Page 10, 26th February 1988

26th February 1988
Page 10
Page 10, 26th February 1988 — Tough times for Ashmolean Museum
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Tough times for Ashmolean Museum

OXFORD's Ashmolean Museum is currently losing £80,000 a year owing to cuts in Arts Council grants.

Nobody wants to encourage yet another appeal but this would be a good year for some of that magnificent museum's many friends and patrons to give some slight support if possible.

For it is just 350 years since the death occurred of John Tradescant the Elder. He it was who assembled the collection which was to form the nucleus of the original Ashmolean Museum.

His son bequeathed the collection to the famous Elias Ashmole. Ashmole offered the collection to Oxford, his own University, in 1675, on condition that a suitable repository was built.

So it was, in Broad Street, becoming the first public museum in Great Britain. The year was 1683.

It was of course Sir Thomas Bodley who had taken the first step toward the establishment of the four museums now belonging to the University. He provided a gallery for objects of antiquity in his library, opened in 1602.

There, or nearby, were placed the ancient marbles bequeathed in 1654 by the antiquary, John Selden, and the Arundel collection of marble inscriptions given in 1667 by Lord Henry Howard.

Visits to the Ashmolean, which attracts a large number of visitors, is still free. It is easily one of the best small museums in the country. Let us hope it will be able to continue its high standards despite recent losses.

Downside Doms

I HOPE I did not, recently, belittle the famous Bishop Ullathorne (by repeating the chestnut about his book on humility) nor, for that matter, the vital part played by the Benedictines (mostly from Downside) in the very earliest phase of the growth of Catholicism in Australia.

Ullathorne was appointed by another noted Benedictine, Bishop William Morris, who in 1832, as Bishop of Mauritius was, staggeringly, in charge of almost all the southern hemisphere apart from South America. Thanks to Ullathorne, moreover, Australia had a Catholic Hierarchy even before England. For, in 1840, he appointed Dom Bede Poulding, yet another Downside monk, as Bishop for the Vicariate of "New Holland and Van Diemen's Land."

In another context, but also touching on Downside, I should, I think, put in an emendation to the statement that the last time there were two Cardinals in England was in the days of Newman and Manning. This is true enough, but a famous Downside monk, Dom Aidan Gasquet, was made a Cardinal in 1914.

By that time he was working in Rome, having previously been abbot-president of the English Benedictines and, earlier still, prior of Downside.

He it was, of course, who had been so strongly instrumental in the issuance of Leo XIII's bull Apostolicae Curae denying the validity of Anglican orders, in 1896. The evidence on which the bull, written by Cardinal Merry uel Val, was based is now disputed by many Catholic scholars. But the fact that the Pope pronounced, albeit not infallibly, on the matter has, ever since, been a serious stumbling block to substantial progress in ecumenism between Catholics and Anglicans.

But there is no denying the depth of Gasquet's scholarship, to which he devoted himself after 1885, having retired from being prior of Downside because of ill health. But he thereafter lived a very active life, particularly in Rome, where he eventually became Vatican librarian and Church archivist, and did not die until 1929. grandfather of the present, extremely able, editor Bernard Palmer. He was George Josiah Palmer (1828-82) and the enterprise was launched on "faith and a financial shoestring."

There would have been no need, in those days, for the Prime Minister of the day to summon Anglican Bishops to discuss possible differences between Church and State. in politics, the paper, in its first leader, professed itself to be "unhesitatingly Conservative." The Church of those days, however, was evidently far less squeamish than now about entering the party political arena.

Leader-writers of the fledgling Church Times did not believe in holding back when criticising prominent politicians of the day. According to Bernard Palmer, they "frequently lashed out with a freedom which their successors, brought up with a healthy respect for the laws of libel, regard with envy."

Before becoming prominent as a politician, Edward Heath was, for just under a year, the paper's news editor. A prominent former barrister, now a judge, wore his legal "uniform" of black jacket and striped trousers, along with dazzling spats, with such good effect that he got nicknamed "the racing correspondent for the Church Times."

Ten years ago, the Church Times published a special edition to commemmorate its six thousandth number. Previous editorial comments were reproduced. One predicted the advent of wireless. Another that the shrine at Lourdes would not last. As it was put in the 125th anniversary supplement, "Sometimes our forecasts were later proved correct; more often than not, we got things hopelessly wrong."

early as 1934, at the general meeting of the world federation for international work towards friendship between churches and of the ecumenical council for practical Christianity, made the following demand: "Only the one great ecumenical council of the Christ's holy Church from all corners of the earth can say it is such a way that the world, gnashing its teeth, must hear the word of peace and that the peoples of the world will rejoice because Christ's Church takes the weapons from its sons' hands in the name of Christ and forbids them war and proclaims peace across the whole mad world."

This was written, of course, even before Auschwitz, let alone Hiroshima. Surely, by now, the time has come for concrete action. anything I said on November 27 last.

My source on Fisher was Paul Johnson's History of the English People.

I stressed above all his bravery under threat of death. This was the main point, worth reiterating.

Paul Johnson mentions in particular St John's parleys with the Emperor of the day about a possible invasion of England.

I did not expand on the other matters, interesting though it might be to do so. Fisher was simultaneously master of Michaelhouse (later absorbed into Trinity College), Cambridge, president of Queen's College (Cambridge), chancellor of Cambridge University and Bishop of Rochester. These, of course, were all clerical appointments at that time. He was much helped by his friendship with Lady Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII's mother. Out of this association were created the foundations of Christ's College and St John's College, as well as the readerships of divinity at Oxford and Cambridge. He is fittingly commemorated at Cambridge by the title of the chaplaincy, Fisher House.

My other main point was the shame involved in his having to wait, along with St Thomas More, three hundred years to be canonised. England deserved the honour much sooner.

No Holiday

DESPITE the front page announcement on a certain Catholic paper that Ash Wednesday would be a Holiday of Obligation, churches were fuller than ever with the normally high number of (voluntary) attendants.

One parish priest even said "perhaps they believed what they read in that paper." (Evidently, not always quite safe.)




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