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tion of any change was made, but a few months later
when he became entitled to present to the
living of S. Edmund the King and Martyr, Lombard
Street, he wrote by his chaplain, the Rev. Randall
Davidson, now Archbishop of Canterbury, and offered
it to my father. The letter said that though there
was not much actual parish work at S. Edmund's,
"there was plenty of work for God for him to do in
London," and that they hoped he would come and try
to do it. How he carried out their hopes I leave it
to others to tell.

" Clergy in the City for the most part see little of
one another, and even less of one another's work.
This is due in part to the fact that many of them
have their residences elsewhere ; and in part, no
doubt, to the isolating effects of the conditions of our
London life. Often and often we meet people who
tell us that their next-door neighbours are as unknown
to them as if they were living a hundred miles away ;
and next door parishes as a rule have just as little to
do with each other. All the more noticeable and
admirable is it when any one amongst us sets him-
self, with the necessary heartiness and the necessary
tact, to break through the barriers of separation and
insists upon establishing a footing of comradeship.
This was what Canon Benham succeeded in doing in
a very remarkable way. He was delightfully un-

MEMOIR xxiii

conventional, sensible and sincere. It might be said
without exaggeration that everybody knew him.
He was to be found everywhere, and always the
same ; always cordial and cheerful, with a good story,
and, when it was wanted, plenty of shrewd and
wholesome advice. At Sion College, in Ruridecanal
chapters and Diocesan Conferences, at innumerable
social functions, indeed on most public occasions he
was in evidence, and he seemed to carry with him an
atmosphere of good fellowship. How he managed to
do it all, and yet contrive to be an indefatigable
student and writer, was a constant marvel to his
friends. It could only be accounted for by his
possessing an extraordinary mental alertness combined
with disciplined habits of literary labour far beyond
those of common men.

" But not even the possession of these character-
istics is enough to explain the force and range of his
influence. You could not have dealings with him
without being made aware that there was a point
which was the centre of all his multifarious interests.
His nature was deeply religious, and it is only the
simple truth to say that his City Church was his
pride and his joy. He gave to it his best, and
strove hard to make it a centre of intellectual and
spiritual power. Under his leadership it acquired a
distinct character of its own. It grew to be valued
as a quiet home of devotion, while it was also notable
as a preaching station and greatly resorted to for its
courses of sermons and lectures. And this went on
for nearly thirty years. Let no one imagine that to
be a small feat or a slight service. It is not an easy


thing to maintain the life either of a little country
parish, or of one of the fifty parochial areas into which
the square mile of the City of London is divided.
Those who have had experience of both will probably
hesitate to say which is the more difficult task. If
Canon Benham had only shown us what can be done
under conditions that have driven not a few men to
despair, he would have richly merited our respect and
our gratitude. He certainly has given strength to
the belief that a City Church can be made to justify
its existence, and for many a day to come there will
be those who will look back with pleasure and thank-
fulness to all that was achieved at St. Edmund's,
Lombard Street, when he was its genial and much
gifted Rector."


Vicar of Allhallows, Barkings

and R.D. of the East City.

What he was as a friend is told in the following
lines by Mrs. Margoliouth :

" Canon Benham's life was very full of friendships ;
his feeling for and sympathy with young people,
especially in any religious difficulty, was strong, warm
and constant ; and once a friend always a friend !
He was not so much patient with, as really interested
in, any puzzles or perplexities, moral or intellectual.
I f one chanced to mention a book he had not at his
fingers' ends one generally found he had looked it
up directly after and had some enlightening remark


upon it. Then it never occurred to him that any
guide, himself least of all, had the key to all locks, he
would go on from the special problem proposed to
others, such as ' those pigs ' and why the legion
went into them. I remember his expression so well
as he stopped on the garden walk like a setter point-
ing. He would always talk anything over and give
most affectionate consideration to troubles that many
might have despised, and knowing and even saying
that all thoughtful young people must go through
' moral measles ' did not in the least lessen his kind-
ness for each case. Practical advice was always ready.
' Do the right thing.' ' Hoc age.' He knew that
difficulties of thought and of non-vision clear away
before action. I was interested to see in the last
sermon he preached, just the essence of this teaching,
only mellowed and clearer, and more gently and
persuasively put than thirty years earlier.

" Indeed he hardly offered guidance, he showed how
to find out the way. The very titles of his sermons,
announced outside St. Edmund's, especially for the
Thursday mid-day service, were very attractive, such
as ' Shirking,' ' Levity/ ' Jesting,' and showed his
knowledge of young lives.

u He had a way of saying words of the Bible which
made them come alive and made the meaning plainer
than any comment. I shall never forget one of his
' Six Preacher ' sermons at Canterbury, when a
lovable girl had just died and he, all unknowing that
her mother (' Sibylla Holland ') was listening, but
out of his sympathy, added to his sermon a very few
words of his own and then ■ they went and told


Jesus.' I do not know if he often rebuked, but in
another Cathedral sermon he turned to two men at
the other end of the Choir, who were talking and
giggling, and reproved them for unseemly behaviour ;
it was without raising his voice and seemed a perfectly
natural part of the sermon. He was always very
ready and I have known him go out to preach with
five written sermons in his pocket and then preach a
sixth straight out of his head.

" His sermons were quite accessible and he had not
the usual real or supposed feeling for them as his
private thoughts. He taught me his simple abbrevia-
tions, and I soon took to helping myself to any
sermons lying about in his study or found in his bag
on his visits to Canterbury. That capacious bag,
widened and flattened with many monthly magazines
or other papers, used to gape widely, generously
offering its contents. His pockets were apt to be of
the same build and were generally seized on by
douaniers on his foreign tours, the hopes they excited
being promptly disappointed.

" He was a delightful and stimulating companion
abroad as in England, from his ready interest and
feeling, not only for history and architecture but for
everything and everyone, and he liked to add to his
party, so a sister of Mrs. Benham's, a friend of one of
his daughters, or someone picked up for kindness,
was usually to be found included. He had a special
love for Kent, and was constant to the delightful
long days planned by the Kent Archaeological Society.
Then naturally he loved the City with its crowded
memories, and he was always ready to ' tell ' about

MEMOIR xxvii

churches and those connected with them, whether
buried or living. I remember one visit particularly
to St. Saviour's, Southwark, before that splendid
church was selected to serve as the Cathedral of
South London. He told me much and gave me the
' Confessio Amantis ' in memory of our seeing the
ef^<yy of Gower resting on his three volumes. It was
September 12th, 1889, tne ^ ast day of the great Dock
Strike ; as we returned over London Bridge we saw
part of the tired, straggling procession.

" But better than special visits I enjoyed the
ordinary going about with him in the City, which in
his company turned into a familiar meeting place,
with cordial greeting from and to his many police-
men and bootblack friends. Going into some shop
his companion would be introduced to the partner,
perhaps some tall, young Oxford man, with the
remark, ' He's quite respectable ' ! And everywhere
the human interest predominated.

" St. Edmund's was the centre of fellowship. If the
Rector expected a friend, he would be seen looking
for him from his reading desk, and this did not in the
least detract from the reverence which he impressed
on the services and taught to his dearly-loved choir
boys and diffused among us all. If any one came in
late or had to go out early, no head was turned to
notice. After service there were cordial greetings
and a stroll between services if it were a Thursday, or
a walk up to the hospitable Rectory on a Sunday,
for as Mrs. Benham used to say, it was a family

" Ex uno disce omnes — what Canon Benham was to

xxviii MEMOIR

me, he was to many : one of the kindest, most warm-
hearted, readiest of friends. We love him too well to
mourn for his entering into fresher, fuller life."

J. P. M.
March, 191 1. Oxford.

Whilst Rector of S. Edmund's the absence of
parochial calls gave him leisure, and he soon was
elected on to Committees of every sort and kind-
What he did as Chairman of the Poor Clergy Relief
Corporation can best be told by Canon Rhodes
Bristowe, the present chairman.

"Love of the Brethren was one of his great
characteristics ; and this was shown forth to its
fullest extent in his keen interests in the work of the
Poor Clergy Relief Corporation, of which he was,
for many years, the Chairman. He took infinite pains
to sift thoroughly every case which was brought
before the Committee at its fortnightly meeting, and
spared neither pains nor labour in ascertaining any
special circumstances, and in devising the best method
of affording the needed help. His annual appeals in
the public press were calculated to arrest attention
and to produce support, and in his sermons in aid of
the work of the Corporation he always put the matter
forcibly before his hearers. In reading out to the
Committee the particulars which applicants had sent
in, he would wittily seize on some amusing remark
and bubble over with merriment : and not seldom,
when the story told was sad and pathetic, his voice,


broken with emotion, showed how deeply he sympathised
with the sorrows of the Clergy and their widows and

" In times of difficulty his sagacity and conspicuous
straightforwardness have stood the Corporation in
good stead, and have helped to ensure public
confidence in its objects and methods."

He was also made a member of the Council of
Queen's College, Harley Street, and thus renewed his
connexion with that Foundation in which he always
took the greatest interest, having been associated with
it in its early days. He also attended very regularly
the Meetings of the Standing Committee of the
S.P.G. At the very last meeting of that Society
held before his death he made an impassioned and
characteristic plea for the sympathy of all its members
with the Missionary Conference held in Edinburgh
in June, 1910.

As regards literary work his first years in London
were occupied in helping the present Archbishop of
Canterbury to write the life of Archbishop Tait, and
in more recent years he wrote various books, chiefly
connected with the history of London, e.g., " Mediaeval
London," "Old St. Paul's," and "The Tower of

The end came with merciful suddenness on July
30, 19 10. He was at the Archbishop's garden


party at Lambeth on July 13. I had only returned
that morning from Ober-Ammergau and was shocked
to see him looking, as I thought, very ill, and he
complained that evening of not feeling well. For the
next fortnight he was ailing, but not alarmingly so,
till Thursday, July 28, when he was seized with
heart failure. From that time there was no hope,
and he died peacefully in the afternoon of July 30,
half an hour after a last visit by his kind friends the
Archbishop and Mrs. Davidson, during which he was
perfectly conscious.

The first part of the service on Thursday,
August 4,' was held at S. Edmund's, when an address
was given by Bishop Gaul. It was just the beginning
of the summer holiday, and many who would other-
wise have been there had left town, but even so the
little Church was quite full. Old parishioners from
Margate and friends of even longer standing were
there, and representatives of all kinds of religious
bodies and societies, including one specially sent by
the Chief Rabbi. He was buried at Addington, in
accordance with his own wish, the same afternoon, and
there the service was taken by the Archbishop of
Canterbury. The choir consisted mainly of men
widely scattered now whose homes had been at
Addington in the days when he was Vicar there.


I have already mentioned some of the letters we
received, but I must just add one word about the
chorus of appreciation that reached us from America,
chiefly through the papers, though from private
friends as well. His unconventional manner and
habit of thought seemed particularly to appeal to the
American mind, and he was always proud of the
many friends he had on the other side of the
Atlantic. In 1898 he was given the degree of D.D.
by Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut.

The papers that follow appeared, as most people
know, week after week for over twenty years in The
Church Times under the head of " Varia " and signed
" Peter Lombard," and many of his old readers have
expressed the wish that they should be reprinted.
This has been rendered possible by the courtesy of
the proprietors of The Church Times^ which I hereby
gratefully acknowledge. The difficulty has been to
make a selection from the mass of material to hand,
but we felt that there could not be a better record of
the information he possessed on all sorts of subjects,
notably on local history and archaeology, whilst the
genuine loving kindness of the man shines in every




May ^rd.
Thirty-eight years have passed since I last saw the
tower of Wantage church. My readers will, I think,
easily understand the emotion with which I looked
upon it again. It is one of the most beautiful churches
in England, indeed it would be almost impossible to
match those magnificent pillars that sustain the central
tower. When I was here before, however, much of the
beauty was obscured by galleries and high pews ;
they have all gone, and the noble proportions of the
building are manifest at a glance. It was a pleasure,
too, to hear the chimes playing " Angel's Hymn " with
the old false note to which I had of yore got so accus-
tomed that for a year or two afterwards I rather
resented the proper one. And to the beauty of the
external fabric let us add the greater joy that for


forty years this has been perhaps the best worked
parish in England, and the Church is strong and
flourishing because self-devotion and zeal for the
souls of men has been the animating principle.

Quite new since I was here before is the beautiful
Home of the Sisterhood, overlooking the town. It
was founded in 1854, and it would be difficult to find
a more superb pile of buildings anywhere. As for
Mr. Pearson's gem of a chapel, I hope my readers
will some day find an opportunity of going to see it.
Then passing the outskirts of the town we come to
" King Alfred's Well," a clear and bright spring, but
I fear that the evidence that King Alfred ever had
anything to do with it is not forthcoming. The site
of his birthplace is not very far from the well ; they
have built a pretty cottage hospital on it during the
last few years. The birthplace of another great
Churchman remains as it was in his time; Bishop
Butler was born in the house called the Priory at* the
corner of the churchyard. I was shown the room.
The house is now the residence of the curates. The
school where he was first taught has been pulled
down ; it was in the churchyard, but a fine Norman
doorway was removed to the Grammar School,
founded in memory of King Alfred on the thousandth


anniversary of his birth, at the south end of the town.
There is a portrait of the great Bishop in the vestry.

All around Wantage are objects to charm the
antiquary. Take East Hendred. The church looks
as if the architect of Wantage Church had presided
here also. Driving into the village we overtook a
very clerical looking personage in broad brimmed hat
and black gaiters. He was the Roman Catholic
priest of the village. The chapel which he serves has
existed certainly since 1291, and it is said that here,
and at two others like it in England, the Mass has
never ceased to be said. Dutch William's soldiers
rifled and profaned it, but the service has gone on.
And the family of Eyston are known to have dwelt
here as long as the chapel has been here. They are
buried in the church, where their monuments are
many, all with the pious "R.I. P." Chicheley was
once Rector here. The village has a general eccle-
siastical air about it. I saw several cottages with
signs of tracery in the windows and doors. One
John Paternoster held land here in the days of
Edward I. on the tenure of daily saying a pater noster
for the king's soul.

His son-in-law and heir has given a fine statue of

B 2


King Alfred to deck the market-place of Wantage.
I have heard, I know not with what truth, that the
artist, Count Gleichen, has cleverly made the face
that of the donor.

And there are other attractive spots all round, too
numerous to mention ; the " White Horse," cut in the
hill by Uffington, in which " Tom Brown " revived a
general interest by his pretty book about the cleaning
of it, the sites connected with Amy Robsart and the
other characters in Kenilworth ; Pusey, where they
preserve the curious horn which is said to have
been given by King Cnut to Pecote, and where there
is an odd cruciform church built some 130 years ago;
Stanford-in-the-Vale, with its fine long decorated
church, where good Christopher Wordsworth
ministered for some years before he was appointed
Bishop of Lincoln.

October 18M.
The doctor bade me go out of town for a week, so
I said at breakfast, " I see there is a new line just
opened, which brings us within easy distance of a
little village I have long wished to see, Chalfont
St. Giles, where Milton once lived." The village is
three miles and a half from the station, but our


landlord had chartered a funny shandrydan for us,
which, like everything else, was very cheap and
comfortable, and we had a lovely drive out. The
whole country is richly wooded ; in fact, you go
through woods nearly the whole drive, and the trees
at this time of the year are in their perfection, so far
as beauty goes. The autumn foliage of the New
Forest itself is not more exquisite than this. The
beeches and horse-chestnuts are like burnished gold,
the maples and cherry trees bright vermilion, and
then mingled into a rich mass were crimson, and
madder, and Vandyke-brown, and the silver-grey of
the willows, and the dark firs and holly. My two
companions were constantly crying out in admiration.
I have lingered on the description, because some
readers may be looking out for a pretty place which
will offer a pleasant variety after town, and will not
cost too much. Of course every day now tends to
strip off the colours, but it must be delightful in
spring and summer too, and therefore I counsel
everybody to " make a note of " Chalfont for
future use.

The village is down in a valley, quite surrounded
by steepish hills. The main portion of it is on a
green, with a big pond, and there are many pic-


turesque old houses with chequered beams and pretty
gables, and antique bits of carving. Just off this
green is the village church, and it is well worthy of a
long visit. There is no very rich tracery, but it is in
capital order, and has interesting features and asso-
ciations. A square embattled tower with a very tall
staff, walls of flint and blocks of chalk, lead roof, nave
with two aisles, and a very long chancel, the nave
being 51 feet and the chancel 40 feet. A little
portion is Norman, and there is an Early English
piscina, but the greater portion is Flowing Decorated.
Some good, and some poor, painted glass. Old
frescoes of the 14th century remain on the walls, a
very curious one among them of Salome with the
Baptist's head. But the brasses will gladden the
hearts of all rubbers. Most of them have been taken
out of the matrices (which lie empty on the floor at
different parts), and are fixed into the wall. There is
a beautiful one of a priest without name, fully robed,
of the date, as I judge, of 1 500 or thereabouts. Two
or three lie on altar tombs. One of them is to the
Fleetwood family, and the tomb itself is a beautiful
work of art of the 16th century. A former vicar, in
misdirected zeal, gave orders for the removal of it, as
he found it in the way, and the destruction began.
But a descendant of the family fortunately interfered


and made him replace it. One tomb, unhappily, was
already smashed up hopelessly, that to the Clayton
family. Parts of it, however, were preserved by the
old clerk, and he showed them to me. The slab
containing the inscription lies flat in the chancel, and
has a coat-of-arms splendidly carved upon it. Others
that I noticed bear the names of Gardyner, RadclyfTe,
Salter, Bredham. A skilled connoisseur might make
more of them than I could, by means of the coats-of-
arms, which in several cases remain where the in-
scriptions have gone. There is also a memorial to
some of the Hare family. Bishop Francis Hare of
Chichester had an ancestral house here known as the
Vache. He was the great-grandfather of Julius and
Augustus Hare, the joint authors of the " Guesses at
Truth." When the Hares afterwards became pos-
sessed of Hurstmonceaux, that became the family
burial place. They sold the Vache to Admiral
Sir Hugh Palliser, who was the earliest patron and
friend of Captain Cook, and who, on the great navi-
gator's death, set up a curious monument to him in
his grounds, which is one of the lions of Chalfont.
Queen Emma came here to see it. One epitaph in
the churchyard seems worth noting. Timothy Lovett,
who died in 1728, is said to have been a soldier. His
head-stone is decorated with death's head and cross-


bones, scythe, spade, hourglass and so on, and the
following verse is appended :

Italy and Spain, Germany and France
Have been on earth my weary dance.
So that I own the grave my greatest friend,
That to my travels all has put an end.

But the most interesting relic in Chalfont is
Milton's residence. A great number of Quakers in
his days were living in the village and neighbourhood,
among them Penn and Ellwood. When the plague
broke out in London in 1665, Milton wrote from his
house in Bunhill Fields to his friend Ellwood to
request him to find him a cottage at Chalfont.
Ellwood procured that which has thus become a
place of pilgrimage to lovers of literature. It is said
on a notice which I read on the mantelpiece to be
" the only residence of Milton now known to exist."
One of his many residences I remember well, that in
York Street, Westminster. It is not many years
since it was pulled down. It is by no means im-
possible that the house in which he died in Bunhill
Fields may be still standing, but certainty is lacking.
Horton, in Bucks, where he wrote UAllegro, &c,
I have never visited, and know not if any tradition of
his place of abode remains there. The Chalfont
cottage is picturesque, with thick timber beams


among the brickwork, and a bright collection of
flowers in front, dahlias, china asters, Michaelmas
daisies, &c, all in rich bloom. The poet's modest
study is on the right of the doorway, and the " living
room " on the left. These are the only rooms
apparently shown. In this study, on a visit from
Ellwood, Milton called for the MS. of Paradise
Lost, which he put into the Quaker's hands for his
opinion. And here also, on a suggestion of Ellwood's
to deal with Paradise Found he began the com-

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Online LibraryWilliam BenhamThe letters of Peter Lombard (Canon Benham) → online text (page 2 of 16)