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.”
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. 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.
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”.
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.” 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”. 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. 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”. Unfortunately it would take at least another generation for many missionaries to change their behaviour and attitudes.
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
 Quoted in Withycombe, Robert, Montgomery of Tasmania: Henry and Maud Montgomery in Australasia (Brunswick East: Acorn Press, 2009), p. 15.
 http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/montgomery-henry-hutchinson-7629 Accessed 27/11/2020.
 Stephens, Geoffrey, ‘H.H. Montgomery – the Mutton Bird Bishop’, p. . http://anglicanhistory.org/aus/hhmontgomery/mutton1985.pdf Accessed 07/12/2020.
 http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/montgomery-henry-hutchinson-7629 Accessed 27/11/2020.
 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.
 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.
 Dore, Michael, ‘The Evangelisation of the World in this Generation’, p 1. Accessed through https://d3hgrlq6yacptf.cloudfront.net/uspg/content/pages/documents/1596801269.pdf 4/11/2020.
 Dore, Michael, ‘The Evangelisation of the World in this Generation’, p 3. Accessed through https://d3hgrlq6yacptf.cloudfront.net/uspg/content/pages/documents/1596801269.pdf 4/11/2020.