Project Canterbury

After the Tractarians
by Marcus Donovan
From the Recollections of Athelstan Riley

no place: Philip Allan, 1933.

VII. Education

THE MAGNIFICENT CHAPEL OF LANCING COLLEGE may fitly symbolize the contribution which the post-Tractarians have made to the religious education of our country. It may indeed be called the cathedral of Church Education, planned as it is on a colossal scale, towering above the school, and visible for many miles--almost to be seen from distant London on a clear day. This 'immemorial creed in stone', as it was described by its great founder, Nathaniel Woodard, has been considered by competent judges to be the finest example of a Gothic Church since the Middle Ages, and in its gracefulness of detail and majesty of proportion is an enduring monument to the genius of Richard Carpenter, its architect. But it is more: it is an imperishable testimony to the zeal for religious education which animated that remarkable man, its founder and first Provost, a zeal which has been typical of the successors of the Tractarians to the present day. It is a parable, for as the shadow of the great building steals across the playing fields every afternoon, so the influence of religion broods over every activity, teaching men that it is not a thing apart, but enters into every phase of human life.

This conviction made the men of the pioneering period set the highest value upon religious education, and not merely upon religion as an item in education. The great names of Dean Gregory, Canon Brooke, Mr. Woodard and Mr. Egerton deserve to be recalled with gratitude by all who believe in the value of religious training. Dr. Gregory and Mr. Brooke laboured in South London, the latter devoting his whole life, his wealth and his great powers to the building up of the famous parish of St. John the Divine, Kennington, to which reference has been made inanother connexion. Itwas Gregory who was consulted as to the formation of a separate parish to be carved out of that of St. Mark, Kennington, and at his suggestion the chaplain of Cuddesdon, Mr. Elsdale, was sent to take charge of it in 1866. In 1871 Mr. Brooke became assistant-missioner. Soon the great church was built, and a 'middle-class' school established in connexion with it. Large day schools were erected accommodating some 1,400 children and the clergy of what was then the largest staff in London were trained to teach regularly in the schools. The story of these schools is the story of many a similar enterprise in London and the provinces, but at St. John's it was possible to carry out the design of our educational ladder with a completeness seldom attainable elsewhere. At the top was the splendid Training College for Teachers, St. Gabriel's, which is still doing most valuable work, and is planned on the most up-to-date lines. Doubtless educational changes have rendered some of the methods and buildings out of date, but the main outline shows what the Churchmen of the post-Tractarian era aimed at, and affords a model of what a well-planned and well-supported chain of Church Schools can be.

This is perhaps the place to discuss the general subject of elementary education. What we may call Anglo-Catholic parishes have generally been established in poor districts, hence the provision of elementary schools was almost a necessity. As Canon Dover, a friend and contemporary of Canon Brooke, put it "a church without schools is an absurdity." Like Canon Brooke, Mr. Dover was a keen educationalist and built an imposing block of school premises adjoining the sumptuous church of St. Agnes, Kennington Park, which he founded. Everywhere the same story was repeated, and the high value set by Roman Catholics on their schools to-day justifies those priests and people who saw in them their most powerful missionary agency. St. Peter's, London Docks, St. Augustine's, Kilburn, St. Mary Magdalene's, Paddington, and many more were equipped with efficient schools. It was a severe struggle to maintain them at the level required by the authorities, but the Education Act of 1902 eased the strain by placing the responsibility for adequate staffing and payment upon the shoulders of the State, and by providing better equipment for teaching. But at the same time, more stringent conditions were imposed, and the demands of the Board of Education became progressively more exacting. Churchmen here and there have surrendered their Schools, but on the other hand, many new ones have been built, and there has been a distinct improvement in the standard of Church teaching imparted. Since 1903 the Church Schools have been subjected to what can only be described as a series of pin-pricks, sometimes administrative, sometimes legislative, as in the various bills sponsored by Mr. Birrell, Mr. McKenna and Mr. Runciman. A stout resistance was offered, and it was the opinion of a shrewd observer that nothing had done more to rally Churchmen to the defence of their own principles, and to make them value the implications of their Faith, than the necessity of having to defend it! It was a soldiers' battle: here and there a dignitary like Canon Cleworth of Middleton, the founder of the Church Schools Emergency League, showed himself a worthy champion, but it will scarcely be contended that leaders have been found on the bench of bishops. The wonderful demonstration in Hyde Park in the summer of 1906 was largely a laymen's effort.

Churchmen of to-day do not always realize the significance of the protracted education controversy, but it is as important as ever that they should, for they are trustees of ten thousand schools. The point at issue is perfectly simple. The Education Act of 1870 was passed in order to supplement the work already being done by the Church, which was educating 72 per cent, of the population. 'Board Schools' arose, and soon, instead of supplementing, began to rival the old Church Schools. Seeing that they had the public purse to dip into, they could very easily outstrip the voluntary efforts by which the Church Schools were maintained. 'Board School' religion was undenominational, and hence the Dual System grew up which has endured to the present day. By 1902 it had become apparent that it was grossly unfair to leave Churchmen to pay the entire cost of their schools, staffs, etc., which had done all the work for years, and accordingly the Balfour Act relieved the Church of the payment of salaries and equipment, but still required Churchmen to maintain the actual fabrics. This was eminently fair, for it applied to every sort of non-provided school: if Wesleyans or R.C.'s built schools they were equally entitled to the benefits of this arrangement. But unhappily, dissent had secured, in the Board Schools, exactly what it wanted--a magnificent set of State-erected Schools in which teaching acceptable to Nonconformity, but not acceptable to Churchmen, was being taught. Dissent was thus 'established' as a State religion, and strongly resented the Balfour Act which sought to place the 'Voluntary' Schools on the same level. 'Rome on the Rates' made a sufficiently alliterative slogan, and the Passive Resistance Campaign was inaugurated and secured considerable publicity: it may be doubted whether it advanced the cause it was intended to advertise.

Meanwhile, Churchmen strained every nerve to keep and improve their schools, for they could not feel satisfied that the undenominational teaching given in Board Schools (or Council Schools as they are now known) was adequately Christian. As far back as 1894 there were 316 School Board areas in which the Bible was only permitted to be read without comment, and 57 in which it was a forbidden book! Truly Bishop Henson remarked, "The apostasy of dissent has thrown the championship of Christian doctrine into the hands of the Church."

Since the War, there has been a lull in the controversy, and several compromises have been attempted on the lines of an 'agreed syllabus.' But Churchmen cannot be satisfied with anything less than would be acceptable to their fellow-believers of the Roman Communion. When, in a discussion with Nonconformists in the days of the old School Board for London, the leader of a Nonconformist deputation was asked, "Is the Incarnation of our Lord a Christian principle?" he gave the evasive reply, "It is a Christian fact. I will not say it is a Christian principle," and added that he did not want it taught by the School Board, while Dr. Clifford was reduced to admitting that he would allow a Unitarian to teach that religion in the elementary schools to the children of Christian parents. (Full reports of these illuminating conversations were printed in The Times at intervals in 1894.) Is the position very different to-day? In his otherwise admirable book, published Sept. 1932 by S.G.M., As I see Religion, Dr. Fosdick, who probably has a larger following than any living Free Church divine, is very evasive as to the Deity of Christ, contenting himself by remarking "The gist of what the Church has meant by the Divinity of Jesus lies in the idea that if God is to be symbolized by personal life, He should be symbolized by the best personal life we know." That is, for him, "the interpretation of Christian theology." If that is all, Churchmen can have as little confidence in modern Nonconformist teaching as they had in that of the militant Dissenters of the last century.

No account of elementary education in Church Schools would be complete without a tribute to Bishop Knox. When Bishop of Coventry, he was instrumental in saving the Church Schools of that city, threatened with destruction, and as Bishop of Manchester he proved a stalwart defender of the Church's interests, as well as a wise and far-seeing educationalist. Like Canon Brooke and other leaders, he did not limit the range of his activities to the Voluntary Schools, but sought and secured a place on the School Board of the period as well. Anglican Catholics have certainly had their hands full, for not only have they continued to maintain their schools and to build more, but they have spent large sums upon the Training Colleges for teachers, of which there are between thirty and forty, have taken a keen interest in the Council Schools, and all the time have had to defend their schools and colleges from encroachment and threat.

[The following amusing verse was written by a visitor to the Manchester Church Congress over which Bishop Knox presided in 1908:

"Swete to me the Congress platform when one's mind is steeped in Gore
You and I will Ryle creation, with our Westcott's off once more.
Mind--there's many a thing your bishop says and does that gives me
shocks, But he's sound on Education and we all respect hard Knox!"]

Dean Gregory was perhaps the greatest of all educational pioneers. In 1853, he became vicar of St. Mary-the-Less, Lambeth, a hideously ugly church in drab surroundings. A man of affairs, he threw himself into the work of furthering elementary education, and in course of time became Treasurer of the National Society. This body, as most Churchmen know, is the society founded in 1812 for the advancement of education in 'the principles of the Established Church.' A wave of enthusiasm for education was passing over the country, and Gregory turned it to account, forming classes and founding evening schools and institutes with amazing energy. An Art school, a Day school, and finally a church were erected in Vauxhall from the designs by Mr. J. L. Pearson: the church was St. Peter's, Vauxhall, one of the most satisfying of Pearson's creations.

Dean Gregory possessed the unusual accomplishment of being able to answer all letters by return of post! He used to attribute his financial ability to the fact that he had been engaged in business, in a Liverpool shipping firm, before ordination. It has been said that the finances of St. Paul's Cathedral have always been on a satisfactory basis since Gregory's administration, while the Abbey authorities have been 'hard up', ever since that of Dean Stanley!

No greater mistake could be made, however, than to think of Dr. Gregory as simply an able financier or a successful administrator, like the successful clergyman who once received a postcard bearing the inquiry "Have you got blood in your veins, or is it only arithmetic?" He was a great reformer, and there was need of reform at St. Paul's when Gregory became a member of its chapter in 1868. His first experience of it was that of being inducted by the Dean by the light of a tallow candle, on a murky winter afternoon, the vergers having summarily driven away the Lambeth folk who had come to see their vicar installed!

More than an administrator, the new canon was a real spiritual force, ably seconding the efforts of Dean Church and Dr. Liddon to transform the cathedral, despite much opposition. And as he drew towards the end of his long term as canon and then dean of the Mother church of London, new qualities of tenderness and kindliness manifested themselves, and it is safe to say that as no ecclesiastic was more respected, so no pastor was more beloved than the aged dean when the time came to lay down the burden of his office.

It has seemed to some that the Church has been exclusively pre-occupied with the education of the poor, to the neglect of the 'Middle Class.' There is truth in this reproach, and there would be more, had it not been for the labours of Canon Woodard and his coadjutors. Woodard was a man of remarkable vision. Though he was to be the champion of public school education, he himself had never been to any school, but was privately educated. An East-end curacy opened his eyes to the fact noted by Disraeli that there were growing up two nations in England. Antagonism was certain to develop where "the wise of one side contemplated only the fools of the other," and the remedy for this state of things seemed to this clear-sighted pioneer to lie in the direction of extending the public-school system and its benefits to a far wider class than those then able to enjoy them.

Accordingly in 1848 Woodard from his curacy at Shoreham began by establishing a small private school, and issuing a pamphlet entitled 'A Plea for the Middle Classes' which embodied his ideals. It met with opposition enough to kill any project and daunt any pioneer. However, perseverance brought good friends to his side, and laymen like Sir Percival Heywood and Lord Salisbury, as well as many prominent ecclesiastics, lent their aid to the grandiose scheme known as the Corporation of St. Mary and St. Nicolas. The plan was that of a federation of societies, the headquarters being the gigantic chapel of Lancing. Like Dr. Gregory, Woodard was a successful administrator, his special gift being the ability to pick the best men to staff his new foundations. Success was immediate. Lancing, Hurst, Denstone, Ardingly, Abbots Bromley and others sprang up and prospered, and in every school the Catholic Faith was taught and practised. Little earthly recognition rewarded the labours of this remarkable priest, who passed away in 1891 in a good old age, but his schools have stood the test of time and deserve the encomium passed upon the scheme at its inception by so searching a critic as Matthew Arnold.

Associated with Canon Woodard should be the name of a priest who built and conducted the very successful school, All Saints, Bloxham. The Rev. P. R. Egerton spent some £30,000 on this work and raised the school to a high level, handing it over on his retirement to the Corporation of St. Mary and St. Nicolas. It was a master at Bloxham, the Rev. A. D. Crake, who wrote many delightful historical tales which are still popular. They were originally told to his form at Bloxham. With Dr. Old-know of Bordesley, Mr. Crake compiled the still valuable Priests' Book of Private Devotion. With such priests, it is easy to see that the religious tone of the Woodard Schools would be well maintained, and a high standard has been set and achieved both in the boys' schools and in the parallel schools for girls. The Catholic Revival has good reason for gratitude to those public-spirited men whose work may fittingly be compared with that of Wykeham or Wolsey of old. Tribute should also be paid to the Sisterhoods which specialized in educational work, notably the Community of St. Mary the Virgin at Wantage. The example and the quiet steady teaching afforded has done much to build up a generation of faithful Church people, and where that aim has not been attained, at least prejudice has been removed. No one can realize the usefulness, both direct and indirect, of this work: but its value has become apparent to those of another school of thought, and great efforts have been made of recent years to capture middle-class education in the interests of a narrow type of Churchmanship.

A product of the educational zeal of the Catholic Revival is Keble College, Oxford. At first it does not seem clear why the enormous undertaking of building a great chapel and founding a college in Oxford should have been considered a suitable memorial to a simple parish priest. The solution is to be found in the realization that the universities were being increasingly secularized, and a time might come when the old connexion between Oxford and the Church would be but a memory. Accordingly, Keble College was designed to preserve the teaching and practice of the Catholic Faith, and this aim is embodied in its charter. Butterfield, an architect of distinction and himself a thorough Churchman, designed the buildings, and although modern taste does not approve the decoration, there can be no question as to the dignity of scale and proportion. Keble has worthily carried out the intentions of its founders, and perhaps never more worthily than under the present Warden. Despite its external un-likeness to the older colleges, there has never been any spirit of aloofness about Keble, and its successes in every direction give it a high place among the foundations of greater antiquity. It might be said with truth that in one respect Keble towered above all others: the sermons preached in its spacious chapel were very different from the sometimes perfunctory college discourses which did duty in less favoured quarters. Aubrey Moore, Talbot, Illingworth and others conveyed the teaching of the Church in sermons of real distinction, combining simplicity, depth, and an appreciation of modern needs and modern discoveries to an extent seldom equalled. Though in no sense a theological college, Keble has supplied a goodly number of men for the Sacred Ministry, and it has truly been described as "the noblest monument ever erected in our generation to one man, a simple parish priest, to whom the Church gave no preferment." It is an educational achievement of the first importance, and in setting a standard of reasonable economy, it has influenced the whole tone of the University.

In no direction was education more urgently needed than in the training of the clergy. Bishop Wilberforce was the pioneer in the establishment of theological seminaries (though in actual date, Chichester is the oldest theological college) and the growth of these colleges has not only made for increased efficiency but for spiritual depth. Incredibly low standards prevailed in earlier days: we read of Bishop North 'examining' a candidate in a tent on the cricket field and (if we may believe Jane Austen) there was no long interval between ordination and preferment. While the requirements were so modest, training would .be needless. The whole duty of a parson, as expounded by Mr. Collins, was "to demean myself with grateful respect to her ladyship, and be ever ready to perform those rites and ceremonies which are instituted by the Church of England." As for preaching, listen to another Jane Austen character, "I can never hear such a one (a well-delivered sermon) without the greatest admiration and more than half a mind to take orders and preach myself . . . and I do not know that I should be fond of preaching often; now and then, perhaps once or twice in the spring after being anxiously expected for half-a-dozen Sundays, but not for a constancy--it would not do for a constancy." It certainly would not! As for spiritual direction, missions, retreats, etc.--these were a sealed book until the theological colleges began to instruct men in the craft of their calling.

For guidance in spiritual direction the post-Tractarian clergy were obliged to turn to the various volumes provided for priests of the Roman obedience. The only sources of learning on the Anglican side were the somewhat academic treatises of Jeremy Taylor, Sanderson, etc. Undoubtedly Faber's wonderful book Growth in Holiness, published in 1854 and still unsurpassed, was a valuable guide to confessors, and of greater importance than the savagely denounced treatise of the Abbe Gaume, which had been made available under the title of The Priest in Absolution by Mr. Chambers of St. Mary's, Crown Street, and stirred up fierce opposition in 1866, being attacked by Lord Redesdale in the House of Lords and by others who showed complete misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of a technical treatise. Since then there has been a thin, though steady stream of works on Moral Theology by Anglican writers, of which Advice on Hearing Confessions was issued with a preface by Pusey in 1878. A work on a considerable scale was planned by the saintly James Skinner, Warden of Newland, but unhappily the manuscript was accidentally destroyed by a fire on the eve of publication in 1882. The more recent writings of Bishop Webb, Canon Kirk, Mr. Watkin Williams and Canon Belton will be familiar to many, and the Lambeth Conference of 1920 declared the study of Moral Theology to be "an indispensable part of the training of the clergy."

The problem of the training of the clergy could not be considered as solved by the establishment of the Theological College. One more educational effort had to be made, and the work of the Community of the Resurrection and of the Society of the Sacred Mission boldly took the next step, viz. the provision of colleges for the complete training, academic, ecclesiastical and spiritual, for those who possess vocation. The work of Kelham and Mirfield has proved conclusively two things, first that there is no lack of vocation to the priesthood, and secondly that a well-trained priesthood is worth any number of well-intentioned amateurs. The first batch of Mirfield students included a butler, a music teacher, four clerks, five artisans, a railway servant and a relieving officer! That is, perhaps, more apostolic than subsequent lists, for the tendency is for the typical public-school candidates to preponderate. But it is little matter from what grade the student comes: what is important is what sort of priest they make of him. And parish after parish can testify that the splendid educational efforts of Mirfield and Kelham have enriched the Church immeasurably during the past quarter of a century.

Kelham departed audaciously from the ordinary type of Theological College, when Fr. Kelly began his work in 1890 in Vassall Road, Brixton. The Society has always been missionary, and the nucleus of its members consisted of men who were to be trained for the Korean mission field. The principle of work was strongly emphasized from the start, and students and priests do their own housework to this day. "He who is permitted to work receives a favour and confers none," say the principles of the Society, and certainly the all round training, devotion, study, work, athletics, all receiving their due share, tends to produce the type of priest the Church needs and will need increasingly as time goes on. Fr. Kelly, after a few years at Mildenhall in Suffolk, transplanted his society to Kelham, where the college has been firmly established and over a hundred students are in residence. The magnificent chapel recently dedicated has crowned a great work.

A word should be added as to the teaching of children in Church and in Catechisms. The Sunday-school movement has been in the main identified with the Evangelical school, but High Churchmen were by no means indifferent to the teaching of children. They realized that Sunday-schools might merely exemplify the adage 'The good the enemy of the best,' and the leakage from religion after Sunday-school age has confirmed that apprehension. They set themselves to work to train children in the worship of the Church, and the 'Children's Service' on Sunday afternoons was largely their invention. So noted was that at St. Paul's, Knightsbridge, in the 'fifties, that quite considerable numbers of adults used to attend, drawn from the ranks of the fashionable world, and the Prince Consort was frequently seen there. Mr. Bennett's Catechism method was very advanced and we find in his Notes references to Pantaenus, Origen, etc.! In later years the somewhat indefensible 'Children's Eucharist' has worked admirably in practice, while the Method of the Catechism, of which Canon Brooke was a great supporter, has done much to systematize teaching.

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