Worcester College, Oxford (1st in Law and History)
Ordained deacon: 1867
Ordained priest: 1868
1867 – 1870 Curate, Holy Trinity, Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire
1870 – 1874 Curate, Christ Church, Albany Street, Regents Park
1874 – 1876 Curate, S. John, Hammersmith
1876 – 1903 Vicar, S. Michael, Camden
1903 – 1908 Vicar, S. Peter and S. Paul, Charing, Canterbury
Born in 1844 at Thorley on the Isle of Wight, Edward Bainbridge Penfold was the son of the Surrey-born clergyman James Penfold (1802-1858), and his wife Mary Brown, daughter of Robert Brown of Streatham, where James seems to have served one of his curacies. James was also curate of Thorley and from 1841 until around 1850 served as its vicar. They moved to Croydon and Edward went on to attend Worcester College Oxford. He was ordained deacon in 1867 and priest in 1868, both times by Charles Ellicott, Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol. His first curacy was in the Gloucestershire market-town of Minchinhampton.
In 1870 Penfold moved into urban ministry as an assistant priest at Christ Church Albany Street, then a Church of England district chapel within near Regent’s Park, now St George’s Orthodox Cathedral. This would prove a good training for his later work at St. Michael’s, both in terms of churchmanship and of demographics. The church building had only opened in 1837, the same year as Euston station, and was sited within yards of the Cumberland Hay Market, which gave its name to the largely working-class area between the station and Regent’s Park. The p also included the soldiers serving at the Royal Horse Guards barracks, built just to the north of the Market only sixteen years before the church’s completion. The parish stretched all the way up to where Park Street (now Parkway) met Regent’s Park and thus included the Albany Street Barracks, completed only sixteen years before the church – many of its privates lived with their families in private accommodation within the parish.
Despite or perhaps because of this challenging area, Christ Church had already gained a reputation as a hotbed of the Oxford Movement. Its clergy team was headed by a perpetual curate, the first of whom had been William Dodsworth, an early Tractarian and member of the Cambridge Camden Society. He hosted sermons by Manning and Pusey, acquired a new copy of Raphael’s Transfiguration as a high altarpiece, placed candles and flowers on the altar, added a raised chancel and choir stalls and instituted one of the Church of England’s first surpliced choirs1. He finally resigned his curacy on converting to Roman Catholicism in 1851 and was succeeded by Henry William Burrows, who was still in post during Penfold’s time. Although pew rents were his main source of income, Burrows abolished them in 1865, making Christ Church far more accessible to the poor inhabitants of the area and leading to a huge revival in attendance.2 3
Burrows also continued Dodsworth’s attempts to adapt a classical preaching-box-style church to High Church worship, commissioning a stained-glass window from the Pre Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1864 and a marble inlaid floor from William Butterfield in 1867. Dante, his mother and his writer sisters Maria Francesca and Christina Gabriella had started worshipping at the church in 1843. The family attempted to set up a school in Camden Town in the 1840s4 and Dante took part in the foundation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood on nearby Gower Street in 1848. The family moved into 45 Upper Albany Street (now known as 166 Albany Street) in 1854, less than a hundred yards from Christ Church5, where Christina continued to worship until 1876. She became a close friend of Burrows and so it is not inconceivable that Penfold met her6. Penfold later invited Burrows to preach on 24th August 1879 at the first service in the ‘Iron Church’, which served as St. Michael’s from 1879 to 1881.
Penfold lived with two of his fellow curates at 156 Albany Street, just down from the church. Another of the curates there at the time, William Fairbairn La Trobe-Bateman, later wrote in Penfold’s Church Times obituary:
“At once, in that large London parish, his unobtrusive personal-holiness and deliberate commonsense began to tell. How well the writer remembers the high value that … Burrows attached to the opinion of his young ‘assistant priest.’ “Go and talk the matter quietly over with Penfold, and find out what he thinks about it.” This was our old vicar’s frequent prescription for us, when we young clergy were overtaken with our periodical phases of excited enthusiasm. Penfold, all-unconsciously to his humble self, was the oracle of the clergy house.”7
In November 1871 Penfold gave the meditations for a Mission to the whole civil parish of St Pancras, again providing valuable experience for future Missions at St Michael’s8 . These were possibly the basis for his only known book, Meditations on Passiontide, written at his next curacy. That curacy began in 1874 at St John’s, Hammersmith, a parish established only fifteen years earlier to meet population growth in the area and with a church designed by William Butterfield. However, he was only there two years before he was presented by the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s to be the first vicar of the new ecclesiastical district of St Michael’s Camden Town, aged 32.
In 1903, after 27 years in Camden, he retired due to over-work and ill health in order to let a younger man take his place – that young man would prove to be his former assistant priest Fr. Francis W. Osborn.9 Penfold was appointed to the rural parish of Charing in Kent, where he died in 1907 and where he was buried in the village cemetery. His funeral took place in Charing, but about 200 people attended a Requiem Eucharist at St Michael’s on the very same day – La Trobe-Bateman notes they were “nearly all of the working class”. A memorial service was also later held for him, led by the Bishop of London and with a guard of honour from the Church Lads’ Brigade.10 La Trobe-Bateman concluded:
“Thus has passed on, beyond the Veil, one whose life, pre-eminently, was hid with Christ in God. Socially, Edward Bainbridge Penfold was very bright, well-read, observant, a most faithful friend, a keen mountaineer11, almost to the end he was ever a delightful companion. But, pre-eminent in his life was, as we have said, his personal holiness and selflessness. It was this that lifted us, who knew him, out of the restlessness of the controversy and noise, into the calmer atmosphere that breathes in the world unseen. While much was changing around him, he diffused rest in a time of restlessness to many. In his teaching, and by conviction, he was one of those of whom Keble was a type.
In almost his last letter [to me] he wrote,
“I am beginning to think that in some of us God perfects, or will perfect, a special Grace. In one, love ; in another, patience or faith ; and that we must not be too troubled if we are not conscious of possessing all.- Certainly, when I was ill, the patience I looked to God for never failed. It always seemed to come. This makes me feel I ought to trust, and that God’s goodness does not fail me; but when I ask myself, ‘ Do I love as I ought in return ? ‘I cannot say I do. I know a perfect character would have more than one Grace: but do you think that we are to be unhappy because we have not all?’”
Penfold left £1000 to St Michael’s, paying for the main east window (1908) and covering about half the cost of the parish rooms or vestries (1908). He also left £300 to Mary Bunker (1854-1910), his cook and housemaid for much of his time in Camden – she later bequeathed the first window on the left in the Resurrection Chapel, which was dedicated at Epiphany 1911. The remainder of Fr. Penfold’s estate was divided equally between the Church Penitentiary Association, the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge and Society for Providing Homes for Waifs and Strays. The east window of the Resurrection Chapel (1908), the new pulpit (1910) and the brass memorial (1908) in the chancel are all in Penfold’s memory.
- Bernarr Rainbow,
The Choral Revival in the Anglican Church (1839-1872), Boydell & Brewer, 2001, pages 125-127 ↩
- Mary Arsenau, ‘Pews, Periodicals and Politics: The Rossetti Women as High Church Controversialists’, in David Clifford and Laurence Roussillon (editors), Outsiders Looking In: The Rossettis Then and Now, Anthem Press, 2004, pages 99-100 ↩
- Henry William Burrows, The Half-Century of Christ Church, St Pancras, Albany Street, Skeffington, 1887, pages 43-49 ↩
- Lindsay Duguid, ‘Rossetti, Christina Georgina (1830–1894)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ↩
- Emma Mason, ‘A Sort of Aesthetico-Catholic Revival: Christina Rossetti and the London Ritualist Scene’, in David Clifford and Laurence Roussillon (editors), Outsiders Looking In: The Rossettis Then and Now, Anthem Press, 2004, pages 117, 122 and 126 ↩
- Elizabeth Ludlow, ”Christina Rossetti and the Bible: Waiting with the Saints”, Bloomsbury Publishing, page 29 ↩
- Church Times, 9th August 1907 ↩
- Henry William Burrows, The Half-Century of Christ Church, St Pancras, Albany Street, Skeffington, 1887, page 55 ↩
- Parish Magazine, XVIII.7 (July 1903) ↩
- Parish Magazine, XXIII.5 (May 1908) ↩
- The 1891 census shows him holidaying at Caerleon in south Wales. ↩