08 September 2016

The Irish priest, the wafer and
‘the truly aggrieved’ who were
‘left as sheep without a shepherd’

Father Richard Enraght (Wikipedia, reproduced by kind permission of the Principal & Chapter of Pusey House Oxford; Hall Collection 3/13, Pusey House Oxford)

Patrick Comerford

Last week, while I was staying in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, I wrote [31 August 2016] about the Revd Thomas Pelham Dale (1821-1892), a pioneering 19th century Anglo-Catholic who had been a Fellow of Sidney Sussex and was who was jailed for his ‘ritualistic’ high church practices.

A friend from Lichfield Cathedral, Stephen Wright, commented on my Facebook link: ‘Possibly worse was the case of Fr Richard William Enraght of Holy Trinity Bordesley Birmingham. This was known as the Bordesley Wafer Case. The follow-on from this case, where the wafer was evidence, is particularly interesting from the ritualistic angle.’

Then, four days later, as I travelled through Moneymore, Co Derry, on Sunday afternoon [4 September 2016], from the ordination of the Revd Suzanne Cousins in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry, to the ordination of three deacons in Saint Gobhan’s Church, Seagoe, Co Armagh, I was reminded once again of the story of Richard Enraght and the ‘Bordesley Wafer Case.’

The Revd Richard William Enraght (1837-1898) was an Irish-born Anglican priest and one of the Anglo-Catholic priests who were prosecuted and jailed in the 19th century for their ritualism. Like Thomas Pelham Dale, Richard Enraght was prosecuted by the Church Association’s lawyers and jailed by Lord Penzance. He refused to attend his own trial on grounds of conscience, was found guilty under the Public Worship Regulation Act and received the maximum penalty: arrest, imprisonment and dismissal from his parish.

Saint John’s Church, Desertlynn, where the Revd Matthew Enraght was a curate (Photograph: Kenneth Allen/Wikipedia)

Enraght was born on 23 February 1837 at Moneymore, Co Derry, where his father, the Revd Matthew Enraght (1805-1882), was the Curate of Saint John’s, Desertlynn.

Matthew Enraght was born in Limerick, while Richard’s mother Sarah was the daughter of Henry Thomas Houghton of Kilmanock House, Arthurstown, Co Wexford. Soon after Richard’s birth, Matthew Enraght moved from the Diocese of Armagh to Dublin, where he became the curate of Donnybrook and Booterstown. Richard’s mother died while he was still an infant, and his father married Maria Massey in 1843.

When Matthew Enraght later moved to England, to parishes in the dioceses of Canterbury and Chichester, Richard remained in Ireland and in 1860, at the age of 23, he graduated BA from Trinity College Dublin. He then moved to England, and in 1861 he was ordained deacon in Gloucester Cathedral by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol. He became a curate at Saint Bartholomew’s in Corsham, Wiltshire, and was ordained priest in 1862.

After three years, Enraght moved to Saint Luke the Evangelist in Sheffield in 1864. There he showed his Anglo-Catholic sympathies in a pamphlet, To The Poor The Gospel is Preached, in which he criticised the pew rent system for barring the poor from churches and criticised a ‘Bible-Ritualism’ that over-relied on scriptural authority for what is permissible in liturgical ceremonial.

He moved to a parish in Lincolnshire for a year in 1866, and then in 1867, he moved to Brighton as curate to the Revd Arthur Wagner, the Tractarian vicar of Saint Paul’s and the ‘Father’ of the Catholic Revival in Brighton.

Wagner held Tractarian views since his student days at Cambridge. He built churches and schools in Brighton and also built 400 houses for the poor, all at his own expense. But he was criticised in the House of Commons for his liturgical practices and for appointing Anglo-Catholic priests as vicars in the five churches he had financed.

In 1873, the Brighton Gazette reported that Father Wagner had refused to answer questions in court that would ‘involve him to breach the confessional.’ Following this report, Wagner was assaulted on the streets of Brighton. At another Brighton parish, Father John Purchas of Saint James’s was prosecuted for using vestments and the eastward position, but he refused to attend his trial or to pay the costs of £2,096 the court awarded against him.

At Brighton, Enraght shared his Anglo-Catholic views in two pamphlets, Who are True Churchmen and Who are Conspirators? and The Last Settlement of English Reformation in 1662.

In 1871, Enraght was appointed priest-in-charge of Saint Andrew’s Church, Portslade-by-Sea, with Saint Helen’s Church, Hangleton. Portslade was just three miles from Brighton and Enraght was able to continue his role in the Brighton branch of the Society of the Holy Cross, to publish pamphlets and to write letters to the Brighton Gazette. His pamphlets there included Catholic Worship and The Real Presence and Holy Scripture.

The Brighton Gazette accused Enraght of Puseyism and of trying to turn Saint Nicholas Church School in Portslade into a Puseyite school, and attacked his plans for a retreat at Lancing College. When the Disraeli Government passed the Public Worship Regulation Act in 1874, the Brighton Gazette called for his prosecution.

Holy Trinity Church, Bordesley (Photograph by Phyllis Nicklin 1954, from the University of Birmingham ePapers; reuse permitted under Creative Commons licence Attribution)

Later that year, Enraght moved to Birmingham as Vicar of Holy Trinity, Bordesley, where he succeeded the Rev Dr Joseph Oldknow, Birmingham’s first Anglo-Catholic priest, and he found friends in two neighbouring Irish-born priests in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, the brothers James and Thomas Pollock, both graduates of TCD and both priests at Saint Alban the Martyr in Highgate.

An indication of Enraght’s popularity was the attendance at the Sunday Eucharist, with a congregation of between 400 and 500. The Sunday Evensong with sermon regularly attracted 700 to 800 people. With his parish’s support, Enraght introduced weekday celebrations of the Eucharist. His practices at Holy Trinity included the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, candles on the altar, wearing a chasuble and alb, using wafers at the Eucharst, mixing water with the wine, making the sign of the Cross, bowing during the Gloria, and allowing the choir to sing the Agnus Dei.

On 9 February 1879, one of Enraght’s churchwardens, John Perkins, came forward for Holy Communion but took a Consecrated Wafer to use as an exhibit in court as evidence of the use of wafer-bread. The incident created intense horror and indignation as it became known.

Henry Philpott, Bishop of Worcester, had prohibited the actions, but Enraght refused to attend his own trial on 12 July 1879. He claimed Lord Penzance and the Court of Arches derived their authority not from ‘this Church and Realm’ but from an Act of Parliament, and so had no ‘spiritual jurisdiction over me …’

The Consecrated Wafer Perkins had taken deceptively was produced in court as evidence, marked with pen and ink and filed as an exhibit. The case became known nationally as the ‘Bordesley Wafer Case.’

In his absence, Enraght was convicted on 9 August 1879 on 16 counts. On 31 August 1879, he denounced Perkins from the altar. At the next vestry election, the indignant parishioners rejected Perkins when he was nominated as churchwarden.

A cartoon in the Birmingham ‘Daily Post’ on 26 November 1880 showing Richard Enraght entering Warwick Prison in chains

Eventually, Enraght was arrested at his vicarage on 27 November 1880 and he was taken to Warwick Prison to serve his sentence. Four other priests in England were jailed around the same time under this legislation: Arthur Tooth, Thomas Pelham Dale, Sidney Faithorn Green and James Bell Cox.

Meanwhile, thanks to the English Church Union, the Consecrated Wafer was recovered from the court and given into the care of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who reverently consumed the host in his private chapel at Addington on 12 December 1879.

During the two months Enright spent in prison, there were protests throughout England and in the US. Edward Bouverie Pusey wrote to The Times in defence of Enraght and others: ‘They have not been struggling for themselves but for their people. The Ritualists do not ask to interfere with devotion of others … only to be allowed, in their worship of God, to use a Ritual which a few years ago no one disputed.’

Enraght spent that Christmas in prison. He was released after 49 days when the Court of Appeal ruled on a technicality in the writ for committal. The prosecutor tried to have Enraght returned to jail, but the English Church Union forestalled this attempt with its own legal actions.

When an appeal to the House of Lords failed in May 1882, Enraght was liable to another term in prison, and the parish of Holy Trinity, Bordesley, was declared vacant three months later. Meanwhile, Enraght’s father, the Revd Matthew Enraght, died at Clifton in Bristol on 13 August 1882.

In March 1883, Bishop Philpott revoked Enraght’s licence and appointed another priest to the benefice, against the wishes of the congregation. When Bishop Philpott preached at Holy Trinity two months later on 6 May 1883, the churchwardens handed him a formal protest, saying: ‘We, the truly aggrieved, have been left as sheep without a shepherd.’

However, a Royal Commission report that year marked a turning point, and the repression of ritualism in the Church of England was soon abandoned.

After Enraght was evicted from Holy Trinity, Bordesley, he worked for the next nine years in East London at Saint Michael’s, Bromley-by-Bow (1884-1888) and Saint Gabriel’s, Poplar (1888-1895). In this period of hardship, the Church Union’s Sustentation Fund supported the Enraght family.

In 1895, he was presented to Saint Swithun’s Church, Bintree, and he ended his ministry and life in that quiet country parish in Norfolk. He died on Saint Matthew’s Day, 21 September 1898, and was buried at the south-east end of Saint Swithun’s churchyard, Bintree.

Richard and Dorothea Enright were the parents of seven children. Their second son, Canon Hawtrey Enraght, was ordained priest in Norfolk in 1896, and their son-in-law, the Revd Edgar Reeves, became the Vicar of Walsingham.

Ten years ago, in February 2006, Brighton and Hove City Council erected a blue plaque at his former home in Station Road, Portslade, to honour Richard Enraght as a ‘Priest, fighter for religious freedom.’ Later that year, Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company named one of its new fleet buses, No 905, after Father Richard Enraght. Holy Trinity Church in Bordesley has long been closed, and the building was sold by the Diocese of Birmingham.


Frank Callery said...

A really sorry story, how twisted was that mentality and how state-infested. I would cede before ceasing.

Anonymous said...

I've always found it pleasing that so many of those dear ritualists had an Irish connection.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. One of his sons William was married to my Aunt. Died shortly before I was born. A very kind man by all reports was a doctor and served in WW1 at Gallipoli and Salinika. He died aged 86 in Etchinghill near Folkestone