|Mrs Frances Annie Tough
Even so she keenly felt the loss of fellowship with her own
Church and people. As soon as she could she joined the Primitive Methodist
Society at Windsor but found the two mile journey too great to allow her to
attend more than once each Sunday. She was made welcome by the Church of
England but, of course, as she explained politely to the clergyman, her own
Methodist faith meant she strongly opposed the doctrine of his church.
Instead she attended the services in the Iron Room, though
she found them dull and uninspiring. The congregation was small and none of
those who went to the services were actually members of the Congregational
Church. As she wrote in her memoirs 'Conversions were an unheard of thing'.
To suggest, as the author of her biography does, that Annie
Tough filled a Christian vacuum in the village is nonsense and belittles her
achievements, but there is no doubt that her faith made an impact on the
village, and in her own words 'got her into a little difficulty'. Seeing 'about
20 big lads and girls romping on the Common', one Sabbath afternoon she 'seated
herself on a fallen tree', and 'got into conversation with several of them'.
Before 'long, the others had gathered round, and she began to talk to them of
Jesus, some listened attentively, others jeered, and ridiculed. She sang
several hymns to them and left'. A report of this small incident reached the
ears of the Congregational Church at Slough, which now had oversight on the
Eton Wick Iron Room chapel. The church elders were told that she was trying to
start a Primitive Methodist Society in the village, and in their indignation at
her supposed effrontery actually asked her to a meeting to answer for her
behaviour. Knowing nothing of the purpose of the meeting until she arrived,
Annie could only quietly explain what had occurred - and then receive their
sincere apologies. Annie herself was more than a little indignant at having
been called into question in this manner, and now, if not before, she was
firmly resolved that 'by the help of God.. she would not rest until a Primitive
Methodist Cause was gained' in Eton Wick, where she could labour according to
the dictates of her own conscience'.
She set about trying to rent a place to use for worship, but
met with no success, and instead turned her attention to improving the
Congregational meetings. Conditions there had begun to improve. Services were
by now being held in the morning as well as afternoon, and she eventually had
the courage to suggest that children's services should also be held each Sunday
for she felt that little was being done for the children of the village. Her
suggestion was favourably considered and a 'good brother, who was not a member
anywhere, but attended both Church and Chapel, offered to conduct the services
"if Mrs Tough would assist". The little Sunday School was an instant
success, drawing a great number of children to it, even though many of them
must have already attended the Church of England services and Sunday School.
Indeed it was so successful that it incurred the displeasure of the village
schoolmistress and the curate.
The children were questioned at day school on Monday morning
and given detentions, and eventually the curate wrote to Mrs Tough:
'Dear Mrs Tough,
I have heard that you have been holding a Sunday School in
your chapel for sometime past, and that our children are in the habit of
attending it. I shall be most obliged to you if you will not encourage them to
do so, as I have forbidden them to attend, as I wish them to attend our Church
Sunday School only, as both they and their parents are members of our Church,
and as such ought not to attend Chapel Sunday School which is entirely
different in its teachings. I address my letter to you as the children tell me
you are, as it were the Superintendent of the Sunday School. Hoping you Will
understand my meaning and take it in good part.
I remain, Yours faithfully, W.W. Keating'
It is not too difficult to understand why the Rev Keating
should take this stand. The Church of England in Eton had only just become
established on an independent footing and he was the first of the curates to
have a special oversight on the village. He was also quite young, and perhaps
as fervent a Christian as Mrs Tough. She, however, was equally determined in
her vocation and as tough by nature as by name. The ensuing correspondence,
which was taken up by local and national newspapers, did little good for the
Eton church, but no doubt a lot for Annie and the Christian cause of Methodism.
The Eton Wick History Group is most grateful for the kind permission given by the Eton Wick Methodist Chapel to republish this history on this website.