William Arnold 6 August 1920 – 6 September 2012
Will was born on 6 August 1920 in a cottage on the green in Litchborough, to Kate and William Arnold. It was a loving Christian home and worship at the Baptist Church in Litchborough was part of their life.
Will attended the village school and then passed the 11 plus and went to Sponne Grammar School in Towcester, cycling both ways in all weathers. His father had bought him the bicycle, a Hercules, for passing his 11 plus and he never had a puncture! Will was a quietly studious pupil and was often disgusted at the pranks other students did! There were many stories of the Headmaster threatening to give detention if the guilty party didn't own up – Will's thoughts and how he imitated the various "goings-on" were priceless.
He loved English lessons and his love of words, their origins etc., stayed with him and fascinated him throughout his life. He applied for training at Bristol Baptist College but failed on Maths! He had no regrets and always said "God had work for him locally". As we look back over the years how true that was. Service at Litchborough Baptist Church followed as well as serving the Village Preachers Association, as Secretary and then President and travelling to other village churches on Association Sunday and other times. One year he Glen and Will went to Rushden Baptist Church on Association Sunday and he was introduced as "One of the best known Lay Preachers..." after the service he asked Glen what she thought of the introduction. She told him "It was very good but I wondered who they were referring to..." (Just to stop him getting big-headed!).
Will's father died when he was 15, and Will had to leave school and earn a living to support himself and his mother. After various interim jobs he joined Taylor's a well-known soft furnishing and Gents outfitters in Wellingborough Road, Northampton and worked for them until retirement becoming Manager at their premises on the Market Square, then Derngate and lastly a shop within a shop at Watts. He longed to retire and a few months before retirement he broke his wrist when he fell out of an apple tree and was unable to work for 8-10 weeks. Several people teased him and said "We knew you were keen to retire but we did not know you would go to such lengths. Will always got on so well with people and enjoyed serving the customers and listened to their comments/worries etc., some very humorous tales and some sad.
Will loved cricket, he often talked of cricket played on the village green when he was a lad – then playing for Litchborough when a ball hit him on the jaw – and that was the start of extractions and dentures – and the top dentures lasted until his demise! Glen's dentist was delighted to see such teeth when Will told him about them – "They are not made like that anymore" he said! Visits to the cricket at the County Ground were enjoyed over the years, even going in his lunch hour and when the shop kept open until late evening he went in the tea break. Rugby and golf he loved to watch too.
Will and Glen first met at a Village Preachers Association meeting at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in 1966 and in quite remarkable circumstances the friendship blossomed. In due course Will travelled to Surrey to meet friends, family and church members. Then to St James' Square to meet Glen's work colleagues. When their engagement was announced Glen's colleagues thought she was going to the back of beyond - with no street lights, toilet at the bottom of the garden, no hot water – but Glen assured them that Litchborough was not like that. Subsequently many came to visit and loved the area. One couple got out of their car ad began whispering to Glen so she asked if they had a bad throat, Helen replied "It is so quiet, I feel I must whisper"
Glen were married at Elmbrook Chapel in Cheam, Surrey on 24 September 1966 by the Rev. Gorden Hastings (one time minister of Adnitt Road Baptist Church, Northampton, where Will had been Baptised) and started their married life together.
Will helped to organise the village Youth Club and Junior Church at the Baptist Church where various Christmas Plays and Carol Services were well attended. The Harvest weekend was very popular especially the sale of produce –a queue formed and people rushed in to claim their seats and the bidding was very competitive.
At one time there was just one member of Junior Church and a villager said to Will, "I would consider it a waste of my time to go with just one." Will replied, "I don't, because you never know who that one will become." That one didn't become a VIP, but they did become a loyal member of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.
Ron Richardson preached a sermon at Litchborough Baptist Church many years ago when he said he had seen a notice on a shoe factory wall "Wanted Stickers and Lasters" – Ron said "That is what we need in our Churches", and so we do – Will was a Sticker and Laster.
Junior Church numbers increased and parents became involved collecting newspapers and selling them to raise money. Will and Glen's Morris Minor travelled miles collecting from local people and loyal supporters in town and then selling them at the scrap dealers until the price was not worth the effort. Fund raising then turned to coffee mornings and a Talent Scheme came into vogue. The school room was redecorated and used for Harvest Suppers, Advent Suppers and even a Tramps supper with the coal fire to sit around.
One radio programme that Will loved was the Daily Service, he tried to listen to it every day and he would appear in the kitchen just before 9.45 am and say "Service Time." The BBC singers will never know how much he enjoyed and appreciated their singing and the musical arrangements. Glen will always remember his pleasure of that worship as she continues to tune in.
Gordon Hastings said that Litchborough was the only church he preached in where, from the pulpit, you could see cows grazing. The cows are now gone, replaced by houses but the church is still there.
Over the years Will ministered at the Baptist Church whilst rectors came and went at the Parish Church. When Tony Ellis was rector he and Will visited every house around the village together. Jim Jones said to them "Has it got so bad that the men of God have to go around together?" to which Will replied, "No, it has got so good!"
Years ago the preachers came out of town by pony and trap in all weathers. Some had no experience of that kind of travel, especially in icy conditions etc. The group of churches served were, Eastcote, Grimscote, Litchborough and Farthingstone; afternoon and evening services - so members of the congregations provided hospitality, and warm friendships were made.
There was then a Missionary Group link with Blisworth, Litchborough and Abbey Centre in recent years; very informative and the close link with a missionary continues.
There is now bi-monthly joint worship with St Martin's and the recent appointment of new Rector has brought the fellowships even closer. Will had such great hopes of a strong joint witness in the village... he often said, "12 ordinary men chosen by God turned the world upside down in their day. What could be done in this area with the same faith and commitment?"
Will was also involved elsewhere in village life. He served for many years on the Parish Council as Clerk and also as Chairman.
For over 20 years Will and Glen served in the Save the Children shop in Northampton, and were on the committee of the local branch. Shaking a tin outside various supermarkets for the fund was all taken in his stride. For several years their dining room became a shop where Christmas cards, calendars, gifts, wrapping paper etc., were on sale and business was brisk.
The mite scheme saving 5p's Will hoped that the final target of 100,000 mites would be reached by Christmas 2012.
Through Save the Children, Will and Glen, with friends in the village sponsored a young Korean boy and helped educate him and provide a few extras to make his life more comfortable.
Students from Hungary and the Netherlands, wanting to improve their English, were welcomed into Will and Glen's home and their names became included in the long list of letters that were regularly written to people in this country and abroad. Will often said "One's wealth lies in one's friends." And that sentiment is echoed by Glen as these friendships have sustained and comforted her over recent months and especially since Will passed away.