Lepper (churchwardens), Capt. and Mrs Gerald Fitz-Gerald, Rev. W. C. Risley, Misses Risely and Mr Martin W C Risley, Rev. R R and Mrs Kirby, Mrs E Worley, Servants (in-door and out-door) at the Rectory.
The coffin was of polished oak, with a full-length brass cross and engraved at foot—
Died December 25th,
Aged 64 Years
Dr and Mrs Symes-Thomas [sic], of Finmere House, sent a message much regretting their inability to be present.
The following is from an intimate friend of the diseased:—
The deceased was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his B.A. in 1859 and M.A. in 1861. He was ordained to the curacy of Wroxeter, Shropshire, in 1860, where he remained for some years, He was appointed to the living of Finmere in 1866. During the 35 years of his incumbency he made great changes to the parish, the building of a new rectory, the improving of many cottages in the village, thereby adding materially to the comfort of the occupants, besides being a large subscriber to the schools, of which he took the deepest interest. At last, but not least, he beautified the parish church by his splendid oak carving, the reredos and the font cover, screen and pulpit being in themselves works of art. Apart from his own parish he did some fine carving for the organ case in Atcham Church, near Shrewsbury, and in the county (Oxford) there is to be seen the last of his many beautiful works in the lovely lectern which he presented to the Radcliffe Infirmary Chapel only a few weeks before his death. As a public man he was well known and highly esteemed; he was for many years a guardian of the Brackley Board, also a member of the Bicester Highway Board, and up to the time of his death, was a most active member of the Committee of Management of the Radcliffe Infirmary, of which he took the deepest interest. He was one of those men who make England what she is; who do many works for love; in contrast to foreign nations whose charitable institutions are served by [unreadable] As long as England has such men [unreadable] may be sure her poor and suffering people will be well cared for. He will be terribly missed, both among his parishioners—by whom he was greatly beloved and respected—and also by his numerous friends but “his works do follow him.”
Ashwell's grave at St Michael's Church