Archbishop Davidson and the First World War – Outbreak of War

Archbishop Randall Davidson was 66 when war broke out in 1914. He had been Archbishop of Canterbury since 1903 and had already had a lucrative career at the centre of England’s ecclesiastical life, including acting as the trusted confidant of Queen Victoria during his time as resident chaplain to both Archbishop Tait and Archbishop Benson.

Portrait of Archbishop Davidson by John Singer Sargent, 1910

Portrait of Archbishop Davidson by John Singer Sargent, 1910

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Davidson looked to uphold the role of the Church of England within national life and provide support and guidance in moral, social and political matters. Along with much of the population Davidson had believed that war might be avoided and even spoke of the possibility of Britain avoiding the conflict in a sermon he gave at Westminster Abbey on August 2nd 1914. Davidson had good theological contacts in Germany and had previously expressed the belief that war between the two countries was unthinkable.

Davidson’s lack of foresight regarding the conflict did not prevent him, once war had broken out, from taking the lead on appropriate wartime issues, as and when requested by the government. He believed that the Church of England should act to unite and support the nation throughout the wartime period, and at all costs prevent the deterioration of moral standards. The Archbishop, along with other leaders of the national church, benefited from having the ear of prominent members of government and parliament. This enabled him to have a degree of influence, as well as a voice in various conversations and decisions regarding the conflict.

Although Davidson did protest against aspects of the British government’s methods of warfare (as shown throughout his papers for this period held at the Library), he did not look to publically condemn the wartime government and instead focused his attention on applying pressure behind the scenes. He railed against the government’s policy of reprisal, (especially the use of poison gas), advocated the control of alcohol consumption and temperance during the war period and concerned himself with the moral welfare of the men at the front (including criticising in the House of Lords the War Office’s toleration of brothels close to army camps).

There were many aspects of the war that the Archbishop concerned himself with and in the opening months of war the Archbishop was often seen as the natural point of contact for ordinary citizens seeking advice. Members of the Archbishop’s diocese, in particular, sought reassurance and guidance once war had been declared and they repeatedly contacted him for information on anti- invasion preparations in Kent. Whilst often in the dark himself on these matters, Archbishop Davidson was in the rarefied position of having excellent contacts within government, enabling him to acquire and circulate information, including the latest emergency guidance.

Davidson 376 f.89, Anti- invasion guidelines

Davidson 376 f.89, Anti- invasion guidelines

The Archbishop’s priorities could not fail to be affected by the outbreak of war. The war became the over-riding concern for the Church during this period, presenting it with new predicaments and featuring heavily as a priority in the agenda and minutes of Bishops’ meetings (for more about this see the Library’s previous blog post on ‘The First World War and the Bishops’ ) In particular Davidson was keen to ensure the preservation of moral standards during this difficult time and this led him to question the amount of money being given in separation allowances to soldiers’ wives and partners. He controversially succeeded in preventing unmarried partners receiving the same amount as of right. In 1918 Davidson debated with the War Office and in the House of Lords over the toleration of brothels close to army camps. He also condemned the use of poison gas and the bombing of Freiburg in April 1917 in retaliation for the sinking of two hospital ships. In 1916, at the age of 68, he visited the Western Front and this was followed by a second visit in 1918.

Future blog posts in this series will look more closely at the Archbishop’s wartime role and areas of his involvement. For more information about First World War sources see the Library’s research guide . The Library also has a First World War timeline looking at Archbishop Davidson’s involvement with the war.

The Church and Social Responsibility

The cataloguing of a large and important collection of records created by the Board for Social Responsibility (BSR) is close to completion. Work on the collection, held at the Church of England Record Centre, is being completed as part of a 16-month project, funded by the National Cataloguing Grants Programme, which will also see the equally substantial and varied collection of the Board of Mission and Unity made widely available to the public for the first time.

Ethics in Industrial Relations -published by the BSR in 1981

Ethics in Industrial Relations -published by the BSR in 1981

Established in 1958 as an Advisory Committee to the Church Assembly (later General Synod), BSR was an amalgamation of two earlier central Church bodies – the Church of England Moral Welfare Council and the Social and Industrial Council. Taking over and expanding on the work of these bodies, the Board sought ‘to promote and co-ordinate the thought and action of Church in matters affecting family, social and industrial life’.

The work of the Board was dictated either by outside requests (from Synod, individual Churchmen, Government departments) or its committees deciding that a particular task should be undertaken. Tasks falling under the remit of BSR included: advising clergy and laity at parish level on matters of social responsibility; accepting requests to provide evidence to central Government, Royal Commissions, departmental and Select Committees; writing reports on issues and briefs for bishops involved with debates in the House of Lords; represent the CofE on external bodies – the BCC for example, and encouraging national and international links thereby helping the Church fulfil its pastoral mission.

The Board was also expected to inform those within the Church wishing to speak on a wide variety of social issues, resulting in an array of subjects appearing on the BSR radar, including: alleged human rights infringements at home or abroad; political and social unrest in South Africa; the accumulation of nuclear weapons and the threat to peace by the ‘Arms Race’; rising unemployment and concurrent decline in traditional industries, such as mining and steel working; the growth of multinational organisations; and the complex and varied anxieties faced by the family in modern society.

Many of the more in-depth BSR investigations were completed by Working Parties comprised of experts drawn from both within and outside of the Church. Generally headed by the BSR Secretary (or a Secretary of a BSR sub-Committee) and convening over a defined period, discussion would focus on material (reports, articles, publications) presented to the party members which offered a range of arguments and viewpoints. Conclusions would be drawn, and, generally, a report of the findings presented to Synod and published.

The focal point for BSR activities was the Secretary, and it was he, supported by the Secretaries of the internal Standing Committees of BSR – Social Policy Committee, Industrial Committee and International Affairs Committee, who would create what became known as ‘resource files’. It is these files, and those created by the Working Parties noted above, which form the core of the collection. Varied in size and content, the files generally contain correspondence, reports from external bodies relating to the specific subject, and all manner of booklets, publications and pamphlets sourced by the Secretary to offer a range of perspectives on the particular subject.

Work with the collection has progressed well, and since February around 500 boxes of BSR material have been appraised, re-packaged when necessary, and catalogued into CALM – the Lambeth Palace/Church of England Record Centre electronic catalogue. A completion date of late November has been set.  Once complete, then work will begin on the 600 or so boxes of material in the Board of Mission and Unity collection with a completion date for that collection of summer 2015.

To view the collection click here.


The Mothers’ Union: In Word and Deed

In 1876 Mothers’ Union founder Mary Sumner had printed a run of fifty cards with practical advice for mothers. There was a hymn on one side and, on the reverse, the following text:

‘Remember that your Children are given up, body and soul, to Jesus Christ in Holy Baptism, and that your duty is to train them for His Service.

1.       Try, by God’s help, to make them obedient, truthful and pure.

2.       Never allow coarse jests, bad angry words, or low talk in your house. Speak gently.

3.       You are strongly advised never to give your children beer, wine or spirits without the doctor’s orders, or to send young people to the public house.

4.       Do not allow your girls to go about the streets at night, and keep them from unsafe companions and from dangerous amusements.

5.       Be careful that your children do not read bad books or police reports.

6.       Set them a good example in word and deed.

7.       Kneel down, and pray to God morning and evening, and teach your children to pray.

8.       Try to read a few verses of the Bible daily, and come to Church as regularly as possible.'[1]

The cards were distributed among attendees of those first Mothers’ Union meetings held in the parish of Old Alresford, and given to those who had expressed interest in the group’s activities. The language used may seem slightly amusing to us now but the dutiful nature of these words can still be felt. Though not exactly a manifesto, the cards set forth (directly or indirectly) some of the principles on which Sumner founded the Union. The sixth point on the list seems to be the most enduring: a ‘good example in word and deed.’ As we shall see, behind the one hundred and thirty-eight-years of tireless social outreach, domestic and international campaigning, and charity work the Mothers’ Union have informed and educated their members through a prolific publishing campaign.

By 1888 the Mothers’ Union was sanctioned and operating in eighteen dioceses, many with several branches. With such rapid growth a means of clarifying the aims and objects of the Union became essential to its unity and coherence as a national organisation. In response the Mothers’ Union Journal was founded and in addition to articles noting the progress and purpose of the Union, the journal published fiction, poetry and teaching for mothers, including a series entitled ‘Letters to a Young Mother from an Old Mother.’ In its second year of publication the journal doubled its page count in order to dedicate more space to reports of meetings and it was around this time that a central Committee was formed with a view to inaugurating a Central Council.

We see then, that the ‘good example’ of the words printed and disseminated through the journal was one of the central organising principles of the movement in these early years. The articles directly informed the ‘deeds’ of many branches, where the issues discussed in the journal often provided a structure or focal point for meetings. The journal would also be used as a means of advertising pamphlets written by Sumner, her brisk but considered language providing a framework for the deeds carried out in the outreach and education undertaken in the various branches of the union.

The journal – succeeded by other periodicals including Mothers Union News, Mothers in Council, and more recently Families First – was only the beginnings of this organised effort in literary outreach. In Ten Years More: 1926-1936, a pamphlet summarising the achievements of the group during that decade, Mary E Thompson wrote:

It is impossible to give an adequate idea of our publication work. Ceaselessly all kinds of books, booklets, pamphlets and leaflets have been poured out to our members.[2]

They were popular too; in 1889 the first Mothers’ Union Almanac quickly sold 20,000 copies. As the publishing project rapidly expanded the creation of a Literature Committee became necessary and was established in 1906 to oversee the movement’s publishing activities, with Diocesan Literature Representatives appointed to recommend educational texts. At the height of its influence the Mothers’ Union maintained a public library for members and their children at Mary Sumner House in Tufton Street, as well as a bookshop.

The Lending Library at Mary Sumner House

The Lending Library at Mary Sumner House. Image taken from ‘This is the Mary Sumner House’, London : Mothers’ Union, [196-?]

In June 2008 the central archives of the Mothers’ Union – including the records from Mary Sumner House, minutes, correspondence, accounts, pamphlets, architectural plans, photographs and slides – were transferred to Lambeth Palace Library. This valuable historical collection is publicly accessible thanks to the diligent work of our archives team and a glance at the archives catalogue will give you an idea of the thousands of items now held at the Palace. In addition to this archival material are the many boxes of printed books currently being sorted through by our library assistants prior to cataloguing.

While the collection numbers many hundreds of books it by no means represents a complete publication history of the Mothers’ Union, again demonstrating the sheer volume of materials produced by the group. The books came to us in boxes which had been grouped by Cordelia Moyse (who worked on the material while it was still at Mary Sumner House, and who has written the brilliant A History of the Mothers’ Union 1876-2008: Women, Anglicanism and Globalisation) in to a number of broad categories including – but not limited to – prayer books, prayer calendars, orders of service, children’s books, moral & social issues, Mothers’ Union lectures, families & parenting, overseas diocesan histories, overseas vernacular literature, annual reports and many variants and sub-categories in between. This list in itself gives an overview of the range of topics and issues addressed by the Union, the organisation of the group, and moreover asserts the central importance of literature within the Union historically.

Children's prayer book.

Childrens prayer book in an unidentified African dialect.

Sorting through the books the range of production values is striking. There are, as you would expect, beautifully bound volumes with glossy illustrations celebrating and documenting the history of the Union. There is also a wealth of pamphlets and publications which have been produced using low cost printing techniques such as lithography or photocopying, presumably to keep cover prices low where applicable and to enable larger runs and reach more people. Some of the ‘overseas vernacular literature’ has been produced on a typewriter and hand stitched with colour images from another source glued in. This D-I-Y approach brings us again back to the relationship between ‘deeds’ and ‘words’; the deed itself manifested in the physical act of labour involved in setting down the words required to support and educate others.

The Mothers' Union Centenary Brochure

‘The Mothers’ Union 1876-1976 : the Mothers’ Union centenary brochure’, [London : Mothers’ Union, 1976]


[1] Quoted in Violet B Lancaster. A Short History of the Mother’s Union. London: The Mothers’ Union, 1958
[2] Mary E Thompson. Ten Years More: 1926-1936. London: The Mothers’ Union, [1936]

Early modern Archbishops’ papers

Dr Richard Palmer reports on the first phase of a new project to re-catalogue the early modern Archbishops’ papers, which began in August. The first two months of the project focused on the papers of Archbishops Sheldon, Tenison, Potter and Herring, totalling 8 volumes.

The Sheldon papers were found to comprise for the most part drafts and copies of out letters in the hand of Sheldon’s Secretary Miles Smith, relating especially to the plague and fire of London, the second Anglo-Dutch War, the survey of hospitals of which the returns are found in MS 639, and the role of the Archbishop as Visitor of All Souls’ College and Dulwich College. Many of these letters were also entered in Sheldon’s register and the new description provides correlation between these texts and also with editions in Wilkins’ Concilia.

The Tenison papers derive for the most part from the archive of S.P.G. and relate to the Church in the American colonies 1701-13. The new catalogue entry describes these important papers on an item by item basis for the first time, and reveals numerous links with the clergy, churches and events which feature in the main S.P.G. archive and the Tenison papers recently catalogued in the manuscripts series.

Map of Albemarle County

Map of Albemarle County, North Carolina, by Edward Moseley, c.1708; from the papers of Archbishop Tenison (Tenison 1 f. 122).

The Herring papers, which include some papers of his predecessors, are also described on an item by item basis for the first time, revealing letters from prominent figures such as the mathematician John Wallis (1616-1703), the architect Henry Flitcroft (1697-1769) and William Wishart (1692-1753), Principal of Edinburgh University. A large section of the papers in Herring 2 are those of the Archbishop as joint trustee, with the Bishop of London, of the fabric fund for St. Paul’s Cathedral. Many of the letters received are from Thomas Secker while Dean of St. Paul’s. When Secker became Archbishop he evidently reviewed these papers and added items from his own papers while Dean, making this an important, if complex, source of documentation. Secker’s comments on the ‘obstinate perverseness’ of Henry Flitcroft, Surveyor of  St. Paul’s, are typically forthright and mordant. The Herring papers also contain important documentation on calendar reform, the affairs of the Church of Scotland, and a dispute in Hereford Cathedral involving the composer and vicar choral William Felton. They also include the original order for the first appointment of a Principal Librarian of the British Museum (Gowin Knight in 1756). This is the original order, with the royal sign manual of George II. Herring was one of the three dignitaries charged with making the appointment.

A start was also made on the Secker papers.

The First World War and the Bishops

This is a further blog post in a series to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. The Library and Record Centre together hold substantial material relating to the War, which is summarised in the research guide available on our website.

The records include minutes of Bishops’ Meetings. This was a gathering of diocesan and suffragan bishops in England and Wales, held biannually. The meetings were chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury: during the War, Randall Davidson. The minutes provide an insight into the issues facing the Church following the outbreak of War.

The first wartime meeting took place in October 1914 (ref: LPL BM 6/57) and show its impact on Church activities, for instance the postponement (for a year, it was thought – in the event it eventually took place in the 1920s) of a proposed Mission of Help to the Church in India.


The agenda of the first wartime Bishops’ Meeting, 20 October, 1914 (ref: LPL BM 6/57)

Wartime subjects which already commanded the attention of the Bishops included preparation of special forms of prayer for public use and the possibility of a National Day of Intercession.

The minutes include a copy of a circular letter sent out by Archbishop Davidson on the subject of clergy as combatants, expressing his view that to volunteer as a combatant was “incompatible with the position of one who has sought and received Holy Orders”: the special calling of the ordained ought to be regarded as their “special contribution to their country’s service”. Offers to serve as chaplains in the Army or Navy were at that time “far more numerous than could possibly be accepted”. Those not yet ordained but nearing the end of their time at theological colleges were encouraged to complete their training, but those at an earlier stage of study could be encouraged to enlist as it was thought that “great advantages” could be gained from service, and the fact of having borne arms would not subsequently disable a man from receiving Holy Orders. There was, given the “unprecedented” state of affairs, extensive discussion on the work of Army chaplains (in both the Territorial Army and the new Kitchener Army) and the position of the Chaplain General.

Fees for marriage licences (which enabled greater flexibility in the location and timing of weddings) for soldiers and sailors summoned at short notice to go on active service were discussed. It was advocated that officials adopt some liberality and sacrifice some fees “as only the reality of the crisis and its temporary character can justify”. The Archbishop counselled, however, that such reduction ought not to be used to “expedite marriages otherwise unsuitable”.

Further discussion involved the role of the clergy in facilitating the issue of Government assistance (in the form of separation allowances) to the wives and families of men in the Army and Navy on active service. Dissemination of information on this had been done at the personal request of Lord Kitchener. The question of assistance to unmarried partners of soldiers and sailors ensued, a “difficult and delicate question”. Resolution of this issue the Bishops explicitly considered in some degree as being of a private character within their meeting; but they endorsed this approach of supporting unmarried women, “where there was evidence of a settled home” and unless “such a course would gravely imperil the standards of moral life, both among the men of His Majesty’s Forces and in the nation”.

Use of school buildings and churches by the troops, already requisitioned by the military in a few cases, was mentioned. More specific were prospective requests to use parish churches for the celebration of the Roman Mass for Belgian refugees which, it was argued, could not easily be granted.

The subject of War memorials was raised, and attention called to the importance of parish clergy keeping lists of those from their parishes who served during the War.

Brief reference was made to the peculiar difficulties in which certain ecclesiastical industries (for instance organ building and the making of stained glass) found themselves owing to the War.

A “long and important” discussion followed on the subject of increased drinking, especially among the wives of absent soldiers and in some cases among army recruits. The implications for the opening hours of public houses and on alternative recreations in the camps were raised. Similarly, “moral dangers and difficulties” with regard to the camps and billeting were of concern to the Bishops, with attention paid to means of “helping the young girls of the country”, perhaps by the provision of “women patrols”.

Discussion on these subjects, and on additional topics such as precautions in case of invasion and the moral and spiritual care of German prisoners, continued to resonate in the records as the War proceeded.

Descriptions of the Bishops’ Meetings records are available in the archives catalogue. Other items in this series are featured in the Library’s First World War timeline.

The response of the Church of England to the War was featured on the Radio 4 Sunday programme.

The Papers of the Archbishops of Canterbury

One of Lambeth Palace Library’s core roles is as the official archive of the Archbishops of Canterbury, managing the preservation of, and access to, records created by the administration based at Lambeth Palace over many centuries.

The Archbishops’ Papers are rich and varied, and include correspondence, reports, memoranda, speeches, photographs and a range of other material created in the course of the work of Archbishops and their staff. The collections constitute an invaluable resource for research into a large array of topics, be they ecclesiastical, social, political, national or local, and their popularity is shown by the high number of research visits and enquiries relating to them which the Library receives.

From 1279 to 1642, the Library’s series of Archbishops’ registers are the principal record of the Archbishop’s activities, and include material relating to institutions and appointments, visitations and other correspondence. After the Restoration the registers were superseded in importance by the Archbishops’ Act Books, part of the Vicar General archive.

Whilst these sources provide valuable insights into the activities of early Archbishops, it is likely that many office holders may well have considered the papers they created to have been their own personal property, so sadly material does not survive in great quantities for seventeenth and eighteenth century Archbishops. One notable exception is Archbishop William Wake (1716-1737) who gave his papers to Christ Church College, Oxford (Lambeth holds microfilm copies).

But by the time of Archbishop Charles Longley (1862-1868) there had clearly been a change of approach, and series of papers survive in large quantities from then on. In the cases of Archbishops Archibald Tait (1868-1882) and Randall Davidson (1903-1925), the amount of material is vast; the Davidson papers for example, run to over 800 individual volumes.

Archbishop Tait (1811-1882)

Archbishop Tait (1811-1882). This portrait hangs in Lambeth Palace.

A major part of the Library’s ongoing work consists of the appraisal of recent Archbishops’ papers, where material worthy of permanent preservation is identified, and subsequently catalogued so that it can be made accessible. Current work focuses on the papers of Archbishop Robert Runcie (1980-1991) with papers from the early years of his time in office now available following a 30 year closure period, and covering such topics as the Falklands War and the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1982. Preparatory work is also being carried out on the papers of subsequent Archbishops, such as capturing information which will be of use in cataloguing, or dealing with the increasing prevalence of digital formats and alternative media.

The Library is also cataloguing the papers of the Council on Foreign Relations (CfFR), the body responsible for the Archbishop’s ecumenical relations with overseas churches for the period 1933-1982, which form a distinct subset of the Archbishop’s papers.

The First World War and Lambeth Palace

Among the papers of Archbishop Davidson survives a typescript list of relatives and friends of members of the Lambeth Palace household serving in the War (ref: LPL Davidson 22). It includes the name Craufurd Ellison, a reminder of the connections between three episcopal families whose relationships are documented by the Library’s holdings. Craufurd Tait Ellison was the son of Agnes Sitwell Ellison (née Tait), she in turn the youngest daughter of Archibald Campbell Tait (Archbishop of Canterbury 1868-82) and Catharine Spooner Tait.

Agnes Tait and her sisters

Agnes Tait and her sisters (ref: MS 4502/41)

Agnes (b. 1860) died in 1888 after giving birth to her son Craufurd, soon after her marriage in January that year. She was buried at Addington, where the Archbishops had a Palace at that period. The 1891 census shows her young son living with his widowed father, his father’s brother and sister, his grandfather, and four female servants (including his nannie, Susannah Soan), in Warwick Square (Pimlico). By 1901 he was at school in Rottingdean, Sussex.

The name Craufurd was resonant in the Tait family, as it was earlier the name both of the Archbishop’s father (d. 1832), and of the Taits’ only son, also a clergyman: Craufurd Tait (b. 1849) had died in 1878, followed soon after by his grieving mother, both memorialized in an account published after their deaths by the Archbishop. The family’s history is well-known for the earlier loss in 1856 of five of their seven children to scarlet fever, leaving only Craufurd and one sister surviving. Further daughters were born to the Taits after the tragedy. The Library holds records of the Tait family, including this photograph picturing Agnes (standing), Lucy (left) and Edith (ref: LPL MS 4502 item 41), and also including letters and papers on the engagement and marriage of Agnes Tait to John Henry Joshua Ellison (another clergyman) and her death (ref: LPL MS 4499 ff. 215-233, MS 4500 item 2).

Craufurd Ellison was thereby the nephew of Archbishop Davidson, though his wife Edith (née Tait), who was Agnes’s sister. Randall Davidson was a friend of their brother Craufurd Tait (the Library holds records of a tour of Egypt and Palestine they made together in 1872-3, ref: LPL MSS 1602-1603), who was instrumental in Davidson’s ordination to the ministry by his father Archbishop Tait; Davidson subsequently became the Archbishop’s chaplain.

In the 1911 census Ellison, then in his early twenties, was already serving in the military, a 2nd Lieutenant, and his marriage certificate records that he was married to Marjorie Wynyard (daughter of a retired Colonel) in the chapel at Lambeth Palace on 2 August 1914, with Archbishop Davidson officiating and Edith Davidson among the witnesses (also recorded in the Chapel register, ref: LPL MS 2886 p. 33).

Marriage record of Craufurd Ellison

Marriage of Craufurd Ellison (ref: MS 2886 page 33)

The marriage was by special licence issued on behalf of the Archbishop – the number of licences for August 1914 is noticeably increased over the same period the preceding year, presumably owing to the circumstances of the War (ref: LPL FM III/23). The Library holds letters to Randall and Edith Davidson from and concerning their nephew, including letters of 1890-1 written on behalf of the infant Craufurd enumerating his activities such as spinning his top and feeding the ducks, and early letters in his own hand (including one to Uncle “Wrangle”). A letter from his nannie written soon after his wedding in 1914 describes the sun suddenly shining on the bridal couple as Craufurd put on the ring, recalling the moment when the same thing occurred as his mother first held her child in 1888. There are also letters of farewell following the outbreak of War in 1914 and reporting Craufurd’s injury in the early months of War (ref: LPL MS 4499 ff. 234-289). Following his war service with the King’s Royal Rifles, he is listed (in Kelly’s Directory 1920) as a Captain living in Wiltshire. He died as a Major in 1942, his name appearing on the war memorial in Wilton, Wiltshire alongside that of John Damer Craufurd Ellison (b. 1915), his only son, who died on war service in North Africa the following year. He also had a daughter (b. 1919) – another Agnes, like his mother.

The Library also holds records of the Ellison family among the papers of Gerald Ellison (Bishop of London 1973-81). He was the son of John Henry Joshua Ellison (1855-1944), who had married Agnes. Craufurd Ellison was thereby the (much older) half-brother of Gerald (b. 1910), who was the son of John’s second wife. Among the family material which survives in the Ellison papers are visitors’ books from the family homes dating from 1901 onwards – including the signature of Craufurd Tait Ellison (ref: LPL Ellison P/2/2).

Additional information from genealogical sources on the Ancestry website.