24 February 2020

A Hat!!!

A very kind benefactor has passed to me a relic ...

Diligent readers will know that my Anglican seminary was S Stephen's House, Oxford, commonly known as "The House", or as "Staggers". It was founded in buildings on the corner of Broad Street, where the New Bod now stands. Oops ... the New Bod has now in turn been gutted and, inside its original Art-Deco-and-Cotswold-rubble walls, something has been constructed called The Weston Library. When we were undergraduates (1960-1964), the New Bod was thought of as an eye-sore (Pevsner "Neither one thing nor the other, neither in an Oxford tradition nor modern for its date").  I principally remember the smell of the floor polish and the endless holdings, shelf after heavy shelf, of periodicals such as Mind. I did not much enjoy following my Greats Philosophical studies in such surroundings. PPE girls always seemed so much less interesting than Classical girls. You know how it is when one is young. I groan everytime I am reminded how many of the leading members of both of our main political parties once read PPE. (Philosophy Politics and Economics ... in the 1930s, people ... ludicrously ... called this deplorable course 'Modern Greats'.)

Possibly in preparation for the erection of the New Bodleian Library from 1937, Staggers moved in 1919 to some nice Victorian houses next to the Lady Margaret's Hall by the University Parks. There it stayed until 1980, when it took the opportunity of occupying the rather more C of E buildings along the Iffley Road formerly owned by the evanescent SSJE.

I was at SSH in Norham Gardens from 1964 until 1967. So I missed the principalship of Father Arthur Couratin by a couple of years. But the House, and its life, were still dominated by his ethos and the memory of his long reign (born 1902; Scholar of Corpus; SSH 1925; Priest 1927; Staff of SSH from 1935 and Principal 1936-1962; died 1988). My impression is that it was during Arthur's time that Staggers acquired the (justified) reputation of being the most 'Tridentine' seminary in the Church of England (perhaps I should have written "in England"). It would be interesting to know how many of its products are now in Full Communion with the See of S Peter, compared with how many still languish, silly fellows, in uncertain communion with Justin Welby and international fossil fuels.

So what was the relic that arrived by post on Saturday? Arthur's biretta. It is, I think, black silk outside, and the lining looks to me very much like red silk from an Oxford MA hood.

Thank You, Father, for your gift!

And welcome into Full Communion!

I wonder if I should declare myself jure integumenti Principal of the House. Or perhaps I should devise a new title ... something as appropriate to my new millinery as, say, Rector Magnificus?

7 comments:

Little Black Sambo said...

The floor polish! just the phrase brought back to me the highly distinctive smell of the new Bodleian, a remarkable reaction because I hardly ever went inside. I have since encountered the same smell, in a chapel in Burford

Zephyrinus said...

Dear “Rector Magnificus”. Reference your wonderful new head-gear, may I, respectfully, encourage you and your Legion of Readers to follow The Rev. Fr. Finigan in eulogising such distingu√© fashion by joining in “Mein Hut, Der Hat Drei Ecken” at https://youtu.be/XpbMhX_GLuI
ALL TOGETHER NOW !!!

Matthew F Kluk said...

Now that's a hat with history!

Stephen Barber said...

The Weston Library has a very nice cafe, good for meeting people in Oxford.

Mary Kay said...

Rector Magnificus has a great sound to it: brief and rhythmic nobility. I like it!

Frederick Jones said...

My relic of "Arthur" is a copy of the the Canons of 1603 duly signed with his name on the title page.. "Keep it old boy" he said.

Frederick Jones said...

I can remember Fr Couratin saying how a biretta should be worn. "Like Fr Mahoney, well over the forehead, not like Fr Jack ,a lover of ceremonial with 5 kids, well back on the head".