Unsettled Years

The second in a series of occasional articles to mark the centenary of the death of Thomas Thellusson Carter, Rector of Clewer, 1844 – 1880

Accounts of Carter’s early years in the ministry make strange reading. He was ordained Deacon in 1832 and served for an unhappy year at St. Mary’s, Reading, where church life was at a low ebb. In 1833 he went to be curate for his father who (in addition to his Eton duties) was vicar of Burnham.

In 1838 Carter was presented by his father to the parish of Piddlehinton in Dorset. It is said that the Dorset climate was a trial to his health, which I (as a Dorset resident) find puzzling. Giving that as his reason he spent two winters at Weymouth. In 1842, while retaining the Piddlehinton post, he went to be his father’s curate at Burnham where he remained for two years. This adds up to an extraordinary pattern for a newly ordained (and presumably dedicated) young man.

We have to consider what was happening in the Church of England at the time. The “Tracts for the Times” were being issued from Oxford and had great influence. John Henry Newman, whom Carter respected greatly, wrote many of them. In 1839 Newman began to have doubts about the claims of the Church of England, gradually withdrawing from its work until, in 1845, he became a Roman Catholic. Henry Manning, another of Carter’s mentors, was increasingly attracted to the Church of Rome and he was to “go over” in 1851. Other, less well-known, Oxford men also made the change.

This climate of change among men whom he admired must have been disturbing for Carter. Because he had married in 1835, it would have been difficult for him to follow the others into the Roman Catholic Church. In 1844 he became Rector of Clewer where, despite opposition, he proceeded to put his “high church” beliefs and practices into effect.

Next month: The Disaster of Piddlehinton.

Denis Shaw