Edward Cridge image A-01202 courtesy of Royal British Columbia Museum
Disputes in the Anglican Church have been making headlines as Church leaders and parishioners debate strongly held beliefs. This was also the case in early Victoria. Church membership was far more widespread than it is today, and opinions on church life and conduct were part of the fabric of everyday life. So when the two most senior and respected clerics held fundamentally different views on the proper conduct of church services there was bound to be trouble. And in the early 1870s trouble did erupt.
The man at the centre of this dispute was the Very Reverend Edward Cridge, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral. Cridge had come to Victoria in 1855 in response to a request from the Hudson’s Bay Company for a clergyman for Victoria. He and his wife Mary quickly became an essential part of the Fort, each doing several jobs simultaneously. Cridge was the only clergyman in the region and often had to go on rough roads as far as Colwood and Metchosin to minister. As well he had a glebe (clergyman’s allotment) of one hundred acres to clear and use to feed his family. As if that were not enough he established the first hospital in 1858 and in 1860 became the new colonial government’s inspector of schools. His wife Mary, in addition to bearing and raising several children, helped him in all his social endeavours and was a driving force in establishing the Protestant Orphanage in 1873 (now the Cridge Centre For The Family). They were the early colony’s champions for the underprivileged and the unfortunate, and the leading force for social action.
The gold rush in the late 1850s caused a huge expansion in Victoria’s population. Large numbers of transients were coming in and out of the region and the political and social structures were unable to cope. Cridge appealed to Britain to send more clerical staff. In response, the Church appointed a new bishop for the colony, George Hills, who arrived in 1860. Cridge, who had run the show up till now, had to answer to a new boss.
At first all went well. The two men respected each other and for the first few years everything was calm. But there was always an underlying tension. Mr. Cridge was a low churchman who wore a black habit and liked plain services with an unadorned altar. Bishop Hills, on the other hand, was a son of the Oxford Movement. This was a neo-Catholic revival in the Church of England, which emphasized ritual and elaborate dress in its services. To a low churchman, such things could smack of “popery”.
Tensions erupted at the consecration service for the new Christ Church Cathedral on December 5th, 1872. Archdeacon Reece from Vancouver preached a sermon advocating ritualism in services. Cridge got up at the end of the service and protested vehemently. The Bishop could not ignore this breach of canon law, and a series of letters began between the two men on the issue.
This culminated in a letter Cridge wrote to the local newspaper on January 9th, 1874, in which he repudiated the Bishop’s authority. In response Bishop Hills brought Cridge before an ecclesiastical court, which found him guilty on several counts. The Bishop then revoked his licence. In response Cridge demanded that the case be brought before an unbiased secular court. The case was then heard before Chief Justice Matthew Baillie Begbie. On Oct. 24th, Begbie found for the Bishop, and forbade Cridge to be rector of Christ Church Cathedral, and to act as a clergyman for the Anglican Church.
Cridge accepted this verdict, but it tore the social fabric of Victoria apart. Many of the oldest and most prominent familiies were supporters of Cridge. When soon after this he left the Anglican Church, and joined the Reformed Episcopal, much of the city followed him. Prominent among those was Sir James Douglas, who donated land at Humboldt and Blanshard Streets for the new Church Of Our Lord. Cridge became the rector of this new church, and was soon appointed a Reformed Episcopal bishop. He ministered to this new church till 1895, and continued to be active in social work thereafter. He died in 1913.
Cridge’s life and work live on, through the church he founded and in the Cridge Centre For The Family. The events of the past now seem worlds away, and are largely forgotten. For those wishing to understand the Cridge affair the Local History Room has excellent materials available. We have numerous clipping files on people concerned with these events, and on the Church Of Our Lord. We also have a variety of books, such as those with links provided in the text. Two unusual items are a typed manuscript reminiscence of Bishop Cridge by Edgar Fawcett, and a rare (and very fragile!) pamphlet, published in 1875, giving a full account of the Cridge trial. Come visit us to learn more about these events.
For further reading:
The Anglican Church in British Columbia by Frank A. Peake.
The home: orphans' home to family centre, 1873-1998 by Vernon J. Storey, Terry Worobetz, and Henry Kennedy.
"... The man for a new country": Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie by David R. Williams.
Trial of the Very Reverend Edward Cridge: Rector and Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria
Documents, evidence, correspondence and judgements as used and given in the Bishop's court, and in the Supreme Court of the Province, before the Hon. Chief Justice Begbie.
No better land: the 1860 diaries of the Anglican Colonial Bishop George Hills
Edited by Roberta L. Bagshaw.
Reminiscences of Bishop Cridge
Hand-typed memorial. Includes an excerpt from Bishop Cridge's diary, on his appointment to the chaplaincy of Victoria and the Hudson's Bay Company.