Project Canterbury

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

no place: Philip Allan, 1933.

X. Usages

THE TRACTARIANS CARED LITTLE FOR EXTERNALS. But principles have little chance of being understood until they find expression in practice. As Matthew Arnold said: "Catholicism is not a great visible force in this country, and the mass of mankind will always treat lightly even things the most venerable if they do not present themselves as visible forces before their eyes." The same writer referred to "the signal want of grace in English Protestantism" and described Catholicism in its externals as "august, European and imaginative," while Protestantism was "meagre, provincial and prosaic."

Soon, therefore, the externals proper to Catholicism began to make their appearance. In 1843 a translation of Durandus was published by two members of the Cambridge Camden Society. Durandus was the fountain-head of ecclesiastical symbolism, much of it far-fetched and fanciful, but he laid down the main principles of what came to be known as 'Ritualism' and largely helped to guide the movement into traditional channels. The attempt to give external embodiment to as much as possible of what had been learned was first made on a large scale at St. Barnabas', Pimlico. This church, surprisingly, was designed by Cundy, the same architect who had planned St. Paul's, Knightsbridge, on which it shows a great advance. Here the Rev. W. J. E. Bennett, a priest of eloquence, energy and vision, determined to set forth the Church's system in its completeness, and accordingly in addition to a spacious church, he provided a block of buildings in the ecclesiastical style then fashionable, including schools and a clergy-house. These novel structures gave rise to the suspicions of the mob, who imagined all the horrors of the Inquisition behind the stone walls and barred windows. The ceremonial employed in the Church, though dignified, was severely simple, but the decorations were, for that period, remarkable and sumptuous. Mr. Bennett's position was made untenable by mob violence, fomented, it must be recorded, by the famous Durham Letters of the Prime Minister, who had been one of the regular worshippers at St. Paul's, Knightsbridge. Some twenty years after the first proclamation of the Revival, vestments began to be used at the church of St. Thomas', Oxford. Wilmecote, a little church near Stratford-on-Avon, seems to have begun their use even earlier, in 1849. At St. Saviour's, Leeds, vestments were begun in 1850. They were not widely adopted for some time. They were ready for use in 1850 at St. Barnabas', Pimlico, but not yet adopted. At Wantage they were not used, nor did they make their appearance at East Brent, although Archdeacon Denison had been vicar for many years, and had been prosecuted in 1855 for teaching the Real Presence. Not till 1871 did he begin any outward developments, and these were confined within the most modest limits.

In the 'sixties, the vestments came into use at several of the pioneer churches, St. Matthias', Stoke Newington, introducing them in 1866, and St. Albans', Holborn, about the same time. Linen vestments were worn at St. Mary Magdalene's, Paddington.

In 1866 we hear of incense at St. Alban's, Holborn, but it had been introduced as far back as Christmas 1854 at St. Mary Magdalene's, Munster Square. Christ Church, Clapham, claims to have begun the use even before that. At St. Mary Magdalene's, Paddington, the vicar disliked incense, but believed it to be part of the Church's ceremonial heritage, so he used it in procession twice a year! It is said that the thurifers made up for lost opportunities on these gala occasions and deluged the church with smoke. 'Solemn' Evensong, i.e. with incense at Magnificat, is heard of at Frome in the 'sixties.

Doubtless much that was introduced was 'incorrect', but it is surprising that more mistakes were not made when we remember the strange doings of Laud at St. Katharine Cree, where incense was used in a singular vessel unlike anything known to Christendom, and offered at quite unprecedented points in the service.

Probably Mr. Purchas at St. James', Brighton, in the early 'seventies was as fanciful as any of the 'Ritualists', but credence should not be given too readily to tales of strange doings in churches. It was said that on Pentecost, a gilded dove was suspended over the altar. But we have learnt to distrust such reports since Lady Wimbourne's celebrated donkey enlivened the controversies over the 'Crisis in the Church' in 1899.

The 'Choral Celebration' seems to have begun in the 'fifties. Canon Carter had Choral Eucharists at Clewer in 1859. There is a tradition that at Exeter Cathedral it has never been intermitted. In 1863 we find the Choral Eucharist as the principal Sunday service at St. Paul's, Lorrimore Square, Walworth, and by 1868 this church had all the adjuncts we associate with Catholic worship. Thenceforward, the growth of Choral Eucharists was continuous, and it is of interest to note how seldom the practice, once established, was given up. [The Choral Celebration was rarely called 'the Mass' in official notices. All Saints, Plymouth, used the term in 1894 in printed announcements, and was believed to be the only church in England to have the term 'High Mass" painted on its notice-board. At St. Clement's, Cambridge, it was the customary word half-a-century ago.]

Two singular by-products are attributed to the High Church Movement, Evening Communion and Harvest 'Festivals'. The former is generally attributed to Canon Jackson, Vicar of St. James', Leeds, in 1865 who was a Moderate High Churchman of the stamp of Dean Hook. The Harvest observance seems to have begun at East Brent, where it was rather a secular function, though prayers in church at noon formed a part of the day's festivities. 'Harvest Home' seems to have been a West country festa, for we find the Rev. John Going, the pioneer priest who built up St. Paul's, Lorrimore Square, witnessing something of the sort at Honiton in Devon, and introducing it at his church in 1863. At once these observances obtained amazing, even disproportionate, popularity. It is recorded that at St. Paul's, Walworth, the church would be full at 6.30 a.m. on a week-day on the day chosen for this thanksgiving. Of late years the tendency has been to discourage the undue prominence given to this occasion, but it certainly answered to a human instinct, and was helped by the composition of some extremely popular hymns.

Another introduction which at once 'caught on' was the Three Hours' Devotion. [The first church outside London to adopt the Three Hours' Devotion is believed to have been St. Clement's, Cambridge, the late Vicar of which, the Rev. E. G. Wood, was for many years one of the foremost scholars whose learning fortified the work of propagating the Faith. He was a leading authority upon Canon Law, and was widely consulted by priests at whose service he was always willing to place his vast store of erudition.] St. Alban's, Holborn, and St. Matthias', Stoke Newington, claim the credit of having introduced this devotion: probably the latter anticipated St. Alban's by a few years. This, again, has been thought to have displaced the liturgical service of the day, but no satisfactory substitute has ever been found for it, and it has had an incalculable effect in promoting the practice of prayer and quiet meditation--habits not too common among English Churchfolk.

Another introduction characteristic of the post-Tractarians was the observance of Dedication and Patronal festivals with an octave. These proved immensely popular, and those of All Saints', Margaret Street, All Saints', Clifton, and St. Alban's, Holborn, have for years been events of real importance in the life of the Church in England. The keeping of the old 'feasts' with their attendant festivities, was doubtless due to the tradition of local festas in country places, but the first town church to adopt the plan of an octave of services and sermons was probably St. Saviour's, Leeds: indeed Dr. Pusey delivered as many as seventeen discourses during the octave of the consecration of that church, not all of them his own, but some which he read on behalf of preachers unable to attend. According to one of his letters to Dr. Hook, he borrowed the idea from the Church in U.S.A., and added that "the R.C.'s have something of the kind in their missions."

The ceremonial development of the Church Revival seems to have parted into two streams from quite early days. The 'Western Use' was followed in general, but many churches preferred such old English customs and colours as research or tradition suggested. This was somewhat inaccurately called 'Sarum', but in principle the votaries of Sarum did not differ from advocates of Western usage and there was no breach between the types of church. Dr. F. G. Lee's carefully compiled Directorium Anglicanum gives six lights upon or over the altar in some diagrams, and in others two lights upon the Table and six behind it. But he says the use of Sarum is 'our legitimate guide'. It was reserved for later times to differentiate more precisely between rival 'uses' and to import theological differences into the discussion.

The approximation of the appearance of the English Church to the Continental type by the placing of six tall candles on the altar was an innovation, as no English precedent appears to exist for it, and was doubtless due to the practice of copying what was usual in churches on the Continent. Christ Church, Clapham, had six altar lights in 1860: St. Paul's, Brighton, and St. Paul's, Knightsbridge, were not much later. At St. Barnabas', Oxford, the six candles were, for a time, reduced to two, at the desire of the Bishop of Oxford, in the 'seventies. The churches of this period were often overloaded with altar lights, borrowed from the Benediction candles in use in Roman churches, and these additional branch candlesticks oddly survive in 'Moderate' churches after they have been discarded elsewhere. Visits to the Continent doubtless did much to influence this tendency: Fr. Lowder is said to have modelled the ceremonial of St. Peter's, London Docks, upon what he witnessed at the Madeleine. Nevertheless, the result was not the patch-work that might have been anticipated: a very dignified and beautiful rite clothed with the traditional ceremonial could be witnessed in many churches during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and such books as Notes on Ceremonial and Ritual Notes guided the clergy and saved them from many eccentricities. The names of the Rev. H. G. Morse and the Rev. John Burrows deserve to be held in grateful remembrance for their labours, at once practical and scholarly, in this direction, while among the Altar-books issued, that of the Rev. Dr. Salisbury Price was of outstanding merit. It should be said that the clergy of the post-Tractarian period adopted, for the most part, the theory that the Book of Common Prayer is, what its title implies, a book for the people, containing the outline of the services, but leaving the priests free to interpolate the traditional prayers of the Canon from those ancient sources from which the Prayer Book itself was drawn. [The Asperges did not take its place in the scheme of an Anglican High Mass until recent times, and has not been widely revived. In 1890 this ceremony was in use at St. Mary's, Charing Cross Road, which was one of the most noted London churches when under the charge of the late Rev. W. E. Moll. St. Alban's, Holborn, adopted the custom about the same time but discontinued it at the request of Bishop Creighton.] They claimed that they were thus availing themselves of the liberty which every priest enjoyed until the Council of Trent abrogated it. The result of this theory was, on the whole, to make the clergy extremely conscientious about the use of the Prayer Book. They omitted nothing, and the Decalogue at Mass or the Exhortation at Evensong were solemnly recited in the most advanced churches till quite recent times.

Probably the most revolutionary change came about as the unforeseen result of Protestant interference. From 1899 to 1906 the 'Crisis in the Church' smouldered on, fomented by the efforts of Sir William Harcourt and other highly-placed leaders. At length authority felt that 'something must be done about it'. The result was the Royal Commission, the second one which had dealt with questions of ceremonial, which reported in 1906. Under the guidance, it is believed, of Archbishop Davidson, the upshot of this inquiry was the project for Prayer Book Revision, on the ground that the old formularies were 'too strait' for modern needs. This threw the whole question of recasting services into the melting-pot, and Anglo-Catholics who hitherto had stood aloof from Revision, now felt that if Revision must come, the paramount need was the revision of the order of the Liturgy, which, in its notorious dislocation, was unlike anything in Christendom. [The post-Tractarian clergy did not, of set purpose, adopt the title 'Anglo-Catholic,' lest it should seem to encourage the notion that they were forming a sect. However, nomenclature is usually forced upon movements, and since the War, this hyphenated term has come into general use. Newman had employed it in 1839, but long before that, it had been current. Possibly it was taken over from some of the Caroline divines: at any rate we find the epitaph of a priest in 1669 in St. Gregory's, Norwich, where the deceased is described as 'Ecclesiae Anglo-Catholicae presbyter, huius ecclesiae curatus,' and terminating with a prayer for his soul.] Permissive uses and tentative experiments led, doubtless, to valuable results, but they introduced far greater confusion than had ever been witnessed when diversity of colour and shape were the main differences. Since the War the variety in the order of arrangement of the parts of the Mass has been bewildering, and is a far more fundamental change than any preceding it. Efforts to regain a common standard are being earnestly made, into which it is not our purpose to enter beyond to remark that this is perhaps the greatest need of the moment and the greatest problem before Anglo-Catholics at the Centenary.

Reverting to the practices and usages with which the High Churchmen of the last century began to familiarize worshippers, mention must be made of the practice of Retreats. In the 'sixties, Retreats were conducted by the Cowley Fathers, and they found their imitators in the clergy who organized 'Quiet Days' and even half-days for their people. Scarcely any feature of the Catholic system has been more generally accepted, and invariably a retreat precedes ordination in dioceses of every ecclesiastical 'complexion'.

The practice of fasting was strictly observed by clergy and laity of the post-Tractarian period, and in this respect there has been a decided falling away. The last national fast day was observed in 1854 as a day of humiliation during the Crimean War. When a similar suggestion was broached during the European War, no support was found for it on religious grounds, though 'meatless days' became general on grounds of expediency. The leaders of the Church gave no call to the consciences of Churchmen, possibly because they were doubtful of any response. In earlier days the idea of fasting was less strange to Churchfolk. When Mr. Bennett began his work at St. Paul's, Knightsbridge, he called upon his congregation to observe a complete day of Fasting and Humiliation. Lent was kept by abstinence from such relaxations as the theatre, though the exigencies of society were held to excuse many from abstinence in food. The well-known Tom Collins, as Mr. Riley has mentioned, used to deprive himself of some one item of food to counterbalance the breach of the Church's rule, and once abandoned, these articles of diet were never resumed. In the 'seventies we find undergraduates at Oxford keeping abstinence days with some strictness, and maigre dinners in Hall were not unusual on Fridays.

The tendency has been to abandon the unworkable table of fasting and abstinence days provided in the Prayer Book, and to reduce the sixty or so there appointed to the comparatively few ordered by the Roman Church. Whatever be the correct method there is no doubt that the salutary practice has declined. Fr. Stanton, we read, preached eloquently on Fasting. How often is a sermon on this subject heard today?

Another feature of the Catholic Revival which has been, and still could be, of enormous value is the system of Guilds without which no parish was considered properly equipped. The oldest of these guilds is believed to be the Guild of St. Alban for men. The Guild of the Ascension, also for men, was founded at Cambridge in the 'sixties and transplanted to the pioneer church of St. Paul, Lorrimore Square, in 1873 and has kept up its connexion with South London ever since, its centre being Southwark Cathedral. Many similar sodalities began to arise, some ephemeral, some enduring, but there has been a marked decline in recent years, and it is to be regretted. The Guild did two things: it afforded an opportunity for the use of services and devotions outside the limits of the Book of Common Prayer and thus familiarized Churchpeople with such services as Vespers of the Dead, Vespers of the Blessed Sacrament, etc. More important was the success of guilds in teaching English Churchpeople the rules normally binding upon Catholic Christians. It would have been of little use to tell good Churchfolk of the 'fifties and 'sixties to observe the Precepts of the Church, but wise priests enrolled them in Guilds in the rules of which these obligations were incorporated. And who can say that there is no longer need of the same method?

The largest and most influential guild of communicants surviving is the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, one of the few organizations which has gained ground in recent years. The earliest mention of it is found in the leaflet dated Lent 1857. In Holy Week 1863 Canon Carter alludes to a confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament as being formed in the parish, but mentions others from outside who joined it. As far back as 1835 he had displayed singular devotion to the Blessed Sacrament in an address which he had circulated among the people at Burnham where he then worked. It was in conjunction with Upton Richards of All Saints', Margaret Street, Cosby White of St. Barnabas', Pimlico, Lowder, Mackonochie and Robert Brett that the Confraternity was planned, and the rules and manual drawn up in the Clergy House of All Saints', Margaret Street. Canon Carter remained its superior-general till 1897.

The practice of Reserving the Blessed Sacrament was strangely long in making its way in English Churches. It was not one of the 'Six Points' for which so long a struggle had to be waged. These were Altar Lights, Eastward Position, Wafer Bread, Mixed Chalice, Vestments and Incense, of which four, it will be seen, were the bare decencies of worship. Soon the provision of the Daily Eucharist, begun at St. Peter's, Plymouth, in 1849, led to the desire for more frequent communion and the necessities of the sick demanded Reservation. At first the Holy Sacrament seems to have been reserved in the chapels of Religious Houses like St. Margaret's, East Grinstead. Not for some time was it felt fitting to reserve in the open church. [Thus at St. Alphege, Southwark, the Sisters had the Blessed Sacrament reserved in their chapel in 1869 but there was no permanent Reservation in Church till recent years.] At St. Alban's, Holborn, it was customary to reserve in the Sisters' chapel, before 1880, and, later, in the Mackonochie chapel, between 1890 and 1895. Robert Brett of Stoke Newington, a medical man, had urged the need of Reservation on medical grounds as far back as 1867, but the bishops had discouraged every attempt to secure it though Wilberforce was known to favour the practice. A learned treatise written in 1887 by the Rev. J. W. Kempe of St. John the Divine, Kennington, made it clear that it was the rightful heritage of Church people but the adoption of the practice was slow, and there were few churches in which the Blessed Sacrament was habitually reserved even at the end of the nineteenth century. As with many other developments, the War was the great accelerator and now there are churches in most centres where the Holy Sacrament is available at any moment, and even four cathedrals now reserve. Canon Carter used to reserve, with the permission of Bishop Mackarness, but only for periods not exceeding forty-eight hours.

'Sacramental Devotions,' were not unknown before the War, though since 1914 they have been introduced in many quarters. As long ago as 1881 Provost Ball introduced 'Salutation and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament' at St. Michael's, Edinburgh. The Rev. C. R. Chase, who had Benediction at All Saints', Plymouth, about 1894, used to refer to its introduction by a rural rector, Malet of Ardeley, as ancient history. This is not the place to enter upon an argument in defence of the devotions in question, but in recording the fact that such services were held, it may be illuminating to outline the reasons which led to the introduction of the practice. The judgment in the case of the Rev. W. J. E. Bennett in 1870 was a weighty pronouncement by Sir R. Phillimore, in which Mr. Bennett was vindicated in substance, and his teaching upheld. Sir R. Phillimore stated with admirable clearness: "I say that the objective, actual, and Real Presence, or the Spiritual Real Presence, external to the act of the communicant, appears to me to be the doctrine which the formularies of our Church, duly considered and construed so as to be harmonious, intended to maintain." Further, "with respect to the other charges, I pronounce that Mr. Bennett has not exceeded the liberty which the law allows upon those subjects."

From this it was but a short, and to many minds a logical step to offer the same worship in the Presence of the Sacrament Reserved as would be rendered during the offering of the Holy mysteries. The 'Salut' commended itself as a natural form of devotion suitable for the evening of a Sunday or holy-day, and there seem to have been several churches and convent chapels where this devotion was employed. At the same time, the principle was generally recognized that "formal services in connexion with It (the Sacrament Reserved) like all other services not contained in the Book of Common Prayer are subject to Episcopal control" (Darwell Stone, Faith of an English Catholic, p. 54) though "the moral appeal of this control is gravely lessened by two facts, the lack of consultation with their synods by the bishops, and their toleration of laxity and anarchy in many churches."

It is fair to add, however, that many English Catholics have never accepted this point of view, but have adhered to the principle, expounded by Bishop Gore in his thought-provoking treatise The Body of Christ (published in 1891) that it is hazardous to go beyond the use for which the Sacrament was ordained, viz. its reception in Communion.

A significant reference occurs in a letter of Canon Carter in 1885 to the then Archbishop of Canterbury (Benson) where he mentions: "I am connected with a London parish where the late Archbishop, when Bishop of London, gave permission for such Reservation." This would carry us back to the days of Archbishop Tait, and is rather surprising in view of that prelate's known proclivities. Several Sisterhood chapels were reserving at this period, and at East Grinstead and elsewhere Sacramental Devotions seem to have been known. Of parish churches St. Michael's, Edinburgh, has some claim to be considered the earliest in the United Kingdom, and St. Mark's, Philadelphia, in the Anglican Communion. These date from about 1880. But a Scottish tradition of Reservation had never died out. The Non-Jurors' book of 1718 had provided for it, and the practice had grown up naturally. (See Eeles, Scottish Traditional Customs, Alcuin Club, No. xvii.)

It is not to be expected that changes which altered the whole face of the Church of England would pass without resentment and sometimes opposition. Yet it is instructive to notice how much of this was factitious, stirred up by interested parties who had little connexion with the churches concerned. At East Grinstead there were riots, and Dr. Neale was mobbed by people who had been inflamed by panic mongers. At St. Alban's, Holborn, Mr. Martin, the good man who allowed himself to be named as prosecutor of Fr. Mackonochie, was not personally unfriendly. At St. Paul's, Lorrimore Square, the crowds which used to delight in a well-known Dissenting preacher's jibes at the goings on at 'Follymore Square', were converted by the devoted lives of Mr. Going and his coadjutors, so that at his departure meetings enthusiastic in his support were as thronged as those which, a few years earlier, had been held to protest against 'Popery'. The local feeling which had at first demanded a 'Town's Meeting' to 'put down the Popish priests' had now veered round so that the local paper declared that Mr. Going's departure was "an irreparable loss" and ended "Would that we had more like him!" The same feelings were entertained by the congregation, who on the memorable night when the Bishop announced that, on the death of Mr. Going's successor, he would institute a clergyman who would change the services, showed their dismay in an unmistakable fashion.

Even more striking was the unhappy history of St. James', Hatcham, to which the Rev. Arthur Tooth had been appointed in 1868. For some years he had adopted the practices distinctive of the Catholic Religion, the Mass being the chief Sunday service and the ceremonial including vestments, incense and other adjuncts not then as familiar as they have since become. Under the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874 the Church Association proceeded against Fr. Tooth. There was a considerable amount of excitement and much opposition to the practices in vogue, but again, it was largely stirred up outside the parish. One 'rough' who was caught by the Vicar admitted that he had been paid to 'brawl'. More reputable, though equally venomous, was the opposition manifested by the Press. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the daily Press was solid against the 'Ritualists' and The Times solemnly lectured Fr. Tooth for his lawless conduct in defying the monition to appear before a secular court. He had offered to present himself before the Bishop in a properly constituted tribunal, but the jurisdiction of the civil court in spiritual matters was intolerable. An enthusiastic meeting of parishioners supported their Vicar. An inhibition was served upon the Vicar, who, however, took no notice of it. On Christmas Day 1876 the Diocesan sent a stranger to conduct the services, but he was met by the Vicar with a strong body of men, who firmly but courteously declined to surrender the church to him. The remaining few Sundays of Fr. Tooth's incumbency saw vast crowds assembled in and outside the church, a force of 300 police being required to preserve order. The committal of Fr. Tooth to prison for contempt of court ended a difficult situation in which the Vicar had the cordial support of his people. His name became a household word and there can be little doubt that the discreditable triumph of his opponents brought about a reversal of public opinion which was thoroughly outraged by the spectacle of a faithful priest committed to gaol.

The opposition to Catholic belief and practice has been disarmed by the devoted lives and by the mission work of the priests who have been singled out as victims of odium and prejudice. Mr. Burn of All Saints', Middlesbrough, the brothers Pollock in Birmingham, Mr. Bell-Cox at Liverpool and many another met with violent opposition at first but ultimately gained the esteem, not only of their parishioners but of their fellow clergy and of citizens who had little sympathy with their ecclesiastical position.

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