top of page

1914: More tales from the wise Mr Crick

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

This AI generated image was created by Bing Image Creator - sadly no picture of Mr Crick is available,

The impending reirement of Mr William Crick

Following our earlier posting we have unearthed another account, two years after the first, that duplicates some of the stories but adds further insight into the man and some splendid and thought-provoking tales from the local area going back 125 and more years.

For 47 years an evangelist in Mid-Sussex

People in a wide area will be interested in th news of the impending retirement of Mr William Crick, the esteemed and well-known Evangelist, of St John's Chapel, Burgess Hill.

For some time poet Mr Crick’s resignation has been in the hands of the County Association’s Executive, who have made, and are making, strong and earnest requests to him to reconsider the matter, but Mr Crick feels that, with the lengthy and serious illness of his beloved wife, which is deeply deplored by all, his own advancing years, and the great and increasing responsibility of the cause at St John's, he cannot do otherwise than adhere to his position. Instead of leaving this month, however, he will continue in his position until September at least.

Of course to him, it will be a heartfelt wrench from somebody's old ties which have been made and strengthened during the 47 years he has spent in Mid Sussex - ten at Cuckfield and 37 at Burgess Hill - but many will be glad to know that Mr Crick will continue to reside at Burgess Hill, and that at times he will be able to go to different districts to preach the old Gospel, which has maintained him for so many years.

Mr Crick’s people at St. John's Chapel are thoroughly loyal to him, and scores of persons there or now there or now scattered over the world will remember him with gratitude for his remarkable ministry, and his Christian example, and influence, which led to the turning point in many of their lives.

Chapel renovated

St. John's Chapel, which is the oldest place of worship in the town, has shewn an urgent need for a thorough renovation. Well, those who worship there, most of them poor people could not afford to pay for it. So they rolled up their sleeves and did the painting and varnishing, the plastering and unnecessary repairs themselves, completely transforming the appearance of the building and making it light and bright and comfortable.

That is the spirit which animates Mr Crick's friends at St John's. They did the work cbeerfully and well - did it for the esteem they hold for their veteran Pastor and for the love they have for their Heavenly Master. It had been whispered that Mr Crick would like to see the Chapel put into a good state of repair before he relinquished his position.

A Thanksgiving Meeting

And that was the electric spark which galvanised his friends and helpers into wonderful activity for the thorough renovation of the Chapel was held on Wednesday evening. Mr W Crick, who presided, announced, with rgret, that Mr LR Burrows, who had been very kind to them, was unable to take the chair owing to indisposition. That gentleman, however, had kindly sent a donation to the Renovation Fund. (Applause).

Mr. Cirick explained that the only expenditure - which certain amount has been collected in connection with the renovation was for the actual materials, amounting to between £5 and £6, and his son Mr William Crick (Organist), had just informed him that he would be responsible for any deficiency (Applause).

Mr Crick expressed his earnest thanks to God, to the plasterers, painters, varnishes, carpenters, and scrubbers, and to all contributors and helpers. (Applause) Miss Nellie Stevens, of Burgess Hilll, a missionary home from India, gave a very interesting address bearing on her work amongst the natives in Indian villages, also describing bow they built and renovated their houses and places of worship.

The Rev. S. Maddock, of Cuckfield, also gave a capital address, voicing regret at the likelihood of their losing their old friend, Mr Crick, and remarking that the County Society had done and were doing all they could to induce Mr Crick to remain. A choir led the singing, and a collection was taken for the Renovation Fund.

Life in London

Mr Crick was born in the East Ennd of London in the year 1844. After be had been brought to a knowledge of the truth, he started evangelistic work in London, where he ws employed in a great iron foundry with 3,000 hands.

With that happy, cheerful disposition which has been his chief characteristic, he has always look on the bright side of things, and once he declared that many more people attended a place of worship than formally, for, whereas out of the 3000 only about 150 ever entered church or chapel when he worked there, in those same works now there were at least 600 or 700 who confessed

Christ to the world in that way.

Mr Crick helped to launch the “Great Eastern." He owed a good deal to two kind Christian ladies,Miss Low and Miss Macpherson, who set him to work in his spare time distributing tracts, and, later, at speaking in Bedford Hall, Shoreditch. His Sundays were precious times to him.

In the mornings he used to go out to Slater Street, Spitalfields, which was a regular fair, with parrots and all sorts of gaily coloured birds - many of them faked and coloured by the so-called "fanciers,” and then sold as song birds to unsuspecting purchasers who took them home only to discover that they could not sing at all.

Practise what you preach

In those days Christians had to practice what they preached, and at one of those Sunday morning services, which for three months were conducted by Mr Crick, he was accosted by a poorly dressed man who shouted out 'Look here, young fellow, you just practice what you preach.' He replied 'I endeavour to do so, by the help of God.'

The man retorted: 'Well, you are wearing one coat, and have got another on your arm. Now in the Book Jesus Christ says "Him that hath two coats, let him give to him that hath none".’

So Mr Crick said 'You come up here, then.'

He did so, and was given one of the coats, and went away.

After the service somebody said to the preacher: 'You must be "green" to give your coat away like that. You have lost that for good now.'

Within ten days Miss Low sent him a nice new coat, and he benefited by getting a second-hand coat replaced by a new one! Shortly afterwards the plague of cholera broke out in London and Mr Crick, who attended the sick and dying, was stricken, being insensible for some days.

He had been allotted £5 from the Lord Mayor’s Relief Fund to give to those poor women who had last their husbands, and be went round and made a note of the deserving cases. He gave 5s, as a general rule, to these widows, and he knew several persons to come to him with tears in their eyes pretending that their husbands were dead, just for the sake of five shillings!

Strange experiences in Sussex

In 1867 the late Mr Daniel Pratt (then Chairman of the Sunday School Union, one of the founders of The Christian World, and the father of Mrs Cleare, now the Secretary of the Cuckfield Congregational Church who at that time lived at Cuckfield, invited him, when be was convalescent, to come down to that town for three month' holiday and act as an evangelist. He stayed for ten years and six months!

In the village round about Mr Crick had some strange experiences. In one place if he need to visit, about four miles from Cuckfield there was an awful road to traverse at night, where one could walk for two miles in pitch darkness.

Several people had planned a conspiracy against him, and one night as he was returning home, three men 'layed wait' for him. He was walking up a little hill and he heard voices. To tell the story in his own words, 'I lifted up my heart toGod in a little prayer, and as I got nearer there seemed to be such a power. I heard somebody my "I’ll crack him on the bond, and leave you to do the rest" As I came does close to them I greeted them.'

'"Good evening, gentlemen. How are you getting on!'" I said.

One of them lifted up a great club as if to strike me. I said 'Now then, you wouldn't, would you, as Englishmen.'

These words had such power on them that I was allowed to go on my way. Now here comes the manifold glory of of that night's adventure. Six weeks later I received a message to go and see a man who was very ill. I went, and found it was one of the men who laid wait for me. It was the one who was going to knock me on the head. He told me be hadn’t had a good night's rest since, and I said:

‘Thank God for that! I prayed at his bedside, he became a convert to Christ and lived a glorious life for him for six years as a member of the Cuckfield Church.'

Over 6,000 sermons

Life is an evangelist in Sussex villages was not all sunshine. Some of the clergy did not like id not like Mr Crick coming into their parishes at all. One wrote:

'Dear Sir, I hear you have come into my pariah. For goodness sake clear out again as soon as you can, for if we get you and a few Nonconformists - of whom, thank God, we haven't any at present! - about here the value of the living will go down.'

As an evangelist of the Sussex Home Missionary Society Mr Crick has been into practically every town, village and hamlet of the county, and he has preached over 6,000 sermons in Sussex alone. In his early days he thought nothing of walking nearly 20 miles on a Sunday and preaching three sermons, and at times he could cover about 100 miles on foot in a week.

Sometimes he would stay at farmhouses for two or three days and preach in kitchens and barns Even crowing roosters would occaasionally join in his meetings of praise! Once he had promised to preach in a kitchen, but when he arrived he found the room so full that he could not get in, so be climbed through the window, took the lid off the copper, got inside and used the copper as a pulpit!

Changed for the better

Mr Crick was surprised at the ignorance of the farmers. Many who were worth thousands were quite unable to read or write, and knew nothing of arithmetic. Instead of entering the number of sacks of corn or flour in a book they would keep their accounts with beans - every sec being represented by one being. Of course, if I've been want to spray there was confusion.

Compulsory education is change the whole face of things in the country, and although the agricultural labourer still has a hard fight Mr Crick considers that affairs generally have changed for the better since his early days. He has known men to bring up a family of seven or eight on about 7s. 6d. a week, and he has seen men with only bread to eat put two pieces together, as if they were bread and cheese - because they did not want anyone to see that they were poor!

In 1877 Mr Crick was selected to take up the brickyard mission work at Burgess Hill, and the far-reaching effects of his splendid efforts will never be known.

Amongst the clay-workers

It soon became common talk of how drunken, quarrelsome, and wretched parents of poor, little ill-clad, under-fed children, in dirty homes, were turning into self-respecting, self-reliant, citizens, rejoicing, amid the smiles of happy youngsters, in a new life.

In the old days, the men at the brickyards used to be paid at the public house at the public-house, and often the money got no farther, but Mr Crick succeeded in stopping that bad custom, arranging, after some difficulty, that the men should be paid at the works.

Once when a man put down half-a-sovereign on a bar counter and ordered drinks all round Mr. Crick—a big. muscular Christian - said 'No, friend. You will come with me and give your wages to your wife' The man looked at Mr Crick, and peacefully followed him out of the inn.

'I’m nobody'

During his holidays, Mr Crick, engaged in deep sea mission work in the North Sea four times, visited Ireland once, Scotland, twice and the United States of America once. No man was more conscious of Divine blessing than he was.

He used to say that evangelists had to be patient, keep tbeir wits about them, and above all be sincere. One day be was walking along the road with a friend when a man, who was bitterly opposed to him, came along and said 'I never would get out of the road for a fool.' His (Mr Crick's) friend at once said 'But I will,' and jumping aside, allowed the man to pass.

Mr Crick is a great believer in swimming, and some years ago took pleasure in teaching boys to swim. Scores of them have to thank him for the their knowledge of the natatory art.

When Mr Crick first went to St. John’s, there was a man there of whom everyone, including Mr Crick, was afraid. They called him 'Boxer'. He came to one of the open air meetings held by Mr Crick, and demanded to know who he was.

'I’m nobody,' was the reply.

'Nobody, eh! ’I’ve a good mind to give you a clump on the head.'

Mr Crick said 'The devil is very clever, but he cannot hit nobody, and if you are only half as clever as your master you’ll clear off.'

'I shan’t clear off,' retorted the man, 'and I’d like to drown the lot of you.’

He was invited home to tea by Mr Crick, but he brusquely refused, though eventually he became converted, and is one of this to Crick's best friends. In seven years the two travelled 2000 miles, and Mr Crick's son used to play the small harmonium at the meetings.

A wonderful thing

'What a wonderful thing the Gospel is' - is an exclamation often on Mr Crick's lips. He believes that everyone can be useful in his or her own way. People can often be encouraged by a smile or shake of the hand.

He is not one of life’s grumblers. A teacher was asking her class if they would like to go to Heaven, and to her surprise one little boy repeatedly said:


'Why wouldn’t you like to ?' she further asked, and the boy at once replied 'Because grandfather says he’s going there, and he’s the biggest old grumbler I’ve ever seen!'

'I've had enough of him !'

No one can possibly form that idea of Mr Crick. At one place where he held some meetings two lads became converted to God, and one of them was with him for five years, being a great help to him.

After a time he went to College, and then a disaster occurred. He fell in love with a beautiful young lady, and they were out riding one day when his horse stumbled and pitched him on his bead and killed him. But his was a blessed life, and at the funeral Mr Crick was told by two men that they owed their conversion to God to the influence of that young fellow.

Searching a heart.

Once Mr Crick was visited by a pompous individual who claimed to be an old friend of his, and who wanted to borrow half a sovereign. Mr Crick, being in doubt as to the genuineness of his visitor, invited him to tea, and then suggested a prayer in the front sitting room

.To this the man agreed. Mr Crick prayed for guidance, and used the words 'If this man be an impostor, O Lord, have mercy upon him. Search his heart. Lord Search his heart!' The man at once dashed from the room, out of the house and was never seen again!

Another story about a half sovereign: The collections at St. John’s Chapel were composed mostly old coppers: in fact, it was only natural, as the congregation consisted of working people, but on one occasion a piece of gold was found in the plate.

This astonished and pleased Mr Crick and raised the friends of St. John's to the third heaven of delight, but, like many aviators, they very soon came down to earth, for a few days later Mr Crick had a letter from a man who said he had had a great desire to hear him preach, did so on Sunday, and intended to help the funds by 6d, but put in half-a-soverign by mistake. He was a gardener, earning only £1 a week; would Mr Crick 'please return the coin' Mr Crick did so.

Mid Sussex Times, 16 June 1914

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

Visit Cuckfield Museum, follow the link for details


bottom of page