Answers to Questions


J R Jones, Congregational Minister, Buntingford, 1911-1922

February, 2010






Rev. Joseph Reynolds Jones


Picture provided by Andrew Hicks from Jack Reynolds family's photo album.

Andrew Hicks (arhicks56 @ in Thailand is writing a book on the life of the author, Jack Reynolds, who wrote the novel A  Sort of Beauty in 1956 (later published as A Woman of Bangkok) and more information is on his research into Jack can be found on (January 2010).

Andrew is looking for personal info and pictures relating to Jack's life, particularly his early life in HertfordshireJack was born Emrys Reynolds Jones (1913-1984), and was the son of Joseph Reynolds Jones, the Congregational minister in Buntingford from 1911 to 1922.   He is looking for contemporary information on the Congregational Church (now United Reformed) at Buntingford including pictures of the Manse, and information on the family during the Rev. Jones' ministry. The following account of events in the Manse garden was published by Jack Reynolds, in the Bangkok Post of 1980, as part of an article entitled "Happy New Year for Bangkok's Sparrows".

All I know is that all my life I have been on matey terms with sparrows, and hence I am delighted to see them greeting the advent of the 1980s with so much vociferous joy.

We first became acquainted, sparrows and I, in sombre circumstances. Our family cats were always catching sparrows, and my desperate childish attempts to make the cats let go never got anywhere. What outraged me most was that when a cat eats a sparrow there’s no call for Christian burial. “The grave’s a fine and private place,” as the poet Andrew Marvell remarked about 300 years ago – “especially if it’s a cat’s stomach,” he might have added – but a sparrow eaten by a cat didn’t even have the satisfaction of a suicide, who at least was buried at the crossroads with a stake through his heart; he just became yeccch.

Somewhat later in the 1920s, my sister and I had the run of a two and a half acre garden in north Hertfordshire. It was incredible what a number of birds died in that area. Their nemesis was the fishnet which was hung to a height of about 30 feet all around the tennis court.

The purpose of the net was to prevent loose balls from causing mayhem in the rose-garden, getting lost in the shrubbery, or braining chickens in the adjacent orchard/chicken run. At the south end of the court it hung against the backdrop of the centrepiece of the garden – the biggest and most perfect copper beech in England. That didn’t matter in the winter, when there was no net and no leaves. It didn’t matter in the spring, when the net went up and the tree broke out in a smother of crowded pale green leaves. But the leaves quickly turned russet, and that provided perfect protective colouring for the net. Birds taking off for the south flew into it almost daily without even realising it was there. Many died outright. Others became hopelessly entangled in the lower reaches where the net rested on the grass in heavy folds.

My sister and I were deeply religious in those days. So we would spend hours trying to disentangle the live birds, getting very badly pecked by the larger species, such as starlings(which had the sharpest beaks), blackbirds, jays and the occasional crow or rook; they invariably misunderstood our intentions, assuming that we were trying to “wropple them up” tighter(a lovely Hertfordshire word) rather than release them. As for the corpses we found , we buried them with all due ritual on the far side of the beech, myself conducting the burial service in my father’s best style and my sister officiating as choir. When the undertaking business went slack, I would carve wooden crosses indicating species of the deceased and date of death. Sometimes there were so many deaths(and so many other things to do) that there was no time for carving; in that case we used to set up handsome chunks of Hertfordshire flint (canary yellow on the outside, jet black inside) with no inscription (ever tried to carve a flint with hammer and screwdriver?). Many a sparrow rested peacefully in this graveyard, where all were welcome. It is comforting to think they may still be there.

Some 10 years later, buffeted by fate, I returned to the same place to recuperate from what was then called a nervous breakdown. As I was both gloomy and uncouth at that time, I often found myself breakfasting alone in the summer house. This was a delightful place with a crazy paving floor and, on three sides, plank walls tarred on the outside and whitewashed on the reverse. The front was wide open and faced the rising sun and the immense rose garden. At breakfast time this garden was still, wet with dew and full of fragrant blooms which the missus hadn’t cut for the house (she was out with her scissors and basket at six every morning). And here I renewed my friendship with the sparrows.

I came up with the following information, and if you can add to it please contact Andrew.


Trade directories show that the previous minister was the Rev. George Fraser Elliott and it seems he may have continued either as the Minister, with Joseph being an assistant, or as a retired minister with Joseph being the official minister. It is not clear whether the new organ, installed in 1911, was already in place when the Rev. Jones arrived.

1917 - Buntingford

"The Congregational chapel was first founded in 1776; the present building, erected in 1819, has 330 sittings; In 1911 a new organ was provided."  

Elliott Rev George Fraser (Congregational), Tyneholme

Jones Rev J. Reynolds (Congregational), The Manse, Baldock Road

The Congregational Church, Buntingford, circa 1903


Detail of postcard reprinted in Buntingford


For the history of the Church see the Buntingford United Reformed Church web site.

February 2010   Page created
March 2010   Picture of J. R. Jones