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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 VIII. All Saints', Clifton (I)

IN 1865 the Bishop of Oxford was feeling strongly that Randall should be given a larger sphere of influence. Sandhurst was vacant and, in consulting the Archdeacon about it, he mentioned his son's name. The Archdeacon sounded him but Mr. Randall was indisposed to consider the matter; his father acquiesced, but told him that some of his reasons were 'unduly deprecatory' of himself and his powers.

In the next year Bishop Wilberforce, in one of his rapid notes, put the question: 'Will you tell me truly, do you wish for larger town work if the opportunity offers?' 'When, a larger church?' In 1867 the opportunity came, but to his great regret not through Bishop Wilberforce.

That there is an All Saints', Clifton, must be placed to the credit of the Simeon Trustees. They created the need, and their disciples supplied the opposition necessary to the creation and discipline of a great spiritual work. In 1860 there were already many Tractarians in Clifton--but all the Clifton churches were in the hands of the Simeon Trust. Able-bodied and enthusiastic people made long pilgrimages to S. John's, Bedminster, where Mr. Eland was vicar and Mr. Hutchings and Mr. Corbet were working as curates, and to S. Raphael's where in 1859 the remarkable ministry of the Rev. A. H. Ward had already begun. To the east of Clifton, High Churchmen had found a home at S. Mark's, Easton, but Mr. Woodford, afterwards the venerated Bishop of Ely, had by this time left Bristol and become Vicar of Kempsford.

Closer at hand, S.John's, Redland, of which Mr. Walsh, a High Churchman of the pre-Tractarian type, was vicar, was the only church in which Tractarians could worship without being attacked and offended. S. John's was crowded to the doors, and as it was hampered by the pew system, the growing poorer population, which lives on the Clifton fringe, could not get admittance to it.

Two laymen set themselves to remedy this scandalous state of things, Mr. Harrington Bush, Churchwarden of S. John's, Redland, and Mr. Thomas Todd Walton, Secretary of the branch of the National Association for Freedom of Worship. They proposed, and Mr. Walsh magnanimously agreed, that a new district should be cut out of the Parish of S. John's and a large free and open church built on its edge where it touches the preserves of the Simeon Trustees. It was already more or less understood that free and open churches and Tractarian principles went together and that the new church was to exhibit the new type of service. But the task its originators set their hand to was simply to build a noble church open to rich and poor alike.

On November 13, 1862, five gentlemen met at Mr. Todd Walton's house to discuss the scheme: Mr. Pattrick, Captain Fenwick, the Rev. Nicholas Pocock, Mr. Todd Walton, and Mr. Harrington Bush. On January 10, 1863, these gentlemen assembled a few sympathizers and formed a committee. By the middle of February they got out a statement of their proposal. They proposed to erect and endow a church in which there should be no pew rents and all the seats should be free and unappropriated:

The populous and growing Parish of Clifton, numbering nearly 22,000 inhabitants, and frequented throughout the year by a numerous and fluctuating body of visitors, for whom there is an admitted deficiency of church accommodation, seems peculiarly to stand in need of a church open and free to all worshippers in common, and as this is the only example yet proposed of a church of this description in Clifton, it should be built on a corresponding scale, and, as the Committee feel, should also possess a character and architectural merit not unworthy of the high objects to which it is dedicated, and the present advancement of Ecclesiastical Art.

Matters moved rapidly. On April 25th Mr. George Edmund Street was appointed architect of the new church. In July Mr. Street's plans were examined and approved by the committee and before the end of that month had received the sanction of the Bishop. At this point some difficulties arose about the site, and it was not until May, 1864, that part of a field in the Pembroke Road was purchased from the Society of the Merchant Venturers. It was now decided that the church should be dedicated to All Saints and not to the Blessed Virgin as had at first been proposed. In August the excavations of the foundation began and in the same month the incumbency of the future parish was offered to the Rev. H. W. Sargent, Fellow of Merton and Incumbent of S. John Baptist, Oxford--the parish church which was also chapel of Merton College. Mr. Beresford Hope laid the foundation stone on November 3rd. After some discussion it was arranged that the patronage should be invested in five trustees for the space of twenty-one years, and that after that period it should lapse to the Bishop.

The building was delayed by a great difficulty; the site proved to be thickly covered by a deposit of red clay, and great concrete foundations had to be laid. It was decided to build the chancel and a temporary brick nave inside the partly raised walls of the permanent nave. When, at the beginning of 1867, this first portion of the work was drawing near completion, the promoters found themselves without an incumbent. Mr. Sargent was obliged from increasing ill health to relinquish the hope of coming to them.

Among other names, that of Mr. Randall was brought before the committee and it was suggested that he should visit Clifton and examine the situation on the spot. He was very much attracted by what he saw and heard, and in July he consulted his father and the Bishops of Chichester and Oxford as to whether he had better allow the matter to proceed further.

The Archdeacon wrote in reply as follows:


I think you are quite right in seeking the advice of your two Bishops and your Father; but I doubt whether all or any of us can settle the Point for you. It must, after all, rest upon your own Determination. All I can say is that I know you are capable of filling the Pulpit (any Pulpit) attractively and effectively (God granting His Help) both by Fullness of Head, Earnestness of Spirit, and Grace of Delivery, and also that wherever you go you will heartily devote all your Faculties to the Glory of God and the Edification of your People. Those are matters of which I have no Doubt; nor yet of the Persuasiveness of what, so far as it can come under your People's View, is more Persuasive than any other, the Preaching of a Life and an Example. That, you will say, is Flattery, but it is not; and when we are advising about a great Choice it must be stated. Whether your Line of Doctrine and Churchmanship will exactly suit your Position, it is impossible for me to judge; though from what I hear, I should suppose it will be nearly what is wanted. If I was going there with your Views, my Fear would be, lest I should chime in too much with my People and push them too much in the Direction in which they are sufficiently eager to walk of themselves.

The most difficult Part of the inquiry seems to be that which relates personally to yourself and your own concerns. Of course to the good Man and, a fortiori, to the good Priest, Self is nothing and the Service of Christ and His Church is everything. But it is always to be remembered that the working Power may be checked, and its Effect neutralized, by Hindrances from without; and therefore before we devote ourselves to a new Service, we may and ought to consider whether the Difficulties are such as to be likely so to embarrass us as to make our Work unavailing, as well as to spoil our Comfort, both which might well be the consequence of a Mistake in such a step as this. I, who am a very prosaic Person, look perhaps over anxiously upon the Prospect of such Difficulties, and am always fearful of seeing Clergymen or any other Men, embarking in Undertakings that may exceed their financial abilities, and fix them in a position which they can neither get on in, nor get out of, with credit. I do not think you need fear that much: though it must be thought of. Moving from Lavington to Clifton and establishing yourself in a house there, will necessarily be a very expensive Business; but in this Respect, it will be even an Advantage to you that you will not have a house on your Benefice; because if you find the Work too much for you or your Position unsatisfactory, you will not be under the Necessity of making another Move; but will be in an agreeable Residence, and in a Place convenient for bringing up your Family. I understand this to be a Circumstance which already, among others, weighs both with yourself and your dear Wife to incline you to leave your present sequestered (however delightful) abode, and come more within reach of the Appliances of Society.

I do not know that I can say any more. I think you will be able--I am sure you will be willing to do good service to the Church in a Place where it is much wanted. You must settle for yourself whether you can undertake it without involving yourself in such Anxieties as would destroy your Usefulness by ruining your Comfort.

You will do quite wisely in telling the Bishop of Gloucester what you intend to do. You cannot expect that he will commit himself to an Approval of all Details; but it would be every way desirable to know that he approved the general style both of your Doctrine and Mode of conducting the Services; and if he did not, I should not advise you to undertake the Post; for it would be very Uphill Work to command an outlying Fortress in a Country in great Degree occupied by--no, we must not say Enemies, but--Troops, though allied with us yet carrying on War upon very different Principles from ours; unless we enjoy the Confidence and Countenance of our own General.

Finally; 'Let the Counsel of thine own Heart stand: for there is no man more faithful to thee than it.

'For a man's mind is sometimes wont to tell him more than seven Watchmen that sit above in a high Tower.

'And above all this, pray to the Most High that He will direct thy Way in Truth.'

I need not advise you to do that; and I cannot advise you to do anything better; so I remain your affectionate Father,


'An outlying fortress,' so it appeared to the Archdeacon, writing in the civilized triangle between the points Winchester, Oxford, and London, and it really was something of an adventure. It meant pioneer work which must provoke opposition in proportion to its success; a ministry to a scattered flock as heterogeneous in its elements as an early Christian community. There was an endowment which would barely support one of the several assistant curates who would be needed, the financial cost of a noble church which would be expensive to maintain, a whole organization to be developed on lines now familiar throughout the country, then an untried experiment. Mr. Randall, it is true, was a man of easy means, but he was the father of a growing family to which he would naturally wish to give the surroundings of a happy home and all the advantages of his own upbringing. But he appears from the first to have felt the call to Clifton, and he did not pause longer than was necessary for full reflection.

On September 1st, the Feast of S. Giles, the Patron Saint of Graffham, he received the following letter from Mr. Woodford, Vicar of Kempsford:


I have been urging the Patrons of 'All Saints', Clifton, that is to be' to ask you to undertake it. If they do so, don't refuse. It is a most important post and I do honestly believe from an intimate knowledge of Clifton and Bristol that you are just the man for it.

What is wanted is a man who will have perfect services with a ritualism I should think such as that at present in use at All Saints', Margaret Street; perhaps the Clifton mind would not admit of lighted tapers at the Celebration.

Then good, vigorous, warm preaching would carry the place by storm. They would look for daily services and at least weekly celebrations.

Further, the Incumbent of All Saints' should be and would be the leader and rallying point of Churchmanship in the neighbourhood. He should live not ascetically--entertain leading Churchmen (laity) with a simple but dignified hospitality and he would have the whole place with him.

Now I do really believe that you are 'the man' with just the gifts and the means to fill the post, so please do not refuse if they apply to you, which I trust they will do.

I have written the above in order to render you fully up to the ins and outs of the place. We may have an opportunity of talking more about it in Ember-week.

Towards the end of September the Trustees of the future All Saints'--Mr. Walsh, Mr. Todd Walton, Mr. Harrington Bush, and Mr. Charles Ward--offered the post to Mr. Randall in a joint letter.

'We believe you are tolerably well informed,' they wrote, 'as to the circumstances under which the new Church of All Saints', Clifton, was projected and the views of those who have promoted the work. In praying you to accept the position of Incumbent of this Church, the presentation to which for a time has been vested in us as Trustees, we need not enter into further detail as to the work to be accomplished or the method in which it should be executed.

'We are, of course, aware of the sacrifice you will make if you should be pleased to accede to our request and accept the appointment, but we believe you may reckon on having amongst your people a body of trustworthy and zealous Churchmen who would at all times be ready with counsel, support and assistance should you ever be disposed to seek it, and who will heartily co-operate in any plans which you, in the exercise of your discretion, may deem either right or expedient.'

At the same time Mr. Bush wrote to the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol: [Charles John Ellicott, Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, 1863-97 > Bishop of Gloucester, 1897-1905.]

We have, after very careful inquiry and anxious consideration, arrived at the conclusion that we could not select any one who combined so many qualifications for what is really a very important position as Mr. Randall of Lavington and we have accordingly asked him to accept the Incumbency of All Saints'. We have not yet received Mr. Randall's reply and from the conversation we recently had with him at Clifton it is not probable that we shall do so until he has had the opportunity of fully discussing the matter with your Lordship.

Mr. Randall accepted the post in October and went into retreat to prepare himself for his future work. Towards the end of the month Bishop Wilberforce wrote to him:

I would not write to you before because I did not wish to break in in any way on your retreat. But I cannot be longer silent. I believe that you have decided this very anxious question aright: looking to the difficulty of filling this post; the great good which may be effected in it; and the way in which the offer of it has come to you unsought, as from the Hand of God, and that more than ever I shall hope to pray for you; and I trust you will feel that the measure of severance which it implies will be no severance of our intimacy and affection and that whenever I can be of use to you, you will freely and readily apply to me.

I cannot attempt to say what I know your loss must be to Lavington. Surely I can promise you that your last wish shall be secured but what I am to do in the meantime at all to fill the gap you will make there, is more than I can think. Since I got your letter I have prayed daily to God for some light upon the subject and shall go on praying. I wish you would too.

Mr. Randall had made his decision, and he came to Clifton in November to look for a house. The affairs of the future All Saints' were making but slow progress.

'I shall be glad to hear from you,' wrote the future Vicar to Mr. Bush, 'after the Bishop has been at Clifton. I hope it may not be very long before you are able to determine what will be the best plan to pursue about the district of All Saints. As soon as anything can be settled about the probable time of opening the Church, we ought to begin to organize and practice the Choir for the services.'

It was ultimately found possible to consecrate the church on June 8, 1868. Mr. Randall had said farewell to Lavington and come to Clifton a few weeks before.

'We are going through the very sore work,' he wrote from Lavington to Mr. Bush, 'of leaving this dear home. I am afraid you will have hard work to make me love Clifton as I have loved this place, but after all there is no home like a home in the hearts of others, and I think that you will give me that at Clifton. Forgive me saying this.'

Randall was not alone in his regret at leaving Lavington. One of his sons has recorded with what horror and dismay he, a lad of sixteen at Winchester, heard that his father was to forsake the breezy downs of Sussex 'to be the first vicar of a new and very High Church called All Saints', Clifton.' Though some memories of Lavington were a little austere--'We boys had to go to church morning and evening every day of our lives when at home and sing in a surpliced choir'--the boys had shared with their father to the full all the delights of a country life.

None of us boys liked the change to Clifton, and I for one hated it, and shall never forget my misery the first time I came there from school when I could not find the house, and had to go and wait at the church, which I did manage to find, till my father came out. But the crowning blow of all was when I came to the front door and found it shut, and we had to ring the bell. To ring the bell at the door of one's own house, instead of finding it open as it would have been at Graffham in summer time, and rushing in! It seems a small thing, but I have never forgotten the feeling of un-homeliness.

The Bishop consecrated the church and preached on June 8, 1868, and the other preachers during the octave included Mr. Butler of Wantage, afterwards Dean of Lincoln; Mr. Gregory, soon to be Canon and afterwards Dean of S. Paul's; Mr. Leslie Randall, afterwards Bishop of Reading; Mr. H. W. Burrows, afterwards Canon of Rochester; Archdeacon Denison; and the Vicar. The general subject of this course of sermons was 'The House of God.'

Still the district was not constituted. Six weeks later the Vicar wrote in urgent terms to Mr. Bush:

I shall feel very much obliged if you will try and discover, if possible before I have the pleasure of seeing you this evening, what is the real hindrance to the completion of the formation of our district. It is a very serious matter that the assignment of the district should be so long postponed. You will remember that I only undertook the charge of All Saints' on the clear understanding that I was to be in the position of an Incumbent. I fully expected that the arrangements would have been completed before the Consecration, but, instead of that, six weeks have now elapsed, and the district is not yet assigned. In consequence of this I am unable to take any charge of the people in the district, and I am also refused leave to perform any office of the Church by the Incumbent, to the great disappointment of at least one of our Congregation. I must earnestly press upon you that I cannot long carry on work at All Saints' under such circumstances. I must resign it, if the district is not soon formed, and all the affairs definitely settled. It would not be without great regret that I should do this for the work interests me deeply, but from the first, before I resigned my old work at Lavington, I always understood that I should enter on an Incumbency here. I write to you the more anxiously about this because I understand from Mr. Charles Clarke that if the business of assigning the district is not completed by the end of this month or the beginning of next, we shall have to wait a whole year for the assignment. If that should turn out to be the case, I must relinquish the work here at once.

This letter expedited matters, and two months later, on Sunday, September 27th, Mr. Randall was able to 'read himself in' and take full possession of his parish. He read the first half of the Articles after Mattins and the second half after Litany at four in the afternoon.

In asking the churchwardens to be present on this occasion at the Litany he wrote:

I cannot write to make this request without thanking you for all the trouble you have taken about the affairs of All Saints'. I hope it may please God to prosper the work of that Church and that in its success you will feel your trouble and anxiety repaid.

A fortnight afterwards Mr. Randall had prepared lists of all the people in his district and was examining them with the help of his churchwardens. The lighting of the nave had to be remedied. A deputation of residents waited on the new Vicar to complain of the annoyance they suffered from the frequent sound of the church bell calling people several times a day to worship. The haunting suspicion lurked at the back of many minds that so much worship seasoned of idolatry. Of the first Patronal Octave only one note survives. The famous series of sermons began in 1869. In 1868 the great preachers had come in the Octave of the Consecration. But the wonderful sequence of children's parties at which the Vicar made his great annual speech to the young people, began in a very simple fashion on November 3, 1868.

'I hope,' wrote Mr. Randall to Mr. Bush, 'you will allow your little boy to come and spend this evening with us. I have asked all the choristers to do so and to come here at half-past seven if their friends will allow them.'

Mr. Street planned a vast and very lofty nave with arcades supported by massive dwarf columns on either side and opening at the east end into a chancel and two chapels which are shut off from the nave by brass and iron screens. The design is said to have been suggested by a Dominican church in Seville in which, however, lateral chapels open upon the narrow arcades of the great nave. The architect said at the time that he set himself to design a building in which the absence of many altars would be less painfully felt than usual, and he has succeeded in building one with no altar room anywhere except along its eastern walls. The church is built of stone and Mr. Street has so varied the colour of the stonework of the interior by using bands of blue lias, red Mansfield and Box for the voussoirs and soffits of the arches as to get a Lombardic effect. The whole impression, the height, the vast extent of tesselated pavement, partly cleared on weekdays of chairs, and the gathering of the apertures of chancel and eastern chapels under the great nave roof, is that of a Gothic church in the south of Europe. The lateral walls of the nave are pierced by pairs of lancets surmounted by circles, and the dwarfed character of the arcading and the great height of the nave's roof leave room for an unusually large and important clerestory. Large windows break the eastern and western walls. So much of the glass is seen at a glance that it was very important to get a harmonious design for the whole. Mr. John Powell, who designed for Messrs. Hardman of Birmingham, planned a great series of windows under the supervision of Mr. Randall, assisted by Mr. Skinner of Newlands, and with the help of the criticism of Mr. Street. The design was carried out by degrees, but the greater part of the glass was in place when the church was completed in 1872.

Between the west windows, which represent the creation and the fall of the angels, and the creation and the fall of man, and the east window of the chancel which represents our Lord in glory surrounded by All Saints, stretches a Bible in glass. The upper lights of the great clerestory windows contain the scenes of our Lord's life and work from His baptism to the descent of the Paraclete, and the lower lights show the corresponding types of that life and work in the Old Testament. In the walls under the arcades the circular windows represent the Fruits of the Spirit, and in the lancets are two lines of English saints, the women on the north side and the men on the south.

A year after the first fragment of the church was opened, the congregation began to be very impatient for its completion; they were painfully crowded together. Many persons failed to get into the building Sunday after Sunday. Funds came in slowly, and the committee felt overburdened by the magnificence of the original design. Under these circumstances there arose a cowardly group in favour of cutting down the expense and spoiling the church. Happily Mr. Randall and Mr. Street were too strong for them, and the discussion ended by giving fresh impetus to the work. It was estimated that about £13,500 was needed to finish the church clear of debt, and in March, 1870, Mr. Randall was able to put out a public appeal for funds and announce that nearly six thousand out of the thirteen had been already promised. In September, 1871, Mr. Randall was in a position to announce that the original building debt had been paid off and that the walls of the nave were rising. He asked for £2,000 to enable them to be carried up to a sufficient height to receive the roof, and he mentioned that private offerings had provided for the screen and its gates, for two-thirds of the great cost of the organ, for the painting of the chancel roof, for the altar plate, and for most of the ornaments of the church and altar.

In September Mr. Street's drawing for the rere-dos arrived. The reredos was to be the thank-offering of the Vicar and communicants for blessings received in Holy Communion, and the design and its execution greatly delighted Mr. Randall. In directing the churchwardens to apply for a faculty for its erection, he describes the work as follows:

It may be called 'the Worship of our Blessed Lord upon His Throne from the Book of Revelation.' The figure of our Blessed Lord is seated on the Throne, and around Him are placed, either standing or kneeling, David, His great forefather in the flesh, Isaiah, the Prophet of the Incarnation, S. Peter, the first to acknowledge His Divinity, S. John, who has most expressly recorded it, S. Paul, converted to the Faith by the vision of our Blessed Lord, S. John the Baptist, our Lord's immediate forerunner, the Blessed Virgin, of whom our Lord was born, S. Mary Magdalen, the type of accepted penitence, S. Jerome as one of the Doctors of the Church and translator of the Bible, and S. Augustine of Canterbury, as the Restorer of Christianity to England. Below the main group is an Angel at the Sepulchre, witnessing to the truth of the Resurrection. The teaching of the whole may be summed up as 'the Witness of the Saints to our Blessed Lord's divinity.' It seems to me to be not only most appropriate for the Church of All Saints' but to set forth the very truth of Christianity which has been so sadly denied in our time. It ought certainly to recommend itself to our Bishop as a witness in behalf of what he has sought to defend. Shall I add that it may find additional favour in his eyes because the group contains so eminent a Reviser of the translation of Holy Scripture as S. Jerome?

The Chancellor raised a difficulty about the design, which is extraordinary even among the records of diocesan chancellors. S. Augustine held the crucifix with which he advanced towards King Ethelbert; the figure was to be carved in very low relief on the front of a banner. The Chancellor objected to this crucifix. In vain poor Mr. Street, who at the instance of the Bishop of Oxford had lately placed a large stone crucifix over the altar of Cuddesdon parish church, pleaded that he might not be asked to falsify history but might be allowed to represent S. Augustine 'not as this age might wish him to have appeared but in this respect at any rate just as he really did appear.' The Chancellor was obdurate. S. Jerome's Cardinal's hat which lies conspicuously on the ground in the front of the group, he passed, but the little five-inch figure of the Crucified he condemned. Mr. Randall and Mr. Street proposed that this figure should be painted on the banner instead of carved in low relief and were gratified to discover that it was the low relief which the Chancellor minded most, so the design was slightly altered and the faculty secured.

Mr. Randall was now working with all his might to secure the completion of his church. 'I have been more impudent in the cause of All Saints',' he writes, 'than I ever was before. Indeed, I have hardly any shame left, and shall soon be as bold as a street beggar.' He succeeded: in the August of the following year the completed church was ready to be opened, but before then a storm which had been gathering for some time broke over the heads of the Vicar and his flock.

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