Rev A Allon Smith

Rev and Mrs Allon SmithRev and Mrs Allon Smith outside no. 3

The Reverend A Allon Smith was minister at Ventnor Congregational Church from 1922 until March 1926, and for much of that time lived at 3 Alexandra Gardens, which at that time was known as "San Remo".

Rev Allon Smith was a gifted preacher. When he left in 1926 he was described in the Isle of Wight Mercury in glowing terms "Expressions of profound regret at leave-taking were mingled with high appreciation of his eloquent enunciation of great spiritual truths, as well as his kindness of heart and responsive nature which made him so readily approachable to all."

For a while he lived in Ventnor and then went to live with his brother in Ryde. The church decided to buy him a "Manse" and 3 Alexandra Gardens was chosen. The house was bought in August 1923 for £750 and the church subsequently paid £120 on renovations.

Ventnor Congregational churchVentnor Congregational Church

The house was not bought in the minister's name but in that of four leading members of the church. There would seem to have been a last minute change as three of the original names on the hand written deeds were crossed out and other names entered. The purchase was by means of a £750 mortgage from the Ventnor branch of Lloyds Bank.

By all accounts the Manse, even after the expenditure on improvements, did not suit the minister, who found it too big. He decided to move out and the furniture was removed on 4th May 1925. Mr Allon Smith moved back to stay with his brother in Ryde until he left the Ventnor church for Felixstowe in March 1926.

Whilst all acknowledged his talent as a preacher there was some criticism of his not living in the parish. In the February 5th 1926 Isle of Wight Mercury a report of a meeting of the church had the catty comment at the end of the report "The Rev A Allon Smith who is now in residence in Ryde was unable to stay during the full length of the meeting and the chair was taken by the Rev W Melville Harris."

Alexandra GardensThe Garden of number 3 in 1924

Following the report, in glowing terms, of his leaving WJ Knight (Deacon and Financial Secretary of the Church and one of the crossed out original buyers of the house) wrote to the Isle of Wight Mercury saying "in the Spring of 1925 Mr Smith vacated the house without a word of explanation to any official, the first intimation being the vans removing his furniture, and he went to Ryde to live. Tee Deacons and Finance Committee on several occasions pressed for some satisfactory solution, but none being forthcoming the house being sold at a considerable loss. The acceptance of the Church in Felixstowe was the last way out of such a position, otherwise something more drastic would have been necessary."

The following edition of the paper has three letters in support of the minister, including one from William Ellerbeck, of 2 Alexandra Gardens who reveals himself as the author of the original glowing report. Another letter claims that "Early in April 1925 I was told by the wife of a leading Church official that Mr Allon Smith had informed the deacons of his intention to give up the house..."

Alexandra Gardens gardenAlexandra Gardens garden from no. 3

The house was sold in August of 1925 for £825 to William George Mitchell, who was life deacon and secretary of the Congregational Church in Ventnor and one of the four church "elders" who bought it on behalf of the minister. This puts in doubt the letter by WJ Knight as this was a £75 profit and sold to another Deacon - so presumably not on the open market.

Whatever the truth, there was clearly some controversy within the deacons about the minister's place of abode.

Rev A Allon Smith died in Surrey in 1944.

Many thanks to the granddaughter of Rev A Allon Smith, Rosie Steer, for her help in preparing this page and providing the family photographs.

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