This post attempts to refute the Anglo-Catholic assertion that the 18th century was a period of bland worship in the Church of England. Tractarian authors seized an opportunity to discredit genuine High Churchmanship in the Church of England by appropriating to them the name “High and Dry.” However, I will show you that this is not an accurate picture of High Church worship, at least in certain places, during the 18th century. In fact, the 18th century High Churchmen were heirs to Caroline spirituality and ceremonial. While the focus of this research is to determine the worship practices of High Churchmen in the 18th century, there are a few references to ceremonial practice before and after that time.
Ceremonies in the Church of England have suffered continuously since the Reformation between those who view the Act of Supremacy as being sufficient (High Church) and those who believe that further reform is necessary (Low Church), that is churchmanship. While was not originally a term describing differences in practice it has come to describe that. After the turmoil of the years spanning from 1549 to 1559, the long reign of Elizabeth provided the English people with relative stability, both politically and religiously. During her reign, the differences between reformist clergy, called Puritans, and the traditionalist clergy in favor of the supremacy, being called “Anglican” ironically, crystallized. These internal conflicts continued to intensify throughout the reign of Elizabeth and into the next two monarchs’ reigns. Reforming clergy thought they had won the war when James I, a Presbyterian from Scotland, ascended the throne, but he proved to be useless to their cause and instead favored the Anglicans. During Charles’s reign, religious strife would merge with political chaos. Charles was not a moderate churchman like James, but, rather, an ardent High Churchman who appointed William Laud to the see of Canterbury. With royal assent, Laud began a High Church campaign to restore some things lost after the Reformation. For instance, the 1604 canons were enforced and Communion tables were returned to their former place at the east wall of the chancel, placed altar-wise. Communion rails were erected to separate the chancel from the nave. After various complex and interwoven events, the English Civil War began when Laud and Charles were executed. The monarchy was abolished and Parliament first ruled the land, then Oliver Cromwell ruled. After the Restoration of the monarchy and episcopacy, Anglicanism as we now know it finally came to be, for the 1662 Prayer Book was published with the 39 Articles and Ordinal, the formularies of Anglicanism. However, the Laudian bishops who fled the country before the rise of Cromwell, were the bishops who ruled the Church at the Restoration. Therefore, we see Laudian ceremonial in royal chapels, cathedrals, and collegiate chapels, as their distinctive ceremonial practices were required by the 1604 Canons.
Around 1695, a “puritan,” at this point, someone who still wishes for further reform in the Church of England but was able to conform to the Act of Supremacy. (The Evangelical movement had not really started so it is inaccurate to label them as “evangelicals” at this point in history). He lists the following things as contrary to the reformed faith: Bowing at the name of Jesus, bowing to the east or altar, kneeling for the Lord's Prayer, preaching in a surplice, only reading part of the service at the desk, communion rails, and candles on the communion table (although unlit for service except to provide light). A quick note on some of these “usages,” these are common accusations against Caroline and later clergy from reform-minded clergy and laity, although kneeling for the Lord’s Prayer is unique to this list. Strangely absent from this list is the use of a cope, which reformists disliked and especially ones embroidered with images.
It is important to note that bowing at the name of Jesus, the wearing of copes and surplices, and enforcing the use of the Prayer Book were not innovations from High Church “Romanizers,” but rather required by canon law, at least under the 1604 Canons of the Church of England. Canon 18, titled, “A reverence and attention to be used within the Church in time of Divine Service,” treats the subject in detail:
“IN the time of Divine Service, and of every part thereof, all due reverence is to be used; for it is according to the Apostle's rule, Let all things be done decently and according to order; answerable to which decency and order, we judge these our directions following: No man shall cover his head in the Church or Chapel in the time of Divine Service, except he have some infirmity; in which case let him wear a night-cap or coif. All manner of persons then present shall reverently kneel upon their knees, when the general Confession, Litany, and other prayers are read; and shall stand up at the saying of the Belief, according to the rules in that behalf prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer and likewise when in time of Divine Service the Lord Jesus shall be mentioned, due and lowly reverence shall be done by all persons present, as it hath been accustomed; testifying by these outward ceremonies and gestures, their inward humility, Christian resolution, and due acknowledgment that the Lord Jesus Christ, the true and eternal Son of God, is the only Saviour of the world, in whom alone all the mercies, graces, and promises of God to mankind, for this life, and the life to come, are fully and wholly comprised. None, either man, woman, or child, of what calling whosoever, shall be otherwise at such times busied in the church, than in quiet attendance to hear, mark, and understand that which is read, preached, or ministered; saying in their due places audibly with the Minister, the Confession, the Lord's Prayer, and the Creed; and making such other answers to the publick prayers, as are appointed in the Book of Common Prayer: neither shall they disturb the Service or Sermon, by walking or talking, or any other way; nor depart out of the Church during the time of Service and Sermon, without some urgent or reasonable cause.”
The Canons of 1604 were authorized the same year as the revision of the Prayer Book of 1604, Dearmer says of the canons, “These Canons pronounced excommunication upon those, whether Puritans or Romanists, who "impugned" the Prayer Book or refused to use it, and they asserted the historical claim of the English Church to be a part of the Church Catholic. They affected our ritual by enforcing once again the Bidding Prayer before Sermons, and our ceremonial by enforcing the reverence at the name of Jesus, and certain minimum requirements of the Ornaments Rubric — the altar frontal and fair linen, the cope, surplice, hood, tippet (or scarf), and the square cap with cassock and gown, and tippet or hood, out of doors” (Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book). This leads us to the first matter of gesture which we will discuss, that of the bowing at the name of Jesus. As seen above it was enforced by canon law and was a mark of Caroline and later Orthodox High Church spirituality and worship. After the Restoration, Puritan clergy complained of this practice and others, especially: Bowing to the east, standing at the Gloria Patri, and at the Gospel, cope and surplice or rochet, Communion-tables turned altar-wise, reading the lessons (office?) at one place and the second service (communion?) at another, setting up of tapers of wax, candlesticks, basins and ewers upon the high altar, and bowing towards it, bowing at the name of Jesus, "antiphons" and "responds", organs, minister and people reading alternate lines of the psalms, among many other things. Directions for church gestures in 1685 addresses the issue and directs for the bowing at the name of Jesus and towards the altar, "to stand at the lessons and Epistles as well as at the Gospel, and especially when a psalm is sung; to bow reverently at the name of Jesus whenever it is mentioned in any of the Church's offices; to turn towards the East when the Gloria Patri and the Creeds are rehearsing; and to make obeisance at coming into and going out of church, and at going up to and coming down from the altar." The practice continues well on into the 18th and 19th century, and really became a marker of High Churchmanship, because a High Churchman, “bows at going into the Chapell, and at the name of Jesus” (Every, 1). A few more references taken from the Hierurgia Anglicana will show that it was a widespread practice for High Churchmen before the Oxford Movement. For instance, the Knights of the Garter were making reverences towards the altar in 1730 at a royal service and it was documented as being practiced at Oxford at least up until 1795, but probably continued until well after that date.
Next, we move on to the actual ornaments of the church, meaning how they church was adorned. This was an important aspect of Caroline spirituality because the physical church was meant to reflect the heavenly courts (as it still is!), Laud’s famous phrase, “the beauty of holiness,” comes to mind here. However, the focus here will be the 18th century (in a later post, I will focus specifically on the Carolines, although similar a bit more pronounced than later divines). We find a number of adorned objects in use by High Churchmen such as silver communion plates, patens, chalices, flagons, candlesticks, basins, incense pots, altar frontals, embossed prayer books and Bibles and Gospel books, among many other things to create the atmosphere of the “beauty of holiness” in churches. You will note that most of the examples are taken from cathedral and collegiate chapels because the canons mention them specifically and they typically followed them. Parish churches were supposed to look to cathedrals as their model and adapt accordingly but we find that most parishes did not and therefore there was a huge disconnect between cathedral worship and parish worship. The Canons of 1604, however, require certain things to be in every parish church. Every church should have a Bible and Prayer Book (80), a font of stone for baptism, “to be set in the ancient usual places,” (81), every church must have a “decent” Communion table, “covered, in time of Divine Service, with a carpet of silk or other decent stuff, thought meet by the Ordinary of the place, if any question be made of it, and with a fair linen cloth at the time of the Ministration, as becometh that Table, and so stand, saving when the said holy Communion is to be administered: at which time the same shall be placed in so good sort within the Church or Chancel, as thereby the Minister may be more conveniently heard of the Communicant,” likewise, “the Ten Commandments be set upon the East end of every Church and Chapel where the people may best see and read the same, and other chosen sentences written upon the walls of the said Churches and Chapels, in places convenient; and likewise that a convenient seat be made for the Minister to read service in,” (82), a pulpit (83), and likewise a chest for alms (84). The church is to be repaired regularly when it needs repair (85).
"The table or altar should be spread over with a clean linen cloth, or other decent covering, upon which the Holy Bible, Common Prayer-book, the paten and chalice are to be placed: two wax candles are to be set on,” so directions give in 1711 for the adornment of the communion table. There was a controversy between Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholic writers about the legality of having candles on the altar for Communion. The Church Society released a tract in opposition to candles but it appears that many cathedrals did have two candles on them (which was required in an injunction from Edward VI to symbolize the light of Christ), however, it appears that they were rarely lit and usually only lit for their practical purpose (i.e. providing light) instead for their religious purpose (symbolizing Christ’s light). However, Cosin appears to have used them at Durham Cathedral for the religious purpose. Directions for Churchwardens, published in 1712, indicates that, “Common elements of church worship include: decent pulpit cloth, a pulpit cushion, a cloth for the reading-desk, organs, silver basins for the offertory, branches for lights, candlesticks, etc,” indicating perhaps that candles were lit for their religious purpose but it remains unclear from the context and quote. Other records show that churches were purchasing items for worship, such as St. Giles-in-the-Fields, which purchased, “A gold cup was purchased by the parish for 198 ₤,” in 1716. All Soul’s College’s chapel in Oxford had a, “massive altar piece and paneling of marble, with two large gilt candlesticks, a purple-velvet Communion cloth, fringed with gold,” in 1720. In 1736, York Cathedral had, “the Communion-plate, Bible, and Prayer Book, bound in crimson velvet, two large silver candlesticks, covering of crimson velvet for the Table, embroidered with gold and fringe, with velvet for the back of the altar, and altar Prayer Books and Bibles.” Continuing in this trend, the chapel at Caius Collge, in Cambridge, continued to have adorned objects halfway through the 18th century in 1750, it still had, “a communion table with altar rails, marble floor, velvet cloths, two candlesticks with two tapers, large silver dish, two Prayer Books, and two velvet cushions, all fringed with gold.” The trend continues throughout the 18th century and well into the 19th century, meaning that there is little justification for the claim that Caroline ceremonial had died out in that century, on the contrary, it seemed to have continued in cathedrals and collegiate chapels up to the Oxford Movement. Some examples from the early 19th century will show this point, for example, St. Paul’s in 1807 still possessed a silver chalice and paten, embossed with a saint and the Agnus Dei with inscriptions in Latin, embossed prayer book with images, silver plates, two silver candlesticks on the communion table, and two "other candles,” for use in divine services. St Peter’s Westminster reports from the same year having an oak communion table with purple cloth with tassels and two candlesticks. St. Benedict’s, Grace Church, had two large candlesticks with wax candles in them which stood on the altar. Perhaps one would think, “Well maybe the spirit of deism changed the churches in the years before the Oxford Movement,” I would have to disappoint you, for in 1828, All Hallow’s, Barking, still had altar rails and two candlesticks on the Table. The rule seemed to be to have decent chalices, patens, basins, altar linens, candlesticks with candles, decent Prayer Books and Bibles to use for the divine services and other objects which reflect the heavenly courts here on earth in the assembled church. There were even some other exceptions too which reflect the beauty of holiness, for instance, a report in 1712 shows that some churches had pulpits adorned with ivy, holly, and rosemary, and some churches, most notably, King's Cliff, Northamptonshire, reports in 1797, “It is yet the custom at King's Cliff, in Northamptonshire, to stick the church with palms on Passion Sunday.”
Back to the Canons of 1604, which regulate many aspects of common prayer and divine worship on Sundays and holy days. Primarily, the canons require worship from the Prayer Book on Sundays and Holy Days and frequent Communion (Canons 13 and 14), the Litany is to be read on Wednesdays and Fridays by the clergy at the parish and the bell to be rung to let the people know that the prayers have commenced (Canon 15), Communion is to be administered so often that the people may communicate at the minimum three times a year (Canon 21) and college students four times (23), college chapels are to use the Book of Common Prayer too and college students are to wear surplices during divine services (16, 17). The Canons also reveal the official interpretation of the Ornaments Rubric, which it declares to mean that surplice, hood, and cope are to be worn by the minister at Communion-time and surplice and hood when there is no Communion (24, 25) and declare Communion is to be celebrated on principal feast days in Canon 24:
“IN all Cathedral and Collegiate Churches, the holy Communion shall be administered upon principal feast-days, sometimes by the Bishop, if he be present, and sometimes by the Dean, and at sometimes by a Canon or Prebendary, the principal Minister using a decent Cope, and being assisted with the Gospeller and Epistler agreeably, according to the Advertisements published Anno 7 Eliz. The said Communion to be administered at such times, and with such limitation, as is specified in the Book of Common Prayer. Provided, That no such limitation by any construction shall be allowed of, but that all Deans, Wardens, Masters, or Heads of Cathedral and Collegiate Churches, Prebendaries, Canons, Vicars, Petty Canons, Singing Men, and all others of the foundation, shall receive the Communion four times yearly at the least.”
And when there is no Communion, Canon 25 declares,
“IN the time of Divine Service and Prayers in all Cathedral and Collegiate Churches, when there is no Communion, it shall be sufficient to wear Surplices; saving that all Deans, Masters, and Heads of Collegiate Churches, Canons, and Prebendaries, being Graduates, shall daily, at the times both of Prayer and Preaching, wear with their Surplices such Hoods as are agreeable to their degrees.”
In Canon 58, the use of copes at parish churches is not enforced,
“EVERY Minister saying the publick Prayers, or ministering the Sacraments, or other Rites of the Church, shall wear a decent and comely Surplice with sleeves, to be provided at the charge of the parish. And if any question arise touching the matter, decency, or comeliness thereof, the same shall be decided by the discretion of the Ordinary. Furthermore, such Ministers as are Graduates shall wear upon their Surplices, at such times, such Hoods as by the orders of the Universities are agreeable to their degrees, which no Minister shall wear (being no Graduate) under pain of suspension. Notwithstanding it shall be lawful for such Ministers as are not Graduates to wear upon their Surplices, instead of Hoods, some decent Tippet of black, so it be not silk”
Complying with the canon regarding surplices seems to have been universally observed (as far as I can tell) after the ejection of Puritan ministers. Some low churchmen did not like the idea of preaching in a surplice and preferred the gown, while High Churchmen continued to preach in surplice. Likewise, the surplice was to be worn at the desk for other liturgical functions. The canon requiring copes to be worn at cathedrals and collegiate churches seems to have been observed throughout the 18th century, for example, in 1738, a report was made, “Bishops, Deans, Canons, in Cathedral churches, wear a cope beside the surplice, and are to put it on at the Communion service, administration of the Sacraments, or any other religious function which is to be performed with solemnity.” Copes seem to have been worn at cathedrals throughout the 18th century for Communion, however, one author noted that they seem to have slipped into disuse towards the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th at Durham Cathedral at least.
I want to comment briefly on funerals and coronations as well as other special state services, which seem to have merited a further dose of ceremonial in the 18th century. Beginning with coronations, we have the coronation service, which can be read online, but it preserves things which are not part of the Book of Common Prayer, such as the oblation. In several instances, we will also see richly embroidered copes worn. For instance, at the coronation of King George I, in 1714, an observer reports that the dean wore a, “rich cope of purple velvet, embroidered with gold and silver.” Likewise at the coronation of King George III, in 1761, an observer reports seeing the Choir of Westminster in surplices, the Gentlemen of the royal chapel in scarlet mantles, the Subdean of chapel-royal in scarlet gown, the Prebendaries of Westminster in surplices and rich copes, and the Dean of Westminster in a surplice and rich cope. At the same coronation service, “The king's Groom of the Vestry, 'in a scarlet dress, holding a perfume pan, burning perfumes,” likewise, bishops vested in mitre and cope for his coronation. Copes were also worn at the coronations of George IV and William IV, in 1821 and 1831, respectively. A word about funerals, they appear to also have merited “extra” ceremonial, especially for royal and noble funerals. For example, bishops usually vest in rochet, chimere, and tippet, but at their funerals, they are often buried with mitre and staff. There are records in the Hierurgia Anglicana of several bishops buried in mitres and with their pastoral staff. Copes were usually worn at funerals, such as at the funeral of the Duke of Buckingham, 1721, the funeral of Marlborough, 1722, which the choir also vested in surplice, likewise at the funeral of King George’s Queen in 1737, the dean vested in cope, at the funeral of King George II in 1760, copes were worn and wax tapers were carried in procession into the church at Westminster Abbey.
I have two addendums, a brief note about processions. It appears they were not part of normal parish or cathedral worship (from what I have found) but did form a part of ceremonial for funerals and coronations and other state services. Special days did have procession such as Rogation Days and Michaelmas. There are records of Rogation processions around 1700 with the sacrist, resident prebendaries, and members of the choir gather for morning prayer and then march in procession through the streets singing. Likewise, Lincoln College reportedly had processions for Michaelmas and All Saint’s in 1749 and probably other years too with the rectors and fellows of the college marching through the streets on those days.
To wrap up, I have a quote from Bishop Tenison on images,
"For the images or pictures of saints, in their former estate here on earth, if they be made with discretion, if they be the representations of such whose saintship no wise man can call in question, if they be designed as their honourable memorials, they who are wise to sobriety do make use of them: and they are permitted in Geneva itself, where remain in the quire of S. peter the pictures of the twelve Prophets on one side, and on the other those of the twelve Apostles, all in wood; also the pictures of the Virgin and S. peter in one of the windows. And we give to such pictures that negative honour which they are worthy of; we value them beyond any images besides that of Christ, we help our memories by them, we forbear any signs of contempt towards them. But worship them we do not so much as with external positive signs; for if we uncover the head, we do it not to them, but at them, to the honour of God, who hath made them so great instruments in the Christian Church, and to the subordinate praise of the saints themselves" (213,214)