Ritualism Riots - press cuttings
London News 10 September 1859
The disgraceful disturbances in this church, consequent upon the varied character of the service performed by the High Church Rector and the Low Church afternoon lecturer, are repeated every Sunday, The clergyman who has officiated at the Rector's service on the last two Sundays has written to the papers, denying certain imputations as to the extreme character of the ritual observances, and charging the church authorities with not having properly performed their duty in repressing the "brawlers". This charge is denied by the churchwardens in a letter subsequently published. ― The Bishop of London has written a letter to Mr. Howell, vestry clerk of St. George's-in-the-East, respecting the "late disgraceful proceedings" in that parish; and in it he calls "on the churchwardens, at their peril, to do their duty in preserving order in the church, and bringing offenders to justice, according to the statute." On the other hand the Bishop "prohibits all unusual vestments in the celebration of Divine service." "If (continues the Bishop) the Rector and those who oppose him have any right Christian spirit they must be thoroughly ashamed of the state into which the parish is now brought." With respect to the Rev. F.G. Lee, that gentleman, the Bishop says, has no leave to minister in his diocese, and the Bishop has caused intimation to be sent to him to desist from so officiating until he obtains formal authority. Finally, the Bishop says, "My advice to the vestry is formally to request the Rector to join with them in submitting the whole case to my episcopal arbitration - both parties binding themselves to act as I direct." ― A meeting of laymen who are in the habit of attending the services of the parish of St. George's-in-the-East has been held, at which the following resolution has been agreed:― "That an association be formed for the purpose of assisting in carrying on proceedings against all persons creating disturbances in the parish of St. George's-in-the-East , and for such other purposes as the association may hereafter determine upon." ― The Guardian newspaper thus comments on these irreligious dimensions:― "We have refrained hitherto from taking notice of the scandalous and disgraceful disturbances which have taken place in a London parish church (St. George's-in-the-East), in the hope that we should hear no more of these. This hope has, however, been continually disappointed. The church is filled Sunday after Sunday with a riotous and sacrilegious rabble, and the services are violently interrupted; a clergyman who holds an afternoon lectureship at the church, but has no other connection with it, is said to encourage these abominable proceedings; whilst the officiating clergy, against whom they are directed, persevere in the use of a dress for which antiquarian ritualists may possibly discover some authority, but which is now obsolete and strange. These appear to be the facts, so far as they can be made out from the common channels of information. Whether the churchwardens are at fault does not appear, the disturbances being such as could not be quelled without the vigorous assistance of the police. But of the clergy who conduct or are responsible for these services we must say that they put themselves out of the place of that sympathy which we commonly feel for men of courage and learning who encounter risk and annoyance, not from vanity or the love of notoriety (for that no candid person will accuse them of), but from a high and unselfish motive. For a person may from such a motive make a martyr of himself for a crotchet; and, when he exposes in such a cause not only himself but interests infinitely greater and higher than his own, the purity of his motive affords no excuse. A man is right, undoubtedly, in maintaining against all the world what he holds to be a vital truth; but nobody can imagine himself bound, in opposition to the whole practice of his church, to wear a garment that has not been seen for two hundred years; and nobody has a right upon his own judgment to stake on such an issue the peace of the church and the highest interests of religion. A clergyman who does so may, for aught we know, have the letter of the law, or a possible interpretation of it, in his favour; but he has against him not only the authority of his Bishop and all the Bishops of his Church, but that of universal and established usage and a thousand considerations of prudence, of common sense, of respect for the great principles he degrades and makes odious by trivial squabbles, of regard, we do not say for the prejudices. but for the natural and legitimate feelings and convictions, of his people. We have always plainly expressed our own opinion on this subject, and we hold in this case (as we have held in others of far greater importance) that nothing is more dangerous to truth than to support a man who is in the wrong because the opponents he has aroused against him are more in the wrong than he. Mr. King himself, in a letter addressed to us from Yarmouth, represents, it will be seen, that those disorders arise entirely from the anger of the lecturer's partisans at his not being allowed to preach at the regular afternoon service, and have nothing to do with the vestments; and it appears that proceedings are about to be taken for the punishment of the rioters. Let them be punished by all means; but we recommend Mr. King to set himself right where his is now wrong, by discontinuing the use of ornaments which ought never to have been worn."
London News 17 September 1859
Notwithstanding the elaborate admonition of the Bishop of London, the "miserable controversy" at St. George's-in-the-East continues to be carried on with outrageous indecency. The clergyman who officiated on Sunday was roughly hustled within the walls of the church, and his hood and stole were torn from him. There were the usual hooting and hissing during the service, the churchwardens standing quietly by, and the police declining to interfere.
News 24 September 1859
On Sunday an announcement was issued by the churchwardens, and distributed among those who attended the parish church, which seems to promise that the disturbances which have for many years past prevailed in this parish will cease. The announcement signed by Mr. Thompson and Mr. Dowsett, the churchwardens, stated that the Rev. Bryan King, the rector, had agreed with the vestry that the whole matter should be referred to the Bishop of London for mediation, and requested the parishioners not to interrupt the service is any way during the progress of the arbitration. The morning service was performed by the Rev. A.H. Mackonochie, the curate of the parish, who wore the ordinary vestments, and preached a sermon from the words of St. Luke's Gospel, "Who is my neighbour?" The afternoon and evening services were noisy as usual.
London News 1 October 1859
On Sunday, in accordance with the directions of the Bishop of London, the parish church of St. George-in-the-East was closed. At the Mission Church in Calvert-street a notice was posted up that no one would be admitted who was not provided with a ticket. In the evening large bodies of people strove to gain admission, but they were resisted by a body of gentlemen stationed to defend the outposts. Several attempts were made to break through, and at length the angry outsiders succeeded in forcing their way into the church. At this moment the gas was turned off, and the officiating minister implored the people to leave. They shouted, and when the gas was again lighted, it was found that a body of police had been brought through the vestry. These succeeded in clearing the church, but the disturbance outside was very great, and continued a long time, there being violent denunciations of Popery and Puseyism. At St. Saviour's, Wellclose-square, also, the admission was by ticket. In the evening a tumultuous mob collected and expressed their determination to stop the service. Five or six gentlemen inside the gates held them, while the people outside tried to break them down. The mob spat in their faces, threw dirt at them, called them opprobrious names, and heaped all kinds of indignities upon them. At length, about seven o'clock, the Rev. C.F. Lowder, the clergyman who was to conduct the service, made his way to the gate. His hat was knocked over his eyes, and he was violently hustled until the gate was opened to a small extent, and he was thrust down the steps into the churchyard. The choristers, who were also insulted and beaten, made their way into the church by a back gate. During the service Wellclose-square became filled with people, and their conduct was of so violent a character that a large body of police had to be called out. When Mr. Lowder and his choristers came out the mob set upon them; but the reverend gentleman managed to escape to the mission-house, the road having been successfully cleared for him by the police. An attack upon the house was proposed, and it would no doubt have been carried out had it not been for the police, who drew their staves and began to clear the place. A general battle ensured, and at length the police fixed upon one of the parties who they supposed to be a ringleader, and whom they took to the station-house. Persons have been brought up at the Thames Police Court charged with breaches of the peace in connection with this affair, one of whom was discharged with a reprimand, whilst two others were on Wednesday sent to the sessions.
London News 8 October 1859
At the Thames Police Court, on Wednesday, Mr. Rosier was re-examined on the charge of taking part in the disturbances in this parish, on the evening of Sunday week. On the magistrate's suggestion the charge was withdrawn, things having been more quiet in the parish; but Mr. Yardley declared that if any more rioting took place he should, undoubtedly, commit the offenders for trial. ― At the Middlesex sessions, on Tuesday, the trial of Paterson, in connection with the disturbances at St. George's-in-the-East, was postponed until the next sessions.
London News 12 November 1859
At the consecration on Friday week, by the Bishop of London, of the Church of St Matthew, Pell-street, in the parish of St. George-in-the-East, his Lordship took advantage of the presence of the Rector and Churchwardens of St. George's to endeavour to bring about some arrangement as to the hour of the Afternoon Lecturer's service which might be satisfactory to both parties, and might thus tend to the restoration of peace in the parish. After hearing the statements made on both sides, and on a distinct engagement at the time given by both parties to be bound by his judgment, the Bishop decided that the Rector's afternoon service should precede that of the Lecturer, and that the service of the latter should commence at half-past three o'clock,. His Lordship also decided that the unusual vestments which had caused so much dissatisfaction to the parishioners should be discontinued.
The church was, in consequence of these arrangements, reopened on Sunday, the Rev. B. King, M.A., the Rector, taking the morning services. At eleven o'clock the Rector, accompanied by ten or twelve choristers, walked in procession from the test to the east end of the church, and, all of them having taken the choristers' seats, Mr. King commended the service, which was choral throughout. He was habited simply in his surplice, with his hood representing his degree of Master of Arts in the University of Oxford. As soon as he commenced the service there was a hiss, bit this soon subsided, and there was no further interruption until the reverend gentleman commenced his sermon. Preparatory to this Mr. King turned his back to the congregation, and, bowing to the altar, said, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost", instead of the ordinary prayers. This was followed by hisses, stamping of feet, and the slamming of pew doors. Mr. King, unmoved by this display of feeling, proceeded to the delivery of his sermon, selecting for his text the 26th chapter of Leviticus, 34th and 35th verses:― "Then shall the land enjoy her Sabbaths, ss long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' hand, even then shall the land rest and enjoy her Sabbaths. As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest, because it did not rest in your Sabbaths when ye dwelt upon it." After dwelling on the enormity of desecrating a church, and the shame he felt at what had taken plcae in that sacred place, he said that it was at his own special request that the Bishop closed the church. However long he might be permitted to continue the Rector of that parish, he should never enter the walls of that church without a feeling of shame on account of the gross outrages which had been committed there. Those services henceforward would be conducted without those eucharistic vestments which were familiar to them. He could never again put on those beautiful robes; and henceforth, therefore, they must worship God in that holy sacrifice in the garb of humiliation. He then announced that, for the future, the Holy Communion would not be administered on Sundays in the church, but that the administration would take place on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, at eight o'clock.
The Bishop of London's decision was that the Afternoon Lecturer's service should take place at half-past three, and that the Rector's afternoon service should precede it. Accordingly Mr. King fixed this service for a quarter before three, at which time the church was overflowing, When the rev. gentleman appeared with his choristers in the church a loud, determined shout of disapproval burst forth. Unmoved, however, by this violent demonstration, the rev. gentleman knelt before the altar and went through the Litany service. He was hissed, hooted, and yelled at during the whole of the service, and at its close made his way with difficulty to the vestry, whence in a few minutes afterwards the Rev. Hugh Allen came, habited in a surplice, without either hood or stole, and performed the second service.
Rev. Mr. King
refused to conduct the evening service, although the bells were rung
and the church was lighted up; the large crowd which had gathered
outside the gates of the church dispersing quietly.
London News 19 November 1859
On Sunday there was a repetition of the disgraceful scenes which have made the parish of St. George-in-the-East so notorious. In the morning the church was well filled, the congregation consisting exclusively of men. A body of policemen was marched down early in the morning by direction of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and took their seats in pews in different parts of the church. At eleven o'clock the Rev. C.F. Lowder, the minister of the Mission Chapel in Wellclose-square (the Rev. Bryan King, the Rector, being absent), entered the church in his surplice, followed by a band of choristers robed in white. Their appearance was the signal for a violent demonstration of feeling - yells, hissing and groans proceeding from all parts of the church. There was no interference on the part of the police. Frequently during the prayers Mr. Lowder was hissed, and there was loud coughing, which was incessantly kept up, which, with scraping of feet and slamming of pew doors, rendered the reverend gentleman almost inaudible. At the close of the sermon the rev. gentleman turned round to the altar, and the congregation yelled again, the excitement being heightened by the fact that he had a red cross woven into his stole at the back of the neck. The service was intoned, but the congregation said the responses in a loud tone, with a view to drown the voices of the choristers, producing, of course, a most disagreeable effect.
A vast and excited mob filled the churchyard and street immediately after the sermon. Mrs. King was hissed on her way to the rectory-house, the choristers were mobbed, and Mr. Lowder was assailed with a variety of exclamations, the principal one being "Rotten eggs!" in allusion to a case in which he was concerned while Curate of St. Barnabas, having, as was alleged, incited his choristers to pelt with eggs a man who was carrying a placard asking the parishioners to secure the return of Mr. Westerton as churchwarden.
In the afternoon the scene in the church was perfectly appalling. Mr. Lowder and the choristers went to the front of the altar, where they knelt, and were about to commence the service when a large black dog ran through the church, howling in a frightful manner, and spreading alarm amongst all present, who evidently laboured under the impression that the dog was mad. He dashed amongst the priest and choristers, and, after many ineffectual attempts by the police to catch him, was caught and ignominiously expelled from the church. In another moment he was back again - this time in the gallery, and then directly afterwards in the body of the church, howling fearfully. Again he was secured and turned out, but back he came, making more noise than ever. Such was the scene that was going on during half the Litany service; the other half was interrupted by the still greater noise of the congregation, who laughed, and shouted, and hissed until its close. The dog scene was evidently an organised one. The animal had either been drugged or was suffering from some form of torture inflicted upon him, and it is pretty clear that his master was in the church by design, and that the animal was looking after him. The churchwardens vainly attempted to obtain any clue to the perpetrators of the outrage.
The Rev. Hugh Allen, the Afternoon Lecturer, preached at half-past three o'clock to a crowded and most decorous and attentive congregation.
The Rev. A.H. Mackonochie was the officiating minister in the evening, and as soon as he entered the church there was a loud and indignant howl. He proceeded, however, with the service, which was constantly interrupted. As soon as he ascended the pulpit he was assailed with loud hisses, but of these he took no notice. He selected for his text Ephesians vi.10. The reverend gentleman had proceeded a few minutes with his discourse, when a desperate howl was set up, which prevented a word being heard. He stopped, surveyed the congregation with a piercing glance, and then said, very quietly, "I really do not understand what this means. My only object is to preach the Gospel faithfully and plainly to you. If you do not wish to hear me I will dismiss you at once with the blessing." "No, no!" was shouted with tremendous energy from all parts of the church. Immediately afterwards there was an equally energetic shout of "Yes, yes!" "Go on!" "Never mind the interruptions!" The rev. gentleman remained silent until the uproar had worn itself out, when he proceeded with his sermon, which was not again interrupted.
On leaving the pulpit Mr. Mackonochie narrowly escaped a mobbing. The police, however, protected him, and he escaped to the vestry room. A large crowd assemble outside, but there were no violent demonstrations of any kind.
proceedings have been followed by police prosecutions against two
lads, of sixteen years of age, who have each been fined small sums
for helping to produce the excitement.
London News 26 November 1859
The disgusting disturbances at St. George's-in-the-East were repeated on Sunday, although not to so serious an extent as on former occasions. There was the usual hooting and hissing, but, as there were a great number of police officers present, no demonstration of a more violent character was attempted. A strong police force was also stationed outside the church, and to this arrangement the clergy and choristers, no doubt, owe their escape from insult as they passed to and from the vestry. ― Mr. Cornthwaite was charged at the Thames Police Court on Monday with an offence against the 2nd of William and Mary for wilfully disturbing the congregation; but, on his making an apology to the churchwarden, he was dismissed. One Arnett, a bottle-maker, was fined five shillings for being drunk and disorderly in the church.
London News 3 December 1859
The church in Cannon-street was again the seat of disturbances on Sunday. Less violence, however, was exhibited than on previous Sundays. ― The breach between the Rev. Bryan King, Rector, and his parishioners is rendered, if possible, wider than it has hitherto been. At a meeting of the vestry, on Thursday se'nnight, two distinct resolutions were proposed - the one censuring the rev. gentleman, and the other calling on him to resign. The milder course of a vote of censure found no favour with the meeting, and the resolution calling upon Mr. King, "to cause peace to be restored to the parish by his immediate resignation of his office as Rector", was unanimously carried. It was also agreed to raise subscription for the support of Mr. Allen's lectureship, and to petition Parliament to remedy "the existing defects in the discipline" of the Church, by giving "power to the laity to interfere by some cheap and summary process for redress of the grievances of which we (the vestry) have to complain".
London News 10 December 1859
THE RELIGIOUS (!) DISSENSIONS AT ST. GEORGE'S-IN-THE-EAST. ― No serious riots occurred on Sunday at the Church of St. George-in-the-East. The conduct of the congregation during the various services would have been considered exceedingly irreverent in any other place, but the public have been accustomed to such serious disturbances during the last few months in this church that mere ill-behaviour passes comparatively unnoticed. At all the Rector's services there was contention, but in a modified form, between those who insisted on saying and those who sang the responses. The greater degree of order - rather the less disorder - which prevailed on Sunday was doubtless attributable to the churchwardens, with the assistance of the police, preventing the people assembling in a mass, as formerly, in the chancel, where all the unseemly behaviour has always before been manifested. As the congregation arrived they were shown to seats in the body and galleries of the church, and, the chancel being thus kept clear, the services proceeded with only such interruption as has been mentioned. ― At the Thames Police Court yesterday week three youths were charged with disrupting the services at Mr. King's church on the previous Sunday, but the magistrate adjourned the case, in order to give the parties on both sides an opportunity of making up their difference without an appeal to the strong arm of the law. ― The Rev. Bryan King obtained last Saturday an order from the judge of the Consistory Court citing Mr. Rosier to appear before that tribunal on a charge of "brawling" in church. ― On Monday, at the Thames Police Court, application was made for a summons against the Rev. Charles Lowder, the Curate, who, according to the application, laid hold of complainant, told him he had no business there, and expelled him from the churchyard. The magistrate granted a summons.
London News 14 January 1860
The Church of St. George-in-the-East was the scene of another disgraceful outbreak on Sunday last. ― At the Thames Police Court, on Tuesday, Mr. Bradford, a pupil-teacher, was charged with rioting at St. George's-in-the-East, and agreed to sign a document promising not to disturb the services. The summons was therefore dismissed, the magistrate remarking, "A happy end to a most unpleasant proceeding. Pray let us hear no more of St. George's-in-the-East".
London News 21 January 1860
The St. George's-in-the-East riots have broken out again, and on Sunday and Monday there was a worse disturbance than ever. On Sunday evening the tumult was very great, and 3000 persons were assembled, who were with great difficulty dispersed by a large body of police. On Monday night, after the service there was another riot, which led to the appearance of Daniel Stocker, aged fifty, oil and colour man, of St. George-street, before Mr. Yardley, at the Thames Police Court, on Tuesday, charged with being drunk and disorderly in a public thoroughfare and using insulting words towards the Rev. Bryan King. Mr. Stocker was fined forty shillings.
London News 28 January 1860
The feuds at St George's-in-the-East continue to rage. The services on Sunday last were interrupted in the usual way by hisses and uproar, and the assistance of the police was again necessary in order to clear the edifice of the rioters.
London News 4 February 1860
The rioting in the parish church of St. George-in-the-East became more violent on Sunday evening than it had ever been before. The morning and afternoon services were unattended by any marked outburst of popular hostility; but in the evening the scene was one most disgusting. 3000 persons crowded the building, and of these about 1000 were boys, who took possession of the galleries. These lads at once began cockcrowing, yelling, and hissing; and amid the confusion might be heard snatches of ribald songs. Several attempts were made to put out the gas, and caps and hats were thrown into the body of the church. The service was, of course, a dumb show, so loud and general were the blasphemous shouts with which the prayers were greeted. The sermon was preached by Mr. Lowder, but his voice was powerless against the constant interruption and derisive jests by which he was assailed. The police were all the while stationed outside the church, but were not permitted to enter. At length, however, their interference became absolutely necessary. At the close of the service a cry was raised, "Down with the altar!" and the mob proceeded to wreak their vengeance on this obnoxious feature of the church. The latar was, however, saved by the energetic conduct of a chorister, and then was commenced an attack on other ornaments of the edifice. The police now made their appearance, and, after battling with the mob for about an hour, succeeded in driving them into the streets. Much of the church property was destroyed. It was even proposed to attack the Rector's house, but the rioters were frustrated in this design. This painful outrage was on Monday night alluded to in both Houses of Parliament, and it was announced by Sir G.C. Lewis that steps would be taken to prevent its repetition.
London News 11 February 1860
This church was again on Sunday evening the scene of one of those disgusting demonstrations with which we are now unfortunately too familiar. A strong body of police was stationed outside the building, but the ruffians inside were permitted to carry on their sacrilegious riot without the slightest effort being made to hold them in check. The mob congregation howled and yelled, shouting "No Popery"" "Hot codlins!" and "Pipes all round!" One fellow, it is stated, lighted a pipe and began smoking. Lucifer matches were struck, doors were slammed, and orange-peel was thrown in every direction. "Rule Britannia" and "We won' go home till morning" were sung in full chorus, With such unseemly accompaniments Divine worship was celebrated last Sunday night in the parish church of St. George-in-the East. When this state of things had continued about half an hour after the close of the service, a body of police entered the church and cleared out the mob. ― Three boys and a woman were taken before the magistrate at the Thames Police Court on Monday charged with having been concerned in the disturbance, but the evidence was insufficient to connect them with the disgraceful outrage, and the summonses were dismissed. The magistrate took the opportunity of expressing his determination to inflict the severest punishment allowed by the law on all persons against whom charges of rioting in the church could be substantiated in that court. The Rev. F.G. Lee, who preached at St. George's-in-the-East on Sunday night, writes to the Times:- "When I entered the pulpit, walnut-shells, orange-peel, and small detonating crackers - some of which were let off during the service - were thrown at me; and a row of boys to my left in the south gallery (headed by a man who, as I am informed, was once brought before the Thames magistrates for rioting, and treated with kind and liberal leniency) shot peas at my face through peashooters."
London News 18 February 1860
In consequence of the admission of the police on Sunday last to the church of St. George-in-the-East - which for some time past has been, from the outrages perpetrated in it, a scandal to public decency - but little disturbance took place. As soon as the church doors were thrown open on Sunday morning a body of fifty policemen, headed by Mr. Superintendent Howie, marched into the church, and stood in twelves, in four rows - namely, twelve in the north and twelve in the south side of the name, twelve in the south aisle, and twelve to the north. The other two guarded the altar. The Litany service in the afternoon passed off more quietly than usual. Prior to the commencement of the evening service an immense mass of persons assembled in Cannon-street, and it was with great difficulty that the police could keep them back. When the procession of priests and choristers entered the church there was a good deal of hissing and coughing, but the presence of the police, as in the morning, prevented any violent outbreak. Mr. Rosier, clothier, of St. George-street (Ratcliff-highway), who has been cited by the Rev. Bryan King, the Rector to the Consistory Court, has been served with the copy of "articles", calling upon him to answer charges of brawling in the parish church of St. George-in-the-East. - A deputation, consisting of the Rector of Stepney; the Chaplain of Lincoln's-inn; Mr. Thomas Hughes, and Mr. T.R. Bennett, barristers; Mr. F.B. Baker, Scots Fusilier Guards; Mr. J.M. Ludlow, and Mr. J. Maconochie, barristers, waited at the Home Office on Tuesday, to present a memorial signed by upwards of 2000 clergy and laity of London, on the subject of these riots. The deputation suggested that, if the law were not sufficient to meet the emergency, a short declaratory Act should be passed, and, if the law were already sufficient, it should be rigorously enforced. ― A case arising out of the riotous disturbance in this church on Sunday, the 5th inst., brought before Mr. Yardley, at the Thames Police Court, has broken down, and the defendant, Mr. Mitchenson, a shipwright, has been discharged, on the ground of conflicting evidence as to identity.
London News 25 February 1860
The disturbances in this church attained a milder form on Sunday. In the forenoon there were some fifty policemen present, who were ranged along the passages in case their services would be required. The congregation was small, not over 400. The greatest quietness prevailed, and there was no display of feeling whatever. The Litany service in the afternoon was but thinly attended, and met with but little interruption. In the evening there was a numerous attendance. The Rector was present and read the prayers, and the sermon was preached by the Rev. Mr. Mackonochie. The greatest order prevailed during the whole of the service. There were inside and outside the church some 300 policemen; and there was little or no disturbance.
London News 3 March 1860
On Sunday the services at this place of worship assumed a new phase. The present week being the season of Lent, a considerable alteration had been made in the altar. The drapery, in fact, was made purple, with a large white cross in the centre. This cross was changed, so far as the colour was concerned, on different evenings; at one time it was white, at another time it was red. It appears, however, that the proceedings had given offence to some parties in the parish, and that some one, in consequence, had written to the Bishop. The result of that application was the following letter, received by Mr. Thompson, the churchwarden, from the Bishop on the evening of Saturday last:- "I have received a letter informing me of certain changes to the arrangement of the parish church. Finding that such additions to the ordinary arrangement of our parish churches excites the parishioners, I require you, before the service of to-morrow, to go to the church, along with the clergyman in charge, and if it appears to you that the ornaments thus exhibited are such as are likely to excite angry feelings, quietly to remove the same." At ten o'clock on Sunday morning Mr. Thompson, accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Dove, the clergyman in charge, and the beadle of the church, removed the objectionable formula from the altar, and the consequence was that during the morning service the church displayed only its bare walls, there being none of the usual ornaments to be seen. The Guardian says, "The objectionable drapery, so far was we gather from its description, appears to have been the substitution of a dark altar-cloth suitable for Lent; the same as is done in the Royal Chapels, in St. Paul's, Covent-garden, and most of the old London churches." At the morning service a person named French was taken into custody on the charge of "saying the responses irreverently or out of time"; and in the afternoon, during the "lecturer's" service, a dissipated woman made her way into the church, and conducted herself in the most disgusting manner. On Monday this woman was fined 10s. by the Thames police magistrate for being "drunk and disorderly"; the case against Mr. French was dismissed. There was but little disturbance at the evening service, more than 200 policemen being present. On page 217 we have engraved a View of the Interior of St. George's Church.
London News 10 March 1860
A large body of police were again in attendance at St. George's-in-the-East on Sunday, and succeeded in preventing a repetition of those disgraceful scenes which, for some time past, it has been our painful duty to chronicle. An episode, however, occurred, the result of which will be to bring the Rev. Bryan King, the Rector, the Rev. Mr. Dove, Assistant Curate, and three of the rev. gentlemen's more zealous lay friends into the Thames Police Court, as defendants in a series of cases of assault. At the close of the afternoon service a number of persons took possession of the choristers' seats, their object being to prevent the clergy and choir from occupying their usual places during the evening service. Shortly before six o'clock, however, Mr. King and his friends entered the church, and ordered the intruders to leave at once. They refused to do so; whereupon they were removed by force. Summonses were on Friday granted against Mr. King, Mr. Dove, and three others. The magistrate, however, expressed some doubt as to whether he had the power to adjudicate in these cases, as a question of right on the part of the Rector to exercise authority in the church was involved.
London News 17 March 1860
At eight o'clock last Saturday evening, Mr. Thompson, the senior churchwarden, entered the church, "acting upon imperative orders he had received from the Bishop of London", with three carpenters who, upon his instructions, removed the crosses from the altar, and also the drapery, and took away the choristers' seats. Against this measure Mr. King sharply protested, and on Sunday morning his curate and choristers took up places within the rails of the communion table, the rev. Rector himself ascending the reading-desk, which for years had been disused. At the close of the afternoon service, as usual, a large body of persons remained in the church, with a view to creating the same disgraceful scene and as much contention as on the previous Sunday; but Mr. Thompson, the churchwarden, ordered them to leave, threatening to give them into custody if they refused. Thus the church was cleared. As in the morning, the priests and choristers were obliged to take refuge in the evening within the altar-rails. The disturbance was chiefly confined to loud coughing during the sermon, which was preached by the Rev. J.H.A. Gibson, M.A. After the service the congregation, who were evidently bent on stopping, struck up the Doxology, and the organist played with tremendous vigour in order to drown their voices. This sort of contest was kept up nearly an hour, till a large body of extra policemen entered the church and effected a clearance. — Several assault cases in relation to proceedings in St. George's Church on the previous Sunday were heard in the Thames Police Court, on Thursday week. The Rev. Bryan King, the Rector, was fined 5s.; the Rev. Mr. Dove, his Curate, 40s.; and Mr. Coleman, £3; the other defendants being discharged, with an admonition. - Mr. King has commenced a course of action against Herbert, the constable of the parish, in the Court of Common Please, for trespass. He has also caused five other persons to be served with writs.
London News 14 April 1860
Availing themselves of the withdrawal of the large body of police whose presence, for some time back, has restored something like order in the Church of St. George-in-the-East, the mob broke out on Sunday evening last into acts of violence more disgraceful than any which had hitherto occurred in that unfortunate parish. ― The Rev. Bryan King, in a letter to the Bishop of London, intimates his determination that the services which have caused the recent disgraceful outrages shall not be "sacrificed". His health has twice broken down under "this weary struggle"; but he is not discouraged. On the contrary, he is ready to offer his life in "this sad contest for law and religion". — At the Thames Police Court on Monday an elderly man, named William Dickinson, was charged with "disturbing the officiating minister", and was ordered to pay a light fine, which was paid immediately by a subscription collected among the people outside the court. On Tuesday Mr. Adams obtained at the same court a summons against Mr. Thompson, senior churchwarden of St. George's, for an assault.
London News 28 April 1860
On Sunday evening, during service, the gas went out in the parish church of St. George's-in-the-East, owing to the defective state of the meter. The women and girls, who were present in great numbers, set up a simultaneous scream from all parts of the church, while from the galleries there was a strong movement, and every now and then fresh screams from those who were rushing frantically down the narrow staircase. Meanwhile men with loud voices called to the people to keep their seats; others began to sing the Doxology, while the organist endeavoured to drown all voices by playing at the highest pitch of which the instrument was capable. All this time there was yelling, howling, shouting, and slamming of pew doors. By means of tapers and lucifer-matches, of which many of the boys in the gallery appeared to have a plentiful stock, there was now and then a glimmer of light, by which Mr. King was seen still standing at the desk, and Mr. Lowder, one of the parochial Curates, running up to him from amidst the choristers at the altar, unavailingly entreating him to come down. The "congregation" got more riotous as the darkness increased. They shouted at the top of their voices, began to sing profane songs instead of the Doxology, and in the midst of this terrific uproar Mr. King left the desk, and his choristers retired from the altar with him to the vestry. Mr. Cook, the parish clerk, shortly afterwards made his way into the church with a lighted taper, and announced that the service would not be continued. Mr. Inspector Alison at the same time entered the church with a body of police and cleared the place. The parishioners have paid the penalty inflicted upon Mr. Rosier by the Judge of the Consistory Court on Tuesday week. Mr. Rosier expresses his regret at this course, inasmuch as he had positively determined not to pay anything, and to risk all consequences.
London News 26 May 1860
The Bishop of London has issued a monition forbidding the choristers from occupying seats within the communion rails, and also prohibiting other practices in the church. This monition was enforec last Sunday by the churchwarden. ― An address, signed by forty-one clergymen of the east end of the metropolis, has been presented to the Bishop of London, approving of the course his Lordship has taken respecting the riots at St. George's-in-the-East.
London News 21 July 1860
There at length appears to be some hope that the unhappy disturbances in the parish of St. George-in-the-East will be brought to a satisfactory termination. Mr. Bryan King has obtained leave of absence for twelve months; and a friend of the Bishop of London has consented to assume the responsibility of the vacant charge. — At the Thames Police Court on Monday a summons was granted against Rosier for disturbing the clergyman officiating at St. George's-in-the-East on Sunday evening.
Times 7 April 1860
THE CHARGE OF BRAWLING AGAINST Mr. ROSIER ― In the Consistory Court, on Tuesday, the charge against Mr Robert Rosier of brawling and interrupting the services at St. George's-in-the-East, on the 14th of August, was proceeded with. The evidence for the promoter went to show that on the 14th of August, during a riot in the church, Mr. Burn, one of the Curates, fell down in a fit, whereupon Rosier exclaimed, "It's a judgment from God upon him; God has struck him dead." Various other instances of "interruption" were specified. The defendant's witnesses flatly contradicted the evidence offered on behalf on the Rev. Bryan King., and the Judge reserved judgment until the 17th inst.
Times 30 January 1860
Yesterday evening there was a frightful riot, resulting in the destruction of much of the church property, in the parish church of St. George-in-the-East. Unhappily, notorious as this parish has become in consequence of the religious differences which prevail, and serious as have been the disturbances which have taken place, everything which has previously occurred sinks into insignificance when compared with the terrible scene which was witnessed thee last night.... Previous proceedings at this church have been compared to a theatre on the first night of a pantomime, but no theatre ever contained such an audience as that which assembled at St. George's last night. There was catcalling, cockcrowing, yelling, howling, hissing, shouting of the most violent kind, snatches of popular songs were sung, loud cries of "Bravo" and "Order" came from every part of the church, caps, hats and bonnets were thrown from the galleries into the body of the church and back again, while pew-doors were slammed, lucifer-matches struck, and attempts more than once made to put out the gas. In this there was a regular organization, but it was not successful, although various parts of the church were at times placed in darkness. During all this time the unruly mob acted without check of any kind, for, although there was a strong force outside, not one policeman was allowed to enter the church. Mr. King, Mr. Lowder, and the choristers made their way to the vestry-room with great difficulty, being more than once subjected to personal violence.
this moment a cry
was raised for the demolition of the altar, which was elaborately
decorated, and the threat would have been carried out had not the
altar-gate been gallantly defended by Mr. Stutfield, a son of the
county magistrate of that name, and one of Mr. King;s choristers.
Over the apse or quasi-altar
is a beautiful candelabrum, and this at once became on object of
attach. Hassocks were collected from the pews and hurled at it. Many
of them struck it, and every moment it was expected that it would
come down. As it was, it was seriously damaged. Another object of
attack was the large cross over the altar, at which hassocks and
cushions were thrown from the gallery. At this time there was
fighting, shouting and singing in all parts of the church, with no
one in authority to repress it. The scene at this time was perfectly
frightful, and would in all probability have ended in bloodshed, had
not Inspector Alison, upon his own authority, entered the church with
a dozen policemen, and ordered it to be cleared.
27 June 1860
Lord Palmerston said some time ago, that the only way to prevent revolutionary outbreaks in such States as Naples and Rome was to remove the cause of them - namely, the Government. Is it not time that the same course should be adopted with respect to the disturbances in St. George's-in-the-East, and tranquility restored by the removal of that very obstinate gentlemen, MR. BRYAN KING? For more than a year the parish has been in commotion, and the church has been the scene of the most revolting outrages, occasioned entirely by the folly and wrong-headedness of the Rector. There is not a corner of the country where these doings have not become a scandal, and we are sorry to say that there are no signs that they are coming to an end. Last Sunday evening the prayers were "intoned" amid constant interruption, and the sermon fared no better. But on this occasion the disturbances were not confined to the church. The mob diverted itself after the service by hunting the offending performers through the streets of Wapping and Whitechapel. The choristers were pursued by several hundreds of people, who pelted them with dirt and stones, beat them, met them at the ends of the narrow streets down which they had run for safety, forcing the proprietor of a house where they had taken refuge to give them up, and only abandoned their prey after a desperate conflict with the police. We are told that on the previous Sunday an officiating clergyman was hunted in a similar manner, and escaped with difficulty. We firmly believe that, if some steps are not taken to put a stop to the folly of the one party and the ruffianism of the other, murder will be done before long.
London News 13 October 1860
Some of the noisy controversialists who have been in the habit of giving expression to their opinions in the Church of St. George-in-the-East by vulgar clamour and unseemly interruptions will be considerably astonished by the decision of Mr. Self [sic] in the case of Joseph Rowe, the dock porter. The worthy magistrate wound up a very elaborate and able judgment by sentencing Joseph Rowe to three weeks' confinement in the House of Correction.
Back to History page | Back to Ritualism Riots