The Bishop's Teapot

by Alison Millard

Published in "The Review of the Charlotte Mary Yonge Fellowship"
Edition Number 19 – Winter 2004


The Bishop's Teapot

On 21 November 2003 I was reading the Diary feature in Church Times. It was written by the Revd Jonathan Boardman, Chaplain of All Saints', Rome, and in the last section he described how he revives his flagging energies with a cup of tea from one of All Saints' heirlooms, a silver George IV teapot by Garrard's. So far, so (slightly) interesting, but you may guess my reaction to the next paragraph:

"It carries an inscription that has become etched on my imagination: This teapot, once the property of John Coleridge Patteson, first Missionary Bishop in Melanesia, killed by the natives, 20 Sept 1871, was given by his sister, Fanny, to the Reverend HWG de Nancrede.' "

Of course I had to try to find out more, so I wrote to Fr Boardman for further and better particulars. In the meantime I also corresponded with CMYF members Lyle Eveille and Fr Hugh Prosser and with Mr Michael Farrer of the Anglo-Catholic History Society. The latter was greatly taken with the thought of the Bishop using his silver teapot "on a wild Pacific island", calling it his "one bit of civilisation". However, Fr Prosser pointed out that "on Norfolk Island the Dining Room was fitted up to resemble an Oxford or Cambridge Hall with the Bishop presiding at the Top Table," where a Georgian silver teapot would very likely have been in its element.

Fr Boardman sent me a cordial postcard which shed light on the matter, explaining that Fanny Patteson, who as we know commissioned Charlotte Yonge to write her brother's biography, was resident in Rome in the latter years of the nineteenth century. Fr HWG de Nancrede was an honorary assistant priest at All Saints' at the time; Fanny gave or bequeathed the teapot to him and he gave it to the church on his death. Nothing too remarkable about that, though I would have liked - and would still be most grateful - to know something about the splendidly surnamed cleric.

What did make me open my eyes wide was Fr Boardman's closing sentence: "A correspondent who knows about Liverpool Cathedral says the stained glass image of JCP has him holding a teapot." Wow!

As you can imagine, I had a letter in the post to the Dean of Liverpool Cathedral without delay. He kindly passed it an to Canon Noel Vincent, recently retired from the position of Canon Treasurer and author of the Pitkin Guide The Stained Glass of Liverpool Cathedral (see end for details). He replied very promptly thus:

 

"It is indeed true that there is a representation of an ecclesiastical tea party which appears in the "Parsons' Window" on the south side of the nave. However, it is not Bishop Patteson holding the silver teapot, it is John Venn, who is taking tea with a group of clergy and laymen from the Clap-ham Sect who also formed part of the Eclectic Society, an Evangelical group who were largely responsible for forming the Church Missionary Society, as it was formerly called, in 1799. When the Eclectics were formed in 1791, the rules stated that they should meet every second Monday and tea would be served at 4.15. The silver teapot they used was given by one of their members, John Bacon, who was a sculptor. The teapot became part of the history of CMS and was mentioned in their 200th anniversary literature a few years ago."

So not a Tractarian teapot, then.

However, Canon Vincent went on to say that Bishop Patteson is depicted towards the bottom of the third lancet of the great east window. That is based on the Te Deum and he is one of "the noble army of martyrs"; he looks rather like Tennyson, as he is bearded and wears a black cloak and broad-brimmed hat, but he holds a piece of white paper bearing his name. There is also a native of Melanesia, part of a token group of indigenous martyrs together with figures from China, Madagascar and Africa. You need a magnifying glass to be sure of identifying them in the booklet and, Canon Vincent warns, a pair of binoculars if you go to see them at the cathedral.

Perhaps just as interesting to CMYF members is the rose window at the east end of the north choir aisle. The scene at the bottom shows missionaries of the Melanesian Mission landing in the Solomon Islands from their ship Southern Cross. I like to think that Charlotte Yonge would have been quietly thrilled to see her gift included.

In my letter I asked if John Coleridge Patteson had had any connection with Liverpool to prompt commemoration of him there. Canon Vincent pointed out that his martyrdom in 1871 was only just over thirty years before the foundation stone of the cathedral was laid, so it is no wonder that his devotion and ministry should be in the minds of the committee which worked on the content of one of the first windows to be completed in the main body of the cathedral before its consecration in 1924.

I should like to thank all those I consulted about this, especially, of course, Canon Noel Vincent and the unfailingly kind and helpful staff in the Cathedral Office and the SPCK shop.

The booklet is available only from SPCK Bookshop, Liverpool Cathedral, St James Mount, Liverpool, LI 7AZ; tel: 0151 709 1897; email: liverpool@spck.org.uk. A cheque for "Not more than £5" should cover the cost of a booklet plus packing and postage.

Alison Millard


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