Missionaries and a sort of ‘reverse Ponzi’ patronage scheme

The reception of the Rev. J. Williams at Tanna

Missionaries operate on the front line between cultures. We don’t hear so much about missionaries these days.Today they are seen by many as invasive, forcing their language, culture and religion on an unwilling population – as another form of colonialism and exploitation.

It was not always this way. In the 19th century many Europeans and Americans emphasised their racial, cultural, economic and religious superiority over black or coloured peoples. Earnest Christian believers felt called upon to obey Christ’s injunction to “go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark xvi.15). A number of missionary societies were formed: the Baptist Missionary Society (1792), the London Missionary Society (1795) and the Church Missionary Society (1799). Missionary included ordained ministers, educationists, doctors, nurses and others. At the height of the missionary movement, between 1880 and 1920, around 60 British missionary societies were actively engaged in this work with many thousands of missionaries.

But what has all this to do with Combe Down and Monkton Combe? Well, I have updated the lists of vicars for Combe Down and vicars for Monkton Combe. A number of them were missionaries. They include:

Percy Ewart Warrington in 1928

Percy Ewart Warrington in 1928

There was also the Rev Percy Ewart Warrington (1889 – 1961), vicar for Monkton Combe from 1918 – 1961 founder of Martyrs’ Memorial Trust. and a fascinating but unsympathetic character.

He ran a sort of religious, ‘reverse Ponzi scheme’ and founded or bought fourteen schools or colleges but ran them in an illegal and financially disastrous way by investing their profits in a wasting asset  – advowsons – which, eventually, led to him having to resign all his positions and the schools to be rescued.

Even with all the problems he created he left behind a legacy of the Allied SchoolsSt Peter’s College, Oxford and Trinity College, Bristol.

One small mystery remains. He left an estate of £47,121 12s 1d in 1961 which is worth about £2,197,000.00 now – how was that acquired on a ‘parsons salary’?