Canon Duckworth DD CVO 1834 -1911
Vicar at St Mark's, Hamilton Terrace 1870 - 1906
Connections with Alice in Wonderland
Robinson Duckworth was born in Liverpool, achieved a BA Oxon, in 1857, and became an assistant master at Marlborough College from 1857 – 60. He was a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, where he became friendly with Charles Liddell, father of Alice Liddell, after whom Alice in Wonderland was named. It was Duckworth who introduced Charles Dodgson [Lewis Carroll] to the Liddells, and it was he who was with them on the river on the beautiful summer afternoon, in 1862, when Dodgson first told Alice and her sisters about Alice in Wonderland.
Connections with the Royal family
From 1866–70, he was instructor to Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the youngest son of Queen Victoria, but, unfortunately, Princess Louise, the Queen’s third daughter, who was romantic, liberal and feminist, fell in love with him. He was handsome and dark haired with a soft voice but Princesses were supposed to marry Princes and he had to leave the Royal Household, in 1870. However, although the Queen did not think him suitable as a son-in-law, she thought him so enlightened and so free from the usual prejudices of his profession – an excellent preacher and good looking besides – that she arranged that he was given the living of St Mark’s, Hamilton Terrace. She, also, asked him to officiate at the confirmation of her daughter, Princess Beatrice, in 1874. Duckworth became chaplain to the Prince of Wales, and went with him to India, in 1875.
St Mark’s, Hamilton Terrace
From 1870 – 1906, he was at St Mark’s, living first at 5 Abbey Road and then at 77 Hamilton Terrace. He felt his mission at the church was to provide a type of service which should be identified with no party but should be reverent, dignified, representative of the best spirit of the Church of England and void of offence in the eyes of all who are loyal to the Prayer Book.
He rebuilt the dilapidated parish schools on Violet Hill with room for 700, instead of the 80 who had been taught in an iron shed, and held concerts when rich and poor were brought together in the audience. He said Part of my work I do myself, part of it is done by others and part never gets done at all. To be on his visiting list stamped you as a Lady – by his appearance he seemed to think All women are in love with me – [quoted in A. Montgomery Eyre’s St John’s Wood, p.301]
The chancel was built in 1877 and the foundation stone commemorates the Albany connection, as does the wrought iron screen in the chancel. Edward Armitage RA, a resident of Hall Road, painted 5 panels (see below) of the reredos showing scenes of Christian charity. The Baptistery was, also, added during his ministry, in 1890.
Canon of Westminster
Duckworth became a Canon of Westminster, in 1875, and then Sub Dean; he was Chaplain in Ordinary to Queen 1870 – 1901 and received the CVO after the Queen’s death. He was buried in the choir of Westminster Abbey and a round window opposite to Abbey’s entrance dedicated to his memory was unveiled in 1988.
His brother, Sir Dyce Duckworth, said of him: you can never have him when you invite him; he never has a minute to himself, he seems to be wanted everywhere and to be everybody’s property.