Posts Tagged ‘Archbishop of Canterbury’

George Abbot

July 20, 2011
George Abbot

George Abbot

George Abbot (1562-1633), Archbishop of Canterbury, founder of Abbot’s Hospital (an almshouse), translator of the King James Bible.

Little has been written of George Abbot: three books, a PhD theses and an article in a learned journal. He wrote more, than has been written about him.

Tudor Guildford c 1617 consisted of a High Street, houses lining the High Street, three churches and a medieval bridge crossing the river. [see George Abbot’s Guildford]

Summer of 1652 (or so the myth goes), Alice (who was carrying George) had a longing for pike. She also had a dream that if she ate pike her son would grow to become a great man.

The Abbot’s lived in a house by the river (a picture of which can be found in Abbot’s Hospital) adjacent to the medieval bridge.

The morning following her dream, Alice cast her pail into the River Wey to draw water. Into her pail lept a pike.

On hearing of the tale, people offered to be sponsors of the child at the baptismal which took place at St Nicolas Church. His God parents sponsored him through school and university.

George attended the Royal Grammar School at the top of the High Street, then Oxford.

Was it George? There were six sons of Alice and Maurice.

Robert Abbot went on to become Bishop of Salisbury.

Maurice Abbot (named after his father) was a founder of the East India Company, Alderman, then Sherrif and finally Lord Mayor of London.

The family grew up in a time of religious upheaval. Marice was a local clothier.

A memorial to Maurice and Alice can be found in Holy Trinity Church. Centrepiece of the memorial is a lectern with what is assumed to be a Bible.

This was strange time. During this period Guildford produced five bishops!

John Parkhurst studied the Coverdale Bible and Tyndale Bible, even though banned at the time. For a while he was exiled to Zurich. He was Bishop of Norwich. On his death, his library was bequethed to Guildford and housed at the Royal Grammar School. His library contained many radical books. These would have been seen and read by George Abbot as he was a pupil at the school at the time.

The labels we apply today did not apply at the time, but if we were to apply labels, then George Abbot was a Calvanist and a Puritan. He was never a parish priest but believed in Bishops. He was primarily an academic.

He wrote Briefe Description of the Whole Worlde. This has recently been republished with the Master of Abbot’s Hospital as editor.

He gave 30 lectures on the Book of Jonah, these were then published in 1600 as Expostion on the Prophet Jonah.

George Abbot became Master of an Oxford College, Dean of Westminster.

He had as patron Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset.

It was during this time that he engaged in a bitter feud with William Laud, who he tried to stop getting a Mastership of an Oxford College. It was a bitter feud that was to last a lifetime.

George Abbot believed in predestination, that is only the elect go to heaven, the rest go to hell.

He acquired a new patron George Home, Earl of Dunbar. Chancellor of the Exchequer and a man who had the ear of James I.

George Abbot and the Earl of Dunbar put the case for Bishops in Scotland.

1609 appointed as Bishop of Coventry.

1610 appointed as Bishop of London.

Lancelot Andrewes was expected to be appointed as the next Archsbishop of Canterbury, but to the surpise of everyone, James I (acting on the advice of Dunbar) appointed George Abbot.

It was not a popular choice. The Puritans suspected him, the Catholics (with good cause) hated him. The Bishops did not like it, neither did the clergy.

George Abbot was enthroned as Archbishop in 1611, the same year that saw the publication of the King James Bible.

Six companies, two in London, two in Cambridge, two in Cambridge were appointed by James 1 to produce a new Bible. George Abbot was a member of the Oxford company.

As Archbishop, George Abbot set up a network of spies and informers. He hunted down Catholics. Catholic priests were executed.

March 1612 the last burning of a priest for heresy.

George Abbot opposed marriages to Catholics. This angered the King and eventually led to a rift between George Abbot and James I.

He opposed the marriage of Prince Charles to a Catholic.

There was no warmth between George Abbot and Charles I.

George Abbot refused to licence a sermon that proposed more money should go to the King.

Ironically George Abbot was in touch with the mood in the country, but that did not help.

George Abbot was banished to the Manor of Ford in Kent. He was stripped of his authority. His duties were now exercised by William Laud, his lifelong enemy.

1621 George Abbot killed a gamekeeper. It was an accident. James I said no big deal. But he fell foul of Canon Law, thou shalt not kill. It cast a shadow over what was left of his life.

He spent the remainder of his life in Croydon, Archbishop in name only.

He died in Croydon, where his funeral took place. He lies entombed in Holy Trinity Church in Guildford.

The legacy of George Abbot was twofold.

Abbot’s Hospital (1619), an almshouse for 24 men and women of Guildford. Five farms were also gifted to provide an income. Adjacent was a Manufactuary to help the ailing wool trade. It had four farms to provide an income. [see George Abbot and Abbot’s Hospital]

George Abbot was one of the translators of the King James Bible. In that role he contributed to the English language memorable phrases.

Turn the world upside down
scales fall from your eyes
no small stir

Was he popular? No. But he would say he listened to his God and that was who he obeyed.

Based on an excellent talk given by Catherine Ferguson at St Nicolas Church in Guildford. Part of the King James Bible Celebrations 2011.

George Abbot’s Guildford

June 29, 2011
George Abbot

George Abbot

George Abbot (1562-1633), Archbishop of Canterbury, contributor to the King James Bible, founder of Abbot’s Hospital (an almshouse top end of Guildford High Street opposite Holy Trinity Church) was born and grew up in Guildford where he attended the Royal Grammar School. His father was a local cloth maker.

Maurice Abbot, father of George Abbot, was a clothier (weaver of cloth) from Suffolk, a wealthy local merchant who with fellow clothiers controlled the local wool trade. He was one of the Approved Men who with the Mayor ran the borough. He was married to Alice and they had six sons. The family lived in a house by the River Wey beside the Medieval bridge. The house was demolished in the 1950s and the site is now a public car park between the river and the George Abbot pub.

The Medieval bridge was used by foot passengers, animals and carts used the ford. The medieval bridge no longer exists, was destroyed in a flood. Similar bridges may still be found upstream. The ford can still be seen alongside the current bridge.

When Alice, mother of George, was in child with George she had a dream that if she caught and ate a pike he would be a man of some importance. Robert became Bishop of Salisbury. Maurice named after his father was a wealthy merchant in London, a London Alderman.

Guildford c 1600 was a town of some note, three churches, a friary and a castle. Houses lined the High Street, their large gardens ran back to the town ditch which was the border of the borough. The gardens were used for growing crops and keeping animals. Later cottages for rent were built to house the growing population. It was important to live in a borough as more freedom to trade than if one lived outside in a village. Many of the houses had a medieval undercroft.

Many of the side streets and alleys had the name gate. Why? Could there have been a gate across the entrance?

The Scandinavian gaten is the Scandinavian word for street. Many of the medieval streets in Lincoln end in -gate, for example Flaxengate, Clasketgate. The same can be found in York. This was a corruption of the Scandinavian for street not because they led to a gate in the city wall. But Guildford is too far south to have had a Viking influence. On the other hand, maybe a hint of a hitherto unknown Viking influence?

George Abbot attended the Royal Grammar School, a free school, where he learnt Latin. He then went on to Oxford.

George Abbot was a member of the Oxford group, one of six groups requested by James I to produce what we now know as the King James Bible. George Abbot translated the four Gospels and the Book of Revelations.

Abbot’s Hospital was founded by George Abbot in 1619 for twenty old people of Guildford who have fallen on hard times. He had originally wished to do something to improve trade in Guildford as that would have helped more people. [see George Abbot and Abbot’s Hospital]

George Abbot is entombed in Holy Trinity Church.

Based on a talk given at St Mary’s Church by Mary Alexander (church warden and curator of Guildford Museum) drawing upon material from the local archives. Part of the celebrations in Guildford to mark 400 years of the King James’ Bible.

It is a pity that Mary Alexander who gave the talk on George Abbot did not see fit to mention Bible-in-a-room that was taking place at St Mary’s the following week or that Catherine Ferguson was giving a talk on the King James Bible. For her own talk there was no notice or mention on the church noticeboard, not even a notice pinned to the church door. One gets the impression that talks are part of a secret society for only those in the know.

Guildford Museum has a George Abbot exhibition running all summer. Guildford House has a contemporary George Abbot exhibition. Holy Trinity Church is maintaining a Bible Journal.

Creative Arts @ Costa, a celebration of music, word and the visual arts, takes place at Costa in Swan Lane in Guildford on the first Tuesday of the month (same day as the farmers market). The next event is Tuesday evening 5 July 2011. There will be no events in August and September. Swan Lane is the narrow lane that runs between the High Street and North Street at the lower end of the High Street. With Eden People, a Christian collective.

The Keystone Spirit is a regular meeting of Eden People at The Keystone Pub (3 Portsmouth Road, Guildford, GU2 4BL).

The Bible in Voice and Verse, a celebration of the King James’ Bible. St John’s, Stoke Road, Guildford. 7.45pm Thursday 14 July 2011.

Cultural Day. New Testament Church of God. 2-6pm Sunday 6 August 2011.

A six-year-old girl writes a letter to God

April 23, 2011

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

And the Archbishop of Canterbury answers

There’s a charming article in today’s Times by Alex Renton, a non-believer who sends his six-year-old daughter Lulu to a Scottish church primary school. Her teachers asked her to write the following letter: “To God, How did you get invented?” The Rentons were taken aback: “We had no idea that a state primary affiliated with a church would do quite so much God,” says her father. He could have told Lulu that, in his opinion, there was no God; or he could have pretended that he was a believer. He chose to do neither, instead emailing her letter to the Scottish Episcopal Church (no reply), the Presbyterians (ditto) and the Scottish Catholics (a nice but theologically complex answer). For good measure, he also sent it to “the head of theology of the Anglican Communion, based at Lambeth Palace” – and this was the response:

Dear Lulu,

Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers. It’s a difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this –

‘Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected.

Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.

But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!’

And then he’d send you lots of love and sign off.

I know he doesn’t usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf. Lors of love from me too.

+Archbishop Rowan

I think this letter reveals a lot about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sort of theology – more, indeed, than many of his lectures or agonised Synod addresses. I’d be interested to know whether readers of this blog think he did a good job of answering Lulu’s question.

But what the letter also tells us is that the Archbishop took the trouble to write a really thoughtful message – unmistakably his work and not that of a secretary – to a little girl. “Well done, Rowan!” was the reaction of Alex Renton’s mother, and I agree.

Originally posted in the Telegraph blog by Damian Thompson.

A very impressive and thoughtful reply, and he took the trouble to reply.

God is
Where does religion come from?