Bedford Bee, Our Public Men

No 24, 5 November 1879

Charles Longuet Higgins, Esq. Turvey Abbey.

The notable man who forms the subject of this week's sketch, is a type of a class now nigh extinct. Indeed it is doubtful whether the term class is not quite too large for the few but well-defined order of country gentlemen who used in the good old times to justify Sydney Smith's amalgam of squire and parson under the title of 'squarson'.  Mr Higgins is a squire who leans churchward, and not a parson who leans worldward. Blest with ample means he has devoted a long life of effort to the spiritual welfare of what we will term his squarsondom.  Of strongly minded clerical tendencies his mind and mien alike proclaim the born divine, yet it is impossible not to perceive that the gift of holy orders would not because it could not have increased the disinterested devotion of this good man to the higher services of his fellow creatures.  No clergyman could be a truer evangelist, no bishop a more apostolic pastor of the flock.  Mr Higgins has devoted talent, money, energy to the propagation of churchly Christianity around his neighbourhood during his now advanced life.  Besides this he has mastered and, by throwing himself heartily into it, has made more smoothly workable the purely secular system by which the poor are supposed to be nourished and protected by the State.  Ever since the Poor Law came in to operation, now nearly 43 years ago, Mr Higgins has been without a break the Chairman of the Bedford Board of Guardians.

That he has done this great service to his county without giving or provoking offence to those associated with him is an honour that few can claim.  Ever solicitous for the interests of the poor Mr Higgins has combined with this admirable quality a shrewd and sound regard for the rights of the ratepayer.  As a leading representative of the laity Mr Higgins has for many years been prominent in Diocesan and other Clerical Conferences, as in the one held in Bedford last week during which our portrait sketch of him was taken. In Turvey he is the venerable father of the village family.  His form and genial presence give an air of happy completeness to every local gathering.  It is hard not to think that he is the original of Goldsmith's immortal delineation of the beloved pastor round whom the rustics flocked and the children pulled his coat to share the good man's smile.  Mr Higgins is also a musician, wrapt (sic) in the noble strains of sacred harmony.  He built a fine organ, too good, one is tempted to say for a village, in Turvey Church, at a cost we understand of £1,600, and officiates as organist himself, another labour of love.  There were formerly annual choral festivals of join choirs in Turvey Church, but for the some reason they appear to have been discontinued.  All the Church Societies and Mission Agencies find welcome aid in this model old English village, almost every stone of which proclaims the beneficent rule under which it has learnt to wear the Edenesque air that becomes it so well.  Though Mr Higgins is a Churchman of the severe evangelical school, with marked aesthetical predilections, his acts are those of the a broad-hearted philanthropist and his influence we believe to be wholly good.