Painted by Gilbert Stuart Newton
With thanks to Laura Irwin and Judith Curthoys for hunting it down in the Christ Church storeroom and sending the photograph. The picture, as you can see, is in good condition, but as it is no longer on display, its frame has not been as well looked after.
St Peter’s Church has photographs of every rector since the late nineteenth century. All Saints’ Church, like St Mary’s, has no photo of any former rector; but we have recently unearthed a copy of a painting of a pre-photography priest. He deserves a mention for this reason alone.
Charles Henry Hall, was born in 1763, the son of an Essex clergyman. Sent to Westminster School in 1775, he went up to Christ Church, Oxford in 1779. Winning both Latin and English prizes, he gained his BA in 1783, and then stayed at the college as a Tutor.
He delivered the Bampton Lectures in 1798, a prestigious series at Oxford that continues to this day, each year’s offering being published; his subject was the ‘fulness of time’. I have read them: his style is easy and pleasant, his theme wide-ranging, but the level of argument does now seem remarkably dull; he wins his point largely because he says he does.
He must, however, have been well regarded at the time, for in 1807 he became Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, until he resigned on becoming Dean of Christ Church College and Cathedral two years later. Finally, at the age of 60, he was made Dean of Durham Cathedral, but died in 1827.
In the midst of this academic life, in 1794, the year he got married (they had one son who became a noted pacifist and a Plymouth Brethren), he became Vicar of Broughton, a post he held until he took up the Durham preferment. Christ Church held the rectorship, so he really was Vicar, not Rector as the present curate is called. Thirty years as Vicar of All Saints’ Church – what service! Except (and I am sorry to disappoint you) he most probably never came here.
Possibly just once? Someone would have made a decision, and applied a signature, on an exchange of land with the Broughton Hall estate that occurred in 1795, whereby a (seemingly disused) vicarage and its land was given to the estate, in exchange for land near the church, on which – if the deed means what it seems to say – it was the estate that built the existing Old Rectory, along with the barn and the stable on the other side of the road.
The good Dr Charles already had, after all, a busy life as an academic in Oxford. He also held another (more lucrative) parish in Yorkshire, a prebendery stall in Devon, and yet another parish in Bedfordshire. He received the considerable income from each, paid for a poor curate to do the work for him, and pocketed the profit in absentia. (The land, which supplied the income, was given away by the diocese in the early twentieth century to Mr J.J. Duckworth who owned the Elslack estate.)
So we have one picture, for a vicar who wasn’t. Better than none at all.