ARTHUR BALDWIN DAVIS
December 1870, Peckham – 24th April 1938, 3 St Mark’s Square, London
St Michael’s, 1927-1936
His parents Edward Charles Davis (1844, Camberwell – 12 December 1897, Peckham Rye) and Elizabeth Baldwin (1846, Woolwich) married in Lewisham early in 1864 and seem to have moved from Gillingham to Peckham between 1867 and 1870, judging by their children’s birthplaces. As was then common, Arthur was given his mother’s maiden name as a middle name. He was four months old at the time of the 1871 census, when he was living with his parents, three elder sisters and his mother’s unmarried younger sister on Gordon Road, Camberwell. The census gave his father’s occupation as a ‘Bunkersmaker [?] employing 15 men’.
In 1891 Arthur and his eight siblings were living at 191 Barray Road, Peckham Rye with their parents and two servants. Arthur gave his occupation as “Student of Mathematics” and his father was now rich enough to state his occupation as “Living on Own Means”. In 1892 Arthur graduated BA (Junior Optime) from Trinity Hall, Cambridge, gaining his Cambridge MA from there in 1896. The following year he was made a deacon by the bishop of St Albans, who also ordained him priest in 1895. In 1897 he acted as his father’s executor, but his first curacy only came in 1899, at St Ives, Huntingdonshire (1899-1902).
1899 also saw Arthur marry Rachel Mary Rivers Thompson (1869, Calcutta) in Tunbridge Wells. She was probably the daughter of Augustus Rivers Thompson (1829-1890), an Old Etonian from an Indian civil service family, who was Secretary to the Bengal Government (1869-75), Chief Commissioner of British Burma (1875-1878) and Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal (1882-1887). In 1911 Rachel gave her occupation as ‘Private Means’.
Arthur’s next curacies were at St Alban’s, Fulham (1902-05) and St Michael and All Angels, Notting Hill, then known as North Kensington (1905-12). In 1911 he and his wife, two servants (a cook and a parlourmaid) and a visitor (Bertha Rivers Thompson, 1871, Calcutta – possibly his wife’s sister) were living in a 10-room house at 60 St Marks Road, North Kensington. They seem to have had had no children – certainly they had no children born alive by the time of the 1911 census.
Arthur then seems to have left parish ministry instead was given Permission to Officiate by the London diocese (1917-27). This was probably because of the failing health which also forced him to give up his role as Secretary-General of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament in 1922. He began assisting at St Michael’s in 1920 and formally became a curate there in 1927. His parish magazine obituary stated “… [from 1920] until his death, he was a sufferer. He seemed to go from one illness to another, but nothing quenched his cheerfulness, and his wonderful patience was an inspiration to all who knew him.” He had recovered enough by 1927 to take on regular duty at St Michael’s and “with remarkable bravery he stuck to his post so long as he was able to drag himself to the Altar. Sometimes he could not do this for months on end, but again and again he came back.” He was officially made an assistant priest in the parish in 1933 and remained so until his death.
His health again worsened and it became “clear that he would never officiate again”. Though he nominally retained his curacy for the rest of his life, he celebrated his last mass on Christmas Day 1936. He was then bedridden and “in constant pain” until his death. Fr Davis had once commented that a sermon preached at St Michael’s on “All my fresh springs shall be in thee” was “one of the best sermons he had ever heard” and in his obituary in the June 1938 parish magazine Fr Merritt stated that he felt that “no words could better describe the source of Fr Davis’ own outstanding characteristics”. Two days after his death his body was brought into St Michael’s and Vespers of the Dead were said. The Vicar held a sung requiem mass for him on 27th April, followed by the Absolution of the Dead. The vicar then said the first part of the burial service, with the lesson read by Fr Webb Bowen, and the committal (again by the vicar) at Golders Green Crematorium.
The May 1938 parish magazine carried the brief notice that he had “passed to that rest he so much desired. May he rest in peace.”. That of September 1939 stated “The Memorial to Fr Davis, which will be a large statue of St Michael and is being given by Mrs Davis in memory of her husband, is to be dedicated on the Eve of the Festival of St Michael at the first Evensong of the Festival at 8pm. The statue is a very beautiful one and is being made by the Faith Craft-Works. It will stand in front of the second pillar on the right hand side of the Nave.” It was dedicated at the 11.15 Sung Mass on Sunday 1st October 1939.