The Society Today

Posted on the 27th February 2021 in the category Resources

The Society for the Maintenance of the Faith is currently the patron of 94 benefices. It is sole patron of 30 and joint patron of another 64.


Major changes in the exercise of patronage were made by General Synod in the 1980s. Where pastoral reorganization is under consideration, the bishop can suspend presentation to the benefice and appoint a priest in charge. If presentation is not suspended, the consent of two lay representatives chosen by the Parochial Church Council is required before for the patron can present a candidate to the bishop. In practice, SMF involves both the lay representatives and the bishop in the process of identifying candidates, and where presentation is suspended the bishop generally involves SMF in the choice of a priest in charge. Pastoral reorganization has resulted in a great increase in the number of multi-parish benefices with multiple patrons, and in many cases parishes with a catholic tradition have become part of a benefice that also includes parishes of very different traditions. As a result of these factors, it has often not been possible for SMF to maintain a catholic tradition in the parishes of which it is patron.


A resolution under the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests is in force in 25 of the SMF’s 94 benefices. Where no resolution is in force, appointments are open not only to male priests ordained by bishops in the historic succession but also to women and to men whose orders derive from the ordination of women to the episcopate.


The charity’s endowment enables it to make small grants to parishes within its patronage, usually for repairs or improvements to the fabric of the church. We can often provide independent advice to our parishes’ incumbents and churchwardens.


Most of the Society’s work is out of the wider public gaze. Its membership is accordingly small but is open to any who can subscribe to its aims. Applications need to be countersigned by a member of the Council. There is an Annual General Meeting, at which reports and accounts are received and officers and council members are elected.


This text draws on the article 'Keeping the Faith: A Brief Introduction to the SMF' by Fr William Davage, first published in the newspaper Together: The Voice of Catholic Anglicans.

The Society's History

Posted on the 26th February 2021 in the category Resources

The Society for the Maintenance of the Faith (SMF) was founded in 1873 by the Revd Edmund Gough de Salis Wood (1841-1932) and his brother James (1843-1928), a barrister. Ordained deacon in 1865, E. G. Wood (as his friends mostly called him) was first assistant curate and then vicar of St Clement’s, Cambridge, for a total of sixty-five years: twenty as curate and forty-five as vicar. He was made an honorary canon of Ely in 1911.


The SMF was one of a number of catholic societies that were founded in the second, ‘Ritualist’, phase of Anglo-Catholicism (the first being the Oxford or Tractarian Movement that began with the Tracts for the Times of 1833-41). These included the priestly Society of the Holy Cross (SSC), of which Fr Wood was Master for three separate periods totalling nine years, as well as the ‘political’ English Church Union and the devotional Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, in both of which Fr Wood was also active.


The object of the Society for the Maintenance of the Faith was, and still is, ‘to promote and maintain catholic teaching and practice within the Church of England’ – principally through the acquisition and exercise of patronage (the right to present priests to the relevant bishop for appointment as rector or vicar). Unlike other patronage trusts, the Society did not purchase patronage, because the founders considered trade in patronage to be uncanonical. Advowsons (rights of presentation) came to the Society by gift or bequest, as they still do today.


The Society was to have a lay President and lay Trustees in whom the advowsons (as a ‘peculiar property’) were vested. There was a Council, from which was drawn a Patronage Board that had to be chaired by a cleric. The intention was that SMF would be the main holder of patronage for the Catholic Movement, but this did not come about: although the SMF holds the largest number of advowsons, other catholic societies and institutions also exercise patronage. Over the last one-and-a-half centuries eleven laymen have served as President of the Society.


Not least because of its policy of not purchasing advowsons, the number of benefices in the Society’s patronage grew only very slowly. Five years after its inception it still had none. At a special general meeting in January 1878 a motion to dissolve the Society was moved: an amendment to give it another year’s trial was carried by one vote. It secured its first advowson in October 1879, but by 1901, 28 years after its inception, it still only had eleven. Of the 94 advowsons that it currently holds, around fifty were acquired between 1900 and 1939, a dozen in the next fifty years and fifteen in the present century. (In a few cases, this was in exchange for advowsons acquired previously.) The largest single addition came in 2017, when the Meynell Church Trustees transferred their sole or joint patronage of ten benefices to the SMF.


This text draws on the article 'Keeping the Faith: A Brief Introduction to the SMF' by Fr William Davage, first published in the newspaper Together: The Voice of Catholic Anglicans.


Photograph: Memorial plaque in the Canon Wood chapel, St Clement's Cambridge (Lesley Wood:

The Meynell Church Trustees

Posted on the 25th February 2021 in the category Resources

The Hon. Emily Charlotte Meynell Ingram (1840-1904) was the daughter of Sir Charles Wood, sometime Chancellor of the Exchequer, and subsequently first Viscount Halifax. She shared the religious convictions of her elder brother Charles Lindley Wood, later second Viscount Halifax, who was for many years the President of the English Church Union.


In 1863 she married Hugo Francis Meynell Ingram. He was elected as Conservative MP for West Staffordshire in 1868 and in 1869 inherited Temple Newsam House in Yorkshire and Hoar Cross Hall, Staffordshire, from his father. Tragically, he died in a riding accident in 1871, leaving Mrs Meynell Ingram widowed and childless at the age of 31. She built the church of the Holy Angels, Hoar Cross, designed by G. F. Bodley and Thomas Garner, as a memorial to him.


By a deed dated 3 February 1903 Mrs Meynell Ingram transferred the advowson of Holy Angels, Hoar Cross, and several other livings to Trustees. Mindful of their foundress's original intentions, in 2017 the Meynell Church Trustees, in turn, resolved to transfer the administration of these advowsons (with the exception of that of Hoar Cross), to the Society for the Maintenance of the Faith.


The Benefices concerned were:


v  Fleetwood St Peter and St David (Diocese of Blackburn). Sole patronage.


v  Fleetwood St Nicholas (Diocese of Blackburn). Joint patronage with the Bishop of Blackburn. Built in 1960 as a chapel of ease to St Peter’s, it became a parish church in 1987. 


v  Altofts (Diocese of Leeds). Sole patronage. St Mary Magdalene Church was built by G. F. Bodley at Emily Meynell Ingram’s expense.


v  Holbeck (Diocese of Leeds). Joint patronage with the Vicar of Leeds and the Bishop of Leeds. St Edward’s Church, Holbeck, was built by G F Bodley at Emily Meynell Ingram’s expense. It was demolished in 1984. In 2018 the Society transferred this advowson to the Bishop of Leeds in exchange for the patronage of Grimethorpe with Brierley.


v  Whitkirk, St Mary (Diocese of Leeds). Sole patronage. The oldest medieval church in Leeds, and parish church to Temple Newsam, seat of the Ingram family since 1622.


v  Ashley, Mucklestone, Broughton, and Croxton (Diocese of Lichfield). Joint patronage with the Bishop of Lichfield and others. The Meynell family held land at Ashley.


v  The Trentcliffe Group benefice (Diocese of Lincoln). Joint patronage with the Bishop of Lincoln and the Church Society. The Ingrams were Lords of the Manor of Laughton. All Saints, Laughton, was restored by G F Bodley at Emily Meynell Ingram’s expense and houses an effigy of her husband.


v  Bolton upon-Dearne, St Andrew (Diocese of Sheffield). Sole patronage. Nearby Hickleton Hall was Emily Meynell Ingram’s childhood home and the seat of the Wood family until 1947.


v  St Michael the Archangel, West Retford (Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham). Now part of the Retford Area Team Ministry.


v  Appleton-le-Street with Amotherby, Barton-le-Street, Hovingham and Slingsby (Diocese of York). Joint patronage with the Archbishop and Sir William Worsley Bt of Hovingham Hall. St Michael, Barton-le-Street, is described by Pevsner as ‘a sumptuous small Norman church, rebuilt without any restraint’. A memorial tablet records that Hugo Meynell Ingram, as Lord of the Manor, paid for the rebuilding in 1871.

The daughter of Sir Charles Wood, sometime Chancellor of the Exchequer, she shared the religious convictions of her elder brother Charles Lindley Wood, later 2nd Viscount Halifax

The Society's Presidents, 1873-1945

Posted on the 24th February 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

The Society's Presidents, 1945-2018

Posted on the 23rd February 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.




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