The Society's Presidents, 1873-1945

Posted on the 24th Feb 2021 in the category Resources

1. 1873-1878: Lord Eliot (William Eliot, 1829-1881, from 1877 4th Earl of St Germans)

Lord Eliot, the eldest surviving son of the third Earl of St Germans, was a member of the diplomatic service until 1865 and then Liberal MP for Devonport from 1866 to 1868. In 1870 he was summoned to the House of Lords during his father’s lifetime by a writ of acceleration. He succeeded as fourth Earl of St Germans in 1877 but died unmarried in 1881, aged 51.


2. 1878-81, 1889-1901: Octavius Leefe (1827-1901)

Octavius Leefe was a solicitor who lived in Kilburn. (His surname was occasionally misspelled 'Leafe'.) A friend of Fr Richard Kirkpatrick, who founded St Augustine's, Kilburn, in 1870 and became its first vicar, he was a founding member of the committee responsible for building the church, which was consecrated in 1880. From 1886 until shortly before his death he was Treasurer of the English Church Union. His eldest son, Drewry Octavius Leefe (1864-1932), who practised as a solicitor with his father, later served as principal lay secretary of the SMF and was a churchwarden of St Augustine's from 1909 until 1932.


3. 1881-9, 1901-11: Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill DL (1853-1911)

Lord Edward, the youngest son of the sixth Duke of Marlborough, was a Deputy Lieutenant of Worcestershire and a member of the House of Laymen of the Province of Canterbury. He lived at Windsor and worshipped at St Stephen’s, Clewer.


4. 1911-1928: The Duke of Newcastle DL

(Henry Pelham-Clinton, 1864-1928, 7th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne)

The Duke of Newcastle (pictured above) was greatly influenced by Pusey House, which was founded in 1884, while he was an undergraduate at Oxford. The Chapel of St Mary the Virgin, designed by Bodley, which he had built in the grounds of his seat, Clumber Park, near Worksop, in 1886-9 still stands.

When in London, the Duke worshipped at All Saints, Margaret Street, where he was a member of the Church Council from 1908 and a churchwarden from 1916. He gave the church's silver hanging pyx in 1928 as a memorial to choristers who died in the Great War.

The Duke was a close friend of Fr Henry Mackay, an Oxford contemporary who was a Priest Librarian at Pusey House from 1895 until 1909, when he returned to All Saints, Margaret Street (where he had served his title) as Vicar. With Fr Mackay he was among the twelve original trustees of the Cleaver Ordination Candidates Fund, founded in the will of Mrs Friederica Frances Swinburne, a member of the All Saints congregation who died in 1916. His marriage being childless, he was succeeded as Duke of Newcastle by his younger brother.


5. 1928-1945: Lord Mamhead DL (Sir Robert Newman, Bt, 1871-1945)

Sir Robert succeeded his father as fourth baronet in 1892. He was MP for Exeter from 1918 to 1931, first as a Conservative but from 1927 as an Independent. He was also a Deputy Lieutenant, JP and member of Devon County Council. He was raised to the peerage as Lord Mamhead in 1931, but he remained unmarried, so the barony became extinct on his death. A sometime President of the English Church Union, he was also a member of the House of Laity of the Church Assembly and Chairman of its Anglo-Catholic Group.


The Presidents since 1945 are listed here