The Rev John Thomas Halke was Curate of the parish of Waters Upton from 1859 until 1867. When he departed the village, John took with him a gift of silverware from the parishioners, along with their best wishes. He left behind him a long-lasting monument to his endeavours: a newly-built church which, with a few modifications, still stands today.
The ministry was in the blood of the Halke family. Richard Halke of Kent was educated at Corpus Christi, Cambridge, and ordained as Deacon in 1766 then as Priest in 1768. He served thereafter as Curate and Vicar, mainly in Kent, until his death at the age of 70 in 1813. Richard’s sons Charles (born abt. 1784) and James (born 1787 at Faversham, Kent) were also educated at Cambridge. Charles passed away aged about 20 in 1804, but James went on to follow in his father’s footsteps. After holding several curacies in Kent, in 1831 he became the Vicar of Weston-by-Welland in Northamptonshire. It was there that Richard’s son John Thomas Halke was born on 7 May 1832.
Commencing his education at Uppingham School, John was then admitted to St John’s College, Cambridge, in 1851. He obtained his LL.B. in 1858, by which time he had lost his father (in 1853) and been ordained as Deacon (in 1856), appointed Curate of Atcham in Shropshire (also in 1856; the church of Atcham St Aeta is pictured below) and ordained as Priest (in 1857).
John set up home in Shropshire with his widowed mother Mary (the marriage of James Halke and Mary Starr had taken place at Canterbury, Kent, in 1817). Something of John’s character, and of the esteem in which he and his mother were held, can be gauged from the following report published in the Shrewsbury Chronicle of 7 August 1857:
John’s time at Atcham was short but sweet. His “general kindness the poor and needy, attention the sick and dying, and his friendly visits to the infant school, rendered him a general favourite in the parish”, but in the summer of 1859 he was appointed to the curacy of Waters Upton. The first baptism John performed at his new church took place on 19 June that year. He did however return to Atcham later in 1859 for a final farewell from his faithful flock. The Wellington Journal of 8 October 1859 carried the following notice:
At Waters Upton, John Halke and his mother continued in the same spirit which had endeared them to the inhabitants of Atcham. In 1860 their names headed a subscription list set up to pay for the children of the Industrial School near Waters Upton to have a day out on the Wrekin. John also accompanied the party, and with others he “contributed not a little to heighten the enjoyment of the children by participating with them in their amusements”.
Preaching, of course, also formed part of John’s duties, and it was not confined to the church in Waters Upton. In the Autumn of 1861, for example, at the Harvest Festival held at Uffington in Shropshire, “an admirable sermon, both in matter and delivery, was preached by the Rev. J. T. Halke, of Waters Upton, from Jeremiah v. part of the 24th verse: ‘He reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest.’”
A full picture of John Halke’s duties at Waters Upton is difficult to paint, as the burial and marriage registers covering his curacy are still in use and not available to peruse. However, as with his sermons, his performance of the rites and ceremonies of the church was also carried out in other parishes from time to time. To give just one example, in 1862 Edward Ryley of Little Drayton and Mary Ellen Atcherley of Ercall Magna were married at High Ercall by “John T Halke, Curate”.
The only marriage that I know of which was conducted at Waters Upton during John’s curacy was quite possibly the last one to be held there before the existing church was demolished. John Higgins Esquire of Lubstree Park and Elizabeth Groucock of Meeson in the parish of Great Bolas were wed on 9 June 1864. By that time it had already been announced that the money for rebuilding Waters Upton church “on an enlarged plan” was ready.
In July and August 1864, notices appeared in Shropshire and Staffordshire newspapers calling first for “about eight or ten good masons” and later, “six or eight good stonemasons” to work on Waters Upton Church. One of the stonemasons who responded to these advertisements was a man by the name of Thomas Parry, who had an unfortunate experience when he looked for lodgings in Wellington (see 1864: A charge of felony in Crime, elsewhere on this website).
A letter from John Halke appealing for contributions towards the cost of the project, no doubt written in 1864, was published in The Herts Guardian in May 1865 (by which time, although funds were still needed, work was almost complete). It sets out the reasons why the rebuilding of Waters Upton church was considered necessary:
On 23 May 1865, John Halke’s dream of a new church for Waters Upton became reality (see above for a modern-day photo of the building). The Staffordshire Advertiser of 27 May reported as follows:
The Mr Cobb who erected the church was most likely John Francis Cobb, son of the late John Cobb, architect and builder, of Chetwynd End near Newport, Shropshire. The design of the new place of worship however was Essex-born architect George Edmund Street, who already had a number of ecclesiastical buildings large and small to his credit. Described in modern times as a “small, cheap but carefully detailed church”, St Michael’s was constructed in Early English style from red sandstone ashlar, with a tiled roof, and an octagonal bellcote (or bell-turret), corbelled over the West gable. It is now a Grade II listed building.
John Thomas Halke was not destined to enjoy the fruits of his labours at Waters Upton for very long. He had been undertaking the role of Curate for the Rector of the parish. But in August 1865 it was announced that “The Lord Chancellor’s rectory of Waters Upton, near Wellington, in this county, has become vacant by the death of the Rev. Richard Corfield, M.A. formerly of Clare College, Cambridge, who was presented by Lord Chancellor Eldon in 1822.” At the end of the following year, this report appeared in the Shrewsbury Chronicle:
“My dear Parishioners and Friends,—I beg to offer you my own and my mother’s heartfelt thanks for the beautiful and costly token of regard and esteem which we have just received from you. We shall value it as long as we live, as a testimony of your liberality, and still more for the kindly feeling with which it is given. The eight years of our abode at Waters Upton have been among the happiest of our lives; we leave it with deep regret and shall ever remember it with the warmest affection. For a time, at least, we shall have the satisfaction of regular intercourse, and wherever our future lot may be cast, we shall ever look back with pleasure to the period of our residence here. Dear Parishioners and Friends, I once more thank you from my heart for your beautiful present, and for all your kindness towards me.—Believe me, to be your very sincere Friend and Pastor,
“John T. Halke”
John began performing baptisms at Withington on 28 October 1866, but continued his curacy at Waters Upton into 1867, conducting his last baptism there on 24 February that year. Wednesday 7 March 1867 was “appointed by the Lord Bishop of this Diocese to be held as a day of prayer and humiliation on account of the cattle plague” and on the morning of that day John “preached from Jeremiah vii. 3.” at Waters Upton. If this was not his final sermon at Waters Upton, it was certainly one of the last that he preached there.
On 30 January 1873, at St Cross in Winchester, “the Rev. John T. Halke, Vicar of Withington, Salop” was married to “Lucy, eldest daughter of the late Richard Meredith, Esq., of Bishop’s Castle.” The couple had four children at Withington, and John passed away there on 8 September 1915 at the age of 83. A stained glass window, in memory of the Rev. John Thomas Halke LL.B. curate in charge (1859 to 1867), was added to the church of Waters Upton St Michael that same year.
Picture credits. Atcham St Aeta: © Copyright Anji Carrier, taken from Geograph, modified, used, and made available for re-use under the terms of a Creative Commons licence. Waters Upton St Michael: © Copyright Richard Law, taken from Geograph, modified, used, and made available for re-use under the terms of a Creative Commons licence.
 John Venn, J. A. Venn (eds.) (1947), Alumni Cantabrigienses. Volume II. Part 3. Page 196. Copy previewed at Google Books.
 The Rev. Richard HALKE, M.A. At: Teresa’s Tree – Goatham Genealogy (website, accessed 1 Nov 2015).
 Monthly Magazine. No. 119, September 1804. Page 180. Copy viewed at Google Books.
 Weston-by-Welland, Northamptonshire, baptism register. Entry dated 28 Jun 1832 for John Thomas Halke. Copy viewed at Ancestry – Northamptonshire, England, Baptisms, 1813-1912. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch I04386-4, Film 2000022, Ref ID item 4.
 Christ Church Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent, marriage register. Entry dated 23 Oct 1817 for The Revd. James Halke of Selling, Widower, and Mary Starr, Spinster. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Kent, Canterbury Archdeaconry Marriages 1538-1928. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch I00751-7, Film 1786080, Ref ID it 2 p 8.
 Shrewsbury Chronicle, 7 Aug 1857, page 4.
 Shrewsbury Chronicle, 7 Oct 1859, page 6.
 Morning Post, 4 Jul 1859, page 3. Ecclesiastical Intelligence.
 Waters Upton, Shropshire, baptism register for 1815 to 1870. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire, parish registers browse, 1538-1900.
 Wellington Journal, 8 Oct 1859, page 3. District News. Atcham.
 Shrewsbury Chronicle, 7 Sep 1860, page 7. Waters Upton.
 Shrewsbury Chronicle, 4 Oct 1861, page 6. Uffington Harvest Festival.
 High Ercall, Shropshire, marriage register. Entry dated 14 May 1862 for Edward Ryley and Mary Ellen Atcherley.
 Staffordshire Advertiser, 18 Jun 1864, page 5. See Marriages at Waters Upton.
 Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 6 Apr 1864, page 6. Archidiaconal Visitation.
 Staffordshire Advertiser, 9 Jul 1864, page 4; 16 July 1864, page 4; 6 Aug 1864, page 4; 13 Aug 1864, page 4.
 Shrewsbury Chronicle, 12 Aug 1864, page 4.
 The Herts Guardian, 9 May 1865, page 4. A Church to be Rebuilt.
 Staffordshire Advertiser, 27 May 1865, page 3. Religious, Educational, &c.
 Staffordshire Advertiser, 5 Dec 1863, page 1. THE TRUSTEES of the late Mr. JOHN COBB respectfully announce that the Business of ARCHITECT, SURVEYOR, and BUILDER, carried on by him at Chetwynd-End, Newport, Shropshire, will be conducted heretofore, in all its branches, for the Benefit of his Family, by his Son, MR. J. F. COBB, For whom they earnestly solicit a continuance of the kind patronage so long and liberally extended to his late Father. Chetwynd-End, December 3rd, 1863.
 1861 census of England and Wales. Piece 1901, Folio 79, Page 5. Chetwynd End, Chetwynd, Shropshire. Head: John Cobb, 48, architect & builder, born Newport. Wife Ann Cobb, 49, born Newport. Dau: Jane Cobb, 23, born Chetwynd. Dau: Mercy Cobb, 21, born Chetwynd. Son: John Cobb, 16, architect & builder’s clerk, born Chetwynd. Son: Willie [Walter] Cobb, 5, scholar, born Chetwynd. Plus 2 servants (housemaid, cook).
 George Edmund Street. At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 1 Nov 2015).
 List of new churches by G. E. Street. At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 1 Nov 2015).
 John Newman (2006), Shropshire. Page 672. Copy previewed at Google Books.
 Church of St Michael. At: Historic England website (accessed 1 Nov 2015).
 Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 16 Aug 1865, page 5. The Church.
 Shrewsbury Chronicle, 28 Dec 1866, page 7. Waters Upton.
 Withington, Shropshire, baptism register for 1813 to 1948. Copy (of portion from 1815 to 1900) viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire, parish registers browse, 1538-1900.
 Canterbury Journal, 8 Feb 1873, page 4.
 Kelly’s Directory of Shropshire, 1917.
 The Church. At: St. Michael’s Church Waters Upton (website, accessed 1 Nov 2015).