Swinnertons in the Ministry

Some of the following names were not only churchmen but also writers, as shown by the lists here of their published works.

Revd. Brian Thomas Swinnerton

Historian and author. His books include:

  • Swynnerton and the Swynnertons (1971)
    - a short history of a north Staffordshire village and an English family having the same name. Most of these notes were written in the form of articles for the parish magazine of St. Mary's Church, Swynnerton, between 1965 and 1968
  • A History of St.Peter's Church, Norbury (1973)
  • The Swynnerton Steeplechase (2002)

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Brian Thomas Swinnerton was born on the 8th November 1931 in Crewe Green, Cheshire, the only child of Frank Swinnerton and his wife, Margery Ann Whalley, and was educated at Sandbach School, Cheshire.

Upon leaving school in 1948 he joined British Rail as a surveyor and draughtsman, permanent way engineer and later as a technical instructor at the Railway Staff College. He joined the Supplementary Reserve with the Royal Engineers. He was a volunteer soldier for 40 years serving in every rank from Sapper to Major - from 1956-62 as a Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve Warrant Officer / Instructor. In 1962 he was awarded a Commission with the Royal Artillery TAVR. He retired as Major and Chaplain (Prince of Wales Division) in 1984.

It is an interesting fact that among his medals he had The Defence Medal 1939-1945 inscribed "Cadet B Swinnerton H. G. Runner" (ie Home Guard), and 1953 The Coronation Medal inscribed "Sapper B. Swinnerton". He was chosen to represent his unit in the Coronation Procession. He slept the night before the Coronation in Green Park. The weather was appalling. He told me he could hear the water running under the duck boards.

From 1956-58 he studied at Oxford University for a Diploma in Education and a Diploma in Theology. He then lectured at Oxford Polytechnic teaching Liberal Arts. However, his father Frank became seriously ill and Brian felt it his duty to be nearer to home. He took a lecturing post at Stafford Polytechnic where he remained until 1984.

In 1959 he married Anne Jane Cooper at St Edberg's Church, Bicester, Oxfordshire. They had two sons: William (1961) and Thomas (1962).

Brian continued studying throughout the 60's and 70's. He became a Licentiate of the College of Preceptors (London) studying Education, and a BA and Ph.D from the State University of New York (Educational Research).

It was in the late 60's when Brian was a Trustee of the William Salt Library in Stafford, that he met up with Col. Iain Swinnerton; when Iain founded the Swinnerton Society in 1973 Brian was his first recruit, and, together with the late John Swinnerton MBE, TD, and the late Kenrick Armitstead MA, who Iain had also been collaborating with for some time, formed the first Council of the Society.

Brian had always been very interested in his family history - it is part of the history of North Staffordshire, and Brian belonged to the Betley Branch. He has written many pamphlets and booklets about the family and its connections with this area for over one thousand years.

Brian was a lecturer and teacher, a cadet and volunteer soldier but the abiding interest in his life, alongside these, was Christianity. As a boy and a youth he attended St Michael and all Angels Church at Crewe Green, as a Sunday school pupil, choir boy, and then Sunday school teacher. He became a Lay Reader for the Diocese of Chester in 1952 and for the Diocese of Lichfield in 1959. He was able to help at so many churches because he had a car, which was unusual for a young man in those days!

From 1967 to 1969 he studied part time at Lichfield Theological College, having been accepted for Ordination. He was ordained with his fellow students, to be the first non-stipendiary priests in this diocese. This was a completely new concept and not popular with the clergy then. He became Honorary Curate of Swynnerton, where the Rector needed help and Brian was well known, and then Hon. Curate for Eccleshall Deanery. During this time he served as Chaplain to Swynnerton Military Training Camp. He lived in the Vicarage at Broughton from 1974 to 1978 where he was Hon. Curate and cared for the two parishes of Croxton and Broughton. He was Chaplain to the High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1979-80 and preached the Assize Sermon at St Mary's Church Stafford for the opening of the Session. In 1980 he went to live at Hales and retired from his lecturing post in 1984.

In 1983 he did a locum in southern Spain and visited ROTA the big American Base where he baptised many babies and young children. They had not had a visit from an Episcopalian chaplain for some time!

From 1984 to 1985 he was Chaplain for the NATO Headquarters Southern Europe in Naples and responsible for Bari and Sorrento. From 1986 onwards he became Chaplain of Rishworth School in Yorkshire, then Acton Reynolds in Shropshire and lastly, in the early 90's, chaplain to Thomas Telford School, in Telford. He retired in 2011.

During this time he conducted many services locally and is remembered with affection.

He had many recreational interests. He read widely, and was a fine artist, giving away many of his pictures to be auctioned for charity. He loved walking and thought nothing of setting off with a dog for a five mile tramp. He enjoyed speedway, motor sport and rugby union. Writing was something he did most days. He was a Justice of the Peace, Borough Councillor, and Parish Councillor. When people came to him at times of bereavement or other tragedy he would quietly listen and could always console and counsel. One of the many messages of condolence received said: "I'll remember him as a man with a well-judged presence, caring, warm, guiding. A man of fascinating experience, huge intelligence, and who could give others space for their own perspective. A man I wish I had met more often over the passing years."

He died, after a long illness, on the 31st January, 2016 aged 84.

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Revd. Edward Swinnerton

Edward was descended from John and Mary Swinnerton of Astley in Shropshire.
His career included engineering, sailing as an engineer in the Merchant Navy (Cunard line), and he took up the church later in life at the age of 35.

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8 March 1926 - 18 October 2003

Edward was born in Liverpool in 1926, the youngest of 5 brothers. At the tender age of two years his Mother died and he was passed around to various relatives until it was his misfortune to be brought up by his Aunt and Uncle Nicols. It was a hard and cruel upbringing completely lacking in love and any feeling of self-worth; he was unwanted by them and he was never in any doubt about that. He said he had not been shown love until he met his beloved Doris.

At the age of 14 he started a heavy engineering apprenticeship at the Crewe Works and his love of steam trains began there and continued for the rest of his life. Realising that he wanted to expand his knowledge and experience of engineering, he joined the Merchant Navy in 1947 with the Cunard Line.

He mostly sailed the North Atlantic passage, from Southampton to New York, Bermuda, etc., and destinations up the St Lawrence River. He recalled the time when his ship was ice bound in the St Lawrence one particularly hard winter. They were stationary for so long that they were plotted as an iceberg by other ships. This place was known as 'Patchetís CornerĎ for many years, being named after the Captain of the ship!

Whilst serving with Cunard he qualified for his Chief Engineer's Ticket, becoming their youngest ever Chief Engineer. He served on many ships, but one of his best loved was the original Queen Elizabeth: as he thought, the last of the the great ships from a bygone era. He was heartbroken when it was burned and lost in Hong Kong Harbour.

During this time he married his "beloved" Doris Mellor in West Derby, Liverpool in 1949, and settled down to a happy and loving family life raising 4 children, Ena, Michael, Paula and Elizabeth. The desire for being with his family full-time was so great that he left the Merchant Navy in 1955 and became an Engineer Surveyor for the Vulcan Boiler Company.

In 1961 Ted made a dramatic life changing decision: supported by Doris, he went back to college to study Theology at St Aiden's, Birkenhead. He had always been a regular churchgoer and he felt now that he had a calling to become a priest, a calling that was very much confirmed by all the people he helped throughout his ministry. This was a hard decision for the family, as there were already three children and Doris was expecting a fourth child.

He was ordained in Prescot Parish Church in September 1964 and priested in Liverpool Cathedral in September 1965. His curacies were served at Prescot and Holy Trinity with St Christopherís, Blackpool. In 1970 he was inducted as Vicar at Hambleton, Lancashire, where he hosted one of the early Swinnerton Society Council Meetings. He took a keen interest in the Society in his younger days and was Chaplain from the beginning. In 1975 he took the inaugural family service in Swynnerton Parish Church and he and Doris attended gatherings whenever Parish duties allowed. However, by the late 1970s his parish responsibilities increased when Hambleton Parish was combined with St John, Out Rawcliffe, and his attendance at gatherings was increasingly difficult to manage. His last parish was the joint benefice of All Saints, Barnacre, with St John, Calder Vale, from where he retired in 1992 at the age of 67 due to ill health. He moved across the Pennines to Tockwith near Wetherby to be near his eldest daughter.

Once retired, although dogged by ill health, he still managed to work as a part time Prison Chaplain at H.M. Prison Wealstun for 2 days a week, as well as covering full time for holidays. He was also honorary assistant priest at St Wilfridís, Harrogate, where he and Doris attended services and he assisted on many occasions. His funeral service and requiem were held here.

Ted and Doris celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in April 1999, just before Doris suffered her long-term illness and death in March this year. This inevitably took its toll on Ted's health, as they were such a devoted couple. He said that she was his life and that he felt that they were as one and when she died he had lost the love of his life. He suffered three heart attacks and a mini stroke in the seven months since Doris died and this was more than he was able to fight. Sadly, he died in the Lambert Memorial Hospital, Thirsk on Saturday, 18 October 2003.

This is a brief resume of the factual side to his life but does not show the true measure of the man. He was a quiet, unassuming and gentle man who lived a full and varied life. He was an excellent parish priest and cared deeply about the people to whom he was charged with their spiritual welfare, and he was always astonished at how much others loved and respected him in return. Judging by the letters the family received from his friends and parishioners since his death he was very well loved and admired. As one of the many letters said, "You cannot possibly know all the good that Ted did, but we know what an important part he played in our lives". As a husband and a father he gave love unconditionally. What can be more important than that?

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Revd. Ernest George Francis Swinnerton

Ernest came from a family which included a number of clergymen, but not his father, who was an accountant.

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Ernest George Francis Swinnerton was born on the 22nd January 1933 at Woodford, Essex, the son of George Ernest Swinnerton and Florence Louisa Coates of the Warwickshire Branch. His grandfather, George Isaac Swinnerton, his cousin Charles Edward Swinnerton and his cousinís son Charles Guy Dover Swinnerton had all been clergymen, but Ernestís father had not followed the tradition and became a chartered accountant.

Ernest took a place at Clare College, Cambridge and obtained his BA in 1954 and MA in 1959. He then went on to Lincoln Theoogical College in 1956. He was inducted as a deacon in 1958 and priested the following year.

He was firstly curate at Kirkholt and Swindon, then at Walcot St Andrew 1967-75. He was appointed priest in charge at Chilton. On a board in Froxfield Church, Wiltshire, there is the following inscription: "On the resignation of Henry Eric Bird, Froxfield Parish Church became part of the Wilton Benefice". The first name on the list of Team Vicars is Ernest George Francis Swinnerton 1976-1980. He was latterly Vicar of St Matthew with St Bartholomew in Little Bolton (Manchester). The Parish of St Matthew united with the Parish of St Barnabas by Order in Council 27 October 1971 to become the Parish of St Matthew with St Barnabas. The church of St Barnabas was declared redundant in 1974. Following the closure of St Barnabas in 1973, St Matthew was the only Church of England in the newly created Parish of St Matthew with St Barnabas. The Church of St Matthew closed in 1982 and was subsequently demolished due to dry rot.

Ernest stood in for a time as Chaplain to the Swinnerton Society after the death of the Revd. Edward Swinnerton in 2003.

He died on the 18th September 2014 and was buried at Moulsham St. Luke, Chelmsford on the 9th October 2014.

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Revd. Henry Ulyate Swinnerton

Princeton graduate and well-known Pastor of Cherry Valley, who wrote

  • An Historical Account of the Presbyterian Church at Cherry Valley (1876)
Henry was the son of Samuel Swinnerton who emigrated to America about 1820; we can trace this family back to 1692 in Tetbury.

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Henry was born on the 4th October 1839 in Catskill-on-the-Hudson, New York, the son of James Swinnerton and Fanny Rutter, and was educated at Princeton College.

He married Levantia Livingston Roseboom in 1871 and had six daughters.

He died on the 1st May 1927 in Cherry Valley, New York.

His grandfather Samuel was born in London in 1772 and married Sarah Frances Ulyate in 1801. They had two sons, George and James, and subsequently emigrated to America, where Samuel died in 1844 in Newark, New Jersey. Henry's family have been traced back to George Swinnerton who was born in Tetbury, Gloucestershire in 1692. Henry's grand-daughter, Mrs Diana Cunningham, of Arlington, Texas, served on the Society's council for several years and is currently our Vice President (USA).

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