Article from The Guardian 28 th June 1899

Bishop Tozer Chapel



"F. R. H." writes:—"The announcement of the death of Bishop Tozer will revive in some minds well-nigh, faded memo­ries. Born in Teignmouth, William George Tozer came of a family well known in South Devon . His education commenced at Ilminster, was completed at St. John's College , Oxford , and at Wells Theological College .

In 1854 he was ordained to the curacy of St. Mary Magdalene, Munster-square. Then he moved to the vicarage of Burgh, in Lincolnshire —a name then famous in the missionary world, as there had been planted one of our valuable missionary colleges. And there it was the missionary call came to him in the year 1862. The Universities' Mission had been founded three years previously, but Bishop Mackenzie, its first head, had succumbed, with nearly all his staff, within about eighteen months of arrival in Africa . The bishopric was offered to Mr. Tozer, and he was consecrated on February 2nd, 1863, and started soon after for Lake Nyasa .

The first volunteers to join him were two Lincolnshire clergy, the Rev. C. A. Alington, who pre-deceased his former head only by a fortnight, and Dr. Steere, who had begun his clerical life in Tozer's neighbourhood as the curate of Kings-kerswell, and by then was the vicar of the next parish to Burgh.

When they arrived upon the scene in Central Africa , it was obviously necessary to choose a new centre for the work. Magomero, the spot originally selected, had proved fatally unhealthy, and a famine had removed most of the people in whose interests chiefly the Mission had been located there. Morumbala Heights were first tried, and then Bishop Tozer decided to move the headquarters of the Mission right away to Zanzibar . This step was, at home, very adversely criticised, and some of the first supporters of the Mission never forgave Bishop Tozer for making it.

But subsequent events have proved that it was the wisest possible move, and it is generally felt at the present day that he was providentially guided to find for his centre what has since proved the centre of Central Africa . From the first, Bishop Tozer foresaw the necessity for training up a native ministry. In any part of the heathen world the white missionaries should only serve the office of corks to float the black net, but in Central Africa this is doubly a necessity, when in less than forty years the Mission has lost six Bishops, twenty-seven clergy, and forty-six lay workers. The gift of five black slave boys from the Sultan started the school, and soon after British cruisers began to bring in freed slaves. To the founding of the school, which has since grown into the theo­logical college, Bishop Tozer devoted most of his energies, and a fund called the Wells-Tozer Fund, its name showing its origin.

And so the work grew, though the labourers were few and their health often overtaxed, especially so in the case of the Bishop and his sister Helen, who had joined him. The founda­tion was laid by Bishop Tozer, and we now see the super­structure, a native staff of thirteen clergy and 105 other teachers.

In 1872 the strain of the work, intensified by the cholera and a terrible hurricane, ended in the death of Mr. Pennell and the breaking-up of Bishop Tozer's health. The Bishop became so ill he could not even sign his name, and in 1873 he had to resign the see. He has been practically a broken-down man ever since. He attempted Bishop's work again at Jamaica and at Honduras , but in each case was hardly able to .hold on for more than a year. Then, after his final •return to England even the charge of a parish (South Ferriby, in Lincolnshire ) proved too much for him. For some time he lived at Highgate, and was often to be seen at St. Andrew's, Wells-street, but of late he returned to the haunts of his youth, and generally led a retired life in lodgings at Dawlish or Exeter . His self-denying liberality was a marked trait in his character. It is said that when he had to give up South Ferriby he left there nearly every­thing he had—horse, carriage, furniture, &c.—merely coming away with his portmanteaus. A clergyman, who visited him occasionally in his last years, says of him:—

I never saw so striking an instance of detachment from the world. He often came here, would generally go to fresh lodgings, seemed to form no new friendships, and had no worldly belongings, and generally the only thing in the room not belonging to the landlady was his Bible, and perhaps one or two books. But when our church was being restored (he seldom missed a daily service)

One or two seizures had impaired his health, and for some time past his speech had quite gone. The end came in his Exeter lodgings, almost under the shadow of St. David's new tower, on Saturday, June 17th, at 11.45 p.m., and' he has left behind him the memory of a life, whether in active ministry or in beneficent retirement, equally devoted to the service of God." |

The Bishop's funeral was solemnised, as befitted his office, in St. Michael's, Exeter , on Wednesday. By his own directions 8 a.m. was the hour, and the Burial Service was followed by a celebration of Holy Communion, both being fully choral. The parochial clergy officiated, and the Lesson was read by the Rural Dean. The Universities' Mission was represented by the Rev. F. E. Hodgson. There were eight clergy robed, and about as many more in the congregation, with a good sprinkling (even at that early hour) of other friends as well as the relatives. At the end of the Communion Office, the hymn " For all Thy Saints, who from their labours rest" was sung, and then choir, clergy, and mourners, headed by a cross-bearer, accompanied the body in procession to St. David's churchyard. The Benediciie, sung en route, had a very solemn effect. At the graveside the final prayers were said by the vicar, and the Nunc Dimittis sung. The coffin, simply covered by a violet pall (with no flowers whatever, by the Bishop's directions), was borne on a handbier, and lowered into a simple earth grave. It was surmounted by a full-length brass cross, with at its base an inscription:—

W. G. T., Episc. Ob. 1899. Act. 70.

(The Standard Friday 28th June 1963)

A Centenary Is Celebrated

Missionary event at Burgh

“To mark the centenary anniversary of the consecration of Bishop Tozer in Westminster Abbey as the second Missionary Bishop to Central Africa – he was called to the post while Vicar of Burgh – cum Winthorpe in 1863 – special celebrations were held at his old church of S. S. Peter and Paul Burgh on Saturday. (June 1963)

In the morning there was a Solemn Eucharist of Thanksgiving in the church. Deputising for the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rat Rev. Kenneth Riches, who was prevented by illness from attending, the celebrant was the Vicar of Burgh the Rev H.H. Smith. The Rev. H.J.F. Arnold, of St Mary's Wainfleet, acted as deacon with the Rev E. Richardson, former Vicar of Burgh, as sob-deacon.

The preacher was the Rev. J. C. Houghton of St Hilda's, Leeds, formerly missionary in charge of a large area in the dioceses of Northern Rhodesia .

Representatives of other Anglican churches in the area attended the service, and the garden meeting in the Vicarage grounds in the afternoon.

One of the speakers at this was Mr. George Mbaruku of the Diocese of Zanzibar and Dar-es-Salaam, the place where Bishop Tozer first began his work in East Africa . Mr Mbaruku, in Britain to select candidates for the Universities' Mission to Central Africa revealed that he is the great-grandson of the native king with whom Bishop Tozer dealt in first getting established on the mainland.

‘Great Work'

In return for education for his own sons, the king gave the missionaries permission to build a church and school. Bishop Tozer's chief helper, Father Ellington, conducted the negotiations and later opened the school. “I went to it as a boy, and later was on the staff there as a medical assistant and teacher for 17 years. Very great work has been done there since the Bishop went out there from Burgh 100 years ago”

“It was wrong to think that because African states were achieving independent status they no longer

needed help”, said Mr Mbaruku. Africa had its own churches, own native ministry, and even in some places its own bishops: but in fact the rapid changes now taking place made the need for trained workers and extra finance more urgent.

If the work begun by the missions had to be cut down, it would strengthen the mistaken belief of some Africans that Christianity was an “outside” religion, and was leaving the countries where Colonial Governments were leaving and handing over to Africans.

Workers from Britain were still urgently needed. The only difference was that instead of going as “missionaries or masters” they would go to work side by side with African Christian workers in the same fields.

Father Houghton, who worked in Northern Rhodesia from 1951 to 1954 and again in 1960, spoke of the great changes that had taken place in the mission fields. “We have to realise that in the jet age Africa is as near to England as England is to Africa and the future promises a two-way traffic. The challenge before us is not just that of helping African bishops to run their own Diocese but of welcoming an African Bishop one day to, say, the Diocese of Lincoln!”

Mr Gordon Palliser, Area Secretary of the Universities Mission to Central Africa , who had arranged the centenary celebration day, also spoke on U.M.C.A work.

The vicar of Burgh told the “Standard” afterwards: There have always been close links of interest between this part of the world since Bishop Tozer, who was Vicar of Burgh and Winthorpe from 1858 to 1863, went out to begin his great work. A number of local people went with him and some died out there.

“Bishop Tozer went to Africa at a critical time. His predecessor, the first Bishop of Central Africa, died soon after beginning his work, and it was left to bishop Tozer to really make headway. We are very proud of the association of this area with his work”