Travels with Bishop Welldon

Stafford Crawley (Canon of Windsor, 1938-1947), after completing his education at Harrow & Magdalen College, Oxford, spent several months travelling in India, Tibet and China in 1899, after which he returned to England to attend theological college to prepare for ordination. Canon Crawley’s diaries, along with a large collection of his family’s correspondence and some photographs, were presented to St George’s Chapel Archives by his children in 1984 and have since proved a fascinating resource for the study of society during Crawley’s lifetime. His diary of 1899 is the earliest held here and it is by far the most detailed of the collection as there are very few days with no entry.

On his journey to India Crawley travelled with James Edward Welldon, who was to be consecrated as Bishop of Calcutta. Crawley writes in his diary [SGC M.126/K/1] that Welldon is a great man but that he (Crawley) cannot share his thoughts and admits that he doesn’t amuse or interest Welldon. Although he feels he is unable to be of any practical use to Welldon while staying in Calcutta, Crawley is never critical of him. However, evidence of Welldon’s capacity for expressing himself forcefully is seen in Crawley‘s diary entry, reporting that Catholics in India are angry with Welldon for saying that Catholic nations everywhere are declining. Welldon’s maxim about schoolmastering was that “boys must first be crushed as if with a sledgehammer, then afterwards one can allow any liberties”. Crawley kept in touch with Welldon while training for ministry at Cuddesdon and afterwards.

A further impression of Welldon’s character may be found in this poem which E.M.Forster wrote about him after the bishop had criticised Labour MPs for “vulgar profanity”.

My brethren, nothing on earth is finer
Than a truly refined inarticulate miner
(Or may we say ‘under the earth,’ for there
Is a miner’s place, not up in the air ?) ;
But he must be refined, he must be meek,
Expert at his job, yet unable to speak,
He must not complain or use swear words or spit ;
Much is expected of men in the pit.

It is different for me. I have earned the right,
Through position and birth to be impolite.
I have always been used to the best of things,
I was nourished at Eton and crowned at King’s,
I pushed to the front in religion and play,
I shoved all competitors out of the way ;
I ruled at Harrow, I went to Calcutta,
I buttered my bread and jammed my butter,
And returned as a bishop, enormous of port,
Who stood in a pulpit and said what he thought.
Yes, I said what I thought and thought what I said,
They hadn’t got butter, they hadn’t got bread,
They hadn’t got jam or tobacco or tea,
They hadn’t a friend, but they always had me.
And I’m different to them. I needn’t be meek,
Because I have learned the proper technique;
Because I’m a scholar, a don, and a dean,
It’s all in good taste when I’m vulgar or mean.

I can bully or patronize, just which I please ;
I am different to them. . . . But those Labour M.P.s
How dare they be rude ? They ought to have waited
Until they were properly educated.
They must be punished, they’ve got to be stopped,
Parliamentary privilege ought to be dropped.
They shall be scourged and buried alive
If they trespass on My prerogative.

May I most clearly state, ere I lay down my pen,
That rudeness is only for gentlemen ?
As it was in the beginning, it shall be … Amen !

Jill Hume, Archives volunteer

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.