Rev. Charles Francis Box

Vicar of St. Mary's Church 1895-1914


Revd Charles Francis Box

Charles Francis Box was born in Withyham, Sussex on 24th September 1854, the eldest of seven children born to Francis, a Farmer, and Mary Ann Box.   He remained with his family in Sussex until around 1880 when the census shows he moved to Middlesex, London.  It was here he met his wife to be, Emily Stevens, whom he married on 30th March 1880, at the church of St. John the Evangelist, Smith Square, Westminster, London.

After marriage, the couple moved to Carshalton, Surrey and in 1882 their first child Mary Blanche was born.  There followed a family move to Kelvedon, Essex and then in 1895 to South Benfleet, Essex.

The 1891 Census lists the family as living at Kelvedon, Essex. Head of family is Charles, aged 36, and wife Emily (32) and four children, Mary Blanche, Winifred, Charles Wilfred  and Margaret.  By the time of the 1911 Census, the family had two additions: Dora, and Harold Francis.

Mothers Union c 1909 Rev Box seated middle row


New Vicar for St. Mary’s South Benfleet

The local press, The Chelmsford Chronicle dated 10th January 1896, (reproduced right), carried an article stating:
‘The Rev. C F Box, late curate of Grays and formerly of Kelvedon, has now fairly settled down to work in his new sphere of duty as Vicar of South Benfleet’.





During his time at St Mary’s Church, many changes and improvements were made. For interest, I attach a link to Eileen Gamble’s article, reproduced from Walter Bingham, which lists the 1897 list of officials of St. Mary’s Church.

In 1898 Reverend Box wrote as follows:-
We venture to ask for your kind support in the appended matter of Tower, Belfry & Church Restoration, by C. A. Nicholson, Esq., M.A., Architect.  At the request of the Rev. T. Julius Henderson, Vicar, as long ago as the year 1861, a similar report was framed by W. White, Esq., 30 Wimpole Street, who, among other things, said of the Tower – “The upper part of the Tower of this Church is in a most unsatisfactory condition and is fast becoming almost dangerous …… etc.”

Through the untiring efforts of Mr. Henderson, the late Vicar, many of the Architect’s suggestions regarding the interior of the Church were successfully carried out, but he left at this juncture and the Tower remained untouched.

For several years past the ringing of the beautiful peal of five bells (tenor weights 18 cwt. to 1 ton) has been suspended. The tower top, a prominent feature in the neighbourhood, has grown more unsightly, and the work of restoration should be taken in hand without delay, and we hope that Funds will permit us to carry on the restoration of the nave (where settlements in the walls and arches are growing perceptible), and that the roof of the nave may be stripped and retiled.

Estimated cost of Tower, Belfry and Nave £500


  Charles Francis Box,    Vicar

  1.    A. Browne       Churchwarden
  2.   W. Pease               Churchwarden

Sir Charles Nicholson’s report which accompanied this appeal outlined in great detail the works required and concluded that the ‘Church must look forward to an expenditure of about £500 before the fabric can be pronounced to be in a satisfactory state of repair’.

Appeal from Rev. Box, Page 1

Appeal from Rev. Box, Page 2

Charles Nicholson’s report, Page 1

Charles Nicholson’s report, Page 2

Charles Nicholson’s report, Page3

Responses to Charles Nicholson’s report


In 1911 the first mention of the need for a new burial ground, since the churchyard could no longer supply the need.  In 1912 it was resolved to spend up to £500 on the scheme.  A site was approved where the High Road turns smartly right towards Tarpots.  Tenders received ranged from £271 to £335. The work was completed and a superintendent appointed at the princely sum of 5 guineas a year and the plot was consecrated. I am adding a link to my article on Tom Rowe, the builder and handyman at St. Mary’s Church, who was charged with the task of finding a new burial ground. That part of the High Road thus came to be known as Cemetery Corner. 

Cemetery Corner
(Cemetery is on right behind bushes on the bend)


The Village Institute was the centre of social life of the parish for some 40 years.  Reverend Box hired it for concerts, singsongs, lantern lectures and penny readings.  In February 1901 the school children were entertained at 4 pm and adults at 7.30 pm with “instrumental music, songs and dialogues” on the new gramophone.  Playing with cylinder records then in use, this marvellous machine was described as producing very distinct sounds and affording much pleasure.

Benfleet Institute on left

Inauguration of the Institute in 1892

Institute Library 24th Sept 1903

St. Mary’s Football Club August 1906

Parish Tea and Sale of Works 12th Feb 1897

During the 1914 – 1918 war the Institute was used as a soldiers’ club.  The Village Institute continued to serve the parish until 1932 when an article in the parish magazine foretold its coming demise owing to road widening.


Sadly, on 9th February 1914, at the age of just 59 years, Reverend Box passed away after a few days illness, the cause of death given as pneumonia.

The following article appeared in the Chelmsford Chronicle, dated Friday 13th February 1914.

Chelmsford Chronicle
13th February 1914


‘We regret to report the death of the Rev. Charles Francis Box, vicar of South Benfleet, which occurred at the Vicarage on Monday morning after a few days’ illness. The cause of death was pneumonia.  Although not quite in his usual health, the reverend gentleman carried out his duties at the church on Sunday, February 1.

Mr. Box, who was 59 years of age, was in his early days tutor for Woolwich and Sandhurst at Carshalton House, Surrey.  He was ordained deacon in 1885 and priest in the following year. For a short time he was curate of Christ Church, Stratford, removing to Barking to take up similar duties, remaining there three years.

In 1888 he left for Kelvedon and four years later he became senior curate of Grays, where he officiated for four years.  Eighteen years ago he was presented by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster to the living of South Benfleet, where he had been loved and respected by the parishioners.

Very musical and an organist of considerable ability, he, while at Grays, formed an orchestra of about 70 performers, which he delighted to train.  He was the means of getting a new organ placed in the church at Benfleet.

He took a personal interest in the choir and assisted in their training.  During his vicariate the roof of the north of the church was restored, the belfry repaired, and a fund raised for additions to the churchyard.  The reverend gentleman had arranged to pay a visit to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster on the Friday before his death with a view to taking steps for the complete restoration of the roof and tower.  The deceased also displayed interest in all parochial organisations, and was president of the Regatta Committee, and the Cricket Club, and chairman of the School Managers.  It was through his instrumentality that the Parish Hall was erected.

Mr. Box leaves a widow, two sons, and four daughters.  The body was removed yesterday from the Vicarage to the church, where vigil was kept by members of C.E.M.S.  The funeral will take place at 3 o’clock this afternoon.

Reverend Box was buried in St Mary’s churchyard on Friday, 13th February 1914. Newspaper reports of the day tell that the church was packed long before the service began and that Rev. E. F. Hay, Vicar of Kelvedon officiated at the proceedings.  The grave was lined with ivy and white flowers and there were many beautiful floral tributes’.

Grave of
Revd Charles F. Box

Inscription on grave
of Revd Charles F. Box








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