Christopher Chavasse

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Christopher Chavasse

Bishop of Rochester
Christopher Maude Chavasse by László.jpg
ChurchChurch of England
DioceseDiocese of Rochester
Elected19 March 1940
Term ended30 September 1960
PredecessorLinton Smith
SuccessorDavid Say
Consecration25 April 1940
Personal details
Born(1884-11-09)9 November 1884
Died10 March 1962(1962-03-10) (aged 77)
ParentsFrancis Chavasse and Edith Maude[1]
SpouseBeatrice Willink[1]
ChildrenThree sons, two daughters[1]
ProfessionMilitary chaplain; Olympic athlete
Alma materTrinity College, Oxford

Christopher Maude Chavasse, OBE, MC, TD (9 November 1884 – 10 March 1962[2]) was a British athlete, soldier and religious leader from the Chavasse family. He competed at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, served in the First World War and was later the Bishop of Rochester.

Early life[edit]

Chavasse was the son of Francis Chavasse, a Bishop of Liverpool and founder of St Peter's College, Oxford and his wife Edith Maude.[1] His twin brother, Noel Godfrey Chavasse,[3] won the Victoria Cross and bar. Christopher was the elder of the two by 20 minutes. The twins had two other brothers and three sisters.

Christopher and Noel Chavasse both attended Magdalen College School in Oxford (1896-1900) followed by Liverpool College (1900-1904) before progressing to Trinity College, Oxford, competing in both rugby and athletics.[4] They competed on the British team at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London: Christopher came second in his preliminary heat of the 400 metres shortly after Noel came third in his heat of the same event. Neither advanced to the semi-finals.

Military service[edit]

During World War I, Chavasse served as a Chaplain in the Royal Army Chaplains' Department of the British Army. On 15 August 1916, he was promoted from Chaplain to the Forces 4th Class (equivalent to Captain) to Chaplain to the Forces 3rd Class (equivalent to Major).[5] On 30 September 1918, he was promoted to Chaplain to the Forces 2nd Class (equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel).[6]


After the First World War, Chavasse rose through the ranks of the Church of England. He served as rector of St Aldate's, Oxford from 1922 to 1928 and as rector of St Peter-le-Bailey, Oxford from 1927 to 1940.[7] He became the first Master of St Peter's Hall, Oxford upon its founding in 1929, continuing the work of his father, who had died in 1928.[8] He was succeeded in 1940 by Julian Thornton-Duesbery.[9]

He was nominated Bishop of Rochester on 19 March 1940, consecrated on 25 April the same year and served in that position until his resignation on 30 September 1960.[2]

In 1948, a sermon given by Chavasse about Belshazzar's Feast was featured as a religious short film produced by J. Arthur Rank.[10]

In 1943 Chavasse was chairman of the Archbishops' Commission on Evangelism which published the controversial report Towards the conversion of England.[11][12][13] In accordance with his hope for mass evangelisation, in 1955 Chavasse supported the Crusade of Billy Graham at Harringay Arena.[14]

Chavasse gave his views on homosexuality informally to the Wolfenden Committee, disagreeing with the eventual proposal of the committee to allow same-sex relationships to be legal in private, and arguing that "homosexual practice is alarmingly catching".[15]

In 1951 Chavasse founded Bennett Memorial Diocesan School in Tunbridge Wells with the schools main benefactress Lady Elena Bennett. The school was founded on 17 October 1951 and opened to students on 8 January 1953, to 400 students and only 18 teachers. Bennett Memorial is a Church of England school based within the Diocese of Rochester, having been founded while Chavasse served as the Bishop of Rochester.

Chavasse also served briefly as an original Trustee of St Peter's College upon its incorporation in 1961.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Chavasse married Beatrice Willink shortly after the First World War, in July 1919.[1] They had three sons: Noel, their eldest son named in honour of his uncle Noel Godfrey Chavasse, who served as an aide to Bernard Montgomery during the war, Michael and John, and two daughters, Anna and Susan.[1]

Honours and decorations[edit]

Medals of Noel and Christopher Chavasse. Noel's medals are top row. Christopher's medals are bottom row.

Chavasse was awarded the Military Cross (MC) during World War I. His citation, published in the London Gazette dating 25 August 1917, read:[17]

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. His fearlessness and untiring efforts in attending to the wounded were magnificent. Although continually under fire, he volunteered on every possible occasion to search for and bring in the wounded. No danger appeared to be too great for him to face, and he inspired others to greater effort by his splendid example.

He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre (1914–1918) by the Republic of France 'for distinguished services rendered during the course of the campaign'.[18] Chavasse's other World War I medals were the 1914 Star with clasp, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal.[19]

In the 1936 King's Birthday Honours, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in its Military Division.[20] In 1937, he was awarded the King George VI Coronation Medal.[19]

On 31 January 1941, he was awarded the Efficiency Decoration (TD) for long service in the Territorial Army.[21] In June 1946, he was appointed Chaplain of the Venerable Order of Saint John (CStJ).[22] On 18 March 1959, he was commissioned as a Deputy Lieutenant (DL) by the Lord Lieutenant of Kent.[23]


  1. ^ a b c d e f The Peerage – Christopher Maud Chavasse
  2. ^ a b Fryde et al., p. 269.
  3. ^ Gummer, S. The Chavasse twins, 1963. 255 pages.
  4. ^ Bebbington, David. (2014). Mister Brownrigg's Boys Archived 1 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine: Magdalen College School and The Great War. London: Pen and Sword Books.
  5. ^ "No. 29707". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 August 1916. p. 8007.
  6. ^ "No. 31035". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 November 1918. p. 14045.
  7. ^ "Churches". Retrieved on 2018-08-14.
  8. ^ "St Peter's College, Oxford; University Calendar entry, 2003-2004". Archived from the original on 21 June 2007. Retrieved 24 July 2006.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  9. ^ "Master Of St. Peter's Hall". The Times (48414). 19 September 1939. p. 9.
  10. ^ "Shot in the Arm". TIME Magazine. Time Inc. 6 December 1948. Retrieved 24 July 2006.
  11. ^ Towards the conversion of England : being the report of a Commission on Evangelism appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and York pursuant to a resolution of the Church Assembly passed at the Summer Session 1943. (dedicated to the memory of William Temple). Commission on Evangelism Westminster Press and Publications Board of the Church Assembly, 1945. 172 pages.
  12. ^ Beeson, Trevor. The Bishops, p.198
  13. ^ Edwards, D.L. Leaders of the Church of England, 1828-1944, p.335.
  14. ^ Manwaring, R. From Controversy to Co-Existence: Evangelicals in the Church of England 1914-1980, Cambridge University Press, 2002, p.90
  15. ^ Patrick Higgins (1996), Heterosexual dictatorship, London: Fourth Estate, pp. 37–38, ISBN 1857023552, 1857023552
  16. ^ Constitution of The College of St. Peter le Bailey Archived 3 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "No. 30251". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 August 1917. p. 8806.
  18. ^ "No. 31586". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 October 1919. pp. 12401–12403.
  19. ^ a b See image of medals under the heading 'Honours and decorations'
  20. ^ "No. 34296". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 June 1936. p. 4002.
  21. ^ "No. 35059". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 January 1941. pp. 614–615.
  22. ^ "No. 37632". The London Gazette. 28 June 1946. p. 3288.
  23. ^ "No. 41668". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 March 1959. p. 2058.


Church of England titles
Preceded by
Linton Smith
Bishop of Rochester
Succeeded by
David Say