Project Canterbury

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 XVIII. The Diocese of Lahore, 1877. The Home of the Fighting Races of India


1. Thomas Valpy French, consecrated 1877; resigned 1887; died 1891.

2. Henry James Mathew, consecrated 1888; died 1898.

3. George Alfred Lefroy, consecrated 1899; transferred to Calcutta 1913; died 1919.

4. Henry Bickersteth Durrant, consecrated 1913.

Books of Reference.--Life of Thomas Valpy French, Bishop of Lahore, by Herbert Birks; Life of George Alfred Lefroy, by Bishop Montgomery; Allnutt of Delhi; The Story of the Delhi Mission; Thirty Years of Missionary Work in the Punjab; The Missions of the C.M.S. and C.E.Z.M.S., with Punjab and Scindh, by Robert Clark; Rowland Bateman, by R. Maconachie, I.C.S.; Pennell of the Afghan Border, by A. M. Pennell; A Life of A.L.O.E.; Two Hundred Years of S.P.G.; Beyond the Pir Panjal, by Dr. Ernest Neve.

THERE is certainly no diocese of the Anglican Communion which has a history more strikingly interesting than that of Lahore. Some day we hope that the right person will come forward to tell this history fully. Like most of the Indian Dioceses, it embraces a huge amount of country, and that of a very varied type. The kernel of the diocese is of course the Punjab, with the enclave of Delhi, but to this must be added the desert country of Scindh and the hill countries of Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier Province. The Bishop is also responsible for the Episcopal supervision of Kashmir, and, until an Anglican Bishop was recently appointed to Persia, was supposed to visit the Persian Gulf and the different English communities in that neighbourhood.

The Lahore Diocese embraces lands which have from time immemorial been the scenes of invasion and bloody battles. Long before the days when Alexander the Great led his victorious Greek army across Afghanistan to the centre of the Punjab, other invaders had come the same way from Central Asia, and had met with heroic resistance from the inhabitants of those regions. Nor is there any part of India which holds such wonderful memories for the British race as does the Punjab. There many of her great soldiers and statesmen passed years of their lives and learned their first lessons in war and administration. It is in that part of India that the Lawrences, Sir Herbert Edwardes, Sir Robert Montgomery, Lord Gough, Sir John Nicholson, and Lord Roberts first became famous. It is for the Church also a region of which she may be justly proud. It had happened more than once in her Missionary history that when great opportunities were offered to her of pressing through open doors, she failed to take them either for lack of men, or means, or zeal. In the Punjab, however, it was quite different. Hardly had the Second Sikh War, which brought the Punjab under British rule, terminated in 1849, than various appeals were made to the Church Missionary Society to start missionary work in this fascinating country.

One of the first of these appeals came from a British officer who had taken part in these wars. He backed his appeal by a generous gift of 10,000 rupees, a large sum for a poor man. Within a generation the whole of the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Scindh, Baluchistan, and Kashmir were dotted over with well-staffed Anglican Missions. Beginning at Amritsar, they spread in every direction, and within less than a generation all important places which were not previously held in strength by Presbyterian Missions were occupied by the Church Missionary Society. During the fifty years which lie between 1850 and 1900 no less than 150 missionaries, not including missionary wives, worked for various periods in this interesting field. Some of these missionaries were amongst the ablest and most devoted whom the English Church has ever sent across the seas. It is not easy to mention names without stating that there are other names unmentioned which might well have been included. Robert Clarke, Rowland Bateman, Gordon of Afghan fame, Sarah C. Tucker (A.L.O.E.); Dr. Elmslie, the two doctor brothers Neve, Dr. Starr, famous medical missionaries; Tyndale Biscoe, Pennell of the Afghan Frontier; Lefroy, Allnutt, Carlyon, and other members of the Cambridge Mission at Delhi (the only S.P.G. Mission in the diocese), are just a few of this great company of gallant men and women who have laboured for two generations to bring the Punjab to Christ.

That there was an element of danger in their work seemed to make it all the more attractive. When it was first suggested that a mission should be started in Peshawar on the Afghan Frontier, a leading civilian of a rather sceptical turn of mind stated that in his opinion every missionary should be armed with a revolver. Strange to say, the individual who made this remark was himself the victim of a Ghazi outrage.

Possibly the Punjab would have remained without a Bishop for some time longer had it not been for the tragic deathof Bishop Milman. That keenevangelistandmissionary finished his devoted life at Rawal Pindi. He had left Calcutta (as already stated, page 250) in February 1876 to visit the Punjab. Though sixty years of age, he was still a strong and active man. Unfortunately, in crossing one of the Punjab rivers by night, there was a break-down in the transport arrangements, as well as a shortage of food. Hardships connected with fatigue and exposure proved too much even for him, and though he carried on for a few weeks longer, he did so as a dying man. To-day his grave may be seen in Rawal Pindi, a memento of the vast size of the Calcutta Diocese of those days. The Diocese of Lahore was founded in his memory.

No diocese, one can truly say, has ever had a succession of more devoted and gifted men for its Bishops than has the Diocese of Lahore. Its first Bishop, Thomas Valpy French, was unquestionably one of the greatest missionaries our Church has ever produced. In some respects he reminds one of the Apostle Paul. His gift for languages was so remarkable that he was known by the natives as the seven-tongued Padre. His capacity for work was almost superhuman, and he literally loved to endure hardness. Often during his missionary journeys, when he might have been comfortably housed in some official residence, he preferred to be in a serai with the natives of India. His missionary work lasted for no less than twenty-eight years. During the Mutiny of 1857 he was a missionary at Agra, where he was in charge of an important Divinity School. Like the rest of the Europeans in that station, he made for the Fort when the signals in the form of warning guns were fired, and brought with him his Christian students. When he was informed that, as there was some doubt about their loyalty, they would not be kept in the Fort, he at once elected to depart with them. Sir Auckland Colvin, however, would not hear of this, and so the students remained and did most valuable work.

At the time when he was called to undertake the charge of the new Diocese of Lahore, he was at home in England, almost worn out with heavy toil. He felt, however, that it was his duty to respond to this unexpected and unsought-for call, and for ten years presided over the new diocese. Then, when his Cathedral (a very handsome building designed by Sir Gilbert Scott) had been built and the work of the new diocese had been organised, he felt that the time had come when he might resign, and be free to take up a work which he long desired to do. A great Arabic scholar, he had for years longed to preach the Gospel in regions where the name of Christ has not been heard for centuries. His appeal for workers to accompany him on this mission fell on deaf ears, and as no one was ready to go with him he went alone, and finished his heroic lif e in a tent at Muscat, in Arabia. Certainly every one who is interested in missions ought to read his Life.

His successor, Henry James Mathew, a Government Chaplain, was perhaps one of the finest preachers our Church has ever had in India. Some still remember the wonderful way in which he drew men and women to the cross. After his death George Alfred Lefroy, the second Head of the Cambridge Mission at Delhi, succeeded him, and for fourteen years presided over the Lahore Diocese. He, like the first Bishop of Lahore, was one of our really great missionaries, who had been dedicated from early days to the missionary life. We owe a debt of gratitude to Bishop Montgomery for having given us such a full and interesting record of a really great man--great in action, great in counsel, and great in suffering.

Of the present Bishop of Lahore, it is enough to say that he first made his mark as an educational missionary in the United Provinces, and for some time as Principal of St. John's College, Agra, one of the finest Colleges of its kind in India. During those days, when doubtless he had ample time for reading and thinking, he laid in an immense store of learning which has made him perhaps the most gifted preacher which our Church has in India.

To tell of all the varied work and to speak of the many missionaries who have been men quite out of the ordinary type, would be impossible within the limits of this chapter. There is much to tell of the Cambridge Mission to Delhi and not a few of its devoted members, a short history of which has fortunately been written. There is much we can learn from the lives of its three first Heads, Bickersteth, Lefroy, and Allnutt, which can fortunately be read in the memoirs which we now possess. No one who has the opportunity should fail to read the heroic life of Pennell of the Afghan Border, who was certainly one of the most learned and daring of medical missionaries our Church has ever seen. It used to be said of him that Pennell in his Pathan dress could go to places amongst the Frontier tribes where a regiment of British soldiers could not go without serious fighting; and go unharmed.

One story illustrative of his daring may be told briefly. Pennell had made a convert of one young tribesman, and had baptised him. One night his compound was invaded and the convert was carried away by his fellow-tribesmen. Pennell knew what this meant--either death or apostasy. The tribesmen had got several hours' start of him, but he knew the regions for which they would make. Going alone and travelling all day, he came to a village after dark which was familiar to him, and late at night made his way to the village mosque. He was almost certain that the fugitives would spend the night within its precincts, and he was not mistaken. There in the court-yard of the mosque lay sleeping the captors and the captive. Like the Angel who came to deliver St. Peter from prison on the eve of his execution, Pennell slowly approached his convert, awakened him, and carried him back to Bannu. It is a little story which illustrates the extraordinary daring and devotion of this great missionary. That the Lahore Diocese is still the home of heroic spirits was again made clear to us but a short time ago. Hardly had all India heard with horror of the dastardly murder of Mrs. Ellis and the abduction of her daughter across the Frontier, than we were reading with admiration of the brilliant plan of the Chief Commissioner, Sir James Maffey, for her rescue, and of Mrs. Starr's perilous journey with an Indian political officer into the heart of the Afridi country. Some of our readers may not know that this brave lady is working as a nurse in the C.M.S. Hospital at Peshawar--in the same city where her devoted husband, the late Dr. Starr, a medical missionary, was brutally murdered a few years ago by the relatives of a former patient.

Every one who can should read the Life of Rowland Bateman, who for thirty years worked in the Punjab. They should also read the Life of Charlotte Tucker, better known as A.L.O.E., who, coming to the Punjab when fifty-four years of age, worked uninterruptedly in the missionary cause for eighteen years without once going home. No less deserving of honour are the names of some of our more distinguished modern Punjab missionaries--men like Canon Edward Guilford of Tarn Taran, who has done wonderful work amongst lepers, and of Tyndale Biscoe, who has wrought wonders amongst the youth of Kashmir. His annual reports are amongst the most interesting publications the Church possesses.

Some mention should be made of Mass Movements in the Lahore Diocese. These movements have taken place chiefly in the Canal Colonies of the Punjab, and have drawn into the fold of the Church over 20,000 people. They are a people with great virility, and it may be hoped are the first-fruits of a really great Christian movement.

The domiciled community of the Punjab is of course not so numerous as in Madras and Calcutta, but it is strongly represented in Lahore itself, where two Railway Chaplains minister to the community numbering three or four thousand.

The problem of European education has been tackled, so the present Bishop writes, with much energy and a fair measure of success. There are two great Lawrence Schools, one at Sanawar, with 250 boys and 250 girls on its rolls; and one at Murree, with about 250 boys and 100 girls, both of which are doing priceless work. Hitherto the Principal of each of these schools has been an ordained priest of the Church of England, though there is nothing in the charter of either school guaranteeing the continuance of this arrangement.

The Diocese of Lahore has now got a big scheme in hand for building a great Girls' School to accommodate 300 girls on the site of St. Denys' School, Murree. When completed the original idea was that the girls at present in the Lawrence School at Murree should be transferred to this new school, leaving room in the Boys' School for a large number of boys already on the waiting list. Auckland House, Simla, recently rebuilt and containing over 100 girls, has done first-class work in providing education of a high grade for girls, most of whom in less stringent times would have been sent to schools in England. It is interesting to note that the present educational policy of the diocese, in line with that of Government, is to concentrate the education of European children in Hill Schools.

In the matter of education for girls the diocese owes a great debt to the Society of St. Hilda, a Society of lady workers founded by Bishop Mathew during his lifetime. At present over twenty very highly qualified ladies in connection with this Society are working in the Girls' Schools of the diocese, and the work that they have done in raising the standard of girls' education is beyond all praise.

Provision for the training of teachers is made in Sanawar, where there is a Training College for Men Teachers. Church of England girls, who wish for training as teachers have to go to the Roman Catholic Training College at St. Bede's, Simla, where Church of England girls form usually quite half of the number of students. The arrangement, while in theory not ideal, has so far worked admirably in practice. The training of Kindergarten teachers is undertaken at the Church of England Schools, St. Denys', Murree, which is also staffed by ladies of St. Hilda's Society.

"Another feature of Church work in the Lahore Diocese," so the Bishop writes, "is the provision of spiritual ministrations to the extraordinarily fine body of officers, both civil and military, who are serving on the North-West Frontier. These are comparatively few in number and are in remote and scattered outposts, so that ministry to them is a difficult problem. There is one Chaplain for the whole of the Derajat, comprising three stations--Kohat, Bannu, and Dera Ismail Khan--each being eighty or ninety miles by road from the other. The advent of the motor-car has, however, brought the work of this important Chaplaincy more within the compass of one's power."

We are fully conscious that we have but touched the fringe of the splendid work which is being carried on in this diocese. How true this is will be realised when we mention the fact that the Lahore Diocese contains more than half of the British Army in India, and that places like Rawal Pindi and Peshawar are in many respects like Aldershot. Working amongst these British troops and officers are thirty-five able and devoted Chaplains, some of whom did splendid work in France and Mesopotamia during the Great War. The provision of Soldiers' Homes and Institutes has always been a marked feature in the work of this diocese. There are no places at present of any importance where these Homes are not to be found, either provided by the Church or by Miss Sandes, the Soldiers' Friend.

Project Canterbury