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George Ridding and the Diocese of Southwell: A Study in the National Church Ideal



This article examines the mindset and episcopal policy of George Ridding, first bishop of the new diocese of Southwell from 1884 until his death in 1904. Ridding's intellectual formation was rooted in Liberal Anglicanism, and is analysed here through his ‘Broad Church’ understanding of the Church of England as a comprehensive national Church. His commitment to this ideal is demonstrated through his episcopal charges and speeches, and through elements of the policy of diocesan management that he adopted. A brief evaluation of this policy identifies limitations, as well as continuity with the earlier movement of diocesan reform.



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1 O. Brose, Church and parliament: the reshaping of the Church of England, 1828–1860, Stanford 1959; G. F. A. Best, Temporal pillars: Queen Anne's Bounty, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the Church of England, Cambridge 1964; W. O. Chadwick, The Victorian Church, London 1966–70.

2 A. Haig, The Victorian clergy, London 1984; F. Knight, The nineteenth-century Church and English society, Cambridge 1995; D. Dowland, Nineteenth-century Anglican theological training: the redbrick challenge, Oxford 1997; R. A. Burns, The diocesan revival in the Church of England c. 1800–1870, Oxford 1999.

3 Significant exceptions are G. Neville, Radical churchman: Edward Lee Hicks and the new Liberalism, Oxford 1998, and G. Patrick, The miners' bishop: Brooke Foss Westcott, Peterborough 2004.

4 The others were Liverpool (1880), Newcastle (1882), Southwell (1884), Wakefield (1888), Birmingham (1905), Southwark (1905), Chelmsford (1914), St Edmundsbury and Ipswich (1914) and Sheffield (1914).

5 There is some scholarly material on the foundation and early years of the diocese of Newcastle in W. S. F. Pickering (ed.), A social history of the diocese of Newcastle, 1882–1982, Stocksfield 1981.

6 L. Ridding, George Ridding, schoolmaster and bishop, London 1908, 51.

7 Ibid. 323. This was Edwin James Palmer, examining chaplain to Ridding and later bishop of Bombay.

8 From the diary of ‘Mrs Dick’, wife of George Richardson, master of Winchester, quoted in R. Custance (ed.), Winchester College: sixth-centenary essays, Oxford 1982, 467.

9 Ibid. 469. See also J. Sabben-Clare, Winchester College after 600 years, 1382–1982, Southampton 1981, 8.

10 On the ‘Tunding row’ see P. Gwyn, ‘The ‘Tunding row’: George Ridding and the belief in “boy-government”’, in Custance, Winchester College, 431–77.

11 This was still in occasional use at Cuddesdon in the 1960s, where it was dubbed ‘the creeping barrage’. I am grateful to Mark Santer for this information. Laura Ridding reckoned that more than 31,000 copies were sold between 1906 and 1933 alone: Bodleian Library, Oxford, GB 0161, ms Eng. Hist. D. 186, p. 234A.

12 See A. C. Headlam, ‘George Ridding, first bishop of Southwell’, Church Quarterly Review lx (1905), 242.

13 Chadwick, Victorian Church, ii. 389.

14 There is some relevant material for Derbyshire in M. Austin, A stage or two beyond Christendom: a social history of the Church of England in Derbyshire, Cromford 2001, esp. pp. 163–86.

15 Bodl. Lib., GB 0161, mss Eng. Hist. D. 185–6.

16 This somewhat modifies the judgement of the ODNB that Ridding ‘was not formally identified with the broad-church party’ despite many similarities of view.

17 G. K. A. Bell, Randall Davidson, archbishop of Canterbury, 3rd edn, London 1952, 173, 175.

18 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 19.

19 Ibid. 229.

20 G. Ridding, The revel and the battle, and other sermons, London 1897, 177.

21 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 20.

22 Ibid. 135.

23 Ibid. 152.

24 W. J. Conybeare, ‘Church parties’, Edinburgh Review cc (1853). There is a modern critical edition by R. A. Burns in S. Taylor (ed.), From Cranmer to Davidson: a Church of England miscellany (Church of England Record Society vii, 1999). Here the reference is to p. 340.

25 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 338.

26 See Ridding's sermon attacking the prosecution of the essayists: ‘The liberty of teaching’, in The revel and the battle, 67–79.

27 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 1.

28 For dates of matriculation, and election of Fellows see I. Elliott, The Balliol College register, 1833–1933, Oxford 1934, 3–5.

29 G. Ridding, The Church and commonwealth: the visitation charges, London 1906, 70.

30 Charles Gore to G. Ridding, six letters all dated 1893, Bodl. Lib., GB 0161 ms Eng. Letters c. 31.

31 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 50.

32 G. Ridding, The revel and the battle, 245.

33 Ibid. 156.

34 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 50.

35 See J. N. Morris, ‘The text as sacrament: Victorian Broad Church philology’, in R. N. Swanson (ed.), The Church and the book (Studies in Church History xxxviii, 2004), 365–74.

36 G. Ridding, The revel and the battle, 182.

37 D. Forbes, The Liberal Anglican idea of history, Cambridge 1952.

38 S. W. Sykes, Unashamed Anglicanism, London 1995, p. xiv.

39 See also J. N. Morris, ‘The spirit of comprehension: examining the Broad Church synthesis’, Anglican and Episcopal History lxxv (2006), 423–43.

40 It was epitomised in Arnold's notorious Principles of church reform (1833); for a modern edition see T. Arnold, Principles of church reform, ed. M. J. Jackson and J. Rogan, London 1962.

41 R. E. Prothero, Life and letters of Dean Stanley (1893), London 1909, 398–9.

42 On Arnold's influence on Jowett see P. B. Hinchliff, Benjamin Jowett and the Christian religion, Oxford 1987, 48–9.

43 On the Noetics see R. Brent, Liberal Anglican politics: Whiggery, religion and reform, 1830–1841, Oxford 1987.

44 Of the two, only Maurice wrote at length on ecclesiology, in The kingdom of Christ. For a critical exposition of his ecclesiology see J. N. Morris, F. D. Maurice and the crisis of Christian authority, Oxford 2005.

45 F. D. Maurice, Subscription no bondage, or the practical advantages afforded by the Thirty-Nine Articles as guides in all the branches of academical education, Oxford 1835, 117.

46 G. Ridding, The revel and the battle, 74.

47 Idem, Church and commonwealth, 173. This is from Ridding's third episcopal charge, delivered at various locations throughout 1896.

48 Idem, The revel and the battle, 338. This is from a sermon preached in March 1895 at the Chapel Royal.

49 Ibid. 331–4.

50 M. Grimley, Citizenship, community and the Church of England: Liberal Anglican theories of the state between the wars, Oxford 2004, 4.

51 G. Ridding, Church and State: thoughts applicable to present conditions, London 1912, 3.

52 Ibid. 5.

53 Ibid. 22.

54 Ibid. 50–1.

55 L. Colley, Britons: forging the nation, 1707–1837, London 1992. For a valuable introduction to many of the key elements of this debate see T. Claydon and I. McBride (eds), Protestantism and national identity: Britain and Ireland, c. 1650–c. 1850, Cambridge 1998, and also J. Wolffe, God and greater Britain: religion and national life in Britain and Ireland, 1843–1945, London 1994.

56 G. Ridding, Church and commonwealth, 52.

57 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 207.

58 Burns, Diocesan revival.

59 On this see A. Russell, The clerical profession, London 1980; Haig, The Victorian clergy; and Dowland, Nineteenth-century Anglican theological training.

60 Burns, Diocesan revival, is especially helpful on this, but see also M. J. D. Roberts, ‘The role of the laity in the Church of England, c. 1850–1885’, unpubl. D.Phil. diss. Oxford 1974.

61 Burns, Diocesan revival, 193.

62 Ibid. 197. Under the implementation of the act, Nottinghamshire, minus Southwell, was transferred from York to Lincoln in 1837, and then Southwell itself in 1841: A. Dimock, The cathedral church of Southwell: a description of the fabric and a brief history of the episcopal see, London 1898, 124. For an authoritative overview of the process of diocesan reorganisation see Best, Temporal pillars, 318–25.

63 P. S. Morrish, ‘County and urban dioceses: nineteenth-century discussion on ecclesiastical geography’, this Journal xxvi (1975), 286.

64 J. H. Overton and E. Wordsworth, Christopher Wordsworth, bishop of Lincoln, 1807–1885, new edn, London 1890, 159.

65 Ibid. 165.

66 Burns, Diocesan revival, 204–5.

67 Morrish, ‘County and urban dioceses’, 290. See also Austin, A stage or two beyond Christendom, 165.

68 See Morrish, ‘County and urban dioceses’, 289–93, for discussion of this complexity.

69 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 158. See also the account of a conversation Edwin Palmer had in 1934 with Arthur Hamilton-Baynes, later Provost of Birmingham but in the 1880s first secretary of the Southwell diocesan conference, in a letter to Laura Ridding in which Hamilton-Baynes had spoken of the difficulties of combining the two counties: Bodl. Lib., GB 0161, ms Eng. Hist. D. 185–6, book of cuttings and letters.

70 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 160.

71 As Michael Austin acidly remarks on the arrangement, ‘Any one who has served as a priest in both counties will know that the topography of each creates a character and people ill-matched to the other’: A stage or two beyond Christendom, 167.

72 M. Watts, Religion in Victorian Nottinghamshire: the religious census of 1851, Nottingham 1988, p. xiv.

73 Ibid.

74 The index of attendance (percentage of attendance to population) estimated by B. I. Coleman was 58% for Nottinghamshire and 58.8% for Derbyshire: The Church of England in the mid-nineteenth century: a social geography, London 1980, 40. On Derbyshire attendance figures see M. Tranter, The Derbyshire returns to the 1851 religious census (Derbyshire Record Society xxiii, 1995), p. lxvi.

75 Austin, A stage or two beyond Christendom, 149.

76 J. Beckett (ed.), A centenary history of Nottingham, Manchester 1997, 367.

77 Dimock, The cathedral church of Southwell, 124.

78 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 163.

79 G. Ridding, Church and commonwealth, 1.

80 Ibid. 5.

81 Ibid. 6.

82 Ibid. 14.

83 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 163–5.

84 Bodl. Lib., GB 0161, mss Eng. Hist. D. 185, 176G.

85 A key article on this is M. J. D. Roberts, ‘Private patronage and the Church of England, 1800–1900’, this Journal xxxii (1981), 199–223.

86 Austin, A stage or two beyond Christendom, 168.

87 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 167. P. S. Morrish has pointed out that Ridding's attempts to get the chapters of York, Lincoln and Lichfield to transfer assets were bound not to succeed, since ‘circumstances at all older cathedrals precluded adoption of this expedient without statutory compulsion’: ‘Parish-church cathedrals, 1836–1931: some problems and their solutions’, this Journal xlix (1998), 451.

88 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 212.

89 Ibid. 184.

90 Ibid. 187.

91 One correspondent protested to Ridding in October 1885 that ‘Southwell from its population, position & other capabilities is not & offers no prospect of becoming the centre of Church life in the Diocese’: Bodl. Lib. GB 0161, ms Eng. Hist. D. 185, 168A.

92 Ibid. ms Eng. Hist. D. 186, p. 204K.

93 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 181.

94 Ibid. 205.

95 Morrish, ‘County and urban dioceses’, 282.

96 Ibid. 291.

97 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 174.

98 Ibid.

99 See Burns, Diocesan revival, 216–18, however, for an important corrective to the common assumption that diocesan synods and ruri-decanal conferences were a direct outcome of Tractarianism.

100 Southwell diocesan church calendar, clergy list and general almanac, 1886, Derby–London 1886, 197.

101 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 173. I have scoured the available records (including diocesan council minutes and diocesan magazines) in the diocesan archives at Nottingham County Record Office to try to establish exactly what ‘Churchman’ meant in the constitutions listed in the Southwell diocesan church calendar, to no avail. But Laura Ridding's comment certainly points to ‘Churchman’ as meaning baptised parishioners.

102 John Kent's description of William Temple's reason for supporting the baptismal franchise is relevant here: ‘Temple … was bound to favour an inclusive against an exclusive voting qualification, because he desired a truly national establishment’: William Temple: Church, State and society in Britain, 1880–1950, Cambridge 1992, 74.

103 ‘From Ritual disputes the Diocese was happily very free. No prosecution took place during the Bishop's Episcopate’: L. Ridding, George Ridding, 236.

104 Bodl. Lib., GB 0161, mss Eng. Hist. D. 186, 236A, 246D, 246E.

105 Ibid. 236A. The account is in Laura Ridding's own words.

106 Southwell diocesan church calendar, 1890, Derby–London, 1890, 252–305.

107 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 192.

108 Ibid. 193.

109 Ibid. 204.

110 G. Ridding, Church and commonwealth, 137.

111 Ibid. 193.

112 Michael Austin's account, in A stage or two beyond Christendom (pp. 165–77), concentrates on Derbyshire and is relatively brief.

113 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 265–8.

114 Grimley however points out that the fading of Nonconformity after 1918 for a while shored up Liberal Anglican convictions that the Church of England really could act as spiritual representative for the nation as a whole: Citizenship, community and the Church of England, 14–15.

115 L. Ridding, George Ridding, 154.

116 The most vivid illustration of this is the extraordinary inscription on Ridding's monument in Southwell Minster, which reads ‘Bishop – Pastor – Ruler’ (author's italics).

This article is based on the George Ridding Memorial Lecture, delivered at Southwell Cathedral in September 2004.


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