Hudson Dixon, Hertford Missionary for 50 Years
Hudson Dixon was the Town Missionary in Hertford for over 50 years.
He had been born in the 4th quarter of 1850 to Thomas and Sarah Dixon in Dean, a village to the south-west of Cockermouth in Cumberland.
At the time Thomas, his father, was an agricultural labourer, but by 1861 he was a porter at 5, Preston buildings in Manchester.
In 1863, Hudson spent three days hard labour in Belle Vue Prison, West Gorton, Manchester for stealing a pair of trousers. Perhaps this incident put him on the path to his future calling for by 1881 he had become the town missionary in Hertford. He made a great success of this and was extremely admired in the community.
The Hertford Mission
The Hertford Mission was founded around 1850 by Mrs Ann Andrews, as part of the country towns mission. Ann was the wife of Samuel Andrews, timber merchant, builder and brick maker in the town and mother to Robert Thornton and William Frampton, who as well as carrying on the business, started Hertford Museum.
Hudson was preceded by four missionaries of whom only one, Thomas Smith stayed very long. Thomas who was very popular because of the good work he performed, was the missionary for 14 years until his death, aged 54, on 15th November 1870.
When Hudson came to Hertford the mission was run on very strict lines and as a consequence the minister was forbidden to take part in any way in services in other churches. Later, circumstances eased and Mr. Dixon was able to work in sympathy with all local churches. In 1920 he was quoted as saying, “We do not administer the Lord’s Supper or Baptism and our aim is to win man for Christ and then let them join the church of their choice.”
In 1879 Mr. Dixon took over the vacant Ragged School and started a Sunday School there.
An article on Hudson Dixon in the Hertfordshire Mercury in 1920 claims:
At that time the children were ragged, dirty, and verminous, and as there was somewhat of a dearth of houses (which for some considerable time affected the Missionary himself), most of the squalid dwellings in the neighbourhood of the school contained several families of people. There were four low-class public houses within a narrow radius, and drunkenness, fighting and assaults were very frequent occurrences.
It went on to state:
so that taking all things into consideration, the work which has since borne such good fruit, was of a real hard, uphill nature at the commencement.
According to the article, the main work undertaken by the Missionary and his wife was visiting in the homes, Sunday School, Bible class, Band of Hope1, and open-air and lodging-houses meetings. For the previous, 20 years, also there had been in existence in connection with the Mission a very flourishing penny bank, which was the means of saving between £200 and £300 last year. Before the coming of Mr. Dixon to the town, there had been no religious body which conducted any open-air meetings for the benefit of the townspeople, and the Town Missionary set himself the task of inaugurating a series of such meetings in various parts of the town which were continued during the summer months for more than 30 years. Mr. Dixon was particularly proud of the meetings which were held on the Old Cross, and which attracted large audiences.
On completion of 21 years’ service, Mr. Dixon was presented with a testimonial from the town’s people containing the signatures of Earl Cowper, Lord High Steward of the Borough (Panshanger Park), Sir George Faudel-Phillips, at that time Lord Mayor of London, and the names of the numerous subscribers A similar testimonial was presented to him in 1914.
As well as his tasks as the missionary, by 1920, Hudson Dixon had for 41 years been on the committee of the local YMCA, and for 12 years the Probation Officer, and Court Missionary to the Borough Magistrates. For 30 years he had been auditor to the Herts Band of Hope Union, and for 10 years a member of the Executive Committee of the Organised Aid Society2. In addition for over 30 years he was an honorary speaker of the Diocesan (Church of England) Temperance Society. He was the first secretary of the Hertford Band of Hope Union and organised the work of that Union. He also served on the Prince of Wales Fund3 Committee since its inception at the beginning of the war.
Mr Dixon was supported by Mary Ann, his wife, who gave so much effort to the cause in the early days that she became seriously ill. Thankfully she recovered to continue to use her tact and patience with the girls and children as well as the manner in which she handled the ‘rough boys’ who came under her care. Mr. Dixon was quoted as saying, “I could never have had this influence because I am inclined to be too much of a disciplinarian.”
Numerous, local ladies and gentlemen gave their time as teachers at the Sunday School.
The missionary work was a family affair with son, Arthur helping as a Sunday School teacher for many years and daughter Grace Gertrude assisting in the development of the infant school.
The Mission did not take part in political activity.
The mission was reputed to have helped to improve the lives of many people who started in the slums of Hertford with Hudson giving a beneficial guiding hand.
Whilst in Hertford, the Dixon family lived at 29, Byde Street in Bengeo, although in 1881 it was referred to as Port Hill Common. Hudson Dixon was still living at the house when he died on 1st August 1929, leaving £3626 0s 9d to Mary Ann.
- The Band of Hope was started in Leeds in the autumn of 1847 with the aim of teaching children the principles of sobriety and teetotalism.
- Organised Aid Societies were groups of people in towns and cities who got together to support each other through hardships, such as sickness, unemployment, etc.
- The National Relief Fund or Nation War Fund was established within a few days of the start of WW1. Its aim was to help the poorer families of men who were fighting and ease the families suffering from what was called ‘industrial stress.’ Prince Edward, later Edward VIII, was recruited as the treasurer and so it became known as Prince Edward National War Fund.