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Durham House and the Chapels Royal: their liturgical impact on the Church of Scotland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 October 2014

Bryan Spinks*
Yale Divinity School, 409 Prospect Street, New Haven, Connecticut, 06511,


Ever since the laying of the foundation stone of the present Norman building, Durham Cathedral has had an ambiguous relationship with Scotland – some good (the huge contribution of Dean William Whittingham through liturgy, metrical psalms and the Geneva Bible) and some extremely negative (the cathedral served as the prison for the Scottish prisoners after the battle of Dunbar). Amongst the more negative are the liturgical ideals and practices of the Durham House group, more commonly though inaccurately known as ‘Laudians’. The members of the group, which did include William Laud, were the protégés of the bishop of Durham, Richard Neile, and they met in his house in London. He promoted many as prebendaries at Durham Cathedral, and there they developed their liturgical ideals and practices. These ideals were ones which Neile shared with his contemporaries and close friends, Bishops Lancelot Andrewes and John Buckeridge. This article argues that the origin and precedent for these practices were the Chapels Royal with which most of the ‘players’ had affiliation in some way or other. Elizabeth I insisted on liturgical ceremonial and furnishings that supported or matched the grandeur of court ceremonial. It was a style which she hoped would also be adopted in English cathedrals. It was a style of worship which also appealed to James VI and through the Chapels Royal in Scotland he attempted to introduce a similar liturgical style. He also sought to conform the Church of Scotland to the Church of England, both in polity and liturgical text. The policy was continued by Charles I, who attempted to extend it to the Scottish cathedrals. Opponents of this court liturgical style and ‘Englishing’ of the liturgy found it convenient to blame the bishops who were given the task of implementing the liturgical changes rather than attack the source, namely the monarchy. The ultimate outcome was that, rather than the Church of Scotland adopting the 1637 Book of Common Prayer and Durham House ceremonial, it eventually even lost the liturgy which Scottish tradition had ascribed to John Knox, but the lion's share of which was more probably the work of Dean William Whittingham. Instead the Church of Scotland accepted the Directory of Public Worship, itself mainly the work of English divines. It became one of the few Reformed churches that did not have a set form for its public worship.

Research Article
Copyright © Scottish Journal of Theology Ltd 2014 

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1 Sir Walter Scott, Harold the Dauntless. A Poem (1817), Canto Third.

2 See Donald Matthew, ‘Durham and the Anglo-Norman World’, and Paul Dalton, ‘Scottish Influence on Durham 1066–1214’, in Rollason, David, Harvey, Margaret and Prestwich, Michael (eds), Anglo-Norman Durham (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1994), pp. 122 and 339–52Google Scholar.

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4 Peter Smart, A Sermon Preached in the Cathedrall Church of Durham, July 7 1628, printed 1640. Some edns date the sermon as 27 July. Gabriel Sewell, Head of Collections at Durham Cathedral, writes: ‘Was the 27 July imprint a way of concealing the book's true origins? The 27 July is only used in the title pages of the editions printed in London but with a false Edinburgh imprint. Using a false imprint was a way of avoiding censorship etc. The first London edition of 1628 gives the date of the sermon of 7 July; the two editions also of 1628 with the false imprints of “Edenborough” both have 27 July. By the 1640 editions it is back to the 7 July.’ (Email of 5 March 2014.)

5 Sermon, p. 23.

6 Ibid., pp. 19–20.

7 Ibid. p. 20.

8 Ibid., p. 24.

9 Ibid., p. 22.

10 Fincham, Kenneth and Tyacke, Nicholas, Altars Restored: The Changing Face of English Religious Worship, 1547–c.1700 (Oxford: OUP, 2007), p. 117CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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22 See the descriptions of services during James's reign, from the swearing in of the Spanish ambassador (with Latin oaths and a Latin Bible) to the baptism of Princess Mary, and the ‘churching’ of Anne of Denmark where, on each occasion, rich copes were worn and elaborate anthems sung. The Old Cheque-Book, pp. 151–2, 167–8 and 170.

23 Nichols, John, The Progresses, Processions, and Magnificent Festivities, of King James the First (London: J. B. Nichols, 1828), vol. 3, p. 279Google Scholar.

24 Ibid., p. 336. For discussions of both sermons, see Stevenson, Kenneth, Liturgy and Interpretation (London: SCM Press, 2011), pp. 173205Google Scholar.

25 Nichols, Progresses, p. 336.

26 Ibid., p. 230.

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29 Ibid., p. cxxiv.

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31 The Life and Death of William Cowper, Bishop of Galloway, in The Workes of William Cowper (London, 1623), pp. 3–6.

32 The Bishop of Galloway, his answeres to such as desire a resolution of their scruples against the Acts of the last Assembly holden at Perth, in the Moneth of August. 1618, in Workes, pp. 7–10.

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36 See the discussion in Spinks, Bryan D., Sacraments, Ceremonies and the Stuart Divines: Sacramental Theology and Liturgy in England and Scotland 1603–1662 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004)Google Scholar.

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56 Manuscript minutes of the Westminster Assembly, Dr Williams Library, London, vol. 2, p. 492.

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