DAVID MORGAN’s research into Croydon street names finds that Queen Victoria’s first Archbishop of Canterbury was fondly remembered
Howley Road is the road where the Tudor Arch stands at the far end of the church grounds of Croydon Minster. It runs parallel to Cranmer Road and has a junction with Church Road. And Howley is another street name with an ecclesiastical connection.
William Howley was an Archbishop of Canterbury. He lived to a ripe old age, too, holding the office for 20 years until his death in February 1848, when aged 81. Viewers of the recent Victoria television series, with Jenna Coleman in the lead role, will have seen Pete Ivatts playing the part of Archbishop Howley in a small but vital section of the narrative.
At five o’clock in the morning of June 20, 1837, it is the Archbishop, accompanied by the Lord Chamberlain, Marquis Conyngham, who travels to Kensington Palace to inform Princess Victoria that she is now the Queen.
This wasn’t the only significant royal event in which Howley was involved.
He had placed the crown on the head of William IV at his coronation on September 8, 1831.
There is such a contrast between these two events: William at 65, the oldest person to be crowned, and Victoria, Queen at 18, with her youth and vitality.
In her diary, Victoria records an awkward moment in her coronation involving Howley. During the ceremony he placed a ring on the new Queen’s finger. Unfortunately, it was the wrong finger. The ring initially stuck fast and Victoria struggled for several moments to remove it before placing it on the correct one.
Howley used Addington Palace as his residence and visited Croydon regularly. When he died, he was a grandee of the Victorian Society and a suitably grand funeral was planned, the Archbishop’s final journey through the town.
There is a newspaper report of the time which describes the most extraordinary day. The funeral was held on a Saturday and by nine o’clock that morning there were “vast crowds” outside the gates of Lambeth Palace waiting to catch sight of the funeral cortege. It was not until 90 minutes later that the crowds got their first glimpse of the procession as it emerged. As it did so, children from the charitable school foundations of the parish lined the road as Howley’s final journey began.
The procession was made up as follows: first, two beadles from the parish of Lambeth, followed by four men on black horses as mutes; next came the senior beadle flanked by the sexton and the clerk; next were two senior churchwardens, with two other churchwardens behind them. There were 14 clergymen in pairs to follow the wardens with the Rev Dalton, Rector of the Parish of Lambeth, behind them.
The hearse came next in the procession and was pulled by “six black horses, richly caparisoned with escutcheons decorated in the coat of arms of the deceased”.
After the hearse came five mourning carriages. Each of these was pulled by four horses with pages walking beside.
In the first of these carriages were four sons-in-law of the Archbishop together with a grandson. The list of all the folk in all the coaches might get tedious if a complete listing were provided. It is safe to say that the procession was long, ceremonial, solemn and had a long way to travel.
Reaching Kennington, the cortege would have been able to hear the bell of St Mary’s ringing a mournful toll as it had done since an early hour that morning. The pavement crowds had been continuous from Lambeth Palace to Kennington, despite the heavy rain, with no one “seeking shelter”.
The newspaper article describes a local response to the funeral procession. As it was approaching the Horse Tavern on Kennington Common, “it happened that an organist was practising in a concert room there. On learning that the funeral cortege was at hand he discontinued the music with which he had been engaged and with great expression and effort played the dead march to Saul”.
At Kennington some of the Lambeth people in the procession dropped out; there were several miles to be covered before they would reach Croydon.
Meanwhile, a large crowd had assembled by Croydon Parish Church. This included the vicar, Rev Hodgson, Rev Harding of Norwood and other local clergy. As a mark of respect many of the local businesses had closed by the time the coffin of the late Archbishop passed. The newspaper reported that the good folk of Croydon held Howley in high esteem, he being a “liberal patron”.
When the cortege passed by it was swelled by local people together with the clergy, churchwardens and other church officials from Croydon. From Croydon Parish Church there were still three miles to travel and according to the newspaper report, it was about two in the afternoon when the “Addington Hills were crossed by the sable cavalcade”. Many people now thronged the route through Addington Park. There were people who had walked from Croydon, together with the “rustics” of the hamlet of Addington. Once into the park, the numbers were swelled yet again with staff from Addington Palace, The Archbishop’s residence, joining.
Archbishop Howley was “coming home” to be buried in St Mary’s Church at Addington. His predecessor as archbishop, Charles Manners-Sutton, had been buried there, too. As the cortege reached the church, around three o’clock in the afternoon, the “crowd closed in on the procession, but yet with so much decorum” that the police presence had little to do.
The pallbearers were carefully chosen and included the Vicar of Croydon, one of Queen Victoria’s chaplains and Rev Farrar, Rector of Addington. A simple, solemn service was held before the committal.
How exhausted must those people be who processed all the way from Lambeth to Addington? Just walking from Croydon to Addington would a trek for most. Imagine making it in mourning wear and on a day of inclement weather. Still, it would provide a talking point for the locals for a while.
And now this tale can provide interest for the current residents of Howley Road and beyond.
- The London Street Guide, www.londonstreetguide.com, have asked communities throughout the capital to help them explain and expand on the origins of street names across the city, recognising that local knowledge will aid this project enormously
- To read previous David Morgan articles on the history of Croydon Minster and the people connected with it, click here
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