George Edwin Good (1858-1935)

Long-serving founder Director of Music at
Christ Church Epsom Common (1876-1935)

George Good served a remarkable 59 years as Christ Church's founder Director of Music - under seven Vicars. This probably record-breaking service is noted in a memorial incised into the structural stone on the right-hand side of the now blocked-off archway (which provided access to the original organ console) at the east end of Christ Church's south aisle - see below.

George Good's memorial in Christ Church
George Good's memorial in Christ Church
Photograph © Roger Morgan 2017

After the main memorial text, "Near this place George Edwin Good / Organist and Master of the Choir / gave fiftynine years - 1876-1935 / of devoted service to Christ Church." is the note that "The choir organ was added in 1937 / as a tribute to his memory."

(As an aside, this "Choir organ" was not a separate instrument, but a third manual, with associated pipes, that was added when the original 1876 William Hill organ was rebuilt in 1937, with a new detached console and electric action. That work was funded by a generous gift from Peter Miles - former publican at The Cricketers on Stamford Green and subsequently of Ye Olde King's Head in Church Street - in November 1936, shortly before his death in January 1937, aged 79. The organ was rebuilt yet again in the 1990s, reverting to two manual & pedal configuration.)

George Good's parents - Edwin and Elizabeth - came from Wilton in Wiltshire. They were both born in 1833 and seem likely to have known each other from at least their schooldays. The 1851 Census records the 18 year old Edwin Good living with his parents (his father, an earlier George Good, was a sawyer) and three younger siblings - and lists him as a "Pupil Teacher". The same Census finds the 18 year old Elizabeth Neppred living with her widowed mother (Sarah, née Coatsmith, the local postmistress) and two younger siblings - and she is listed as a "Governess".

It is therefore no great surprise that the 1861 Census finds the 28 year old Edwin and Elizabeth (who had married in Q3 1856) as "Schoolmaster" and "Schoolmistress". However, this was at the National School in Surrey's Redhill, some way from their home turf of Wiltshire.

(As another aside, National Schools were those established by the Church of England's National Society for Promoting Religious Education. This - founded in 1811 and often known just as the "National Society" - was set up to provide widespread church-based elementary education for the working classes, initially with no Government support.)

The couple's 1856 wedding had not been in their home town of Wilton, but at Elham in Kent - perhaps the National School there provided their first teaching posts. (It may be of significance that Elizabeth had by then lost both her parents, her mother having died in 1853.)

However, the couple were already in Redhill when their first child, George Edwin Good (the main subject of this article), was born on 9 January 1858. They were still at Redhill when George's two sisters, Nellie and Edith, were born in 1862 and 1866 respectively. However, by the time of the 1871 census, the family was in Kings Sutton, Northamptonshire where the parents had moved to teach in its National School.

Young George obviously had great musical abilities. He is understood to have received his early training at Magdalen Choir School, Oxford (some 20 miles from Kings Sutton), where he studied organ playing and choir training under the renowned Dr Walter Parratt - who, as Sir Walter, was appointed Master of the Queen's Musick in 1898.

It is a mark of George's great talent that, although only 18 years old, he was appointed in September 1876 as Christ Church's founder Director of Music. The confidence of those who selected him was well rewarded. He set very high standards which, thanks to his musical skills and knowledge of voice production, he achieved. In his 1901 book, Epsom-its History and its Surroundings, Gordon Home noted that the organ's "fine quality, together with the ability of the organist and choir, [have] made the music at Christ Church a synonym for excellence throughout the neighbourhood." George's 1935 obituary in the local press noted that, under him, "the music at Christ Church had almost a cathedral touch."

During his many years in Epsom, George - who never married - lived modestly as a lodger. Initially, this was with James (listed in the 1881 Census as a Grocer's Assistant) and Martha Pudney, members of the Christ Church congregation, at 3 Parade Gardens Epsom. For many years, he then lodged with the family of Thomas Furniss, (a member of George's choir at Christ Church from its consecration in 1876 until his death in 1908) at the Dutch-style premises Thomas had built in West Street. He continued there after Thomas's death, moving on when the widowed Marian Furniss died in 1917.

He then lodged with another Christ Church couple, Samuel and Clara Crocker, at their home and saddlery shop at 2 Albion Terrace, next door to The Albion. (On 19 July 1900, Samuel and Clara's daughter, Edith, had married Thomas Furniss's son - another Thomas, who later took on the family business - in Christ Church, when George Good had doubtless played the organ for them.) In the early 1930's, Clara Crocker became ill (she died in 1934), and George moved, for the last time, to lodge with Mrs Pyman at 50 West Hill.

Various Census returns list George as a "Professor of Music, Teacher of Organ, Pianoforte and Singing." ("Professor" here does not indicate a formal university post.) In addition to what he did at Christ Church, he was an instructor at private schools, had his own pupils and was also the conductor of various musical societies and festivals. His services were enlisted by many churches in the matter of drawing up specifications for new organs. He was engaged to play at many opening ceremonies, including one to celebrate the new organ in the Rosebery estate at Mentmore - consequent on his friendship with Lord Rosebery, of which more below. Serious music appealed to him most, but he could unbend - for example, as conductor of Epsom's Christy Minstrels.

But it is clear that Christ Church was his main focus. He was particularly keen to develop young talent, both musically and in general life-skills, devoting much time outside rehearsals to collective activities with his boys and mentoring them into work - and subsequently. George became a licensed Lay Reader and, for many years, conducted a Sunday afternoon class for the boys. The positive influence of this "earnest and upright man" on his young charges was such that many parents were keen for their sons to be admitted to the choir.

One of George's protégés in the Christ Church choir was Frank Pullinger (son of Ernest Pullinger, who worked at Andrew's, and subsequently took it over.) When, on 27 June 1906, the 8 year old Frank was baptised at Christ Church, George was his Godfather. Initially a treble, Frank stayed with the choir for 69 years, until his death in 1974. Their relationship was close: in many respects, Frank was the son George never had.

A measure of the affection in which George Good was held may be gained from letters sent to him to mark his 40 years at Christ Church in 1916.

On behalf of the then current choirboys and 40 "old boys" (several still in the choir as adults), George was sent a letter asking him:
"to accept the enclosed watch as a slight mark of the affection and esteem in which they hold you, and in a small way in recognition of the many kindnesses which the several generations of Choir Boys have received at your hands. They recognise that the interest which you have taken in your boys whilst in the Choir, and in their after life, has only influenced them for good."
Letters from a number of individual former choirboys - on active duty and elsewhere - expressed similar warm sentiments, recalling many happy memories.

Mrs Florence Northey, of Woodcote House - and a pillar of the Christ Church congregation - wrote to say:
"I am commissioned by the Congregation and Friends of Christ Church to offer you - and beg your acceptance of - the enclosed cheque as a small mark of their esteem and appreciation of your untiring work for 40 years for the Services and the Choir of Christ Church. I need hardly tell you how much pleasure it gives me to be the sender to you of this message."
As noted above, George enjoyed the great friendship of Lord Rosebery (a regular worshipper at Christ Church, where he loved the music), and was often invited to meals at The Durdans. Now and then, Lord Rosebery would ask him to bring some of the choirboys to sing, for which they were rewarded with a sumptuous tea and games on the lawn.

Lord Rosebery was a prolific correspondent, dashing off short (normally manuscript) letters everywhere. Below is a selection of those he sent to George.

[Monday] 15 April 1912 - From 38, Berkeley Square
"I enclose what I suggest should be the little annual fee for the trouble you are so good as to promise to take in keeping me informed of the music and hymns. … I thought the evening singing even better than the morning yesterday; one boy sang like a nightingale in the evening."
[Sunday] 16 June 1912 - From The Durdans
"I should like to give the enclosed little present to the nightingale, whoever he may be, (as I cannot see the choristers from where I sit, so cannot identify him) or if there be two, divide it. Do as you think best."
[Monday] 17 March 1913 - From 38, Berkeley Square
"I enjoyed the 'Crucifixion' very much indeed, and I was extremely vexed that I had to go away about half way through. But I had only a quarter of an hour before dinner, and an ambassador waiting for me. If I had been alone, I should have let the dinner take its chance and remained to hear the whole."
[Wednesday] 4 June 1913 - From 38, Berkeley Square
"My daughter tells me that the tune you wanted is to be found in the Scottish Hymnal. I do not know if you have this collection, and I presume you must have played the hymn at her marriage from it.
"Suppose it were possible on Saturday the 14th., could we manage another tea of the same guests with some singing? If it would be practicable on your side, I would let you know whether it would be practicable on mine. There is a Chapter of the Garter that day at Windsor which may detain me rather later than I wish."
[Monday] 9 June 1913 - From Rosebery, Gorebridge, Midlothian
"I sent you a Scottish Psalter today.
"It would be very pleasant if my guests could sing that pretty hymn when they come to tea. At present I don't see why it should not be next Saturday. If not it could be the Saturday after. I will let you know".
[Easter Monday] 13 April 1914 - From The Durdans
"Did you see Robin in church yesterday morning?
"He is coming over next Saturday to have a game of rounders and tea with the same five boys if you can bring them.
"Three of them might even sing!
"I hope you are none the worse for your tiring day yesterday."
Easter [if Sunday, then 4 April] 1915 - From Windsor Castle
"This day reminds me of my little annual tribute which I enclose. Christ Church has been much in my mind all day."
Scans of Lord Rosebery's 13 April 1914 and Easter 1915 letters quoted above.
Scans of Lord Rosebery's 13 April 1914 and Easter 1915 letters quoted above.
Courtesy of Jon Pullinger

On Sunday 10 March 1935, the 77 year old George played the organ for services at Christ Church even though he was suffering from a severe cold. The cold worsened into pleurisy and, on 15 March, he was admitted to Haling Nursing Home in Ashley Road. Despite all that medical and nursing skill could do in those pre-antibiotic days, pneumonia set in and he died on 27 March. Following his funeral at Christ Church on Saturday 30 March, he was buried in Epsom Cemetery.

As his obituary in the local press noted, "from the life of Epsom there has thus gone a rather remarkable man."

George Good's grave (Plot A279A) in Epsom Cemetery
George Good's grave (Plot A279A) in Epsom Cemetery
Photograph © Roger Morgan 2017

George Good had always lived modestly and left a gross estate of £110 4s. 7d. - about £7,000 at 2017 values. He had not made a Will and, on 3 June 1937, more than two years after his death, Letters of Administration were awarded to Frank Pullinger, George's Godson. The formal documentation noted that George was "a bachelor without parent brother or sister or their issue grandparent uncle or aunt or their issue" and that Frank Pullinger was a creditor. The net value of the Estate was £41 11s. 11d. - about £2,600 at 2017 values.

It is disappointing that extensive searches have found no picture of George Good - an interesting man who contributed so much to the life of Epsom. However, the late Bill Saunders, who was a choirboy at Christ Church in the early 1930s, remembered George as tall and slim, with a kindly disposition but commanding presence. And we do have George's confident signature, as below.

George Good's signature in 1932, when he was 75.
George Good's signature in 1932, when he was 75.

Roger Morgan © June, 2017
(With thanks to Jon Pullinger for the loan of George
Good's correspondence, inherited from his father,
Frank Pullinger, who was George's Godson.)