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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 XI. Chichester

IN 1891 died Dr. Elliot, who had been Dean of Bristol since 1850, and Dr. Pigou was translated from the deanery of Chichester to succeed him. He found the linen for the altar of the cathedral church of Bristol in such a state that it all had to be at once burnt, and until new linen cloths were ready, what was necessary was supplied from All Saints', Clifton.

There was considerable delay in filling the deanery of Chichester. The Archdeacon of Bristol was offered the post, but he died a few days after his acceptance of it. On February I, 1892, Canon Randall received from Lord Salisbury the offer of the deanery, which he accepted on February 3rd. The offer was not quite unexpected. In after years Randall would reproach himself for having 'sought' the post, which meant that he had allowed his friends to approach Lord Salisbury on his behalf. But soon after the deanery had been accepted, Lord Salisbury remarked to the Duke of Beaufort that he thought it was the most satisfactory appointment he had ever made, so numerous were the letters he had received which enthusiastically commended his choice of Canon Randall. For Randall himself it was one of the happiest moments of his life. He was delighted to return to Sussex where he had so many friends and so many happy associations; he looked forward to daily rides over the Sussex Downs, and to living within easy reach of very familiar and very beautiful country. Above all he was immensely gratified with the congratulations he received on all sides, and the splendid welcome Sussex gave him.

Here are letters from Dr. Ellicott, and from Dr. Durnford, now in his ninetieth year, who had been Bishop of Chichester since 1870:

Feb. 2, 1892.


Your letter, just received, has given me most sincere pleasure. I won't disguise from you that I was consulted on the subject, that I strongly advised the offer, and that I was getting a little fidgety that it had not come off. Now I rejoice to know that all is as I sincerely wished it to be.

I have thus indirectly given you my advice. By all means accept it. You have done a great and good twenty years' work at Clifton, and will rightly take the dignified and more restful post among old friends, and with the hearty good wishes of all. You are the very man for the post. You will of course be greatly and even acutely missed at Clifton, but I may comfort you by saying that I think I shall be able to secure a successor whom you and yours will welcome, and who will carry on successfully your work.

So drop the Prime Minister a line--and give, as it will give, to numberless good and faithful people great cause for rejoicing ....

Few things have given me more pleasure than this--though, believe me, I shall be very, very sorry to lose you.

One hint, keep the matter close till it appears in The Times.

May God bless, guide, and go before you in all your ways.

Very sincerely yours,


Feb. 5, 1892.


We thought our Church forgotten, but now we see that a good Providence watched over the interests of this diocese, and has ordered all things, now as ever, well and wisely. For my own part, I feel no small relief. There is no reason that Bishops and deans should [not] live in perfect love and peace together; on the contrary, there is everything to bind one to the other, but the perversity of man mars the sweet accord and one has seen too many examples of coldness, distrust, even of unseemly wrangling between the head of the Chapter and the head of the diocese. I have been so far happy that with very dissimilar deans, and both not altogether easy to get on with, I have lived not only in peace, but in real friendship. This is a good omen, but no omen was needed to presage entire concord between yourself and me.

I am quite satisfied that your Chapter will be well pleased. You know them all, good churchmen, honest, sober, amenable to just authority. They must rejoice not only at the head they have got, but also, if report speaks truly, at the men they have escaped.

I am sorry I missed you to-day, but I had a pious errand not to be neglected. And at any rate if I had seen you, I could have said no more than I say now, nor with greater truth.

I hear your predecessor is popular in the city 'for commerce and dirt renowned.' He is far better suited for Bristol than for Chichester, and his promotion (let us take it so) was a good and happy measure. . . .

I hope Mrs. Randall likes a return to Sussex as well as I know you do. My daughter is delighted at the prospect of her coming.

Sincerely yours,


The following letters came from the Bishop of Newcastle, the Bishop of Lincoln, and Mr. Gore, then Principal of Pusey House, Oxford:

Feb. 5, 1892.


We have the good news here to-day, and are rejoicing with our friends, the dear old Mitfords; her joy is quite touching to see. I am indeed most glad that this entirely deserved recognition of your long and valuable services to the Church should have come about; you will rejoice in being in the old diocese again, and not far from the old scenes, and the diocese will be glad to have you.

May you and dear Mrs. Randall have many years of health and strength to enjoy and adorn the position to which you are called. I am afraid, however, that Clifton will be in despair!

I am, with love to you both, ever Yours affectly,


Feb. 7, 1892.


I am so glad! not for Clifton's sake but for the Church, and Chichester, and for you. I think you will find it a rest, and with all the memories of Old Days it looks to me like a happy sunset; may it be so for you and many with you, and may it lead to a still brighter and happier sun-rising. I trust you are all well.

With my love and blessing to you all and for the New Life, Believe me, yours ever affec.,


Feb. 5, 1892.


My opinion of Lord Salisbury as a dispenser of Church Patronage has gone up again with a bound, at least for the moment. Surely there could be no more suitable and righteous appointment than he has now made. Let me congratulate you--still more Chichester. I have always earnestly wished to see you in control of a Cathedral. Though judging from Burgon's Life the control is by no means complete. But you will not deal with your Canons à la Burgon.

Yours very sincerely,


The Bishop of Reading had already promised in the previous November to provide his brother with his 'shovel' hat if the offer of the deanery should come, and had exhorted him 'as you value your legs, not to order your breeches till you have seen me.' He wrote now to tell him of the one and only tailor who could achieve such gaiters and breeches as would properly display his 'manly proportions,' and proposed to be present himself when the measuring was done. On February nth Randall reported to his wife that he had spent an hour and a half in the fitting of his new clothes.

Randall came to Chichester ardently desiring and steadfastly determined to make the most of a magnificent opportunity. S. Paul's in London was indeed a splendid example of what a cathedral church might be, but S. Paul's, with its solemn worship and excellent preaching, was a conspicuous exception to the general rule. Randall's purpose was that Chichester should be among cathedrals what All Saints', Clifton, was among parish churches. In spite of the Puritan traditions of Bristol, he had made All Saints' a great stronghold of Catholic witness and Catholic devotion, and he hoped now that the beautiful church of Chichester would become another such stronghold in Sussex. The circumstances, however, were very different. At All Saints' Randall had been very definitely in supreme command. He had successfully defied the bishop of the diocese; for his curates and the officials of the parish his word had been law; his large congregation, drawn from a wide area and a vast population, had consisted of those who were keenly in sympathy with his aims and devoted to himself.

The cathedral church of Chichester was of the 'Old Foundation.' Its statutes had never been arranged in ordered form. Administration was in the hands of the Chapter, over which the Dean presided, but he had no second or casting vote. The Dean had no control, apart from the Chapter, over the priest-vicars and the other members of the staff. There was no one connected with the cathedral who had come into intimate and personal touch with the later developments of the Oxford Movement. The cathedral was a very poor foundation; the incomes of the canons were not sufficient for them to live on, and the result was that in some cases they were responsible for work away from Chichester. Of the four priest-vicars, three held livings, and only one resided in the Close. Chichester itself was completely unlike Bristol or Clifton. It was a small country town whose municipal affairs seem to have been conducted with unusual acrimony; the citizens were proud of their cathedral, and were chiefly anxious that its traditional customs should be maintained.

It must be admitted that the gifts of initiative, of rule, of courage, of pertinacity which had made Randall so successful at Clifton were not the gifts which obviously fitted him for the extremely delicate task of co-ordinating and inspiring the administration of a cathedral church where tranquillity and conservatism were most desired. From the first it seems to have happened that while there was no overt opposition between Randall and the Chapter as to what was to be done, Randall could get little vigorous and practical support in translating into effect what was proposed. The first time the new Dean met the Chapter, the restoration of the daily Celebration in the cathedral was discussed, and it was agreed that the daily Celebration should begin when it could be arranged. It was begun in Advent, 1894, but the Bishop was opposed to it, and Randall had to carry on the daily Mass without any effective help. There was urgent need for restoration of parts of the cathedral, but in this matter Randall was soon in conflict with the Executive Committee, and in December, 1894, he withdrew from the Committee because it was proposed to appoint an architect whom he did not think competent for the work.

Dr. Durnford died at Basle in October, 1895, and the see of Chichester was offered in November to Dr. Ernest Roland Wilberforce. Dr. Wilberforce was the third son of the famous Bishop of Oxford. He was born at Brighstone in 1840, and had spent his boyhood mainly at Lavington and Cuddesdon, where he had been on intimate and affectionate terms with Randall. He had done excellent work as Vicar of Seaforth, a suburb of Liverpool, to which he had been appointed by Mr. Gladstone, and as Canon of Winchester; in 1882, at the age of forty-two, he became the first Bishop of Newcastle, and he had very successfully inaugurated the new diocese. The Bishop was a sound Anglican Churchman of the type represented by his father; he was fair and kindly and reasonable in his dealings with his clergy. He would often say of himself that he was 'a very poor Ritualist,' meaning that he had little expert knowledge or aesthetic appreciation of the liturgical and ceremonial aspects of divine worship. He had certainly no personal experience of the intimate working of the Catholic system.

Randall was delighted to hear that Dr. Wilberforce had received the offer of the see, and wrote to him as follows:

Nov. 9, 1895.


My heart is full of joy. Our Prayers have gone up daily throughout a large part of the Diocese, and our thanks so God ought to be fervent indeed. It is strange that you turn to me a second time for advice, stranger still that you should ask me to give an unprejudiced answer. It is not easy to do that with all the old Lavington Memories thick upon me; but I do not think I am misled even by them, in saying, 'Accept, without hesitation,' not without distrust of self, nor without simple trust in God. He is opening the way for you and a great work is before you. Great as is our loss, God has given you some great gifts which will specially fit you to take up our dear Bishop's work, a warm and affectionate heart, powers of wide sympathy, energy in a great cause, but forgive me for so speaking. We have had Wisdom, Firmness, Clearness of Judgement, use of speech, untiring labour, but, if I know you at all, you will be able to give us a little of that Fire of enthusiasm which your dear Father had, to light up hearts and hopes, and to weld men together.

I quite understand your not wishing to break with your present work, and diocese.

That feeling must always come when we are asked to change our sphere of work, but there is so much of hope for you in the work here that you may put that regret aside. The Churchmanship of this Diocese is to a very large extent sound and true. There will be no special difficulties in the work. The organization is complete, and you could work well on the lines of our late Bishop.

To me personally your coming will be of the greatest service in my work. It is no easy matter to put life into the Cathedral System, and you will be ready to help me.

My dear wife is full of joy. She saw your letter, guessed what it might mean, as it lay unopened, and went to Evensong, as she said, to sing a Te Deum (that was quite out of order at Evensong). There, I have said too much, but my dear, dear Ernest, come and make our hearts glad.

Yours ever affectionately,


The enthronement of Bishop Wilberforce was arranged for January 28th, but before his arrival in Chichester Randall wrote him this letter:

January 21, 1896.


I am delighted with the account of your work in the paper. It does not 'crack you up' (your own words, mind) a bit too much. It is only what I had heard before. You must let it send you to us with bright and keen Hope, for He Who has helped you hitherto will help you again (not that I insinuate that you are of the sect of Ebenezer!). Your coming is like a Ray of Light to me, breaking through the heavy clouds of Discouragement, and unsympathetic treatment, that have so long brooded over me. I have so long been accustomed to meet with warm and generous and affectionate support that the Cathedral atmosphere almost freezes all spiritual Life out of me. I have well-nigh lost all heart. I came here with one sole desire and aim, to use all the opportunities which the Cathedral System ought to give, to promote the Honour and Glory of God, and the good of the souls of those whom our influence ought to reach. I have thrown myself gladly, cordially, into the plans started by the Chapter, only to rind them hampering and hindering their own Plans. This has been too sadly the case in the attempt to restore the Cathedral--to restore the Daily Celebration--and to make the Choral Celebration, which we have on Sundays, all that it ought to be. All those three things were first started by members of the Chapter, and all three have been hindered or marred by the unwise course of action that has been pursued. We never seem to rise to a real perception of the high duties of a Cathedral Body to set before the Church and Diocese a standard of Christian Devotion and solemnity of worship which may raise the Faith and the Love of Piety to something like the Pattern of the Apostles' Days. There are no difficulties in our way. Greater spiritual advantages would be welcomed by the people. The opposition comes from those who ought to be foremost in zeal for the Honour of God. There is the cry of a crushed and wounded heart.

Believe me,

Yours affectionately,


In spite of the absence of enthusiastic and sympathetic co-operation, which it was inevitable that he should miss all the more because of his very different experience at Clifton, there was a good deal to make Randall happy at Chichester. The cathedral itself was to him an unceasing delight. He thought it one of the most beautiful in England, and he would define as its special character a 'winning sweetness' exactly expressive of the calm, still, delicate beauty of Sussex. It was a great happiness to him to restore the chapel of S. Clement, with a reredos of three finely carved figures of SS. Clement, Alphege, and Anselm, fitting into the ancient wall arcade. In this chapel was placed a recumbent effigy of Bishop Durnford in cope and mitre, under a magnificent canopy. In 1901 the Archbishop of Canterbury came to preach at the dedication of the north-west tower. Since the seventeenth century, when the old tower collapsed, the ruins of it had defaced the western front of the cathedral. It was an immense improvement when the tower was restored again. Randall was a munificent contributor to the cost of these various works.

Randall arranged frequent services in the cathedral, special preachings in Advent and Lent, instructions, and catechisms for children, and in his more cheerful moments he would admit that there were good and appreciative congregations.

Though quite unmusical himself, the Dean had strong ideas as to the place of music in divine worship. It was very unfortunate that at Chichester the organist did not share Randall's view as to the supreme importance of the choral Celebration. Randall thought that the music for the canticles and anthems at the choir offices should be short and simple, and that the chief musical effort should be reserved for the Mass. He would mark his disapproval of the anthem by leaving his stall and going out of the choir when the anthem began on Sunday afternoons, returning to his place when it was over. In 1897, when it was proposed to shorten and simplify the music for the canticles and the anthems, a petition against the changes, signed by the Mayor and most of the corporation and about four hundred inhabitants, was presented to the Canon in residence; and the Chichester Observer, as on other occasions, was severely critical of the Dean, suggesting that the anthems were more highly appreciated than his sermons. On one occasion at least he preached for fifty minutes.

On the whole, as the years went by, Randall became more and more sad and disappointed. The people of Chichester seemed untouched by his message. The attendance at the daily Mass and on Holy Days and at the daily choir office was very poor. There was no such martial discipline in the cathedral church as there had been at All Saints'. The priest-vicars still claimed that it was no part of their duty to sing the High Mass. The Dean was allowed to celebrate at seven on Sundays with no one to assist him, being forbidden to invite any outside the cathedral body to help him.

Randall had hoped much from the coming of the new Bishop. Dr. Wilberforce was always kind and friendly, and in 1896 entrusted his daughter to the Dean for preparation for confirmation. But he did not enter enthusiastically into Randall's plans. It was scarcely to be expected that he should do so. Nevertheless it was profoundly vexing to Randall that the Bishop should continue to leave the choir in the middle of the choral Celebration, that he did not attend the weekday services or the special services of Advent and Lent, and that when he celebrated, he did not observe the use of the cathedral with respect to the mixing of the chalice and the ablutions. The Bishop was no less displeased with the Dean because with respect to the ceremonial mixing of the chalice he 'flatly refused' to obey his order to conform to the Lincoln judgement.

Randall would of ten quote to his son as applicable to himself,' He gave him his desire, and sent leanness withal into his soul.' His health began to fail. The climate of Chichester did not suit him; the place lay low, and the air was relaxing, in contrast with the breeziness he had in old days associated with Sussex. The downs were in fact too far away for daily rides. Gradually he became convinced that a younger man might succeed where he seemed to have failed, and on December 16, 1901, he sent in his resignation of the deanery to Lord Salisbury. He wrote on the day after to Dr. Wilberforce:

Yesterday I sent in my resignation of the Deanery to Lord Salisbury. I need scarcely say that the step has caused me much pain, but that in the present state of our Cathedral it was necessary to take it, quite as much for the future good of the Cathedral, as for my relief from the bitter disappointments of these many past years. I must also announce my resignation to you. This is a sharper pang, for I had hoped that much might have been done for the good of the Cathedral, of the Diocese, and of the Church if I could have had your hearty co-operation and support in what I have tried to do. ... I am staying here in my daughter's house as we think that we have found a house that may suit--a Refuge for the Destitute. There was one who said: 'I have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile.' I can almost adopt his words.

Here is the Bishop's reply:

Dec. 18, 1901.


I hope you will be happy in the choice you have made. But I cannot but again say I think your resignation uncalled for, and that if you could only have been content 'to live and let live' you might have passed the evening of your days here happily, and with profit to us all. But I cannot pass over your words to myself in silence: 'if I could have had your hearty co-operation and support in what I tried to do.' This I consider to be both unjust and ungenerous, and I am surprised you should allow yourself to make such a charge.

There is much, very much, that might be said on the other side, but I forbear, and only repeat my sincere hope that you will be happy and satisfied in the life you are choosing.

I am, ever yours affectionately,


After his resignation Randall lived in London, in Earl's Court Square. On his arrival there he sat for the last time on his favourite cob to be photographed, and he never mounted a horse again. He spent three years in London, and then went first to Horton, near Windsor, and thence to Bournemouth, where he died on December 23, 1906, after a long illness which he bore with exemplary patience, cheerfulness, and courage.

The funeral was very appropriately on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Mr. Dunn sang the Requiem Mass at the Church of All Saints, Branksome: then followed at once the burial service, said by Mr. Leary and Mr. Mackay, and the body was laid in a simple earth grave in the churchyard.

Randall has a conspicuous place among the priests who translated into practice in their parishes the teaching of the first Tractarian divines. He did a great work of recovery and development as Manning's successor at Lavington. He inaugurated at All Saints', Clifton, a centre of witness and worship which has grown stronger and stronger since his time. It is much to his credit that he refused to acquiesce in the dullness and inertia which marked the life of most cathedral churches thirty years ago. Moreover, his work at Chichester was not fruitless. When the Cathedral Commission visited Chichester in 1926 their report was:

The situation of Chichester with regard to the geography of the diocese and as a centre of population does not make for great crowds, or that general interest which the Mother Church deserves. But those who live near atone for this. The cathedral is a real home of prayer, and the members of the body are all effectively resident in choir.

If Randall could visit Chichester to-day, he would find the offering of the Holy Sacrifice every morning, S. Richard's shrine restored, the chapels furnished, and on Sundays High Mass sung in the choir, with the lights burning on the altar and the vestments for the ministers in use, which he maintained at so much cost at All Saints'.

Sometimes, no doubt, Randall was tempted to despair. But he did not fail to remember again what Pusey had written to him long ago:

Fortes pejoraque passi
Mecum saepe viri,
Nil desperandum Christo duce et auspice Christo

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