Henry Champernowne Hicks was the first Curate in Charge of St John’s. Born in the Dorset village of Piddletrenthide, Hicks was the eleventh student of the newly founded theological college at Lincoln. The following is an extract from the 75th Anniversary booklet, reprinted in the St John’s Centenary Souvenir published in 1977.
“Ordained on the day following his 24th birthday, he rapidly built up a sturdy congregation during the months when St John’s Church was being built. He is remembered today as the man whom everyone loved and admired. 2.5 years of work at phenomenal pressure by the young priest saw St John’s firmly established. It also broke his health.
Ordered by the doctor to rest, he went on holiday with his brother to Alnwick, in Northumberland. It was his last holiday. He had worked hard and he played hard – too hard. An exhausting swim in deep water ended in a forlorn cry for help. In the evening his body was recovered and brought ashore by fisherman. He was buried two days later in the village churchyard.
Had Hicks lived he hoped to build a Sunday School for Butler’s Hill. Within three weeks of his tragic death, his friends had made plans to carry out his design, and had raised £229 towards the cost of the work. The Hick Memorial Schools, later called St John’s Institute, were the result. But his real memorial will always be the body of faithful worshippers in St John’s Church for whom he lived and died.