English Episcopal Chapel
1857 – 1860 Richard Hibbs
1860 – 1867 Matthew Churton
1867 – 1882 Thomas Knox Talon
Scottish Episcopal Church, as Rector
1882 – 1888 Thomas Knox Talon
1888 – 1891 Thomas Brackenbury
1891 – 1907 Percival Wood Hulbert
1907 – 1913 Arthur John Gadd
1913 – 1916 George William Dominey
1916 Francis Henry Stephenson
1917 – 1934 Alexander Gordon Chines Ewing
1934 – 1943 Charles Douglas Thomas Mason
1943 – 1947 George West Gunn
1947 – 1954 Thomas James Martin
1954 – 1960 Neil Macdonald Gordon-Kerr
1960 – 1965 Charles Francis Crichton
1965 – 1971 served from St Paul & St George’s
Scottish Episcopal Chapel, as Priest-in-Charge
1971 – 1972 Herbert Towald Coles
1974 Tom Johnstone
1975 – 1977 David Lumgair
1977 – 1998 Canon Malcolm Aitken Clark
1998 – 2014 Canon Rodney Arthur Grant
Scottish Episcopal Chapel, as Rector
2015 – Canon Allan Murray Maclean
The Rev Richard Hibbs MA
OUR FIRST RECTOR AND FOUNDER, 1857-60
Canon Allan Maclean wrote in the St Vincent’s magazine of June and July 2020:
‘Lock-down’ has been an opportunity to look into one or two side-lines of history. I have spent a little time looking into the life our first Rector, the Rev Richard Hibbs. I do not have the whole story as, apart from anything else, there are about 600 articles about him and his doings, and letters from him, in the British Newspaper Archive! He was always getting into trouble for his stringent views, vehement preaching and wild activities, being arrested for open-air preaching on many occasions, and also inhibited by various bishops!
Mr Hibbs was an extreme defender of the moral tone, as he saw it, and he used being ‘a clergyman of the Church of England’ to substantiate and back his beliefs and arguments.
In the 1840s, there was a feeling among some, especially Evangelicals, that the teaching and practice of the Scottish Episcopal Church was not close enough to the principles of the Church of England. In particular, the Rev DTK Drummond, curate of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Dean Bridge, was criticised for straying from the Prayer Book services, by having non-liturgical prayers at his gatherings, and ‘house- groups’. From there it was an easy move for him to criticise the Scottish Liturgy, and what seemed to be its ‘catholic’ doctrine. When Drummond was inhibited by the bishop, he and others of a similar persuasion started new congregations called ‘The Church of England in Scotland’ or ‘English Episcopal Chapels’. Drummond founded St Thomas’s, and in 1852 he invited Rev Richard Hibbs, who seemed to hold similar views, to be his ‘associate’ at St Thomas’s.
The Rev Richard Hibbs was an ‘outdoor preacher’, who practised at Lowestoft, where he was curate, and then in central London. He drew large crowds wherever he stood up and spoke. He was already known for his sympathy with the poor, and had published a booklet about the position of the poor in London, warning of ‘God’s terrible judgement’ against ‘those who while enjoying the good things which God had given them … had neglected to search out the poor and destitute, and to administer to their necessities’. He preached against the members of the congregation at St Thomas’s who had attended the Italian opera [Don Giovanni], but it was the style and vehemence of his preaching that upset many of the congregation and led to a parting of the ways with Drummond. Hibbs took many people with him when he started a new ‘Church of England’ congregation [now St Vincent’s], including the historian WF Skene, who seems to have been the main benefactor. ‘We all, bothminister and people, hope to see in this noble city a more adequate as well as becoming representation of the national establishment in England than any it has yet beheld.’ It took Hibbs three years to collect the funds and to build the church, and after a further three years as ‘Incumbent of the Church of England Chapel, St. Vincent-street, Edinburgh, residing at 1, Great Stuart-street, Edinburgh’ he returned south.
This was perhaps the most controversial period of his ministry. He took a variety of locum and temporary jobs, even being inhibited sometimes by the bishop, for instance at Swindon and at Chepstow, but in particular, he went on with his excitable out-door preaching in London streets and gardens, often being arrested by the police, and brought to court.
Here is a typical newspaper account of his arrest in Trafalgar Square, taken from a Scottish newspaper:
‘THE REV RICHARD HIBBS AGAIN
The Rev Richard Hibbs obtained not a little notoriety when he was in Edinburgh a few years ago. It would seem as if he were doing his utmost to obtain more in London. Last Tuesday he was brought up to Bow Street charged with having caused an obstruction to the public thoroughfare by preaching in Trafalgar Square. The rev. defendant begged to be accommodated with a seat, as he was suffering acutely from rheumatics. He was at once provided with one, but immediately afterwards he rose and addressed the Court and public.
Police Constable Henry Courten, A616, was about to give his evidence, when the defendant demanded his address and questioned him as to his comprehension of the sacred obligations of the oath.
The officer stated that he was on duty in Trafalgar Square at half-past three o’clock on Sunday afternoon [11th September 1864], when he saw a large crowd of persons assembled in the thoroughfare. The defendant was mounted on one of the steps giving out a hymn. He was stationed between the National Gallery and the crescent opposite. Witness went up to him and requested him to go away, as he could not be permitted to preach there. There was a crowd of five or six hundred persons gathering at the time, causing serious obstruction in the carriage way to the vehicles passing through the square. On Sunday week witness and other constables had removed him from the same place. The defendant came down to the roadway, but refused to leave, and went on “arguing” with the people. Finding that he would not go away, witness took him into custody, and the charge was taken to the station – the defendant, who had several friends with him, being liberated on bail.
Defendant [Rev Richard Hibbs] – Was I not walking towards St Martin’s Church, actually going away, when you took me into custody?
Witness – You walked a few yards only. You said you had a written order from Sir Richard Mayne [The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis] to preach there.
Mr FLOWERS [Magistrate] – If that is so Mr Hibbs, you can produce it, and there is an end of the case.
Defendant – It is not exactly an order, but a notice, which I exhibited here on a former occasion, and which gives me permission to preach, unless requested by the inhabitants to desist. Now, Sir (to witness), did I not call on my friends to follow me to Leicester Square?
Witness – Yes, you waved your hand to them and said, “Now, friends to Leicester Square?”
Defendant – Is this not sufficient proof that the constable has perjured himself? He has sworn that I refused to go, and now admits that I was actually going. The fact is, I took his number in my book, and wrote to the side of the entry the words “very insolent.” He then took me out of revenge.
Mr FLOWERS – I think it very probable that you intended to go, and that the constable may have mistaken as to your intention. I shall, therefore, discharge you, but you must not preach in public thoroughfares to the obstruction of the traffic. I daresay you think it very wicked for omnibuses and cabs to be out at all on Sundays, but you must not expect your judgement to be universally adopted. You are now discharged.
Defendant – Oh, I have not done with this man yet. Now, Sir – and this is a very grave matter, Sir – are you the constable who addressed to me, a clergyman of the Church of England, the offensive words “None of your slang?”
Witness – Yes I did use those words.
Defendant (with fresh vehemence) – Now, Sir, let the public see with what sort of men they have to deal with!
Mr FLOWERS – That is an impudent remark, no doubt; but Mr Hibbs, we must bear in mind that a policeman is only a man, having blood, heart, and temper like other men; and if you, a clergyman of the Church of England, cannot keep your temper (and anyone who has seen your excited manner must be clear upon that point), you must not be surprised if a man in a constable’s station in life should forget himself also. I dismiss the case.
The defendant, who seemed anxious to keep up the case much longer, then reluctantly retired from the dock.’
Caledonian Mercury, 15 September 1864
THE REV. RICHARD HIBBS AGAIN and HIS SUCCESSORS
Canon Allan Maclean wrote in the St Vincent’s magazine of August and September 2020:
This is a little commentary or introduction to a Jubilee history of St Vincent’s from more than 100 years ago, which refers to people almost all of whom are now merely names.
First, however, I was rather too rash in my last history contribution in saying that when the Rev. Richard Hibbs started his new congregation [now St Vincent’s] it included the historian W.F. Skene ‘who seems to have been the main benefactor.’ However, Skene, who became such a great benefactor, did not join until 1867, seven years after Hibbs left. Of all the people in our history, Skene is by far the most renowned and probably the only one whose name is still known. He was Historiographer Royal in Scotland, and is famous for his work Celtic Scotland.
Hibbs’s successor was Rev. Matthew Churton, appointed no doubt for his evangelical views. He is credited with putting in a new and large organ in the western gallery and making other improvements to our building, but after seven years he left ‘a nearly empty church’. He had been ordained as curate for St Mary’s [Bermondsey] Southwark, and after three years he had swift promotion to be incumbent of Christ Church [as St Vincent’s was then known]. After his seven years in Edinburgh he became a curate again, at St John’s, Newcastle. Today it is described as ‘a vibrant, friendly church, in the catholic tradition of the Church of England, with a daily Eucharist and a high standard of choral liturgy maintained by its excellent choir’. Now, with a ‘Sung Mass’ every Sunday, I suspect it was rather different in Churton’s time. He went on as curate for one year at Watton in Hertfordshire. Watton is more famous recently as the childhood home of the actor Rupert Grint, well- known from his role of Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films. Churton’s next move in 1870 was back to being an incumbent as vicar of Dinnington, near Newcastle upon Tyne, a rural and mining village, where the income was not great at £160 and house. He stayed at least 12 years, probably 18 years, before moving to Aston-sub-Edge, in Gloucestershire. A small village, its population in the 2001 census the population was 55. His address was The Old Manor House, and he died there in 1900, leaving a sum of £1344/1/2. I note that he was author of ‘pamphlets’ and one suspects that they were polemical, like those of his predecessor, Rev Richard Hibbs.
Matthew Churton was succeeded by the Revd Thomas Knox Talon, an Irish evangelical, who, after 15 years in post was, with William Forbes Skene, to bring St Vincent’s from being ‘English Episcopal’, alias Church of England in Scotland, into the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Talon, born in County Tyrone, and ordained in Dublin, had been a curate in Norfolk, before becoming full-time secretary of the London Hibernian Society, and then for a year minister of the independent, but Anglican, Belgrave Chapel in Belgrave Square, London.
The chapel was demolished in 1910 following the refusal of the Duke of Westminster to renew the lease, and despite appeals to the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of London. For two years Talon was curate at St James’s, Clerkenwell, in London. This church has a link with Edinburgh, which was the birthplace of the famous Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury, whose third wife was very rich, owning much of Clerkenwell, and he was buried in the churchyard at St James’s in 1715.
Revd Thomas Knox Talon’s wife probably died before he moved to Edinburgh with his ten children. Two years after arriving he married a second time to Martha Kirkland, who was 22 years younger than he was. Before marriage she lived at 10 Clarence Street, and was described as a ‘landed proprietor’. She was referred to with commendation, in the History, as a person ‘who carried on a great work among the poor of the neighbourhood’ of St Vincent’s
Belgrave Chapel, London
The Talons lived at 2 Bellevue Terrace and later at 14 Danube Street in Stockbridge; after retirement they lived at Cromwell Lodge, North Berwick. He died in 1896 and Martha died in 1904 while visiting at Sutton in Surrey.
Extract from Jubilee of St. Vincent’s Church, Edinburgh
The history of St. Vincent’ Church, Edinburgh, is a very interesting one, not perhaps to the outside world, but certainly to those who know its origin and recall the many well-known men who have been at one time or another connected with it. It is this year  observing its jubilee, and special anniversary services were held last month, when the Bishops of Edinburgh and Aberdeen were the preachers.
. . . . Mr. Hibbs ministered from 1857 to 1860. He was succeeded by the Rev. Matthew Churton, Theol. Assoc., King’s Coll., London. During his incumbency a large, and for that time, good organ was placed in the west gallery, and several improvements were made in the church interior. In 1867 the late Dr. William Forbes Skene, the historiographer royal of Scotland became associated actively with the church, and was destined to be the means eventually of bringing the church into union with the Scottish Church.
On the departure of Mr. Churton to another charge, the Rev. Thomas Knox Talon, M.A., Trin. Coll. Dublin, was appointed incumbent through the influence of Dr. Skene, and no more happy appointment could have been made. Mr. Talon came to a nearly empty church, but he speedily attracted a large congregation. A few members still surviving have vivid recollections of his ministry, and they speak of him as a veritable, spiritual father, and recall with delight his able and scholarly sermons. He was materially aided by his wife, who carried on a great work among the poor in the neighbourhood. Mr Talon was a man keenly interested in all evangelical movements, and he took an active part in the great Mission conducted by the American evangelists, Moody and Sankey. In his time a small chamber organ, by Townsend, an excellent organ builder of these days, was placed in the church in a small recess in the chancel, by Dr. Skene. Until 1892 there was a mixed choir, composed of ladies and gentlemen, under the conductorship of the late Mr. Hanson. They gave many excellent musical recitals. A very flourishing organisation for many years was a Young Men’s Christian Fellowship Society.
Events were now ripe for an incorporating union with the Scottish Church, and this was arranged by the wise and tactful efforts of Mr. Talon and Dr. Skene, and the church ceased to be a congregation of the “English Episcopalians.” It, at the same time, ceased to be a proprietary chapel, for Dr. Skene, to whom the church buildings belonged, made them over for all time to the Scottish Church. A constitution was drawn up and approved by the Bishop, and a vestry of six members was formed to take charge of the temporal affairs of the church. The vestry also became the patrons of the charge. Dr. Skene acted as treasurer. This happy union took place in 1887 [?1882].
The Rev. Thomas Knox Talon
In 1888 Mr. Talon retired on an allowance from the vestry of £80 per annum. He died in 1896. The following notice of his death is taken from the Scottish Standard Bearer of September of that year:
The death of the Rev. Thos. Knox Talon, formerly incumbent of St. Vincent’s Church, Edinburgh, took place on August 12th at Haddingion, in the 85th year of his age. A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, he was ordained deacon in 1845 and priest in 1846, both by the Archbishop of Dublin. After a short curacy in Ireland he went to Thornham in Norfolk, where he remained for eleven years (1847-1858). He then went to London, first as minister of Belgrave Chapel, and then as curate of St. James’, Clerkenwell. He came to Edinburgh in 1867 as incumbent of St. Vincent’s Church, where he ministered with much acceptance for the long period of twenty-one years, retiring from active duty in 1888.