The Nikaean Club Collection

The Nikaean Club archive has recently been catalogued and made available for viewing at Lambeth Palace Library. The papers, which date from the Club’s foundation in 1926 until 2008, largely consist of event organisation, alongside AGM and committee minutes.

In 1925, a service was held at Westminster Abbey to commemorate the 1600th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea, followed by a banquet attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, various members of the Orthodox churches, including the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem, and the Reverend John Douglas.

Group photograph from the original Nikaean service at Westminster Abbey in 1925, including Archbishop Davidson, John Douglas, visiting clergy and Westminster choirboys
Group photograph from the original Nikaean service at Westminster Abbey in 1925, including Archbishop Davidson, John Douglas, visiting clergy and Westminster choirboys [NC/5]

John Douglas was a major figure in ecumenical relations with the Orthodox churches, and it was through him that the Nikaean Club was founded. The Club’s purpose was to provide entertainment to foreign guests of the Archbishop in the form of a banquet or reception.

Originally, Club membership was by invitation only, and, although the Club had a President and a Committee, it was very much run by Douglas, the Entertainment Officer. It operated separately to the Council on Foreign Relations, which was founded in 1933, even though Douglas was Secretary for the CFR. For Douglas, the fact that the Club was separated from the official organisation of the Archbishop of Canterbury was its strength. It was a social club. He also cofounded the Society of the Faith alongside his brother, Charles Douglas, which was used to help fund the Nikaean Club events.

The Nikaean Club endured throughout the Second World War with the Club still managing to hold sandwich lunches for guests despite rationing. One file of documents reveals how hard Canon Douglas fought for the Club to be exempt from rationing but, unfortunately for him, the Ministry of Food disagreed with his argument that the Nikaean Club was more than a social club, and vital to relations between churches.

However, it was after the War that difficulties began to arise. At this time, the Committee started minuting their meetings, adding an air of officiality to proceedings. The costs of running the receptions so regularly had become too high, and a subscribed membership was introduced. There was also a call for a more structured approach to the running of the Club, so that officers were better in control of finances. However, Douglas, as a Club’s founder and Entertainment Officer, still had a large amount of influence in the group. He argued that the casual nature of the Club was why it worked. Other members of the Committee argued that the Club needed more structure, otherwise financially it would not be able to continue operating.

In 1948, at the age of 80, Douglas finally decided to resign from his position in the Committee. This did not appear to happen on good terms, as a book that was given to him as a retirement gift was quickly donated to Lambeth Palace Library. Fortunately, his relationship with the Club grew more cordial again before he died in 1956.

Most of the Nikaean Club’s archive relates to the many dinners and receptions they enjoyed over the years. As well as an annual dinner, they held an annual lecture and Eucharist, whilst also holding special receptions for guests of the Archbishop. Whilst most of the events took place in London, there was also an annual dinner in York to coincide with the beginning of the General Synod. The Nikaean Club also holds a commemorative dinner for the enthronement and retirement of each Archbishop of Canterbury.

Archbishop Ramsey’s retirement dinner [NC5]
Archbishop Ramsey’s retirement dinner [NC5]

The collection demonstrates the relationships between the Church of England and other churches around the world and how international politics affected those relationships. The collections also includes correspondence by John Douglas and other prominent members of the Club.

Further Reading

Huelin, Gordon, The Nikaean Club 1926-1986 : a history of these years, given by the Reverend Dr. Gordon Huelin at the Annual General Meeting of the Club held at Lambeth Palace, 10 March 1986 (1986)

Hough, Brenda, Times past : Notes towards a history of the Nikaean Club (London : Church House Publishing for the Nikaean Club, 2001)

19th Century Religious Magazines

Religious serials proliferated in the nineteenth-century, but were not collected widely by Lambeth Palace Library at the time; even the British Library does not have complete runs of many of them. Various volumes have from time to time been acquired by Lambeth, mainly by gift, but there are very large gaps in the holdings.

The church at Whitchurch Canonicorum from The Church of England Magazine, 1858

An example is the Religious Tract Society’s Tract Magazine and Christian Miscellany a series of which ran from 1848 to 1869 and a New Series from 1870 to 1891. A donor gave the Library 10 volumes from towards the end of its life, and we have added another dozen recently.

You would have thought that a serial called The Church of England Magazine would feature in the Library, but until recently it only held sixteen of the 79 annual volumes. Lambeth Palace Library now has 53.

St Peters, Leeds from The Church of England Magazine, 1858

Many more examples could be given; efforts will continue to amplify the Library’s collections in this area.

Cliff Webb, library donor

Court of Arches : Act books 1666-1671

During 2021 the project focused on the act books from 1666 to 1671, containing almost 9,000 acts of court. Each of these has been recorded and dated for the first time, with identifications of people and places, cross-references between cases, and pointers to related material elsewhere.  The online catalogue now includes some 10,000 references to related documents, mainly in the National Archives. These have assisted the identification of the protagonists in cases before the Court as well as providing further information concerning them. The project to catalogue these act books has been generously supported by the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library.

First session of Trinity Term, 22 May 1665. Arches A 4, f.115v

 The diverse business of the Court included suits concerning the dilapidation of parsonage houses, bishops’ palaces and deaneries. The Bishops of Ely, Oxford, Salisbury, Winchester and Worcester all brought cases between 1666 and 1671. There were also suits from the northern  province.  Richard Sterne, Archbishop of York, netted £100 for dilapidations at Bishopsthorpe and other palaces from the executor of his predecessor Accepted Frewen, as well as costs of £70 for the suit, which was fought in the Court of Arches from 1665 to 1668. William Sancroft, a future Archbishop of Canterbury, was also pursued for dilapidations arising from his brief tenure of the deanery of York in 1664. The act book preserves remarkable documentation of his expenditure at this time.

The Court was also concerned with marriage, divorce and morality. In these years Sir Thomas Ivie, a former Governor of Madras, continued to be harassed by his unscrupulous wife Theodosia, who had emptied his pockets long before.  Benjamin Overton, who was to make his name as a politician and pamphleteer, was brought to court for carrying off Anne Darcey, a vulnerable heiress aged 17 who was deaf and dumb from birth. The anatomist Thomas Wharton led a commission of eight physicians and surgeons appointed to test the virility of Samuel Sadler, of St. Sepulchre, London, in a case of nullity of marriage.  Martha Atkyns, widow of Sir Patrick Acheson, who had inherited a patent for printing law books, brought a case for divorce, on grounds of cruelty, against her husband, Richard Atkyns, a writer on printing who had started a hare running by claiming (on the basis of an alleged manuscript at Lambeth Palace) that printing had begun in England prior to Caxton.  The court also pursued errant clergymen such as Theophilus Hart, Rector of Wappenham,  a celebrated adulterer who was subsequently murdered.  Lay men and women were also prosecuted for immorality, and, surprisingly, a number of men came to court to confess their own adulteries, sometimes asking to pay a fine rather than endure public penance in church. Penances were also imposed on women convicted of defamation. The act books often preserve their colourful words of abuse as well as the formula of penance to be spoken by them in church.

Testamentary cases were also to the fore. Amongst the plaintiffs identified by the project was the religious thinker Lodowicke Muggleton. He appears in the case as the beneficiary of the will of Thomas Hudson, an innholder of St. Botolph Aldersgate, London. The will records Muggleton as a ‘dear and most beloved friend’ and provides valuable evidence on Muggletonianism by naming others who were ‘members with me in the true faith of our Lord Jesus’. 

The project has also added to the catalogue sixty appointments of guardians to act in court on behalf of minors.  These records were once held to be of little importance, but, like so many records of the Court of Arches, they are a goldmine for genealogists.

During 2021 the project focused on the act books from 1666 to 1671, containing almost 9,000 acts of court. Each of these has been recorded and dated for the first time, with identifications of people and places, cross-references between cases, and pointers to related material elsewhere.  The online catalogue now includes some 10,000 references to related documents, mainly in the National Archives. These have assisted the identification of the protagonists in cases before the Court as well as providing further information concerning them. The project to catalogue these act books has been generously supported by the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library.

 The diverse business of the Court included suits concerning the dilapidation of parsonage houses, bishops’ palaces and deaneries. The Bishops of Ely, Oxford, Salisbury, Winchester and Worcester all brought cases between 1666 and 1671. There were also suits from the northern  province.  Richard Sterne, Archbishop of York, netted £100 for dilapidations at Bishopsthorpe and other palaces from the executor of his predecessor Accepted Frewen, as well as costs of £70 for the suit, which was fought in the Court of Arches from 1665 to 1668. William Sancroft, a future Archbishop of Canterbury, was also pursued for dilapidations arising from his brief tenure of the deanery of York in 1664. The act book preserves remarkable documentation of his expenditure at this time.

The Court was also concerned with marriage, divorce and morality. In these years Sir Thomas Ivie, a former Governor of Madras, continued to be harassed by his unscrupulous wife Theodosia, who had emptied his pockets long before.  Benjamin Overton, who was to make his name as a politician and pamphleteer, was brought to court for carrying off Anne Darcey, a vulnerable heiress aged 17 who was deaf and dumb from birth. The anatomist Thomas Wharton led a commission of eight physicians and surgeons appointed to test the virility of Samuel Sadler, of St. Sepulchre, London, in a case of nullity of marriage.  Martha Atkyns, widow of Sir Patrick Acheson, who had inherited a patent for printing law books, brought a case for divorce, on grounds of cruelty, against her husband, Richard Atkyns, a writer on printing who had started a hare running by claiming (on the basis of an alleged manuscript at Lambeth Palace) that printing had begun in England prior to Caxton.  The court also pursued errant clergymen such as Theophilus Hart, Rector of Wappenham,  a celebrated adulterer who was subsequently murdered.  Lay men and women were also prosecuted for immorality, and, surprisingly, a number of men came to court to confess their own adulteries, sometimes asking to pay a fine rather than endure public penance in church. Penances were also imposed on women convicted of defamation. The act books often preserve their colourful words of abuse as well as the formula of penance to be spoken by them in church.

Testamentary cases were also to the fore. Amongst the plaintiffs identified by the project was the religious thinker Lodowicke Muggleton. He appears in the case as the beneficiary of the will of Thomas Hudson, an innholder of St. Botolph Aldersgate, London. The will records Muggleton as a ‘dear and most beloved friend’ and provides valuable evidence on Muggletonianism by naming others who were ‘members with me in the true faith of our Lord Jesus’. 

The project has also added to the catalogue sixty appointments of guardians to act in court on behalf of minors.  These records were once held to be of little importance, but, like so many records of the Court of Arches, they are a goldmine for genealogists.

Dr Richard Palmer

The Gloves of Charles I?

Last Sunday (30th January 2022) was the feast of Charles King and Martyr in the Calendar of Commemoration of the Church of England. Lambeth Palace Library has a number of items associated with Charles I, including a copy of his works expurgated by the Portuguese Inquisition, his personal copy of William Prynne’s A breviate of the life of William Laud Archbishop of Canterbury (London,1644), in which he wrote ‘Dum spiro spero’ (while I breathe I hope) while imprisoned, and reports by William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, concerning the province of Canterbury with notes in the King’s hand in the margins. Yet, it is not the contemporary documents associated with Charles that seem to capture the imagination of visitors to the Library, but rather the pair of gloves that were reputedly worn by him on the scaffold and which were handed by him to William Juxon, Bishop of London (later Archbishop of Canterbury), who attended him at his execution.

The gloves of Charles I

The gloves were purchased for Lambeth Palace Library in 1963 by the then Librarian Dr Geoffrey Bill, from the Royal United Service Institution (RUSI) after they dispersed their museum. The collection had up to that point been on display in the Banqueting Hall, Whitehall, outside of which was placed the scaffold on which Charles I was beheaded on 30 January 1649, and which is the last extant part of the Palace of Whitehall that burned down in 1698. Dr Bill researched the provenance of the gloves carefully and concluded that ‘the tradition that the gloves belonged to the King does … seem well founded’.[1] Yet, several other pairs of gloves lay claim to be those that Charles I wore at his execution, and Dr Bill determined that it could not be proven with certainty that the gloves in the possession of RUSI had been given by the King to Juxon leading to RUSI dropping their asking price.

Notes showing how thee gloves descended through the Landor family

While we cannot be certain that Charles I wore the gloves, we can be reasonably certain that the gloves were owned by Juxon. He gave them to his friend Jeremy Taylor, through whom they eventually came into the Landor family. Papers housed with the gloves trace the path the gloves took through the Landor family.[2] In 1928 Miss Caroline Landor gave the gloves to RUSI.

The gloves were displayed in the Great Hall at Lambeth Palace for many years, and have been loaned to several major exhibitions, the most recent being Samuel Pepys: plague, fire, revolution at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich in 2016. When the gloves went on loan to the British Museum for the Treasures of Heaven exhibition in 2011, the Museum undertook conservation work on them as part of the loan agreement, ensuring that future generations can look upon them and wonder if the stories told about them are true.

Further reading

Martina Bagnoli (ed.), Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe (London, 2011)

Margarette Lincoln (ed.), Samuel Pepys: plague, fire, revolution (London, 2015).

References

[1] LR/L/19/17 Correspondence regarding the acquisition King Charles I’s gloves, 1928-1963.

[2] ARTEFACT/5 Gloves of Charles I and notes on provenance from Landor family.

The Lincoln Trial

Amid a great controversy surrounding the role of ritual in the Church of England during the 19th century, matters came to a head with the prosecution and trial of the Bishop of Lincoln, Edward King, for ritualistic practices in 1888-90.

King served as chaplain, lecturer and eventually principal at Cuddesdon Theological College from 1858 before becoming Regius Professor of Pastoral Theology at Oxford 1873-1885; he was a prominent Anglo-Catholic as part of the Oxford Movement, and the principal founder of St Stephen’s House, a theological college ‘in the catholic tradition of the Church of England’.[1]  His appointment to the Bishopric of Lincoln in 1885 was clearly of concern to some in the anti-ritualist camp.

Caricature of Edward King by Leslie Ward, 1890 (Vanity Fair, 13 September 1890)

The Church Association – one of the main organisations leading opposition to ritualism – was formed in 1865 to ‘defend the Church of England against ritualistic (Anglo Catholic) teaching which was making inroads into the Church’.[2]  Aside from publishing a number to Tracts, one of the Church Association’s main tactics was to instigate the prosecution of number of ritualist priests under the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874, which had been introduced to parliament by Archbishop Tait and led to the imprisonment of some clergy.

Against this backdrop, in June 1888 the Church Association accused King of performing six ritualistic acts which had been declared illegal at Lincoln Minster and at St. Peter-at-Gowts, Lincoln, on the 4th and 18th of December 1887 respectively.  The six acts in question were: taking the ‘eastward position’ during the service; having lighted candles on the altar; mixing water with wine; repeating the Agnus Dei; making the sign of the cross during the absolution and blessing; and the ablution of the sacred vessels.[3]  The Church Association appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson, to prosecute his bishop for performing these.

This raised many questions: did the Archbishop have the authority to try a bishop?  If he did, was he willing to do so?  Could he decide to dismiss the case?  Could the secular courts prevent him from trying the bishop, or alternatively compel him to do so?  To resolve the impasse Benson referred the matter to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, who confirmed the Archbishop’s authority to deal with the case.  As a result, Benson revived ‘The Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury’, which had lain inactive since 1699, in order to try King.

Watercolour of the trial scene from the Lincoln Trial, signed ‘C. and E. Floris, 1889 (MS 4825/1

The proceedings began on the 12th February 1889, taking place in the Great Hall at Lambeth Palace, at that time (and until very recently) part of Lambeth Palace Library.  The petitioners, acting on behalf of the Church Association, were formally Ernest de Lacy Read & others.  Five Episcopal Assessors were appointed to assist Benson: Frederick Temple (Bishop of London), William Stubbs (Bishop of Oxford), Anthony Thorold (Bishop of Rochester), John Wordsworth (Bishop of Salisbury), and James Atlay (Bishop of Hereford).  Various points of protest and ecclesiastical law were considered before the actual trial itself took place from the 4th to the 25th of February 1890.

Benson’s ‘Lincoln Judgement’ was delivered on 21st November 1890.  A mixed bag of verdicts, most sources consider the judgement as favourable to King in the main.  It was found that there was no offence committed by taking the eastward position, the use of lighted candles, the mixing of water with wine, the repeating of the Agnus Dei (which was considered part of the use of hymns), or the ablution of the vessels.  However, King was forbidden from mixing water with wine during the service (it was permitted to do the mixing before the service began) and from making the sign of the cross.  He was also required to stand in such a way that the ‘Manual Acts’ of consecration were visible to those attending.  No punishment was imposed on King but he was obliged to adhere to the judgement, which by all accounts he did.  The petitioners appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council without success, their case being dismissed on 2nd August 1892.

The case settled matters of ritual for a time – at least until Archbishop Frederick Temple ruled against the use of incense and candles in 1899 – and many of the practices Bishop King used became widespread.  Nonetheless, despite largely being exonerated, the stress of the case had a negative effect of King, with his biography stating that he became ill afterwards and grew visibly older.[4]  For the Church Association the case also had a negative effect: public opinion turned against such prosecutions and sympathy for King swayed many towards the ritualists.[5]  120 years later Archbishop Rowan Williams described the case as an embarrassment to the Church, stating that the prosecutions made ‘both the Church and the state look rather silly’.[6]

Lambeth Palace Library holds a great deal of archival material related to the case: some Vicar General records have recently been added to the online archives catalogue, while other records were previously catalogued in the manuscript sequence (in particular MS 3764-3767 and MS 3768-3770).  As well as a number of Church Association Tracts there is also a significant amount of secondary material to be found in printed book catalogue.


[1] St. Stephen’s House, ‘History’, https://www.ssho.ox.ac.uk/about/history/.

[2] Church Society, ‘Our History’, https://www.churchsociety.org/about-us/our-history/.

[3] Russell, George William Erskine, Edward King, Sixtieth Bishop of Lincoln: A Memoir (1912), p.147.

[4] Russell, p.211.

[5] Scotland, Nigel, ‘Evangelicals, Anglicans and Ritualism in Victorian England’, Churchman 111/3 (1997), https://www.churchsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Cman_111_3_Scotland.pdf.

[6] ‘Bishop of the Poor: Edward King reinvented the role of diocesan bishop’ (2010), http://rowanwilliams.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/545/bishop-of-the-poor-edward-king-reinvented-the-role-of-diocesan-bishop.html.