Henry Parry Liddon(1829 - 1890) Part 1 - 1829 to 1859

Part 2 is contained in the Spring 2012 edition of the Chronicle.

Henry Liddon was Lewis Carroll’s friend and associate at Christ Church, Oxford from the early 1850’s until 1890 when Liddon died at Weston-super-Mare near Bristol. Lewis Carroll also accompanied Liddon on the journey Liddon made to Russia in 1867, ostensibly a holiday but in fact Liddon was sounding out the church leaders in Russia for the possibility of an amalgamation or at least a co-operation with the Anglican church. Despite their obvious differences in religious views, and Liddon’s courting of controversy, there was little conflict between them personably apart from some minor irritations on the trip to Russia.

Part 1 ~ Liddon 1829 to 1859

Henry Liddon was from a west country family, one based in the borders between Devon and Dorset, his father Matthew was born in Axminster in 1792. However, Liddons had abounded in the area long before this. One Liddon, a chandler, had appeared before the magistrates in Axminster in 1752 after a complaint from the father of Charlotte Younge who was pregnant. In the Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce & Manufacture for Axminster, dated 1794, four Liddons are listed one in the class of gentry and three in the trade section. Liddons also were listed in Charmouth nearby and in other villages in the area.
Henry’s father, Matthew joined the navy when very young and was a lieutenant in 1819 when he was appointed in charge of a ship the ‘Griper’ which was to accompany William Parry’s ship the ‘Hekla’ in search of the North West passage. Parry was also a lieutenant at that time but was the expedition commander. Two men could be the same rank but seniority was decisive in the navy in those days, a policy which led often to less than adequate men being appointed to senior positions. However, this was not an issue with the Parry expedition, Parry was the leader and Liddon was his trusted second in command. The two ships were strengthened for sailing among ice and were ballasted with coal and wood. They were also not equal in size which led to Griper having to be towed behind Hekla as they crossed the Atlantic. Parry’s account of the journey published in 1821 ‘Voyage of Discovery which was in his own words ‘written from the daily logs’ showed that the exploration was carried out without loss of life and few injuries except for frostbite. Also mentioned was the fact that lieutenant Matthew Liddon was struck down by rheumatism on the outward journey and spent the crossing of the Atlantic confined to his cabin. The two ships explored the Arctic taking depth soundings, noting sea floor conditions and temperatures. The significant part of this journey and one that made quite a difference to the  Liddon family is that the ships went beyond the 110 degrees west longitude.

The expedition was not alone in Arctic waters as they came across a trawler from Hull who advised that the rest of their fleet of trawlers were nearby. What they did prove however was that it was possible to over-winter in the Arctic given correct preparations. The above sketch was published in Parry’s account and shows the aptly named Winter Harbour. Passing the 110 degrees mark put the expedition in line for a £5000 prize which was paid to the participants in order of rank. Parry got £1000 and Matthew Liddon took home £500.

The effect of this expedition was considerable and Parry and Liddon were recognised as heroes so much so that Axminster, where Liddon had been born, had a collection and presented Liddon with a gold box inscribed inside ‘Presented to lieutenant Matthew Liddon, Commander of H.M.S. Griper, in the expedition under Captain Parry, to discover A North West Passage A.D. 1819. By his friends resident chiefly in the town and neighbourhood of his native place Axminster Devon.’ This box was sold at Christies in 1992 and fetched £7,700.
The rheumatism was perhaps the reason why Matthew Liddon never accompanied Parry on his two further expeditions. It appears that he may have decided to retire despite only being thirty upon return from the Arctic. In any case, many seamen were on the non active list when they did not have a post on a ship. During this enforced shore leave they received half pay, even Nelson had for a time been ashore on this basis. Of interest to Cheshire Carrolians is that Parry, on 23 October 1826, married Isabella Louisa Stanley, daughter of John Stanley, 1st Baron Stanley of Alderley in Cheshire and Lady Maria Josepha Holroyde, before undertaking his 1827 expedition to try and reach the North Pole.
Matthew Liddon settled in North Stoneham Hampshire in 1828, he also married Ann Bilke in that year. It was there that their eldest son Henry Parry Liddon was born on the 20th August 1829. North Stoneham is only 16 miles from Portsmouth and it could be that there was a possibility of another sea post.

North Stoneham

North Stoneham was not best described as a village, it was a scattered collection of hamlets and properties. The church, St. Nicolas, with its one hand clock sits on what used to be the main road to London from Southampton it is now in the sweep of where the M27 and the M3 join and is also bounded by Southampton airport. The house Henry Liddon was born in disappeared long ago under the railway. The church served the Wills Fleming family from North Stoneham Park in the period after the reformation.  Perhaps the lack of population is why it houses the Burial Place of The Slavomians.(1) Traders from the Adriatic region bought a tomb there in case they died over here when on trade missions. It was used in the 1400’s for about forty years. The Liddon parents baptised Henry on 26th September 1829 with Parry as godfather. Parry was by then Sir William Edward Parry. Two further children were baptised in North Stoneham, Edward on the 3rd December 1830 and Annie on the 29th March 1832.  In 1832 Matthew Liddon and family moved to Colyton in Devon.


Colyton is a small town close to Axminster, where Henry’s father had been born. It consisted then of a few narrow streets, which are still there, a church and some houses made of flint, some with high walled gardens. The Liddons became tenants of The Grove which was the second largest house in the town and which was to be their home for the next twenty years throughout Henry’s formative years. The house was 200 yards away from the town centre. The river Coly from which the town derives its name ran in a shallow valley to the east of the town which itself stood on the side of a hill giving many properties views over the surrounding countryside  to the east and shelter from the winds from west - an ideal place to raise a young family.

Colyton was described in the Devonshire Directory of 1851 as ‘a small market town of 2451 people in 1841, with a twice weekly market, two good fire engines and a church dedicated to St. Andrew.’ Colyton House was then unoccupied but there was in The Grove ‘the pleasant residence of Captain Liddon’ Henry’s father. The Grove is shown in red on the 1840 tithe map and the land with it outlined also in red. Six more children were born to the family in Colyton, Katherine 1834, John 1835, Louisa Gibson 1836, Mary 1840, Fanny 1844 (died after 3 days) and Matthew in 1843/44(?).

The church, St. Andrews, stood on the opposite side of the town centre and nearby stood church house which for some time was a school run by Edward Tett, one of several schoolmasters based in the town. Tett’s school was Henry Liddon’s first school experience. Church House, which Mr. Tett operated as a school for some time, is still there in the Market Place. Church House, as to be expected, backed onto the churchyard which no doubt served as a playground whenever needed. Mr. Tett was also the postmaster for the town and was mentioned in the 1850 trade directory as such, in addition to noting that he kept a boarding academy, the census returns showing one or two boarders. Henry Liddon and his brother Edward were day boys living only 200 yards away from the school. Mr Tett was born in 1811 from a Colyton family - his talents as a school master being recognised in 1863 when he was appointed to be head of Colyton Grammar school.
 The vicar at Colyton was Rev. Frederick Barnes (1771 - 1859) who was also a canon at Christ Church Oxford and who only came to the parish, if at all, in the summer months. The parish duties were served by a curate who lived in the vicarage in the centre of town. Frederick Barnes was to play a large part in Liddon’s selection of a college place and being at Christ Church he knew the leaders of the Oxford Movement - later on he was also known to Lewis Carroll.

Lyme Regis - Mr. Robert’s School.

When he was ten, Henry and his brother Edward were sent as boarders to another school, The Academy, run by George Roberts (1804-1860) in Broad Street Lyme Regis. Mr. Roberts taught the classics, which were essential for obtaining a university education, he was also the local historian and had published works, on the history of Lyme, in 1823 and 1834, and, no doubt to facilitate this interest, he installed a printing press under licence in 1833.
The 1841 census, on Sunday 6th June, shows Henry and Edward Liddon as boarders at the school along with fifteen other boys whose ages ranged from nine to fourteen. Among the list was a boy called Prideaux. What is not known is how many day boys attended the school nor if any boys who were boarders had been at home for the weekend on census day. The poster from the 1830’s shows that day boys were limited in numbers.  
In addition to historical publications George Roberts was also interested in the geology of the coastline near Lyme. The cliffs around Lyme were, and still are, very unstable. This resulted in a massive landslip on Christmas day 1839 and George Roberts in 1840 published a book(2) about this event. The schoolboys would obviously all be at their own homes on Christmas Day but no doubt upon returning to Lyme in 1840 they would be taken to inspect the landslip which attracted so many tourists that the local farmers started charging entrance fees of sixpence to view the huge gullies in the land which in places had cliffs 150 feet in height. The interest was not solely confined to the spectacular visual effect because any landslip, even the small everyday ones caused by sea erosion produced many fossils on the beach and these were collected by locals and sold to visiting geologists.

The great fossil hunter of the Lyme area was Mary Anning.(3) She was born in 1799 and survived a lightning strike when she was one year old as she was being held in the arms of someone sheltering under a tree that was struck. Several people died but Mary, although supposedly given up for dead, did survive.

The significance of Mary Anning’s discoveries related to fossils was that they challenged the orthodox view of the age of the earth as the deposition processes had obviously taken place over a very great time span. Mary’s old house (see image) was sketched by Edward Liddon, Henry’s brother, and W.H.Prideaux(4) in 1842. Fossil collecting was made easy by the erosion of the cliffs but it was also hazardous at times as chunks as large as a house could fall onto the beach without any warning.
William Buckland, who was born in Axminster, and who was an Oxford Don, was interested in Mary’s work and he struggled to fit in what was becoming apparent from the fossils with the biblical age of the earth as being created in 4000 BC. Mary, who had she not been a working class lady would have been admitted to the highest ranks of the Geological Society felt bitter towards geologists who took her discoveries and made a name for themselves from them. Henry Liddon, who was at school with his brother, was a serious minded boy who even at the age of 14 began writing sermons which were shown to the Vicar of Colyton, Rev. Barnes, who said they showed much promise. Whether the discoveries made at Lyme made any impression upon Henry Liddon is doubtful, he was only young at the time and such matters were not the province of schoolboys.

King's College School

In late 1844 Henry was sent to the King’s College School which at that time was located in the basement of King’s College in the Strand.  The headmaster was Revd. John Major and Liddon lodged with one of the masters , Mr. Hodgson, at 17 James Street. The school offered both the Liddon brothers the chance to improve their knowledge although strange to say, Henry is said to have criticised the lack of religious training!(5)
This comment may however be related to the fact that Henry was not a typical schoolboy. Henry had obviously absorbed his teachings at Mr. Roberts’ school in Lyme because he was soon being taught in the upper school by the headmaster John Major. It is most likely that the school had the balance right, religious teaching is not that appealing to young teenagers,  but Henry Liddon was not a typical youngster, most boys of his age did not write sermons! One of his school contemporaries in an article sent to the Pall Mall Gazette described Henry at 17 to be the same as he was at 27, 37, or 47, saying that Henry always appeared to him as an elder brother who wished that the young men around him could act more seriously. He describes him as ‘entirely a priest among boys.’
Henry was confirmed on 29th of May 1846 in his last year at Kings and then had to decide upon university. Dr. Barnes had promised him a place at Christ Church but his mother had serious doubts about the college. It was in her opinion too closely associated with the Oxford Movement and with Newman leaving the C.of E. also with Pusey still being at Christ Church meant that she had serious doubts. Johnson in his ‘Life and Letters of Liddon’ calls the curate in charge at Colyton, who expressed the opinion that Henry should not go to Christ Church, as a bigot, but Johnson when he wrote the book was Principal at Cuddesdon College and in hindsight it is him that now appears to be the bigot. John Major wrote and appreciation of Henry’s character but tellingly added that he should not task his mental powers at the neglect of his health.  Both his mother’s insight and his former headmaster’s advice were to be neglected. Had Henry not gone to Christ Church it is possible that he would have avoided a life full of controversy, which eventually was to lead to a decline in his health. However, his father decided that despite the warnings Henry should go to Christ Church, he matriculated in June 1846 and took up residence in October of the same year. George Kitchin, future father of Xie Kitchin, Lewis Carroll’s favourite photographic subject in the 1870’s and author of the book containing the description of the Slavonian tomb in North Stoneham,  where Henry had been born, also joined the college at the same time.

Christ Church and Beyond

At Christ Church, despite his mother’s warnings, Henry soon came under the influence of Pusey. Dr. Barnes was on hand to guide him, even speaking to him about been seen going into Pusey’s residence by the son of one of the canons. Despite this warning shot across his bows Henry persisted in his association with Pusey, this caused a great deal of heartache at home especially with his mother. However, in February 1849 his mother died. She had said to him at Christmas 1848 that she was happy with him but had said as a parting comment ‘You may become a great scholar, bit will you become a true Christian?’ This question of course still has not been resolved and does of course depend upon the outlook of the observer. At the age of 19 Henry had lost his one influence against the doctrine of Pusey. Lewis Carroll was to lose his mother at the same age in two years time. Exactly when Liddon met Charles Dodgson is unknown - it may be recorded in the Liddon diaries but as yet these have not been published in full and the years 1851/52 are missing. Dodgson is only mentioned in the Life and Letters of Canon Liddon by Johnson in relation to the Russian trip and in a letter in 1879 from Rev. J. Oakley to Liddon regarding a Proposed Church & Stage Guild.  
Liddon graduated in summer 1850  obtaining a 2nd in Classics, and in June 1850 he was at home in Colyton taking stock, it would be two years before he could be ordained as priest. It was during this period that the Oxford Movement came under its greatest criticism. Those opposed to what came known as ‘Puseyism regarded its goal as Catholicism whereas Pusey himself denied that this was ever his intentions. However, Pusey did involve himself in confession and set up nunneries which added fuel to the fire in a church run by evangelicals who were the successors of the puritans of earlier days. Churches as a rule were plain with whitewashed walls, services followed evangelical lines  and the church hierarchy was essentially evangelical.
Henry became a great traveller, going to Scotland and onto the continent in 1851, the year Charles Dodgson entered Christ Church. Wherever he went though he involved himself in seeking out the church life and examining its beliefs and customs. Henry was to travel extensively over the years including of course his trip to Russia with Lewis Carroll in 1867.

Charles Dodgson records in his diary on March 6th 1855 ‘Collyns, Liddon and I went down as far as Sandford in an outriggered-gig-weather quite hot.’  On April 27th he writes ‘down the river with Liddon, the first time this term' The implication being given that it was a usual event and that their friendship had started quite a time before 1855. By 1855 Dodgson had his degree as did Liddon, and both were students (fellows) of Christ Church.  Liddon meanwhile had been ordained priest on December 18th 1853 and had already tried his hand at parish work but had not pursued this course with any enthusiasm. In the week that ordinands spent at the bishop’s palace at Cuddesdon, Bishop Wilberforce asked Liddon if he would take up the post of vice principal of the new theological college  he was to open in the same village.  The vicar of Cuddesdon, Alfred Pott was to be the principal and Liddon, at the age of 24 was to be vice principal.

Bishop Wilberforce had his reservations about Henry’s appointment, he valued his potential but was wary of his association with Pusey. Eventually, after some wrangling Henry accepted that Mr. Keble was to be his spiritual adviser and not Dr. Pusey and this laid to rest some of the doubts. Henry also agreed not to recommend confessionals to the students but wished to retain the right to the use of confession for himself. Confession was of course closely identified with Catholicism so Henry was in dangerous territory with this practice. Cuddesdon was not the first theological college but it was ground breaking in its set up and was seen as an bold experiment. It drew its students mainly from the two universities, Oxford and Cambridge. Henry joined Rev. Pott in early October 1854 and wrote to Keble in November 1854 saying ‘we have eight men here at present, three from Cambridge and five from Oxford. . . . ‘

Gradually matters were worked out between the parish, which had its own church, the bishop’s palace which had its own chapel and Cuddesdon College which also had a chapel. Henry was probably happier during this period than at any time in his life - Charles Dodgson took his image in June 1857 showing him looking relaxed and happy. However, the storm clouds were gathering around Cuddesdon. Some clerics were in principle opposed to the college and they were actively seeking to oppose it and others were dubious of Liddon’s credentials. Pott strangely enough did not raise their ire, it was Liddon that took the brunt of the criticism when it came.

 Pott in his diary (6) writes:-

1854. The first two students C F Porter and Edward Sturges lived at first with me in the Vicarage. But the next term brought an accession of inmates and an addition to our staff. Our first Vice-President was Henry Parry Liddon to whom the tone and character of the College from its first beginnings owes far more than to myself.'

This is perhaps a telling comment, as later on Pott wrote:-

‘I am now looking back nearly half a century. and those now connected with the College can hardly realise the difficulties of those days. The bitter and malignant animosity of many in the University, the coldness of some of the Bishop's own friends all combined to make our position an uneasy one. The press raised its voice against us. In Oxford itself many an effort was made to prevent graduates coming to us. I remember a probationer fellow of a large College being called into close residence in order to prevent him coming to Cuddesdon. I remember a Bishop in the North telling a candidate for Orders, that without absolutely refusing, he had serious objections to admitting any candidate from such a place. I have still in my possession a bound volume of pamphlets and tracts all but two attacking us.’

Prominent in the attacks was the Rev. Golightly. He had been influential in the building of the Martyrs Monument in Oxford in 1843 to commemorate the horrific deaths of protestant Bishops Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer at the time of Queen Mary, a monument which was seen as in opposition to the Oxford movement and its closeness to Roman influences. However, the above comment by Pott shows that the opposition was far greater than one cleric, it was the principle of a theological college that was being opposed.

On 20th May 1856, Charles Dodgson in his diary writes ‘Walked over to Cuddesdon with Liddon (John? Henry’s brother) and Bellett to the Anniversary. There was a cold collation, and a great deal of speech making afterwards from the Bishops of Oxford (Wilberforce) and Columbo.’ Dodgson then mentions Pott and Liddon senior also making speeches. On the 3rd June Dodgson went with Liddon to the Horticultural Show in Worcester Gardens. In December he booked into the Northumberland Hotel in London by Liddon’s recommendation but it was not to his taste describing it as small and wretched like a public house, so obviously Liddon did not value comfort as much as did Dodgson!

By 1858 Pott’s health was being effected by the attacks and he applied and was appointed as vicar of East Hendred a parish in the same diocese. Bishop Wilberforce then found it difficult to appoint a new principal at Cuddesdon with Liddon still there as vice principal. Some of the ordinands had gone over to Rome and another was emulating Liddon’s gait and manner of speech. Liddon decided therefore to resign and both him and Pott left the college at the same time at the Easter of 1859. Liddon regarded the necessity to resign his post at Cuddesdon as the greatest failure in his life. Unfortunately, Lewis Carroll’s diaries for that time are missing and his biographer, nephew Stuart Collingwood, either saw no comment about Liddon at this time or considered it not important so did not mention it in his book ‘Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll’ published in 1898. According to the present principal, Canon Martyn Percy, Liddon is still held in high regard in the college as of course is Bishop Wilberforce. Liddon’s portrait (see image) by H.M. Paget (7) still hangs in the college. Bishop Wilberforce still retained friendly relations with Henry Liddon as both men realised that the resignation was based upon factors over which they had little control.
Henry did not wish to return to living in Oxford as an academic so he was happy to accept, when it was offered to him the post of Vice Principal of St. Edmund Hall. He had considered going to India but was advised against it because of his health. The post at St.Edmund Hall, which he took up on 5th May 1859 offered him the opportunity to continue tutoring in religious matters to undergraduates, albeit in Oxford. He was not particularly interested in teaching academic matters in any case preferring to concentrate upon the spiritual side of college life. Despite this he soon wondered if he had done the right thing in accepting the post. However, in November 1859 he started his Sunday evening lectures in his rooms, seven men attended. He watched carefully the numbers attending each week and often wondered anxiously why a particular man was missing. Although in 1859 he was not aware of it he had started off on the course of being a very talented preacher. Bishop Wilberforce knew this of course already from his time at Cuddesdon, but slowly the rest of Oxford and then the church in general were to rate Liddon as one of its premier preachers and theologians.

Keith Wright

Part Two.

The second part of this article covering Liddon's life from 1860 to 1890 can be found in the 2012 Spring Edition of The Daresbury Chronicles.  Just follow this link: To Part Two.


1. Ruskin in Oxford and other studies’ by G.W.Kitchin Dean of Durham and honorary Student of Christ Church Oxford. (Father of Xie Kitchin LC’s favourite photographic subject in the 1870’sLife & Letters of Henry Parry Liddon DD’  1904 Longmans Green and Co. London.

2. ‘Account of the Mighty Landslip at Downlands and Bindon, near Lyme regis on 25th December
1839’ Published by George Roberts in 1840.Walter Kerr Hamilton Bishop of Salisbury’ a memoir by H.P.Liddon MA 1869 Rivingtons.

3.Mary Anning (1799-1847) of Lyme; 'the greatest fossilist the world ever knew'" British Journal of the History of Science, 1995, vol. 28, pp. 257-284. Dr. Hugh Torrens, Keele University

4. W.H. Prideaux is most likely to be William Henry Prideaux, a boy from Bristol who was in the Lyme area at the time and who is perhaps related to the Prideaux shown at George Roberts’ school in the 1841 census. William Henry went on to be the head of a school in Barbados.

5. Life and Letters of Henry Parry Liddon by Johnson, page 6

6. The Missing Diaries of the Venerable Alfred Pott,. BD (1822-1908), First Principal of Cuddesdon College and Archdeacon of Berkshire. By Nigel HammondBampton Lectures 2nd edition - H.P.Liddon Rivingtons 1868

7. H.M. (Henry Marriott) Paget artist (1856–1936)