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7. THE LAYING OF THE FOUNDATION STONE

It was decided to lay the foundation stone at the eastern end of the Great Hall, in Tufton Street, the first part of the site to be cleared. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Benson, asked Queen Victoria's third.son, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (1850-1942), to perform the ceremony and the date was fixed for 24 June 1891, the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist.

The Guardian reported:

The site of what is to be the great hall was specially fitted up as a marquee, the platform at the back of the stone being artistically furnished and decorated. Shortly before four o'clock the Abbey choristers, accompanied by Dr Bridge, who presided at the harmonium, entered in procession and took their places on the platform. The Duke and Duchess of Connaught were received by the Archbishops and Bishops, and the Dean of Westminster in the temporary Church House. Subsequently a flourish of trumpets announced the arrival of their Royal Highnesses, a guard of honour of the Queen's Westminster Rifle Volunteers being in attendance.

The Duke of Connaught lays the Foundation Stone
The Duke of Connaught lays the Foundation Stone.

The Archbishop of Canterbury opened the short ceremony with prayers before the Duke laid the plain stone. The inscription, composed by Dr Benson, was added five years later. An address was then given by the lay Vice-President of the Corporation, the Duke of Westminster, and in his reply the Duke of Connaught paid particular attention to the Church's mission work, instancing the fact that when the Queen had ascended the throne there were eight colonial Bishops compared with eighty-two fifty years later.

The final address of the afternoon was given by Dr Goodwin, who closed by saying:

I cannot expect to see this great house finished, but I do sincerely hope and pray that your Royal Highnesses may both live to see this work in all its completeness, and that you may be able to look back with satisfaction upon the part which you have been kind enough to take in the proceedings of this day.

Sadly, Dr Goodwin was to be proved correct in his forecast and at the end of 1891 the Council recorded:

The Church House has to deplore the removal of one who was the first to move for its foundation. . . Whatever be the future greatness and serviceableness of the Institution, the Council feel that it will be undyingly associated with the memory of Harvey Goodwin, Bishop of Carlisle.

A memorial to Dr Goodwin in the form of a marble bust was later placed in the entrance hall of the Great Hall Block and his portrait has pride of place in the Council Room of the present building (see next page).

From the Book "The Church House 1888-1988 - A Moment in the Life of the Church"
Published by the Corporation of the Church House in their Centenary Year