The first Lambeth Conference

2020 was scheduled to be the year of the 15th Lambeth Conference, the assembly of bishops from across the Anglican Communion which has been convened by Archbishops of Canterbury roughly every ten years since 1867. This blog reflects on how the conference began.

There had been earlier suggestions that such a gathering might be worthwhile, but momentum increased in the 1860s in the context of the conflict between High Church bishops in South Africa, headed by Robert Gray (the first Anglican Bishop of Cape Town) and John Colenso, Bishop of Natal. Colenso’s liberal biblical interpretations and theology led Gray to announce Colenso’s removal from office in December 1863. However Colenso, who had refused to attend the tribunal at which his position had been considered, successfully appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, which ruled that Gray had acted beyond his authority.

This generated concern elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, and in 1865 the Anglican Church in Canada wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Longley, asking him to convene a meeting of bishops to discuss this and other matters. After a committee of Convocation, the ruling body for the province of Canterbury, had considered the request, in February 1867 Longley wrote to 144 bishops from across the world inviting them to convene at Lambeth Palace for four days in September.

There was widespread scepticism about the need for the conference, and only around half of those invited came. Some declined to take part out of support of Colenso. Archibald Tait, Bishop of London, who was to succeed Longley at Canterbury in 1868 and preside over the second Lambeth Conference, is believed to have attended only on condition that the Colenso affair would not be discussed. In the end, it was to dominate the bishops’ discussions.

Archbishop Charles Longley, portrait held at Lambeth Palace
Archbishop Charles Longley, portrait held at Lambeth Palace

However there was no resolution or formal declaration in relation to the events in Southern Africa. Given the level of attendance, the ‘Pan-Anglican Synod’ as it was termed was widely perceived to have been a failure. But it had demonstrated that staging such an event was not impossible, and important connections had been made.

Bishops attending the 1867 conference, outside Lambeth Palace. Archbishop Longley is standing in the centre, with Robert Gray, Bishop of Cape Town, sitting on the step below him (ref: Longley 9, f2)
Bishops attending the 1867 conference, outside Lambeth Palace. Archbishop Longley is standing in the centre, with Robert Gray, Bishop of Cape Town, sitting on the step below (ref: Longley 9, f2)

Although there was no certainty at the time that the occasion would be repeated, subsequent requests to Archbishop Tait from the Canadian church again in 1872, and American bishops in 1874, led to Tait agreeing to stage a second conference in 1878. The 1878 conference was significantly longer, attendance was greater, and much had been learned from 1867. The conference ended with an indication that a third conference should be held in 1888, and the rough pattern had been set.






Temperance Collections

On the evening of 20th March 2020, last orders were called in the pubs, bars, taverns, taprooms, gin palaces, speakeasies and every other type of boozer across the country in an attempt to combat the spread of COVID-19. For many patrons of the public house, this news was received with resigned acceptance. The days of accompanying Mr Orwell to The Moon Under Water to sample soft, creamy stouts served in pewter pots with a liver-sausage sandwich on the side are, alas, over. For the time being at any rate (well, until July 4th).

If, however, you had asked a member of Victorian Britain’s temperance movement what they thought about the pub closure, they probably would have said something along the lines of “About time too!”

The temperance movement in Great Britain has its roots in the country’s ‘Gin Craze’. The consumption of grain spirits, particularly the increasingly popular gin, saw a rapid increase during the first half of the 18th century. The extreme levels of drunkenness that followed, particularly amongst the poorest, elicited moral outrage from within the middle classes. Five separate acts were passed by parliament in an attempt to slow the flow of strong, cheap alcohol, and by 1757 the ‘Gin Craze’ had largely ended.

While the government deemed it appropriate to promote the respectable consumption of alcohol, particularly gin, there were others who saw encouraging moderation as a stepping stone to total abstinence. A new principal of teetotalism began to gain traction in the 1830s. From 1847 to 1855, there was a significant increase in the number of Bands of Hope, church groups of all denominations whose aim was to teach people, especially children, about the evils of drink. Later, these independent groups would become one cohesive organisation, the UK Band of Hope Union. Members of the Union were encouraged to “sign the pledge”, a promise to abstain from all alcoholic beverages. In 1887, the Union had a reported 1.5 million members which rose to more than 3 million during Queen Victoria’s jubilee year in 1897.

In the 1870s, the Church of England gave its official backing to the temperance cause. In a meeting at Lambeth Palace Library in February 1873, the Church of England Temperance Society, under the chairmanship of Archbishop Tait, was founded. By 1899, the Church of England Temperance Society had become a significant movement in its own right with 200,000 members across 7,000 branches.

Lambeth Palace Library holds collections for both the UK Band of Hope Union and the Church of England Temperance Society. Both organisations published a range of literature which included cautionary tales and guides to self improvement.

The image below, Temperance Pictorial Diagram no. 12. In the Laundry, 1893 [MV5443.U6] published by the UK Band of Hope Union, is one of 12 diagrams which accompanied a manual entitled Abstinence and Hard Work. Each diagram demonstrated how different jobs were better performed without the consumption of alcohol. “Of all the domestic operations in which women are employed, laundry-work is, perhaps, the most trying and fatiguing. The testimony of both the employers and the women is, that the work is best and most easily done without alcoholic liquor of any kind.”

In the Laundry
Temperance Pictorial Diagram no. 12. In the Laundry, 1893 [MV5443.U6]
While it is true that mixing manual work and intoxicants is best avoided, some workers were less willing to adopt this new way of thinking. For example, in Temperance Pictorial Diagram no. 4. Reapers, (see below) harvest workers were encouraged to drink oatmeal-and-water instead of their usual tipple of beer or cider. However, as stated in the Church of England Temperance Society’s Chronicle, “The great difficulty in the way of Temperance reform is the large amount of cider produced, and the facility with which it can be procured. Nearly all the farmers give cider as part payment for work done, and during the harvest-time the amount supplied is practically unlimited. The farmers are not always to blame; if they refuse to supply cider, the men either decline to work, or else procure a worse liquor from the public-house.”[1]

Temperance Pictorial Diagram no. 4. Reapers
Temperance Pictorial Diagram no. 4. Reapers

By the 1930’s, the temperance movement had lost much of its initial fervour. According to Wayne Hall’s 2010 review of prohibition in the United States during the 1920s and early 30s, there probably was on balance a reduced consumption of alcohol per capita.[2] However, this was coupled with an increase in organised crime and anti-social drinking habits. Each year of prohibition saw the movement loose support. The complete failure of prohibition in the United States put paid to any chance of the temperance lobby achieving prohibition in the UK. The temperance movement as a whole saw a decline in membership as more moderate members left due to an upsurge of more fundamentalist and nativist ideologies.

The Church of England Temperance Society suffered from a declining membership from its peak in 1899. Its inclusion of non-abstainers and refusal to abandon the use of wine during Holy Communion put it at odds with other factions within the temperance movement, most notably, the Methodist Church. The UK Band of Hope Union, now Hope UK, continues to educate young people on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

Although the temperance movement has never regained the same influence it enjoyed during its Victorian heyday, abstinence from alcohol, especially amongst the young, has seen a noticeable increase in recent years thanks in no small part to the booming health and wellness industry. While most of us won’t be signing the pledge or ordering pints of oatmeal-and-water anytime soon, the records of these organisations demonstrates the influence that the temperance movement once had and remains a fascinating insight into this period of social history.[3]



[1]The Church of England Temperance Society, The Church of England Temperance Chronicle, Vol. 5, (London: 1877), .p. 114.

[2]W. Hall, “What are the policy lessons of National Alcohol Prohibition in the United States, 1920-1933”, Addition, Vol. 105(7), (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), pp. 1164-1173.

[3]R. Palmer, “Signing the Pledge”, Lambeth Palace Library: Treasures from the Collection of the Archbishops of Canterbury (London: Scala Publishers Ltd, 2010), pp. 158-159.


Archbishop Tait: a Life Beset by Tragedy

A recent blog described the illness and recovery in 1928/9 of a Scot who became Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang (1864-1945). However such misfortune appears small in comparison with those suffered by the first Scot to hold the role, Archibald Campbell Tait (1811-1882), who endured numerous personal tragedies throughout his life.

Archbishop Archibald Tait, Lambeth Palace portrait by Sidney Hodges
Archbishop Archibald Tait, Lambeth Palace portrait by Sidney Hodges

His experience of ill health began early in his life. He had been born with club feet which were bent double, and he underwent a painful procedure to straighten them out when he was eight. Two of his eight elder siblings had already died young, and as a child Tait had a bout of scarlet fever. He recovered, but one of his brothers did not. It was a disease which was to make a painful return to his family. Tait succeeded Thomas Arnold as headmaster of Rugby School in 1842, but the experience was not a happy one, and included him surviving a bout of rheumatic fever in 1848, prior to his taking up the post of Dean of Carlisle in 1850.

Catharine Spooner, MS 2551 ff.105-6
Catharine Spooner, MS 2551 ff.105-6

Tait had married Catharine Spooner, daughter of the Archdeacon of Coventry in 1843. In 1856, during a period of around five weeks, five of their seven children died of scarlet fever. They were all girls between two and ten years old. A son and a daughter survived, and two daughters were born later. Tait became Bishop of London later in 1856, and was translated to Canterbury in 1868.

Archibald Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury MS 4502.13
Archibald Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury MS 4502.13

He had reached the apex of his chosen profession, but the tragedies continued. He suffered a series of strokes in 1869 which again brought him close to death. Craufurd, their only son, having followed his father into the Church, was diagnosed with illness in 1877, which led to his death in May 1878. Within six months, Catharine too had died. Archbishop Tait himself died on 3rd December 1882.

Archbishop Tait’s three daughters who survived him, Agnes (standing), Lucy (left) and Edith (right)
Archbishop Tait’s three daughters who survived him, Agnes (standing), Lucy (left) and Edith (right) MS 4502.41



The gatekeepers of Lambeth Palace occupy a historic role, admitting visitors to the Archbishops. Unfortunately not all of the gatekeepers are named in the records held in the Library, although one is glimpsed in the picture of the Great Hall of Lambeth Palace during the trial of Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln, under Archbishop Benson in 1889. He is unfortunately unnamed in the key to the picture, but appears in profile in the centre of this section, with a moustache.

Detail from watercolour of the Lincoln Trial (MS 4285/1).

However, some details of the gatekeepers’ work emerge from the archives. Records documenting the role of the gatekeepers include recollections by a former gatekeeper of life at the Palace sent to Archbishop Tait in the 1880s (Tait 104 ff. 108-13). The role included not only admitting visitors at the gate house, but also extended to showing the buildings to more general visitors, reflecting the role of the Palace as a public space which continues today. Papers of Archbishop Davidson dating from 1903 (when he was newly in office as Archbishop) describe how the porter “should be responsible … for showing the Palace to sight-seers or tourists“, including the principal rooms and collection of portraits, when it is possible to do so “without dirtying the room – as, for example, when pedestrians come on a muddy day” (Davidson 86 ff. 1-3). The Library holds a slightly later scrapbook of Francis Neate Woodward (MS 2614), who worked as gatekeeper in the interwar period, containing notes and newspaper cuttings about Lambeth Palace, presumably used for this purpose. In 1906 two brothers of the Society of St John the Evangelist visited the Palace, where they were shown the mediaeval manuscripts in the Library by the porter – a “kind gentleman” who lived in Morton’s Tower and, a letter recounting the visit says, has the “history of England and especially of Lambeth at his fingers’ ends” (SSJE/6/5/2/2/7).

Davidson 22-30
View from Morton’s Tower, where the gatekeepers admit visitors to Lambeth Palace (Davidson 22/30). This photograph album dates from the primacy of Archbishop Davidson, but this view looks much the same today.

Further information on arrangements for visitors are found in the Library records and some of the most eminent visitors who came specifically to the Library are also recorded. There are visitors’ books too among records relating to Lambeth Palace.

More generally, records naming individual members of staff at Lambeth Palace are limited, but the household accounts of the Archbishops dating from the early 17th century onwards (TG) include payments to household servants. Earlier still, two account rolls acquired by the Library in 2006 reveal details of the household of the 16th-century Archbishops (MSS 4722-4723). In the modern period we find accounts of life at Lambeth Palace, for instance by the Archbishops’ chaplain Ian White-Thomson (MS 3120 ff. 310-24) and cook Audrey Heaton (Burnt the peas whilst washing the cherubs : the Lambeth Palace years of Audrey Heaton 1959-1974).

A gift for Archbishop Tait – a translation of the Rosetta Stone

Part of the translation of the Rosetta Stone

Report of the Committee appointed by the Philomathean Society of the University of Pennsylvania to translate the inscription on the Rosetta Stone. Philadelphia : Rosenthal, 1858.

In 1858 Henry Morton, Charles R. Hale, and S. Huntington Jones, three undergraduate student members of The Philomathean Society at the University of Pennsylvania, published the first complete and direct translation of the Rosetta Stone from its trilingual inscription into English. They had spent the last two years deciphering the ancient Hieroglyphics, Greek, and Demotic text from a plaster cast of the Rosetta Stone, and in doing so they deciphered characters that had not previously been defined. They privately published their findings in this stunning and highly decorative chromolithographic publication, the first American book to be printed entirely by lithography. Their work was met with worldwide praise and recognition.

The Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone

Of particular note in the Lambeth Palace Library copy of the Report is the inclusion of a handwritten letter from Charles Hale to Archibald Campbell Tait, Bishop of London, later to become Archbishop of Canterbury. The letter is dated Christmas, 1858, Philadelphia, and reads:

My Lord,

            May I beg you to accept from one of the authors the accompanying volume the work of young men began by them while undergraduates at College and finished soon after leaving it while engaged in professional studies. We have printed (privately) an edition of four hundred copies mostly for subscribers and the stones are now destroyed. I had the pleasure of calling upon you some eighteen months since at your residence with a note of introduction from my honoured friend Bishop A. Potter.The memories of the visit are very pleasant to me. You supposed that I was a clergyman and although you were unfortunately mistaken I am happy to inform you that I am a candidate for orders. As I expect my life to be a busy one this may be my last as well as first effort in this direction.Your course has been watched and admired by many on this side of the Atlantic who pray that God may continue to guide and bless you.

                        Believe me Sir with greatest respect, Your Lordships Obedient servant

                                                            Chas. R. Hale

May I be favoured to hear of the safe arrival of this packet. My address is in the care of (my father) Gen. R.C.Hale, Philadelphia. 

Examples of the lithographic illustrations found throughout the publication

Charles Ruben Hale ended his successful and busy ecclesiastical career as the Bishop of Cairo, Illinois.

A full-colour pdf. of the Report is freely available via the University of Pennsylvania Archives and Record Centre website:

Title page of the Report