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Church Times: 150 years

THE Church Times is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, marking the occasion with a special edition of the paper (out 8 February), a literary festival (in Bloxham, near Banbury, 15-17 February), and further events and publications later in the year.

The Church Times, the world's leading Anglican weekly, was first published on 7 February 1863. It fought for the Anglo-Catholic cause in the Church of England at a time when priests were being harried and imprisoned over such matters as lighting candles on altars and wearing vestments, which brought them into conflict with parliamentary legislation intended to "put down" the Anglo-Catholic movement. The paper always stood up for the spiritual independence of the Church of England. Many of the things that the paper championed are now accepted as mainstream Anglicanism.

The Church Times  has not always been progressive, however. In its early years, although it favoured church unity in principle, it was often caustic about other Christian denominations. It argued against women's suffrage (women priests weren't even on the agenda - and when one was ordained under crisis conditions in Hong Kong in 1944, the paper accused her bishop of behaving like a "wild man of the woods"); and during the First World Ward labelled conscientious objectors "poltroons". 

Click to enlarge

Page one of the first edition 7 February 1863

Page one of the first edition 7 February 1863

On the other hand, it has enjoyed a reputation for intelligent reporting of politics and culture, and its books pages have always carried authority. Lord Curzon, Foreign Secretary (1919-24), remarked that the Church Times was probably "read in every chancellery in Europe". For much of the 20th century, the paper was left of centre. Nevertheless, Edward Heath, later to be Tory Prime Minister, was news editor for a short spell.

The paper was founded by George Josiah Palmer, a printer, and his family presided over the paper for the next three generations, until 1989. Dr Bernard Palmer, proprietor and editor (1969-89), has contributed an article for the 150th edition. The paper is now owned by a charity, Hymns Ancient & Modern. It has always been independent of the church hierarchy.


Next week's Church Times will include the results of a YouGov poll about how many people intend to observe Lent (which begins the following Wednesday, 13 February). An embargoed press release will be issued next Thursday, 7 February.


For comments and interviews: Paul Handley (, 020 7776 1061, 0771 981 3792). Paul has been editor for the past 18 years, having begun as a reporter under Dr Palmer.

Other enquiries: Justine Burrows (, 020 7776 1082, 07587 870168) 

Snippets from the paper's history

On the assassination of Abraham Lincoln:

Are we to understand that it was while in his box at the theatre on the evening of Good Friday that Mr Lincoln was struck down? We are afraid that that was the case, and that it was merely a poignant illustration of the laxity which prevails throughout the Union.

On the dangers of the Channel Tunnel:

Mr Bright . . . somehow forgot to explain . . . why a population [i.e. the French] which one or more times in every generation goes to loggerheads with itself should not occasionally take the fancy to attack its neighbours.

On preventing smoking:

What is wanted is a simple enactment that youths of immature age caught smoking in public shall be birched. . . Of course there would be an outcry in some quarters against this wholesome discipline, but the general feeling would be in its favour.

On Winston Churchill:

The activities of Colonel Churchill are a grave danger to the country: it will be a real disaster if he is given opportunities for continuing a political career in which he has already the worst of records. Few of our politicians have so much cleverness and so little wisdom.

A reflection by an exasperated editor:

I comforted myself with the fact that I had a pulpit from which I could preach social righteousness, but this comfort was mitigated by the knowledge that at least seventy-five per cent of my readers were far more interested in the revision of the Prayer Book than in the destruction of the slums.


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