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’,

[2] Church Society, ‘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),

[6] ‘Bishop of the Poor: Edward King reinvented the role of diocesan bishop’ (2010),

Henry Montgomery, an imperial bishop

This blog post is more personal than previous efforts where I have chosen one of the library’s treasures or a historical event. Henry Montgomery (1847-1932) was vicar of my church, St Mark’s, Kennington, before becoming Bishop of Tasmania and later Secretary of the SPG. Before writing this I knew very little of Montgomery’s life and views, and it seems an appropriate time to reflect on this history. Many libraries, archives and museums are re-evaluating the origin, content and descriptions of their material following the rise to prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement this year. 

The Library holds correspondence from Montgomery in the papers of Archbishops Benson, Frederick Temple and Davidson. Montgomery’s own papers are MSS 4537-4543 and contain personal letters from Henry’s father Robert, and his father-in-law Frederic Farrar and correspondence relating to his leadership of the SPG and several volumes of his memoirs. I was also surprised to find out that the British Museum holds objects and photographs taken by Montgomery during his travels through the Pacific.    

Montgomery was born in Cawnpore (now Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh) in Northern India to Robert and Ellen Jane (née Lambert) Montgomery in 1847. His father was part of the Anglo-Irish gentry from County Donegal and had entered the Indian Civil Service. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857 Robert removed the weapons from the Indian garrison in Lahore and was knighted for his actions. Henry spent most of his youth in England attending Harrow and then studying at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was ordained as a priest in 1872 and was a curate at Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, then Christ Church, Southwark, and St Margaret’s, Westminster (on Parliament square). Montgomery’s mentor during this time was Frederic William Farrar, who later became Dean of Canterbury. Just like Montgomery, Farrar was born in India and studied at Trinity, and he was Montgomery’s housemaster at Harrow and vicar at St Margaret’s.

The closeness of their relationship goes some way to explaining how Montgomery married Farrar’s daughter Maud (who was only 16) in 1881, two years after he became vicar of St Mark’s, Kennington. Maud and Henry had nine children, most notably Bernard Montgomery, the World War II General at El Alamein who became Field Marshal. In 1887 Henry’s father died, which led to a brief time of financial difficulty for the family as Henry now had to pay off the debt on their estate in Ulster. His time in Kennington involved balancing numerous visits to parishioners and a growing family, Maud later recalled that “He could work in his study with the children playing about the room, and many of his sermons were written in the nursery overlooking the Oval cricket ground.”[1]

Henry and Maud Montgomery outside the Fig Tree entrance to Lambeth Palace (MS 4541, f. 72)

The turning point in Montgomery’s life came in 1889 when he was appointed Bishop of Tasmania. At this time Australia was still seen as a region for missionary activity but Montgomery was also keen to grow the Anglican Church across the Pacific. He continued the construction of St David’s Cathedral in Hobart while spending many months in rural areas and mining towns. Overall the number of church buildings in the diocese increased from 75 to 125.[2] He was passionate about upholding morals in a frontier society and founded a home for former prostitutes and vulnerable women. Gambling was another concern, highlighted by his opposition to George Adams’ Tattersall’s lotteries which were legalized in 1895. Montgomery also visited the Bass Strait islands every year, particularly Cape Barren Island where there was a school for Indigenous Australians, however the teacher Edward Stephens was deeply unpopular.[3]

Over time it became clear that Montgomery wanted a larger role across a wider geographical area. Beyond Tasmania he argued for the creation of the diocese of New Guinea after the south-eastern part of the island was annexed by Queensland in 1884. He visited the diocese of Melanesia in 1892 including the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, writing of his experiences in The Light of Melanesia (1896). Reflecting on his time as bishop, Montgomery wrote to Archbishop Temple in 1901: “It is because the work is all missionary here that I love it so. Great questions such as education, temperance, social problems between classes, come to me as duties. Missionary questions come to me as joys”.[4]

Montgomery’s vision and dedication had not gone unnoticed and in January 1902 he became Secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) and retained his episcopal title. According to Steven Maughan, this was his opportunity to pursue his goal to “reinvigorate the Church itself by directly linking the fortunes of Anglicanism with the British Empire.”[5] Montgomery wanted the church to be led by a united leadership of Anglo-Saxons that would uphold imperial values around the world. However, there were signs that the church was beginning to become uneasy about its relationship with empire. For example, the celebration of Empire Day in 1904 was not officially encouraged by Archbishop Davidson. Montgomery’s paternalistic racist views – common in the 19th century – were beginning to be challenged by a younger generation of churchmen such as C.F. Andrews in India.

The SPG had its own problems, for example the bicentenary appeal in 1901 had only raised 20 per cent of its target. To encourage the discussion of issues faced in the colonial mission field a new journal The East and the West, a Quarterly Review for the Study of Missions was started in 1903. Montgomery wanted the SPG to be seen as the home of moderate broad churchmen compared to the more Anglo-Catholic Universities’ Mission to Central Africa or the more evangelical Church Missionary Society. From the beginning of his Secretaryship Montgomery envisaged a conference that would bring the Church of England together in facing the challenges of modern mission through a united commitment to the empire. In the event though, the Pan-Anglican Congress of 1908 “came to focus primarily on the internal order of the communion and the home problems of the church”.[6] The empire could not be used to unite church parties as Montgomery intended and he began to realise that such an ‘imperial church’ was untenable.

Despite this, Montgomery maintained his enthusiasm for Anglican involvement in ecumenical missions and represented the SPG at the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh. Along with Bishop Gore and Bishop Talbot he helped to sway Archbishop Davidson’s decision to deliver the opening address.[7] Of the only 19 non-Westerners at the conference Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah (later bishop of Dornakal in the Church of South India) spoke out against the attitudes of many missionaries, “Too often you promise us thrones in heaven, but will not offer us chairs in your dining room”.[8] Unfortunately it would take at least another generation for many missionaries to change their behaviour and attitudes.

Bishop Montgomery visiting the Great Wall of China, 1910 or 1911 (MS 4542, f. 79)

While he was Secretary of the SPG, Montgomery’s love of travel did not diminish and following the Edinburgh Conference he embarked on a seven month tour of East Asia. In 1916 he preached the triennial missionary sermon before the General Convention of the US Episcopal Church in St Louis, Missouri. Retiring in 1918, he continued to write, producing several biographies of other missionary bishops. While Montgomery’s dedication as a parish priest, bishop and missionary leader can be appreciated, his racist views were firmly rooted in the nineteenth century. As bishop of Tasmania he worked tirelessly, travelling across his diocese and the wider Pacific, and as Secretary of the SPG he modernised its structures and collaborative efforts. The course of Montgomery’s life was very much when ‘imperial Christianity’ was at its peak and this is a major – and painful – part of his legacy.

By David Thomas, Library Assistant


[1] Quoted in Withycombe, Robert, Montgomery of Tasmania: Henry and Maud Montgomery in Australasia (Brunswick East: Acorn Press, 2009), p. 15.

[2] Accessed 27/11/2020.

[3] Stephens, Geoffrey, ‘H.H. Montgomery – the Mutton Bird Bishop’, p. [10]. Accessed 07/12/2020.

[4] Accessed 27/11/2020.

[5] Maughan, Steven, ‘An archbishop for Greater Britain: Bishop Montgomery, missionary imperialism and the SPG, 1897-1915’ in Three centuries of mission: the united Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1701-2000 (London : Continuum, 2000), p. 360.

[6] Maughan, Steven, ‘An archbishop for Greater Britain: Bishop Montgomery, missionary imperialism and the SPG, 1897-1915’ in Three centuries of mission: the united Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1701-2000 (London : Continuum, 2000), p. 367.

[7] Dore, Michael, ‘The Evangelisation of the World in this Generation’, p 1. Accessed through 4/11/2020.

[8] Dore, Michael, ‘The Evangelisation of the World in this Generation’, p 3. Accessed through 4/11/2020.

The Watercolours of Archbishop Sumner

The activities of virtually all Archbishops of Canterbury between the late 13th and mid-17th centuries are recorded in the series of bound volumes known as the Archbishops’ registers, which are preserved in the Library and are among its most frequently accessed items. But the registers decrease in significance after 1660, and the survival of records documenting Archbishops’ activities is disappointingly low from then until the early 19th century.

It is highly likely that relevant records were created, but that they were considered the personal property of the Archbishop to do with as he chose. For example, Archbishop William Wake (in office from 1716-1737) left his papers to his Oxford college, Christ Church. Some material, such as from the time of Archbishop Charles Longley (1862-1868), has returned to the Library’s care after passing through the hands of descendants. It is possible that some Archbishops were prepared to see records disposed of to avoid future scrutiny.

Archbishop John Bird Sumner, portrait held in Lambeth Palace.

Sadly it is believed that the correspondence of Archbishop John Bird Sumner (1848-1862) was destroyed in its entirety. Sumner was a keen artist, and as a very small consolation, the Library holds two albums of his watercolours. The first (Ref: MS 1403) was presented to the Library in 1917 by the poet and author Arthur Christopher (A C) Benson, who is perhaps best known for writing the lyrics of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. He was part of a famous literary family as one of the six children of the later Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson.

Archbishop Sumner watercolours of land surrounding Addington Palace (Ref: MS4774 f.11r and f.22r).

The second album (Ref: MS 4774) album contains 21 watercolour views of the parkland surrounding Addington Palace near Croydon, featuring trees, cattle, sheep, and rural labourers. Addington was the official summer residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury during the 19th century (it still stands and is used as a conference and wedding venue). Also included is a distant view of the partially reconstructed Crystal Palace at Sydenham Hill, after its move from Hyde Park. The reconstruction began in August 1852 and it was re-opened in June 1854, so the work is likely to be from between those dates.

Archbishop Sumner watercolour of land surrounding Addington Palace, with the Crystal Palace in the distance (Ref: MS4774 f.5r).

Centenary of the Church in Wales

Centenary of the Church in Wales

In 1920, the Church in Wales was disestablished, becoming independent after centuries of being part of the Church of England.

The Archbishop and Bishops of the Church in Wales, 1920 (MS 4701 p. 11
The Archbishop and Bishops of the Church in Wales, 1920 (MS 4701 p. 11

The religious census of 1851 had revealed that almost 80% of worshippers in Wales attended Nonconformist chapels, with fewer than 20% attending Church of England services, whether held in Welsh or English. And it was from the Nonconformists that pressure came to disestablish the Church in Wales, especially after the disestablishment of the Irish Church in 1871. That pressure came to a head in what became known as a ‘tithe war’ from 1888-1890. Traditionally, tithes were an annual payment of a proportion of the yearly produce of the land by parishioners to support the parish church. Originally they were paid in kind on three types of produce: everything that grew, everything that was nourished by the land and the profits of labour and industry. They were also divided into two other categories, great (rectorial) and small (vicarial). The great tithe consisted of corn, other grains, hay and wood and was paid to the rector of the parish. If the rector did not live in the parish and had appointed a vicar to look after it in his absence, the vicar then received the small tithe. After the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, a money payment, fixed in denomination but variable in value, known as the Tithe Rent Charge or Corn Rent Charge, was substituted for payment in kind. It was based on the average price over seven years of wheat, barley and oats, so it fluctuated with the rise and fall of the cereal market worldwide. From 1873 cereal prices fell steadily year on year; that meant a fall in the tithe rent charge (and clergy income) but also a fall in the farmer’s profits overall. And the obligation to pay tithes bore heavily on tenant farmers. Why, if they went to Chapel, should they pay for the Church? So, they refused to pay – and all over Wales there were demonstrations, scuffles and the Reading of the Riot Act. The situation was only eased by the Tithe Act of 1891, initiated in Parliament by A.G. Edwards, Bishop of St. Asaph, who was keen to relieve the real financial hardship faced by many of the clergy. There are two substantial volumes of correspondence about the Tithe Act in Archbishop Benson’s papers, which shows how heavily he was involved – as well as another three volumes relating to disestablishment in general. Welsh disestablishment might have happened in 1895 – a Bill had passed its second reading, but came to nothing with the fall of the Liberal government of Lord Rosebery that June. Disestablishment, and consequent disendowment, was bitterly opposed by the Church and the Conservative Party – but it happened all the same.

A really pivotal figure in the story is Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury. His private papers and memoranda, and seven volumes of official papers specifically about Wales, record all the twists and turns of negotiations for the Welsh Church Bill and beyond, from 1906 right up to 1925. The first document in those seven volumes is headed ‘Most Private & Confidential’ and it records a conversation which he had on February 21st 1906 with the Bishop of St. Asaph. He wrote: “Mr. Lloyd George had been in private communication with the Bishop, and had asked him whether if the Government were to introduce a very mild and kindly Welsh Disestablishment Bill, the Welsh Church would modify its opposition and practically allow the matter to go forward even if outwardly opposing. Mr. Lloyd George promised, at a later date, to show the Bishop in black and white what he would himself suggest, but, roughly, it amounted to something like an arrangement that the church should retain everything – buildings, houses, glebes, etc. – but not the tithes. These terms are of course very much more favourable than Mr. Asquith’s former Bill, and the Bishop believes that Lloyd George would rather like to get Disestablishment carried with a minimum of friction, knowing as he does that many of his own supporters would feel afraid of a Bill which irritated Churchmen and might affect business relationships – custom to tradesmen, etc. The Bishop had said he would think over what Mr. Lloyd George had told him but did not encourage him to think that the Church was likely to withdraw opposition.” The following day, February 22nd, Davidson, Edwards and Lloyd George had a conversation in the Bishops’ Robing Room of the House of Lords: “Lloyd George told us that he had been discussing with the Prime Minister [Henry Campbell-Bannerman], who approved of the suggestion, a plan of now appointing a Royal Commission of (say) six persons, besides a Chairman, to consider the origin, the history, the character and the value of the provision for spiritual needs in Wales, showing what has been done or is now being done in each parish, both by the Church and by Nonconformists. And he wanted to know whether we as Churchmen would make difficulties as to co-operating in any such enquiry…”   So the Royal Commission to look into the Church of England and Other Religious Bodies in Wales and Monmouthshire was set up that year and reported in great detail in 1910: the Minutes of evidence are four inches thick, and the Report itself, dealing with every aspect of religious life, has a profusion of statistical appendices. The Welsh Church Bill finally received Royal Assent on 18 September 1914 – but by that time Britain was at war and the date of disestablishment postponed. It wasn’t until July 1919, while Lloyd George was occupied with the Paris Peace Conference, that a Welsh Church Amending Bill was hastily drafted and passed. Davidson confided in his journal of 31st July 1919: “I hope and believe that I have done rightly. Had I refused it seems that I might have wrecked a really helpful settlement, and in my own view almost anything is better than keeping the sore open.” Davidson released the Welsh Bishops from their obedience to Canterbury on 31st March 1920 and a new, independent, Province – the Church in Wales – came into being with Bishop Edwards of St. Asaph as the first Archbishop of Wales.