© David Hallam - 2005
The Oldrini Family in Beeston
Rev Thomas John Oldrini, M.A.
was the much respected vicar of Beeston, Notts from 23 June 1854 until his death on 18 June 1885 at the early age of 59 years.
He was born in Westminster, London in about 1826, the son of Gerard John and Elizabeth Oldrini. His parents are known to have lived
at various times on the Kings Road and in Pimlico; his father was probably a professional man, and became Receiver of Fees to the House of Lords.
Another son, Louis Frederic Oldrini, was a law clerk and accountant - and left a substantial estate of almost £8,000 when he died in 1869. This
secure background had meant that John had been able to receive his education at Oxford University, where he graduated with a Master of Arts
degree. In December 1849, apparently when still an Undergraduate, he married Maria Elizabeth Drage at St James, Paddington. Maria was the fifth child
of thirteen born to John Drage, a grocer, chandler, draper and wine merchant with interests in both London and Norfolk,
and Elizabeth Drage his wife. Curiously, and for whatever reason - perhaps the first marriage had been in secret - the couple
married again in March 1851, this time with Maria's family to witness, in the Parish church at East Rudham in Norfolk.
He was that year that Thomas was ordained Deacon and took up an appointment in the Parish of Breaston in Derbyshire, just over the County
boundary from Beeston in Nottinghamshire. It was there, in December of that year, that their first children - apparently twins - were
baptised. In the following year, 1852, he was ordained Priest.
When he came to Beeston in 1854 to
succeed the Rev John Wooley, he took over a church which had been almost totally rebuilt just over 10 years earlier. The
previous incumbent and his family had chosen not to live in the Vicarage House, preferring the old Hall on Middle
Street (latterly Beech Tree Lodge, then The Cow at Beeston Public House and now demolished; its site is now occupied by the Tesco petrol station). At
the time Oldrini arrived, he described the old Vicarage (shown here before its demolition) as "a sadly poor place, wretched in the extreme
and partially destroyed by fire" - although its covering of japonica, jasmine and woodbine as well as a splendid horse chestnut tree tended to hide its
shortcomings. A new vicarage, costing £1200 was built in 1860 with the Oldrini family moving-in in July of that year.
Click to see photographs of Rev Thomas J Oldrini & his wife Maria
Another concern, at the time of his arrival, was that the church bells were in a poor state. They were only three in number, with one
dating from 1640 and another even earlier. Oldrini observed that they were "far from silvery in tone in later
times, whatever they might have been originally." On Christmas Eve, 1860, one of the bells cracked in the severe
frost. These bells were eventually recast in 1870 by Taylor's of Loughborough
and three more were added; there were dedicated on Shrove Tuesday, 1 March 1870. The absence of the bells had caused
distress in the Parish and, for this happy occasion, the streets were decorated, shops and silk mill were closed
and Oldrini recorded in his diary that there was a 'monster tea party' in the afternoon. Two treble bells, to
complete the peal of eight, were added in 1877, subscribed for by the inhabitants of Beeston and area, to the
memory of John Watson, the late silk mill owner.
Other material achievements during his incumbency included extensions to the National School on Brown Lane (now
Station Road) and the repositioning the organ and choir from the gallery at the west end of the church (which was
then removed) to a new organ chamber and choir stalls in the chancel.
Oldrini proved himself an energetic priest with a kind and affable manner who made it his business to visit every
house in the Parish at least once in every year and the sick regardless of denomination. Amongst his many other
contributions to the well-being of the Parish, he found time to write 'Gleanings - or Something about Beeston in
Olden Times' which was an interesting and useful booklet about Beeston's history. It was published in 1873.
Tantalisingly, he is said to have written a further instalment called 'The History of Beeston - Old and New' which
had not been published at the time of his death. The manuscript has never been found despite efforts by Beeston
He was buried in Beeston churchyard where his memorial, and that of his wife and parents, may be found. It is said
that his funeral was attended by 3000 persons which shows the esteem in which he was held by all denominations. The
alabaster pulpit that stands in the church to this day, was subscribed for in his memory by parishioners and friends.
Click to read about the The Next Generation of the Oldrini Family
Click here to go back to the beginning
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