Project Canterbury

Charles Perry Scott
First Bishop in North China

By the Right Reverend Bishop Montgomery, D.D.

[London] Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1928.

Chapter I. Early Life and Holy Orders

Charles Perry Scott was born in the parish of St. Mary's, Hull, on June 27, 1847; his father was the second John Scott to be vicar, his brother, the third vicar; his mother was Amelia Cooper, daughter of Samuel Cooper, Esq., of Tranby Lodge, near Hessle, his godfather being Dr. Charles Perry, Bishop of Melbourne, who had married his mother's sister.

The following is a brother's account of Charles: "This brother was of a very gentle and sweet disposition, goodly to look upon, and one who gained and retained the affection of many. His was one of the sensitive and conscientious natures, capable of enduring considerable suffering. The Archbishop of York, Dr. Musgrave, gave him a nomination to Charterhouse School as a Foundation Scholar and there he went, not willingly, but with good courage as soon as he reached the age of ten, the minimum age of admission. It was in the days when the school was in the City, and I have been to see him there playing in cricket matches on 'Upper Green,' in the heart of London." (Quoted from Things that were, by Cooper Scott.)

Those of us who were at a Public School sixty or seventy years ago may realise what this home-loving, sensitive boy must have endured. Fine training, if only by God's grace we win through as he did. Nearly twenty years afterwards Charles wrote from China to his mother:

"I feel dreadfully for poor little H------. I think the early schooldays of a boy well brought up must be the most painful in all life. I remember with marvellous distinctness the occasion on which I heard the first boy at Charterhouse swear. Three of us were lying on the grass watching a cricket match--one, a very good fellow, has been dead some years now. The other, also a very good fellow, at first used the word for an inanimate object. Shortly, however, he applied the curse to our mutual friend. So far as I can remember, I had a sort of sensation as if the nice-looking boy had become a serpent.....You say, in speaking of this, that it is easier to use the armour of God against the foes outside than those within us. It seems to me to depend upon the temperament. With me I think it was, and is, the reverse; and so far as I did make any stand against evil, I found it easier to do so by example than by word."

Two surviving schoolfellows tell of him.

The Rev. O. S. Walford: "Entering as the smallest boy in the school, he left it as a monitor. During the years that I was with him in the same House and Form, I cannot think of anyone of our time who stood higher in the esteem and affection of those who knew him best. The House, I know, owed much to his high character and influence for good."

Dr. Reginald Macan: "We were in the Sixth, and in the football and cricket elevens, together for a couple of years before he left in 1866. We used to go into school in those days from two to four, and no one in the Sixth was apt to be so sleepy on a warm afternoon as Scott. We used to have some friendly jests and stories about him."

Charles' father died ere he left Charterhouse, and the following story of the years that succeeded, written by Charles' sister, who still lives, will be read with tender interest: "My mother went to live in Sutton, in a small house, in 1865, when my father died at the early age of 56, leaving six sons, only one of whom was really settled in life. This was my brother John, who succeeded in time to the living of St. Mary's, Hull; and Charles was still at Charterhouse. The people of Hull raised a large sum of money as a testimonial to my father's memory, and this helped to finish the education of the younger boys: the other three were soon settled in professions, but it was a time of great anxiety for my mother. We all knew what it was to be poor. Some years later, one of our brothers, a lawyer in Hull, who had lost his wife after only two years of married life, bought a larger house in Sutton and took my mother and sister to live with him and his little daughter. That house at Sutton has been the 'home' of the family ever since, a most welcoming home to children and grandchildren from 1880 to 1895, when my mother died; and also since then, till my brother died in 1925, leaving the old home to his daughter, who is still there. This is the home where we hoped to welcome the dear bishop in 1927.

"I wish I could give any idea of what our mother was in our lives. She was always fragile in health when we were young; but after we went into the country she became stronger and lived to be 86. She very rarely talked about religion, but she had the most balanced judgment in all matters of right and wrong, and was absolutely unworldly in her outlook. In some of her letters to one of my older brothers she says she earnestly prayed that some of her children might be called to do missionary work, for she always felt that she herself could do so little in the way of giving money. So, when the dearest of all her sons went to China she felt that her prayer was answered."

Commenting upon this bit of family life, I may say here, once for all, that all through his life "Sutton" stood forth as a kind of paradise. I have read hundreds of Charles' letters to his mother and sister. Home and Sutton are intertwined. Yet he determined to live for China, and to die in China.


Charles and I both went up to Cambridge in October, 1866, and we met immediately in the rooms of my great Harrow friend, Montagu Stow. I remember we discussed the question whether we three should not offer ourselves as Sunday school teachers in the Jesus Lane Sunday school. My own impression is that Charles appalled at the task as it presented itself, rightly drew back after a Sunday or two. I cannot blame him.

Since he was at Jesus College and I at Trinity, our meetings were infrequent, and I turn to a member of his own College for any record of his university life.

The Rev. Henry Andrew lived on the same staircase. He says "He was so blameless--always quiet and not caring much for social intercourse with many, though an interesting companion with a few friends."

Charles was elected a Rustat Scholar: it is not competitive, and is meant for clergymen's sons of straitened means. He played football for the College and was in the College choir, hardly ever missing King's Chapel on Sunday afternoons, and had a piano in his rooms. This bit of furniture led him into mild trouble with the Master, who was at times kept awake by Charles' musical parties. He was also in the College cricket eleven, and made an excellent captain, generally keeping wicket. And it will soon be discovered that Charles bubbled over with humour. I can relate here a detail to which he referred from time to time as a true record of his own calibre. Writing to his friend he says: "I wonder if you remember the humour of my first character in the Charterhouse eleven, 1864, in 'Lilywhite.' C. P. Scott bats prettily and in good style. Average 3 1/4."

Charles took the ordinary degree in 1869, passing out fifth in the first class and in the Theological School, with a special mark in Hebrew.


Early in 1870, Charles went to work in the new parish of St. James, Derby, taking with him two pupils. I hear of his "fine tenor voice," and a lady who knew him well in Derby tells of a favourite song of his, "When sparrows build."

After a few months he went to work as a Lay Reader under the best possible auspices, namely under the Rev. G. H. Wilkinson, at St. Peter's, Eaton Square, and was ordained the same year in Advent. A very tender affection sprang up in the vicar's heart for Charles, whom Wilkinson looked upon as a son. On Charles' side reverence grew at once for his chief. When he returned home from St. Peter's the first time, he said to his mother: "I wonder why I have been sent to Mr. Wilkinson. He is one of the most remarkable people in England, I should think." And it was Wilkinson who fired Charles to devote his life anywhere and without delay whenever the call should come.

Those who know something of the history of the early 'seventies will remember that it was Wilkinson who at S.P.G. House proposed the "Day of Intercession" for the Church abroad, and how, on December 20, 1872, it was kept with intense solemnity; nowhere more so than in Eaton Square. Many whose "praise is now in the Gospel" were moved by those prayers: Bishop Balfour and Bishop Corfe among others. By no one was the Call more instantly obeyed than by Charles Scott. He tells how on the night of December 20 he wrote to his vicar, posting his letter in a pillar-box near Victoria Station. Years afterwards he writes how he went and stood by that very pillar-box, recalling the action which had determined the course of his entire life. Charles says that two, if not all, of his colleagues acted in the same manner. The vicar considered the situation and we may realise with what prayerful intensity. Finally Charles was chosen to be the parochial representative abroad. He himself had been drawn to India, or to South Africa. But that Day of Prayer had also produced an offer of a sum of £500 for five years from an anonymous donor, and united counsels determined the sphere chosen for Charles--North China, under the auspices of S.P.G. It can be stated now that the donor of the above sum was Mr. Dudley Smith, the banker, and a member of St. Peter's congregation. It was he also who in 1880 endowed the new missionary bishopric of North China with a sum of £10,000.

In 1873, Charles welcomed a companion bound on the same course. The Rev. Miles Greenwood, curate of Padiham, offered for North China and went into lodgings with Charles, in Vauxhall Bridge Road. Together they studied the language, going also to Guy's Hospital to pick up at least the rudiments of dispensing, of ophthalmic problems and general nursing. Charles tells of Greenwood's keenness in these studies, how he bought a skeleton, taking it to China in his portmanteau, to the horror and consternation of those who know what Chinese sensibilities are, or at least were, in those early days. A year thus passed.

Here I may set down once for all what Charles felt for Wilkinson and for the faithful at St. Peter's. Looking back for nearly fifty years, he wrote: "Words fail me to tell of the help and blessing, public and private, known and unknown, which have come to me; the sympathy, prayers and money,--from this parish. Name after name comes to my mind, chiefly of those who have departed this life. I will not begin to mention them. I should certainly omit some quiet and unobtrusive, praying persons, whose claims in God's sight are among the foremost; at the head of all, my beloved friend and father in God, Bishop Wilkinson."

On St. Peter's Day, 1874, the Rev. G. H.Wilkinson dismissed Charles Scott and Greenwood with blessing, preaching on "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. II, i). He ended with these words: "My son, as thou hast been true to me and to the Church, so be true to thy God. . . . Live as long as thy God has need of thee on this earth. . . . Believe whatever trials may lie before thee in him who has said, 'my grace is sufficient for thee.'"

The day before these two had been dismissed in S.P.G. Chapel by Bishop Perry, Charles' godfather.

Mr. Wilkinson had also drawn up for Charles "Suggestions" for the conduct of the mission. I am indebted for these to the Rev. F. H. Sprent, who had a copy of them given to him in turn in 1883.


To live in the spirit of the New Covenant,

(a) In the Sabbath spirit;

(b) No provision (so far as possible) for to-morrow. Day by day. Daily bread.

(c) Entire surrender to our God. Poverty. Obedience (spiritual). No asceticism at first. (See St. Vincent de Paul.)

(d) To carry the cross of being misunderstood by the religious world, as to systems, beliefs, results.

II. Obedience to the Bishop in Synod (however imperfect Synod may be at first). Each priest to go where sent,--to return home when sent,--by Bishop in Synod.

III. The Church of England as interpreted by its Prayer Book to be the starting-point: but the Catholic principles of the early Church, as adapted to China, and not a mere copy of Anglicanism, to be the aim.

IV. The Bishop will set the example of putting all his income into a common fund. Others will do as they like at first, but no stipend will be given: only a generous provision made for food and clothing, with a reserve fund.

V. In all difficulties, to have days of prayer, and of waiting on God, followed by conference; and, if need be, correspondence with the Church at home.

VI. A warm centre to which missionaries shall return from time to time. Here, always,

Daily Celebration,
Daily offices,
Extempore prayer.

VII. All that is meant by Evangelical liberty, Church order, Sacramental system, taken for granted.

No one can read it without admiration for its mixture of intensity, commonsense and sane Churchmanship.

I cannot refrain from inserting here an appreciation of these two young missionaries by one who knew them well in after years.

"C.P.S. was a mixture of Yorkshire grit and patience. It was his wonderful patience (the virtue that made him akin to the Chinese) that enabled him to 'hang on,' and get things done eventually. Greenwood had patience also, but his dominant virtue was humility. He was a perfect saint, one of the most self-effacing men I ever knew."

In due time we shall get Charles' estimate of his colleague. The two missionaries went to China across America.

The North China Mission Association.--Indispensable aid was given to Charles, first by the S. Peter's Missionary Guild, then by the growing North China Mission Association, one of the most vigorous of the missionary associations at home. It was well indeed that it should be so, since the S.P.G. grant for North China for years was very small. No name stands out more prominently in this Association than Charles' eldest brother, John, vicar of St. Mary's, Hull; afterwards of St. John the Evangelist's, Leeds, and lastly rector of Wanstead, Essex. Throughout the country he laboured indefatigably. So, in due time, did the Rev. Mackwood Stevens, and to-day, the Rev. Canon Hicks, and a great number of faithful friends of the Mission new and old.

The first President of the Council of the Association was Lord Colville; followed by Bishop Wilkinson, then by Bishop E. C. S. Gibson, late of Gloucester, an old school friend of Charles at Charterhouse. To-day, the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr. Leonard Burrows, is the honoured President.

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