Reverend James Francis Vicar of St Paul's Church Newport 1836 - 1843


Photo reference number: 1582

Text and image from "St. Paul's Parish Newport" by Rev. T. Parry Pryce, 1936.

On the 30th November, 1939, the Reverend James Francis formerly Curate of the Church (St. Paul's) from the date of its consecration was appointed its first Vicar.
In the "Merlin" for December 14th, 1839, a short reference is made to the event in the following manner:-

"A district has been assigned to the above Church, particulars of which shall be given in our next issue."

Strange to say, these particulars are not to be found in that publication.

He worked as Vicar of the Parish until the year 1843, and died under tragic circumstances, after an incumbency lasting only five years.

As a Parish Priest, he was most zealous in his ministry.
He was the first President of Newport Total Abstinence Society, and also took a very keen interest in the Educational life of this Town and Diocese.
During the early days of his incumbency at St. Paul's, the County of Monmouth in general and Newport in particular, were very much affected by the Chartist Rebellion.
There is extant in our Public Library, a bound volume of a Sermon preached by him in the pulpit of St. Paul's, on Sunday evening, April 21st, 1839, on the text, Jeremiah 2, 13.
The first part of the sermon is a wonderful exposition of the text.
The second part is a solemn and urgent warning to the Members of his congregation of the folly and even sinfulness of participating in, or identifying themselves with, the Chartist movement.
The Sermon is written in beautiful language, and may be read with great interest, especially in view of the fact that the principles which formed the programme of the Chartist Movement have long been accepted in our present day social reforms.

It is recorded that on Wednesday, May 17th, 1843, he got wet in returning from Whitson Church, where his clerical duties called him. He caught cold at St. Woolos Church on the following day attending the Visitation.
On returning home he complained of illness. He was seized with a chill, followed by fever together with other alarming symptoms, and died on Wednesday morning, May 24th, leaving a devoted wife and six children.

He had made friends with many. The educated man found in him the acquirements and attributes of the gentleman and scholar.
In the home his conduct as a husband and father was truly exemplary.
As an able and successful teacher of children of many families in the town and neighbourhood his loss was seriously felt.

The funeral took place at St. Paul's, on Tuesday morning, May 30th.
Business appeared to have been quite suspended in the town. The shops, with very few exceptions, were closed.
The place appointed for the assembly of his friends was the National Schools.

Shortly after 12 noon the procession left the National Schools for Llanarth Street towards the late residence of the deceased and in the following order:

The children of the National Schools supported by the male and female teachers.
The children of the Church School.
The children of the Diocesan School.
The Vicar of St. Woolos (officiating minister).
The Clergy.
The Body.
Pall borne by Six Clergymen.
The Churchwardens of St. Paul's.
About 800 persons in mourning, arm in arm, followed by the sorrowing poor of the town.
Colonel Love, Commandant of the District, Officers and soldiers of the 73rd Regt.

The Church was crowded to its utmost capacity.

He lies buried in the porch at the East end of the Church.
In the wall has been placed a tablet containing the following inscription :

THIS TABLET WAS ERECTED OVER THE GRAVE OF REVEREND JAMES FRANCIS THE FIRST APPOINTED MINISTER OF THIS CHURCH, BY THE MEMBERS OF HIS CONGREGATION, TO RECORD THEIR LOVE OF HIM AS THEIR PASTOR,
THEIR GRATITUDE FOR HIS INSTRUCTIONS AND THEIR ADMIRATION FOR HIS TRULY CHRISTIAN CHARACTER.
HIS LOT WAS CAST IN TIMES OF TROUBLE, YET AMIDST ALL DISCOURAGEMENT AND DIFFICULTIES HE ZEALOUSLY DEFENDED GOSPEL TRUTH AND BOLDLY REBUKED VICE AS A FAITHFUL AND ABLE MINISTER OF CHRIST.
IN THE CHEERFUL DISCHARGE OF THESE DUTIES HE GAINED THE ESTEEM OF ALL BOTH WITHIN AND WITHOUT HIS CHURCH.
HIS WAS THE WISDOM WHICH COMETH FROM ABOVE, PURE, PEACEABLE, GENTLE, FULL OF MERCY AND GOOD FRUITS, WITHOUT PARTIALITY AND WITHOUT HYPOCRISY.