The Revd William Henry Cleaver (1834-1909)

The Fund is thought to have been named after the Revd William Henry Cleaver (1834-1909).

That Mrs Swinburne did not give the Fund her own name is entirely in line with her reluctance to publicize her gifts to All Saints, but after whom was it named? The initial trustees included the Revd Charles William Euseby Cleaver, but he is only fourth in the list, and a Trust would be hardly named after a living Trustee who was not its originator.

The Cleaver family was a clerical dynasty whose two most prominent members (sons of the Revd William Cleaver, 1711-83) were William Cleaver (1742-1815), Bishop of St Asaph, and Euseby Cleaver (1745-1819), Archbishop of Dublin. The Archbishop’s son, the Revd William Cleaver (1789-1860), was an Evangelical, but his sons, the Revd Euseby Digby Cleaver (1826-94) and the Revd William Henry Cleaver (1834-1909) were both Anglo-Catholics.

E. D. Cleaver was a curate at St Barnabas, Pimlico from 1857. By 1864 he had moved to All Saints, Margaret Street, to assist the first Vicar, Upton Richards, as Sub-Chaplain to the All Saints Sisters. In 1869 he became curate of All Saints, before returning to St Barnabas as curate in 1872. One of the earliest members of the Society of the Holy Cross, admitted in 1858, just three years after its inception, he was at the heart of London Anglo-Catholicism. However, in 1875 he left London to become Rector of Langdon Hills in Essex, and in 1886 retired to Dolgellau, where he died in 1894. When Mrs Swinburne wrote her Will in 1910, it was 38 years since E. D. Cleaver had left Margaret Street, 35 years since he had left London, and 16 years since his death. Despite his close association with All Saints, it seems unlikely that she named her Fund after him.

It seems much more likely that it was named after his younger brother William Henry Cleaver. He was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1860 but was then ordained (deacon 1863, priest 1864). After a brief curacy at Kibworth (Leicestershire), he moved to London as curate of St Mary Magdalene, Paddington, at the inception of that parish in 1865. St Mary Magdalene’s was effectively an All Saints ‘church plant’, so it should be no surprise that its first Vicar, who moved there from a curacy at All Saints, appointed as his curate the brother of one of his fellow All Saints clergy.

W. H. Cleaver stayed at St Mary Magdalene’s until 1873, when he resigned due to ill health. By 1875 he had recovered sufficiently to become Chaplain to the Community of St Peter, a community of sisters engaged in nursing and mission work. From 1868 its mother house was St Peter’s Home at Mortimer Place in Kilburn (which was destroyed by bombing in 1944), and from 1871 the sisters worshipped at St Augustine’s, Kilburn. In 1881 Cleaver and his family were living at 115 Clifton Hill. All of these places are very close indeed to Upper Hamilton Terrace, where Mr and Mrs Swinburne were living by 1875, so it seems highly likely that Mrs Swinburne met W. H. Cleaver during those years. That he was the father of the trustee C. W. E. Cleaver and died on 17 July 1909, only a year before the Will was signed, increases the likelihood that it was after him that Mrs Swinburne named her Fund.

W. H. Cleaver was a gifted preacher. While he was still at Paddington Bishop Samuel Wilberforce of Oxford, who by chance heard him preach in the country, commented that he was ‘one of the best of the younger preachers the Church possessed’. In the 1870s and 1880s Cleaver remained a noted preacher. In their memoir of R. W. Randall, the first Vicar of All Saints, Clifton, J. F. Briscoe and Fr Mackay noted that in 1869 Randall ‘inaugurated the custom… of asking some of the best-known preachers of the day to address the congregation of All Saints’ during the octave of the patronal feast’. Cleaver, who preached a mission in the parish in 1871, was one of the guest preachers during the octave in 1878.

Cleaver joined the SSC in 1866 but, though his name was still on the roll in 1872, it was no longer listed in 1879. This did not betoken estrangement from the SSC’s founder, Fr Lowder, however. L. E. Ellsworth records that for the octave of St Peter’s Day 1878 at St Peter’s, London Docks, preachers included ‘the usual array of High Church preachers, among them W. H. Cleaver, Mackonochie, George Body, W. Knox Little and V. S. S. Coles’. It was Cleaver who preached the funeral sermon when Lowder died two years later. When the Church of St John the Evangelist, Upper Norwood, was consecrated in May 1887, the Archbishop of Canterbury preached at the consecration service itself but there followed an octave during which there were sermons each day by noted guest preachers. The first was W. H. Cleaver who, the Church Times reported, preached ‘a most thoughtful and spiritual sermon’ on ‘the Church’s Catholicity’.

Fr Cleaver was also a noted confessor and spiritual director. One of those whom he guided and influenced was Alice Ottley, who met him in the late 1860s, when she was in her late twenties. She later became the first Headmistress of Worcester High School for Girls. Her biographer wrote that ‘Mr Cleaver… by his power as a preacher, and still more by the force of his personal piety, soon made his influence very widely felt’, and ‘it was not long before Alice came under the spell of his spiritual influence’. As a result, ‘the next few years were a period of rapid growth in her spiritual life’.

The photograph of W H Cleaver is reproduced by permission of St Peter’s Home and Sisterhood and Surrey History Centre: Copyright of St Peter’s Home and Sisterhood.

Cleaver became Rector of Petrockstowe, Devon (1883-4), then of Pulham St Mary, Norfolk (1885-95), and finally of Christ Church, St Leonards-on-Sea (1895-1900). In 1900 he retired to Caversham, where his son C. W. E. Cleaver was the Vicar. Throughout these years and beyond he retained his connection with the Sisters, first as Chaplain and then from 1887 with the title of Warden (assisted by a Sub-Warden), until ill-health obliged him to resign in 1905.

When W. H. Cleaver died in 1909, the Church Times obituary concluded with this comment by his friend Bishop Edward Churton, who had worked with him briefly in Paddington: ‘He had never been much in favour with dignitaries, and, perhaps, no memoir of him will be published now he is gone. And yet how many – some living still – have owed their very souls to him, with his great love, his tender pity, his resolute hatred of sin!’ Was Mrs Swinburne perhaps one of these?

In Christ Church, St Leonards-on-Sea, ironwork screens were erected around the Lady Chapel in memory of Fr Cleaver. The memorial plaque finishes with these words: ‘The grylles of the Lady Chapel were erected by some of his friends and spiritual children with ever grateful remembrance of priceless privileges received from his ministrations.’

Certainly, W. H. Cleaver was one of the older generation of Tractarians to whom Fr Mackay, who will have advised Mrs Swinburne on the creation of the Fund, looked up. When Fr Suckling, the Vicar of St Alban’s, Holborn, died in 1917, Mackay wrote: ‘Father Suckling stands in my mind with a very wonderful little group, Canon Carter, Canon Freeling, Dr Liddon, Mr Cleaver, Mr Davidson, and some others who are still with us in this world.’