Entries for September 1847

September 1st, 1847 (Wednesday)

Now that all the heavy timbers are up it has begun to blow so as to have stopped all such work.

Last night when Howard had got into our precincts, he descried a fire which he thought was Abingdon in a blaze. It turned out to be only the servitors burning a wasp’s nest. Nothing could surpass their happiness. The excitement of conquest made them indifferent to sundry stings received, so that they would readily have bargained to have endured more, in order to continue at destruction longer. It is a pleasure to see them enjoy themselves so much. By the way, the low bank in front of the house is so old and dry, that it swarms with nests, so that it is no wonder that we are so tormented with them.

A letter from Mr Sharpe to say, that as the silver tea-urn which he promised was family plate, he would rather not give it to us except for a communion service, and that as we did not want it for the latter purpose, he would lodge its value (£30) to be employed in the Chapel. His sister is to send us some silver candlesticks. Also a letter from Mr Houblon, who hopes soon to give a more substantial proof of interest than a mere letter.

Wrote in reply to Gibbings, who on Sunday sent me part of a note which he got from Gabbett, in which the following occurs: ‘I regret that my connection with Stackallan was not delayed until now, for every day inclines me more and more to an adoption of your views, and a desire to promote them by every energy.’ He says that Coffey is in the Isle of Aran in charge of a small congregation; and that he has been pressing daily service upon him.1 Now if all this be honest, (which I heartily hope it is) why does he not make public, or private, reparation for all the mischief and false impressions of which he has been the author? But be it real or unreal, what a commentary does it furnish on the events of the Spring of 1846?

(F. arrived from Australia after an absence of nine years. He stopped till Friday.)2


1: JT Coffey was one of the original Fellows chosen for Stackallan by Sewell. He was still working for a degree at Trinity College, Dublin, when he was appointed to teach Irish at Stackallan. Gabbett is unidentified.
2: “F” is unidentified.


September 2nd, 1847 (Thursday)

Administered the first chastisement (and, as was anticipated) to Clutterbuck. He had been censured repeatedly by each of us for idleness and other faults, and I had especially warned him against lying in bed. This morning, after being seen stirring about his cubicle by the Sub-Warden, he went to bed again, and was late for prayers. So I got a good hazel switch, and laid it about him pretty soundly. He spun like a cockchafer, and shrieked like a sea-bird, and, as punishment was inflicted in a large empty room, the sound was magnified and prolonged. The community did not know at all what it was: Mr Johnson thought it must be the gong. To add to the unpleasantness of associations, it turned out to be a part of a sort of fishing rod belonging to himself with which he was belaboured, a better use than ever he designed for. Reynolds, I hear, was in fits of laughing at his screams.

Sewell got a letter from the Archbishop of York, ‘declining to connect himself with us.’ As he is a great friend of the Irish Primate’s, the cause is not difficult to trace. We never expected his support and therefore are not disappointed at its being refused. Reverses of this kind are of great use in keeping us humble.

Sewell has written to all the bishops whom he knows. I wonder what they will say. The Archbishop of Canterbury will be sorely puzzled: and yet they ought to be made acquainted with a work having such an important bearing upon the Church. But I suppose they will be afraid to recognise us.


September 3rd, 1847 (Friday)

Sewell had a very kind letter from Isaac Williams, approving of the stand which we made in Ireland, not doubting of the value of our apparent failure there, – and wishing us a hearty God speed. There is no man in England, whose sympathy, and whose prayers I would rather have than his.1

Also one from Mr Dean, enquiring whether we had room for 4 or 5 boys, – mentioning that our great friends were among ‘the young mothers.’ So that if we had a check yesterday, we had a rise today. For all which God make us thankful.

Sir George Prevost also wrote most warmly, promising £10 next year, – unable to do more.2

A day or two ago Sewell had an application from a Mr Hopkin, a Cambridge man, for a fellowship, – but the style of his letter was such as to induce us to give it no further thought. I believe he has written to put him off.

A most satisfactory interview with Mr Grimaldi, who wishes to get Gould out, in order that he may have some place to stop in, when he comes down to visit the property, which he says is in a very neglected state. This he said would create a difficulty about our getting Gould’s house. But nothing could answer us better than his proposed arrangement. For all we want is, to have some person on whom we could depend, to occupy it, and not be burthened with additional responsibility and rent. Mr Grimaldi seems most friendly. What a blessing to have a landlord and his solicitor our real friends. Altogether today has been a prosperous day: Sewell says we shall have a knock tomorrow.

Sewell mentioned to him how anxious we are to co-operate in all things with him and the Vicar in raising the tone of the parish, but that our reception by the latter has been of such a kind as to forbid advances on our part. Complained particularly about his writing to Dean Disney about us; and told him of the line which we had taken about the lodgers at Mary Poynder’s. He seemed thoroughly satisfied, and said that we could clearly do no more.


1 – Isaac Williams was a leading member of the Oxford Movement, close friend of Keble and Prevost, curate to Newman, and widely regarded as the poetic voice of the Movement. He was a member of Oriel College. See entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
2 – Close friend and brother-in-law of Isaac Williams, also a friend of Keble. See entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


September 4th, 1847 (Saturday)

A cautious but kind letter from the Bishop of Salisbury: cannot give us money; but that we did not expect.


September 5th, 1847 (Sunday)

A letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury, – upon the whole more friendly than we expected. His position forbade him from giving his sanction to any new scheme, until he should be quite satisfied of its principles and mode of operation. That he had deviated from this rule in the case of St Columba’s, on account of his thorough confidence in the Primate of Ireland. However, that he was far from implying any disapprobation of St Peter’s College, or its proposed working.

This is clearly more satisfactory than what we received at the hands of his Grace of York. The fact is, – that the bishops are all afraid, not of Sewell, for many of them have expressed their cordial approbation of the line he has taken in the theological movement of the day; – but of the Puritan and mere Protestant party, who will not tolerate the Prayer Book in its plain teaching. It is a hard case, but we must be patient.


September 7th, 1847 (Tuesday)

A very cautious letter from the Bishop of Winchester, – and a diplomatic acknowledgement from Sir Robert Peel. Sewell thought it better to write to the latter gentleman, that he might know what the Church was doing. Had we been dissenters, he might have sent us £100, – but since he only ‘prefers the Establishment’, of course we could expect no more than civility, – nor did we expect more.1


1: Sir Robert Peel was Prime Minister from 1841-46, losing the General Election of 1847.


September 9th, 1847 (Thursday)

Dr Jelf rode out from Oxford to see us. He was perfectly amazed and rejoiced to find what we had done, and how we had done it. As we took him from room to room, he laughed with surprise, and said: ‘When I came I expected to see you in a half finished, hugger-mugger, state, – but really your plans are so advanced, and your arrangements on such a scale of dignity, that it is ludicrously wonderful.’ When he came into my room he shook me warmly by the hand, saying, – ‘Mr Warden, I congratulate you.’

No one who has been here has been so struck with the beauty of the south view, and the appearance of the house and place. He was captivated and astonished: ‘You must succeed’, were his words. All this coming from the grave Head of a College, and a person of such influence and character, put us into spirits. He like every body else, told us not to depend upon the bishops. He could not stay long, but on going to his horse wished us a hearty God speed, adding ‘I am not given to flattery, but -’ I lost the rest.1

We are making fine broad gravel walks round the house, which is to have a skirt of velvet green instead of cold pebbles. It is surprising to see the effect that a little neatness produces, when succeeding to long continued wilderness and neglect. Sewell contemplates four terraces inclosing a considerable space which is to be excavated in two levels, and the hollow laid out in walks, turf, and flower-beds. This would be very beautiful but very costly: however, dry walks are absolutely indispensable, though, perhaps, not to parterres.


1: Dr Richard Jelf was Principal of King’s College, London and a Canon of Christ Church, Oxford. He was a close friend of Pusey, with whom he had been at school at Eton, and Newman, but maintained a level of impartiality about the High Church Movement which earned him great respect. See entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


September 11th, 1847 (Saturday)

A letter from A., announcing the death, from dysentery, of my dear friend, and that good Catholic, Henry Wynne of Castlebridge. Had known him from a boy. Until of late years he was very puritanical, though always honest; but when the revival of Church principles took place, he became thoroughly imbued with them, and in knowledge, energy and zeal, was foremost in Dio Ferus. He had just completed the reformation of his Church, which was a pewed, barn-like structure, and made it uncommonly nice. He added a chancel, and an East window like that of Christ Church, Oxford, – an open roof of good pitch, low open seats, etc: altogether he made a Church of it, and chiefly at his own expense. Daily service had just been established, so that every thing was a pattern for others to follow. He had only time to finish, when God in his wisdom cut him off. Thank God that he was left so long.

I fear now that there will be a sad change, for he had great difficulty in gaining the assent of Bishop O’Brien, who will doubtless appoint a low Churchman to succeed him, for he has never been known to prefer a Catholic to any vacancy. The rubrick, which was critically obeyed, even to the giving out of the Fasts, will now, I suppose, be violated as much as it was before honoured. Yet a great principle has been asserted, a great example set, and a great triumph achieved, – for which God be praised. He ordereth all things wisely, so praise be to his Holy name.

Yet it grieves me to think of the affliction which this loss will cause to that little band of true Anglicans, which are the bright spot in Ferus. How Booker, Doyne, Fitzgerald, the Cliffes and Alcocks, will deplore his departure! He was our warm friend at St Columba’s, and sent us two of his sons, and heartily disapproved of the cowardly change of statute. He most kindly wrote to me when I was driven away, and earnestly exhorted me not to allow ingratitude and persecution to force me into Newman’s course. I soon set his mind at ease on that score.

Since we came hither, Sewell sent him a copy of the ‘Journal’, and our undertaking rejoiced his heart. I have long thought him a very holy man. May God give me grace to emulate his piety and zeal, and to be thankful for the privilege of his acquaintance. Would that I might accomplish my work as he did his!


September 13th, 1847 (Monday)

For the first time sang ‘Venite, exultemus Domino’ at Morning Prayer. Monk has got on the servitors so well, that the chant (Tallis’ Service) was correctly performed. He sang tenor, Howard bass, and I alto, so that we had all the four parts.1 It reminded Mrs Burky so strongly of Stackallan, that she could not help crying about it.


1: Presumably the servitors all sang treble


September 17th, 1847 (Friday)

The two seals, which we had employed Strongitharm to cut, after a very nice design by Howard, (a dove standing on a scroll, held in her bill, with Sicut columbae on it), came today. One of them is a steel, official seal for my room; the other a much smaller one, a cornelian mounted in agate and gold, for the Common Room. Both are beautifully engraved.


September 18th, 1847 (Saturday)

Mr Bowyer came, accompanied by Mr Grimaldi. He had been here once before in June, but was amazed and highly gratified at all we had done. He gave Sewell and me leave to thin the plantations as we pleased, – than which nothing could show more his confidence in us. Sewell walked with them over the ground at Kennington, where it was proposed to have our permanent site. They strove hard to limit us to 20 acres, but Sewell said plainly that any thing short of 50 was out of the question, adding, however, that the liberality with which we had been treated from the very beginning was so marked, that we would not for a moment press upon him what would be disagreeable; but that rather than consent to 20 acres we should look elsewhere.

In the course of conversation Mr Bowyer said that he could make the Vicar do any thing he pleased, “Well then,” said Sewell, “will you make him amicable to us?” “I am afraid that is beyond me,” was the reply.


September 21st, 1847 (Tuesday)

I have already mentioned that the ground at the East end of the chapel falls considerably. Sewell has been so struck with the vast difference in effect of the different heights of the two ends, that he proposed excavating the whole to a uniform depth, thus adding four feet to the original height. I had protested all along against the lowness of the walls, and was rejoiced to gain even 2 feet, – but still was grieved at the thought of deliberately contracting the beautiful dimensions at the Sacrarium. Now I am wholly satisfied; I wish for no more. The chapel will now look dignified if not majestic; before, – it threatened to be a snuggery. The height will be about 47½ [feet] from floor to ridgeboard. Of course this will involve a descent of several steps into the Antechapel, – but what matter? The windows too will look needlessly high, and somewhat small; – but what matter? The eye will traverse with increased delight, and the organ will roll with increased grandeur. It is a thorough wet day, but this has put us into thorough good spirits.

Settled to have the Antechapel and centre aisle paved with plain red and black tiles, and the Sacrarium with hexagonal tiles of a better quality.

Heard from Mr Telford that the organ could not possibly leave Dublin in November. This is sore news, but we must have patience. Perhaps it may be got up during the Vacation, so that we may get into the Chapel early next term. Mr Telford has been over to Paris to see a magnificent organ lately erected by Cavaillé College in the Madeleine, – besides other organs. He says that the French builders are far in advance of the English in almost every point. Their pedal reeds are tremendous, and grand in the exteme. He hopes to get ours from Cavaillé, and if so, he says our organ will be ‘unequalled in England’.


September 22nd, 1847 (Wednesday)

Messrs Woolcomb, Haddon and Wayte came over to Chapel and tea. In the evening Monk, Howard and I gave them some music, – and they went away charmed. Mr Woolcomb had not been here for 7 weeks, and he was astounded at the Chapel. A superb moon-light, almost dazzling. The lights and shades in the interior of the Chapel, (no side being as yet filled up,) was most mysterious and grand. I never saw such a night. We heard great ‘Tom’ on the one hand, and the Abingdon bell on the other.1

Sewell wrote to one of Howard’s sisters a long letter, which she might show to any one who was inquiring about the College. It was in answer to some questions which she had put in order to supply information to several people who were thinking of the College for their boys.

This morning all the Fellows met me in the School-room at 6½ o’clock, to join in the short prayer, with which the business of the day commences. The Statutes impose this in order to secure all being up at 6 o’clock. Unless some such exercise of self-denial were imposed, the College would be almost too agreeable a place. There were some difficulties in the way, but these have been smoothed, and I go to Monk and Howard, and rap on their doors at 20 minutes to 6 o’clock. I myself am up at 5½, and the Sub-Warden at 5 o’clock, and sometimes before it. This has been his custom for years.

The place is one of discipline, real but not oppressive; – and we are all very happy, I do believe in consequence of it. The house is, thank God, a ‘house of peace’. The question, which broke up Stackallan, was settled with ease, despatch, and perfect unanimity, last Saturday. (Which, indeed, I forgot to mention in its proper place.) The mode of fasting was then settled, at our second College Meeting, every one concurring ‘ex animo’.

These were the Resolutions:

  1. ‘That on Fridays no dinner be provided for the Warden or Fellows, but that a lunch of bread and butter be served in the Bursary at 2 o’clock, for all to partake of, who may be so disposed.’
  2. ‘That when more than one fast occurs in the week, only one other day be publicly observed as a Friday; which day in the Lent, Ember, and Rogation, seasons shall be Wednesday.’
  3. ‘That a Vigil happening on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, be observed as a Friday.’
  4. ‘That Rogation Monday and Tuesday, all the days of Lent excepting Wednesdays and Fridays, and all Saturday Fasts be observed by having no butter at tea.’

The last rule may appear trivial; but the truth is, that living, as we do, exactly like the boys, on the same plain diet, and dining with them at 2 o’clock, – tea becomes an important meal, – and therefore the removal of butter a real deprivation. Let anyone try our system of living, and then the system of fasting thus adopted, – and he will find the latter at least real. At the same time there is nothing here enjoined, which is at all too burdensome upon a person in the enjoyment of fair health.

Thus to have got together a body of men to concur so heartily, as we all do, in the spirit of our foundation, and especially on so delicate a question as this, both brought into gaze, and then obscured by controversy; – is a cause for gratitude to Him, who ‘marketh men to be one mind in an house.’

As to Howard, I am getting quite to love him, – he is so obliging and good-tempered. His unquestionable talents only make him the more attractive. He heard rumours of my severity before he came, but I believe he is quite satisfied of their groundlessness.


1: ‘Great Tom’, the bell of Christ Church, Oxford, is c.5 miles to the north-west. The bell of Abingdon, either St Helen’s or St Nicholas, is about 2 miles to the south-west. It is still possible to hear both bells simultaneously as testified by the present security patrol in 2008.


September 24th, 1847 (Friday)

Completed the boarding of the Chapel roof, and slating and excavating begun. The earth thus moved I am getting near to the side door of the house, where we shall raise a level for some feet, to be on the same line with the East Terrace walk. The staircase turret is rising rapidly. It is of brick and circular, the shape being rather a solecism. I confess it looks rather martial than ecclesiastical; still we deliberately chose it in preference to a square concern, dying away under the lave, – and I am sure it will look very well if we crown it with a conical roof. We must in this, as well as in many other points, brave criticism and defy cavil.

Mr Kay of Lincoln and Mr Slight of Corpus, came out to Chapel and tea. We gave then some music afterwards, and they went away greatly struck and pleased. Mr Kay said jokingly to Howard, ‘Have you a Fellowship vacant?’ He is one of the Pro-Proctors. It is curious to see how every one is affected by the place, – even fellows of Colleges recognize a college in it instantaneously, – and are as reverent and respectful as possible. Would this have been the case, had we been niggardly in furniture and appointments generally?


September 28th, 1847 (Tuesday)

A kind letter from the Bishop to say that, if he remained at home for 3 or 4 days at a time, “he would gladly ask me to go to him, whenever I conveniently could; and with even more pleasure visit the college: but that he was going on a month’s confirmation Tour, and must therefore postpone making that personal acquaintance with our Staff of officers and proceedings, which he would most gladly do,” He added, that when in the neighbourhood of Radley he might possibly be able to come to see us.

Sewell has had a warm letter from Bishop of St David’s.


September 30th, 1847 (Wednesday)

Mr Gould gave us quiet possession of the garden, on our taking the standing crops, tools, etc, at a valuation. Several things we did not want, but it was a great matter to get the garden peaceably; so we made no objection. Had he pleased, he might have refused to let us have it till this day twelvemonth.