William George Dimock Fletcher, a recorder of history

4 January 2021

William George Dimock Fletcher was born on 4th January 1851 in Handsworth, Staffordshire, the eldest child of John Waltham Fletcher and his wife, Elizabeth.  At the time of William’s birth John Fletcher was curate of St James’ Church, Handsworth, but his career would see him and his growing family moving on to Coventry and then to Leicester, where he became Chaplain of Leicester Gaol. 

As a ten-year-old, William boarded at Kings Heath School in Kings Norton, progressing as a teenager to Bromsgrove Grammar School in Worcestershire, where he won prizes for languages and for writing. 

By the age of 20 he had moved to Loughborough to take up an apprenticeship with the solicitor John Woolley.  William soon decided to follow a different career, however, enrolling at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford at the age of twenty-three to study for the Church.   He was ordained as a Deacon in 1878 and as a Priest in 1879. 

William began his ecclesiastical career with a short curacy at St. John’s Church, Hammersmith, followed by four years at Holy Trinity Church, Oxford.  In 1881 he became parish priest at St Michael’s in Shrewsbury, where he also acted for a time as chaplain to Shrewsbury Prison.  After nineteen years at St Michael’s, William moved a short distance away to Oxon Church at Bicton Heath, where he remained until his death. 

William Fletcher was a member of Leicestershire Archaeological Society, Shropshire Archaeological Society and Natural History Society, the Society for the Parish Registers of Shropshire, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. 

He was a prolific writer and a much-respected scholar, publishing pamphlets, papers and history books on the ‘genealogy and antiquities’ of the areas in which he lived, from his early twenties into old age. 

Of interest to Loughborough are his collections of the town’s stories, published first as articles in the local paper and then collected together into books published by H Wills of the Market Place. His books contain memories and hearsay told to him first hand by people of the town, which would have been lost to modern times if William hadn’t recorded them. Whilst not always accurate (people having the habit of misremembering things and getting facts wrong) most of them have been proved to be true.

In old age, certainly, William was a much-respected scholar, sought out by other historians and scholars for information and advice, and is known to have preserved whole collections of historical information through translation and painstaking research. His last printed work, A Short History of Shelton & Oxon, was published in 1929 when he was 78 years old.

He kept up his connections with Loughborough throughout his life, donating collections of press clippings and other archives of relevance to the town’s history to the Library in his later years.

William G D Fletcher was married twice; firstly in 1881 to Elizabeth Arrowsmith of Shrewsbury, who died in 1931. William then married Gladys Clarke of Bicton on 19th November 1934.  He had no children. 

Sadly, William was injured in a traffic accident outside his home in Bicton on the first anniversary of his marriage to Gladys.  He was taken to the Royal Salop Infirmary in Shrewsbury where he died from his injuries on 6th December 1935.  Known affectionately as ‘the oldest clergyman in Shrewsbury’, William’s funeral at Oxon was conducted with a pomp and ceremony he would surely have appreciated, performed as it was by four clergymen: the Archdeacon of Salop, the Reverend E Moore Darling and the Reverend W E Y Thompson – Rural Dean of Shrewsbury; the graveside rites were performed by William’s younger brother, Canon James Fletcher[1]

William’s death was reported in newspapers across the country, including The Times.  His old friends in Leicestershire Archaeological Society paid particular tribute to him, expressing their gratitude to a man without whom many interesting snippets of the town’s history would surely have been lost.

Alison Mott

[1] of Stratford in Sarum Cathedral, on the edge of Salisbury