25 May 2023

You never know what you
can find at the back of
an old railway station

The Mitre behind the railway station in Knaresborough … but which bishop is it named after? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

Knaresborough railway station is a Grade II listed station at the north side of the Knaresborough Viaduct. The traditional buildings on the east-bound platform have been turned into commercial use, including a café in the old booking office and a shop selling old memorabilia. The unusual station signal box was built in 1890 built onto the end of an adjoining row of terraced houses.

But while Charlotte and I were waiting there earlier this month to catch the train back to York, my eyes were caught by the Mitre Hotel beside the station.

The Bishops of Ripon are suffragan bishops in the Diocese of Leeds, but were known as the Bishops of Knaresborough from 1909 until 2015. The Bishops of Knaresborough included Frank Weston (1935-2003), who was Bishop of Knaresborough in the then Diocese of Ripon and Leeds in 1997-2003, and a nephew of the leading Anglo-Catholic bishop, Frank Weston, Bishop of Zanzibar.

The Mitre sits on the site of a former public house, the Wheatsheaf, that was rebuilt ca 1923. I wondered which Bishop of Knaresborough the pub had been named after. But a plaque on the wall soon explained: ‘The name is an acknowledgement to the high churchman Bishop William Stubbs (1825-1901), distinguished theologian, ecclesiastical historian and Bishop of Oxford, born in the town.’

William Stubbs (1825-1901) was Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford in 1866-1884, Bishop of Chester (1884-1889) and Bishop of Oxford (1889-1901).

William Stubbs was born on 21 June 1825 in a house on the High Street, Knaresborough, the son of William Morley Stubbs, a solicitor, and his wife, Mary Ann Henlock. He was educated at Ripon Grammar School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated MA in 1848, obtaining a first-class in Literae Humaniores and a third in mathematics.

Stubbs was elected a Fellow of Trinity College Oxford while he was the Rector of Navestock, Essex (1850-1866). He married Catherine Dellar, daughter of John Dellar of Navestock, in 1859, and they were the parents of several children. He was librarian at Lambeth Palace, and in 1862 was he an unsuccessful candidate for the Chichele Professorship of Modern History at Oxford.

Stubbs was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford in 1866, and with the post he was ex officio a Fellow of Oriel College. He held the chair until 1884. His lectures were thinly attended, and he found them a distraction from his historical work. Some of his statutory lectures are published in his Lectures on Mediaeval and Modern History.

He founded the Oxford University School of Modern History in 1872, allowing postclassical history to be taught as a distinct subject for the first time. He accepted the patronage of the Stubbs Society during his time at Oxford.

Stubbs was rector of Cholderton, Wiltshire, from 1875 to 1879, when he was appointed a canon of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. He served on the ecclesiastical courts commission in 1881-1883 and wrote the weighty appendices to the report.

William Stubbs, who gives name to The Mitre, was Bishop of Chester and of Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

He became Bishop of Chester in 1884 and was Bishop of Oxford from 1889 until his death. As Bishop of Oxford he was also Chancellor of the Order of the Garter. He was a member of the Chetham Society, and served as vice-president from 1884.

Stubbs was a High Churchman, and he acted as an assessor to the archbishop in the trial of Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln.

An attack of illness in November 1900 was serious blow to Stubbs. However, he attended the funeral of Queen Victoria on 2 February 1901, and preached before King Edward VII and Kaiser Wilhelm II on the following day.

Stubbs’s illness became critical on 20 April. He died in Cuddesdon on 22 April 1901, and he was buried at All Saints’ Church, Cuddesdon, next to the palace of the Bishops of Oxford.

In England, the US and throughout Europe, Stubbs was regarded in his day as the leading English historical scholar. Among his many distinctions he was DD and honorary DCL of Oxford, LLD of Cambridge and Edinburgh, held honorary doctorates from Heidelberg and Kyiv, and he was an honorary member of academies in Prussia, Bavaria, Denmark, France and the US.

Stubbs argued that the theory of the unity and continuity of history should not remove distinctions between ancient and modern history. He believed that work on ancient history is a useful preparation for the study of modern history, but either may advantageously be studied apart. He also believed that the effects of individual character and human nature will render generalisations vague and useless.

While arguing that history is useful as a mental discipline and a part of a liberal education, he recommended its study chiefly for its own sake.

Stubbs published his Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum in 1858, with a second edition in 1897, setting forth episcopal consecration data in England from the year 597. This was followed by many other later works, and particularly by his share in Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents, edited with the Revd AW Haddan. He also edited 19 volumes for the Rolls series of Chronicles and Memorials.

However, Stubbs is best remembered for his three-volume Constitutional History of England (1874-1878), once the standard authority on the subject. It was followed by a companion volume, Select Charters and Other Illustrations of English Constitutional History.

In his day, Stubbs was regarded as being in the front rank of historical scholars, both as an author and a critic, However, his work is not entirely unquestionable. Some modern historians question his acceptance of some mediaeval chronicles, written by monastical scribes whose views were influenced by Church politics at the time.

Stubbs’s ideas of a confrontational political framework have been superseded by KB McFarlane’s ‘community of interest’ theory. He is seen by many today as an historical scholar with little or no experience of public affairs, with views of the present that were romantically historicised. They say he was drawn to history by an antiquarian passion for the past, as well as a patriotic and populist impulse to identify the nation and its institutions as the collective subject of English history.

The Mitre in Knaresborough was also the birthplace of local philanthropist and entrepreneur George A Moore (1928-2016), whose was the landlord. Moore formed a joinery and coach building business that expanded the company into manufacturing high quality kitchen furniture, and Moore’s Furniture Group employed hundreds of people near Wetherby.

The George A Moore Foundation began as a staff welfare fund in 1970 and has become a well-respected grant-making foundation. It continues to support charities, mainly in the Yorkshire area.

As for the Stubbs Society for Foreign Affairs and Defence, commonly known as the Stubbs Society, it remains Oxford’s oldest officially affiliated paper-reading and debating society. It is the university’s forum for scholarship in international history, strategic policy and foreign affairs, and has welcomed many prominent speakers, including Home Secretaries, Lords Chancellor, Archbishops of Canterbury, world leaders, Nobel laureates, Victoria Cross recipients, journalists and academics.

The Railway Station in Knaresborough maintains its traditional appearance (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (47) 25 May 2023

The Ascension depicted in the East Window in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (Church of Ireland), Armagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Eastertide and Ascensiontide continue throughout this week, until the Day of Pentecost next Sunday (28 May 2023).

Today, the calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers the Venerable Bede (735), Monk at Jarrow, Scholar, Historian, and Aldhelm (709), Bishop of Sherborne. Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection.

I am reflecting each morning during Ascensiontide in these ways:

1, Looking at a depiction of the Ascension in images or stained glass windows in a church or cathedral I know;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The East window in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, was designed by Sir Thomas Drew and executed by Heaton, Butler and Bayne (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The East Window, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh:

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, is the seat of the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and the Diocese of Armagh. The origins of the site are said to date back to the fifth century and the foundation of a monastery by Saint Patrick.

When Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, visited Armagh in 1004, he acknowledging it as the head cathedral of Ireland. He was buried at Armagh cathedral after his death at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. However, Armagh’s claim to the primacy of Ireland was not formally acknowledged until the Synod of Ráth Breasail in 1111.

Throughout the Middle Ages, the cathedral was one of the most important churches in Ireland, although the archbishops of Armagh sometimes lived, at various time in Dundalk, Drogheda or Termonfeckin in Co Louth.

The East window in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral depicts the Ascension. It was designed by Sir Thomas Drew and executed by Heaton, Butler and Bayne in 1903. It replaced a Warrington window of 1849.

Four of the lower panels with the exception of the centre panel quote Psalm 68: 18 from left to right: ‘Thou art gone up on high’, ‘Thou hast led captivity captive’, ‘and received gifts for men’, ‘yea: even for thine enemies’ – probably a reference to Archbishop Marcus Gervais Beresford’s role in negotiations during the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland.

The centre panel in the lower row depicts Saint Patrick with the coat of arms of the Archbishops of Armagh and a reference to the year 445 when Saint Patrick supposedly built the first church at Armagh.

The window has five lancets, measuring 5580 mm tall, the four side panels 820 mm wide, and the centre panels 920 mm, and 16 tracery-lights.

The window is in memory of Archbishop John George Beresford, Archbishop Marcus Gervais Beresford and Alexander James Beresford-Hope.

Lord John George de la Poer Beresford (1773-1862), a younger son of the 1st Marquess of Waterford, was Archbishop of Armagh for 40 years (1822-1862).

The window also commemorates his immediate successor as archbishop and first cousin once removed, Marcus Gervais Beresford (1801-1885), who was Archbishop of Armagh (1862-1885) at the time of the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland.

Their kinsman, Sir Alexander James Beresford Beresford Hope (1820-1887), was, along with John Mason Neale and Benjamin Webb, a founder of the Cambridge Camden Society, later the Ecclesiological Society. He also supervised the commissioning and construction of All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, London, to the designs of William Butterfield on behalf of the Ecclesiological Society.

The East Window and the chancel in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 9: 35-10: 20 (NRSVA):

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’

10 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. 9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for that town.

16 ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.’

The window is in memory of Archbishop John George Beresford, Archbishop Marcus Gervais Beresford and Alexander Beresford-Hope (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘Accountability and Care.’ USPG’s Research and Learning Advisor, Jo Sadgrove, introduced this theme on Sunday, when she reflected on accountability on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death today (25 May 2023).

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Thursday 25 May 2023):

Let us pray for the Black Lives Matter movement. May we work towards a world free from prejudice and may all who seek racial justice be upheld by the power of solidarity.


God our maker,
whose Son Jesus Christ gave to your servant Bede
grace to drink in with joy the word
that leads us to know you and to love you:
in your goodness
grant that we also may come at length to you,
the source of all wisdom,
and stand before your face;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Merciful God,
who gave such grace to your servant Bede
that he served you with singleness of heart
and loved you above all things:
help us, whose communion with you
has been renewed in this sacrament,
to forsake all that holds us back from following Christ
and to grow into his likeness from glory to glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, is the seat of the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and the Diocese of Armagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org