Project Canterbury

Arthur Hawkins Ward

London: The Catholic Literature Association, 1933.


THE Catholic Revival in the English Church began at Oxford in the year 1833, with the Rev. John Keble's famous sermon at the University Church. This was followed by the appeal made to members of the Church by means of Tracts written by gifted members of the University. The Movement thus inaugurated became the object of bitter attack, until Henry Newman lost heart, and, together with many of his followers, retired from the conflict and sought refuge in the Church of Rome.

But the work of the Holy Spirit of God was not allowed to be ultimately thwarted by temporary defeat at Oxford. And now its influence began to spread to London and the Provinces. As a conspicuous example of this, it found its opportunity in the City of Bristol, sometimes regarded as the metropolis of the West of England. The pioneer of this venture in so populous and important a centre of activity was Arthur Hawkins Ward, of whose life and work it is the purpose of this Memoir to afford some account.

Arthur Ward was born in London on December 12, 1832, a few months before the beginning of the Revival at Oxford. After some years at school at Christ's Hospital, he entered as an undergraduate at Pembroke College, Cambridge. It is supposed that during his residence at that University he came under the influence of a well-known Doctor of Divinity, to whom he owed some of his earlier convictions of the truth of the Catholic Religion. In the year 1855, after taking his Degree, he was made deacon, having obtained a title at the parish of Edwinstowe in Nottinghamshire, at that time situated in the Diocese of Lincoln, and was ordained priest the following year.

In the same diocese there was beneficed the Rev. R. H. W. Miles, Rector of Bingham, in Nottinghamshire, a member of the wealthy family of Miles of Kingsweston Park, near Bristol. Mr. Miles came to a resolution to found some Almshouses for retired seamen in that city, to which was attached the Chapel of St. Raphael. The Chaplaincy was offered to and accepted by the Rev. A. H. Ward, with the title of Warden. He thus began at twenty-six years of age a career in Bristol which continued until his death nearly half a century later. The chapel was opened on May 2, 1859, when the sermon was preached by the Ven. George A. Denison, Archdeacon of Taunton. The preacher in the evening was the Rev. H. P. Liddon, afterwards Professor in the University of Oxford and Canon of St. Paul's, London. These two men became the intimate friends of Arthur Ward until the end of their lives. A further and most valuable friendship was the outcome of that which existed between Dr. Liddon and the Warden. This is best described in some words of Lord Halifax, written shortly after the Warden's decease. 'My acquaintance with Mr. Ward' wrote his Lordship, 'was due, in the first instance, to my friendship with Dr. Liddon. Dr. Liddon was the intimate friend of Mr. Ward. He brought us together, and the friendship thus begun was cemented and developed by the intercourse which sprung up between us, consequent on the troubles which soon after gathered round St. Raphael's.'


In this church, erected in the first instance for the limited purpose explained above, the gifts and powers of the Warden inevitably began to be felt, and his influence to spread to a much wider circle. Little was known of the Catholic Religion in Bristol in those days, and at the same time what must now be described as St. Raphael's church was becoming a centre both of reverent worship and clearness of teaching. People were attracted from other parts of the city, and were becoming appreciative of an opportunity now presented to them such as they had not known before.

The Warden, although never an orator, was felt to be a teacher of the first order. It was little wonder, therefore, that his influence and that of the little church gradually increased. As the years went on, the development of ceremonial which was now making advances in other parts of the country naturally found a home in St. Raphael's church. The Warden, no lover of ceremonial for its own sake, was nevertheless intensely conscious of the reverence due to Almighty God, more especially in all that concerned Eucharistic worship, as well as of the value of the appeal to the eye in order to bring home to the worshippers the reality of the truths of the Faith, of which ceremonial is at once the expression and the guard. The proper vestments for the priest, the use of altar lights and of the mixed chalice, as also of incense, all of which are sanctioned by what is known as the Ornaments Rubric in the Book of Common Prayer, in due course came into use at St. Raphael's, whilst the Sung Mass was recognized as the chief act of worship on Sunday and sung at times to the music of such great masters as Mozart, Schubert and Gounod. But this by no means represents the importance of the work at St. Raphael's. The Warden was too seriously minded a priest to suppose or teach that the Catholic Religion consisted chiefly in externals. The people who assembled at his church were quite conscious that personal religion and conversion of heart claimed the first place in their lives. Arthur Ward added a knowledge of casuistry and the training of individual souls to the already long list of his attainments, and as time went on he became the most accomplished director both in and beyond the neighbourhood. Meantime, Protestant hostility had come to show itself in London and elsewhere in an aggressive form, and a determined effort was made to hinder the advance of the Catholic Religion, when, supported by the Prime Minister of the day, the Public Worship Regulation Act was passed in 1874 by Parliament. It was not, therefore, a matter of astonishment that the splendid work at St. Raphael's, Bristol, should become an object of attack. Long before this time, the Warden was subjected to petty persecution in the local press and elsewhere, and the Bishop of the diocese (at that time of Gloucester and Bristol) was constantly in receipt of anonymous letters directed to the same end. At length his Lordship, thus stirred by outside influence, began to move, and demanded that the ceremonial in use at the church should be abandoned. Seeing that the Warden held no incumbency, but was only a Chaplain with a licence from the Bishop, his position was especially vulnerable. However, the principles by which he was guided forbade his giving way, moreover, his people would have regarded such behaviour as apostasy. He offered, however, to reduce the ceremonial in some degree, but in vain. The result was the withdrawal of his licence, and in March, 1878, the church was closed, and so remained for fifteen years.

Patiently and in dignified silence, the Warden waited for a better day, ministering meantime to the Sisterhood he had founded in the immediate neighbourhood, as well as to the hundreds of penitents who still found their way to him. But a brighter day for St. Raphael's was at hand. In the year 1893, through the intervention of an influential friend, the Bishop was led to reconsider the entire situation. At an interview with the Warden he observed that ' the Holy Ghost has had much to teach us in the Church of England during these years that are past/ and that he was now prepared to consecrate the church of St. Raphael, with a parish of its own, and with Arthur Ward as its first incumbent. The consecration took place on May 30, 1893, when the Venerable Archdeacon of Taunton, who had preached at its opening thirty-four years before, was again able to be present, and Arthur Ward was instituted as Vicar. Lord Halifax, who had become his devoted and faithful friend, was present at the luncheon which followed, and from that day forward the Bishop became the warm friend of St. Raphael's. Two years later Arthur Ward resigned the benefice into younger hands, and for the rest of his life devoted himself wholly to the care of the Community of Sisters, of whose foundation some account must now be given.


Arthur Ward, although still a young priest, had in the course of his ministry come into contact with Dr. Neale, founder of the Community of Sisters at East Grinstead, with William Butler, founder of a like Community at Wantage, and with Canon Carter, founder of the Community at Clewer. In the year 1863, Mr. Justice Lloyd was appointed judge in the Bristol County Court. His daughter Elizabeth had been working for some years amongst the poor in the parish of All Saints', Margaret Street, London, under the Rev. Upton Richards, through whom she and the Warden were brought together, and felt alike drawn to the establishment of a Community of women in the city of Bristol, who should find, in addition to the Religious Life, the opportunity of devoting their lives to the service of the poor. The Warden's mind would naturally gravitate towards the Church of France for a model for his plan. As a schoolboy he had spent his summer holidays with an aunt who had made her home in Auvergne. He was an accomplished French scholar, and had a particular admiration for the French Church. And a pattern for Sisters of Charity was at hand in the Community founded by St. Vincent de Paul in France in the seventeenth century, whose members may be seen to-day moving hither and thither in the French capital. Two small houses were found near St. Raphael's church, where Miss Lloyd, after some preliminary training at Wantage, was joined by a small group of women. She made her Profession and was elected in 1869 to be the first Mother of the little community. She was triennially elected for forty-eight years, when she resigned, but lived amongst her daughters until her death in 1926, at the age of ninety-one years.

In 1879 the Sisters erected their own house and chapel. As the Community increased, so the work developed and grew. In addition to assistance rendered to some of the parishes in Bristol, branch houses were opened at St. Saviour's, Leeds, at Plymouth and Plymp-ton, at Liverpool, Clevedon, and also later at Brighton and in the Metropolis itself. In the year 1887, at the request of Bishop Smythies of Zanzibar, some Sisters were sent to work for a time in the Universities' Mission at Magila in Central Africa. Meantime, the personal life of the individual Sisters was being developed under the care of the Warden, who included in his plans the provision of a chapel in which the Blessed Sacrament was perpetually reserved, a rare privilege in those early days.

With the closing of the church, the Community had become the centre of the Warden's life. As the years went by the work had grown, and the number of Sisters, together with children under their care, increased, and it was resolved to build another House in a more suitable part of the city, in which at first the children only were housed. For this purpose an admirable site was secured at Knowle, on the outskirts of Bristol, overlooking the city, and, until its later invasion by builders, standing, with its extensive garden, largely alone. The foundation stone of St. Agnes' House, to be erected on this site, was laid in 1890, by Lady Elton of Clevedon Court, Somerset. The architect chosen was Mr. John D. Sedding, who also designed the churches of Holy Trinity, Upper Chelsea, and of the Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell. He was one of the Warden's closest friends. The House was a fine building, and was able to accommodate between seventy and eighty persons. It was finished in the spring of 1892, when it was opened by Lady Halifax. As time went on, the Sisters' original House was becoming increasingly disturbed by the absence of quiet caused by railway developments in the neighbourhood, and in the year 1896 it was decided to establish the Mother House at the new building at Knowle. This removal was accomplished in the year 1898. Later on, sufficient accommodation was obtained for both the Sisters and fifty children by additional buildings. Mr. Sedding died in 1891. The beautiful chapel was added in 1902, under the care of the late Mr. G. F. Bodley. The building was completed by the addition of an eastern chapel in the year 1909, as a memorial to the Warden. The name of Arthur Ward must always be remembered amongst the few who, after long years of loss, helped to recover to the English Church the Religious Life for women, by the founding of a Community of Sisters of Charity, who now number fifty Professed, in addition to the Noviciate.

During the last sixteen years of his life the Warden continued to minister to the Sisters, and almost to the end he was hearing 2,000 confessions a year, including those of persons resident in the House and of many outside.

During the year 1906 his health began to fail, and in the summer of the following year this became more apparent. In the year 1908 he only preached two or three times, and on Sunday, October 4, he said what proved to be his last Mass in the Sisters' Chapel. On the following day he had a slight stroke, but was sufficiently conscious to receive the last Sacraments. On Friday, October 23, the Eve of St. Raphael's, he passed away at the moment when the Blessing was being given at the end of the Mass for the Dying, which was being celebrated for him in the chapel. On the following Monday, after a Requiem Mass followed by the Absolutions, the Burial Office was said, and the body laid in his mother's grave in Arno's Vale Cemetery. Many of his friends were present, including several priests, notably the Rev. R. M. Benson, Founder of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Cowley, himself compassed about with marked infirmity, the Rev. Father Congreve, the Vicars of All Saints', Clifton, Knowle, and Bedminster, the Vicar of St. John the Baptist, Bathwick, and others amongst his oldest friends.

Thus came to a close this remarkable life, the characteristics of which may be summed up as follows.


Intellectually, Arthur Ward occupied a place of no ordinary distinction. Naturally clever from the beginning, he was a man of wide reading and general knowledge of persons and things. In particular, he was possessed of a considerable knowledge of the Hebrew language, and was also an accomplished French scholar, and a theologian of the first rank. Politically he belonged to the Liberal party in its best days, along with Dr. Liddon and others of the same school, but at the same time was decidedly opposed to Socialism as it began to show itself, and certainly would have preserved the same attitude of mind had he lived to witness its later developments.

He had a true love of the Arts, and of beauty both in Nature and as set forth by man. He also proved himself a clever draughtsman, and it was said that he produced a ground-plan for the House of Charity at Knowle of which Mr. John Sedding expressed his entire approval.

He took immense pains with all he undertook. Private correspondence was an evidence of this, and his handwriting, which may still be seen in notes of addresses given on various occasions, chiefly to the Sisters of Charity, is a model which anyone might do well to imitate.

The Warden was most particular about the care of the children. In later years, when the Sisters had many more children under their care, he constantly paid surprise visits to their refectory at meal times. He would have them well dressed, disliking the clothing that children had to wear at many institutions. If he found a girl in the House with any part of her dress untidy, he considered, and often rightly, that she had lost her self-respect.

There are plenty of preachers in our churches, some people would consider the abundance too great, but how many are conspicuous by then-power as teachers? The backwardness in the knowledge of faith and practice of the Church amongst the majority of churchpeople is sufficient evidence of the lack of priests who are teachers of the people. Arthur Ward was a teacher of the first order. His apposite epigrams and short sayings have not died along with their author. They have been stored up and remembered by their hearers for years afterwards. Moreover, he possessed that invaluable gift (by no means always to be found in men of ability), of being able to impart to those less able than himself the knowledge he himself had acquired.

It was undoubtedly the presence of such characteristics as these that produced in Arthur Ward his value as a confessor. In this capacity he was sought out by all classes of persons. He has been heard to state that in the little church of St. Raphael people had been known to make their confessions, from the gas-stokers of Bristol to peers of the realm. He was able to make himself understood by the simplest of the land, and yet never kept his penitents a long time, in agreeable contrast to some priests who appear to have forgotten that they are where they are to administer a sacrament rather than to preach a sermon. 'We like going to the Warden,' a working woman was heard to say, 'because he understands our case so well.' The onlooker would observe that all such 'understanding' was conveyed in a few minutes.

As a director he was sought by persons from far and near, more especially by the clergy. To Cardiff, where there are many such, he paid a regular visit, which they were careful to see should be at their expense. Those under his influence or direction will remember his insistence upon the importance of adherence to principle, as distinguished from compromise, or decisions which were made to depend upon consequences. He has been heard to say ' how difficult it is to persuade some persons that it is never wrong to do the right thing.'

Lastly must be noticed his love both for God and man, to God more especially in his devotion to the Divine Incarnation, and in particular to its extension in the Blessed Sacrament. The three saints whom he was said to love the best were St. John the Evangelist, the Apostle of love, St. Vincent de Paul, the lover of the poor, on whose method he modelled his Community, and whose spirit he so wonderfully assimilated, and St. Francis de Sales, the author of The Devout Life. The motto he gave to his Community was Deus est caritas.


We are allowed to reprint the following appreciation from Lord Halifax, written by his Lordship in another connection shortly after the death of Arthur Ward.

'Mr. Ward was one of those, and how few there are, who not only did everything he set his hand to as well as he could, but as well as it could be done. In this he exemplified the counsels he was so fond of giving to the Sisters. Everything that he undertook was perfectly well done. It was the same in small things as in great. No one understood better than he the amenities of life, or was more competent to provide them, no one than he was more resolute in subordinating them to the contemplation and service of that "City which hath foundations," which was the subject of almost his last sermon. That vision of the Unseen, that faith of which St. Paul speaks, governed all his thoughts, his words, and his actions. It inspired his whole life, no matter on what subject he might happen to be engaged, and made it one consistent whole. He was an artist, an architect, an accomplished man of the world, with the keenest literary perception, as well as a devoted priest, and an experienced guide of souls. There was no one whose opinion could be so absolutely trusted in regard to any difficult theological question, no one whose advice was so completely to be relied upon in any complicated question of conduct. His taste was perfect, and he possessed that particular charm, the result of a keen sense of humour, and an abiding sense of the invisible world, which sees everything in true proportion, keeps everything in its right place, and inspires and preserves that gaiety of heart which is so marked a characteristic of those whose lives are inspired by the Catholic Religion. All this he was in an eminent degree. But over and above everything else, as no one who was brought into contact with him could fail to perceive, was his entire devotion to the Person of our Lord. As he lay dying, like some soldier, unable to speak, but who could still salute his general, by a motion of his hand he would make a sign to the picture of the Crucifixion opposite the bed, testifying to what had been in life, and was now in death, his heart's devotion.

'Of Mr. Ward's intellectual and spiritual gifts, I have tried to say something. Of what he was to his friends, and indeed, to all who were brought into contact with him, there can hardly be a more eloquent witness than that, when he died, one who had long known him at once bought a piece of ground in the cemetery close by Mr. Ward's grave, that he might lie beside him. The words "Dear Master and Friend" attached to some flowers and placed upon his grave, and "For Mr. Ward," inscribed on the half-shutter put up in the little shop on the day of the funeral, are a no less eloquent witness of what he was to his servants and humbler neighbours.

'Mr. Ward remains, with all the qualities which distinguished him from others, the type of a priest such as there are few, one whose place will always seem empty to those who knew and loved him. But he leaves behind him a sense of completed work, and of benediction and peace aptly symbolized by the circumstances of his own death. He used to say that the ideal death for a priest, the death he would desire for himself, would be to be called away after saying Mass, with the concluding Blessing on his lips. That wish was not granted to him. But he died just as the concluding words of the Mass for the Dying were being said in the chapel of the Community to which he had so long and faithfully ministered. The Blessing he had so often bestowed on others was thus, like the good seed pressed down and running over, returned twofold into his own bosom, and he left this world upheld by the prayers of those whose spiritual welfare had been the absorbing object of his life.'


Great have been the advances made in the city of Bristol since the beginning of the Oxford Movement. Doubtless before Arthur Ward began his career in that city good work had been carried on by other priests on what are known as Church lines. To-day, witness to the development of centres of Catholic teaching is to be found in the famous church of All Saints', Clifton, in St. Mary's, Tyndall's Park, in St. Simon's, Bristol, the church of the Holy Nativity at Knowle, and the extensive work at Horfield. But the honour of being the first to teach and lead the way in Bristol as a successor of the great Tractarians of 100 years ago will always belong to Arthur Hawkins Ward.

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