Reverend Joseph Shaw 1838-1922

Pastor of Ewell Congregational Church 1869-1902

Interior shot of Ewell Congegartional Church c.1935Ewell Congregational Church c.1910
Ewell Congregational Church, Interior c.1935, Exterior c.1910
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre Collection (Links open in new windows)

Joseph Shaw was born in Tunstall, Staffordshire in 1838 (GRO reference: Sep 1838 Wolstanton 17 255) to Enoch Shaw, an earthenware painter, presumably at one of the potteries, and his wife, Ann. He was one of a large family, with six older siblings Henry, Rosanna, Elizabeth, Edwin, Charles, Samuel and a younger sister, Maria. Several of the older children became potters or earthenware painters and in the 1851 census Joseph was also a potter. His mother died in 1853 followed five years later by his father. In the 1861, census Joseph is shown as lodging with Levi and Sarah Brown in Burslem, still working as a potter.

By 1862 he had entered the Weslyan Ministry and served for 6 years in Preston, where he was particularly interested the economic conditions of the working classes. He strove to attain a better standard of living and share of wealth for them and this interest and determination to improve their lot characterized his work until the end of his life. He was an advocate of open spaces, sanitary homes, playing fields and some entertainment.

Around the end of the 1860s he transferred to the Congregational Church, attracted by the greater freedom and opportunity that it provided. In December 1869, while working in Pimlico, he visited the parish of Ewell to preach to 16 people. They were so impressed by his earnestness and eloquence that he was asked to take the services for a month, and at the end of the period he was offered the post of pastor.

Also in 1869 Joseph married Susan Jane Jameson. (GRO ref: Dec 1869 Edmonton 3a 269). Joseph and Susan raised 5 children, all born after their move to Ewell:
Charles Joseph Shaw GRO ref: Dec 1870 Epsom 2a 15
Charlotte Benwell Shaw GRO ref: Dec 1872 Epsom 2a 13
Minnie Maudesley Shaw GRO ref: June 1874 Epsom 2a 17
Isabella Jameson Shaw GRO ref: Mar 1876 Epsom 2a 17
Ethel Marian Shaw GRO ref: Dec 1877 Epsom 2a 19

The 1871 lists Joseph with his wife and five month old son living on Epsom Road. They later moved to Church Street where their daughters were born and are there in 1881. The 1891 census shows them in Epsom Road, at Laurel Villas. In 1901 the family was still living together in Park Hill Road Ewell. The 1913 Kelly's directory records him at 1 Heathfield Villas, Park Hill Road, and this is where he died. Heathfield Villas appears to have been on the corner of Park Hill Road and Epsom Road. This is the location today.

Photo of Park Hill Road sign
No Park Hill Road
Park Hill Road in 2007.
The house shown is thought to be on the site of 1 Heathfield Villas and just may be the same building.
Images courtesy of Liz Manterfield 2007

The post in Ewell was not an easy one. Non-conformism had struggled because of "strong-handed interests" and prejudice locally. Joseph applied his considerable energy and determination to establish a thriving church. Years of hard work followed both in the church and outside.

The post was financially insecure. In the early years the church had difficulty in meeting the pastor's stipend, and he was dependant on special collections such as Anniversary Services. In 1894 it was necessary for him to accept a reduction in stipend from £200 per annum to £160. By the end of the year the church was still £150 in debt and had to seek help from the Surrey Congregational Union. Rev Shaw volunteered to forego a regular stipend and to rely on money that might be contributed to the Minister's fund. He also informed the church that each of his five children would contribute £10 to the deficit. For 18 years he served on the Executive Committee of Surrey Congregational Church and became its Chairman and President in 1898, His inaugural address was most scholarly and considered to be the finest ever given to them. He was a broad minded man and believed in religious tolerance, being friendly towards all other parts of the Christian Church.

He also deployed his energy outside the church. He was one of the first members of the Parish council and sat on the Rural District Council from its formation. He represented Ewell on the County Council for many years. He was elected with a very large majority and was unopposed in the next five elections. He was very popular, being recognized as an honest man, who was fearless in speaking out on anything he thought to be wrong. He even wrote to the Postmaster General in 1899 disapproving of the proposed postal delivery of letters in Ewell on Sundays!

He was a great believer in the role of the Epsom Board of Guardians serving on it for many years. His advice was recognized as well thought out and his judgment sound. Whatever he argued for would be to the benefit of the institution, the poor and the rate payers of Ewell. He was perceptive and understood what was needed. He would attend services in the Workhouse and assisted and supported the chaplain.

His belief in improving the lot of the working man extended into politics where he was a sturdy supporter of Liberalism.

He had a fertile brain and was a born thinker, leader and teacher and a great believer in the importance of education. He worked for children of the poor to have a better chance to equip themselves for life, and also fought a long and successful battle to get the school leaving age raised. He served on the Ewell School Attendance Committee and was a supporter of the Sunday School. In 1874 he started a series of meetings for the benefit of the working man, inviting them to a free tea and entertainment. They were so successful that in 1878 it was decided to build a lecture hall and Sunday School. The foundation stone was laid by his friend, Lord Rosebery. He, along with seven others, founded the Epsom Literary Society and devoted a lot of time to their work.

He was an eloquent speaker, with a silvery voice and a magnetic personality. He spoke with conviction and in the belief that his views would be accepted and that he was right. His opponents were persuaded by his sincerity and unselfish spirit. Although many enjoyed listening to him, his sermons were inclined to over run and he was requested on several occasions to shorten them so that the morning service would conclude by 12.30!

He continued as pastor until 31 January 1902 when he read a letter of resignation to his congregation. He felt "unequal to do the work of the pastorate as I should like to do it and as I did do it in years gone by." He felt that he no longer had "the power of initiative and energy of young manhood. In so long a pastorate as mine it is rarely that a Minister lives himself into an entirely new generation. That has been my fate, and therefore my reminiscences are full of pathos and fragrant with memories and associated efforts for the good of the Church and the people of the neighborhood that are almost mine alone."

He died on Sunday 17 September 1922 at Park Hill road. He had appeared well at dinner but later when talking to his successor, Rev Cleal in the drawing room, he suddenly gasped, threw back his head and died. The funeral was held at St Mary's Ewell on 21 September 1922 and he was buried in the churchyard. It was attended by representatives from the county, local and parish councils as well as the Board of Guardians. In his eulogy, Rev TR Grantham Congregational Minister at Dorking, paid this tribute: "All that Joseph had in him-all the vision, the holy love of Christ, his whole soul, mind and heart - he put into his ministry and he had no other aims or passion than to benefit his fellow man. Whatever would serve that well he freely gave." The Epsom Advertiser printed any tributes from the various areas in which he had been involved.

Liz Manterfield
May 2007
Census Returns
Epsom Advertiser 22 and 29 Sept 1922
Ewell Congregational Church by Walter Trueblood
General Register Office Indexes
Times Digital

CJ Shaw
CJ Shaw (Son)