Skip to main content



This article considers how lecturing in Victoria Park in the East End of London allowed three early heads of the university settlement Oxford House to engage local communities in a discussion about the place of religion in the modern world. It demonstrates how park lecturing enabled James Adderley, Hebert Hensley Henson, and Arthur Winnington-Ingram, all of whom also held positions in the Church of England, to perform and test out their religious identities. Open-air lecturing was a performance of religious faith for these settlement leaders. It allowed them to move beyond the institutional spaces of the church and the settlement house in order to mediate their faith in the context of open discussion and debate about religion and modern life. The narratives they constructed in and about their park sermons reveal a good deal about how these early settlement leaders imagined themselves as well as their relationship with the working-class men they hoped to reach through settlement work. A vivid picture of Victorian religious and philanthropic life emerges in their accounts of lecturing in Victoria Park.

Corresponding author
John Foster Building, Liverpool John Moores, 80–90 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, l3 5uz
Hide All

I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of the Historical Journal for their helpful suggestions. I would like to acknowledge the help of Julie-Marie Strange and Bertrand Taithe when this was a Ph.D. chapter. Mike Benbough-Jackson, Diana Maltz, and James Mansell kindly read this chapter and offered comments. I would especially like to thank the late Neil Armstrong for his generous support and advice on earlier drafts and for encouraging me with this research.

Hide All

1 Henry Walker, ‘Sunday in East London: Victoria Park’, Sunday at Home (1895), pp. 791–5.

2 Morris, Jeffrey, ‘The strange death of Christian Britain: another look at the secularization debate’, Historical Journal, 46 (2003), p. 975 .

3 For contemporary descriptions of the settlement movement, see Knapp, John M., ed., The universities and the social problem: an account of the university settlements in East London (London, 1895); and Reason, William, ed., University and social settlements (London, 1898). For more recent histories of Oxford House, see Seth Koven's chapter on Toynbee Hall and Oxford House in Slumming: sexual and social politics in Victorian London (Princeton, NJ, 2004), pp. 228–88; and Matthews-Jones, Lucinda, ‘St. Francis of Assisi and the making of settlement masculinity, 1880–1914’, in Brady, Sean and Arnold, John, eds., What is masculinity?: historical dynamics from antiquity to the contemporary world (London, 2011), pp. 285303 .

4 Arthur Winnington-Ingram quoted in ‘Meeting at Londonderry House’, Oxford House Chronicle, 6 (1891), p. 6.

5 Koven, Slumming, pp. 228–88. Institutional pamphlets include The Oxford House in Bethnal Green, 1884–1948 (Bethnal Green, 1948); Ashworth, Mandy, The Oxford House of Bethnal Green: 100 years of work in the community (London, 1984); and Bradley, Ian, Oxford House in Bethnal Green, 1884–1984: 100 years of work in the community: a short history (London, 1984). Examples of doctoral work include Jennifer R. Harrow, ‘The development of university settlements in England, 1884–1939’ (Ph.D. thesis, London 1987); Seth Koven, ‘Culture and poverty: the London settlement house movement, 1870 to 1914’ (Ph.D. thesis, Harvard, 1987); and Lucinda Matthews-Jones, ‘Centres of brightness: the spiritual imagination of Toynbee Hall and Oxford House, 1883–1914 (Ph.D. thesis, Manchester, 2009).

6 Scotland, Nigel, Squires in the slums: settlements and missions in late-Victorian Britain (London, 2007), pp. 5784 .

7 Hilton, Boyd, The age of atonement: the influence of evangelicalism on social and economic thought (Oxford, 1991), p. 5 .

8 For Oxford House, see Koven, Slumming, pp. 276–81. For Hall, Kingsley, see his The match girl and the heiress (Princeton, NJ, 2014), pp. 137–53.

9 Scotland, Squires, p. 69.

10 Green, S. J. D., Religion in the age of decline: organization and experience in industrial Yorkshire, 1870–1920 (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 294–7.

11 Williams, Sarah, Religious belief and popular culture in Southwark, c. 1880–1939 (Oxford, 1999), p. 7 .

12 There is extensive literature on nineteenth-century urban religion, the church, and the working classes. For a traditional account, see Wickham, E. R., Church and people in an industrial city (London, 1964); and Inglis, K. S., The church and the working classes in Victorian England (Toronto, 1963). Revisionist accounts include Brown, C., ‘Did urbanization secularize Britain?’, Urban History Yearbook, 15 (1988), pp. 114 ; Morris, Jeremy, Religion and urban change: Croydon, 1840–1914 (Woodbridge, 1992); Green, Religion; Smith, Mark, Religion in industrial society: Oldham and Saddleworth, 1740–1865 (Oxford, 1994). In contrast, Sarah Williams has argued that historians should consider how the working classes responded to religion in a more informal way in Religious belief.

13 See, for instance, Armstrong, Neil, ‘“I insisted I was myself”: clergy wives and authentic selfhood in England, c. 1960–1994’, Women's History Review, 22 (2013), pp. 9951013 ; Colpus, Eve, ‘Lecturing religion, family and memory in nineteenth-century England’, Gender and History, 22 (2010), pp. 3854 ; Moore, Lindy, ‘“A notable personality”: Isabella Fyvie Mayo in the public and private spheres of Aberdeen’, Women's History Review, 22 (2013), pp. 239–52.

14 Summerfield, Penny, ‘Concluding thoughts: performance, the self and women's history’, Women's History Review, 22 (2013), pp. 345–52.

15 See Brown, Candy G., ‘Touch and American religions’, Religion Compass, 3 (2009), pp. 770–83.

16 Garnett, Jane, Grimley, Matthew, Harris, Alana, Whyte, William, and Williams, Sarah, ‘Performance’, in their edited collection Redefining Christian Britain: post-1945 perspectives (London, 2006), p. 75 .

17 Davies, Sioned, ‘Performing the pulpit: an introduction to lecturing in nineteenth-century Wales’, in Nagy, Joseph Falaky, ed., Identifying the ‘Celtic’: CSANA Yearbook 2 (Dublin, 2002), p. 118 .

18 Ibid., p. 115.

19 Barclay, Kate and Richardson, Sarah, ‘Introduction: performing the self: women's lives in historical perspective’, Women's History Review, 22 (2013), p. 179 .

20 Victoria Park, 1907–37, London Metropolitan Archives, GLC/AR/HB/01.

21 Booth, Charles, Life and labour of the people in London: religious influences, i (London, 1902), p. 65 ; Booth, Charles, Life and labour of the people in London: religious influences, vi (London, 1902), pp. 80–1.

22 Pall Mall Gazette, 30 Nov. 1887.

23 See Winter, James, London's teeming streets, 1830–1914 (London, 1993).

24 Johnson, Dale A., ‘Popular apologetics in late Victorian England: the work of the Christian Evidence Society’, Journal of Religious History, 11 (1981), pp. 588–77. On Celestine Edwards, see Schneer, Jonathan, ‘Edwards, (Samuel Jules) Celestine (1857?–1894)’, Oxford dictionary of national biography (Oxford, 2004).

25 The Eastern Argus & Borough of Hackney Times, 18 Aug. 1894; Lux, 28 June 1895.

26 ‘Sunday afternoon in Victoria Park’, Oxford House Chronicle, 8 (1893), p. 2.

27 Russell, Anthony, The clerical profession (London, 1980), p. 85 .

28 Gunn, Simon, The public culture of the Victorian middle class: ritual and authority in the English industrial city, 1840–1914 (Manchester, 2007), pp. 117–20, quote p. 117.

29 Carpenter, S. C., Winnington Ingram: the biography of Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram, bishop of London, 1901–1939 (London, 1949), p. 52 .

30 Edward Winnington-Ingram to Arthur Winnington-Ingram, 29 Oct. 1888, the Fulham papers of Winnington-Ingram, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 3406, fo. 14.

31 Herbert Hensley Henson diary, 11 July 1886, vol. 4, Durham Cathedral, fo. 384.

32 Reed, John Shelton, ‘“Ritualism rampant in East London”: Anglo-Catholicism and the urban poor’, Victorian Studies, 31 (1988), p. 376 .

33 See McLeod, Hugh, Class and religion in the late Victorian city (London, 1975), pp. 80, 112.

34 Russell, Clerical profession, p. 94. See Kelly, Matthew, ‘The politics of Protestant street lecturing in 1890s Ireland’, Historical Journal, 48 (2005), pp. 101–25; and Holmes, Janice, ‘The role of open-air lecturing in the Belfast riots of 1857’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 102 (2002), pp. 4766 ; Hewitt, Martin, ‘Arthur Mursell and the controversies of popular platform religion in Manchester, 1856–1865’, Manchester Region History Review, 10 (1996), pp. 2940 .

35 Grimwood, Tom and Yeandle, Peter, ‘Church on/as stage: Stewart Headlam's rhetorical theology’, in Edelman, Joshua, Chambers, Claire, and du Toit, Simon, eds., Performing religion in public (London, 2014).

36 Hebert Hensley Henson dairy, 11 July 1886, vol. 4, Durham Cathedral, fo. 385.

37 Ibid., fo. 381.

38 Adderley, James, In slums and society (New York, NY, 1916), p. 85 .

39 See also Whyte, ‘Performance’, pp. 84–91.

40 See Green, Religion, p. 301.

41 Carpenter, Winnington-Ingram, p. 52.

42 Blackman, Lisa, The body: key concepts (London, 2008), p. 86 .

43 Burns, Arthur, ‘“My unfortunate parish”: Anglican urban ministry in Bethnal Green, 1809–c. 1850’, in Barber, Mel and Taylor, S. with Sewell, Gabrielle, eds., From the Reformation to the permissive society: a miscellany in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Lambeth Palace Library (London, 2010), p. 272 .

44 Booth, Life and labour, i, p. 76.

45 See Sexby, J. J., The municipal parks, gardens and open spaces of London: their history and association (London, 1905). There is an extensive literature on working-class experiences of parks that challenge the idea that they were spaces of social control and order; see Malchow, H. L., ‘Public gardens and social action in late Victorian London’, Victorian Studies, 29 (1985), pp. 97124 ; Wybourn, Theresa, ‘Parks for the people: the development of public parks in Victorian Manchester’, Manchester Regional History Review, 9 (1995), pp. 314 ; Conway, Hazel, People's parks: the design and development of Victorian parks in Britain (Cambridge, 1995).

46 Winnington-Ingram, Arthur, Work in great cities: six lectures on pastoral theology delivered in the Divinity School, Cambridge Easter Term, 1895 (London, 1897), p. 13 .

47 Ibid.

48 Walker, ‘Sunday’, p. 794.

49 McLeod, Class, p. 28.

50 Brown, Callum G., The death of Christian Britain: understanding secularisation, 1800–2000 (London, 2002).

51 Morgan, Simon, ‘Seen but not heard? Women's platforms, respectability and female publics in the mid-nineteenth century’, Nineteenth Century Prose, 29 (2002), p. 50 .

52 Booth, Charles, Life and labour of the people in London, viii (London, 1891), p. 80 .

53 Booth, Charles, ‘Condition and occupations of the people of East London and Hackney’, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 51 (1888), pp. 276339 .

54 Barclay and Richardson, ‘Introduction’, p. 178.

55 Arthur Winnington-Ingram, The Church of England: a godly heritage: a sermon lectured at the Weymouth Congress (London, 1905[?]), pp. 3–4.

56 Walker, ‘Sunday’, p. 791.

57 See ‘Sunday Lecture Society’, Oxford House Chronicle, 13 (1891), p. 4.

58 ‘“The Park” on Sunday’, Oxford House Chronicle, 8 (1894), p. 7.

59 Koven, Slumming, p. 279.

60 ‘Victoria Park open-air lectures’, Oxford House Chronicle, 13 (1899), p. 5.

61 Blathwayth, Raymond, ‘The bishop of London: an appreciation’, Quiver, 61 (1904), p. 5 .

62 Adderley, In slums and society, pp. 85–6.

63 Winnington-Ingram, Arthur, Why am I a Christian? (London, 1929), p. 49 .

64 For a contemporary discussion of these groups, J. H. Rosny, ‘Socialism in London’, Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 76 (1888), p. 412. See also Fisherman, William J., East End 1888: a year in a London borough among the labouring poor (London, 1988), pp. 267–8.

65 Winnington-Ingram, Arthur, Fifty years in London, 1889–1939 (London, 1940), pp. 89 ; Blathwayth, ‘The bishop of London’, p. 5.

66 Winnington-Ingram, Arthur, The mysteries of God (Milwaukee, WI, 1910), p. 260 .

67 ‘Miss Weston on the navy’, Sunday at Home (June 1894), p. 560.

68 Winnington-Ingram, Arthur, The gospel in action (Milwaukee, WI, 1906), p. 171 .

69 Winnington-Ingram, The mysteries of God, p. 260.

70 Blathwayth, ‘The bishop of London’, p. 6.

71 Ibid., p. 6.

72 Bevir, Mark, ‘The immanentist pulpit and reformist pulpit’, in Hewitt, Martin, ed., Platform – pulpit – rhetoric (Leeds, 2000), p. 139 .

73 Winnington-Ingram, Why, p. 103.

74 Winnington-Ingram, The mysteries of God, p. 262.

75 Herbert Hensley Henson diary, 11 July 1886, vol. 4, Durham Cathedral.

76 See Garnett et al., Redefining, p. 79.

77 Herbert Hensley Henson diary, 11 July 1886, vol. 4, Durham Cathedral, fo. 384.

78 Winnington-Ingram, Why, p. 34.

79 Vincent, David, Bread, knowledge and freedom: a study of nineteenth-century working-class autobiography (London, 1981), pp. 180–1.

80 Douglas, James, The man in the pulpit (London, 1905), p. 12 .

81 Herbert, Charles, Twenty-five years as bishop of London (London, 1926), p. 61 .

82 Winnington-Ingram, Why, p. 132.

83 Colpus, ‘Lecturing’, p. 40.

84 Nead, Lynda, ‘Mapping the self: gender, space and modernity in mid-Victorian London’, in Porter, Roy, ed., Rewriting the self: histories from the Renaissance to the present (London, 1997), p. 167 .

85 Dixon, Joy, ‘Modernity, heterodoxy, and the transformation of religious cultures’, in de Vries, Jacqueline and Morgan, Sue, eds., Women, gender and religious cultures (London, 2010), pp. 211–30.

* I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of the Historical Journal for their helpful suggestions. I would like to acknowledge the help of Julie-Marie Strange and Bertrand Taithe when this was a Ph.D. chapter. Mike Benbough-Jackson, Diana Maltz, and James Mansell kindly read this chapter and offered comments. I would especially like to thank the late Neil Armstrong for his generous support and advice on earlier drafts and for encouraging me with this research.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *

Related content

Powered by UNSILO


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed