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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 V. Lavington (I)

March 31, 1851.


Archdeacon Manning on Tuesday last resigned the living of Graffham cum Lavington. In looking round for a successor to him many reasons have led me to think of you. I mean the living to be held for whichever of my boys may, if any, be fit hereafter to take it. ... Will you hold the living for them. You know, I believe, its circumstances: two churches: population about 600: income about £300, and a good house.

It will give me great pleasure if you will undertake this duty; both because I shall be thankful to commit the people to your charge and because it will bring me and mine into close connexion with you and yours.

Bishop Wilberforce wrote with a full knowledge of the young man to whom he made this gratifying proposal. Randall had been often with him at Cuddesdon and elsewhere; the Bishop felt that if he had him at Lavington he would be training an important man for high place in the Church. 'There is no position in the Church of England which might not be open to you,' said the Episcopal Squire in after years to his young Rector, 'if you would give up that long coat.' In eagerness and energy the Bishop and the young curate greatly resembled one another. Randall felt he could open his whole heart to the Bishop, and a very tender and strong affection existed between them.

Randall accepted the charge, and the Bishop wrote at once on a scrap of paper from the House of Lords:


I have had no opportunity of replying before to your letter. I cannot easily tell you how thankful I feel that I have such an one as you in charge of those parishes. I hope very soon to write fully. I now only wish to say do not on any consideration move into the same house with Laprimaudaye.

I am, yours sin.,

Randall told his friends the news, and his old Head Master, Dr. Moberly, wrote from Winchester on May 28th:

You only do me justice in not doubting the strong and affectionate interest I take in everything which concerns you, and very particularly in a thing of this consequence, when you are selected by the Bishop, who knows you well, to succeed to the charge of a place under circumstances so full of extreme sorrow and anxiety. It is the highest testimony he could possibly give of his good opinion and confidence.

Trinity Sunday, June 15th, and the day following were heavy days in Richard Randall's life. Although he was so young, his parting with his flock was the farewell of a true pastor, and in the first days of loneliness at Lavington he wrote in his diary how he missed the sick and infirm people of Binfield. The children in school and their elders in church shed many tears when he said good-bye.

On Tuesday morning, the seventeenth, he rose early and went into church, where for the last time he said his daily Mattins alone with the unseen congregation.

He wrote in his diary:

The last look at the Rectory very hard, the last steps from it calling up years of blessing, little noted till lost. My poor Mother full of sorrow. May He Who remembered His own Mother on the Cross give her all grace and comfort and supply all her need!

Randall was leaving a loving and delightful home circle and he was going to deal with a situation of extraordinary difficulty and discomfort. He was an ardent believer in the truth of those principles which the Tractarians had applied to the conditions of the moribund Church of England and which, like the bones of the prophet, were raising her to renewed life and strength. He was succeeding to a parish which had been splendidly worked on Tractarian lines. But the workers--Manning and his curate Laprimaudaye--had publicly avowed the Tractarian position impossible and had left the Church of England. All the High Churchmen of the older school, of which Mr. James Randall was an exceedingly able .representative, were saying, 'Tractarianism has been tried and has failed disastrously; we must give it a decent burial and return to the quiet paths out of which it has endeavoured to tempt our Church.' Popular feeling gave to Archdeacon Manning's secession an importance second only to Newman's. It had wounded his connection, Bishop Wilberforce, very deeply. Bishop Wilberforce was beginning to feel what he came afterwards to feel so acutely, that the defection to Rome of those nearly related to him lessened his own power of usefulness owing to the popular suspicions they aroused that he himself had sympathies with and grave impulses towards what he most honestly and cordially detested.

But Randall understood the task God had given him better than any of his affectionate and able advisers. Like the young prophet Zechariah, he was not a child of the Exile but of the Return from the Exile, and he saw further than Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest. Randall went to Lavington silently determined to maintain the ideal of Churchmanship which Manning had exhibited, before the exigencies of his theory of authority and unity had over-mastered his sense that his Lavington ministry was 'of the reality of the Catholic Church.' [Purcell, Life of Cardinal Manning, I, p. 342.]

The discomfort at Lavington extended to outward circumstances. Archdeacon Manning's rectory at Lavington had been let furnished to a family of ladies, the Misses Brackenbury. His books were still in their shelves, his papers still lay on the library table. Graff ham Rectory was in the occupation of the former curate, Mr. Lapri-maudaye, a married man of means. Mrs. Laprimaudaye, who had not at that time become a Roman Catholic, was seriously ill and unable to be moved. Her husband was also in very delicate health. The Laprimaudayes were consequently confined to Graffham Rectory, from which the former curate, dressed as a layman, made periodical visits to Burton, the seat of a Roman Catholic gentleman, where he heard Mass. The new Rector was obliged to camp uncomfortably in Lavington House with no immediate prospect of getting possession of his rectory. Under these circumstances it was felt best that his wife should not accompany him, and this greatly added to the depression of the moment.

He describes his journey:

Drove with my Mother to Wokingham, where we had a short walk, and the train being before its time happily broke off our last words. On to Guildford. Here first my loneliness came upon me, the more because M. was not with me. Found a home and comfort in the open church. It is often well to have no earthly comforter that one may come unto Him in Whom only is true rest and peace. The old ties, home, the parish, the school, the sick, do not snap without a wrench. Strange to feel that the work of years is to be left during one's life to other hands, 'Infirmitati et peccatis servi Tui, Domine, parce.'

It was a beautiful evening when he reached Lavington. Mr. Dunlap, the curate-in-charge, had been presiding over a school feast that afternoon, and the new Rector arrived in time to go with the children to Evensong. They entered the church in procession, the children carrying 'little emblematic banners' and singing the Te Deum, and Randall and Dunlap said the prayers. Randall notes in his diary:

There has been a removal of flowers from the church by the churchwarden, Mr. Welch, and Connor, the clerk. This may, I fear, tend to unsettle people's minds and so do harm. It is every way to be regretted. Sit pax Jerusalem! It is unfortunate having to begin with finding fault, and defending a practice which is indeed harmless but offends some.

The Misses Brackenbury invited him to spend the evening at the Rectory; so passed the first night at Lavington.

The next day, after Mattins, Randall explored his parish, and returned to his room in Lavington House tired, depressed, and not well.

At six o'clock Mr. Dunlap inducted him into the living and they said Evensong together. There appears to have been nobody in the church, and the record in the diary reflects the dreariness of the moment:

Thus begins my new Ministry. For the first time I am alone responsible for the sole guidance of a flock, and with some peculiar difficulties. How is this all to end at the great Day?

Pastor Bone, pasce me ut pascam Tuos; Due me, ut ducam alios, et cum illis ducar in vitam eternam per Te Viam Solam, et Spem infirmorum et peccantium, etiam Te, J. C. D. N. Amen.

Next day Mr. Dunlap left and Mr. Randall began his regular ministry, the morning and evening prayer with the group of devout people, the steady catechizing in the schools, the systematic visiting of the people. There was little to cheer, the children were shy and ruder than the Binfield children. The schools had plainly suffered a good deal from recent events, the children were out of hand. 'Manning,' wrote Bishop Wilberforce later, 'really neglected the Boys' School and we are reaping the fruits; it was left to Laprimaudaye, who quite neglected it.'

The people received the young Rector with little warmth; some spoke harshly of Manning's secession; most of them praised him in unmeasured terms. In cottage after cottage the beautiful head from Mr. Richmond's portrait, hanging in the place of honour, met the young Rector's eye.

'Indeed,' wrote Randall to his wife, 'the more one hears of poor Manning's doings here the more it disheartens one and seems to take away all chance of getting on with the people who must feel the contrast.'

He had prepared his first sermon and was deeply dissatisfied with it. The Misses Brackenbury had thrown open Manning's library for him. Manning's last sermons were lying in manuscript about the room. The contrast filled him with dismay. But the Evening Prayer with the little group calmed and refreshed him, and he stood in wonder and delight before the beauty of the evening scene in the churchyard and upon the hill. He found a book too which impressed him, Thoughts and Affections on the Passion, by Father Ignatius of S. Paul, a Passionist, and he felt it to be a common meeting ground of faith and love between himself and his predecessor. Manning had marked it heavily, and more especially the parts about humility and forgetfulness of self, and one striking passage about the value of godly silence and its greater effectiveness than a hundred words spoken with the appearance of zeal.

On his first Sunday in his parish Randall rose at 6.30 and spent the greater part of the time until 10 o'clock in private prayer. At 10 he said Mattins and preached to a small congregation, and afterwards celebrated Holy Communion and administered the Blessed Sacrament to seventeen people.

He took for his text S. Matthew xxviii, part of verse 20, 'And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.' He began by picturing the fulfilment in Christian history of this promise--the secret of the wonderful Christian confidence and strength. He contrasted the union of the Lord and His children with the union of man with man which is so essentially important and broken so often and in so many ways. Then he spoke of Manning, and he exhorted those who were mourning the loss of the loved Teacher to look up to the comfort of the Unfailing Presence. He pressed the lesson of bereavements. They come that we may be able to find how He can support when all else fail. He then spoke of the re-entry of the authority of our Lord into the place in the person of the new minister. The new minister enters with one only support, the presence of his Master and His promise that He will work through human weakness. This led to thoughts of the awfulness of the Presence and the responsibility it casts upon us: the Presence (i) in the pulpit, (2) in the Christian assembly, (3) in the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and the Blood; the tenderness of the Presence; our Lord's sympathy, which enables Him to guide, and His considerateness which leads Him to give us His glorious Presence under a veil suitable to our unhappy state. The sermon ended with a call to prayer that pastor and people might pass up from the veiled Presence on earth into the unveiled Presence in heaven.

There was a large gathering in the afternoon. After the second lesson at Evensong the Rector catechized the children. They were shy and ill-prepared and answered badly. He then extemporized what he calls a short lecture on the lessons of the Christian seasons, but the notes suggest that it was longer than he knew. He felt that it failed. As a matter of fact he was talking to the people on subjects other than those which filled their minds, and they grew restless and inattentive. After Evensong he explained the meaning of assent to the Prayer Book and Articles, then he read the Articles, and wound up with some remarks on the blessing of belonging to a pure branch of the Church, and a request for prayers. It must have been a very long service.

Mr. Laprimaudaye and his family stayed at Graffham Rectory until the middle of September, and Mr. and Mrs. Randall did not get into their home until October. Meanwhile the Bishop of Oxford placed Lavington House at their disposal, and here, when Mrs. Randall was able to join her husband, they made themselves very happy. They rejoiced in the exquisite beauty of their surroundings and enjoyed doing the honours of their new neighbourhood to the relations who came to visit them. This note of a Sunday evening walk describes many happy Sunday evening walks at Lavington:

After dinner had a walk up and along the downs with M. till we came to the point which overlooks Graffham. It was a most lovely evening and very clear. The sun fell well on the hills and on Petworth. We returned through the woods picking strawberries. The lights on and among the trees were exquisite, some stems quite glowed. It was in more senses than one a most happy walk. Surely our lot is cast even outwardly in a fair ground. Benedicto Benedicatur! We read The Christian Year as we went. The shades fell thicker and the calm, quiet evening darkened into night. Thus it is with all joy here, fading and fleeting; life itself, like the day, wearing on towards night, but like that night also to have another dawn. Be it a brighter one through the Dayspring from on high! Be He Light in us now, that we may be in His Light hereafter.

On the 1st of September Manning came back to Lavington and stayed as visitor in what had been his own house. He came to pack up his papers and arrange for the housing of his library. He stayed five days, and they were very trying days for the Rector and the parish.

On the morning of the second the Mattins bell rang and the little group of faithful assembled, and for the first time Manning did not come. There was a devout old shepherd there who never missed the daily office, and it cut him to the heart. 'I thought, sir,' he said afterwards to the Rector, 'as how I must git out of the place and go to the Rectory and tell him he ought to come.'

Manning spent the week in paying farewell visits among his people. He did not speak of his change of position unless he was questioned on it, but his presence greatly moved and perplexed many. There were people in the parish who had been baptized in the Roman Catholic Church as infants; these wished vaguely to become Roman Catholics. Some of Manning's devout older people were greatly perturbed. One became a Roman Catholic and afterwards returned to the Church of England. A young woman of the place in after years in London joined the Church of Rome. But there is no doubt that had Manning's conduct at this moment been less delicately correct he could have made a considerable capture.

On the last night of his stay, Randall, whose heart was full of anxiety for the people and sorrow for Manning, wrote him a little note of farewell which received the following reply:

Accept my sincere thanks for the note you have kindly sent and for the feelings which prompted you to write it.

I fully enter into them; and they have also guided my own conduct during the time of my stay at this place. It would give me much pleasure to accept of your kind offer of your carriage had I not already ordered a conveyance: I trust you will equally accept my thanks.

If indeed it has pleased our heavenly Father to make me unconsciously the means of any of His good gifts to you I am humbly thankful to Him, and desire the continuance of your prayers as the only and the highest return.

Let me assure you that your name is before me also every day, and, so far as I can, before the Throne of Grace. That the fullness of all Grace and Truth may be abundantly shed abroad upon you and through you upon the Flock, whom I love more than words can speak, will ever be my fervent prayer.

Believe me to be,

Yours faithfully in Christ,


Throughout Cardinal Manning's life Randall kept up occasional and always cordial relations with him. In 1856 Randall asked him questions about some of the Lavington people which he was able to answer in detail; he added:

I thank you very sincerely for what you say of my old flock. I never forget them. Every day they are in my mind.

It gives me also pleasure to interchange with you this assurance of kind regard; for I am year by year more maturely confirmed in the conviction and feeling I have so long entertained that when men sincerely desire only to serve God and His Truth personal animosities are unworthy. They are like the introduction of private hatred into honourable warfare, which all laws condemn. Men must oppose each other if they unhappily are opposed by what they believe their duty, but it is the opposition of a fair field; and in an impersonal conflict.

Two years afterwards Manning wrote to Randall about the removal of his books which he had left on their shelves in Lavington Rectory for the intervening seven years. This brought him to Lavington for the last time, and he left behind him an offering from his library to the Rector's bookshelves.

In 1867 on the death of one of the principal farmers, Mr. Randall sent the news to Manning--now Archbishop of Westminster--and the Archbishop charged him with affectionate messages to the mourners. 'I can assure you,' he wrote, 'that my old flock is very dear to me, and that I pray for every blessing upon it.'

A year later when Mr. Randall was leaving Lavington he offered Archbishop Manning a set of photographs of the place. The Archbishop wrote:


I thank you much for your note and for the kind thought of giving me some photographs of places very beautiful and dear in memory. I shall accept them very gladly.

I can fully understand what you feel at this moment. You have been at Lavington as long as I was, between seventeen and eighteen years. It does not need so long a time to make us leave it with great reluctance: and we shall neither find in this world any place like Lavington. I trust we shall find one more beautiful, but that is not in this world.

Pray give my kind remembrances to my old people.

Towards the close of Cardinal Manning's life he and Mr. Randall were in correspondence about the material needs of some whom they were both helping, and the Cardinal wrote:

Your affectionate letter, full of old times and vivid memories, has given me a very real pleasure. We have been united in many ways, and much that we hold dear we have in common. As you say, we are not likely to meet again. If I live till next July, I shall be in my eightieth year, and I now keep at home as much as I can. And, though you must be far behind me in years, perhaps you are not likely to come to this great Babylon in which I dwell.

Believe me always,

Yours affectionately,

HENRY E., Card. Archbp.

As long as any lived to remember him at Lavington, Manning's memory was proudly cherished. The old folks with whom forty-five years ago the writer had some intercourse, always wandered back in their reminiscences to the Archdeacon. 'A gra-and ma-an.'

'I've heered, sir,' said old James Todman, sitting one Sunday afternoon in the cool gloom of his spotlessly clean cottage, 'as how the Archdeacon is like to be made Pope-o'-Rome.'

The visitor felt it his duty to reply that this was a possibility.

'Well I 'opes as 'ow 'e will--I 'opes as 'ow 'e will.' A long pause and then a prolonged and ghostly chuckle from the big elbow chair, 'I should dearly like to say as 'ow I'd played a game of cricket with the Pope-o'-Rome.'

But Randall's admiration for his predecessor did not draw him by a hair's breadth to follow him towards Rome. There is not one line in all Randall's letters, journals, and papers to suggest that he ever had the shadow of a doubt as to the rightfulness of the Anglican attitude towards the later papal claims. He always made in his own mind a clear distinction between the claims themselves and the great group of Churches which agree in submitting to them. He loved, and was happy in, the Churches of France, Switzerland, and Italy, but of the papacy itself he did not hesitate to use the language of Andrewes, Laud, and Ken.

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