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A History of the Church of England in India
Since the Early Days of the East India Company

By Eyre Chatterton
Bishop of Nagpur

London: SPCK, 1924.

Chapter XIII. The Diocese of Madras, 1835


1. Daniel Corrie, consecrated 1835; died 1837.

2. George John Trevor Spencer, consecrated 1837; resigned 1849; died 1866.

3. Thomas Dealtry, consecrated 1849; died 1861.

4. Frederick Gell, consecrated 1861; resigned 1898; died 1902.

5. Henry Whitehead, consecrated 1899; retired 1922.

6. Edward Harry Waller, consecrated 1915; translated to Madras 1923.

Books of Reference.--The Church in Madras, by the Rev. Frank Penny, vol. iii.; Memorials of Bishop Gell.

FOR some years before the Consecration of Daniel Corrie, the first Bishop of Madras, a Diocesan feeling had been steadily growing in South India, largely through the influence of a succession of able Archdeacons. It was a far cry from Calcutta to Madras in those days, and as the Archdeacons of Madras were Commissaries of the Bishop of Calcutta and did a good deal of visitation work, their influence tended to prepare the way for the coming Bishop. The first Archdeacon of Madras to be appointed under the same Statute which had created the Bishopric of Calcutta in 1815 was the Rev. John Moulsey, formerly a Fellow of Balliol. On his death four years later, Edward Vaughan was appointed to succeed him. When he retired nine years later, he was in turn succeeded by the Rev. Thomas Robinson, who had been Chaplain to Bishop Heber and an intimate friend of that great Bishop. Thomas Robinson was a man of considerable force of character and a fine scholar, and it was thought at the time that he would certainly be appointed the first Bishop of Madras.

Bishop Corrie's brief Episcopate of a year and a half was crowded with work. Coming to Madras with a big reputation, he was given the most hearty welcome on all sides. A Madras lady writing home about him said: "Bishop Corrie called on us the other day, to my great delight"; for I had so long revered his character, that it was a very great pleasure to me to make acquaintance with him. He is a most noble-looking old man, with a very fine countenance and a gentle benevolent manner, a pattern for a Bishop in appearance as well as everything else."

Hardly had he finished inspecting the Church schools and other work in Madras, when he was summoned away to Tanjore and Palamcottah, to try to settle some serious disputes.

The Church in Tinnevelly was at this time suffering from divisions caused mainly by the defection of the Rev. C. T. E. Rhenius from the Church of England. Originally a Lutheran and a man of much personal devotion, he had been ordained in the Church of England, and had worked for many years in the C.M.S., 1814-35. In later life influences antagonistic to the Church of England had been too much for him, and he had even begun to ordain and confirm people himself. When dismissed from the C.M.S. he drew away with him a large number of his converts. At Palamcottah Bishop Corrie found that a bitter controversy was raging between his converts and our Church of England people. The Bishop traced it largely to unsatisfactory Catechists on both sides, who had been left too much to themselves. Shortly after this Rhenius died, when many of his converts returned to the Church.

The Tanjore Christians were apparently anxious for Bishop Corrie to relax the strict rules laid down by Bishop Wilson about caste, but after looking into the matter he was unwilling to do so. He was especially strong on the point that no caste could be allowed at the Holy Communion. In his diary he writes as follows: "The point I stood upon was the duty of attending the Lord's Supper without regard to who else might be present. . . . We are to think at that time only of the Saviour. ... If we refuse to receive the Sacrament because another has partaken before us, we lose sight of the Saviour."

Bishop Corrie held his first and only Visitation at St. George's Cathedral at the end of August 1836. It gives one some idea of the difficulties of travel in those days, when one reflects that of forty-two clergy summoned to his Visitation twenty-nine had to be excused attendance!

About this time a decidedly unpleasant duty was forced on the Bishop connected with a custom then prevalent in India, which required the compulsory attendance of English officers and officials at heathen festivals. It had been a custom from early days for the English civil Magistrate to attend these heathen festivals, sometimes with armed police for the preservation of peace. Then when this was no longer needed they were supposed to attend as a matter of courtesy. On certain occasions the troops were even turned out to fire salutes. Many of the English officials in Madras strongly resented having to attend these heathen festivals, and organised a petition to Government to relieve them of what was to them a tedious and unpleasant duty. The Bishop was asked by them to present the petition. This he did and was treated with quite unexpected discourtesy by the then Governor of Madras. Later on the matter was settled satisfactorily by the Governor-General. Possibly this custom might have continued a good deal longer, in spite of the disapproval of the Directors in London, had not Sir Peregrine Maitland, Com-mander-in-Chief in Madras, resented so strongly the punishment inflicted on a drummer-boy who refused to beat his drum at an idol procession, that he sent in his resignation. Then at length the authorities were compelled to act and the custom was abolished.

Bishop Corrie was succeeded by George John Trevor Spencer, a man in most respects quite unlike him. The great-grandson of the third Duke of Marlborough, he had held charges in England of no particular importance, with the exception of a few years as Vicar of Buxton, when he was appointed to the vacant See of Madras. He was consecrated at Fulham, and arrived in Madras in November 1838.

At that time the Church in India was experiencing considerable difficulty in getting English Clergy to come abroad either as Chaplains or as missionaries. For this reason Bishop Corrie and Archdeacon Robinson had been strongly in favour of a Eurasian ministry; and with this end in view had sent to Bishop's College, Calcutta, a number of promising young Eurasians. Bishop Spencer seems to have wholeheartedly adopted their policy. During his nine years' Episcopate he held no less than twenty-three Ordination Services, and ordained thirty-four candidates of whom quite a number were Eurasians.

Bishop Spencer had not long been in the Diocese when it became clear to every one that he was more interested in the missionary side of things than in work amongst his fellow-countrymen and Anglo-Indians. Doubtless the vision of a great Indian Church, at a time when missionary work was going forward by leaps and bounds, was in part responsible for this. It gives one an idea of the way in which Christian converts were increasing in numbers during this period, when one reads that during one of his Visitation tours he confirmed 3308 Indian converts.

He was a High Churchman of the old school, who thought less of ritual than he did of doctrine.

"I have little sympathy with the fashionable religion of the day, which seems to me ... to substitute feeling and much speaking for deep, quiet, unobtrusive, practical, self-judging faith, insisted upon by the Catholic Church of all ages, and once her universally recognised characteristic."

The fact that he insisted on the observance of Holy Days and especially of All Saints' Day, made many regard him as a High Churchman.

No one can read Penny's Church in Madras with its admirable photographs without being struck with the many handsome Churches which were erected during his Episcopate and that of his successor. The East India Company appears to have changed its original attitude towards Church-building a good deal as years went on. At the start they had taken up the attitude that if their servants in India wanted Churches they might build them for themselves. Then when the number of British troops in their service multiplied they felt bound to supply them with Churches as well as Chaplains free of cost. Later on they adopted the attitude of co-operating with the Church authorities in Church-building by giving substantial grants of money in proportion to the size of the Church and the amount privately subscribed.

It is clear from Penny that Bishop Spencer, who had spent all his life in England, resented a good deal the limitations of officialdom when he came to India, and was in this respect unlike either Bishop Corrie or Bishop Dealtry, who had served long apprenticeships in India. Bishop Spencer was a man of a rather imperious nature, reserved and autocratic, and on more than one occasion found himself in direct opposition to his Chaplains and his Archdeacon. On the other hand, he was immensely popular with the missionaries, and seems to have understood and sympathised with them in a quite .remarkable manner.

One action taken by him has been rather severely criticised. Shortly after his arrival in India, he discovered that in' many up-country stations the rites of baptism, marriage, and burial were being performed by civil and military officers in the absence of the Chaplain. With a view to putting an end to this system, he submitted the case to the Directors of the East India Company through the Madras Government, and asked that a legal opinion be obtained as to whether such marriages were legal. An opinion was given by four eminent lawyers that they were not. It is now fairly certain that the opinion of these distinguished lawyers was incorrect. The East India Company had large powers conferred on it by charter, and it would seem that amongst these powers was that of legalising marriages when the legalising means which existed in England were out of reach in India. These powers were, when necessary, delegated to the civil and military officers of the Company, who in turn reported to Government what they did. The Local Governments in India were of opinion, and most people would agree with them, that it was better for public morality that the leading civil and military officers should have the power of uniting persons in marriages, especially in out-of-the-way stations, when the number of Clergy in the country was so small that they could not always be there to perform the ceremony. As large numbers of the best people in India in those days had been married in this way, the decision of the four eminent lawyers brought about by Bishop Spencer's action was resented deeply, as it seemed to cast a doubt on the regularity of the marriages of people who had been living together for years as man and wife.

The immediate result, however, was one which Bishop Spencer could not have anticipated, as it led to the establishment, in 1842, of civil registrars in every district, with power to conduct civil marriages. Formerly the English officials or military officers who performed the ceremony had always used a religious service, whereas, under the Act of 1842, this was no longer necessary.

Bishop Spencer was invalided home in April 1847, and resigned his Bishopric in the following year. He was succeeded by Thomas Dealtry, who had been in India for about twenty years as Chaplain of the East India Company. He had been appointed Archdeacon of Calcutta by Bishop Wilson, and was well known in Calcutta as a leading Evange-.lical preacher. His long experiences in India had made him understand, in a way which Bishop Spencer never did, how best to deal with Government.

Certain questions connected with the burial of suicides and of Roman Catholic soldiers who had been refused burial by their own Clergy came up at this period. There were certain Chaplains who strongly objected to being asked to bury either of these unfortunate classes of people. Bishop Dealtry seems to have taken a broad and sympathetic attitude in this matter. He pointed out that Chaplains were constantly officiating at the burial of persons who had wandered out of the narrow way, and he could see no reason to make exception against those erring Christians of the Roman obedience who had been baptised in the Name of Christ. He preferred that the Clergy of his diocese should be kind and charitable in their action rather than stiff and censorious.

His experience as Archdeacon of Calcutta stood him in good stead during his Episcopate. Though a missionary-minded man, he was keenly interested in the work amongst the British and Anglo-Indians. Like his predecessor, he himself sent a number of Anglo-Indians to Bishop's College, Calcutta, for training as missionaries as well as Chaplains.

When he first came to Madras in 1850, there were 97 clergymen in the diocese, of whom 29 were Chaplains. At the time of his death, eleven years later, there were no less than 151 ordained clergy in the diocese, of whom 35 were Chaplains. Bishop Dealtry was a man of sound common sense, with considerable administrative ability. Though neither a scholar nor a theologian, he was a man of intellectual gifts, as is clear from the fact that he took a degree at Cambridge with first-class honours in the Law Schools. Always a keen Evangelical, he was a broad-minded man and most tolerant. He was a man with many friends and admirers in the Madras Diocese, and at his death a beautiful monument was erected in the Cathedral in his memory. On his tomb in the Cathedral burial-ground it is recorded that "He laboured in India with singular fidelity and inspiring devotion for more than thirty years."

Bishop Dealtry was succeeded by one who was destined to be Bishop of Madras for no less than thirty-eight years. Frederick Gell had been educated at Rugby when Dr. Arnold was master, and from Rugby had gone to Cambridge, where, in the year 1843, he was appointed Fellow and Tutor of Christ's College, Cambridge. After holding one or two livings in England, and having acted as Domestic Chaplain for a time to Archbishop Tait, he was called to the See of Madras at the age of forty.

Shortly before his arrival in India, he received an interesting letter from Bishop Cotton, referring to his future work. It is interesting to note that Bishop Cotton clearly thought that the attractions of Ootacamund had been too much for Bishop Dealtry, and that in his opinion "he was too little at Madras." It is also clear that Bishop Cotton thought that Bishop Dealtry ought not to have appointed his son, who was only an assistant Chaplain, to the vacant Archdeaconry. It is interesting, however, to know that Bishop Gell did not cancel this appointment, and that the youthful Archdeacon, by his ability and charm, gradually won all hearts.

When Bishop Gell arrived in Madras in 1861, there were 39,938 baptised Anglicans; when he retired thirty-eight years later, there were 122,371. When he started his Epsicopal career the Indian Clergy numbered 27; when he finished it, they numbered 154.

Bishop Gell never married. He seems to have taken Bishop Cotton's remarks about his predecessor seriously, and he spent but little time in the hills. During the early part of his Episcopate he was constantly touring through every part of his vast diocese. We must remember that at that time the Madras Diocese included what are now the Dioceses of Tinnevelly and Dornakal, as well as the Berars (now part of the Nagpur Diocese).

In one of his Pastoral letters Bishop Gell urged the European community to vigorous missionary effort and enterprise. This advice was taken hold of by the then Governor of Madras, Lord Hobart, who considered that it contravened the terms of the Queen's Proclamation, and even hinted that the Government might have to interfere. Bishop Gell's reply was both dignified and firm. It put the matter on the right basis, and further discussion ceased:--

"I am much obliged to your Lordship for telling me of the light in which my Pastoral is regarded by the Government. I have not understood that religious enlightenment and persuasion are forbidden by any Order, but only interference with any one in the exercise of his religion, favouring or disfavouring on account of it, the use of official power to turn a man from his religion, and similar acts. It is known quite Well that we object to such action as strongly as possible, and there is no appearance of anything of the kind in the Pastoral.

"But we do think that all Christians, knowing that every Mahomedan and every Hindu was created by Christ, is preserved alive by Him every day, will be judged by Him, and may find pardon and salvation in Him, should use as he has opportunity, and discreetly, not offensively, the instruments of enlightenment and persuasion, not force, to make them willing partakers of this wonderful knowledge and all its blessings."

Perhaps the most important act in Bishop Gell's Episcopate was the Consecration, in 1876, of two missionary Bishops to assist him in the work of his diocese. There were in the Madras Diocese, especially in its southern parts, powerful S.P.G. and C.M.S. Missions. Bishop Gell saw that it was quite impossible for him to give these missions and their converts such an amount of attention as they required. He was peculiarly unwilling to have his diocese divided, and eventually persuaded the Archbishop of Canterbury to accept the principle of having one Bishop for the C.M.S. and one for the S.P.G. That the arrangement worked admirably for some years was entirely owing to his wise selection of two admirable missionaries: Sargent of the C.M.S., and Caldwell of the S.P.G., to whom we have referred somewhat fully elsewhere. While there were not a few who felt that Bishop Gell ought to have retired at least ten years before he did (he was in his eightieth year when he resigned), no one ever doubted the immense influence he exercised by his devoted and holy life. It has been given to few to win the love of a diocese as was given to this tender-hearted and self-sacrificing old man.

Bishop Gell was in due course succeeded by Henry Whitehead, who like him was to enjoy the privilege of a long Episcopate. Henry Whitehead, after a distinguished University career, had been elected to a Fellowship at Trinity College, Oxford. Then came his "Call" to foreign mission work as Principal of Bishop's College, Calcutta. While Principal of this College events occurred in the history of the Oxford Mission to Calcutta which led to his being asked to become its Superior. Those who remember him in his Calcutta days will remember how immensely popular he was in Calcutta, both with Indians and with his fellow-countrymen. In spite df his many activities as Principal of Bishop's College and Superior of the Oxford Mission, he found time occasionally to distinguish himself on the cricket field, which added considerably to his influence in English society.

It is not for us to do more than briefly allude to the great work which he did for twenty years as Bishop of Madras. Those who knew him best used often to smile at the manner in which Madras and its problems, especially the Mass Movement problems, had so possessed his heart and imagination as to make him almost forget his Calcutta days and the needs of other places. Perhaps his greatest work while Bishop of Madras was the bringing into existence the Dornakal Diocese, which is now the seat of such remarkable spiritual activities.

There is a book with a red cover which every Chaplain and missionary in India knows full well, I mean the too little-valued Indian Church Directory; and if one wants to know in detail the multifarious spiritual activities which are going on in any of our thirteen Indian Dioceses, the simple thing is to turn to it. And when we do so, we find that practically all the branches of work which are being carried on in the other large dioceses are being carried on just as fully in the benighted Presidency.

There is, in the first place, a big work which is being done for the Anglo-Indian community. Madras has from the first been really keen about the education of these people. In the earliest days of the East India Company it had its military and civil schools for boys and girls, popularly but unfortunately called Asylums. Then there is the Bishop Corrie High School, the oldest educational institution in Madras, with which is now amalgamated the Bishop Gell Girls' School. In this mixed school where boys and girls are taught together, there are no less than two hundred children on the rolls, of whom one hundred and twenty are boys and eighty are girls. Madras also has its so-called Charitable School of St. Mary's in the Fort, cared for by the Chaplain in Black Town. At Bangalore there is the Bishop Cotton Boys' School, one of the best schools of its kind in the East, and also the Bishop Cotton School for girls. The Sisters of the Church, better known as the Kilburn Sisters, are doing great educational work amongst the better classes of European and Anglo-Indian girls at the Madras Collegiate School, Vepery, and at St. Hilda's, Ootacamund.

Madras has from the first been a pioneer in missionary work. Its chief missionary centres (now that it has been shorn of the Dioceses of Tinnevelly and Dornakal) are Madras City itself, Trichinopoly, Tanjore, Secunderabad, Cuddalore, Bangalore, Mysore City, and Ootacamund.

At Trichinopoly there is, in the words of the present Bishop, "the Heber College with a fairly vigorous work in the surrounding villages." At Tanjore there is a large Christian congregation, and a certain amount of vigorous effort at Kumbaconum. There are important Christian congregations at Negapatam and Cuddalore; Bangalore has a congregation of S.P.G. Christians, as well as a Hindustani congregation connected with the C.M.S. It also has work in certain out-stations. The C.M.S. have a vigorous work in the Nilgiris, Ootacamund, Coonoor, Katagiri and the Nilgiri Wynaad. If it is true that in most of the missions both S.P.G. and C.M.S. there have been gathered together large congregations of Christians in the past, the present Bishop of Madras feels that there is an immense work to be done in arousing these older Christian congregations to real evangelical activity. Unlike most of the other Indian Dioceses, the number of Christians is very great and their standard of education stands quite high.

Of one or two special pieces of work one would like to speak briefly. There is at Bangalore a Diocesan Settlement and Self-help Society established by the last Bishop of Madras for work amongst the Anglo-Indians. Over a hundred poor women are supported in it by needlework, which includes plain work, embroidery, drawn-thread and crochet. These industries are under the general care of St. John's Chaplaincy. In aditidon to this needlework industry, a certain amount of parochial work is done by the Lady Superintendent, including the holding of Bible-classes and visiting a Hospital. There is also a Girls' Club, and Library in connection with the Society.

Nowhere in India is the number of poor Anglo-Indians greater than it is in Madras. In 1914 Bishop Whitehead started the Society of St. Faith for work amongst this community. This Society is fortunate in possessing two deaconesses, of whom the head deaconess is Miss Creighton, a daughter of the late distinguished Bishop of London. They are engaged in all kinds of work for the uplift of this community, and one hopes that the example they have set in this direction may lead to the development of the work of deaconesses in all the larger centres of English life in India.

One must not forget that while the Church in Madras is doing a great work in the education of the Anglo-Indian and the Indian Christian communities, the military authorities in South India have not forgotten the children of the British soldier who lives and it may be dies in India. If in North India such children are cared for in the famous Lawrence Schools in Sana war and Murree, the Madras Presidency has got at Lovedale in the Nilgiri Hills a Lawrence Memorial School, which has within its walls no less than 465 of these children; of whom 300 are boys and 165 are girls. The school teaches up to the High School standard, and many of its boys, after completing their school education, enlist in British regiments and the Royal Artillery. Boys are prepared for entrance to the Indian Medical Department, police and railway services, and there is a telegraph class in connection with the Telegraph Department attached to the school.

We are fully conscious that in our description of the Madras Diocese far too little has been said of the great and silent work which has been done and is being done by its large body of Government and A.C.S. Chaplains. In the earlier days of the East India Company, when we were fighting hard for the mastery with Hyder Ali and Tippoo Sahib, there were more British soldiers in South India than in any other part of the country. During this period military stations grew up all over what is now the Madras Diocese, and the number of Chaplains to care for them was largely increased. The Madras Diocese of those days, from a military point of view, was very much what the Lahore Diocese is to-day. Now things are changed, and with the exception of big Cantonments at Secunderabad, Bangalore, Wellington, and Madras, together with a few other small military stations, Madras has perhaps fewer soldiers than even the Diocese of Lucknow or Nagpur. There is, however, excellent work being done for the soldiers in our Institutes at Secunderabad, Bangalore, and Madras.

We have more than once referred to the way in which Mr. Penny, in his Church in Madras, has removed misconceptions and ungrounded prejudices regarding the old East India Company and its Chaplains. It is interesting to note that in the third and last volume of his work, which deals with the early days of the Madras Diocese, he lets us see that the' standard of Chaplains still continued at a high level, and that for reasons which are now forgotten, quite a number of them were from the University of Dublin.

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