Revd Henry Aston Walker - musical and other pursuits

At Holborn
Here are some passages from G.W.E. Russell St Alban the Martyr Holborn: a history of fifty years  (1913)

The “Choral Celebration” if not “High Mass” with all liturgical accessories, was from the very first the principal service of Sunday .... As regards the music, it should be said that Dr Doran was Precentor when the church was opened, but was very soon succeeded by Mr Walker.  It was Mr Walker who, conjointly with Mr Stanton, compiled a book of devotions for the “Three Hours” Service, which was observed (for the first time in the Church of England) at St Alban’s on Good Friday 1864 ...

Mr Walker was an accomplished and refined musician, and had a musician’s horror of a choir that attempts to flourish out into musical exploits which it is unable to perform satisfactorily.  When he succeeded to the Precentorship, the choir consisted wholly of volunteers.  The amount of time that such choirs can give to practice and training is limited, and consequently in most cases all that can be safely attempted by them is good steady unison singing in time and tune.  This was all Mr Walker would allow his choir to aim at in the beginning.  The music chosen was of two sharply-contrasted parts; each type was presented in its most uncompromising form.  When one recalls the character of the music in most “High Church” places of worship at that time, one is reminded of the preference of one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s aesthetes for a “not too French, French bean”.  Gregorians were used, carefully trimmed and curtailed so as not to be too Gregorian.  Hymns were sung, sometimes to popular tunes, but the tunes were toned down to a genteel placidity.  But at St Alban’s, Gregorian music pure and undefiled (as it was then understood) was used for the liturgical forms in the services, for the Psalms and Canticles, for Office Hymns, and so forth, while modern devotional hymns were sung to tunes of a modernity of style that sometimes verged on the rampant.  An Oxford musician referred to the St Alban’s tune-book, when writing to Mr Walker, as “your collection of jigs and groans”!

Such was the music in St Alban’s at the beginning.  It has passed through many differing phases since then, and has gained a name and fame for great artistic perfection, but from the first it had a note of distinction which one could not but be conscious of; some did not like the “jigs”, some did not care for the “groans”, but whatever was sung, was sung perfectly after its kind.  Mr Walker was a man of marked personality, who drew forth feelings of strong attachment from those who became his friends but he was rather a terror to evil-doers.  He ruled his choir with justice, but with a rod of iron; his word was law.

Good Friday, 1866, description of the Devotion of Three Hours:  The preacher first read aloud one of the Seven Last Words of our Divine Lord.  The choir then chanted them with music ...The organist played a very devotional selection of sacred music.
July 1866:  The communicants went up to the tune of soft music ... The music of the services was either sternly ecclesiastical, or simply popular ... Thoughts of a clergyman: ‘Of the music in general I can say nothing whatever, and specially of the “grand music” which I suppose began to be developed to its perfection after the early years.  But the hymns have always been a feature…..How well-chosen too were the hymns for the seasons!…and above all, where are the hymns of the Passion sung in England with such devotion as there?’
November 1869.  Comments of a priest leading the parish mission:  ‘The penitential psalms were chanted slowly to the most unmitigating Gregorians, and the prayers mono-toned very low in the gamut.  One cannot help wondering whether a little cheerful music written in round notes on five lines would not suit these simple folk as well as the dreadful square-headed notes on four lines.  Why must we go back to imperfect musical notation when we want to sing about religion?  The hymns, however, were more lively, and There is a fountain followed by its refrain of I do believe, I will believe, put one in mind of the meeting house.


Among the liturgical and choral music he produced -
He also re-introduced 'the ancient tippet-hood' to designs copied from old brasses, and made by Messrs V. & W. (Clergy Directory 1874)

At St James Hatcham

Between the departure of Fr Tooth (and of Edwin Chabot, a churchwarden who went over to Rome) and the arrival of Fr Walker, a Protestant regime took control over the church. One of his first actions was to restore the cross and candlesticks to the altar, arguing that they were part of the previous furnishings of the church. This was regarded as provocative (some quarters of the press denounced them as 'ritualistic idols'. The Bishop of Rochester  delivered a 'fatherly admonition' on his conduct.

Worse was to follow. This report appeared in various newspapers in 1881:

A few weeks ago was witnessed at St. James's Church, Hatcham, England, the unusual sight of a minister being refused admission to the pulpit, and a fight between a churchwarden and ex-churchwarden. It appears that Mr. Churchwarden Sanders had been away from Hatcham for a short time, and Monday being the festival of St. James, after whom the church is named, the Ritualistic party took advantage of the churchwarden's absence to decorate the chancel with flowers and banners, and place a cross of white flowers over the pulpit and a floral wreath beneath the desk thereof, in front of the pulpit hanging a magenta cloth with white cross. Some of the banners bore representations of a dove, a monogram, "Hail Mary," a cup, symbolical of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Virgin and Child. This proceeding raised the indignation of the Protestant party, some of whom wrote to Mr Sanders, informing him what had happened, and their fear that a disturbance would ensue. Mr Sanders lost no time in coming to London, and on arriving ar the church, at once removed the objectionable banners, thus raising in turn the indignation of the Ritualistic party, anid at Monday evening's service there was an unusually large congregation. The sermon was to be preached by the Rev. Mr Bigsby, and as usual when a strange clergyman is to officiate, Mr Sanders demanded to see his licence. This the rev. gentleman refused to produce, and Mr Sanders told him he should object to his preaching. Mr Bigsby said he should do as the incumbent (the Rev. H. A. Walker) liked, and Mr Sanders again protested against his preaching unless he produced his licence. The evening service was conducted by the Rev. H. A. Walker, and the prayers read by the Rev. Mr Pearson, the curate; and during the singing of a hymn the Rev. Mr Bigsby loft tbe chancel, and proceeded towards the pulpit with the object of ascending in it, but at the same time Mr Sanders, Mr Thorman, Mr Hallett, and another gentleman, by a flank movement, gained the steps of the pulpit first, Mr Sanders barring the way. Being thus prevented entering the pulpit, the rev. gentleman, without uttering a word, turned back and walked to the chancel steps, and there preached his sermon. The sermon ended, and the offertory made, the choir entered the vestry, where they were followed by Mr Sanders and others. When Mr Sanders came from the vestry and was passing one of these groups, Mr. Croom, churchwarden to the Rev. Arthur Tooth during that gentleman's incumbency at Hatcham, uttered the word "Thief." Mr Sanders no sooner heard it than he sprang towards Mr Croom and struck him a heavy blow on the side of the head. The Ritualists immediately closed upon Mr Sanders, and a fight, in which a stick and umbrella were freely used, followed; Mr Sanders striking out vigorously at his assailants, and losing his hat in the encounter. He was forced against a garden gate, upon the step of which he defended himself. The fight having subsided tbe parties dispersed, Mr Sanders walking bareheaded down St. James's-road with his friends to his house, where his battered hat was restored to him.

The following year he applied for a summons against Mr. Churchwarden Saunders for 'annoying him during divine service' by joining in with the first verse of psalms and office hymns which the vicar insisted on singing himself. When he left the parish, the right of presentation had been acquired by a Protestant organisation.

Collector of ferns

In The Phytologist vol 6 (1862) p62 Walker wrote (giving his address as 'Chase Cottage, Enflield')
I send a list of ferns I found at Weston-super-Mare and its vicinity last autumn: Lastrea Filix-mas, with vars. Borreri and dilatata; Athyrium Filix-fœmina; Pteris aquilina; Polystichum angulare, with var. acutum dissectum and var. subtripinnatum; Polystichum aculeatum; Scolopendrium vulgare, with vars. submarginatum and multifldum; Polypodium vulgareP. canariense (this foreign specimen I found at Breame Head), and P. calcareum (found at Cheddar); Asplenium Adiantum-nigrumA. Ruta-muraria, with var. variegatum (at Woodspringe Priory) and A. Trichomanes; Ceterach officinarum; Cystopteris fragilis, and C. angustata. 1 do not know if a list of Ferns found at Weston has appeared in the 'Phytologist'; if not, perhaps you would like to insert it.

The Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener vol 9 (1865) p373 notes:
ATHYRIUM FILIX-FŒMINA PTEROPHORUM ... is a fine and very distinct variety of the Lady Fern, found in Scotland by the Rev H.A. Walker, of Enfield, and is a great addition to the already fine and numerous varieties of this favourite Fern.

In 1875 he was become the secretary of the British Pteridological Society. Collecting and growing ferns was quite a cult in the Victorian period.

Collector of books and objects - some snippets

The Athenæum vol 2 (1866) p843 reported that at the Archæological Institute he exhibited a 'Japanese bowl of the pre-Christian period'.
The Antiquary for 1888 p88 included this advertisement: Berjeau's Bookworm, wanted No. 6, New Series, 1869, and 11, of 1870. For sale or exchange, No. 10, of 1869. - Rev. H.A. Walker, East Bergholt, Suffolk
The Violin Times: A Journal for Professional and Amateur Violinists 1893 p140 reported that a violin by Montagnana of Venice, which belonged to the late Rev. HA Walker, Vicar of Chattisham, has been sold to a London firm of dealers for £120.

Garrod Turner & Son (Ipswich) will sell by auction by direction of the Executor of the Rev. H.A. Walker, deceased, the ..... LIBRARY OF BOOKS of 3500 volumes, representing standard works of History, Biography, Poetry and Fiction - Works of Reference on Art, Furniture, Ceramics, and Natural History - Topographical and Architectural Books - a large Collection of Missals and Breviaries and of Musical Works. Also ANTIQUE FURNITURE, PORCELAIN, ENGRAVINGS, PLATE and MISECELLANEOUS EFFECTS.

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