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.

This page was added on 20/10/2012.

Comments about this page

  • Fantastic info, I found this page after doing some research into a diary I have of a little girl in 1877 who mentions Canon Duckworth coming to visit, also being a part of plays he arranged. She mentions rehearsals, also talks about someone called Lewis visiting and then them all going to Hamilton House in the evening. It is all very interesting. Thanks for this page, it has been good to see those photos and get an insight into that time.

    By Jenny (17/10/2020)

    By RICHARD (28/12/2017)
  • Would it be possible for you to send us any photos of memorabilia relating to Hamilton Terrace or St Mark’s church?

    By Bridget Clarke (04/01/2018)

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