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A Tractarian at Work: A Memoir of Dean Randall

By J. F. Briscoe and H. F. B. Mackay

London: Mowbray, [1932]

Chapter IV. Binfield

AFTER taking his degree, Randall went to read with his uncle, the Rev. Allan Cowburn, Rector of Humber, near Leominster. Of this place he always had the most vivid and happy memories: he never forgot the beautiful scenery of the surrounding country, or his many pleasant and interesting friends of the neighbourhood. During this quiet time his resolution to take Holy Orders was deepening and maturing.

Randall was ordained by Bishop Wilberforce to the diaconate in 1847, and to the priesthood in 1848. He went as curate to his father, who had been Rector of Binfield, near Bracknell, Berkshire, since 1831.

Mr. James Randall was an excellent clergyman of the 'old school.' We have seen from his letters how sincere was his piety and how conscientious his work in the parish. The thoroughness and energy of his pastoral care are further illustrated by the following letter he wrote to his son:

All the sick People are going on just the same. S. has signified his intention of coming to the Communion on Sunday; at which I am pleased. R. J.'s wife showed me a charming letter from E. H. so pious and affectionate and yet so thoroughly sensible and free from anything like Affectation or got up Phraseology, that I felt it quite an Overbalance for many cares and troubles thrown away, to think that I had some hand in forming the Mind of such an amiable Creature. Her Father and Mother died when she was quite a child, and she came to live with these J.'s, who are her Uncle and Aunt, and having no children took to her quite as their own; and he got so fond of her, that she was very often able by her influence to keep him away from the scenes of his usual wild Excesses of Drunkenness. Now the state of his Health is a sufficient Restraint from that Wickedness, and I hope he is as he professes to be, sincerely penitent not only for that, but for the godless Life which in other Respects he led. Of course such Penitence must always be looked upon with Doubt; as I have had occasion lately to remark strongly in many of the cases now upon our Hands; as B., E. C., old B., etc. I have told them, what I am sure is an important thing for them to consider, that it is a part of their chastisement, imposed upon them by the order of God's Providence, that even if they are ever so truly penitent, they must be looked upon by Men as Persons whose Reformation is at best doubtful; and that it is their Duty to submit humbly to such suspicions, knowing that if they are real Penitents, God will accept their Repentance, and acknowledge it to their Honour in the Great Day; for which they must be content to wait, and not expect to be treated now as if their Professions of Sorrow were at once to place them on the same Footing with those who have served God and lived honestly and reputably towards Men all their Lives.

I take this to be an extremely necessary Precaution against the common Error of admitting People into the Class of Saints the moment they begin to confess themselves Sinners. We must say to them, you may be Saints; you may perhaps already be as good in the sight of God as many who have always passed for holy: but do not natter yourself that what may be certainly is; nor fancy that Profession is as good Evidence of a Change of Mind as Practice. Profession can but give us Ground for Hope; it is Practice that proves; and till you can show that Proof, you must be content to esteem yourself and be esteemed by others, as only standing in a state of possible Acceptance.

Randall was not encouraged by his father to embark on any novel methods of parochial administration.

'While you are my assistant,' he wrote in 1848, 'in the Cure of the Parish committed to my Charge, it is your plain duty to conform yourself to my Direction as to the Exercise of your Functions. If I am wrong, the responsibility lies on me. If you take upon yourself to act otherwise, and it should so happen that you are wrong, you undertake the responsibility of all the consequences that may ensue. This seems to me clear enough for your present guidance. . . . God bless you, and keep you in the earnest Desire to do him service, which I am sure you entirely feel. As to Matters of Practice, you and I may sometimes differ; but I must confess to you that I am vain enough to think that if you will be content to act upon my opinion till you have a little more experience, your own views will end in something like conformity to those of,

'Your affectionate Father,


For the moment the young curate was required to obey: very soon he would be free to act according to his own judgement in circumstances of unique and peculiar difficulty.

Samuel Wilberforce, who was consecrated for the bishopric of Oxford on November 30, 1845, soon afterwards became intimate with the Rector of Binfield, and made him one of his examining chaplains. He depended on him with great confidence in all legal and practical matters, and the most affectionate friendship was established between the Bishop and the Randall family. The Rector was looked on as the Bishop's right-hand man.

In 1848 Wilberforce visited Binfield for the opening of the church after restoration, and wrote thus in a letter:

We had a happy service yesterday and a large clerical communion--no less than £152 in the offertory. It is very cheering to me to see church after church thus revive in its material fabric, and to know that, almost without one single exception, the restoration of the building has accompanied a more earnest or an earnest living ministry. This is a very nice family. Randall, my chaplain, was a lawyer, and has all the lawyer's intellectual acuteness, carried off into the pastor's honesty and tenderness. [R. G. Wilberforce, Life of Bishop Wilberforce, II, pp. 13, 4.]

In 1855 Wilberforce made James Randall Archdeacon of Berks, and this meant increased intimacy between them. The Bishop afterwards would always refer and speak to Mrs. Randall as 'Mrs. Archdeacon.' Randall was installed as a canon of Bristol in 1867.

The Archdeacon and his son were always on the most affectionate terms. They would frequently exchange letters on subjects of ecclesiastical as well as domestic interest, and though the Archdeacon did not completely agree with Richard's ways, he would always help him with acute advice and excellent legal information.

This letter describes some of the Archdeacon's activities, and a visit to the Church Congress at Manchester in 1863.


Many Thanks for your Letter, and kind Wishes on my Birthday. It has found me, on the whole, better than at my Age I have a Right to expect, though I have enough of Rheumatism to remind me very effectually that I am going down hill. The Day was spent in a Manner I trust not unbecoming a Priest's Nativity. We were at Willey Church in the Morning, and at Linely in the Afternoon; Edmund read Prayers, and I preached at both, Dr. Rowley, the Incumbent of Willey, being disabled by a bad throat. In the Evening we all went to Bridgnorth, where there was a Choral Service, at which Edmund was Precentor; and an Irish Clergyman preached a very Irish Sermon (I mean in Manner and Matter, not in Language) on Behalf of the Irish Education Society. On Saturday I went with Layton to Quatt, to inspect the School; and I examined the 1st and 3rd Classes; who did very well and intelligently.

The Congress went off very well indeed; though there was a little Bit of a Shindy between Stawell and Denison; mainly owing to the Chairman's want of Management. He was indeed a very poor Chairman. It is quite sad that where there is so much hearty Church Feeling as there is at Manchester, there should not be a more congenial Head to direct it. Our Bishop was received with Applause fit to rend the Roof. I was entertained with most kind and courteous Hospitality at the House of one of the manufacturing Aristocracy. I was quite surprised to see what agreeable Residences they have, and with how little annoyance from the Vicinity of the Town. The Town itself is very fine. Noble public Buildings, and even the Places of Business are handsome, and the Streets where they stand are wide, cheerful, and clean, except that they are necessarily rather dingy with Smoke from the Works; though the Works themselves are not, as I thought they would have been, mixed up with the Offices and Warehouses. I shall not attempt to give you any Account of the Proceedings of Congress; as you can read them much better in the Papers.

The following letter, written to Bishop Wilberforce in 1867, illustrates the Archdeacon's independence of judgement:

I am very anxious to say a Word to you about the Place of Ordination. I would rather have said it by Mouth than in Writing; but that the Time presses, and if you do not come home before the 17th, it will be too late. I had quite understood, till lately, that you had settled to have the Ordination at Cuddesdon; and I was not singular in that Persuasion.

Now, it appears that you intend it to be in Sussex. I was sorry to hear this; because I thought that at this Time above all others when there will be so many American and Colonial Bishops, and probably Clergy too, in England, it was a great Pity that some of them should not have an Opportunity of witnessing one of your solemn Ordinations at Cuddesdon, instead of hearing that you were ordaining in a little Country Church, at your lay Residence, by the Permission of another Bp. [The first Pan-Anglican Conference was held at Lambeth in September of this year.] This Proceeding, though convenient to you, and in the Nature of an Indulgence to the Candidates, must, of course, be regarded as exceptional; and I put it to yourself, whether this is the right Time to make the Exception. I venture to think that it is not: and in this Opinion also, I am not singular.

Now I have heard this Morning, that in a certain Contingency, you mean to hold the Ordination at Duncton. Forgive me, if I say that will not improve the Position of the main Question; while to myself it wd. be so painful, that if you hold your Ordination at Duncton, I must decline attending you there. I shall, of course, render all the Assistance I can at the previous Examination; but I cannot be present at the Ordination. It is very distressing to me to write this; but it is better to do so now, than to speak too late. I wish I cd. have waited till I saw you; but you will see that wd. have been more embarrassing.

The Archdeacon lived at Binfield until his death in 1882 at the age of ninety-two. He never lost his love of the classics, or his marvellous memory. As a very old man and nearly blind, he used to play whist every night, and at the end of a hand could tell who had played each card. He would quote long extracts from Homer, Horace, and Virgil; and two days before he died he called Hal Savory, his grandson, to fetch him a Horace, as he had forgotten one line in an ode. As soon as he was told the line he had forgotten, he went on quoting ode after ode with the greatest ease.

Dean Church wrote as follows to Richard Randall on his father's death:

Nov. 21, 82.


It is very good of you to write to me. This news conies just as my thoughts and memory were full of the Provost, who was just about a year older than your father. All things of this present state, as the old Oriel statutes had it, tendunt visibiliter ad non esse. Your father was a very noble example of the best clergy of the last generation. We owed him a great deal in Convocation, where his clearness of thought, his knowledge, and above all his fearless justice, were most conspicuous. And to me personally he was very kind. It is a great pleasure to think of one or two occasions, when he allowed me to give him my arm, when his bodily strength was failing.

While curate of Binfield, Richard Randall became engaged to and married Wilhelmina Bruxnor, the daughter of a merchant who came from St. Petersburg to live at the Manor House in the parish. She was not only a beautiful and attractive girl, but was as well, though the Randalls at the time of the engagement had no inkling of it, a very considerable heiress; and it was only after 'great ructions' that her father would consent to the marriage, which took place on November 6, 1849. It was the beginning of a married life of ideal happiness.

Here is Bishop Wilberforce's letter to James Randall on hearing of his son's engagement:


I must write one line of hearty congratulation and best wishes. I do unfeignedly rejoice in your son's prospects. Pray tell him so with a really affectionate message from me. Now I think it most likely you will all much prefer that his Father should marry him: so say not a word as to what follows unless it is really your wish. But if it is your wish and his I shall be rejoiced if the time makes it possible, to pronounce the nuptial blessing over them.

I am ever, my dear friend,
Yours in great haste,
Very affectionately,


Will you give my separate congratulations to Mrs. Randall.

On April 15, 1850, the Bishop of Oxford offered Randall the Perpetual Curacy of Sandhurst. He would be independent there: it was a pretty place: he would still be near Binfield. But these attractions did not move him, and Randall declined the offer.

While Randall was occupied in quiet pastoral work and domestic interests at Binfield, a great doctrinal discussion was beginning 'which, in its manifold results, was more fruitful in anxiety and loss to the Church of England than even the events of 1845.' [H. P. Liddon, Life of E. B. Pusey, III, p. 201.] On November 2, 1847, the Rev. G. C. Gorham was presented by the Crown to the vicarage of Brampford Speke. The Bishop of Exeter, Dr. Phillpotts, had reason to think that the opinions of Mr. Gorham with regard to Baptismal Regeneration were unsound and incompatible with the formularies of the Church. After an examination of Mr. Gorham, the bishop refused to institute him. Mr. Gorham then obtained a monition from the Arches Court of Canterbury directing the Bishop of Exeter to institute him, or to show cause why he should not do so. On August 2, 1849, the Dean of Arches gave judgement that the Bishop of Exeter had shown sufficient reason for not instituting Mr. Gorham, whereupon Mr. Gorham appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which in 1833 'had, by a well-known oversight, been constituted the supreme Court of Appeal in all ecclesiastical cases.' [ibid., p. 202.]

It was at once seen that there was ground for grave anxiety on the part of Churchmen as to what might be the result of this appeal. An essential doctrine of the Church was in dispute, and the position assumed by the Supreme Court of Appeal raised the whole question of what was involved in the Royal Supremacy. [ibid., p. 202. Dr. Liddon's account of the Gorham case is summarized above.] On March 8, 1850, the Judicial Committee issued its decision, which was that Mr. Gorham's opinions were 'not contrary or repugnant to the declared doctrine of the Church of England as by law established, and that Mr. Gorham ought not, by reason of the doctrine held by him, to have been refused permission to the vicarage of Brampford Speke.'

This decision awoke in Churchmen throughout England the most passionate indignation. 'The issue is one,' wrote Mr. Gladstone to his wife, 'going to the very root of all teaching and all life in the Church of England.' [D. C. Lathbury, Letters on Church and Religion of W. E. Gladstone, I, p. 83.]

An important protest against the judgement was issued almost at once; the first signature was that of H. E. Manning, Archdeacon of Chichester; among other signatures were those of Robert Wilberforce, Archdeacon of the East Riding, George Anthony Denison, Dr. Pusey, and Mr. Keble. Great meetings were held in London in July; Dr. Bagot, Bishop of Bath and Wells, was present at a meeting at S. Martin's Hall, Long Acre, at which Denison, now Archdeacon of Taunton, made 'the principal and most stirring speech,' and Archdeacon Manning proposed a vote of thanks to the Chairman, Mr. J. G. Hubbard, afterwards Lord Addington. [Purcell, Life of Cardinal Manning, I, p. 544.] At Freemason's Hall, Dr. Pusey and Mr. Keble made great statements in defence of the orthodox doctrine of Baptism, insisting on the limitations of the power of the Crown in spiritual matters.

On August 21, 1850, Randall received a little note from the Bishop of Oxford which turned his thoughts from the parochial interests of Binfield towards the grave situation of affairs in the Church of England. The little note suggests that the Bishop is looking ahead, and it conveys a suggestion of urgency:

Aug. 20.


Can you, be it with, but if not, without your wife, come and see me at Lavington: on Saturday if you can get away and like to hear Manning preach. You will reach us early by rail to Godalming. Thence 18 miles, a coach comes daily in the afternoon (leaving London by rail at 1) to Petworth 4 miles from us.

I am, my dear Richard Randall, Ever affectionately yours,


Lavington House, where Randall was now invited to stay, had come to Bishop Wilberforce from his wife, Emily Sargent, whose grandfather had built it. The Bishop used it as his private country seat, and was delighted to live there from time to time as a Sussex squire. It was in a situation of very great natural beauty. The western downs from Duncton Beacon to Cocking Gap are clothed with beech woods from top to bottom, and are so precipitous that they must be climbed by winding paths among the tall trees and ferns. Lavington and Graffham are on a terrace at the foot overlooking the Rother valley, which has a broad belt of pines and heather running down the middle. The North Downs are opposite, and from the rectory windows at Lavington the morning sun could be seen shining on Tennyson's windows on Blackdown. [Tennyson built his house on Blackdown in 1868.] The tops of the downs you might suppose to be bare, but in fact they are long stretches of turf fringed and broken by glorious thickets, and over Cocking Gap, by a great beech forest, through the glades of which you can walk for miles. There is no road except the road over Duncton Hill which crosses the downs to Chichester. The wold on the top over Lavington and Graffham is untouched since Saxon days, and is the ideal setting for A Midsummer Night's Dream.

In the churchyard at Lavington were the graves of the wife of Bishop Wilberforce who died in 1841 and of Manning's wife who died in 1837. Baron von Hügel contributed to The Times Literary Supplement of March 24, 1921, this pathetic witness to the Cardinal's lifelong devotion to his wife. A few days after Cardinal Manning's death on January 14, 1892, Bishop Herbert Vaughan (the future Cardinal) visited the Baron, and then told him. the following: 'You know what we all thought about the Cardinal and Mrs. Manning. Well, this is what happened shortly before his death. I was by his bedside; he looked around to see that we were alone; he fumbled under his pillow for something; he drew out a battered little pocket-book full of a woman's fine handwriting. He said: "For years you have been as a son to me, Herbert: I know not to whom else to leave this--I leave it to you. Into this little book my dearest wife wrote her prayers and meditations. Not a day has passed, since her death, on which I have not prayed and meditated from this book. All the good I may have done, all the good I may have been, I owe to her. Take precious care of it." He ceased speaking and soon afterwards unconsciousness came on.' Both Mrs. Manning and Mrs. Wilberforce were daughters of Mrs. John Sargent, a lady greatly beloved, who took care of the Bishop after his wife's death until she herself died in 1861. [Life of Bishop Wilberforce, I, p. 192.]

Manning had come to Lavington in 1833 as curate to Mr. John Sargent, and on his death four months later succeeded him as rector. He was made Archdeacon of Chichester in 1841, while continuing to be Rector of Lavington and Graffham.

Randall had conceived an immense admiration for Archdeacon Manning. He had sided heart and soul with the protest Manning had made against the Gorham Judgement. He was corresponding on Church matters with his friend Curteis, and Curteis writes, 'I do envy you Lavington, etc.' But the invitation which Randall gleefully accepted drew him into the scene of a great spiritual drama. Although the world was still ignorant of the fact, the intimate friends of Manning knew that he was on his Anglican deathbed. At the end of June he had written to Robert Wilberforce: 'I find our position a wreck and untenable at all points. I have written myself fairly over the border--or Tiber rather.' And later, on the 5th of August:

I am suffering much. I see nothing before me. If I stay I shall end a simple mystic, like Leighton. God is a spirit and has no visible kingdom, church, or sacraments. Nothing will ever entangle me again in Protestantism, Anglican or otherwise.

But that is to reject Christendom, its history, and its witness for God. [Purcell, Life of Cardinal Manning, 1, p. 559.]

Randall paid his visit and gives his wife, who had been unable to accompany him, his first impression of the place which became to him, as it ever remained to Manning, the loveliest and dearest spot in the world.

Feast of S. Augustine, 1850.


You see I am better than my word. Every one here is asking for you, and wishing that you had come, and not I the least. Oh! that you could be with us in this most enjoyable country. It is one of the finest spots I was ever in. As you stand at the front entrance, on the left on a slight rise is the beautiful little Church, quite nestling among the trees, with its pretty simple gable for one bell rising above them, and here and there some of its grey flint work peeping out. Then further on a high hill of splendid trees rising gradually one above the other, and closing round the dell of soft turf which forms the lawn. It will not bear being put on paper. Then such rambles with Miss W. and Miss H. who are excellent guides. The Church is a gem and even I can find but one fault in it. Morn and eve its soft musical bell calls us to Matins and Evensong. The welcome shelter always open. Then our company. Who am I to be among such? The first day we sat down--Mr. Milman, Archdeacon Wilberforce, Archdeacon Manning and his nephew Anderdon, Richard Cavendish, and the Bishop. You may guess how my ears drank in the talk. There is one great drawback. Our good Bishop has been ill.

The Bishop explains this illness in a letter to Mr. Gladstone from Lavington, dated September 14th:

My stay here has let me see much of Manning. Never has he been so affectionate, so open, so fully trusting with me. We have been together through all his difficulties. But alas! it has left on my mind the full conviction that he is lost to us. . . . Few can at all understand what his and my brother's present state are to me. I believe you can: the broken sleep, the heavy waking, before the sorrow has shaped itself with returning consciousness into a definite form; the vast and spreading dimension of the fear for others which it excites; the clouding over of all the future. It has quite pressed upon me, and I owe, I believe, to it as much as to anything else, a sharp attack of fever which has pulled me down a good deal. [Life of Bishop Wilberforce, II, pp. 47, 8.]

But the protagonist was sounding a deeper and darker depth of suffering, out of which he utters to Robert Wilberforce an exceeding bitter cry:

I feel as if my time were drawing near and that, like death, it will be, if it must be, alone. But I shrink with all the love and fear of my soul. Pray for me. [Purcell, Life of Cardinal Manning, I, p. 560.]

Manning served Lavington for two months longer. His health had been delicate for some years, and he had been obliged to winter in London. He left Lavington at the beginning of December as though for his usual winter sojourn, but it was for ever. He resigned his living in the following March, and was received into the Roman Catholic Church on the sixth of April.

Mr. Randall rarely met Dr. Manning, but he was by far the most potent influence in his life. The note of severity in Manning's life, his austerely held faith, his entire concentration upon and devotion to the affairs of God in His Church, so much eloquence, social grace, and worldly ability dedicated altogether to the advance of the kingdom of God--all this appealed to Randall's consistency, single-mindedness, and romantic feeling. The two men, indeed, resembled one another in many ways: both fulfilled our Lord's precept in the Parable of the Unjust Steward, both exhibited remarkable worldly power and address, placed completely, with passionate enthusiasm, at the service of the highest good as he conceived it. Randall's eloquence was his own, but in the form and subject matter of his sermons Manning was his model, and in his government of his parish and his relations with his flock, Manning's was his standard of pastoral duty.

Mr. Randall corresponded on the subject with his friend Mr. G. H. Curteis, and Mr. Curteis replied:

Many thanks for your sheet of Church news with almost all of which I fully concur, but let me premise that I have not received Archdeacon Manning's Protest and I am not sure that I have seen it among the 101 Protests that have flitted before one's eyes these last months. If it protests against the theory you mention of the Queen's supremacy, I should have thought it might have saved itself the trouble and left common sense to fight out that battle by itself. But as you observe we have a sad want of organization and this man is distrusted and that man makes a false step, till one begins to feel more strongly than ever that there is but one thing and one alone that the Church really wants and that is the concession of synodal action and that all protests and the like are but waste paper that do not point to that.

While Pusey and Keble mourned the great indignity placed upon their Spiritual Mother in the Gorham case, Manning had lost all patience with the situation--but his sorrow and suffering were great: thirty years after, the memory of the spare, erect figure, the delicate features white-set and lined with pain, pacing hour after hour the long library floor or the beechwood avenues, still haunted the peasants of Lavington.

And thirty years after the Cardinal wrote:

I loved the little church under its green hillside, where the morning and evening prayer and the music of the English Bible for seventeen years became a part of my soul. Nothing is more beautiful in the natural order; and if there were no eternal world, I could have made it my home. [Purcell, Life of Cardinal Manning, I, p. 125.]

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