St George-in-the-East Clergy 1729-1860


 The early Rectors were Fellows of Brasenose College (originally 'The King's Hall and College of Brazen Nose') Oxford, who were the patrons of the living, having long held the patronage of the ancient parish church of Stepney. At the time of its establishment, the living was worth 'upwards of £300 a year plus surplice fees' (Robert Seymour A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster J Read 1835).

William Simpson (24 July 1729 - 19 July 1764)
Dr Simpson was born on 25 March 1687. In 1736 Henry Raine appointed him the first Treasurer or Chairman of his schools, and the only known portrait of Dr Simpson hangs in the headteacher's study at Raines Foundation School - we are grateful to the school, and to the foundation governors who own the picture, for their help and permission to reproduce it here.

One of his first acts was to petition for the enlargement of the parsonage house - see here for the history of the Rectory.

In 1732 and 1738 he published collections of his sermons, including The Great Benefit of a Good Example, on Matthew 5.16, preached to the Societies for the Reformation of Manners at St Mary-le-Bow in March 1737 [this link gives the full text and also statistics of prosecutions from 1708-24, and a prayer for the Societies from a century later.) The first such society was founded in Tower Hamlets in 1691 - with Queen Mary's support - and many others, in London and the provinces, followed, forming a loose confederation; they appealed primarily, but not exclusively, to Low Churchmen and Dissenters (Samuel Wesley preached on their behalf). They addressed what were seen as the moral scourges of the day, including prostitution, theatres and all that went with them (see here for more local details) and homosexual brothels ('molly-houses'). Their strategy was to use the existing criminal justice system and engineer prosecutions, for which they met the cost - over 94,000, they claimed, in the first thirty years of their activity, before their influence waned - as well as to press for changes in the law. Josiah Woodward's 1699 account of their aspirations (he was at the time incumbent of Poplar) and details of current legislation, can be seen here - it was later to influence William Wilberforce.

Simpson's sermon is somewhat vapid and unspecific, particularly in the second part on the application of his text. His increasingly desperate oratorical flourishes congratulate members of the Societies for their achievements, without which he says social conditions would be even worse, and make some criticism of indifference and corruption within the current enforcement system; his hope was that in future it would no longer be said that we have the best laws, and worst executed, of any nation under heaven. Many other sermons for the Societies were published; extracts from a sharper one, delivered ten years earlier by the Bishop of St David's, can be read here. The reactionary nature of the Societies was explored in the opening episode of the excellent 2009 BBC series Garrow's Law (see here for the life of William Garrow).

On 7 April 1743, as a widower, he married Elizabeth Mulcaster of Tottenham in the country of Middlesex, spinster, at St George-in-the East. In 1759 he published The Universal Prayer-Book; Or Christian Assistant [this link is to the 4th edition of 1768]: Containing Meditations and Prayers for Every Day in the Week; a Discourse on the Nature and End of the Lord's Supper; with Preparations for a Worthy Reception of the Holy Sacrament; Several Zealous Exhortations, Religious Hymns and Thanksgivings, with Devotions for a Family and Private Prayers ... Now First Published from the Original Manuscripts of a Late Right Reverend Bishop. It's not clear who this bishop was; the book is dedicated to Thomas Secker, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1758-68 [right, together with the title page, dedication and preface]. 

Wiilliam Simpson
died in office on 19 July 1764 on the 35th anniversary of the church's consecration.

Herbert Mayo (31 July 1764 - 6 January 1802)
A speedy appointment was made, of Herbert Mayo DD, who is not to be confused with Dr Henry Mayo, the more-famous Dissenting Minister of Nightingale Lane chapel around the same period. They were probably distantly related, for the Mayos were a large, well-connected family, producing a number of eminent men - originally from Ireland, but Herbert Mayo's branch came from Herefordshire, where he was born in 1720. A Fellow of Brasenose, he was ordained in 1844 and served his title at Chalgrove with
Berrick Salome in Oxford diocese (a post in which his brother William followed him five years later - he later became Rector of Wooton Rivers, in Wiltshire, another Brasenose living, where he died advanced in years) before further curacies in Stratford-le-Bow, Whitechapel and Spitalfields. He was a contributor to the Society for Maintaining Poor Orphans of Clergymen till of age to be put Apprentice [now the Sons & Friends of the Clergy]. From May to July 1764 he was Rector of All Saints Middleton Cheney, in Northamptonshire (a well-endowed Brasenose living in Peterborough diocese) but resigned this 'more eminent' post to return to work in London, serving at St George-in-the-East from 1764 until his death in 1802.  In 1774, together with George Barnes, he became the trustee of the property and personal estate of John Gwilt -  see here for connections between the Mayo, Gwilt and Shaw families, including the latters' architectural work. Gwilt's wife Sarah continued to occupy the house in Cheshunt, but Mayo spent time there, and his son Charles later became its lessee and then owner. Also under this will, until 1784 he and George Barnes were jointly Lords of the Manor of Icklingham Berners in Suffolk, and separately or together held manorial courts there on various occasions. In  addition, from 1799 he was the (absentee) incumbent of Tolesbury in Essex, then in London diocese, which produced an estimated annual income of £180.

He was buried at in the crypt at St George's on 13 January 1802. His wife Mary, daughter of William Paggen, a surgeon from Eltham, lived until 1824. They had two daughters, Rebecca and Jane, and two sons, Charles, who was ordained (he assisted his father here from time to time - see below) and was the first professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, and Paggen-William, who was a physician, as were other family members (including another Herbert, a physiologist and surgeon who in the 1840s wrote about clairvoyance and vampirism). See more about family members here.

Dr Mayo was much-respected as an 'active and diligent incumbent': one source describes him as a 'great man' among the East End clergy of the time. In 1775 he spent £600 of his own money on enlarging the rectory - see here for details. Here are the full texts of two contrasting obituaries. One, from the Gentleman's Magazine, is couched in the florid and respecful terms of the day, without saying what exactly he did  - for example:
His rectitude, steadiness, and liberality of principle, his perfect command of temper and self-government, the firmness of his attachments, and placability of his resentments, the sincerity and openness of his manners, and, above all, the extensiveness, impartiality, and œconomy of his benevolence, are qualities which, it is hoped, have not vainly shed their lustre, though amidst a licentious and a fastidious age. But, not to diverge too far into general panegyrick, it is meant to enlarge upon this exemplary character, with regard to its most appropriate excellence, as it exhibits a singular specimen of the good effects resulting to society from a plain and vigorous understanding, actuated by right principles, and applied to practicable and beneficial objects. Unambitious of celebrity, and incapable of affectation, he made it his chief aim to be useful; and in that aim he most perfectly succeeded.....  [and so on]

('Spheres of usefulness' was part of the jargon of the day. Fifty years later, a curate who became Lecturer in Public Reading at King's College London entitled his introductory lecture The Importance of Elocution in connexion with Ministerial Usefulness.)

mayosignatureThe other obituary, was written by 'a London curate' (who had worked with him - who was it?) and is more informative. It  describes him - in a phrase more often used now than in those days - as a good parish priest, conscientious and with plenty of previous experience; he served as a magistrate; his conduct of worship was rubrically careful and correct (pointing ahead fifty years to Bryan King's time!); his preaching was initially somewhat mannered; he was held in particular regard by the black seafaring community, with whom he had many contacts (one was Anne Clossen, a 15-year old slave whom he baptized, and who left her master and secured employment with a local surgeon at the excellent rate of £7 a year); a Tory in politics, he was ecumenical in spirit, at least towards the 'mainstream' denominations; and he was fond of puns!

From the start, the parish appointed a Lecturer - an ordained preacher, chosen by the Vestry meeting and supported by the voluntary contributions of the congregation. At the first Vestry meeting, with 190 vestrymen plus various officers present, they discussed whether to vote by the traditional means of 'coming up to scratch' (on a parchment roll) or holding a ballot; they opted for the former, and proceeeded to elect Charles Huxley (1729-33) by 117 votes to 94 for the other candidate, John Wilkinson. Huxley, a fellow of Brasenose, was from an old Cheshire family - his father was a merchant in Macclesfield; he died in post at the age of 34. (An abortive attempt - described here
- was made by his supporters to appoint Wilkinson as a 'second lecturer'.)

Richard King was Lecturer during the 1740s, combining this the the post of Curate of St Mary-at-Hill and Chaplain in Ordinary to the royal household; he was Lord Mayor's Chaplain in 1751. He was also chaplain to the Clothworkers Company, and minister of their Lamb's Conduit chapel, near Cripplegate (endowed by William Lamb, brother of the Clothworkers who died in 1577, together with a water conduit near Holborn, providing pails for 129 poor women, together with educational and other benefactions elsewhere). Later he was Rector of Kingston Bagpuize, then Berkshire [ now Oxfordshire], until his death in 1783. Among his published sermons was one 'before the several Associations of the Order of Antigallicans' in 1751, on Ps 122.6 (O pray for the peace of Jerusalem....) The Anti-Gallican Society was formed in 1745 to oppose the influx of French goods, customs and influence - so it was a partly economic, partly cultural movement, fuelled by prospects of war with France. It had the support of Theophilus Cibber, son of the Poet Laureate, whose family were linked with the Danish Church in Wellclose Square. (In 1778 the Rev Isaac Hunt preached to the AGM of the Laudable Association of Anti-Gallicans at St George-in-the-East, possibly on St George's Day, which they kept as a patriotic festival. The Rev Isaac Hunt senior had been an early settler in Barbados, where his namesake son practised as a lawyer, but had to flee - with his Quaker wife - because of his royalist support; ordained in England, he never achieved preferment because of what was intriguingly described as too imprudent generosity on a certain occasion, in which royalty was implicated, and ended his life in a debtors' prison. He was the father of the man of letters Leigh Hunt, and published his juvenile writings.)   

Thomas Bankes is described in his 1780 publication The Christian's New and Compleat Family Bible, with Apocrypha, or, Universal Library of Divine Knowledge, illustrated with annotations and commentaries... the whole forming a compleat body of Christian Divinity, as being of St Mary Hall, Oxon, Vicar of Dixton, Monmouthshire, and Assistant Preacher at St George's Middlesex. Another source adds and Afternoon Preacher at Sir George Wheeler's Chapel at Spital-square, which makes it likely that it his appointment was to this rather than another 'St George's Middlesex'. Later versions substitute Morning and Afternoon Preacher at Hampstead, which would also fit, since another Lecturer was appointed here in 1784. He was a wealthy pluralist, paying his curate in Dixton (straddling the Welsh border - it later opted into the Church of England) £16 a year to run the parish in his absence. He also published, from 1787 onwards, with Edward Warren Blake, Alexander Cook and Thomas Lloyd, A new, Royal, and Authentic System of Universal Geography Antient and Modern, containing a genuine history and description of the whole world. It includes images and reports of Captain Cook's three voyages, and about 200 original engravings [right are two of them - A Man of the Sandwich Islands, and A Man of Oonalashka], making it the most complete report on the then-known world. He died in 1805.

Samuel Bethell (1784-96) was a relative of Rector Mayo. Both families were from Hereford, where Samuel's namesake grandfather had been incumbent of Dinedor, and his namesake father of St Nicholas Hereford, marrying Susanna, daughter of the Revd Charles Mayo in 1755, with a marriage settlement involving two plots of land and £140. Like Dr Mayo he was a fellow of Brasenose College Oxford, graduating in 1777 (the year of his father's death). He was appointed Lecturer alongside his main job, as curate of Christ Church Spitalfields, and continued there until he became Rector of Clayton-cum-Kymer in Sussex (yet another Brasenose living) in 1793. He died there in 1803, aged 47 - a year before his mother, who lived to the age of 85; this vapid eulogising from the Gentleman's Magazine, includes the claim that he was very dexerous in the management of colloquial argumentation, and an assurance (let the reader understand) that he was not an enthusiast, but a man of rational piety! 

His successor as Lecturer was James Blenkarne (1797-1830s, having officiated in the parish from 1794). Ordained deacon by the Bishop of Lincoln in 1779 to the curacy of Broughton, and priest in 1783 to the curacy of Holywell cum Needingworth, he then moved to London, where, as this obituary in the March 1836 edition of the Gentleman's Magazine shows, he simultaneously held a number of other posts besides the Lectureship at St George's. Note again the emphasis on being 'extensively useful'.  As headmaster of St Olave's Grammar School until 1824, he gave evidence in 1816 to a Select Committee of the House of Commons into the 'Education of the Lower Orders'. He was president of Sion College in 1818.
Feb. 7. Aged 78, the Rev. James Blenkarne,  Vicar of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, and Chaplain of Guy's Hospital. He was educated at the grammar school of Ashby de la Zouche, in Leicestershire, from whence he proceeded in 1774, with an exhibition to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and graduated B.A. 1778 as 9th Junior Optime, M.A. 1780. His intrinsic worth procured for him a variety of appointments, in each of which be became extensively useful, and from each of which he retired with dignity and honour. The Governors of Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School in St. Olave's Southwark, appointed him in 1790 to the office of Head Master of that establishment, and after a lengthened service of 33 years they marked their sense of the fidelity with which he had discharged his trust, by permitting him to retire from those laborious duties, with an annual pension of  £100. In 1791 he was elected Lecturer of St. Bene't Fink, which function he retained until the parishioners of St. George's in the East chose him to be their Lecturer in 1796. During a continued acquaintance of almost forty years, they looked upon him with increasing affection and esteem; and on his recent retirement from this office they presented him with a valuable silver waiter as a public memorial of their respect. About the same time he received a similar testimonial of a tea and coffee service from the parishioners of St. Helen's, to which church be was instituted in 1799. He was elected Chaplain to Guy's Hospital in 1815. In the several relations of a Minister of the Gospel, a father, a husband, and a friend, he evinced an uniform desire to advance the happiness, and secure the love of all with whom he was connected. His private and social conduct as a man was characterized by a primitive mildness and simplicity, and an unassuming humility of deportment, accompanied with that evenness and chastised cheerfulness of temper, which is the result, and the evidence, of conscious innocence and integrity.



Robert Farington (10 March 1802 - 17 September 1841)
The third Rector was Robert Farington DD FSA (in later life he affected the spelling 'ffarington'), who died in office. He was from an old Lancashire family; his father William, who died in 1767, had been simultaneously Rector of Warrington and Vicar of Leigh.
He was the youngest of eight sons, three of whom served with the East India Company (one of whom, Edward, died of yellow fever at the age of 32). Two were artists: George, and Joseph known as 'the Royal Academician' - an indifferent painter, but whose 8-volume diary, when edited and published in 1923, proved an intriguing mix of information on mundane domestic routine and dealings with the great and the good. Here is an example, mentioning Robert, from volume 5, chapter LXX (1809) [full text here]:

September 11. — To meet my Brother Robert at Salisbury and with him to proceed on a tour to Devonshire and Cornwall, I left London between three and four o'Clock in the afternoon in the Egham Coach to proceed to Staines, 16 miles, to sleep there and be taken up by the Salisbury Coach on the following morning having taken a place for that purpose to avoid early rising. The passengers to Staines were gentlemen easy & agreeable in intercourse. One of them said he was at Eaton [sic] School at the time Marquiss Wellesley was there, & was what is there called "his Fag" viz : "A Junior Boy obeying & serving His Senior." He remarked the great resemblance which His Lordship bears to Buonaparte both in person & style of countenance, & in fore thought, decission [sic], and energy of character. He said if Spain can be roused Lord Wellesley will do it; that He is effecting a great alteration in the management of their affairs, and that a considerable military force is preparing to be sent to Spain to support such measures as He may recommend. — I arrived at Staines at ½ past 6 o'Clock, and Slept at the Bush Inn.

Robert graduated from Brasenose (MA 1784, and BD & DD 1803 - the archive of family documents, now held at UCLA, includes a note of 1 July 1803 about his candidancy for the latter degree). He was ordained by the Bishop of Oxford in 1783, and in 1790 served a curacy at New Windsor, Berks (in the diocese of Salisbury). In his time here though he organised repair work on the parish church and rectory, he was passive - believing it was his duty to leave things as he found them! -  and increasingly reclusive, spending all day reading and writing in his study. William Quekett, who was appointed curate and Lecturer in 1830, and whose extraordinary story is told here in connection with Christ Church, Watney Street, said that, although the Rector promised to seek another curate after the mix-up over Quekett's appointment, and to help him find his feet in the parish, he did absolutely nothing in either case. Quekett claimed that his Rector rarely preached (he had a speech impediment), or even attended services, and left Quekett to be present in church every day until noon awaiting funerals and weddings (time which he put to good use in laying plans for Christ Church). Whenever he went away, he took his plate-chest with him and had all the locks on his cupboards changed. However, the parish registers suggest that Farington was more active than his curate implies, despite his eccentricities: when he was in the parish he conducted large numbers of baptisms and weddings, though most years he went away for two or three months at a stretch, and sometimes longer.

faringtonbooksHere, in his autobiography My Sayings and Doings  (Kegan, Paul & Trench 1888), Quekett describes Farington's death in 1841 in some detail, including the discovery of banknotes pinned into many of his books, and his will, made in 1822 with pencil amendments of 1838 found in his pocket-book  - which was contested by family members in the Prerogative Court. He was buried, along with other family members, at Broxbourne (where, incidentally, the News International presses, previously in this parish, were relocated in 2007) - a tablet there records the details. The sale of his books [left] took several days.

(In 1828 J. Hogarth, who had bought books formerly belonging to Robert's brother Joseph at the sale of property of Sir Thomas Lawrence (another artist, who painted Joseph's portrait), had written to Robert offering to sell these works to his nephew Captain (later Admiral) Farington for £16.)

Other curates in Farington's time 

Henry Burgess Whitaker Churton (11 March - 27 May 1842)
lasted all of nine weeks as Rector, before getting a better job as Preacher of the Charterhouse.
He was born at Middleton Cheney, the Brasenose college living [All Saints' church right]  - previously held by Herbert Mayo - where for over 40 years his father Ralph Churton (1764-1831) was Rector, and also from 1805 Archdeacon of St David's, and a noted biographer. Henry began his Oxford studies at Balliol before becoming attached to Brasenose College; he succeeded W.W. Champneys (later Rector of Whitechapel) as curate at St Ebbe's Oxford, which had become a centre of Evangelical preaching (Newman, it seems, was suspicious of him). He was tutor at Oxford to Frederick W. Robertson, whose Life and Letters refer to discussions with Churton at a time when his own theological views were shifting, and who at Trinity Chapel Brighton became one of the great humane preachers of the age. (His brother Thomas Townson Churton was also a fellow of Brasenose and an Evangelical - and was Bryan King's tutor there.) According to William Quekett, all the Fellows of Brasenose College in rotation were offered, but declined, the post at St George's, until just in time to avoid presentation lapsing to the bishop Churton was prevailed upon to accept, although he was already in the frame for the Charterhouse job.

When he read himself in, Quekett handed him, via Mr Verrall, the parish clerk, the parochial fees from 18 September 1841 to 27 May 1842 - a total of £284 9s 6d: pictured is a page from the parish ledger. All he gave me in return, said Quekett, was the empty cash box. (During his brief time here Churton officiated at 54 baptisms and 5 weddings, returning as a visitor to baptize 13 candidates in February 1852). After only two years at the Charterhouse he became Vicar of Icklesham, near Rye (building Rye Harbour church in 1849), and later Rural Dean of 'Hastings Second Portion' and a Prebendary of Chichester. You can read Churton's account of two trips to Palestine here, described in one review as an elegant and religious work on the East, slightly but not unpleasantly imbued with sentimentalism. He also published various sermons. He died at Icklesham in 1891, leaving an estate of £3,573 3s 11d.

Bryan King (1843-63)
The last Fellow of Brasenose College to be appointed Rector was Bryan King - the college later transferred most of their East End patronage to the Bishop of London in exchange for various country livings. When he arrived, he noted that the four streets within which my parish is situated contained 733 houses - of which 27 were public houses, 13 beer houses, and no fewer than 154 were brothels. The church, he found, scared off the poor, who
with their timid delicacy ever shrink from entering. It would be as reasonable to assure such that they would be perfectly welcome as guests in Buckingham Palace. His 45,000 parishioners were of those very classes who are, alas, almost universally alienated from attendance upon the services of the Church. So he sought to rise to the challenge.

His story is more fully told in connection with the Ritualism Riots, and the establishment of the mission led by Charles Lowder. He was born in 1811, and in 1842 married Martha Mary, daughter of Thomas Fardell DCL, the Rector of Boothby Pagnell in Lincolnshire, who conducted services here from time to time when his son-in-law was under stress. Bryan King was a council member of the English Church Union (originally founded as the Church of England Protection Society) and a correspondent of the Ecclesiological Society (originally the Cambridge Camden Society - founded at the 'other' university with a focus on 'proper' church building design rather than on strictly liturgical issues). Worn out by the riots, he exchanged livings with John Ross Lockhart and became vicar of Avebury; he retired in 1894 - by which time he was almost totally deaf, and his curate son ran the parish - and died in 1895.

Curates in Bryan King's time

Charles Lowder and his many colleagues at the mission were licensed as curates to the parish, and most officiated at the parish church as well as in the mission centres. Curates based at the parish church at the time of the riots (living in the clergy house in Cannon Street Road), and conducting many services here - both later to become Roman Catholics - were
Hugh Allen, as explained here in connection with the Ritualism Riots of 1859-60, was briefly and controversially 'Afternoon Lecturer' appointed by Bishop Tait, from May to November 1859. He graduated from Trinity College Dublin as  BA and MA in 1835, and BD and DD 1861 (recognised ad eundem by Cambridge the same year) and was ordained by the Bishop of Sodor and Man in 1835. In 1848 he became perpetual curate of St Jude Whitechapel, created in 1845 as a chapel of ease to St Mary Whitechapel (and, ironically, from 1873 the parish of the great reforming parson Samuel Barnett - the church was demolished in 1928). There in 1851 he published Sermons on Important Subjects (delivered at St Olave's Church Old Jewry and St Jude's Church, Whitechapel), and in 1853 a Ragged School for 350 children, aged 4-15: they are taught by Mr Holland, a most intelligent and devoted teacher, who is exercising a powerful influence for good in that dark and criminal locality. His wife Anne died in 1855. The following year he produced a 'tract purporting to be a lecture' on The Uselessness of the Clergy of the Church of England (subverting the much-used phrase 'clerical usefulness'). In the months before his appointment at St George-in-the-East, we find him on temperance lecture tours - for instance, in Bath, where according to the Western Temperance Herald he took us from the awful miseries of drink to the complete and simple remedy of abstinence, ending by the beautiful analogy of our Saviour, before performing the miracle of the raising of Lazarus, commanding to 'take away the stone' of drink, and there will space be left for the growth and full fruition of all that is good. He also commended a publication called That's It - 'plain teaching by the author of The Reason Why, The Housewife's Reason Why, The Historical Reason Why, Enquire Within, etc. etc': It is evidently a work executed with very considerable talent and conveys most valuable information in a compendious form and yet attractive style. You need not fear the success of such a work, as this as it becomes known it is sure to be very extensively circulated.
Having fomented the riots here, he was appointed Rector of St George Southwark - a Lord Chancellor's appointment, then in the diocese of Winchester, with a handsome stipend of £750 - and remained there for some years. He was instrumental in creating Wandsworth Working Men's Club & Institute in 1862.

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