Hostname: page-component-7479d7b7d-rvbq7 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-13T14:17:56.790Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Anglican Emigrant Chaplaincy in the British Empire and Beyond, c.1840–1900

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 May 2018

Rowan Strong*
Murdoch University
*School of Arts, Murdoch University, South St, Perth, WA 6150, Australia. E-mail:


In the 1840s the Church of England, through the agency of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), established an official chaplaincy to emigrants leaving from British ports. The chaplaincy lasted throughout the rest of the nineteenth century. It was revitalized in the 1880s under the direction of the SPCK in response to a surge in emigration from Britain to the colonies. This article examines the imperial attitudes of Anglicans involved in this chaplaincy network, focusing on those of the 1880s and 1890s, the period of high imperialism in Britain. It compares these late nineteenth-century outlooks with those of Anglicans in the emigrant chaplaincy of the 1840s, in order to discern changes and continuities in Anglican imperialism in nineteenth-century Britain. It finds that, in contrast to the imperialist attitudes prevalent in Britain during the late nineteenth century, Anglicans in this chaplaincy network focused more on the ecclesiastical and pastoral dimensions of their work. Indeed, pro-imperial attitudes, though present, were remarkably scarce. It was the Church much more than the empire which mattered to these Anglicans, notwithstanding their direct involvement with the British empire.

Research Article
Copyright © Ecclesiastical History Society 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 ‘The Church and Emigration’, The Times, 22 December 1881, 6, online at: <>, accessed 7 July 2016.

2 ‘Recommendation 4: Union among the Churches of the Anglican Communion – Encyclical Letter 1.8: Of Commendatory Letters’, online at the Anglican Communion website: <>, accessed 7 July 2016.

3 Cambridge, CUL, SPCK MS A5, 466, SPCK Standing Committee, 13 June 1881.

4 Thompson, Andrew S., Imperial Britain: The Empire in British Politics c.1880–1932 (Harlow, 2000), 155–6.Google Scholar

5 Eric Frykenberg, Robert, Christianity in India: From Beginnings to the Present (Oxford, 2008), 145CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 151, 154, 212–13, 215, 250.

6 Carey, Hilary M., God's Empire: Religion and Colonialism in the British World, c.1801–1908 (Cambridge, 2011), 58CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 309–10.

7 Clark, J. C. D., Language of Liberty 1660–1832: Political Discourse and Social Dynamics in the Anglo-American World (Cambridge, 1994), 173Google Scholar; Bridenbaugh, Carl, Mitre and Sceptre: Transatlantic Faiths, Ideas, Personalities, and Politics, 1689–1775 (New York, 1965)Google Scholar; Greenlee, James G. and Johnson, Charles M., Good Citizens: British Missionaries and Imperial States, 1870–1914 (Montreal, QC, 1999), 149Google Scholar.

8 Carey, God's Empire, 336–7.

9 Harper, Marjory and Constantine, Stephen, Migration and Empire (Oxford, 2010), 33CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 34, 226.

10 Darwin, John, ‘Orphans of Empire’, in Bickers, Robert, ed., Settlers and Expatriates (Oxford, 2010), 329–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 339–40.

11 Hardwick, Joseph, An Anglican British World: The Church of England and the Expansion of the Settler Empire, c.1790–1860 (Manchester, 2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

12 Stanley, Brian, The Bible and the Flag: Protestant Missions and British Imperialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Leicester, 1990)Google Scholar; Frykenberg, Christianity in India; idem, ed., Christians and Missionaries in India: Cross-Cultural Communication since 1500, with Special Reference to Caste, Conversion, and Colonialism (Grand Rapids, MI, 2003); Porter, Andrew, Religion versus Empire? British Protestant Missionaries and Overseas Expansion, 1700–1914 (Manchester, 2004), 6Google Scholar, 10–11. For my own position, see Strong, Rowan, Anglicanism and the British Empire c.1700–1850 (Oxford, 2007), 283–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 Strong, Rowan, ‘Globalising British Christianity in the Nineteenth Century: The Imperial Anglican Emigrant Chaplaincy 1846–c.1910’, JICH 43 (2014), 132Google Scholar; idem, ‘Paupers, Pilgrims, Progenitors: Religious Constructions of British Emigration from the 1840s to 1870s’, History 100 (2015), 302–411.

14 Price, Richard, An Imperial War and the British Working Class: Working-Class Attitudes and Reactions to the Boer War 1899–1902 (London, 1972)Google Scholar, ch. 4; Strauss, William L., Joseph Chamberlain and the Theory of Imperialism (New York, 1971), 77–9Google Scholar, ch. 6.

15 Strong, ‘Globalising British Christianity’, 20–1.

16 Strong, Anglicanism and the British Empire, 71–7; idem, ‘The Church of England and the British Imperial State: Anglican Metropolitan Sermons of the 1850s’, in Carey, Hilary M. and Gascoigne, John, eds, Church and State in Old and New Worlds (Leiden, 2011), 183205Google Scholar, at 196.

17 Quoted in Brian Stanley, ‘Home Support for Overseas Missions in early Victorian Britain c.1838–1873’ (PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 1979), 81.

18 CUL, SPCK MS A18/1, 82, SPCK Emigration Committee, 11 March 1886.

19 Harper and Constantine, Migration and Empire, 226.

20 Swaisland, Cecillie, Servants and Gentlewomen to the Golden Land: The Emigration of Single Women from Britain to Southern Africa, 1820–1939 (Providence, RI, 1993), 23–4Google Scholar.

21 Ibid. 24.

22 [Joyce, Ellen], Emigration: A Paper read at the GFS Winchester Diocesan Conference, Southampton, October 25th 1883 (London, 1884), 12Google Scholar.

23 Conference of Bishops of the Anglican Communion, holden at Lambeth Palace, in July 1888. Encyclical Letter from the Bishops, with the Resolutions and Reports, Report 7: Care of Emigrants (London, 1888), 113.

24 CUL, SPCK MS B2/1897–8, 479, SPCK Emigration Committee, July 1898.

25 CUL, SPCK MS B2/1882–3, 22, SPCK Emigration Committee, 15 March 1883.

26 CUL, SPCK MS B2/1885–6, 27, SPCK Emigration Committee, 15 February 1886.

27 CUL, SPCK MS B2/1886–7, 105, SPCK Emigration Committee, 17 March 1887.

28 ‘Family of Richard Perry Radcliffe, James Hegarty’, online at: <>, accessed 17 January 2017.

29 CUL, SPCK MS B2/1886–7, 17–18, SPCK Emigration Committee.

30 CUL, SPCK MS B2/1888–9, 150, SPCK Emigration Committee, 1 November 1888.

31 Strong, L. A. G., Flying Angel: The Story of the Missions to Seamen (London, 1956), 32Google Scholar; Rooke Kingsford, Maurice, The Mersey Mission to Seamen 1856–1956 (Abingdon, 1957), 6Google Scholar; Anson, Peter F., The Call of the Cloister: Religious Communities and Kindred Bodies in the Anglican Communion, 2nd edn (London, 1964)Google Scholar.

32 CUL, SPCK MS B2/1899, 461, SPCK Emigration Committee, July 1899.

33 CUL, SPCK MS B2/18967, 463, SPCK Emigration Committee, [July 1897].

34 Hardwick, Anglican British World, ch. 2.

35 Strong, Rowan, ‘Anglicanism and the State in the Nineteenth Century’, in idem, ed., OHA, 3: Partisan Anglicanism and its Global Expansion, 1829–c.1914 (Oxford, 2017), 11114Google Scholar.

36 Strong, ‘Introduction’, 1415.

37 Joyce, Emigration, 8.