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The Bishop of Stepney

PRECURSORS
Since 1895 the Diocese of London has had a suffragan, or area, Bishop of Stepney, responsible for East London. From 1879-88 William Walsham How (1823-97) - known as 'Walsham' - [right at various periods of his life - final picture by Hugh Littleton Norris, 1897, held at Wadham College, Oxford] was suffragan Bishop of Bedford (prior to the creation of the diocese of St Alban's), who performed a similar function. It irked him greatly that some commentators assumed his area of responsibility was primarily rural - though his roots were in Shropshire, and he came to London after more than thirty years ministry there: son of a Shrewsbury solicitor from Cumbria, after Shrewsbury School, Wadham College Oxford, and University College Durham, he was ordained to a curacy at Kidderminster in 1846 (his incumbent became Bishop of St Albans), returning 'for family reasons' as curate of Shrewsbury Abbey from 1848, then for 28 years  from 1851 was Rector of Whittington (and Rural Dean of Oswestry from 1854, honorary canon of St Asaph in 1860, and Proctor in Convocation 1868). He became known as a devotional writer and effective leader of missions, retreats and quiet days, and is said to have declined the bishoprics of Natal (1867), New Zealand (1868), Montreal (1869), Cape Town (1873), and Jamaica (1878), besides a canonry, with superintendence of home mission work, at Winchester (1878), and the important livings of Brighton (1870), All Saints', Margaret Street (1873), and Windsor, with a readership to the queen (1878). But the following year he agreed to become a suffragan bishop and 'leader of an East End crusade'. The City parish of St Andrew Undershaft with St Mary-at-Axe, of which he became titular Rector the day after his consecration, provided his stipend.

In London, he lived at Stainforth House, Upper Clapton - provided free of charge by its owner for this 'crusade'. Though small in stature and a 'plain' preacher, he was much-loved by all (see this example from Christ Church Watney Street), produced much devotional material for church workers, and was very energetic - among other things, creating in 1880 the East London Church Fund to support ministry in poor parishes (as the magazine wrapper shown in this link demonstrates, in later years its reports went out in the joint names of the Bishops of Stepney and Islington). On one occasion he preached in the kitchen of a large lodging house; on another, he attended the Feast of Tabernacles in a local synagogue and sat in a prominent seat - a common-enough gesture now, but not then. He was known as the 'children's bishop'. Bishop Jackson, the diocesan, gave him a free hand and did not interfere, unlike his successor Frederick Temple, appointed in 1885. In 1888, because of these changes, and the death of his first wife, How became first Bishop of Wakefield, until his death in 1897 (where he signed himself William Walsham Wakefield or simply W.W.W.) He wrote several hymns, including For all the saints; and also, while in London, sonnets about some of the local clergy, including Charles Lowder (of St George's Mission and then Rector of St Peter, London Docks) and Harry Jones (Rector of St George-in-the-East 1873-82). He shared with Harry Jones a love of Switzerland, and both were involved in building churches there for English tourists. In 1882 he consecrated Holy Trinity Church in Pontresina, part-funded by Princess Christian (Queen Victoria's daughter Helena, wife of a Danish/German prince): a 2016-17 exhibition at the Museum Alpin in Pontresina will tell its story. Bishop How's son Frederick Douglas produced a Memoir (Isbister 1899); this records how, the day before the consecration of this church, he wrote to his curate at St Andrew Undershaft:
... we went a glacier expedition. We had a guide, but no rope, as it was thought pretty safe, but the newly fallen snow was treacherous, and one of our party, an elderly gentleman, fell into a deep crevasse, twenty or thirty feet down, and quite out of sight. It was very anxious work, as we had to send a long way for a rope, and there he had to stay. We could shout down to him, and he up to us, and, most mercifully, he was not seriously hurt, only jambed in the ice. When the guide brought the rope and some other men he had some difficulty in getting it round his chest, but did at last manage it, and then some seven or eight good hauls by four strong men brought him up. Some of us could not help bursting into tears when he was saved, and the Bishop of Gloucester, who was with us, and who is an experienced Alpine climber, gathered us all together on the ice (we were a party of about twelve), and offered up a thanksgiving, and then we all sang the Doxology together. It was very affecting. I had only just crossed the dangerous spot, and, on hearing the shout of an accident, turned round to go and see, and slipped and twisted my left knee. A shade more and I could not have got away, and, as it was, I had to walk two hours more over the ice, often very dangerous, limping in great pain. I can only just hobble with a stick today. We all feel we had a lesson in caution in glacier work.
The 'twist' turned out to be a broken bone, which kept him in bed several days on his return to England, and then on crutches. The Bishop of Gloucester (and Bristol) to whom he refers was Charles Ellicott. Coincidentally, George Forrest Browne (see below), the first bishop 'proper' of Stepney, and later Bishop of Bristol, when the two sees had been re-separated - was an expert on the ice caves of Switzerland.

Walsham How's successor as Bishop of Bedford from 1888-98 was Robert Claudius Billing [left from the Strand magazine in 1894], though he resigned his duties from 1895, when his health broke down. Born in Maidstone in 1834 to a clerical family, he studied at Wye College, and Worcester College Oxford, and was ordained in 1857 to the curacy of St Peter Colchester [then in Rochester diocese]; was curate of Compton Bishop, Somerset from 1861 and also secretary of the Church Missionary Society until 1863, when he became Vicar of Louth in Lincolnshire (remaining with CMS as an honorary assistant secretary), and Chaplain of the Manor of Worlaby [near Brigg in Lincolnshire] in 1870, before coming to London, as Vicar of Holy Trinity Islington from 1873-78 and Rector of Spitalfields from 1878, and Rural Dean. He edited Missionary Leaves for CMS. From 1891, like his predecessor, he was titular Rector of St Andrew Undershaft with St Mary-at-Axe. He was a keen supporter of the volunteer movement, and chaplain of the 2nd Tower Hamlets Volunteers. On his death (aged 63) the title of Bishop of Bedford lapsed, until a suffragan of St Alban's was appointed in 1935.

From 1898 to 1923 there was a Bishop of Islington, again financed by the Rectory of St Andrew Undershaft - Charles Henry Turner, Rector of St George-in-the-East prior to his consecration; but no successor was ever appointed (a recent suggestion to revive the title for Sandy Millar came to nothing when he was consecrated as an assistant bishop of Uganda).

1895: BISHOP OF STEPNEY
The episcopal area of Stepney (and Archdeaconry of Hackney) comprises what are now the three deaneries of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Islington, more-or-less co-terminous with the London boroughs of these names, though the rural/area deanery boundaries have changed many times over the years.

For some years - certainly during the time of Bishops Mosley, Curzon and Moberly, and maybe before and after - the post was funded by the income of the City parishes of St Margaret Lothbury with St Christopher-le-Stocks, St Bartholomew Exchange, St Olave Old Jewry, St Martin Pomeroy, St Mildred Poultry, and St Mary Colechurch, with a combined population of 51 and an annual income of over £2000 plus a house; they were also titular Rectors of these parishes.

The roll-call is a distinguished one: many moved on to become diocesan bishops or archbishops, at home and overseas, and East Enders have taken pride in this. Even those for whom Stepney seemed (to local chagrin) a stepping stone, rather than a long-term commitment, took to their posts elsewhere the experience of the particular joys, sorrows and challenges of urban ministry. They did not always live in their 'patch' - Browne, Lang and Lunt, for example, lived in Amen Court, by St Paul's Cathedral (since they were also residentiary canons there), and Curzon moved to a house in Bedford Square WC1 on the grounds that this was more central and accessible; but Moberly lived in Islington, and more recent successors believed it was vital to live in the East End. Trevor Huddleston lived at 400 Commercial Road (the former parsonage house of one of our district churches), as did Jim Thompson before he moved further east to a smaller house; this proved too small, so the current see house is a former parsonage in Coborn Road, Mile End.

Where possible, they are pictured below at various stages of their ministry - in Stepney and later. Many of these images are held by the National Portrait Gallery. Trevor Beeson The Bishops (SCM 2003) has interesting comments on a number of them; some have full-blown biographies!


1: 1895-97  George Forrest Browne (1833-1930) graduated in Maths (as a Wrangler) and Theology from St Catherine's College Cambridge, where he was subsequently a Fellow, Chaplain and Lecturer, and held various other administrative and academic offices in the university: he was Disney Professor of Archaeology from 1887-92. As a pioneer explorer of ice caves, he published Ice Caves in France & Switzerland (1864) and Off the Mill (Smith 1895), and various other works on archaeology in retirement. Ordained in 1858, he was as schoolmaster in Scotland, and on his return to Cambridge Rector of Ashley-cum-Silverley. He became Canon Treasurer of St Paul's Cathedral in 1891, combining this post with that of Bishop of Stepney from 1895. Just two years later he was translated to Bristol, where he remained until retirement in 1914; he wrote several books on church history and lives of the saints, including Lessons from Early English Church History (1893), The Church in These Islands before Augustine (1894), Augustine and his Companions (1895), Theodore & Wilfrith (1897), The Life and Times of Aldhelm (1903), Alcuin of York (1908), The Venerable Bede (1919) as well as a History of St Catharine's College Cambridge (1892). In retirement he ived in Campden House Road, Kensington. [photographs (1) 1890s (2) 1895 (3) c1907 (4) preaching in later life]


2: 1897-1901 Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram (1858-1946), then Bishop of London for 38 years until his retirement in 1939 at the age of 81, was born in Worcestershire (his father was a parson, his mother a bishop's daughter); he studied at Keble College Oxford, and was a private tutor and then a curate in Shrewsbury and chaplain to the Bishop of Lichfield before coming to the East End as head of the Oxford House settlement in Bethnal Green from 1888-97 (it's still there, now doing work appropriate for the 21st century): while there, he was also chaplain to the Bishop of St Albans and the Archbishop of York. At Oxford House, and then as Bishop of Stepney, he was a pioneer of social work initiatives in London - and, it's said, his accent took on a slight East End twang that he never lost. He never married, though during his time at Stepney was briefly engaged to Lady Ulrica Duncombe. The most controversial aspect of his time as Bishop of London was his uncritical stance during the First World War, and his 1927-28 world tour also attracted attention, when he was picked on by the Soviets. Because he was in office so long, he rather 'lost the plot' in terms of clergy discipline and other aspects of diocesan organisation. He wrote many books (including one in 1901 with the intriguing title The Afterglow of a Great Reign), particularly around the War years, and later published an autobiography Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram, D.D., K.C.V.O., Fifty Years' Work in London (1889-1939) (Longmans Green 1940); after his death S.C. Carpenter (Dean of Exeter) wrote The Biography of Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram, Bishop of London 1901-1939 (Hodder & Stoughton 1949). [Pictures show him at the time of his appointment to London (1) from Vanity Fair 1901, & (2); (3) Vanity Fair in 1912; (4) painting of 1918; (5) & (6) later in his ministry and (7) a painting of c1939 by Alice Mary Burton, from the Fulham Palace collection]


3: 1901-09 William Cosmo Gordon Lang (1864-1945): Cosmo Lang was the son of a Scots Presbyterian minister, with no great religious interest as a student at Balliol - he was destined for the bar - until he became convinced that he should seek ordination. His was a moderate catholic by inclination, combining the fruits of the Oxford Movement with the liberal views of Lux Mundi and the heirs of F.D. Maurice and Charles Kingsley (much later he was an early advocate of the Parish Communion movement, and was the first modern archbishop to wear cassock [black, not purple] rather than gaiters as day dress - despite the final photograph! - and to wear rather than carry a mitre in church). He served a curacy at Leeds Parish Church in 1900, returning to Oxford three years later to fellowships at All Souls and Magdalen, examining chaplaincies and a period as Vicar of the University Church. From 1896-1901 he was Vicar of Portsea, a famous 'slum' parish with a large and regimented staff (where many other future bishops served), and in 1901 was consecrated for Stepney, with a canonry and house at St Paul's [pictures (1) - Vanity Fair cartoon 1906, 'A Bishop of Decision' - and (2)]. Controversially - for he was only 44, and a 'mere' suffragan - he was appointed Archbishop of York in 1908. Perhaps mindful of his Stepney days, he spoke in the House of Lords in favour of Lloyd George's People's Budget of 1909, though this radical flash did not persist. Controversy surrounded a speech early in the First World War in which he displayed sympathy for the German emperor; the stress probably resulted in the alopecia that changed his appearance [compare photo (3) and following]. In the 1920s he promoted Christian unity and supported Prayer Book reform (a cause which failed and 'went dead' for several decades), and worked closely with fellow-Scot Randall Davidson at Canterbury, whom he succeeded in that office in 1928 until his retirement in 1942, remaining a member of the House of Lords until his death. A friend of royalty - as early as 1899 he had been a chaplain to Queen Victoria - he was much troubled by Edward VIII's intention to marry a divorcée, and relieved when others (apparently) brokered the abdication, though his speech after the event was much-criticised. Trevor Beeson's assessment is By conviction he remained unmarried, the better to give himself to his work [like his predecessor: note that Michael Gove and David Starkey are among those who have speculated, on slender evidence, that he was a latent homosexual]. Dignified, handsome, a master of ecclesiastical ceremony, he was also an able and conscientious administrator and a gracious and charming host to both high and low ... if Davidson was the statesman, Lang was the churchman. His primary biographer was J.G. Lockhart Cosmo Gordon Lang (Hodder 1949); the Wikipedia article is full and reasonably balanced; and see also Alan Wilkinson's 2004 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry, and Robert Beaken Cosmo Lang: Archbishop in War and Crisis (I.B. Tauris 2012) which accesses fresh material.


4: 1909-19   Henry Luke Paget (1853-1937 - right c1906) always claimed his happiest years were in urban ministry, despite two rural bishoprics. He studied at Christ Church Oxford and served his title at the Tractarian church of St Andrew Wells Street, Marylebone from 1877 under Benjamin Webb (co-founder of the Cambridge Camden Society which campaigned for 'correct' liturgical architecture). After two years as vice-principal of Leeds Clergy School he returned to London in 1881 to the Christ Church mission house in East London. After just a year as Vicar of St Ives (in Ely diocese) he was back in London as Vicar of St Pancras from 1887 (latterly also serving as rural dean and as a chaplain to his brother Francis, who was Bishop of Oxford) until his consecration as a bishop. This was in 1906 (unusually, at his 'own' church of St Pancras, rather than at St Paul's Cathedral), to the suffragan see of Ipswich, then part of Norwich diocese (also holding the Rectory of Nacton with Levington). This see was left vacant when he was translated to Stepney three years later; in 1914 the new diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich was created.

Left is a report of the 25th anniversary of the Hebrew Guild of Intercession at which he pronounced the absolution and blessing in Hebrew. In the period up to the end of the First World War he was the select preacher both at Oxford and Cambridge on several occasions. To the surprise of some, after ten years in Stepney, at the age of 66, he was preferred to the diocesan bishopric of Chester, though he managed to serve a further 13 years there. He died aged 83 at a nursing home in Bournemouth, and was buried, according to his wishes, at St Andrew Kingsbury - the 1847 Wells Street church which had been rebuilt there stone by stone [right in its new location] - he was present at its re-consecration in 1934, and was very moved to see again the communion vessels he had handled as a curate. (Today it is a 'Fulham jurisdiction' parish, opposed to the ordained ministry of women.) A definite but open anglo-catholic, sometimes said to to be the 'last of the Tractarian bishops', he was a close friend of Fr Wainwright at St Peter London Docks. He is said to have recited the psalms from memory at the daily office; he was much-loved. His father (Sir James Paget) and brother were medics, and a son was an architect. His wife Elma Katie Gurney Hoare (a prolific author, under the name of Elma K. Paget) wrote a biography Henry Luke Paget (Longmans, Green 1939).


5: 1919-28  Henry Mosley (1868-1948), left - from Newcastle-under-Lyne, he studied at Keble College Oxford and trained for ordination at Ely College, beginning his ministry at St Andrew Bethnal Green in 1893, moving to Trinity College's mission at Stratford in 1898, and becoming Rector of All Saints Poplar in 1902 - where J.C. Pringle, future Rector of our parish, was his curate - moving to St John-at-Hackney in 1911 (where he was rural dean of Hackney and Stoke Newington from 1917, and also a commissary for the church in Korea). So he too had impeccable credentials for a Stepney episcopate, and was an urban priest at heart. In a farewell letter to East London churches [photograph left from that year] he wrote I will not attempt to tell you what a heartache it gives me to think of leaving East London after 37 years ... It was a hard decision to make. Last March, when you presented me with that beautiful motor-car, I looked forward to using it in East London for many a day to come. But that is not to be, and the car will now become a most treasured farewell gift from you all. He had been 'promoted' to become Bishop of Southwell, a mainly rural diocese at that time (telephone 'Southwell 12'), where he remained until retirement in 1941 - serving on the Council for the Church and the Countryside; he died at Kingsclere in 1948. His daughter Dame Betty Ridley was a Church Commissioner and a leading advocate for women's ordination.


6: 1928-36  Charles Edward Curzon (1878-1954) was born in London but attended Lancaster Royal Grammar School; after Christ's College Cambridge and Salisbury Theological College, he was ordained in 1901 as curate of St Andrew Fulham and then, after a short period as secretary of the Additional Curates Society, was Vicar of St Oswald Millhouses, in south Sheffield, then of Goole. Returning to London in 1920, he held another administrative post as secretary of the London Diocesan Fund, plus a brief incumbency at St Barnabas Kensington, before his consecration. He became Bishop of Exeter in 1936 (where he published various pamphlets, for Lent courses and the like) until his retirement in 1948 to Hatfield, Herts; he died in 1954. [prints (1) 1920-40 by Albert Howard Hester, (2) 1945 by Walter Stoneman; (3) painting by John Mansbridge, for Exeter Palace]



7: 1936-52  Robert Hamilton Moberly (1884-1978) was a protegé of his predecessor Paget, and a member of a distinguished clerical family: his grandfather George was a bishop, and his father Robert Campbell Moberly the author of the classic, still-read, works Ministerial Priesthood (1897) and Atonement and Personality (1901). He was a scholar of New College Oxford and trained at Cuddesdon; ordained in 1909 to a village parish in Kent (St Margaret-at-Cliffe), in 1914 he began an 11-year stint at Benoni, in the Transvaal, which included a period as a chaplain during the First World War and work with the bishops of Pretoria and Johannesburg - he continued as a commissary for Southern Rhodesia until he left Stepney. In 1925 be became Principal of Bishops' College, Cheshunt [right], a theological college taken over from the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion in 1909, sponsored by the Bishops of St Alban's, London, Southwark and Chelmsford (it closed in 1969).  He was consecrated for Stepney in 1936 and left in 1952 to become Dean of Salisbury, retiring in 1960 with permission to officiate in Ely until 1966; he then lived in West Wittering, Sussex until his death in 1978. [photos from 1930s, and in later life]




8:  1952-57  Joost de Blank (1908-68) was a powerful and complex character. Born in Rotterdam to Dutch Reformed parents who worshipped at the Presbyterian church in Ealing when his father came to work for Unilever, he attended Merchant Taylors' School, King's College London and (after a year learning useful journalism skills) read English and Law at Queens' College Cambridge. He shed Calvinism, but trained for ordination at Ridley Hall, an evangelical college, and embraced the Moral Re-Armament cause - indeed, during his second curacy in Bath & Wells diocese he was a regional organiser. He forsook this when he became Vicar of Emmanuel, Forest Gate (a parish of 12,000) in 1937, and also - because convinced of the evils of Nazism -  his pacifist convictions, to serve as an army chaplain, in North Africa and Italy. In 1944 he was injured at a confirmation in Antwerp where he was one of only four survivors when a German V2 rocket hit the building; this left him facially scarred, and with severe lifelong headaches. He then tried his hand as a Student Christian Movement secretary, but this did not suit, and in 1948 he took on another large and challenging parish, St John Greenhill in Harrow, which thrived under his flamboyant style (he related more easily men than to women, though the journalist and writer Monica Furlong was a devotee). By now he was a 'Parish and People' man, stressing the centrality of the eucharist coupled with social action, and wrote The Parish in Action (1954 - pictured - one of several similar books from that period: see Donald Gray Earth & Altar 1986). He was equally vigorous during his five years at Stepney, re-organising parishes into teams. In 1957 he was appointed Archbishop of Cape Town. Despite being an outsider and an autocrat, Trevor Beeson says he was the right man in the right place at the right time. His Dutch background may have led the Afrikaners to expect an appeaser, like his fellow-bishops, but at his consecration he courageously announced It is my conviction that racial discrimination is a form of blasphemy, and that those who condone it or allow it without protest place their souls in eternal peril ... Sin is sin, and has to be repented of and forsaken completely - here and now. He refused to preach in churches not open to blacks and whites, and opposed clause 29 of the Natives Law Amendment Bill which gave power to exclude non-white Anglicans from churches. He called on the government to repudiate apartheid, and described the jubilee celebrations as no time for rejoicing but for shame. Dubbed the 'scourge of apartheid', he continued to live at a frantic pace under the spotlight (usually in a vivid purple cassock, with an entourage of curates) until 1962 when he had a cerebral thrombosis; he resigned the following year, unable to continue on a half-hearted basis. His final years were as a canon of Westminster Abbey, and Sub-Prelate of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, where he described himself as a caged lion, though he was a prolific speaker around the country, and published papers and addresses under the title of Out of Africa (1964). He was nominated as Bishop of Hong Kong in 1966, but his health ruled this out. His memorial tablet at the Abbey describes him as an 'Indomitable Fighter for Human Rights'.

Some of his diaries and papers are at York University's Centre for South African Studies, including a typescript of The Return of the Sacred and his authobiography Six Years Hard; more documents are at the University of Witwatersrand, in the archives of the Province of South Africa. There is also a biography My Brother Joost: A Personal Memoir of Joost de Blank by Bartha de Blank (Boydell Press, Ipswich, 1977) - her ashes are with his at Westminster Abbey.


9: 1957-68  Francis Evered Lunt (1900-82), sometimes nicknamed (how fairly?) 'Evered the Unready', had a background in student chaplaincy. He had trained for ordination at the London College of Divinity, and served a curacy in Maidenhead from 1925-31, before moving to St Barnabas Cambridge and completing a licentiate at University College Durham in 1934 (an unusual academic trajectory). He then became chaplain of Downing College Cambridge within the Cambridge Pastorate, moving to a similar role in Oxford, as senior chaplain of the Oxford Pastorate and Rector of St Aldate's (and also a surrogate, and examining chaplain) in 1943. In 1951 he became Dean of Bristol, and came to Stepney in 1957, retiring to Bognor Regis in 1968 (two years earlier, Downing College had appointed him as an honorary fellow). In 1958 he had been one of sixteen formally nominated for the post of Bishop of Sydney, but he was not shortlisted. He was an active supporter of Dame Cicely Saunders' hospice movement.



10: 1968-78  [Sir] Ernest Urban Trevor Huddleston CR (1913-1998) was born in Bedford and attended Lancing College (a Woodard school in the Anglo-Catholic tradition); after Christ Church Oxford and Wells Theological College, he served a curacy at St Mark Swindon in 1937 and joined the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield two years later, taking vows in 1941. Remarkably, two years later, Fr Raymond Raynes CR, who had been recalled from the Community's mission station at Rossetenville, Sophiatown in South Africa because of stress - and was nursed by Trevor, still a novice - arranged for him to replace him there, and he became priest-in-charge, and in 1949 the Community's Provincial in South Africa (and Superintendent of St Peter's School). These were heady days for the anti-apartheid cause (predating Joost de Blank's involvement) and for the next 13 years he was at the forefront. He earned the nickname Makhalipile ('dauntless one') and the honorific title, at the 1955 African National Congress in Kliptown, Isitwalandwe. He visited the young Nelson Mandela as a young man recovering from TB, and they worked together [both pictured in later life]; he also, famously, acquired a trumpet from Louis Armstrong [pictured] for a young student Hugh Masekela. But when he published Naught for your Comfort in 1956 - which among other things pointed a finger at American support for apartheid -  the Community judged his life, or at least his well-being, to be in danger and despite his protests recalled him. There followed four years as novice master at Mirfield and at their London house - frustrating, but he did at least found the Anti-Apartheid movement (later, in 1981, becoming its president). In 1960 he was elected Bishop of Masasi, Tanzania [then South Eastern Tanganyika] and he returned to the fray - only to come back eight years later to the Stepney post. Piers McGrandle Trevor Huddleston: Turbulent Priest (Continuum 2004) writes about this period in his life - Julian Scharf, priest-in-charge of this parish, was one of his chaplains. His final period in Africa - apart from short visits in retirement - was as Bishop of Mauritius and Archbishop of the (new) Province of the Indian Ocean, from 1978-83; he was awarded the United Nations' Gold Medal in 1982. Back in England once again, he worked from St James Piccadilly for the worldwide anti-apartheid cause, and had links with theological training at the ecumenical Queen's College Birmingham, before finally retiring to Mirfield. Various further honours followed, including (rather unusually for a friar - did he struggle to accept it?) Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael & St George in 1997. The simple, much-used prayer God bless Africa, guard her people, guide her leaders, and give her peace (which exists in various forms) is often attributed to him. On his death, Nelson Mandela said Father Huddleston was a pillar of wisdom, humility and sacrifice to the legions of freedom fighters in the darkest moments of the struggle against apartheid (full text, and more on his links with African leaders, in this blog by Charles Cameron).


Here are some archive pictures of a parish visit (when Alex Solomon was Rector); see also this letter to the parish from Gonville ffrench-Beytagh, another opponent of apartheid. This news story, in relation to a blue plaque at his birthplace in Bedford, reveals an extraordinary naïveté about his relationship with young boys.

Huddleston on Hawksmoor
In 1962 the Arts Council had mounted a major exhibition on Hawksmoor - a stage towards his 'rehabilitation' - and in 1977 Kerry Downes, author of both the standard and popular books on Hawksmoor (1959 and 1969) curated a large display at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. This was criticised by some for failing to set his masterpieces in the context of urban renewal in the East End - at that time both Christ Church Spitalfields and St Anne Limehouse were vulnerable. One critic wrote St George-in-the-East ....is well looked after and the modern interior seems open at all times during the day and loved. Its gaunt and magnificent exterior rises above the dereliction and desolation of The Highway and Cable Street - great wastes of vacant land and, now, brutal housing estates going up.

This prompted the following letter in The Times (20 April 1977) by Bishop Trevor and Sir John Betjeman (who among his many other involvements was a member of the Council for the Care of Churches):

In his excellent article on 'Hawksmoor's Neglected Churches' Paul Overy....goes on to plead for an examination of "the place that these great majestic hulks of stone should play in a revitalised human environment in East London". It is certainly an irony that three of these great monuments should stand in Tower Hamlets, one of the poorest boroughs in the country. This is an issue of national significance and it is becoming more urgent every day ... By a strange irony the Church of St George-in-the-East benefited most from the greatest disaster; from having been gutted in the 'blitz' in 1941, it received a large enough sum in war damage to provide for its restoration. It is a splendid parish church with a crypt large enough to make a first class community centre. But both Christ Church and St Anne's are a different case altogether. Because of their sheer magnificence of scale their renovation and restoration today demand financial resources quite beyond the capacity of the local Christian community. And, indeed, it is exceeding doubtful whether the expenditure of vast sums on buildings, however splendid, can possibly today be regarded as a priority by the Church of England as a whole. It seems to us that the time has come for a direct appeal to the nation to save these glorious churches for posterity. We believe that such an appeal in Jubilee Year would meet with a wide and generous response. It would demonstrate unequivocally that we regard the question of urban renewal as a matter of first importance to our country. It would give fresh impetus to aesthetic and cultural priorities in Dockland redevelopment. And - since we are speaking of churches - it would demonstrate our concern as a nation for the preservation and the revitalisation of those values upon which our civilisation is built.


11:  1978-91 James (Jim) Lawton Thompson (1936-2003), subsequently Bishop of Bath and Wells until his retirement in 2001, was born in Birmingham and qualified as a chartered accountant; after National Service in Germany, he studied at Emmanuel College Cambridge and trained at Cuddesdon where Robert Runcie was principal. After a curacy in East Ham he returned to Cuddesdon as chaplain, and in 1971 became Rector of the new ecumenical parish of Thamesmead before coming to Stepney. As a well-known and effective broadcaster - for which he received various awards - he was passionate on issues of social and racial justice, supporting the marginalised communities of his patch; as a result, it's said that Margaret Thatcher rejected his nomination to the see of Birmingham - unlike his next-but-one successor! - though he always claimed to be non-party political. From 1983 until he went to Bath & Wells he was moderator of the Committee for Relations with People of Other Faiths (as it was then known), and co-chair of the Inter-Faith Network for the United Kingdom from 1987-1992. In his later years he also chaired the Children's Society and the English Churches Housing Trust. He published several books, including Half Way: Reflections in Middle Life (1986), The Lord's Song (1990), Stepney Calling (1991 - a retrospect of his time here), Why God? (1997) and Good Morning! a Decade of Thoughts for the Day (2003). The best obituary is by Ruth McCurry (whose husband was Rector of Stepney, and who still lives and worships in Tower Hamlets deanery, and works for SPCK) in The Independent on Sunday.


12: 1992-95 Richard John Carew Chartres (b.1947): Bishop Richard, now our diocesan bishop, studied at Trinity College Cambridge and was ordained in 1973 after training (not without turbulence) at Cuddesdon and Lincoln Theological Colleges. After a curacy at St Andrew Bedford he became Robert Runcie's chaplain at St Albans, moving with him to Canterbury. From 1984-92 he was incumbent of St Stephen Westminster, director of ordinands, and a professor of Gresham College, and has maintained a keen interest in higher education (the Rector of St George's first met him at a chaplains' conference) and ministry training, as witness his powerful advocacy of St Mellitus College (which until recently had a base in our crypt). Aided by a photographic memory for people and places - and by his much-loved wife Caroline (whose Church Times columns chronicled how they raised four young children in the heart of the City when they moved from Stepney) - he retains a close pastoral concern for the area which he served for five years. In typically colourful phraseology, he describes us, among other things, as East Saxons with attitude who now face the embourgeoisement of the Thames littoral. (He himself claims to be an Irish Huguenot.) Duties in the Stepney area included serving on the East London Partnership, and as patron of Tower Hamlets Old People's Welfare Trust. As Bishop of London, he has a plethora of national roles: in Parliament; with the royal family; internationally (including our diocesan links with Angola and Mozambique); though no lover of General Synod, in the Church of England he is a passionate campaigner for, and (as a vegetarian who restricts his air travel wherever possible) personal practitioner of, green causes; and is the lead bishop for cathedral and church buildings, describing the Church of England as the least established church in Europe in terms of the financial support it receives from government. [There are many recent pictures of Bishop Richard online - including [far right] at the time of the 2011 'Occupy London' camp on the steps of St Paul's - but fewer of his earlier ministry.]


13: 1996-2002 John Tucker Mugabe Sentamu (b.1949): previously styled Bishop John, now Archbishop Sentamu, he was born near Kampala in Uganda, the sixth of thirteen children, and studied law at Makerere University, becoming an advocate of the Supreme Court. He was imprisoned for 90 days for his opposition to Idi Amin's regime before coming to Britain in 1974, where he read theology at Selwyn College Cambridge (receiving an adult believer's baptism) and trained for ordination at Ridley Hall; ordained in 1979, he continued to study - gaining a doctorate in 1984 on the 'classic' texts of the early 20th century theologian J.K. Mozley on divine passibility, examining the question that is both African and unversal 'must God suffer in order to save?' - while serving variously as assistant chaplain of Selwyn, at a remand centre, and posts in Southwark diocese, particularly around Tulse Hill, where he became incumbent of a vibrant group of parishes (enlivened not least by his own drumming at services), and an honorary canon. He was consecrated for Stepney in 1996; during this time was an adviser to the Stephen Lawrence judicial enquiry, and in 2002 chaired the Damilola Taylor review; he was also vocal on the issue of the impact of police 'stop and search' on the black community, of which he was personally a victim on several occasions, and on other justice issues. In 2002 he became Bishop of Birmingham, and a mere three years later Archbishop of York. He has received many honours, both from universities and as 'Yorkshireman of the Year' - claiming in response that his third name is 'ee-bah-gum' in reverse. Ironically, he shares this name with the president of Zimbabwe, whom he has roundly denounced, cutting up and eschewing his clerical collar until he has gone. As a public figure, he is sharp and prominent (even writing a column for Murdoch's relaunched Sunday Sun), treading a precarious course between the conservative values that he espouses - and on which African Christians look to him to speak out - on matters such as sexuality, the family and multiculturalism, and the more liberal values on social justice, including challenging oppression and corruption at home and abroad, to which he is also committed. [Pictures selected from a huge range of past and present images!]


14:  2003-10 Stephen John Oliver (b.1948) trained at King's College London, and after posts in Southwell diocese worked in religious broadcasting at the BBC from 1985-91. He was then Team Rector of Leeds parish church (and involved in the production of various texts as a member of the Liturgical Commission) and from 1997 Canon Precentor of St Paul's Cathedral (planning various high-profile services) before his appointment to Stepney. He retired to Nottinghamshire after the death of his beloved wife Hilary in 2010, a senior nurse, whom he himself nursed through her long final illness, and wrote Inside Grief (2013); he continues to preach and broadcast. One of their two sons, Simon, is associate professor philosophical theology at Nottingham and honorary Canon Theologian of Southwell Minster. 

Stepney the Bluebell Engine
In April 2008 Bishop Stephen invited the clergy of the Stepney area on a mystery tour. This turned out to be for an enjoyable ride on the Bluebell line in Sussex, hauled by 'Stepney the Bluebell engine', with period carriages. Stepney was built in 1875, one of 50 Terrier class engines built by William Stroudley to work lightly-laid branch lines, of which there were a number in East London. For much of its life, the engine was painted in 'Stroudley's Improved Engine Green', which curiously was a dirty ochre colour; but after a recent refit and restoration is now in a less distinctive black with red trim. Clergy were given copies of the Revd Wilbert Vere Awdry's children's book as a souvenir of the trip!


15:  2011- Adrian Newman (b.1958) is our current bishop. He studied economics and theology at Bristol and worked as an enonomist before his ordination (after training at Trinity College Bristol) in 1985, to St Mark Forest Gate, in Chelmsford diocese; from 1989 he was Vicar of Hillsborough and Wadsley Bridge in Sheffield (and for two years their rural dean) before moving to Birmingham as Rector of St Martin in the Bull Ring, in the centre of Birmingham, in 1996, five years later becoming a Canon of Birmingham. In 2004 he became Dean of Rochester Cathedral, relishing a one-time introduction as the most un-dean like dean in the Church of EnglandHe and the cathedral had links with both the universities in Kent: Canterbury Christ Church (an Anglican foundation, once a college of education) made him an honorary fellow in 2009, and Kent at Canterbury conferred an honorary degree three years later. Consecrated for Stepney in 2012, he sees his role as a 'social entrepreneur', promoting human and gospel flourishing in every way possible; passionate about urban ministry, one of his first acts was to share with his clergy his sabbatical research on the subject (under the title 'So Yesterday', reflecting his fears about disengagement since Faith in the City 25 years previously). He would be the first to acknowledge the key role of his archdeacon colleague, Rachel Treweek of Hackney (formerly of Willesden) [right] in enabling him to make a powerful initial impact on the area, as well as fulfilling a role on the wider church scene, including being one of six senior women priests to sit with the House of Bishops pending the inclusion of women among their number.


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