Edward Bainbridge Penfold


1876 – 1903

Worcester College, Oxford (1st Law and History)

Ordained deacon: 1867
Ordained priest: 1868

1867 – 1870 Curate, Minchin Hampton

1870 – 1874 Curate, Christ Church, Albany Street, London

1874 – 1876 Curate, S. John, Hammersmith

1876 – 1903 Vicar, S. Michael, Camden

1903 – 1908 Vicar, 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 he moved into urban ministry, as assistant priest at Christ Church Albany Street, near Regent’s Park, now St George’s Orthodox Cathedral. He 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 Canon 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.”1

In 1874 Penfold moved to another curacy at St John’s, Hammersmith, where he wrote Meditations on Passiontide, his only known book. Only two years later, however, he was presented by the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s to be the first vicar of the new parish 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. F. W. Osborn.2 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.3 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 mountaineer4, 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.

Fr. Penfold Memorial Brass
Fr. Penfold Memorial Brass

Edward Smith.


  1. Church Times, 9th August 1907
  2. Parish Magazine, XVIII.7 (July 1903)
  3. Parish Magazine, XXIII.5 (May 1908)
  4. The 1891 census shows him holidaying at Caerleon in south Wales.