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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 XXVII. The Mother Diocese of Calcutta, 1815.


The Bishops of Calcutta became Metropolitans in 1835; Royal Letters Patent, dated October 10, 1835.

1. Thomas Fanshawe Middleton, consecrated 1814; died at Calcutta 1823.

2. Reginald Heber, consecrated 1823; died at Trichinopoly 1826.

3. John Thomas James, consecrated 1827; died at sea 1828.

4. John Matthias Turner, consecrated 1829; died at Calcutta 1831.

5. Daniel Wilson, consecrated 1832; died at Calcutta 1858; First Metropolitan of India and Ceylon.

6. George Edward Lynch Cotton, consecrated 1858; drowned in the Ganges at Kushtea, 1866.

7. Robert Milman, consecrated 1866; died at Rawal Pindi 1876.

8. Edward Ralph Johnson, consecrated 1876; resigned 1898; died 1913.

9. Jambs Edward Cowell Welldon, consecrated 1898; resigned 1902.

10. Reginald Stephen Copleston, consecrated Bishop of Colombo, in Westminster Abbey, 1875; translated 1902; resigned 1913.

11. George Alfred Lefroy, consecrated Bishop of Lahore 1899; translated 1913; died January 1919, in Calcutta.

12. Foss Westcott, consecrated Bishop of Chota-Nagpur 1905; translated 1919.

Books of Reference.--History of the Oxford Mission to Calcutta, by the Rev. G. Longridge; Life of George Alfred Lefroy, by Bishop Montgomery; Digest of S.P.G., by C. F. Pascoe; C.M.S. History, by Eugene Stock.

IN a former chapter we spoke somewhat fully of the Episcopate of Bishop Milman. It had been his and Bishop Cotton's constantly expressed wish and prayer for many years that they might be relieved of the heavy burden of the Punjab and Burma. They both felt how much these large and growing countries needed the care of separate Bishops. What was not accomplished during Bishop Milman's lifetime was accomplished immediately after his death. When the fact became known that he had lost his life largely owing to his last journey to the Punjab, meetings attended by the Viceroy and other leading people were held in Calcutta and at Lambeth, when it was finally decided that the Calcutta Diocese must be relieved of these burdens.

When, therefore, the next Bishop of Calcutta was appointed, he was no longer responsible for the Episcopal supervision of Burma and the Punjab.

Bishop Milman's successor as Metropolitan of India was Edward Ralph Johnson, the Archdeacon of Warrington. It is greatly to be regretted that no memoir has ever been written of his long and faithful Episcopate. Coming to India when fifty years of age, he gave to the Church a period of over twenty-one years of unremitting toil. Of untiring energy and with an iron constitution, Bishop Johnson moved over his huge diocese at all seasons of the year, regardless of climate.

On one occasion, when journeying across country from Orissa with his Chaplain, they were attacked by dacoits at night. At the approach, of the dacoits the bearers of their palkies took to their heels, and one of the dacoits, approaching the Bishop's palki, poked a spear inside. Fortunately for the Bishop, the spear did not get home, and when the dacoits saw his enormous figure arrayed in robes of night emerging from the palki, they promptly took to flight.

All who remember Bishop Johnson will recall his fatherli-ness, courtesy, and kindliness as well as his practical common-sense way of looking at things. When his appointment was first announced some one talking with Bishop Jacobson, the well-known Bishop of Chester, expressed a wonder as to whether the new Metropolitan would be able to understand the subtleties of the Hindu mind. Bishop Jacobson's reply was very brief: "Johnson will do very well, he never goes out of his depth."

It was fortunate for the Church that she possessed a Metropolitan of his peculiar gifts at this particular period of her history. It was a time when a large number of new dioceses had to be formed, and when an organiser and man of real business capacity was peculiarly needed to keep things on sound lines. Bishop Johnson had also a wonderful way of getting things done without rubbing people up the wrong way. There is a story told of how, when one of bis successors was giving Government a good deal of trouble by pressing earnestly views which Government did not take kindly to, a certain Home Secretary was heard to exclaim with a loud sigh, "Oh for the good days of Bishop Johnson! "

If any title might be appropriately given to Bishop Johnson it would be that of Bishop-maker. We have already stated that during the earliest days of his Episcopate, the Punjab and Burma had been formed into separate dioceses, though their Bishops were consecrated in England. Within the same year, assisted by Bishops Gell, Mylne, and Copleston, he consecrated Dr. Caldwell and Dr. Sargent as Assistant-Bishops to the Bishop of Madras. The large number of Christians in Tinnevelly had made Bishop Gell extremely anxious to appoint these two distinguished missionaries as chief Shepherds over the S.P.G. and C.M.S. congregations respectively. Bishop Milman had strongly objected to the arrangement, on the ground that it was likely to perpetuate "Society" distinctions and so to prevent the unity of the Church. The urgency of the needs, however, had decided Archbishop Tait that the experiment should be made. The fact that it answered admirably for some years must be attributed more to the warm friendship of these two Episcopal Missionaries than to the principle involved in the arrangement. When both these Bishops passed away, as they did some years later, the experiment was not repeated, and one Suffragan Bishop for all Tinnevelly was appointed over both groups of Christians, S.P.G. and C.M.S.

The complaint that the claims of Indian Chaplains have been strangely overlooked when considering appointments to the Indian Episcopate is a fairly frequent one. It is therefore interesting to note that the first and second Bishops of Tinnevelly, an essentially missionary diocese, were both of them Indian Chaplains, as indeed was the second Bishop of Lahore. It is but fair to add that if the Indian Episcopate has been recruited generally from the ranks of Missionaries rather than from those of the Chaplains, it is because with but few exceptions the Chaplains are ignorant of Indian languages, and know nothing of missionary work which bulks so large in the duties of the Indian Bishop.

During his visits to Chota-Nagpur, Bishop Johnson had for long been impressed with the fact that its interesting mission needed badly a Bishop of its own, requiring as it did far more supervision than could be given it by the Bishop of Calcutta. It was first offered to George Lefroy, Head of the Cambridge Mission to Delhi, but the needs of his mission at that time compelled him to refuse it. After a good deal of persuasion the Rev. J. C. Whitley who had beln for over twenty years its Superintending Missionary, was prevailed upon very reluctantly to accept this responsible office. The story of his life's work is told elsewhere in these pages.

Hardly had Chota-Nagpur received its first Bishop than a scheme for a Bishopric for the United Provinces was set on foot. It was a part of India in which, missionary work had developed rapidly, and Bishop Johnson felt that it was impossible for a Bishop of Calcutta really to supervise its varied European and Indian work.

And here a few words may well be said about a person to whom our Church of India must always owe a deep debt of gratitude. Bishop Wilkinson, first Bishop of North and Central Europe, had lost two brothers during the great Mutiny. Their tragic deaths had gone home to him very deeply, and had led him to make a solemn resolution to do all in his power to help forward the cause of Christianity in India. It is to him more than to any other person that the Dioceses of Lucknow, Nagpur, and Assam owe the major part of their endowments. Never weary of urging on the wealthy English congregations in Northern and Central Europe, as well as in the larger centres of industrial life at home, the duty of the English Church towards India, he was instrumental in raising thousands of pounds for the purpose of helping forward with endowments these proposed Bishoprics.

In 1893 Alfred Clifford, a well-known missionary and for some years Secretary to the Church Missionary Society in Calcutta, was consecrated first Bishop of Lucknow.

Then came a demand for two more Bishoprics in South India. After the Mutiny the number of Christians in South India, Anglican and non-Anglican, had grown rapidly. Between the years 1857 and 1878 the non-Roman Christian community had grown from 90,000 to nearly 300,000, of whom about 100,000 were Anglican. Not only was there an advance in numbers, but there was also a considerable advance in education.

When Bishops Caldwell and Sargent passed away after long years of splendid work, it was felt better for Tinnevelly to have one Suffragan Bishop to care for the whole Anglican community in those regions. The person eventually selected and consecrated was the Rev. Samuel Morley, Archdeacon of Madras, and for many years Chaplain to Bishop Gell. He was consecrated in the year 1896.

The number of converts in the neighbouring country of Travancore had also grown considerably during the period, especially from the lower castes. In twenty years it had increased from 6000 to 20,000. As it was evident that these people could not adequately be ministered to by the Bishop of Madras, it was decided to consecrate an Anglican Bishop for Travancore. The person selected was the Rev. J. M. Speechly, Principal of the Cambridge Nicholson Institution at Kottayam. He was consecrated in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, in the year 1879.

Bishop Johnson had not been long in Calcutta, with its vast crowd of Indian students, when he saw clearly that something must be done by the Church for their spiritual and moral enlightenment. The majority of these students were lads from the country who had lived under conditions injurious both to body and soul. In his anxiety he turned to his old University, and begged it to send out men to Calcutta to work amongst its students and educated Bengali. His appeal was not in vain, and in the year 1879 there arrived in Calcutta a small body of distinguished Oxford graduates who were destined to lay the foundation of what is now one of our finest missions in India. It is impossible, within the limits of these pages, to tell of all the work that this mission is doing, of its large expansion in staff of workers (there are twenty-five Sisters at work in its various spheres), and of all that it has stood for in India by its lofty spiritual tone. Fortunately, its history had been written and well written by a former member.

Coming in the first instance to Calcutta, it gradually established both Arts and Medical Hostels which were soon crowded to overflowing. Of its original three members, one, the Rev. E. F. Brown, for many years Superior, gave India forty years of splendid service. Then came what seemed to them a distinct call to take up work in the villages of Eastern Bengal. Who that has ever visited Barisal, the Oxford Settlement in Eastern Bengal, can forget its wonderful atmosphere of "work unsevered from tranquillity Every day has its full share of work for the Brothers and Sisters. Standing between their separate spheres of work, schools and carpenter's shop on the one side, a Widows Home, Girls' Orphanage and School on the other side, is a beautiful Basilica Church, Cathedral-like in its proportion where all meet during the day, from time to time, for united worship and intercession. Close to Calcutta at Behala is another wonderful little settlement where Father Douglas, M.C., is training a large number of Bengali boys, and where Oxford Sisters have got most interesting and important work. Then further away in Eastern Bengal, in Dacca, is another interesting sphere of work of this splendid mission.

When Bishop Johnson resigned in failing health, after more than twenty years of hard work, he was the first Bishop of Calcutta up till then who had not died in India.

Bishop Johnson was succeeded by the Rev. James Edward Cowell Welldon, Headmaster of Harrow--a fine scholar, a brilliant preacher, and a leading educationist. It was hoped by many that he would prove a second Bishop Cotton, and would carry far forward Christian education, especially in our Anglo-Indian schools. Ill health, however, dogged him from the beginning, and when at length it became apparent that it was impossible for him to continue bis work in India, he consented, but only with deep reluctance, to resign his See. The story of his life belongs to England more than to India. One diocese in India, that of Nagpur, cannot forget that it owes the completion of its endowment to his private munificence.

Bishop Welldon was duly succeeded by Reginald Stephen Copleston, who had been Bishop of Colombo for twenty-seven years. Consecrated when only thirty years of age, he had done a great work in that Island Diocese, and it is an open secret that it was with the deepest reluctance he left it for Calcutta. A great missionary, he was aided in this work by the fact that new languages presented no difficulty to him. It is said that he had mastered no less than thirteen languages. In spite of long years of residence in the rather enervating climate of Ceylon, he had kept up his scholarship so thoroughly that at the same time as he was offered the post of Metropolitan of India, he was also offered the Headship of his old College at Oxford.

Possibly the genius of Bishop Copleston stood out most clearly when taking part in Councils and Synods. He had a peculiar gift for directing the thoughts of large assemblies to what was essential, and of untangling the Gordian knots in a debate when it seemed almost impossible to see one's way out of a difficulty. In the early days of his Bishopric he had made a special study of Buddhism, in which he was aided by his fine knowledge of the ancient Pali language. His classical work on this subject is a recognised authority today. During his Episcopate the Bishoprics of Nagpur and of Dornakal were created. Since he retired he has rendered constant service to the Church in India as President of the Indian Church Aid Association.

To write about his successor, George Alfred Lefroy, is unnecessary as Bishop Montgomery has given us a very valuable memoir of his life. He was certainly one of the greatest missionaries our Church has ever had in India. Had Bishops Cotton and Milman been present when George Lefroy was addressing great crowds in the Chandni Chowk at Delhi in perfect Urdu and with an extraordinary grip over his audience, they would have hesitated before they discouraged bazaar preaching.

As Head of the Cambridge Mission at Delhi, Lefroy exercised an influence amongst all classes of Indians unlike any before or after him. So highly was he respected by the Mahomedans, that he was sometimes invited to discuss the truths of our religion within the precinctsof their mosques. At one time it seemed possible that he might have gone to Madras on Bishop Gell's resignation, and that Dr. Whitehead might have succeeded Bishop Mathew at Lahore. Fortunately, Providence intervened, and Lahore kept Lefroy, while Madras took Whitehead whose gifts were much more suited for South India.

To speak of our present Metropolitan, the Most Rev. Foss Westcott, does not come within the scope of this history and would ill become one of his Suffragans. Long years of quiet and devoted work in the S.P.G. Mission at Cawnpore fitted him to succeed his uncle, Bishop Whitley, as second Bishop of Chota-Nagpur. Thorough and painstaking in all his work, he soon made his mark in that fascinating aboriginal diocese. When it became known that he was to succeed his friend George Lefroy as Bishop of Calcutta and Metropolitan of India, every one felt satisfied that a wise choice had been made.

It remains for us now to say a few words about the various kinds of work which are being carried on in this the Mother Diocese of India. Mention should, I think, first be made of the Bishop's College, which is now a hundred years old. It has passed through many changes since the days of Bishops Heber and James. Its old and beautiful buildings at Sibpur, which resembled so closely one of our University Colleges in England, have long been abandoned for a site in the nearer suburbs of Calcutta. For years it fulfilled a double function as a Theological College and as an Arts College affiliated to the Calcutta University. Within the last few years it has gone back to what it was originally intended for, and under the Principalship of the Rev. Norman Tubbs, now Bishop in Tinnevelly, became an important Theological College, where advanced Indian Christian students from all parts of India can get a thorough grounding in Christian theology.

Calcutta is full of important Mission Colleges for the education of the Indians, and while the Roman Catholics and Presbyterians are taking a large part in this work, our Church is also well represented by the St. Paul's Cathedral Mission College in Amherst Street, which is affiliated to the University of Calcutta. Nor is the higher education for girls, Christian and non-Christian, neglected. Those who have visited the Diocesan College and Collegiate School which is under the management of the Sisters of the Community of St. John the Baptist, Clewer, cannot help being struck by the splendid work of this institution, which cares for the spiritual, intellectual, and physical welfare of these girls in a most happy fashion.

The Church of England Zenana Mission is also doing a fine work amongst the Indian zenanas in Calcutta, and has got a number of elementary schools where little Indian girls are given a good rudimentary education, as well as taught the truths of the Christian Faith.

It is singularly fortunate that, in addition to the work which is being done in the great city of Calcutta, the diocese includes amongst its activities work in the teeming villages of Bengal and amongst one or two of its aboriginal races. We must remember that for many years what is now the Diocese of Chota-Nagpur, with its fine aboriginal Mission, was included in the Mother Diocese of India. Probably the great success of the mission in Chota-Nagpur has made people forget that there is a splendid work being carried on amongst the Santhals in the Calcutta Diocese itself. This work was started shortly after the Indian Mutiny by an ex-cavalry officer, Major Puxley, who, having passed through the horrors of the Crimean War, determined to give the rest of his life to evangelistic work in India. Unfortunately, his health failed after a short time in the Santhal country, but not before solid beginnings had been made. To-day there are more than six thousand Christian Santhals in this area, and no one who has spent a Sunday at Taljhari, with its fine Church, will soon forget the joy of seeing a great body of Santhal Christians worshipping the true God and our Lord Jesus Christ in the heart of a country which was once wholly given up to devil-worship.

The work of the Church Missionary Society in and around Krishnagar in the Nuddea district is of long standing. This mission has had its ups and downs. In the days of Bishop Wilson it was full of promise and though for a time things have been rather at a standstill, there are again encouraging signs of a further advance.

The problem of Anglo-Indian education is one which presses peculiarly heavily on our Church in Calcutta, as might be expected. Though much is being done, a great deal more remains to be done. The famous old Free School and still older Charity School have of late years amalgamated and passed into what is called the St. Thomas' School Society. It has fine endowments and is bringing up large numbers of children. There is a useful Girls' High School in memory of Archdeacon Pratt. St. Paul's Church, Scott's Lane, has always been connected closely with Calcutta Cathedral. It was served for many years by the late Canon Jackson, one of the most devoted Priests who ever worked in India. This Church has got its schools for Anglo-Indian girls and boys of a rather poor class. A great work also has been done amongst the poorest of this community by Mr. Hadow, of the Old Mission Church.

Years ago a school for Anglo-Indian boys of the better class was started by Archdeacon Corrie in Calcutta. During the Episcopate of Bishop Cotton it was translated to Darjeeling, where it occupies to-day one of the most beautiful positions in that very beautiful station. If the Church did wisely in establishing this now famous School of St. Paul in the Himalayas, it has done equally wisely in establishing its Diocesan School for Girls in the same place. Fortunate indeed is the boy or girl whose parents, though unable to afford to send them to England for education, are able to send them to either of these schools in Darjeeling. One must not conclude this brief account of the Mother Diocese without some reference to what it has done for other Indian Dioceses. At one time embracing Australia, and at another time touching the Afghan Frontier, it has been shorn continually of various portions of its vast territories, most of which are now vigorous dioceses. Were search to be made in the records of those younger dioceses, it would be found that at the time of parting the mother had not forgotten to endow her child with most of the worldly goods she was allowed to part with, The Diocese of Calcutta has had a great history. It has been presided over by a body of remarkably able and devoted Bishops. If Calcutta is no longer the Capital of India, Calcutta will always be the capital of our Church in India. Nowhere in the East has the Church received a stronger and more generous backing from its laity; nowhere have its appeals for help been met with greater readiness than by the English and Scottish merchants of this great city.

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