The Society's Presidents, 1945-2018

Posted on the 23rd Feb 2021 in the category Resources

6. 1946-1948: The Rt Hon. Sir Henry Slesser (1883-1979)

Born Henry Herman Schloesser, Sir Henry changed his surname by deed poll in 1914 to Slesser (a name sometimes confused with the more common ‘Slessor’). He was called to the bar in 1906 and was appointed standing counsel to the Labour Party in 1912. The first of his many publications, Trades Union Law, appeared in 1922. In 1924 he was appointed Solicitor General in the first Labour government, took silk and was knighted. He was Labour MP for Leeds South East from 1924 to 1929, when Ramsay MacDonald appointed him a Lord Justice of Appeal. He retired on health grounds in 1940. A member of Devon County Council from 1946 to 1968, he chaired the Dartmoor National Park Committee from 1948 to 1964. He was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1948.


7. 1949-1967: Sir John Best-Shaw, Bt (1895-1984)

Sir John served in the Royal Navy in both world wars, reaching the rank of Commander. He succeeded his father, as 9th baronet, in 1922. In 1956 he assumed the name and arms of Best by royal licence and took up residence at Boxley Abbey, near Maidstone. A Guardian of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham from the inception of the College of Guardians in 1931 (photograph from the Guardians' Gallery above), at his death he was the last surviving member of the original college. He was President of the Church Union from 1969 to 1971.


8. 1967-1974: Dr Arthur Peck (1902-74)

Dr Arthur Peck, a classicist, was a Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge, from 1926 until his death, serving as Vice-Master from 1957-61. A co-founder of the Cambridge Morris Men after the first world war, he was Squire (president) of the Morris Ring from 1947 to 1951. He was also Vice-President of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland and a sub-deacon at Little St Mary’s, Cambridge. In addition to editions of three of Aristotle’s works, his publications included This Church of Christ (1955), Anglicanism and Episcopacy (1958) and The Book of Hours (1961), a verse translation of Rilke’s Stundenbuch


9. 1974-1999: Dr Paul Kent (1923-2017)

Dr Paul Kent, a research chemist, studied at Birmingham University and Princeton before moving to Oxford, initially as a member of Jesus College. At Christ Church from 1955, he was first a Lecturer, then a Student and, from 1956, Dr Lee’s Reader in Chemistry. He was awarded a higher doctorate (DSc) in 1966. From 1972 he was Master of Van Mildert College in Durham University until 1982, when he retired and returned to Oxford. He was a Governor of Pusey House from 1983 to 2000 and a Vice-President from 2003.


10. 1999-2018: Dr Brian Hanson CBE (b. 1939)

Dr Brian Hanson was admitted as a solicitor in 1963. He joined the staff of the Church Commissioners in 1965 and became Assistant Legal Adviser to the General Synod in 1970. From 1975 until his retirement in 2001 he was Registrar and Legal Adviser to the General Synod. He was a Guardian of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham from 1984 to 2015, when he became a Guardian Emeritus, and a Governor of Pusey House from 1993 to 2005, when he became a Vice-President. From 2001 to 2015 he was Chairman of the House of Laity of the Chichester Diocesan Synod. He was appointed CBE in 1996.


Dr Colin Podmore MBE (b. 1960) was elected President in 2021.