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The Intersection of ‘English Use’ Liturgy and Social Justice: Snapshots of Augustus Pugin, Percy Dearmer, Conrad Noel and William Palmer Ladd

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 November 2020

Bryan D. Spinks*


The thought of Percy Dearmer was related to that of Augustus Pugin and Daniel Rock, Roman Catholics seeking to revive English medieval forms, and to his Anglican near-contemporaries Conrad Noel and William Palmer Ladd. In England, Noel was more ideologically committed than Dearmer and his imagined medieval society and the English Use were given applied expression at Thaxted. In the USA, William Palmer Ladd was a congenial colleague to Dearmer but his liturgical ideals were of the 1930s, and not an outcome of the nineteenth-century English ritual controversies. Dearmer, Ladd and Noel were all grounded in what has been called Sacramental Socialism, which saw a unity between the Eucharist, the corporate church, and its mission as part of the Kingdom of God.

Research Article
© The Journal of Anglican Studies Trust 2020

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Bryan D. Spinks is Bishop F. Percy Goddard Professor of Liturgical Studies and Pastoral Liturgy, Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Yale Divinity School, and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, USA.


2 Jared C. Cramer, ‘Percy Dearmer Revisited: Discerning Authentically Anglican Liturgy in a Multicultural Ecumenical, 21st Century Context’, p. 3, (accessed 22 April 2020).

3 Charles Dellheim, ‘Interpreting Victorian Medievalism’, in Florence S. Boos (ed.), History and Community: Essays in Victorian Medievalism (New York: Garland Publishing, 1992), p. 39.

4 Dellheim, ‘Interpreting Victorian Medievalism’, p. 44.

5 Margaret Belcher, The Collected Letters of A.W.N. Pugin. I. 1830–1842 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 155.

6 Belcher, Collected Letters, I, p. 144.

7 Belcher, Collected Letters, I, pp. 153–54.

8 Daniel Rock, The Church of our Fathers as Seen in St. Osmund’s Rite for the Cathedral of Salisbury (rev. edn; ed. G.W. Hart and W.H. Frere; London: Murray, 1906), IV, pp. 296–97. The volumes were originally published in 1849.

9 Belcher, Collected Letters, I, p. 338.

10 Michael Fisher, ‘Gothic for Ever’: A.W.N. Pugin, Lord Shrewsbury, and the Rebuilding of Catholic England (Reading: Spire Books, 2012), p. 124.

11 Belcher, Collected Letters, I, p. 298.

12 Belcher, Collected Letters, I, p. 127.

13 Judith Pinnington, ‘Gentlemen into Social Democrats: An Anglican Evolution’, in Kenneth Leech (ed.), Conrad Noel and the Catholic Crusade (London: Jubilee Group), p. 1.

14 Donald Gray, Percy Dearmer: A Parson’s Pilgrimage (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2000), p. 16.

15 Percy Dearmer, ‘The Social Work of the Undivided Church’, in Andrew Reid (ed.), The New Party Described by Some of its Members (London: Hodder Brothers, 1894), pp. 287–314.

16 Percy Dearmer, ‘The Social Work of the Undivided Church’, p. 302.

17 Dearmer, ‘The Social Work’, pp. 305–306.

18 Dearmer, ‘The Social Work’, p. 313.

19 Percy Dearmer, Christian Socialism: Practical Christianity (Clarion Pamphlet 19; London: Clarion Press Newspaper Company, 1897), p. 16.

20 James Adderley, In Slums and Society: Reminiscences of Old Friends (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1916, p. 80.

21 The Parson’s Handbook (London: Henry Froude, 6th edn, 1907), p. 6.

22 Percy Dearmer, The Reform of the Poor Law (London: A.R. Mowbray & Sons, 1907).

23 Percy Dearmer, The Church and Social Questions (London: A.R. Mowbray & Co., 1910), p. 20.

24 ‘The Warham Guild’, (accessed 23 January 2019).

25 Katie Palmer Heathman, ‘“Lift Up a Living Nation”: Community and Nation, Socialism and Religion in The English Hymnal, 1906’, in Cultural and Social History 14 (2017), p. 183.

26 For the biographical summary, see Conrad Noel, An Autobiography (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1945).

27 Noel, An Autobiography, p. 42.

28 Reg Groves, Conrad Noel and the Thaxted Movement (London: Merlin P., 1967), p. 32. Conrad Noel’s signed copy of the second edition of The Parson’s Handbook is in the possession of Canon Dr Donald Gray, President of the Society for Liturgical Study.

29 Noel, An Autobiography, p. 80.

30 Conrad Noel, Socialism in Church History (Milwaukee: The Young Church Company, 1911), p. 245.

31 Conrad Noel, The Life of Jesus (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1937). Republished by the Religious Book Club in 1938.

32 Noel, Life of Jesus, p. 431.

33 Conrad Noel, ‘Epilogue’, in Ethel Simcoe, A Short History of the Parish and Ancient Borough of Thaxted (Saffron Walden: W. Hart & Son, 1934), pp. 135–36.

34 Reg Groves, Conrad Noel and the Thaxted Movement; Arthur Burns, ‘Beyond the ‘Red Vicar’: Community and Socialism in Thaxted, Essex 1910–84’, History Workshop Journal 75 (2013), pp. 101–24.

35 ‘Conrad Noel and Thaxted: A Village Revolution’, The Church Time, 22 June 1938, p. 95.

36 Noel’s son-in-law and former curate who would later succeed him at Thaxted, Jack Putterill, recorded how he (Putterill) restored an old loom in a disused vestry in 1925 and founded a local Guild of Weavers. Putterill was assisted by Alec B. Hunter, a noted textile designer and craftsman. Hunter and his wife often visited Thaxted, and eventually moved to the village. The couple were involved with the Morris dancing, and Hunter was Squire of the Morrismen; see Jack Putterill, Thaxted Quest for Social Justice (Marlow: Precision Press, 1977), p. 79; and the Catalogue, Alec B. Hunter. Textile Designer and Craftsman. An Exhibition arranged by Warner & Sons Ltd., 1979/1980. Some of Noel’s copes are in the possession of Dr Julian Litten who kindly furnished me with the information and photographs of the copes; personal communication to author, 27 November 2017 to 3 July 2018.

37 See Simcoe, A Short History, p. 10.

38 Cited in Groves, The Thaxted Movement, p. 223.

39 Essex Record Office D/P 16/1/36; Hull History Centre U DNO/6/29.

40 Though pure speculation on my part, he might have used something like the order found in Catholic Prayers for Church of England People. A copy of the 1893 edition by W. Knott, London, in the possession of Canon Dr Donald Gray, has the inscription: ‘To Conrad Noel 1894 with the best wishes of Percy and Mabel Dearmer’. Some parts of the mass have been cut out, perhaps for cutting and pasting.

41 The Thaxted High Mass began with the Asperges, and the Litany or people’s procession à la Dearmer, and then the Confiteor, mentioning the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. In the Red Mass, St Thomas of Canterbury took the place of John the Baptist. Then came the Collect for Purity, Introit, Kyries, Gloria and Collect for the Day. A Sequence hymn came after the Epistle. There was an offertory procession by laypeople. All the liturgical texts were basically those of the Book of Common Prayer, though the ‘Consecration’ used common rephrasing to unite the prayer of oblation with the 1662 Prayer of Consecration, and restored a post-institution epikletic petition. The fraction came after the Lord’s Prayer, and the Pax was given. The Agnus Dei was included, and after the mass the Last Gospel was recited and the people said the Angelus.

42 Noel, ‘Epilogue’, in Simcoe, A Short History, pp. 134–35.

43 First published by Oxford University Press in 1942, after Ladd’s death. The book was reprinted with a foreword by Massey H. Shepherd in 1957 by Seabury Press, and again in 2018 by Wipf & Stock, in the centenary year of Ladd’s appointment as Dean of Berkeley Divinity School. Pagination is the same for the main text in each edition.

44 Letter of 31 December 1919, William Palmer Ladd Papers, Record Group 136, Box 1.

45 William Bliss, What Is Christian Socialism? (Boston: The Society of Christian Socialists, 1890).

46 The Living Church, vol. 61, 28 June 1919, p. 307.

47 Platform of the Committee of 48, 1919, in Ladd papers, Record group 136, Box 6, Folder 3.

48 The Church League for Industrial Democracy. Containing the Major Portion of the Speeches made at the meeting in Arcadia Hall, Detroit, on Sunday Afternoon, October 19, 1919, Bulletin 7, The Church League for Industrial Democracy, 1919 (no place, no pagination, but p. 1.)

49 Letter, 23 December 1919, Ladd papers, Record Group 136, Box 6, Folder 4.

50 Ladd papers, Record Group 216, Box 1, B. File 5.

51 Prayer Book Interleaves, p. 68.

52 Prayer Book Interleaves, p. 51.

53 Prayer Book Interleaves, p. 66.

54 Joseph Britton, ‘The Berkeley Rite’, in Melanie Ross and Simon Jones (eds.), The Serious Business of Worship (London: T & T Clark, 2010), pp. 119–29.

55 Headlam said this in his 1883 address to the annual Guild of St Matthew’s meeting, cited in William L. Sach’s, ‘Stewart Headlam and the Fabian Society’, Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church 45 (1976). It is cited also in Gilbert Binyon, The Christian Socialist Movement in England (London: SPCK, 1931), p. 120, though without specific date and context. I have been unable to locate the primary source.