Father Herbert Arthur Wilson (1890-1954)


It is to Fr Trevor Jones SSC, Vicar of St Peter’s, London Docks, that we owe the biography of Fr Herbert Arthur "H.A." Wilson, who wrote the Haggerston Catechism. The biography is suitably called: A Life Simply Offered. It paints a picture of the “Anglo-Catholic East-End” – a thriving Church culture (still remembered by many) that was destroyed by the Second World War and the social changes that resulted. Purchase Fr Jones' book from HERE. Of course, there are still thriving outposts of our tradition left in the East End, including Father Jones' own parish.

I suppose that Fr Wilson would have been astonished to know that the words and pictures of his Catechism would form Anglo-Catholic children for up to 50 years all around the world. My first encounter with the Haggeston Catechism was in a remote bush parish in Australia when I was a student in the early 1970s. In the days when so much of the bush was “Anglo-Catholic in that evangelical sort of way” as it was described (that is, before it was destroyed by “liberals in mass vestments”) one of the features of Australian Anglican history is that quite a few clergy from England maintained their contacts back “home”, which meant, for a considerable number, vicars who trained them in the East End and similar places . . . hence the influence of The English Missal, the Haggerston Catechism and many other devotional and spiritual aspects of the Catholic way.

Published by Mowbrays, the Haggerston Catechism has been out of print for many years, and quite expensive second-hand. Of course it can’t be used verbatim. The world has changed so much in a relatively short time. But as well as giving a snapshot of East End Anglo-Catholicism during World War II, these pages should encourage us in our time to actually TEACH the Faith to children in an inspiring and personal way. (And, in any case . . . a lot of Wilson’s little stories still work!)