Looking back: Row raged over seat of yearning

PUBLISHED: 10:37 02 February 2006 | UPDATED: 11:28 04 May 2010



IF THE headmaster of the King s School, Ely, in the 1850s had lived in Tudor times he may well have suffered the same fate as Pygot and Wolsey. Just under 300 years after their unfortunate fate, the same issues about rituals and religious arguments were

IF THE headmaster of the King's School, Ely, in the 1850s had lived in Tudor times he may well have suffered the same fate as Pygot and Wolsey.

Just under 300 years after their unfortunate fate, the same issues about rituals and religious arguments were still raging.

John Ingle had taken on the role of headmaster in 1852 and the former headmaster, Henderson, was still involved in the cathedral hierarchy as the precentor and minor canon.

Henderson was reluctant to give up his place in the fifth stall, reserved for the headmaster, which was of a higher ranking position to that which he now held.

So he insisted on taking his former place in the procession and seat in the cathedral.

The new headmaster, the Revd Ingle, insisted that this situation be redressed because the rank had been given to the Headmaster rather than any individual.

The whole situation became so acrimonious that the pair appealed to the bishop.

Ingle even sought the protection of the dean on one occasion, apparently being too frightened to take part in the procession into the cathedral.

It took 25 years to settle the dispute, during which time Ingle had moved back to Exeter.

I have visions of the two of them in robes, trying to push or shoulder each other out of the way before the procession started. Or walking as fast as they could down the aisle to get the fifth stall.

Having upset the so-called apple cart in the cathedral it would seem that the knives were out for Ingle. He leaned towards the Anglo-Catholic practices of the church and on two occasions had preached sermons in London in churches that had adopted High Church practices. This included the use of altar candles, ornate ceremonial vestments, altar clothes, flowers and incense.

For many Victorians this smacked of Catholicism and adherence to Rome and the pope. The movement had started in Oxford and according to the adherents of this 'Oxford Movement' they merely wanted to bring the church back to her former traditions, arguing that these practices were not a re-emergence of the 'old faith' (Catholicism).

These wranglings caused great division in the Church of England, which did not go unnoticed in Ely.

The sermons preached by Ingle apparently caused great concern in the Isle of Ely. So much so that a special meeting was called at the Bell Inn, Ely on December 2, 1858 "for the purpose of considering the position of the Ely Grammar School, in relation to its present headmaster".

On the two occasions Ingle had preached in London he had been privately reprimanded by the dean and chapter. In response to the second sermon at All Saints Church, Margaret Street, London, Ingle personally published his sermon!

The proceedings of the meeting were also published and record that 1,000 people attended and "included a large proportion of the most respectable classes of the city and surrounding villages". The names of Harlock, Cutlack, Archer, Bidwell, Martin and Saberton all stand out because they all had connections with the school.

The concern was that the head was teaching the boys "popish practices".

Although the threat of being slow-burnt was not an issue for Ingle, he decided not to fuel the arguments and stayed away from the meeting.

In fact, little was done as a result of the meeting, apart from a few parents threatening to withdraw their children and Ingle being told by the dean and chapter that he had to supply them with a list of books he used for teaching.

In 1861, Ingle moved away from the school, but it is interesting to note that three centuries after the Reformation and dissolution of the monasteries the issue of Catholic and Protestant doctrines could still raise such fierce debate. Luckily for Ingle his only problem was a minor canon and not a stake and green wood!

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ely Standard. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Ely Standard