Project Canterbury

The History of the English Church Union

by the Rev. G. Bayfield Roberts

London: Church Printing, 1895.



THE first Annual Meeting of the Church of England Protection Society was held at St. Martin's Hall, Long Acre, on July 5, 1859, E. Egerton Warburton, Esq., in the chair. Amongst the new members elected were the Hon. G.P. Boyle (afterwards Lord Glasgow), Rev. T. T. Carter, Lord E. Cavendish, Rev. W. Gresley, Rev. John Keble, Rev. Bryan King, Hon. Colin Lindsay, Rev. J. M. Neale, Rev. T. W. Perry, the Provost of St. Ninian's, Perth (Fortescue), and Archdeacon Randall (now Bishop of Reading).

At the General Meeting on August 2, 1859, at Carlisle House, 10, Carlisle Street, W., a Special Committee was appointed to enquire and report on the present laws affecting stipendiary curates, especially as regards the Bishop's power of dismissing them.

This action was occasioned by the case of the Rev. Alfred Poole, which seriously affected the position of assistant curates. In the course of his ministerial duties, Mr. Poole had heard an unhappy woman's confession.

The woman was subsequently tampered with, and a few particulars extorted from her were twisted into a monstrous imputation, in support of which no evidence was forthcoming. The Bishop of London (Tait) in May, 1858, withdrew Mr. Poole's licence as stipendiary curate of St. Barnabas', Pimlico. Mr. Poole at once appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury (Sumner), who, without hearing him, confirmed the Bishop's action in July, 1858. Mr. Poole thereupon obtained from the Court of Queen's Bench a mandamus, on January 28, 1859, requiring his Grace to hear the appeal. In February, 1859, the Archbishop heard the appeal, and in March, 1859, again confirmed the revocation of the licence. In February, 1860, Mr. Poole moved ex parte before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for leave to appeal against the Archbishop's decision; but as no one appeared for either the Archbishop or the Bishop, although Mr. Poole's proctor had given them notice, the case was postponed until notice had been served by the registrar of the Council. In March, 1860, Mr. Poole renewed his motion, but neither Archbishop nor Bishop were represented, although their officials were privately in Court watching the proceedings. The Judicial Committee decided on "admitting the appeal, reserving all questions as to its competency and all rights to protest against the same," and a formal citation was issued to the Bishop to appear. The attempt to frustrate Mr. Poole's efforts to secure a public hearing, as well as the general question of the position of stipendiary curates, was referred to a Sub-Committee, by whom an elaborate and learned Report was issued, in the hope that it might form a basis for further efforts to secure a just settlement of the relations between Bishops, incumbents, and curates.

In view of Lord Ebury's motion in the House of Lords to alter the Prayer Book, the following Petition to both Houses of Parliament, adopted at the General Meeting held on November 29, 1859, was circulated for signature:--

Alteration of the Prayer Book.

That your Petitioners are sincerely attached to the Book of Common Prayer, and entirely disapprove of any changes therein at the present time.

That your Petitioners believe it to be the true exposition of God's Holy Word, and that to alter it, as proposed, would be to make it contrary to God's Word.

That it is the link which binds your Petitioners with the Church of the Apostles, and to change its doctrine would be to separate them from the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship.

That your Petitioners repudiate as wrong in principle the idea of mutilating the Prayer Book, by bracketing it, or allowing portions of it to be used or not used at discretion.

That if the points so dealt with be unessential, it is wrong to disturb the peace of the Church on account of them, and if they be essential it is wrong to sanction by authority two essentially different doctrines.

That your Petitioners do not see how it would be possible for the Bishops of the Church to commend one system of doctrine to one parish, and a contrary system to another.

That such an arrangement would cause ceaseless disputes in parishes between the advocates of the old Prayer Book and of the new one, and constant offence when a new Incumbent changed the system to which the people had been accustomed.

That the plea of altering the service for the sake of shortening it is inadmissible, because the large majority of Churchmen prefer the service as it is; and because in any congregation where a shorter service is desirable, it is already allowable to use the Morning Prayer, the Litany, and the Communion Service separately, or with an interval between them.

That the proposed alterations would, in the opinion of your petitioners, cause a greater fermentation in the Church than has arisen for the last two centuries, would constitute an essential change in the Reformed Church of our country, and would end in nothing but its disruption.

That for these reasons your Petitioners most earnestly deprecate any change at the present time, and humbly beseech your honourable House to take the premises into consideration, and to suffer no change to be made in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England.

A Petition was also presented against the abolition of Church Rates, the line of the Society being to defend the existing law, especially on the score that there was no injustice in the power possessed by parishes of considering whether or not it is for their common good to make a rate, and (if so) what rate, by their own voluntary act, among themselves, to keep their parish church in repair.

In the case of the riots at St. George's-in-the-East, the Union did what it could. In the early stage of the question between the Rector and the parishioners there was no room for the Society's interference. The whole matter was placed in the Bishop's hands, and when, upon the failure of his arbitration, the riots commenced, it seemed to be a simple case for the action of the police. But when both the police and the Government showed themselves unwilling to put down mob tyranny and blasphemous outrages, the Society took such action as it could. It respectfully addressed the Bishop, praying him, by virtue of his authority, to compel the churchwardens to do their duty; it offered to assist Mr. Bryan King in procuring the best legal advice for his guidance; and it appointed a Sub-Committee to prepare a Report, subsequently printed, and circulated throughout the country, upon the legal remedies against disturbers of Divine service.

The following Address to the Bishop of London was adopted at the General Meeting on November 24,1859:--.

St. George's-in-the-East.

We, being clergy and laity, forming a Society called the Church of England Protection Society, beg leave to respectfully approach your Lordship with a humble request that your Lordship will interpose the authority of your office to compel the churchwardens of St. George's-in-the-East to do their duty in repressing such signs of brawling and disturbance as have lately disgraced and desecrated that church.

The following gentlemen were then appointed to wait upon the Bishop of London with the Address--viz., Hon. H. Walpole, Lt.-Col. Owen, Messrs. E. Brett, C. P. Trower, and W. C. Cocks. The deputation was received by the Bishop, at London House, on Dec. 1, 1859. His lordship said that his attention was unceasingly directed to the subject. He had, as far as he believed by law he had the power, reminded the churchwardens of their duty of keeping order, and had received assurances, from those officially connected with him, whom he had employed to report to him, that, in their judgment, the churchwardens were not consenting parties to the disgraceful scenes, but were anxious to do their duty. The Bishop did not deny his legal power to remove or punish churchwardens, who misbehaved themselves, by setting his own Court in motion, but he could not say that such misconduct as would justify this action on his part had as yet arisen. The deputation urged that, to judge from the speeches of the churchwardens at some of the late Vestry Meetings, it was clear that they were exerting their influence rather to foment than to repress the disturbances; but the Bishop thought that newspaper reports were not to be very implicitly trusted. He urged the Society to endeavour to persuade the Rector to meet the feeling of the people, and to abate some of the practices objected to. He did not wish to be understood as objecting to choral services, but to practices for which there was no authority, such as turning to the East at the end of the sermon.

At the General Meeting on December 20, 1859, it was resolved that delegates should be sent to confer with those sent by the Church Unions, in accordance with the Hon. Colin Lindsay's proposition.

At the General Meeting at 47, Leicester Square, the recently-acquired offices of the Society, on February 15, 1860, it was resolved, on the motion of the Rev. T. W Perry:--

St. George's-in-the-East.

That, having regard to the present state of affairs in St. George's-in-the-East, and to advice which has been tendered to the Rev. Bryan King, this Society requests Mr. King neither to close the church nor to make any further concessions in the existing circumstances of that parish.

At the General Meeting on March 14, 1860, it was resolved that the Society should henceforth be called

The English Church Union.

Subsequently, at the Annual Meeting on May 2,1860, the Hon. Colin Lindsay was elected the first President of the Union.

In the course of the year an Address to the Episcopate, protesting against the profanation of public worship, by the consorting of certain clergymen of the Church of England with Dissenting preachers in the use of theatres for public worship in London and elsewhere, was extensively signed.

Petitions were also presented to Convocation on the notorious neglect of Public Baptism in many parishes, and against the repeal of the 29th Canon. The reasons urged in the former petition were: (1) The great dishonour done to the Sacrament of Holy Baptism by reason of its concealment and systematic exclusion from that public notice which has been, and ought to be, assigned to it; (2) the setting at nought of the solemn reasons for which the Church commands that the people shall be warned to bring their children to be baptized in the presence of the congregation; and (3) the suppression of the Church's voice in respect of the fundamental doctrine of Regeneration.

At the Annual Meeting held on May 2, 1860, at 47, Leicester Square, the Rev. W. J. E. Bennett, Vicar of Frome, in the chair, there were 205 members on the books, as against 60 in 1859, when the Society was formed. The Hon. Colin Lindsay, the newly-elected President, issued an Address on Union and Unity to the members of the Union and others, in which he invited attention to the progress made towards united Church Union action, and appealed "to all true-hearted Churchmen to lay aside their differences, and to join us heart and soul in the great work we are engaged in for the defence of the holy doctrine and discipline of our beloved Church."

The following is the list of the first Officers of the English Church Union:--

President. Hon. Colin Lindsay.

Vice-President. Rev. W. Gresley.


Andrewes, Lieut.-Colonel.
Bennett, Rev. W.J.E.
Boodle, W. C., Esq.
Boyle, Hon. Geo.
Brett, Robert, Esq.
Carter, Rev. T. T.
Chambers, Rev. J. C.
Chambers, J.D., Esq.
Cocks, W.C., Esq.
King, Rev. B.
Liddell, Hon and Rev. R.
Le Gyt, Rev. C. J.
Long, William, Esq.
Lyall, Rev. W.H.
Moorsom, Colonel
Perry, Rev. T.W.
Richards, Rev. W. Upton
Russell, J. Watts, Esq.
Skinner, Rev. James
Street, G.E., Esq.
Trower, C.F., Esq.
Walpole, Hon. H.
Warburton, R.E. Egerton, Esq.
Wroth, Rev. W. R.

Honorary Secretary. Rev. James Skinner, Hillingdon, Uxbridge.

Assistant Secretary. Mr. W. Whiteley, 47, Leicester Square, W.

Treasurers. W. C. Cocks, Esq., 1, Chester Place, Regent's Park, N.W.
G. E. Street, Esq., 33, Montagu Place, Russell Square, W.C.

At the first Anniversary, Churchmen for the first time met together openly for the purpose of praying in behalf of the Church during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The sermon--"Contend earnestly for the Faith"--was preached by the Rev. W. Gresley, Prebendary of Lichfield, and Incumbent of All Saints', Boyne Hill.

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