The Congregation: princes and paupers
C B Mortlock, writing in Famous London Churches (1934) , described St Matthew’s, Westminster, as always having been ‘remarkable for its congregation. It would be difficult to name any other church in London in which you might see a prince of the royal house seated next to a collarless (but chokered) parishioner and a Cabinet minister side by side with a slum mother’.
This interesting social mix appears to have existed since the 1850s according to the Revd Richard Malone, writing in 1901 .
‘The congregation gradually became large and was somewhat peculiar, including:
3 judges – Cleasby, Williams, A Smith
President of the Royal Society (General Sabine)
The Under-Secretary of War
The Chief Clerk to the House of Commons
The Sergeant of Arms
The Headmaster of the City of London School
The Chief Secretary of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
Treasurer of the Queen Anne’s Bounty
Several servants of the House of Lords’.
In contrast, the congregation also included
• ‘Nearly 100 thieves who were striving to become honourable men
• A good many blind beggars
• Many costermongers, both men and women’.
The educated people gave practical help in the church. Sunday School teachers included three barristers who became judges (Pollock, Thesiger & Bristowe) and several ‘ladies of rank’ – Lady Henry Russell, Miss le Marchant and Miss Hawes.