on Saturday, 4 February 2023 at 11.50 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
A Monument of Fame (Lambeth Palace Library blog) Partners at the Palace: the story of the wives of the Archbishops of Canterbury
Peter Reiss Surviving Church Unheard and Un-noticed but not uncommon – Why are we so bad at listening?
The Lambeth Palace blog states: “One of the few exceptions was Cosmo Gordon Lang, who never married, and it has been speculated that he was homosexual. However, evidence for this is scant, and it is more likely that he believed in clerical celibacy”. However it appears that Lang did overcome any belief in clerical celibacy when he asked the very beautiful film star Ann Todd (who was 43 years his junior) to marry him, as detailed by his most recent biographer, Robert Beaken (https://reviews.history.ac.uk/review/1402). I discussed this rather bizarre and late flowering infatuation with Dr Beaken when I met him… Read more »
I saw that reference and Googled Cosmo Gordon Lang out of curiosity. I did not get far beyond Wikipedia, but I have to say my gaydar did not twitch once, and it is normally pretty reliable.
I was fascinated, however, by the account of his life as vicar of the parish of Portsea (the dockyard part of Portsmouth). As the vicar (circa 1896) he was able to afford 12 curates to do the work, enabling him to maintain his All Souls fellowship, and regular trips to the IOW to develop a relationship with Queen Victoria. Obviously a very different world.
Many thanks. When at Portsea almost his whole income was diverted towards the payment of up to 16 assistant curates (the numbers averaged at about 14). That meant that he was dependent upon small glebe profits and his All Souls’ stipend (he had been downgraded to a quondam fellowship when dean of divinity at Magdalen, but reverted to being a full fellow following his departure from Magdalen). In order to maintain his entitlement to the full fellowship he would have to attend a set number of dinners in college, hence his having to commute between Portsmouth and Oxford. He did… Read more »
Thanks again, I find it fascinating to compare and contrast. Whilst Lang may well have been heterosexual, there is no doubt that in his early adult life as an Anglo-Catholic priest working in a large urban church, he would have been surrounded by a large number of colleagues who were homosexual. That may well have affected the opportunities and life chances available to him to develop relationships, both with men and with women. Could I pick your brains please. As the vicar of such a parish at that time what would be the sources income available to him from the… Read more »
That is an interesting question. The historiography of Hampshire is notably poor for such an important county (although the county council has been working with the Institute of Historical Research to correct this). Volume 3 of the Victoria County History (1908) contains few useful details, although it notes some 19 churches or chapels which were, in varying degrees, emanations of St Mary’s Portsea (with the vicar being patron of some of them). The rectory was held by Winchester College (who also had St Thomas’s – now the cathedral). Crockford’s was once far more useful than it has since become, and… Read more »
‘The question is why [Lang] employed so many curates’. Smyth in his biography of Cyril Garbett gives a fuller treatment of ‘The Portsea Experiment’. It was Lang’s predecessor Edgar Jacob who had set the standard. The parish was said to be the largest in England, but Jacob inherited only a single curate. He increased the number to twelve, who all lived together in the parsonage, which he had enlarged (he also rebuilt the church). Lang increased the number to 14-16, as you say, and this number was maintained by his successor Bernard Wilson, who had private means (there is a… Read more »
Many thanks to you both, Froghole and John, for your financial and sociological data. Now my Gaydar is certainly twitching. But not in a cynical way. As we discuss LLF it is worth reflecting on a part of church history that is not widely known. In these huge Anglo-Catholic urban parishes, many young men who were “not the marrying type” came together to create a mutually supportive way of life, whilst doing, in many cases, a huge amount of God’s work. I knew this was typical of London and the major cities. I did not know that Portsea (which I… Read more »
Simon: ‘I can’t speak for Holy Trinity Brompton’. I think you can assume that the curates there ARE “the marrying type”!
Peter. Perhaps that last comment was made with my tongue firmly in my cheek. And perhaps you knew that.
I don’t know any HTB curates personally. But I do know that to assume that every evangelical priest is heterosexual is about as safe as assuming that every Roman Catholic priest is celibate, or that every married man is straight.
Many thanks indeed for this, and if I recall the case of Portsea (and Garbett’s 1915 book: https://archive.org/details/MN41827ucmf_2/page/n77/mode/2up) were the subject of a debate on TA (with Interested Observer) about 6 or 7 years ago, about the importance of door to door visiting. Garbett, ever the martinet, insisted that his curates visit whole streets, and that they report back. The book, which includes contributions by ‘Tubby’ Clayton, also has a useful chapter on parochial finance, in which it is clear (at 219) that there was a separate curates’ fund, and that the attenuated resources of the parish necessitated the creation… Read more »
Thanks for this – Lang’s successor Wilson (who as I said had private means) put the whole of his stipend in the clergy fund (£1,000 – perhaps £100,000 today?). Lang had to put in most of his, and maintained that Portsea was worth minus £900 a year. Apparently the curates’ stipends were meagre, and living was pretty spartan. Some could afford to do without pay. They were expected to stay 4-5 years at Portsea, so they couldn’t marry while there. Lang was fairly strapped for cash because of paying the curates, but apparently made a modest profit from the housekeeping… Read more »
In one way that thing about candles is amusing, but also shocking. According to Duffy, during the reformation conflicts, it could be a death sentence for an ordained priest to have too many, or the wrong sort of candles, on his altar. It is amazing for how long such prejudices continued, and then later, what the use of candles could signify.
But on a more cheerful note, I have found a very nice copy of Smyth’s Life of Garbett for £6.00 on ABEbooks, and I shall read it with interest.