Angus Inglis before St Peter's

From a review by George Dixon of Humphrey Carpenter’s "Robert Runcie: the Reluctant Archbishop", passed on by David Belsen and introduced by Peter Hoare.

Canon Angus Inglis was Rector of St Peter’s from 1948 to 1979, and is still well-remembered by several members of the congregation. He was responsible for much of the decoration of the church as we see it today - the windows in the north aisle and the baptistry, the pulpit, new altar silver, the two great candelabra at the west end, the restoration of the chancel ceiling, and much more (often in consultation with his friend Stephen Dykes Bower, one of the most influential "traditional" church architects of the 20th century). He also took on himself the negotiations with Marks & Spencer when they first redeveloped their store in the 1960s, even sponsoring two private Acts of Parliament in the process! This agreement led to the creation of the piazza (now being built over), and the loss of part of the churchyard in front of the west door, but also to a firmer legal and financial basis for the church which has been of great benefit in setting up the present scheme with Marks & Spencer.

Angus Inglis, however, was not by any means simply a "bricks and mortar" man. He was a devoted pastor to his flock, an intellectually-demanding but utterly devoted Christian teacher, and an advocate of the Anglican tradition of worship which we still enjoy - though not without some changes since 1979. His long career at St Peter’s was in a tradition of service, and spanned the period when the Broad Marsh slums - including St Peter’s church hall - were torn down and replaced by the Broadmarsh Centre, changing the character of the parish considerably but not lessening Angus’s commitment to a Christian witness in the city centre.

Similarly the rebuilding of the Levick almshouses, as part of the redevelopment of the Meadows, was undertaken very much in a spirit of Christian service within St Peter’s tradition. His devotion to the Bluecoat School and encouragement of its links with St Peter’s even after it moved from the city centre is an example of his concern for education (he had many links with the University Department of Education) and for his desire to seek both the spiritual and the cultural health of the city he had adopted, and where he ministered for over 40 years.

His earlier career obviously helped to shape him, and it is good to be reminded of his life "before St Peter’s". A special opportunity to do this has come in a letter from David Belson, until recently a member of our choir and PCC. David and Eva moved back to Peterborough last year and returned to the church where Angus Inglis served his first curacy. David has sent a copy of a review, in the parish magazine of St John’s Peterborough, of Humphrey Carpenter’s book "Robert Runcie - the reluctant archbishop" - the relevance of this being the fact that Angus married Robert Runcie’s sister Kathleen, and had much to do with the spiritual growth of the future archbishop. (Some of us remember Archbishop Runcie’s commanding presence at Angus’s funeral in Belton Church in 1992.) This review, by George Dixon, who remembered Angus’s time in Peterborough, gives a good picture of the young curate - quite recognisable to those of us who knew him - and some details about his later life drawn from Humphrey Carpenter’s book.

How many readers of this biography know that Revd. Angus Inglis, Robert Runcie’s brother-in-law, was a curate of St John’s between June 1931 and September 1933?

The book reveals several references to his influence on Runcie’s life, but the author only met him in retirement, aged 84, near Grantham. He was trained for the ministry at Westcott House, Oxford and my diaries tell me I first met him on June 7th 1931. Angus came to tea with the family on 18th September, and again on 13th December, the day before I was confirmed by Bishop Blagden. His fellow curate was John Humphries, later Precentor at the Cathedral. He was active in Peterborough, and beat local optician and politician Ralph Sexton on "Religion in the Press" at the local Debating Society. On Easter Sunday 1933 he celebrated Communion at St John’s and on 17th September preached his farewell sermon to a packed church before moving on as Vicar of St Faith’s, Wilford, Nottingham.

The author refers to him as "very much the Oxford man" and a friend of Robert Runcie, but does not bring him into the clerical picture until 1937, when Angus is stated to be at a Nottingham church, and was being married to Runcie’s elder sister, at All Hallows London (Tubby Clayton’s Toc H church) by the Rt. Revd. Neville Talbot, former bishop of Pretoria, his then Vicar. [He was at this time a curate at St Mary’s Nottingham. – Ed.] In 1942 reference is made to Angus as a military chaplain serving abroad, and Robert’s parents were living in his inner city vicarage at Nottingham. After the war, Angus arranged in 1948 for Robert to be seen by the Westcott College principal, W.D.L. Greer, but it was Greer’s successor Kenneth Carey who started Runcie on his clerical career, which led to his becoming Archbishop of Canterbury.

I saw Angus twice after he’d left St John’s. In 1938, whilst staying at Nottingham on PO business, I went to meet him at St Faith’s in Wilford (near Trent Bridge) and found him leaving his Church Hall. We walked to his home for tea and a good chat about St John’s and in his large urban parish.

We met again, both in uniform, in November 1945, whilst I was attending a laymen’s weekend at 30 Corps Church House, Dsterntal in the Steinberg Forest area of West Saxony. Our party had returned from a ramble in the first snow of winter, to find the next party had arrived for a "potential ordinands course" lead by Military Chaplain Angus Inglis. We had a good nostalgic chat and then on Monday 26th November he celebrated a joint communion, before our party returned to our units - mine being to Nienburg, Gen. Horrocks’ 30 Corps HQ town.
George E. Dixon

Mr Dixon has also supplied one or two other quotations from Humphrey Carpenter’s book about Angus and his distinctive turn of phrase. In discussing Robert Runcie’s interest in pig-keeping, Angus is quoted as remarking "The Berkshire is a very fine black pig"; and a comment from Runcie when head of Cuddesdon College in 1963, that his brother-in-law Angus would say "I don’t really trust people who are funny, who mock the things they are actually doing".

That seems to be to be very much the Angus we know at St Peter’s, whom we remember with gratitude and affection. It is good to have this link with is earlier life, and to know that he is remembered as well at his first church of over 60 years ago.

Peter Hoare

Angus Inglis at St Mary's, Nottingham

Owing to my parents’ business commitments, I began my church life with my grandparents at St Mary’s in the Lace Market where grandfather sang in the choir. I was first taken there aged 9 on Easter Sunday 1933, Bishop Neville Talbot’s day of arrival. It was not long before Mr. Inglis came as curate. He had lovely golden hair (rivalled by two of the younger choirmen) and a beautiful speaking voice which one never forgot. Bishop Talbot often referred to him as "my blue eyed boy".

During each of his three years at St Mary’s Angus devised and produced the most wonderful nativity plays. A high wide platform was built under the tower and the transepts were curtained off to provide wings. Theatre lighting was not as compact as it is today - two enormous powerful arc lamps were built at the side of the big pillars and smaller coloured spot lights were also erected. The whole performance was in mime, beautifully done and beautifully and colourfully dressed. I think each of the golden heads had a turn at being Gabriel! Bishop Talbot read the Bible passages from the pulpit. With all the splendid lighting it was most impressive - and the first time I was allowed to stop up really late (but with the grandparents, of course)!

One Sunday after Evensong Mr. Inglis (no Christian names in those days!) asked Grandfather where to go for a tram to Mapperley. On learning that the destination was Mapperley Crescent, near St Jude’s church, Grandfather offered to take him in his car as it was on the route home. Angus was visiting Kathleen! Grandfather’s sister had married a parson so he knew that a little discretion would be appreciated. After Evensong for many Sundays Angus and Grandfather would drift towards one another in the vestry, and under the cover provided as they were removing their surplices, these words would be muttered: "Want a lift?", "Yes, please", "See you at the car." The dear old Humber was always parked out of sight round two corners against the entrance to St Mary’s School.

Grandma assured Angus that he would be alright with Kathleen because her daughter-in-law (my mother) was a Kathleen. It seems she was right!

Myra Chilvers
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 24th March 1998