From Serena Thorne in Middle Street, Padstow, to [her father Samuel Thorne].
She remembers that she finished her last letter [to Samuel] upon her return to Swansea after visiting the old castle. She remained there with Mr and Mrs Martin until Saturday when she returned to Aberavon to stay with Mrs Vanstone. Serena enjoyed her stay in Swansea very much. It is a considerable seaport town on the Bristol Channel and is very clean. The town has also a flourishing manufacturing industry. Various houses in the town are described.
One Sunday she had to walk out in the country for a mile or so before preaching in the afternoon at a Welsh chapel in a tiny village called Briton Ferry. They had a good meeting attended by an old Welshwoman wearing a hat about three quarters of a yard high. [Isaac Balkwill] Vanstone, the Welsh minister and Mr ?Hold were also among the congregation. The Welshman gave out the hymns in his native language and read the ?lesson. Serena felt very strange at speaking to a very large congregation of whom about half `are ??? to find out about half of what you are saying, and looking so eager to catch everything too'. Briton Ferry is quite a pretty place situated on the South Wales Railway line between Aberavon and Neath. In the evening she went to hear Isaac [Balkwill Vanstone] preach at Aberavon. Then on the Wednesday following, Serena preached at Aberavon and had a very good time. She had tea on Tuesday at Mrs Mansfield's house, where the Curate lodges who apparently never comes into the parlour to speak to his hostess, with the result that she has become very friendly with the [Bible Christian] ministers. On Wednesday Serena had tea at Mrs ?Bate's and had a lovely time - their house is out of town and is in a very pleasant situation which is described in detail.
On Thursday they went up to Cwm-Afon about 2 miles from Aberavon. She does not know how to describe this place as it is not really a town, although there are enough buildings there to make a large one. Cwm-Afon consists of houses and factories situated in a long narrow valley between high hills. There are copper and iron works in great abundance and the smoke which is produced is suffocating. Serena, accompanied by [Isaac Balkwill Vanstone] and Mrs Vanstone had walked there to hold a meeting, as it was their preaching night in the valley. Upon their arrival at the chapel they found painting and cleaning going on in preparation for an anniversary celebration the following Sunday - [much of the rest of this passage cannot be read due to the handwriting]. They found a `nice little society, [and] not a large but a very nice chapel'. Some people from `dear old Devon' are there. They seemed very pleased to see Serena because she is Samuel Thorne's daughter.
On Friday they went to Captain Foley's for tea. They had also arranged to go climbing but the wind was too high, `and threatened to take all manner of liberties with the gentleman's hats & ladys' ??'. Serena did get up early in the morning however and went for a long walk before breakfast. The following Sunday they were at Cwm-Afon and Serena preached in the morning and evening at the Bible Christian Chapel to very good congregations. In the afternoon she also preached at a very large Welsh chapel to about a thousand people. If the weather had been any better, there would have been even more. The Welsh minister was present to assist her. He commenced by giving out the hymn in Welsh then Serena prayed and read from the Bible. The minister gave out another hymn, after which Serena preached. When she finished, the minister rose and gave a brief outline [in Welsh] of what she had said. After the collection the minister gave out another hymn and concluded the service with prayer. He was very kind and helpful although Serena must confess that as the minister was speaking in Welsh, she leaned over the front of the pulpit to hear what was being said. The minister had barely begun to speak when she had to drop her face into her hands to hide her amusement at the strange sound of the Welsh language to a Devonian ear - `it is unspeakably funny and ludicrous, they talk or gurgle, back in their throats'. The Welsh singing is however truly soul-stirring - `It IS singing, not screaming,; the waves of melody rise ever nearer as though they would burst the ear (not as much by force as by the power of perfect melody) & swell up away through the skies to heaven to mingle with the songs of the angels…' It is rather amusing though to see the Welsh ministers going around at collection times `with shining pewter plates & bowing their thanks to anyone that gives anything'.
The next day (Monday) was their `public tea' and it passed off very nicely. They had speeches in the evening from Messrs Vanstone, Hobbs and ?Badd. Serena also said a few words which were well received.
The collections at the ?chapel ?anniversary amounted to £4 and they also sold about three hundred shilling tickets. They seemed very pleased with the results.
On Tuesday afternoon [Isaac Balkwill Vanstone] and Mrs Vanstone accompanied Serena to the station, where she took her leave of them and went on to Swansea, where she was met at the station by Mrs Conybeare. Serena preached in the town that evening and afterwards went for a lovely long walk of about four or five miles. She spent the night at Mrs Conybeare's and left the next morning at six on the steam ship for Padstow. Mr Conybeare accompanied her as far as Ilfracombe although he was very sick. Serena remained on the upper deck until Ilfracombe, when she went below to the ladies cabin because of the cold. She had not been there for ten minutes before she was struck down with sea sickness. She has never been sick before but the channel between Ilfracombe and Swansea is the roughest part of the passage. She supposes that nothing is as bad as sea sickness, however she was plucky and talked, laughed and chatted as if nothing was wrong. After Mr Conybeare left the ship at Ilfracombe, Serena made the acquaintance of a gentleman, `who entertained me very pleasantly & was exceedingly kind…I believe he is a churchman but very liberal in his views & I think a very humble Christian. I scared him a bit I ?fear, by telling him at last that my MOTHER, father, grandfather & ?uncle were ministers, but I did not let him suspect myself to be one of the CLOTH, as I didnt want to ?make him ?fall into the sea'. Serena thoroughly enjoyed her voyage despite her sick stomach. The scenery was lovely, the weather beautiful ' & my companion very interesting'. Serena arrived safely here at about 6pm and found neither L.L. or Harriet at home. She [Harriet] had gone out for a walk. Serena was able to surprise her upon her return. She had apparently got the week wrong and was not therefore expecting Serena to return.
Serena has felt very much better since her voyage and expects that the sickness did her good.
- Serena Thorne was the daughter of Samuel and Mary Thorne, and the grand-daughter of William O'Bryan, founder of the Bible Christian Connexion. After several years as a preacher, she married the Bible Christian minister Octavius Lake and moved to South Australia, where her husband served as President of Conference. Source; Lewis Court Collection
- Isaac Balkwill Vanstone (1827-1909) was born at Shebbear in Devon. He was converted in 1848 and entered the Bible Christian ministry in 1851. He was Conference President in 1873, Secretary in 1869-70, Missions Secretary 1885-1902 and Connexional Treasurer in 1881. His son Thomas Grills Vanstone (1851-98) was an early Bible Christian missionary in China. Source: Beckerlegge and U M Magazine 1909, pp.298-299