Little Bits of History

January 22

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 22, 2017

1877: Arthur Tooth is taken into police custody. He was born in 1839 in Kent, England. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge and graduated with a degree in science in 1862. He traveled around the world twice and was known as an accomplished horseman and a crack shot. During his travels, he became interested in the priesthood and took an interest in Ritualism. He became an ordained vicar and was assigned to a local parish, but he and his vicar disagreed on how to serve the parishioners. Tooth became an ordained priest in 1864 and served at several different churches. By 1868, he had been assigned to St. James’s Hatcham, a working class parish in southeast London.

His work there began to attract large congregations. He was an inspired preacher and introduced several more ritualistic practices within the parish. He also developed programs to help the more needy and established the Guild of All Souls at St. James’s in 1873. The Public Worship Regulation Act was passed 1874. This act, introduced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, had as its purpose the limitation of growing ritualism within Anglo-Catholicism and the Oxford Movement within the Church of England. Benjamin Disraeli, then Prime Minister, supported the bill as did Queen Victoria. Arthur Tooth did not and he continued his practice as he had.

On July 13, 1876 his case came before Lord Penzance at Lambeth Palace. Tooth did not appear before the court although he had been charged with using incense, vestments and altar candles. He ignored the entire proceeding in spite of getting legal counsel to submit. His services were now constantly being disrupted, not by parishioners, but by outsiders who were hired by his opponents for the sole purpose of disruption. After repeatedly ignoring the decisions of the Court of Arches, he was brought in for contempt of court and imprisoned at Horsemonger Lane Gaol in London. He was immediately cast into the position of martyr and his story became headline news. Due to public outcry, the Public Worship Regulation Act came into disrepute (although it was not repealed until 1965) and Tooth’s conviction was overturned on a technicality.

He lived for another 52 years but his health was adversely affected for the rest of his life. He was never again given his own parish to run but he had no desire for any further fame or notoriety. He established a chapel, convent, and orphanage school on property he purchased in 1878 and spent the rest of his life in the pursuit of helping disadvantaged children. In 1927, he moved his school to a new location and brought his 27 boys plus three religious sisters to Otford Court near Sevenoaks. The school became St. Michael’s Preparatory School and still exists today.

Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others. – John F. Kennedy

Religious tolerance is something we should all practice; however, there have been more persecution and atrocities committed in the name of religion and religious freedom than anything else. – Walter Koenig

In politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution. – Alexander Hamilton

Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds, you open the way for every kind of intolerance and religious persecution. – William Butler Yeats

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