Great Churchmen No. 24
Second Bishop of Liverpool
Published by Church Book Room Press
(St Peter's Hall, Oxford, Founded March 11th, 1928)
The great cathedral that now dominates Merseyside is not the only visible monument that derives from the Bishop’s inspiration. In the academic world of Oxford there is another, not less remarkable. For years past it had been his ambition that at the heart of the University that he loved there should be a College to perpetuate that school of thought to which he had devoted his life. Daring and unattainable in this present age as such a project might seem, the impossible has once more been achieved, and St. Peter’s Hall is the outcome.
St. Peter’s Hall in the estimate of his friends must for all time be associated with the creative energy of the Bishop’s son, Christopher Maude Chavasse, O.B.E., M.C., D.D., himself its first Master, and now Bishop of Rochester. To his filial piety, to his resourcefulness, to his undaunted spirit, it is due that this remarkable enterprise, inaugurated only in 1928, now takes its place in the life of Oxford, whether social, intellectual or athletic, with full collegiate status.
But the son quite definitely claims the father as Founder. “St. Peter’s was,” he says, “founded in his memory on his death, March 11th, 1928: and the trust-deed describes him as the founder: for the Hall is at once the crown of his labours, and the fruit of his personal influence in Oxford.” (l) Again, preaching at the centenary of his father’s birth, he said, “It is given to few to build a cathedral and to found an Oxford College. But such achievements seemed rather to happen round him, than he actually to effect them; and they happened just because of what he was. His memorial (2) in this Church of St. Peter-le-Bailey (now your chapel) is truly symbolic of his whole ministry. It portrays him at his prayers.”
How, it may well be asked, could a new college arise in the tightly-packed University city? The answer is, in brief, St. Peter-le-Bailey in New Inn Hall Street. This Church, with its property of two-and-a-half acres in the centre of Oxford, and with the Rectory and Hannington Hall, were admirably adapted to form the chapel, library, dining hall of a new college. Behind was room for the erection of two quadrangles to accommodate some ninety undergraduates. Sir Herbert Baker himself sketched the “lay-out” and supervised the admirable designs of the architect, Mr. R. Fielding Dodd. An appeal was made for £150,000. Lord Nuffield, whose portrait hangs in the Hall along with those of the two Bishops, assisted with characteristic munificence. The whole sum has now been raised. And the Hall, as recorded above, has been officially honoured by Convocation with collegiate status.
The following record speaks for itself. At the outbreak of the war in 1939, some two hundred men had passed through the Hall, of whom eighty-eight had already taken Holy Orders, and most of the remainder had entered the teaching profession. Of these, three had gained First Classes in the schools, and sixty-nine Second Classes: fourteen had been awarded University scholarships and prizes. Thirty had been granted diplomas in theology or education. On the river and in the playing field the renown of the Hall had spread. Its boats, which started at the bottom of the river in 1930, by 1939 occupied high positions in the 2nd Division, both in the Eights and in the Torpids.
On two occasions (1933 and 1939) its hockey eleven had figured in the Cup Final.
In 1940 the first Master, on his appointment to the Bishopric of Rochester, was succeeded by the Rev. J. P. Thornton-Duesbury, formerly fellow of Corpus, and more recently head master of St. George’s School, Jerusalem. In 1945 he was followed by Canon R. W. Howard, distinguished Cambridge Scholar, head master of Liverpool College. Each an able administrator and a wise leader: each an inheritor of the full tradition of Bishop F. J. Chavasse. Well indeed has the Founder’s faith been rewarded.
>> Chapter 5: The Witness of Character
1) Bishop C. M. Chavasse, History of St. Peter’s Hall, p. 3.
2) Replica of that in Liverpool Cathedral.