W A Whitworth and The Eagle

We list here some extracts from various copies of The Eagle, the Magazine of St John's College, Cambridge. There are two parts, the first being Allen Whitworth's obituary and the second being extracts relating to the St John's London Mission which was initiated by Allen Whitworth. We only give extracts up to 1889, although The Eagle continues to relate how the Mission is progressing and shows that Whitworth remained supportive of it for the rest of his life.

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William Allen Whitworth's obituary

W A Whitworth's London Mission

1. William Allen Whitworth's obituary
The following is a version of the obituary Rev William Allen Whitworth M.A., The Eagle, Easter 1905, Vol XXVI, no. CXXXVII (1905), 396-399.

Rev William Allen Whitworth M.A.

The Rev William Allen Whitworth, formerly Fellow of the College, died 12 March 1905, aged 65. The following paragraphs are a tribute of esteem and admiration, but not an adequate tribute, still less a worthy memorial.

William Alien Whitworth commented residence at St John's in October 1858, and took his degree in January 1862. The year was remarkable, both in classics and mathematics, for the number of exceptionally able men whom it produced. Of the Classical Tripos, men said that even the seventh might have been senior in an average year. The senior in that year was Jebb, the second Graves. Though the first Wranglers did not become so famous in their mathematical world, yet among them were men of extreme original ability. The year gave us our Master, and an additional mark of merit is seen in Whitworth, only 16th Wrangler, yet deemed worthy of a Fellowship at St John's.

The authorities of the College, ever independent of conventional standards, probably recognised his original mathematical ability. Probably, as often, his impetuous and creative mind had refused to submit entirely to the conventional training for the Tripos. Possibly also he had devoted time, energy, and thought to objects less beneficial to himself. The writer thinks he remembers a report that Whitworth did much for the infant years of this Eagle: and certainly he was, if not a founder, at a very early data leading editor of a new mathematical periodical, The Messenger of Mathematics - a revolt against the somewhat high-dry investigations favoured by the aristocratic journal of the time. The then modern methods of Analytical Geometry called Trilinear Coordinates especially fascinated him. He contributed articles on them to the Messenger, which he afterwards incorporated into a volume of some size, under the two titles of Modern Analytical Geometry (on the cover) and Trilinear Coordinates (on the title-page), This dealt also with Anharmonic Ratios, Polar Reciprocals, and other then fashionable objects of devotion. Perhaps, however, a better index of his power is given by an unpretending little volume, Choice and Chance. In this he expounds the formulae of Permutations and the Principles of Probability. His lucidity and simpleness of exposition, the directness and obviousness of his proofs, belong to a mathematical perception of a very high order. Another publication, curious and valuable but not much known, is The Churchman's Almanack for Eight Centuries. In this he brings like simplicity and directness into the bewildering rules for finding Easter, and gives tables of all possible arrangements of Sundays and chief days in years, with indexes for referring any year to its table.

After his degree he went first to Liverpool, taught as Professor of Mathematics in Queen's College, and was ordained. He worked first as curate of St Anne's, Birkenhead, and St Luke's, Liverpool, then as incumbent of Christ Church. He made the friendship of E H McNeil, then a leading man among the Liverpool clergy, of views different from those which Whitworth ultimately adopted, but of like sincerity and independence. The two joined in a refusal to bow before majorities, or to oppress holders of unpopular opinions; the resolution of the two was successful.

He became somewhat prominently connected with Parochial Missions, and this perhaps brought about his transference from Liverpool to London. In 1875 he was made incumbent of St John's, Hammersmith, and in 1886 was appointed to the then celebrated Church of All Saints', Margaret Street. The writer, once enquiring into a school-master's character, accidentally learned something of his individual attention to the choristers of that Church. He published various sermons and small pamphlets, also a larger volume, Worship in the Christian Church, which reveals considerable patristic reading, as well as the same clearness of thought that marks his mathematical work. In 1885 the College gave him Aberdaron, a Rectory in Wales, a sinecure with no Church and no people, but a small income. Whitworth was not a man to regard even a small sinecure as income without responsibility. It is believed that half the income he handed over to an adjacent Welsh parish. The remainder he perhaps would have said he kept for himself: others would consider that he kept it, for himself to spend on other Church purposes.

His work in London has been chronicled or commented on in Church newspapers. None that I have seen so much as notices that fruit of his work which our College best knows. All we elder members of the College look on our College Mission in South London as the result of his sermon in our College Chapel. It is said that the aged Canon Griffin, vicar of Ospringe, came from his country parish in Kent to preach for his fellow-Johnian and fellow-Mathematician. He saw the many necessary organisations, the incessant fresh problems, the constant strain of arduous and anxious work in a crowded London district. As the older and younger ex-Fellows of St John's discussed these things together, somehow the suggestion arose that the College might in some way help. Once there had been' College Preachers': they and their object had been abandoned; yet now if St John's could send a representative man, and would back him up, what might not be accomplished? Soon after came an invitation to preach in the College Chapel. He expanded the idea into his sermon. With the vehemence of his impetuous nature he pleaded the cause of rapidly growing town suburbs. He spoke with the authority of extensive personal knowledge, and of experience in existing labours. He appealed to the College of St John to become a source of light and life in some dark dead area. Perhaps the fuel lay ready: certainly his words kindled a fire: may the College Mission to Walworth long continue a burning and a shining light, for the College which maintains it even more than for the district which it serves.
2. W A Whitworth's London Mission
2.1. The Eagle, Lent 1883, Vol XII, no LXX (1883), 304; 307.

Mr Whitworth's sermon preached in our Chapel on Sexagesima Sunday, 28 January 1883, has been printed by request; copies of it may be obtained on application at the College Butteries. The sermon appealed to us as the 'Trustees of Knowledge,' in relation to many who are 'Victims of Ignorance.' Mr Whitworth asks whether or not the College, or rather Members of the College aggregately though not corporately, could not undertake the support and stimulation of a Mission among the uneducated in London or elsewhere. If so, why not let it be in 'Barnwell and Chesterton,' as the locality of 25,000 out of the 35,000 inhabitants of Cambridge is called? We hope before our next number to find that some definite steps will have been taken and that a working proposal, or proposals, may be set before Members of the College.

2.2. The Eagle, Easter 1883, Vol XII, no LXXI (1883), 380.

On Sexagesima Sunday, January 28th, 1883, the Rev W Allen Whitworth, Fellow of St John's College, and Vicar of St John's, Hammersmith, in a sermon preached in the College Chapel, suggested that the College should support a Mission in some neglected district of London. Christ Church, Oxford, and some of the Public Schools have already undertaken similar work. The proposal was warmly received, and carefully discussed by senior and by junior members of the College. It was felt that a Mission might be beneficial in many different ways. The work would be in the spirit of the foundress, Lady Margaret; it would serve as a bond of union between rich and poor, educated and ignorant, and generally between class and class. If efficiently conducted, it would have a double value - to the district chosen for the Mission, and to the many members of the College, who it is hoped would, in various ways, take a practical interest in it. They would be able to support the Missioner, not only in his directly religious work, but also in the schemes which he might adopt for civilizing and brightening the homes and lives of his people.

A meeting was held in the College Hall, on Tuesday, May 8th, the Master in the Chair, to which all members of the College were invited. Numerous letters from non-residents expressing sympathy and promising help were read. After speeches from the Bishop of Bedford, Archdeacon Cheetham (for the Bishop of Rochester), Rev C H Grundy, Professors Liveing and Mayor, and F H Francis, an undergraduate member of the College, the following resolution was adopted:-
That a Mission be undertaken in London. That funds be raised from members of the College, and that such provision be made for maintaining a direct interest in the working of the Mission as shall from time to time seem advisable. That the Mission be regulated by a Council and managed by a Committee elected by and from the Council.
Mr Torry is Treasurer; Mr Caldecott and D Walker, Secretaries.

2.3. The Eagle, Michaelmas 1883, Vol XIII, no LXXII (1884), 62-63.

Walworth Mission.

The Committee formed in St John's College, to do something towards bringing Cambridge men into direct contact with the London poor, has just completed the first stage of its work - that is to say, it has (1) formed a body of supporters, (2) found a locality to make its point of contact, and (3) selected a man to begin actual operations. Commenced under a religious impulse the work will be a religious Mission, but opportunities for the co-operation of others than men who work on lines definitely religious will not only be welcomed but sought out. The original impulse was given by a Sermon in the College Chapel last Lent by one who himself is a link between Cambridge and London, Mr W Allen Whitworth Fellow of the College, and Vicar of the large parish of Hammersmith. A meeting in College Hall was addressed by the Bishop of Bedford and others, and a number of both senior and junior members formed themselves into a general committee, with an executive and officers. Since then a first list of subscriptions, amounting to £50, has been formed, which enables the committee to offer to provide the stipend of a Mission-clergyman, with some provision for working expenses. The committee resolved at a very early stage that it was time for work of this kind to go south of the Thames, and communications were opened with the Bishop of Rochester and his energetic Diocesan Missionary Society. This resulted in the assignment of a district called Lockfields, in St John's, Walworth, where there are some Mission buildings disused. Since last Lent these buildings have been acquired by the Diocesan Society, and will be put in order by them - so that a promise of useful co-operation is found in the society's providing the bricks and mortar, while the committee supply the personal force. Last week the committee selected the Rev W I Phillips, BA., of the College, 1876, as the missioner (permanent), and the Bishop has accepted him and will license him nominally to the Vicar of St. John's, who naturally is very willing to have a portion of his crowded parish taken practically from under his responsibility. On Sunday, November 25, the Bishop of Rochester was staying at St John's Lodge, and in the evening spoke about South London, its needs and its opportunities, at a large undergraduate party. In his sermon at Great St Mary's, in the afternoon, the Bishop emphatically declared his opinion that life in the Universities is more abounding in helps and opportunities for higher life than in the old "close" days of forty years ago. It cannot be doubted that as he made the comparison there arose before his mind, among other things, his knowledge of this fresh enterprise.

Three vacancies on the Executive Committee (of twelve), caused by men going out of residence, have been filled up by the election of W N Roseveare, H B Colchester, and - Palmer. The other junior members are O Rigby, BA., F H Francis, and D Walker. Any members of the College who would like to think about giving personal help are invited to call upon any of the above. Mr Torry is treasurer, Mr Caldecott and D Walker secretaries.

2.4. The Eagle, Lent 1884, Vol XIII, no LXXIII (1884), 82-63.

The College Mission.

The inspiriting and practical words of Mr Whitworth which were heard in the College Chapel on Sexagesima Sunday, 1883, have at length borne fruit. On the same Sunday in 1884 the first Service was held in our Mission Church in Salisbury Crescent, Walworth.

We have now accepted the responsibilities which were indicated to us a year ago. We are "Trustees of Knowledge" for the "Victims of Ignorance" in the district which has been assigned to our care. The preliminary difficulties which have to be overcome before actual work can be started no longer exist, and we are at last face to face with the pleasurable duties of the position.

The Mission district is in so unexplored a region that a description of it may fitly be prefaced by geographical hints. Most people know of the Elephant and Castle, the great tramcar and omnibus centre in South London, where six important roads meet. From this more or less familiar point our Mission Church is distant rather more than half a mile in a straight line, though twice as far by the best line of approach.

There is a strategical method of getting at an unknown point, which it is the practice of the experienced Londoner to adopt. It is to keep to the main road as long as possible before venturing into the labyrinth of bye-ways. The longest way round often turns out to be the quickest. Following this principle, the plan is to go from the Elephant and Castle down the New Kent Road, and then down part of the Old Kent Road. One of the many streets branching off on the right is Darwin Street. Passing up this, Salisbury Crescent is reached, in which the Mission Church stands. This route has the advantage of being officially recommended by Mr Phillips.

Only a few of us can realise the encouraging start that has been made, because only a few knew the Mission premises before altered to their present state. A small party from the College visited them last November. The main lines of the buildings were the same then as now: a well-proportioned room formerly used for service, capable of seating some 300 people at a pinch, and a small dwelling-house adjoining. The whole might be described as standing in its own grounds, since a fringe of coarse gravel lay between it and the public way on most sides, bounded by a dingy brick wall, save where a slight wooden paling was the only barrier to the hostile ingenuity of the neighbouring youth. All had a neglected and wretched appearance, inside and out. The room itself was badly lighted; the air damp and mouldy; the floor full of holes through which (the man in charge said) rats and mice made nocturnal excursions in search of prey. A number of decrepit rush-bottomed chairs were doing what they could to be in harmony with the general desolation.

But in January a band of workmen, under the orders of the Rochester Diocesan Society, came down to paint, to clean, and to repair. Under their hands rapid and effectual was the transformation. Some improvements in the structure were at once made. Three small windows at the east end were changed into three large ones, and part of the west wall knocked out to admit of new lighting. Then there was a judicious erecting of thin partitions in such a way as to divide the room into three: the central part for service, and two wings for class work. The walls and roof were nicely coloured; new chairs supplanted the old ones; and the aisles were tidily carpeted with matting. The result of all this is bright and pleasing in a high degree.

The people seem to have responded well, all things considered, to the efforts made on their behalf. There is a fair general attendance at Sunday Services. Men are specially invited to come in the morning, and 15 were present, for example, on the first Sunday after Easter; a number which is far more encouraging than it would at first sight seem to be. A member of the Committee was recently at one of the week-day Services for children, at which about 110 were present, and he describes himself as, being much struck with the orderly and reverent behaviour of the rough little crowd. Anyone with knowledge of the material composing such a congregation will appreciate our Missioner's undoubted success with children. On Mondays there is a Mothers' Meeting, which has from 30 to 40 regular frequenters.

The "Cambridge Club" for Working Men was opened on the 21st April with nearly 50 members. Nominal charges are made to visitors and also for some of the games; and the Secretary, Mr Rideal, finds that the weekly yield from these sources is over 10s., while the working expenses are only about 5s., so that the institution will be self-supporting when certain initial expenses have been paid off. On a recent date some past and present Johnians met at the Club, and did their best to entertain the members in a friendly and informal manner with readings and songs. The visitors expressed themselves thoroughly gratified with the evening.

In addition to the two standing requirements of money and workers Mr Phillips asks for (1) Old clothes, (2) Worked clothes. Ladies kind enough to undertake this work, are respectfully requested to make the garments of ordinary proportions, remembering, for instance, that a giant's arms are seldom attached to a dwarf's body. This caution is found necessary. (3) Low hassocks or kneelers for church. (4) Books for a Sunday School library. (5) Letters of admission to Hospitals and Convalescent Homes. (6) Flowers for distribution. (7) Coloured pictures. (8) Old scrapbooks.

Mr Phillips is eagerly looking forward to the assistance of men during the Long Vacation. It is proposed that they should take it in turn to spend a week at the Mission, for that time devoting themselves entirely to its service. The work which would claim their attention is as follows:

On Sundays.
1. Sunday School.
2. Helping in Church by welcoming the people, reading the lessons, and playing.
3. Organising Bible Classes for adults.
4. Giving Addresses.

On Week-days.
1. Helping in the Services as above.
2. Visiting the men in the evenings and on Saturday afternoons.
3. Looking up children absent from Sunday School.
4. Training children in "Services of Song,"
5. Almonry.
6. Helping at the "Cambridge Club,"
7. Playing with the Cricket Club, at Peckham Rye.

Mr Rideal on behalf of his Club asks for a good clock, two fenders, quoits, chairs, and, above all, books for the library.

The staff of lay-helpers consists of six persons: three ladies and three gentlemen, who have not hitherto been connected with the College, but have come forward out of pure kindness and love of such work. It is high time for us to emulate their example.

2.5. The Eagle, Lent 1885, Vol XIII, no LXXVI (1885), 313-314.

The College Mission.

The first year of active work at Walworth has recently been completed. On the whole the retrospect is very encouraging.

During the past vacation nine members of the College stayed at the Missioner's house, occupying 'the College Rooms.' Their work was very helpful to Mr Phillips, and apparently much appreciated by the people in the district. It is hoped some more Undergraduates may be induced to offer their services for some portions of future vacations. There is much work of all kinds to be done.

A Terminal meeting was held to report progress on Friday March, 3th, in Lecture Room IV., at which the Rev Allen Whitworth gave an address on "Parish Work."

2.6. The Eagle, Easter 1887, Vol XIV, no LXXXIII (1887), 415-417.

A well-attended and enthusiastic meeting in aid of the Building Fund of the St John's College Mission in Walworth was held at the London house of Lord Powis on Wednesday 1 June.
The following resolution ... was seconded by Rev W A Whitworth and carried unanimously: "That this meeting rejoices in the progress which has been made by the Mission during the last three years, and commends the Building Fund to the hearty support of all Johnians."

Rev W A Whitworth was appointed to a London Committee in aid of the Building Scheme.

2.7. The Eagle, Michaelmas 1888, Vol XV, no LXXXVII (1889), 297-300.

The last six months have been momentous in the history of the College Mission. In the first place we have to record the progress of the new church. On 18 June the foundation stone was laid in Chatham Street, Rodney road, Walworth, by the Master ... W A Whitworth [and several others] assembled at the old Mission buildings, Darwin Street, and went in procession, singing (the Clergy in surplices and hoods) through the narrow and dingy streets to the site of the new church. ...

Last Updated September 2021