Henry Wakefield (bishop of Birmingham)

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Henry Russell Wakefield (1 December 1854 – 9 January 1933) was an Anglican bishop and author [1] in the first quarter of the 20th century. [2] Born on 1 December 1854 he was educated at Tonbridge School and the University of Bonn. Ordained in 1877 after a period at Ripon College Cuddesdon, [3] following two London curacies he was Incumbent at several parishes [4] before senior posts as Prebendary of St Paul's Cathedral, Dean of Norwich [5] and finally Bishop of Birmingham. [6] He was also a member of the London School Board representing the Marylebone Division from 1897-1900 [7] and Mayor of St Marylebone in 1903–1905. [3]

Wakefield was politically active and a close associate of both Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and H H Asquith, Liberal Prime Ministers. [8] At that time, since bishoprics were Crown appointments, the Prime Minister was the key figure in the process and, in 1907, Campbell-Bannerman nominated Wakefield for Bishop of Chichester. [9] The King, Edward VII, asked Campbell-Bannerman to reconsider the appointment and consult the Archbishop of Canterbury who described Wakefield as 'not a very refined or scholarly or cultured man'. [10] Eventually the Dean of Carlisle was appointed to Chichester and in 1911, Wakefield was offered and accepted what was seen as the more suitable post of Bishop of Birmingham. [11]

Wakefield was a strong supporter of British participation in the Great War. He wrote 'I am quite certain that Germany regards England as her greatest competitor, and if she is at war with her she will wish to inflict upon her the severest defeat possible .... but I feel honestly that on this occasion England goes into battle with clean hands and noble motives'. [12] One of Wakefield's own sons was in the Royal Navy, in command of HMS LYSANDER in 1914, and both his other sons served in the military including Gilbert who was wounded on the Western Front and later became a playwright. [13] Russell Wakefield was active in recruitment to the forces, notable at a large Town Hall gathering in 1914, and in 1918 was still pressing clergy to volunteer as chaplains. 'I am, frankly, not over-pleased if I find a parish still thoroughly well-staffed with youngish men. I dislike intensely exercising episcopal pressure in these matters; the persuasion of a tender conscience and of a true patriotism should be more than enough.' [14]

During the First World War, Wakefield once controversially referred to British Roman Catholics as "guests of the nation". This earned him a rebuke from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Clifton, George Burton. [15] Wakefield's Roman Catholic counterpart at Birmingham at the time was Edward Ilsley, under whose metropolitan jurisdiction Clifton Diocese fell.

In October 1918, Wakefield went to Canada, travelling some 18,000 miles explaining the moral issues behind the War. For this, he was awarded the CBE. [13]

Wakefield was described in his Times obituary in January 1933 as a "layman's bishop." [16]

Between 1908–14, he was the sole Church of England representative on the Executive Committee of the National Service League. [17]

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  1. A Fortnight at the Front, 1915; Simple Answers to some Great Questions, 1916; Life won through Death, 1917; and The Church after the War 1918 British Library Catalogue accessed 21:20 June 12th 2008
  2. The Bishop Of Birmingham. Consecration At Southwark Cathedral. (News) The Times Monday, Oct 30, 1911; pg. 4; Issue 39729; col C
  3. 1 2 Who was Who 1987-1990: London, A & C Black, 1991 ISBN   0-7136-3457-X
  4. Barnes, Swanscombe, Lower Sydenham, Sandgate and St Mary's, Bryanston Square Who was Who (ibid)
  5. The Times, Friday, Nov 19, 1909; pg. 11; Issue 39121; col D New Dean Of Norwich
  6. Malden Richard (ed) (1920). Crockford's Clerical Directory for 1920 (51st edn). London: The Field Press. p. 132.
  7. "London School Board Election". The Daily News . 27 November 1897.
  8. Lambeth Palace Library, Davidson X.
  9. The process is explained in 'High and Mitred', by Bernard Palmer, SPCK, 1992
  10. Lambeth Palace Library, Davidson X. Coincidentally, the Bishop of Wakefield had been offered translation to Chichester but had turned it down. Had he accepted, the Archbishop would have recommended Russell Wakefield for the see of Wakefield, which would have led to a linguistic issue.
  11. Lambeth Palace Library, Davidson X
  12. Birmingham Diocesan Magazine, September 1914
  13. 1 2 Church Times obituary, 13.1.1933
  14. Birmingham Diocesan Magazine, April 1918
  15. Snape, Michael (2002). "British Catholicism and the British Army in the First World War". British Catholic History. 26 (2): 330–1, 314–358. doi: 10.1017/S0034193200030909 . ISSN   0034-1932.
  16. The Times, Tuesday, Jan 10, 1933; pg. 7; Issue 46338; col A Obituary Bishop Russell Wakefield
  17. Annual Reports of the National Service League
Church of England titles
Preceded by Dean of Norwich
Succeeded by
Preceded by Bishop of Birmingham
Succeeded by