PACING suburban streets, as I did when I first lived in London, and have been doing again in lockdown, I occasionally pass a church that in my youth was down at heel and looked to my imagination frozen in the time three decades before when — as I happened to know — its priest had been been unfrocked with more ceremony than was strictly necessary after a scandalous consistory-court case.
When I mentioned this to my long-serving Vicar at that time, he remarked, as a gentle character trained to deal mainly with the penitent rather than the impenitent: “Oh, yes, he did rather push his luck a bit.”
But, in another notorious case, did Archdeacon Wakeford of Stow, in Lincoln diocese (100 Years Ago, 12 February), really push his luck that far in a hotel in Peterborough?
It might, I fear, be an injustice if I allow the Church Times of a century ago to have the final word; for when his appeal failed — “argued by the ablest of counsel before the most weighty tribunal of the Empire” — a leading article (29 April 1921), “The Valley of Humiliation”, rounded on him for failing to admit his guilt.
“Mr Wakeford is found to have lost not something but everything. He has gambled with the trust and the money of those who for the sake of a friendship responded to the appeal for funds for his defence. He has involved his Bishop in expense not to be met by a full year’s income of the see. To a sin detestable in itself Mr Wakeford has added betrayal of his friends.”
THE case was, however, re-examined in scientific detail in the 1980s by the late Dr John Treherne, entomologist and President of Downing College, Cambridge, in his book Dangerous Precincts (Jonathan Cape).
Viewing it as improbable that an archdeacon would parade adultery with such reckless indiscretion and retain the loyalty of his wife, the author cast serious doubt on the evidence of the hotel proprietor. Treherne even spoke to an old lady who had been “the girl in the cathedral” on Good Friday about whom much had been speculated but who, to protect her own husband from publicity, had declined to give evidence.
The author uncovered enmities and machinations in Wakeford’s family and the diocese which would strike most modern readers as far more scandalous than a “case of human frailty”. The CT did the decent thing and reviewed the Treherne book at length on 24 December 1987.
RENEWED interest in the writings of Austin Farrer may have raised an issue of chapel acoustics (Letters, 26 February). Having listened to a sermon in Pusey House, Oxford, but not in Keble, I am unqualified to judge. But what about Trinity?
Someone who could advise is Canon Christopher Hall, whom I probably last saw when he was handing out SYNEWS outside the General Synod chamber in York — many years ago in the land of lost pre-virtual content. He can, at least, confirm something else said recently about Farrer (Books, 5 February), who was his Ancient Philosophy tutor and chaplain at Trinity.
“I visited him after his election as Warden of Keble and congratulated him,” Canon Hall writes. “Well,” responded Farrer, “I don’t know if it is a matter of congratulation. I decided I didn’t want to be a professor, and that wasn’t sour grapes — for a godly and an ungodly reason. The first was I wanted a cure of souls, and the second was I don’t like research students!’’
Farrer, Canon Hall says, “seemed to walk this earth six inches off the ground . . . and yet in my time six members of the 1st VIII were ordained and/or became Lay Readers.”
I THOUGHT one night that an encampment of gleaming white vehicles meant that some great vaccination facility was opening close to home. But it turned out to be a film company, and, although it would be less exciting than a jab in the arm these days, I hoped for a while to spot a Hollywood idol.
John Willcocks, a retired graphic designer and illustrator, was so moved that Salisbury Cathedral was offering to help with the Covid vaccinations, that he made the illustration here, which he captions “All good jabs around us are sent from Heaven above”.