James Shoubridge was the last name on the list of men who were Lay Clerks at Canterbury Cathedral in 1825–6. Shoubridge was clearly a model Lay Clerk: in 1830, it was ‘Resolved that £10 a year each be given during pleasure to Shoubridge & Longhurst, Lay Clerks.’1 There followed another gratuity in 1839: ‘James Shoubridge received a grant of £10 in addition to his stipend from July 6,’2 again for no specified reason. In the event, he resigned the following year ‘upon obtaining an appointment at the Foundling [Hospital]’, as was recorded in the Precentor’s Book for the period.3 He had a long and successful career from there: in 1857 he became a Vicar Choral at St Paul’s Cathedral and conductor of the Cecilian Society, London, in 1852.
The Kentish Gazette reports make it clear that Shoubridge contributed significantly to the musical life of Canterbury: his singing is warmly received in reports from 1834,4 but he seems to have been a leading light in the Sacred Harmonic Society, which first appears in the papers in that year:
SACRED HARMONIC SOCIETY
Guildhall concert rooms, Canterbury
A grand selection of SACRED MUSIC, from HANDEL’S Oratorio of the MESSIAH;
HAYDN’S CREATION, &c., &c., will be given by upwards of SEVENTY VOCAL and
On Monday evening, November 24, 1834.
The list of vocal soloists is practically identical to that of the Lay Clerks in that year: John Alexander Longhurst, Eastes, Young, James Shoubridge and his brother William, William Palmer and Dobson. But Shoubridge conducts, and seems to be at the helm of the society for the rest of his time in Canterbury.
This society seems to have outlasted Shoubridge by nearly twenty years, if the paper is accurate in its 1857 report that:
‘The Canterbury Sacred Harmonic Society, newly constituted as the ‘Glee and Madrigal Society,’ gave a performance on Tuesday evening at the Music Hall. To diversify the programme, Mr Macknay, the noted comic singer, was engaged; the band of the 79th Highlanders also assisted, and these varied entertainment attracted a large audience. […] Mr Lyon [Charles Lyon, another Lay Clerk] conducted on the occasion.’5
The extent to which this society was able to move with the changing tastes of the times should have been a lesson to the Catch Club.
In another most serendipitous touch, James Shoubridge was replaced as Lay Clerk in 1841 by William Henry Longhurst, who went on to play such an important role there and in the Catch Club. In fact, this was a technicality, since Longhurst had been ‘admitted to the Choir as Supernumerary & Assistant to Mr Jones, as Master of the Choristers’ in 1836,6 continuing unbroken his service to the cathedral since joining as a chorister in 1828.