John Kinchin-Smith

“When Caroline and I moved to Mursley with our four children in 1992, we had been married eleven years and I had been ordained for ten. Our children, Joe, Eleanor, Sam and David were at that time aged 8, 6, 4 and 18 months. We remained in Mursley for fourteen years and so it really became the place our children continue to think of as ‘home’. Those fourteen years were mostly a very happy time for us all. The old Rectory was a delightfully large and scruffy house, ideal for a young family; and the large garden saw games of football, cricket and croquet as well as being the venue for the Church Fete.

It’s hard to highlight particular moments or events during our time in Mursley. We were very blessed that the St Mary’s Church Family included several other families with children of similar ages to our own. Most of these have continued to keep in touch and remain friends. All of our children flourished at Mursley Village School. Church fetes and Harvest Festivals were always a real delight in all of the villages of the benefice and in those days the sun seemed to shine for the church fetes every year. (The one exception was when the Mursley Church Fete was opened by the new head teacher at Mursley School, Hazel Barrett, and it poured for the whole afternoon). Our children always loved the Harvest Festival auctions when they were allowed to bid with dad’s money. Our home was filled during October with boxes of fruit and vegetables. Another highlight was the annual church holiday club in August which grew one year to include over one hundred children.

Our time in Mursley seemed to mark the passing of an era, with the arrival of personal computers, satellite TV and smart phones – which we now take for granted. It seemed to be a less sophisticated time, with Coronation Sports and the Horticultural Show being significant for almost every child in the village. One of the funerals I conducted quite early on was for Sally Geeves, aged 93, who was the last person in Mursley to lay out the dead. She lived in the last of the Beechams Cottages still rented with only a cold tap in the kitchen, no bathroom and an outside toilet. It’s impossible to remember every child I baptised, every couple I married or funeral I conducted – but each one was special. Many of those I buried had become personal friends, including David Tomlinson whose burial took place in his garden! One of my happiest memories is working at my desk on a Friday summer’s evening with the window open, listening to bell ringing practice. There was something timeless about it and so quintessentially English!

Our years in Mursley were not all sweetness and light, of course. The last four years were marked by our youngest becoming very seriously ill with ME at the age of 11 – thankfully now fully recovered. For three months Caroline and David were in hospital in London while I was at home with the three oldest and still working full-time. The people of Mursley and the other villages of the benefice were incredibly caring and supportive throughout David’s illness and, for the three months Caroline and David were in hospital in London, a cooked dinner was delivered to the Rectory every day, Monday to Friday.

In 2006 we moved from Mursley to Chinnor in Oxfordshire. In 2013 I retired from full-time parish ministry and we moved to Gorleston in Norfolk. Caroline and I continue to be very involved in the life and ministry of our local church and our children have grown up and flown the nest. But our memories of Mursley and of St Mary’s, and of the people of the other villages of the benefice, will always have a very special place in our hearts.”