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High-density faith in the Smoke

by
08 September 2009

Robert Mackley looks at Catholic fervour in one London borough

ENGLISH HERITAGE

ENGLISH HERITAGE

Remember: a bronze plaque erected by the Bedford Estate, c.1913, on Christina Rossetti’s former home, 30 Torrington Square, Bloomsbury, is now part of the blue-plaque scheme lavishly celebrated in Lived in London: Blue plaques and the stories behind them, edited by Emily Cole (Yale/English Heritage, £40 (£36); 978-0-300-14871-8). See also photo below

One Part of London: Aspects of Anglo-Catholicism in Camden
Michael Farrer
Anglo-Catholic History Society £16

ONE Part of London is one of many recent publications by the Anglo-Catholic History Society, an org­anisa­tion dedicated to promoting study of the Catholic Movement in the Anglican Communion, and of which both the author and this reviewer are members.

Often called “the London, Brighton and South Coast religion”, Anglo-Catholicism has always been strong in the south-east of England. Michael Farrer’s new history of Catholic parishes in the London Borough of Camden demonstrates how accurate that description is.

In a relatively small part of the nation’s capital, a huge number of “high” churches were built and de­veloped in the 19th and early-20th centuries. From Percy Dearmer’s English-rite experiment in Primrose Hill to the Papalism of Kentish Town, Camden has been an extra­ordinary melting pot of Anglo-Catholic identity and mission.

It was here that the first Anglican religious community since the Re­formation was established (in the parish of Christ Church, Albany Street, in March 1845), and here also that parishes introduced Latin, incense, Benediction, and other things designed to make successive diocesan bishops’ hair stand on end.

There are the clergy in comic vein (the Revd Sir Percy Maryon-Wilson Bt firing his curate for committing matrimony) and the eccentrics (Fr Stanton marching his Sunday con­gregation through London to find a church where they could practise the full faith unfettered); but almost always these were also immensely hard-working priests, many of whom truly deserve that over-used sobriquet “saint”.

Farrer’s book takes a chronolo­gical tour from the 1830s through to the present day, and, while serious and scholarly, is also a personal account of a place where the author has lived and worked almost all his adult life. Occasionally a personal statement may grate on the aca­demic reader, and the 150 pages do not allow a huge amount of analysis or discursive material, but Farrer brings out well the labours of suc­cessive generations of priests, and reminds us that if nothing else, the narrative of Anglo-Catholicism in England is a wonderful and enthral­ling story.

It also has a lesson for Catholics today: the churches and projects were created thanks not only to de­dicated priests, but also to dedi­cated, wealthy, and generous lay people. If the Catholic Move­ment is to affect the Church of England in the 21st century as it did in the 20th, it needs once again to nurture the vocation of all the baptised, not just the energies of its priests.

The Revd Robert Mackley is Assistant Curate at Our Lady and St Nicholas, Liverpool.

(This title is obtainable from: The Secretary, ACHS, 24 Cloudesley Square, London N1 0HN. Cheques payable to the Anglo-Catholic History Society.)

 

 

"Encaustic tablet": the design for the London County Council's 1903 plaque on Dickens's house at 48 Doughty Street. Before 1954, not all the plaques were blue. English Heritage now runs the scheme. For book details, see caption above

Order these books through CT Bookshop

"Encaustic tablet": the design for the London County Council's 1903 plaque on Dickens's house at 48 Doughty Street. Before 1954, not all the plaques were blue. English Heritage now runs the scheme. For book details, see caption above

Order these books through CT Bookshop

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